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Five months.

It had been five months when the letter from Kingsley came in the mail. Expect the notice today. Sorry for short warning.

Five months of pure bliss. Yes, they fought. Yes, they disagreed. Yes, they cried and screamed and hurt--but… but they healed, too. They learned what wasn’t working. They changed behaviors, to help each other. They worked to understand.

Severus stood in the predawn darkness of the kitchen, a single light above the island providing his only illumination. They were back at home. His mother was at that godforsaken fucking castle. And now… it was like his entire life was balanced on the blade of a knife again.

Although, given how vastly destructive his life had been, it would be more likely to be balanced on the tip of a basilisk’s fang. Or maybe Gryffindor’s sword. That’d be suitably rude to him.

Semantics.

Severus banished the letter to the fireplace, and headed into his lab. When everything else had failed, there was only one thing for him to turn to: potions.

***

She first came in an hour before lunchtime. He could sense her nervous energy as she rustled the letter in her hands--the official letter, the one from the Ministry. He couldn’t bear to look over at her, so he focused on stirring, the perfect figure eights of the rod.

“Severus?” He could hear the tentative note in her voice. No, no, not yet. “Have you… read the mail?”

“Not yet,” he said, to more than one thing. “I’m working.”

“Oh,” she said. He winced at how hurt it sounded. “Okay. Um, we should talk when you get a chance.”

And she left.

***

She was back at four. He was stooped over the same cauldron he’d been brewing for the last bloody five months, staring down his calculations and glaring at a timer. There was nothing to do but wait.

“Severus?”

“Still working,” he replied.

“Are you… what’s your plan for dinner?”

It took a moment to compute. “What?”

“Dinner, Severus,” she said, her voice gentler. “You need to eat. You haven’t been out of here all day.”

“Eat?” He frowned, adding a dash of finely dusted newt bones. “Can’t. I need to work.” He could hear her draw breath to protest, so he just held up his free hand. “Please. Just… give me some time.”

Not enough time.

***

He started the heat-resistance potion at about eleven PM. It would help speed things up, and it was something to do between additions of powdered essence of snowdrop.

Hermione came in not long after.

“Severus,” she said. “I know you saw the letter.”

He nearly froze mid-stir, but muscle memory won over panic.

“Please. We need to talk. We can’t run away from this.”

Putting down his stir rod, he sighed. He shot a glance at her from behind the protective curtain of his hair, and regretted it immediately. She looked both immensely hurt, and immensely pissed, and he felt like he would’ve rather seen that expression on a charging erumpet or maybe a dragon.

“I will,” he said. “I just… just need more time.”

***

One in the morning, she came in again.

“How much time?” was all she said. Her tone reminded him a conjured whip that Voldemort sometimes favored.

He shot a glance at the timer. “Two hours and thirty-seven minutes and… sixteen seconds.”

She sighed, and left.

***

Three in the morning. He hadn’t expected her to still be up. He’d honestly expected her to have kicked him out of her house by now, given the fact that he was definitely an unwelcome intruder at this point.

“At least let me help,” she said. This time, she just sounded tired. Resigned. Had she already formalized the divorce while he was working? He pushed down the thoughts. No, he could only hope not.

He nodded, and moved over, letting her help with the final steps of the heat resistance potion. Even exhausted, her work was impeccable. He watched her as she diced and added ingredients. Were those tear tracks on her cheeks? Guilt slithered up from his gut and constricted around his heart.

The timer rang. Another dose of snowdrop. He tore himself from what would likely be one of the last times he’d ever get to see his wife, and grabbed a pinch of the ingredient.

***

Half an hour later, the heat resistance potion was done. It was powerful, instantaneous, and short-lived, and just enough for one dose. As Hermione slid the phial across the table to him, she sighed.

“I don’t know if I’m up for talking anymore. I’m exhausted.”

Severus stared at the little glass between his fingertips, head canted downwards, barely daring to look up at her. She did look tired. Had she been crying more while they were working? He’d not allowed himself to pay attention.

“Please,” he whispered, his voice unexpectedly hoarse. “Just… a little more time.”

She gave him a look of despair. “Severus. Seriously. What do you need time for? It can’t be that important.”

The timer rang. Final dose.

Severus grabbed the heat resistance potion in one hand, and turned to the cauldron. The remaining powdered snowdrop he dispensed in a figure eight. Then a quick pattern of stirring, a murmured incantation, and--

The cauldron seared with gold light. Severus popped the cork off the vial in his hand, chugged the heat resistance potion, and felt the cold rush through him just as he picked up the cauldron directly off of the fire.

“Severus, what the hell?!”

He swirled the red-hot cauldron in his hands, noting that the potion was rapidly reducing. There would just be enough for a single dose. That was fine. That was all he needed. Raising the emptying cauldron to his lips, he poured the still-boiling Felix Felicis down his throat.

Feeling returned to his fingers and he practically threw the cauldron back onto the table, gasping for a moment. Arms were around him, and he was being lowered to the floor, and Hermione was cursing him out.

“You idiot! What are you doing?! You’ll burn yourself!”

He held up a hand to stop her. He could feel it now, the heady sensation of Felix galloping giddy through his veins.

“What even was that? Liquid Luck? Why?”

Severus let the luck take him. He looked up at her, cupped a hand around her cheek. “I’m in love with you,” he said, the utterance taking even him by surprise. “I love you. Please marry me, for real this time. I forgot to get a ring, I was too focused on the potion--but, please, never leave me.”

***

Hermione stared at her husband.

“You are so dumb,” she told him, and pulled him into a kiss. “I’m in love with you too, Severus, I told you this. I want to stay married.” He was staring at her with a sort of gobsmacked awe, and she wasn’t sure if that came from the fact that he’d just chugged a boiling potion, the nature of that aforementioned potion, or her words. “Let’s elope. Tonight. Right now. I’ll floo Harry and Draco and Minerva and your mother.”

“Oh.” He looked at her, and then at the cauldron, and then at the rest of his lab. “That was easier than I thought.”

Rolling her eyes, Hermione laid him in her lap and started to stroke his hair. “Did you seriously just drink boiling Felix Felicis in an attempt to get me to marry you, when we were already married?”

“Um. Maybe? Yes. Yes, I did.”

As incredibly touching as it was, it was also incredibly worrying. “I was thinking, we should each be in therapy before we start trying for children.”

“That’s a great idea,” he said. Apparently all it took for him to be open and complimentary was Felix Felicis? Wild. “Have I mentioned recently that you’re wonderful?”

“Yes, honey. Are you sure you didn’t just drink alcohol?”

“Quite certain. It would’ve evaporated at that temperature.”

Hermione snorted a laugh, and wrapped her arms around his head, leaning her head over to kiss him upside-down. “You are impossible, Severus Granger-Snape.”

She could feel him smile. “I know a little chapel on the Scottish coast. Recuperated there once. The priest’s an old friend.”

“Perfect. Can you get me coordinates? I’ll let our wedding party know.” She paused, and then arched a brow at him. “While you’ve still got that luck… call around for honeymoon suites near Stonehenge, will you? Morgana has some memories about accessing an ancient ritual chamber beneath the stones, and I think we could figure out a way to get in…”

***

When Severus apparated with Hermione, he was pleasantly surprised to see their wedding party already present. He was in one of his better suits, and Hermione was wearing a shoulderless white sweater dress. Draco had come by the house to braid her hair with white stephanotis, before heading over to the chapel.

“I can’t believe you drank a cauldron of Felix Felicis to try and convince Hermione Granger to marry you,” Draco said when the marital couple entered.

Severus rolled his eyes, ignoring his wife’s smirk. Well. Sort of smirk. She’d been beaming this entire time, since he asked her to marry him, he realized.

Oh, that… made him feel strangely like he was floating.

“We were already married, too,” Hermione said.

“When did you start brewing it?” Potter asked. “I mean, you’ve only been married for, what… five months?”

“Surprised as I am that you recalled it requires six months to brew--hey!” Severus pouted as his wife elbowed him in the ribs. “I may have… figured out a way to reduce the brewing time of longer-term potions.”

Minerva sighed and covered her face in her hands. “Of course that was your solution,” she murmured. “Anything but just talking to the lass, eh, Severus?”

Another roll of his eyes, and another smirk from Hermione.

One of Draco’s pale eyebrows raised. “That sounds… profitable.”

It was Harry’s turn to roll his eyes. “Please, Draco, accost your godfather about whatever new potions brilliance he has after the ceremony, when I can be drunk.”

It was a testament to the Felix Felicis that Severus was not trying to convince Hermione to run while she still had the option. Instead, he stood at the altar and lost himself in her golden eyes while the vows were read. When they exchanged the traditional wizarding binding, and a small, tender kiss, his mother suddenly gasped and grasped Minerva’s arm.

“We’re going to be grandmothers!” Eileen said.

‘We’? Severus met Hermione’s equally curious look before they both turned to the sobbing Eileen, who was now being comforted and embraced by Minerva.

“Severus, do you--”

“Don’t say it,” Severus interrupted her. “I don’t want to acknowledge that until we’re back from honeymoon, please.”

His wonderful, graceful wife snorted a laugh, and leaned her head against his shoulder.

They went out to breakfast at a small mom-n-pop bakery, whose elderly owners were absolutely thrilled to have the impromptu bride and groom. Their cake was the first warm, fresh donuts of the day. The wedding party dined at three small tables pulled together. Harry tried to convince Severus to call him ‘brother.’ Minerva and Eileen brainstormed name ideas, or rather, Minerva was gently steering Eileen away from such an inadvisable route as naming a child ‘Severus Tobias’ ever again. Hermione chattered away about what she thought they’d find beneath Stonehenge, and licked all of the sugar from Severus’ fingers while Draco waggled his eyebrows salaciously.

 

***

The first dementor died on their first second wedding anniversary.

There was a big hubbub about what to do with the thing’s remains, as at that point Severus had conclusively proven that the remains were absolutely poisonous and should not under any circumstances be ingested.

It was his wife who figured out how to move forward, naturally. He was the one who told everyone what was a bad idea, she was the one who figured out how to look ahead.

Hermione had taken up glassblowing in her spare time. With Morgana’s necklace came the knowledge of how it was made, and she was pioneering the wizarding version of what was called memorysmithing--apparently certain vampiric cultures already had a well-established memorysmithing tradition, but it had very rarely come into contact with wizarding society, due to the vampires’ solitary nature.

She figured out that if one burnt dementor remains, they could create a beautiful iridescent glass, which exuded a sensation of calm. This calm could be augmented by filling the glass with a memory of joy or wonder, and it was through depression and hunger and fire that the dementors’ shambling shadows became vessels for happiness.

Severus felt rather sympathetic.

They’d eschewed rings up until that point, but together, they created a twin pair of rings from the ashes of the first dementor they bound together. Each held, inside its glimmering shell, the silvery sensation of their shared love on the day they got married again.

fin.