AN: To any of you SS/HG old-timers with better memories than I… Does anyone know the name of the first fic that dubbed the Grangers John and Helen? I would love to give an attribution, but I have read those names so often they have become canon to me, and I don't know where it popped up first.
On a sad note: We come to the end of our frenetic tale…
He found himself alone on the moor. It had been over six months since he'd been here last, and he felt uneasy to be here again. Was something wrong? Was Hermione in danger? Why had he been brought to this place of hers? He spun in a circle but saw nothing else for miles. He tried to force himself awake, knowing it was just a dream, but failed. He reached for his link with Hermione but found it blocked. An icy hand clawed at his heart and a terrible dread filled him.
He forced himself to calm and reached again for his connection to the woman that should have been lying next to him in bed, feeling the shape and solidness of whatever was blocking him from her.
The scene shifted and he found himself in the narrow corridor he'd always used to return to the castle after a meeting with the Dark Lord. This same thing was blocking his way. The tunnel was dark and dank and the smell of mildew was cloying. He tried to push his way past, knowing he needed to get to the hidden door to his classroom before something dreadful happened.
He cried out when the block turned into a body and he felt a woman in his arms. His hand filled with long silky hair and a scent, long forgotten, filled his nose, bringing a flood of memories with it.
The light of understanding flared bright and he looked into a calm, placid face, dominated by kind, gentle green-eyes.
"Lily," he whispered.
She smiled at him, tilting her head to run her cheek against the hand still folded in her hair.
His heart started to pound as she took a half step closer to wrap her arms around him.
"Lily…" Her scent, jasmine and heather, became overpowering and he tried to turn away, tried to find clear air, but he only found the rotting stench of mildew.
He pushed her away.
"You are in my way," he said. "I must get past, I have something to do."
She didn't answer. She just smiled and stepped closer again, reaching out to grasp him. Trap him. Keep him from where he had to be.
"No," he said, backing away. She followed slowly, her eyes filled with a love and acceptance that had never been there in life, and he continued to back away down the narrow tunnel.
"I need to get past!" He snapped, growing angry, but she continued to herd him in the wrong direction.
Fear clawed at him, he was being pushed farther and farther from where he was needed. From his duty.
As if naming his lover brought him strength, Severus stopped his backwards retreat.
"Get out of my way," he hissed in a low voice.
Lily stopped and dropped her arms, looking at him with the same, sad disappointed look that had been burned into his psyche by the time he was sixteen, and he faltered.
"I'm sorry," he said. She raised her arms with a smile and beckoned him and he felt as if he was compelled to embrace her, but he set his shoulders and lifted his chin.
He reached out and grabbed her hands and pulled her, turning at the last moment and shoving her behind him.
"You are in my way," he enunciated with heated impatience.
She wailed and flew at him, her hands curled into claws, and he brought his arm up to protect his face as she attacked him.
"Faithless!" she shrieked.
His chest constricted painfully and he realized he couldn't breathe. Hands beat at him as he struggled to find air. His lungs felt like they would implode and he finally dragged in a deep breath of her cloying stench and gagged.
"I'm done with you!" he bellowed. "You are in my way!"
He shoved her violently, throwing her to the floor. When she landed, she morphed, twisting and changing, until he was looking at himself, sprawled on the floor, a younger, craven lunatic, spitting hate and obsession.
"Faithless!" his younger self shouted.
"Fool!" he shouted back in fury. "I have no need of her, and I have no need of you!"
Severus turned on his heel and strode up the tunnel until he reached the hidden door that led to safety.
He shoved open the door and turned just as his craven, younger self flew at him in a rage. He slammed the door closed and felt a sudden tearing pain. He pushed through the pain and dropped the bar on the door. He heard the mad howling on the other side and shuddered. Lifting his wand, he Vanished the door, leaving nothing but a blank expanse of stone wall in its place. The screaming stopped.
Severus sat up with a gasp, clutching his head against the pain, and sending a pulse of need and terror through the reopened connection. Hermione cried out in her sleep and pushed herself up out of the blankets in a panic.
She threw herself at him, lifting up on her knees and pulling his head against her bosom.
"What happened? Are you alright?"
He shook in her arms, clutching at her as if he could press her into the new and dark, empty place and fill it with her light. His lungs gulped in deep breaths of her scent, her shampoo, her soap—her fresh, cleanness—mixed with the lingering traces of their lovemaking hours before.
He couldn't find the words to explain, so he sent it all through their connection, his isolation, his fear, his entrapment and the ultimate exorcism of a part of his self.
She crooned reassurance, and when she saw the image of his younger self, sprawled on the floor and shouting filth, she hugged him even harder to her chest.
"I know him," she said. "I almost left him behind." She pulled back and sank down on her ankles, cradling his face in her hands. "But he was a part of you, and I accepted the whole. He's gone now, but you haven't lost anything, Severus. Your love for Lily will always be there; it's just healthier now. She's not lost, my love."
Her words and her unconditional love poured into his soul like a balm, and he sagged against her.
She was perfect. She was his everything… this living, breathing woman in his arms, who had gone through hell for him and never asked for anything in return.
He took another deep breath and lifted his head.
"Marry me, Hermione," he said, reaching up and stroking his thumb across her cheek. "I want you to marry me."
His heart swelled to see her face glow with happiness.
"If you are sure you are ready, then of course I will marry you," she replied.
He pulled her into his arms and laid her down on the bed and then kissed her. He covered her with his body, reveling in the warmth of her pressed against him and silently began to make love to her again, telling her with his body what he couldn't express with mere words.
She welcomed him inside her and he knew there was no better place in the world than here in her arms He loved her with his entire being, as he shoved himself between her thighs to get closer to her beautiful, perfect soul. As he emptied himself into her incredible warmth, he felt her light and delicate bubbling soul flutter against his own, and together they cried out as they merged in every way possible.
He cradled her body against his and wrapped himself around her. Their love and contentment slid languorously back and forth across their connection, as they settled and fell back to sleep.
The carriage yard was lit with fairy lights and sparkling streamers, and filled with love. Friends and family mingled happily, waiting for the ceremony to start.
Helen Granger, proud in the Wizarding robes Molly had helped her purchase, looked around and saw everyone was here.
She turned her head and nodded to Arthur, standing in the doorway, and he nodded back and disappeared.
"Into your seats everyone!" called Molly. "It's time!"
Helen admired Molly's organizational skills, but was grateful that she'd never had so many children that she had to develop them herself. God bless every single Weasley, but if Helen had had that many children, she would have taken an axe to her husband's bits.
No. She only had the one child, her beautiful Hermione, and now she was about to watch that child bind herself forever to the pale, thin man that was now exiting the house behind Harry and Minerva as the crowd settled.
Severus looked magnificent in his black velvet robes trimmed in silver. He radiated a nobility that made Helen's heart fill with pride.
This last year hadn't been easy for him. Helen hadn't realized how insular her experience of the Wizarding world was. Her only contact had ever been with Order members, whom she considered the cream of the crop, now that she understood better.
The rest of the Wizarding world had hardly been forgiving or welcoming to the man that had been their idea of the perfect nightmare for five solid years. Severus Snape was considered worse than Voldemort in most circles, because Voldemort had spent the last years constantly trying to regain strength, while the insane and monstrous Potions master, had terrified the country. The fact that he had only harmed terrorists was lost, due to the brutal nature of the executions. Few thought him deserving of his pardon, but the Order had triumphed.
Severus was free, but he was also a pariah.
The idea that this gentle soul would be feared and despised infuriated her.
More than once, Helen had wanted to go to Diagon Alley and just start laying about with her handbag.
This past year had been both hard to watch and beautiful to witness. Severus struggled in silent dignity to rebuild a new life for himself, taking on contracts as a potions supplier and suffering the indignities involved in his rare forays out into the Wizarding world, without complaint. Where he really shined, was in his relationship with Hermione. He was as steadfast and protective of her as ever, but in a way that both encouraged her independence and celebrated her achievements.
Hermione and Ginny Potter had both started working at the Ministry, researching Soul Magic, and Hermione had quickly proven herself. She was frequently asked to lecture on the subject at symposiums around the world. Severus seemed to quietly deflate when she was gone, and it usually took a full day before he would let her out of his sight after she returned.
Helen thought it was adorable.
John Granger had worried that Severus was too undemonstrative and reserved, right up until he made the mistake of wandering into the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night and everyone found the downside of silencing charms.
The two men didn't make eye-contact for a week, while Hermione blushed and giggled whenever her mother asked her to set the table 'with plates, this time.' John had later confided that Severus was rather impressively demonstrative, and the two of them as tittered themselves into a fit until the cat flicked his tail in both of their faces in reproach.
Helen and her husband had eventually bought a new home with their "insurance money," and became partners in their friend Russell's clinic, taking over most of their former patients.
However, they both felt like their old lives were no longer enough. The new house was empty of any soul, with all of their possessions and mementos destroyed. And they had both felt like their practice had become just a thing they were supposed to do, and not something they enjoyed. It had only taken about six months for them to decide to pack their few things, sell their stake in the practice to a very nice young man, and show up on their daughter's doorstep again.
She still smirked when she remembered Severus whipping open the door, wand in hand, and the way his face tilted to the side when he saw them. He'd just eyed the cat carrier and their car full of luggage, stepped back, and gestured towards their half of the house, saying "You remember the way, I trust?" And that was that.
The John and Helen now had an exclusive practice of working with the homeless, and helped Severus with his business as a potions supplier whenever they could. John oversaw the bookkeeping and gardens and Helen pitched in with chopping, mashing, shredding and could even julienne—although when she'd branched into Tourné cutting, Severus had been eloquent in his disapproval of her attempts to 'make it look more festive.'
She adored him. He was irascible, broody, much too old, and rather homely, but Helen Granger thought he was perfect for her daughter.
She watched him as he stood there, managing to look aloof, irritated, and nervously awkward all at the same time, while he surveyed the crowd. Everyone here knew him and knew he was a good man, but it would be a long time before Severus was comfortable in a crowd, if ever. He turned his head and saw her, and the irritated expression on his face softened and he lifted an eyebrow. He gave her a small smile before nodding his head to her and turning away. Helen flushed with pleasure, feeling a special thrill at being one of only a small handful of people worthy of his esteem. The rest of the Wizarding world could go stuff themselves.
Music swelled and Helen rose with the rest of them. When the gathered all turned to see her husband and her daughter standing in the doorway behind Ginny, Helen kept her eyes on Severus. She was sure she was the only one that saw his face as his bride appeared. His quiet smile, before he closed his eyes briefly and sighed deeply, spoke volumes if you understood. His shoulders relaxed briefly, and he stood just a little straighter, held his chin a little higher, and his eyes became just the slightest bit moister. Helen smiled in satisfaction and turned to see her daughter.
Hermione was loveliness itself, in her ivory robes, threaded with gold. She wore a small, glittering tiara, nearly hidden in her mass of chestnut curls, pinned so that they piled up on her head and cascaded down the side of her neck. Her eyes were locked on her groom, and she looked like she was on the verge of shoving her Bridesmaid out of the way and dragging her father along behind her.
John looked incredibly sexy in his dark-blue robes, and Helen had every intention of chasing him down as soon as they had a chance to be alone.
Helen blinked and brought her attention back just as John placed Hermione's hand in Severus's own. Helen beamed a watery smile at her husband as he joined her, and he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her tight against him.
Minerva raised her hand for silence, and began the ceremony.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered today, as friends and family, to witness the bonding of Severus Snape and Hermione Jean Granger…"
John pressed a wad of tissues into her hand and Helen tried to mop at the tears she couldn't seem to stop. They were so happy. You could see it in the way they both seemed to utterly ignore the official words and just spoke to each other with their eyes. Hermione vibrated with a pent up energy that Severus seemed to just absorb.
Sighs were heard all around them, and a loud sniff from the very pregnant Tonks drew a murmur of amused support from her husband, Remus. Molly cried almost as much as Helen, and Arthur's proud smile was only slightly dimmer than John's.
Severus brought her hand up and stroked it with his thumb, before sliding a simple silver band onto her finger while reciting, "I, Severus, bind myself willingly, and unreservedly, to you, Hermione. I will love you and cleave to you in all things, forsaking all others in your name. I will protect you, and support you, through illness and health, through poverty and wealth, with my magic, my body, and my life, until that life ends. Will you have me?"
"I will," Hermione choked out, squeezing his hand tightly. She reached back and took a ring from Ginny and lifted Severus's left hand with her own.
"I, Hermione, bond myself willingly, and unreservedly, to you, Severus. I will love you and cleave to you in all things, forsaking all others in your name. I will protect you, and support you, through illness and health, through poverty and wealth, with my magic, my body, and my life, until that life ends. Will you have me?"
His smile was transcendent, and many in the crowd gasped as he murmured, "I will."
Minerva smiled and raised her wand over them both and said, "Then I declare you bonded. You may kiss the bride." A shower of silver and gold sparkles burst from the Headmistress' wand and cascaded down onto the married couple as they kissed. The guests burst into applause and several flashbulbs went off as the music picked up. Hermione turned and beamed at her parents, as Harry shook Severus' hand and babbled happily at him.
The food was exquisite, the music was marvelous, the company both enchanted and enchanting. The bride and groom danced as graceful as angels, light and dark. They both glowed and everyone commented on it, this illogical couple that seemed so perfect together.
As John twirled her one more time around the dance floor, Helen looked about and realized that her daughter's world had become her own, and all of these people were her family.
"How strange life is, that I feel like I've finally come home on the day I've officially lost my daughter," she said to her husband.
"Now, now, luv. We didn't lose a daughter. We've gained a misanthrope, and a damned fine one at that."
The two of them laughed as he twirled her one last time and the music faded. John pulled her into his arms and hugged her tight as another waltz began to play. A deep voice interrupted them, and they turned to see Severus holding out his hand.
"May I have this dance?" he asked.
John bowed her away and Severus swept her up into a waltz.
They danced together in silence for a few minutes before Severus finally spoke.
"Thank you, Helen," he said.
"For everything. For Hermione. For being who you are." He smiled sardonically. "For rats in the cupboard, and for finally giving up on trying to feed me to death."
She blushed. "Well, honestly, Severus. Can you blame me? With everything that you have gone through in your life, this unnatural thinness just seemed like some physical symptom. I didn't have magic to be able to fix anything else for you, but I could try to feed you up a bit."
He gave her a dazzling smile.
"I thank you for trying. And you are quite wrong. You did much more than I could ever repay, that night you let a dangerous madman into your home," he paused and gave her a devilish look, "pink coat and all."
"You remember the coat? We all swore we'd never tell you!"
"I remember the coat. It was rather warm." He gave her another fleeting smile and then flushed. "But not as warm as your home. Thank you for allowing me in."
The music ended and they swayed to a stop.
"That was mutual, Severus. I would say that you let us in as well." She hugged him quickly and then pushed back. "No go. It's time you and your bride were leaving."
He gave her a small bow and left her to join his bride at the edge of the dance floor. Hermione waved to everyone and there were plenty of shouts for health happiness and some ribald bits of wedding-night advice that made Severus scowl and Hermione laugh, and then the happy couple disappeared with a soft pop.
"And that's that," said John as he wrapped his arm around her waist. "I thought they'd never leave. Now I can get rid of these other tossers and have my way with you. You've been distracting me all night with how scrumptious you look in those clothes."
She gave him a girlish giggle, as they turned to the rest of their guests. "I'll meet you on the kitchen table later," she whispered.
"You're on," he said in a raspy voice.
The sun rose slowly over the moor and the gentle breeze tossed her tangled curls playfully about her face. She swept a hand around and pulled it to the side as she walked out into the morning air. Another gust tossed the hem of her nightgown around until it twisted around her legs and tried to trip her. She bent down and tugged it free with a muttered oath. A low chuckle behind her made her spin.
Severus leaned against the doorframe wearing only his pajama pants, with his arms crossed over his narrow chest.
"That never happened in our dreams," he said drolly.
She smiled and held out her hands to him. He pushed off and strolled slowly to her side.
"I don't remember the stones being so sharp underfoot either," he added.
"Sometimes they were," she said musingly, as he wrapped his arms around her. "But this is so much better than dreams."
"That it is, Hermione." His hand swept up and down the curves of her body, chasing the slight morning chill away and raising bumps across her skin at the same time. "That it is." He kissed her ear and murmured, "Come back to bed, wife. I'm not done with you."
She smiled and turned towards him. "That's a very good thing, my husband. Because I will never be done with you."
The sun blazed forth across the horizon, bathing the lovers in a warm, honeyed gold as they made their way back to the small cottage they had chosen for their honeymoon.
The door closed with a soft thud as the wind once again rose up and danced away across the moor.
AN: Thank you to all my beloved readers. This has been just about the craziest thing I've done in ages, trying to post twenty chapters in three days while editing at the same time. You have all made it a labor of love in the sincerest meaning of the phrase. You have made me laugh, made me think, made me feel humbled, offered to feed my wee waifs, and given me some serious encouragement as far as writing goes. I adore you all.
I have one more story to spam up, but I am going to wobble over to the couch and sleep for two days first.