A/N: Short story… really.
Beta Love: Publishing unsupervised again! HALP! Uh nope. Caught again. Dang that The Dragon and the Rose is quick… and psychic! *gasp*
This fic is rated M for a reason, folks.
The End Untravelled
"Short" story by Corvus Draconis
Truth will rise above falsehood as oil above water.
Miguel de Cervantes
The war was over, and Severus Snape believed he had just exchanged two masters for yet another more powerful curse— the curse of Amortentia. The curse that might as well had Lily burned into his skin: the smell of parchment and ink, books, and the softest hint of lilies.
Even now, married, dead, and gone, the witch of his childhood burned him. Even after saving her son— the anguish of smelling that combination haunted him.
Now, five years after the end of the war, his Order of Merlin first class on the Headmaster's wall, his name freshly cleansed, the freedom to use the fortunes he had squirreled away and hidden from both masters— now he had no one with which to share such victories. He was alone, still teaching the children of the next generation, and had no witch to share it with.
Oh, he had plenty of offers— but all were fame seekers and people who suddenly wanted the tall, dark, inscrutable and no-longer-despised Dark wizard on their trophy list, but he didn't want a mere empty shag. He'd lived most of his life without true meaning, artificial meaning, forced meaning, or a debt to the ghost of a memory— no.
He wanted more.
He cursed himself for even wanting such a thing.
He cursed himself for being weak.
But his heart longed for the touch of some gentle lover, who cared not if his nose was too beaky, that his hair long neglected for other more important concerns, that he liked his coffee with milk and one sugar, spoon in anti-clockwise—
He wanted someone who came to life because of him.
That had once been Lily. In his mind that was all it could ever be. She was the morning and evening star of his life, and now she was gone.
Your own, bloody fault, Severus Snape. With one word, you destroyed everything, sent her into bloody Potter's arms, and then on to her premature death at the Dark Lord's wand.
You deserve to be alone.
He closed his eyes, and when he reopened them they were deep, deep back as he pushed his emotions deep and away.
He didn't need compassion.
He didn't need touch.
He didn't need anyone but himself.
"We are bringing in the foremost expert in Ley magic, Headmaster Snape," said Aloysius Underwood, the newly-elected head of the Board of Governors as he placed the scroll down on his desk. "It shouldn't take more than a month to put things back to rights, but it must be done lest all the wards protecting Hogwarts will fade away."
Severus grunted. "Fine. Authorise your expert suitable quarters here for the time being."
"We were hoping you could convince them to stay on full time."
"Dumbledore used to dabble in such things, so it was never actually required before, but since you are not, it would be beneficial to have—"
"I do understand," Snape growled, causing the man to take a step back. Still, even after all he'd done, his very voice could strike terror into man or boy. "I give you no promises. This person could be a total imbecile."
The governor shook his head. "I have it on good authority that my Ley expert has no peer."
"Goody for them," Severus said rather snidely. "Goodnight."
The poor wizard couldn't get out of Severus' office fast enough. Severus didn't mind. He much preferred it that way.
When he saw who was coming in to work on the castle wards, he almost dropped his tea.
She stood taller now, and thinner than he remembered, slight and pale. Yet her hands were delicate and her shoulders a soft curve that seemed to beckon the eye. Her robes, which were a fetching deep sapphire and silver over black spoke of practicality over style.
Her hair, though still somewhat bushy, had been tamed into silken curls to frame her face. Her eyes were like fine whisky in the firelight and when she saw him, she met his eyes, bravely meeting his gaze unlike so many others.
"Professor, Headmaster Snape," she said with a polite bow of her head. "Master Krandel should have sent word prior to my arrival, I hope?"
"Master Granger? Or is it Master Weasley now?" Oh, Hecate, did his voice just squeak? "Welcome back to Hogwarts."
Merlin's man-tits, Severus. Get a grip. This is your Ley master.
"Granger," she replied. Her lips twitched slightly, pulling upward, but she hid any over-enthusiastic emotion behind either an impressive degree of facial control or an equally impressive wall of Occlumency. "It has been a long time, Headmaster," she said, not even the slightest waver in her voice. "I am—" she paused. "Gratified that you survived the war. I fear my contact with the outside world has been rather limited. Ever since I began my apprenticeship I haven't had any time to keep up with the news."
"Nothing in the Prophet but the usual nonsense, blather, rumours and innuendo," Snape said, his lip curling. "Consider yourself quite fortunate."
Her smile was so brief if could have been a hallucination, but he found himself staring at her face. He'd read about Ley Masters. They had a very trying and difficult apprenticeship program that started with being thrown into a ley nexus to see if you blew up. Literally— blew up. If it put you back together, it liked you. If it didn't—well, let's just say finishing your apprenticeship was no longer a concern.
It was strange. Ley Masters were very secretive and even choosier than most masters. How had Granger managed to catch the eye of a Ley Master?
"Congratulations on your mastery, Master Granger," he said. He dipped down, taking her hand and ghosting his lips over her knuckles in formal acknowledgement. He had to use every control in his arsenal to prevent himself from actually touching her skin with his lips with a very unseemly lack of control.
She did a small, formal curtsy before a certain tabby Animagus got her claws into her and dragged her off to schmooze.
Minerva probably thought she was saving them both from a fate worse than death.
Perhaps, he thought rather wryly, she wasn't so far off.
Hermione sat with her legs crossed on the ramparts of Hogwarts, summoning her concentration as she tried very hard to forget the nigh-palpable almost-touch of the Headmaster's lips over her knuckles and the sinful deep voice that had haunted many a dream.
He was not interested in her, she knew that. Had he been interested, even a little, after the conclusion of the war, he would have written her back before she threw herself into the leys— for the second time.
He probably hated her. Hated her for saving his life.
Not one letter of hers had ever been answered.
She thought on that as she used her Occlumency to shove her traitorously weak thoughts away into the farthest corner of her mind. He hadn't wanted to give them even an hour of his time, and she— she was completely barmy for ever thinking there could have been something special between her and the unwilling slave of both Albus Dumbledore and the late, unlamented Dark Lord.
No matter what that one brush of his hand against hers when she had asked him to be careful and that she trusted him at Grimmauld Place.
She summoned her blankness. She obliterated all emotion. She cleared her mind, and then she called in the leys as they hovered around her and then slammed into her body, using her as the guiding conduit to tell them where they needed to moment they connected, she felt free again.
She was used to being alone.
Honestly, it was for the best.
He watched her from his office window as she sat up on the ramparts, the dangerous ley lines moving like eels around her, both protecting and guided by her. Ah, but this was the truly dangerous part— for if he or anyone else were to go out there while she was working, the leys would tear them asunder. They would be instantly atomised.
So she did her work at the witching hour when all but a few were sleeping, and she warded the space she was in with the kind of wards that made his own chambers look like the bare-minimum security of a shabby hostel.
She took no chances.
She presumed everyone would come and try and see what she was doing.
She expected idiocy.
Just as she should.
And as the night breeze blew by her, it wafted up to him.
Parchment and ink, books, and— the faintest hint of lilies.
A stone formed in his gut.
Merlin, it had been her.
It had always been her.
Time had cared not that she hadn't even been born yet.
Master Hermione Granger was his Amortentia— and he was so totally fucked.
As Hermione walked back to her guest chambers, her fingers brushed lightly against the old stone walls, feeling the familiar brush of the school's protective walls. Some were very old. Some were new, having been rebuilt. Some of the school still sang with ley energy as it was, but others remained very wounded. That was why she was here, she knew. To mend what had been stolen during the war.
As the leys whispered to her, almost like they were flirting with her, she realised they hadn't been tended properly in hundreds of years.
Ley Mastery was a dying art.
You died to be reborn into it by the ley's gift or its mercy of putting you out of your misery. That was part of the pact, the Covenant.
If there had been anyone she had wanted to understand and support her, it had been the one most illogical choice. It was as stupid as believing she and Ron—
What an idiot she had been.
Ron hadn't taken their break up well, either. He'd proposed right after the war, and she had refused— only he had taken for granted that she would agree and had told everyone they were getting married before he'd actually deigned to ask her.
"Hey, Hermione, come have tea with us before bed?" Neville said, flashing his grown-man smile. It was quite charming and much steadier than that of the shy, timid boy she had grown up with.
"Weren't you off being an Auror with Harry and Ron?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, well, I was," Neville admitted. "But then, Pomona kinda gave me an offer I just couldn't refuse."
Hermione's lips tugged into a slight smile, her head lifting as she looked down her nose as she pulled her robes toward her chest with her hands.
Neville's eyes widened with a strange, visceral reaction. He recovered, but barely, to smile at her. "Come on, just some tea.?
"As you wish," Hermione said, following. "Then most definitely bed."
"Don't die on me, Professor!" Hermione's voice.
Snape's black eyes were glassy as she pounded on his chest performing Muggle CPR.
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven …. thirty," she cried, pausing to seal her mouth over his and breathe into him even as she held her robes (which she had soaked in a powerful healing potion) to his neck to make the seal so air would go into his lungs where it belonged.
"One, two, three, four…. Thirty," she counted off again, giving him another two breaths as tears poured down her face and splashed onto his.
The leys were coming to her—
Her eyes filled with the flash of lightning, a dance of blue and white blinding light. "I accept. Please, don't let him die. Don't let him die!"
"One, two, three, four… thirty," she counted again. She put her mouth to his, breathing as the leys arced into her and she screamed, her body jerking as the leys heaved her into the air like a puppet and her body exploded into atoms. The particles all charged with bright blue and white particles, and they formed into a human shape.
An sudden arc of power touched Snape's chest and his eyes flew open, his chest heaving as his hand touched his neck— his freshly cauterised neck. The particles around him were like dust and then they too disappeared, casting him into darkness.
Snape's teacup fell to the floor, waking him up. His breaths came in rapid succession as his mind raced with his heart as if he'd been running a marathon. The vision had been so clear, but now he was as confused as he'd ever been.
"Hey 'Mione," Ron said as he leaned up against the wall.
Hermione's head jerked up. "What are you doing here, Ron?"
"What? That's the first thing you have to say? I haven't heard a peep out of you since you went shacking up with that dusty old master of yours. We were supposed to get married!"
Hermione stiffened. "Ron, I told you before—"
"Look, I know you were scared of commitment. Maybe you wanted to get in a good shag or two with someone else, but I've waited for you, Mione. Just casual sex for me, but now that you're back—"
Hermione's fist clenched as she almost went the way of Draco Malfoy and slugged him straight to the face. Her eyes narrowed. He wasn't dressed as a teacher. He had on his official Auror uniform. Had he used his job to get into Hogwarts? How had he found out that she was even here?
"Ronald, I am not having this conversation with you," Hermione stated firmly. "I told you the truth back then. What you want, what I want. It's not a marriage."
"Of course it's marriage, Mione," Ron placated. "That's what every witch wants once they get that independence thing out of their system."
Hermione's lip curled in disgust. "Do you even hear yourself?"
"Look, Harry got it right," Ron said. "It only Ginny spiking her own contraception potion a few times before she got him to settle down. I had to do more. I mean, you were so intent on writing that slimy greasy git for a meet up and a chin wag. Paid good money to Confundus your owl. I figured you'd finally given up on the old bat when you disappeared. Now that you're back we can have a proper go at it."
Hermione's sense of horror mixed with a seething anger that called the leys to her almost instinctively. They twisted around her like eager serpents, feeding off her desire and the strength of her emotion.
Sing to us your will.
Hermione's eyes blazed. "Let me get this straight. You Confundus-ed my owls to the Headmaster and you READ them?"
"Well, yeah," Ron said. "They made for pretty good reading when I was taking a shite."
Ronald suddenly found himself slammed hard against a wall, the invisible leys, at least to him, constraining his movement. "Like it rough, yeah? I can work with that."
"You make me sick, Ronald Bilius Weasley. Does Harry know your sister purposely got herself pregnant to force him to marry her? Does your MOTHER?"
"Oh, come on, 'Mione. She saved Harry from mooning over Malfoy after the war. Mom would approve. Being a poofter, it's just not natural!"
Hermione's eyes blazed. "You are going to stay right there, Ronald," she said through clenched teeth. "You will because if you move, even a little, the leys will fry your testes while they're still inside your scrotum, and then you can explain to your best friend exactly why you ruined his secret chance for the love he wanted for the obligation you and your bloody sister imagined for him."
Hermione stormed down the hallway, her robes fluttering in her wake as Ron hung suspended against the wall of the hallway, the leys whispering to each other in their eagerness for him to move— just a little— if he would only be sooooo kind.
Wide-eyed first years were the first to find him there the next morning, sweat dripping down his body as he fought to keep himself from moving, but that Ron could almost handle. But it was the dark, looming form of Headmaster Severus Snape standing in the hall next to Minerva McGonagall that caused an instinctive, visceral reaction that harkened back to his own childhood educational history.
"Mr Weasley," Snape's velvet and venom-filled voice said, dripping with a cold disdain that spoke of so much more than mere punishment. "I do not recall inviting you to visit my school."
"You don't scare me anymore, Snape," Ron hissed scornfully at him, denying the fact that his stomach was already in knots under that umbral gaze.
"You sorry-arsed sodding wanker!" Harry's furious voice rang out just an instant before a fist connected to Ron's solar plexus with a force that stole his breath away.
Ron lurched, and the enthusiastic leylines did what they had been eagerly awaiting to do to appease their beloved mistress and promptly atomised the screaming wizard's bollocks.
"I'm so sorry, Sir, I—" Harry said, cradling his head. "I didn't— I was just—"
"Save your excuses, Mr Potter," Snape said, waving him off as he pushed a hot cup of tea towards him even as Minerva drank hers down in one gulp, like a shot of whisky. "Even if you had known he was rigged to have his family jewels removed if he so much as twitched, I doubt it would have made a difference, considering what mental state you may have been in—"
Snape narrowed his eyes. "Or are still in."
"Kings is having me donate memories in the morning. He's having Ginny and the other Weasleys rounded up just in case any of them are also involved," Harry rubbed his aching temples with his fingers. "I was so confused back then. I thought it was some kind of sign. A tough choice that was made for me. I'm sorry, sir. Ron should never have been here tonight, and as his superior, I should have—"
"You cannot help or watch everyone at all hours of the day, Mr Potter," Severus said with a sniff. "Consider it a life lesson from a man who has had to teach countless dunderheads not to blow themselves up day after day."
Harry flushed a little and nodded grimly.
"Look, Mr Potter," Severus sighed. "Ghosts of the past are just that. Carrying them around with you only makes it worse. My own past with your mother, as you well know, could have easily seen you with some other witch or, well, drama queen."
Harry snorted at that, wondering if Snape ever called Draco that to his face.
"Oh, he knows, Mr Potter," Snape said, causing Harry to blush like a school boy. Gods, my mind is an open book to a master Legilimens. Fuck.
"I will take your message to Master Granger after she is done with the west wing," Severus said. "I would recommend that you, Mr Potter, go get a yourself a nice 1874 Merlot, some fine assorted cheese and crackers and go have yourself an awkward, heartfelt confession with your blond drama queen. I tire of his pining for the one that got away and somehow went straight."
Harry Potter, hero of the Wizarding world, blushed himself into the floor in absolute mortification.
Minerva shot him feline eyebrows that clearly said, "Was that really necessary?" to which his eyebrows responded, "Oh yes, most definitely, Minerva."
Harry shot his head up as he heard something that sounded like low grunting coming from the direction of the Headmaster's desk, and he realised the Headmaster was laughing. Well and truly laughing. At him.
"Go, Mr Potter," Severus said, still chuckling. "The rest can wait for tomorrow or perhaps next week." He smiled rather wickedly. "Depending on if you can get out of bed."
Harry swallowed hard. "Yes, Sir. Thank you… Sir."
He turned as he left. "Harry, sir. Please call me Harry."
"Very well— Harry," Severus said with a slight grimace that spoke of so many years worth of conditioning broken. "Severus, if you can manage not to spontaneously combust."
Harry tentatively extended his hand, and Severus eyed it as if evaluating a hungry-looking somehow resurrected Nagini. He took the hand and shook.
"See you tomorrow, S-Severus."
"We shall see," Severus said, one black eyebrow rising in challenge.
Harry flushed and practically scampered out of the Headmaster's office and then he stopped suddenly. "Severus."
Snape lifted his head. "Hn?"
Harry pulled a pile of letters out from his Auror robes. "These were meant for you, sir. We found them hidden in Ron's locker at work."
Severus took them with his pale hands. "Thank you— Harry."
Harry smiled. He tilted his head. "She really fancies you, she always has," he said. "Admired you. It almost broke her when you never replied. Not once. I never knew. I swear, I never knew. I may have thought you were a git, sir, but I truly wanted her to be happy. She's my very best friend, and I just thought you— had no time for her. For what we were to you."
Severus closed his eyes and nodded once. "It would have been logical to assume as much," he admitted quietly.
Harry straightened. "I told her the truth, Severus. I told her her why her letters were never answered. She won't blame you. Maybe—"
Snape eyed him, and Harry swallowed hard, trying not to revert to his awkward eleven- year-old self.
"Maybe take her some of that Merlot and cheese too," he said.
Snape sighed as the silver tabby Animagus laughed in her chair. He gave her a look in response that spoke volumes. "Trust me, Mr Potter. It will take at least a first edition of Hogwarts: A History in mint condition for me to even get my foot through the threshold without having my own bollocks vapourised."
Harry smiled. "You're probably right, si— Severus." He seemed thoughtful. "May I make a recommendation?"
Snape gave him the eye but indicated for him to go on.
"She's rather fond of Homer's epic poems" he said.
Severus straightened his shoulders. "I will keep that in mind."
Harry smiled and dashed out the door, disappearing like a first year late for class.
Minerva gave him a very feline smile. Her ears were showing through her hair.
It had been far too long since she and Harry had had a chat— longer than just hastily exchanged pleasantries, that is. It was so good to see him, and Harry of both of her "friends" had cared enough to send letters— something the younger Harry would NEVER have done— while she was studying under her master.
He, alone, knew that the only reason she had put off going directly into apprenticeship was that she had been waiting for Snape to sent her back word, yes or no, to a meeting before she went in and threw her life to the leys and the chance that she wouldn't come back out again.
True, the leys had already chosen her, but to be thrown into the nexus— it still could have killed her. She had wanted to get things off her chest, clear the slate, and above all absolve Severus Snape of any debt he might imagine she held over him for saving his life.
In those quiet moments at Grimmauld, they had talked— connected. And once or twice, their touch had lingered— she with her admiration and him with his pain and steadfast belief that no one could possibly be soft on the likes of him. She had saved him, not out of some profound sense of duty. It had been selfish. She hadn't wanted him to die because she couldn't imagine a world without Severus Snape in it. Even if she was not a part of his life— at least he could finally make his own path in life.
Finding out about Harry's situation with Ginny made her wish she'd done more than wished Ron's bollocks off and instead vapourized his bones too, but she knew that nothing she did to him would fix him. Even punishment was useless on someone who never believed they did anything wrong.
Still— Ginny and Ron would both be facing some pretty interesting charges in the days to come. Maybe she should have suspected something when Ginny stopped writing Hermione immediately after her marriage.
Was that all she had been to Ginny? An in to Harry?
Hermione sighed. She really was an idiot, first-class. She trusted far too easily and was loyal to a fault. Even her so-called relationship with Ronald— something she should have broken off long before that fevered kiss at the end of the war— they were never meant for the long haul.
Only now, she definitely knew why.
Yet, when she thought of facing Severus Snape now, her stomach clenched and she felt her bravery flee. She was the fool of fools. At least, when she had written those letters to him, she had been younger and more naive. Hopeful. Stupidly hopeful as she imagined that what they had shared in Grimmauld could be something more once the war was over.
No, there was no way Severus Snape would ever want her. At least Harry had a fighting chance to make things right.
Dark Wizard and Witches In the Making!
The Boy-Who-Lived-Twice suffered a devastating blow to his fragile male ego when he discovered that his wife of five years, Ginevra Weasley Potter, secretly dosed him with lust potion to get him into her bed and then tampered with her contraceptive potion to pressure young Mr Potter into an unwanted marriage.
Then, even in the wake of the humiliation of discovering said wife humping tree limbs in the midst of downtown Diagon Alley in front of Merlin and everyone, he then found out that his former best mate, Ronald Weasley, had manipulated his best female friend, the unimpressive and desperate Muggleborn tart Hermione Granger, into believing that the vile Headmaster of Hogwarts, Severus Snape was uninterested in Granger romantically, in hopes that the humiliation of Snape's rejection would drive her back into his lustful arms and subsequently into marriage with Weasley.
The Wizengamot, after an extensive review of pertinent memories and testimony, have sentenced Ronald Weasley to five years in Azkaban, and Ginevra Weasley to an enforced stay in St Mungos to rid her of the compulsion to fornicate with woodland flora. Rumour has it that now divorced Ginevra Weasley received a gift basket from an anonymous source that inflicted a strong lust compulsion to mate with the very first thing she saw— which was a tree in the backyard of her parents' home in Ottery St Catchpole and to repeat that behaviour every single time Ms Weasley came across a tree with a well-formed… projection for her pleasure.
As to the truth, no one but Ginevra Weasley seems to know, and she is quite occupied at present. Healers seem to be concerned that since the object of her amore is unable to "return" her feelings, the curse can never truly satisfy the conditions of the sexual curse with which she is afflicted.
Hermione's eyes widened slightly as the tall yet somewhat slouched figure of Headmaster Severus Snape filled her doorway.
"Headmaster? Is there a problem?" she asked, frowning in concern.
When her eyes met his, she felt a jolt as their unintentional mental probes bounced off each other.
Snape winced and muttered an apology. "Forgive me. I am— out of practice in reading people."
Hermione's lip twitched. "So you thought, what the hell, Legilimency?"
Snape squared his shoulders. "It's been a very long time since—"
The flood of memories hit him like a rampaging hippogriff meeting the whomping willow.
"I'm not lying you professor!" Hermione said, her hands beating on his shoulders. "I believe you! I know you are not a good man, but you are not a bad man either. You are just a man with desperately complicated problems. If you don't believe me, believe what is in my head!"
"You have no idea what you're asking of me."
"You're not even nineteen."
"I'm actually quite over it, thanks to third year," she said. "Not that it matters. No one even realises I'm female."
"You cannot possibly want comfort of any kind with me," he said raggedly, his hands twisted into fists.
"Say my name."
He looked at her, his face shaded by his mask of hair. "Miss Granger—"
His dark eyes met hers, and he realised she had dropped her mental guard for him to just walk right in and—
Oh, the intriguing complexity of that mind!
Her memories were sorted by date and alphabetical order with a cross referenced card-catalog. Boards sat in her mind with complex arithmancy equations. Others had potion recipes that even he had never thought of since he no longer had the time to research such things— but one of them—
It was a recipe to counter and permanently protect against the effects of the Cruciatus, only it required an ingredient she could never obtain on her own. Yet, she knew it would work. He saw her working on it late until very late at night, references, cross-referencing, researching until she cried.
He saw her emotion get the best of her— flipping over a desk filled with her research in her grief.
He saw himself bleeding out on the floor of Grimmauld years previous.
He saw her tending him, giving him water, covering him, dragging him into his room, binding his bruised body and feeding him potion after potion to keep the internal bleeding at bay.
He saw her crying over him, clinging to his chest as she begged him not to die.
He saw her using her Arithmancy to determine the last ingredient for the potion she had crafted— yet she had already made the potion that worked.
But she wasn't satisfied. It had to be permanent. It had to protect.
Gods, it had to protect him!
Snape gasped as he saw the tears flowing down her face as she realised he had seen his memories— just as she had pleaded for him to.
Willing consumation and virginal blood.
That was the last ingredient.
She had to be willing. She had to want to. She had to— have real, genuine feelings for him.
"Why?" he whispered. "Why me?"
Hermione choked a laugh. "Do you think I planned it? After all you had done when I was but a child?"
"You are still—"
Strange strands of energy materialised and then faded, making Severus blink and wonder what he was seeing.
"Many times I've almost died, Professor. Each time, I grew older. Pieces of me traded into the leys and binding me to their service. The greater good," she laughed without humour. I may not understand that greater good, but I've seen what you are willing to do for people that couldn't give a shite about you. But I— I give a shite about you, and if I can give you this, please let me!"
Snape's hand touched her cheek, and he breathed painfully as she leaned INTO his touch. That one, willing gesture undid him. "You are such a stupid, foolish girl," he whispered.
Her lips turned in a pained smile. "I could be your stupid, foolish girl."
He slumped, defeated. "Come in, Miss Granger."
He looked into her genuine, pure eyes— no deception, no hidden agenda— and whispered, "Hermione."
He set out the cauldron and Hermione drew the complex arithmancy circle around the bed. In silence, he brewed the base for the anti-Cruciatus potion to her exacting instructions, marveling at how much she had surpassed his expectation of any student— and yet how much she had remembered from his lessons.
He decanted the base potion, and they both drank it, sitting down on the bed with the nervousness of two virginal newlyweds from one of those religious sects that decreed that their devotees weren't permitted to even look at their own bodies, much less touch themselves in any way before marriage.
He pulled off his outer robe— his shield to the world, and slowly undid his buttons.
Fuck if he didn't have too many buttons. What had he been thinking?
As Hermione tugged at her clothes and undid them, pulling them over her head and then slipping out of her breast-compression-torture device, he slowly pressed a kiss to her lips and moved to touch her breasts, using his thumb to peak her interest and make things easier for her.
What he hadn't expected was the needy groan of pleasure as she practically sucked him in, her arms wrapping around his withered, skinny frame and clasped it tightly. Her nails raked down his back, and he barely had enough coherency to cast spells to lock the door, silence the walls and floors, and swig the contraceptive potion to insure his little wrigglers didn't get any fresh ideas of their own.
Even as he did, he saw her concentrate as the spiral green magic swirled on her abdomen, signalling that she had expected to have to do the same to herself.
His hands moved over her as he paid careful attention to every gasp and every look she gave him— and there was no revulsion, none.
She wanted him.
He nibbled on her neck as he guided her seeking hands to his readiness, gently teaching her what pleased him the most— not that he needed encouragement, gods.
He moved his mouth to her breasts and listened to her whimper his name.
"Severus," she breathed. A gasp. A prayer.
Not Sev. Not something simple or demeaning. His name.
His hand trembled between her legs. She was ready.
He heard her groan as her hips plainly told him what she wanted at that moment.
"Please, Severus," she said, her eyes locking on his.
The moment they became one, he felt her clamp down on him, and he was a mere boy again— no control at all.
He thrust into her madly, like a wild thing, with every grunt a part of her name.
Had he been conscious of it, he might have noticed that the leys were swirling around them as their fluids combined and rose up from their joining. The leys turned it to particles, guiding it to the cauldron.
The cauldron shimmered and turned deep blue. The leys dipped themselves into it and then—
They cried out as one as they climaxed together, and the leys poured into them both as their bodies burst into countless particles of light as a brilliance filled the room.
Hours later, their bodies still entwined together, Severus pressed his face into her curls and let out a ragged sob as his arms curled around this brave, foolish, wonderful witch.
Even in her sleep, she cuddled up to him, pressing herself as close as she could to his abused, tortured, and underfed frame. Her face pressed against his, rubbing her nose against his as she let out a sigh of pure contentment.
Summoning a vial from the room with a thought, he quickly collected a part of Hermione's gift into a shatterproof vial. He clasped it, transfiguring it into necklace traditionally worn in the Wizarding world by women who had come of age and into their magic. It would hold the precious gift in case some other need for it came about. He placed it around her neck and then Disillusioned it, fusing it to her flesh with the traditional kiss and a whispered spell of respect given from a wizard who had just taken the gift of a witch's virginity.
Vaguely he wondered if Black was ever so considerate with the many witches he had deflowered. He very much doubted it, however.
No one could steal the gift she had given to him or take away the one he gave her back. She would always have that power— strength that came from the very height of passion.
He summoned another vial and collected the last bit for the potion. He looked over the the cauldron and sighed. Reluctantly, he extricated himself from her warm, seeking arms, pressing a tender kiss to her forehead. "Rest now, love. You deserve it."
He realised he had already become soft on her.
His heart already beat to HER rhythm.
Tendrils of her affection wrapped around his heart and bond him to her as surely as a vow.
If only he could live long enough to make her a proper woman— give her a ring, a home, a family— the freedom to be herself.
His lip curled in disgust as he realised the chains that truly bound him were ones that had been designed to prevent him from being happy. Ever. Neither of his masters wanted him to have any emotional ties that could, even for a sodding moment, make him doubt his anger, his purpose, his guilt, his— grief.
Dumbledore had done nothing but continually remind him of his duty to an oath created out of grief.
Voldemort had done nothing but remind him that failure meant pain of a different kind.
And Hermione had done nothing but realise he was a person under all of that black and mask— worthy of kindness.
Worthy of the greatest gift of all.. Love.
Severus clenched his fist.
He would survive. For her.
As he watched her sleeping on the dingy old bed that might have once been a thing of beauty, one arm curled around the space he had vacated, seeking him out, even now.
He took the vial of Hermione's gift and poured it into the cauldron—
The vial flew out of his hand and smashed against the wall— Hermione's most precious gift of compassion shattered, landing on the floor with a clatter of broken shards.
Dumbledore stood between him and Hermione, a look of disgust on his face. "When Sirius told me that you were doing unspeakable things behind a locked door in his old family home, I told him that wasn't possible. Severus, I said, knows his duty. And here, I find you having fornicated with a student that is far too intelligent to have allowed someone like you to even touch her without a Confundus or a lust potion." Dumbledore vanished the cauldron and potions setup with a flick of his wand.
Snape felt despair flood his body and his mind. "No—"
"She's going to go back to her little friends and help them to end the war, Severus," Dumbledore said, as his spell had already surrounded Granger and covered her in a pale green magic.
Severus lunged at Dumbledore with a cry of despair, his mind thinking only of Hermione—his Hermione—waking alone after all she had done. Thinking him a monster. All her work to save him— undone.
For a bastard that couldn't even look her in the eye.
Severus screamed, leaping, but Dumbledore had him immobilised instantly. "And you—" Dumbledore said with disgust. "You will remember your vow."
"Yes," Severus said through gritted teeth. "My LORD," he snarled.
As Severus's body jerked uncontrollably as if by puppet strings, he realised that it did not in fact, hurt. He gave Albus the most seething glare of hatred he had as his body jerked.
"You may kill me yet, Severus," Albus said. "But not today, Severus. Not today."
Hermione fell backwards as Severus caught her, her breath caught in her throat as the flood of that poignant shared memory flowed between them— their meeting of the minds having pieced together a complete story neither of them had realised existed until that one moment when their minds had touched the others.
"You raised him like a pig for slaughter!"
"Don't tell me you've come to have feelings for the boy?" Albus accused.
"And what of my soul, Albus?"
"Some of us never had them, Severus. You will do as I say."
Severus pointed his wand at the old Headmaster.
"She won't remember you even when I am dead," he said, cruelly twisting the knife in Severus' heart.
The Headmaster went flying off the Astronomy Tower and plummeted to the ground below.
Severus crumpled the paper.
It was now after the war. She was on the front page of almost every newspaper with her two best mates. Heroes. Saviours of the Wizarding World.
She hadn't sent him one single letter. She hadn't attempted contact. Not once.
He threw the paper in the fire, his teeth clenched in anger.
Hermione sat at a desk writing without a dictation quill. She dipped her quill into her inkpot, nervously chewing on the end.
I know I've sent a few owls, but—
Perhaps you have just been busy. I understand. But please, if you could just meet with me once before I go and work with Master Krandel . I need to talk to you about the end to the war. I've had… very vivid dreams that involve you. They seem far too real to be mere dreams.
Please, just one meeting and I swear if it is what you want, I will not ask again. There are certain things I need to know, and I think, maybe, you need to know them too.
Please, sir. Just a few moments of your time.
I'm leaving tomorrow to begin an apprenticeship with Master Krandel. Please, won't you meet for me. Just once. We shared something special at Grimmauld and then one day— it just stopped.
Please meet with me,
Dear Headmaster Snape,
Today I leave for apprenticeship with Master Krandel. I may not survive it. I've heard Ley Mastery is all in or all out.
In the case I do not survive, I want you to know that I hold you under no debt for trying to save your life. I hope you find someone that meets your needs now that the war is done. You deserve to find… true happiness.
Apprentice Hermione J. Granger
Dear Headmaster Snape,
I am Master Krandel of the Guild of Ley Mastery. Apprentice Granger has given herself to the Leys and has not, yet reformed. It is traditional for people to give last words in case they do not return to us, as the leys can be fickle in who they choose and who they devour. She wanted me to let you know that she remembered your night together and that she forgives you, even if you cannot.
We will hold vigil for her, as is traditional, for another month. Then and only then, will we know if she is lost to us.
(his seal, the dragon breathing fire)
"Hermione," Master Krandel said kindly as the "older" woman walked out from the ley nexus. Blue and white particles swirled around along with the leys themselves whispering and hissing like living things around her body.
"I am now ready for my lessons, Master Krandel," she said with a bow, her eyes glowing electric blue.
"Welcome home, child," Master Krandel said warmly, "and to the Guild of Ley Mastery."
Hermione's lips pulled into a tight line. "It is my duty and pleasure," she said.
Severus stared into Hermione's face as one hand hesitantly touched her cheek. "Hermione."
"Severus," she whispered.
Minerva appeared in the hallway with a tea tray piled high with, sandwiches, pastries. and biscuits, which she set down on the table and placed a stasis charm over. She sniffed. "For Merlin's sake, just tell the witch you love her, laddie. You two stay right here and make things up, over, down, and maybe horizontal, and I'll go deal with that old buggering bastard's portrait."
Severus and Hermione stared at Minerva, their eyes almost comically wide.
"Old, but not completely inept," Minerva informed them rather tartly. "Also, I decided to learn a little Legilimency and Occlumency myself when I started losing time a little too often. Mind you, there was never anything I could actually prove before the sodding old fart took his melodramatic plunge off the Astronomy Tower, then it was all doom, gloom, and let's all blame Severus for our misfortune until they realised, oops, maybe it wasn't his fault, after all. When the truth finally came out, I got myself checked into Mungos and found a lovely compulsion charm had been on me since— Merlin only knows when. Seems like whatever you two did just now broke the geas over me and I can talk about it here at Hogwarts instead of the hospital. Now, you two have fun making up for lost time, and I'm going to go sharpen my claws on something. Or rather someone."
The tabby Animagus shifted, then trotted out the door, kicking the door shut behind her with one hind foot.
Severus and Hermione exchanged glances.
"Make love to me."
"Right here in my sitting room?"
"Maybe the bed after. If not the shower. And—mmmfffff!"
Severus Snape hushed Hermione Granger with a shamelessly passionate snog right to the face.
The leylines hissed and cavorted happily, zipping in and out of sight as the pair rediscovered each other.
Hogwarts seemed to take in a big breath of air and breathe out a sigh of relief at long last.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Found Alive!
What's the latest buzz? Well, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry seems to have been found alive. No, they didn't dig him up. Turns out the REAL Albus Dumbledore was being held in Nurmengard as Gellert Grindelwald's prisoner so he could continue to use Polyjuice to impersonate his former friend. As most people know, one cannot successfully use Polyjuice to impersonate the dead.
After much investigation, it seems that the ex-headmaster was actually using the polyjuice potion transfigured into lemon sherbets to deceive everyone. How long it has been going on remains to be seen, but it seems clear that the man we thought was Albus Dumbledore was actually Gellert Grindelwald, and the man we thought was Gellert Grindelwald was actually an Imperiused man named Gunther Connelly, who had been handpicked by Grindelwald because he possessed a similar build and features to the real Grindelwald to "die in his place" if someone were to come and attack him at Nurmengard.
So, who is in that portrait on the wall in Hogwarts, you may ask?
I'm afraid we have no idea.
The portrait, which seems to have undergone some… recent alterations presumably due to the attentions of a very angry feline, has been turned over to the DMLE to be interrogated.
Meanwhile, the real Albus Dumbledore is at Mungos being treated for decades of physical and emotional damage due to the effects of malnutrition and severe psychological trauma.
We can only wish the recovering wizard well, even as we wonder which accomplishments attributed to the great wizard were actually performed by him and which ones were the work of Gellert Grindelwald.
Unfortunately, we may never know.
As Severus and Hermione kissed each other before the wedding dias, Draco and Harry threw truly obnoxious amounts of rose petals and birdseed over the couple.
Severus gave the other couple a "look" that caused the two to flush red and disappear into the crowd like cowards.
Severus curled his lip, but Hermione kissed him again even as Narcissa grabbed both her child and her son-in-law by the collar and swatted them upside the head with stylish pureblood flare.
"Congratulations, old friend," Lucius said, shaking his hand as he passed him a jewel-inlaid box.
Severus eyed the box with curiosity practically dripping off each raised eyebrow. He lifted up the lid to expose a set of goblin silver keys— one to a vault and one to a—
"Lucius, where does this second key go?"
"Why don't you pick it up and find out," his friend said, tilting his head with the familiar flair of his shining blond hair. His previous robust health seemed to have returned at last.
"Don't you worry about us, laddie," Minerva said. "We'll keep a good eye on your presents and eat your cake too."
Hermione giggled, her smile finally escaping her— a hint of the younger, more carefree Hermione peeking through.
Minerva gave them both kisses on the cheek. "Shoo, now."
Hermione put her arm around her husband's, and he reached in and took hold of the key as the familiar tug at the navel yanked them away.
"Oof!" Hermione caught her extremely hyper firstborn child as she plowed into her while waving a paper craft in her face. The wings were flapping on their own by way of magic.
"Look, mummy! Uncle Draco taught me!"
"Did he also teach you proper manners, young lady?" Severus said, looking down at his spawn with disapproval.
"Sorry, Daddy," the little girl said sheepishly.
Severus took the flapping bird and placed it on the shelf of honour in the garden. His daughter squealed happily and ran off to pounce her Uncle Harry, who was completely bowled over out of his chair.
Hermione giggled. "I wasn't like that as a child."
"Are you blaming me, wife?"
"No, I'm blaming her behaviour on bad influence via her uncles," Hermione said as the leys moved to right Harry back up and set him back in his seat, but they also made his hair stand on end like he'd been attacked by a rabid bearskin rug.
"Dinner is ready!" Molly's voice called from inside.
"Why did you allow Weasleys to infest our house today, Hermione?"
"Because it's Bill and Fleur's anniversary, and we actually like them," Hermione reminded him.
Hermione kissed him passionately.
"Revision duly noted."
Hermione smiled. "Also, thanks to Lucius, we have more than enough room to support guests of even Weasley proportions— sans a couple we both know can go to Hades and set themselves on fire."
"Hear. hear," Harry said fervently, raising his glass of merlot.
Lucius floated by like the supernatural elf-imposter he was. "Do you plan to remain intoxicated throughout the entire dinner, Potter?"
Harry hiccuped. "Can't help it. I found the wine cellar."
"My wine cellar, Harry Potter?!" Severus roared.
"Oh, will you look at that. Time to help set the table!" Harry said, running into the house.
Severus' eyebrow twitched, going into seizures.
Hermione touched his hand and smiled at him. "The leys will help you brew more. You know how they like to help."
Severus sighed, mumbling the periodic table under his breath.
Lucius pinched his nose and shook his head. "I truly love my son-in-law, but sometimes—"
"Come on father," Draco said, hugging his father around the waist, something he'd NEVER have gotten away with in years previous. "You know you're quite fond of him. Once you both got over that entire 'You're an evil git!' and spellflinging phase."
Lucius gave his son that distinctive parental look that was inevitably passed down from generation to generation of Malfoys.
Draco gave him another a hug and ran, no skipped, into the house.
"Ah, amour," Narcissa cooed as she watched her son and his mate with a fond smile.
Lucius sighed and gave his wife a chaste kiss as they walked into the house for dinner.
Hermione's hand clasped her husband's and she grinned at him.
Severus gave her a stern look.
"I love you."
"And I you."
"Must you say it like it's physically painful?"
"Oh, but it is."
"Git," she said, slapping his chest with the back of her fingers.
He gave her a look. "Say my name, wife."
She looked up at him. "Severus."
He closed his eyes, a shiver going down his spine. He looked at her, all his love gathered behind his dark gaze. "I love you, my wife."
"Even more than your potions business with Lucius?"
"More than our ridiculously massive library?"
"More than your obnoxiously complicated state of the art potions laboratory?"
"Even that, my love."
Hermione pressed her lips to his. "Excellent."
A silver tabby walked by carrying a fragrant basket of shortbread biscuits in her mouth as she trotted by, her tail whapping against their legs as she went.
"I think that means it's time to eat," Severus said, looking a little disappointed.
"There's always dessert," Hermione whispered wickedly.
Severus' eyes darkened, nostrils flaring. "Minx."
He took her in an embrace. "Most definitely mine," he confirmed. "Always."
The leys danced around them as one zoomed by carrying a box of something in its "mouth."
"Come back with that!" George yelled, chasing after it.
Hermione spied her daughter giggling beside the nearby rosebush. "Wren, daughter of mine?"
"Did you ask the leys to steal Uncle George's box of tricks?"
"Borrowed," she said innocently.
"Spoken like a true Slytherin in the making," Severus said proudly.
"Come, let's go eat," Hermione said taking her daughter's hand.
"What's for dessert?"
"Chocolate layer cake with whipped cream and strawberries," Severus said immediately, pushing his daughter ahead with all due haste.
"Yay!" Wren said happily, skipping ahead.
Hermione burst out laughing.
Her hand went to the pendant around her neck and she smiled. It had been such a simple gift, so innocently given, yet it was so much more. She had a wonderful family, a loving husband, a beautiful little girl, and her real friends by her side.
That was the true treasure that she would hold in her heart.
A/N: Hope you liked this shortie! My thanks to the ever patient and skillful tracker-down-of-me The Dragon and the Rose— who doesn't let me publish without supervision (because that would be disaster, for sure).