Flower and Vine

After she'd finished her training in Peru, those first months back in Britain flew by for Hermione. She was still considering her professional prospects -- she was a highly sought-after healer, and the offers were numerous -- and since it was summer, she had Severus all to herself -- mostly, that is. One of the qualities they shared was their dedication to their crafts, and it was the one thing that kept them apart on occasion.

But apart from hours spent in the labs, they had more time together than Hermione had ever thought possible, and she didn't take a moment of it for granted. After the long, long days in Peru, torn between the desire to finish her studies and her heart's ache for home, Hermione refused to waste the stretch of time they had, unfettered by duty or calamity. Severus seemed content with her almost-constant presence, and the matter lay quietly settled between them.

Sometimes, she did miss Peru, though, although not enough to wish she were there rather than with Severus, but the nostalgia still lingered. She missed her friends, the institute, but more she missed the air, the stark landscape, all those things that had made up the magic of the Nazca Plains, the same way she sometimes missed the special resonance of Hogwarts when she'd been thousands of kilometers away.

But it was a small price to pay for what she had now, and Hermione never regretted a moment she spent with him. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The one odd thing -- Hermione noticed it on the days she spent away from him, usually Sundays when she went to Mass and had dinner with her parents. It didn't matter how much time she did spend with Severus, she still wanted more. More of his time, more opportunities, more anything that had to do with him. It seemed counterintuitive, but it was the honest truth.

Hermione didn't realize how true until September came around once again, and Severus's duties at the school sharply diminished the time they had together. Hermione understood, of course; she knew how hectic the first days were at Hogwarts from her own years' experience, but she still missed him when it seemed like their schedules would never cross again.

It was a few weeks into the new semester before everything calmed down to a point where they once again had their evenings free for each other. Hermione had used her Snape-free time to whittle down the job choices she had open to her, and nothing filled her with more peace than settling into what had become her chair in front of the fire in Severus's chambers, glass of wine at hand as she looked through the correspondence she had from the three employers she was considering. She had done her homework, and asked all the questions that matter ed upfront; now she needed to weigh the answers and make a decision.

Hermione hadn't even noticed her glass was empty under she felt a warm presence beside her, pouring her another helping of wine. She glanced up and smiled as Severus set the bottle on the table, and settled with his own glass in his own chair.

She laid her papers down. "Did you put out the fire?"

"Yes," he said, sighing. The pinched look was an old, familiar expression on his sharp features. "Both figuratively and literally."

"I hope there wasn't too much damage to the Slytherin Common Room?"

"Filch will let me know," Severus told her. "First years should not be experimenting with fire spells just yet."

"I did," she reminded him.

"Yes, and you were more than welcome to set your Common Room on fire."

They were amused by the memories, and Hermione set aside her letters now that Severus had returned. As important as her future was, she couldn't bring herself to care at the moment. Instead, she climbed out of her seat and moved toward him with a deliberateness that crackled between him. His dark eyes watched her, but he didn't move a muscle, allowing her to do as she pleased.

She leaned over and, sliding her arms around his neck, bent forward to kiss him. He reacted automatically, in the familiar way she'd come to learn, his hands on her waist as he tugged her closer and deepened the kiss, soft exploration that slowly built into heat that had Severus tightening his hands on the swell of her hips. Hermione was determined to carry their momentum on, so determined she didn't even break their embrace as she moved so Severus could rise from the chair.

Things were progressing nicely in her opinion when he pulled away enough to disentangle their lips. "Before we get..." Severus's eyebrow rose speculatively, and his voice deepened, pitch low. "...carried away...I have something for you."

Hermione ran her hands down the heavy front of his robes. "I was perfectly happy with what I had, thank you."

Severus seemed amused by her sauciness; he stroked a thumb over her kiss-swollen bottom lip, then over her cheek before he took her hand. Hermione let herself be lead into one of the chamber's niche-like alcoves that had once been yet another set of shelves to hold various alchemical paraphernalia. She'd distantly noticed its empty state a week or so before, but she hadn't paid much attention.

Now she examined its transformed state with ruthless curiosity, noting the weak amber glow of some kind of magical light source, the strange change in the quality of the air once she crossed into the alcove itself. But what most attracted her attention was to the plant on the stone pedestal that sat in the center of the alcove, tiny pink blossoms against the dark leaves and woody vines. It wasn't very big yet, but there were seedlings planted around it, and Hermione knew it wouldn't take long before the alcove would be overflowing.

"Ayahuasca," she said aloud, touching one of the leaves. It was a sacred healing plant from South America, one rarely transplanted north, even by wizards. But it was powerful, and she'd worked with it extensively in Nazca.

"I had to call on a favor or two," Severus said. "But I thought perhaps you'd appreciate it."

"I do." Hermione was speechless as she looked at her own private garden, tiny flowers and hanging vines, fed by magical water and light. It was a tiny piece of her adopted home created just for her. She turned and pulled Severus into the alcove with her, into the strange crisp air meant to mimic the Peruvian landscape of the vine's home, hoping her lips against his spoke of the appreciation she couldn't put into words. "Why?" she murmured against his lips.

"Your birthday."

Hermione blinked up at him, a smile tugging on her lips. "It's the 19th?"

"Yes," Severus said. She could feel his silent laughter rumbling in his chest where they were pressed together.

"I forgot," she whispered, bewildered.

"I didn't."

Hermione tightened her arms around him once more. "No, you didn't."

Severus kissed her again and pulled her out of her tiny sanctuary, into the soft, secret corners of his chambers, and she let him, letting her attention melt fully into instead of his gift.

She knew her alcove would stand there, a shrine to Severus's love for her, another piece of Hermione slid into the fabric of his life, his world, for as long as she wanted it to remain. It was a testament to the way he'd once said she had entwined herself around his heart, to the fact he didn't want to untangle them into something neat and separate.

It was a sign of what she'd become to him, and he to her.

It was another piece of the forever they were building together, one moment at a time.


Author's Notes: This was written as a birthday gift for blackeyedlily as a small glimpse into life after Heart over Mind ended. Thanks for reading.