Strange that she should feel so energized after a night containing so little sleep. Severus seemed to feel the same way, given the fact that he was even now striding around their bedroom, nude, singing the tenor's part from Tosca in a passable imitation of an operatic voice.

Hermione sat in bed, grinning, and applauded after a particularly robust ending. "I'm glad to see that you have no body issues in front of me."

Snape snorted. "I have many faults, Hermione, but you will find that false modesty is not one of them. I know my face is not handsome, but the form of my body I believe to be pleasing, a point you made amply clear during last night's exercise.

"While we are on that particular topic, do you require a potion to address any minor aches or pains?"

Now that he mentioned it, as the endorphins were fading, Hermione was aware that certain parts of her anatomy were quite tender. Last night's adventures had been varied; sometimes they'd been gentle with each other, and sometimes not. Oh, well, everything had a price.

Snape handed her a small bottle of potion. "It is a restorative coupled with a mild pain reliever. I made it for you sometime between act IV and act V. Now, don't get all gooey, it is as self-serving a gift as there ever was." He smirked, wiggled his eyebrows.

Hermione giggled and swigged the tonic. It tasted like strawberries. Not artificial strawberries, but like she had just taken a bite out of a ripe summer fruit.

"Severus, that's amazing! How did you do that?"

Snape smiled, well pleased by her reaction. "Yes it is, isn't it? I'll show you the trick next time we have nothing better to do…but that moment," he pronounced, leaping for the bed, "will not be today."

Five years later…

Hermione loved being back in the wizarding world. The position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher suited her down to the ground. As far as Severus was concerned, she was the only person other than he who could manage the position without making a mess of it.

With Minerva's approval, she overhauled the entire structure of the curriculum, seeking to reduce the mystery that made the dark arts so irresistible to a certain type of student. She flouted tradition by bringing honesty and full disclosure to her classroom. It became tradition that every year, in the final days of the term, she would lecture her 7th years on the use of Unforgivables, sharing her experience, communicating the reality and consequences that came with their use.

And every year, Snape would arrange his schedule so that he could attend that lecture. He would stand in the back of the room, lending her his strength and his courage as Hermione bravely broke every taboo in the wizarding world.

This year, unexpectedly, he'd joined her at the front of the room. He'd come forward, and shared his own experiences with darkness. It flabbergasted and humbled her that he would be so vulnerable in front of a group of students.

The students, respectful during her story, were mesmerized by his. That he'd survived it, and rebuilt his life afterwards seemed almost superhuman. She was unsurprised to notice that afterwards the students treated him with admiration bordering on awe.

Perhaps it was simply a sign of their ongoing healing that he could afford such vulnerability. Perhaps it was in honor of the imminent birth of their child that he would make such a sacrifice. Regardless, Hermione had never been so proud of another human in her entire life.

"Hey there handsome. How are you feeling?"

He considered her question carefully, a habit she loved. He always did his very best to give her truth. "A little naked, actually, but good, surprisingly good."

He rubbed his hands over the ripe swell of her belly. "And how are you doing?"

She leaned against him. "Mmmmm, better. Everything that went down today stayed down. And I've only cried twice today. I think that may be my third trimester record."

"Good." He said with deepest satisfaction. The pregnancy hadn't been an easy one, but she believed that Snape had suffered her every ache and indignity far worse than she had.

He brushed his lips over her hairline. In pregnancy, it had grown thicker and more unruly than ever. She simply could not get it to behave. He loved it. It reminded him of the 11-year-old know-it-all who first turned his desolate life upside-down.

"Hermione, do you ever wonder about us? About why the amante magic chose to bring us together?"

"mmm" she hummed, "not really, but I'm grateful."

"Well, I've often wondered, in those days when I was dual service, if I would have survived had I not had the idea of you as a beacon, forcing me to go on."

Hermione shook her head. " No. You would have found a way, Severus. You have too much strength of will to have surrendered. Perhaps it wouldn't have been as easy, nor the ending so happy, but you would have survived. Just as I would have survived, even if you hadn't come for me. But I would never have been who I am now. I would never have found this happiness without you."

"Yet one more thing we have in common, Mrs. Snape," he said, bringing her hand to his lips, "one more thing we have in common."

The End

Afterword:

Though the scars on his body would never heal, over the years, the scars on Snape's heart yielded to Hermione's constancy and love. Block by block, she filled in the empty spaces that a forlorn childhood and a doomed young love had made in his emotional structure. In their time together, he rediscovered optimism and hope.

For Hermione, Snape's love eased the depths of her grief. Her parents, Albus, Harry, Ron. Nothing could replace their loss or the loss of innocence she experienced when she took a human life. But Snape's love helped her to regain interest in the future and faith in the endless possibilities of life.

And they lived happily ever after.

Author's Notes: Thank you so very much for reading. I've enjoyed your comments and feedback. I'm going to take some time off, then return to polish up the story. Please let me know if there are areas you'd like to see refined or expanded. Typos are also appreciated. Many thanks, The0lyn.