Flitwick was happy to take over Hermione's classes up until exams. Hermione was well enough in the weeks following her release from St. Mungo's – the soreness faded but the stiffness returned if it was too cold and she walked with effort and an unnatural gait when it rained. Snape made a salve and at night he rubbed it into her skin and the stiffness eased away.
Hermione wanted to proctor her own exams and her students, for the most part, were happy to see her. Summer came and the castle emptied and the thick, white cloths were again put over the house tables.
The wedding was to be in the summer, toward the end, and Hermione's hospital stay and recovery had been a set back. Now, though, with the children gone, Hermione put some clothes in a bag and informed Snape of her decision.
"I'm going home to plan the wedding," she said. "You're welcome to join me."
"At your Muggle home?" he asked, dubiously.
"Well," she said. "I'm sure Harry wouldn't mind us staying at 12 Grimmauld Place but I need some time out of this castle."
"Okay," he said.
"Really?" she asked.
"If I let you go off and plan a wedding all by yourself, who knows what you'll expect me to do," he said. "Plus, I don't like to be away from you."
"Soon you won't ever have to be," she assured him. So he unpacked her bag and repacked their things together in a more sturdy, wizard travel case, manufactured to be shrunk without wrinkling the contents within. He told McGonagall they were leaving, sticking his head into her office. She was still knee deep in end of year paperwork.
"But you never leave the castle in the summer," she said.
"We'll be at the Black house," he said. "Planning the wedding." McGonagall's face broke into a broad smile.
"Oh, Severus," she said in a way that was far too motherly for his taste. "Of course! I look forward to my invitation."
"Yes, well, it's a Muggle ceremony," he said, leaving. "So buy a dress."
Harry had been happy to give them a room and Ginny with her arms full of little girl had been there to meet them. She'd opened all the windows to air it out.
"It's been a little neglected since the holidays ended," she admitted. "But it's all here for you."
"Thanks, Gin," Hermione said. Lola was standing, looking up at Snape with a dreamy smile. He had crossed his arms and was looking severely down at her, silently demanding behavior. Lola put her thumb in her mouth.
"She's been a terror all day," Ginny said. "Until now." Ginny had cut her long red hair to just below her ears – it made her look older and made her look more like a mum. She'd said to Hermione earlier that Harry already wanted to have another baby. He wanted a boy.
"Why don't we take her for the day?" Snape said, mildly. Both women turned to look at him with wide eyes and open mouths.
"Sorry?" Ginny asked. "Because I thought I heard…"
"We're merely going to Hermione's parent's house to consume tea and talk about flower arrangements. I'm sure Mrs. Granger would be thrilled with a child to spoil."
"Yes, she would," Hermione said, slowly.
"We'll bring her back in one piece," Snape said.
"You and Harry could go get lunch," Hermione promised, hopping on board.
"You don't have to convince me," Ginny said. "Professor Snape, Lola would love to go with you." She handed Hermione the diaper bag on her shoulder. "Forget lunch, Harry and I could shag," she whispered to Hermione.
"You may call me Severus," Snape said, pretending he didn't hear her last comment.
"Yeah, maybe next year," she said, uneasily. "Come here, darling, give mummy a kiss." She showered her tiny daughter with kisses.
"Come along, Charlotte," Snape said, picking the girl up. They climbed into the floo, the three of them a tight fit, and flooed to Hermione's house. Ginny waved goodbye.
Snape had not bothered to change from his lightweight summer robes and looked rather intimidating to Hermione's mother as they appeared in the fireplace. But the beautiful little girl in his arms overrode any fear.
"Oh!" Mrs. Granger cooed. "Who is this?"
"Mum, this is Harry's daughter, Lola," Hermione said, brushing ash off all three of them. Her parent's floo was rarely used so they didn't bother to clean it and now their clothes were worse for it.
"Charlotte," Snape said. "…is her full name."
He preferred it and was the only one who used it regularly.
"She's a doll," Mrs. Granger said. "I have some of your old toys in the attic, I'll go find them. Hermione, there is a pitcher of lemonade in the icebox." She disappeared up the stairs. Lola was set on the rug and toddled around, inspecting all the unfamiliar Muggle objects.
"Keep her away from the electrical outlets," Hermione said, moving into the kitchen to retrieve some cold drinks. Lola spied a bottle in her bag and pulled it out to suck on.
"You'll have to give that up soon," Snape chided the girl, gently. Lola blinked at him and plopped down, her blow softened by her diaper.
Hermione came in with drinks just as her mother came down the stairs with a crate of dolls and stuffed animals.
"Darling, I put some bridal magazines on the table in the garden. Your father had to go to work, but he'll be in for dinner," she said. "Let's sit in the sunshine. Can I get you anything to eat, Mr. Snape?"
"No thank you, Madame," he said. "I came merely to observe."
"Ha," Hermione said, unconvinced.
The yard was a decent size for the house and the neighborhood and the Grangers kept their yard immaculate. Lola liked to run around on the lawn chasing dragonflies and shrieking with laughter. With his wand, to the amusement of Lola and Mrs. Granger both, he bewitched a wooden airplane from the crate of toys to fly around her and she chased it merrily. But the little girl tired herself out quickly and soon climbed into Snape's lap, sweaty and warm.
"Are you tired?" Snape asked, his vice directed at the girl, not loud enough to interrupt Mrs. Granger's speech on modest heels.
"Yeah," Lola said. "Bottle." Hermione glanced over.
"Put her down in my bedroom," she said. "Upstairs on the left." Snape lifted the girl easily, and carried her into the house. The girl was like a sack of flour in his arms. He found the bedroom that had once belonged to his fiancée and laid Lola down on the twin bed. It was too warm to cover her, but he set a stuffed bear next to her for company.
The room was clean and unlived in – a guest room now – but there were signs remaining of a little girl's childhood. There was white wallpaper with tiny pink flowers in vertical stripes. There was a bookshelf overflowing with picture books up to thick novels. There was a desk and a small chair. Having inspected everything to his fill, he went downstairs.
"How many people, do you think?" Hermione asked as Snape sat next to her, draping his arm across her back.
"What?" he asked.
"To invite?" she clarified. "Mum says at least 25 Muggles."
"I don't have any family," he said. "Invite whomever you want."
"None at all?" Mrs. Granger asked, sadly.
"It's better this way," he assured her. "As for wizards, you'll want Minerva and Filius."
"Yes, many of the Order members will want to come – all of the Weasleys…" she trailed off.
"Except," Snape supplied.
"Yes, but I can't not invite him," Hermione said, frustrated.
"Who?" Mrs. Granger asked.
"Ronald," Hermione said, her voice full of venom.
"Ahh," Mrs. Granger said. "I'm going to go start thinking about dinner. Write down your invitation list on this paper." She handed Hermione the list and moved into the kitchen.
"How are you?" Hermione asked, taking Snape's hand.
"Fine," he said.
"I was thinking, since there can't be magic at the wedding, we should have a second reception at 12 Grimmauld Place," she said.
"This isn't going to be small," he commented. She shook her head.
"No," she laughed. "So get ready."
August arrived at a terrifying speed. Snape has spent years at Hogwarts and the summers had always been empty and quiet but now his summer was filled with planning and preparation. The day before the wedding, Hermione left him at 12 Grimmauld Place to go to her parents.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Hermione said. He still didn't understand why they had to be separated but she adamantly reminded him that it was tradition and offered no better explanation. He was just along for the ride. Truth be told, he would be pleased when this whole wedding extravaganza was finished. He wanted to be married but he wished he didn't have to get married. Still, Hermione was excited.
They'd had only one spat in the course of planning and it had been on the hottest day of the summer. Hermione had padded around 12 Grimmauld Place with bare feet and her hair pulled up off her neck. They were both tired and on edge and Hermione had asked him, and none too kindly, to choose a best man.
"The only man I would ever want to stand by my side is hanging on a wall in an office in Hogwarts," he said. "We'll go without."
"No," she said. "We won't."
In the end, he chose Lupin simply because he would do the job without sniveling and because Snape would Adava Kadavra himself before he would allow Potter to be his best man.
Now, with Hermione gone, he went to the kitchen and Lupin was there, reading the Prophet, drinking a cup of coffee.
"Well," he said. "Are you ready?" Snape didn't answer but sat down at the table. What was there to do but wait? "I'm glad you're marrying her," Lupin continued, undeterred by Snape's silence. "Everyone thought she would end up with Ron and eight children, poor but happy but Hermione always had more to offer than that. With you, she'll do great things."
"Hmm," Snape said.
"You're welcome," Lupin said, chuckling.
Snape didn't sleep. His mind was heavy with obligations – when to get up, what to wear, when to arrive at the hall they'd rented to hold the ever-expanding ceremony. He felt nervous but he also felt like he was making the right decision. Hermione was Hermione, he loved her and he thought that she loved him too. She would make a good wife for him and he would do his best to be a good husband. He didn't feel like he could ask for more than that.
The sky was graying with the dawn by the time Snape fell asleep. A few hours later he awoke to Lupin knocking on his door.
"You better get up, mate," Lupin called through the doorway. Severus grumbled and kicked the bedclothes off him. His eyes felt like there was sand in them and he took the vial of pepper-up potion from the dresser top. He had an inkling that sleep would to be slow to come. The pepper-up potion did wonders to clear his head and he congratulated himself for his foresight before showering and dressing in the clothes he would be married in. Hermione had wanted him in a Tuxedo but he had thought the little bow at his neck was ridiculous so she'd agreed on a nice suit with a grey neck scarf.
The reception hall was already milling with guests – mostly Muggles; their shining automobiles glistened in the parking lot. Hermione's father shook his hand and pointed him and Lupin toward his dressing room, though he'd already donned his suit. But Snape could at least sit quietly in the mean time, waiting for the ceremony to start.
"I never planned to marry," Snape said, sitting in the chair in front of the mirror. The counter space before him was empty. He felt his wand long and rigid inside his sleeve and the familiar feeling comforted him inside the unfamiliar clothes.
"Don't go opening up to me now after so many years of stony silence," Lupin said good-naturedly.
"Do you think I'm doing the right thing?" he asked. He wished Dumbledore were there; he wished he hadn't been the one to have to kill him.
"Making an honest woman out of Hermione? Yes, that's the right thing," Lupin said.
"My parents were a mixed marriage – it didn't end well," he complained.
"Hermione's a witch," Lupin said, exasperation creeping into his voice.
"Muggle born," he muttered.
"But you love her," Lupin said. "We all know that you do." There was a knock on the door.
"She's arrived," Mr. Granger said, putting his head into the room. "Time to get started."
"Thank you," Snape said. He stood, straightened his suit. It was time.
Standing in front of the crowd of mostly strangers made Snape feel nervous. Watching McGonagall grin at him didn't help. Hermione's Muggle friends and family all watched him with the same critical eye. He could see the questions they were burning to ask in their eyes. Questions like, "Who is this man?" and "Where did he come from?"
He could see them comparing Hermione's age to his. Still, wizards aged much more slowly than Muggles and before long, Hermione's youth wouldn't seem like such a burden.
He stood next to the kind looking priest and the crowd's murmurs were easy enough to drown out. It took a moment for the music to enter through his mental block but then he saw the doors open and there was Hermione standing with her father. Hermione in a pretty white dress – his Hermione, the woman who would soon be his wife and he knew completely that they had both made the right choice.