Reliving the Past; Seeking the Future
The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn H.G. Wells
The sunbeams streamed into the bedroom through the long windowpanes. Severus Snape woke up with the memory of the night before still thundering in his mind. Never had he felt so rested in his entire life. A stir led him to turn his head to the right.
There must be a God, he wondered in awe, as he looked at the woman whose golden cloud of impossibly adorable mess of hair surrounded her sweet face that lay on his chest.
A warmth and comfort spread throughout his body and he yielded into her embrace.
Never before had he dreamt he would find himself in love, until he met her. He had believed his heart to be hardened in his youth after the atrocities he had seen committed around him and by himself. Never before had he ached for the company of a woman, until he knew her. And never had he imagined she would love him in return. Yet there she was, sleeping soundly beside him. He never thought he could be this close to anyone. Both physically and spiritually.
Of course, he thought wryly, things were more than a little fluster on their wedding day itself. . .
'Hermione! What's taking you so long? The guests are there by now!' shouted Severus impatiently, in order to disguise his trepidation. His black eyes focused upon the closed door belonging to her chamber. Was she having any regrets now? Was she even in there in the first place? Had she Apparated?
On the contrary. If he had known, he would probably be bewildered at the immaculate, unnecessary detail-picking that was Woman.
Hermione was frowning at her mirror, apparently lost in concentration to the idle observer but in truth listening to Severus' shout.
She twirled once more in front of the mirror. She debated at the suitableness of her choice of wedding dress. No one had seen it other than her mother who had recommended the pair of Muggle designers for her. She admitted it was calculated to draw attention. By no means was it loud, oh no, she would hate that. Purple of the deepest shade, it was cut to emphasise her figure and flatter her complexion. Whichever way she moved, the robes swayed along like a velvet waterfall. In addition, her shoulders were also exposed, showing them to be round and curving up to a graceful neck which was encased in a tasteful diamond choker.
'Oh come on, you like it,' she said out loud, wondering if Severus heard her talk to herself.
He did, and he was further confused. What was he supposed to like? Waiting for her?
'Certainly not,' he murmured. Raising his voice, he merely questioned, 'Hermione?'
Hermione chided herself. She liked what she was wearing and how she looked in it. She admitted it was Severus' opinion that she was worried about. Would he like it?
'Well, if he doesn't, he'll have to marry me anyway,' she spoke to the mirror, this time softly. She and her image gave a mutual wink and a conspiratorial smile, she put on her gloves and added touches to her hair. Gathering her train, she stepped out.
Severus' dazzled eyes widened a fraction before he remembered himself. He fought to retain his outward appearance of passiveness and detachment. All he managed to say was, 'Finally.'
Hermione huffed and took his arm in regal haughtiness, before dissolving into helpless giggles when Severus crashed into the front door as he did not tear his eyes from her and watch where he was walking.
'We can't afford the groom to face the guest with a bump on his forehead,' Hermione said as she drew out her wand from one of the hidden pockets on her dress and healed him.
'This is not a very auspicious start to a wedding,' Severus grumbled. He wondered if it was a blessing or a curse to be utterly besotted by a single soul.
'Hush, you are a not superstitious man.'
Severus shrugged stubbornly. He felt the throbbing pain on the side of his forehead subside.
'There,' Hermione said, pleased. The bruise had disappeared. 'Now, isn't there a wedding we have to attend to?'
Severus chuckled. One of the many things he loved about her was her no- nonsense attitude. He thought it was grossly under-appreciated by her friends. It was what kept him sane in all the ensuing madness in the beginning years of war with Voldemort. His anchor. His one fixed point he could turn to in times of desperation.
'Hermione, did I mention you are beautiful?'
'In not so many words. The looks you give me are sufficient. Do you know you have the most expressive eyes I've ever beheld?'
Severus shook his head and said dryly, 'I don't look into a mirror as long as you do.'
'If you think that was long, I fear we'll have some trouble in the future.'
'I've prepared myself mentally.' Severus opened the door. 'After you, my lady.'
Severus swept Hermione's locks of hair gently from her forehead to better see her face. She was still deep in slumber, safe and sheltered in his arms. He memorised every detail of her, from her densely curled eyelashes, petite nose, and lips that profused with the colour of roses.
It was incredible, how he had known her during the past twelve years and did not realise their relationship would progress to one of utmost union. From teacher-student to partners-in-war to soul-mates, it was a journey remarkable in itself. Surely there were many obstacles, metaphorically speaking, to cross before there was even a remote hope that they could end up together in happiness. Strange how the source of his difficulties came not from the expected place, in other words, the entire wizarding community, but from the world where Hermione once lived in. Stranger too, was the uproarious difference the difficulties presented themselves compared to what he had heretofore suspected. . .
Severus had no kin since he was a young lad. His parents had passed away one after the other, and he had not known his relatives. Hence, there was no one to seek permission from to marry Hermione, unless one considered his mentor Albus Dumbledore, who had been using all his power and cunning to push them together. According to Albus, it was easier to get Malfoy Jr. and Potter to hug each other than to extract a confession out of Severus. The former imagery was amusing and disturbing in itself.
In the end, an exasperated Albus and a surprisingly mischievous Minerva tricked Severus into consuming some Veritaserum and proclaiming to the whole school that he was in love with one Hermione Granger. Severus would never forgive Minerva for dragging out the fact that he had secretly watched over Hermione night after night when she had been brutally attacked by one of Voldemort's followers and left unconscious. Not to mention that Hermione now knew where her missing favourite handkerchief was.
'A handkerchief in exchange for the rightful owner,' was Hermione's startling response. And when Severus stared into her eyes, he was robbed of speech at the love shining from them. She was laughing and crying. They would be arguing for the rest of their lives as to whom the guilty person was of grabbing the other and kissing him or her in blind passion right there and then on the rooftop of the Astronomy Tower.
The result was Severus finding himself in a Muggle neighbourhood, standing at the porch of a Muggle house, the Grangers' house. Hermione's parents' house.
'Hermione, so glad you've come visiting,' a lady only several years older than he had opened the door, ushering them inside. Mrs. Granger was tall and elegant, with greying hair piled up loosely and a matching suit dressed on her.
When Hermione led him into the living room, he saw Mr. Granger lounging in an armchair. Father and Mother. Severus cursed inwardly. How in name of all that was holy, was he going to survive the ultimate parents' test? On closer inspection, Severus realised with a sinking heart that Hermione's father was wiping a long, shiny, black machinery. Although not used to a Muggle environment, he was familiar with Muggle lifestyle and that blasted thing that man was holding was definitely a gun.
Mr. Granger must have had seen the shock cross his face and the rigidity of his countenance, for he laughed and got up. Walking to him, he slapped his back hard. Severus felt rattled, to put it mildly.
'I always told Hermione that I would shoot the man trying to snatch her away from her parents,' said Mr. Granger jovially. 'I didn't think I had to fight with a wand then.'
Severus cleared his throat, 'Mr. Granger.'
'So civil Professor Snape? No "Twenty points from Gryffindor Miss Granger, for you father's excessive rudeness."?'
Severus made a brave attempt at a comeback. 'I concede Mr. Granger,' he drawled in his smoothest tones exuding confidence, 'I treated your daughter like all students. I hadn't expected I would be in the prospects of marrying her.'
Mr. Granger laughed, 'Touché sir.' Turning to Hermione, he said, 'Your professor's sharp, honey.'
Hermione slipped her hand into Severus', reassuring him, 'He has to be Dad.'
'Why don't we sit down?' Mrs. Granger suggested.
'Excellent. Come right in and feel at ease,' Mr. Granger gestured them to the sofa while his wife sat on the arm of his chair.
Severus wondered if it was a pathetic joke to be asked to feel comfortable when he found himself under the scrutiny of two pairs of unwavering eyes.
'Well, ermmm.' Mr. Granger started off, 'Hermione's told us a lot about you, all the way since her schooldays.'
'I suppose it's not wholly flattering.' Severus did his best not to fidget.
'Absolutely dreadful. Like an over-the-top Alan Rickman from Robin Hood.'
'I beg your pardon?'
'Never mind. Would you like a drink?' Mr. Granger indicted a bottle of whisky.
'No thank you. I wish to remain tense.' Severus allowed a hint of sardonic irony to seep through his voice.
'Whereas I prefer to project a carefree persona,' Mr. Granger poured himself a glass.
The day passed with the Grangers asking Severus about himself and getting to know him on a familiar note. Severus believed it was more like an interrogation. He felt drained.
Mr. Granger was rather garrulous while Mrs. Granger simply observed him. For once, Severus pictured how a stranger who knew nothing of his background would see him: A forty-three year old man, black in features and clothing, with the sourness of seventy years marking on his face, a drastic contrast to the much younger woman talking animatedly beside him. A dangerous man, jaded and ruthless. What parent would want their child to be with such a man as he?
He forced himself to concentrate on the conversation for Hermione's sake. If he allowed himself to relax, it would have been a pleasant chat. Almost.
He never talked so much of himself to anyone except to Albus. It was as though he was stripped of layers of protection covering him, and he was frightened and resentful by turns. Honesty compelled him to give an unvarnished version of his past, without the melancholic antihero type personality. Truth be told, he was deliberately harsh on himself. He needed Hermione's parents to understand what kind of man they were agreeing to give their daughter's hand to. He had lived under the cloak of Deception for too long not to know the consequences of it. He was weary of it.
Soon, Mrs. Granger motioned Hermione to help her prepare dinner. Hermione squeezed his hand before she joined her mother. Severus watched them go into the kitchen. They were probably having a mother-daughter heart-to- heart talk.
'Now that the ladies have gone. . .' Severus brought his attention back to Mr. Granger who was looking at him intently as he spoke, 'We can have a real talk.'
'I do not have to tell you, Professor, that we were more than surprised to hear Hermione tell us who she was in love in. Then again, I suppose her mother and I should have known, or suspected. She's admired you ever since she was a student, especially after the Triwizard Tournament's incident. No, don't defend yourself sir,' Mr. Granger said when Severus' lips started moving in protest, 'I understand the reasons behind your behaviour toward others. You've never learnt life the easy way, have you sir? I don't think you've ever known what innocence was.'
A flash of indignation struck Severus at first. Were dentists Soul Healers, or, as Muggles called them, psychologists as well? He was not a patient to be dissected and examined and evaluated.
Mr. Granger seemed to be aware of his bitterness. He spoke more gently, 'Whatever your past, it's shaped you into a person well-deserving of Hermione. I think I know who or what you are Professor Snape. You've walked the wrong road, made the wrong decision. But you've picked yourself up and carried yourself with dignity and honour. I'm glad Hermione's chosen you. I want to know that she's married to a man worthy of her love and trust.'
'Mr. Granger,' said Severus formally, trying to detach himself from his overwhelming emotions, 'What of my character? I'm under no illusion that Hermione. Miss Granger has not informed you of the wretchedness and cruelty I treat my students. Heed me when I say plainly that it is not a masquerade. I possess a genuine loathing of empty-headed students. I'm old, and set in my ways. I am impatient and intolerant of irresponsible behaviour. I hold grudges, as Sirius Black can attest to, and I'm not good- looking.' Severus paused. Now what in hell caused him to say that? It must be Black's fault.
Mr. Granger was silent for a while. Then he said in all sincerity, 'Hermione's known you for years Severus, may I call you Severus? Hermione's always been mature and I know it's not on a whim when she says she loves you. Now that I've seen you and talked to you, I begin to understand. As for your argument, well, things that matter least should not interfere with those that matter most, to paraphrase Goethe. Hermione knows where she is heading. I feel certain I will have no regrets handing my daughter's happiness to you.'
'Forgive me if I say Mrs. Granger appears to have her doubts. . .'
'My wife's naturally worried. I don't mind your age as much as she does. And she's heard too many stories about you when Hermione was young not to be easily persuaded by the change in perspective during the wizards' war. But my wife's got a good sense. Woman's instinct. She'll come round to the idea.'
Severus wondered if he could be as optimistic as his potential father-in- law could. For all they knew, Mrs. Granger might have launched into a spectacular list of the one thousand and one reasons why Hermione should not marry the slimy, greasy git of a Potions Master.
However, when the two women walked out of the kitchen smiling, he started believing in miracles. Perhaps he was becoming influenced by Albus. The old man was incorrigible in his sunny view of life. . .
'I love you Hermione,' Severus whispered into her ear. Hermione reacted by snuggling into him. She suppressed the urge to smile. Continuing her pretense of sleeping, she listened to his steady heartbeat and inhaled the delicious scent of cypress belonging to Severus. She curled into him more, feeling warm and sheltered. Sighing languidly, her hand 'innocently' crept to the back of his neck and caressed it. She had learnt that he was particularly sensitive to touch there.
Severus hissed at the sudden thrills of pleasure running all the way down his frame. He shifted his position slightly, making an effort not to rouse her to wakefulness. Taking her wayward hand, he gently kissed her fingertips.
'Naughty girl,' he growled into her palm. She reacted by snuggling into him as though she were responding to his mounting desire. He ran his hands over her soft curves, seeing her gorgeous body entwine with his. He wanted to have this dreamlike moment last for as long as possible. He deserved it, after the horrendous wedding affair. . .
Severus came to the conclusion that wedding feasts were held for the benefit of the guests and the detriment of the wedding couple.
It was a noisy gathering which they Apparated into when they left their home. The Grangers decided that since they were not as involved in Hermione's life as they would have had wanted since she started her Hogwarts' education, they may as well help arrange the wedding celebrations.
White tables and chairs were arranged in a circle, with red and white rose petals strewn over the meadows where the ceremony was set up. The sun was shining warmly, and the weather was not too hot. The pastures all over were lush and green, depicting a rejuvenating freshness. Light, lazy breezes swayed rolls and rolls of frilly ribbons hung from nearby trees to add to the festivities. A band of musicians struck up tune after tune of merry songs.
It could be a scene inspired from an oil painting, if not for the odd mix of Muggles and wizards/witches. Severus could distinguish most of them quite readily. Wizards generally had longer hair than Muggle men did and witches' make-up was different than Muggle women's. Besides, although Albus and some allies were well acquainted with Muggle culture, a large proportion of the wizarding community was not. Their dress-up was hilarious, to say the least. Mismatched outfits, and was that a sports bra he just saw peeking out a wizard's shirt? Severus decided he did not want to know and looked at another direction.
The guests had all arrived by the time they had. In order not to alarm the Muggles at the way they appeared out of nowhere, Arthur Weaseley, he was so much more familiar with Muggles now thank Merlin, suggested that he would produce a cloud of mist to cover them up. It made for some panache.
'And they are here!' Harry Potter roared after the spectacular visual effects. Severus struggled not to roll his eyes.
Potter, like Hermione, was brought up a Muggle. He had insisted that as he knew both ways of life intimately, he recommended himself as the Master of Ceremonies. Severus' persistent protesting voice was unfairly drowned by other equally persistent enthusiastic voices. Severus had given up when he acknowledged that Hermione was genuinely pleased by the suggestion.
The guests cheered. Potter walked to them hurriedly, a foppish grin locked on his face. Severus would not admit it, but he was amazed at the way the boy had accepted Hermione's announcement that they were going to be married. Yes, he had appeared calm that Severus and Hermione were together as a couple, but Severus, ever sceptical, had thought it was because Potter did not take them seriously and believed the relationship would end. Yet when Hermione told him about their plan, Potter was undeniably ecstatic. It was a miracle. Severus did not put any faith in miracles before. Was he not the one who told Albus during the Dark War that there were only two ways of destroying Voldemort, one realistic and one miraculous? The realistic being a divine intervention and the miraculous being Voldemort's sudden conversion to the Light doctrine. After seeing Potter's reaction and being stumped at its sincerity, he bemoaned that he had lived with Albus for too long.
'Hermione! Severus! At last!' Seeing Severus' glare, Potter neither quailed nor budged, but changed his address in good humour, 'Hello Professor. You two look fabulous.'
The Boy-Who-Lived had indeed become a man. When a student, Potter categorised people into two camps, Good and Evil. War had changed his perspective and forced him to grow up. He could perceive people's motives more readily, delighted in seeing joy in those he loved and appreciated life all the more. No longer did he treat Severus with hostility or scorn. Before, he may have had been overprotective towards Hermione and shouted in fury about how Severus had befuddled her brain. Now, Severus was able to see that Potter respected him.
Making his mind up in a split second, Severus swallowed the sarcastic retort literally back and said lightly, 'Alas, I don't feel fabulous.'
It was true. Wearing a tuxedo was not Severus' ideal way of dressing up. The collar was too tight round his throat and the coat was restricting. He would have leapt into his swirling, comfortable robes if he had a choice, but this was to be a Muggle wedding, and he had to stick to every tiny, irritating form to pass off as a convincing Muggle groom.
'Come, it is your wedding, and look who's marrying you. You're a lucky man Professor.'
Severus turned to face Hermione. For once, he wholeheartedly agreed with his former student.
Potter led them to the centre of the crowd. He clapped his hands to call for their attention.
'Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to witness the union of these two lovely souls. But before that, the couple will go round to thank you for coming and to receive your blessings and congratulations. In the meantime, enjoy the tea party set up specially for this merry occasion!'
More cheers followed.
As the day drew on to the late afternoon, Severus' feet ached. He was also sufferring a migraine from the twittering of the various guests, especially on the side of the Muggle women. The wizarding community, after all, knew him. The Muggles were simply seething with curiousity about him.
One particular aunt of Hermione's rattled on and on. 'Why, bless me! When I heard our dear Hermione here was going to be married, you have no idea our surprise. Oh, don't get me wrong sweetheart, but you've never told us of your beau, you know, and you were so quiet. Ah, tell me Professor Snape, what is it that you actually teach?'
'Oh, you are a clever man. Ah, where do you teach?'
'England,' replied Severus crisply.
His snideness went over the dumpy woman's head. 'Of course, of course, but which university? Oh, it is a university, isn't it? Although some of your students look very young. But your title's Professor after all. . .'
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. Hermione smiled gamely, 'Yes, it's a university Aunt Anne. Oxford.'
She was not lying technically. Having taken a Master's degree in Chemistry out of interest and a desire to compare it with Potions, Severus was invited to give a series of lectures there for a couple of years in his youth. No doubt the committee wanted to show him off as a protégé.
'Oxford! That is too too wonderful. Ah, did you study there as well?'
Before he could answer, another lady relative quipped, 'How old are you Professor Snape?'
She had the habit of starting of with 'Ahs' and 'Ohs' as well. 'Ah, Hermione, you have a man who looks like one of steadiness. Severus Snape, oh such a queer name Professor. What were your ancestors thinking of?'
Severus was annoyed. He quite liked his name.
Again Hermione spoke for him. 'The Snapes have a very long history Aunt Fiona. They are very very unique.'
Whilst Hermione was engaged, Severus turned to Potter who was hovering behind them.
'Save me,' he mouthed in mock horror.
Potter had the cheek to laugh right in front of his face.
It was a beaming Albus who rescued him.
Harry watched the two men converse in a relatively more private corner and proceeded to collect Hermione. The two friends took this opportunity to have their own personal talk.
'You are a marvel to look at Hermione,' Harry praised her.
Hermione snorted in amusement. 'That's not what you'd say ten, even seven years ago.'
'Guess we all change, from time to time,' Harry casually glanced at Severus, 'I've never seen more relaxed than when he's with you. You do him good Hermione.'
'I'm glad. He needs me, and I him. Love's a funny thing.' Hermione added, recalling Severus' description of it.
'Softens him eh? But he's still going to be a greasy git in class, isn't he?'
Hermione swatted his hand playfully.
Harry said, 'The ceremony's going to start. You can run off with me if you like.'
'Harry!' Hermione laughed.
'Seriously, do you like what we've done around here?'
'It's wonderful. Thank you so much. If only some people weren't here,' Hermione said, referring to some relatives and some Ministry officials.
'Can't be helped. Your parents came up with the guest list on your side and Albus had to invite some of the important wizards. You and Severus are recognised fighters in the war anyhow.'
'I have to thank you all for helping us entertain them. Severus isn't exactly a social animal.'
'Well, it's not that large a crowd. But at least everyone you two want to be here is here.'
'Not everyone,' Hermione said sadly. Ron was one of the many who had perished during the last stages of the war.
Harry's eyes dimmed at the memory. Comforting the both of them, he said, 'He's here Hermione. He's watching us. Bet he's finding it all hilarious. You and Snape. You know he's the one who suspected you've got a thing for the professor.'
Hermione was taken aback. She did not think Ron was capable of such astounding observation and deduction to boot.
'He told me. We were in seventh year at that time. I think he was angry. Said Severus didn't deserve you and all. He's got a crush on you too.'
'Yes, but he got over it.'
'Yeah, he got past the 'git' barrier too. He would have wished you two the best if he could Hermione. He wouldn't have approved much, but he would have acknowledged Snape's not all he's cut out to be. He's all righ' Professor Snape, great man. . .' Harry made a valiant endeavour of imitating Hagrid.
Hermione smiled. She looked across the field to see their Keeper of Keys with Madam Maxime. 'So how did you pass those two as Muggles?'
Harry winked conspiratorially, 'I informed those who inquired about their size that they were half-giants. They took it as my lame attempt at a joke.'
'Ingenious,' Hermione cried.
'I regret to inform you that I have to break up this delightful tete-a- tete, but the priest said we should start soon.' A low, silky voice floated behind her. Hermione whirled round and hugged Severus impulsively.
'Giddy,' was his prim diagnosis of her. She could tell he was moved.
The music mellowed down as Mr. Granger walked down the aisle with his daughter to the altar where the priest and groom were standing. Everyone became hushed.
Hermione wondered if it was Mother Nature or some of the students playing tricks. Perhaps Fred and George Weaseley were the culprits. In any case, when Severus took her arm, twilight approached as if on cue and suddenly, the atmosphere seemed charged with magic. Even the moon beams directed themselves onto the altar.
Candlelights glowed softly on the tables as the priest began his speech.
Severus and Hermione were not religious people, he by birth and she by choice. The Grangers however, wished their marriage to be so and they obliged. Somehow, there was an almost palpable sense of holy majesty as the ceremony commenced. Stealing a glance at Severus, Hermione noted he could feel it as well.
'Do you take, Miss Hermione Granger, to be your lawfully wedded wife, in sickness and in health. . .'
This was it. After months of preparation, they were getting married.
Hermione heard Severus' reply, 'To the end of the world.' She never knew him to be dramatic. His vow was all the more precious. She barely registered the whistles in the background.
'And do you take, Mr. Severus Snape, to be your lawfully wedded husband. . .'
Hermione faced Severus and locked eyes with him, trying to convey the full impact of her love to him. She saw him catch his breath.
Saying deliberately, she said, 'I do, with all my heart and soul, I'm bound.'
The priest was a man who had conducted countless of marriages in his life and counselled many a couple not to divorce. He knew true devotion when he saw it. This must be a match made in heaven.
As they exchanged their wedding rings, he concluded happily, 'I announce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.'
Cheers broke out wildly. A positively radiant Mrs. Granger wiped a tear rolling down her cheek hastily. Mr. Granger was standing proud and pleased. The Hogwarts' staff clapped fervently. Professor Flitwick was sobbing. Minerva waved her arms in the air. Albus nodded his head. The students shouted. She could hear witches from wizarding families exclaim, 'Oh, that's beautiful. We must have weddings like this.' The boys were rowdier.
'French kiss!' they dared them.
'Go on Professor!'
'You can do it!'
Neville Longbottom, who had grown to become one of the most mature of Gryffindors in the fight against the Dark Lord, yelled, 'Oh, I think I'm going to faint.'
Hermione saw Severus' eyes shine. They had taken on a whole new depth. Seeing her own joy reflected in them, her smile broadened.
'Well?' she asked flippantly.
'We can't disappoint the guests, can we?'
'We are a hopeless pair of romantics.'
'I gather,' Severus whispered lovingly as he bent down.
The noise died away in her mind. She only had her concentration on the man enfolding her into his arms and kissing her.
Years have passed since Severus realised he had fallen in love with the bushy-hair know-it-all. It took him a while to accept it. How could one explain the inexplicable? There she was, a student, a child. A child, for pity's sake! He had felt nauseous. It almost made him feel he was a pervert or something, something bad at any rate.
Still, Hermione was a child no more when he fell in love with the woman who participated in the war. He swore to her one night when she was on the brink of death that as long as she woke up safe and sound, he would help her in whichever way she wished. He would be her confidant, her servant, her guardian, her sacrificial gift to the Dark Lord himself. She returned to them the next morning.
A few days later, the war was over. While everyone celebrated, Albus found him weeping in his office. Severus prided himself in not being self- absorbed, but he confided that whilst he loved her, he risked wallowing in wretchedness when she left for another. The horizon was blank and grey, and he had never felt such blind terror, not even when he thought he was going to meet his end. There was nothing left for him in this world worth doing after Voldemort's fall. He would wish Hermione all happiness, but he could not prevent himself wasting away.
Albus urged him to tell her, but he persisted in his silence. What would be worse in his predicament was to receive her pity.
Yet, she stayed on in Hogwarts to teach, and life was bliss after the burden of living a double life fraught of peril. He had his work, his real work of carrying experiments on potions, not the one that involved trying to instill scraps of knowledge into resisting minds. He had friends, friends he did not know he had. When he first entered Hogwarts as a professor, the staff was askance by Albus' decision. They were not privy then that he was the mole in the Death-Eaters. Somewhere down the line, he gained the trust of the staff, and further down, their affection. Albus and Minerva were especially fond of him, although the students would not imagine it given the rivalry between the two houses. It was both an act and a reality. Minerva and Severus had their differences, such as teaching methods. And she was disheartened at the way he treated Potter.
Severus supposed it was a sort of revenge when Minerva discovered he was in love with her favourite student and played on his jealousy occasionally when she requested Hermione to spend the evening with her in Severus' presence. Severus got back at her when Slytherin started its winning streak in Quidditch again. With Potter and Malfoy gone, the Slytherin team became more powerful than the Gryffindor one. Severus dangled their victory in front of Minerva in the form of an enormous Slytherin banner designed by some of the more creative students in the Hall which read: Slytherin Strength; Gryffindor Goof. Albus asked him to take it down after Minerva 'accidentally' torched it.
Then, there was Hermione as part of his everyday life. Just being with her and discussing any subject with her was enough to fill Severus with contentment.
Being married to her was his peace with the world.
Hermione stirred again. This time, she opened her hazel eyes.
She smiled sweetly, 'Good morning, husband.'
'Good morning wife.'