*does the fic-finished dance*
Hermione stood outside the sliver of grey and white frontage that was Master Mathias's Bread and Bun Emporium and frowned up at the sign. Was it little wonder she'd never ventured inside with that as the name of his business? Though with the ease of pain and a clear head for the first time in over a decade, she did find it funny.
She drew in a long breath and the rich, warm odour of fresh bread eased though her senses. Yes, there was no ache. No pain.
Long fingers squeezed her hand and she smiled up at Severus.
She'd woken that morning, spooned against him, his delicious skin, so much of it, pressed around her body. He'd kissed her shoulder and her heart had squeezed, tight and hard and been chased with a swift hit of bliss.
His soft, warm, "Are you well this morning, witch?" had turned her in his arms and she'd snuggled —properly snuggled for the first time in her life— against his acres of bare flesh.
Severus had sighed and held her until they were forced to crawl out of her perfectly good bed and start the day.
A shock of black hair off to her left broke in to her pleasant thoughts. Harry. And with him the drawn, grey form of Apprentice Abernathy. Hermione's heart squeezed for the girl, and she hoped —she offered up prayers to Merlin, Nimue and any one else listening— that Hortensia's soul-mate had decided to come to the bakery that morning.
"Hermione." Harry winced. "Snape." But then he froze, his gaze darting across her hand held tight in Severus'. He looked up to her and a frown grew, pinching his lips. He looked just like his dragon of a mother-in-law. "I told Abernathy what we believed. That her soul-mate," he rubbed at his jaw, his eyes on their threaded fingers again, "yes, that, is very likely inside."
Abernathy drew in a breath. "Good morning, Inspector Granger, Master Snape."
She lifted her shoulders, but a weariness sat on her and Hermione ached for the young witch. She had her wizard. The one who banished the curse. Hermine was all too aware of how lucky she was.
"I don't know who it could be."
"Then let's find out."
Hermione reluctantly released Severus' hand and waved the Apprentice before her into the bakery. She glanced back, realising she was leaving Severus with Harry…and Severus' gleaming eyes promised mischief. Wicked man. He would delight in poking at Harry's horror of their being together. Of being absolutely right for each other.
Well…they were grown wizards. They could be as silly as they liked. And she found that with pain banished from her mind and flesh, she was happy to leave them to it. She had work to do.
The bakery had a well-crafted extension charm that billowed out the space, so a multitude of marble-topped tables were spread out beside the long length of a counter crammed with every bread and cake and pastry imaginable. Candle light shone down from heavy chandeliers, warming the soft golden brick of the high walls. And the scents. Hermione drew them in, almost lost to the bliss of warmth and spices.
"I can see why you come here."
But Abernathy wasn't listening. Her cheeks were bright and the heavy weariness had lifted from her. She looked like her file photograph, bright and young and happy.
Hermione's heart swelled. Her soul-mate was there. Somewhere.
"Whoever it is, they're here."
Abernathy jerked a nod. "I don't know…" She pressed a hand to her mouth and a muffled, "Oh, Merlin" cut out from between her fingers. She closed her eyes and her shoulders sagged.
"I…I have admired…" She shuck her head. "But they are already so very committed. How can I…?"
Her gaze darted to the corner, to the shadows, where sat… Hermione wanted to join the Apprentice in her cursing. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Luna Lovegood at a table littered with their breakfast dishes. Kingsley, stern and serious, but holding a warmth in his dark eyes that Hermione had once envied, with his long fingers wrapped around a large mug of coffee and Luna, bright and ethereal, chattering away.
They'd been a couple since the first Ball celebrating the end of Voldemort. The scandal of the Minister and the flighty Ravenclaw war heroine had splashed across The Prophet…and they ignored it. And carried on…and on. They're been together almost six years.
There was a solidity to their relationship. It almost shone—
This was about to get interesting.
Hermione placed a gentle hand on Hortensia's arm and urged her forward.
"Trust me." Hermione stopped at their table and smiled. "Luna, Kingsley, this is Apprentice Hortensia Abernathy."
With a flick of her wand, Hermione shrouded them in a privacy charm and Kingsley frowned up at her. "What's this about, Hermione?"
"A curse. A foul curse, one that I believe, you," and beside her Abernathy gasped, her hand at her mouth again and her cheeks quite pink, "can help her with. An auror inflicted the Ignis Tactus curse on her."
Luna's eyes widened. "The Burning Curse? No…no." Her chair clattered back and she was on her feet, her arms around Abernathy and her mouth…
Luna paused, a ghosting of her lips over the young auror's parted mouth. "May I?"
It was a husky question, to which Abernathy gave the barest of nods and the kiss was slow and sweet, a gentle tasting that broke a sigh from them both. Luna pressed a pale hand to Hortensia's cheek, her light eyes warm with affection. "Better?"
Abernathy was staring. Simply staring. She pressed trembling fingers to her lips as Kingsley stood.
"My turn, I believe?"
And the startled Apprentice was wrapped in Kingsley's strong arms, his mouth finding hers in a much more thorough kiss than Luna's. The Ravenclaw shook her head, her smile bright as her wizard let their new witch up for air.
Abernathy was flushed and trembling. "I never… I saw you, saw you both…and I thought I was envying your togetherness, not, not wanting…"
"Luna knew." Kingsley's voice was a dark rumble and he eased back a tendril of Abernathy's loosened hair and Hermione's heart squeezed as the young witch leant into his gentle touch. "Luna, you will find, knows far too much." He grinned with affection at his other witch. "But you're what —only nineteen?— and we wanted to wait before we claimed you as ours."
He looked to Hermione. Anger tightened his mouth. Yes, Kingsley looked after his own. "Who cursed her?"
"Carrasco. He's being sentenced today. Minimum of ten years in Azkaban. I will push for more."
Kingsley's growled "Good" mixed with Luna's sudden groan.
"How did I not see? Oh, Hermione. You. You were cursed." She found herself pulled into a hard hug by her old friend. "It's gone now. But…any tactus is so hard to see. I'm sorry. So sorry."
Hermione returned her hug and pulled away. The was no fire, there never was with people who didn't…want her in that way, but still, touching had simply become something she'd…stopped doing. "It's all cleared. Done with. And, you'll no doubt find out today, that it was Ron. He's been charged."
Kingsley blinked, ran a hand over his bald head and squeezed his new witch to him. She squeaked and he smiled down at her. "Join us for breakfast." He looked to Hermione. "Both of you."
Hermione smiled her thanks. "I have other plans. Enjoy your day."
Luna grinned at her, her eyes sparkling. "Oh, we will."
Hermione was certain her was face was on fire as she pulled open the door to the bakery and stepped out again into Diagon Alley. Luna, Kingsley and Hortensia would most definitely be having a rather…interesting time.
The scandal would swallow them up, but Hermione doubted they cared for even a heartbeat.
The shine had been there between them, something fixed…and right.
Though what was not right was Harry James Potter, with his face scrunched and red, pointing his wand at one Severus Snape. She scrubbed her hand over her face and let out a sigh. Severus had his arms crossed with no sign of his wand, but with little to no effort, he was making that simple stance look insulting and insolent.
"He said…" Harry gritted his teeth, aware—finally—that they were being stared at by too many people. "He said such things, Hermione. Why are you with him? He can touch you? So what? I have, and nothing, nothing…burned with me."
Hermione slipped her fingers into the tight crease of Severus elbow. His arm shifted to wrap around her, pulling her into the strength of his body, his heat, the familiar scents that threaded down into her flesh and eased…everything.
She smiled and Harry blinked at her. "What did you say to him, Severus?"
"I said," and his voice was a low purr that chased away that ease and replaced it with something so much more delicious, "that you are now my witch, and as my witch, I will delight in feasting upon you."
Hermione bit her lip, fresh heat scalding her face. "You…would?" And she couldn't fight the little catch in her voice, the doubt that it was real, even as she touched him, as he touched her.
His hand was on her jaw, his thumb stroking her bottom lip. His mouth dipped to hers, his breath a warm tease over her tingling lips. "When you are ready, my witch, when you are ready, I will chase kisses across every inch of your skin. I will bring you every pleasure. Every one. I promise you this." He pulled back, his endless eyes hot and focused. "We are forever, Hermione. Always."
Hermione sucked in a tight breath and buried her face against his frockcoat, clinging to him, even as she shook.
"And now, look, you've made her cry."
Severus turned her away from Harry, shielding her. "You really are an idiot of the most staggering proportions, Potter."
Hermione huffed a laugh against Severus' chest and pulled in a long, steadying breath. She eased back from her wizard, though her hand stayed pressed to his black-robed chest. "Go home, Harry. Apprentice Abernathy has her soul-mates—"
"Mates? Plural? What…?"
"Mates," Hermione repeated. "And I have my mate right here. Ron is on remand, as is Carrasco? And will be sentenced today?" Harry nodded. "Then all is right with the world."
"Right?" It came out as a squeak. "You and…" He flicked his wand at Severus, "and…Snape?"
"What time is the sentencing?"
Harry was obviously having trouble processing the new shifts to his world as he frowned and used his wand to scratch through his hair. "Three, this afternoon. In camera. Because of the nature of the parties."
Ron's cursing her would explode over the papers, regardless of the Wizengamot trying to hush it up. There would be a riot of interest around all of it. The wizards' guilt…and who the cursed witches soul-mates proved to be. It was an impending disaster...and Hermione wanted to be far, far away when it broke.
"Can you get time off, Severus? From tomorrow?"
She realised what she was asking for and her heart turned over. Time with simply...him. Alone. And when...when she was ready, for him to delight in his…feasting.
His smile was wicked and her mouth dried. "Oh, I can indeed."
I know I Luna/Kingsley'd again...but I like them as a couple. It's the same as my ability to accidently Drarry all over the place. I offer no excuse ;-)