Chapter 4

Severus was mulling over his options with the aid of the universal panacea when the fireplace flared green. If that was Potter Flooing again, he could simply tell him that he'd changed his mind, and his problem of impending doom would be solved.

Potter's scruffy head did not appear. Instead, an envelope shot out of the fireplace. Severus deftly caught it in one hand, setting down his teacup to open it.

Dear Severus,

Just in case you're having second thoughts… I'm NOT going to take no for an answer.

Ginny will kill me if the ceremony has to be changed, and you're the only father figure I want. With that in mind, count this as paying your life debt to me.

Your loving son,

The cheeky little bugger! Severus crumpled up the letter and incinerated it with his wand. Merely using the fireplace would not satisfy his temper. The irony of Potter using the life debt did not escape him when he might well end up paying for this dubious honour with his life.

So much for escaping his fate with a simple refusal. What could he do now? Telling Potter the truth would only worry the boy and inflict a 24-hour Auror babysitting service on himself.

Severus poured a fresh cup of tea. He absently took a sip as he eyed the clock on the mantelpiece. Wincing, he cast a cooling charm on his burnt tongue and on the contents of the cup. The caffeine would keep him from sleeping, but the Boy-Who-Fucking-Lived had already seen to that.

How in the name of Merlin was he going to wriggle out of this one?

Two teapots later and furthermore fortified by half a bottle of Firewhisky, Severus thought he had a plan. He staggered upstairs to the bathroom, unsurprisingly in need of relieving his bladder.

Ablutions performed, he flopped down onto his bed. Yawning hugely, Severus waited in vain for sleep. Perhaps that much caffeine had been a bad idea, but at that point Potter seemed to have pinned him down.

As sleep was not an option, he might as well use the time productively to go over his options once more.

Treating Potter like dirt wouldn't help. Severus needed all the friends he could get, and now that Potter was more or less over that awful phase of hero worship, he was adequate company. There were plenty of sycophantic fans who were keen to be his new best friend, but they only cared about his Order of Merlin or the accompanying money, not for Severus as a person. Potter, annoying though he could be, liked Severus for who he was.

Making Potter see him as a rival would definitely remove him from the list of doom. Unfortunately it would result in a pack of enraged Weasleys tearing him apart. In addition, he would have to use a love potion to attract Miss Weasley's attentions. That was not something he was prepared to do; the idea sickened him to the core.

Even if he could somehow attract Miss Weasley with his own charms – Severus laughed mirthlessly – Ginny Weasley might be pretty, but she didn't do anything for him. Lily might have been a redhead, but the women who typically drew his eye were brunettes. With that in mind, perhaps his attraction to Hermione was not so surprising. Back to the matter in hand, he was drawn to brilliant women. Miss Weasley was bright, yes, but in comparison to Hermione? It was like comparing the light of the moon to the sun.

Regardless, the only way he could escape the fate of Potter's father figures by playing the part of a rival was to use a love potion. If he was prepared to do that – and he never would – he'd end up in Azkaban with Potter as a mortal enemy.

No, his ideal escape mechanism should involve remaining free and on friendly terms with Potter.

Potter had him sorted neatly into a box in his oversized head. That box was labelled 'father figure'. So his way of escaping had to hammer it into Potter's thick skull that Severus Snape was not so neatly compartmentalised. And if he was, not in that particular box.

So why did Potter see him the way he did?

The core of the matter was, of course, his love for Lily. His love for Lily. He took a deep breath. If he was brutally honest with himself, if it had been someone else – he would have classified the symptoms as nothing but an adolescent crush for a best friend.

His guilt over his role in Lily's death had sustained his feelings for her. Had she lived, his feelings would have long since died a natural death…

…and Potter…

That was it!

If Severus moved on, into a relationship that was clearly more than he'd ever had with Lily, Potter would realise that even without James Potter he would never have been his father. If he courted someone the same age of Potter, the message should be reinforced…

He certainly would not use one of the younger women after him for his fame, or one of the deluded witches infatuated with the idea of liberating him from the chains of his feelings for a long-dead woman. Was it a crime to be wanted for himself?

Besides, why even think of those shallow women when he'd realised that very same day – yesterday, strictly speaking – that he desired Hermione?

But to choose Hermione… surely that would be to use her as a tool in his Slytherin scheming? No. His interest in her was genuine, and, as far as he could tell, mutual, so that was a poor reason not to pursue her.

However, in the event that he did seduce her, it was possible that Potter would disapprove enough to cut off ties, even with one of his best friends. Something Severus would rather that didn't happen. Would Potter really sacrifice his friendship with Hermione over her choice in men? He had done so in the past, over far more trivial things. But he had also matured since that time.

The confidence-boosting haze of alcohol worn off, Severus thinned his lips. He faced a much more immediate problem than a possible irrevocable rejection from Potter: Severus didn't know how to court a woman.

Pining over Lily hadn't provided the best preparation in that respect, even though he was no virgin either. He also couldn't consult with Lucius, as contrary to popular belief, his friend's only experience was with Narcissa, and she was a very different woman to Hermione.

He would have to rely on the attraction Hermione seemed to feel for him. Severus sat bolt upright in bed as the most obvious problem occurred to him, his heart skipping a beat. How could he have missed that? Whatever Hermione felt for him was a moot point: she was Weasley's. He didn't stand a hope in hell of winning her away from the boy. Lacking in charm though Weasley was, he still had more to offer her than Severus.

Severus flopped back, rubbing tired eyes. He was doomed. Ever since Potter had proposed to Miss Weasley, he'd been expecting to spot an engagement ring on Hermione's finger. Her opinion on marriage did not extend to engagements, after all. When she got engaged, it would merely be a sensibly long one.

Weasley had wanted to speak to her, hadn't he? Potter had said so when he arrived. What if he'd proposed? Typical. Once more in his life, the realisation that Severus truly desired a woman had come too late. He would need to seduce Hermione. It was the only viable plan to escape his fate. Furthermore, he wanted her, regardless. It would have been hard enough to lure Hermione away from Weasley without an engagement to break. Hermione did not break her word… If she was engaged to Weasley, that was it.

Maybe he should just retrieve that hate mail package left on his sitting room windowsill, open it and have done with it. It would be quicker that way, no waiting around for Potter's wedding day.

He turned his bedside light on and was halfway to the door when he realised what he was doing. Panicking. Severus Snape did not panic. Hermione might not be engaged to Weasley yet. But he did need to talk to her. Maybe if his feelings were voiced, she might choose him? The idea seemed ludicrous. Weasley was her age, objectively good looking, while Severus was almost twenty years older and ugly.

Still, it was only a choice Hermione could make. But not at two o' clock in the morning. He turned back to his bed. Perhaps he could still steal some caffeine addled sleep…

His anti-Apparition wards sent a jolt akin to static electricity through him as Hermione passed through them to appear right in front of him. If she'd been aiming for the sitting room, she'd once again been distracted. And this time she must have thought of him…

Suddenly, Severus was all too aware that he had prepared for bed as usual at home: no nightshirt. Nothing but his birthday suit, which Hermione was staring at with wide eyes. She took a step back in her surprise, which brought her up short against his bed, and sat down abruptly, as if her knees couldn't support her.

He would have Summoned his robe with a quick Accio, but his wand was the other side of Hermione. His robe was folded over the back of the chair next to his bed. Also beyond Hermione. There was his dressing gown hanging on the back of the door… that meant either backing towards it, or turning around. Severus chose the latter. He might as well give her the full view; she showed no sign of looking away anytime soon.

Once he had his dressing gown on, Hermione's eyes could finally reach his face. She looked stunned, although thankfully not disgusted as far as Severus could tell; she had her back to the light source.

"I know I said you were welcome at any time, but couldn't this wait until morning?" Severus asked, lack of sleep and his private dilemma putting an unintended edge into his voice.

Hermione flinched at his tone and looked away. It felt like an invisible hand had closed around Severus's heart when the light caught the shining tracks of tears on her cheeks. Stupid! Of course she wouldn't have come at two o' fucking clock in the morning unless it was something serious.

Much as he hated dealing with tears, at least he had practice thanks to his years as Head of Slytherin. Severus silenced the nagging doubt that his experience was only with adolescent tears, not those of a grown woman. This was Hermione. He couldn't stand by and do nothing.

He sat down beside her, placing a tentative hand on her shoulder as he passed her a tissue from the box on his bedside table. Severus raised an eyebrow when he noticed her attire, but didn't comment.

"What's wrong?"

"Ron," Hermione snarled, angrily dashing away tears and then shredding the tissue in her hands.

What had Weasley done? He'd made Hermione cry. "I'll kill him," Severus muttered under his breath.

She turned her head to rest against his shoulder, sniffling. "He dumped me."

Serendipitous for Severus, but Weasley had hurt Hermione!

"I'll kill him," he repeated, this time loud enough for her to hear.

"Don't bother. It's not worth it." She was no longer crying, her voice still raw.

"He hurt you; he should hurt, too."

"Oh, Ronald does. Particularly after I canaried him."

"Canaried?" Severus echoed, perplexed.

"I suppose you might not know." Hermione sniffed, before she pulled away so that she could meet his gaze. "Back in my sixth year at Hogwarts, Ron, ah, upset me. We had been learning how to Conjure canaries in charms, and, well…"

Now that Severus thought of it, he had heard vague rumours of Weasley being chased through the castle by a rabid flock of birds after the first Gryffindor Quidditch match of the year.

"It was a mutual decision, but Ron did the dumping." A strangled growl escaped her throat. "Bastard also did it after we slept together for the first time since the Easter hols." Hermione covered her eyes, fresh tears slipping down her cheeks.

Severus retrieved his wand and stood up. "I'll kill him!"

Hermione's hand on his arm stopped him from taking so much as a step towards the door. "No. Ron—" she choked on the name with a sob, "—had an excuse. I'm not letting you go after him until you hear it." Her shoulders slumped. "I thought he was lying, but… I'm hardly impartial."

And she thought he was? Severus stared at her. Surely his dislike of Weasley was no secret?

"Please, sit down." She patted the bed next to her. "I need to talk to someone, and I'd rather it was you than anyone else."

He sat down, close enough for their thighs to press together.

Hermione cleared her throat. "I thought he did it because he didn't fancy his chances of 'one last time for old times' sake' after he ditched me. Hence the canaries for old times' sake too.

"Ron claimed that he only decided we should split up after we… afterwards. He said he hoped that the spark wouldn't be gone, but it was." She swallowed audibly, and breathed in shakily. "That much is true."

She fell silent, sniffling occasionally. Severus took one of her hands in his.

"Even if he was telling the truth, he still used me. He deserved that hex," she spat, squeezing Severus's hand tightly. "But…" she loosened her grip.

"But?" Severus prompted, watching Hermione closely.

"But without knowing for sure that the passion's gone, that the sex actually feels mildly incestuous now… would we have split up? I guess I owe Ronald an apology." The admission clearly cost her, the strain on her face mixing with guilt.

"There are better times to end a relationship than when in bed." At her questioning look, he gave her top a pointed look. "You clearly got dressed in a hurry."

Hermione glanced down and groaned. She immediately pulled off the woollen jumper prominently decorated with Weasley's initials. It was a wonder she hadn't noticed before, as it was far too big for h—

Severus almost swallowed his tongue. She wasn't wearing anything under that jumper. He looked away, resisting the urge to stare. Much as he appreciated the view, this was not the time for ogling.

Hermione squeaked. From what he could see in his peripheral vision, she had clutched the jumper to her front.

"Let me get you a shirt." Severus stood up and kept his back to Hermione as he walked over to his wardrobe. Once he had a shirt in hand, he glanced over his shoulder. Good. She was semi-decent. He wouldn't have to walk backwards and risk tripping over his own bed.

Severus passed her the shirt and turned his back once more while she put it on. He turned back when the balled up Weasley knitwear was thrown into a corner.

"Thanks," Hermione murmured. "I guess that's additional proof that I was too angry to think clearly."

He perched next to her again. "Your boyfriend just dumped you. Understandable that you would be upset."

"We grew apart. I think we would have even if I hadn't gone back to Hogwarts. It might have taken longer, but… Ron's right. We're not compatible for anything more than friends that fuck." She buried her face in her hands. "And even that's pushing it. Ron wants to get married. He… he said he wants to do it sooner rather than later, and that's not going to happen with me."

"There's someone else?" Severus asked, tightening his grip on his wand.

"No, he hasn't cheated on me. Ron did meet other girls while I was at Hogwarts, but I believe him when he says that he didn't even think of cheating. Just that since meeting those girls, he knows he needs someone more like his mum than me."

Hermione rested her head on Severus's shoulder. "If he'd only told me about his doubts before he took me to bed, this wouldn't hurt so much. That way we might have parted as friends, the prat!"

She sighed. "Sorry for unloading all that on you. And for disturbing you."

"Don't be. You needed some ears that aren't inclined to give Weasley the benefit of the doubt."

Her arms wrapped around him in an embrace. "Thank you," she whispered.

Severus turned his head towards her; she sounded even closer than he thought she was. Her lips were on his before he could so much as blink.

This was no chaste peck intended for his cheek, for she leaned into him, deepening the kiss. One of her hands slid up his back to cup the back of his head, the other dropping to below his waistline.

Severus kissed her back, drawing her closer still with his hands on her shoulders. Oh yes, his attraction to her was definitely mutual… and Weasley was out of the picture.

He froze. Weasley was only just out of the picture. This was wrong. Taking advantage. He drew back, using his hold on her shoulders to keep Hermione at arms length.


"Not now. You need time."

"I don't! There's nothing to get over," she protested. "It hurts to be dumped, yes, but the biggest injury is to my pride. Ron was conscious of the problems before me, otherwise I would have been the one to do the dumping."

"You were in a relationship with him for over a year. Don't deceive yourself; you will need time to—"

"I don't love him that way. In the end, neither of us did. We weren't in love. Ron knew that my heart wasn't in it tonight, just like it hasn't been ever since…" Her breath caught audibly. She stared unblinkingly at Severus, speechless.

If she kept looking at him like that with her heart in her eyes, his resistance would fade like a Boggart under genuine laughter. Thankfully for his self-control, she looked away.

Hermione shifted uncomfortably, plucking at the inner thigh seams of her jeans. She grimaced. "You're right. It's not right to go from Ron's bed to yours. Particularly not when I feel used. I should go, I feel in desperate need of a shower." At odds with her words, she didn't move.

"Hermione?" he tilted her chin up so that she met his eyes.

"I don't want to be alone," she whispered.

"Stay, then." Severus bit his tongue. What was it about her that made his common sense leak out of his ears? There was currently only one bed, for fuck's sake. Ever since Wormtail's stay, he'd avoided his spare room like the Dragon Pox. He wasn't about to retract his offer. He would just have to Transfigure a chair from his sitting room into a bed.

"The bathroom is across the top of the stairs. I'll find you a towel and some nightclothes while you shower."

Severus also found himself something more restrictive than a dressing gown whilst the water pipes were complaining of their usage. Spare towel and nightshirt retrieved, he slipped into the bathroom to hang them up, doing his best not to let his thoughts linger on Hermione's attire – or rather, lack thereof – behind the shower curtain.

He waited at the top of the stairs for Hermione to come up in order to bid her goodnight.

She grabbed hold of his arm before he could slip downstairs. "Where are you going?"

"I thought you agreed it's best not to jump straight into bed with me!"

"We're both adults. I think we can share a bed without jumping each other's bones."

"This is not a good idea," Severus hissed. "I am not made of stone."

"I don't want to be alone," Hermione repeated, hugging herself forlornly.

Severus sighed. "Very well." He offered her his hand and led her back into his bedroom.

'No sleep for me tonight.'

To his surprise, Severus slept better than he had anticipated. He awoke in late morning to find Hermione snuggled up against him, still sleeping. Before he had fallen asleep, she had been safely over on her side of the bed.

Much as Severus would prefer to pull her closer still, there was only the thin cotton between bare skin. He gently disentangled himself from Hermione and rolled out of bed.


So much for not waking her up… "Bathroom," he muttered to the sleepy lump under his covers.


Once he had relieved his usual morning erection and the demands of his bladder, he returned to his bedroom. He almost walked into Hermione as soon as he opened the door, her hair even more bushy than usual in a tangle of sleep snarls.

"Morning," Hermione mumbled, the word garbled by a yawn. She gave him a quick hug before slipping past him into the bathroom.

Severus was dressed and had breakfast cooking by the time she emerged downstairs, with his dressing gown as an additional layer.

"When Harry was here yesterday, did he ask you to take part in his wedding?"

"He did," Severus said shortly. "Why didn't you warn me?"

"Harry arrived before I could. I know you don't like surprises any more than I do."

With that in mind, perhaps it would be an idea to lay his cards on the table, including the ulterior motive to his pursuit of her. Especially considering how Hermione had reacted to Weasley testing his doubts without her knowledge.

"Concerning the wedding and my role in it… would you consent to accompany me? As my significant other."

She beamed at him. "You know I'd love to."

"You see, Potter has relegated me to his father figure. With the survival rate of his previous father figures in mind, I intend to convince him that I am not remotely paternal."

As he spoke, Hermione's smile had faded until her face was set in an impassive mask. A storm was brewing behind her eyes, the only unguarded thing in her expression.

'Uh oh… keep talking, Snape!' He covered one of her hands with his. "I need your help, Hermione. Potter's way of showing his regard for me will result in my joining the ranks of Potter Senior, Black, Dumbledore and Lupin prematurely."

Hermione snatched her hand back and jumped to her feet, her chair groaning with protest as it shot across the kitchen tiles.

"I'm not going to pretend to be in a relationship with you just because you're paranoid!"

'Fuck!' From the way she turned on her heel, Hermione was about to Disapparate.

Severus vaulted over the table, crockery smashing and his chair crashing to the floor in his wake. He didn't care; he had to stop her. He caught her in his arms before she could leave. She elbowed him in the gut, causing his breath to hiss out of him and a pained grunt to escape, but he didn't let go. He shifted his grip on her so that she couldn't elbow him anymore.

He caught his breath before he spoke, so as not to wheeze. "Who said anything abou— Ow! Stoppit, woman!"

Hermione ignored him and continued stamping on his instep. His hold weakened enough for her to slip out of his arms. Fortunately for Severus, he remembered that he had a wand.

'Petrificus Inloco!' His personal variation of the Full Body Bind stilled her fist right in front of his jaw. Unlike the standard spell, it did not snap her limbs together and minimised the risk of her toppling over.

Severus took a step back, hopping from foot to foot. For someone barefoot and smaller than him, her stamps had hurt. He staggered over to the nearest chair and sat down.

Hermione's furious eyes – the only part of her that could move – followed him.

"My apologies, Hermione, but I need you to listen to me." Severus groaned as he took off his slippers and examined his bruised feet. He met Hermione's eyes again. Was that a flicker of guilt? Difficult to tell with the fixed expression of feral rage on her face.

"Any relationship between us would not be a pretence. My interest in you is genuine. I am attracted to you. Very much so. After our kiss last night, how can you doubt it?"

Severus sighed. He'd done it again, messed up before a relationship could even begin. "Finite Incantatem," he muttered. "There. You can go." He turned away. He didn't care to see Hermione leave.

Hermione's bare feet made virtually no noise on the floor, so Severus was caught by surprise when she dropped into his lap. Lost in black thoughts, it hadn't occurred to him that there had been no twinge from the Apparition wards.

"You idiot," she said, and kissed him.

Some time later, Hermione pulled away. She ran her fingers over the whisker burn Severus had inflicted and winced. That wiped the smug grin off Severus's face.

"You need to shave."

He retrieved his wand from the floor, where he'd dropped it.

"Episkey," he murmured, healing the abrasions. "Rasito." Severus took Hermione's hand and lifted it to his newly-smooth jaw.

"Thanks." She leaned forward to peck him on the cheek. "You've convinced me that you're attracted to me – and it's definitely mutual, by the way, in case you have any doubts – but… just… with Ron, I was already over him by the time he dumped me. I need to be sure that this is no rebound for you."

"Rest assured, you are the one I desire." Severus caressed her cheek with the back of a hand. She didn't look convinced, though. He couldn't blame her. Lily had been his raison d'être for longer than she had been alive. "I recently realised that Lily's hold on me has weakened. She is my past; you are my future."

Hermione launched herself at him with enough force to make the chair rock back.

Severus reluctantly broke away from her impassioned kisses when her hands slipped under his shirt and his own had found bare thigh, dressing gown and nightshirt pushed aside.

Hermione buried her face in his shoulder with a groan. "I know. It's too soon."

"Perhaps after Potter's wedding, provided I live that long?"

She thumped his chest, hard enough to make him wince, but not hard enough to wind him. Hermione obviously didn't approve of pessimism.

What was it that she had said earlier? Oh yes, she thought he was being paranoid.

"It's not paranoia, you know."

She pulled back to give him a sceptical look.

"It's not!" And he could prove it… "Accio." The parcel left on the windowsill stopped beside them as Severus non-verbally levitated it.

"Don't touch it," he warned Hermione when she reached out for it. "This is the latest in a series of cursed parcels sent to me by Death Eaters still at large."

She raised an eyebrow. "It's signed?"

"They're not that stupid! No, the magical signatures give it away."

"I see…" Hermione frowned. "You're not as paranoid as I thought, then, but I think you give them too much credit."

"You underestimate them," Severus retorted. "I was a target for them even before Potter selected me for an early grave."

"And moving from Harry's father figure to his honorary brother-in-law is any safer?"

Severus nearly knocked her off his lap. The implication of marriage so soon in their budding relationship was almost enough to give him a heart attack.

"Sorry. I'm not about to drag you off to Gretna Green. It's just the way Harry will see it, with his family-fixation."

"I—you—" Severus wheezed, rubbing at his chest. "That's a risk I am prepared to take."

Hermione shook her head. "You say the sweetest things," she muttered.

"Concerning that fixation of his, if Potter does not change his mind, would our roles in his wedding make our relationship incestuous?" Presuming he survived that long… though voicing that would only earn him a thump.

She blinked. "I don't think so. That would only be the case if blood was involved."

He had thought that she would know more about weddings than he did, even with her more Muggle upbringing. "Doesn't part of the ceremony involve blood magic?"

"Good point. I'll have words with Harry. I think my need is greater than his."

Before Severus could say another word, she got to her feet and made her way into the sitting room. Surely she wasn't going to Floo Potter dressed like that…

"Number twelve, Grimmauld Place."

She was. Severus rushed to follow her into the sitting room – and stumbled to a halt at the sight that awaited him. Hermione's head was buried in the green flames, the rest of her body kneeling in front of the fireplace, the outline of her hips and arse clearly visible under the thin layers of his nightshirt and dressing gown.

Potter wouldn't see her attire, then. Pity. The boy's reaction would have been… interesting. Oh well. At least this gave him an opportunity to admire her delectable rear end.

Severus sat down once the Floo call had gone on for over five minutes. After half an hour, Hermione emerged from the fireplace. She needed his help to stagger over to a chair: after kneeling for such a long time, once again without a Cushioning Charm, her legs had fallen asleep.

"Harry's not happy, but he's happy for us. I mean, he doesn't want to change the ceremony, but he seems to have accepted the idea of us. It helps that Ron did the dumping." She grimaced. "Thirsty."

Severus Transfigured a coaster into a glass and passed it to Hermione.


"Thanks." Hermione drained the glass and continued. "He seems to think that Ginny will kill him if he changes the ceremony, so we've agreed that you'll attend as my significant other. Harry will come up with another father figure. I suggested Hagrid, but it's not a decision to rush."

Severus took her face between his hands and tilted it up to meet his in a jubilant kiss as he bent down. Wonderful girl! She'd freed him from his doom.

Although there was still the wedding to attend, and every single guest would have a target pinned to their backs in the eyes of the Death Eaters. It was tempting to sequester himself and Hermione in the safety of Spinner's End indefinitely. But even if he shagged her senseless, she would never forgive him if he made her miss Potter's nuptials.

Time crept by slowly, Severus's anxiety increasing with each day of the two weeks until the wedding. Hermione clearly thought he was being overly paranoid. It didn't help that they spent most of their time in Spinner's End. That just served to make his anxiety all the more noticeable on the few occasions they went out. He couldn't help jumping at shadows. It was too quiet; no more parcels were delivered. It struck Severus as the calm before the storm.

Potter thought his anxieties had something to do with being a reminder of his age: that Lily's son was old enough to marry, and that he was taking up with a woman half his age. Idiot boy. As if a woman like Hermione could ever be reduced to the symptom of a midlife crisis, or as if a man like him could ever serve as a rewarding 'rebound'. But only time could prove Potter wrong on both counts.

Weasley's reaction was… much more interesting. He must have heard the news, for he attended the wedding with a blonde bimbo on his arm. Had Hermione been alone, that would have been shockingly bad taste. Before the ceremony, Weasley approached Severus. The boy looked pale enough that he might faint or be sick, but instead he shook Severus's hand.

"Good luck," he muttered. "And watch out for canaries."

Fortunately for Weasley, Hermione was well out of earshot, standing beside Potter as he awaited the arrival of the bride.

To Severus's surprise, there were no uninvited guests. Neither paparazzi nor Death Eaters crashed the ceremony. But his so-called paranoia was vindicated when the latter burst into the reception and charged the dais.

"I told you so!" In retrospect, it would have been better to tell Hermione that after the Death Eaters were neutralised.

A mass of black robes barrelled into him, knocking Severus down. His wand slipped through his fingers, leaving him helpless, crumpled on the floor behind the dais.

The Death Eater – Rowle, judging by the sheer size and blond hair escaping his hood – towered over him.

"Die, traitor!"

Severus gasped for breath, clutching his ribs, unable to move. He could do nothing but await the green flash from the wand levelled at him.

"Avada Ked—" The incantation was interrupted by the distinct noise of something smashing.

"Unh!" Rowle swayed on the spot for a moment. He crumpled to the floor, further winding Severus as he landed on top of him.


"Hermione?" Severus wheezed at the sound of her voice, feebly trying to push the insensible Rowle off.

Grunting with the effort, Hermione dragged Rowle's body to the side. She grabbed Severus's hand, tugged him to his feet and slipped a supporting arm around his waist.

He blinked down at the floor. There were a few mangled flowers and bloody glass shards. A glance at Rowle affirmed the source, from still bleeding wounds at the back of his head.

"Vase of lilies," Hermione explained. "It's what I had to hand."

Severus stared at her.

"What? Would you have preferred to wait until I dug out my wand?"

At the mention of the word, Severus tried to bend down to retrieve his wand. He almost fell back down in the process, nearly dragging Hermione down with him.

"Look, there's no need." She nodded at their surroundings.

The attack was over almost as soon as it had begun. The band of Death Eaters had all been Stunned and bound, or knocked out in the case of his attacker. They would get what they deserved for attacking a wedding attended by war heroes and Aurors… a one way Portkey to Azkaban.

"I admit I overlooked you, but I was right about the threat," muttered Severus.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "As if I'd let anything happen to you!"

Finite Incantatem

AN: Many thanks to my invaluable betas, Kribu, Septentrion and JunoMagic.

Spells kindly provided by JunoMagic:
Petrificus Inloco: freeze in place. Strictly speaking it should be 'In Loco', but if JKR can mess around with Latin…

Rasito: shave.

Written for Madqueenmab in the Winter 08/09 SSHG Gift Exchange to this prompt: After the end of the War, Snape realizes that Harry has come to view him as a father figure. This alarms him, as those who Harry looks upon as fathers have quite the troubling mortality rate (death by Voldemort, death by curtains, death by Snape, death by Rowling...). Ever the clever one, Snape sets out to prove he's decidedly un-paternal. His cunning plan and how it involves Hermione is entirely up to you.