**All recognizable (or slightly less recognizable) characters belong to J.K. Rowling. Which you should know**
Despite the fact that everything else on the man was black, it took a surprisingly long time for any of the students to notice his new accessory. His hands would run over the cauldrons, his wand would wave to vanish the contents of a failed potion, and his fingers would frequently the bridge of his nose in disgust at the students in front of him. Yet it took at least a week before anyone said a thing. Once it was said, however, it was all over the school.
"What is it Mr. Abercrombie?" He asked impatiently at the raised hand in front of him.
"Sir, is that a wedding band?"
A very, very short silence followed. Although it lasted the most minuscule amount of time, it told each and every student in the dungeons exactly what they needed to know: that ring donned on the Professor Snape's left hand was, in fact, a wedding band.
"Mr. Abercrombie, that has nothing to do with the task at hand. Do remember not to interrupt my classroom again with your meaningless questions! Ten points from Gryffindor!"
There was no doubt now. Professor Severus Snape, the greasy git, was engaged.
The news had spread around Hogwarts faster than any other rumor in history. By the end of next period, every last student knew and was discussing it.
"I bet she's hideous!" Rose Zeller whispered across the table to her fellow Hufflepuff students.
"She would have to be, wouldn't she?" Eleanor Branstone responded.
Owen Cauldwell looked up from his plate with a mischievous grin, "Who says it's a she?"
"Harry Potter says it's a she!" Rose defended, turning red at the implication, "After all, didn't Snape love his mom for like three decades or something?"
"Poor sod probably really wished he had died when all that mess came out," Eleanor sympathized, casting a glance at her professor. His cold black eyes glaring at them all made her feel a little less understanding.
"Who in their right mind would want to marry him?" Kevin Whitby asked.
"And for that matter, who would he want to marry?" Owen pointed out.
The students shut up for a moment with that sudden revelation.
All of the sudden, Laura Madley ran up to join her peers.
"It's official," she said breathlessly, "Professor Snape is engaged, but no one knows who it is!"
"How is it official?" Kevin questioned.
"I've asked Stewart Ackerly and Orla Quirke, the power couple from Ravenclaw, and even they have no idea who or why Professor Snape has a wedding band!"
"Yes, but Ravenclaws don't normally engage in all the gossip," Eleanor said.
"Gryffindors do, but Natalie McDonald doesn't even know. However, her secret connection says that he is engaged."
"Her secret connection?" Kevin asked skeptically.
"Well, she thinks it's a secret, but most everyone knows about her relationship with Baddock."
At this point, Owen spit out his pumpkin juice. Rose jumped back to avoid the spatter.
"Malcolm Baddock? The Slytherin?" He said incredulously.
"Well of course! It's not that shocking, really," Laura shrugged.
"Not with all the house unity and what not," Kevin agreed.
Eleanor pushed things along, "So what did Baddock tell her then?"
"Well," Laura began; glad to get to spill her confirmation, "Baddock heard from Graham Pritchard. Apparently, while Pritchard was serving detention, Professor McGonagall swooped in to congratulate him on his upcoming nuptials, insisting that the match were made for each other. Snape just looked at her in horror, trying to point out the student in the room while McGonagall went on about the difficulties they were facing, until Snape cleared his throat. After that, he sent Pritchard from the room."
"He dismissed him from detentions early?" Rose looked shocked.
"Rose, I think there is a bigger subject at hand," Eleanor pointed out.
"Yeah! Severus bloody Snape is getting married," Owen stood up fuming, "and I haven't even had a snog yet!"
Owen stormed from the great hall, Eleanor rolling her eyes before following hurriedly behind.
The conversations went about the same way at every table. Professor McGonagall had said that Snape was getting married in front of Graham Pritchard of Slytherin. He told Malcolm Baddock. Baddock told his girlfriend Natalie McDonald. True to her Gryffindor heart, she had told everyone.
For two weeks, everyone speculated who the mystery woman was.
This annoyed the teachers immensely. The students seemed completely off track because of it.
McGonagall looked over her class, her lips in a thin line as they ignored her attempts to quiet them.
"WELL NOW REALLY!" She shouted, and the class fell silent. The professor tugged at her robes angrily.
"Tell me this is still not regarding those rumors with Professor Snape?"
No one responded for a moment.
"Is he not engaged though?" asked a brave Slytherin. Professor McGonagall noted how everyone seemed to lean in and listen. She sighed internally.
"Yes he is. However, in all my years at Hogwarts, a professor's personal life has never been a matter of much interest."
"Well," Natalie McDonald said, "there has never been a professor at Hogwarts quite like Professor Snape."
"Yeah," agreed Malcolm Baddock immediately, "the guy was in Voldemort's inner circle, but was also completely trusted by Dumbledore. He killed him because he told him to. The guy suffered for years cause he lost the love of his life—"
"Even as a normal person that's amazing," Owen spoke out, "but considering that the git actually loved someone that much is incredible to believe in both ways."
"He is Professor Snape to you, Mr. Cauldwell. Five points from Hufflepuff."
"After all that," Rose continued, "he killed Dumbledore and let everyone who was at least decent to him believe that he was actually a bad guy."
"We cursed his name." Eleanor said.
"Or we didn't say it all, like we didn't say Voldemort." Kevin nodded.
"Now," Natalie finished, "we want to know how he could have possibly fallen in love again and who is who stole his, ironically, golden heart."
Silence pressed the room again. It had seemed almost rehearsed. McGonagall tossed it over in her mind. At first, she had known the students had been particularly mean about Severus' engagement. There had been confusion as to how it was possible and other cruel things. Now the students were taking a general interest. As a matter of fact, it had seemed to increase their respect of him, even if his nickname had not changed. They were truly concerned. She sat down on the edge of her desk and entwined her fingers on her lap.
"Professor Snape has asked me politely to not disclose anything personal about his future wife and anything related, and I am going to respect that," McGonagall said, and watched their shoulders slump.
The class sat up again.
"I will say that, despite all the obvious controversy their marriage will cause, I believe it to be a beautiful pairing. The two are perfect for each other and I will be exceptionally pleased to see both of them happy."
The pupils before her were all seemingly satisfied now. Suddenly Owen spoke out.
"I swear if I see him smile, I'll faint."
Everyone laughed, and even McGonagall cracked a small smirk.
"If Professor Snape smiles, the entire Great Hall might join you on the floor."
The drama about the marriage seemed to come to a halt, as it was immediately announced that the three heroes of the war were coming to visit their old school. Even those who had seen them in their early years were excited. The Prophet dubbed "Golden Trio" was equally excited to return.
"Oh it is about time. I remember when they were in school!" Laura giggled. Everyone had abandoned their typical tables and meshed together.
"To see Harry, Ron, and Hermione is an honor. I wonder why they have not visited before," Eleanor stated.
"What's the big deal?" Pritchard spoke up, bitter at having been dragged there by Malcolm. Of course, everyone looked at him.
"They're only the heroes of the War," Owen said nonchalantly as the others laughed.
Rose daydreamed, "I bet Ron looks so handsome."
"You would like him," Kevin piped up.
"Why not Harry?" Natalie asked.
"I have a thing for red hair," she shrugged.
"Oh be sensible girl," Eleanor chided, "they are just people."
"This does not stop me from believing Hermione to be a very attractive woman," Owen winked.
McGonagall walked up to the podium, and the anticipation silenced the students.
"Good evening," she said, a small smile on her face, "it is my great honor to present Ms. Hermione Granger, Mr. Ronald Weasley, and Mr. Harry Potter!"
As Dumbledore could have only appreciated, the Hogwarts banners exploded with Gryffindor pride, Snape blatantly eye-rolling in annoyance, and the doors opened to reveal the three people. The Great Hall burst into applause as all three entered.
Ron led the way, surprisingly, but with a wide grin on his face. He waved to the children, seemingly enjoying himself. His body, once gangly, had hardened with visible muscle. The last reports had said he had been made captain of the Chudley Cannons, despite original Auror plans. Yet it suited him, and he was more built than Viktor Krum had been, which he would admit was his goal. He had begun his routine when he and Hermione had discovered that neither could truly remain compatible. Having his pride hurt, as she had ended it, he had begun vigorously exercising, and it showed. His hair hung a bit shaggy, but not enough to cover his eyes. He had quickly rose in his skill of Quidditch and enjoyed finally being the star. He had begun dating a witch from Beauxbatons (which everyone was positive was a veela), and it had clearly pleased him. In all estimation, he looked like a celebrity, and he loved it.
Harry was a bit behind him. He too had aged, but not in the way Ron had. Instead of becoming an Auror, Harry had very quickly discovered he required something quieter for a while. He had married Luna Lovegood not a year before, leaving behind Ginny with whom he had found did not long for such a simple or peaceful existence. It had not been a row, as Hermione and Ron's break-up had turned out to be. Luckily, all was understood. All the news said that Harry and Luna were living on a hill in the countryside, using the rewards of Harry's Order of Merlin and hers as well (he, First Class, she Third). Nevertheless, it was clear the war haunted him. He looked like a man in his early thirties already. His face was creased a bit, and he had allowed his hair to grow down to his shoulders. It reminded those who were a bit older of Sirius Black; the attractive quality had not faded, but had grown a bit weary. In truth, he looked tired. In truth, he was. Yet he was so thrilled to be back at Hogwarts that there was a light in his eyes that had not been seen in ages.
Hermione had eyes only for Harry, it seemed, but she was obviously pleased with Harry's demeanor. Hermione had grown to be stunning, a nice revenge for the horrid fate which adolescence had dealt her. Her body had formed to that of a true woman. Her face had lost the baby-like weight and had been replaced by strong cheekbones. Yet in her eyes was her youth. It was like she had never experienced the horrors that had befallen her. Even then, as she passed the tables, there were white scars on her arm, and the word mudblood tainted her otherwise flawless skin. Unlike the boys, not a lot had been heard about her. The split with Ron had been a media circus, but she had no desire to fuel it. All that was known was that she rented a small flat in Muggle London and had begun relaxing for a bit. Like Harry, she used the benefits from her Order of Merlin (First Class) to take a year off. The only thing confirmed was that she neither studied nor did anything life altering for a year. Then suddenly, she was up and about. The Prophet was excellent at photographing her day-to-day, but her simply buying random magical supplies and then retreating back to her flat was hardly newsworthy. With the exception of the occasional fantastic discovery, which the media never seemed to deem too important compared to scandal, she had remained under the radar.
Now all three were walking up to the head table, suddenly looking extremely jubilant, and the students were sitting down. They stood before McGonagall, and silence had again fallen.
Abruptly, McGonagall hiccupped and she smiled, extending her arms out to them with a teary, "Welcome home!"
Everyone cheered, finding themselves too euphoric to laugh at McGonagall's outburst of emotion. The three Gryffindors walked up their former Head of House and hugged her. She motioned to the Head Table and three chairs suddenly appeared next to the Headmaster's chair. McGonagall subtly looked at Hermione, who smiled, blushed, and waved her hand. Only Natalie McDonald noticed this, and kept it in her mind.
"They will be staying with us for one week, during which all of you will be respectful and polite. They will undoubtedly visit your classrooms from time to time. Any questions you may have are to be answered at the discretion of Mr. Potter, Ms. Granger, or Mr. Weasley. This week is for them to visit their rebuilt school, see what they have surely missed, reconnect with their teachers, and so on.
"Please be on your best behavior. Now dig in," McGonagall concluded with a twinkle in her eye, and the food appeared on the plates, but all of the students had decided to applaud one final time.
The Golden Trio bowed gracefully to the Hogwarts students and went around the table.
That was when Natalie saw a singular clue. She was surprised when everyone else missed it. For the first time, she bit her tongue, deciding to smile in a smug way.
"Hey, have guys been visited yet?" Rose asked one lunch.
"Oh yes!" Eleanor exclaimed, her raw excitement very unlike her, "Harry taught our Defence Against the Dark Arts Class with Mr. Weasley."
"I'm sure George loved that," Laura commented, knowing that George had been teaching here to escape the haunting joke shop for a while; there was not a lot of business once the school year started anyways.
"Ron was in our Flying Lessons, of course," Owen smiled.
"I am sure that was a blast," Kevin nudged him, the two boys sharing unsaid agreement of how awesome that truly had been.
"What about Hermione?" Natalie asked.
"She was in my potions class!" Malcom Baddock commented.
She looked at him, flabbergasted, "You felt no need to tell me of this?"
"Not really, no." He replied. Natalie rolled her eyes.
"That's understandable," theorized Eleanor, "she's been really into potions lately."
"It truly shows how brave she is," Owen laughed, "to put up with the dungeon bat in the name of education." The others giggled too, but Natalie just eyed the head table suspiciously, until McGonagall shot her a warning look, and she turned away. Something was up, and she knew it.
The other students did not notice anything strange until the third day. People were pouring into the castle throughout the day, carrying small bundles with them. These were not just any old people. These were esteemed guests, like Kinglsey Shacklebolt and even a shy man named Cattermole. The Weasley's, Charlie and all, arrived there as well. Gossip lovers began their tirade:
"It's an order meaning."
"They are coming for a reunion of sorts."
"Their bundles hold revolutionary proposals for Ministry change."
And so it went on. That night, all the students slept, whispering theories, but Natalie did not. She awoke and covered herself in a Disillusionment spell. Being the gossip queen, she had become determined to learn the spell, knowing such an occasion would arise. She tip-toed down the stairs and followed the lights and sounds. It was all coming from the Great Hall.
There was no way to peak through the door, but to her pleasure, she did not have to, as the doors opened and two people exited, allowing a wave of deafening sound to escape. She thanked all that was in her that she was invisible, because she had let out such a gasp of shock that she was amazed not to have been caught. She witnessed a scene between the two who had exited, then raced back to her dorm.
Natalie would wait. She grinned; oh how she would wait.
The next day, a grand majority of the staff was not at breakfast, and Hagrid let it slip in Care of Magical Creatures that there had been quite a party the night before and some of them were sure to have hangovers. Flitwick seemed to stumble through charms as well. Even McGonagall acted a bit more cruelly, as she had a headache. The most absurd thing was that Snape was not in class that day. He had taken the day off. Some of the students laughed at the thought of him drunk.
The worst part was that not one teacher let slip what had gone on the night before.
On the last day that the Trio was to be visiting, Natalie was at her end. She was a bomb ready to explode, and so she began to let out slips of hot air.
"Don't you see?" She said suddenly to her tablemates at dinner that night.
They all looked at her dumbfounded. "What?" asked Kevin.
"The bundles were dress robes!" She whispered fiercely.
"What makes you say that?" asked Rose.
"They had a party! It was not just some party!" Natalie was bursting.
"That is plausible," said Owen.
"No! It is fact! This was not a random thing. Something happened!"
"And just what happened?" Eleanor asked.
Natalie was finally about to tell them, when McGonagall cleared her throat for silence. Natalie let out a groan and her head fell onto the table with a thud.
"Attention everyone," she said, "We thank our heroes for visiting us this past week. It has been a great honor to have these three outstanding people with us. Please give them a round of applause."
It was graciously given, with a standing ovation. Ron stood and bowed, Harry and Hermione slowly following to nod their heads humbly.
"I would like to thank Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and Ms. Granger for so courteously returning to their …"
But McGonagall trailed off, and her eyes were on one singular Gryffindor, who had suddenly raised her hand, and was beaming.
Natalie had something to say.
Everyone in the hall looked stunned. As all the staff had returned to their normal ways (Snape deducting points for any hints at what they thought he had been absent from), each professor shared their own personal look of shock. No one had ever raised their hand, nor interrupted the Headmaster, save the toad. What did she think she was doing?
McGonagall said nothing for a moment, but then looked at her chatty pupil, "Yes…Ms. McDonald?"
"I apologize, but I must say you misspoke. Don't you mean," she said triumphantly, "you would like to thank Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, and…Mrs. Snape?"
"Excuse me?" McGonagall said.
"I said," Natalie smiled bravely, "that it was my understanding that her name was no longer Ms. Granger, but Mrs. Snape."
Hermione's face had turned into a mask, her eyes wide in what seemed like horror. McGonagall stuttered a moment, but then looked at her student.
"Ms. McDonald, I am not sure where you heard this but—"
"Oh stop Minerva."
Now the eyes shot to the Potions Master who had spoken up. His head was in his hand, and almost as soon as they had looked at him, they looked to Hermione. She was unbearably red, but the grin that was attempting to hide on her face said it all.
Suddenly Snape stood up and walked over to Hermione, took her hand to help her stand up, and kissed her right on the mouth.
Well, it was official: the greasy git had married the heroine.
The noise that erupted was ridiculous; giggles and squeals and wolf whistles filled the hall. He released her and looked back to his students:
"If any of you say another word about it, I will take away as many points as I deem necessary."
Of course, no one listened, and Hermione's hand was touching her blushing face. Rolling his eyes, Snape took her hand and led her out of the Great Hall.
"GET SOME!" someone shouted. Snape whipped around.
"Fifty points from Slytherin!" he roared, and Baddock sat right back down. The Great Hall filled with laughter.
Outside the doors, Hermione pulled back.
"Wait, wait Severus we left the boys inside!"
"They'll handle themselves well enough," he said aggravated, but he stopped to let her rest a moment. She closed the distance and placed a hand on his face.
"Was that show so necessary?"
"I hate gossip. Not one person would be silenced until absolute proof was out of the way. Those damn children can get their lovely chatter subjects elsewhere."
"Oh come now," she tried but he sneered and jerked away.
"Spare me these unending trials," he said. She let go of his hand.
"Are you so ashamed?" she asked. He looked at her, the sneer melting away into a look of apology.
"No I am not ashamed," he insisted, wrapping his arm around her and bringing her into him. He kissed her gently on the lips, his hand on her chin, "I simply would have preferred the students not know about this."
"They would have found out eventually," she shrugged.
"From the moment you handed over the first bit of money with my trace on it," he half-smiled.
"There's the sense of humor I adore," she grinned.
"Do you adore it enough to consider living here, with me?" he asked tentatively.
She smiled widely, "About that, my things may already be in your rooms."
He really did smile this time, "That is quite Slytherin of you."
"You have no idea," she laughed, "I believe it is safe to say the point deduction is going to be a bit more fair, with me living here."
"That," he kissed her, "is a very polite way of saying 'Severus, with you getting laid all the time, you'll be much nicer to my pet Gryffindors' isn't it?"
"You caught me!" she laughed. They began walking towards the stairs.
"Then," he raised an eyebrow, "let us not delay."
Hermione smiled and took his arm as they walked down the stairs into the dungeons. A shimmer by the Great Hall door gave way to a body. Natalie stood there, smiling broadly. From the moment Hermione's hand had slipped across the back of Snape's chair that first day, she had known there was something up. For the queen of gossip, there was nothing more rewarding than when Snape and Hermione had emerged from the Great Hall before here that evening. They had revealed the Great Hall, with a white cake on the Head table, and guests waving and cheering and throwing rice at the exiting couple. She had to say, the tragedy was that no one got to see Snape like this nor Hermione's beautiful dress.
She flinched and looked at the face of her Head of House. McGonagall gave her a look, almost a glare.
"Professor, you must be mad at me."
"Mad? She said and smiled, "not at all dear girl. You did precisely what I longed for you to do. Severus was not going to keep that secret to himself."
Natalie smiled, "I did father proud," she said.
McGonagall smiled, "Yes, but let us not spread that one around. That is still secret. As for now, I think 100 points to Gryffindor will do."
"I like that," she smiled.
"Now get up to your dorms with your classmates."
"Yes ma'am!" she saluted and ran away.
McGonagall sighed. She walked over to the hourglass as it filled up, but suddenly noticed it was not stopping at a hundred. Slytherin was suddenly also getting points. She chuckled.
"Oh Albus, if those two are anything like us, Hermione and Severus will produce a child worse than ours in similarity." She said to no one in the room, "and if their child is as much like itsSeverus as Natalie is like you," she laughed again, "God help us all."