Disclaimer: Not mine, don't own it – I wish! Unfortunately, Harry Potter belongs to JKR and not to me; I'm just playing in her sandbox.
Author's Note: Thank you to my beta, the wonderful StrongHermione, for all her help and support, and to atokkota for her feedback too.
PART ONE: HERMIONE
"All right, everyone. Time to pack up. Next time, we'll be starting life classes. If you happen to speak to the model during breaks, or before or after class, please remember that the model is just that: a model. He or she is not easy or a slut just because they're a life model, so please be respectful. Good evening, all. I'll see you next time."
"Good night, Cleo," chorused the students, as they packed up their art supplies.
"Hey, Hermione. We're all going out for a drink. Are you joining us?" asked the girl who had been sitting at the easel next to Hermione.
"Don't I always, Megan?" she smiled.
As the group sat in the nearby pub having a drink, they idly speculated about the model.
"I wonder why they'd choose to do life modelling," Hermione mused.
"Why, are you considering taking it up?" teased Neil, who was sitting opposite her.
"No, absolutely not," she laughed. "But I do admire the self-confidence it must take to bare yourself before others, especially in front of people who will be scrutinising your body closely, who will be drawing or painting every freckle or blemish you may have and preserving them for posterity."
Hermione Granger had collected a few scars in the wizarding war six years previously and was not at all confident about her body image. Her first boyfriend, Ron Weasley, knew all about the scars as he had been with her each time she was injured, and was accepting of them. Her next boyfriend, however, had made his revulsion clear the first time he saw her scars and had broken up with her very soon after that, leaving her in no doubt that he had ended the relationship because he found her body repulsive. She had not been able to bring herself to show her scars to anyone else since, instead glamouring her scars so they would not be seen.
Hermione had dated her best friend, Ron, for a while after the war but they had both agreed their relationship felt more like a sibling relationship than that of lovers and had amicably separated. Ron was now married to their former classmate, Lavender Brown. Lavender had been quite frivolous when in school but had calmed down and matured considerably after the war. She was a reporter for Witch Weekly, while Ron had become an Auror, together with his and Hermione's best friend, Harry Potter, who just so happened to be married to Ron's younger sister, Ginny, a professional Quidditch player. Ron and Harry both had young children and were knee deep in nappies. Both boys loved being fathers and were, understandably, absorbed with their families, so Hermione did not get to see them very often. In fact, most of her friends were married, and Hermione was feeling the lack of a social life as her friends' priorities changed with the advent of their families.
After the war, Hermione had bought a flat in the city of Bath. She wanted to be near her parents, who lived in a pretty village not far from the city, but she also wanted the amenities of city living. The strong student population in Bath appealed to her, as she wanted to get out and meet people her own age. She had tried clubbing a few times but she felt too vulnerable going on her own, so her mother had suggested evening classes to Hermione as an alternative, knowing how much her daughter loved learning. However, Hermione had surprised her parents by signing up for art classes two evenings a week. Hermione had chosen these precisely because they were creative rather than intellectual, and would give her brain a rest since, according to everyone who knew her, she had a bad habit of working too hard. She therefore did not want to sit down to learn after a long and hard day at work, rather she wanted something that would be more instinctual and a release for her emotions. She had not yet told her friends from the magical world about her new hobby but she was enjoying every moment of these classes and had indeed made some new friends, who she now saw socially, as well as in art class.
On Thursday evening, Hermione arrived bright and early for her first life class. As she set up her easel and art supplies, she noticed a tall man in a bathrobe talking to the teacher. He had short, glossy, black hair and amber coloured eyes.
'He must be the model,' she thought, looking at the man curiously. Something about the way he moved reminded her of someone she knew but she could not quite put her finger on who it was.
Once everyone had set up, the model disrobed and settled himself comfortably in an armchair that Cleo had purloined from the staff break room. He was sitting with his head resting against the back of the chair. His left foot was flat on the seat of the chair and his left arm was casually lying on his upright, bent knee. His right leg was in a normal sitting position and his right arm rested on the right chair arm. This pose exposed him completely to the students.
The man had pale skin with dark black hair on his legs and arms and a line of dark hair starting just below his belly button, leading down to his crotch like an arrow. He was highly toned and muscular, but not overly so. He was lean, more like a runner than a weight lifter. As she admired his figure, Hermione noticed a number of scars on his torso, in particular a couple of bad ones on his right thigh.
"Listen up, people," Cleo called. "Silas isn't a professional life model. He's a friend who agreed to help me out tonight when the model I'd booked had to cancel at the last minute due to illness. As Silas isn't as experienced at holding a pose for long periods of time as a professional model would be, we're keeping it simple today and we'll save the more interesting poses for when we have a professional model again next week."
As the class began to work, Hermione felt eyes upon her. She looked up and saw the model staring straight at her, with a gleam of mirth in his eyes. She blushed and broke the connection, looking back at her easel as she began to sketch. As this model would only be present for one session, she had chosen to use charcoal and coloured chalks for this picture, since she worked more quickly with these than she did with paints and she would therefore be more likely to complete her work in the course of one evening.
Every time Hermione looked up, she found that the model was still staring at her and the feel of his eyes on her as she worked increased the familiarity she was sensing from the tall man. She paused in her work, staring back at him with raised eyebrows as she tried to work out why this man, who she was quite sure she had never met before, felt so familiar. As her puzzlement grew, so too did the sardonic amusement in the man's eyes.
Narrowing her eyes, Hermione began to assess the model again, trying to work out who the man could be. As she raked her eyes over him, she noticed a stirring of his well-endowed cock and hastily looked away again, blushing fiercely.
'Stop getting flustered, Hermione,' she chided herself. 'Just focus on the drawing. Right now, he's a subject, not a person. You can work out who he is later.'
Determinedly, she went back to work and managed to put the puzzle of the man's identity out of her mind for now. The evening class was three hours long, with a break in the middle. During the break, the model got up and put his robe back on, before stretching and moving around to work the kinks out from sitting still for so long.
Some of her classmates approached him as he was helping himself to coffee from the urn in the corner but Hermione hung back, just watching as they began to converse awkwardly with him.
"Thank you for helping us out this evening, Silas," said Megan, smiling flirtatiously at him.
He smiled politely but did not reply.
Neil cleared his throat nervously and asked, "Silas? May I ask a question about your scars?"
"I'm afraid I can't say where and how I got them," he replied in a voice that despite being soft and silky, commanded attention.
Hermione's eyes snapped up to meet his in shock. 'Professor Snape! That's Professor Snape's voice! But Professor Snape died, didn't he? There was no pulse when we left him in the Shack. It can't be him, can it? But why does he look so different? This man has no Dark Mark and there's no sign of a giant snake bite on his neck. His face and eyes different, too. Is it really him?'
Professor Severus Snape had died in the Battle of Hogwarts, in the Shrieking Shack. Hermione, Harry and Ron had witnessed his death, when Voldemort's pet snake had bitten the dour man. The snake had practically ripped out his throat and was known to be highly venomous. Hermione had checked for a pulse before they left him to rejoin the battle and there was none. Later, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Auror, member of the Order of the Phoenix and Acting Minister of Magic, had gone to retrieve his body with Minerva McGonagall, now Headmistress of Hogwarts and fellow Order member. Professor Snape's name had been cleared of all war crimes and there had been a quiet and dignified funeral for the war hero. Eyes wide, Hermione looked at Silas, who nodded at her once briefly in acknowledgement before turning his attention back to Neil, who was speaking again.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. And I wasn't actually meaning to ask that. It's more... Hermione said the other day," he gestured towards her, "that it must be very difficult to expose every mark and flaw for the perusal of others and I was wondering, as you're not a professional life model, did you find it hard to display yourself like that to us?"
The man's eyes met Hermione's again, this time with a look of understanding, before he replied. "Our past, the good and the bad is what makes us who we are now and we shouldn't hide from it. My scars are nothing to boast about but neither am I ashamed of them. They're simply a part of me, of who I am, and I accept them as such."
Neil thanked him politely, as he puzzled his way through the explanation given by Silas. Hermione's eyes were drawn to his neck, where the scars from Nagini should be, before she caught herself. She ducked her head and returned to her easel, where sat down on her stool, lost in thought, only rousing herself once her classmates had settled down again ready to resume work. This time when she caught the eyes of the model, there was a warmth and sympathy in them that discomposed her even more than the quizzical look of earlier. As she continued drawing, at the back of her mind she was quietly freaking out.
'Professor Snape! He's alive! He's right here in front of me, stark naked!' Hermione took a deep breath and looked at him again. Seeing the glimmer of amusement back in his eyes, she calmed down. 'And what's more, he's enjoying it! He's enjoying how flustered he's making me.'
Deliberately, she let her eyes run up and down his body in frank appraisal, letting him see how much she admired the long, rangy body expansively sprawled naked and proud before her. Once again his cock twitched, but this time her own body responded in appreciation, and she felt a warmth and a tingle between her legs. Blushing yet again, she returned to her work, concentrating on it as best she could for the rest of the class.
For once, she excused herself from accompanying her classmates on their regular trip to the pub after class, slipping out as quickly as she possibly could. She made her way into a quiet alleyway, whence she silently apparated home. Letting herself into her flat, she made herself a cup of tea and sat down on the sofa, absently stroking her pet cat, Crookshanks, as she thought about what had happened that evening.
A short while later, Hermione was roused from her daze by a loud knocking on her door. The knocking continued and a moment later she heard that well-known voice, that until this evening, she had never expected to hear again.
"Open up, Granger. We need to talk."
PART TWO: SEVERUS
"All right, yes. I'll do it. Cleo! CLEO! I said yes!"
Severus Snape sighed as he hung up the phone. After the war, when he had been discovered barely clinging onto life, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Minerva McGonagall had regretfully helped him fake his death and leave the wizarding world, understanding his need for a fresh, new start.
Ever since he had first started earning a salary, Severus had invested heavily and successfully in the muggle stock market, using magical Arithmantic calculations to guide him. His home in the grimy, dilapidated, industrial town of Cokeworth was known by his Death Eater associates and when it became obvious that the second Voldemort Blood War was approaching, he had used some of his muggle wealth to buy a second home in Bath, using a false identity to make sure that no one in the magical world would ever find out about it. Here, in this gracious, old city, with its airy and spacious feel and its green parks, he could breathe again and recuperate from his wounds after the war.
Apart from a few people who owned town houses in London or Edinburgh, few magicals lived in muggle towns, preferring to live in the countryside, away from prying eyes and the very different culture and way of life. As a half-blood who had grown up in the muggle world, he knew better than most magicals how to dress and behave among muggles without causing remark and so had purchased a home in this city, which was large enough to afford him anonymity and an escape from the wizarding world. He now lived under his false identity and had changed his appearance sufficiently that no magicals would ever have reason to think that Silas Napier could possibly be Severus Snape.
Once he was back on his feet, Severus had opened a small business in Bath. Using his experience and knowledge as a Potions Master, he created rich and luxurious body lotions, creams, soaps, shampoos, bath and body oils and perfumes. Of course he was careful not to use any magical ingredients but he had not been regarded as one of the most talented Potions Masters of recent times for nothing, and the products he created were superb. He sold them in a chic and elegant boutique and, thanks to Bath's thriving tourist trade, was building up a clientele around the world, since he was willing to supply mail order to select customers. His reputation was growing and the shop was flourishing. Severus brewed the products himself but was successful enough to be able to employ full-time staff to help him with the sales and shipping, since his people skills were not the best.
He had met Cleo when he hired her to develop a logo for Silas Napier, as the eponymous boutique was called, and the two had dated for about six months before calling it a day. While Severus had gladly left the wizarding world behind him, he did not want to marry a muggle. His mother had made that mistake and his father had loathed the magic within his wife and son. Severus did not want to have to hide that part of himself, nor did he want to deceive his partner, and so he had ended the relationship with Cleo before it could become serious. They had remained friends and this was not the first time she had managed to persuade him to pose for her art classes. Away from the stresses and misery of his first thirty-eight years, he now looked healthier than he had ever looked in his life. Cleo insisted his body was very attractive and his scars made it an interesting subject for an artist. It continually surprised him that he was so willing to strip off for her classes but he had likened it to a symbolic throwing off the shackles of the hidebound and antiquated wizarding world.
Wolfing down a sandwich before taking a quick shower, he left his comfortable town house and made his way to the college where Cleo taught. She was already in her art room, preparing for that evening's class. Greeting her with a kiss on the cheek, he slipped behind the screen she had set up and removed his clothes, donning the robe he had brought with him. Leaving his clothes folded in a tidy pile, he stepped out from behind the screen and went over to chat to Cleo while he waited for the students to arrive.
As he heard the students begin to set up, he mentally thanked Merlin that he was no longer teaching. He had never enjoyed teaching dunderheaded idiots basic potions and in fact regarded it as a waste of his skills and talent; however, he had also understood the need for him to be positioned at Hogwarts for all those years. He felt anew the relief of now being able to choose his own path as he listened to the students chatter. When Cleo turned to greet the class, he stepped over to the armchair she had prepared and sat down, arranging his long limbs as Cleo had suggested. Once in a position he knew he could hold for some time without moving, he looked straight ahead only to see, to his great surprise, Hermione Granger sitting opposite him.
Grinning to himself at the irony of the situation – 'The Gryffindor Know-It-All! If I was going to run into anyone from the wizarding world, it could only have been her, couldn't it?' – he saw her look him right in the eye and then blush and glance away.
'Hmm, that blush... does she by any chance like what she's seeing? She's certainly grown up. Well, not by that much, she's still tiny, but she's all woman now. Luscious curves in all the right places, plump, pouty, kissable lips, eyes like melted chocolate, and that blush was irresistible. Even her hair has been tamed. I wonder what it would feel like to tangle my fingers up in those long ringlets of hers.'
As he mused, he kept his eyes on the witch, his amusement increasing as he realised how agitated his regard was making her. She was doing a good job of hiding it but he had spent many years both as a teacher and a spy and he knew how to read the subtle, almost unnoticeable, signs in people's body language.
The biggest drawback to posing for Cleo's classes was the boredom, as he had to hold a pose and remain motionless. At first he had amused himself by using legilimency to see what the student artists were thinking but he rarely, if ever, found anything of interest as they were concentrating too deeply on the portraits for any interesting random thoughts, and so he had quickly tired of that mental occupation, choosing instead to ponder possible recipes for new products or else simply to meditate. However, this was the first time that one of the art students had been someone he knew and he shamelessly entered Hermione's mind and lightly scanned her surface thoughts before quickly withdrawing before she could sense him browsing.
'So the little chit feels something familiar about me and is wondering who I am, is she?' he laughed to himself. 'Now is that just because she can't stand not knowing anything or is it because she might actually find me attractive?'
The possibility of Hermione finding him attractive was a pleasing thought and his body obviously agreed, as his cock twitched with gratification when he noticed her appraising him from head to toe.
After that, though, she avoided looking him in the eye, instead engrossing herself in the drawing she was working on. When the break came, he stood up and robed himself before stretching, all the while watching Granger out of the corner of his eye. He stalked past her easel on the way to the coffee urn and had a quick glance at her portrait of him on the way past.
'It's good,' he thought in surprise. 'Who would have thought that Hermione Granger, the girl who depended on books for everything, could actually be so creative?'
He sensed some of the students edging towards the coffee urn but chose to let them approach him before acknowledging them. A girl who was too chocolate-box pretty and giggly for his personal taste was the first to speak to him. He did not pay attention to what she was saying but instead studied Hermione, who was hovering at the back of the small crowd. He smiled politely at the girl when she finished speaking but did not reply, as he did not want to encourage her flirtation.
When a boy asked about his scars, he stiffened. 'Don't you realise some things are personal, you cretin?' he thought.
Since these were not his students, he bit his tongue and answered politely. As he spoke, he saw that in the background, Hermione had immediately recognised his voice. As she looked at him wild-eyed, he briefly entered her mind again just for a moment. Seeing an image of himself in the forefront of her mind, he nodded once to confirm that she had correctly identified him and then turned back to the boy, who perhaps realising he had made a faux pas, had expanded upon his original question, explaining that he was not asking how Severus had received the scars, rather he was asking if it was hard to display them, stating that Hermione had been the one to comment on that originally. Severus knew that the girl had most probably received scars during the war herself. He was aware of one, which she had received at the age of sixteen as the result of a curse aimed at her by one Antonin Dolohov in what had been dubbed the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. Severus himself had assisted in her recovery from the effects of that curse, brewing the ten different potions she had to take every day during her period of recuperation. He knew that the curse had left a long scar running down her torso and assumed that she may have received more scars from wounds sustained in battle.
Realising that she probably had a poor body image from these scars, he answered the question, instead of rebuffing the boy further. "Our past, the good and the bad is what makes us who we are now and we shouldn't hide from it. My scars are nothing to boast about but neither am I ashamed of them. They're simply a part of me, of who I am, and I accept them as such."
He saw Hermione glance at his neck, where he had been bitten by Voldemort's snake, Nagini, and shuddered inwardly. He still had nightmares about that bloody enormous snake.
He watched surreptitiously as Hermione slipped away and sat down at her place again. After teaching her for six years, he could tell from her body language that she was thinking deeply and he hoped that his words had helped her. When he sat down and she started drawing again, he entered her mind once more to check that she was all right, hoping that he had not made her even more self-conscious. To his surprise, instead of images of her body, scars or battles, her mind bombarded him with an image of his nude body spread out before her. Amused, he withdrew back behind his own mental shields, only to see the impudent little chit shamelessly ogle every inch of him.
'Down boy,' he thought humourously, noting her blush when his cock stirred receptively under her gaze. She spent the rest of the session avoiding looking at him directly, which he thought was quite an achievement, given that she was sitting directly opposite him while he modelled for her and her classmates.
Once the session was over, he was disappointed to see her rushing out as though the building was on fire. He had hoped that her insatiable curiousity might cause her to delay her departure long enough to talk to him and no doubt demand an explanation as to how he could possibly still be alive.
When he had dressed again, Severus helped Cleo return the armchair to the staff break room. Glancing around the room, he had an idea. Assuming that Hermione lived in Bath since she was taking classes there, he asked Cleo, "Is there by any chance a telephone directory here?"
"There should be. Problem?" she asked, as she searched for the phone book.
"No, I just need to make a stop on my way home and I forgot to bring the address with me. I'm sorry we won't be able to go out for a drink," he apologised.
"No worries," she shrugged, handing him the directory. "Thanks for helping me out tonight, Silas."
Severus glanced at the cover of the phone directory to check that it was a recent edition. Breathing a sigh of relief, he quickly riffled through the pages to the G entries, hoping that since Hermione was a muggleborn she would have a telephone for her parents to call her, and therefore a listing in the directory. Running his finger down the page, he was delighted to find one H J Granger. Noting down the address, he slammed the book shut. Giving Cleo a quick buss on the cheek in farewell, he took his leave. Since he did not know if it would be safe to apparate to the address or if he might land in the middle of a busy street full of people, he hailed a taxi and gave the address to the driver. He sat impatiently in the back, listening absent-mindedly to the driver chatter while he drove. By the time they finally arrived, Severus felt as though the journey had taken forever, even though it could not have been more than fifteen minutes. Jumping out, he paid the driver and paused in the entrance to check the names on the letterbox. Finding her flat number, he raced up to the top floor and knocked loudly on her door. When there was no answer, he considered taking down the wards and entering but decided that this would not be the ideal way to present himself to an attractive woman, so he waited for a minute and when there was no reply, he knocked again.
"Open up, Granger. We need to talk," he said.
PART THREE: TOGETHER
Hermione slowly made her way to the door. Taking a deep breath, she opened it, to see Severus Snape, in his guise as Silas Napier, looming in the doorway. "Hello, Professor S..." she started, only to be interrupted by Severus Snape's lips on hers.
Severus had lunged forward to stop her saying his name. Intending only to lay his hand lightly across her mouth, he instead found himself grabbing her face in both hands and kissing her senseless. Sliding one hand around to tangle in her hair, and with his lips still glued to hers, he backed her into the flat, kicking the door shut behind him. Backing her up against the wall, he raised his head slightly to look deeply into her eyes, which were unfocused and lust filled. Peppering kisses on her face, he whispered, "Silas. Silas Napier. Your former professor is dead, Miss Granger."
Dazedly, she nodded. "Silaaas," she moaned, as he gently bit her ear.
Giving a deep chuckle, he gave her one final kiss. "Shall we go and sit down so we can talk, Miss Granger? I'm sure you must have many questions for me."
Pulling herself together, Hermione smiled sweetly at the tall man. "Hermione, please, Silas."
"Hermione it is," he smiled back, as she took him by the hand and led him through to her living room. Sitting down on the couch, she tugged his hand to pull him down next to her, only for him to bend down and pick her up, settling her on his lap when he sat. Severus did not know what had come over him. He knew this behaviour was not normally acceptable but he could not stop himself, even though it was wildly uncharacteristic of him. Neither did it seem that Hermione was particularly bothered by it.
Nibbling at her neck, he asked, "So what would you like to know first, hmm?"
Gasping as Severus continued to plant little kisses and nibble at her neck, Hermione stuttered, "Hu... How did... you... sur... vive?" Sitting up, she continued, tears running down her face, "We thought you were dead. I checked and there was no pulse."
"Shush, little love. It's all right," he reassured her as his arms tightened around her waist. "There barely was a pulse. It was very thin and very slow. You didn't wait long enough to feel the beat but you couldn't have waited. You were in the middle of a battle and it was crucial that Potter get out there. I don't blame you and I would tell you to do the same again if necessary."
He thumbed away her tears and she smiled tremulously at him, cuddling in closer again. "So what did happen?" she asked in a small voice.
"The Dark Lord had repeatedly informed me that Nagini disliked me and wanted to be the one to kill me if I should ever displease my Master." He fairly spat the two last, hated words. "I knew that the Dark Lord would most likely choose to indulge the snake and set her on me should he decide to kill me, so I created an anti-venin when Arthur Weasley was bitten by Nagini and I dosed myself with it daily. Albus knew about this and he charged his own personal house elf, Lemmy, with keeping an eye on me. Once you, Potter and Weasley had left the shack, Lemmy poured a blood-replenishing potion down my throat and used phoenix tears Albus had collected from Fawkes to purify and seal the wound. When Minerva and Kingsley came to retrieve my body, they found me barely alive. To this day, I don't know how I hung on that long. They took me back to the castle and hid me in Minerva's spare room, while Poppy treated me. I was there for five weeks before I was well enough to leave, by which time Kingsley and Potter had managed to arrange that I be granted a pardon. However, I had already made plans to leave the wizarding world, knowing that if we won, there would be no place within it for the man who killed Albus Dumbledore."
"You didn't kill him, dear heart. You didn't! It was assisted suicide, not murder," Hermione insisted, sliding her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek.
'Dear heart?' she thought in wonderment. The endearment had rolled off her tongue instinctively, with no hesitation or conscious thought whatsoever.
Severus nuzzled her hair in thanks. "Kingsley and Minerva smuggled me out the castle and Kingsley apparated me here to Bath, as I was still too weak to do so without splinching myself. I had created a false identity for myself in the muggle world many years ago and I purchased a house in that name just before the Dark Lord returned. No one knew about my false identity or about the house I bought. No one; not even Albus. I had – have – muggle bank accounts that even the goblins at Gringotts were unaware of."
"Doesn't the Ministry realise when you do magic? Not that I really understand how that works. I know that we have the Trace on our wands¹ until we turn seventeen but they can also tell when wandless magic is done, although they can't tell who does the magic. Harry got a warning letter one time when a house elf did magic in his aunt's home."
"What, there's something the Know-It-All doesn't know?" he teased. "The Ministry tends to ignore underage magic performed by children of wizarding families, trusting to the parents to discipline them. Children in muggle residences are more closely monitored because of the Statute of Secrecy. If you, Potter or any of the Weasley children had done magic at the Burrow while underage, you would only have had to deal with Molly, although I'm not sure a Ministry warning wouldn't be better than facing her temper! The Trace registers when magic is performed by someone underage, but only when anyone actually bothers to check. In any case, much like the Black home in Grimmauld Place, my home is so tightly warded that magic performed inside it doesn't register at all."
"What about your wand? It was buried with you... rather, it was buried in Severus Snape's coffin," she asked curiously.
"I had a second wand, custom made and unregistered. Again, no one knew about it. I bought it some years ago on the continent and, like much else in my life, kept its existence secret. I obliviated the wandmaker afterwards and told no one about it. That's the wand I use now, although I prefer to use wandless magic as much as possible, since I'm trying to pass myself off as a muggle."
"You always were very good at wandless and silent magic. It impressed the hell out of me back in Hogwarts."
"That was the idea," he smirked.
All this while, they had been unable to keep their hands off each other, exchanging ever more heated kisses as they nuzzled, nibbled and caressed each other during their conversation. No longer able to think coherently, Severus stood up with Hermione in his arms, and murmured, "Bed."
"End of the hall," Hermione replied, moaning as they kissed feverishly.
Severus carried her down the hall and into her bedroom. Laying her on the bed, he paused to admire the seductive sight of her lying before him, with tousled hair and kiss swollen lips. Lying down beside her, he resumed exploring her body, however, as he began to remove her shirt, Hermione reached out to stop him. Taking her in his arms, he tried to reassure her.
"It's all right, little love. Your scars are badges of honour and you will be beautiful to me no matter what."
"What about your scars?" she asked quietly, her brown eyes gazing into his. "I just saw you naked this evening. I didn't see any scarring from Nagini's attack on you. Why did you hide that, if you don't mind your scars?"
"I had that scar removed, through the combination of a muggle cosmetic surgeon and a scar reducing lotion that I developed, because that particular scar was very sensitive and would hurt badly when shirt necks rubbed against it all day. I own an exclusive boutique and that means dressing appropriately when at work, with a proper dress shirt, suit and tie, so I had no choice but to have it removed. Besides, it was very clearly an animal bite and I could hardly explain to people when they asked exactly what animal it was or how it came to bite me, so it was for the best that I had the treatment. There's still very fine lines from where I had it surgically excised but the lotion I developed has reduced them to such an extent that while the surcial incisions can just about be felt, they can't be seen easily. Nagini's bite was the only scar I had removed; the others don't bother me."
Hermione sat up. "Silas! You're Silas Napier! Your shop is amazing. My dad bought some of your products for my mum for her birthday and she loved them. I've been waiting for a special occasion to indulge myself there. Of course, now I understand just why they're so good, Mr Potions Master."
Severus smiled at the petite witch. "Well, you don't have to wait for a special occasion any longer. You have your own special source of Silas Napier products, including the scar reducing lotion if you wish."
"Oh, Silas, I can't. That's too generous."
Severus did not bother arguing with her but simply kissed her into submission.
'If that's the way he always intends to win arguments against me, it'll be worth losing to him,' Hemione thought blithely as she arched into him.
Hermione reached out and he guided her hand to his neck, which she gently caressed, tracing her finger down the fine lines of the surgical incisions. "What about your Dark Mark? That's gone too. And how did you change the rest of your appearance?" she asked hesitantly.
"The cosmetic surgeon who treated my scar recommended rhinoplasty. I had a deviated septum and continual congestion of my nasal passages; it was giving me breathing problems, plus it was starting to affect my sense of smell, which is rather important for a Potions Master, so he fixed my nose up at the same time as he treated the scars from Nagini. I decided to let him reduce my nose in size as well, to make it less distinctive. It's still large but not now abnormally so. I also decided that since I was already having work done, I should get dental treatment to straighten and whiten my teeth. Then the cosmetic surgeon suggested that I try laser tattoo removal and referred me to a dermatologist who specialises in tattoo removal. I wasn't sure it would work as it's more of a brand than a tattoo but when the Dark Lord was killed, the magic imbued in the Mark died with him and it had faded sufficiently that the tattoo removal was successful. It took a couple of painful years until all the work had been completed but it was worth it. As for my eyes, they're just coloured contact lenses. All-in-all, it was a lot of work, but it's more reliable than a glamour that can easily be Finited."
"And it's quite enough. I think you're perfect and you certainly don't need to do anything else," Hermione smiled at him. "Would you mind taking your contact lenses out, though? I'd like to see your real eyes. Or don't you have a case for them here? I'm afraid I don't have any cleaning solution to give you."
"That's what Scourgify is for," he teased as he fished out a lens case from his pocket.
"They're actually extended wear lenses but I carry a case with me all the time, in case my eyes get too tired and I need to take them out," he explained as he carefully removed the lenses and placed them in the case. "If I have to take them out when I'm not at home I use a glamour temporarily, but I try not to do that too often as the glamour isn't as reliable a disguise as the lenses are."
As he lay back down beside her, Hermione smiled into his now black and once again familiar eyes. "That's better," she said, reaching up to kiss him. Soon all their clothing was gone and they were exploring each other's body thoroughly, each learning the feel of the other's curves and planes. When Severus finally entered her, Hermione was so aroused that she exploded around him immediately, and he followed mere moments later.
Later, they were lying in bed, wrapped up in each other's arms, hands idly caressing silky, smooth skin and scars alike, when Severus spoke. "Hermione, this isn't a one night fling for me. I know it sounds preposterous since we've only just met for the first time since the war but I already know that this is long-term for me. Crazy or not, I don't want to give you up."
"You won't have to give me up. If you're crazy, then so am I, because it's long-term for me, too," she reassured him. "I know we're rushing things ridiculously but it just feels right, somehow, doesn't it? As though the missing piece has finally clicked into place?"
"Yes, that's exactly how it feels," he agreed, smiling into her eyes.
Hermione nodded. "When we were growing up at Hogwarts and later, during the war, Harry was always the impulsive one, acting on instinct, whereas I was a creature of logic and reasoning. Well, for once in my life, I'm going to be like Harry and rely on my instincts, and my gut instincts are telling me that we belong together, that letting you go would be the biggest mistake of my life."
Severus tighted his arms around Hermione, who nestled contentedly into his loving embrace, and kissed her tenderly. "Talking of Potter, what will you tell your friends about me?" he asked anxiously.
"At first, nothing. I'm going to tell them about my art classes – I haven't mentioned them yet – and I'll explain that I'm involved with a man I met at class. They'll automatically assume you're a muggle, so I can put off a meeting between you for a while. If they think you're a muggle, they won't insist on meeting you immediately, as they'll want to wait and see whether or not it's just a brief fling before they risk putting themselves in a situation where they might accidentally do or say something 'strange' in front a supposed muggle. When the meeting between you finally happens, it'll be up to you if you want to meet them as Severus Snape or Silas Napier."
"You don't have a preference?" he asked curiously.
"You spent too many years answering to two Masters, so I'm certainly not going to ask you to do anything you don't want to do. My preference doesn't matter; it's your choice, dear heart."
"I'd prefer to be Silas Napier but I assume that like you, they'll recognise my voice the moment they hear it. Besides, if we have children, as I hope we will one day, if any of them should happen to inherit my more distinctive features, it will probably be clear to all who ever knew me who their father is, so I suppose I should be Severus Snape. However, if you don't mind putting your friends off as long as possible, I'd appreciate it."
"Of course," she smiled at him. "How many children would you like?"
"More than one, less than a Quidditch team," he shrugged. "I'd like it if our offspring wasn't an only child but I can't say that I want a house full of children either. Two or three, perhaps."
"That sounds perfect to me," she agreed with a kiss.
PART FOUR: THE FUTURE
Hermione waited until the next time Ginny Potter tried to set her up on a blind date to tell her friends about the new man in her life. As she had expected, they did indeed assume he was a muggle. They were privately dubious about how successful a relationship between a magical and a muggle could be but acknowledged that because of her parents, Hermione still spent much of her time in the muggle world, therefore, being with a muggle would not be quite as difficult for her as it would be for them. Besides, there was no denying that she looked blissfully happy.
Severus had been waiting for this to happen in order to announce his survival to the wizarding world. He still intended to continue the muggle life he had been leading since the end of the war but felt it was advisable to make it known that he was in fact alive. He sent letters off to Minerva McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt with Hermione's owl and they in turn arranged that Luna Lovegood of The Quibbler would interview them, so that they could explain what had actually happened to Severus Snape at the end of the war. At his request, they did not mention that he had been living under a different name, nor did they mention what he did for a living or where he lived now. They only told the tale of his survival. Severus had long ago placed owl misdirection charms on himself and he made sure always to maintain these charms at full strength. No owl or other messenger bird could find him apart from Hermione's – even Kingsley, Minerva and Poppy had to contact him through her – and so, despite frantic measures to find him by many in the wizarding world, especially Rita Skeeter of the Daily Prophet, he remained as safely hidden as before.
It was Lucius Malfoy who came the closest to finding him. Lucius, despite his antipathy for all things muggle, liked to buy top quality, superior products and when the Silas Napier brand came to his attention he resolved to put his disdain aside long enough to check out the boutique. Severus had chosen the name Silas Napier because the sound of it was not a million miles removed from that of Severus Snape; rather, it was close enough in sound that when he was first accustoming himself to his new name, he was able to answer to it instinctively, at a time when not doing so may have meant his life. Once he heard that Severus was alive and in hiding from the wizarding world, canny Slytherin that he was, Lucius had picked up on the slight similarity in the names and was determined to ascertain if Silas Napier was in fact Severus Snape.
One day, when Severus was busy brewing in the laboratory in the basement of his shop, his sales assistant came in with a business card, which she presented to him. Looking at it, he was bemused to see the name Lucius Malfoy displayed.
"Mr Malfoy insists on being served by the owner," his assistant explained.
'He would! Now is that because he knows or suspects who I really am or is it because he's being his usual, imperious, snobby self, who won't tolerate being waited on by underlings?' Severus wondered.
"I can't leave these lotions at this stage of preparation. Please tell Mr Malfoy that if he insists on being served by myself, he will have to wait until – we close at six today, don't we? – half past six and I will see him after hours, otherwise, if he requires immediate assistance, then he can be served by my superior sales staff, as I cannot be disturbed at present," he instructed her.
Ten minutes later, she came back. "He wasn't happy but he'll return at half past six."
"He should be happy! I'm waiting around after hours specifically to serve him!" Severus retorted.
At half past six, Severus had long dismissed his staff for the day, not wanting them to be present when he faced the potentially dangerous wizard, and was letting Lucius Malfoy into the shop.
While growing up, his mother had made every effort to ensure that Severus should speak in her cultured tones, rather than the northern accent of the town in which they lived. Tobias Snape's accent had been particularly rough and she had been determined that her son would not sound like his father. However, growing up surrounded by the Cokeworth accent meant that he was very well able to adopt it when he wished and so, having learned the need to disguise his voice from his initial encounter with Hermione in the art class, in greeting Lucius, Severus injected just enough Cokeworth into his voice to ensure that he sounded nothing like Severus Snape, grinning delightedly to himself when he saw his former friend barely repress a shudder at the sound of what was to him an unbearably unpolished and provincial accent.
"I apologise that I was unavailable earlier, Mr Malfoy. Please take one of our business cards so that in future you can arrange an appointment if you require my personal assistance."
As he spoke, Severus realised that Lucius was casting a Finite Incantatem and smothered his amusement at Lucius' surprise that no glamours were cancelled to reveal one Severus Snape. 'So Lucius does suspect it's me,' he thought. The cosmetic surgical procedures, which had been costly in both time and money, had just paid for themselves.
"Now, Mr Malfoy, how may I be of assistance to you today? There will be no other customers at this time, so I assure you that you have my undivided attention," he said suggestively.
Severus was flirting shamelessly with Lucius in an effort to discourage him from returning. Severus knew that Lucius did not care about a person's sexual orientation – they could sleep with a man, woman or a hippogriff in heat, as far as Lucius was concerned – but the snooty man strongly objected to being ogled by those he regarded as his social inferiors and, in Lucius Malfoy's worldview, a shopkeeper was most definitely his social inferior.
The two men had been friends once but too much had happened over the years for Severus to have any desire to continue the association. By the time of the Final Battle, Lucius had fallen so deeply into the Dark Lord's disfavour that the Dark Lord had taken Lucius' wand from him. Unable to fight effectively, Lucius had instead spent the battle looking for his son, Draco, to be sure that the boy survived safely. However, Severus had no doubt that had the Malfoys still been in favour, Lucius would have been fighting alongside the Death Eaters, on the Dark Lord's side.
Having put that part his of life aside and now being happily in love with a muggleborn witch, who Severus was sure Lucius would still look down upon, Severus had no wish to renew his acquaintance with his former friend. Severus knew exactly which buttons to push to ensure that Lucius Malfoy would never want to step foot in his shop again and made a point of pushing as many of those buttons as he could. Only Lucius' good breeding prevented him from storming out the shop in high dudgeon but Severus' actions and behaviour had done the trick and Lucius never returned after that one visit.
When Severus proposed to Hermione, she finally told a select group of people who her fiancé really was, after swearing them all to secrecy. Their wedding was a quiet affair, with no publicity, and in the wizarding world, Hermione continued to use the name Granger. No one, other than those few who Hermione and Severus had chosen to tell, knew that she was married to Severus Snape.
Two years after their marriage, Hermione gave birth to twins: a son and a daughter. Ciaran had his father's black hair and black eyes and all of his features, apart from his nose. He also had his mother's bushy curls but as a boy, could get away with keeping his unruly hair close cropped and so it was far less bothersome to him than it was to his mother. In contrast, Cassia had her mother's features and her cinnamon coloured hair and eyes, although her hair was straight like her father's, much to both her and her mother's great relief. "Fortunately, neither of them inherited my nose," Severus remarked sardonically. Despite the lack of this distinctive feature, it was still obvious to all who knew the family just who Ciaran and Cassia's parents were.
Both children were extremely intelligent and very powerful, having shown signs of magic at an unusually young age. Hermione and Severus debated long and hard over whether or not they should send them to Hogwarts, as they both felt their children would be better off without having to live up to the weight of their parents' reputations. They therefore strongly considered sending Ciaran and Cassia to Beauxbatons in France, however, the twins wanted to go to the same school as their parents had and begged to attend Hogwarts with their friends, namely those of the Potter, Weasley and Longbottom children who were the same age as themselves. Severus reluctantly accepted that this would mean he might now be traced but, fortunately, interest in his whereabouts seemed to have died down, perhaps because Lucius Malfoy and Rita Skeeter had both stopped looking for him.
Unlike Severus, Lucius had not been a spy for the Light. Because he had been wandless towards the end of the war and was therefore unable to participate either in the atrocities committed at that time by the Death Eaters or in the Battle of Hogwarts, he had not been sentenced to time in Azkaban, however, in the minds of the British wizarding world, he was still guilty of much else. People had long memories and he had not been forgiven for his actions. He had come to the realisation some years previously that he was unlikely ever to succeed in rehabilitating his ruined name and reputation in Britain, and had consequently retired permanently to an estate he owned near Salzburg in Austria, where he and his wife, Narcissa, now lived a quiet life far from the British magical community. As for Rita Skeeter, she had finally manufactured one fictitious scandal too many, with the result that no wizarding newspaper or publisher would so much as give her the time of day.
One day, not long after Ciaran and Cassia had headed off to Hogwarts as first years, Cleo phoned. Severus had continued to model for her life classes when she had no other model available. In this instance, however, he suggested that Hermione should model instead.
"What, me? Pose naked?" she cried in horror.
"Yes, you. Pose naked," Severus replied firmly, cupping her cheek and caressing it with his thumb as he spoke. "Hermione, even after all this time, you still see your scars as flaws. No matter how often I tell you that you should be proud of them, you're still embarrassed by them. They're not flaws, little love. You just don't realise how beautiful you are. Pose for the students; let them see your beauty."
"I don't think I can do it," she whispered abashedly. Unfortunately, the scar removal lotion had not worked for Hermione's scars, as too much time had passed since she had received them for it to be effective. She had even consulted with the cosmetic surgeon who had helped Severus, but he had advised against treatment as he felt that in this instance, treatment would cause more problems than it would solve. Fortunately, Severus was not put off by the scars and took great pleasure in kissing and caressing each and every one of them at every possible opportunity.
"I'll come with you," he reassured her.
"Do you think Cleo might let us pose together?" Hermione asked after a moment's reflection, chewing her lip nervously.
"I'll ask her," Severus conceded.
Fortunately, Cleo agreed. They undressed behind the screen and donned their robes.
"It's all right, little love," Severus encouraged her. "Don't be scared, I'm right here with you."
"How are you so philosophical about your scars?" she asked, shaking with nerves. She was so sensitive about her own scars, thanks to the disgust shown by her former boyfriend, that she had never before been able to bring herself to ask Severus this question. Now, however, as she prepared to bare herself for a group of art students to scrutinise her body, she needed to hear his answer.
Severus cast a quick, silent Muffliato. "Because it could have been so much worse. The Dark Lord was insane and I could have been killed so many times. A few scars are nothing compared to that. And the things I did to earn those scars helped us win the war. If we had lost, the world would be a horror-filled nightmare and neither of us would be alive today. Knowing that makes each and every scar I possess worthwhile."
Hermione considered that as Severus took her hand and led her out from behind the screen. She could not disagree with what he had just said and, with that, her perspective began to shift. They slipped off their robes and settled themselves comfortably together on a couch. Severus was sitting with his back against one arm of the couch and his legs spread out, while Hermione was sitting between his legs, with one on either side of her, her back against his chest and his arms around her waist. Hermione's legs were stretched out and crossed at the ankles and her hands lay on top of Severus' hands.
"We've come a full circle, haven't we, love?" he whispered in her ear. "This is how we met again, after all."
Feeling safe and loved in Severus' strong arms, Hermione finally faced the students and, seeing no distaste in their eyes as they looked at her, began to relax and lose her inhibitions. When the students respectfully asked about her and Severus' scars during the break, she found herself repeating the words he had said to Neil all those years ago.
"Our past, the good and the bad is what makes us who we are now and we shouldn't hide from it. My scars are nothing to boast about but neither am I ashamed of them. They're simply a part of me, of who I am, and I accept them as such."
Hearing respect rather than revulsion in the students' voices as they asked their questions, she spoke the words with true sincerity, surprising herself by how much she actually meant them, and felt a weight lifting off her soul.
Severus' arms slid around her waist. "It's liberating, isn't it?" he asked her with understanding.
"Yes, it is. It really is. Thank you, dear heart," she said, beaming a joyous Cheshire Cat grin at her husband.
As they settled themselves back on the couch, Severus whispered again in Hermione's ear, "I love you, my beautiful wife."
"I love you too, my wise husband," she replied, as she moved back into her pose with a smile in her eyes and, like her husband, proudly displayed her scars for all to see.
¹ According to canon, the Trace actually seems to be on the children themselves but as it's not completely clear what it is and how it works, I've chosen to have it on wands, as it suits me better in this story.