A Life of Secret Light

The Lady of the hidden home on Grimmauld Place scrutinized the Master Suite. Finding the room perfect for Severus' expected return that evening, Hermione mused again how fitting it was for a fugitive spy to live in a house so cleverly concealed. She closed the door, smirking at her assessment of their living arrangement, then descended the stairs.

The house was quiet but for Hermione's footsteps as she prepared to leave for the afternoon. Anticipation simmered within her every time Severus left, but this had been their longest separation since the binding, and worry burned beside passion in her heart.

Entering the potions laboratory gave Hermione a sense of peace. In this room where order reigned supreme, she and Severus had advanced defensive potion making beyond what was commonly known.

And there, from an uneasy friendship, love had begun its slow burn.

She flipped open a plain-looking notebook, activating the charm which revealed a time table. She smiled in satisfaction that no color-coded boxes lit up to indicate that a potion required her attention.

Hermione shut the door with a feeling of contentment. They'd grown to love each other in that room, but research would only distract them tonight.

She stopped at the back door. Everything else in order, she had only one task remaining. A simple charm would conceal the true form of her ring, but rarely did she hide the heirloom before admiring it.

Months before, Severus had lovingly placed the crest of the House of Prince on her finger. Hers, a smaller version of his, was embellished with sapphires and emeralds.

"Before this century, there were nearly as many Ravenclaws as Slytherins in the Prince line." Severus explained.

They'd spent one cozy evening cuddled together while he revealed the storied past of the rings they wore.

Her ring had been a promise, one fulfilled exactly one month ago when Minerva had performed an ancient Wizarding binding ritual.

Not recognized by the ministry, their bond -- and the rings that represented it -- had nonetheless come to full power at consummation, and no magic could deny Hermione's place in the House of Prince.

The private ceremony was all they could have for now, but she lived for the day her parents and friends would see her standing beside Severus as his wife.

With a silent tap of her wand, her hand was graced with a half-karat diamond solitaire.

oOo

Hermione sipped ice water while waiting in the muggle restaurant. She'd been surprised when Severus asked her to meet him here since they usually preferred to celebrate their reunions in private, but he'd insisted that she deserved to be taken out for the occasion. Tonight, as usual, they were avoiding the Wizarding community, but she remembered the one time he'd ventured into Hogsmeade.

The tall redhead sauntered into The Three Broomsticks, smiling as soon as he saw Hermione. She stood to kiss the full lips beneath the Weasley inspired nose.

Severus' eyes sparkled in a younger face. His put-on friendly air charmed Rosmerta when she took their order.

They'd known their plan had worked when Ginny reported to Hermione the rumor that her fiancé was, "definitely at least part Weasley."

A glance toward the door confirmed the cause of the familiar tingle in her left hand. She smiled at him.

Beneath those glamour charms, he's still all Snape.

As their eyes locked, the tingle spread up her arm until it hit her spine with a jolt that sent a buzz to her brain. Severus gracefully maneuvered around tables, intent to reach Hermione. Then, he was almost within reach. A pervading warmth became a subtle heat as he touched her arm, her face.

His lips met her open mouth in a moment of pure joy.

She knew he felt it, too.

oOo

Dinner had been romantic but bittersweet for Hermione. She knew the importance of Severus' work, but a glimpse of the kitchen door from the path caused a pang.

Even this homecoming was an illusion. She had left for the restaurant early so she wouldn't have to see him return in his Death Eater robes this time. She knew he'd swept through the house, retrieving his memories of her from the Pensieve before hanging the robes up, showering, and changing into the muggle costume and Weasley-esque disguise before meeting her for dinner.

Even complicit in the romantic illusion, the reality stung. She shivered, and his arms were around her in an instant.

"Are you cold?" Severus pulled her to his chest

She embraced him briefly, then turned toward the house. "No, I just. . . Let's get inside."

He watched her with concerned eyes, keeping one arm around her as they pushed through the wards. Four others had access to the house; but they had to perform complicated charms, whereas the two of them passed easily through as long as they wore the rings.

Once inside, Hermione changed her ring back to it's natural form while watching Severus return to his.

"Much better," Hermione murmured.

Sliding her arms around his neck, she pressed her lips to his thin ones. Now they felt right, perfect. She stroked her nose against his; she'd been longing for that simple contact all through their candlelit meal. Bringing a hand to his face, she rediscovered every curve of his fair skin before running her fingers back up through his now properly black hair.

One of his hands smoothed her hair and caressed her shoulders while the other rubbed her back, pressing her closer into his body.

For the first time in several days, she felt safe.