A/N: So I'm gonna be taking a break from this story for a little while, I'm not abandoning it, just taking a break. And as for Harry being gay, it was George I was trying to hint at with it and the whole possibly being gay thing is just Hermione's suspicions.

The hand fasting vows, took them from a website, can't remember which one. I've never been to a wedding and tend to avoid them on tv and I was after something that didn't sound ridiculously fluffy as well, those vows suited.

Thanks for all the reviews, alerts and faves, and thank you very much for reading :)

Chapter 13

Severus stalked up to the Head Dorms. There were only a few hours until their binding ceremony. He had taken some time to calm himself, with the help of a couple of drinks and he had decided to talk to Miss Granger and clear the air. He had not spent so much time trying to reach an amicable agreement, the impressive restraint on his part when it came to his temper... It wasn't all so it could be wasted like this. He wanted this marriage to at least start on a neutral if not positive note. So he would swallow his pride and talk to the bloody girl before the ceremony, since she was being so childishly stubborn. Although, why he had to make all the concessions when it was her bloody mess was beyond him.

He knocked on the door to the dorms and found Potter there, opening the door for him like he belonged. Severus scowled at him, could feel one side of his mouth twitching to curl up into a sneer. Could he get away with punching him in the face and just obliviating the memory of it from Potter's mind? It was a thought. A very appealing thought.

"I'm guessing you want to see 'Mione," he said.

Severus abhorred that nick name, another reason to sock him in the mouth.

"I certainly have no desire to see you."

He could see the boy fight down his angry retort and inwardly smirked as he stepped aside to let him in.

"I think she just got out of the shower," Potter told him.

Severus discretely eyed him up, he wasn't wet so he most likely hadn't been in there with her. And yet, the knowledge did nothing to alleviate the urge to punch him in the face.

Potter went and knocked on her bedroom door. "'Mione, visitor."

She opened the door in nothing but a fluffy white robe, her hair damp and she was still towelling it dry. She seemed surprised to see him there but she gestured for him to enter her room. He didn't even give a thought to propriety, too busy glaring Potter away from them. He wanted a word alone with his...soon to be wife.

Once in the bedroom, they stared at each other a moment, both searching for the words that wouldn't set off another argument. However, his attention was quickly captured by her smooth bare legs. He could only see from slightly above the knee down but still appealing none the less. Having them wrapped around his waist as he... He forced himself back on track and was promptly distracted by the low V her robe made down her chest. Was he somehow forcing the attraction because of their impending nuptials, or was her Veela forcing it?

He had acknowledged to himself that she was physically appealing before, but hadn't actually felt the stirring in his trousers before now, not like this. This time it wasn't seemingly coming out of nowhere.

It took a moment for the realisation to hit. Bloody hell, it was because her pheromones weren't interfering. It was his own imagination and stirring hormones.

Damn her, he was supposed to be angry with her. The silence continued to stretch, getting more and more awkward until they both blurted out pathetic apologies simultaneously. Hermione quickly got in before he could after that though.

"I'm sorry for how childishly I behaved. Avoiding you wasn't the answer. And I shouldn't have snapped at you the way I did. You've been really great about all this and I should be more grateful."

That was what she was apologising for? How about cavorting with Potter this morning?

Severus pulled his wand from his sleeve and cast a silencing spell about the room in case Potter had his ear pressed to the door. He certainly had no qualms about disregarding other peoples privacy.

"How about an apology for your behaviour with Potter this morning?" He hissed.

She stared back at him in obvious confusion. "I don't understand."

"I saw you in the library with him this morning." There was a seething anger beneath the calm words.

"I know you don't like Harry-"

"This is not about whether I like Potter or not, this is about your behaviour."

"I told you there's nothing going on like that with me and Harry," she said, exasperation colouring her tone.

But she could see that he fully believed what he was saying. But he was so wrong. Opening her mouth to continue denying it, she quickly decided against it. Denials weren't going to make him believe her, if anything they would probably just make him more suspicious. Jesus, he was as insecure as she was about all this. Maybe even more.

With a sigh, her shoulders slumped. "I have no occlumentic defences to speak of, would you like to take a look?"

Her eyes met his and she gave him full access. He didn't even hesitate as he dove into her mind. Hermione summoned all her memories of Harry and infused them with everything she felt for the boy - When he and Ron saved her from the troll, the gratitude, relief, a sense of debt... - The hours they spent with her as she brewed the Polyjuice potion - Their little time turner adventure at the end of her third year - Moments they had spent in the common room just doing homework or talking - When Harry told her she looked beautiful at the Yule ball fourth year, there was a deep affection, but there was no lust, no desire, certainly no crush on him - Moments of their time training their little DADA club, how they helped each other to be able to help the others - Parts of their horcrux hunt, when Ron left and they were both feeling betrayed and abandoned and how they only had each other.

Though the feelings ran deep, it was a friend/family kind of love. Severus saw their Christmas together, spent having fun on the beach. And most recently, their embrace in the library. Potter was trying to be comforting. The feelings behind it, from what he could feel of Hermione's anyway, had been innocent.

He pulled out of her mind, unsure what to say. He refused to apologise for his suspicions, they were valid concerns.

"Maybe..." She started hesitantly. "Maybe one day you can just trust me when I say things."

He gave her sharp look but going by her expression, that comment hadn't been an intentional dig. She seemed to truly just hope they would have some measure of trust between them at some point.

He released the anger and let the tension drain from his body, giving her a nod. Maybe one day.

"Harry...Harry was the first friend I ever had in my whole life," she said. "Ron took some time to warm up to me. And I doubt it's escaped your notice, but I'm not a popular person. With Ron gone, Luna and Draco always...off together, Harry is the only one I have left. And outside of school, he's the only family I have left."

"Your parents-"

"That situation is complicated, I don't want to talk about that. But I grew up in a very affectionate home, my parents doted on me, they were always giving me hugs and kisses, pats on the knee, shoulder squeezes and stuff. And I do the same to the people I care about, I've never even thought about what it might look like to other people. Right now though, Harry is the only one left, I guess that's why it looks like I favour him or something. If he were a girl, would it be an issue though?"

"But he isn't a girl."

"Is it really so unseemly? My behaviour with Harry." She asked, her eyes uncertain as she bit at her lip. "I- I can try and be less nice if you want."

Severus frowned at her. Was this what Lucius had meant when he spoke of the impact a mate could have? Because despite all of her defending her friendship with Potter, he did see the change in her when he called her out on her behaviour, the distance she put between her and Potter for a few days. And now she was actually asking him.

If he told her her to back off, would she? He just had to say the word.

And though it was on the tip of his tongue, he couldn't stop himself from reflecting on her past actions with the boy. They hugged a lot, sat close, touched each other through pats on the hand, heads leaning on shoulders. Nothing untoward exactly, but there was a closeness he didn't often see and certainly had never experienced. Well, Lily had been like that he supposed. She would hold his hand, rub his back when he was upset, hug him... Jesus Christ.

"No," he finally said, resigned to it now. "But perhaps a slight decrease in the amount of physical contact."

She shot him a relieved smile and nodded. "Ok."

"Why is Potter here right now anyway?"

"Draco and Luna are...out, so I have no one to help me with my hair and dress. Harry offered. It does up at the back so I can't do it myself. And I have no idea how to do anything with my hair, especially since I can't use magic."

"And you're relying on Potter for that? Have you not noticed the haystack on his head?"

He almost smiled at her when he noticed she was trying to fight down a laugh, but he turned towards the door instead.

"Blind leading the bloody blind," he muttered to himself. "I will see you down at the lake Mi- Hermione."

xXx

Harry walked with Hermione down to the lake as it neared midnight. They were both dressed as per the specifications, the all natural clothing, barefoot, bare of any kind of product and magic, so no make up, no hair products or grooming charms.

It was bloody freezing, especially being barefoot as they were. And Hermione's dress wasn't exactly made for warmth, it was strapless and silk, the back laced up but there were still gaps, even though it was long enough to brush against the ground the length did nothing to keep the cold breeze out. At least she had forked out for the underwear as well.

She shook her head of the thought, what a stupid thing to be thinking about right now.

They got down to the lake and could see the circle of lanterns in the distance with three silhouettes waiting for them. Professor Snape, Minerva and the officiant. They made their way over, Hermione trying to still her shivering. Her binding was likely to give her pneumonia. It had all sounded quite lovely as they discussed it. Unusual for her, she had completely disregarded the practical concerns.

As soon as they reached the circle of lanterns Snape offered his hand to her. She walked up to him and settled her hand in his, right to right.

"Hermione and Severus," the officiant began. "Know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal and sacred bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real the ideals that to you, give meaning to this ceremony and to the institution of marriage. With full awareness, know that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be hand fasted before your friends and family, but you speak that intent also to your creative higher powers. The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul's growth. Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?"

"Yes," they agreed after a moments hesitation.

The hand fasting cord was produced by the officiant and it looked quite beautiful in her opinion. Professor Snape had told her it was traditional they wove the cord themselves, pouring into it what they hoped for their union.

Hermione had picked a nice blue and a dark purple, their inherent meaning what she hoped for, peace between them, stability, dignity, trust and understanding. At the end of the woven cords she had tied a little silver pendant, the Celtic symbol for happiness.

She was mildly surprised with the Professor's chosen colours, she had expected black or green or something along those lines, black being symbolic of power, sophistication, depth... and it was just a colour she had come to associate with him. As for green, well, that was more her own ignorance of his preferences she supposed, and how much stock he would put into the idea of the cords.

But he had gone with silver and grey, she knew silver denoted calm and was supposed to be a mentally cleansing colour, though similar to grey it was supposed to be the more optimistic side of it. And grey itself stood for security, reliability, intelligence, solidity and at the end of his cords, she saw he'd picked silver and a Celtic symbol as well, a shield of protection. He was promising to protect her. Though he had always done so, she was still touched by the promise.

The cords they had put so much work and thought into separately, had been woven together and the officiant was now using it to bind them together.

"Will you honour and respect one another, and seek to never break that honour?" The officiant started on their vows.

"We will," they intoned in unison.

He wrapped the cord around their hands. "Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?"

"We will."

Another wrap of the cord. "Will you share each other's laughter and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?"

"We will."

"Hermione and Severus, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. Above you are the stars and below you is the earth. Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow."

The officiant removed his wand from his sleeve and cast something over their cord, which sort of severed it in half, the braided cord wrapping itself around their wrists like a bracelet. Hermione wore the charm of protection Severus had added, and he wore the one of happiness she had given. Their promises to each other.

They were bound now, permanently.

Hermione wasn't sure what to do now and looked back up at Severus to follow his lead. He just thanked the officiant for doing this and for his silence on it then turned to Minerva and thanked her for attending. He only scowled at Harry before looking at Hermione and offering his hand, she accepted it with a small smile and his much longer fingers closed over hers. With that, he activated a port key.

Hermione hadn't been expecting that and he had to help her keep her balance when they hit their destination. She really wished he had of at least warned her. He steadied her and she straightened up and looked ahead, there was a rather lovely looking home from what she could see in the moonlight and from the glow emanating from some of the windows. It was two storeys, probably white or a light colour close to it. It was difficult to discern in the poor lighting. The garden was meticulously maintained and devoid of snow while the lawn was covered in it.

"Where are we?"

"My primary place of residence now that the Dark Lord is dead. I have not spent much time here however, I could not risk the Dark Lord or my 'brothers' learning of its existence."

Hermione nodded as he lead her inside. It wasn't massive, but it was spacious, decoration sparse but tasteful.

"While I would prefer you don't over feminize the place, feel free to decorate it how you wish, within reason of course."

Hermione nodded again, a bit distracted by the sudden obvious discomfort that overcame him.

"If you require a lust potion to be able to-"

"No, I don't need one," she told him, trying to ignore the blush she could feel heating her face at the admission.

Though she thought her crush had died down, everything that had attracted her to him in the first place was still there. She found him attractive as he was, hooked nose and all. Should she tell him so though? Did he require that kind of reassurance or could he make the connection on his own? No, she wasn't going to say it, he was smart enough to figure it out surely. She didn't want to look like some kind of kiss ass either, he'd accused her of that in the past and she didn't want to bring back those memories. As to whether he needed a lust potion to be able to be with her, she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

He again took her hand, leading her to the stairs.

"Uh..." Her voice quavered. "Just so it's out there...I've never...had sex before."

He caught himself before he stumbled up the step at her announcement. Gryffindors...as blunt and as subtle as a sledge hammer to the face.

He wasn't as surprised to know this as he would have expected. He would have preferred she had some experience, but nor could he deny the little thrill that she would be solely his for the rest of their lives. There was something satisfying in the fact that she would know only him. He could mould her, shape her into the kind of sexual partner he desired. The girl was a quick study, she would learn fast.

And sex was going to have to be a common thing between them anyway, why not make it a prospect to look forward to rather than dread? He was aware his appearance was less than desirable, the only reason he'd been doing so well with the women lately was because of his reputation and the rumours of his power and the wealth accumulated from the Order of Merlin.

While he was comfortable, he was not rich, the monetary reward from the award wasn't as much as people seemed to think. Still, he knew how to make sure his looks had no bearing on the experience he could provide. But still, how did he respond to her statement? Gryffindor...be blunt.

"I admit, I don't know what to say. It will hurt, but it doesn't have to hurt for long," he told her.

Hermione nodded. She knew that much as well, that it would hurt anyway. Hopefully he knew how to make it hurt for only a short time.

They got up stairs, there were a few doors but he lead her to the one furthest away at the end of the hall. The bedroom.

Hermione found it a bit difficult to swallow and her grip on his hand tightened. She felt his thumb brush lightly over her hand and it soothed her almost immediately, part of her anyway.

Just follow his lead Hermione, I'm sure he knows what he's doing.

xXx

Severus woke up the next morning, though, going by the position of the sun it was closer to mid afternoon. He rolled over, looking at the still fast asleep figure of his wife. Maybe there was something to this Veela matching thing. Last night had been...

He could feel his body reacting to the memories. It hadn't been without it's problems of course. When Hermione had needed to bite him, she had burst into tears upon seeing the scars on his neck and asked how she was any different to Nagini. It was an absurd question but he had tried to be patient and reassure her, for one, she would not be disfiguring him or injecting any kind of venom, nor was she a snake.

Her ridiculous outburst had erased all the desire and arousal he had managed to coax from her and he'd had to start again. But start again he had, and it had actually been... Even when she bit him, there was a kind of pleasure/pain thing and a hyper awareness of everything she was feeling. He wondered if she felt anything from him. He thought it was likely, because after that, she seemed to know exactly how and where to touch him and what to do to him without needing to be guided. Every move, every touch, the pressure, the amount of time she spent on certain parts of him, it had been perfection.

Merlin, he'd never had an encounter like it. Once he had coaxed her passion out of her... And the more she saw how he enjoyed her attentions, the more confident she became, she truly was a quick study.

He actually smiled to himself. This didn't have to be a bad arrangement at all. She could entertain herself during the day and they could share nights like that.

He looked over at her again, still asleep. She actually looked better than she had yesterday, the dark circles around her eyes not so prominent, even her colouring appeared more healthy, her hair shinier, it was almost a transformation on it's own. His blood seemed to have worked quickly for her.

He rubbed at his eyes, the binding cord catching his attention. He knew what her colours meant, and the symbol she'd attached. At least she had put the research into it rather than just picking what might have been her favourite colours.

He mentally snorted. Of course she put in the research. Who do you think you married?

He would have to keep the cord hidden, perhaps disillusion it, hers too. They couldn't risk their marriage getting out yet. Though he didn't much care about his job, she could be expelled, her grades called into question, not to mention her reputation. She had a lot more to lose than he did.

He reached for his wand, taking care of it now, and of hers. Most in the wizarding world who saw it would be able to recognize it for what it was.

They would have to go back to Hogwarts this evening. They couldn't stay away for long without drawing suspicion so neither one would get any time away from their classes, certainly no honeymoon.

Her eyes fluttered open and fixed on him. His body went rigid as he wondered what to expect from her, what kind of reaction she would have to last night. Well, early morning he supposed.

"Good morning," she said, her voice sleepy.

"Good afternoon actually," he returned. It was still a greeting, as well a correction.

Her eyes widened a fraction and she sat up, holding the blanket up to cover her, part of the scar she earned from the DoM peeking over the top.

Her scars had caused some self consciousness for her too, though Severus couldn't care less about them, he had his own after all. Although there was some discomfort when he imagined the kind of things she'd been through to get them. He had an intimate knowledge of all the ways scars like hers could be caused.

"We have to get ready to go back to school," she said, getting out of bed and slipping into her wedding dress.

He had rather liked it on her, it was simple, elegant, tasteful. He watched her, the thoroughly shagged look did wonders for her. She was muttering to herself, mostly about how she was going to get back to her dorm without being seen.

"I'm going to have to transfigure this dress. It would look mighty suspicious to be walking around in it."

"The floo here is connected to the headmistresses office and Minerva had a house elf send your clothes," Severus informed her.

Hermione nodded, that was convenient. Most likely Professor Snape's foresight, he was pretty good at that. She looked back at him, feeling a little awkward and unsure of what to do next.

"Feel free to take a shower. We still have time before we must be back."

"Ok," she said, it was a good out. She headed towards the door he gestured to, pausing as she reached it. "I just want to say thanks, for everything, and that I'm sorry for everything. I didn't handle the situation as well as I should have and I thought some not nice things about you, though to be honest, they weren't that invalid, I had every reason to expect you'd be angry about this and that you might have directed that anger at me, it's not like it's not something you haven't done on a regular basis, but I was wrong and I'm sorry and I promise I'll try to make this something you won't regret, I'll-"

"Hermione, stop," he cut her off, not particularly ready to have his mood ruined by her babbling. "I admit, based on our past interactions you had every right to expect a less than favourable reaction from me. Had you been around when I discovered the truth, you likely would have been on the receiving end of the brunt of my anger. However, what I should have mentioned during our previous conversations was my desire to...let the past go and begin again, forgive our trespasses against the other and move forward with an amicable partnership."

Hermione smiled at him a moment before he actually felt her uncertainty.

"Do you think maybe we could be friends one day?" She asked.

"It is...something to aspire to."

Severus lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling as she disappeared into the bathroom. He had actually forgotten the wonders a night of good sex and a good sleep could do for him.

xXx

Hermione got back to school, Professor Snape had stayed back at the cottage for a little longer. Hermione was supposed to make the rounds, make sure people saw her around and start spreading the story she had spent the night and most of that day in the infirmary, confirm what Harry should have been telling people already.

Hermione had never felt better though, she had forgotten what it felt like to be healthy.

Her first stop was the Gryffindor common room to see Harry, he had noticed the change in her almost immediately, she truly did look better than she had in a long time. It was confirmation that she really wasn't going to die.

He wondered if he should go and thank Snape for giving Hermione this chance. He quickly decided against it though, Snape would probably only tell him to mind his own business.

As far as Harry was concerned though, Hermione was his business. Still, he didn't want to provoke the man. But Harry was grateful to him.

Her and Harry headed back to her dorm so they could talk more, and so Hermione could catch up with Draco and Luna. Harry watched her speak and she was so much more animated than when she left, her cheeks flushed with colour. He was just glad she wasn't giving him details on her wedding night, that would be too weird even for their close friendship.

They got up to her dorm where Draco and Luna were snuggled on the couch, Luna reading and Draco's head resting in her lap. They both looked up at their entrance.

"Wow, seems a good shag agrees with you," Draco grinned up at her.

Harry winced at the comment. "Shut it, we don't need to talk about that. As far as I'm concerned, they played chess all night and he talked her better."

Hermione laughed while Draco let out a rather inelegant snort.

"You do look better though," Luna said, giving her that kind smile.

"Thanks Luna."

"Guess it all went well then?" Draco asked.

"A couple of hiccups, he likely thinks me mental but..." She shrugged.

Her little breakdown comparing herself to Nagini had been irrational and absolutely absurd. She had no idea what was going on with her these days but hopefully now that she was getting back to normal, her moods would too.

Draco's grin widened. "Hiccups? What kind of hiccups?"

"None of our business hiccups," Harry snapped it, shuddering as he tried to avoid mental images of Hermione's night.

"Don't be such a prude Potter."

"I'm not a prude, but come on."

"It's ok Harry, I'm not about to go into detail," Hermione assured him.

They dropped into the couches and chairs, joining the happy couple.

"And congratulations on your wedding Hermione," Luna said now that Harry and Draco had quietened.

Hermione gave a strained smile. The idea of her binding was still a bit tainted with the feelings of debt.

"Thanks Luna."

xXx

The rest of the week passed with blissful normality in terms of her functioning. Madam Pomfrey had been happy to know Hermione no longer needed the potions, but she was not part of the secret as to who her mate was.

Hermione was once again able to motor through her homework and was on her way to being back at the top of all her classes.

She met up with Snape only once more to sort of...recharge. They hadn't really spoken since the binding, when she met up with him, there had been maybe a few sentences before they sort of converged on each other and got the deed done.

She had woken up without that awesome surge of energy that she'd experienced the last time but put it down to the fact she wasn't as unhealthy as she was before so the surge wouldn't be as drastic.

They were all waiting for Ron to come back now, he would be arriving this afternoon and they had arranged a welcome back party for him in the Gryffindor Common room.

He wasn't going to be able to get his N.E.W.T's with the rest of them, he would have to work over the summer, but the Headmistress had arranged it so Ron could take them towards the end of the summer.

Hermione and Harry were milling about with the other Gryffindors waiting for Ginny to bring Ron up. The portrait door swung open and Ginny brought Ron in where he was immediately swamped by other Gryffindors, giving him hugs, offering congratulations and well wishes.

Hermione and Harry grinned at him once he was let out from the mob, Hermione throwing her arms around his neck, Harry hugging them both.

He was just happy both his friends were going to be ok.

"You're looking better than when I last saw you," Ron noted.

Hermione smiled up at him. "So are you."

"All sorted then?"

"All sorted," she confirmed.

There was no way in hell she was saying how just yet, not with all these big mouthed Gryffindors around. And this was Ron's homecoming, she didn't want to upset him with the news of who her mate was and that they had already bonded.

They all let each other go and their little welcome home party kicked up a notch as someone pulled out alcohol. Normally Hermione would be against such a thing, being Head Girl and all, but she supposed it was just for tonight, and it was a special occasion. She would just have to make sure none of it made it to the younger students.

Hermione and Harry spent much of the night listening as Ron regaled everyone with tales of his hot nurse. Hermione was pretty sure only half of them were true. Her and Harry were drinking slowly, and towards the middle of the night Hermione had hit a pleasant buzz. The younger students had already been sent up to bed so she had stopped watching them like hawks and started to enjoy herself.

Everything felt right with the world again. It had been a long time coming.