Thank you so much to all who have read & reviewed this story. It's so lovely to have this supportive community here. I hope you enjoy this last chapter. Original prompt details are at the end.
Rose Cottage was quiet at this early hour. Severus let himself in and toed off his boots, standing at the entry for a moment to savour the warmth of his home. From here, he could see one of Rosie's vibrant green scarves hung up in the mud room, and Hermione had forgotten an older, ratty coat that she'd used the week before when teacher and student had needed an assistant for a recent brew. He set his camera bag down carefully, glad of the rolling mist that was now recorded within the memory of both his mind and his memory card.
Further down the hallway, there was a striped Dr. Suess book that had been placed carefully on the table that housed some of his Muggle telephone and address book. A spare pair of boots were nestled next to the wall, next to where his own landed.
Four lessons had been had in the laboratory in the garden, and already his home truly looked lived in. Severus took in the scene and drew in a deep, satisfied breath. He let it out in one quick gush of air and, sure of his privacy, laughed until he needed tea to fortify himself, lest he shout at the sky, thanking whatever existed above that had filled his home.
"I'd like to tell you something, Mum," said Rose, standing at the doorway while she watched Hermione pulling on a cardigan and scarf. They were readying themselves for the fortnightly Apparation to the Burrow and it was raining. The sky was grey and dull.
Hermione blew a curl out of her eyes and dragged her hair into a bun. "What is it, love?" She paused at the door, waiting.
Rose took one fortifying breath in. "I just wanted to say that I think Severus is a very nice man."
"Oh." The witch beamed and self-consciously adjusted her scarf. "Do you?"
"I do," said her daughter, turning to open the door.
Hermione felt her chest fill with warmth and love as she watched Rosie begin to walk towards their intended Apparation spot. Locking up and trotting after the girl, she grinned and said, "Well, I think he's a very nice man, too."
The precocious girl gave her a withering look. "Oh, Mum – I do know that. I'm not blind."
Letting out a titter, Hermione rolled her eyes. "Such cheek!" she exclaimed, squeezing her daughter's arm. Then, unable to stop herself, she blurted, "But you know that if you're uncomfortable with Severus beginning to spend some time here, or us there, then you need only mention it."
For her careful attempt at instilling surety in her daughter, Hermione was gifted with an exasperated growl and a face full of snarling, flame-haired girl. "Mum! Honestly! I like him. Besides, it's not like Dad doesn't have Lavender. You should have someone for you, too. And Mum?"
"Sometimes I think we should just go and live with Severus. He's got such a nice garden!"
"How on earth did you come up with that idea?" Hermione spluttered, shaking her head at her daughter's audacity. "These are early days, love, and—" she cut herself off. The idea, though shocking, almost overwhelmed her. She ran a hand over her hair, sure that her cheeks were redder than the pomegranate seeds she'd crushed with them the week before. It wasn't an unwelcome suggestion, she considered within herself, but one that she was entirely unprepared for.
She sighed pensively, wondering whether or not he'd received her hastily penned owl this morning, inviting him over for a last-minute dinner. Regardless, it was a good thing that she didn't know yet – she could certainly do without appearing at the Burrow with clammy palms and breathless excitement.
Dragged back to reality by her daughter's haughty little cough, she blushed again.
"Mum," Rose said, pulling her into the shadows of the nearest alley, "relax. Just breathe. And don't splinch us, please."
Laughing, Hermione gathered the girl into her arms. "Never, darling."
The rain gathered strength as he read the short, to-the-point missive. Rivulets of water rain over the windows then were whisked away at the ledges, splattering over his garden. It was a useful charm; seventeen years in the Dales had given Severus enough time and water to develop it, and he watched it at work now, as he clutched the piece of Muggle paper in his fingers.
He knew as soon as he'd read the first line that he would go to her. Had she thought, even for one moment, that he could resist? He moved slowly into the kitchen and laid his palms on the bench as he stared out of the window. The sky began to darken and Severus caught a glimpse of his reflection, of his lips curved into an anticipatory, wolfish smirk.
The smugness of his expression took his breath away; for an instant, he allowed his mind to wander, to meander away from his control. If he only had her in his arms, he thought, he could begin…
Oh, how would he begin?
Severus' fingers tightened their grip on the strong, cool wood. Tightness slithered its way down his spine until it caught, striking flint and steel within his belly. How would he begin? His tongue slid over his lower lip, wetting it as he thought of dragging the tender flesh of her earlobes between his lips. In the kitchen, his head tipped back and a groan spilled from his mouth at the idea of pressing a kiss to her jaw, her cheek, her lips.
He was aroused—painfully so—and he took no shame from it, from his body reacting to the mere idea of her. He wanted her curls brushing his bare chest; her breasts and their tightened buds rubbing on the trail of black hair that led ever downwards on his stomach. He wanted her mouth around him, enveloping him inside wet, snug heat.
Raising one palm to his cheek, he pressed it down firmly, imagining her touch, the ghost of a laugh. He gave into it then and dragged his hand down his body, cupping himself as he pictured her and her welcome, ever-ready smile. He imagined her breath, hot in his mouth as she kissed him, her body now perched on the bench before him, her legs and those damnable boots hooked around his hips, digging into the skin of his buttocks. He imagined her fingers curving, nails scratching, breath catching. He saw her then, as clear as he saw the letter written by her very hand that had fallen to the tiled floor.
Severus moaned, hardly daring to indulge but slid his palm under the open waistband of his jeans without further hesitation. He stroked himself, eyes half-lidded as his mind replaced his fist with her sex.
He was melting into her; he was drowning because of her.
"Hermione…" he breathed, and then he gasped, entirely lost.
Prospect Street, Severus decided, was an apt name now, but doubtlessly it was ironic when it was first established. Here was the North – grimy houses shoved up against each other, sharing walls, their doors plonked right beside the road. The street snaked around and went on and on, past where his eyes could discern an end.
It was Spinner's End, and it wasn't.
The uniform rows of houses made something within him turn and flip uncomfortably. The dark, depressing greyness of the road and stone revolted him. For a long moment, he stood and considered whether he even wanted to continue walking down the street to find the house with the green door, but then a door opened somewhere, and he blinked.
Light from the open doorway filled the street. An older woman poked her head out, gathering evidence for her fodder of gossip. She caught sight of him and nodded once. "Best get inside," she barked, jerking her chin in a vague direction given she knew nothing of his intended location. "There's a right storm comin' – go on, then, there's a good lad."
Amused, Severus could only raise one eyebrow. Saying nothing, he strolled on past, muttering a quiet farewell when he'd passed her door.
It was Spinner's End, and it wasn't.
He saw now that the houses were mostly scrubbed—grey they were, and dour, but clean. There were doors of many colours, though red and green seemed to dominate. Every now and then, there was a pot beside a front door with a well-tended and hardy plant. It smelled like rain and Chinese takeaway, a vast improvement from the canal and the old, falling-apart Mill in Cokeworth. He slowed his pace and shoved cold hands into the pockets of his coat. Looking up, Severus noted the lights shining out of windows; not for him, this warm and welcome street. Spinner's End had been cloaked in darkness, the silence punctured by chastising yells and violent thumps.
Swallowing, Severus ran a hand over his mouth and pinched the skin between his thumb and forefinger. Enough. He found himself automatically reaching for the folded paper with her address scrawled upon it. Pausing, he unfolded it and stared at her cursive, then the tiny little smiling mouth she'd drawn instead of her name. Severus shook his head, aware that he was too fond of her to question her obvious happiness. Furthering the stride of his legs, he set off again, the beginnings of a grin spread upon his lips.
Finally—finally!—he would see her. See her, touch her, if Fate chose to bless him this night. He had enough years under his belt to quieten the stirrings of arousal that sparked at the thought of laying even a hand on her warm, bare skin, yet he approached the green door with a pounding heart. Nothing was promised—nothing was ever promised, he knew, child of a broken woman that he was—but if he could just take her hand, skim his fingers over the flesh at her wrists, know what it was to sip from her mouth, then surely he would be fortunate indeed.
He knocked once, twice, then cleared his throat and rapped once more. "Hermione?" he called quietly, drawing back as he heard someone running down the stairs inside the home.
She pulled the door open with all of the aplomb worthy of the simplicity of her clothes. Severus stared at her soft-looking white blouse and jeans, and swallowed. "Good evening," he said gruffly, looking now at her hair as he pondered the wisdom of forgoing dinner altogether and threading his fingers through the knotted curls instead. For her part, Hermione was flushed pink, her hands linked nervously in front of her.
"Hello, Severus," she returned, biting down on her lower lip; try as she might, the smile on her face did not dissipate. "Come inside – looks like it'll rain any minute now."
The smile that she wore, Severus realised, was the same easy look of anticipation and giddiness that he'd caught in her eyes during their very first meeting in Durham. With the image of Hermione and Rosie running after him and calling his name, bidding him to stop and talk, Severus moved onto the doorstep and placed a hand on the witch's waist. He stayed by her long enough to note how she swayed towards him, then slid past her, entering her home for the first time.
He'd been wrong, he discovered.
The atmosphere here, in the cosy house on Prospect Street, was radically different, entirely altered, from his own childhood experience. It was small, to be sure, and the layout—with one extra bedroom upstairs, Severus deduced—was almost exactly the same, but this was no Spinner's End. The front door opened into the sitting room, and there were bookshelves everywhere. From floor to ceiling, with enough space only for a television old enough to be thick and grey instead of thin, wide and black. There was a carpet under his feet, a thin red Turkish number, and the couches were cream, covered with throws and pillows that declared the presence of women. He took in the fresh flowers on the coffee table, and the music playing from a stereo on one shelf, all giving truth to whatever it was that was building between them. Turning, Severus saw Hermione, standing with her back to the door as she anxiously waited.
Quietly, sincerely, he murmured, "You've made a home here." Her shoulders relaxed slightly, and she nodded. "It's lovely," he added, glancing around again. "It suits you both."
"It does," replied Hermione, still twisting her fingers together. "And…"
He titled his head to the side, intrigued. "And?"
The oven beeped. Hermione stayed where she was just long enough to utter an entirely honest, "It suits you, too, you know," before she covered her wide smile and fled for the safety of the kitchen that smelled of comfort and warmth. He tried, and failed, to rub the smirk away from his mouth.
When he followed her, hearing the first drops of rain on the roof, Severus leant against the doorway. Silently, indulgently, he watched as she tied a battered old plum coloured apron around her body and slid out a tray from the oven. She took no chances, bringing it carefully to a wooden board near the sink. Another man might have quizzed her on all of the Muggle techniques that she used, but Severus' black eyes softened as he watched her tip the excess juices into a glass bowl, then return the tray to the oven, the red mitts on her hands protecting her skin. This was his mother all over again, but not, given the happiness that wrapped itself around him when she looked over her shoulder and smiled, cheeks pink.
"Sorry," she said hurriedly, untying the apron. "I was a bit late coming home and didn't get it all in the oven as early as I had hoped."
Crossing his arms, Severus rolled his shoulders. "I'm not in any hurry. Are you?"
"Oh, no," she said and crossed the room to stand before him. "No."
"Where is Rose?" he asked, digging in his pocket and producing a wrapped and shrunken package. He held it out to her and she took his hand, leading them back into the sitting room to fold themselves down onto the couch. Rosie was at her father's, he learned, though he was far more interested in the way that she exclaimed with breathy delight at the book in her lap.
"Thank you!" she said, pressing it to her chest. "It's perfect."
"You wouldn't prefer…" He cast his mind about, wondering what on earth people brought to a date, having never been on one in his life. "Wine?" he managed.
Waving a hand in the air and smirking in a deliciously superior manner, Hermione summoned a bottle of red. "We're all set for that," she teased, the next swish of her fingers producing glasses. "My parents visit Australia from time to time; you wouldn't believe how many bottles they bring back each time!"
"Something tells me they have outside help," he remarked, delighting in the show of her delicate, tanned wrists as she poured the rich red liquid.
She chuckled under her breath and confessed, "I may have developed a self-shrinking case to aid in their endeavours."
"Does it not…" He floundered, trying to remember a film he'd seen a few years previous. "Does it not bother the wine? The travel?"
"No, no!" she said, handing him the glass. Their fingers brushed, and she smiled again, tossing her head of wild hair. "Well, some might, but these are fine. In any case, the box I designed keeps them safe from all of the jostling around. Certainly no worse than bringing them back from the off-licence."
"And what is this?" He swirled the wine around in his mouth, enjoying the warmth it brought. She gave him a look, implying that he could read the label for himself, but he smirked and leaned back against the couch, wanting only to hear her voice again.
Finally, she told him with a tender note to her voice. "This one here is from the Hunter Valley, though my parents prefer to source theirs from the Barossa – it's near where they…" Breaking off, she coloured slightly. "It's where they lived once."
"I didn't know that you lived in Australia," he pressed, slightly bemused. There was a treasure chest of woman to uncover in Hermione, and he was barely scratching the surface.
She shrugged, a simple, well-rehearsed movement. "I didn't. They were there for a few years during the war."
Severus considered asking something else, something to prod her lightly onto the path of explaining further, but felt no desire to do so. Instead he took another sip of wine, wishing it was her tongue he was drawing into his mouth. "I'm glad you like the book."
Like the book? Like? Hermione ran a finger over the spine. He brought me a book instead of flowers or wine or a cake from Sainsbury's. He brought me a book!
"I love the book," she corrected him, and then the rain picked up, pounding on the roof. It was the best endowment she could have asked for; she found peace in it, and in the way Severus' eyes darted to the ceiling and back to her, as if he could see the droplets falling.
"I do!" she confirmed, wondering how on earth he couldn't see just how it affected her. He'd found a coffee table book—just like the ones I told him I liked!—on Iceland and already her fingers itched to open it. The oven's beep jolted her out of her blissful examination. "I'll just…" she began, then made for the kitchen when he nodded and stood, apparently heading for the table in the corner.
Busying herself with serving the simple roast, Hermione chewed on the corner of her lip. She was anxious and jittery; her palms were clammy and she'd hardly been able to string two words together. Finally, finally, he was here! Here, Severus Snape, flesh and blood and man. By the sounds coming from the front room, he was setting the small, circular dining table. Just the sound of the cutlery clinking together in his fingers had her stifling a self-satisfied hoot of laughter. As it was, she gave in to temptation and jogged on the spot, bunching her fists and punching them in the air. Yes!
She left the kitchen poised and collected. He was staring at her intently, his eyes on hers as if he were bent on discovering something, of stripping her to bare bones and laying out her wishes and wants and desires on the table. Taking in one hesitant breath, she set the plates down and said, "Join me, Severus. I'd l—" she began, then stopped. He'd eased her chair out behind her, one hand cupped in the air to guide her into it. Stunned and unprepared for politeness, she sank into the chair and managed a faint, "I'd love it if you'd join me."
"I'm glad you asked me here," he responded, eyes fixed on the plate of chicken and vegetables. He cleared his throat and sat down. "I have been… I have been waiting."
"Yes," she breathed, directing a mental 'bugger off' to her sensibilities and reaching across to touch his hand. "Me, too. I'm sorry that it's taken me… that it's taken us so long."
They began to eat and again Hermione smiled at the way he navigated the meal; no prim and proper man was this. He speared a piece of chicken and swirled it through the gritty specks from the crisp potatoes. She hadn't meant do it, but still she gave a little sigh of relief and triumph when he popped it into his mouth with clean gusto, conveying his appreciation without spraying the table. It was hard not to compare him with Ron, not when he was sitting across from her like her husband had done. Their dining table at the cottage behind the Burrow had been magically extended to within an inch of its life and it bore no similarities to the tidy one she used now, but the placing of the men was the same. Happiness, as potent as Felix Felicis, settled over her. The two men were worlds apart. Neither were perfect, but then neither was she – far from it.
She sighed again, and he looked up from the meal. "Why are you sorry?"
"About the timing – I wanted it to be sooner," she admitted, slightly flustered.
Severus merely looked at her more closely. "As did I," he said steadily.
She felt her cheeks blaze. At first she thought he was unaffected, but then caught sight of his left leg restlessly bouncing. It inspired and warmed her, this sight of his tension. "Will you tell me more about your home? About the time that you bought it, and the Dales?"
"I shall," he said simply between bites. "Eat," he directed, tapping her forgotten cutlery. "It's very good. Eat, and I shall tell you."
Eyeing him teasingly, she obliged him and he began to speak, eyes flitting between her mouth and the room. When he looked away from her, her gaze slid to his pale, practiced hands. They alternated between using the utensils and gesturing vaguely in the air as he recited the tale. Each time they returned to the table, she felt a faint quiver within her belly as something uncoiled and searched out his touch. She drank and he drank, and when Hermione saw the print of his lips on his glass, she set hers down and wished that she'd planned this on any other damn week. Or at least rescheduled, because she certainly hadn't predicted the arrival of her—
"…I still brew for the school, though only on occasion."
"It all sounds wonderful."
"Does it?" He shrugged and cocked his head in the direction of the rest of the house. "This is also wonderful."
"It is," she agreed readily, easily. "God, this is everything I wanted for… for years, really. I used to think about it constantly when I was married." Freezing, she stole a glance and found him nodding.
"You've done well. And… I would hope that you would tell me of this, too."
"Not all of it. We'd be here all night."
Severus opened his mouth to speak, then she suspected he must have thought better of it, for he only hummed. "Some of it, then."
Shifting in the chair, Hermione traced her mouth with a fingertip. "Ron and I worked for longer than seems possible now, after the fact. He was good with me, and he… he understood. He knew what I knew, and my… ah. My nightmares were his nightmares. Do you know what I mean?"
He ducked his head. "In a way."
Continuing, she mumbled, "We were fine, until we weren't. It's not because of Rosie – we were headed that way before her, I'm sure of it. I suppose that the issue of her magic just exacerbated it, brought it smashing into us. I wasn't prepared for it, but it was almost a… a… relief, when his mouth would run off and he'd blurt out these things about blame, and about her future. I couldn't hear it; I didn't want to hear it. I think I'd been looking for an excuse, some formal box I could tick so that I wouldn't mourn the marriage, and as she got older, the excuses came by the bucket-load. It was an easy decision, in the end. And now," she said simply, "I'm here. I came here for the affordable rents, but things have fallen into place. I have a home, Rosie's in a good school, she's happy, I have a career—a fledgling one, mind you, but there's time for that yet—and I have… I have…" You. I have you now. I hope that I have you, now.
He rescued the fumbling conversation, repeating, "You've done well." He brought up his research, and Hermione rested her chin in her palm, transfixed by the faint flush on his cheeks and neck. She thought of tugging open the navy button-up shirt he wore, of brushing her fingers over the smattering of dark hair that was sure to be there on his chest.
When he mentioned the avenues he was considering with charmed potions, she clutched at the path to lead her mind away from its minx-like focus. "I always thought it was more of a mirage, the idea that one could simply research forever and still manage to pay their own way." Sniffing, she added, "I lived as a broke student once – I don't think I could do that again. Besides, Rosie despises two-minute noodles."
He looked at her with warm, black eyes. "I had almost twenty years of experience by that point," he reminded her. "Moving from instructing to preparing, researching, was simple."
"I think I envy you a little," she declared. "It's a good envy – I want that for you. But for me, too."
"You want to research and live in the middle of nowhere, hobbling around taking photographs every now and then?"
With a little gurgle of laughter, she batted a hand at him. "How on earth can you manage to make that all sound like it's a bad thing?"
"It isn't. Of course it isn't. It's brilliant." His grin was delicious, roguish.
"You're like the cat who has eaten up all of the cream, the milk, the butter and the raw ceviche too!"
"Ah, wrong," he said. His knee pressed against hers long enough to be purposeful. "Not the cream."
His face was carefully blank, but the way his eyes burned her was engaging, intimate. She was unprepared for it, and it left her breathless. "Not the cream?"
Severus remained silent, though his features twisted into a grimace.
"What is it?" she pressed, sending the dishes to the sink with a practiced wave of her hand. "Tell me." Leaning forward, she captured his hands, halting the way his fingertips were tapping on the table surface.
Bluntly, he muttered, "I don't know anything about this. About any of it. I have no… I have no bloody talent for whatever it is that I could say to convince you that I care for you, that I could just as easily fall in love with you as I could fall into your bed, and that I want you in my life, I want Rosie in my life, and this is all such a bloody mess." He heaved one, quick breath. "You know what you're doing, and I'm sure to bollocks this up somehow." Standing abruptly, Severus strode over to a bookcase. "I'm sorry," he murmured. The room was quiet apart from the rain; somehow she knew that he was listening for her reaction, with all of his body, all of his senses.
She sat as if stunned. The words, such an awkward, brash declaration, ran around and around within her. Her breath came short as she heard it again and again: I could just as easily fall in love with you as I could fall into your bed. I want you in my life, I want Rosie in my life. I care for you.
Adrift, she pushed herself out of the chair and took one step towards him.
I want you in my life.
"Severus," she said, her voice shaking.
I want Rosie in my life.
He did not face her; as she neared him, his body tensed, ready to spring, ready to flee.
I could just as easily fall in love with you as I could fall into your bed.
"Severus." She reached out with one trembling hand, laying it on his shoulder. "Severus."
He bent his head. "Sorry," he repeated gruffly.
"Why?" she implored, filled with such a fierce and acute yearning for him and all he entailed that she dug her fingers into his shoulder and pulled him to face her. When he did, she could barely stop a gasp at the bare, wanting look on his face. She knew that it was reflected in her expression, for his lips parted and his hands rose in the air, though they fell back to his sides when she opened her mouth to speak again. "Do you know," she said wonderingly, placing her hands over her heart, "that was the most… nobody has ever… about me, that is – nobody has ever said that about me. To me." Then, because she couldn't hold it in after seeing the flash of anguish and hope in his magpie eyes, she whispered, "You're very beautiful to me, Severus. Do you know that you are?"
He shook his head, hurt. "Don't. There's no need—"
Hermione realised that at that moment, she loved him twice as much as she had before. And when had she begun to love him at first? She had no idea of the answer, no inkling as to when he'd snuck into her heart, nestled his way in, to wherever he sat within her now that was unmovable, unbreakable. She wanted to embrace him then, to feel everything that was there, waiting for her inside of him.
Timidly, she pressed two fingers on his soft, thin lips. His eyes widened and she drew breath, lost in the sensation of the warmth of his mouth under her fingertips. "You are beautiful," she said firmly. "It's you—it's who you are, who you were, who you will be. Your eyes, your face, even, even—" Giddily, she pushed up onto her toes and kissed his nose. Rearing back, she laughed aloud at his look of surprise. "It's all of you!" she said, keeping her fingers on his lips. "It's how you look at me—you see me, did you know? You see me, all of me, and the best part—the best part—is that I see you, too! I—" She faltered, gathering courage around her like a cloak. Knowing her feelings with such stark clarity made her wonder if she'd been drowning before, and if she had, then had he, too? Coming out of the water with one, steady smile, she assembled the words. "I love you, Severus," she told him. "I love you, and I won't have you thinking you don't know what you're doing, because you've given me no choice but to love you, and that's that."
His black eyes were piercing. He made no move towards her, but she saw that his hands were shaking, that his body was poised on the brink of something. "Say it again," he demanded hoarsely, finally setting the tension in him away and taking one step to her. "Tell me again."
She'd said it once, and it was freeing to say it again. Matching his step with one of hers, she came so close to his body that surely only an inch or two separated them. Tilting her face to his, she grinned and said, "I love you, Severus. I do. I do. I l—"
He silenced her by gripping her shoulders, searching her face intently. "Hermione…"
More than anything, she wanted him to kiss her. "Yes?"
"Tell me this isn't a dream. I do not want this to be… this cannot be a dream. Say it again. Just—just once more."
"I want you in my life, Severus Snape," she declared simply in response. "We want you in our lives."
"Oh," he sighed, rubbing one hand fiercely over his eyes, then opened his arms to her. "Come here, Hermione." There was intent in the way that his hand slid around her neck, tangling in her hair. He touched her hip; her waist. She buried her fingers in the soft cotton shirt and tugged him down, hearing the sweetness that was his baritone voice uttering her name once more, before he pressed his mouth to hers.
It was chaste and testing: one mere touch of his lips to hers. As if both were turning the idea of kissing again over in their minds, they moved towards each other again in unison: one more soft, unassuming kiss. His palms held her cheeks as he tilted her head gently to the side and he kissed her again, lingering this time, the taste of him warm and sweet. They broke away from each other and she closed her eyes, offering him a pleading whisper, "Severus… please, won't you… again…"
He chuckled darkly under his breath and she opened her eyes, entranced by the sound and the way his eyes were heavy with arousal. "I'd like to," he said hoarsely, watching her and huffing a quick breath when she nodded, lower lip caught by her teeth. "Let me," he whispered, replacing her teeth with his thumb, smoothing it over her mouth before swiftly he bent his head again and captured her lips.
She moaned, then, at the feel of his tongue sliding its way past her lips. It was full with the taste of him, of wine and rich food and musk. He might have pulled away then, might have loosened his grip on her hair, her waist, but her desire drove them onward. When she linked her fingers through his hair, keeping him flush against her body, he groaned into her mouth, pushing forwards until her back met the wall.
"Hermione…" he breathed as she shifted on her legs, guiding his thigh to rest between them, his hardness now trapped at her belly. He pressed against her and she gasped, her mouth now free as his lips and teeth nipped at her neck, her ear, her shoulder. "This is heaven," he murmured when he let his forehead rest on her chest.
"Yes, yes," she managed to say, fingers trailing down his chest. "Severus, I…"
She felt him tense, but he kept his hands on her waist, gentling his grip only slightly. "It's too soon, I'm sorry."
"No, it's not that," she scolded him teasingly, squeezing the back of his neck. "It's just that I—ah—well, I've got my period and I'd very much like for you to stay, but I suppose that…"
He drew back to look at her, and his grin was both relieved and slightly wolfish. "I don't mind. Does it bother you?"
"Oh." Hermione thought for a moment, bemused. "Not at all, but… well… I wasn't really in the right frame of mind while getting ready today and, well…"
"Did you need to prepare yourself, witch?" he purred, chuckling again. "Whatever for?"
She lifted her chin. "I've never had a man over here, Severus. It's a big change. It's new, and exciting too, of course, but also rather terrifying."
"Yes," he agreed simply. "I know. Shall I… ah, not that I want to, but shall I go?" Softening the question, he placed a kiss on her mouth.
"No!" It was out of her before she could take it back. She soldiered on. "Won't you stay with me? Sleep here with me. Now that I have you, I don't… I don't want… It's just that Dent is so very far away, and—and…"
"Hush, woman." He extinguished the lights with a wave of his hand, then dug into his back pocket to produce his wand. He sent the books back to their orderly stack on the table and set the rest of the room to rights. "Come to bed with me, Hermione."
"I will," she said with quiet joy. "I will."
They whispered together in her bed for what felt like hours. He held her in his arms; the intimacy of simply lying with her was heady. Hermione fell asleep easily; she simply set her cheek upon his chest, stroked along his collarbones a handful of times, and then sighed. He wore his singlet and transfigured pyjama bottoms, but he felt her breath puffing on his body as if he were naked.
Severus was lost in the sensation of holding her. Her curls tickled his neck; her hands, trapped under his on his belly, were warm. She mumbled nonsensical things every now and then about lunch money and pick-up times.
He couldn't fall asleep. He was aroused—almost painfully so—and the feel of her body pressed half over his was enthralling. The stiffness of his erection was unrelenting and he resented it, wishing that he could close his eyes and fall into dreams with her, about her. He sighed for the umpteenth time and revisited the memory of her mouth on his, her breasts crushed against his chest. The brassiere she'd worn had made it impossible to feel tightened nipples but he found that in the quiet hours of the night, he could trick his mind into believing that he'd felt the hardened buds, teased them, tongued them. His private climax in the kitchen of the Rose Cottage earlier that day had done nothing to quell his arousal – an impossible, herculean task, he realised. He hadn't been this close to a woman in more years than he wished to count, and her proximity was close to sending him mad with desire.
It was her confession, her declaration of pure and ardent love, that had undone him. He'd known that she cared for him, assumed it based on their interactions, but love… It was everything. To feel loved, to be loved…
Severus smiled, drawing her closer. She mumbled and smacked her lips together before settling again.
He knew beyond all doubt that he loved her. It had taken him until now, until she slept with such abandon and trust, to understand that the burning in his chest, the ache he felt, was how he returned her feelings. He'd known it previously, but it was masked under other things: concern for her safety at night (a ridiculous thing, to be concerned about a powerful witch), thoughts about Rosie and her lack of magic, ideas about places to take the two females in his life. Even teaching her daughter was filled with such anxiety and determination that he realised now that it, too, was from love. He didn't want to disappoint either witch or girl, and he wanted this, this feeling of a woman sleeping in his arms, every night.
Time passed, perhaps an hour or so, and soon he became overwhelmed from her nearness. Almost without thinking, he pushed his covered sex against her thighs, thrusting rhythmically. He clutched onto her waist with one hand, and with the other, twisted a curl around his finger. It was all he dared to do.
Later still, she awoke. He was still hard, still breathless with desire, and she rubbed her cheek on his chest like a sunning cat. He thrust against her again, groaning, and she whimpered. He turned on his side and rose above her, searching for her mouth in the darkness; he found her jaw first and kissed it, sliding his lips along her skin until she caught them, her tongue thrusting along with his hips.
"Hermione," he hissed, a groan falling from his mouth to hers as he pushed again, his cock throbbing from pressing on the silk of her pyjamas. Breathless, he kissed her cheek, her neck and when she guided his head to her breast, he sighed and pulled down the strap of her singlet. "Hermione, love…"
He caressed her bare breasts, entranced with the way they filled his hands. He ran his cheek, now gritty with new growth, between them, then pushed them together with his fingers as he suckled the buds, barely believing that he was here, his mouth on her nipples, his cock so close to the heat of her as he drowned in her cries of pleasure, her fingers digging into his waist, tugging the hairs on his chest—
"I love you," he gasped, crying out into the night as she wrought a shuddering climax from his body. She crooned to him, pulling him down until he was pillowed upon her breast, her fingers in his hair.
"I know, I know," she whispered over and over again, dragging her nails down his back. "I'm so happy that you love me." And he knew it – he felt it, her happiness, this tangible thing that she gifted him with.
"Love you," he said sleepily, exhausted. "I do, you know."
"I know. I know, I know, darling man."
Two weeks later, her sharp teeth sunk into her lower lip as he ran his hands along the curve of her hip. He'd dreamt of her for the fortnight; the waiting was torturous. They were in her room again, and she was naked beside him on the bed.
"Severus," she whispered pleadingly, "yes. Oh, yes. I don't want to wait any longer." He groaned and spread his fingers out over her belly, feeling the softness of her flesh.
Nodding once, he dipped one finger down to touch her, feeling her clitoris quiver at his attention. "God," she moaned, pushing her hips up toward his hand. "Please—I just—I can't… I'm half there already, love, I don't think I can—"
Her hands trailed down his chest to take him in hand and he gasped. "Yes," he hissed, allowing her to tug him gently towards her; he'd melt into her if she would only allow it.
He felt light-headed as she guided him to her warm, wet entrance; it was bizarre and close to unbearable, this feeling, this anticipation. The tip of him brushed over her chestnut curls and he nudged her hand away, taking hold of his cock as he did it again: one purposeful, teasing graze of the faint roughness. She laughed loudly, indulging the delight he found in exploring every inch of her sex.
"Come in, Severus," she whispered, moving her hips. "Come inside. I've been ever so patient…"
"You have," he replied, unable to say out loud that he was nervous, that he was anxious, that he was desperately worried about not pleasing her the way she was obviously hoping that he would do. His eyes flicked down to where her legs were only half-open, as if she were waiting for something.
"Love," she murmured, "look at me."
He shifted once until their eyes were locked. Brushing a stray lock of hair away from his forehead, she whispered, "If either of us manage to last longer than half a minute, I think that'd be something to be recorded. As it is… take the edge off for me. I want…" She gave a little half-laugh; her voice shook. "I want you."
Her desire slid inside of him until his chest was full with it and he could not deny her. She took him in her fingers again and then—oh, then—there was skin giving way, tightness enveloping, heat inviting—
"Slowly," she moaned; she was breathing rapidly and when she pulled his head down to capture his mouth, he felt her smile on his lips. "Slowly, now."
"Gods," he gasped, and it was a raw sound, a naked, hopeless sound as he finally—finally, finally—sunk into her, his entire body aflame with whatever it was that she was gifting him with.
Severus took her hands, pressing them down flat beside her head of tangled hair. He linked their fingers together, thrusting in again, coaxing her, hoping beyond hope, beyond measure, to draw her pleasure out, call it out to play with him, to come to him, to come with him—
It was exquisite. It was her and it was the heat of her; it was Hermione and it was her body that was wrapped around him, keeping him there. The witch pushed her body down to meet his second thrust and she gave a hoarse cry of surprise.
"Oh—oh—"she breathed, one hand jerking free of his fingers and working its way between their bodies. "You—yes, just—oh, there—just let me—I'll—oh—" She was pressing on her clit but even before that, he felt her tightening, felt her tensing, her entire body quivering—
And he knew it, then. He knew it: he'd brought her to this precipice, this sensation that she was chasing, that she was waking to but not giving in to.
She was insistent; she pulled him closer—as if he could be any closer, joined with her the way that he was!—and her fingers now dug into his buttocks as she cried out again. Severus could only thrill to it, relish in it, revel in the scratching of her fingernails and the—
"Ah—" he hissed, "gods—Hermione, I—"
He kissed her then, his mouth on hers, lips curving into a grin of ecstasy as, impossibly, they came together.
"Yes?" he managed to murmur later when she'd cleaned them both and tucked him into the bed beside her, her thigh nestled between his.
"Oh," she said mischievously, "yes."
Fifteen Saturdays later
He coughed, realising that he'd spoken aloud instead of internally.
"Hmm?" Hermione looked up from her book and Severus responded with a noncommittal grunt. Her feet were on his lap as she stretched out along the couch in his sitting room. Rosie was poring over a text at the desk across the room. It was new, and he'd set it up to stand under one of the windows, though the girl hardly glanced at the view outside the house. She was lost in the tome. Severus ran his fingers over Hermione's toes, pausing to admire the delicate curve of her ankles.
"Did you say something?" she murmured, wiggling her toes. He took each one between his thumb and forefinger, pressing down until she giggled. "What?"
"Nothing," he replied softly, returning his attention to the podcast playing through the speakers set on various bookshelves. It was a blessing that both witch and girl could tune out his habit of dabbling with the benefits of his internet connection on long, cold nights.
Hermione hummed and went back to reading, while Rose opted to leave the desk and flop down by the fire. It cast a warm glow about the room and Severus watched, a half-smile on his lips, as his student stared at the dancing flames. Soon, he knew, she'd potter around in the kitchen, searching for something or other to eat before taking her plate to the garden where she would stick her head over the fence and look for livestock, no matter the weather or time of day.
He'd steal a kiss then, his mouth on Hermione's, drinking in the taste of her.
For now, though, Severus tipped his head back and closed his eyes, content.
My home is full.
Single mum Hermione is struggling to find the right assistance for her child (the nature of the issue is up to you). Why does she turn to Snape? Is he able to help? How does his success or failure affect their relationship? (SS/HG.)