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“Little love, little love -“


His mate wasn’t fond of the morning, preferring to sleep for as long as she could, while cuddled against his side. 

 

Severus chuckled as he kissed her cheek, and she squirmed, making a low chirring noise. She dove deeper beneath the covers, only a handful of her curls visible still. 


His mother had always warned him of the fairies that lived in the woods as if they were hideous and cruel, the kind of creature that would snatch him away in the night. As a newborn, he slept in an iron crib, and the blanket where his grandmother had embroidered his name was hidden in the cupboard, until he was a toddler, and wouldn’t be replaced by a changeling. 


Never let them know your name,” Eileen had told him, holding his tiny hands in hers. “Fairies can do a great many things with your name, sweetheart, and none of them good.” she’d weighed her words carefully, knowing how many burdens her son carried on his thin frame already. “Nor should you ever play with them, Severus. Fae play by rules that are never truly understood.”


Even by our kind?” he asked, raising his brow.


Eileen shook her head. “Even Merlin himself was tricked by the Fae.” 


She’d tickled him after, asking if he thought he was better than Merlin. Every witch and wizard knew their powers were little in comparison to the founder of their line, even Salazar and Rowena respecting the man. Severus respected Merlin too, cherishing a small statue of him that he hid in his room. It was one his father never knew about, nor his annotated potions journal, he hid with it. 
When it came to his father, Severus tried to listen to his mother. The forest that lay outside the northern windows was never as appealing as when his father was in his cups, and his raging screams filled the hallways. Severus buried himself inside his rooms, knowing nothing would change their circumstances. 


When he was fourteen, his father passed, and he spent three blissful years with his mother. They were pitied by the village, and as poor as church mice, yet they were happier than they’d ever been before. He heard the call of the forest still, yet ignored it until -


His mother had taken chill and passed in the same bed where his father had. At seventeen, Severus was able to inherit Spinner's End and found the grim manor had been paid off completely. He owned it and the surrounding forest and could be as poor or as prosperous as he wished. Donning his onyx robes, Severus threw himself into making potions for the village, the apothecary paying him well for his creations. 


And it was in the forest - his forest - he found his love.  

 




Severus had been hunting for gloomysnap mushrooms, ones that were key to several of his potions, yet made for a volatile ingredient. They bloomed only in the thickest of underbrush, emitting a faint blue glow at night when they were ripe. To his delight, he found the mushrooms grew well in the forest, and he had a basket full of them when he heard a pitiful sound.   


He scowled, wondering if someone had abandoned kneazle kittens on his land again. Weeks before he had found several, and spent hours attempting to coax the feral kittens to him, even crawling on his stomach beneath rotted roots to find them all. The church had been grateful to have all eight of them, as the nuns were troubled with rats in the cellar, and a plethora of gnomes stealing from their vegetable garden. 


As he’d followed the sound, he’d found more than a handful of kneazles -


He found her.


She’d been curled on the ground, shivering as she clutched her knees close to her. She emitted a sound like he’d never heard before, a sorrowful warble that made him spread his furred cloak over her nude form, before gathering her close to him. Her curls spilled around her face as if they were a glorious mane. She was prettier than any girl he'd seen before, with her wide eyes and parted lips, though he wanted to cry at the sounds she made. 


“Shush, lioness,” he’d murmured, feeling as her curls tickled his skin. 


Without asking himself why, he’d taken her home, leaving the mushrooms behind. 

 




Had anyone trusted him before?


As a child, he’d been denied the opportunity to have an animal, any spare pocket money they had going to his father’s habit. Severus had caught a tawny owl once after it'd fallen from a tree and cried pitifully. He’d healed its wing and wanted to keep it, yet knew he had nothing to feed it. And so, he’d decided to let it go, though he swore he heard its bold call still, at night when he slept in his bed. 

 

Friends had been impossible for him to make, as he stayed at home, keeping his mother company and learned magic from her. They practiced out of sight from his father, often times practicing wandless spells in the overrun garden, where his father never thought to look for them. Severus's wand was one he had crafted himself; a crude piece of wood that he treasured still, as it felt right in his hand.


As the girl wrapped her arms around his neck and held herself close to him, he felt something stutter in his chest.


He found himself soothing her as he lowered her into the bath, having run tepid water in it. Gently he washed the dirt from her, running his hands across her legs before he called for a washcloth and rubbed the mud from her face. He was careful to explain what he was doing, as he felt her tremble beneath his touch. 


And as he turned to wash her back, it was then that he discovered who she was -


What she was -


“Fae,” he whispered, seeing the crimson, oozing wounds from where her wings had been ripped from her. He swallowed tautly at the sight and heard as she chirred at his silence as if she could sense his fear. Perhaps she could, he thought, as he knew some creatures were able to scent changing pheromones. 


He forced himself to relax, as he carefully washed her back. 


He had never heard of a Fae being cast away from their court before, though he knew, perhaps more than another how cruel living beings could be. He promised her that he would return before he left for his room, where he grabbed healing salves and ointments that would soothe her tender skin. 


He hadn’t considered, not even for a moment, to take his wand with him. 


And when he returned, he found that she hadn’t moved, as if she’d understood his intentions to return. She trilled when she saw him, a curious sound, that was far better than the melancholy wailing she’d made before. 


“What am I to do with you?” Severus murmured, his lips upturning as she blew bubbles towards him.  


 

Strangely, he found her more human than Fae.

 

After the first night, when he allowed her to sleep in his bed, and he laid on top of the covers beside her, he’d woken in the morning to find her gone. He’d called his wand to him and cast a tracking spell, wisps of green pointing him to the kitchen. 


He scurried quickly to the kitchen and found her there; dressed in only his white shirt, and her brunette curls hung down around her face. She was -


Cooking


His brow quirked, as he watched her busy through the room as if she’d always been there. She squeaked when she turned and saw him there, clutching a dish towel to her. 


“I won’t hurt you,” Severus assured her, holding his hands up to her. “Eggs and bacon?” he asked, seeing past her shoulder to where she had a pan on the stove. Tentatively the Fae nodded, and he saw a hesitant smile on her lips.  


“Thank you.”


He found the breakfast was the best he’d ever had. 

 


 

“Oh, no -“ Severus protested, the first time she’d tried to follow him into the bath. “No, little lioness -“


His cheeks had flushed brightly, and he'd shooed her away with his hand. She’d chirred in protest, and when he shut the bathroom door between them, he heard her knocking on the other side.


‘Who taught her that?’ he wondered, and wished, not for the first time since finding her, that he knew more about the Fae. He’d combed through the manor’s pitiful library, and found only a book of fairytales, one of the stories about Thumbelina. 


It had helped him little, and he’d written Luna Lovegood, a respected caretaker of creatures. Her work was said to be extraordinary, her knowledge of fantastic creatures unmatched by any other, aside from her husband, Rolf, who shared her passion. His owl to her had resulted only in a letter delivered by a friendly, pudgy owl that said the Lovegood’s were currently searching for the Chupacabra, and their return date was unknown. 


Severus had hesitated at leaving the girl - well, Fae creature - as he knew there was another caretaker, a supposed half-giant who lived several towns away. He doubted he could travel with the creature, at least not without countless questions being asked, and decided against it. He would have to do his own research, the same as he had when developing a cure for Dragon’s Pox (the cure leaving its patients with a permanent penchant for sneezing when around dust or freshly made cheese, but restored their lifespan to a normal expectation for magic users). 


“I’ll have to help you myself then," Severus had decided while stroking his fingers against her curls, and the nape of her neck. He found that she liked to curl in his lap, the same as if she were a cat (at least, from what he'd read about the felines). She often rested her head against his shoulder, while curling her thin frame in his lap, and he found himself able to read comfortably, even with her there. 


She read his books in turn, carefully turning the pages, and her eyes examining the facts and figures as if she understood. Severus knew she was an intelligent creature, perhaps as intelligent as he was - certainly she was inquisitive, and knew how to keep herself occupied, without getting hurt. He watched her with his dark eyes and found that she watched him in turn, her caramel-colored eyes the warmest he'd ever known.


Her favorite place quickly became a chair in the library, where she curled near the fire, with her feet tucked beneath her and her nose buried in a book. He'd quickly found that her mind was ever going, as she scribbled notes on several subjects. He wasn't able to understand her notes, though he understood the pictures that accompanied them; her drawings of herbs and symbols exact. 

 

 At first, he’d dissuaded her from accompanying him to the cellar while he brewed, preferring his own company, until he found her asleep in his storeroom, with all of his ingredient vials labeled in her gorgeous, fluent script with pictures accompanying them. He traced the written words, as if he knew Fae, before smirking at the thought that she had bested him. 

 

He’d slowly begun to teach her afterward, allowing her to prepare ingredients while he brewed, and found that she was eager to follow his instructions. She’d begun to communicate through a series of chirps and trills, though they primarily relied on hand symbols. They were quickly becoming attuned to each other, his little mate handing him the exact ingredients he needed.

 



Mate


When had he begun to think of her that way?


Perhaps it was the day when she’d scrawled her name in the dirt, using the end of a stick. He’d thought she would like the sunshine, not wanting to keep her inside like a bird inside a cage. He’d gathered herbs from the garden’s edge before coming back to her side, where he’d been astonished at the sight. 


H-E-R-M-I-O-N-E


He blinked, his head swiveling from her to the letters in the dirt.

 
“Is this your name? Hermione?” he asked, his voice low. 


He knew to have a Fae’s name was to own them - one was able to do anything if they knew a Fae's name, the same as a Fae was if they knew a mortal’s name. He interlaced his shaking fingers, his heart hurting inside his chest at the thought of owning her.


In the weeks she’d spent at the manor, he felt little inclination to see her leave. She still shook when they came close to the forest, though she insisted on accompanying him when he went foraging (amazingly, he’d found the basket of mushrooms he’d collected before, the night he’d found her). He had told her once, that she was free to leave if she wished, and she’d ignored him for half the day as if insulted that he'd brought it up.


At night, she shared his bed still, somehow having never left. 


He had made up his childhood room for her but hadn’t asked her to sleep in it. Severus slept on top of his covers still, while Hermione slept beneath, but often found her arm slung over him, or their hands interlaced, in the morning. It was comforting to have another near him, though he was hesitant to ask himself if it would have felt the same, had she been anyone else.


“Severus,” he told her, his name light on his lips. “My name is Severus.”


She’d rubbed her freckled cheek against his, and he’d -


He’d never felt happier, than at that moment. 

 




They were never far from the other’s company. 


It seemed they couldn’t be close enough, as Severus soon slipped beneath the covers, and held her small body against his. They both shared a love for reading, tomes piled high on their nightstands, while she’d begun helping him fulfill his potion orders.


It was nothing like his mother’s relationship with his father, Severus found, as joy reigned between them. There were few spats between them, the worst occurring when she borrowed his wand and changed their rooms to a wealth of forest green and deep reds with accents of golden tapestries and a crackling fire in the hearth. Severus had burst into tears at the sight, and she'd fled from the room, leaving his wand behind.


He’d found her later, hidden away in the attic, and had apologized to her. “You made everything seem so real," he told her, and she'd studied him as if she didn't quite understand what he meant. "As if…as if this truly is a home,” he confessed. “For us.”


There was a quiet warmth, one that flickered between them like the newly rising sun. Severus ordered clothing for her to wear, hanging her dark robes beside his. They were trimmed in ermine, and he charmed them as he charmed his own clothes; making sure to ward them from ill intentions, as well as adding warming and cooling charms. 


She seemed to prefer his shirts still, frequently wearing them instead of her robes as if she wanted to share everything with him. 


When he kissed her for the first time, with his hand curled beneath her chin and his head lowered to hers, she'd squeaked in surprise. It'd made him fumble his kiss - he'd kissed her cheek and brushed the bridge of her nose with his lips before he'd turned his head away.


“I-I’m sorry, Hermione,” he apologized, his cheeks flaming bright.


Why had he done that?


She’d trilled in response, standing on the tips of her toes and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. He went still at the motion, unsure of her intentions, and she’d -


She'd kissed him sweetly and chastely on the lips before she’d nuzzled her nose against his. The movement made him chuckle, and he held her against him; sweeping her around in a circle, while he snogged her soundly. She tasted like honey and roses in bloom to him, a taste that he never wanted to forget. 


She was more than a fairy to own, more than a creature to be studied -


She was Hermione, just Hermione, to him. 


“Sweet one,” he’d said, and she’d chirred brightly.

 



He showed her the village where he sent his potions, ones that filled the apothecary, and he made a commission from. He cared little for galleons but was glad he'd thought to tuck some away in his pocket, as he bought her a green and silver scarf, and a buttered roll she nibbled on. He delighted in her wonder, as they strolled through the village; his little one trilling at window displays, and clapped her hands in wonder at a faux, metal dragon; one that roared and blew furious, sparking flames.  

 

She made friends with a boy whose hair was colored the same as fire embers, and another, who wore thick, eye spectacles. She laughed when he let her try them, her eyes magnified behind them. And when the sun began to set, and the shops shut their doors, Severus took her by the hand and guided her home. 

 

The dense underbrush of the forest was the thickest around the wards, any passing villager dissuaded from trailing through the brambles and wild bushes. The underbrush faded as they approached, the wards easily parting for them, and the manor came into view. He’d never been glad to see the manor before, with its stone front and sharp, gothic peaks. He knew every view from its obscured windows, and the path he’d worn between them. It’d been his prison, his punishment, for many years then.

 

And yet -

 

He saw it Spinner’s End as it had once been, as it’d greeted the warm sunrise and beloved sunset. It'd been home to his mother's love, as she'd delighted to raise him there before the shadow of his father fell upon them. Every room had been filled with the pealing sound of laughter, and he’d taken his first, wobbly steps in the carpeted halls. He had no dreams of leaving then, he’d never thought he’d be begging, as a man, to escape. 

 

He loved his home, his prison, Spinner’s End. 

 

He wanted to show Hermione how birds roosted near her bedroom and were tame enough to stroke their downy breasts, and the curve of their sharp beaks. They were the same as when he'd been a boy, providing him company that he'd reveled in, at the time; saving meager bits from his dinners to feed them.

 

He wanted to show her, too, how the gardens always had hidden blooms, and how the eldest weeping willow had a curve in its base, one meant to sit against and read a favored book. He wanted to show her everything -


Everything and more, if she wanted to stay.


He knew that he’d asked her if she wanted to leave, once before, and she’d been angered by the question. Yet he knew too, that she could have changed her mind, and swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. 


He wasn’t her keeper, her owner.


The very thought made him sneer, and Hermione cocked her head, her gaze sharpening as she studied him. “Nothing is wrong," he assured her, though the words weighed on his tongue. She bristled as if she knew he was lying -


“I just…” he hesitated, before trying again. 

 

“Are you happy here?” 

 

He grazed his knuckles against her cheek and watched as her color heightened. She fluttered her eyelashes, looking at him from beneath them, and slowly signed to him. 

 

This is my home, here…with you.’

 

She stretched up on the tips of her toes, just reaching his shoulder, as he tipped his head down to her. She made a chirping noise, and he smiled at the musical notes that she made. And then -

 

She kissed his cheek, chastely, but lighting a fire in him all the same. 

 

She would stay. 

 



He was brought from his thoughts, by a small hand on his forearm, and a curious trill.


“I’m here,” Severus murmured, pressing a chaste kiss to her temple. 


He felt her smile and chuckled as she licked his smooth jawline. “I know, I know,” he found that she fretted when his attention turned from her, often nipping at his lips, or tugging at his hair when he lost himself in thought. 


She’d told him, through tentative signs and crude drawings, of being outcast from the Fae court, after the throne had been usurped by a rival Fae. He was sick, Hermione told him, sick in the mind yet others had supported him and chased his opposers from the court. 


She hadn't been fast enough, and they'd ripped her wings from her, ones that would never regrow. She would have died if Severus hadn’t found her, the ointments that he applied daily still, allowing her body to heal. She wouldn’t be able to fly again, no, but she would be well, and able to move as she should. 


He was the only one she had, just as she was the only one, he’d allowed in. 


“I won’t leave you,” he told her, his voice serious then as if he knew what she feared. “I promise, Hermione.”


His eyes fluttered closed as he felt her fingers trace his cheek before she drew him closer to her. She was everything he wanted, the cloying scent of roses and parchment paper a comfort to him. 


‘I’m here for you too,’ she signed, tracing the words against his skin. ‘Always.’

 

 

 

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Chirr chirr!”

 

“Hermione - oof!”

 

Crooks' ear twitched as he heard his Master chuckle, something no one in the village thought he could do. Really, Crooks sniffed, if only they knew how silly his Master was. The villagers had often gossiped about Snape and how he stayed alone in his manor, though they were pleased enough with his potions. The apothecary had never had such a fine display of them, nor had the owner been able to keep enough potions in stock before.

 

Still, Severus Snape was at the center of village gossip, the whispers only furthering with the appearance of his Fae bride. Some villagers believed that Snape had caught her, the same as his father had ensnared his mother in marriage, while others believed it was a fateful meeting, and a relationship filled with love. The latter always paled in comparison to rumors that Snape was cursed, turning into a beast at midnight, that had a great taste for Fae. The rumors made Crooks’ tail swish, and his whiskers wrinkle, as he knew that Snape was nothing more, and nothing less than a man.

 

One that was very human, as his aristocratic nose and haughty sneer suggested.

 

(Though, Severus had quickly found that no matter how he huffed or scowled, nothing would move Crooks when he laid down somewhere.)

 

It was his Mistress, Hermione, that Crooks loved, preferring to lay in her lap, and knead his large paws against her arm over any spot in the sun. He'd taken to her since their first meeting when she'd saved him in the forest, and he was content to be by her side.

 

Crooks saw many things, his Mistress' insistence on cuddling with his Master among them. They often spent time beneath the covers, until Crooks leaped on the bed, and tried to squirm beneath the sheets to find Hermione. It was the first (and only) time he’d been escorted by the room, Severus holding him by the scruff, and he’d sulked for days after.

 

Now, Crooks knew, when he heard noises from the bedroom, he'd find their door locked, and would wait outside for them. Not that he would admit that fact, as he held his furry head high, and swished his tail in displeasure. He'd hissed at the house-elf, Mipsy, when she'd tried to entice him to play, by twirling feathers on a string near him.

 

Didn’t she see he was too busy to play?

 

Clearly, Crooks thought, Mipsy hadn’t learned the rules of the manor.

 

She'd been newly bonded to Severus and his mate after they'd traveled to the market, and found the elf at auction. Her former owner had threatened to drown Mipsy if she wasn't sold, and the pair had instantly bid the most for her. Mipsy was over the moon to bond with the kind couple and was proud to keep their house in order (though she was mindful around the cantankerous familiar after he'd swiped at her ankle when she'd watered plants near him). In his own way, Crooks was determined to teach her the household rules.

 

Hermione’s familiar didn’t take baths, no matter how enticing the bubbles looked, or how warm his Mistress promised the water was. He didn’t eat pre-packaged kibble (even if it was charmed to appear fresher than it was). And he did not play - he wouldn’t move - when it came to waiting for his Mistress.

 

He'd stay put until she came from the bedroom; often looking as disheveled as her familiar. Her curls hung wildly about her, while she wore a sheet wrapped around her shoulders and over her chest like a toga. She’d always lean down to pet her familiar, while he purred madly in response; before scooping him up and holding him close to her.

 

Hermione had been the one to find him after he'd escaped from the nunnery. Crooks was the same abandoned litter that Severus had found and given to the nuns; and while his siblings were happy chasing rats, and munching on birds in the garden, he'd wanted more. He'd found his way to the forest, though he'd run into a nasty encounter with some centaurs - didn't they realize how attractive their tails were to play with?

 

(Apparently not, as Crooks’ broken paw and pitiful meow had decided)

 

He sniffed as he rubbed his jowls against his owner’s chest, his purring becoming louder as he heard her low chirps, and she kissed his tufted ears. He was putty in her arms, willing to have her do anything to him as she carried him back into her bedroom.

 

She had found him in the forest, the same as her mate had found her, the year before. Severus had been with her, the basket he used to collect herbs in hand, and they’d tucked the frail kneazle inside it.

 

The forest always provides for one,” Severus remarked dryly. “Doesn’t it?”

 

Crooks had tolerated as Severus had cast diagnosis spells on him and poured a potion into a dish for him to lap at, though he’d never taken to the man like he did Hermione. He was decidedly her familiar, instinctively knowing not to chew on aged tomes, or use his impressively sized claws to rip at the furniture. Nor did he lay on her clothes, preferring to leave a trail of his orange fur behind on her mate’s.

 

Crooks mewed as Hermione petted him under the chin, his head tilting upward. He liked to gum her fingers, mindful not to prick them with his teeth, before sprawling over her legs as if he were a kitten. Nor was she opposed to treating him like one, as she often hummed while petting him, knowing it would lull him to sleep.

 

“Careful love,” Crooks ears tilted as he heard Severus approach. Hermione looked over her shoulder, a smile on her lips as her mate came behind her. “If you continue to spoil Crooks like this, he’ll become a terror.”

 

She cooed as Severus slipped his arms around her waist and held her against his bare chest. His sleeping pants were low on his waist, exposing a thatch of dark curls. “Though,” Severus brushed kisses over her throat, feeling her pulse beat steadily. “According to Mipsy, he already is.”

 

Hermione shook her head, her curls tickling Crooks fur. “Chirr!”

 

Severus chuckled.

 

“It’s true,” he hummed, enjoying the flush of her cheeks. She was a wild thing, his little lioness, filled with passion for many, many things. “I found my potions journal half-chewed and wet with saliva, with a shed whisker beside it.”

 

He kissed her jaw sweetly, before moving up, to her quivering lips.

 

“Yet I find myself liking the beast anyway,” Severus confessed, amusement threaded through his tone. Hermione smiled against his lips, before kissing him in turn; a slow, languid kiss that promised many things, what would happen when they were alone again. "His whiskers are needed in enough potions, the same as his claws are."

 

He didn't add that he'd often spent time in his brewing room, coaxing Crookshanks to him with bits of fish or an offered dish filled with warmed milk. The kneazle seemed to blame him for his kittenhood spent at the nunnery, and he'd often hissed and fled under the bed when Severus appeared.

 

He'd been making progress with Crookshanks in secret, even coaxing the kneazle into his lap, where he was able to stroke his back. (For a little bit anyway, before Crooks had leaped from his lap, and stalked out of the room without a glance back. Severus hadn't pouted. He hadn’t.)

 

Hermione trembled against him, and he felt the press of her beautiful form against his.

 

A form that he worshipped as he'd never had another's.

 

And he never would, as they’d bonded during the spring, entwining flowers into crowns for another, while they made love in the wildflower garden. He’d been lost inside her, with his hands tangled in her curls and her face buried into his shoulder. There was never a time he’d been happier, the ache in his chest soothed by being with her.

 

“Perhaps,” Severus murmured, resting his cheek against hers. “I love your familiar, the same as I love you.” Hermione whistled, a sharp, loud noise that made him grin. He’d studied her tweets and chirrs, learning the meaning of almost every sound she made.

 

“Not like that -“

 

In her arms, Crooks squirmed, and Hermione giggled as she let him down on the bed. Crooks pawed at the comforter, making the wrinkled fabric just so, before lying down and glaring at the pair.

 

What would they do without him? 

 

Hermione turned to face her mate, slipping her arms around his neck as she stood on the tips of her toes. She bumped her temple against his chin, and he laughed, knowing what she wanted. He lifted her easily, his hands gripping her waist as he held her against him and kissed her soundly.

 

She liked to pretend she was flying when he twirled her around or held her high in the air; always using his hands, and never his wand. She giggled as he spun her before he set her down again. "My little lioness," Severus murmured, and she kissed the tip of his nose.

 

And you’re mine,’ she signed, her fingers tickling his nape. ‘Severus.’

 

 

 

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“Who would have poisoned the old man’s dog?” Severus traced his finger beneath the gilded words, with Hermione’s smaller one following alongside his. “Was it the Mayor? The grocer’s wife? Or -“

 

Hermione tapped the illustration of a portly, suited woman dressed in a garish pink suit. Her lips were twisted in an ugly sneer, half-covered by Hermione’s finger. Her nails were rounded and painted a sunny yellow color; Severus having painted them for her.

 

“I believe you’re right, little detective,” Severus purred, having read the prior books in the series already. The author of the detective series seemed to have a particular taste for their villains, the last novel featuring an obnoxious woman who looked rather like a beetle. She’d been obsessed with stealing everything from the fictional town, including the holiday wreath from the school’s front door.

 

Inane? Yes.

 

Enjoyable? Severus smiled, his teeth peeping through. Certainly so.

 

Hermione was curled in his lap when he read, with his head on top of her chin, and arms around her. Warmth radiated from her, the kind he’d never known before, even without a fire roaring in the fireplace. She squirmed in his lap, her gorgeous curls tickling his skin.

 

“You already know how it ends,” Severus teased her, knowing she wanted him to continue. He’d learned how she loved the sound of his voice, as he’d read to her one night, and she’d been tucked against his chest. Her head had rested on his shoulder and her warm breath grazing his neck. Her eyes had become heavy with sleep, drifting lower and lower until they were closed completely.

 

He hadn’t minded, reading to her still -

 

And she’d started to make the most delightful of noises.

 

She'd panted softly, the same as the time he'd dipped his fingers into honey and let her lick it from him. She'd licked at his fingers the same as a kitten drinking cream until he’d covered her sweet mouth with his. She’d panted and squeaked as he’d snogged her, his tongue slipping into her mouth with abandon.

 

Hermione, sweet Hermione.

 

Only, he wasn't kissing her then, reading a silly detective novel instead. Yet the noises were the same, as she panted and her breath quickened as if she were dreaming of wonderful, erotic things. It made him want to keep here there, caged in his arms, as he realized the effect his voice had on her.

 

It’d become a prelude to intimacy, something he knew anyone looking in on them would have endlessly mocked. They wouldn’t have felt how Hermione quivered at the low, soothing timbre of his voice. Nor would they know how arousing Severus found Hermione’s trust in him, as her small frame relaxed against him. Her heartbeat without fear and her face held the same serenity as the gothic angels his mother had once decorated the garden with. She had no fear of him, but trusted him -

 

Loved him, as no one ever had.

 

It was enough for him to rejoice in the wetness he felt on his leg, as Hermione rocked herself against him. She was unashamed in her needs, as they’d come to know each other in a carnal way. It’d been a rush of feeling, the first time he’d entangled his fingers in her curls and crushed her against him. It wasn’t enough to have her at his side - he wanted her beneath him, above him, anywhere that would let him bury himself inside her.

 

Their couplings had been a frenzied mess; a clash of tongues and entangled limbs, as if they both wanted to become one. It'd been too fast, as Hermione learned to ride him before he'd flipped them over and pinned her wrists above her head. She reveled in being submissive, while he was drawn to dominate her as if she was the entire reason for his being. He wanted to cherish her, more than any rare ingredient he had.

 

Hermione always melted beneath him when he stroked his fingers against her scarred back, knowing how sensitive the scar tissue was. He regularly lathered scarring cream over where her wings had once been, the horrid gashes fading to violet bruises. She would never have her wings again, never fly through the forest as she was meant to, though he knew she felt as if she was flying with him.

 

He relished when she came, often with her legs over his shoulders, and his head buried between her thighs. He was relentless when tasting her, drawing the flat of his tongue between her slit. She was wet and willing to receive him, even when he was astonished at how tiny she was, compared to him. She felt like nothing when he held her, the same as if she was a child in his arms.

 

“I adore you,” Severus murmured lowly.

 

He wanted her to know how he adored her, never wanting her to doubt his feelings for her. There was no one that mattered to him as she did, though he knew he wasn’t under the influence of Amorentia. He had made his choice to adore her - to love her - as if it was the only reason why he breathed.

 

He knew it was, it really was.

 

Hermione chirred in his arms, and he felt her pulse quicken as she snuggled closer to him. She loved to be warm, he knew, always wanting him to share his body heat with her. He'd often find that she clung to him like a starfish while she slept, no matter how many warming charms he cast over her. She wanted to tangle her arms around his neck and curl her legs around his as if she trusted him completely. She never hesitated with him, and slowly, he'd learned to trust her in turn.

 

He knew that she wouldn’t turn her head when he went to kiss her, instead standing on the tips of her toes, and kissing him in turn. She liked to nibble on the tip of his nose, and he’d scold her while shaking with amusement. He never scared her - as if he’d try - though he was flustered when his infamous scowl didn’t move her. She’d take every opportunity to sneak into his brewing room while he worked, quietly watching him without making a peep. He’d warned her how dangerous the ingredients he worked with were, yet his fearless lioness didn’t care.

 

She always wanted to be beside him.

 

So, Severus had started teaching her how to assist him. Their house-elves would often find them together, Hermione intently skinning, dicing, and chopping ingredients while Severus stood across from her. He preferred to brew the potions himself, using a gilded spoon to stir everything together. He bottled the liquid into antique vials, a gift from his mother, after his father's death. She'd saved for months to buy them for her son, and he treasured them dearly, using them only for potions he fed to Hermione, or himself. He kept a store of them in his rooms, his concession to the fears that ate away at him.

 

He never - ever - wanted to lose Hermione.

 

“You won’t be alone again,” Severus promised her, tracing soothing circles across her back. She shivered at his touch, and his hand stroked lower, down to the curve of her bottom. He loved to explore every part of her, memorizing her responses to his fingers, his mouth, his member -

 

Just as he knew she was studying him in turn.

 

He was helpless when it came to her nimble fingers, as she enjoyed undressing him. He found that she could undress him faster than even he could himself, and she liked to kiss and nip the scars his father had given him. She’d turned them into marks of pleasure, instead of childhood horror, and he’d wept in her arms more than once.

 

She always held him when he cried, wrapping her arms around his shaking frame, and allowed him to bury his head against her stomach. He felt little humiliation in kneeling before her, knowing she wouldn’t use his shame, or his pain, against him. She had an endless pool of compassion inside her, one that he longed to bathe himself in.

 

Hermione tilted her head upward, nuzzling her face against the curve of his jaw.

 

Severus smirked, setting the book aside on the table next to them. “You heard that, did you?” he teased, his cheeks flushing as she licked at his skin. It seemed that she enjoyed the taste of him, often licking the tears that slipped down his cheeks, or nibbling on his fingers. She was a Fae, Severus reminded himself, the first time she’d done it. He would allow her to do anything to him, even if she’d wanted him to ruin his hands, paramount tools to his work.

 

Hermione chirred, and Severus felt himself harden as she squirmed in his arms. He let her move, as she turned to face him, straddling her lithe body against his. “S…Sev -“

 

His breath caught in his throat as she hesitated, never taking his eyes away from her. It was the first time he’d ever heard her speak before, and he’d been uncertain that she could. He knew the Fae had their own language, deduced by the sounds she made, though he knew that she understood him when he spoke or read to her. He’d never dreamed that it was possible -

 

She could speak English with him.

 

“Severus,” she finished, softly pecking his cheek.

 

“Hermione,” he replied, slipping his arms around her waist. “My brilliant girl.”

 

She trailed her fingers over his cheek, and he leaned into her touch. She fluttered her eyelashes, before kissing his dark brow. Her touch was featherlight, yet enough to alight the fire inside him, one that burned only for her. “Severus,” she said again, sounding the same as if his name was ambrosia on her lips. “W-ant…you.”

 

Her brow furrowed at the effort to speak as he did. It was a harsher language, one that made her lips move in a way it hadn’t before. Amongst her kind, they spoke in countless trills, chirps, squeaks, and snarls to communicate. Their meanings had always been clear to one another, the Fae’s very magic entangled with the others of the Court.

 

It was different with her Severus, as Hermione had quickly learned. He’d begun to understand the sounds that she made but they were only sounds to him - not the same as the sentences he spoke, or words that he read to her. She’d wanted to learn English and had practiced during hours spent in the library, with a helpful house-elf beside her. Still, it was a struggle, her tongue feeling clumsy in her mouth.

Her tongue darted out, swiping her bottom lip. “Pl…please.”  

 

He felt her rubbing herself against him, the wetness between her legs pressed against his waist. “Ah,” Severus said, his dark eyes filled with love. It was something he reveled at still, knowing that someone like his little one wanted him. “You do.”

 

There was only earnest truth with her.

 

He brushed his lips against her ear, “I want you too, love.”

 

He drew his teeth against her skin, feeling as she shuddered against him. His tongue dipped against her earlobe, licking it slowly before he nibbled on her earlobe. She was weak for the sensation, he knew, as her cheeks turned pink. He could tease her for hours, bringing her to burn alive with foreplay, before sliding himself inside her. He’d read countless things from magazines he’d found hidden in the library, filthy, muggle magazines that his father had read.

 

Severus had read them privately as a teenager, keeping them out of view from his mother, before he'd burned them in the fireplace. He hadn't wanted a reminder of his father's perversion, nor the own shame he felt in reading them. Yet Severus felt grateful too, for the knowledge he'd gleaned from them, as remembered how it said to touch his sweet Fae.

 

He knew when she cried to cover her body with his own, keeping her safe beneath him, and entranced by his kisses. And when she wanted freedom, he gripped her hips and guided her to ride him. Nothing was prettier than the sight of her naked, and above him, with her curls tumbling down her back and her chest flushed pink. He was learning to use his magic too, mimicking a sticking charm to hold her on top of him, or a mischievous cooling spell that made it feel as if ice cubes were running down her breasts. She wanted to feel everything, his greedy, perfect girl.

 

Together, they moaned as Severus whispered a spell, Hermione’s nightgown vanishing entirely. He knew she wore no underclothes beneath, and her gorgeous body was exposed to him. He snaked his hand down to his slacks, unbuttoning them so she could feel his cock fully. She leaned forward, pressing her wet slit against his bulging tip.

 

"So lovely," Severus murmured, feeling as she urged his head inside her. She was more comfortable straddling him than when they'd started when he'd had to gently coax and tease her into acting uninhibited. Her eyes fluttered closed as his cock filled her.

 

He exhaled, feeling his body hum in pleasure.

 

There were times when he recited potion recipes in his head - fire newts, crushed pearls, and dried starfish - one of his favorites to consider while possessing his fairy. He preferred for them to come together, knowing how they both reveled in the intimate feeling, as their hearts came undone.

 

“S-Severus,” she whispered, as his hand began to palm her chest. His hands were so, so much larger than hers, his fingers able to span across her entire breast. He thought her body was perfect, as he often whispered to her, and delighted in fondling her chest. He felt her nipples pebble and hid his smile. She needed this as much as he did, both of them moaning when she began to ride him.

 

Her curls streamed down her back, the sunlight filtering through the stained-glass window. He felt all of her as he held her gaze; breathless at how his cock slipped between her folds and felt like a velvet rod inside her. She hadn't been able to take all of him - not at the beginning when she'd been so, so small and tight - and he'd felt as if he could break her. He would break her, he'd thought until she'd taken his face in her hands and gave him a butterfly kiss. His thoughts had been broken then, and he'd made sweet love to her until she'd been breathless and unable to walk the next day. (He hadn't minded, carrying her around the estate.)

 

He pressed her closer to him, wanting to feel her entirely against him. “Please,” Hermione cried as Severus rolled his hips against hers, driving his cock deeper inside her. They fit perfectly together as if they'd been made for one another.

 

Perhaps they had.

 

The drawing-room soon filled with the sounds of flesh against flesh, as Hermione writhed against him. She gasped as he shucked his hand down to her clit and delved two fingers inside her. “Do you feel me inside?” Severus asked, the filthy question making something warm squirt from her folds. “I always want to be inside you, little one -“ he groaned as his fingers toyed with her pearl. She keened at the feeling, pleasure mounting inside her. “This is what I think about when we’re apart - your warm cunt, your sweet lips, your heart -“

 

He would always want her.

 

Always.

 

He grunted as he felt his balls tighten, knowing that his release was impending. Hers was too, he knew, by how her form began to quiver. “Let it go, little one,” he whispered, brushing his lips against her temple. “I’ll catch you.”

 

He would never let her falter, always coaxing at least one orgasm from her. Her cheeks darkened as she remembered one of their first times together when he'd hiked her legs across his shoulders and mercilessly teased her with his tongue. He’d made her cum, using the flat of his tongue to stimulate her nerves, and had toyed with her tingling pearl. She’d covered his face in her juices, and he’d lifted his head, smirking at her. “You’re everything to me, Hermione,” he’d said, his onyx eyes boring into hers.

 

He hadn’t let her go - not then - as he’d delved back to her glistening cunt and coaxed another release from her. He'd used magic to hold her down, her thighs shaking as he held her up to him. She'd screamed in pleasure until tears ran down her cheeks, and her body had been filled with ecstatic pleasure. He could fuck her just as he could make love to her, though there was always trust between them, that they meant everything to one another.

 

It was more than lust and everything about love.

 

She’d shown him in turn, waking him up during the night, with her cheek against his thigh and his cock in her mouth. It wasn’t something he asked of her but a pleasurable gift she gave him instead, both of them relishing the warmth between them. Her mouth was greedy and insistent as she lapped at him, and he’d moaned her name as he came. He’d dragged her from beneath the silken sheets when he finished, and snogged her deeply, thinking nothing of his release on her lips.

 

Thinking about her gift made Severus groan, and he felt nearly overwhelmed at being inside her. She was his love, his sacred home, and he knew without question that he belonged with her. He wouldn’t survive without her; he would die without her. “Hermione,” he snarled. “You’re mine -“

 

Mine, mine, mine.

 

He would never understand how his father had beaten his mother; he would never know how the man had looked down upon her suffering. He couldn't imagine doing the same to Hermione, nor any child she bore if they were able to have a family together. There was a deep, primal part of him that longed for his seed to take inside her, and his thrusting hips stuttered at the thought of her with child.

 

“Y-You-” Hermione trilled, and he knew she meant yours.

 

He scissored his fingers in and out of her, relishing as she panted in his ear. She squeezed her legs against his, and he thrusted deeper inside, knowing that she could take it. He wanted to fill her entirely, one day, taking both of her holes at once, until she could think of nothing but him inside her, adoring her, worshipping her with everything he had.

 

They both came, their cries strangled as they felt him cum inside her. He filled her with thick ropes of his seed, and he felt her soak his cock with her sticky release. The leather chair was soaked beneath them, their release dripping from between her legs. He didn’t whisper a cleansing charm, feeling deeply satisfied at the thought of his release inside her.

 

He kissed her over and over again, bathing her face in his kisses. “I love you, gods -“ Severus clutched her to him, not wanting her to move away from him, even if she’d wanted to. “I love you so much, Hermione.”

 

She pressed her temple against his, her eyes filled with everything he wanted to hear in turn.

 

‘Love you too.’

 

 

 

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When was Hermione going to tell him?

 

Crookshanks sniffed while batting at a crocheted gecko.

 

He knew it wasn’t real, something that should have offended him. He handled countless rats with ease, never minding their razor-sharp teeth, and had won more than one scrap with alpha felines. But really, Crooks huffed, drawing the gecko near; whatever was inside it was irresistible.

 

He scooped the toy up with his paw, bringing it to his mouth where he happily munched on its face. His tongue lapped at the soft fabric, its fragrant stuffing spilling on to his furry chin.

 

He sneezed, shimmering green smoke coming from his smushed nose.

 

Hermione giggled a sweet, joyful sound.

 

Crooks purred as he felt her stroke his head. She was always touching him if he allowed it. He liked how she scratched beneath his chin and played with his ears, mindful of the place where part of his ear had torn, after a slight disagreement with a passing centaur. Crooks had caught the centaur wandering through the gardens, and had launched himself at him, causing the centaur to rear upward, and attack the hissing half-kneazle.

 

When the nuns had tried to pet him before, he’d hissed and nipped at their wrinkled hands. Hermione wouldn’t send him out into the damp garden if she was upset with him (He hated the feel of mud between his toes, and ended up ‘prancing’ across the yard, as if tape was stuck to him), nor had she tried to feed him her leftovers (He preferred the kibble that the house-elves made for him best, if only because of how relaxed he felt after; never suspecting that they sprinkled sedatives in with it).

 

No, Crooks had no plans to leave his new owner anytime soon. Hermione was his owner - his human, for lack of a better word - and he felt quite possessive over her. He was happy enough sleeping by her feet, though he often squirmed in-between Hermione and her grumbling mate. He relished tucking his head against her shoulder and curling his furred body around her as if she were his own personal heat source. Severus would move him in the morning, grumbling that the feline would make an ugly throw rug, though there was little malice in his voice.

 

Silly human," Crooks rumbled while rolling on to his back. He stretched his paws overhead and kicked his back feet in the air. He’d begun to have an appreciation for lazy sunbathing, the sunlight warming him. He often listened to his owner practice speaking while he sunbathed, with her sitting beside him on the window seat, and a book laid across her lap.

 

Hermione narrowed her eyes at her familiar, knowing better than to pet his stomach. “No, Crooks,” she said solemnly, her teeth sinking into her bottom lip to keep from laughing. He had snapped at her hands more than once for petting him there, something she wasn’t going to repeat, no matter how soft his underlayers of fur was.

 

The persnickety yet mischievous feline reminded her of the raccoons that had filled the Fae court. While birds like robins and sweet sparrows had been used to deliver messages, many of her kind had raccoons as close friends and beloved pets. They were prized for their playful nature and large size; Fae children often riding on their backs or zipping through the forest in a game of tag or hide and go seek with them.

 

Some raccoons were trained to forage through the thick underbrush, finding prized ingredients, like fire salamanders, crushed roots, and a truffle or two. Others made for eager guards, keeping children safe, and watched over families as if they were their own. Hermione remembered too, the Royal family’s prized raccoons, that were bred to be incredibly loyal, and as white as freshly fallen snow. Every Fae knew to respect the devoted raccoons, and it was considered a dreadful crime to harm one.

 

‘Crooks would have fit in well with them,’ Hermione thought wryly. He followed her from room to room, rarely letting her out of his sight unless he thought of something better to do. Which, lately, hadn’t happened at all, as Crooks clung to her side.

 

And Hermione -

 

She felt her cheeks turn pink at the possible reason for it.

 

Her childhood had been different than others of her kind; her parents deciding against giving her siblings and encouraged her to read as she liked. She was fascinated by studying the world outside of theirs, often burying her head in a thick tome, while others zipped about her, preparing for a harvest festival, or masked ball. Outside of Harry and Ron, she had few friends, fewer still friends that were female. If she knew more of their customs and their way, she might have -

 

Well -

 

Hermione squeaked in embarrassment, as she glanced toward the master closet.

 

She knew exactly what Severus would see if he opened it. Formal robes, thick, wooly blankets, silky sheets, and hordes of other soft things filled the closet, after days of making a nest. There wasn’t another word for it, Hermione knew, as she’d become fixated on making the space as warm and comfortable as it could be. And secure too, as a little voice whispered in her ear. Everything carried the scent of her mate, his earthy, solemn tones wrapping around her like a warm and heavy blanket.  

 

It was exactly what she needed, her instincts purring in delight. She felt magic thrum beneath her skin, and if she had her wings still, she would have zipped about the manor. She hadn’t realized what was happening at first, as she’d woken up in a tangle of blankets and spools of clothing. Her instincts had been louder than they ever were before, guiding her actions, and chirping in her ear. As she’d tucked pillows against the back wall, her eyes had widened as she realized what she’d been doing for days.

 

Nesting.

 

She’d been nesting, something that every Fae did when -

 

Hermione’s hand dipped to her stomach, her fingers splaying across the oversized dress shirt. Severus often scowled when she borrowed his clothes from him, though he often picked her up afterward, and snogged her senseless. “You tease me, witch,” he’d snark, while she kissed his cheeks and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, drawing him near, in turn. Whether it was the morning or the night, they made love to another; both of them reveling in the other’s embrace.

 

Without, anything between them.

 

Hermione huffed, blowing her curls away from her face.

 

Really, she should have known with how much they were together (without Crooks in the room!) that something would happen. A frown marred her face, as she sucked on her bottom lip. She hadn’t known that something could happen, with the differences in their species. Fae like her only had their cycles once a year, compared to human females that had their cycle monthly. Hermione had only had hers twice, and Severus wasn’t sure that she would have one again, with the damage her body had sustained. He’d held her close as he told her, stroking her back while she rested her temple against his.

 

They had talked about children only once when Severus found her watching the forest from the study windows. He’d asked if she missed her home, and she’d told him her home was beside him. Her life before him taunted and teased her, the horror that she’d experienced when their royal family was overthrown haunting her. Yet she remembered too, the feeling of when she took to the sky for the first time, and how she had wanted to touch the stars, the same as every Fae child before her.

 

And after.

 

As if Severus knew her thoughts, he’d whispered to her that they could find another like her, if she wished. She shivered, knowing there were others of her kind, ones who hadn’t been as lucky when they were escaping. Where were they now? Where was the court? He’d kissed tears from her cheeks and tucked her against his side.

 

We’ll find them,” Severus murmured. “If you wish, or,” he hesitated a moment. “A child if you wish, a changeling perhaps.”

 

She’d said nothing at the time, instead burying her head against his chest. She felt safe when she was with him, and he wrapped his woolen robes around her. She often played with the buttons lining his robes, though he gently scolded her when she pulled them free from the fabric. She hid some in her pocket, always keeping a part of her mate with her.

 

Her hands scrubbed at her cheeks, before settling back on her waist where -

 

She felt a flutter of life there.

 

Hermione shivered at the thought, a part of her imagining a child with dark eyes, and a mass of curly hair. They would have a scowl that rivaled their father's, while scrunching their nose in thought, like their mother -

 

Like her.

 

“Baby,” Hermione chirred, her fingers twisting the hem of her shirt. She wished then that she’d spent more time amongst the females of her kind and knew what to expect. Her fingers stroked her stomach, as she nibbled on her lip. From vague recollections, Hermione remembered the flurry of activity that came with springtime, the females at court often staying in their rooms for long periods of time, and how soft things constantly disappeared.

 

Beside her, Crooks meowed and nudged his head against her hand. "Crooks," Hermione said, scratching her familiar behind his ragged ears. “Is that why -“

 

She finished the rest of her sentence in chirps and soft coos, asking her familiar if he’d known she was pregnant. She had wondered why he’d been intent on clinging to her side, even more than before (She’d asked Severus if he thought her familiar was lonely, something he had teased her for. “It seems he only needs you, love.”). She knew that animals, especially familiars, could know changes in their owners before the owners knew themselves -

 

Crooks narrowed his eyes, staring at her in a proud feline way as if to say, 'Of course, human.’

 

He wasn’t going to let anything happen to her, especially not with her mate drowning in a flurry of bubbling cauldrons and volatile potions. Severus had been surviving solely on Pepper-Up, if Hermione’s suspicions were right, as he brewed enough potions to treat rampant cases of Cat Flu. Their village and the ones surrounding it had hordes of cats trotting through, and every family found themselves out of milk and cans of tuna. Severus had scowled when the Mayor wrote him for help, though he’d scattered to the basement, to begin brewing.

 

Hermione was glad that Severus stumbled into their room at night, before collapsing into bed for a few hours of sleep, with her cuddled against him. He didn’t realize that they had fewer pillows than before, nor did he look in the closet (Hermione's cheeks paled at the thought). Instead, he pulled on the same robes as the day before, and stumbled down to the basement, to brew again. She missed him more than she missed her wings, but -

 

She wanted her nest to be just right before he saw it.

 

She crossed the room and slid the closet door open. It was safe and warm inside, her instincts cooed, and Crooks could come too. “Mrow,” Crooks mewed, jumping down from the window seat, and strode after her. His tail wrapped about her ankle as she sank to her knees and crawled into the nest with Crooks behind her.

 

She smoothed soft blankets into place and worked on covering all the corners of her nest thoroughly. Her magic thrummed in her veins, warming her the same as if she were in her mate’s heady embrace. She wanted to make her nest a safe and comfortable place, her instincts urging her to burrow there. Their bedroom itself was too open, too exposed with its row of windows.

 

Please don’t roll around in the sheets,” Hermione chirped, trusting that Crooks would understand her. He seemed that he did, nosing a spot beneath the covers, before slipping beneath them until only the tips of his back paws stuck out. Hermione fluffed the spots around her familiar, before settling on her side, and tucking her hand beneath her cheek. She felt tired then, a soft yawn escaping her.

 

Rest, her instincts chirred, rest, rest, rest.

 

Her eyes fluttered as if she were a child again. "Okay," she murmured, the words feeling strange on her lips still. She’d been practicing English as much as she could, though she was far from being fluent. “Sleep Crooks, sleep.” He purred from beneath the covers and swished his tail in agreement.

 

And as she drifted to sleep, she dreamed of a family with her mate, a dream that she’d never had before.

 

 

 

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“Little love, little love…” Severus trailed his finger down her cheek and chuckled in amusement as his mate grumbled in her sleep.

 

“Mmph, no,”  Hermione shifted, nuzzling her face against his soft robes. “Not l-little anymore.”

 

"Shush," Severus scolded lightly, slipping his hand down to her waist. He felt life flutter beneath his hand, his fingers gently kneading the curve of her abdomen. To say that he'd been shocked when he emerged from his brewing frenzy and rushed through the manor to find his mate, nesting in their closet -

 

It would be a vast understatement.

 

“You wouldn’t be able to fly now, would you?” Severus teased, no malice in his tone. He knew that she wished for her wings still, though they both knew her wings wouldn’t regrow. He’d combed through tattered potion tomes and found little about healing Fae. Though in her current state, he doubted she would be able to fly, as she blossomed with child.

 

It made him happier than he’d ever been to cradle his mate against him and know that she was carrying their child. His breath caught at the thought, the words making him shudder.

 

Not with displeasure, no -

 

Never.

 

It was a dream of his, one that he never thought would come true.

 

He'd dropped to his knees and crawled beside her when he found her buried beneath rumpled clothing and blankets and had been terrified that she was sick. "You’re set on curing the cat flu, but not your own mate, hm?” Tobias’s unmistakable, mocking tone had filled his ears. “That’s my boy, my perfect boy, Sev -“

 

S-Severus," Hermione had cried and entangled his hand in hers. She'd trembled as she pressed their hands against her stomach and had peeked at him from beneath her pretty eyelashes. “B-Baby.”

 

Baby?” he’d repeated numbly, his dark eyes holding hers.

 

He hadn’t known that it was possible, only once considering casting a conception charm. He’d heard stories of halflings but had paid them little mind, as any young man might.

 

She’d nodded tentatively, glancing away from him as if she were a skittish doe. “Baby!”

 

The meaning to her words had been unmistakable, as Severus knew she wasn’t using the word as a term of endearment. She only called him by his name, purring it as a delighted cat would.

 

No, there was only one meaning to the word -

 

He’d acted on instinct then, wrapping his arms around her, and snogging her senseless. She was all that he knew as he felt her against him, his instincts urging him to have her. His heart thudded wildly in his chest, her revelation ringing in his very insides. She’d giggled against his lips, before kissing him back -

 

And they hadn't emerged from her nest for hours until a disgruntled Crookshanks had loudly mewed for his dinner. They’d stumbled from her nest, joy painted across their skin. There was never a question of whether she would keep it, as he swept her into his arms, and she laughed freely.

 

He’d cast a spell that confirmed she was pregnant, though they were waiting still, to know the gender. Hermione confessed that it didn’t matter to her, as long as they were healthy, and he’d agreed. He knew that his heart would falter at the sight of their daughter, or their son, especially if they shared traits from their mother.

 

You’re everything that I want,” Severus told her, “Everything that I need, Hermione.”

 

Hermione glared at him; her whiskey-colored eyes filled with indignation. “You aren’t going to make me ride on your broom again, are you?” her reply was filled with chirps and screeching chirrs amidst a smattering of English, though Severus understood her well enough.

 

He snorted, shaking his head.

 

The one time she’d ridden with him, she’d clutched his shoulders and buried her face against his shoulder, trembling as they flew. He’d thought she would take to flying well, after overhearing her talk to her familiar about how she used to revel at flying amidst the starry night.  She hadn’t been afraid then and begging to have her feet touch the ground.

 

“There’s only one broom I have in mind for you to ride,” Severus replied, holding back his laughter as Hermione flushed at his innuendo. “One you’ll find suits you well.”

 

She thumped her small fist against his chest.

 

“Silly,” she said lightly, “Silly Severus.”

 

He smiled crookedly, his teeth peeping through. It was unimaginable that anyone would tease him, as he knew the villagers considered him an outsider, the same as they had regarded his parents. He’d grown up apart from them and had known his mother for company, along with their weary house-elves.

 

Hermione was his love -

 

And his friend, one of the first that he had.

 

“I am, aren’t I?” Severus replied, shifting to lean back against the great oak tree. Silly was something he’d never been called before, yet he had little to complain about. He closed his eyes for a moment, knowing that he would accept anything that she called him.

 

How far he had fallen, his thoughts mocked, and he knew it was true. Hermione was the one that he thought of, the one that he lived for as his father never had for his mother. Yet he felt free when he was with her, as he never had amidst his family.

 

He combed his fingers through her dark curls, relaxing at the feeling. She often asked him to braid it for her before she slept, both of them knowing how wild her hair could be in the morning if left alone. He’d woken up many times to a face full of curls, though he knew there were worse things to awaken to.

 

Near his feet was a picnic basket, delicious smells wafting from it.

 

It had been one of their elves, Mipsy’s, idea for them to picnic in the garden. Mipsy had stuffed a picnic basket full of things they liked; scones with packets of jam, piping hot ginger tea, and sandwiches laden with chicken and thinly sliced vegetables. She’d included crackers too, with a bit of butter as both Mipsy and Severus knew how nauseous Hermione could feel. Even the Fae weren’t exempt from morning sickness, it seemed, and Severus continually brewed an anti-nausea potion for her.

 

Hermione moved to straddle his lap, curling her arms around his shoulders. “Touch,” she chirped, and Severus raised his eyebrow. “Touch, please,” she amended, fluttering her eyelashes.

 

He cradled her face in his hands, tracing the shape of her lips with his thumb. “As if I could deny you,” he murmured softly, the truth naked between them. He knew that Hermione understood him as she kissed the tip of his nose and brushed her lips across his cheekbones.

 

He would never - could never - be like his father and raise his hand to her; the very thought making his stomach twist sharply. As it was, he hardly let her out of his sight as he watched her carry their child. She bloomed beneath his attentions, as he read aloud to her, and helped her with her speech lessons. They took a daily walk in the gardens, while he fussed over her like a mother, bundling her in a furred cloak and casting warming charms over her, if it was raining. They never neared the forest, as he felt her tremble and tucked her hand in his.

 

“Are you happy?” Severus asked, tucking a stray curl behind her ear.

 

“Yes,” she replied, as earnest as only she could be. There was no hesitation nor slyness in her tone, as she nestled against him. She touched him like no one else ever had, cuddling against him as if he made her feel safe.

 

He swallowed tautly, feeling himself warm at her reply.

 

When had someone ever been happy with him? He’d loved his mother, and the handful of years he’d spent with her after his father’s death had made them closer than they’d ever been. Yet he knew when her words faltered and her gaze went astray that she thought of another - she thought of him, his father. His mother had loved his father more than she loved any other, her son included.

 

It was different with Hermione, as she blossomed with him. She willingly allowed him to hold her and snuggled against him when she slept. Every emotion she felt was clear, and she shared her love with him. “Don’t leave," she'd asked him once when he'd ran a bath for her and turned his head when she settled in. She wanted his company -

 

She wanted him, and only him.

 

And he gave her everything in return, reveling in the company she freely gave to him. He knew if he had found her earlier, he would have done anything she asked. He would have run away with her, turning his back on his mother, his horrid father, and everything that he had. His touch was tender as he drew circles across her back and felt her relax against him.

 

“I love you,” Hermione said clearly, nuzzling her cheek against his. He sighed at the feeling; nothing mattering more than her touch. “Severus.”

 

He shivered, feeling as if he would fall apart if she let go.

 

“I love you too, little one,” he tucked her beneath him, resting his chin on top of her head. She was like a bird in his arms, small and vulnerable. He knew that he would protect her with everything that he had, and their child too. How had his father ever gotten things so wrong? “More than you’ll ever know.”

 

 

 

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“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then,” Severus read, his finger trailing across the gilded page. Alice in Wonderland was one of his mother’s favorite stories, her well-read copy hidden in the attic. Hermione enjoyed it too, her eyes hooded and cheeks pink as he read aloud to her.

 

It was one of his mother's few possessions that hadn't been destroyed by his father; Severus recoiling at the memory of Tobias smashing her knick-knacks against the wooden floors. Nor had he let Eileen keep the pieces, as Tobias had swept them into the fireplace, and chortled as they burned.

 

You always loved them more than me,” Tobias had snapped, his monstrous jaw the same as a hideous steer’. “More than your son.”

 

His mother had wept, while she kneed at his father’s feet.

 

It’s not true," she'd whimpered as if that would make Tobias stop. Nothing ever stopped him, not tears or shared dreams, or his son's frightened screams. Severus watched it all from the stairs, the paint worn from where he'd gripped the railing.

 

He’d been the one to bring his mother dry ice in a towel, and a cup of tea after his father’s rages. He’d become a man at his mother’s knee, as she cried on his shoulder, and held him close against her. She apologized to him, the same way as she apologized to his father.

 

It’s all my fault, Severus,” she would whisper to him. “I can be better - I will be better, I promise. You mustn’t hate your father, please Severus -“

 

"Never," Severus repeated and felt a timid hand touch his cheek.

 

There was only one who would touch him, there was only one that he would allow near.

 

“Severus?” Hermione chirped, studying him with trusting, warm brown eyes and a knitted brow. She drew circles across his skin and gave him a small smile as he relaxed against her. She had felt him tense as he faltered reading to her, and became absorbed in his thoughts, something that was happening more and more.

 

“Wool gathering,” he replied, resting his hand on the small of her back. Her head just reached his chest when they were standing, though her wild curls made up for the distance between them. He was used to her curls tickling his skin and was unphased by the way her curls seemed to have a life of their own. “You have my attention now,” he added, as she clicked her tongue.

 

“Sad?” she asked, her eyes searching his.

 

He knew that he’d been falling into his thoughts more and more, the sound of his father’s laughter haunting him. Severus swore that he would never be like Tobias. Neither Hermione nor their child would flinch when he wielded his wand, or tremble when his shadow fell upon them.

 

No, he wanted them to know nothing but love.

 

Tenderness - Kindness -

 

Everything that he never had, except for the two years spent with his mother. Freed from the shadow of Tobias, they had learned to be friends, the same as they acted as a family. Yet there was a wall between them, silences that would flutter, and memories that would fall; and they would spend days apart from another while living in the same manor. There was nothing that would broach the distance between them, as words tangled, and emotions were smothered inside them.

 

Severus supposed there was a part of him that had never forgiven his mother, for staying with his father. She loved Tobias in a way that Severus would never understand, nor did he want to. They’d never talked about the abuse they both suffered, nor the nightmares they both had.

 

There was nothing like that with Hermione, as he reveled in the pleasure of her company. They were curled beneath the sheets, with Hermione settled in his lap and his back against thick pillows. As Hermione's pregnancy progressed, she'd begun to tire easily, and often dozed off as if she were a cat.

 

Speaking of which, Crookshanks was curled at Severus’s feet, keeping one eye trained on his mistress. He refused to be separated from her, following Hermione from room to room, though Severus drew the line at either of them entering his brew room. The potions he worked with were too volatile for Hermione, and Crookshanks had already lost several of his whiskers due to sticking his head inside a bubbling cauldron. (Severus had changed the wards after, to Crookshanks’ notable displeasure).

 

“I’m happy, little one,” Severus murmured, resting his temple against hers.

 

He had little desire to make her worry, as his thoughts swirled with his father, and the pending arrival of their child. His brow raised as Hermione grasped his right hand and brought it between them to the curve of her stomach. He felt her warm skin through her lacy nightgown and swallowed tautly.

 

It had been weeks since he’d been inside her, as she became heavy with pregnancy. She tired easily, Severus often finding her asleep with a book open in her lap, or when she listened to him read aloud to her. He pleasured her when she wanted, making her come with his head between her legs, or as she ground against his fingers, and snuggled against him after.

 

It was enough for him to be close to her, experiencing intimacy with her that he never wanted to take for granted. He knew there would never be another one like her, nor did he want another besides her. Severus had never truly understood the horror of his father until he'd allowed Hermione into his heart, and he wondered how his father could have ever abused his mother and his child.

 

“Hermione -“

 

“Good Severus,” Hermione interrupted, her teeth sinking into her bottom lip as she watched him. “You’re - you’ll - be good.” She didn’t let his hand go, keeping it against her.

 

“…Do you think so?” Severus asked, his voice trembling.

 

He wanted to sound steady and assured, instead of the reedy boy that his father had relentlessly mocked him as being. There were ghosts in the manor, ghosts that would never leave -

 

No matter how he wanted them not to be.

 

Yet he wasn’t alone, not anymore, as Hermione stayed beside him and tucked her small hand in his. He was afraid sometimes that he would break her, as small and nimble as she was. She was clearly a woman, yet he knew that he could break her bones as easily as if she were a child. The thought made him recoil, and his muscles tense.

 

He felt clumsy beside her, though he knew that she loved his hands, often kissing his knuckles and the inside of his wrist. She touched him with a gentleness that he had never known before as if she considered him worthy of her.

 

As if she could truly love him, her heart beating for him without end.

 

"Good," Hermione repeated, nodding her head as if it were easy to believe in him. "Good father, good lover -“

 

Severus kissed the tip of her nose, the sweetness of it making her smile. "You love me?" he asked as if it didn’t mean the world to him. Hermione tugged at his hair, making him smile in turn.

 

She could be cheeky when she wanted to, Severus catching her sticking her tongue out at him, when she thought he wasn't looking, and painted his nails pink when he fell asleep. It was never callous mocking on her part, something he'd realized the first time she laughed when he had a sneezing fit after she'd sprinkled cinnamon in his potion.

 

He’d quickly learned that even as serious as Hermione could be, she still was Fae, her adoration for tricks apart of her nature. Yet there was no malice in it, nor was it to make fun of him, as his father had reveled in doing. Severus felt lower than dirt when he’d snarled at her for making him sneeze, and had crept into their bedroom hours later, whispering his apologies, and offering her sour candies in apology.

 

He knew that his love had a sweet tooth, seemingly a trademark of the Fae. She enjoyed the honey that he drizzled in her tea and often purred when he gave her sour candies to nibble on. He enjoyed the caramels their house-elf made, one of the few sweets that tempted him, and Hermione would lick the sticky residue from his fingers afterward.

 

“Love,” Hermione confirmed, bobbing her head eagerly. “I love you, Se-Severus,” she said, her voice unwavering in its tone.

 

“I love you too,” Severus replied, his eyes glimmering. “So much, Hermione.”

 

And he would love their child too, their little girl, as the spell had revealed. He’d only cast it days before, as Hermione had agreed she wanted to know the gender. She’d scrunched her nose and tapped her cheek, thinking about her answer, before saying yes. His fingers had shaken as he cast the spell, and both of them saw the wispy strands turn light pink.

 

A daughter -

 

It was more than he could dream of.

 

“Alice,” Hermione murmured, nestling against him.

 

He was warm and solid beneath her touch, the feel of him making her feel safer than anything else did. He was her home, and she hoped that he felt the same in turn. She had no thoughts of returning to her home in the forest, even if her home amidst the Fae was open to her again. She wouldn’t leave Severus, nor would she abandon the home that they had made, regardless of whether their child was human or Fae.

 

He set the book aside and curled his arm around her waist instead. “Her name?” Severus asked, testing the name on his tongue. “Alice Snape.”

 

Hermione chirped eagerly, nuzzling her cheek against his chest. "Alice," she agreed, her smile warming as she felt a flutter of life inside her. Their daughter was easier to feel than before, often waking Hermione in the mornings with her movement, and they’d found Alice enjoyed the afternoons they spent in the sun. There was contentment between them, and excitement too; the manor as a whole waiting for their family to grow.

 

Their daughter was brimming with life, and magic, as the nightstand lamp beside them flickered. She would embrace life in a way that neither of them had and paint the world with her colorful magic.

 

And they would both be beside her, the parents that loved her. 

 

 

 

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Severus padded down the hallway, knowing who would be there.

 

Hermione -

 

His enchanting wife, who drew him to her not with Fae tricks, but by her very nature. She was warm where he was withdrawn, and compassionate where he often hesitated, drawing him into the light with her. He saw the world as he never had before, with her at his side.

 

“I thought that I would find you here,” Severus murmured, as he slipped his arms around his wife. Hermione trilled in response, a happy note to her voice.

 

“Did you?” Hermione teased; her eyes warm as they met his.

 

They both knew that she couldn’t stay away from the nursery, as taken as she was with their daughter, Alice. She had her mother’s fair coloring with freckles splashed across her nose, while she favored Severus with her dark hair, and knowing eyes. Alice had them both wrapped around her little finger since she was born, though Severus was more discreet with his visits to the nursery, often slipping in to check on her during the night.

 

This pattern wouldn't change in the future, though neither Hermione nor Severus were fond of soothsaying. They would have another daughter, Jane, and a son, Charles (though he would always be called 'Charlie,' to Severus’s amusement, considering his son’s serious nature) and would be as taken with each as they were with Alice.

 

Given her small frame, pregnancy was a challenge for his wife. Severus spent significant time brewing potions for her, knowing how much she depended on anti-nausea potions, and ones to induce her appetite. She had a craving for sweet things, a symptom of her Fae nature as Severus added sugar cubes and drizzled honey into her tea. He found there wasn’t enough that he could do for her, the memory of Alice’s birth one that he would never forget.

 

He couldn’t.

 

He had been afraid to touch her afterward, remembering her pained cries. Her labor was long and harsh, as Severus tended to her, with their House-elf assisting him. Afterward, Hermione had cuddled their daughter close, while Severus lay beside them with tears in his eyes. “Beautiful," he'd whispered, the word directed toward both his wife and his daughter.

 

Yet it was an experience that he wouldn’t put his wife through again, as he held her at night, but made no move to make love to her. It wasn’t until she’d huffed and placed his hand on her tender breasts that he realized he was shutting her out and had taken her once more -

 

Though he’d been sure to create a Fae safe contraceptive potion, one that Hermione had willingly taken for a little over a year until she'd confessed that she wanted another child with him. She’d kissed his cheeks and the Romanesque nose that she loved, and whispered dreams of their expanding family; a dream that he came to share. It was beyond him to resist her and her whims, and he willingly gave into her.

 

“My heart,” he called her, meaning every word.

 

He felt the swell of her stomach as she cuddled against him, the manor still never warm enough for her. There were times when he’d panicked, unable to find her, until he found her sound asleep in their clawfoot bath.

 

The thought made Severus smile, as he remembered the last time, he’d found her there. Hermione had awoken to the rustle of his clothing, as he shed his robes and slipped in behind her. They’d explored each other with greedy hands and sweet kisses, leading to her current state.

 

“Come to bed, wife,” Severus said, his tone as coaxing as it was when he called Alice down from the high ceiling. For there was nothing that the toddler liked more than flying high above her parents, with her luminescent wings fluttering as fast as a hummingbird’s. She could hide them at will but rarely did, as Hermione watched on with a rueful smile. (Her own scars had never healed, nor could Severus bring her wings back once more.)

 

The manor would be filled with peals of delight as Hermione tried to coax their daughter down, often promising another story before bed, while Severus swiftly used ‘Accio, Alice!’, or took to his broom to get her down. Alice kept both of them on their toes, though neither of them minded.

 

They both found that a private life suited them, one that saw Severus treating patients from afar with his potions, and Hermione immersed in her studies, and in her family. Neither had a desire to leave the cocoon they shared, though they often took Alice on trips around the countryside, and into the woods that surrounded the manor, and called to the little Fae.

 

For Alice was like her mother in more than one way, and shared her delight for nature, as drooping flowers suddenly bloomed as they passed, and wild animals emerged, eager for their attention. Yet no matter how much Alice giggled at a prancing deer, or cooed over a chipmunk demanding pets from her, there was no creature that she loved more than Crookshanks.

 

The rather independent creature was never far from Alice's side, and often kept watch by curling up beside her at bedtime. He was protective toward her since she was a baby, batting at the hands of the House-elf that helped them, and hissing when a gnome found its way into her room. The fiery kneazle had chased the intruder away and snapped at its heels until it tumbled through an open window, and went skittering into the woods.

 

The few times that Crookshanks wasn't with Alice, he was nestled in Hermione's lap or attempting to swipe various ingredients off of Severus's desk.

 

It was a life unlike any that Severus had imagined, yet one he found impossible to abandon. The mere thought of leaving his family made his heart ache, and he knew that he would never, ever leave them as his own father had often threatened to do. “Go!” he’d often longed to cry, “Just go!”

 

Those were words that he would never tell his wife nor his children, and hoped with every ounce of his being, that he never heard in turn. Severus wanted to be more than his father ever was, and would never subject his family to drunken rages, or screaming matches. Nor would Hermione allow him, as she often drew his head into her lap, and combed her fingers through his hair when he was upset. She knew how to soothe him and more than that, she loved him.

 

Severus rested his temple against hers, as he felt emotion rise in his throat. “I love you, Hermione.”

 

They were words that he feared he didn't say often enough, ones that he wanted to paint across her skin and watch as she delighted in him. She whispered her dreams in his ear, ones that involved both of them, with their lives entwined around the other. Now her dreams involved their children as well, dreams that Severus was happy to indulge.

 

He wanted to be enough for her, in a way that he had never been enough for anyone else. His mother had loved him, yet loved his father more, while his father had loved his drink far more. It was a truth that Severus had known ever since he was a child, alone in his bed, as he listened to his parents scream at one another. Inevitably it ended in his mother's tears, and Severus sneaking into her room to comfort her.

 

My sweet, sweet boy,” Eileen would cry, as he tried to wipe her cheeks with his sleeve.

 

No, these were fears and memories that his children would never have, nor would his precious wife. Severus always softened at the sight of Hermione with their daughter; especially when she held her close and whispered how much she loved her. It was love without any strings attached; an unconditional love that Severus had desperately hungered for as a child.

 

And as a man, Severus acknowledged, as he was ever called to Hermione’s company. He felt whole with her love and her devotion. She’d chosen him without persuasion or cruel trick -

 

No, she’d chosen him with her own desire in mind.

 

His place at her side meant everything to him, and he adored her, more than anyone would ever know. It was Hermione that had his devotion, and the family that he was creating with her. It was an idyll dream, one that his father would have said was out of his reach. It was a dream that Severus didn't deserve, yet he held it tight against his chest and was unwilling to let it go, nor wake from.

 

“Hermione,” Severus said, her name like spun sugar on his tongue.

 

He loved her, freely, and completely.

 

Hermione cupped his face in her hands and nuzzled her cheek against his. "I love you too," she said, no longer stumbling over the words as she used to. She spoke English nearly as well as he did, though she hadn't lost her chitters and thrills, and the little mewls she made in bed. Severus delighted in the last, often using their coupling to teach her words she wouldn't find in her books -

 

"Severus," Hermione whispered, careful for their ever-curious daughter not to hear. "Will you make love to me?"

 

He kissed her sweetly, tasting the strawberry chapstick that she wore. “Whenever you’d like, sweetheart,” Severus promised. “Wherever you’d like."