Chapter 6 ~ Epilogue/Confessions and Consummations

Hermione finished her apprenticeship several weeks later, with Severus signing off on it, and enclosing a letter of highest praise for her skills in the art of potions work, which the witch actually did deserve. He had mentored several graduating students over the years but this was the first apprentice to receive anything other than a sign-off from the dour wizard, and the university board was quite impressed.

They were also impressed with Hermione's role in creating "Liquid Wood" and even before she graduated, she received letters from several interested parties in both the commercial and private sectors who wished to hire her.

Hermione was quite wealthy now, though one wouldn't know it. The checks kept piling up at Gringotts, and the witch still browsed second hand stores for bargains, enjoying the hunt and satisfaction of a galleon well spent. Severus joked with her, saying she was bound to become one of those eccentric witches that lived in a one room flat, eating dry toast and drinking tepid tea while sitting on millions. Secretly however, he was pleased that her newfound wealth hadn't caused any perceivable change in her, other than to make her less worried about the future.

The two managed to keep their affair under wraps and continued to see each other outside of Hogwarts, Hermione ending her relationship with her disappointed 'fuck-buddies', one of whom kept 'dropping by' to see her, hoping to catch her in a weak moment. One night an irate Severus answered the door, and that was the last time the young wizard came to Hermione's flat.

It was two years later at a mixer for those involved in various aspects of Potions Making, that Hermione's and Severus' relationship became public. There was dancing and drinking at the affair, and Hermione was enjoying herself immensely, imbibing wine and dancing with one wizard after another. She looked beautiful, dressed in a sequined black gown with a daring split up the side, her hair swept up and pinned, showing the smooth nape of her neck, and a pair of lovely onyx and diamond earring dangling from her ears. The wine made her bubbly, and her laughter rang out again and again.

Severus watched her surreptiously from the sidelines. They had arrived at the function separately as usual, and the Professor's black eyes never left his lover the entire time. He was in a foul mood however. He always was when Hermione enjoyed herself with other wizards. She was faithful to him, he knew that, but it was the look in the wizards' eyes that infuriated him. Any one of them would love to back Hermione in some dark niche and fuck her. Not that he blamed them, but the privilege of fucking the witch was one that was his alone. Sometimes he would gather with others in a small circle along with Hermione, listening to the conversations.

So when he saw a small group of established Potions Masters gathering, Hermione among them, he made his way over and joined them. Hermione was the only witch present, and currently the only Potions Mistress in attendance, though there were other witches at the function.

They were discussing various theories of the use of muggle chemicals in potions making. Hermione soon had a heated debate going between herself and three established Masters, Antonio Vargas, Herman Munson and Elderoy Hummus. Severus listened proudly as Hermione shot down each point with logic and knowledge, advancing her own theories. He remained silent.

At one point, Antonio scowled at her.

"How long have you had your degree, Mistress?" he asked her coldly.

"Two years, sir," she responded, her amber eyes slightly challenging.

"Yet, you are not employed in any capacity as a Potions Mistress. Your knowledge is great, but without practical and worthwhile application it is a waste. A flow of book learning and memorization. You have no experience, and therefore should listen to those who do. Because you have recognition for your part in creating a popular "sex potion' is no reason, in my estimation to consider you any kind of authority. Actually…" and here Antonio raised an eyebrow at her, "the part that you played in the potion's success is in most circles, a matter of curiosity. There are some who claim you were more of a 'tester' than an actual researcher/developer.

Antonio's eyes shifted to Severus, who looked at the wizard with a decided tick in his cheek. He was implying that Hermione's only part in the potion's creation was to be fucked to test its viability. Severus made an attempt to correct this assumption.

"I assure you, Master Vargas, that the Mistress' part in the potions research and development of 'Liquid Wood' was tantamount to its successful completion. It was her adaptation of my original brew that made it the success it is today," he said evenly.

"Be that as it may, Master Snape…her part in your original work does not impress me," Antonio said coldly, "she helped you on a project you had largely completed on your own. The addition or subtraction of a few ingredients is a miniscule contribution at best. And the Mistress herself does not impress me. I find her distasteful, someone who talks too much and doesn't know her place…"

He turned back toward Hermione, who was looking at him with narrowed eyes.

"In fact," he said, "your presence here is just a formality extended because of a piece of parchment. To be frank, Mistress, you are more appreciated at this function as eye candy rather than as anyone of import or consequence."

The other Potions Masters grinned rather lasciviously at Hermione, who flushed angrily. Severus finished his firewhiskey and placed the glass on the tray of a passing waiter. His black eyes were hard, as Antonio's eyes swept over Hermione's body, pausing at her breasts before his gray eyes rested on her face.

"I believe that you would impress me more, Mistress with your other, more visual and attractive qualifications. In this area, and I believe every wizard here would agree with me, you are extremely gifted. I would be more inclined to listen to your rantings if you were flat on your back with your heels in the air," he leered at her. All the other Potions Masters laughed at this, with the exception of one, Severus.

Hermione stared at the wizard in disbelief. This was one of the most respected Potions Masters in the wizarding world, and a married one at that. And he had reduced her accomplishments to nothing, and reduced her to nothing but a bed wench in the presence of other respected wizards. She felt a flush rising from her feet to the top of her head, and she began to tremble with rage.

What had really happened here was that the witch's arguments were sound, and her logic impeccable. She had challenged Vargas, and shown him up in front of his colleagues. He knew he was in the presence of a brilliant mind, a witch who would only become even more formidable as time passed. He was aware she had her own lab and in probability was working on important work. But his ego would not let him be bested by such a young, brilliant witch, so he fell back on what men have always fallen back on, focusing on her sexual appeal as a woman as her most importance and meaningful attribute.

Hermione started to reach for her wand. She had been insulted and wanted satisfaction. It didn't matter what she did at this point, the wizard had cut her up so badly in front of her peers that she would probably never have their respect. The least she could do was wipe that leer of his face.

Suddenly, Severus stepped forward, standing face to face with Vargas.

"Master Vargas, I suggest you withdraw that very crude and malicious statement you've made toward the Potions Mistress, and apologize for your lewd comment," he said evenly.

Master Vargas raised his eyebrows at the Potions Master.

"Why Severus, you've never seemed the "Knight in Shining Armor" type," he said to the wizard, his eyes sweeping over the Potions Master, "What do you care how I speak to a pompous little poser like this witch?"

"Firstly, Master Vargas, this 'pompous little poser' just thoroughly trounced your theories in a very logical and knowledgeable manner. She said nothing to imply she was reciting text or memorization. Her responses to you were well thought out and quite original in some cases. Simply put, sir, you are attempting to discourage one of the most brilliant minds in our field today. Secondly, she was my apprentice…"

Severus' eyes shifted to Hermione for a moment, and he took a breath then continued,

"But she is much more than that to me now, if you understand my meaning, sir. And I do not take kindly to wizards insulting or propositioning her in or out of my presence. So, that being said, Master Vargas, I reiterate…withdraw your statement and apologize to the Potions Mistress, or I will be forced to defend her honor."

The other Potions Masters looked from Vargas, to Severus, to Hermione, and slowly backed away, not wanting to be in the line of fire should Severus attack Vargas. Hermione placed her hand on the Potions Master's arm.

"Severus, this isn't necessary. I'll just go," she said to him softly.

The Potions Master looked down at her, his eyes glittering and his jaw set.

"Leave this to me, Hermione," he said coldly, removing her hand from his arm and gently moving her behind him. He looked back at Vargas, his face set determinedly.

"What will you do, sir?" he asked the wizard, preparing himself.

Vargas looked at the steely-eyed wizard, and the brilliant witch standing behind him. He knew he had wronged the bright, young woman with his dismissive and lewd comments. She was beautiful and intelligent. It was clear to see with her theories and logic, she would most likely make greater strides in the field of Potions than most of those who had been in the field for years. He was jealous of her future. If not for Severus, he would have left it as it was.

Vargas had no idea Hermione had been about to hex him in front of the entire Potions Making community. The witch didn't care. She was self-supporting anyway and would not have her degree pulled for such an act. She could blast the pompous git into next year and still be in her lab the next day, working as usual. But Severus cared. Hermione didn't have to defend her own honor while he was present.

"Very well," the wizard conceded. Severus was not a wizard to take lightly. Vargas knew about his service to the Dark Lord in the past, and had no doubt the wizard would take a pound of flesh from him over the witch. Vargas stepped to the side and faced Hermione.

"I am sorry for my cruel, crass and thoughtless comments, Mistress. I was out of line and in grievous error. Please accept my apology," he said, rather insincerely.

Hermione glared at the wizard.

Severus saw her hand flash to her breast.

"No, Hermione!" he yelled, trying to grab her wand. Hermione was quicker though and dipped back. She pointed her wand at a startled Vargas.

"Levicorpus!" she cried.

Vargas was immediately inverted in the air, his robe falling around his head as he dangled as if held up by one ankle. Hermione looked at him and burst out laughing, jerking her wand up and down, shaking him in the air, as the attendees looked on, some horrified, others definitely amused. It seemed Master Vargas believed in hanging free. He wore nothing under his robes at all. He struggled uselessly, his robes wrapped around his head, his rather diminutive male attributes jiggling as Hermione shook him a bit more, before lowering him, then dropping him unceremoniously on the floor.

"Apology accepted, Master Vargas," she said icily, turning on her heel and leaving the party, her head held high.

The Potions Master looked after her, shaking his head. He himself had experienced that same spell, cast on him by James Potter back when he was a student at Hogwarts. James had removed his underwear as well, which had the result of making him rather popular with the braver, more randy witches of Hogwarts. He had gotten more pussy that year than a Chinese meat market.

Severus looked down at the red-faced and disheveled Vargas, who was trying to cover his exposed ass, as those around him tried to cover their titters. He may have momentarily embarrassed Hermione, but he would never live this down. The wizard looked up at Severus.

"You should have figured a witch of her determination would not allow you to insult her and get away with it, Vargas. She worked hard to get her degree, and had the highest marks university had seen in years. You counted on your position as a well-respected Potions Master to shield you from retaliation. Unfortunately you lost the witch's respect when you spoke to her in such a crude and thoughtless way. You got what you asked for, Master Vargas. You're lucky she didn't do worse," Severus said to him evenly, "Now, if you'll excuse me, sir. I have a witch to comfort."

Severus turned and left with a billow of robes.

The next day, the front page of the Daily Prophet was peppered with stories about what happened at the function. A picture of a scowling Vargas exiting the affair graced the front page. The headline read, "Respected Potions Master Reveals All"

A picture of Hermione and Severus appeared in the gossip section, along with the story of their covert relationship. Sales of "Liquid Wood" skyrocketed when wizards got a look at who the Professor was bedding, instantly attributing his success at landing such a young and luscious witch to his enhanced sexual abilities.

At her flat, a bathrobed Hermione folded the Daily Prophet, looked at Severus, who was naked and sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. He had fresh scratches on his back and looked quite sated.

"Well, it's all out in the open now," she said to him, waiting for his reaction.

"Umm hmm," he replied, sipping his coffee unconcernedly.

"Now everybody knows about us," she pressed, wanting to know how he felt about this. They had been so careful about hiding their relationship.

Severus looked at her.

"Yes they do. Does that bother you?" he asked her.

She sat down across from him.

"I was more concerned it would bother you. I was thinking you might want to…to tone us down for a while," she said softly.

Severus leveled his eyes at her.

"And why would I want to…tone us down?" he asked her.

"I know you are a very private person, Severus. Us being together will attract unwanted attention…especially after that stunt I pulled last night. I don't know what I was thinking," she said.

"You were thinking that Vargas was a pig who needed to be taken down a few notches. I happen to agree with you there, though I did try to stop you. But his comeuppance was a brilliant bit of magic, and quite reassuring to me. With his attributes, he could never satisfy you," Severus said, smirking a little.

"As if I would have ever given him a chance to try," Hermione snorted, "What an ass."

"Yes, it was rather hairy," Severus said, deadpan. Hermione burst into laughter.

"And as to people knowing about us, I could care less Hermione. For two years you've been my lover, and I'm not about to let you go now…or ever," Severus said in a low voice. "You mean too much to me."

Hermione felt her stomach tighten as their eyes met. She was madly in love with the Potions Master, but never told him.

But she was wrong, she had told him several times over the past two years while deep in the throes of passion, never realizing it afterwards. Severus never said a word about her confession and had never expressed anything about how he felt about her beyond how good she made him feel.

"The sex is just too good to you to let me go," Hermione said to him, a little wistfully.

Severus looked at her from over his raised cup. He lowered it.

"Fucking you is something I can never get enough of, Hermione, but it is more than that, believe me. If it were only about sex, I would have lost interest in you a long time ago," he said softly, draining his coffee cup, then settling back in the chair, considering her.

Almost afraid to ask, Hermione said, "If it's not only about sex, Severus, what is it about?"

"It's about what you've been trying to hide from me," he said, looking at her intensely,

Hermione looked confused.

"What am I trying to hide from you, Severus? I don't have any secrets," she said.

He smirked at her.

"You have one. Or at least you think you do, but you don't," he said, teasing her.

Hermione was fast getting exasperated.

"Will you just say what you mean please? You know I hate it when you beat around the bush," she complained.

"You didn't hate it last night," he said silkily, making her flush at the remembrance of his mouth teasing her core unmercifully before he gave her release.

"Don't change the subject," she said, grimacing a little.

He sighed, and leaned forward in the chair.

"All right. You've been hiding the fact that you love me, and have loved me for quite a while," he said, his dark eyes watching for her reaction to his knowledge of this. "You've whispered it to me over and over when I've fucked you to orgasm."

Hermione dropped her head, unable to look at him.

"Why would you try and keep that from me, Hermione?" he asked her.

"Because Severus, you made it very clear at the beginning you weren't looking for romance or a relationship. I know I wasn't either…but…but things changed. I didn't want to tell you, because I was afraid you would end us," she said. "And I didn't want it to end. I'll never find another wizard like you."

Tears started forming in her eyes.

"But I guess now that you do know for certain, it is over," she whispered.

"No. No, Hermione. It's not over. It doesn't ever have to end if you don't want it to," he said softly. "I've become used to you, not only in my bed, but in my life. I'm not alone any more. I always thought I wanted to be alone, but I guess it was my way of dealing with the rejection I felt after the death of Voldemort. I felt I was destined to be alone, and so pretended it was what I wanted, instead of grieving over my plight. Still I was bitter. You changed that."

Hermione looked at him silently.

"As for everyone knowing about us now, that makes no difference to me. Our relationship is not illicit. We just lived in our own private little world. Now that world has spilled over into the world of others. We will never be able to live like that again. Nor do I want to. I am proud of you, Hermione, and feel blessed that you have chosen me as your lover. You are a gift and I don't believe there is any greater reward I could receive than your love. I mirror you, Hermione…the darker image but still reflect you. As I told you in the beginning we are two unusual, unordinary people trying to find satisfaction in a world that doesn't understand us. I've found satisfaction with you. I don't care if the world knows this. As I said, I reflect you…and as your mirror, I return your love."

Hermione blinked at him.

"Are you telling me you love me, Severus?" she asked him incredulously.

He nodded. "Yes I am, Hermione. I love you more than anything else in this world. And if the stress of the gossip and the rumors proves too much for you, I will gladly make an honest witch of you if you'd accept me."

He looked at her. It was a proposal of sorts, but worded in a way that made it easier for him to say, and rather open-ended.

"We could continue to live as we do now," he added.

Hermione was floored. She couldn't believe she had heard what she just heard from the dark wizard. He said he was willing to marry her if she couldn't handle the scandal their relationship would cause. The witch knew it was his way around making an emotional declaration. Hermione knew in her heart, that the only reason Severus Snape would marry her was because he loved her. He had lived through scandals before. It was no reason for him to make a commitment.

She stood up and walked over to him. The Potions Master sat back and let her settle in his lap, straddling him. He clasped her waist with both hands as Hermione's amber eyes locked to his.

"You love me," she stated.

"I've said that, yes," he replied, searching her face.

"And would marry me if I wanted you to," she continued.

"Yes," he answered, his eyes serious.

"What if I said knowing you love me is enough?" she said.

He considered this.

"Then I would accept it, and we would continue on as we always have," he responded.

Hermione shifted on his lap, adjusting herself and reaching between their bodies, placing Severus' erection against her opening, then sliding on to his cock with a little sigh. Severus hissed, and gripped her tighter.

"Your love is enough, Severus," she whispered, "More than enough, you sweet, sweet man."

Severus felt his chest tighten with emotion as Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck, locked her lips to his and started to move. Their lovemaking was slow, easy and so, so satisfying.

Love was all they needed…for now.


A/N: And that is the end of "Hard Times for Severus Snape" Yeah, I had to go romantic. I'm a cupcake. Thank you all for reading and please leave a last review