Severus stood in the bookshop, unloading a small box of potions onto the shelves. Hermione's and his life had flowed together in a most natural way after he had proposed to her. They had been married two months later in a private ceremony. A select few had been invited. Hermione's parents had attended, as had the Potters and the entire Weasley clan. Ginevra Potter had served as Hermione's Matron-of-Honor, and Cecil had been Severus' best man. Minerva had also made an appearance, smiling and twinkling like her predecessor before her, causing Severus to cringe. In retrospect, there had been too many people there.
He smiled to himself as he placed another vial on the shelf. Other than the actual ceremony and the private festivities that followed, his fondest memory of that day had come from Cecil. Before the wedding had started, Severus had been nervously pacing in his waiting room. Cecil had watched him idly for a while, then had interjected a few sighs. Finally, he had not been able to contain himself.
"Severus, what, in the name of Merlin, are you doing?" he growled.
Severus stopped pacing and turned to his friend and mentor. "I am pacing."
"To what end?"
"To the end that it keeps me from ripping my hair out!"
Cecil gave him an odd look. "Why would you do such a thing, my boy?"
"I just… hate waiting. You know that."
Cecil rose from his seat and went over to Severus. He placed a comforting hand on Severus' shoulder.
"There's no need for you to be nervous, son. Anyone who looks at her can see she's madly in love with you."
Severus glanced over at Cecil. "How she can be is the real question."
Cecil grinned at his former protégé. "Severus, you have always given yourself too little credit. I'm thankful that you have found Hermione. She truly sees you as you are, not as you picture yourself to be."
"Are you insinuating, sir, that I cannot see myself clearly?"
Cecil moved in closer to Severus and winked at him. "That's exactly what I'm insinuating. You have never seen your full merits, even when you were a youth and under my tutelage. Open your eyes, Severus. You are a wonderful man and deserve the utmost happiness."
Cecil squeezed Severus' shoulder. "I'm trying to tell you that you deserve this. You have lived in the shadows of Voldemort long enough with all of the misery that comes with that. It's time for you to enjoy life… to be happy and secure in who you are. Can you do that for yourself, Severus?"
"I'm not quite sure I know how," Severus admitted.
"Look to Hermione, and believe in her. She will not lie to you about yourself. Learn about who you are through her."
"You make it sound so easy, Cecil."
Cecil gave him a benevolent smile. "It is, son. You just need to open up and believe what others are telling you."
Severus looked down and nodded.
"I just want you to know that I'm happy for you and I love you, my boy," Cecil said as his eyes became misty.
Severus' voice was barely a whisper. "I… you mean a great deal to me also, Cecil."
Severus found himself being hugged furiously by the older man who was like a father to him. His arms encircled Cecil as he returned the embrace, smiling a bit to himself as he did.
"Thank you, Cecil. You have given me more than you can imagine by being my friend and best man, and by giving me such worthwhile advice."
Cecil pulled back and beamed at Severus. "Son, if I can help you to see who you really are, then I have accomplished all that I need to in this life."
They were interrupted by a knock on the door as Harry Potter alerted them to the fact that everything was about to begin. Cecil patted Severus on the back as he made his way out of the room.
"This is the first day of the rest of your life, Severus, make it a good one."
Severus smiled at Cecil. "I will, my friend, I will."
Hermione had certainly brought him out of his shell. He no longer hid himself from the Wizarding population. He didn't seek their company by any means, but he didn't skulk around incognito, hoping not to be recognized. In fact, his re-emergence into the Wizarding world had come with a few benefits. These potions he was stocking were quite the rage among the Wizarding populace. Severus spent a good part of his day sequestered in his lab at their Hogsmeade cottage creating these tonics and experimenting with new ones.
Hermione had devoted a corner of her bookshop to his elixirs. Potions of our Time and the permission of Cecil Nottingham had given Severus the ability to make potions that had never been heard of. Each one was specifically tailored to help with a certain ailment or filled a specific need. Severus' spy work had given him a good eye, and he was able to foresee needs in the Wizarding community even before the Wizarding world knew they were in need. So, in the two years that they had been married, the bookstore had done wonderfully, thanks in part to Severus' newfound subspecialty to his career.
The bell over the door jingled, bringing Severus out of his musings. He glanced up to see his lovely wife entering the bookstore with a wide grin on her face. She quickly came up to him and threw her arms around him. Before he had a chance to say anything, she was kissing him wildly. After they broke apart, Severus looked at her curiously.
"You're quite the vixen today, my dear," he murmured as Hermione hugged him some more.
She pulled back and arched her eyebrows at him. "Can't I be glad to see my husband?" she remarked.
His arms surrounded her as he pulled her closer. "Of course you can," he assured her before kissing her back just as wantonly.
Finally they parted, glad that the store was empty so they could show their affection for each other without interruption.
"So, what did you find out?" Severus asked.
Hermione pulled away from him. "Well, the book is located in Egypt," she explained.
Severus arched an eyebrow. "I suppose it's hidden in some pyramid," he thought out loud.
"Close," Hermione said with a laugh. "It's reported to be amongst King Tut's possessions."
"How are we going to get our hands on that?" Severus asked in incredulity. "And what would Tut want with such a book?"
"Oh, Severus, it makes perfect sense. The Egyptians were obsessed with death and the afterlife. A book about communicating with the dead would intrigue them to no end."
"I suppose you're right. But how would Tutankhamen have gotten his hands on it?"
"Have you heard of his military commander, General Horemheb?" Hermione asked.
"Just in passing," Severus replied.
"He was a wizard. He was also a good friend of Xavier Holladay, author of Talking with Ghosts."
"So, you think Holladay gave a copy to his friend Horemheb?"
"He did. I found a letter in a biography about him. The letter was from Holladay to Horemheb. It states that he is sending a very important book to Horemheb that the Egyptian should find fascinating."
"Talking with Ghosts," Severus mused.
"It has to be."
Severus looked over at Hermione. "So, when do we leave?"
"I arranged for a Portkey tomorrow."
Severus pulled her into his arms again. "We've never been to Egypt together," he mused as he nuzzled her neck.
Hermione giggled at his ticklish advances. "No, we haven't. It should be a fun trip. Hopefully we can find the book and figure a way to get it out of Egypt."
"I'm sure you and your stunning intellect will have anyone who stands in our way totally befuddled."
Hermione giggled again as Severus continued to kiss her neck, moving up to her ear.
"Severus! I'm trying to be serious here!"
"You are far too serious for your own good, my love."
"Oh, Severus," she moaned. "You are making my insides tingle," Hermione admitted to him.
"How about if I made you feel more than just a tingle? How about a bath in that enormous tub you covet so much." Severus asked sultrily.
"It's the middle of the day, Severus. The shop…"
"… Can be closed. This shop has never stopped us before." His lips found hers, and he kissed her urgently. His hand played with her hair as Hermione's caressed his face. Their kisses became so demanding that they found it hard to break apart. Reluctantly, Hermione pulled away from his lips.
"I'll lock up," Hermione said breathlessly as she pulled away from him. She grabbed his hand and pulled him out the door. With a quick flick of her wand, the wards were set, and a closed sign was hanging in the window. Arm in arm, the couple rushed around the corner, headed to their flat for some fun in the tub.
"Oh, by the way," Hermione said breathlessly. "I found out today that I'm pregnant."
Severus stopped short. "You're what?"
"Pregnant, Severus. It's when two people who love each other make a baby, and it grows inside the mommy."
Severus ignored her jest. Holding his wife reverently, he put his hand on her abdomen. "You mean there's a baby in there?" He looked back up at her in wonder.
"Yes!" Hermione said with a laugh.
Hermione scoffed. "Well, it isn't Neville Longbottom's!"
"Never mention Longbottom's name in association with my child again," Severus reprimanded her.
Severus knelt down right in the middle of the sidewalk and put his ear next to Hermione's midsection.
"I don't hear anything. When will I hear him?"
"You won't. He's encased in a bubble. You can probably use Legilimency when he's older, you prat."
Severus turned his head and kissed her abdomen. He pulled himself up to a standing position and cradled Hermione's face in his hands.
"You have given me everything, Hermione. You gave me your love, your life, a reason for me to exist, and now a child. I never thought I could be so happy. It's all because of you, my love. Thank you."
He pulled her to him and kissed her. This was a kiss of utter devotion. He had never felt so wonderful in his life, and it was all because of this lovely witch that was in his arms. Suddenly he pulled away. He looked nervously at his wife.
"But, if you're pregnant, then we can't… I mean… we shouldn't… What if I hurt you or the baby?"
Hermione put her hand to Severus' cheek and caressed it lightly. "Don't worry, love. The Healer at St. Mungo's said we can frolic to our hearts content without needing to worry about hurting the baby. Well, maybe she didn't say frolic."
A pure hunger filled Severus' face as he smirked at Hermione.
"Well, then what are we waiting for?" he asked in a deep, sultry voice. "Our bath awaits."
Hermione laughed, and they hurriedly continued on their way back to their house for a long needed 'soak' in the tub.
A/N: Lilith Kayden, please take a bow for your beta work. This story wouldn't be what it is without your input.
A huge thanks to all of you who have followed this story to its conclusion. I have been amazed by all of you that tuned in for each update. Your comments throughout really made my day. This was truly a fun experience, and I thank Melusin for her challenge prompt which inspired it.