"Severus Snape! Get you hands off of Miss Granger! Where are your clothes? What were you thinking?" Professor Minerva McGonagall was livid.
Minerva had been searching for Hermione since she had seen her leave the Great Hall. She'd finally decided to use the internal Floo Network and the override password to Severus's chambers; it was to ask him if he might have an idea where his Apprentice was. She had also planned to enlist his aid in the search if he didn't. The sight she was met with shocked her completely. Right in front of her were Severus and Hermione in an intimate embrace. Both had dripping wet hair and wore nightclothes that left little to the imagination.
Hermione and Severus were rudely roused out of their drowsy contentment. Minerva's unexpected tirade only caused Severus to hold Hermione protectively closer.
Hermione turned her head to Minerva and answered her question. "My clothes are in the bedroom, Minerva." Hermione pointed to the door of the master bedroom. "If you had announced yourself, we would've dressed before welcoming you in." Hermione's voice was deeply sarcastic.
"Severus Snape, you get your hands off Hermione, now! I trusted you, and here you are - "
Hermione cut off Minerva's rant. "He has done NOTHING to lose your trust, Minerva," she spat.
"Hermione," Minerva began in a quieter tone, "I don't know what he has said or done to convince you that this is acceptable or proper, but obviously I have been terribly mistaken about him. I thought he was trustworthy; quite clearly he is not. You must - "
Hermione was upon Minerva in seconds, cutting off her verbal assault on Severus's character. She raised her hand to slap the older woman. Through sheer force of will, she brought her hand to a stop, just before making contact with Minerva's face. Balling her hands into angry fists at her sides, she raged.
"If you ever, EVER, speak of my husband in that manner again, I'll make sure that you'll be unable to speak for the rest of your life," Hermione hissed, her voiced laced with deadly sincerity.
"Hu... Hu ... Husband?" Minerva stuttered faintly.
With his wand, Severus had sealed his dressing gown from neck to foot. He now stood behind Hermione. "Accio kimono," he incanted.
Hermione's gold silk kimono flew from the bedroom into his hands. "Here," he whispered in her ear.
With a snarl at Minerva, she turned and allowed Severus to clothe her. He securely closed her kimono from neck to foot with the same spell he had used to close his own black dressing gown. When he was done, she whipped back around to face Minerva.
"I respected you. How wrong I was! You don't deserve my respect. You, who cannot give respect to others who do deserve it. Severus has earned your respect and your trust! He has done nothing to betray that; yet, you jump to conclusions. How could you say those things to him?" Hermione ground through clenched teeth.
"Hermione - " Severus began in a measured tone.
"What is going on here?" Minerva screeched.
"Enough." The word resounded through the room. Albus Dumbledore had just stepped through the fireplace.
All eyes turned to the Headmaster. Severus sighed in relief. Hermione crossed her arms. Minerva turned on him.
"Albus, do you know what is going on here?" Minerva asked, her voice somewhat reminiscent of a tattling child.
"Yes, Minerva, I do. May we sit, Hermione?" Albus asked.
"Please," Hermione said acerbically, seating herself tightly against Severus's side.
"Why would you ask Hermione?" Minerva questioned Albus.
"Because this is her home," Albus answered calmly.
"Albus, we are in Severus's chambers," Minerva told him.
"No, Minerva, we are in Severus and Hermione's chambers," he said calmly.
"You are allowing - " Minerva began.
The Headmaster held up a hand to forestall her. "Minerva, they are married. They have been married for over a year, now," he told her.
"Albus! He's... and she's..." Minerva spluttered.
"Minerva, my dear, when Hermione and Severus found each other, Hermione was older than you were when you and I began our... friendship. Surely you remember my age at the time, my dear, and you were all of eighteen for... how long was it?"
"But she's his student, Albus!"
"If you recall, I was your teacher, Minerva. However, Hermione is not Severus's student. Nor was she when - "
Albus tried to explain but Minerva interrupted.
"This? Is THIS why you let her test out of Potions? Oh dear Lord, how long has this been going on?" Minerva cried in disbelief.
"We have been married for over a year now, Minerva, and we were soul-bound before that. As a matter of a fact, Minerva, we were 'Soul Bound For Beyond' before any of 'THIS', as you so eloquently phrased it, began," Severus said, his tone and voice inscrutable. "Can you say the same about yourself and your situation all those years ago?"
He turned to the Headmaster and offered, "Drink, Albus?"
"Yes, thank you, my boy." Albus chuckled.
Severus let go of Hermione's hands, rose, and poured Albus a Firewhisky. "Scotch, Minerva?" Severus asked blandly.
Hermione glared at Minerva.
"Thank ... thank you, Severus. I ... I apologise, Severus. It seems I may have - "
"You may have, what?" Hermione accused, her anger still in full force as she tried to protect Severus.
"Minerva, Albus has explained. Yet you are still upsetting my wife. I think you should go for now. Perhaps another time?"
"Come, Minerva," Albus cajoled. "I'll tell you all about Severus and Hermione's soul-binding and their wedding. They are soul mates, you know. Bound for all time, as Severus said. They ran off together for that, but I was at their handfasting. You would have loved it."
With that, Albus led a shocked and confused Minerva into the fireplace and called out, "Dumbledore's chambers, password: Curly Wurly."
"I will NOT allow anyone to speak of you like that! Of all the misguided, self-righteous ... How dare she! I have half a mind to..." she trailed off.
Severus knelt by Hermione. As he took her hands in his, he gazed into her eyes and simply said, "Thank you."
"For what?" she asked, confused.
He tilted his head and raised a sardonic eyebrow. She was overcome. Her fierce protectiveness turned to burning passion. She buried her hands in his hair and kissed him forcefully, knocking them to the floor together, where she continued to kiss him senseless.
The next morning, they met Remus, Ginny, Harry and Tonks in the Entrance Hall. Harry had his broom, Severus had a book, and Remus had his gramophone. The ladies laughed at the men and their toys. When Harry tried to ask what was so funny, they just laughed harder. The laughter was contagious, even if the men had no idea what was funny.
Soon, five laughing people, and one whose face was devoid of any trace of a scowl, made their way down into the castle's grounds. Everyone who was not meeting family that morning was outside. It took some time, but eventually the six found a very secluded spot.
Remus turned on his gramophone quietly, while Ginny settled herself on the grass. He joined her and lay with his head in her lap. She began to stroke his hair in time to the music.
Harry and Tonks had already mounted Harry's broom. They were making lazy circles, loops, and complex figures, low over the area.
Hermione decided to take her life in her hands. After all, it wasn't exactly public. There were only four friends around them. She pulled Severus down to the grass under a tree, without meeting too much resistance. Then she moved into his lap and wiggled down to where her hips and legs were securely snug between Severus's long thighs. She relaxed back against his chest, her head leaning on him. He surprised her when he wrapped his arms around her possessively. She stroked his elegant hands as he held her. His chin came to rest on her shoulder and he began to read quietly into her ear from a book that hovered open in front of them.
An hour passed in peaceful enjoyment. Hermione had snuggled deeper into Severus's embrace. They were still intent on their reading. Remus was being lulled by Ginny, and Harry and Tonks were still airborne. Harry noticed Ginny suddenly push a dozing Remus off her lap and stand abruptly. From above, Harry saw Ron headed for Severus and Hermione. Ron's eyes were wild and ferocious, his face contorted in a jealous rage.
Severus and Hermione didn't notice Ron until he was right in front of them.
"GET YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF HERMIONE!" he yelled, his face expanding and reddening in his rage.
"I will do no such thing, Mr Weasley," Severus said disdainfully. He stood with fluid grace, never loosening his hold on Hermione. As he drew her up with him, she remained in his arms.
Ron yelled as he drew his wand and pointed it at Severus. "GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU DEATH EATER!
"RON!" Harry bellowed as he landed.
"Ron, please stop," Hermione begged. She held tightly to both of Severus's hands as if they were lifelines.
Ron began to advance, his wand pointed directly at Severus. "LET HERMIONE GO OR I'LL KILL YOU!"
"RON, NO! He's not holding me. I'M HOLDING HIM! Ron, stop! I love him. We're married. WE'RE MARRIED!" Hermione shouted, even as Severus moved in front of her protectively.
"NO! THAT'S A LIE!" Ron yelled insanely.
"Ron, it isn't. They're married; I was there at their wedding," Remus Lupin said calmly, trying to defuse the situation.
"Accio Ron's wand!" Ginny yelled. Ron's wand flew into her hand. "Don't be such a prat, Ron. I was there when they were married, too. Hermione and Severus are married, and they love each other. Now, you know. That's the end of it." Ginny had her hands on her hips and was glaring at Ron. "Now apologise to them," Ginny told her brother, sounding very much like their mother.
"Married?" Ron said disbelievingly as he turned to Harry for confirmation.
"Yeah, Ron. Hermione married Professor Snape," Harry said.
Ron turned accusing eyes on Hermione. "You married HIM?"
"Yes, Ron. I love him," Hermione answered sincerely.
"You married SNAPE! You filthy - "
Before Ron could finish his sentence, Severus held him against the tree by his throat. In a low and deadly voice, Professor Snape hissed. "If you ever speak to my wife in such a manner again, you will be in so much pain you'll pray for death. I will curse you with such lasting agony that you will pray for the release of death every day for the rest of your worthless life. But it will not come. You will suffer for a very, very long time. Do you understand me, Weasley?"
"Ye..yess," Ron wheezed.
Professor Snape released him and Ron fell heavily to the ground. He glared down at Ron in contempt and spoke with quiet menace. "Is this how you treat a woman who has been your friend since you were children? Is this what you call friendship, Weasley? You make me sick. And after all I have seen, that is quite an achievement; I can assure you. Never come near my wife again, Weasley, unless you are prostrate with apology. I do mean that literally."
Severus turned on his heel, his robes billowing. He was still in the grip of a towering rage. Even in the face of Ron's hatefulness, Hermione smiled inside when Severus opened his arms to her, offering her the comfort she needed, regardless of the people around them. She rushed into his arms and was pulled to his chest, enveloped by his strong protection. Hermione walked up to the castle tucked tightly into Severus's side, one of his long arms wound protectively about her.
Hermione heard Harry say, "Ron, you bloody fool."
Hermione and Severus made it to the dungeons without being accosted. When they reached their chambers, Minerva was waiting in the corridor for them.
"Severus, Hermione, I have come to apologise. Please hear me out? Everything I said and did was out of line. I spoke from shock. I was wrong, I shouldn't have. I'm so sorry. I never meant what I said. Please forgive an idiotic Gryffindor, Severus?" Minerva finished.
Severus arched an eyebrow and looked at Minerva with intense disdain.
"Hermione, can you forgive me?" Minerva asked.
"I'll try. I can't say that I'll ever forget the horrific things you said to Severus. You know. You know how honourable a man Severus is. But yes, Minerva, for all the times you've been there for me, but mostly for the years you've been there for Severus, I do forgive you. I hope you'll remain our friend," Hermione answered.
"Yes, Hermione, yes please." Minerva smiled.
Hermione returned her smile and the women hugged. When they drew apart, there were tears in Minerva's eyes.
"Severus, I hope you can forgive me? Please accept my congratulations on your marriage. Hermione is a special woman and is lucky to have you, Severus Snape."
"It is somewhat early in the day for that scotch, but would you come in and have some tea now, Minerva?" Severus invited in acknowledgment.
"Another time, Severus, Hermione. I'm sure you have a lot to do to get ready for the Leaving Ceremony. So another time," Minerva said.
"That's a promise," Hermione smiled.
"A promise," Minerva confirmed. With that, Minerva was on her way down the corridor.
Severus and Hermione spent the rest of the morning in their chambers. As it neared time for the Leaving Ceremony, Severus called to Hermione in a serious tone. They sat together on the sofa and he took her hands in his.
"Hermione..." he began. Then silence. After a while, he tried again. "Hermione..." Severus Snape actually faltered.
"Severus, what is it?" she asked with concern.
"Hermione, if you would like to have me speak to Albus, I will before the Leaving Ceremony," he said quietly, with what was obviously some sort of resignation.
"Talk to Albus about what, Severus?" she prompted.
"Hermione," he said as if she should know.
The silence in the room was palpable.
When she did not respond, he added quietly, "Hermione, I will understand."
"Understand what?" she urged.
"At the Leaving, if you would prefer to be called on as Grang - "
Hermione cut him off. "Severus Snape, don't you dare finish that sentence!" she warned. "I'm your wife. I'm proud to be your wife. My name is Snape, E, Snape. I expect people will be startled by the unexpected news of our marriage, but real friends will support us."
She reached out and caressed his cheek. "Anyone else's opinion is irrelevant; they do not matter. Even with our supportive friends, and we do have them, quite a few you know." She smiled. "What really matters is just the two of us. Just us, Severus. Just us. Your name was a gift to me and I treasure it, as I treasure you. For you to give me your name..." she held his face in both of her hands now and gazed lovingly into his eyes, "I treasure the fact that your name is now my name.
He looked at her sceptically.
"Hermione Snape, that's who I am now. I could've kept Granger, remember? I chose to take your name. My name's Hermione Snape, and it always will be."
"Well then, Hermione Snape. I have something for you."
He reached under the sofa, brought out a package, and handed it to her.
She opened it slowly, smiling up at him as she did. When she pulled the beautiful wrappings apart, she found three books with a parchment folded on top. She picked up the parchment, unfolded it and read:
My Dearest Hermione,
As you leave Hogwarts and enter the world of full-time research, I thought this appropriate to mark the occasion. In this package, you will find three books.
The first book, I had intended to gift you with when you completed your Apprenticeship. However, just as with your schooling, you are in actuality finished much earlier than the amount of required time for completion. Although you will be an Apprentice in name for a few more years, as is required, you have truly completed your Apprenticeship. You, my Apprentice, are the equal of your Master.
Therefore, it is time that I gift you with my Book Of Perceptions. It contains all of my records as a Potions Master from the day my apprenticeship ended until yesterday. All of my ideas, my successes, and my failures over the years are recorded in this tome.
The second book is blank for you to begin recording your own personal work and research in. Your own Book Of Perceptions, if you will.
The third book is something I believe you mentioned desiring when we created the Cruciatus Reversal Potion together. It, too, is a blank book. A book for us both to use. For us to record our concerted research in together. You are truly an innovator; never before have I heard of two researchers sharing the same record book. This is a first. I cannot tell you how honoured I am that you are willing to share your mind, your laboratory, and your record book with me.
Be proud of yourself, of your rite of passage; you have earned it.
With Admiration, Respect, and Love,
Hermione removed the first book and slowly, reverently, ran her hands over the cover. It was an old book, stained and scarred from a long life in a Potions lab. She kept it cradled in her lap as she looked at the other books.
The second book she found was bound in a deep burgundy leather with her initials, 'HS', illuminated and tooled into the cover. She lifted this book to her face and inhaled the scent. She smiled and set it down beside her.
Then she withdrew the third and final volume. It was a large book, bound in black leather. Hermione's face shone with delight as she read the words embossed on it's cover:
Severus Snape and Hermione Snape
A Record Of Our Shared Journey Towards Edification.
She clutched the book to her chest and gazed at Severus in speechless awe. Her eyes shone with happiness. She opened her mouth, but no words came out.
This time he reached out and caressed her cheek. Smiling at her obvious appreciation, he simply said, "I am glad that you are pleased."
"Pleased?" she managed to say. She reached a hand out and took one of Severus's hands. "Pleased?" she repeated sarcastically as she leaned into him and wrapped an arm around him. "Severus," she whispered into his ear, "I am far beyond pleased."
Meanwhile, in the Entrance Hall, Harry Potter was struggling not to hex his friends, teachers, and classmates as they stood in clusters, gossiping with Order members and parents about one of his best friends, Hermione. He couldn't believe they were doing this. But instead of hexing them, he stood there mutely, listening. At this point, he couldn't even keep up with exactly who was saying what, yet he understood the words he heard perfectly.
"Well, she is his Apprentice."
"Yes, that might explain the first two dances, but that third dance..."
"Maybe they were just tired from the fast dance and were resting against each other?"
"I thought I saw more than just resting..."
"They've been acting strangely for some time, now."
"Remember the time just before she was made his Apprentice? At headquarters, when she called him downstairs? I've never seen Snape so... obedient."
"Well, I wouldn't call it obedient; I mean the man has old-world manners. He's always holding doors and chairs, and - "
"Yeah, for HER."
"No, not just for her. He's always been one to adhere to exacting etiquette. I mean he couldn't be expected to hold out chairs for every woman in the Great Hall. He does for her because they come in together."
"That's another thing; they're always together. You'd think she'd take more time for herself. I've never heard of such a devoted Apprentice."
"Well, that's to be expected. You know how single-minded Hermione is when she's learning something."
"But he doesn't react to her normally. Well, not normally for HIM I mean. I've seen her kick him under the staff table, more than once. Kick him. Does he sneer, scowl, bite her head off? No. He doesn't even make a sarcastic remark. He just does whatever the kick intended him to do. That's about as far from normal for him as you can get."
"I can give you one further. I've seen her kick him when he's made a particularly rude, sarcastic remark to someone, and then he changes his comment or withdraws it altogether. Sometimes he even apologises. Then she smiles and he, well, he seems pleased that she is pleased with him. It's spooky. Maybe she's blackmailing him."
"Blackmail an ex-Death Eater. I don't think so."
"Maybe they're, well, having a ... thing."
"No, I don't think she would do that."
"I think she does have something on him. Just the other day, I saw him having a go at a waitress in the Three Broomsticks. You know, just his usual sneering, sarcastic self, belittling the woman. The waitress kinda deserved it, too - well, maybe not as bad as he gave - but the waitress deserved to be told off. Of course, Hermione was with him. She was just coming back to their table from the loo, and he was being really mean to the waitress. Hermione smacked him on the back of the head. He didn't even say boo to her. Hermione scowled at him until he apologised to the waitress."
"I can't imagine him being cowed by anyone or allowing anyone to hold something on him as you say. He must want to do those things, or he just wouldn't."
"But why would he want to?"
"I don't know, but speaking of them eating, maybe she has a 'thing' for him. Because at the feast last night I saw Hermione feed him. Off her fork and everything."
"Yes, and that's not all, he smiled at her."
"That's another thing, in all my years teaching here I have never known him to smile. Until recently."
"Maybe he has a 'thing' for her."
"I saw him curse a wizard in Hogsmeade who made a pass at Hermione."
"Yes he did, but in fairness, the guy did pinch Hermione's... Well, you know."
"That's all right then, he was just defending his Apprentice's honour."
"She calls him Severus."
"I remember her calling him Severus that time at headquarters that you were talking about, but I thought it was a fluke."
"We all thought it was a fluke."
"No, I've heard her call him Severus off and on since then. Of course, they don't know I'm there..."
"That only makes it more - "
"No it doesn't; Harry calls him Severus."
All eyes turned to Harry, but before he had time to come up with a reply, he was saved by Neville coming in with his parents and his Gran.
"Where are Hermione and Professor Snape?" Neville asked the group.
"Funny you should ask for them together - "
Harry interjected. "I think they're in the dungeons. Why, Neville?"
"I want to tell you all something, but no one can tell Hermione and Professor Snape, okay?" Neville asked.
The group murmured their assent, obviously hoping for more gossip.
"My parents and I just got back from the Ministry. That's where I've been since N.E.W.T.s. We convinced them! Hermione and Professor Snape are getting Orders of Merlin today - First Class - for creating the cure for my parents and everyone else who was hurt like that. We just saw Professor Dumbledore; he said the Ministry official can present the medals right after the Leaving Ceremony, while everyone is still in the Hall," Neville explained excitedly.
"Hey, Neville," Harry said, "no reporters, right?"
"Well, one who will ask questions about how they came up with the Potion, but it's okay. The reporter said he was coming anyway, because today is the day they are letting themselves be named as the creators of the Cruciatus Reversal Potion," Neville answered.
"They weren't named?" someone called out.
Harry fielded that question. "Er, no, not publicly. They didn't want to... um... have the publicity until the school year was over."
"Very good, Harry," Remus said in his ear. Remus and Ginny had just joined the group. "The Ron situation has been taken care of by Ginny," Remus continued in a whisper to Harry. "She handled him brilliantly."
"I forgot something, I'll be right back," Harry said, heading down the stairs.
"Hey, Harry, that's the way to the dungeons; the tower is up," someone joked.
"Yeah, well, I thought it'd be quicker to Floo from Severus's chambers," Harry threw back deliberately. He thought that would give the gossip mill something to mull over, and he wouldn't be there to have to answer for it. Some last bits of gossip followed Harry down the stairs.
"You know, I think they are just a Master and Apprentice that work really well together."
"That's for sure, eh, Mr Longbottom?"
"They are both brilliant," Neville enthused.
"That they are. No, I'm sure that's all there is to it."
The last Harry heard was a general murmur of assent to that comment.
"Yes!" Severus barked as he opened his chamber door.
"Sorry," Harry said. "I just thought you'd like to know - "
"It's you. Come in," Severus offered tersely.
Harry entered Severus and Hermione's chambers.
"Getting ready for the Leaving Ceremony," Severus replied.
"Do I hear Harry?" Hermione asked as she walked in.
"Hermione, you look great," Harry said.
Severus walked to her and gazed intently into her eyes as he took her hand and kissed it, murmuring, "Breathtaking."
At Hermione's reaction, Harry made himself a mental note to try that with Tonks. If she ever dressed up. He was drawn from his thoughts by Severus.
"Your purpose for blessing us with your presence?" Severus prompted sarcastically.
"Oh yeah, you might want to dress up, Severus." Harry laughed.
"Potter - "
"Okay, okay, but hear me out before you hex me for 'my cheek'. Neville is here with his parents and Gran. He's been at the Ministry. It would seem you two are getting Orders Of Merlin. First Class. For the CRP. Dumbledore agreed to have them presented to you after the Leaving Ceremony.
Two voices spoke in frustrated harmony. "Do not call it the CRP!"
"Okay, okay," Harry said, looking from one to the other, "there'll be a reporter there, too."
"Is the world conspiring to ruin Hermione's Leaving?" Severus accused.
"Hey, I'm just the messenger," Harry said defensively.
"Thank you for warning us," Hermione said sincerely.
"Well, you're not supposed to know, so don't tell anyone I told you. I just know I hate that kind of surprise."
"As do we."
Hermione laughed, as she and Severus had spoken in unison again.
"Will you two stop saying things together like that?" Harry shuddered. "It's creepy."
"It's not planned, Harry," Hermione said with a laugh.
"That just makes it weirder. I ought to get back up there. I'll see'ya later," Harry said as he left.
"Orders of Merlin," Hermione and Severus said in unison once the door closed behind Harry. They both laughed this time.
"We're late," Hermione observed as they made their way to the Great Hall through empty corridors.
"It was you who insisted that I change," Severus responded.
Hermione's arm was linked through Severus's as they walked, and she squeezed it affectionately. At Hermione's insistence, under his academic robes he now wore the formal suit that he had worn for Hallowe'en.
"I still think the most striking part of your ensemble is your wedding ring. It's so good to wear them openly." Hermione smiled. "You are mine," she added as she touched the ring on his finger.
"Indeed, and you are mine," Severus agreed. As they reached the staff entrance of the Great Hall, Severus stopped her. "How do you wish to proceed?" he asked, obviously wondering if she wanted to let go of his arm.
"I wish to proceed with you, Severus." She held his arm tighter and moved so that she was as close to him as she could get, unless he carried her. "May I show my affection for you in public? Tastefully and discretely, of course. I'm not one for public snogging myself, but I want to be able to act on my affectionate impulses, limited though they will be in public. If it's acceptable to you? And no, not as much as when we are with Harry, Tonks, Ginny and Remus; that's not public," she said, attempting to allay his fears. "I promise not to sit on your lap in the Great Hall," she teased.
"Yes, with restraint," he answered tersely, earning himself another affectionate squeeze.
They smiled at each other, and he pushed the door open. They attracted quite a bit of attention, being the last to arrive.
Along with the others, Harry watched them as they walked in regal synchronicity to Hermione's place amongst the Leaving seventh years. Harry noticed people nudging each other and whispering about Professor Snape and Hermione's obvious closeness. Their stance was perfectly formal, but they were as close as you could get and keep any sense of decorum. When they arrived at Hermione's place, Professor Snape took the hand that had been looped through his arm and kissed it, as he returned it to Hermione. They smiled into each other's eyes briefly. Then Professor Snape spun on his heel and glided to the dais to stand with the other professors, his robes billowing spectacularly behind him as he went.
Under the unabashed scrutiny and speculation of the assembled, Hermione blushed prettily. Professor Snape merely raised a challenging eyebrow from his place on the dais. Professor Dumbledore actually had to call for attention to begin the Leaving Ceremony.
Speeches were made, and then students were called. At some point towards the beginning, Hermione heard the Headmaster call "Miss Hannah Abbot." Each student approached the Headmaster and received their scroll and his words of congratulations. Then they would walk the line of the rest of the professors, accepting their congratulations. The last professor in that line was Severus. Most professors kissed or hugged their students, especially the females, but Professor Snape never did. She wondered briefly if he would do no more than grudgingly shake her hand, as he did with the others. She vaguely heard when the Headmaster got to Harry and began by thanking Harry for all his efforts. He mentioned Harry's triumph over Voldemort and his tireless work with the DA, along with his other achievements, and then he actually called "Mr Harry Potter."
Now all Hermione could hear was her own heart beating. She knew she would be called last because she had been an active Apprentice, teaching Potions classes in her own right. Because of this, she would remain with the Professors after she was called. 'Oh no, I'm next,' she thought. 'Okay Hermione, breathe. Oxygen, yes that helps. I won't trip. I'll be fine. I won't embarrass myself. I can walk.'
The Headmaster was now speaking and looking right at her. "And our final recipient of the afternoon, our own Potions Apprentice. She has done a splendid job of teaching Potions while continuing with the remainder of her education."
'Oh, why was he pausing dramatically!' Hermione thought.
Every eye turned to her as the Headmaster called loudly, and oh so very clearly, "Mrs Hermione Snape."
Everyone had applauded after each name was called, but not this time. The Muggle phrase 'you could hear a pin drop' didn't do this intense silence justice. Hermione thought to herself, 'No, not a pin, you could hear a feather drop.' She pasted a smile on her face, as she made her way to the Headmaster. She saw a sea of different facial expressions. They ranged from what seemed to be "I thought so" to utter disgust, with some surprise and shock in the mid-range.
She didn't hear a word Dumbledore, or any of her other professors, said to her. She was wholly concentrated on making it to Severus. When she reached him, she found her haven. In his eyes she saw reassurance, pride, protection, and love. Her smile became genuine as he took her in his arms, no grudging handshake for her. His silky voice whispered a simple "Well done" in her ear, and her smile turned to a beam. She felt his lips briefly touch hers before she turned to stand at his side, as was expected of his Apprentice.
The Headmaster, Harry, Remus, Ginny, Tonks, Minerva McGonagall, and Neville and his family began applauding. Loudly. Soon everyone joined in, but Hermione was sure it was out of politeness, not genuine approval, especially on Ron's part.
When the applause began to die down, the Headmaster called for attention. "I would like to call Mr Neville Longbottom up again."
Neville approached the dais. The Headmaster cast the Sonorus Charm on him, and he turned to address the assembly.
"One of my professors and one of my classmates has done something outstanding this year. Professor Severus Snape and Mrs Hermione Snape have together created a potion that cures people who have been cursed into a state of psychosis or catatonia by repeated and prolonged use of the Unforgivable Cruciatus Curse. Before this potion, those afflicted had no hope of ever regaining any semblance of a normal healthy life. I'm particularly moved by their incredible creation, because my parents had been suffering in this state of Cruciatus-induced psychosis for my entire life. I was just a baby when they were afflicted. I never thought I'd have the chance to meet my parents or get to know them. Now, I have... I am. The gift that Professor Snape and Hermione Snape have given our world is priceless.
"Most of you know me, and even know what a boggart used to turn into when it came near me." Neville paused for the laughter to die down. "That boggart form is no more. I know the creation of this healing potion was the idea of Professor Snape, and if he can come up with the idea for such a - "
Now Neville paused to get control of his emotions. "Well, I'm aware of all the time and dedication it took for Professor Snape and Hermione Snape to create this cure. I can never thank them enough for what they have done. Their dedication, persistence, and all the time they put into this, is really inspiring. The words to thank them are beyond me. I'm sure that there are countless others who have had loved ones who have been cured with their potion that feel exactly as I do. I'd like to see them recognised for their remarkable work." Neville beckoned to the Ministry official.
The Ministry Official stood beside Neville, his voice magically magnified, as well. "Severus Snape," he called.
Severus glided over and looked haughtily down upon the little official.
"Severus Snape, I hereby award you the Order of Merlin, First Class, for your part in the creation of the Cruciatus Reversal Potion."
Severus accepted the medal and shook the man's hand with grace. He thanked him, and then he turned to Neville. "Mr Longbottom," Severus said quietly in a non-magnified voice, "thank you for the gesture. It is appreciated." With that, Severus stepped to the side near Neville.
"Hermione Snape," the Ministry official called.
Hermione made her way to stand in front of him. She arched a slightly disdainful eyebrow at the official and waited.
The Ministry official cleared his throat nervously. "Hermione Snape, I hereby award you the Order of Merlin, First Class, for your part in the creation of the Cruciatus Reversal Potion."
Hermione accepted the medal and politely thanked the Ministry official, returning his handshake. She then walked to Neville and drew him into a hug. "Neville," she said quietly, "no medal is necessary, just seeing you with you parents is more then enough."
"Congratulations, Hermione, Professor Snape," Neville responded, looking at them both, "for everything. Your marriage, as well."
"That means a lot, Neville. It really does," Hermione said. With happy tears in her eyes, she turned to Severus. Placing her arm through his, they made their way back to their spot on the dais, accepting the congratulations of their colleagues along the way.
The next morning, Hermione awoke to the smell of salt air and fog; the sounds of gulls crying and lapping of the sea; and the feeling of a sleeping Severus directly under her. She pulled herself up his body so she could reach his lips. She kissed him and made to move off him.
"Just where are you going?" a thick sleepy voice asked.
"I was moving; I must have crushed you last night. Can you feel your limbs," she asked, concerned.
"I can feel everything, wife," he answered in a deep and suggestive voice.
"We have a busy day ahead of us," she admonished. "We have to choose colours for the nursery - "
"Mmm ... not pastels," he husked as he kissed his way to her ear. "My child will not sleep in pastels," he dictated, his breath and lips teasing her ear.
"Severus!" she tried to chastise. "We have a lab to unpack. Supplies to inventory. Representatives from reputable periodicals to give interviews to... mmmmm... Severus..."
His deep voice resonated in her ear, dropping impossibly deeper with each word. "Then, My Love, I suggest we take time to start our busy day properly."
"Yyyeeesss..." she agreed.