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Chapter 22 – Ex-Professor and Former Student
Hermione woke the next morning and immediately noticed the absence of any warmth in her bed. A quick glance confirmed she was in her room and not in Severus' with him pottering about in another part of his quarters. Occasionally he had left her to sleep if he woke particularly early, but in the absence of any noise from the adjoining bathroom, this was not the case today. She got up to check anyway but her bathroom was empty. 'This is very odd,' she thought, fisting her eyes to try and wake up more quickly. 'My period isn't due for days, why am I alone?' Her eyes suddenly widened as she remembered the only other time she had woken up alone was when she had been ill.
Yanking open the wardrobe, she grabbed the lone robe that was hanging there and threw it on over her pyjamas. Slipping her feet into the ballet flats she had left at the end of her bed, she wrenched open her door and started to run down the stairs.
"Hermione!" Ginny called out to her friend as she ran past.
"No time, I have to go!" Hermione shouted behind her.
"Wait, Hermione!" Ginny caught up to the brunette at the base of the stairs to find the common room in an uproar. Small pockets of students were huddled together whispering excitedly. Ron's shout of, "MARRIED?! YOU'RE JOKING!" rang out over all the noise.
The student talking to him said something and Harry's voice was heard this time, "TO WHO?"
In the sudden silence, the fifth year's voice was clear. "No one knows. Two Hufflepuffs heard Professor Butterfield screeching at Professor Lupin and his wife last night about him being married and they swore she just came from the dungeons. Then a Patronus animal came up and spoke in Snape's voice telling Professor Lupin and his wife to butt out or he'd challenge them to a duel!"
"And no one knows who he's married to?" Dean Thomas asked.
"Nope!" the fifth year said. He had never had the attention of the entire common room like this before. "The Hufflepuffs snuck away just in case Snape decided to come back up to the hall." Whispers and murmurs broke out again and Hermione and Ginny made their way over to Harry and Ron.
"How did you like our acting?" Harry asked with a grin.
"Brilliant!" Hermione praised them.
"Bloody hell!" Ron said quietly when it was just the four of them. "What the ruddy hell do you think happened?"
"I have no idea," Ginny said.
"Hermione, what did Snape say this morning?" Ron asked.
"He wasn't there," Hermione answered.
Ron's face immediately sported a look of disgust and he took a step away from her. "Gross, Hermione!" He knew far too much regarding Hermione's monthly cycle these days.
"Oh, Ron, grow up!" Hermione admonished him. "I don't know why he wasn't there; it's not because of that. I need to see if he's sick," she said, turning toward the portrait hole.
"Wait, Hermione, something happened last night!" Harry called.
"What?" Hermione asked. Only silence met her as Harry shuffled from foot to foot. "Well, what?" she repeated.
"Um… Butterfieldkissedhim," Harry said in a rush.
Hermione just stared at him until she figured out what he had said. With a look of absolute thunder dawning on her face, she turned on her heel and practically sprinted for the portrait hole. Her three friends looked at her and then ran after her, managing somehow not to get tangled up as they exited the hole guarded by the portrait of the Fat Lady. Once they were out in the corridor, they ran down the stairs after Hermione.
Hermione was heedless of her friends' shouts behind her. 'I'll find her and I'll rip her smug lips right off her face!' Other threats to Butterfield's person flowed through her brain as she stormed through the corridors. Upon reaching the Entrance Hall, a very worried looking Severus Snape hurried up.
"Are you alright?" they both asked at the same time.
"She accosted you!" Hermione said angrily. "I'm going to find her and bring her a world of hurt!"
Severus looked behind her at a panting Harry who had just run up with Ron and Ginny. "You told her?" he asked.
"OF COURSE HE TOLD ME!" Hermione screeched.
"Um, people?" Ginny said nervously. "We're in a public place."
"Here," Ron said, yanking open a classroom door and ushering them all inside.
"I heard Remus and Tonks talking with Butterfield last night and she said Snape had invited her down to his quarters," Harry began.
"What?" Hermione said, turning to Severus.
"I did no such thing," he told her gently. He knew in her worked up state she would not be thinking about things logically. One of them had to remain calm. The theory was proven as Hermione immediately composed herself and thought for a moment.
"Of course, I'm sorry," she said. Severus only smiled.
"Anyway," Harry continued, "I followed Snape after he left the Hall and Butterfield threw herself at him and kissed him." Harry then looked at Severus with an expression of pride. "Severus immediately pushed her away and tore strips off her for her behaviour."
"You did?" Hermione asked.
"Of course I did, little spitfire," Severus said. "I have told you many times I only have eyes for you."
Ron and Harry mock gagged while Ginny clasped her hands over her heart at the romantic words.
"Um, there is the other matter," Ron reminded them.
"What other matter?" Severus asked.
"Some Hufflepuffs found out you were married last night after Butterfield yelled at Remus and Tonks in the Entrance Hall and they told some people and now the whole school knows you're married," Ron said very fast.
Severus' eyes widened slightly.
"They don't know to who," Ginny hurriedly told him.
"To whom," Severus automatically corrected.
"But Remus and Tonks know you're married to Hermione because Professor McGonagall and I kind of lit into them about their behaviour as well and, yeah, they know," Harry said.
Hermione looked pained and Severus closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Very well," he said. "I am sure Minerva would have asked them to keep our secret. Other than that, we will just have to be extra vigilant today and ensure no one has any reason to suspect anything. Will the three of you excuse us?" he asked.
Harry, Ron and Ginny all nodded and started to leave. Harry hung back for a moment and reached into his robes. "Here, just in case," he said, tossing a water-like, silvery piece of fabric to Hermione who caught it easily.
"Thanks, Harry," she said with a smile.
"Potter, remember my threat," Severus said warningly.
"What threat?" Harry asked in confusion.
"Sleep with one eye open, you called me by my name," Severus reminded him.
Harry smirked. "'Course I did," he said cheekily. "You're my best friend's husband." Harry gave them both a happy smile and left the two of them alone.
Severus locked and silenced the door after him before turning to Hermione, obviously worried. "Where were you this morning? I know you are not due for days yet."
"I don't know what happened," Hermione said with a tremble to her voice. "I woke up in my room and you weren't there. Do you think the bond has been broken because she kissed you?"
"No," Severus said immediately. "I don't believe that would have effected anything, the kiss was not consensual. Besides, I have seen you many times kissing the cheeks of your classmates and that has caused no effect to the bond."
Hermione almost sagged in her relief. Although she now knew she was in love with him, she was still relying on the bond to keep them together; she did not want him to find some excuse to have them start all over.
"Why do you think we were separated then?" she asked.
"I was coming to find you because I thought you might be ill. Perhaps you may have imbibed some illicit spirits when you returned to the tower last night?" he teased.
Hermione drew herself up, affronted by his accusation. "I would never! I am Head Girl of this school until the train arrives in Kings Cross this afternoon! If I even saw any hard liquor last night I would have confiscated it immediately!" she defended herself.
Severus gave her a teasing smirk. "I know, my little spitfire. I daresay your classmates are aware of it too and would have done a masterful job at hiding it," he said. He sat down on a desk and pulled her so she was standing between his legs. "Has anything changed since yesterday?" he asked, running his hands up and down her arms. Hermione bit her lip as she thought about what might be different from yesterday to today. Severus resisted the urge to gently pry the plump, pink skin from between her teeth and place it between his own.
Running everything that had happened yesterday through her brain, she could really only think of two things. One: Luna had found out, or rather, Luna had had her suspicions confirmed, and two: Hermione had realised that she truly loved Severus. She looked at him a bit uncertainly. She did not want to admit her feelings and have him laugh at her naivety.
Severus could see her indecision about something. He wondered if the one thing he knew had happened to him had happened to her as well and she was nervous about saying something. 'Well, at least you know she won't belittle you if you confess your feelings,' a little voice inside his head told him. He continued to caress her arms as he said, "I know something that has changed for me since yesterday," he said softly.
"Oh?" Hermione asked. Something in his eyes suddenly told her that everything was going to work out in their favour. She put her hands on his lapels and began to run them up and down his chest.
"I love you," he confessed quietly.
The smile that bloomed on Hermione's face at that declaration could not have been stopped for anything. "I love you too," she said.
"And the bond is satisfied," he said before pulling her firmly into his arms and kissing her deeply.
It was nearly thirty minutes later that they exited the classroom. Severus had left first, Hermione following him under the cloak looking thoroughly debauched. They had stopped short of actual sex, both of them agreeing that their first conscious time should not be in a classroom. In fact, it should be as far from Hogwarts as they could get! However, both of them left that room completely satisfied.
Hermione headed straight for the nearest girl's toilets to freshen up. She emerged only moments later with everything back in place and made her way to the Great Hall for breakfast.
For Severus' part, he had actually managed to silence the entire hall upon his entrance. All the students followed his path with varying looks from outright incredulity to reluctant admiration given the shocking news they had all heard. He had just taken his seat when Lupin asked to speak to him privately. With a huff, Severus stood up and entered the antechamber near the Head Table.
"Yes, Lupin?" Severus asked.
"I wish to apologise for any distress I have inadvertently caused you or your wife," Lupin said formally. "I further wish to apologise for every action I have ever taken against you, either directly or indirectly."
Severus could not contain his surprise at this blanket apology. He searched Lupin's face for any sign of deceit but could only see true contrition there.
"What has brought this on?" Severus asked suspiciously.
"It was brought home to me last night just how my actions may have affected you over the years. I was trying to help you out of your bitterness without acknowledging that I played a large part in causing it in the first place. I know we will never be friends, but we have managed congenially enough as colleagues for the last year and now, given your connection to Hermione, it is reasonable to assume we may find ourselves in social situations more often. I would like there to be no hostility between us. I have no wish for my son to follow me in these footsteps and I know I would take issue if anyone treated him the same way." Lupin bowed his head sorrowfully at the end of his speech.
For a moment, Severus was tempted to just walk away and leave the man standing there with his apology rammed down his throat. It was too little, too late. But then he thought about being in the man's shoes in one aspect in the future. How would he feel if he was one day advising his own child to accept a long overdue apology for something if he could not do it himself? The werewolf was right—they would never be friends, but for Hermione's sake, he was willing to be cordial. With a curt nod, Severus said, "I accept your apology."
The relief on Lupin's face was visible. "Thank you, Severus," he said.
Severus nodded again before leaving the man alone. He walked back to the table and sat down in his place. In the interim, Lily had arrived.
"Still no ring, I see," she said smarmily.
"It still makes me no less married," Severus shot back.
"I don't understand why no one would know that you are married," she whispered furiously. "Are you ashamed of your wife?"
"On the contrary, I am extremely proud of her. She is intelligent, witty, loving and beautiful; and she has over three thousand books in her personal library," Severus said smugly. He realised he was imparting some sensitive information but he also knew Lily had plans to travel to Canada for an indefinite period of time. He hoped that if she ever returned, enough time would have passed that his and Hermione's relationship would be old news.
"Well, I hope the two of you are blissfully happy together."
"We are, thank you," Severus said, ignoring the obvious sarcasm in the woman's voice. She was indeed a sore loser. "I am sorry that you were caught up in the Lupins' scheme. Had I known about it, I would have put a stop to it much earlier. As it was, I merely thought you were overly persistent, and incapable of taking a hint."
Lily threw her napkin onto the table and stormed out of the hall through the antechamber. Indistinct shouting could soon be heard from within the chamber, followed by a door being forcefully slammed. Lupin soon reappeared and took his seat. "She would not accept my apology," he said sheepishly.
"That is to her detriment," Severus said loftily. He was currently riding a high having forgiven the man who had been a source of his ongoing torment for so many years. He said nothing else for the remainder of the meal, eating slowly and sneering at any student who dared to stare at him, wondering if the rumours were indeed true. He did accept the congratulations of his colleagues but gave no indication as to the identity of his wife. He wondered, too late, if he should not have tried to deny it to limit any future repercussions but he thought he could always manufacture a divorce if he really had to. He finished his breakfast and made ready to head to London where he would meet up with Hermione once she had left Kings Cross.
The train ride was uneventful and the students alighted in the late afternoon, reuniting with their families and promising their friends they would write and catch up over the holidays. Hermione hugged several of her classmates goodbye and spoke briefly with the Weasleys and Harry. Minerva was waiting for her on the platform but the two would separate once they were in Muggle London. Minerva was headed straight to Manchester to attend a three-day Transfiguration conference before returning to Hogwarts late Wednesday.
The pair walked leisurely through the streets, stopping occasionally to window shop and once for Hermione to duck into a lingerie shop to pick up some things. At one of the apparition points close to where Hermione was due to meet Severus, Minerva gave her daughter a hug and sent her on her way. Watching as Hermione joined Severus and the pair kissed each other hello, Minerva smiled. 'I could not ask for a better man for you,' she thought. She shook herself from her reverie, stepped into the concealed space and apparated away.
Hermione smiled brightly as she approached her husband. "Hello," she greeted him.
"Hello," he replied.
"You look remarkably like my snarky ex-professor," she said.
"And you bear an uncanny resemblance to a former know-it-all student of mine," he teased back.
They kissed each other tenderly and began to walk down the street. "So where are we going?" Hermione asked.
"Somewhere secluded, and romantic," he answered, turning his head and breathing in the scent of her hair. He carried a bag with everything they would need for their three-day break. They walked for several miles until they reached Oxford Street train station. There they boarded a train headed for Brighton, wanting to savour the moments before they could truly come together, consciously, as one.
Finally, they reached their destination and took a taxi to the seaside cottage Severus had rented for them. After exploring the house and putting their things away, Severus cooked them a light meal which they ate on a balcony overlooking the sea. The sun finally set and they knew the moment was upon them. Hermione was sitting on Severus' lap, kissing him deeply when she pulled back.
"Excuse me for a moment?" she asked.
"Is everything alright?" he asked. 'Does she not want to do this anymore?' he thought worriedly.
"Everything is fine," she assured him. "I just want to slip into something a little more…silky." She breathed the last word into his ear, licking it when she heard him moan. She stood up and maintained a sultry gaze with him as she picked up the lingerie bag and walked to the bathroom.
Severus stood up and, after adjusting himself so he could walk, gathered the bottle of champagne they had been drinking along with their glasses, and followed her into the room.
It promised to be a good night.
That is the end of Against Their Will. I truly hope you enjoyed it and THANK YOU to everyone who has followed, favourite and especially reviewed this story as it's gone along. I am overwhelmed by all the good things there have been to say and again, I truly hope you enjoyed the story.