AN: Thank you to everyone who helped me work on this story. Whitehound, was super helpful with her brit-picking, grammar tweaking and encouragement. Noelle Leithe helped thrash out the speedbumps in the first few chapters. Hebe GB was instrumental in keeping me sane and reminding me of which direction I was supposed to be walking in, and Dressagegrrrl poured blood, sweat, and tears, into ensuring my reading public wasn't subjected to my random inability to remember what that tiny dot at the end of a sentence does. (see?)
Not Mine, No Money, and all that rot.
The sound of the Floo activating across the Atrium caught everyone's attention, and the murmuring of the crowd grew into a buzz. Kingsley paused in the act of placing the medal around Seamus's neck.
The Ministry had decided that the people needed a little ceremony to celebrate the thwarting of yet another mad scheme to rule the Wizarding World. They'd kept it rather low key, deciding to hold it in the middle of a workday at the Ministry itself. The temporary seats were filled with a much smaller crowd, mostly family of the honored, Ministry workers taking a break from their day, and the press. The Floos had been blocked, so as to not interrupt the ceremony. Access had only been granted to those attendees who had been sent an invitation, and only one person was still missing.
Hermione's heart started to slam in her chest in a syncopated rhythm in keeping with the sound of the man's boots. Finally, he cleared a pillar, and she saw him in full billow. Her hands started to sweat. The last time she had seen him had been in St. Mungo's. Snape had been under the effects of Dreamless Sleep Draught, still recovering from his cursed knife-wound. He'd woken up while she'd been in the loo and promptly refused all visitors. He'd withdrawn from the world in general in the two weeks since his release. Madam Malfoy had explained to her about the lingering effects of the cursed knife over tea at Luna's and urged her toward patience, but Hermione still found herself irrationally hurt that she had been ranked with "the world in general."
Severus walked purposefully towards the dais. He looked splendid in his elegant robes with his Order of Merlin draped on his chest. Hermione gave a forlorn smile when she saw his hair was shining as it swayed around his shoulders. He'd obviously taken pains with his appearance, having learned the joy to be found in shampoo at her hands. Her fingers curled at the memory. She had the sudden wish that she'd taken more care with her own appearance, even though she'd given it a considerable amount of thought already and had been happy with her decision to stick with her usual attire. She pushed her glasses back up her nose and refused to pat at her hair to make sure it was still under lock and pin.
Every eye was glued to the man as he walked towards the front of the assembly with refined grace. Women sighed as he passed. Men either puffed up or deflated, depending on their egos. One overeager young woman reached out to touch his cloak as he passed and he shocked her and everyone else when he lightly smacked her hand.
"Mustn't touch," he snapped, as the woman recoiled in shocked surprise. Minerva let out a soft chuckle, and Hermione heard Ron snort. Harry's answering chortle matched her own softer one.
A camera was shoved in his face, and he plucked it out of the reporter's hand as he continued on past. He nodded to Molly Weasley in the front row and handed the camera to George's three-year-old son, Fred, without breaking stride. Little Fred let out a happy cry and immediately started to bash it against the back of his seat. Obviously, Snape's relationship with the press was at an all-time low since his refusal to grant an interview upon release, and their refusal to honor his request for privacy.
Snape ascended the stairs, and Hermione's breathing became even more erratic. He exchanged quiet greetings with the Malfoys and graced Lucius with a slightly mocking nod toward the medals around their necks. Lucius waved him off as if he were an irritating fly, but Hermione could see the amused gleam in his eye.
Finally, he reached his seat between Minerva's and hers. She tried to school her features into the same bland politeness he'd displayed, but when their eyes met, and she saw the hopefulness buried in his, she felt her smile explode into place. His eyes glittered at her for just a moment longer before he swept his robes gracefully out of the way and sat.
A wave of his hand signaled Kingsley to continue. Hermione giggled at the Minister's pout.
"Granger, you're looking lovely," Snape murmured quietly.
"Better than a muddy nightgown, I'm sure. Thank you. You look rather smashing yourself," she replied softly.
"I have some very fond memories of that nightgown," he replied just as Kingsley shook Seamus's hand, and the audience burst into applause.
Hermione knew she was hopelessly blushing as Kingsley launched into his next speech.
"Our next Honoree, and recipient of the Godric Gryffindor Award for Bravery, is Neville Longbottom…"
Hermione clapped enthusiastically, but Snape just leaned closer and muttered, "I'm dreadfully disappointed in you, Granger. I thought this friendship thing entailed actually spending time together. I've heard nothing from you in weeks."
She twisted her neck and stared at him in surprise and no small amount of irritation.
"You refused all visitors!" she squeaked. Kingsley and Neville turned their heads at her outburst, and Minerva hissed at them. She dropped her voice low. "How was I to know you even wanted to remain friends when you lumped me in with everyone else! I spent days sitting out in the hall watching the endless display of buxom nurses slipping in and out of your rooms. How can you blame me for giving up?"
"Easily. Lucius knew enough to waltz right in. I would have put your intelligence at least at his level. Obviously I gave you too much credit. This friendship thing is obviously a total wash."
"You bastard!" she hissed, receiving yet another round of looks.
"Wrong again. My father was a bastard. I was not. There's paperwork to prove it if you need it."
She slid her eyes up and saw the amused smirk on his face.
"My apologies. I should have tried for accuracy. What about 'you arse?' Does that suit?"
"I find it infinitely more acceptable. Especially in light of the fact that you seemed quite fond of running your tongue along my arse upon occasion."
Hermione's eyes flew wide, and she felt her face flame up again and knew she was as red as a beetroot. She heard the click of a shutter and turned to see a gleeful photographer aiming at her.
"As I was saying," Snape continued, his voice low and sexy in her ear. "I think it's obvious that the whole friendship thing doesn't really suit. I suggest we go back and try shagging our brains out again. It was infinitely more pleasurable if you don't look too closely at the first part. Or the next morning part. I can't say I'm all that fond of the whole 'one night stand' scenario now that I've had time for a bit of a think."
His words were so unexpected and yet so thoroughly welcome that she had no idea how to react. A sudden desire to throw herself at him overcame her, but was quickly squashed by images of what photos would appear in the paper the next day. A nearly hysterical giggle bubbled out of her throat, and soon people were starting to elbow each other and gesture at her while Snape blandly looked about the room in feigned ennui.
"So what do you say, Granger?" he murmured.
"What about the nurses? How many of them will I trip over on the way?"
He turned his full attention on her, and she was surprised at the sincerity on his face. "There are no nurses, Granger. I found their attention beyond irritating and eventually banned them from my rooms. I assure you, there is no one to trip over. I have become rather narrowly focused since our trek across the wilderness."
She turned her attention back to the Minister in time to see Ron stride up to accept his award. She clapped heartily, but her mind was clearly not focused.
"You're awfully forward, propositioning me in front of an entire assembly," she whispered out of the side of her mouth.
"If that is an allusion to my normally cautious mind-set, let me just tell you that I've recently had to readjust my opinion of myself, and I find that given the right motivation, I can rise to any occasion."
"Was that another allusion?"
"Did you like it?"
"Then, no. It was not. It was just an observation."
They both applauded for Ron as he received his medal and bowed for the audience. The cameras went wild, and Ron stiffened up and walked quickly to his seat. It was Minerva's turn next.
"How are you doing with the press coverage, Granger? Any troubles?"
"Not since I gave up on you and slunk out of St Mungo's for good. According to the papers, I'm a tragically love-struck old maid, shunned by my hero. Today is the first time I've left Hogwarts without a disguise since."
Snape remained quiet for so long after that admission that she peeked up at him and saw he was glaring malignantly at the press. Several shutters clicked.
"I had no idea, Hermione. I am terribly sorry." He turned to look at her directly. "I never wished to cause you any distress," he said quietly.
"Oh, I know that. I admit it was a bit painful, but not the complete shellacking I'd seen others get. I guess I'm just not really interesting enough."
They listened politely as Minerva's role in the whole endeavor was retold. As Kingsley droned on, Snape leaned back in.
"I find you endlessly fascinating, Granger. In fact, the only reason I came to this inanity was to try to talk you back into my bed. However, you have suffered enough because of my own selfishness. If you truly want to just be friends, I can accommodate that. But in the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that anytime we make small talk, I will be repeatedly violating you in the most decadent ways in my head."
Hermione blinked rapidly, trying not to let her escalating physical reaction show on her face.
"What about a compromise?" she whispered.
"Such as what? Friendship on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays and intense bouts of carnal acts on all the other days?"
"No, you dolt. A relationship," she hissed. "We could actually try and have a relationship."
"A relationship. What a singular idea. Such a clever girl, you are, Granger. How soon can we start?"
Applause broke out for Minerva. Hermione clapped politely, if perfunctorily before she turned her head and looked directly at him and finally saw the mischievously smug look on his face. She'd been played.
She smiled shyly at him and muttered, "Arse."
His face lit up, and his eyes began to smolder. "Indeed. Shall we go?"
"Why not? I got what I came for. Do you really need another one of these silly things to dangle around you neck? This one doesn't even come with money. You'd think they could come off with a few Galleons, considering we returned their bloody Note."
She glanced nervously at the press who were still far too interested in their whispered conversation than the ceremony. She knew instinctively that this was one of those moments in her life where the future hinged on her decision. She refused to make one more decision based on fear.
"Why not?" she said with a slightly hysterical laugh.
Snape jumped up from his seat, grabbing her hand and dragging her up with him. He murmured an insincere apology to Kingsley as he reached over and snatched two medals off the velvet on the awards table, and then pulled her after him as they dashed off the stage. She laughed out loud as the audience started to babble and camera shutters clicked like mad as they raced across the floor hand-in-hand, and with a shout, dashed through the Floo.
Severus backed Hermione slowly across the foyer towards the stairs, kissing her the whole way. Their shoes chirped, squeaked, and scuffed the marble floor until she snagged the edge of the rug and started to fall. He caught her easily as she burst forth with a silvery laugh that made his chest ache. Gods, her laugh was beautiful.
"Honestly, we must look like a pair of sixth-years," she said with a smile when she'd regained her feet. Her eyes glittered with merriment. "Let's do this the right way. Show me your home, Mr. Snape."
"No," he said and kissed her again, nudging her closer towards the stairs. "This house repels women," he said against her lips.
Hermione broke the kiss and looked around as he tried to direct her head back towards his lips with slowly increasing pressure on her nape Most of her hair pins were either on the pavement outside the front door, or on the floor at Spinner's End. He gave up and attacked her shockingly graceful neck.
"Well, I can see why. You couldn't have done this yourself. Did you offend your decorator?"
His lips left her neck with a pop. "What do you mean?"
"Well, it just looks like it was designed by either an elderly woman with no taste, or by a gay man with a vendetta. I mean, I do like the odd sculpture you have here and there, but seriously, cabbage roses?"
"Those bastards," he spat. "And I gave them a bonus!"
"Frick and Frack, my Muggle decorators. I have them coming back to fix the drawing room next week."
"You might want to reconsider."
"I probably don't have to. I Obliviated the pillocks. They won't remember that I made Andre cry."
" The designer's carpenter partner, Andre St. James. Frack."
"Ah, I see. I think. Well, I'm sure they confined their snit to the foyer . Surely you couldn't have made Andre cry that hard." He grimaced and she winced. "On the other hand, perhaps you should let me see the rest of the damage."
He sighed. "All right, but only the fast tour. I hope you have comfortable shoes."
"I'm a spinster. What other type would I have?"
He turned and gave her his best smirk, making a mental note to take her shoe shopping over the weekend. This was a woman who simply must have pointy things on her dainty feet. The images that popped up nearly made him cross-eyed. He grabbed her hand and started to drag her through his house.
"That was the foyer. This is the drawing room. Not much at the moment, I know."
"What happened to the wall?"
"It displeased me."
She gestured to the missing fireplace. "Is this why we Flooed to Spinner's End first and then Apparated here?"
"Oh. This was where Dumbledore's Portrait was, isn't it?"
She looked at him with such understanding, his heart stuttered in his chest. He didn't want this topic to damp his chances of getting her knickers off, so he tugged on her arm and headed back across the foyer. "Here's the library. No. You don't get to stop."
He dragged her through the room nearly at a run and threw open another set of doors. "Here's the conservatory. Outside you can see what will be splendid gardens if I ever get around to them. Back this way is the dinning room. You'll have to order your own meals. What are you doing? I said you can't stop." He turned when he felt her hand slip out of his and saw her staring at his favorite sculpture.
"You have Apollyon Weeps," she said with awe.
Snape's eyes flew wide. "That's what it's called. I must write that down."
"Write it down? This is the sculpture you couldn't remember the name of?"
"Yes, I'm rather fond of it, but I couldn't remember what those two poofs told me about it when they tried to talk me out of buying it. You've heard of it?"
"I went to a gallery showing of this artist with my mum-oh, it must have been two years ago. I remember this one well." She tentatively reached out and followed the twisted, melted lines of the stone without actually touching it. "I loved it. I still do."
Snape felt something that had been bound deep inside trembling to burst free. He reached out and took her hand and pressed it against the stone. When she sighed, it was as if the dam broke.
"You can have it," he blurted. "You can have all of it, Hermione." He looked directly into her eyes and let all his masks and shields fall. "You can have all of me." She looked up at him in shock. He took her hand and pressed it to his chest. "Is it really such a surprise? Are you really shocked? You know me, Hermione. No one else does. I'm tired of playing games, assuming false roles. I want to be with someone who knows and accepts me for who I really am. I want to be with you. You make me feel worthy." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "I've spent these last two weeks thinking of nothing but you, Granger. I've been rattling around in this mausoleum trying to think of ways to see you that would fall under the heading of Friendship, and I couldn't. I've written you endless invitations to tea that all ended up crumpled on the floor. I've tried to find a way to temper my feelings and only be the friend you wanted, but the very idea leaves me dizzy with anxiety. I can't lose the chance of something more with you because I am afraid. I've become obsessed with you, Granger. I would like the chance to try for something slightly less irrational. I would like to love you. If you will have me."
He panicked when he saw her eyes fill with tears. 'Fool, Snape. You always push too far!' But her next words dispelled the fear before it could burrow in too deep.
"Yes! I would like that." She stepped closer and cupped his cheek in her small, soft hand. He nuzzled against it. "I would very much like a chance to love you, Severus. I think I already do." She laughed a bit through her tears. "However, if what I'm feeling is love, then it doesn't bode well for your hope of being slightly more rational. I think there is little rationality involved."
He wrapped his arms around her and simply held her, reveling in the sense of completeness she'd gifted him with. He kissed the top of her head.
"Come," he said. "I have one room I really wanted you to see. I decorated it myself, and I would very much like your opinion on it since I plan on spending a lot of time there with you."
She gave him a sultry look that set his blood on fire.
The door to the bedroom banged open as Snape backed through it, pulling Hermione along while kissing her passionately. Her little mewling cries and throaty growls called for him to just stop and throw her to the floor, but he persevered and slowly stumbled backwards until he felt the back of his knees hit his bed. He scooped her up and sat, settling her legs on either side of his hips, before plucking off her glasses and slowly pulling her down with him onto the bed. They never broke their desperate kisses as he tried to toe his boots off and snatch the last pins out of her hair. She fumbled at the buttons on his robes while grinding down on him in a way that made rational thought far too much work. She grabbed his shoulders and rolled them over. She pulled, and he pushed until they were more or less in the center of the bed and mostly naked.
There were few preliminaries. He gasped as her hand encircled him and drew him to where she wanted him. She bit his lip as he started to push inside.
"Gods, woman, you feel so good," he groaned.
"I've missed this," she panted. "I've missed you. So much."
Snape was shocked by what felt like a prickle of tears in his eyes at her words. He buried his reaction in more kisses until her muscles rippling around him drove away all coherent thought. Nothing in his entire world felt as good as fucking Hermione Granger. He rose up on his arms and gave himself over to mindless pounding when he heard her cry out. His heart swelled with pride as he felt her clamp tight around him, and her whole body shuddered beneath him. His own release danced just beyond reach, torturing him sweetly until it suddenly rushed up and roared through his body, and he emptied himself into her with a shout.
He sagged and his arms shook with the effort to keep himself from crushing her as he pressed little kisses across her face. She stroked her hands languidly across his back. His hair hung to either side like curtains, shielding their faces.
"So, what do you think of my room?" he drawled with a smirk.
She laughed and ran her hands down and squeezed his arse.
"I adore what I've seen so far."
"Not as much as I adore you, Hermione. Thank you for inviting me to share your life."
She made a face and cocked her head to the side. "Hang on. I thought you invited me to share yours?" she said with an adorable twinkle in her eye.
"Nonsense. You were the one that said we should have a relationship. Budge up. I want a blanket."
"Me?" she squealed as she helped pull the blankets out from under them. "You played me like a fiddle with all that silliness at the Ministry."
"I assure you, Granger. All of this was your idea." He settled his favorite pillow behind her head. "You were the one that demanded I take your maidenhead."
"Oh yes, and you did such a fine job of that." She pulled the blankets up over his shoulder.
"How was I to know you'd gone past your freshness date?"
"Oh, you arse," she said as she burst into a fit of giggles.
He pulled her into his arms and wrapped himself around her like a promise before kissing her on her adorable nose. "You do realize that I intend to keep you, don't you?" he asked.
"I sincerely hope so, Severus. I don't plan on letting you go."
"Good," he said and kissed her as if it was the first time all over again.
A Quibbler Exclusive!
Nightmare at the Snape Residence!
Journalists Endanger Rare Species of Plant!
Several Daily Prophet reporters and photographers are recovering in St. Mungo's overnight after spending a nightmarish week trapped outside the Snape home. The journalists were bound up in some beautiful specimens of Devil's Snare, causing untold harm to the precious and valuable plants until Mr. Severus Snape and his new bride, Professor Hermione Granger-Snape, returned from their secret honeymoon.
"It was terribly unfortunate," said Granger-Snape. "My husband had told Bob, one of our house-elves, that he could landscape the yard however he pleased while we were gone. I'm sure it never occurred to Severus that Bob used to be in charge of the more dangerous plants at Hogwarts before he came to his new home."
The Snapes returned from a week in France to find nearly a dozen members of the press trapped in their newly acquired exotic foliage. The reporters had been trying to investigate rumors of a secret Marriage License and had clearly trespassed onto private property.
"There wouldn't have been an incident if the dunderheads observed Property Laws," sneered an unapologetic Mr. Snape. "My elves have a right to their hobbies. Several rare plants were damaged by their thrashing."
Despite their terror, the journalists were treated well.
"I think there's something strange about those elves," said one reporter. "They wouldn't help free us, nor would they help us get to our wands, or call for help. They would only stun the plants a little when they came near to choking us to death. They did bring us food, but we each had to ask personally. They seemed to spend a lot of time staring and chortling. They did occasionally hit us with cleaning charms, thank Merlin for that, but I think only because the smell started to bother them."
"They smirk," said a photographer. "Each of those little [house-elves] would just stand there and smirk. I swear they practiced Snape's [signature] look."
"I don't care if Snape decides to become the next Minister for Magic. I'm never going near that house again," another reporter declared with a shudder. "Do you have any openings on your staff? You guys never report gossip."
"Right. That's eleven reporters, so that makes eleven bottles of Butterbeer. Share and drink responsibly," Snape said, pushing the bottles across the kitchen table. "Well done."
He smirked as his elves gabbled at each other in excitement before snatching up their treasure and scurrying off to their lair. He turned his head as his wife entered the room, feeling the now familiar warmth that flooded through his body whenever he looked at her. 'My wife,' he thought. 'Will that ever get old?' He snorted. Not hardly. She stood smiling at the departing elves, wearing a loose-fitting summer dress, with her hair falling in loose curls down her back and framing her face. She was breathtaking.
She heard his pleased sigh and turned her pretty eyes towards him.
"Severus, I want to show you what Stephan and Andre did in the drawing room. I added a few touches of my own, and I'd like your opinion on it." Her eyes danced, full of love and laughter, and an infinite number of erotic possibilities that never failed to make him rise to the occasion.
"Oh? What changes have you made?"
"I added some candles, a bottle of wine, and that potion we ran out of on our honeymoon."
He pushed himself up from the table and walked over until he loomed over her. He ran his hands down her back and leaned in and kissed her as she grabbed his robes and started to back out of the room.
"Lead on, wife," he murmured against her lips. "Lead on."
And that's all she wrote. I do hope you enjoyed my little tale. Your reviews and encouragement made this a labor of love. I adore you all. (Especially the ones that click the review button. Yup. I love you guys more.)