"Ready to make an entrance?" Hermione murmured quietly.
Severus nodded. He was a little nervous, but... she was right. It was time for this. "Stop fussing," he told her, smiling down at her and touching her hand lightly as it rested on his arm. "I'm quite capable of bearing up under the strain of walking into a crowded room with a lovely young woman on my arm."
She laughed, and squeezed his arm gently. "Well, if you're going to be like that about it..." She opened the door, and they stepped through, side by side.
The chatter that had filled the room faded into silence, and he was glad of her hand still reassuringly holding his arm. He hated being stared at, even now, but he was getting used to it. And he wasn't the only one, this time - people were looking from him and Hermione to Harry Potter and back again, clearly awaiting a famed Potter explosion. Hermione tensed beside him, and automatically he covered her hand with his again, holding it gently.
Potter got up, walking over to them, and for a long moment he and Severus locked gazes. Then he held out his hand, giving Severus a small, rueful smile. "I... think it's time we both let bygones be bygones," he said quietly. "I'm sorry, for everything."
Severus looked down at the extended hand for a moment in utter shock, and then he nodded slowly. "I... apologize as well," he agreed, mostly for Hermione's sake, and they shook hands awkwardly.
Hermione looked from one to the other of them, then over to where Potter had been sitting. "The potion fumes can account for mine going mad," she said clearly, a beaming smile spreading across her face. "But what's going on with yours, Ginny? Has he been hitting his head again?"
Ginny Weasley, to become Potter next summer, beamed herself. "Too many Bludgers," she said wisely. "One of them must have knocked some sense into him."
For the first time, Severus found himself in absolute accord with Potter, as they exchanged embarrassed looks and the rest of the gathered Order burst into laughter. Kindly laughter, though, and he forced himself not to take offense.
Then Minerva was there, and he allowed her to guide him around, introducing him to those members of the Order who he hadn't met. Hermione was over by the fire, in earnest conversation with Ginny. Wedding discussions, probably - Ginny had been deeply incensed that they'd been married without having a party, or a lavish ceremony - or even guests. Hermione's parents had been their witnesses, and that had been all they'd wanted. Their relationship had started in quiet and companionship, it had seemed fitting that their wedding be the same. But only by promising to be matron of honour, and helping to plot an insanely lavish affair, had Hermione earned her friend's forgiveness.
Then the Weasley twins were calling for attention. "A toast," one said, raising his glass. "To the Order."
"To all of us," the other continued.
"To those we've lost," the first said, looking around the room.
"And to those we haven't," the other finished, and he actually grinned at Severus. Cheeky little devil.
The toast was drunk, and he turned to return to his wife. Ginny was talking to her fiance now, and Hermione was politely refusing a firewhiskey offered to her by a rather tipsy Hagrid.
Resigned, Severus stopped, and awaited the inevitable hush. Some things the universe just wouldn't let slide.
The hush fell, and Hagrid's voice was clearly audible. "Ah, you're not a kid anymore, Hermione," he was saying solemnly. "You can't drink a proper toast in Gillywater, you need a proper drink."
Hermione glanced over at her husband, and he saw the amused resignation in her eyes. She, too, recognized the inevitable. "No thank you, Hagrid," she said clearly. "Not in my condition."
Everyone looked at her. Everyone looked at Severus. He knew, he KNEW, that he was blushing, even as he looked at her rather proudly. It didn't show yet, of course, but in just over six months...
"Good lord, already?" one of the twins asked, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, I know he's not getting any younger, Hermione, but aren't you rushing into this just a bit?"
Hermione sipped her gillywater, assuming the seraphically innocent expression that meant she was about to say something naughty. "Well, you know me," she said brightly. "I've worked out a timetable and I'm going to stick to it."
The hush was still absolute - although Ginny Weasley, at least, was grinning in anticipation. "Timetable?" the other twin asked, raising the opposite eyebrow.
"Of course. I always plan ahead." She looked even more angelic. "For the next ten years, I plan to build up the business and have however many children we decide on, which is tentatively three. Then when I'm thirty, I'll enter the Ministry. I'm reasonably confident that I can make Minister for Magic by thirty-five."
There was a moment of stunned silence, and then the first twin turned his head. "Yeah, okay... HEY, DUNG!"
"What?" Mundungus Fletcher appeared, looking rather the worse for wear already.
"In ten years, mate, we flee the country," the other twin told him.
"We know her," the first twin added, grinning at the room at large. "If she says she'll do it, she will."
"You're a brave man, Snape," the second twin said, raising an impertinent glass to his former professor. "She's brilliant... but scary."
"I know," Severus said, giving his wife a fond look. "We're well suited in that respect."
She smiled up at him. "We are," she said softly, as chuckles and murmurs broke up the quiet, and people turned back to their own conversations. "And I, for one, would have it no other way."
"Nor would I," he agreed, returning her smile.
Author Notes: Well, that's it:) From barely allies to devoted couple, and in only... over 47,000 words. Gah. I'm still LOUSY at writing short fic.
As alert readers may have noticed, I threw in a lot of traditional cliches... those common plot points that can be so good, and are often so very, VERY bad. That's something I do a lot, in my fic... I love playing with them and making them realistic and plausible - or trying to, anyway. Maybe it's an ego thing. Anyway - the 'tending the Wounded Warrior and falling for him even though he's a grumpy cuss' was the major one, obviously, but a Courtroom Scene is always a bonus. I managed to combine the 'use the author's favourite novel as a plot point' with the 'Snape plus romance novels equals neat' one that I've seen around into an edifying whole, I worked in the unpleasant and often extremely irritating 'self-harm is a shortcut to drama' cliche while (I hope) making it cathartic rather than self-destructive. And then 'OMGmarriagebaby!', a traditional favourite, came in for the big finish.
So far as I remember, the only Traditional Cliche Of Fanfiction And Episodic Television that I encountered while writing and didn't throw in was the 'character winds up in other character's head, hi-jinks and insanity ensue, wheee!' one. I'm saving that for another storyline, where it can get the attention it deserves. ;) Ditto for the apparently exceedingly popular 'Young Severus Meets Hermione While In Roughly The Same Age Bracket', which also gets its own story.
I'm torn, though, I dunno which one to write first.