Chapter 50

Severus never thought he would find himself thinking back on Albus Dumbledore's tenure as Headmaster with anything resembling nostalgia, but Minerva has pushed him to that extremity. "You're Deputy Head. Of course you have to," she snapped when he objected to chaperoning the Halloween Ball she announced as a new annual tradition. "Honestly, Severus, if you're going to whinge and try to worm your way out of everything I ask you to do, I shall offer the position to Septima for next year."

"Offer it to her for the rest of this year, if you like," Severus suggested.

"Altering contracts mid-year is tedious and time-consuming. You'll chaperone the Halloween Ball—in costume—and that's that," the harridan retorted.

So here he stands, sixteen years to the day since he got Lily Evans Potter killed, not quite six months since he avenged her death by killing the wizard who murdered her. Beside him is Hermione, hair decked in seashells and wearing a skirt that is Glamoured to look for all the world like a genuine mermaid's tail.

Minerva sweeps up to them in a voluminous pink satin gown and towering powdered wig that would make Marie Antoinette look severe in comparison and demands, "Where is your costume, Severus?"

"This is the attire of a Potions Master during the reign of Queen Victoria."

She looks him up and down. "It looks exactly like the attire of a Potions Master during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II."


Minerva turns to Hermione. "I thought you would make him see reason."

"Severus and I don't make each other do anything, Minerva."

Minerva taps her wand against the palm of her left hand as she looks Severus up and down. "I ought to Transfigure those robes into a giant squid costume, in keeping with Hermione's aquatic theme."

"I assure you, madam, that it will be the last thing you ever do Transfigure."

The old bat laughs and Transfigures Severus's black cravat into a blood red one. He casts a wandless Finite, which doesn't work, then repeats the spell using his wand, still without effect. Hermione smiles, obviously recalling her teasing him about wearing one to Slughorn's party.

"It will revert to its natural color in half an hour," Minerva says, and sweeps off with a rustle of taffeta.

Severus glares after her, until his gaze is caught by Potter, dressed as Han Solo, a costume only the few Muggleborns and some of the Halfbloods will recognize, with the Weasley girl as a red-haired Princess Leia. Potter looks at him, sees the red cravat, and gives him a thumbs up.

Since the Dark Lord's death, Potter has refused to be intimidated by Severus, and has repeatedly dropped by his office hours to hound him for more memories of his mother. Most of the time, Severus tells Potter in no uncertain terms that he is too busy for such nonsense, but in an occasional moment of weakness he has consented. He knows this will only encourage the infernal boy, and every time, he swears it will be the last, but he found himself giving in once again only last week. Now, Potter takes Miss Weasley's hand and walks toward Severus.

"Nice costume, sir," Potter grins.

"May the Force be with you," Severus replies.

When Miss Weasley appears puzzled, Potter looks at Severus and rolls his eyes. "Purebloods."

"Indeed," Severus agrees.

"The film came out when you and my mum were kids, didn't it?" Potter asks "Did you see it with her?"

"I did not." He does not tell Potter that the film came out near the end of their sixth year. Petunia had written to Lily that it was not to be missed, and they were planning on seeing it their first day back from Hogwarts. But between that letter and the last day of school, Severus called Lily a Mudblood, and that was that.

"Merlin!" Miss Weasley gasps.

Severus follows her gaze to his godson, who is dressed as the war god Mars, resplendent in a gleaming bronze breastplate and greaves. When he sees Severus, Draco raises a sardonic brow and walks over to join them. "Nice cravat."

"Nice legs," Miss Weasley says, looking at Draco in a way Severus would not like at all if he were Potter.

"Ginny!" Potter exclaims.

"What? He does have nice legs, doesn't he, Mione?"

Granger gives the Weasley girl a look like the ones Irma Pince gives students who talk in the library. "You don't have to objectify him, Ginny."

"It's all right, Granger. I don't mind being objectified." Draco grins at Potter. "I'm sure Potter wouldn't mind either…if any witches actually found him worth objectifying, of course."

Hermione looks at Severus long enough to make him feel rather as though he is being objectified. "Dance with me," she says.

"Can you dance in that tail?"

"It's a Glamour, not an actual tail, Severus. Of course I can."

Later, while Severus is busy telling off some sixth years for lewd behavior on the dance floor, Hermione sits at a table with half a dozen swotty little Ravenclaw girls who are peppering her with questions about her mermaid tail Glamour. She's showed them the wand movements, but only one of them has produced anything remotely resembling a fishtail on herself.

Hermione watches the girls swish and flick with one eye and the dancers with the other. Han Solo has one hand splayed on the bare lower back of a rather curvy genie, while Princess Leia stares into the eyes of the war god. When the song ends, Harry bids the genie what appears to be a reluctant farewell and joins Hermione and her fan club.

"Nice tail," he says to the only one of the Ravenclaws who's fully mastered the charm.

"Want one?" the girl asks, and flicks her wand at Harry. The other girls shriek with laughter as a glimmering green tail replaces Harry's black trousers and boots.

"You little brat!" Harry says, and the girls dissolve in giggles.

"May the fish be with you," Hermione says.

"That is not even remotely funny, Hermione."

"Sorry." She waves her wand and his tail vanishes. "Run along, you lot," she tells the girls, who go, with much grinning at Harry along the way. She follows Harry's gaze to the dance floor, where Ginny is still in Draco's arms. "Want me to give Malfoy a tail?"

"Don't tempt me," Harry snorts. "But it would probably just make Ginny feel sorry for him and even more brassed off at me."

"What's she upset about?"

"Who knows? Witches are barmy."

Hermione points at herself. "Um…witch?"

"Not you. You're different. You always have been."

"You obviously mean that as a compliment, but I have to confess, it didn't always feel that way when you and Ron said things like that over the years."

"I know, and for what it's worth, I'm sorry." He looks at Ginny again. "You ever think you wanted something, but then once you had it, you found that maybe it wasn't all you thought it was cracked up to be?"

"Not really." Then Hermione thinks about Ron. There was a time she couldn't imagine not wanting him, and then, at some point, she didn't. "Well, maybe."

Most people don't end up with the person they're with at their age. Which is one of the reasons Severus tried to push her away last spring, and why her mother is constantly carping about taking things slow.

"I'm going to call it a night," Harry says.

"You don't want to stay and fight for your princess, Han?"

"I think maybe I should have dressed as Luke, since some Pureblood arsehole who hasn't even seen the film appears to have stepped in to play Solo. Speaking of which, where's your boyfriend Darth Vader?"

"Oh, my God, Harry," she laughs. "Wasn't Voldemort Darth Vader?"

"Brightest witch of her age," Harry scoffs. "Old snake-face was Emperor Palpatine. Which makes your bloke—"

"Darth Vader, yes, I heard, Potter."

Hermione turns. Severus is standing there, his red cravat now black again.

"I didn't mean that, sir," Harry says, getting hastily to his feet. "I was just, erm, yeah, I'll be going now. Bye, Hermione."

"Let's go for a walk," Severus says.

"Aren't you chaperoning?"

"Let the little blighters snog each other senseless. I can't be arsed to care."

She smiles. "You're a terrible chaperone."

"Perhaps Minerva will realize that and stop asking me to do it." He offers his arm. "Now, are you coming?"

She takes it, and they walk through the dimly lit corridors, up the staircases until they reach the roof of the Astronomy Tower.

It's cold, so Severus casts a warming charm around both of them. They stand at the railing, looking out at the clouds drifting before the full moon that lights them from within.

"I love you," she says, because she knows he likes to hear it, and because it's true.


Instead of answering, she puts her arms around his neck and pulls him down to kiss her. He obliges, and she feels herself swept away in that familiar maelstrom of sensations—his tongue caressing hers, the intoxicating way he tastes and smells, the feel of his hands on her as she presses the softness of her curves against his leaner, harder body.

"So, that's why?"

"That, but not only that." She remains close, her hands threading through his hair. "It's more than the sex, though I can't deny that's part of it. It's being able to talk to you—about potions and spells and books and theory and, well, about everything. Or not talk to you, when we sit and read and don't talk, just being in the same room, having you near me. It's the way you make me feel safe and protected. It's your wit, which is so sharp and incisive and—once you stopped turning it against me—funny as hell. It's the way you sound like Mr. Darcy most of the time but like a Manc street rat when you turn the air blue. It's the way you move so easily in Pureblood wizarding circles but still watch Muggle films and get the cultural references that most wizards don't. It's your magical power and your intelligence. It's the fact that when something happens, you're the first person I want to tell. Not Harry or Ron, not Ginny, not my mum or dad. You."

"Astonishing, really, considering the way things started out between us."

She smiles. "Not exactly a romantic beginning."

"You have no idea how much I wished I'd had a batch of Groundhog Day potion brewed after that wedding night disaster."

"Well, I for one am glad you didn't."

"Whatever makes you say that?"

"The remedy for making mistakes isn't a potion. It's learning from your them. Learning to communicate, and not to assume the worst about one another."

"You really wouldn't want a do-over of that train wreck?"

She smiles. "If you'd asked me the next day or the next week or even the next month, I'd have said yes. But not now. Honestly, Severus, in retrospect, isn't it just the least bit funny?"

"You think it was funny?"

"Not at the time, of course. But now? I mean, think about it. The look on your face when you realized it was my first time. God, if you could have seen it." She starts laughing. "And the fact that your first thought was about potions ingredients!" She's laughing harder now, and she can tell he's trying to remain aloof and indignant, but he can't quite manage.

"It really was a comedy of errors from start to finish, wasn't it?" he concedes.

"A funny story, but not exactly the sort we can tell our grandchildren."

"Indeed not," he says, then stops short. "Did you say 'our grandchildren'?"

Gryffindor courage, Hermione. "I did." He goes so quiet and is looking at her so intently that she begins to think she's made a mistake, the kind that can't be fixed because you can't unsay something like that. "Is that a problem?" she asks finally.

"You do love me," he says, and the wonder in his voice almost breaks her heart. "Didn't anyone tell you that the princess isn't supposed to end up with the villain?"

"You're going to let Harry's idiotic joke get to you?" she scoffs. "In this story, who was the orphan boy who turned to the dark side, gave himself a ridiculous name, and nearly destroyed the world? Tom Riddle, that's who. And you're the man who risked your life to kill him." She waves her wand and the mermaid's tail vanishes, along with the seashells in her hair. Another flick of her wand and she's in the black satin dress robes she wore to Slughorn's party and the ball at Malfoy Manor. "You're the hero of this story, Severus. And while there isn't any princess, you do get the girl."

Finite Incantatem

Author's Note

During the dreary days of late pandemic, writing has been my stress reliever, and reading your comments a delight. I cannot express my gratitude sufficiently.

I'm going to continue the daily morning posting schedule with A Parliament of Owls, which is only five chapters. Next will come Parents Behaving Badly. It still needs editing, so its posting schedule is TBD.

The overwhelming consensus was that readers want to know which HEA harbor a ship is headed to before they start reading. So, PBB is a Dramione, with a Lumione interlude (Lucius is behaving very badly, indeed!) along the way. Yes, dear readers, I am finally making things up to poor Draco for what I did to him in Past Imperfect. I told readers at the time—who kept asking in comments to pleeeease give him a HEA—that someday I would, and now I have. APoO is Sevmione.

I nearly didn't write Bound and Determined because the young Hermione made me uneasy. It has turned out to be far and away the biggest hit on AO3, though Past Imperfect is still the clear winner on FF dot net. Whether this is the first of my stories you've read or the last of five, thank you.