Hermione stumbled in after Severus toward the front door of the holiday cottage Dumbledore had lent them. The flowers Ginny had so painstakingly weaved throughout her bountiful curls were now hanging haphazardly, her braids nearly entirely undone leaving a wavy mane to waterfall down her back.
Severus stopped her just before they could enter. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he swooped down despite her protests and lifted her easily as any chivalrous man should. She giggled girlishly and wrapped her arms around his neck, not at all minding the masculine saw dust and spices that wafted towards her.
He deposited her lightly in a velvet-lined love seat and kissed the top of her head gently. She closed her eyes and reveled in the sincerity, the decorum, of his gesture and was sad to feel him withdraw. It was short-lived, however, for he returned moments later with an uncorked bottle of fine champagne.
He poured them each a spot and they hooked their arms, as was tradition, before downing them. He took a seat opposite her on the couch and gathered both her hands in his, kissing them in turn.
"Was today what you'd hoped for, love?" he asked imploringly.
Hermione smiled and brought his hand to her cheek. "It was more than I ever dreamed, darling. I never was one for big white weddings, but I will cherish this day forever."
He let his thumb massage her cheek gently and took care to brush a strand of her behind her ear. At a loss for what to do, he muttered, "Are you hungry?"
Hermione cocked her head to one side. "You're avoiding it."
Severus leaned with mock incredulity. "Of course not! I'm being a doting husband."
She furrowed her brow good-naturedly and ignored his inane protest. "You promised you'd try." She caught his chin and forced his eyes to meet hers. "It's our wedding night, Severus. I want it to be a proper one."
He opened and closed his mouth several times before sighing. "I can't make promises," he murmured at long last, "but I will try."
The champagne, mixed with the alcohol she'd downed at the reception, was making her brazen and she wrapped her arms around him. "That's all I ask," she muttered, and then her lips were preoccupied by the trail of kisses she planted down his neck.
It didn't take much provocation for him to join and soon, they were standing, exploring each other's mouths like it was a new experience. Hermione let her fingers tangle in his hair, relishing in its silkiness. Severus moaned into her mouth and tightened his grasp on the small of her back.
When she felt a little more daring, she simultaneously pulled his tux jacket off his shoulders and took a step towards the bedroom. He hesitated, but when his lips broke company with her collarbone, he was eager enough to follow.
A trail of clothing followed them into the bedroom, all his, and when they finally reached the bed, she raised her arms welcomingly. "Do you want to do it, or shall I?"
Severus gulped. He was struggling, she could tell, but he was also finally enjoying himself too much to stop. It took to long strides to reach her and when he did, he whispered, "Please, please just promise me you'll stop me the very instant you feel uncomfortable. Please, sweetheart."
She forced him to look at her. "I'm enjoying myself more than you know, Severus. Now stop this self-deprecation and take my damned dress off."
He studied her for a moment longer before finally, blessedly acquiescing. He very carefully, very gently, shimmied the bodice over her breasts and down the swell of her hips. When it pooled around her feet, she stepped out of it easily and slipped out of the lacy knickers on her own. The sight of her was more powerful than he anticipated and he moaned gutturally.
Severus pinned her to the bed and took in his beautiful bride; thin, white scars trailed across too much of her skin and he took a moment to trace the offensive word scrawled across her stomach.
Hermione glanced at the mark. "Ginny was able to cake makeup over the ones on my arms and chest, but didn't bother with the ones the dress covered," she murmured sheepishly. "I know they aren't the most enticing things."
In response, Severus leaned down and pressed his lips to her bare belly. "They are a horrid reminder of a ghastly battle, but they make you no less breathtaking."
She clawed at his back and he pulled the covers over them, and they spent their very first night as husband and wife.
Hours had passed, and the coals of the fire were dying, but Severus could not will himself to sleep. He wasn't really trying; he was much too contended with watching the slumbering creature he was blessed enough to call his wife. Flowers lay scattered across her pillow, her hair was a woven tangle, but she was a perfect sight to him. Her porcelain skin almost glowed in the darkness, only marred by a dusting of freckles. Her lashes were long enough to brush her cheeks, her lips plump from his kisses. He pulled the covers up to protect her modesty, and her chest rose and fell so gently.
Their night had been blissful. He was actually glad they waited, it made it that much sweeter. There was a time when bliss, when the pure happiness he was experiencing, was so far out of his reach he daren't dream of it. Now, he held the epitome of perfection in the crook of his arms and feared to sleep in case he woke to find he'd imagined it all.
At long last, though, even he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. As the first rays of sunlight graced their bedroom, he succumbed to the most peaceful sleep he'd maybe ever had. For it welcomed him to a new life: a life of happiness, of love, of the beauty beside him.
He slept, for to sleep meant to wake in the dawn of a new existence.
Author's Note: And we're finally through. Thank you, thank you to all who have stuck with me through this endeavor. It is my favorite work to date, and I hope I can replace that with the sequel I'm planning! Please review. I'd appreciate ideas for the next step, as well as comments, criticisms-whatever you have for me! Thanks again.