Hello everyone! This is officially the last chapter to this story! I hope everyone loved the ride and I appreciate all of your support! If I could just as ONE favor from you… one last time… to just review! Please?
I would love to hear from all of you just once more… your feedback and your thoughts or just so I can say goodbye! But no worries… I plan on writing many more stories to come… I just need a break from this. Give me a week and ill be as good as new!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO STUCK THIS OUT WITH ME! I LOVE YOU ALL!
"Severus, wait please! What was he talking about?" Hermione caught up to the dark wizard and touched his back lightly, trying to get his attention that was focused straight ahead.
"Nothing you should be worried about," he mumbled as he turned the corner leaving Hermione exasperated. She shook her head and bit her lip as she caught up with him again,
"What did he mean if things don't go as planned? Severus!" she whispered, trying not to let others around her hear them.
They started to pass by large wooden doors that were so familiar to her and brought back the dreadful memories from the week before. She grabbed his hand and stopped him, "Please, before we go in, just talk to me. You have hardly explained yourself at all this morning."
Severus sighed and turned to her with a forlorn expression on his face, "It is nothing that will affect you. I assure you… merely business, that is all."
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest, studying her former teacher, "If it is merely business… why have you been so distant these past few days? Do you think I haven't noticed? You grow cold at even the mention of our relationship or our future together… Harry has caught on as well. I see the way he looks at you, Severus, when you are talking to him. He knows just as much as I that something is wrong."
Why would he want to tell her? To spoil everything he had worked so hard for? No, he was just distant because of his want of a good future and his worry over it. How could he not? Hermione was now care-free and that is how she should be able to remain. He never wanted to see such pressure on her features. It hurt him to see her in such stressful situations and this little obstacle he had to pass would not be laid on her. If things did not go the way he wanted, he did not care anymore. He would find another position. Perhaps with Ezra or perhaps somewhere else, it didn't matter. What did matter was that he could situate things to enjoy what he had left and to make Hermione as happy as he could.
"Nothing is wrong, my dear. I promise." He assured her and he was being quite honest. There was nothing truly upsetting about what he would proceed to do after the ultimate decision had been made for them in the Hearing. Either way, Hermione would never want for anything under his care.
She stared deep into his black orbs before sighing dejectedly, "Your eyes are telling me something different. Something is troubling you, I know it. Why can't you open up to me?"
He rolled his eyes; he should have known that trying to keep anything from the brilliant witch would be terribly difficult. But he would not falter, "This is neither the time nor the place of which we should have this discussion."
"Severus-" Hermione started but broke off, looking disappointed at the man in front of her.
He rubbed her cheek briefly, "Hermione, would I lie to you?"
"Don't push me away, Severus. It never works." She looked at him seriously.
"What the BLOODY HELL was that for?" Ron hollered, catching up to the couple with Harry on his tail.
Severus and Hermione turned to see the dynamic duo jogging towards them and the dark wizard just moaned slightly under his breath in dread as they neared. Hermione held his hand in comfort as they finally reached them and Harry had a goofy smile on his face.
Harry ran a hand through his hair and fixed his glasses, "Might I ask why I wasn't allowed in with you two? I know it was intentionally against Ron but… what did I ever do? A muggle decided to use the phone and we had to take the long way because of it."
Hermione smiled and chuckled, squeezing Severus' hand in amusement, "Don't look at me Harry, that was all him." She pointed to the man next to her.
The Potions Master smirked evilly, "Oh come now Potter, without you, I was afraid that Weasley wouldn't be able to find his way. We wouldn't want to leave him stranded now would we?"
Harry laughed while Ron grumbled, "I know how to get in to the Ministry. I have only been going here for the past year now."
Severus raised an eyebrow, "I have only taught you for over six years and you still do not know how to properly start a flame for your cauldron. I was merely being considerate of your special needs, Weasley."
Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth to not burst out in sheer laughter as Ron growled under his breath while pushing past them to get to the door that led to the courtroom, "I blame it on bad teaching," he turned to his friend, "C'mon Harry."
Harry's eyes twinkled mischievously as he followed the red-head in, leaving Hermione and Severus alone in the corridor. She turned to him with a smile, "Are you ready?" she smoothed out his cloak and straightened the fabric meticulously.
He put a finger under her chin and raised it so he could meet her golden eyes, "Are you?"
Hermione bowed her head and buried her face into his coat material in a last effort to comfort her nerves before going in. She felt his arms wrap around her loosely and his deep voice breaking the silence of the now empty hall, "Why are you so anxious?"
She sheepishly looked up at him, "If the verdict is not in our favor… will you still… will we still be…"
He pushed a stray curl from her face before finishing her sentence, "Together?"
Hermione blushed, still not used to discussing their relationship, and she nodded. Severus gave her one of his rare smiles, "If you have not yet grown tired of me, then yes."
"I'll never get tired of you!" she nudged him playfully before Harry poked his head through the door, his face ashen white,
"Erm… Professor Snape, I think you need to see this." He almost squeaked. He looked completely dumbfounded.
"What's wrong?" Hermione instantly threw back at him, stiffening.
He shook his head, "Just…" he looked back inside and swallowed, "Just come."
Hermione and Severus instantly wiped the smiles off their faces and replaced it with worry and anxiety, "What now?" Hermione murmured as she got to the door first and opened it up followed by the Potions Master behind her.
As soon as she walked into the large courtroom she was met with a sea of black robes and young smiles. It was packed to the brim and the stadium-like seating gave way for her vision to completely capture all of the students and judging by her numbers… the whole school was there… she whipped around to see Severus Snape walk in and was overwhelmed as every individual rose from their seated position at the man's entrance. A chorus of applause rang out through the room as he took a few steps forward, looking up and around him in a daze at all of his students that were present. Hermione searched further and saw the Hogwarts staff members, including Argus Filch and Mrs. Norris, all on their feet.
Hermione turned to the Potions Master in astonishment at the crowds and was looking for any kind of answer to satisfy her questioning thirst, "Did you invite them to come?"
He was still astounded himself as he watched the surrounding students near the bottom, his house, cheering for him and whispered to her, "No one was supposed to be here…"
She smiled at him and looped her arm with his, "Obviously they are here for you. They are calling out your name."
"This is complete madness." He mumbled.
"Professor Snape," a sharp, familiar voice spoke out amongst the clapping and the dark wizard turned to find it, as did Hermione.
Draco Malfoy came pushing through the crowded room and joined his godfather on the main floor with a large grin on his face, "The whole school is here to support you."
He narrowed his eyes, "Support me in what? This is all a personal matter… "
"Well, being a part of the head of the Board of Governors, I was the one who received your letter… I thought with more individuals to back you up, that you would have more of a chance to change the ruling." He reassured him as Astoria Greengrass came up beside him with a sweet smile.
Hermione raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms, already in a defensive mode, "You wanted to invite all of Hogwarts to support us?"
He smirked at her and looked down to his left at the dark brunette Slytherin, "Well, no… it was Astoria's idea…"
Harry walked over, "What is going on? Why is everyone… calling for Professor Snape?"
"And Hermione." Astoria corrected.
Harry was shocked again and his mouth was agape, "Hold on, what was that?"
Draco smiled proudly at the beautiful girl and put his arm around her, sending a message to everyone that they were officially an item. She shimmied out of his grasp, annoyed at the cocky affection, and stepped towards Hermione. She gave a shy smile to the older witch and pulled out a large, rolled up piece of parchment that looked to be well used and torn. Astoria unfurled it and handed it to Hermione but spoke to her head of house, "Draco told me about everything that happened once you had been returned to the hospital and I just had to do this for the both of you… for everything you went through. Besides, you never truly received a hero's welcome from the school for the war and I thought this could make up for it. Everyone willingly signed it, Professor."
Hermione eyed the Slytherin girl carefully before tearing her gaze away and down to the parchment in her hands. Severus leaned over, "What is it?"
The Gryffindor put a hand to her mouth after she read the words at the top of the page, "It's a petition!"
The Potions Master snatched the paper out of her hands and read the preamble quickly,
To the Board of Governors for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and to the Ministry of Magic,
We the students and staff of the school are requesting an adjustment of the regulations in the school handbook concerning teaching associations. We ask that Professor Severus Snape and the soon to be Professor Hermione Granger be permitted to keep their intimate relations while still teaching.
After what has occurred between the two concerning the Ministry in their affairs, enough is enough. So let us be heard.
He looked up at the two Slytherins in front of him, "Has the Board seen this, Draco?" he glanced back at the parchment and scanned all the familiar names in sloppy handwriting and even noticed the faculty's signatures as well. Even names of past students were on it and members from the Order of the Phoenix.
Draco smirked, "Not yet. Astoria and I thought it would be fitting if you, Professor, were the one to present it."
The Gryffindor could hardly concentrate on what was at hand when a burning sensation swept through her and her legs became weak. She had never experienced such a feeling but quickly shook it off as she tried to compose herself and yet her gaze wandered. Hermione looked the blonde boy up and down, examining the proper robes that the Governors wore since he was now part of it. She shook her head in disbelief, remembering how handsome she thought the Slytherin to be… even if he was nasty to her. But now all she saw was a plain, thin, wizard with hair that was slicked back, hiding the real length that washed out his complexion and eyes that were too light to show any fire beneath. Her heart jumped when she realized she was comparing the young man to the older wizard with whom she had fallen in love with. Draco did not have the dark, lustful eyes that bore into her… Draco did not have the long black hair that gave off a brilliant sheen with any light source… and Draco did not have the powerful build and handsome exterior that radiated from the Potions Master. She tried to shake her thoughts for they were not appropriate at that time but she just found her heart aching and growing warmer as her mind worked on an unknown speed.
She knew exactly what she wanted. Hermione wanted to marry Severus Snape. She turned to look at him with a blush on her cheeks. She wanted him as her husband more than she had ever wanted anything before. Hermione wanted to take his last name and share the rest of her life with him… her career, a family… everything. Would he sire her children? Would he want to be a father? Her heart was on fire as she watched the dark wizard discuss matters unknown to her with Malfoy and all she could think about was a ring that she wanted to see around the long slender finger on the hand that was holding the parchment. Did he want to marry her? Her breath became ragged in her burning desires and she turned away trying to get a hold of herself. Why did all of these feelings come rushing at her at a time like that? She had to arrange her feelings and her reaction to them before someone really took notice. Hermione looked backed to the dark wizard and her heart scorched her insides as he ran a hand through his long hair and his lips moved in a fluid motion that she loved to watch.
Hermione felt almost physically ill from the heat rising inside of her body and soul. It was as if she had just finally realized her feelings although that was not the case. She had been in love with Severus for months now so why was she hardly able to control herself from just collapsing in a joy that she was completely foreign to? Was she having a chemical reaction to something? Was she given a potion or a poison? Hermione struggled over to the wall and leaned against it, trying to breathe and get some cool air… she needed to fix whatever was going on. The only thing she could relate the feeling to what she was experiencing was that morning that she had first used Severus' wand. That burning that had spiraled through her was now blazing a trail and smoldering in her heart. She didn't have the Potions Master's wand on her person so why was she having such a hard time just… being?
"Hermione? Are you alright?" Astoria put a hand on the Gryffindor's shoulder.
She spun back to see the younger girl and swallowed, "Yeah… yes everything is fine. Just fine." She cleared her throat and straightened, trying to act as if nothing was happening to her. Why was her reaction so intense and why could she hardly breathe? As if she had told him to look at her, Severus turned with a heated gaze at the young witch against the wall and fueled her flames inside her with his dark eyes. Did he know what she was feeling? Did he know the reaction he was giving her was driving her insane?
"Maybe you should sit down…" Astoria suggested before Ginny came hustling to the main floor of the room.
"'Mione, you alright?" she felt the older witch's forehead and snatched her hand back and hissed, "You're burning hot… you almost burnt me…"
Hermione wrinkled her nose, "I… I'm fine."
Severus joined the girls with a nervousness that only Hermione could detect. Ginny instantly started to explain, "I don't think she has a fever but she is almost unbearable to touch… she is that hot."
"Go find your seats," he ordered the two younger girls before turning to his love, "Hermione-"
She narrowed her eyes and caught her breath before standing up straight, trying to keep her balance, "What is going on, Severus?
He sighed and was about to give in when the doors opened and the Board of Governors, dressed similarly to Draco, walked in. The teacher looked back to Hermione, "I owe you an explanation. What you are experiencing will not truly hurt you. I promise. But this will have to wait until after the Hearing."
Hermione inhaled deeply and bit her lip trying to push back the urges that were surging through her to claim the man's lips. The desire that filled her when he was so close was intoxicating. She let her eyes find his own, "Right after, Severus. You have been keeping too many secrets from me."
Snape touched her cheek lightly and Hermione felt ice shoot through her core, repressing the overwhelming feeling to an extent that would help her keep whatever was going on with her, at bay. She seated herself quickly with the help of the Potions Teacher while all the students sat down when the doors had closed and the governors had entered. Minerva McGonagall briskly took the floor,
"Governors… I believe you received a letter from Professor Snape calling for your immediate attention to the unique situation regarding his apprenticeship that I am sure I do not have to point out and explain to you." She paced in a noble strut with a dignified air that she had not had since before the trial against the Wizengamot.
She gave the men who had all taken their own assigned seat, a polite smile before continuing, "It has come to my special attention that our school has several outdated rules against having intimate relations between staff members-"
One older man raised his hand to stop the Headmistress, "We are aware, Minerva, and yet we are concerned…"
A middle-aged gentleman stood up, "We are not fighting against you by any means, but just for the welfare of the school. A relationship with an apprentice is absolutely out of the question. Miss Granger's education has been more than likely compromised and blinded by feelings and we are heavily distressed on the issue of such an early Potions Exam that she has taken. It was completely irrational and was given by an incompetent with no offense to Mr. Ezra Moon."
The Headmistress spoke up, "That is not why we are here-"
"But my lady," another spoke, "are we not correct in concluding that there was indeed a hidden relationship between Severus Snape and Hermione Granger? Did Miss Granger not inhabit her teacher's house for several months without guide and instruction before she was to appear before the Wizengamot? What say you, Headmistress, to the education and capabilities of a mere five months of instruction before attempting to become a Potions Master? I must say that I for one would rather see Miss Granger continue her studies before we even discuss the next topic."
She showed another polite smile but everyone who knew Minerva McGonagall could tell that she was extremely annoyed, "I completely understand your worries, gentlemen. But coming from her former Head of House and teacher, I must vouch for Miss Granger. She has skills beyond her years, beyond any magnitude that I thought possible. I was unconvinced at the beginning when Severus approached me on the matter of their personal relations growing further than just a teacher and student. Miss Granger is an adult but much more… this young woman," she motioned to Hermione who sat next to the dark wizard, "has talent. She is able to soak up any amount of information presented. Professor Snape went through over five text books with this young witch in a matter of days that should have taken years. I dare say, Miss Granger far outweighs my capabilities in comparison."
There were hushed whispers sent throughout the room at McGonagall's last statement before another middle-aged wizard stood up and joined the older witch out on the floor. He sighed with his hands clasped behind his back, "I believe we have already heard your quiet compliments on behalf of the girl but as a whole," he motioned to the wizards behind him, "we are not yet convinced that she has not only the capabilities to teach seven classes a day, five days a week and the duties that go with it, but to fulfill the prescriptions and orders that are sent by the dozens everyday from St. Mungo's and the Ministry and the list goes on. She may be intelligent, but is she fast? Is she nimble and how is her endurance level? How does she perform under pressure?"
He turned to Hermione to address her specifically, "Being the Potions Professor at Hogwarts is the most trying and difficult position the school offers and I think I would be right in saying, correct me if I am wrong Severus—Minerva," he motioned to the two teachers, "that the position you seek, young lady, is more time consuming and stressful than the Head of the School and can only be performed by the best and most efficient."
Hermione nodded, "I understand Sir,"
He raised an eyebrow, "I hope you do." He turned back and took his seat once more.
The older man stood up, slowly and painstakingly, "If Miss Granger has come this far and has not given up yet, then I see some fight in her spirit. A drive that will aid her in her upcoming tasks in her career. I do not question her motives but I am concerned…" he cleared his throat, "I am concerned that although Miss Granger will give her best with the orders sent to her and her classes, I need affirmation to feel comfortable to hand everything over to her. She has had only five months of proper training that was not rushed through and the Potions exam was given by an Auror with no expertise in the subject past his own test scores from years ago. It is obvious that the Ministry gave her someone who would most likely see her fail, although she managed to slide by, and we are not blaming her for any of it."
"What are you saying, Sir?" McGonagall straightened, eyeing him warily.
He cleared his throat once more, "If Miss Granger would retake a proper Potions Exam and pass, then I have no further quarrel on the subject of her competency and I believe that none of the other Governors would either."
The were low calls in agreement and the men at the long table looked to Minerva in waiting. She clenched her jaw for a moment before turning to Hermione and joining her. She bowed down low to only be heard by the young Gryffindor, "Miss Granger… you don't have to do this. We know you are competent. We can still discuss this with them."
Severus nodded, "With everything that you just went through, you should not have to retake the test. That was the fault of the Ministry and you haven't shown anything but skill throughout the battle."
Hermione shook her head sweetly, "No, it's alright. If that's what I have to do to have no more doubts… then I would be more than willing," she turned to Minerva, "Severus taught me well, Headmistress." She put a hand on the woman's arm in comfort and the older witch sighed.
The dark wizard turned to Hermione, "Are you absolutely sure?"
She smiled and nodded, "Yes, it would be easier than arguing this and having to constantly prove myself to everyone. I'd rather have the school's respect from the start."
McGonagall briskly turned back to the men and stepped forward back to the middle of the room, "Agreed. But I must implore you to allow at least one week before the exam so that Miss Granger may compose herself and prepare."
"All in favor of this?" One of the younger men called out and the whole table erupted in raised hands to count their vote, Draco being among them.
"So let it be done. We shall consult a proficient for a more defined date and Miss Granger shall be notified as soon as it is decided." The older man assured them and cleared his throat again with a throaty cough, "And now… the reason you are here Minerva?"
Snape instantly got to his feet and joined the Headmistress on the floor, "I have requested this Hearing in order for us to attain a higher standard to fit our own generation of living within the rules and regulations that have been drawn out for us. I agree with you, gentlemen, completely that the relationship I had with Miss Granger was indeed inappropriate in her role as my apprentice. I come before you now to not ask you to manipulate the system for my own benefit with this subject, but to reach an amiable agreement on the relations that a teacher would share with another teacher or faculty staff member. Yes, Miss Granger is now an adult and is of reasonable age to interact with whom she will. When my apprentice passes the exam again, I must beseech you to amend your strict adherence to no personal interaction between colleagues. Miss Granger and I will of course properly honor the guidelines of no interaction in the workplace, the classroom, and while working. But I beg you to see reason into this and what these rules have entailed for the faculty of the school."
There was silence for quite awhile before the older wizard spoke up from the table, "And what, pray, have we entailed for the school staff?"
Filius Flitwick came forward, "A poor excuse for a lonely life, gentlemen. Yes we are fulfilling a wonderful role in a child's life but the fact that the teachers have to adhere to a strict code of morale concerning romantic feelings for each other or another is unfair to all. I am not just here to support these two wonderful people," he motioned to Severus and Hermione, "but to plead with you all to seek reason in this decision. We, teachers, have a rather lonely existence, only living in what the castle walls have built for us. Do not lot us to this miserable existence any longer than we have been forced."
"Well put, my friend," Minerva complimented the small teacher before adjusting herself to the middle of the floor, "Gentlemen, see through this, I beg you. An adult relationship that a faculty member might have will not question the learning capabilities of the students but if we are kept from such simple allotments in life, it would rather hinder the students from our bitterness."
"I believe you are being overly dramatic. You know the rules, Headmistress." Another wizard called out.
She grit her teeth, "I was just recently informed by Professor Pomona Sprout who teaches Herbology that the most talented student she has ever come to have has requested an apprenticeship from her, wanting to leave the Auror program."
Another wizard huffed, "And?"
"And because he is married, she had to dismiss him. The talent that could be pouring in from our school has been limited to those who have miserably set themselves in a position of unruliness. Neville Longbottom has taken a wife and because of this remarkable act, he has been ousted from the possible candidates for the next Herbology professor at Pomona's soon retirement. This is not only affecting the teachers and staff within Hogwarts, gentlemen, but those outside of it who could make a difference but are rejected for their marital status." The Headmistress turned to Severus and motioned for the petition he was still holding. He quickly handed it over and she, in turn, relayed it to the Governors,
"I have a petition here that was made by all the students you see behind me. They decided they had enough. This was not forced and every signature was of their own conscious desire to help a couple in need and also the future welfare of this establishment." She handed the parchment to the men who quickly jumped out of their seats to read the preamble and the signatures posted.
"Snape…Snape…Snape…Snape…Snape…" a chant erupted from the sea of black robes and the board as well as the faculty turned to see the students cheering for the most dreaded teacher at Hogwarts. Wolf whistles erupted and random yelling was heard every now and then through the constant call for Severus Snape to be given his own rights as a man to love a woman and vice versa. The Slytherins were jumping up and down ecstatically, more proud than ever that their Head of House was the center of attention.
Hermione beamed at the dark wizard whose name was being cheered for and the burning sensation returned. Obviously there was something going on with her but she just didn't understand what it was exactly. It was definitely not a normal show and reaction to affection for someone else and she could only try to guess at what was happening with her body.
Severus turned his head to Hermione and for the first time in public that she could ever remember, he gave her a genuine smile.
"Where do you want this?" Hermione sorted through the boxes of personal texts and items that belonged to the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.
Severus looked up from a pile of documents he had just removed from another package. He flicked his wand and a cabinet flew open and went back to his reading as Hermione carefully placed the old books in categories for the dark wizard. They were sorting through his things that had been packed up and delivered to his new classroom. She was more than excited for the man to adjust to his new settings and finally teach the subject he had pined for so desperately since his beginnings as a teacher. She knew that although he would be strict, Severus Snape would most likely be the most skilled DADA teacher that Hogwarts would ever have.
"I saw that Filch removed Slughorn's name off the door… and replaced it with a new silver plated tag with your name on it. Looks very nice." She motioned to the door, somewhat jealous that her own name had not yet been added to the Potions classroom door.
Severus smirked, knowing the Gryffindor's thoughts, "You will get yours soon. In fact… Argus should be putting it on at some point today."
Hermione brightened, "Really? Took them long enough! I have been an official Professor now for a week!"
"Oh Lord, you are something special aren't you? A week now?" he chuckled at her excitement and shook his head.
She rolled her eyes, "Oh stop!"
He raised an eyebrow, "I don't know why you are so excited about a silly tag on the door."
"It is something special! It makes everything official! It will finally become my classroom and I will become Professor Granger." She beamed at him proudly and he chuckled at her joy.
"You become euphoric over the silliest little things. You forced me out of the dungeons… wouldn't let the house elves help… is this actually fun to you? Not using magic and carrying heavy loads up and down the stairs?" he smiled at her silly moving tradition. Hermione thought that if they packed and unpacked by hand that it would somehow be much more personal.
Hermione just stuck out her tongue like a child and continued unpacking his books.
It was the last day of school and Hermione had pushed the man to start moving his belongings so she could finally have her classroom empty so she could bring in her own things. She was more than elated that she was finally going to be an official professor with her own room and office to herself. It took quite a long time to try convince Severus to let her have his office in the dungeons but he had refused her over and over again. He was the Slytherin Head of House after all and he would be in the dungeons more than any other teacher besides Hermione. She had finally resorted to surrendering to the stubborn professor and took the DADA office that should have been Snape's. Although it was ridiculous, it also gave them both an excuse to see each other multiple times through the day during the next start of term without looking desperate for each other's presence.
She smiled at the man at his new desk who was shuffling different papers around, obviously trying to organize himself through the chaos. His hair glimmered in the bright light of the floor to ceiling windows that lined one whole wall of the room and she almost wanted to laugh. The brightness in contrast to the man was just so unsettlingly opposite. It was almost as if she was staring at a striking contradiction to see the dark wizard in such a bright and cheerful room, despite the dragon skeleton hanging from the ceiling. Hermione was ecstatic when she had passed the second exam with flying colors and had been in high spirits ever since and was not even swayed by Severus' foul mood through putting his belongings away which she practically forced on him because she wanted her classroom as soon as possible. It was the end of term but she figured she would at least get everything cleaned up and she could move in what she had until the end of summer when she would return with everything she required for teaching the subject.
Hermione opened up another box and started pulling out more books that she had never seen before that was all on dark magic and defense spells against it. She was flipping through some pages when Severus broke the silence, "Susan Bones was made the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry, youngest in history. Following in the footsteps of her aunt no doubt."
She glanced up from her position on the floor, "How did she get to that position at her age? That's almost impossible."
He smirked, "Between Kingsley, Minerva, Ezra and I, we pulled a few strings. I visited her while you were taking your exam last week and we had a long talk about our history together."
Hermione raised an eyebrow and got to her feet wanting to see the Daily Prophet. She snatched the paper out of his hands and leaned against his desk, "I am happy for her, don't get me wrong but… why were you in on this?" she gave a little smirk, wanting to hear his version.
"I have been indebted to her for quite some time and now we are moderately even." He looked untroubled but Hermione knew better.
"Severus… since when would you do anything so big for your students?" she questioned, folding her arms.
He smirked, "Well I thought my debt was paid a few years ago but when I heard your awful story about Ginny's bet… I reconsidered things."
Hermione's eyes widened, "Susan was the one Ginny picked to ask you to the Yule Ball wasn't she?"
Severus watched the Gryffindor for some time before speaking, "Yes well, when she had come to my office those years ago to ask me, I was quite upset but we had arranged a few things and together decided to never speak on it again. She had become one of my best students after that and she was the only other that received Outstandings on her NEWTs besides you in Potions. I never give a grade a student doesn't deserve but she must have thought me attempting to be kind on her part."
"So she thought she needed to pay you back?" Hermione asked.
He nodded, "Yes and in return she gave you the keys to my cell, retrieved my wand and helped both of us at the Hearing as a witness and signed support on the petition."
She stood up straight as realization hit her, "So that's what Ron meant when he said she told him she owed you a favor…"
Severus stood up and waved his wand at the windows and the shutters whipped closed, "Most likely… and after what happened with you and I at the Ministry… they really couldn't say no when I insisted she be offered the position."
"Oh how terribly uncharacteristic of you… that is almost sweet, I dare say." Hermione chuckled, giving him a hard time.
The dark wizard strutted towards Hermione and lifted her chin up to his, "So… has Minerva relayed the bad news?"
Hermione's brows furrowed and she went stiff, "What are you talking about?" she backed away slightly and eyed him carefully as a sarcastic smirk graced his features,
"Well I guess that just answered my question. Although to you it would probably be wonderful news and yet here I am, waiting for this to forever affect our relationship… to forever create a rivalry between us. And I fear it is already taking hold." He cupped her face in both of his hands and lightly brushed his lips against her own, enough to tease her but not to be titled as a real kiss. A low chuckled erupted from his chest as he let go of her and seated himself back down in his chair.
Hermione was more than confused, "What?"
"I think Minerva should be the one to tell you." He said almost gravely but she knew he was putting on a show to psyche her out.
Hermione deliberately sat in his lap, "No. Tell me. Now."
He rolled his eyes, "I am afraid we are now enemies, my dear."
She squeezed his shoulder in contempt, "Stop teasing me so!"
He laughed again, "You are to be the Gryffindor Head of House… just as I predicted."
She squealed in delight and hopped off his lap to just revel in her new position, "Yes!"
He rested his elbow on the armrest and laid his chin atop his hand and watched the young woman trying to restrain herself from jumping up and down. He smirked, "I told Minerva it was a horrible idea and that I was against it completely… but she insisted."
Hermione made a nasty glare towards him before returning to her happy state as she put more items away from the boxes on the floor, "You are absolutely dreadful!"
Severus laughed out loud, "And just a minute ago you were telling me how sweet I was."
After putting several more books away, she returned to the man who was jesting at her and playfully jabbed at his chest for making her worry for no reason. Hermione came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck and Severus sighed, "I am not quite sure what you see in me, my dear."
Hermione softened, "What do you mean? I love it when you're so playful and not so extremely serious."
He rubbed one of her arms that were lovingly put around him, "I know you do," he unwrapped her limbs from him and laced her hands in his own, "I just don't want you to get your hopes up… you may know me by my first name now but I will and always be your snarky, sarcastic Potions professor that you met when you were eleven."
She smiled and kissed his cheek, "Well I didn't fall in love with you because of what I thought I could change you to be, I fell in love with my teacher… attitude, wardrobe, the whole package."
He chuckled, "Well I just wanted to get that out now before—" he stopped and stood up, turning around to her.
"Before what?" Hermione questioned curiously.
He smirked and pushed her curly hair behind her ears and pulled the silky tendrils behind her shoulders, "Before you think that I will give you special treatment while working. You have now officially declared war my dear… whether you meant to or not. I apologize in advance as to what happenings may occur next term to officiate that Slytherin will win the House cup."
Hermione giggled, "You are rather cocky, are you not?"
Severus shrugged before stepping back, "I have every reason to be, don't I?"
Hermione closed the gap between them and wrapped her arms around his waist before giving him a squeeze, "I'm not sure I follow."
He kissed the top of her head let his hands fall and laced his fingers together at the small of her back, "I finally have the job I always wanted at the school, this is the last day of term so we have quite the break before the start of school, and I have a beautiful witch who wants me… I'd say I have quite a bit to be proud of."
"Severus?" Hermione cuddled in closer to him, loving the feel of him around her.
She sighed, wanting to spurt out the four words she had wanted to ask him in the middle of the Hearing… she wanted to live with the man for the rest of her life and he had yet to make a move. What was he waiting for? Did he even want to get married? She looked up at him with a frown, "You lied to me, you know."
He tilted his head, concerned, "What are you talking about?"
She tucked her head back in his coat, "You said you would tell me what was going on with me in the courtroom and you never did, afterwards."
She felt him hunch over slightly in regret and guilt. Severus shook himself slightly before kissing the top of her head and holding her tighter against him. He rubbed her hair a bit before swallowing, "You felt the same way when you held my wand that morning in Courtroom Ten, didn't you?"
Hermione was more than relieved that we wasn't going to fight her on the topic, "Yes…" she gazed up at him, "but at that time it was only when I touched your wand. Now every time I am around you, I literally feel like I am on fire until you touch me."
"I never thought it would be true… what happened between us." He whispered.
Hermione sighed, "What happened?"
"That night you came to me at the Ministry…the night we shared…" he started nervously.
Hermione smiled, remembering how wonderful it all was… even though Severus has ended up practically dying from the sickness he received from their night of love, "What happened that night…"
"I bonded you to me, Hermione. It's a subconscious practice of wizards… and I joined us together—physically, mentally, and emotionally. All of those feelings you were having at the Hearing… those were mine. But you just feel them in different ways than I do. We understand each other and are connected. I—I am sorry. I didn't know I had done this until after…"
Hermione was silent for a moment before she licked her lips, "What do we do once this has happened? Is there any way to stop it or are we… bonded forever?"
Severus' heart jumped, "Would you like to be?"
Someone was clearing their voice for attention at the door. The couple looked over and saw Ron on the threshold appearing rather sheepish and anxious. Hermione broke away from Severus and smoothed out the wrinkles in her shirt. The red-head walked in and slowed his gait as his former teacher straightened and eyed the boy with a concern and annoyance. Ron was positively pale and whiter than a sheet and was keeping his eye contact on the floor for the most part.
"Ron… what are you doing here?" Hermione asked him, confused at why he was at the school at all.
He scuffed his foot at the floor, "I-" he looked up for mere seconds before averting his eyes to the old floorboards in the classroom, "I realized there was something that I couldn't let go of… something I needed to do."
Hermione's heart beat raced and she prayed that her friend would not say anything foolish or ask to have her back. She couldn't handle breaking his heart again, "What?"
Ron swallowed and folded his shaking arms in an anxious habit, "I… erm… I need—I need to talk to Professor Snape. Alone."
Severus' mood immediately turned sour, "What do you want Weasley?"
Hermione sighed, "Ron-"
He shook his head, "Can you leave us, 'Mione? I won't be long I promise."
She bit her lip and slowly walked towards the exit. What did Ron possibly have to say to Severus? Was he upset? Was he going to try and attempt a murder? Her mind was throwing out implausible ideas and yet they were all possibilities to her… she never knew what Ron was capable of. He looked sick to his stomach mixed with an assortment of different fears written on his face. His peachy skin was white and read a much deeper emotion than what was usually plastered on him. His eyes had lost their glow and his mouth was in a deep downwards curve. Hermione looked back once she had reached the threshold to the hallway and gave Severus a passing smile before turning to leave.
"Hermione-" the dark wizard called out to her.
She quickly came back and stepped into the classroom, "Yes?" she asked hopefully.
"Your name was supposed to be put on the Potions classroom door sometimes this morning. Perhaps you can take a look while Mr. Weasley and I discuss a few things." He suggested, keeping his eyes on the red-head in front of him.
She nodded quietly, wondering why the dark man had not told her earlier when they were on the subject. She ignored it, "A-alright."
Hermione left them and exited out of the room into the third floor corridor. Why had Severus asked her to go to the dungeons? She rolled her eyes… to get rid of her probably. He was using her excitement to his advantage of getting her to leave for a bit so he could speak with Ron. She cursed herself as she turned a corner to the moving staircases, she should have just stayed to listen to their conversation. Hermione knew better, however because Severus always knew when she was spying on him or listening in on a conversation. He was rather annoying when it came to such matters but she didn't really mind. As long as nothing went on between the two males, she was more than happy to check up on her Professor Granger tag that ordered in gold to be attached to the door. She couldn't believe that she was finally a professor! She would be able to spend her days in a learning environment and around the man she loved. Just a few months prior, that was all she dreamed of and now she was finally living it.
Once she had reached the first floor she made a few turns into the hallway to the spiral staircases that led to the humid dungeons and Potions classroom. It was dark and dank but it was her new home and she was rather excited about it all. She would do her best to light candles and put in a few more sconces along the wall to lift the atmosphere but would mostly keep it the same, not wanting to ruin the organization that Severus had carefully arranged with the ingredients and supplies. She wished that she did not have to wait the whole summer before finally getting a chance to teach. It was unfair and she was slightly anxious about discussing where she would be staying over the break. She usually stayed at the Burrow, where all of her friends would be. Luna and Neville would visit often as well as George, Ron, and Harry's friends from school. The Burrow was usually never empty in the summer time and every night seemed to be like a grand dinner for there were several more guests than just the Weasley's themselves.
Each step she took, the air grew thicker and thicker with moisture and a moldy smell that was reminiscent of the black lake that the dungeons were under. She could recall Harry and Ron explaining the grandeur of the Slytherin common room which had massive windows from the ceiling to the floor the separated the room from the freezing water which cast an eerie glow but from what she had heard, it was breathtaking. She wondered if, being a teacher, she would get a chance to sneak a peek to investigate. If she didn't want to eavesdrop so badly on Severus and Ron, she would have taken the time to explore the dungeons since she had been given the passwords the all the common rooms but decided against it. She would take a look if her name had finally been put up and then go directly back to the man in black, hoping that there wouldn't be a full on duel in her midst when she returned.
Hermione walked down the cool hallways until she reached a long stretch of corridor with a cutout that held a large arched door. She smiled when she saw a glimmer of gold and almost skipped towards her brand new classroom. Filch must have put it on after she and Severus had taken all the belongings to the third floor. Hermione's disappointed sigh echoed through the dewy hallway when she read the name on the gold plate.
"Oh no! I at least wanted to see it before I leave!" Hermione huffed and ran a hand through her curls.
"What's all the fuss about?" the Bloody Baron came sweeping through the wall and stopped when he saw her upset face. He turned his head to see what she was staring at, "Are you switching classrooms with Severus?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes at the brand new plate that read Professor Snape and growled, "No wonder he didn't want to move any of his belongings from his office! That little sneak never planned on moving from the dungeons!"
The Bloody Baron smiled, "Sounds like Severus to me. Perhaps he didn't want to leave… he was rather fond of this classroom, Miss Granger."
She eyed him, annoyed, "It's Professor Granger…" she realized she was being rather harsh to the Slytherin ghost, "but you can call me Hermione."
He laughed, "Well, good luck Professor." The Baron floated away, leaving the Gryffindor alone to her own thoughts.
I'm going to kill him! Is he really expecting me to transfer all of the potions ingredients and supplies up literally five levels to the third floor? Even with magic it is exhausting! She stomped her way up the stairs, ready to give the dark wizard a piece of her mind and hex the wizard if at all possible.
"What do you want Weasley? I'm busy." He growled, returning to his desk to organize his things.
Ron came forward more, "I just wanted to say thanks." He mumbled under his breath.
Snape raised his eyebrow, "Who forced you to come here?"
He scowled, "No one!" he spat out but then realized his mistake, "Um… I mean… no one, Sir."
"Well then what do you want?"
Ron gulped, "I just wanted to say thank you for saving Hermione… and making her so happy. I have never seen her so… content."
Severus turned to the boy with his full attention and crossed his arms, listening for more. He moved closer and examined the boy from head to toe. Ron appeared to not have gotten any sleep for days and his clothes worn for over a week… but he never knew with hormonal Gryffindor males. Perhaps it was the new style but he knew by the boy's appearance that he wasn't well. He sighed, "Is that all?"
Ron glared at the teacher, he knew that they would never see eye-to-eye or get along in the real world, no matter how hard they would pretend or try to think they could. They truly did hate each other but Ron was just trying to be the bigger man, "No!" he said defensively.
Severus seated himself casually, "Well then…"
He rolled his eyes, realizing that this would go exactly as he planned… absolutely terrible, "I also wanted to make sure you would take care of her. From the way Hermione looks at you, I can tell all she wants is to spend the rest of her life with you…"
Severus said nothing as he watched the boy nervously fidget in front of him. He couldn't believe that the Gryffindor was actually attempting to be civil. Ron cleared his throat, "I don't think I could ever make her so… happy."
The silence between them was more than awkward but Severus kept his cool, knowing that if he said the wrong thing, he could provoke something within the boy that could potentially ruin his classroom, "Thank you. Weasley." He said respectfully and nodded his head.
Ron gave a half grin before clearing his throat, "And I just wanted to let you know… that if you ever hurt her… I will kill you. Harry wouldn't have a problem helping me either. I will hunt you down… wherever you may be and kill you. I won't even blink or think twice about it. Don't EVER hurt Hermione."
Severus knew that although it was a threat it was also a roundabout way of giving the older man his blessing with the girl he was still so sickly in love with. He nodded, "Understood. I would never do anything to her, Weasley."
He sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve, growing a little emotional, "Good."
There was another awkward moment of silence that lasted a good five minutes, both wizards not wanting to meet each other's gaze. Ron finally broke it, "Erm… I'm going to… I'm just going to leave now."
Severus nodded, "It's for the best. Good bye, Weasley."
"Good bye, Snape." Ron swallowed before abruptly leaving the dark wizard to his own thoughts and silences.
Severus knew the boy meant well and was actually glad to have the chance to come to an understanding of sorts. It was needed. But moreso than ever, he was extremely nervous. It was terribly bad timing on his part to send Hermione away to find her name plate. He wondered if she would understand his side of things and why he did what he did. He needed to didn't he? He hated confrontation and avoided it as often as he could… and even with something as big as what he was doing to her… he couldn't quite find the words to say. He shook himself and stood up to pace, trying to let his mind fall on another topic.
Get a grip! He kept telling himself as he strutted across the room. He recalled what Ron had said… did Hermione really want to spend the rest of her life with him? Did she really want to marry him? Why would she want such an old man as her husband? He would love it if she would be his wife and yet… it was all so soon… all too sudden. He was jumping ahead of himself by thinking that way. Only a year of a secret relationship and he was thinking of marriage? Hermione was too… he had accidentally slipped into her mind at the Hearing when she had started to experience everything that the bonding entailed. Severus inhaled sharply as he continued his hard walk across the floor of his new classroom. Why did he think she would want to marry him so soon? Why was he even thinking of marriage? He knew that she was bonded to him and that was all that mattered which he still needed to explain to her! He shook his head in defeat when Hermione came barging through the door, angry as could be.
"Hermione what's wrong?" he raised an eyebrow.
"You!" she hissed, "Really? I did all this work for you to only switch classrooms on me? I am NOT moving all the supplies from the Potions room to here so if you want to rot in the dungeons so badly, then by all means… the task is yours!" Hermione was ready to leave when he caught her arm.
"You are not leaving me on that note, now slow down…. What are you talking about?" he gave her that serious look that he would give a student and she sighed,
"Why didn't you just tell me that you wanted to stay in the Dungeons in the first place?" Hermione moaned pathetically, slumping in his chair.
He shook his head and bent down on his knees to her height, "I thought we agreed we would switch offices but that is it. Who told you I was switching classrooms?" he pushed her curls out of her face, something he rather enjoyed as of late, "Was it one of my Slytherins?" he said defensively, ready to lash out on his students.
Hermione shook her head, "Why did you order a brand new plate and everything for the Potions door?"
He tilted his head, trying to find the right words… it was now or never—
She pushed him away from her, still a little upset, "Or was it just a mistake on Filch's part?"
He smiled, trying to stifle a deep chuckle. Severus was sure she would have caught on but shook his head at her literal take on the plate. Perhaps he should have made it more obvious by adding in her first name…
"So…" she started, exhaling in a huff, "you aren't moving back to the Dungeons?"
He kissed her with a longing that had been waiting to come out for days. He let his tongue slide in her parted lips as he brought her closer before running his hands through her messy curls. She moaned and tightly wrapped her arms around him but before things were taken too far, he pulled back and took both hands in her own, "So, my dear, what did you think of the plate?"
She furrowed her brows, inching closer to him, letting him know that she was unhappy about him breaking the kiss, "I think it's prettier than your silver one. You should have Filch replace it."
He smiled again, realizing she still didn't understand, "My dear… what if you kept it?"
She frowned, "Why would I keep it? I don't want all the first years to come running to my classroom when they should be going to yours… I need my own remember?"
He was basically going to have to spell it out for her, "Hermione… I was the one who changed the order for you…"
She narrowed her eyes, "It was you! Why would you do such an awful thing! You knew how excited I was to see my name up there!"
He bowed his head, hoping she wouldn't be extremely upset. He glanced up at her and kissed her left hand's knuckles softly, "Do you not want it to be your name?"
Hermione's jaw dropped and her eyes widened farther than he had ever seen before. Her breathing became labored as Severus waved a hand over the one he had just laid his lips upon and a diamond ring appeared on her finger. She looked at him in confusion, happiness… and more confusion mixed with a variety of shock, "Severus!"
The door flew open to the classroom, "I CANNOT believe you gave me an Acceptable in my Potions exam!" Ginny cried out in anger and pure shock.
Severus flew to his feet, "Miss Weasley!"
Hermione was still in shock and just sort of sat there while Ginny's lower lip started to tremble, "Professor Snape you can't be serious! After everything we went through together these past few weeks… I helped you! Even healed you! And… and…" she shoved the grades in his face.
He examined her grades and saw that she had an Outstanding in every subject except Potions and Arithmancy, "Miss Weasley… I was being rather generous to you. You still have a lot to learn about advanced potion-making… if not for these past few weeks, I would have easily failed you."
She looked up at him with wet eyes, "But my dream was to always become a Healer! I need at least an Exceeds Expectations!"
Severus ran a flustered hand through his hair, "Miss Weasley, perhaps Hermione can offer to be your summer tutor… if you can reasonably pass again, I will personally refer you to St. Mungo's apprenticeship."
Harry and Ron came running in as well, "Ginny I told you not to—Oh… Professor Snape…" Harry gulped loudly.
"What in GOD'S NAME ARE YOU ALL DOING HERE?" he tried to remain calm but sharply let his opinion to be known that he was NOT happy.
"We tried to stop her sir… Ginny was going to skip the train and we were going to spend the day in Hogsmeade… with Cho and Ron." Harry tried to explain.
Hermione shook herself and hid her left hand behind her back, "Cho?"
Ginny grinned, "Yeah 'Mione… turns out Cho and Ron felt more for each other than they thought previously."
Hermione wrinkled her nose, "But… I thought Cho was dating Oliver?"
Harry smiled and put his arm around the small red-head, "She was."
"Oh Ron!" Hermione lunged forward and hugged the blue-eyed boy to her tightly, "I'm so happy for you! She is absolutely wonderful… and so beautiful—"
Ron kind of shrugged her off while blushing, "Yeah… you're pretty great too, Hermione."
She put her hands on her hips, giving her friend a knowing look before Ginny gasped, dropping her grades to the floor and snatched up Hermione's left hand, "WHEN WERE YOU GOING TO TELL ME!"
Hermione tried to grab it back but wasn't strong enough when Harry and Ron came to inspect it. It was more beautiful than she ever thought possible and never would have ever guessed to receive something so spectacular from the Potions Master.
"I've never seen anything so… breathtaking Hermione. Every girl who sees that is going to be jealous." Harry smirked.
Severus pulled Hermione from her friends, "Well… I need an answer Hermione."
She looked shocked and stared back and forth from her friends to him, "What?"
He gave her that teacher look that he wore so often when he was about to insult someone although she knew it was in good fun, "Miss Granger… Do I need to change your name plate on your door?"
Ginny leaned over to Harry, "What are they talking about?"
Harry smiled as Hermione jumped into her teacher's arms and called out, "No! No!"
"I think he is proposing, Gin." He offered.
"Did she just decline?" Ron tilted his head watching the odd couple share a much needed kiss.
Harry just laughed, "I think… that was an acceptance."