Should be writing anything else. Anything...and yep, writing an SSHG oneshot for Valentine's. *sigh*
"This soul-mate thing is just a pile of old wank, you know that, don't you, Harry?"
Hermione froze in the kitchen doorway. Her heart thudded and a sudden pain in her jaw rocked her…she was clenching, grinding her teeth. She willed a breath and sank back into the shadows. Yes, she was thankful that Harry had ignored her nagging to brighten up the dour gloom of Grimmauld Place. The darkness offered her a chance to find out more of what Ronald Bilius Weasley thought of soulmates…
The ginger git— Bitter? Her? No… —tipped the rest of the breakfast sausages onto his grease-smeared plate, and followed them up with the remaining mushrooms, baked beans, the broken lumps of the black and white puddings and the last rasher of bacon.
Hardly a scrap remained for her breakfast. Complete and utter git.
Harry looked up from The Prophet with a frown, his slice of toast half way to his mouth. "Huh?"
"Soul mates." Ron waved his fork. "Wank."
"Soul mates wank?" He stared at his friend. "What?"
Ron rolled his eyes. "Not wank, wank. Though I'm sure they must do…" His brows drew together and he attacked his sausages. "No. This soul-mate equinox bollocks. It's just that."
He snorted and stuffed a forkful of sausage, mushroom and black pudding into his maw. He chewed and Hermione winced. Yes, getting him to close his mouth as he ate had been as successful as getting Harry to redecorate.
He wagged his fork again, to Harry and the paper folded against the kitchen table. "I mean, why they're dragging out this…ancient rite" —he droned the words and Hermione's belly squeezed at his disdain— "I don't know. Keeps the witches happy, I s'pose. They fall over themselves for all that," his voice climbed to a falsetto, ''oh, we're fated' pixie shit."
Harry's frown deepened and he put down his toast. His hand curled in, his knuckles whitening. "What about Hermione?"
Heat bloomed in her chest and sank to her feet. Gods, she wanted to run. Not to hear what the boy she'd set her heart on for years truly thought. Because, he'd grinned and obviously lied to her bloody face about how he was looking forward to confirming what he —and his lying fucking heart— already knew. That they were…meant.
"Remember her?" Oh, it was Harry at his snippiest. "Your girlfriend. The one you're performing that…ancient rite," Harry followed Ron's drone, "with today."
Ron wrinkled his nose and slumped back into his chair. "Mate, she believes it. I mean, normally she's not like a girl at all, is she? She's sensible. But, Merlin, if I ever want to get anywhere—"
"What? Oh, that? Gods, yes, that too. Merlin, she's leg-locked, you have no idea. But not just that, I mean she's Hermione Granger. I'm not stupid enough to let a witch of her status go to some other, less deserving wizard."
Harry blinked and a tide of angered red rose over his cheeks. "You're using her?"
"Nah. We both get what we want, don't we? She gets a soul-mate in me and I get her and a good future. It's a fair deal."
"What about love?"
Harry had stolen the words from her mouth.
Her heart was cracking. She was simply a means to an end for him. Nothing more. Emotional range of a teaspoon? Not even that much. He thought only of himself, first and last.
Ron shrugged. "Yeah, probably. I say I do to her, because witches like that, don't they?"
"Gods, Ron…" Harry shook his head. 'That's not right."
"What, I shouldn't be practical? I should be all goo and no sense?" He planted his fists either side of his half-empty plate, knuckles white around his knife and fork. "My parents were a love-match…and Merlin, I don't want to have to scrape through my future. I've had well enough of that."
"It's hardly fair to string Hermione along if you don't love her, Ron."
Her now very much ex-boyfriend rolled his eyes. "I'm not stringing anyone. We're both getting what we want."
"She thinks you love her!"
Bless Harry for being her advocate, because her feet were nailed to the floor. The need to scream at Ron. Or run. Run far, far away. Both churned within her and held her immobile.
"I probably do. And will. You get used to someone down the years. Settled."
Hermione closed her eyes and a tear slid free.
Gods, she'd had so many plans for the day. The rite and then after…after the sealing of the bond was the promise of pleasure. And she'd planned —Yes, she had plans too, Ronald Weasley!— planned to find her first time with her soul-mate.
But no, the rite —she— was simply a pawn in Ron's strategies.
"You can't let her carry on thinking that you love her, Ron. Tell her. Let her decide whether she can live with the future you want."
Hermione didn't wait for Ron's reply. She turned on her heel and stalked down the hall to the stairs. She needed to tear through Ron's room for anything that belonged to her and recast the wards on her own room. There was no way she was permitting him to cross that threshold anymore.
Fuck, she wished she had somewhere else to go—
Hermione rocked back on her heels as Severus Snape loomed out of the shadow of the library.
"Where are you tearing off to today?"
The hint of a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth and the lamplight pooled gold in his endless eyes. She echoed his smile, she couldn't help herself. It had once been so rare, but this post-Nagini Snape was quieter, more calm. They'd more than once shared the silence of the library, sat before a crackling fire, both lost to heavy tomes.
Like her, he had no other home.
She let out a long breath, the ache there to throw her anger and disappointment at someone who would sneer at the mere mention of Ron… But that wasn't this wizard. Oh, he would sneer, but he'd also declare her a foolish girl for believing in the soul-mate rite in the first place.
There was an edge of concern to the smooth velvet of his voice and it sharpened the cracks in her heart. This wizard, at least, believed in love. The lengths he'd gone to to prove it. Almost dying—
Her breath hitched at the swell of pain in her chest.
A sob broke from her and she surged forward into the solid wall of black wool, wrapping her arms around his solid frame, burying her face against his chest. The familiar, comforting scents of wool and cedar, chased with a hint of leather and herbs sank into her heaving body.
Strong arms wrapped around her and she thought, she thought she felt the ghost of his cheek against the wild tangle of her hair.
A bitter laugh broke from her and she nodded.
He urged her ahead of him into the library. He closed the door, his magic chasing over the frame to seal it against intrusion. He made her sit in one of the heavily padded chairs and poked his wand at the fire to flare fresh heat into the room.
She huffed a laugh and his mouth twitched again. Merlin, they got through gallons of the stuff. A mutual obsession.
With a deeper curve to his smile, Severus called on one of the displaced elves for tea and a flick of magic later, their usual pot of loose leaf English Breakfast, a jug of milk and a plate of jaffa cakes popped onto the small table set between the two chairs.
A few thudding heartbeats and Severus pressed a perfect mug of tea into her chilled hands, closing her fingers around it. He retreated to his nearby chair and Hermione missed the warmth of his touch, the strength of him as a balm to her rawed nerves. She sipped her tea and shoved down her…inappropriate thoughts.
He was all silence and calm. Waiting for her to begin. Strange to be in a world where Severus Snape made the most perfect tea and had endless patience…
She hadn't shared her plans about the rite. They didn't talk much. If at all. The need wasn't there. She could never explain, even to Harry, the simplicity of their sitting together in the shadowy silence, with a book, tea and a flickering fire. How it made her feel more like herself than anywhere else.
"I…was a convenience. I'm Hermione Granger, a witch of status and useful." She breathed out on that word. Not wanted. Not loved. Just…useful. "Nothing more. Nothing…deeper."
She willed herself to look up, hoping to see something other than derision in his gaze and found him watchful, dark and not a hint that he thought her a fool. She pressed her hand to her chest as a bubble of panic chased through her blood. She breathed. Just breathed.
"You wanted to perform the soul-mate rite today."
It was a statement. Hermione's face boiled and she buried herself in her mug for a long moment. Gods, he must think her an idiot…
"It's an ancient magic, with us from the beginnings of our…difference from other humans."
Hermione stared at him. "You…you believe it's real?"
"Mr Weasley is a fool twice over."
"Yes, yes, he said it was…well, rubbish is the polite word." She shook her head. "How can a pureblood not believe?"
"Some, so used to magic, no longer see its wonder." He opened his palm and a golden flame danced and flickered, shaping into a bird of paradise, its long tail swirling and dipping. Hermione's breath caught. Severus' magic was a thing of beauty. So finely crafted and precise, and yet holding an ease and fluidity. It was…perfection. "Nor take the time to honour the gifts magic gives us."
His smooth voice was soft and contemplative. A wry smile pulled at his mouth, lips made gold by the fire in flickering over his hand. "Most of humanity would give their right arm to know that their heart was fixed on the right soul."
He closed his fingers and the bird faded to shadow and smoke. Hermione shivered at its loss. The room felt less, empty.
"A soul-mate is the gift magic gave us from the very start."
Severus shrugged. "But it requires…bravery. And faith. Faith in yourself, in your chosen one, and in magic itself." His black gaze held her. "You have ample faith and bravery, Miss Granger."
"Hermione." Merlin, she couldn't go back to formal titles when she'd sobbed all over him. "But no, no faith in Ron, not any more. And to be truthful, that faith has wavered for a long time." She sipped her tea and picked out a jaffa cake. That day, she needed them for breakfast. The elves had a deal with a local squib to acquire packets from nearby shops. Not even magic —elf nor human— could replicate the perfection of a jaffa cake. She huffed and bit the little cake, leaving it a crescent shape. "At some point today, I would've been in here, lamenting the end of my hardly begun relationship with Ron."
"The right wizard is out there…Hermione."
"What about you, sir?"
Severus blinked and belatedly, she realised how that sounded. Her cheeks scalded with heat. "I mean, I meant, your soul mate. Have you ever…?" She groaned, sank back into her chair and hid behind her mug. Gods, she'd made it even worse. She could not ask Severus Snape, of all wizards, about soul mates. Fuck, Ron's insensitivity was catching. "Never mind. None of my business."
"I have not."
Was she projecting the resignation, the pain and history onto those three words? Everyone knew his past and his…love of Lily Evans. Everyone. The whole bloody wizarding world. Hermione could happily banish Rita Skeeter to a jar without any air holes for that crime.
His mouth quirked upwards in one of his short smiles and he snaffled one of the jaffa cakes. "What a pair we are."
Hermione blinked and darted her gaze back to her mug. She stared at the milky liquid, her mind a sudden swirl. Were they? A pair? Them…?
Severus Snape was powerful and ridiculously gifted by magic. He was clever and well read. In fact, he could sit with her for hours and simply read. He liked tea. And jaffa cakes. He already had more going for him and more in common with her than Ron Weasley…which was quite a surprise.
No. Not a surprise. What had she really in common with Ron? Truly? Besides a friendship with Harry. Remove him…and they fought, he sulked, she nagged. He hardly cracked open a book, unless it was Quidditch related. But Ron was tall and broad and handsome…and he'd shown an interest in her, when all that any other boy or man saw was a bushy-haired bookworm.
Save for Viktor. Dark haired and hooked-nosed Viktor…
Hermione blinked again.
Put her faith in magic. And be brave.
"Would you kiss me, please, Severus?"
He stared at her. Silently. For ten hard heartbeats. His lips moved, shaped words and finally he asked, "Sorry…what?"
"There's no set time for performing the rite today, is there? So, I thought…" A stain of red pushed at his pale cheeks and his eyes began to lose their dark warmth, became cold and flat. Shit. Shit. "I'm not… I thought. We share this space so easily, are so comfortable with each other, I can be myself with you, my proper self, and gods, Severus," she rushed over his name, having never used it before, "I admire you as a man and a wizard, for what you've done and what you will do. What we could do together. And I wanted to know if it could be more. If you could be the wizard that's right for me."
He was still staring and Hermione's heart shrivelled. It was time for her to stop being bloody brave for a while. It wasn't getting her anywhere.
What was she thinking? He'd been her professor. He probably still thought of her as an annoying little tick with buck teeth and too many questions…and with a propensity to attack him with various forms of magic. Sitting together in a library, sharing tea and being herself did not a relationship make. No matter how lovely the tea, or how the time soothed her soul—
And now she'd ruined her little sanctuary. Gods she was skilled in fucking up.
"I will be…equally brave."
He offered his hand, long, pale fingers flickering gold in the firelight and Hermione stared, blinked, put down her mug and willed herself out her chair. Her legs were water and pulling in a breath, she slipped her hand into his. The brush of skin against skin, his warm and dry with the calluses of knifework and how he held his wand a history on his fingers and palm.
Hermione stared up at him, her heart in her throat. Merlin, he was tall…
Had he always been this tall? Shit, her brain was melting.
His dark eyes, shining in the firelight, darted to her mouth and her lips parted. Dried.
Was this right? It felt right. Some part of her, long pushed back, prayed, prayed hard that it was. That magic would be theirs—
"As the light balances the dark, on this day, may I kiss you?"
His velvet rumble, sure and quiet, squeezed around her heart. Her eyes burned and she jerked a nod. She swallowed, her throat tight, but she would honour him by performing her part just as clearly. "As the dark balances the light, on this day, I accept your kiss."
Severus' mouth dipped to hers, warm, smooth lips brushing over her parted mouth. The taste of his breath, of tea and oranges and dark chocolate, teased her…and gods, gods…magic. A swirl of pale gold chasing the air, over skin and clothes and…and…
Hermione's pulse thundered and she clutched at his hand, swayed into his body, the need, the want, the desire a wild and raw rush through her flesh. Him. He…he was. He was her soul-mate. It was there written deep in her bones. It had always been there. Waiting for her to wake up. To recognise this wizard—
It was dark growl against her lips, before his mouth caught her again. With teeth and tongues, with a tight arm pulling her to him, holding her. Desperate. Needy.
"Naked. I need you very, very naked. Right now."
Merlin. That was her. Her voice.
Severus' laughter was rich and wicked. "To seal the kiss on the equinox. I'd have you…forever."
Hermione cupped his ruddied cheek, smooth from that morning's shave. His lips were plumped from the wildness of her kiss and his dark eyes shone with desire, with warmth and affection, with everything she could ever want. "I have faith in magic and in you, Severus Snape." She smirked at him. "So… Naked?"
His grin was sharp and sinful and her pulse jumped. A surge of wandless magic and…
Hermione gasped as the entire bare length of him pressed against her equally bare body.
"Naked, you shall have."
And then, well, there was a lot less talking… Mostly.
"Mione, there you are." Ron frowned and wagged his hand at her. "What happened to your hair? And why are so red and sweaty?"
Hermione pressed her hand to the teapot on the counter, found it acceptable and poured herself a mug. A generous splash of milk followed. She sank back against the wooden counter and sipped her tea. She was parched.
She smirked around the rim of her mug. Who knew that sex would involve quite that much screaming?
"Are you ready?"
Ron pitched his voice low and his mouth pulled to the side, in what looked more like a grimace than something sexy. And his voice? She'd had Severus Snape whisper utter filth and depravity against her ear, against her skin, her breast, her… Heat chased low in her belly. Ron's attempts? Worse than rubbish.
Her wizard was waiting on her, still naked in front of the library fire because she had to deal with Ron. Oh, Severus had offered to inform Ron of the change in her status. Soul-mated with the gold seal over their hearts, but she thought neither Molly nor Arthur would appreciate their son as an interesting ginger stain on the kitchen floor. Because he would draw his wand, and well…
"Ready? You know, I think not." Hermione pushed away from the counter. "I want companionship and common interests and well, love in a soul-mate. And that's not us, is it, Ron?"
His lips pressed together and his hands tightened into fists. His knuckles showed white. "You overheard."
"Thanks for eating every scrap of breakfast, by the way."
"Be sensible, Hermione. Be the sensible Hermione, I know."
Ron froze, his arm out, his formed hand in a claw to snatch at her.
Severus lounged in the kitchen doorway, his trousers low on his hips, his shirt untucked and hardly buttoned, his feet bare. Hermione's jaw dropped. Yes, she'd been rampantly naked with him for the whole morning, but this, this wizard, with his wand held negligently in long, loose fingers and a dark smirk on his quite beautiful lips. This wizard, this wizard was fucking…delicious.
Severus tapped his chest, and the chime of pure magic hummed through the kitchen. "Hear that, Mr Weasley? That is a soul-mate bond. Our," his gaze slid deliberately to her and Ron's eyes grew round, "consummated soul-mate bond."
A strangled grunt and gurgle broke from Ron.
Severus cupped his ear. "What's that? You vow not to interfere with sealed magic? Very wise." Severus held out his hand to her and his black gaze shone in the candlelight. "I grew bored without you, my dear." He eyed her mug. "Is that fresh?"
A grin broke from her, so wide her cheeks ached. "No, but a fresh pot would be nice. After…"
Severus brought her fingers to his lips, and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. His endless eyes were hot and her pulse thudded. Merlin, muscles ached in places she didn't know she had muscles, but fuck, she wanted him again.
"Tea and you?" he murmured
It was a voice dipped in the sweetest sin.
Forever? No, not long enough.
Hermione stretched up onto her toes and stole a kiss. Severus' cheeks flushed and it bloomed warmth in her chest. Her future bound to this powerful, clever, sensual and oh-so-endearing wizard?