**Disclaimer: I am not the author of Harry Potter and own no rights to characters or universe. The plot however, is mine alone.**
Author's Note: All right folks, the final installment to this story…
Severus – 25 November 2001-Sunday
Severus held Hermione beneath his arm in their bed while they ate their breakfast. With any luck, the blasted mediwitch would declare them fit to leave today. Severus had spent enough time in that hospital to last him a lifetime – even if he had slept through most of it.
Even the hospital food couldn't truly bother him today though. For the second time in his life, he'd faced certain death and somehow lived to see another day. And both times it was the amazing little witch that shared the bed with him who had been the one to make it possible. She'd saved him from bleeding out from Nagini's bite. Then she'd restored him from the resulting coma. She'd protected him from assassination in the days to follow the final battle and again when she'd been Impuriused to deliver the blow herself. She'd saved him when he'd inadvertently poisoned himself in his lab. And now she'd saved him from an incurable curse.
He'd never really believed in God or fate, but if he had somehow earned her love through his years as a recluse and spy… Well, every second was worth it.
"What are you thinking about so hard?" said witch questioned lightly.
He smiled down at her. "You. My… What is the muggle term? Knight in some kind of armor?"
"Shining armor, love," she laughed.
"That," he smiled, leaning down to brush his lips against her hair.
A knock on the door drew his attention. "Enter," he called.
The door was opened slowly and Harry Potter's disheveled head poked in. His eyes widened when he saw them together in the broad bed. "Um," he managed, clearing his throat quietly. "Just a moment."
He ducked back out, closing the door behind him.
"I wonder what that was about," Hermione said with a frown in her voice.
Severus tightened his arm around her, biting off the few choice words that he had to say about Harry bloody Potter acting like a bloody idiot just because they were sharing a hospital bed. He assumed that it would only make her feel worse if he voiced those thoughts. Instead, he settled for stroking her arm gently.
After about a minute, a voice rang out in the hallway and Hermione jumped.
"SNAPE!? You've got to be fucking yanking me!"
"Keep your bloody voice down, Ron!" Potter's voice came back, only slightly quieter.
Severus glared murder at the door.
Surprisingly, Hermione laughed. "He was always going to take that badly," she explained when he looked at her.
"One would think he could simply be happy to know that his friend is alive and happy," Severus growled softly.
She leaned into him a little more firmly, "He will be. Eventually," she assured him.
Raised voices could be heard outside for a little longer but not quite loud enough for Severus to make out the words.
A few seconds after it quieted, the door opened and Potter – Harry, he corrected himself sternly – stepped in alone. "Ron's going to go home and think for a while," Harry explained with a small smile for Hermione, though he glanced at Severus, sharing it between them, which was surprising. Evidently Severus wasn't the only one intent on playing nice for Hermione's sake.
Harry approached the bed a bit uncertainly, but when Severus said nothing and refrained from glaring, Harry seemed to relax a bit. "I brought a get-well gift," he admitted, drawing a haphazardly wrapped package from a wide pocket in his robe. It looked like it was probably a book. "For both of you," he clarified as Hermione accepted it.
"Thanks, Harry," she smiled, "but you really didn't need to."
"I wanted to," he shrugged, watching Hermione's hands as she unwrapped it.
Severus wasn't paying much attention to the gift until he felt Hermione go still at his side. He leaned forward a bit to look over her shoulder and saw that she was holding a leather-bound book, worn with age. Gold lettering still twinkled on the cover, reading Amorus Vita. He smiled slightly.
"Harry," Hermione breathed. "Where did you find this?"
Harry shrugged in a self-deprecating way that got under Severus' skin. Or maybe, he was willing to allow, the boy was just uncomfortable.
"I had to call in a favor," he admitted.
"From whom?" Hermione asked.
"Kingsley," Harry confessed with a small smile.
"Get over here so I can hug you!" Hermione demanded in that bossy way that Severus loved so much.
Harry obeyed, but he eyed Severus a little uncertainly over her shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her.
"Thank you, Harry," Severus offered, watching the boy's eyes widen at the sound of his given name. "It was a very thoughtful gift." He hadn't thought the boy had it in him, but he figured that part could be left unsaid.
"You're welcome, sir," Harry responded as he disentangled himself from Hermione.
"You may call me Severus," he allowed, withholding his wince.
Harry nodded, still a bit wide-eyed.
"I'd invite you to join us for breakfast," Hermione said, diffusing the building tension with the ease in her voice, "but I really don't think you want any of this," she smirked.
"Thanks," Harry smiled, "but I really do have to go. Robards has me working today. Do you know when you're getting out?"
"Today, if there is any justice in the world," Severus grouched.
Hermione smiled fondly at him before turning back to Harry. "Well, at least tell me how Ginny's doing," she demanded. "I feel so bad I haven't asked you that in weeks."
"You've had a lot on your mind," Harry said, immediately dismissing her guilt. "She's been great. Not even showing yet – though she claims that she is – and she's already eating twice as much as me."
"Harry James Potter!" Hermione chastised.
Harry laughed and dodged the crust of bread that she threw at him. "Easy now, 'Mione!" he complained through his laugh, "I'm already dealing with as much estrogen as any man can handle without losing his sanity."
Hermione drew her wand and Harry wisely ran for the door. "Owl me and I'll stop by for tea when you're up for it!" he called quickly on his way out.
Hermione laughed after her retreating friend and Severus realized that it might not be so hard to get along with Harry Potter after all. Seeing him interacting with Hermione and their easy banter… He clearly made Hermione happy, and that was all that really mattered to Severus anymore.
The door opened again a moment later and another head poked in, this one blond.
"Is it safe?" Draco asked warily. "Potter looked like he was running for his life."
"Harry," Hermione admonished, but there was no heat to it.
Severus still hadn't gotten the whole story as to how these two had become something that very much resembled friends while he'd been sleeping.
Draco rolled his eyes as he let himself in. Severus would have called him down for it if he'd thought it bothered Hermione, but she seemed happy to see his godson.
"Draco, I was getting worried about you. I can't believe I didn't think to ask you yesterday, but did you get into any trouble for Mentarion?" she asked with concern.
"Mentarion is the dark wizard who was using the goblet?" Severus checked.
Hermione nodded quickly, waiting for Draco's answer.
"No, I didn't get into trouble," Draco assured her, "and neither did you, by the way. You can thank your friend Kingsley for that. He convinced the healers that it was a preexisting condition."
Hermione sighed heavily in relief. "God bless that man."
"Exactly what was a preexisting condition, Draco?" Sever questioned curiously.
Draco grimaced and looked at his shoes. Hermione tensed.
"I think it's time the two of you explained to me what happened," he said quietly.
Draco looked up at Hermione, clearly waiting to follow her lead.
Hermione swallowed hard. "You need to understand, Severus," she said quietly, turning to look into his eyes, "when we found him, you had only hours left. We thought that your only chance was to find a cure in his mind…"
"So you used Legilimency," Severus surmised, wondering if she'd destroyed the man's mind.
"Yes," she said quietly, "but his Occluding shields were too strong. I couldn't get in."
Severus frowned curiously, waiting for her to continue.
"I had to weaken his shields," she continued quietly, her eyes falling to where her fingers pulled at a loose string at the hem of the blanket. "There is only one way that I know to do that in the time we had."
It was only with an effort that Severus prevented his jaw from falling, but he was sure that his eyes widened when he understood. Voldemort had subjected him to that particular treatment rather frequently.
Her eyes rose hesitantly to him, searching his face for his reaction.
"If she hadn't done it, I would have," Draco admitted quietly.
Severus looked at his godson in surprise. After all that Draco had endured during his brief stint as a Death Eater, he'd developed a particularly strong aversion to dark magic.
"You were dying, Severus," Draco said quietly in his own defense.
Severus sighed heavily, wondering exactly how much his life had cost the two that he loved most in the world. "If either of you had been cursed, I'd almost certainly have done the same thing," he admitted, "though I doubt that that wizard would be alive today."
Hermione grimaced guiltily and he raised an eyebrow curiously.
"I almost killed him," she admitted. "Draco stopped me."
Severus pulled her into an embrace. "Thank you, Draco," he said quietly over his shoulder.
Draco nodded just slightly. "I had to."
"Maybe you two should tell me the whole story," Severus suggested.
Draco began the story with Severus' reaction to drinking from the goblet and Hermione pitched in with everything she'd done to try to save him during that first week. Severus wasn't a healer, but it sounded amazingly thorough to him. So thorough, in fact, that he doubted she'd had much time to sleep that week.
As she went on to explain how she'd switched her focus to searching for Mentarion, Draco pitched in from time to time to offer details but it seemed clear to Severus has it had been her investigation, whatever it looked like in the official record. That didn't really surprise him either. Despite the confident persona that Lucius had molded into Draco, Severus knew that his godson tended to follow by nature. He also knew how stubborn and bossy Hermione could be.
"You saved him?" Severus asked Hermione quietly after Draco had explained the trap they'd encountered and what had come of that.
"I didn't know if a shield would save me or not. We'd clearly tripped a malign ward, and those are tricky to defend against at best. I was too far away to have a hope of avoiding it, but Draco was right at the door. I knew that I could save him," she explained quietly, offering Draco a small smile.
"A shield probably wouldn't have worked," Severus confirmed, then looked to Draco, "So you brought her here?"
Draco nodded. "She was out for three days, but not in any real danger. When she woke, she has us both back at the Ministry in about five minutes," he smiled fondly at Hermione.
They continued to tell the tale of how they'd tracked Mentarion across Europe and he could hear the frustration in her voice when she explained how she'd been fooled by memory charms and they'd wasted days going in the wrong direction.
Severus stroked her arm softly, hoping to provide some small comfort to her, as she continued.
"I finally realized where Mentarion was when it was almost too late," she almost whispered.
"How did you figure that out?" Draco asked curiously, having claimed a chair by the bed a while ago.
"I found a report of a recent incident in that town," Hermione admitted. "Twelve dead muggles. The Ministry had covered it up quite well. The muggle news had reported it as a tragic fire, but the Ministry suspected Fiendfyre was responsible. When I saw that, it all just clicked into place for me. All those arithmantic formulas I'd run. They suddenly made sense when I shifted the source point."
Severus kissed the top of her head lightly, enjoying the reminder of just how brilliant she truly was.
"But how'd you find him once we got into the town?" Draco pressed. "You seemed to know exactly where to go."
"A locator spell," she admitted. "One of my own design. It's not easy to use because you have to know a great deal about your target to get a fix, but after examining so many memories of Mentarion, I probably knew him better than anyone. It was enough to lead me. Next time, however, I won't make the mistake of deactivating it before the target is actually in sight," she shook her head disdainfully, "I should have known that he was behind us."
Severus lifted a curious eyebrow.
"He attacked from behind before we knew he was there," Hermione explained. "If Draco hadn't knocked me down… Well, my shield has failed against that vile spell before."
"So that was what that spell was?" Draco inquired. "Accendis Caro?"
"So you repaid your life debt," Severus reasoned.
Draco nodded, "I suppose I did. Not that I'll ever stop owing her after how many times she's saved your life."
Severus smiled and looked at Hermione, "Yes, she does have a bit of a habit for that."
Hermione laughed quietly, "Please don't ever make me do it again. It's terribly stressful."
Hermione – 25 December 2001-Tuesday
Hermione sent the dishes to the kitchen where they began washing themselves after her private Christmas breakfast with Severus in her rooms at Hogwarts. For weeks after getting back from the hospital, they'd argued about which of their rooms they'd share from now on, as they never spent a night apart. The argument had finally been settled by the castle when they'd woken one morning to find that her rooms had expanded to accommodate two. Severus had insisted that they spend the next night in his quarters to see if the same would happen. It hadn't. He'd finally relented, though of course he retained his own rooms. It wouldn't be proper for two unmarried professors to share rooms in a school on a permanent basis.
They hadn't had to worry about announcing their relationship as it turned out. The Daily Prophet had done a three page exposé about their experience and the Amorus Vita, much to Severus' annoyance and her amusement. Her students didn't seem to know what to think about the development, but Miss Prince, her seventh year Slytherin had become considerably warmer toward her since the article ran. She was a distant cousin of Severus and a huge fan of his, it turned out.
Severus returned from the dungeons, passing through her wards without pause. That had been an interesting discovery that she would certainly add to the book she intended to write about the Amorus Vita. However their souls has mated or meshed or whatever it was, it was now impossible for either of them to erect wards that would admit one of them and not both.
Severus bent to kiss her lightly before sitting in the chair closest to her and placing a small rectangular box on the table in front of her.
She smiled when she saw the gift.
"I was going to save this for last," he admitted, "but I've found that I can't wait. Please open it."
She studied him warily, then opened the box. Nestled into the middle of the box was a smaller box. A polished wooden box that could only be…
She lifted it out warily, her hands trembling as she tipped open the lid. Her breath caught and her eyes widened when she saw the dainty platinum ring adorned with a single, modestly sized diamond. It was a long moment before she could tear her gaze away and she did so to find that Severus had moved and was now kneeling on one knee in front of her.
"This is how it's done, correct?" he asked nervously.
She nodded mutely.
He took one of her hands between his while she held the box with the other. "I tried to think of something impressive to say about my love for you," he admitted, "but I think I covered everything when I believed I was about to die."
She smiled but couldn't quite reach a laugh. She was still too stunned.
"Hermione, will you be my wife?" he asked with utmost sincerity.
The laugh finally came, bubbling up her throat breathlessly. "Of course, Severus!" she gushed.
He smiled triumphantly and took the box from her hand, removing the ring. "It's a bit modest," he admitted softly as he slid it onto her proffered finger. "It was my mother's, but if you don't like it, we could always transfigure it-"
"Severus, it's absolutely perfect!" she snapped before he could make any more suggestions about ruining her ring.
Smiling brilliantly, Severus rose to his feet, gathering her in his arms and pulling her up with him.
She wrapped her hands around his waist and snuggled into his chest. After a long moment, a thought struck her and she stiffened.
Severus drew away from her to study her face with concern, "What is it, my love?"
Hermione could literally feel the blood draining from her face. She swallowed hard and her voice came out an octave higher than it should, "I've just realized… I've got to tell my parents."
Well, that'll do it. My first complete fanfic (that wasn't complete before I started posting, anyway). Please let me know what you thought, and if you were satisfied with the ending. Honestly, I find it very easy to write the first half of a book. The second half is the part that gives me trouble.
As I mentioned before, there will be a sequel to this one, which I expect to be more romance and less bite-your-nails-to-the-quick, cry-in-your-pillow suspense and angst, but hey, it's still in the early stages of plotting. You never know. I'm currently working on an unrelated SSHG, so that'll likely come first. I've titled it "When a Phoenix Cries" if anyone's interested. I'll probably start posting it in 2-4 weeks depending on how my plot bunnies behave.
Once again, thank you all for the support and interest you've expressed throughout this story. I have to go soak my aching hands in some Aspercreme now.
Edited: 10 September 2013
[No, I've not started posting the sequel to this yet, and I'm unsure as to when I'll get to that. I have plotted several chapters and do still plan to get it written eventually.]