Fifteen years later…

Severus settled into the couch in front of the fire, propping his feet up on the coffee table. Not for the first time he reveled in the fact that he owned his own home, that no students, Slytherin or otherwise, could interrupt his reading. He didn't miss Hogwarts one bit. He enjoyed every moment of living in Hogsmeade, brewing potions, and tending to his garden. And it was better for Hermione too. She had fewer relapses here.

He hated to think about those first few weeks after he had brought her home from the hospital. Some days she forgot everything—who he was, who she was, even that she was a witch. Those were the worst; even the littlest bit of magic frightened her. Other days, she regressed back to being a student, sneaking into classrooms (most often Arithmancy and Ancient Runes as those had been her favorites) and trying to answer questions. The students, for their part, adapted quickly. She was no less strange than staircases that moved or portraits that talked. She was an oddity like Peeves, though infinitely less troublesome. Some days if she didn't join him for dinner at the staff table, he would find her sitting with the Gryffindors, regaling the first years with stories about the famous Harry Potter. The older students would smile and quietly ignore her; they had heard it all before. But it didn't always end so peacefully. He remembered one morning that she awoke terrified to find Professor Snape sleeping next to her.

A loud shriek woke him up. Sitting straight up in bed, he saw Hermione cowering in the corner. She had dragged the sheet from the bed with her, clutching it around her to hide the skin her skimpy nightgown left exposed, her wand poised and ready to hex him.

"What's going on?" she demanded with fear in her eyes.

"You're waking me up early on a Saturday," he growled. He was 'more patient' than before, but that didn't mean he was actually patient. "Come back to bed."

"No!" she shrieked. "How did I get here? Did I sleep with you? I mean, did we…did we? What is going on, Professor?"

He reached for his wand, trying not to notice that she flinched. He didn't point it at her, but towards the door that led to the living room, and Summoned the Daily Prophet

"Look down at your left hand, Hermione," he said gentler. She did, losing her grip on the sheet as she did so. Quickly, she hoisted it back up again. "That's a wedding ring."

"B-but how? I'm only a fifth year," she whispered, looking back up at him. The knocking on the door interrupted his answer. He pointed his wand again, and this time the door swung open, letting the hovering paper outside fly in. He deftly caught it, and then threw it to her. It landed in front of her, skidding to a stop at the edge of her toes.

"Read that. You'll find the date a ways off from your fifth year. We were married several years after you left Hogwarts. You were attacked last year and your memories were affected. Go on, look at it," he urged, moving towards the door. She watched his every move with the look of a caged animal. It broke his heart to see her so frightened of him. Yes, he wanted his students to fear him, but not her, never her. He could hear her muttering about being expelled and how he would be fired. Despite the absurdness of it, he was touched that even in this state she was worried for his future as well as her own.

He hurried through the living room and into his workroom where he kept the extra bottles of her potion. Conjuring a steaming cup of tea, he mixed it in, and headed back to the bedroom.

"I still don't believe I would marry you," she said when he came back in. She sat on the edge of the bed, the sheet wrapped around her and the paper lying next to her.

"No?" he said, sitting down next to her and handing her the mug. "Drink this, it will help you remember, and it has something to calm your nerves."

"You said my teeth were big," she accused, reminding him of her fourth year and his heartless comment to her in the hallway. They had had this argument before.

"And you set fire to my robes first year, stole from me in your second, and attacked me your third."

"I'm sorry," she said, looking chagrined.

"Don't be," he said, resting a hand on her knee. "You've more than made up for it. Now stop talking and drink up or I will deduct twenty points from Gryffindor," he said sternly.

"Now there is the horribly mean Professor Snape I know and love," she said, instantly blushing at her words. "I didn't mean that. I mean…" she stammered.

He smirked in amusement. "Yes, you did. Now drink."

She finished off the cup, and then laid back, her eyes drifting shut. The potion always made her drowsy. He kissed her forehead, and then caught her legs, swinging them up onto the bed where he tucked her back in. He was tempted to crawl back in and join her, but she wouldn't be comfortable with that until the potion took effect. And now that he was awake, he might as well get some marking done.

It wasn't until later that they connected the fact that she was bored to the number of 'episodes' as Severus called them. Coddling her had helped nothing. She insisted on making her own way, studying with Vector to become an expert in Arithmancy and Numerology. She worked from their rooms at Hogwarts and now out of their home as a consultant for Wizarding businesses, and made good money. More than Severus made as a teacher even. She still had relapses, though over the years they had decreased in both number and severity. As long as she kept busy and had her friends to surround her, familiar things and people, then she was usually okay.

Today had been a good day. Good in that she remembered him and their last fifteen years together at least. Otherwise, she had been cranky and ill-tempered, struggling with a hard equation. She had joined him in the garden, hoping the distraction would help her overcome her mental block, but it had just resulted in making her angrier.

"You're doing it all wrong," he told her, trying hard to sound more like a concerned husband and less like Professor Snape. Apparently, he failed because she looked up at him and frowned.

"Like this." He motioned with his hand the proper way to trim the Devil's Snare. It could be a dangerous plant and he wouldn't even keep in the garden except that it was a key ingredient in several of the potions he made on a regular basis.

"Just because it's not your way of doing things, doesn't mean it is the wrong way," she snapped.

"Fine, but don't say I didn't tell you so when you get yourself into trouble," he said with a sneer, turning back to own work.

Thud! He suddenly felt something hit him on the back of the head. She had thrown a clod of dirt at him. He wheeled around, brandishing his wand.

"You're going to regret that," he threatened.

"You would hex your own wife?" she asked petulantly.

"If she continues to throw things at me, she will leave me no choice."

"I don't know what you're talking about. It must have been the wind," she said with an innocent smile.

The wind indeed, he thought as he turned back to his small plot of land. She was going to get herself in trouble and he knew, just knew, she would expect him to get her out of it.

Fifteen minutes later, he heard a strangled cry. Turning around, he saw Hermione hanging upside down from the Devil's Snare, its vines creeping around her middle, tying her more effectively to its trunk. He took his time walking over to her, letting his gaze start at her feet and end down at her head.

"Don't just stand there, help me!" she cried.

"I don't believe I heard the magic word." He couldn't help but have some fun. Especially after she had thrown dirt at him. She deserved a little teasing.

"Greasy bastard!"

"That is definitely not the magic word," he said with a smirk.

"You're enjoying this," she accused. He was glad that looks couldn't kill the way she was glaring at him.

"Why yes I am. I believe I to—"

"Yes, yes you told me so. You are a genius in Herbology and I should stick to Arithmancy. Now will you let me down?" She struggled against the vines, which only served to make them wound round her tighter.

"You didn't say please."

She clenched her eyes shut and murmured a barely audible please. With a wave of his wand, he cut the vines. He was even nice enough to levitate her before she hit her head on the hard ground.

"Thank you," she muttered, finally turned upright. Dusting off her robes, she stormed past him back into the house.

"You're welcome," he said to an empty garden. Her temper could almost be as bad as his, and he knew she was stuck on a Arithmancy problem. A business projection for a large company, her reputation was riding on this, and joining him in the garden had meant to relax her. But he knew she would twist this into his fault somehow. Better to give her some space than try to follow her in.

His lips quirked upward in half-smile, despite himself. He had learned to be thankful even for their arguments. It meant she knew who he was and was comfortable enough with him to fight. Besides, the image of her hanging upside down, her robes falling into her face was amusing too.

A white and gray haired ball of fur jumped into his lap, interrupting his thoughts. He pet it reluctantly twice on the head, then shooed it away. Secretly, Severus had been quite happy to see Crookshanks pass away. But, to his dismay, he had been replaced with another wayward bundle of fur. This one didn't even have the redeeming benefit of being half-Kneazle. It was dumb as a rock and demanded more attention than the Boy-Who-Lived himself. And it shed everywhere. His black robes weren't half as intimidating covered in cat hair.

It wound between his legs, and he resisted the urge to kick it, knowing Hermione would be angry if she caught him at it. Instead, he picked up his book to read. He had only made it ten pages in when Hermione padded down the stairs, trying to shrug on her dressing robe and rub at her sleep laden eyes at the same time. He could see a smear of dirt on the underside of her chin that she had missed when she washed up. He wondered if she was still angry with him.

"Everything all right?" he asked, peering over his reading glasses. She had gone up to bed only two hours ago.

"I had a nightmare," she answered meekly, looking around the room in confusion. He could tell that she didn't know where she was. The question was did she remember who he was?

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked, patting the cushion next to him in invitation. He took off his glasses. He hated wearing them anyway, and only did when there was no one around to see him. It was basically an admission of old age creeping up on him.

"There were men in masks and a man with red eyes," she said with a shiver. "I don't know if I'll be able to get back to sleep."

"Do you want a Sleeping Potion?" He wrapped an arm around her.

She shook her head, sidling closer.

"Shall I read to you?" He knew she liked the sound of his voice, and he was reading a book on Arithmancy, her area of expertise. The book was actually hers, but he had picked it up in hopes it would lull him to sleep. His insomnia had been wretched recently.

"No, thank you," she said,

"Well, I'm not singing you a lullaby," he snapped.

"Even if I asked nicely?" she pouted. He scowled in response, but it softened as she leaned in and kissed his jaw. She reached over and closed the book, setting it on the side table. Her arm purposefully brushed against him as she came back to sitting.

"I was reading that," he grumbled. It wouldn't do to give in too easily.

"By all means, don't let me stop you," she said, starting to rise from the couch.

"Come back here."

He caught her arm and dragged her back down, closer this time. She crawled into his lap, her legs straddling him. Cold hands crept under the soft velvet of his dressing gown. She kissed him full on the mouth, her tongue venturing out to meet his own. His own hands slid up her thighs.

"This will help you sleep?" he asked, raising an eyebrow skeptically.

"I'm not particularly worried about sleep at the moment."

Severus smiled. Reaching the silky fabric of her nightdress, he grasped it and tugged upwards in one fluid motion.

She flashed him a wide grin as his eyes traveled over the familiar curves before him. The small round breasts, the jagged scar across her soft stomach, hips that flared out, skinny arms with bony elbows. She would always be beautiful to him.

"But it will help me forget about my nightmare," she said.

"It always helps with mine," he agreed, and it was true. For the last twenty-two years, she had helped stave off the nightmares—of Death Eaters and the Dark Lord, of Moody and almost losing her.

Pressing her chest against his, she nipped at his neck. Her hands roamed over his chest as her hot mouth made trails along his collarbone and up his neck to that spot under his ear. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. She wiggled even closer, the exquisite pressure building in his lower abdomen growing ever stronger.

"Husband," she sighed into his ear.


"Hmmm?" He pushed her back, gripping her upper arms and looking intently into her eyes.

"My name is Severus," he reminded her.

"Severus," she sighed. Her hot breath tickled his neck. It was almost enough to make him forget the matter and carry on. But he didn't want sex with a stranger. He wanted to make love to his wife.

"And what is your name?" he asked impatiently.

"Hermione," she said, sounding irritated. "I remember our names, though you might explain why we're here and not at Hogwarts."

He frowned at that. He hadn't meant to distract her, just remind her of who they were and why they were doing what they were doing. Severus moved his hands restlessly up and down her thighs, his fingers brushing closer and closer to her center in an attempt to remind her what they had been progressing towards just moments before.

"We live here now. I retired."

"And me?"

"You work as an Arithmancy consultant," he answered, leaning in and kissing her on the jaw. She tilted her head to the side to give him better access—a good sign that things might continue. He worked his way down her the curve of her throat and across her collarbone, dipping his tongue into the small crevice there. One hand sneaked up to massage her breast.

"So I support you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Consider it compensation for keeping you out of trouble," he growled, biting her shoulder gently. She squeaked, half in surprise the other half with laughter. But then she reached down and stilled his hand, bringing his chin up to face her. He stilled at the serious glint in her eye.

"I love you," she declared—without doubt, without hesitation. Boldly and bravely like the Gryffindor she was. Despite it all.

"I love you too." And he did—without reservation.

She answered by twining her hands in his hair and kissing him with a fierce passion so that he thought he might drown. It wasn't too much longer later that her hands found her way down, helping him out of his cotton pajama pants with a frantic air.

Finally together, she moved in a figure eight, his hands at her hips to guide her motions. Reassuring that she did indeed remember his name, she repeated it like a whispered prayer until, with one last supplication, she came. At the sound of it, the flame that had started in his groin flared up and out, lighting every vein in his body on fire. His toes curled in on themselves as he gripped her waist tightly.

She rested her head on his shoulder as they both struggled to regain their breath. She moved to get up, but he stopped her.

"Don't go."

"I'm cold," she complained. And with good reason. The fire had died down and there was a chill in the air on this cool spring night. He reached over and pulled the blanket folded over the back of the couch, wrapping it around the both of them.

"Think you could sleep now?" he asked, kissing the tip of her nose.

"I'll be fine as long as I have you," she answered. He kissed her on the mouth. He would never tire of hearing her say such things.

"Well don't expect me to carry you up to bed. If anything, you should be carrying me," he said sharply, pulling away. He was afraid he might start sounding too soft.

"Not after today in the garden," she retorted.

"So you remember now?"

"It's coming back to me," she said, trying hard not to smile while she glared at him. She never could stay angry with him for long. He was happy that she hadn't needed her potion this time. Sometimes she just needed some time for the memories to come back. Although after the stressful day she had had today, he was surprised that she had recovered so quickly.

"I forgive you," he said with a smirk.

"You forgive me?"

"For not listening to me and then being grumpy. I did warn you," he reminded her.

"Let's not talk about it," she said, wrinkling her nose and reaching for her nightgown. He didn't bother getting dressed himself, but stood up and offered her his hand. Leading her upstairs to the bed, he gave an exasperated sigh as she wound her arms around him. But secretly he would have it no other way, and he knew that she knew it.

"Bleeding barnacle," he whispered before kissing her temple.

"Greasy git," she responded with a yawn.

"I love you," he said. not sure if she was still awake.

"Love you too," she mumbled sleepily.

He lay awake for a long time, listening to the quiet rhythm of her breathing, his thoughts visiting the last twenty-two years they had been together. Some of which she remembered and some she did not. They weren't all good memories that was for sure. But she made his life worth the living. And in the end, the good ones far outnumbered the bad.