A/N: This one-shot is for the 1,000th review of Unquestionable Love: The Prequel, captured by two reviewers.
This prompt comes from Mrs HH, who, in celebration of her upcoming tenth wedding anniversary, asked for a one-shot of Severus and Hermione celebrating their own ten years of marriage. Meant as a companion piece to the Unquestionable Love series, she asked for some smut, fluff, and angst. Hopefully this story meets all three requirements!
Warning: If you haven't read any of the Unquestionable Love stories, some of this may not make much sense...
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox.
Unquestionable Love: As Time Goes By
Severus examined his curly-haired, fast-paced wife over his cup of black coffee, studying her discretely as she scurried around the kitchen, making breakfast for three children seated at the table, carrying on and cackling much louder than their small bodies would be expected to project, but neither he, nor his wife, were fazed by the commotion. Hermione Snape calmly waved her wand around, performing multiple cooking tasks at once. 'Seated,' however, wasn't exactly the appropriate term in the case of the three children...
The littlest, for one—a two-year-old girl with big, brown eyes and extremely bushy curls that sprung from her head like a handful of vines, repeatedly stood up and cast Severus a sneaky grin whenever her mother's back was turned. "No, Hailey," Hermione would sternly command each time she caught her look-alike hopping up and down on her chair. "Mummy told you to sit." Severus would merely nod agreeably when the girl named Hailey pouted at him for support, only to repeat the motion as soon as her mother was out of range.
Two slightly older girls, one age five and the other nearly four, busily drew in their magical coloring books. The images sprouted to life whenever the girls were through, sending them into fits of giggles before they moved onto the next page and colored again. Severus quietly watched from afar in what had become his routine observation of his family over breakfast. The scene was always on the verge of chaos, but the once reclusive Severus Snape was rather accustomed to the noise level, the sounds—music, rather—of small voices hollering and laughing, the sight of three young girls seated with him at the kitchen table, entirely unruffled by the surly-looking wizard in black...
"No, Surina," Hermione stated firmly, pulling the younger of the two's hand back, which was freshly covered in marker. "No coloring on the table. Color the paper, sweetheart."
"Lily, please," she then addressed the eldest, "no more getting up and down. Stay seated. Breakfast is nearly ready."
Hermione smiled and returned to frying and flipping several eggs in a pan whilst simultaneously making hot tea. Severus quietly told Hailey yet again to sit down in her chair, but instead, the tot extended her arms out to him, asking with a few cooing noises to be allowed onto her father's lap.
"Must you always have your way, little one?"
Severus shot her a dangerous sneer that didn't reach his eyes, a sign Hailey interpreted as a positive omen; another child would have backed away immediately, but not her. She nodded an affirmative 'yes,' and was easily lugged onto Severus's lap, where she situated herself comfortably and watched her sisters play. Severus, too, had focused in on the commotion commencing at the opposite end of the table.
The younger named Surina was the counter opposite of her siblings: raven hair as dark as her father's that fell straight and just below her shoulders, equally dark eyes, and skin like ivory, much like Severus's own. If Hailey held an uncanny resemblance to Hermione, then it was the second eldest who was entirely her father's daughter.
Surina secretively scanned Lily's pile of markers, as well as her own, ready to make a move that Severus knew only too well. Don't you dare, Surina, he mused, aware of what was about to ensue. Lily, the oldest—pale and pretty with long, chestnut waves that were pulled back into a pink bow—sat unawares of her sister's motives, though she jerked when Surina unexpectedly moved closer to her work area.
"No, Surina!" Lily cried and shoved the markers and paper out of Surina's reach, even though the younger hadn't done anything. "Mine!"
"Lily," Severus's low rumble called out to her unperturbed, yet with an authority that never failed to get the children's attentions, "share with your sister."
"Don't argue. There's more than enough for both of you."
Surina suddenly snatched up one of the markers in Lily's hand, just as Severus suspected she might, and snickered triumphantly, which only made Lily's whining worse. "Mummy! Daddy! She stole my marker!"
"I need it!"
"No, you don't!"
"Yes, I do!"
Hailey tittered close to Severus's ear, finding quite a bit of amusement in her sisters' row as she hugged him around the neck. Severus groaned and rolled his eyes.
It's far too early for this.
"Enough, you two," Hermione scolded without issue and pushed them apart. "Eat up and quit bellyaching."
The distraction of platters full of food being levitated right in front of their noses distracted the girls' argument. Their eyes glazed over at the prospect of fried eggs, sausage and toast, and they immediately quieted down.
Hermione levitated three more plates and slipped into a seat at Severus's side, a smile making its way across her radiant cheeks. "And what are you doing in Daddy's lap, Missy?" she simpered, reaching out to playfully pinch Hailey's arm. The toddler scooted against Severus's chest, her messy curls brushing his chin.
"I think it's time to sit in your chair," Severus encouraged softly, but Hailey shook her head defiantly.
"Aren't you hungry?"
"No. I sit here!"
"Hailey, that's enough," Hermione tried to ease her daughter out of Severus's arms, but Hailey wasn't having it and began to whine, too. "It's time to eat breakfast. C'mon, sweetie—"
Yes, Severus grunted, and tried to pry his daughter's hands off of him. It is far too early for this.
"No!" Hailey insisted, pouting at them both. "I not hungry!"
Hermione sighed and quickly gave up. She started working on the food in front of her when she noticed Severus hadn't so much as picked up his fork. She did, however, catch him staring at her with a curious expression that stopped her mid-bite.
"You all right?"
"I'm fine," came his curtly reply.
"Something on your mind?"
There was an obvious reason Hermione was adamant in figuring out what Severus was thinking. She had been hoping all week long to catch him in the act of planning something, after all. Their tenth anniversary was coming up in a matter of days. Surely, her scheming husband had thought of something by now?
Hermione loved whenever Severus chose to be romantic, usually at the most unexpected of times; a particular event wasn't called for in order for the sometimes grouchy Slytherin to display that side of himself, but since he had returned home from Hogwarts only a week prior, nothing remotely romantic had happened between them yet.
They had barely had any time for themselves since Severus's arrival. The girls demanded his attention at every whim, which Hermione expected and Severus was content to comply with, only it left the professor exhausted by the end of the day. Hermione would be spent, too, falling asleep shortly after her husband, but it was still disappointing to hardly get a word in or a little personal time, just the two of them.
It was always like this the first week Severus came home, something Hermione had been reminding herself. Being forced to live apart from his family most of the week left the selective time he was in their company special and too short-lived. Term was now over, leaving an entire summer to be spent at leisure with his wife and children, only their wedding anniversary was creeping up fast, and it was a milestone one at that.
What does he have up his sleeve? Hermione pondered, though so far she hadn't come up with anything.
Of course, Severus's reticent reaction to her question didn't give anything away either. He seemed distant, almost disinterested in her casual inquiry whenever it popped up, such as now.
"What?" Severus blinked, either frazzled or annoyed, she wasn't sure. "No, nothing's on my mind. Why do you ask?"
Hermione snickered as she brought a cup of hot tea to her lips, causing Severus's scowl to grow more severe. "What are you up to?" he shot back.
The skepticism was so thick it nearly broke Hermione's good humor. "What? Nothing, Severus. I was just asking."
"You never 'just ask' anything."
"Oh?" Hermione challenged, narrowing her eyes over her hot mug.
"Indeed. There's always a motive. What is it?"
"Merlin, there isn't any motive. I'm simply asking a question is all."
Severus's upper lip curled. "You're cheeks are red."
"And you're all hot and bothered."
"I am not!" she huffed and shoved sausage into her mouth.
Severus shrugged and turned his intense gaze away from his wife to Hailey, now pining for her father's attention by placing her hands over his face. "I wanna play!" she mewled, her bright eyes begging for the wand hidden away in Severus's coat pocket.
Severus let out a growl that sent Hailey into fits of giggles. "Not until you eat your breakfast."
"Ohhh," she moped, but Severus's harsh expression didn't waver.
The little girl understood what that meant and conceded, slumping in his lap. Hermione placed a dish of food in front of her daughter, urging her to eat her meal whilst Lily and Surina continued to jabber on with one another.
The fraction of silence that followed got Hermione's mind racing about their looming anniversary. She really hadn't laid out any plans of her own for the big day, as it was something they normally organized together, with a few surprises thrown in by both. She had been hoping Severus might breach the subject so that they could plan accordingly; but so far, he hadn't, and showed no indications of bringing it up, which certainly wasn't like him.
Hermione hadn't been sure what to make of his seeming disinterest all week long. Much like herself, Severus was a planner and hardly did anything on the spur of the moment. He was thoroughly organized and prepared for everything. One of them was going to have to come up with an idea soon, but Hermione was starting to wonder...
If he's toying with me, she considered over their meal, surveying her complacent husband, who had one arm looped protectively around their daughter, his black eyes intently watching Hailey as she ate, and he expects me to believe he's forgotten about our anniversary, or if he's going to keep me guessing, we'll just see about that!
Two days later, however, and Hermione found herself more flustered and worried than ever. If this was a battle of who could outsmart the other, than Severus was most certainly winning; but Hermione was beginning to think maybe it wasn't a game after all...
He wouldn't forget. Severus couldn't do that, the logistical half of her brain fought with the every-growing uneasy side. He's never waited so long to discuss this. It's only a day away. He hasn't forgotten, Hermione. Give it the rest of the day and see. He'll approach you. Don't you dare give in now. You know how he likes to approach you first...
Hermione had purposely taken off work the past few days, which gave her more opportunity to watch Severus like a hawk, all in the hopes of catching him organizing, planning, conniving—but nothing had happened. He showed no indications of sharing with her what his thoughts were on how they might celebrate, given no forethought to surprising her, and showed no shred of evidence that he even knew the day was nearly upon them.
Maybe he has forgotten...
Hermione glanced up from the illustration book she was reading to Hailey, taking a moment to eye her unconventionally handsome wizard—now more elusive than ever, to her way of thinking—who was seated on the floor in their reading room with Lily and Surina curled up by his side. His wand was out and he was levitating several items—dolls, blankets, blocks—into the air, morphing them into various images at the girls' requests.
Noting that Hailey was just as distracted by the commotion, Hermione gave up on their reading material and, instead, happily partook in watching the spectacle with her daughters. When it was time for bed, an affair which in and of itself was exceptionally long and tedious, aggravated more so by several complaints of "just a few more minutes," Hermione eagerly curled into bed beside Severus in the hopes that they might at last discuss their upcoming anniversary. She was going crazy not knowing and had resolved only earlier that night to let him win the battle. This time.
Just as Hermione undid her wild curls, letting them loose from her ponytail, she detected movement beside her and turned over in bed, hopeful that maybe her secretive husband was about to come clean, only to be met by disappointment. Severus had turned out the light on his nightstand and was laying on his side, his back facing her. His head had barely hit the pillow, but he was already snoring, worn out by the all-consuming day they had shared with the girls.
So much for that.
Hermione sighed. She didn't have the heart to wake him—they had been going nonstop with the kids all day, so she couldn't blame him for being exhausted—but she was still glum over the matter, nonetheless. Weaving an arm around his waist with her head situated comfortably against his shoulder, Hermione was about to drift off to sleep herself when Severus's breathing suddenly hitched, awakened by her warm touch, and his head lifted from the pillow to glance her way.
"Sorry," she whispered, pecking his cheek apologetically.
"It's all right," he mumbled. Severus's head collapsed back onto the pillow, spent.
"They wore you out, didn't they?" she teased.
"They've missed you, love."
"No kidding," he muttered, pausing to yawn. "I didn't get a moment of peace all day."
"Welcome to my world."
"I know. Sorry," he added.
It was exceedingly tempting to pester him now for an answer, seeing as he was now awake, but hearing how shattered he sounded was enough to persuade Hermione otherwise. Unfortunately, this wasn't the time, especially when there was the probability of things escalating into an unnecessary argument. Severus wasn't a man who enjoyed being caught off his guard or realizing he had forgotten something.
Tomorrow, Hermione. First thing tomorrow.
Hermione figured the conversation was over and started to close her eyes again when Severus blurted out, "You've been awfully quiet, Hermione."
"The past few days. Is something wrong?"
"I... No." Hermione rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, her lips brushing a few rough scars along his skin. "Actually..."
"I was wondering about... Tomorrow." She braced herself, waiting.
"Tomorrow?" Severus repeated, evidently not following her train of thought.
"Yes... Erm, the eighth?"
Hermione had hoped mentioning the date would trigger a response—something, anything—but, to her dismay, it led to nothing. Severus didn't respond, so she buried her face further into his back, frustrated.
"Never mind. Go to sleep."
Another stifled yawn, followed by some heavy breathing, and Severus was soon fast asleep again, snoring contentedly whilst Hermione lay wide awake, brooding and trying to come to terms with the notion that her husband might have very well forgotten their wedding anniversary altogether. She never thought that possible—not of Severus, anyway. Her wizard wasn't like other men. He was thoughtful, sharp, and bloody well remembered everything. Unless, of course, he wasn't well or feeling much like himself, but even that had been under tight control for some time, so there was no reason for the man's forgetfulness.
There's still time to plan something, Hermione's conscience clung to that desperate reminder, not wishing to get emotional. But it's going to have to be your doing, Hermione. All of it...
Hermione awoke with the small dose of hope within her hanging on like a dying ember. Today marked their tenth wedding anniversary. They had been together much longer than that, but it was still a noteworthy achievement. There had been so many times along the way that Hermione thought they might never reach this point. Therefore, it was well worth celebrating.
Well-worth remembering, she reflected sorely.
Had the passion actually gone out of their marriage in a short span of time? It was another worrisome thought that Hermione had racked over tirelessly for days. Yes, having children certainly took some of the 'spunk' out of their love life; they were constantly on the go, drained of energy most nights, and fighting to keep small moments for themselves, but the Snapes had done exceptionally well at keeping the spark alive compared to some of their other friends; or so Hermione thought.
He hasn't been home that long, Hermione. No need to jump to conclusions yet. But then... How could he forget this? How the hell could it skip his mind? Unless... No, there's nothing wrong with us! We're fine!
Severus wasn't around when Hermione threw back the covers and slunk out of bed, more worried—and hurt—than she had been in some time. His absence wasn't surprising. Severus was always up and about hours before her or the kids were even half conscious. It was a rarity if he ever actually managed a full night's sleep like the rest of them, so Hermione thought nothing of it as she emerged from their bedroom, only to be greeted by three small beings that came tearing down the hallway, yelling excitedly and waving their arms about.
"Mummy! Mummy!" they greeted in their high-pitched voices, stirring her to life. "Grandma's here!"
"Grandma's here!" Lily emphasized, taking Hermione firmly by the hand. "She's staying for the weekend!"
"Huh? The weekend?"
Hailey stepped forward, cradling a teddy bear in one arm. "Daddy and you going away?"
"Shhh, Hailey!" Surina sniped at her little sister in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of Severus. "You weren't supposed to say anything!"
Hailey either ignored her or had selective hearing, for she, too, took possession of Hermione's hand and tugged on it with a whimper. "Grandma said you and Daddy going away. You not going. No."
"Oh, I'm going away, am I?"
Hermione's lips curled into a broad smile, and she allowed the girls to drag her down the hallway, each trying to speak above the others. "Yes, yes!" Lily giggled happily, but Hailey was against it.
"No!" she insisted. "No, Mummy! You and Daddy not going! Don't go!"
"Quiet, Hailey," Surina snickered, pushing on ahead of her siblings. "Yes, they are!"
Hailey continued to protest all the way down the hall to the sitting room, where Hermione was promptly greeted by the sight of her mother, Elizabeth, sitting on the couch and conversing softly with Severus, standing nearby with his back turned. Hermione's eyes immediately zoned in on the beaded bag he was holding and her warm smile extended, unawares of the young faces gawking up at her.
"You remembered!" she blurted out before she could stop herself, catching her mother, for one, off guard.
Severus casually turned around. He may not have been smiling, but the pools of his penetrable eyes were, which told her everything. He had remembered and had something in store for them both.
"Well, of course he remembered, Hermione!" her mother interrupted, her laughter sending the children into fits of giggles as well. "It's only your tenth anniversary, for goodness' sake!"
Hermione rushed over to greet her mother, then latched onto a handful of Severus's buttons. "So, where are you taking me?"
"What makes you think I'm taking you anywhere?"
Hermione's eyelashes fluttered. "The handbag's a dead giveaway, you scoundrel." She pressed her lips to his, ignoring her mother and children for the moment. Severus's face turned a bright shade of red when he pulled away, regarding her seriously. "Where to?" she insisted on knowing.
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because after that horrible charade you pulled, I demand to know."
"Charade?" he inquired, acting nonchalant; but Hermione wasn't fooled.
"That was quite awful of you."
Severus's cheek grazed hers. He leaned in close, whispering into her ear, "I know, and I do apologize. You haven't been happy with me for several days, and rightfully so."
It was just the sort of reassurance Hermione needed to hear. She threw her arms around his neck and enfolded him in a snug embrace, tuning out her mother, who was chattering away happily with the girls. For a brief moment, the rest of her world fell away, and it was just she and Severus.
"Happy Anniversary," she heard him purr.
Hermione brought her lips to his for a tenderly rendered kiss. She repeated the declaration for him, too, then kissed him a second time, tearing up with relief and excitement. She didn't want to let go, but it would seem Severus had other plans in mind. Handing her her beaded bag, Severus informed her to quickly get dressed.
"What about breakfast? And the girls—"
"They'll be fed soon enough. Your mother and father will see to their needs. Now go."
"Pushy, are we?"
Severus arched an eyebrow, a small glimmer dancing across his eyes. "Would you rather stay?"
That was all it took. Hermione leaped at him and kissed him a third time, sending him stumbling backwards. She laughed off his disgruntled hiss.
"I'll be ready in five minutes!"
A whole day children-free! Hermione contemplated with glee; she didn't care what was in store. All she could think about was getting out of the house and beginning their day—alone—as soon as possible.
Hermione bolted out of the room and down the hallway to get out of her nightgown. She wasn't even sure where they were going or what they would be doing, so she hardly knew what to wear. Throwing on a presentable blouse, dressy pants, and old, worn-in heels, Hermione returned shortly thereafter, having taken a fleeting moment to peek inside her magically enhanced bag to see what her husband had taken the liberty of packing for her. She could spot some sort of pajama ensemble but forced herself not to scrounge more thoroughly.
An overnight venture, she considered, pleased with what she found. A whole night away from here. So far, so good...
Severus and Hermione said their goodbyes to the children, one of whom was not at all satisfied with their departure, which dampened their spirits a bit; but with a little extra encouragement from Elizabeth Granger, the two trickled out the front door towards the edge of their extensive backyard, where Severus took Hermione by the hand and, before she could so much as ask, Disapparated them to whatever destination the cunning wizard had in mind.
Breakfast in the Cotwolds was, to Hermione's recognition, fantastic. She and Severus had long gravitated towards the English countryside, and escaping to various charming villages had, in the past, been a welcoming retreat. Having kids, however, had put a halt to such frequent getaways, and Hermione was more than happy to contend with Severus taking charge of the day, at least for now. She still had her own surprise in store, but it would have to wait for the opportune moment.
After a quiet breakfast spent at a cozy inn on the outskirts of Somerset, Severus Disapparated them to the charming town of Burford, where they moseyed about for some time window shopping until they stumbled upon a wizarding jewelry shop wedged in between an alignment of Muggle clothing stores.
Coincidence? Hermione mused, allowing Severus to escort her inside. Probably not...
"Ahhh, good afternoon," greeted the store owner, a pudgy-looking fellow with an oversized wizard's hat and purple robes. "I'll be right with you. Have a look around, if you please."
Severus's eyes followed Hermione intently around the shop. She wasn't anticipating on buying anything, merely browsing, but evidently the shopkeeper was insistent on showing her a couple bracelets, rings, and earrings. Hermione looked to Severus for support, but he was surprisingly mute and unresponsive; his eyes were the only thing that encouraged her to keep looking.
After nearly a half hour, Hermione had grown exhausted with the elderly jewelry seller. "You really didn't see anything you liked?" Severus asked her more than once after they left.
"A couple bracelets. There was one of a lion and rubies that I thought was rather pretty, but it was far too expensive, love."
"I don't want you spending that kind of money."
"I was hoping you might pick out something," he groused, sounding disappointed. "You could have told me you liked it."
Hermione looped an arm around his and shot him a warmhearted smile. "This is enough, Severus. Just spending time, the two of us."
Severus grunted. "How sickly sweet of you."
Hermione snickered and reached onto her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek. "I meant it."
"Yes, well, even so..."
What Severus surprised her with next, however, took her breath away, and for a moment, she couldn't speak. Severus Apparated them to a familiar Tudor-style castle in South Gloucestershire, where Hermione had taken him—and received a subsequent surprise—their first year living together, well over a decade ago. Her mind was immediately flooded with past fond memories of the place, and she grinned broadly at the prospect that awaited her.
Thornbury Castle, a Muggle castle-turned hotel, looked just as Hermione remembered it. It was as if no time had passed at all in the interim that she and Severus had been away, and that was comforting in more ways than one.
"You approve?" he baited softly, holding fast to her hand clasped in his as he awaited her response.
"I thought about taking you some place new, but..."
Sensing his underlying apprehensions, Hermione shook her head and reassured him with a kiss. "No, Severus, this is perfect! It's been far too long."
After they checked in, Hermione was warmed to discover that Severus had managed to book the same deluxe suite as last time. Getting a room at this fine hotel wasn't easy to come by, and it was then that Hermione realized that this must have been organized at least six months to a year ago.
"You did well," she encouraged, tittering against his ear once they were alone in the Howard Deluxe, an extravagant, yet cozy, retreat with a four-poster, Tudor-fashioned bed, stone walls, two working fireplaces, and a lovely view overlooking an inner courtyard.
"I should hope so," Severus retorted, his lips pecking the top of her head.
The sun seeped in through a window on the opposite side of the room, casting themselves and the king-sized bed in gentle spotlight. "So what are our plans for the rest of the afternoon?" Hermione asked, peering up at her husband in anticipation.
Severus met her eyes with a peculiar expression of his own. "Dinner," he answered, bending his neck to bring his mouth to hers, "and hopefully plenty of make-up sex?"
"Make-up sex?" Hermione snickered; she certainly liked the direction he was headed. "How utterly romantic of you. Put it all out there, why don't you?"
Severus's growl sent her into more fits of laughter. "When was the last time we had sex?"
Hermione reared back. "Merlin knows..."
"Exactly," he hissed.
With that, his arms scooped her up with ease. Hermione snickered, caught off guard by his playfulness, and smiled hopefully as Severus took her to the bed, laying her down on the extravagant duvet, her curls spread out all around her. His breath stalled at the sight of her.
"You're beautiful," he confessed in a low purr, not really even thinking about the words before they came.
Hermione's cheeks began to glow. She whisked a few black hairs out of her husband's eyes and cupped them behind one ear.
"So are you," she surprised him by returning, catching the flicker of appreciation in those stark eyes that she loved, before he leaned down to covet her lips.
Hermione detected a soft moan that belonged to him and she pushed back eagerly, deepening the kiss. Her hands reached around to snatch up a fist full of his hair, while, at the same time, she pulled him on top of her, feeling the weight of him encasing her with warmth. His hands drew down over her neck, collar bone, and bosoms as their lips continued to massage and explore, all the while delicately savoring each other's touch.
Hermione brought her hands around his back, sensing the contours of his spine and shoulder blades through the stiff fabric of his frock coat. She wanted them off.
"Merlin, it's been too long," she panted against his mouth, which he concurred with a growl, snatching up her hands and drawing them above her head to continue snogging her senseless.
Their breathing grew increasingly heavier and excited, their bodies shoving against one another, fully clothed, as they made out like a pair of horny, deprived teenagers. Hermione would have laughed if she wasn't so completely turned on and ready. She echoed his deep moans of pleasure, sighing into his mouth, and arched her back in expectation.
Drawing her now swollen lips away from Severus's, Hermione stared deep into his eyes, and perceived the dark wizard's lust for her, the full on desire to have her. Now. How she loved that her husband could still look at her in such a way: illustrating with just a glance, and without a word, that she was, to him, still the sexiest woman in all the wizarding world.
Hermione thoughtfully glided her hands up the front of his coat, wanting to feel each button, aware of the prize that awaited her underneath. With a wry smile, Hermione undid the man's cravat, a feat which had taken her some time to master over the years, and tossed it away out of sight. Then her fingers began to meticulously unclasp each button of his coat one by one, her eyes trailing them thoughtfully, wanting to see each one come undone.
"You and your button fetish," she vaguely heard Severus snort, causing her to still blush profusely whenever it was pointed out to her.
"I can't help it," she muttered and pulled Severus's coat off.
Only his white undershirt remained and Hermione unbuttoned it more hastily, more excited than ever and wanting them both wardrobe-less as soon as possible.
"Easy, lioness," Severus chuckled, teasing her with several sensitive pecks to her neck and shoulder.
Hermione hitched a breath as Severus drew a hand underneath her shirt, easing it up and over her head, leaving just her bra. Flashing her his handsome smirk that got her heart pounding, Severus tugged lightly on her zipper-less pants, heaving them off and flinging them to the floor without thought or care.
Once Severus's own shirt was removed, Hermione took in a sight she was well accustomed to: the wizard's deeply embedded scars that ran across his chest and back. She rarely noticed them anymore—they were such a part of him that she usually didn't think twice—but, this time, she willingly took a moment to trace several slashes with her fingertips, inclining her neck to let her heated lips brush his chest, just above his heart.
Severus wrapped his arms around her back, bringing her into a firm hug, before they proceeded to kiss and touch one another's naked forms in earnest. It wasn't long before the couple was caught up in affectionate, yet reckless, lovemaking. Severus paused to remove her knickers, just as Hermione simultaneously unbuttoned his trousers, but her wizard made the first moves, his hand reaching down between her legs to rub at her clit. Hermione's pulsating lower body pressed itself against his hand, and Severus consented with rough laughter, weaving two fingers into her canal.
Hermione curved her back, ignited by his mindful stroking. "Severus," she nearly whimpered, extending her arm out to touch his chest. Her fingers grazed down his front to his briefs, rubbing repeatedly against his growing erection. He hissed and grunted at her teasing. It didn't take much for either of them after so much time without.
Severus soon had Hermione's wet knickers off and his pants kicked conveniently out of sight. He leered down at her, his breathing strenuous as she, too, hastily removed his briefs, all but pleading for him to enter her with her legs sprawled out before him, waiting.
Severus glided himself inside her but forcefully. Hermione gasped and clasped onto his back—YES! Oh, Merlin... Too long!—and the two were soon rocking in unison, thrusting against each other in heat, wetness, and ecstasy. Rasping and expressing their pleasure with each plunge, Severus snarled as Hermione dug her fingers into his back, his own hands clamping down onto the disheveled duvet, needing something—anything—to hold onto. His dampened tresses fell in a curtain around Hermione's face, but that didn't bother her. She was nearing climax, overcome by stimulation and the wonderful exhilaration that followed.
Yes, it had been far too long...
"Oh, god!" she cried out, drawing closer and closer to the edge. "Yes! Sev - erus! YES!"
Suddenly, Hermione arched her back, meeting Severus's pounding thrust, and shuddered as she came with a fierce cry of his name. She remained in place for several seconds, lost in ecstasy as Severus continued to grind into her. Soon enough, however, his fingers curled around the covers and, with a ferocious rumble, Severus met his wife's climax, panting for breath as he pressed his body into Hermione's and came hard.
After catching their breaths, their intertwined naked bodies laden with pearls of sweat, the two massaged each other's lips for another minute or two in appreciation of what they had shared, and missed. "Bloody fantastic," Hermione giggled, lightly kissing Severus as she continued to breathe excitedly.
"Indeed," was about all he could say back. "Although," he added after another minute or so, "I'm ready for another round when you are?"
Hermione laughed breathlessly and wiped a few wet hairs out of his eyes. "Scoundrel! Give your wife a moment, would you? Besides, I have something for you..."
Severus rolled onto his side, spent, yet pleased, and eyed her curiously. His hand rubbed up and down her outer thigh.
Hermione fumbled for her wand on the edge of the bed and Accio'd a small green sack into her hand. She laid down comfortably beside him again and placed it carefully within his hand, pecking at his knuckles before releasing her grip.
"Happy Anniversary, love."
Intrigued, Severus slowly untied the tiny bundle, whilst Hermione weaved an arm around his waist, her head propped within the crook of his arm as she watched him open her gift. A glistening of silver fell out of the sack and into Severus's palm, catching the faint light from the window pane.
Severus turned it over quietly, examining the silver ring. An emerald, diamond-cut snake coiled itself around the thick band, striking and beautiful. Severus was about to express his thanks when he caught an engraving underneath. He paused to read the words therein, which began with a quote from William Shakespeare: 'Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.' And a message from Hermione that followed: To my brave Slytherin. Thank you for being courageous enough to take me on. I love you more.
For a minute, Severus couldn't speak. The quote, and Hermione's message, conveyed so much of their own lives and how far they had come. From their falling in love during a time of war to Nagini's attack on his life to his near brush with death and uncertain life expectancy that still threatened their future, so much had been captured in just a few simple phrases...
"Do you like it?" he heard her whisper, taking the ring gently from his hand to place it onto his right fourth finger.
"Yes," he managed after a moment, his voice soft and strained.
Hermione kept his hand out in front of them, allowing their eyes to soak in her gift. "I had it custom made. Thank Merlin for magic, because it didn't take long and I was running out of ideas. I wasn't finding a serpent ring that I thought truly represented you, so I hope this comes close. Do you like the engraving?"
"Yes," Severus murmured, compressing her to his chest in gratitude, "I do. Very much..."
"Good! I'm so glad."
She peered up at him, smiling. "Yes?"
Severus angled his head before planting a tender kiss on her forehead. "Thank you," he whispered appreciatively, the hand that contained the ring enfolding one of her own.
Hermione, however, thought nothing of his acknowledgement and simply extended her smile. This day had already turned out perfectly, and it wasn't even half way through yet.
"You're welcome, love."
They stayed in bed the rest of the afternoon, foregoing afternoon tea in exchange for several more blissful rounds of uninterrupted sex. By evening, they were famished and consumed their dinner, desert and an entire bottle of wine, full and refreshed. Instead of retreating back to the bedroom straightaway, something neither one was really opposed to, Severus suggested that they check out the courtyard before it grew too dark.
What had begun as a casual stroll turned into a nearly two-hour walk around the vast gardens and luscious, green landscape, the summer breeze brushing against their necks as they strolled together, Severus's arm securely wrapped around Hermione's shoulder, her arm looped around his waist.
It had turned into the best possible way to mark their ten-years of marriage, and Hermione had made a point throughout the night of reiterating so to her unsure husband. Though he seemed quite satisfied with how he had done, that insecurity and apprehension loomed just below the surface, so Hermione made a point of repeating to him several times what a wonderful time she was having. After feeling down and out in the days leading up to this weekend, Hermione had never felt so euphorically content, nor happier, in a very long time.
Just as they were making their way back to the castle entrance, Severus unveiled something along Hermione's shoulder that made her startle. Whipping her head to one side, she spotted a trail of silver cascading down her chest. She halted to examine the trinket in Severus's possession, the edges of her mouth turning upward. Severus cast an item—a bracelet—into Hermione's hand, which she happily examined in the twilight.
The silver bangle contained the head of an engraved lioness, offset by two red rubies on either side. "It's beautiful," she murmured in awe.
Severus quietly clasped it around her wrist and turned it over so Hermione could read an engraving on the back. To my lioness, it read in elegant cursive. With love. Yours always, Severus.
Hermione's smile extended. "Wow... It's..."
"You like it?"
"Yes, I do! It's perfect." She paused, studying it more closely. "Wait a minute. I spotted this at that jewelry shop today..." Meeting Severus's gaze, she found an understated reflection of triumph looming in those colorless eyes, and her cheeks flushed. "You sneaky git."
"I was hoping you might pick it out yourself."
Remembering how she hadn't mentioned anything particularly that struck her fancy, with the exception of this bracelet, Hermione laughed in admiration. "You really do know me, Mr. Romantic."
"Cut it out," he snarled, re-wrapping his arm around her shoulder as they walked to the entrance. Night had finally fallen on their special day, and, with it, an awareness of what this milestone meant. "Happy Anniversary," Severus purred to her before they reached the edge of the courtyard.
Hermione readily returned his strong, yet quiet, regard. Maneuvering her arms to hug him around the waist, she echoed his sentiments, blissful and fulfilled, though, in that moment, she realized such feelings had always been there.
They had never changed.
Hermione drew onto her tiptoes to kiss her wizard, who returned her gentle caress. "Thank you for everything," she expressed softly.
"No," he insisted just as quietly. "Thank you. For everything."
"I'm glad we had this day to ourselves."
"As am I. Although..."
Interpreting his silence, Hermione beamed up at him. "I know," she confessed, laughing lightly. "I miss them, too."
With that, Severus led her by the hand back inside Thornbury Castle and up a spiral staircase towards their deluxe suite. Tonight was still their night, and the loving couple intended to make the most of it.
A/N #2: Hope you enjoyed it!