These characters and the world they are set in are the property of J. Rowling and her associates and affiliates. They are not mine.

Forever and For Always

A tall, thin man, dark of hair and dress, and dour of expression tossed a handful of green powder into his office fireplace and stepped into it. "Snape Residence," he intoned and disappeared in a swirling, whirling instant, only to emerge in another, more ornate hearth, seconds later.

"Severus! I've been waiting for you. Welcome home, my love!"

A woman with a wealth of curly brown hair, and a radiant smile rushed forward and bestowed a hug and a kiss upon him. Snape returned the kiss and allowed her to unbutton and remove his traveling cloak and hand them to one of the house-elves to put away.

"You're home so late today. I hope there was no trouble."

"Oh, nothing to speak of," he said smoothly. "Only a couple of disciplinary actions to take care of."

Soft, brown eyes met his in concern.

"Not anything for you worry about, my dear. They were only minor cases. I didn't even need to deal with them personally, but there was a frightful amount of paperwork involved..." He caressed her cheek almost playfully. "Did you hold my dinner?"

"Yes, of course! And I made your favorite tonight! If you'd like to freshen up a bit, I'll get the table ready for you."

He smiled at the eagerness in her voice and dropped a kiss on her forehead before heading upstairs to change for dinner. When he was washed and clad in his satin evening robes, he strolled down the bedroom corridor to peek into the nursery before descending to the dining room for his evening meal.

The baby's room was immaculately neat and his son was asleep, guarded dutifully by a reverent house-elf who bowed so low before him that her head almost bumped the floor.

"And how was young Sebastian today, Winkie?" Snape asked casually as he tiptoed over to gaze at the slumbering child.

"Oh, good, master! Very, very good! The little master took his first steps today! Mistress and Winkie was so proud we both cried, Master. That we did!"

Her master bent a little and ran a finger through his son's smooth, raven hair. "Did you," he mused. "Walking at only eight months... That does show promise."

The elf nodded in ecstatic agreement.

"But it goes without saying that you'll have to watch him far more carefully from now on. He'll be into everything."

"Oh, yes, Master Severus!" she piped in typical house-elf fervor. "I will take care of him! I will, Master! Constant vigilance!"

Snape suppressed a chuckle as he left the nursery and headed down to his dinner.

An elegant table was set for him and his wife was carefully pouring the wine when he entered the dining room. She pulled his chair out for him and he sat down at table, letting her fuss over the placement of his flatware and linens before he began his evening meal.

It was, indeed, a fine dinner-- everything just the way he liked it after a trying day. The meal began with entrees of Cream of Broccoli Soup, mussels in garlic butter, and steamed Asparagus Almondine before progressing on to the main course of Beef Wellington and Potato Soufflé. All was cooked to perfection, and his wife ate with him in silence, knowing he disliked conversation during meals. She was all attentiveness and solicitude, ever alert to the timing of each successive course and the order of the next offering of wine, her anxious eyes continually measuring his enjoyment of the food.

"I do believe, Hermione, that you've actually outdone yourself this time," he said as he chased down his last bite of Beef Wellington with a swallow of fine red Burgundy. "You're coming along excellently in your magical cooking classes."

Hermione blushed and visibly glowed with pride under his praise.

"I'm so pleased you liked it!" she said, her face energized with joy, her eyes bright with happiness. "And just wait until you see what I've made you for desert!"

She rose and hastened into the kitchen, a house-elf scurrying behind her laden with the dirty platters and dishes.

Snape sat back in his chair and finished his wine slowly while he mused at the odd vagaries of fate and the events that had led to his present, happy change in fortune. The life he currently enjoyed was a vast improvement on his former existence, a much better state than that of a despised, oppressed Potion's teacher. And far, far better than death...

He was, of course, supposed to have died. That had been the original plan. It had never been stated explicitly, but Snape knew that no other fate but death could have awaited him had he followed Dumbledore's plan to the exact letter two years ago-- death and martyrdom. But he hadn't wanted to be a martyr and he hadn't wanted to die. It had seemed grossly unjust to him that he should be asked to do so.

It was all well and good for Albus Dumbledore, himself, to willingly embrace martyrdom and ask Snape to kill him, but it was presuming far too much for the headmaster to expect another person to destroy their life by committing murder, and Snape had balked at the idea. It had taken some mighty persuasion on Dumbledore's part to compel Severus to agree to it, and he had done so only reluctantly.

While Albus lived, Snape could refuse him nothing. He was the one man whose regard the Potion's master truly cared about, the mentor who had given him a second chance in his youth, the only true father figure he had ever known. Because of that, he had followed his orders, kept his promise, and executed the headmaster in order to fulfill his ultimate role as a spy. After having done so, he had ascended almost immediately to the highest ranks of Voldemort's council, perfectly positioned to strike from within when the time finally came. But with Dumbledore dead, Snape's misgivings, fueled by grief from the monstrous thing he had been forced to do, began to grow within him and torture him.

He was to wait within Voldemort's circle, poised to help Potter destroy his hated dark master, knowing that the end of it would also be his own death. Potter, of course, would destroy him too. Years of mounting, carefully nurtured hatred would see to that.

For Snape, the irony was sickening. He had spent seven years ensuring that the boy- who-lived continued to do so, and then-- after all that trouble and all that effort-- the ungrateful wretch would simply pay him back by killing him. The injustice of it all roiled within his soul like fountains of molten poison.

Naturally, it was he who received no reward at all for all his pain and suffering. It had been the story of his entire life: a miserable childhood, a lonely adolescence, a despised and misunderstood adulthood, and then an ignoble death at the hands of that benighted boy! He would die as hated as he had lived. The Wizarding World would discover, only after his death, the truly noble thing that Severus Snape had done, and Snape, himself, would never see their approbation. It wasn't fair. It was grossly unfair, and the tortured spy couldn't help but recoil from that fate.

He was there when Potter arrived to face Voldemort in the final duel. He was there just as Dumbledore had asked him to be. He had helped the son of his former enemy in every way that he could: delving the locations of the last three horcruxes, passing the information secretly so that no one knew it came from him, and eliminating any deatheaters that stood in the boy's way or posed a danger to his progress. In the very end, he had even attacked Voldemort himself to weaken him enough for Potter to fulfill his destiny. It was only after Voldemort's death that Snape had deviated from the plan. He had stood aside as Harry killed their common foe, and then, with Tom Riddle's body cold upon the floor, Snape, in turn, had killed Harry Potter...

Severus had seen his "master" fall, seen Potter kill him, and seen in the hateful boy's eyes the knowledge that he owed Snape his life. He had seen also in those eyes the fact that this knowledge meant nothing to him. He had recognized with a certainty that Potter would kill him anyway, kill him in cold blood, and enjoy every minute of that killing. It only took a second to make the decision. When Harry raised his wand, Snape's was faster. It was an instant moment of choice, a knee-jerk reaction, and like so many other such choices, it led to an irrevocable course of action. Almost immediately afterward, Snape knew what he would have to do, and lacking any other viable, practical option, he moved to do it without question.

In the confusion of the battle's end, Snape had taken charge. The deatheaters had lost their master, Dumbledore's followers had lost their "chosen one," and Severus had set out to unite them in the most decisive and ruthless fashion possible. He had forced a collective allegiance to himself, killing anyone from either side who opposed him. It had been a cruel, bloody battle, but the result was a unified British Wizarding World with himself as the new Dark lord. Order had been restored to the realm. The fighting was over. England was finally at peace, and he, Severus Snape, was still alive...

Snape looked up expectantly as Hermione reentered the room with desert. It was a large, exquisitely concocted Blancmange, and his wife's eyes sparkled as she noticed his appreciation of it.

"Well, well. I am impressed," he praised. "Your cooking skills are rapidly approaching your potion making abilities. Such a worthy wife."

She beamed as she served him a generous portion of the desert and offered him a goblet of sweet wine. The devotion in her eyes was as sweet as the wine. It caused him a momentary pang.

Whenever Snape had an attack of conscience (which happened far more frequently than he liked,) he reminded himself that he was a very moderate Dark lord. His whole purpose in taking over, besides saving himself, was to end the war-- not to start another one. He told himself, again and again, that it had been the best course, the only course to follow.

He told himself that there was nobility in his ascent to power. He was not another Voldemort. His rule was prosperous and beneficial, and he went out of his way to avoid the excesses of the former Dark lord's reign. He was making the Wizarding World a better place. Wizards were now liberated. They no longer needed to hide or keep their magic secret from Muggles. They could practice their birthright freely amidst their less-gifted neighbors. But Snape made sure that the worst forms of Muggle-abuse were strictly forbidden, and while the dark arts were no longer outlawed, the use of them to kill and torture certainly was.

Under Snape's leadership, all wizards were treated with potential equality. There were now no more pure blood elitists. He had made Muggle and Half-Muggle ancestry rise in esteem. After all, if the new Dark lord, himself, was a half-blood, then it must be a truly superior state. Snape flaunted his plebeian background, and he encouraged the building up of the Wizarding Community by sponsoring half-blood and Muggleborn marriages.

It was only the non-humans and non-human mixtures that suffered under his power and these he persecuted severely. The dementers were rounded up and relegated once more to their position as jailors. He ordered mass deportations of all Giants, Half-Giants, and Vampires. Anyone with Veela blood was forced to register with the Ministry of Magic's new Non-Human Control Department, and were subject to numerous restrictions and sanctions. He also had the mutinous Centaur herd decimated and cowed into submission, and any werewolves stupid enough to remain in Britain, were hunted down and killed.

The Ministry of Magic was now under his tight control, and he had hand-picked the Minister and the members of the Wizengamot out of the most intelligent of his loyal supporters. No more fools or idiots flourished in the magical bureaucracy. The weak-minded, sycophant hangers on, the pompous paper-pushers, and scheming little back-stabbing toadies had all been weeded out. Wizarding Britain could finally enjoy some order.

And the same could be said, only double, for Hogwarts. Snape preferred to use the school as his base of operations, and he presided over it as titular headmaster. Although he had ended up replacing almost all of the original faculty, he felt the school was running in a greater state of efficiency than it had ever run before. Rules were strictly enforced. Punishments were effectively severe. Snape finally had the institution running at the highly disciplined state he had always wanted it to be. Argus Filch practically worshiped him.

Not bad for the once despised Potion's master-- the Old Bat, the Greasy Git. Not bad for the man, who as a student, had been an object of pity and a continual target for bullies. Not bad for the ugly, awkward, impoverished half-blood from Spinners End. His time had finally come.

When he had finished his desert, he rose from the table and retired to his library to catch up on his evening reading.

"Sherry?" his wife asked as she brought him his newspapers and journals.

"Perhaps a little. Why don't you join me?"

"Of course," she said as she moved off purposefully to procure bottle and the glasses.

"So how was your day today, my dear?" he asked as she seated herself next to him. "What did you do, besides prepare me that marvelous meal?"

"Oh! I had a VERY good day!" she began with an eagerness that made him smile almost indulgently. It was a manner reminiscent of the pert little chatterbox she had been as a child. "Little Sebastian took his first steps this afternoon! I wish you could have seen it. He was so cute! He's such a smart little boy-- so much like you! I knitted a few more rows on your new Invisibility Cloak, I finished that latest book your brought me about healing potions, and I did some testing on your new ideas for a Mind Restoring Potion."

"Ah, yes. The one using Lysergic Acid?"

She nodded.

"And how were the results?"

"Promising, although it's early yet to really tell. I only used one drop in today's mixture, and the chimp I tested it on did exhibit a momentary flair of alertness. I'd like to try the experiment again using a bit more of the acid." She paused. "Perhaps if we mixed the acid with a gram of paiute, and then tempered the solution with a two-to-one ratio of Ginseng and Ginkgo-Biloba..." Her eyes sought his for permission.

"Hmm, an insightful idea, Hermione. Yes, why don't you try that?"

His wife beamed. "I think it's wonderful how hard you work to help those poor victims in St. Mungo's Hospital. You have so much to take care of, so much responsibility, and yet you never forget them."

Snape looked at her somberly, his expression momentarily pained and dark. Many of those hollow-eyed patients were there because of him. They were his victims.

Hermione's eyes softened with loving concern. "You seem so tired, Severus. You must have had a really hard day. Let me give you a back rub."

He nodded, and she got up and walked around behind him to begin working her fingers gently and expertly into the stiff, tired muscles of his neck and shoulders.

"Oh, that's heavenly, Hermione," he breathed, closing his eyes and letting her touch soothe him. He tried to forget, for a moment, as she rubbed the stiffness out of him, the taxing, ever-present troubles of state.

Severus had endured a disappointingly stress-filled day. There had actually been a lot of disciplinary actions. Why were there so many little rebellions, all over, that had to be quelled and crushed again, and again, and again? He had given their world peace. Why couldn't people be contented with it? Would he never be able to let down his guard? Would he always have to be on the constant alert for treachery? Perhaps here, at home, was the only place he could find peace and rest, but then... even then...

"That's enough, my sweet," he said after a few minutes of contented relaxation. "Come here, I have something for you."

She stopped rubbing his shoulders and came around to face him, her face sweetly, innocently expectant. He took a small package from his pocket and handed it to her and she unwrapped it carefully.

"Oh, Severus!" she exclaimed upon opening it. "Chocolates! You know how I love chocolate!" She picked one up delicately and popped it into her mouth. "Raspberry Cordial. How lovely! Mmm, and this has got to be the best I've ever tasted!"

He took the box gently from her hand. "Only one, my Darling. One per day. After all, we need to preserve your beautiful figure..."

He ran his hand over the curve of her stomach and hips, the silk robes she wore added a degree of sensuality to the appreciation of her warm, ripe form. At his touch, her body seemed to swell a little and he noticed the unmistakable imprint of taught nipples appearing under her bodice.

"Are you wearing anything under these robes, my sweet?" he murmured.

"No." She moved her body nearer to his.

"Prepared for me, aren't you?" His fingers tickled from her ribcage down to her groin. She gasped softly, and the eyes she turned to him were dilated with desire.

"Why don't you go to our bedroom and wait for me there," he whispered. "I'll be in to join you shortly."

She nodded, kissed him, and turned to walk toward the stairs, giving him an invitingly provocative glance over her shoulder as she went, her body swaying with sinuous grace. He sighed as he watched her disappear up the stairs-- his lover, his geisha, his own personal Siren. She was the icing on his cake, the one possession that should have made him the luckiest man in the Wizarding World-- should have, and would have-- if her feelings for him had actually been genuine...

Snape made a mental note to vary the delivery method of her Daily Dose in the weeks to come. This had been the third week he had used chocolate, and there was always a chance that she would figure it out and discover what he had been doing to her. She was a brilliant witch and he had to keep that in mind. Candy one day, Cauldron Cakes the next, an Italian Ice perhaps, or a glass of sweet wine... The ways to slip a love potion were indeed endless, as was the depths of a Potion master's imagination. Still, he remembered, Hermione had always had a near-fatal addiction to chocolates.

When he entered their chamber a few minutes later, his wife was sitting on the invitingly turned down bed. She stood up when she saw him come in and approached him eagerly, wearing a brief garment that was little more than a swath of shiny black silk artfully draped to reveal an enchanting amount of cleavage and an impressive length of long, shapely legs. Heat flared up in him at the sight of her. He beckoned a little and she pressed herself gently against him, her arms linked lovingly around his neck.

"How can I please you?" she asked, all innocent yearning and provocative wickedness rolled into one. He took a moment to place a gentle love-bite on the tip of her nose.

"You know what I like," he murmured.

"Yes," she whispered as she pulled him toward her to kiss him ardently with sensual, openmouthed passion. She rubbed her body against his, caressed his tongue with hers, and cupped his head with her hands, fingers tickling tenderly through his limp, greasy hair.

He groaned as her lips moved to his throat and down to his neck, sighed as her nimble fingers worked at the fastenings of his robes to undress him. In seconds they were both bare.

"Yes, Hermione, yes," he breathed as she caressed and kissed his shoulders and chest. Her warm lips and gentle hands whispered lovingly over his gaunt, bony body-- awakening him, enflaming him, before pulling him to the bed so that he could finally possess and take her, which he did with joyful abandon.

He lost himself in the taking of her, steeped himself in the experience of her soft, insistent willingness, her gentle passionate hunger. He reveled in the feel of her, the scent of her, the taste of her. He exulted in the sensation of her response to him, and the delighted, happy noises she made as he strove for his satisfaction with her.

After a long, rather heavenly interval, he lay relaxed and comfortable on the moonlit bed, his wife a limp, cuddly presence nestled in the crook of his arm, her cheek pillowed on his shoulder, soft, damp curls spread out over his pillow and spilling over his chest. His fingers played absently with those curls.

Hermione had been especially amorous tonight, he mused, though that was to be expected considering the amount of Female Arousal Serum he had been mixing into her potion. He had put in enough to ensure that he could bring her to heights of passion by almost the sound of his voice.

It was overkill, of course. He certainly didn't have to do it. The Love Potion alone was enough to make her willing, and technically, she should be lucky he had decided to give her that. But he gave it to her anyway. After so many lonely years, he had learned to appreciate a lover who truly enjoyed his body, a partner who desired him and delighted in him, instead of merely accepting and enduring him. For someone with his past experiences, that was worth a little extra effort in the Potion's Lab.

To bad she didn't really desire him. Too bad it had only come from a bottle, from an artfully brewed potion. Too bad her willingness was not her own and she was bound to him unnaturally. It was sad, almost frustratingly tragic for him, but he knew he could never, ever, release her from the bondage he had placed upon her.

He could never let her go. It could never happen. If he did so, she would die. He, himself, would end up having to kill her. This, indeed, was the only way he could keep her alive and safe. There was no better way than a Love Potion to turn a sworn enemy into a loyal friend-- and he had made her his sworn enemy, hadn't he, once his killing curse had destroyed Harry Potter...

Snape sighed and ran a caressing finger down the length of her body from her shoulder to her hip, fingers tickling smooth, silky skin. She stirred and wiggled against him.

"Severus," she whispered.

"Would you like a little more, my sweet? Would you like some more pleasure?" He smoothed her wild tangle of curls from her face and kissed her invasively. Just the thought of having her again was making his blood boil, even as the thought of losing her lent a painful poignancy to his desire.

"Yes," she whispered when their lips parted. "Yes, please!" and she rolled onto her back to be ravished once more. As he bent over her, the moonlight streaming in from the window fell full onto her sweet young face. For a moment he simply gazed down at the woman he had secretly hungered for, lusted after, and obsessed over-- beyond all hope and all reason-- from before she had yet reached adulthood. For a moment, the look he gave her was sad.

"Hermione, do you love me?" he asked softly.

"Yes, Severus," she whispered back fervently.

"Do you really?"

"Yes! Oh, yes!" Tears stood out in her eyes.

"How much do you love me?"

"With all my heart!"

"And how long will you love me?"

"All my life!" she whispered, the tears brimming over the corners of her eyes and rolling down her temples into her hair. "Longer than my life," she amended. "Forever and for always!"

"Forever and for always," he echoed in a soft murmur as he bent down to tenderly taste the tracks of those tears, preparing himself to take her in the most prolonged and thorough fashion imaginable. "That's good. And I shall continue to do everything that is in my power to make certain that you do."