Disclaimer: See chapter 1.
Chapter 6: When His Wit Is Suspended
The next day, Hermione started working on the schedule for second-year Potions, and Severus had a meeting with Dumbledore and the other Heads of House. Hermione joined them in the Great Hall for lunch, and then went back to work. At five-thirty, she stopped and started going through her clothes, trying to figure out what to wear. She eventually settled on something, and went to call Severus out of the study, where he was trying to plan NEWT classes. "We have to leave in about twenty minutes," she said.
He looked up. "Oh, right," he said. "Just a moment, I'll get changed."
Hermione settled into the armchair, nervously trying to read. She didn't know how to explain this to Harry and Ginny, and she was terrified of what their reactions might be. Severus emerged from their bedroom and immediately noticed her agitation.
"What is it?" he asked.
"What if they're mad at me?"
He drew her to her feet and into his arms. "It will be fine. And if they're mad at you, I'll hex them until they apologize."
She laughed at that. "Thanks." She looked up at him, realizing that the last few days had changed everything in more ways than the obvious. She kissed him. "Ready to face the Potters?"
"For you, my dear, I would face a Hungarian Horntail," he said mockingly.
Her smile brought an answering gleam from his eyes. Then she went to the fireplace, took a pinch of Floo Powder, and tossed it in. She stepped into the green flames. "Number 12, Grimmauld Place," she said, and vanished. Severus stepped in and repeated the address.
Hermione tumbled out of the fireplace, and then stepped aside to catch Severus as he landed.
She turned to face Harry and Ginny, who were staring at the couple with open mouths. "Hi," she said. "Harry, Ginny, we have some news."
Harry blinked and managed to shut his mouth. "Your...date...is Professor Snape?"
She took a deep breath. "He's not my date," she said.
"Oh," said Harry, starting to look relieved.
"He's my husband."
"Really, Potter, if I'd known you were going to have an attack of the vapours, I would have brought smelling salts," Severus drawled.
Harry downed a shot of Firewhiskey. "Thanks, Professor," he said. "I really appreciate the thought."
Ginny put an hand on Harry's arm to calm him. "So, when did this happen? How did this happen?"
"Well, we got married on Wednesday," said Hermione.
"Okay, but why didn't you tell us?" Ginny asked. "We would've come to the wedding."
"We just had a Ministry ceremony. And we didn't leave a lot of time to tell anyone."
"When did you get engaged?" Ginny asked, her tone foreboding.
Harry choked. Severus glared at him.
Hermione spread her hands in entreaty. "Look, I needed to find a husband, and you know all the available men my age are prats. Severus isn't."
"No, he's just the world's biggest git," muttered Harry.
"Harry!" said Ginny. "They're married. It's done. No matter how strange you think it is, Hermione's your best friend. And last time I checked, you counted Severus as a friend, too."
Harry groaned. "I know. I'm sorry, it just takes some getting used to. So you decided to marry Severus?"
"Well, he asked me," she said. "I said yes." She reached for Severus' hand, and he wrapped his fingers around hers.
Strangely, that single gesture was what convinced Harry. "Fine," he said. Then he held out his hand to Severus. "You'd better be good to her, or I will come after you."
Severus shook Harry's hand. "Thank you."
"So," said Ginny, trying to redirect the focus, now that it looked like Severus and Harry wouldn't be hexing each other, "we should have dinner."
The conversation over their meal was only slightly awkward, but on the whole, their reception of the news went far better than Hermione had hoped. Then she asked, "How do you think I should tell your family, Ginny?"
"That's a question," said Ginny. "Ron's going to be upset, guaranteed."
"He's been married to Demelza for two years," said Hermione. "He has no right to be upset with me."
"Maybe so," said Ginny. "But that doesn't mean he'll remember that."
The flames in the fireplace turned green, and Ron's head popped into the grate. "Hey, Harry, can Demelza and I drop by?"
"Speak of the devil," Severus murmured. Hermione snorted.
"Just a sec, Ron," said Harry. "Yes, no?"
"Why not?" said Hermione. "Let's rip the band-aid off."
"What's a band-aid?" Ginny asked as Harry went to tell Ron that they could come over.
Hermione started explaining it to her and then Ron, followed by Demelza, stepped out of the fireplace.
"Hey, Hermione!" said Ron. "I didn't know you were here." Then he saw Severus. "Hi, Professor," he said, with a brief nod.
"Hello, Mr. Weasley," said Severus.
"You want a drink, Ron?" asked Harry.
"Sure, whatever you've got," said Ron.
Harry, considering, poured him a measure of Firewhiskey. Demelza helped herself to coffee. "What are you doing here, Professor?" she asked.
"I came with Hermione," he said simply.
"Oh, that's right, aren't you two working together this year?" Ron said, taking a sip of the Firewhiskey.
"We are," said Hermione. "And actually, I've got some news. We've got some news."
"What's that?" asked Ron.
Hermione took her husband's hand. "Severus and I got married the day before yesterday."
Ron sprayed Firewhiskey across the table in a fit of laughter. Severus blinked. Hermione pulled out a handkerchief and offered it to him.
"Thank you," he said, mopping his face.
"This has to be a joke, right?" said Ron.
"Do you see either of us laughing, Mr. Weasley?" Severus snapped.
"Oh, come on!" said Ron. "Really? Why would you do that, Hermione?" He noticed the rings on their hands. "Seriously? You actually got married?"
"Congratulations," said Demelza, ignoring her husband's spluttering. "Well done, Hermione."
"Well done?" Ron protested. "Well done?"
"In case you haven't noticed, Professor Snape is considered one of the most eligible bachelors in wizarding England," she pointed out. "Hermione's managed to snag him."
"I proposed to her," Severus said grumpily. "There was no 'snagging' involved."
Demelza grinned. "Good for you. Nice and assertive. I approve."
That night, after they got home, Severus sat in his study, staring at the wall, deep in thought.
"Severus, are you coming to bed?" Hermione asked.
He started. "What?"
"Oh, yes," he said. "Sorry." He got up and followed her to the bedroom. She put out the lights when it became apparent that he was still distracted. She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek, then curled up and tried to fall asleep.
But it was one of those nights when she couldn't sleep. She rolled over, trying to sleep on her other side. Then she tried falling asleep on her back. Eventually she gave up, slipped out of bed, and grabbed her wand. She tiptoed to the bedroom door and headed for the sitting room.
She curled up in the armchair and tried reading something dull, but that didn't help.
Severus, unable to sleep first because of his own restlessness, and then because she was gone, gave up, and left the bedroom.
She looked up, surprised. "Sorry, did I wake you?"
"No, I wasn't asleep," he said. "You slept last night. And the night before."
"It comes in waves," she said. "Some nights I sleep like a normal person, and the rest of the time, well, I don't."
"You haven't tried Dreamless Sleep?"
"It works when I take it, but then the next night, it's worse. I can't take Dreamless Sleep every night."
Intrigued by the problem, his academic mind starting to work on it, he wandered around the room, looking for a specific book. "How long have you suffered from insomnia?"
"Since the war," she said. "I've tried Muggle remedies, and magic ones, and nothing works for very long."
"On the nights when you do sleep, do you sleep well?" he inquired, leafing through a book he had found.
"Sometimes. Last night I slept well, and the night before. I tend to have nightmares, but I only had one last night that I can remember." She smiled faintly. "That counts as a good night's sleep these days."
His mouth twisted in sympathy. Well he could believe it. His own dreams sometimes kept him awake at night, too tense to sleep.
He started quizzing her about the various remedies she had tried, and they spent the rest of the night talking with each other.
Over the next few weeks, they settled into a routine together. Hermione was intrigued by her own growing affection for him, but decided to wait to say anything. There were still moments of strangeness—moments where it hit her that she had married someone she knew in a very different sort of arena than the one required for marriage. But there were moments when she relaxed utterly with him, becoming for an instant the woman she might have been had she not lived through the war when so many others died.
They usually had breakfast in their rooms, and then lunch and dinner in the hall. As the days went by, and more of the staff returned, they found themselves having to explain their marriage repeatedly. Most of them took the news in stride, but it was still quite the shock for the professors, who had known Severus for years, and who had been looking forward to working with Hermione, to learn that the two had married, apparently spontaneously.
They worked out their class schedules, bickered about the advisability of teaching certain topics to different years, and managed to spend time simply being together without working. The nights when Hermione couldn't sleep usually resulted in him reading to her until she finally managed to rest for a few hours. More than once, one of them woke from a nightmare, voice hoarse with shouting, to realize that the other was there.
The first time Severus woke, shaking from a dream, to find Hermione holding him close, another wave of realization hit him about his feelings for her. He was falling headlong into something entirely new, and it terrified as much as it exhilarated him.