Title:The Best Laid Plans
Word Count: 8,560 +/-
Content: Smut abounds! I took the liberty of diving right into an established friendship without much back explanation, I hope that's okay. Post-war AU where Severus lives.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to JK Rowling and associates. No copyright infringement intended.
Summary: No one ever said making plans was Harry's strong suit.
Author's Note: Dear madeleone, I combined several of your prompts—I hope you enjoy! Many, MANY thanks to the efforts of my betas, gs and mlp.
A roll of parchment landed nearly on top of Hermione's fish and chips. She shifted the plastic basket out from beneath the greasy papers, then tidied her fingers on her napkin before picking up the manuscript. "What have you got for me today?" she inquired, unrolling the sheaf and beginning to skim her eyes over the spiky handwriting within.
"I need your opinion on this scene in particular. I can't seem to make it flow correctly." Severus' rich voice was tempered with annoyance, and Hermione had to suppress a smile. He hated it when his writing wasn't flowing as he thought it should.
Unfortunately, that was happening more and more often of late. His writing always seemed to stall when his day job—a Dark Artefacts historian at the Ministry—was at its worst. As it had been for several months now. Despite her urging, however, Severus stubbornly refused to quit the abysmal position to focus on his writing.
She supposed she shouldn't be one to judge, though, as she had also rather stubbornly refused to leave her post in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, dreary and ineffectual as it was. It was their matching disdain for the Ministry in general and their positions in particular that had first brought Hermione and Severus together in friendship. She supposed things had turned out alright. At the very least, her miserable excuse for a career had brought her an unexpected friend in the form of one Severus Snape. And if she occasionally wished they had more than friendship, well, that was her own issue to deal with.
Which she did, frequently, in the privacy of her bedroom with her wand and a neat little erotic spell Ginny had taught her.
Shaking herself and returning her attention back to the parchment, Hermione read quickly through the scene as Severus methodically ate his sandwich. Pulling her ever-present quill out of her bun, Hermione began scribbling some notes down onto the paper and doing her best to edit Severus' writing without drastically altering his style.
After a few minutes, Severus finished his meal and cleared his throat. "Well?"
"I've made a few notations," Hermione informed him, turning the parchment so he could read it. "And I think you get into difficulties here—no lady wants her breasts 'gripped firmly' right away. There ought to be more kissing, and perhaps the slide of his hands from her waist up to her breasts. Or from her shoulders downward, until his hands are softly cupping the weight of her..." Hermione caught herself staring off into the distance and felt her cheeks flush. "What I mean to say is, perhaps you could add in a bit more lead-up."
"I see," Severus replied, frowning as he gazed at the parchment. He tapped one long finger on the tabletop, and Hermione found her gaze riveted on the digits. She imagined his hands sliding up to caress her breasts and nearly fell out of her chair.
"On second thought, if it's been a while since the lady in question has—er, has been gripped, then perhaps a firm grasp may be just the ticket after all," she said in a rush. Severus raised a questioning gaze to hers but whatever he might have said was lost.
"Who's in need of a firm grasp?" Ron asked as he and Harry approached their table.
"Oh, no one," Hermione said right as Severus answered, "Hermione, I believe," and then an awkward silence descended upon the group until Harry cleared his throat.
"How's the novel coming?" This he addressed to Snape although his eyes remained focused on Hermione and her no-doubt red cheeks.
Severus frowned again. "Not well. It appears I'm out of practice with certain...aspects of romance."
Ron choked on his mouthful of sandwich. "Are you writing smut?" His eyes bounced between Severus and Hermione in a rather horrified way.
Hermione sniffed. "There's nothing wrong with erotic fiction, Ronald," she chastised him. "Just ask your wife," she muttered as an afterthought. Lavender Brown-Weasley had been the one to turn her onto romance novels all the way back in their fifth year.
Now it was Ron's turn to become beet red. "I don't think Lavender reads much," was his response. Hermione merely quirked an eyebrow at him, and she rather expected he was going to go home and dig through Lavender's knickers drawer in search of naughty books. He would probably find at least one, and he would probably get to act out a scene tonight with his wife, in fact; a thought which had Hermione feeling an ugly sense of jealousy.
To distract herself from thoughts of Ron and Lavender, Hermione turned to Harry. "How's Ginny?"
"She's well, thank you," Harry replied. Then he smirked. "She's rather a fan of firm gripping, herself."
Hermione stood abruptly, gathering up her bag and the remains of her lunch. "Yes. Well. This has all been very—informative, but now if you'll excuse me, I have to—" Whatever she had to do escaped her at the moment, so she gestured wildly with her hands before edging around the boys and making a beeline for the door. Surely eating alone in her tiny cubicle from now on would be far less humiliating than today's lunch had been.
But then she wouldn't see Severus. Or get to read his deliciously wicked writing.
Scowling, she knew she would be back in the Ministry cafeteria again tomorrow, even if her best friends were likely to be there and looking at her with knowing eyes.
Shortly after Hermione left, Severus excused himself as well. Which was to say that he simply stood, grabbed his parchment, and strode from the room without a backwards glance.
Harry watched him go, then turned to look at Ron. "Do you see it?" he asked his friend.
Ron looked wildly around the cafeteria. "What? Where?"
"No, you twit. Don't you see the sparks between Snape and Hermione? You'd have to be blind not to."
Now Ron swallowed thickly and appeared slightly queasy. He frowned at his sandwich before setting it down. "Are you sure, Harry? He's—he's—he's so—"
"Yeah. He is." Harry nodded sagely, as though Ron had made sense. "But she seems to like him anyway. It's been a couple years now. You have Lavender, I have Ginny, everyone's pairing off. Look—all I'm saying is, maybe they need a little shove."
"What do you have in mind?"
"We need to see Kingsley."
Hermione let herself into her flat and kicked the door shut behind her. Crookshanks wound his way between her feet and then ran ahead of her to his dinner bowl in the kitchen. After dropping her bag and scarf by the door, she followed the part-Kneazle and poured him a dish of food, and then poured herself a hefty glass of wine. The rest of her day in the MLE department had driven lunch's fiasco out of her mind, which was saying something.
She set the stove to warm up and rummaged through her pantry as she mentally reviewed tomorrow's tasks. There was never a shortage of paperwork in her department and somehow, Hermione Granger, know-it-all extraordinaire, had been assigned to constant paperwork duty. She caught herself growling and took a few deep breaths to calm down.
A tap at the window brought her out of her meditation, however.
"Hello, and who are—oh!" A mid-sized tawny owl hopped onto her table to deliver a rolled package wrapped in oilcloth, then just as quickly went back to the window and took off into the night. "Well, he seemed nice," she said drily to Crookshanks, who hadn't even taken his attention away from his dinner.
Untying the package, Hermione smiled when several rolls of parchment slid free. There was a brief note: "Review, please" in Severus' handwriting, and then, smaller: "You'll note no further gripping" at the bottom. Her grin widened and she carried the scrolls into her small but cozy living area for reading after dinner. On second thought...
Hermione's dinner sat forgotten on her countertop as she lost herself in Severus' latest erotic novel. If she imagined herself as the heroine and Severus as the love interest, well, that was no one's business but her own. And her wand's.
"Are you sure this will work, Harry?" Ron's tone of doubt echoed Harry's own thoughts, but he pushed the feeling aside.
"It has to," he answered. "Hermione's our best friend. She deserves to be happy, too."
"Right." Ron shifted on his feet and then scratched his neck. "Well. Good luck with Kingsley. I'll go talk to Lavender. Owl me later?" Harry nodded and the two parted ways. Harry made his way down the hall to the suite of rooms where the Minister for Magic presided over Wizarding Britain.
Harry smiled at the witch sitting in the Minister's antechamber. "Is Kingsley here?" he asked.
The witch returned his smile and gestured for the door. "He came back not ten minutes ago. Go on in."
Harry thanked her and knocked twice on the thick wooden door before entering. Kingsley looked up from the papers on his desk and a genuine smile split his face. "What can I do for you, Mr. Potter?"
"I have a favor to ask," Harry said, taking the seat that Kingsley indicated.
"Anything for you, Harry. You know that." Kingsley steepled his fingers together and looked over them intently.
"Well, the thing is, it's a rather big favor..."
HEADLINE: MINISTRY ANNOUNCES MARRIAGE LAW!
"Have you seen this poppycock?" Severus slapped a copy of The Daily Prophet down in front of Hermione at their regular lunch table. "It's absurd."
"Poppycock, that's a good one. Haven't heard it in circulation much. Perhaps your latest love interest Duke could use it as a catchphrase—"
"Be serious, Granger. They're going to force us to marry people." The way in which he uttered the word marry put her more in mind of something like, "They're going to make us maim, torture, and kill people" but perhaps that was just her own projection.
She sighed. "I don't like it either, Severus, but maybe it will go away."
He tapped the paper just under the proclamation. "It says our matches will be delivered to us within the week. Especially for the Ministry, that's remarkably fast." His brow furrowed as he considered the newspaper. "I wonder how long this has been in the works," he mused.
Hermione shrugged. "Perhaps it's for the best. You never know." She eyed him critically for a moment, wondering who on earth the Ministry would choose for this man. It would need to be someone smart, of course, someone who would share her opinions with him and demand to be treated as an equal. Severus would be unhappy with anything less. Looks wouldn't play as much of a role as his future wife's brain, Hermione knew, although she hoped that he wasn't matched with a complete troll…
And damn. Now she was considering herself for the role.
"How can you be so blasé about this?" he hissed back at her, swiping the paper to the floor in an uncharacteristic fit of pique. "What if they match you with—with—some imbecile, like Longbottom?"
"Neville's engaged to Hannah, I think," Hermione answered, returning her attention to her lunch rather than the fact that within three months she and Severus would both have spouses.
And bed partners.
Her mind shied away from the idea of sex with an unknown stranger, and instead returned to something she'd thought of the night before, after she'd finished reading his manuscript. "You know, I was thinking—what if you became an author full time, and I opened a bookshop?"
Severus' mouth fell open and then he shook his head. "The Ministry wants to play matchmaker with every eligible witch and wizard in Great Britain and you are making plans to open a bookshop?" He threw his hands in the air and stood to leave, taking his tray with him. "I don't know what happened to the social justice crusader I knew at Hogwarts but clearly she has taken a leave of her senses," he muttered as he prepared to go.
Hermione's temper began to boil then, and so she let fly with the only retort that sprang immediately to mind, which unfortunately was—"The only one who has left their senses is the writer who thinks a woman would want to be 'hoisted on his manly petard' against a stepladder!"
Severus made a rude gesture over his shoulder which Hermione returned by sticking out her tongue at his retreating back.
"Am I interrupting?" Harry asked, his amusement barely concealed as he slid into Severus' vacated seat.
"Hardly," Hermione sniffed, making room for Ron on the bench next to her. "I believe I won that round."
"I thought so," Ron said supportively, and Hermione nodded at him. "So. Snape's really writing romance. Never thought I'd see the day."
"It's not half bad if he'd only practice—you know what, never mind," Hermione said. "Anything new with either of you?"
Ron and Harry exchanged glances, then both looked at Hermione. "Noooo," Harry said slowly. "Just checking on you, actually, what with the news and all..." He pointed at the Prophet which was still lying on the floor.
"Oh. That. Yes. Well." She cleared her throat as her mind worked to come up with something a tad more coherent. "I think it's for the best," she finally announced.
Two pairs of black and red eyebrows rose in tandem. "You do?" Ron asked tentatively.
She nodded decisively. "What can it hurt? I'm sure the Ministry will do its best to match everyone appropriately, and then I can look forward to getting to know my h-husband." Everyone dutifully ignored the hitch in her voice as she said the last word.
"I'm glad to hear you're taking this so well," Harry said thoughtfully. He looked meaningfully at Ron before standing and thumping Hermione on the back. "Let us know when you get your match, hm?"
Hermione agreed and watched the boys walk out of the cafeteria, her thoughts so far away that she missed the urgent whispering between the two.
HEADLINE: MINISTRY MATCH DAY!
"Now they've really gone too far," Severus growled as he threw himself into the chair opposite hers in the cafeteria. "Did you get yours?"
Hermione didn't have to ask to know what he was talking about. "As a matter of fact, I did," she answered, trying to stall. "And you?"
"You know very well I did. Out with it—who did they pair you with?" he demanded.
She cringed as she handed him her letter. "Marcus Flint," she said despondently.
Severus cringed as well. "If what you don't know can't hurt you, Flint is nearly invulnerable," he said, surprising a laugh out of Hermione.
"Come on then, who's yours? It can't possibly be worse—oh, dear Merlin, it is worse!" she shrieked as she saw the name scrawled on Severus' letter. "Isn't Professor Vector about fifty years older than you?"
Severus looked so glum that she caught herself nearly laughing again. Perhaps she was going into hysterics?
"Only forty-seven years older, but still quite able to 'dance the horizontal tango' as she has already taken it upon herself to inform me," he said.
"Oh, no," Hermione breathed, simultaneously trying to get the mental image out of her head and also trying not to laugh. Hysterically.
Severus scowled at her and Hermione lost her battle, laughing so hard that tears began to stream down her face. "What are we going to do?" she managed between chuckles. "I suppose Marcus could always meet a suspicious end during a Quidditch match..."
"Is he still playing?" Severus questioned.
"Apparently." From her bag, Hermione pulled out a large signed photograph of the man in question. As they watched, Marcus blew a kiss and winked lasciviously. Hermione's gut lurched.
"Shite." Severus shook his head and then stared morosely down at his untouched food. "At least we'll still have each other and these terrible jobs, I suppose."
Hermione was about to agree, when something stopped her. "Severus...what if...what if we married each other? We could go right now and have it done by dinnertime! Then they couldn't match us!"
He narrowed his eyes while he considered it. "A marriage of convenience? I suppose that might work..."
"It would!" Hermione bounced in her seat. "Just think, we could continue on as we are now, but legally we would be married and therefore ineligible under this new law. Why didn't I think of it sooner?"
She started to pack up her bag but was interrupted by the arrival of Ron and Harry.
"What's got your knickers in a twist?" Ron asked around a mouthful of food.
Harry whacked him on the shoulder, but Ron only shrugged it off and continued eating.
"I'm going to go get a special license," Hermione explained, starting to move past her friends. "Severus and I are going to get married so we don't have to deal with this marriage law nonsense." She kissed Harry on the cheek as she passed. "You'll be my witness, of course," she ordered as she swept out of the room.
Harry and Ron exchanged worried glances, then turned to look at Snape.
"Er...congratulations?" Harry asked politely.
Severus scowled. "You can't really think the Ministry is going to force her to marry this nitwit?" He shoved the offending photograph of Marcus in front of the boys. Harry shuddered but Ron seemed nonplussed.
"Lavender said he seemed nice enough," Ron said defensively. "She just saw him last week."
Severus' narrowed gaze focused on Ron at the same time as Harry's elbow met Ron's stomach. "Why did your wife see Marcus Flint last week?" Severus asked menacingly. He tapped the photo. "Doesn't he play in Upper Dunfanaghy?"
"Er..." Ron sent a pleading look at Harry.
"Lavender interviewed him for the Prophet. They're talking to people affected by the law," Harry jumped in.
Severus was still glancing between the two of them as if he was trying to sort out a riddle, but thankfully he let it drop. "Nice or no, Hermione would be bored to tears within a week. I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up in the St. Mungo's mental health ward after a year if she proceeds with the marriage the Ministry has chosen for her. At least with me she'll be stimulated." Everyone froze, and Severus hurried to add, "Mentally stimulated, that is. Not any other kind of stimulation."
Now Harry narrowed his eyes. "You're saying you and Hermione would have a marriage in name only?" He frowned.
"Yes, quite," Severus replied, then stood to take his leave. "And someone else can do the tango with Septima Vector."
"What's dancing got to do with anything?" Ron asked after Severus had gone.
"Never mind that. We can't let them get married like this," Harry said, grabbing Ron's arm to tow him back up to Kingsley's office.
HEADLINE: MARRIAGE LAW AMENDMENT ADDED!
The newspaper landed on top of Hermione's chowder with a decided splash. "Honestly!" she grumbled, pinching the corner and lifting the offending article from her lunch. "MUST you always throw these into my meal?"
Today's edition of the Prophet squelched as she set it on the table. She frowned as she saw again the headline that likely had Severus all stirred up.
"They can't do this," he announced as he folded himself into his chair and began to unwrap his roast chicken.
"Careful. You nearly sounded petulant," Hermione replied, but her mind was running over the implications of the latest Ministry decree.
Shortly after arriving at the Magical Contracts department yesterday, she had been turned away from obtaining a marriage license on account of "pending changes to the law" which had remained unexplained. At least, until today.
" 'All marriage-law eligible couples shall 1) abide in the same residence, 2) report for mandatory bi-monthly marriage counseling, and 3) copulate at least once per week for the first six months. Any partners unwilling or unable to fulfill these duties will be found in violation of the law and prosecuted accordingly.' How can the Wizengamot allow this to stand?" Severus' jaw was clenched and Hermione noted the tic in his forehead that appeared when he was most stressed. "And more importantly, how can they expect to enforce this?"
Hermione frowned. "Harry did sell them the patent for the Marauder's Map. Perhaps they're planning to monitor all the newly married couples that way?"
Something wasn't adding up here, but Hermione couldn't quite put her finger on it. Especially not with all the cursing that was coming from the other side of the table.
"—of all the fool, dunderheaded actions—"
"He put the money in trust for Teddy. Hush, I'm trying to think," she admonished him. The epithets were still flying but at least he was muttering softly to himself now. Could the Ministry truly force them to not only marry, but have sex regularly? Somehow she didn't think so, but combing through the rooms and rooms of Wizard law scrolls would take more time than they had.
And...did she really want to fight that particular requirement, anyway? Looking across the table at Severus, who was now darkly muttering while stabbing his chicken with his fork, she had to admit that no, she did not want to protest. She'd wanted to know the feel of his hands and mouth on her for far too long. Far longer, in fact, than she'd been editing his romance novels.
"...fornicate with Marcus bloody Flint!" Severus' voice had risen in his anger and now half of the cafeteria was peering at them uncertainly. Severus scowled and Hermione, unaccountably, smiled.
"Don't worry. I'm not going to fornicate with Flint—although I admit it has a nice ring to it—but that's beside the point. You and I are going to marry, we'll move into one of our flats, and we'll make it work. Then after six months the Ministry can't do anything more about it."
"You mean after six months of required copulation," Severus pointed out. Hermione watched his lips form the words and then had to mentally shake herself.
"I'm a-amenable if you are. That is, I—"
"Merely amenable?" Severus' voice had dropped lower than usual and Hermione swallowed thickly.
"Er, well, that is to say—we could test it out, you know, before—"
"Before we are married for life, you mean?" He quirked an amused eyebrow up at her. "By all means, then, Granger, yes. Let us go fuck like nifflers in a darkened corner somewhere to decide if we ought to marry one another or not." He gestured towards the door and actually had the audacity to laugh.
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. "It's not funny, you know. We could each end up married off to some—some—pervert and instead I'm offering us a way out. A way to meet this law on our own terms, without saddling ourselves to someone we'll resent the rest of our lives. You could try to be a little more thoughtful."
They continued to glare at one another for a moment before Severus relented with a sigh. "Perhaps you're right," he admitted slowly. As they both watched, he extended his hand to draw one finger tentatively over one of her arms. Hermione shivered at the contact and the intensity in his gaze when he lifted his eyes to hers. "You would not resent me?" he asked.
The vulnerability she saw in that moment nearly made her weep. "Oh, Severus, no," she exclaimed, reaching out to grip his hand in her own. "We're well-matched, don't you think? And we are friends. We could do far worse. Professor Vector, for instance, in case you needed a reminder."
Severus' hand tightened briefly on hers before he seemed to relax. "Very well. If we are going to proceed with this plan—"
"—then we ought to, ah, test our compatibility. My office in one hour?" His anxious expression belied his confident tone, however.
"Not at work," Hermione replied, freeing her hand to pick up the remains of her lunch. "For an aspiring romance author, you certainly do need some work on the rudimentals. Why don't we meet for dinner tonight and then go from there?" She patted him on the shoulder as she passed, her mind already whirring through all the things she would need to do between now and then. Namely, wrap her head around the fact that she was potentially going to have sex with Severus Snape, and then marry him.
Followed by at least six months of more sex.
She couldn't wait.
Severus was still pondering the day's sudden turn of events when Harry and Ron slipped into the space vacated moments ago by Hermione.
"So," Harry said.
"So." Ron echoed.
Both boys looked at him with matching expressions of curiosity. Severus narrowed his gaze and straightened in his seat, reverting to his best intimidating teacher look. "Normally one greets a colleague in a slightly more verbose manner," he drawled.
Ron swallowed nervously but Harry grinned. "You and Hermione are really going to get married, then?" he asked happily.
Severus carefully shoved the still-damp Prophet towards the boys. "Yes, and then we are going to be forced to live together and have sexual intercourse on a regular basis." He tapped the front page article and enjoyed the way both of the boys' expressions soured. Standing, he gathered his utensils and allowed a menacing smile to grace his features. "Sex-u-al intercourse, yes," he reiterated slowly. "Have a nice day," he called out as he strode toward the cafeteria door.
Severus halted although his instincts told him to run very fast in the opposite direction. "What is it, Potter?" he growled.
"We, uh, we might have overheard, um, some of your conversation, and—"
"It's just that we want Hermione to be happy, and Lavender happens to know some of Hermione's favorite scenes in books—"
"And we thought you might want to, um, research. You know. Ahead of time."
Severus turned slowly to look at the two wizards who, against all odds, were the very best friends of his own best friend. And right now they were both an extremely unbecoming shade of red. Ron was holding out a few dog-eared copies of novels with several pages bookmarked, and Harry was rocking back and forth on his heels. At this moment, it struck Severus just how much they had grown from the students he remembered.
"For the sex," Ron whispered unnecessarily.
And then Severus reflected perhaps they hadn't changed all that much, after all. He grabbed the books from Ron's hand and left the cafeteria without another word.
His Hermione did appreciate a thorough researcher.
Hermione paced in front of her fireplace again, deciding the shoes were too much.
Then she turned to go back the other way and thought, No, they're perfectly respectable date night shoes.
But going the other direction, she wondered if perhaps it was just silly to dress up for a date where the sex was a predetermined reality rather than a hopeful possibility.
Back the other way and she reflected that she didn't want to show up looking like she hadn't put any effort in, because what message would that send to her probable future husband?
Finally Crookshanks had had enough of her dithering and wove himself between her feet, nearly tripping her.
"Fine. You're right. I'll just—dress comfortably, but slightly fancier than usual—"
Her clock chimed seven and she jumped. Drat! It was time to go, past time really, but did she want to change clothes? The slinky purple dress made her feel pretty, but it was rather flashy—
Cutting off her inner debate, Hermione grabbed the gold heels off the floor and strapped them on before she could change her mind again. She threw on her coat and left her flat, Apparating to the French bistro they had agreed upon for dinner. She saw Severus seated at a table immediately, his black hair shining under the lamplights. He raised a hand in greeting and Hermione's heart did a strange little swoop.
So much for her composure.
"Hello," she greeted him, bending awkwardly to brush a kiss across his cheek at the moment he attempted to stand. He nodded in reply and sank back into his chair. She took her seat and she wondered if she ought not to move quite so quickly, but then he reached across the table to interlace their fingers, and her world settled into a much more comfortable orbit. She could do this. They could do this.
"This is a lovely restaurant," she remarked.
"It is," he agreed, the deep timbre of his voice twisting her belly up into pleasurable knots.
"And the weather was quite nice this evening," she added inanely.
"Indeed," he replied, one side of his mouth now quirked in the beginnings of a smile.
"Oh, fine, I'm nervous," she burst out, slumping back in her seat. "I don't know what to say to you just now."
"A shocking turn of events indeed." He gestured for their waiter and ordered a bottle of elf wine. It appeared instantly in the ice bucket next to their table. Severus poured them each a glass and then continued, "Perhaps you could tell me why you've acquiesced to this marriage law trollshit so easily?"
Hermione laughed. "It is trollshit, isn't it?" she asked. Then she sobered. "But, I don't know. I suppose I just...didn't want to end up alone, and with all my friends getting married and starting families...maybe I just decided to see what happened. Do you think that's ridiculous? It sounds more ridiculous when I say it out loud." She stared down at her goblet of wine, twisting the glass in her hand.
"Not ridiculous," Severus replied. "No one wants to be alone."
Hermione looked up at that. "Not even you?"
He met her gaze straight on and without artifice. "Especially not me."
"Oh." She nodded and looked down again. She started to speak, then stopped. Cleared her throat and tried again. "So we'll still need to obtain the license, but I can ask Harry to get one if they're still refusing to hand them out down in Magical Contracts—"
"You look stunning this evening," he blurted out. Surprised, Hermione smiled and felt her cheeks flush.
"Thank you. I almost didn't wear this but Crookshanks insisted. I mean, he—oh, never mind." Now she was definitely blushing. "You're marrying a crazy cat lady, I hope you know," she muttered.
Severus barked out a laugh. "Oh, I know," he said. "I'm quite looking forward to it, actually."
They smiled shyly at one another until the waiter arrived to take their orders.
"I'll be right back," Hermione said, standing and making her way to the ladies. Once inside, she took several deep breaths and gave herself a lecture about not reading too much into things or moving too fast. The last thing she wanted to do was fall in lo—
Oh, no. She was in love with him. Damn, damn, damn, bloody damn!
"Cursing is unattractive in young ladies," the mirror told her in a prim voice.
"Bugger off," Hermione replied. She swiped a bit more color onto her lips and squared her shoulders. "I can do this," she told herself.
"That's more like it, my dear," the mirror replied.
When Hermione exited the toilets, she nearly ran into her soon-to-be husband. "Oh! Severus. I'm sorry, I didn't see—umpfff."
He gripped her shoulders and propelled her around the corner, to a darkened part of the hallway where they apparently stored extra chairs. He pressed her back against the wall and curved one hand around her cheek. "I thought you might like to get this out of the way before you expire from nerves," he said, and then his lips were on hers and Hermione couldn't even recall why she hadn't been kissing this man for every moment of her life prior to this point.
He tilted her head up and gentled his lips, coaxing a moan from her as she reached up to wrap her arms around his shoulders. He kissed her unendingly, until she thought she might explode on the spot. When his tongue slipped between her lips to tangle with hers, she nearly fell as her knees buckled. Thankfully Severus lifted her up and held her in place against the wall, his hands roaming down her sides but never quite reaching any of the places she suddenly, desperately wanted him to reach.
"Touch me," she gasped when he moved to trail his lips down her neck.
"I rather thought I was," Severus replied, and Hermione whacked him playfully on the shoulder.
He straightened and Hermione caught a glimpse of his grin before he schooled his expression. Actually, come to think of it, she found that she was grinning as well. "Your sarcasm ruined the mood. I suppose I had best get used to it?" she teased him. She smoothed her hands down her dress and started to walk past him, headed back towards their table. She hadn't really expected him to respond.
But then his hand lashed out to grip her elbow and turn her back towards him. "Make no mistake, Hermione—nothing about our life together will ever be termed 'complacent'." His fingers loosened on her elbow and began to stroke the sensitive skin there. His gaze bored into hers with a warmth she had never seen before. Then he murmured, "Especially not the sex."
Well, that was just great. Hermione's heart was thundering in her ears and her lady parts were all demanding satisfaction right now thank you very much and she wondered what the protocol was for just cancelling their meal and Disapparating back to her flat—
Severus tucked her hand under his elbow and led her back to their table, holding out her seat for her and generally acting like a gentleman with his witch. Still dazed from their encounter in the corridor, Hermione wondered if they might just get the food for take away...
"Perhaps we ought to find out who's behind the law and simply hex them," Severus mused, destroying any thoughts that he was a besotted suitor on a date. "I'm sure you could make it look like a terrible accident. There's always poisons, of course, but it's trickier to make those seem like experiments gone awry, what with the Ministry's monitoring protocols, but—"
"Severus!" Hermione hissed, glancing around the restaurant to see if anyone was nearby. "We are not plotting to poison or hex any Ministry officials! You'll get us both fired—well, now that I say it out loud, perhaps we ought to proceed." Hermione considered it for a moment—the immense satisfaction of walking away from her suffocating job—but then discarded the idea. "No. No, we can't. It would look terrible for Harry."
Severus made a face. "Although I have come to accept the presence of those imbeciles in your life—"
"They are not imbeciles!" Hermione countered.
"—I nevertheless refuse to bend my will to better suit their pomped-up sense of importance—"
"Would you stop?"
"—and I don't believe that as my wife you should, either." He punctuated this with a nod.
" 'Pomped' isn't even a word," Hermione muttered. Severus smirked. Inwardly she had to admit that she was thrilling at the casual mention of the word wife from Severus' lips. Which, not surprisingly, returned her thoughts to what his lips had been doing to hers not moments ago...
Any further discussion was interrupted by the arrival of their food, and even though her body was begging her for filling of a different kind, she had to admit that the sumptuous French cuisine was delicious. It was such a far cry from their usual Ministry cafeteria fare that Hermione found herself moaning on more than one occasion. Each time, Severus would scowl at her, but she noticed that his gaze usually lingered on her lips. Finally he tossed down his napkin and a stack of bills, then stood and gestured for her to do the same.
"I think it's time we left," he murmured. Hermione took the hand he offered and smiled her agreement as they Disapparated on the spot.
When they landed, Hermione barely even had time to gather her bearings before Severus was sweeping her up against a door and kissing her again. She was vaguely aware of dropping her bag on the floor before everything became a tangle of tongues, lips, and roving hands. After several minutes Severus scooped her up and carried her into a cozy sitting room, settling them on his sofa. A flick of his fingers had a fire blazing in the grate and a second flick had wall sconces around the room lighting at a low level. Hermione opened her mouth to compliment him on his lack of foolish wand-waving but he had returned his attention to her neck, ear, and shoulder, so the words died on her tongue.
"Are you still certain you wish to go through with this?" he rumbled, his lips and teeth skimming over her collarbone and making her shiver.
"Gods, yes," Hermione answered, yanking the sides of his robes open and devoting her attention to getting his myriad of buttons undone. Once again Severus flicked his fingers and the buttons were simply gone. Hermione wanted to be impressed, truly she did, but... "Isn't that rather a great waste of buttons? Did you just Vanish them?"
Severus groaned and rested his forehead against hers. "You know I admire your intelligence," he began. Hermione nodded slowly. "But I need you to tell me how to turn—it—off. For the time being."
Hermione thought about it a moment, but then the answer struck her. It was so obvious. "Let's act out one of the scenes from your books! One that I've already edited, that is," she clarified. She didn't wish to subject herself to some of Severus' less-than-romantic efforts.
"Intriguing. I shall be storing that away for future use. As for right now...I believe I have another idea."
He stood again and tugged her with him to a far wall. He frowned at a painting hanging there for a moment and then simply reached up and removed it.
"Sssh," he admonished. Setting the painting aside, he felt along the wall for a moment until he was apparently satisfied. He was positively grinning when he turned back to her. "Up you go," he said, swishing his hand in the air. Hermione felt herself being lifted and turned until her back was against the wall and her face was on level with his. He kissed her briefly on the lips. "Is this alright?" he questioned.
Hermione said yes and then she was floating a bit higher. She noticed her breasts were now staring Severus in the face and she giggled. Her amusement turned to pure lust, however, when Severus unfastened the back of her dress and it slid to the floor, leaving her nude before him. His eyes widened comically and Hermione felt a surge of feminine satisfaction. She did so enjoy getting one over on him every now and then. No doubt he had expected her to have knickers on, at least. His gaze roved over her chest before he buried his face between her breasts, bringing his hands up to caress and fondle them. Hermione groaned and wound her fingers into his hair, holding him to her.
Then she was floating up even higher, until Severus' face was on par with—
"Oh, holy Hippogriff," she moaned. This was just like a scene in one of her favorite books, where the heroine's love interest had lifted her up against the wall and licked her...oh, yes, exactly like Severus was doing. His tongue stroked her labia, her clitoris, the creases of her thighs where they met her hips—it felt like everywhere all at once. It was probably no surprise, then, when she climaxed after just a few long strokes of his talented tongue. Her years-long dry spell probably had something to do with it as well...
But there was no time to dwell on her thoughts when he was already building up another orgasm by sliding two fingers into her vagina and stroking in time with his tongue. She wanted to say she lasted longer this time, but Hermione Granger didn't like to lie. Even to herself.
This time after she shouted out her orgasm, Severus lowered her and caught her in his arms. He turned to a nearby desk—had that been there when they arrived?—and swept all the papers off the top before laying her down on the polished wood surface.
"Last chance to back out, Granger," Severus gritted out as he Vanished the rest of his clothing.
"Before I have the chance to feel that inside of me?" Hermione jerked her chin at his impressive erection. "Are you kidding me? I haven't been this close to getting sex since I started working at the Ministry with you. Get on with it, Snape," she countered.
His lips quirked upwards for a rare moment of sweetness before he turned his gaze to her splayed before him and the look was replaced with desire and possessiveness. Hermione nearly came from that look alone.
"Then you'll be my wife as soon as we can arrange it. Congratulations, Mrs. Snape," he drawled as he positioned the head of his cock at her entrance.
"I'd prefer to keep my own surname," Hermione interjected right as he was about to thrust in. The look he gave her was a warning, so she added, "But we can talk about that later."
She swore he was biting back a laugh as he began to slide into her, but then he was fully sheathed and neither one of them felt like laughing. Hermione braced her feet on the edge of the desk and tilted her hips to take him in even deeper, and Severus actually growled. It was as if that one small movement had lit a fire, because Severus began pistoning his hips with a frenetic speed that had Hermione hanging onto the edge of the desk for dear life. She heard the wood knocking into the wall with each thrust and she felt the impending climax creeping up on her again.
"Sever-us," she warned.
"Keep saying it," he demanded, so Hermione moaned his name as she came, again. Shortly after her orgasm, Severus shouted out her name as well, and then collapsed on top of her.
Hermione stroked one hand down his back and wrapped her legs around his waist. "Do you know, the whole sex-on-a-desk thing is one of my favorite scenarios?"
"Is that so?" he mumbled and she thought she felt him smile against her neck. "I had no idea."
"What's got you grinning like Kneazle who's got the cream today?" Ron asked as he slid into the seat across from Hermione.
"I take it dinner went well last night?" Harry asked diplomatically, seating himself next to Ron.
Hermione looked at Severus, sitting next to her for the first time in their years of taking lunch together, and answered before she had fully thought it through. "Dinner was lovely but the sex was extraordinary."
Ron choked on his drink and Harry's eyes widened considerably.
"Yes. I appreciate your assistance with the novels, Potter, Weasley. You were quite right—the bookmarked scenes were most helpful."
Both boys began to sputter and Hermione narrowed her eyes as she looked from their red faces back to Severus' guileless expression. Something was off, here; there was just a piece of the puzzle she was missing...
"Er, yes, well, you're welcome. Did you see that Cormac McLaggen was just promoted to Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports? Youngest Head they've had since 1602," Harry babbled inanely.
Something was still niggling the back of Hermione's brain, but she ignored it and snorted. "That Department never did know how to promote the right people," she said. "Look at how Ludo turned out."
Harry blew out a breath and seemed to relax. Ron was still looking a bit red-faced but he had opted to devour his lunch with more dedication than usual. She decided this was as good a time as any to break their news.
"Harry. Ron. You're like brothers to me. Severus and I would like to informally invite you to our wedding, taking place in three days, and we'd also like to formally invite you to stand up with me."
"I'd like nothing of the sort," Severus interjected casually.
"Regardless," Hermione said firmly, "I would like it, so would you consider it? I doubt my parents will be able to make it in time for the ceremony. It's such short notice."
"You know we will," Harry said immediately. Ron nodded. Both were smiling and happy now. She wasn't sure what their problem had been earlier.
"Excellent!" Hermione clapped her hands in excitement.
"Indeed," Severus drawled from beside her. "Allow us to personally extend our gratitude that you will condone, in front of an audience, our forced nuptials and sexual interaction."
The boys tensed up again. Hermione frowned at them, and then at Severus. "Our nuptials aren't forced. We chose each other." She leaned forward and whispered furiously, "And you didn't seem to need any 'forcing' last night. In fact, I seem to remember at least one instance of begging."
Now it was Severus' turn to blush, the faintest hint of pink tinging his cheeks. But he didn't seem to be in the mood for relenting. "Yes. I'm glad you brought up last night. When we had sex no less than four times. With great enthusiasm." He smiled nastily at her friends.
Something clicked into place in Hermione's brain. "You gave him sex books?" She nearly laughed at the stricken expressions on the boys' faces.
"No! Well, not instruction manuals, or anything. Just, uh, some books that, um, we thought...might...be...useful?" Harry trailed off and looked to Severus for help.
"Oh, no. I'm enjoying this," her fiancé replied. "Do go on."
"Trust us, Hermione. Neither of us wanted to think about it," Harry added.
"Yes, well, now I have to associate the greatest string of orgasms of my life with you lot which is just—wrong." She shuddered.
"Can you please stop talking about orgasms and Snape?" Ron whined, his first contribution to the conversation since he'd sat down.
"Grow up, Ron," the other three said in near unison.
"Wedding. Three days. Dress nicely," Hermione ordered before she stood and held out her hand to Severus. "I think we've got enough time left to eke out another orgasm, don't you, my love?"
She and Severus both smirked the entire walk from the cafeteria to an abandoned broom closet.
The day of Hermione's wedding dawned clear and bright. It was a rather small affair owing to the swift timing of the event, so only a few friends and coworkers were gathered in the Ministry's basement Contracts office. Hermione and Severus had just faced each other in preparation of exchanging vows.
Without warning, a loud bang interrupted the proceedings. Everyone turned to see Ginny Weasley-Potter striding up the aisle, still attired in her official Quidditch uniform.
"Harold James Potter, I sincerely hope you've told these two that the Marriage Law is a hoax!" Her wand appeared in her hand as she arrived at the front of the vestibule and examined those gathered. "I would say I expect better of you, Ron, but we all know that's not true."
"Oi! That's not very—uhm, although, you're right, of course." Ron seemed to realize it would be in his best interest to shut up and back up, which is exactly what he did, leaving Harry to face the wrath of the youngest Weasley on his own.
"Hi, Gin," Harry offered weakly. "Is your out-of-town Quidditch match over already, then?"
"Oh, Harry, how could you?" she asked. Then she pinned Hermione and Severus with her fierce gaze. "As much as I want both of you to be happy, you deserve to know that Harry set all this up with Kingsley. No one's going to be punished if they don't get married." She returned the full force of her glare to Harry. "Isn't that right, darling?"
Harry swallowed thickly. He shifted his weight a few times and then rubbed the back of his neck. "It's true. I just wanted to give you both a—a push."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at Harry before turning to look at Severus. She smiled when she saw his brow similarly raised. Severus' eyes met hers and they both gave the slightest nod.
Hermione's Jelly-Legs Jinx hit an unsuspecting Harry at the same time as Severus' Full Body-Bind. "Oh dear. That looks uncomfortable," Hermione remarked casually. Suddenly several bats burst out of Harry's nose and began swooping around his face.
"Well, he deserved it," Ginny said a bit defensively, tucking her wand away. She studied the two of them standing at the altar. "You don't still have to marry, you know."
They looked at each other again. Hermione took both of Severus' hands in hers. "Although we've arrived here under false pretenses, for which I will be seeking vengeance at every available opportunity for at least the next year, Harry Potter—although that's how this started, I would be lying if I said I wasn't completely happy with the prospect of marrying you, Severus Snape. I've loved you for quite some time and I can't wait to be your wife and have a great deal more sexual intercourse. Possibly while I make Harry watch."
Severus' smirk warmed something deep in Hermione's heart, and he squeezed her hands where they were joined. "I, too, will be making Potter and Weasley's lives a living hell in every way imaginable, but I am not displeased with the outcome. I have never felt more alive than I have in the past few years we've been taking lunch together, and I'm looking forward to positively shocking the Ministry with each detailed report of our every sexual escapade for the next six years, at a minimum."
He leaned forward and they shared their first kiss as husband and wife.
"So beautiful," sniffed Professor Sprout from her spot in the front row on Severus' side as she dabbed at her eyes.
"Do I still need to be here?" asked Marcus Flint from his spot on Hermione's side.
The couple parted and Hermione smiled at her new husband. "Shall we go hex Kingsley as well?" she asked.
"That sounds delightful." Severus paused as they passed Harry, still lying on the floor, and Ron, trying desperately to fade into the paneling of the wall. "Right after we go make love on each of these flobberworms' desks."
"Oooh, I do love a creative lover," Hermione cooed. "Maybe you can write me a romance novel about Harry and a hag. It'll be even better than Lockhart's books!" She waved at a grinning Ginny and the Granger-Snapes exited the room to embark on their new lives.