Chapter 40: A Wedding At Last
The weeks leading up to the wedding passed pleasantly and with an unusual amount of snowfall, even for the sleepy winter village of Hogsmeade.
"It looks like you're going to have a snowy wedding," said Ginny, who had brought a steaming pot of hearty stew to share with Hermione and Severus for lunch.
"Yes. I'm glad I went ahead and secured a Portkey to bring my parents here," Hermione said. "Muggle travel would be a nightmare."
Ginny nodded, looking vaguely confused.
"When will you go collect them?" she asked.
"Thursday," Hermione said, sighing and sipping her tea.
"What's the matter?" Ginny asked.
"I don't know," Hermione said. "I suppose I'm just nervous to have them to stay. I had to complete a mountain of paperwork for them to be allowed in Hogsmeade in the first place. They'll insist on introducing themselves to everyone in the village as my Muggle parents, and have already expressed their outrage over the approval process to get them here."
"I see," said Ginny.
"But that's not what I'm nervous about," Hermione continued.
"Oh?" asked Ginny. "What is it, then?"
"It's going to be strange, having them at the Apothecary," Hermione said. "It's my life, my whole world – and they've never seen it outside of day trips to Diagon Alley. I don't know how they're going to react to our work, our life here, my chosen career... they've always been skeptical of magical education. In some ways, they're right to be, actually. Harry and Ron still have no idea how to write a proper essay."
"You'd think all those years of copying yours would have taught them something," Ginny remarked, giggling at Hermione's instantaneous reaction of annoyance.
"Yes, I know I'm partly to blame," she huffed.
"But your parents are supportive of your marriage," said Ginny after composing herself.
"Yes," Hermione admitted. "Surprisingly so. They're still wary of our age difference – of course they are, it's a large gap – but they were incredibly supportive during our last visit."
Ginny nodded and said, "I haven't seen your parents in such a long time. They probably won't even remember who I am."
"Not a chance they'd forget you," Hermione said. "Mum talks about you and Harry all the time. She thought you were the cutest fiery little redhead as a child."
"Oh, I suppose I'm not cute anymore?" Ginny said in mock offense.
Hermione shook her head and said, "No. As Harry says, you're the most beautiful Quidditch player in the league."
Ginny rolled her eyes and said, "Mostly when he wants to distract me from an argument we're having."
Hermione raised her spoon to her lips and hummed in response.
"How did the photos turn out from George?" asked Ginny. Hermione nearly spat out her stew and coughed a few times before answering.
"Ah... they were good," she said. "He's very talented with the camera."
She eyed Ginny, watching for a sign in her expression that she knew more about the photos than she should.
"It's odd seeing Severus in them," Ginny remarked. "He's so... sweet and obviously in love with you... it's like seeing him through your eyes, I suppose. Is that what he's like all the time when we're not around?"
Hermione snorted and said, "Definitely not. He's Severus Snape."
Ginny nodded silently.
"Well, I thought the photos were lovely. I wish George could have done mine," she said.
Hermione coughed again to disguise a giggle at the thought. Ginny gave her a curious look.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing, I just, er, have a tickle in my throat today."
Ginny's eyes widened and she said, "You'd better take something for that – you don't want to be sick for your own wedding!"
"I'll be fine," Hermione insisted.
"Why wouldn't you be?" Severus asked, walking into the kitchen to join them.
"Her throat has a tickle," Ginny said seriously.
"Does it?" he asked, eyes glinting, and Hermione knew he'd heard the last bit of their conversation.
"I'm fine. Really," she said. "It's gone."
Severus served himself a bowl of stew and sat down at the table.
"Is this a Weasley family recipe?" he asked Ginny after sampling the dish.
"I suppose it is, since it's my own, and I'm a Weasley," she replied.
"It's delicious, Ginny," said Hermione.
"Thank you," she said. "I take it Severus agrees, since he's finished his already."
Hermione laughed and saw that Ginny was right – Severus had scarfed down his first serving and was preparing to ladle a second into his bowl.
"Did you forget to eat breakfast?" she asked him.
"I never forget," he said. "It was not a priority."
"I knew you wouldn't," she said. "You're like a kid on Christmas morning when there's a new potion setting overnight."
"You've created a new potion?" Ginny asked with interest.
"Unfortunately, not," Severus replied. "The attempt was unsuccessful."
"What is it?" Ginny prodded.
"Classified," Hermione said, smiling. "Company secret."
"Really?" Ginny asked, looking even more interested.
"Indeed," Severus said mysteriously, finishing his second helping.
"In a hurry, are you?" Hermione asked. "Stay a while – the potions lab isn't going anywhere."
He stood and sent his dish to wash itself in the sink.
"Give me twenty minutes," he said, planting a kiss on her forehead.
"Fine," she said. "Then you're taking a break."
Severus went back to the lab and Ginny looked at Hermione.
"Do you know what he's working on?" she asked.
"Of course – I helped create it," Hermione said.
"Don't you want to help brew it?" asked Ginny.
"Oh, no... not this one," Hermione replied. "It's got some really nasty ingredients that ah – make me violently ill once combined. We discovered that the first time we tried the brew. I – ah – ruined an entire batch."
"It doesn't bother him?" Ginny asked.
"Apparently not to the same extent," Hermione said, shrugging.
Ginny stared at her for a moment, then said slowly, "Hermione... you're not...?"
"I'm not what?"
Ginny gave her a significant look and said, "Whenever my Aunt Louella was pregnant she'd become violently sick at the first whiff of anything unpleasant-smelling."
Hermione shook her head and said quickly, "I'm not pregnant, Ginny."
"Are you... sure?"
"Of course I am! Not only am I quite capable of performing preventative charms, as is Severus, we make potions for a living. There's absolutely no chance."
"There's always a chance, Hermione," said Ginny. "A chance you forgot the charms once, or your potion wasn't as potent as it should have been... magical fertility is a fickle thing. It changes according to your age and the strength of your magic, you know."
"I know," Hermione said calmly. "I'm not pregnant, and I have no desire to be. There will be no children in my immediate future – if ever there are."
"Okay..." Ginny said in an unconvinced tone of voice. "But, Hermione, just listen... when Harry and I got engaged, my mother warned me to be extra careful, to reinforce our protective charms more often and take a bit more of my potion every month. Once you're engaged – in the magical sense – your connection with your fiance works against the charms, makes the potions less effective. Magical blood is determined to reproduce and such a bond between partners strengthens it."
"That's just old hag's tale," Hermione said. "It has never been proven in the research."
"I see," Ginny said dismissively. "Well, Mum says the longer the engagement, the more likely your magic will overcome the spells and potions. You and Severus only just got engaged, so you're probably right... you're not pregnant."
Hermione smiled and said, "I'm not."
Despite her certainty, she felt a flutter of anxiety in her chest. Unbeknownst to Ginny, her engagement to Severus had been far longer than the usual magical vow.
"I've always been sensitive to nasty-smelling potions ingredients," she said. "My first year at Hogwarts, I always felt ill in Potions class."
"Are you sure it wasn't because it was the only class where the professor didn't like you?" Ginny asked, grinning knowingly.
"No!" Hermione said, grinning back and laughing despite herself.
"Isn't there a spell you can use to keep from smelling the stuff while you work?" Ginny asked.
"Of course there is, but it's too dangerous to give up your sense of smell while brewing," Hermione said. "It's one of the ways you know whether the potion is correct, or if something has gone wrong."
"I suppose that makes sense," said Ginny.
"We learned that in our first year," Hermione reminded her.
"I suppose we did," said Ginny, shrugging. "Well, I should get going. Let me know if your parents are up to visiting Grimmald Place once they arrive. Harry and I would love to see them."
"I'm sure they'll be pleased to see you, too," Hermione said.
Ginny hugged her.
"I can't believe you're getting married this week!" she said. "You're so calm, and Severus is working as if nothing is different."
"No, he's not," Hermione said, smiling. "He's been even more productive and anxious to stay busy than usual. He hasn't stopped moving since last week."
Ginny left and Hermione immediately went to find Severus in the lab. She cast a smell-blocking charm on herself before entering the room.
He emerged from behind a shelf in the far corner of the room and blinked at her.
"Ginny's just said something that I think... I think we need to test."
He frowned and asked, "Did you tell her about the potion?"
"No, I haven't told her..." Hermione trailed off as her stomach protested her presence in the potions lab, despite the fact that she couldn't detect any scent whatsoever at the moment.
"Can we talk outside of the lab for a moment?" she asked, grimacing.
Severus followed her out into the hallway and shut the door behind him.
"What's the matter?" he asked, his brow deeply creased in concern.
"Ginny asked if I'm pregnant," Hermione burst out. "I told her I'm not helping you brew this potion because I can't stand the smell it produces without getting sick, and she asked if I'm pregnant."
She looked up at his surprised face.
"What if I'm pregnant?" she asked.
He blinked at her and then said, "It is far more likely that you are over-sensitive to the trace amount of aerosol compounds produced by the brewing process, and your body reacts as if you have ingested a poison. It is a rare, though well-documented response in some magical beings."
"Oh," she said. "Yes. I knew that... but what if - "
"If you were pregnant, we would do what is best," he said.
"Whatever you decide," he said.
"You can't pretend you don't have a preference!" she exclaimed.
"You know my feelings about children, as I know yours," he said. "We have taken extensive care to avoid a pregnancy and have no desire to be parents at this time. If your feelings change, I will support your decision to raise a child together, though a rather unfit a father I would be."
"You wouldn't be unfit, Severus," she said in a low voice.
"I have no paternal instinct," he insisted flatly. "However, I would not despise my own child, as my father did."
Hermione felt tears well up in her eyes. Her stomach pulled itself into a knot.
"Let's not talk about it anymore until we know whether or not I am," she said.
He stared at her silently for a few seconds.
"Shall I perform the spell, or you?" he asked.
"I normally check every month the same day," she said shakily, pulling out her wand. "When Ginny asked me, I realized I was supposed to a last Sunday and I just... forgot."
He watched as she took a deep breath and tried to steady her wand. A moment later, he pulled her toward his chest and wrapped one arm around her shoulders as he moved his other hand to her abdomen and gently rested his fingertips on the fabric of her robe, just below her belly button. She shivered.
Without another word, he performed the spell and Hermione held her breath as she looked down to see the familiar soft blue glow emanate briefly under his palm. Not pregnant.
"Thank Merlin," she breathed in relief. "I'm sorry, I should have checked myself as soon as Ginny left. I just panicked. I'm not ready to be a parent."
"As you've made clear many times," he said. "Which is why we carefully prepare a fresh batch of your personally-developed potion each month. Why did you doubt it's efficacy?"
"Ginny was insisting the longer a magical couple is engaged, the more likely their magic is to overcome any preventative measures."
"That is a myth," he said disapprovingly.
"I know... I know," Hermione said. "I suppose I'm not as calm as I appear this week, waiting for my parents to arrive – waiting to complete our vows. It's all gone so well... far more smoothly than I thought possible. I'm waiting for something to happen to ruin it."
"Nothing is going to happen," he said soothingly, his voice deep and low in her ear.
"So, I suppose I'm just allergic to our latest work," she said sheepishly. "That's highly inconvenient."
"If you can bear the smell, an anti-nausea potion or two should help, if you insist on brewing it with me," he said.
"I don't know," she said, wrinkling her nose. "It's an awful stench. I don't know how you bear it."
"I distract myself with sweeter thoughts," he said, rubbing her back lightly.
"Such as?" she asked.
He inhaled, his lips brushing her ear as he spoke, "The smell of your hair after one of your extravagant baths..."
He gently tugged her head back, his cool fingers touching her scalp.
"The taste of that wildly successful balm you created and wear on your lips," he said, kissing her.
Hermione melted into his arms, her anxiety and nausea banished immediately.
"The softness of your skin," he said, removing his lips from hers and making her sigh at the loss. He traced a finger over her throat, collarbone, and decolletage. His fingertips were lightly calloused and she shivered at the gentle friction as he pushed her robe off one shoulder and trailed his hand down her upper arm.
"The feeling of your fiery hands on – "
"Severus, the shop is still open," she reminded him suddenly. He growled in annoyance, took her wand, and pointed it toward the shop floor. Hermione could hear the curtains pull themselves closed with a fury, the door lock itself, and the sign flip itself over to 'closed'.
"I'm not sure how I feel about you thinking of me when you smell something putrid," she giggled, instantly regretting ruining the intensity of the moment. He was not deterred.
"You supply the most effectively distracting thoughts... it's a compliment," he said.
"Oh, okay..." she giggled again.
He silenced her with a kiss and she was happy to give up the argument. Hermione forgot everything except for how wonderful it was to snog her soon-to-be husband. His sharp and devilishly articulate tongue turned smooth and inviting in her mouth and on her flesh, confidently giving her exactly what she craved.
Hermione returned to the shop with more color in her face than usual, feeling calm and not at all ill. Severus sealed the lab shut and thoroughly cleaned the workspace when he was done brewing.
It seemed that she blinked once, and her parents had arrived for the wedding. Stubbornly ignoring the butterflies in her stomach, she led them toward the Apothecary. Her mother and father were wobbly and woozy from traveling via Portkey and trudged slowly behind Hermione without speaking until they reached the front door to the shop.
"This is it," Hermione said, her breath puffing out in a white cloud as she let it out and waited for her parents' reactions.
"It has a lot of character," her father remarked, gazing at the worn stones and snow-covered roof. The heavy wooden door was adorned with a simple evergreen wreath sprinkled with a dusting of charmed snow that glistened softly in the muted light of the overcast day.
"I hope it's warm inside," her mother remarked, shivering.
"Come on, then," Hermione said, walking toward the door. Before she could open it, Severus appeared in the doorway, beckoning them inside. Her parents greeted him warmly, seeming to come out of their post-Portkey daze. They stared around the shop, craning their necks back to peer at the high shelves laden with neat rows of potions in jars, vials, and stoppered glass tumblers. Her mother walked over to the bins of common potions ingredients and frowned at the small signs written in Hermione's hand.
"You actually sell eye of newt?" she asked incredulously. "I thought we Muggles imagined that one."
"Indeed, it is a common ingredient in household elixirs," Severus said, a smile creeping across his face as he watched her mother read more of the signs.
Her father had gone to stand by the charmed flames dancing in the fireplace, and began warming his hands.
"Would you like something to drink? Eat?" Hermione asked. It was nearly time for lunch in Hogsmeade.
"No, thank you, dear," her mother said. "We only had dinner a few hours ago back home."
"I wouldn't say no to a drink," her father replied.
Severus disappeared wordlessly and returned with a bottle of root beer – one of his own experimental brews.
"Is this... magical?" her father asked, sniffing it.
Hermione laughed and assured him it was not. He took a swig and nodded in approval.
"It's good," he said, offering her mother a sip, which she politely refused.
"Shall we show you the rest, and most importantly, where you'll be staying?" Hermione asked. "Do you need to rest?"
"Yes," her mother said. "I don't think magical travel agrees with me at all."
Severus led them briefly through the potions lab, and Hermione followed her parents, watching them closely as they took in the workroom without comment. Her mother finally accepted a glass of water in the kitchen and carried it with her as she climbed the stairs to Severus and Hermione's living room.
"Now, this is a fire," her father said, turning to warm his backside for a moment. Her mother was gaping at the interior of the upstairs, which obviously did not match the outside of the building.
"This is lovely," she finally said.
"Let me show you to your rooms," Hermione said, as her mother stifled a yawn. Severus stayed behind, pouring himself a drink and settling into the armchair by the fire. The shop was closed until after the wedding, and Hermione had convinced him to stop working for a few days.
When Hermione shut the door behind them after entering the guest suite, her parents suddenly found their voices.
"Your laboratory looks like something out of a movie set," her mother said. "This is truly surreal. My daughter, the witch, a Potions Mistress."
She collapsed into the chair by the door.
"It's not that I didn't believe you, Hermione. It's just so strange to finally see it – the tables full of cauldrons, the vials and jars of bits of strange creatures, the smell that tickles my nose and makes me feel like I'm breathing champagne – is it like that for you, too?"
Hermione shook her head and said, "It's probably all the magic in the air here. You're not used to it, that's all. We stopped brewing yesterday so that it wouldn't be as overwhelming when you arrived."
"Did you have to get used to it, when you first came to Hogwarts?" her father asked.
"Yes, a bit," Hermione said. "The sensation of being surrounded by magic and other magical beings all the time was... odd. Probably not exactly like what you're experiencing now, since I'd been performing magic on my own for a while before I came to school."
Her father disappeared into the loo and her mother looked as if she might doze off in the chair.
"Well, I'll let you rest," Hermione said. "Would you like to join us for dinner? Perhaps it will help you adjust to the time change?"
"If we haven't emerged by dinner time, come wake us," he mother said, yawning. "It will be nearly breakfast time for us by then."
Hermione and Severus ate a modest meal and spent the afternoon reading in front of the fire together. Just before six, there was a knock at the door, and her mother opened it to peek inside.
"There you are," she said. "You look cozy."
"Are you hungry?" Hermione asked, stretching her legs out under the throw she was snuggled beneath on the sofa.
"I shall be soon, I think," she replied. "Your father is still out cold."
"Do you want to join us?" Hermione asked, motioning to the other side of the sofa, which was vacant. Severus was sitting comfortably in his armchair, his legs stretched out in front of him, a book levitated in front of his face, and a glass of firewhiskey in his hand.
"I didn't bring any reading material," her mother said, walking over to join Hermione. "I'm ashamed to admit that I don't read nearly as much as I used to."
"Here," said Hermione, wandlessly summoning her copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard from the bedroom bookshelf. Her mother flinched as it whizzed past her head and into Hermione's waiting hand.
"Wizard's fairy tales," she said, placing the book in her mother's lap. The three of them sat reading for another hour, the only sound in the room the crackling of the fire.
Hermione and Severus prepared a meal together while her parents showered and freshened up. The atmosphere relaxed into comfortable anticipation after dinner, all parties looking forward to the marriage ceremony and celebration.
After a night full of blustery flurries the day before the wedding, the wind died down and the snow showers stopped. The morning was overcast but not gloomy – a few rays of sunlight peeked through the small breaks in the clouds.
Ginny and Harry arrived for breakfast. Ginny had insisted on being present to help Hermione get ready, despite Hermione's assurances that she and her mother would be able to figure out the details. Harry, Severus, and Hermione's father sat in front of the fire together, waiting for the women to finish their preparations.
"Your dress is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, Hermione," Ginny said. "The Muggles know what they're doing with fashion – we'll just have to add a few warming charms so you don't freeze on the way over."
"I could just Apparate," Hermione said.
"Absolutely not," said Ginny, shaking her head firmly. "It might ruin your hair."
Hermione sighed and resisted the urge to shake her head while Ginny was carefully charming her conditioned and defined mane of curls into a complicated hairstyle.
"Fine, I suppose I'll walk. I doubt I'll need any warming charms, though, since I'll be wearing the winter cloak Severus gave me for Christmas."
"Oh, I nearly forgot about it!" said Ginny. "Has your mum seen it yet?"
"No, I haven't," said Hermione's mother. "Where is it?"
"Ask Severus to fetch it from our closet," said Hermione. "I don't want to summon it – I'm afraid it will drag the floor on the way over."
Her mother disappeared and returned after a few minutes holding the deep red cloak.
"Lovely," she murmured, running her hands over the fabric.
"All right, I think I'm done," said Ginny.
Hermione inspected her hair as Ginny held up a mirror so that she could see the back.
"Wonderful, Ginny," she said approvingly.
"Now, just let me get dressed," said Ginny.
Hermione's mother scooted in beside Hermione to use the mirror, fussing with her hair and then putting on her earrings and necklace.
"You look really nice, Mum," said Hermione, smiling.
"I look nice for a Muggle, I suppose," she replied. "You don't think I should borrow one of your dress robes?"
"Not unless you'd feel more comfortable that way," Hermione said. "Nobody is going to be surprised that you and Dad are Muggles."
"Yes, well... I just don't want all eyes to be on my odd, Muggle clothes instead of my gorgeous daughter in her wedding gown."
Hermione laughed and said, "You look good, Mum. Besides, we can't have Dad being the only one in Muggle attire."
"I suppose not," her mother agreed.
Ginny returned, wearing a long-sleeved dress robe in emerald green.
"Oh, don't you look lovely, dear!" her mother exclaimed. Hermione agreed.
"Well, I suppose it's time to go," she said, folding her cloak neatly over her arm and walking toward the door.
"Wait, Hermione! You have to put your cloak on before Severus sees you," her mother said.
"Mum, he bought me the dress – I think he knows what it looks like. He's even seen me wearing it, remember? The photo?"
"Yes, but it should still be a surprise," said her mother. "You'll make his heart stop when you take off the cloak at the ceremony."
"I hope not," said Hermione. "I can't marry him if he's dead."
She pulled the cloak over her shoulders and fastened it.
"Better?" she asked. Her mother and Ginny nodded.
"Now, let's go get the men," said her mother.
The party walked to the Warlock's Lodge together. Hermione cast repelling charms on her parent's feet and legs to keep them dry in the snow.
When they arrived, Hermione immediately set to fixing the fire pit up with the largest, warmest charmed flames she could manage. Then she joined the rest of the group, which now included Luna and Gallus, inside to wait for the guests to arrive. The guest list included the Weasley family, most of the Hogwarts professors, and a couple of Ginny and Ingrid's teammates.
George arrived early and took a few photos before the ceremony. Luna kept peeking out of the heavy wooden double doors into the courtyard to see how many guests had arrived. Finally, she tapped her watch and turned to Hermione and Severus.
"It's time!" she said happily.
Ginny took Harry's arm and led him to stand in front of Hermione and Severus. She looked back at Hermione over her shoulder and smiled brightly. Luna opened the doors fully and led the way. Ginny and Harry followed a few seconds later.
Hermione took a deep breath and placed her arm in Severus', waiting a few shaky moments for him to step out of the doorway. She wore her red cloak until they arrived at their spot in front of the roaring fire pit, then Ginny helped her shed it and placed it aside. Severus watched her with a hint of a smile on his lips, his eyes never leaving her throughout the brief and simple ceremony.
When it came time to perform the binding magic, Hermione's nervousness had been replaced with a warm, slowly-building anticipation. It was nothing more than a formality, since they had long been bound in love, in magic, in blood, as well as in the complex threads of time itself. She had no reservations about completing their vows by exchanging rings which Luna carefully levitated from an ornate crystal bowl filled with dried lavender and rose petals mingled in a potion that had required a single drop of blood from both Hermione and Severus the night before.
Hermione watched with interest as the rings rose slowly from the bowl, shimmered briefly and brilliantly, then dulled to their usual metallic shine. Luna waited for them to take the rings, then set the bowl aside.
They exchanged rings, Luna cast the appropriate spells, and finally they shared a chaste kiss, which sent a wave of tingly warm magic through Hermione's body, from head to toe and back as they separated again. She thought she might have seen a few winking stars of magic crackle and blink in and out of existence between them, but it happened so quickly she couldn't be certain.
Severus' smile had faded and he now looked so devastatingly serious that Hermione wondered if the glint in his eye was the result of holding back tears. The realization immediately sent her into her own struggle with watery eyes, which she quickly lost. Thankfully, she held it together well enough to make it back down the aisle before the guests joined them inside to eat, drink, and make merry.
In the years to come, the Potters and the Weasleys would insist that nobody in attendance that day further doubted the propriety of the marriage, but the truth is that Molly Weasley and Minerva McGonagall shared many a tea together in which they continued to marvel at the match, and Hermione was cautioned afterward by various former professors to continue pursing her career goals. She could do nothing but laugh and assure them she had no intention of ceasing her lifelong pursuit of knowledge and success.
Severus and Hermione continued to live in Hogsmeade and work tirelessly in the lab together, elevating the field of Potions through scientific rigor, academic publications, and the development of hundreds of innovative potions and brewing techniques. They remained happily married for the rest of their long lives, to the amazement of much of wizarding Britain.