Actions

Work Header

Pride of Time

Chapter Text

Big thanks goes out to my beta, the amazing SSB!

Anti-Litigation Charm: I do not own.

Please review.


Term resumed at exactly five that afternoon, as the students proceeded to make their way from the Hogwarts Express to the castle. Hermione and Severus had returned an hour earlier, greeting their fellow colleagues and receiving cheerful, relaxed, even relieved welcomes in kind. Minerva and Pomona had taken a three-week vacation in Majorca which, in Hermione's humble opinion, had done both women a world of good. Dumbledore looked the same as ever, if a little less weary, as evidenced by the colorful decorations he had recruited Filius to assist him in charming around the Great Hall. In turn, Septima Vector remarked to the both of them that they 'looked well.'

Hermione supposed the extended vacation had done a good deal for their well-being. She not only looked it, she felt far more relaxed—and Severus, if that was at all possible, appeared a little less uptight in public. This new visage extended into her teaching the next day, and the days following. Hermione remained just as strict and demanding as ever, but her temper had lessened somewhat, and she was less harsh on the students. She spent the first week trying to find a balance that was efficient and easy to keep without giving the students so much leeway that they would attempt to break down her authority in the classroom.

Severus, however, changed very little. He had favored his Slytherins on the Dark Lord's orders, but now he did it both to remain in favor with Voldemort in the future and because it had become his natural inclination to do so. The other teachers and students treated Slytherins with suspicion, and having been treated very poorly by the other houses as a student himself, Severus was inclined to give them his favor and protection while striving to give the other houses hell. Hermione disagreed with this, given that she knew many of the Slytherins personally while she had been a student personally, and knew what a nasty, odious lot they were. But this was one instance where she left the choice entirely up to Severus; how he wanted to rule his classroom was entirely his choice, and even if she disagreed, she did not put her foot down and use her authority as his Handler to put a stop on it. Hermione rather felt that the other students' suspicion and general dislike of Slytherin house was well-founded, given the majority of them had been smug, supercilious bullies under Voldemort's reign.

She did not believe that Severus was blind to these faults, but was certain that he simply saw something else in them that others did not—could not—see. She couldn't see it, either, whatever it was, but Severus did, and as much as it pained her to do so, she accepted that.

Severus's birthday was spent on the bricked-off balcony over Flourish and Blott's, eating ice cream amidst the swirl of owl feathers and snow. It was also where Severus pressed a silvery round object into her hand—and was then bid to slip it onto her finger—before explaining that if it was still agreeable to her, he would like to go through with their plans to marry on the eleventh of June. He earned a cold but passionate, chocolate-flavored kiss for his efforts, and she in turn received a smug, thoroughly pleased smile of triumph.

In truth, none of the students noticed that their Defense Against the Dark Arts professor—the only one to have lasted more than a single year, mind—was wearing an engagement ring until the beginning of February. Truth to be told, it was not much of a fuss; it was the girls who were the main culprits of passing notes and whispering on the subject during class, and Hermione paid little attention to it other than to confiscate the notes and dock points for their distraction. Their reaction was understandable: they were teenage girls. They were also clearly very curious about who had given her that ring. Nevertheless, by the third day after the first observant student had noticed it, it was not much of a topic of interest.

Everyone was far more taken with the fact that Hogsmeade weekends were to resume, starting the weekend before Valentine's day. Anyone who had permission to attend (and some who didn't) signed up, and due to the exorbitant number of students who were attending, triple the number of chaperones were required. Dumbledore recruited the four Heads of House for the job ("Conscripted," Severus snarked) and found two more volunteers in the form of Professors Vector and Granger.

If Hermione had plans to do a bit of window shopping herself, such notions died a quick, embarrassed death; all of the shops were stocked to the brim, and fit to burst with the number of students packed into each one. Colorful, eye-catching advertisements for Valentine-themed products graced every window, and where the stores had previously had few, sparse supplies due to the lack of customers, their full stocks were quickly depleted.

Hermione knew Severus did not place all that much stock in Valentine's Day; in addition, they did not have money to spend frivolously on every occasion. Anything that was not set aside for bare necessities (they were of the unanimous agreement that Fortescue's ice cream qualified), books, and stocks had been spent on their Christmas gifts. They simply did not have the means to go out and buy an expensive box of chocolates, a bouquet of roses, and a card for each other. The only truly luxurious, expensive thing they had bought was their sheepskin rug, which they put to good use and quite often, and that had been a one-time special occasion. It was a long-term joint gift to each other.

These thoughts did, however, remind her to stop by the now-overcrowded Three Broomsticks to speak to Madam Rosmerta about resuming her part-time job during the summer. The proprietor was pleased to have her return now that the original reason for her leaving was gone, and they agreed that Hermione could work during the school year on Sunday evenings for six galleons a night, and that they would revisit the subject when the semester ended.

Hermione was, however, surprised when halfway through the afternoon, Severus stopped her mid-patrol through the street to slip a dark red rose into her hand.

"I stole it from Pomona's greenhouse earlier," he murmured into her ear. "I believe she noticed the theft, but if she confronts you, deny everything."

Hermione laughed, and kissed him before tucking the rose into her hair, at the base of the chignon so that it looked like a red, layered center of a secondary, shiny brown rose composed of her curls. "You are unbelievable."

He smirked into the kiss, before pulling away and moving to continue his own patrol before the students stopped to notice their two professors. "You already knew that, love."

On the walk back from Hogsmeade, Hermione took Severus aside for a few moments to explain her new arrangement with Madam Rosmerta, lagging behind the others and drawing up the rear for their conversation.

"A little extra income on the weekend wouldn't be a bad idea, I admit," Severus murmured, taking a moment to slip his fingers at the base of her hair to adjust the rose still tucked quite flatteringly in it. "But that leaves me less time to spend with you."

Hermione nodded. "I don't like it either, but it's one day a week, for six hours—and the truth it that we do need all the money we can get. Things will get a little easier without the problems that we had to deal with previously, but money is money, and a little side job couldn't hurt."

"What are you planning on doing for the summer?" Severus inquired silkily.

"Three days a week, for six hours, all in the evening," Hermione stated. He opened his mouth to protest, and she quickly pointed out, "You're usually in your lab during that time, working on your own projects."

"I still like knowing you're around," he muttered, scowling slightly. He turned to give her a considering look. "No—do two days a week, evenings only. I'll see if Slugs and Jiggers is hiring part-time, too. If we're both working at the same time, it shouldn't bother either of us that we're not in the house. And I'd really rather not force you to be the sole breadwinner," he added dryly. "We'll share the burden."

Hermione tilted her head to the side thoughtfully. "It didn't bother me, really, because I know you're planning on marketing a good deal of your research. But I like your idea," she clarified. "It'll make it a lot easier on us both, I think."

"It's a pity that a teacher's salary is so… pitiful," Severus drawled.

"We could always find something to blackmail the Headmaster with," Hermione teased.

"Don't blackmail someone whose power far outstrips your own, my dear," Severus muttered. "Dumbledore's power is so far above us that I would not ever truly contemplate the notion as more than a joke."

"It's a good thing I was joking, then."

"Indeed." Severus snorted. "Although I feel it incumbent to tell you that as far as persuasion methods go, blackmail is a short-term and very risky one."

The topic had gone from teasing to serious, and Hermione latched onto it immediately. "Blackmail is a quick and easy way to convince someone to do something, but you'll always have to watch your back around them because you know they'll forever be trying to find a way to get free of their obligation to you."

"That's what makes Dumbledore a far more effective leader than the Dark Lord," Severus confessed quietly. "The Dark Lord is ever impatient, and understands people very little; his only interest is in immediate control, and he banks on fear and bewitchment to keep them in line."

Hermione understood all too well. It had taken her months to realize this, but Voldemort had been hoping to exert more direct control over her through his bloody, nauseating stunt at Malfoy Manor. "Dumbledore looks for people who he can motivate to help him," she pointed out. "Everyone in the Order all has reasons to want the Dark Lord dead. They might not have been inclined to fight without a bit of pushing from Albus, and you wouldn't have been inclined to spy if he hadn't asked it of you, but no one there doesn't want to be there."

Severus nodded, lip curling in distaste.

"You know," Hermione continued, her tone thoughtful. "In the Muggle world, when people watch movies about spies, you see more dealings with blackmail than in any real motivational persuasion. If you can find what motivates someone, and make them an offer based on it, your job is already half-done because they'll do the rest talking themselves into it."

Severus raised an eyebrow at her. "I suppose that's how the Headmaster recruited you to be my—ah—handler?"

Hermione raised a brow right back at him, the deliberate stress he placed on the last word not lost on her. "I was half-talked into it by him, and did the rest of the job for him by talking myself into it."

"And to this day, we are both unerringly loyal to the Order," Severus muttered, his tone dark with amusement.

"The irony is still killing me that the Dark Lord is using techniques only ever shown to be effective in Muggle action movies—which are almost never accurate in regards to true espionage, I might add— and they're failing," Hermione said, snorting with barely-suppressed laughter.

Severus gave her a tight, curled-lip smile. "Yes, indeed. It is ever more amusing because it suggests he has actually lowered himself to watching Muggle cinema."

Hermione's mind suddenly turned to the Diary that had held, or rather, still held, a part of Voldemort's rotten, fetid soul, the one he had used to take possession of Ginny in her second year. It was a Muggle diary, enchanted though it was. It was a curious piece to add to the twisted puzzle that was Voldemort, and yet, Hermione felt that association between an anti-Muggle psychopath with clear Muggle roots was important.

Her nose twitched in distaste at the subject, and remembering that it was Valentine's Day, she abruptly decided to drop the subject. Tom Riddle would be gone from their lives for at least another ten years. They didn't need to bring the monster up while they were having a temporary respite from him. Hermione daringly slipped her hand into Severus's, holding it loosely for a moment before tightening her grip when she met no resistance. He stopped walking, halting her too, and took a moment to examine her face and seemingly dismiss some less-than-pleasant notions from his mind before bending down to kiss her.

And just like that, they pulled themselves away from their maudlin thoughts, and made the decision to enjoy the present.

~o~O~o~

Hermione began working down at the Three Broomsticks every Sunday afternoon for the rest of the school year. A tiff with Professor Trelawney one morning over a teacup was the extent of any problems in the timeframe preceding exams.

When exams did arrive, it was with the usual expected frantic, last-minute apocalyptical reception that had taken place every single year before it. Every student in their fifth and seventh year was certain that the world was going to end for them, personally, and Madam Pomfrey had her hands full trying to soothe the more overly-distraught students that were inevitably sent to see her.

The weeks flew by with surprising speed, and as soon as exams were over, Severus and Hermione left Hogwarts to return to Spinners End. They did not remain long enough to see the Leaving Feast, because on that very same evening, the two of them were wearing their dress robes— Hermione was wearing the ones Alice and Marlene had given her, after she had placed a temporary charm on them to make them white—and were in Diagon Alley with the few people and the minister they had shanghaied into attending.

It was a quick ceremony, and a small audience. They were right in front of Fortescue's, and the man himself was there with his ice-cream hat in his hands and a smile on his face, standing beside the other three people attending: Moody, still with his pirate-captain like dress robes, alongside Kingsley and Hagrid. There was nothing between Severus and the half-giant, though the two mutually respected each other, but since the incident where Hermione had helped rescue Harry from Godric's Hollow, the two had become fast friends—almost as good friends as they were in Hermione's own timeline. It was something she had tried to avoid for the sake of keeping her timeline intact, but a conversation between the two of them with Dumbledore had straightened it all out.

Mad-Eye Moody had frankly thought she was insane when she informed him a week prior to this day that she was getting married, but had gruffly agreed to attend. Kingsley had been a more cheerful response. Hagrid had nearly shed tears of happiness at the news. Glad that Diagon Alley was almost entirely deserted tonight, so that they had the relative privacy of having their marriage take place among people they considered friends—or at the very least, trustworthy.

The rings had been a generous gift on the Headmaster's part. Hermione and Severus had merely gone to his office to request permission to leave as soon as exams had been concluded, choosing to forewarn the Headmaster just before Easter, and left with more than they had expected to when Albus cheerfully told them that he would cover their payment, as his personal wedding gift to them.

They were both simple and silvery—one was actual silver, the other was white gold—with a set of symbols inscribed on the inside of both bands. The words were private, and were written using the Elder Futhark runic alphabet. Such glyphs were primarily used in Arithmancy, something that Severus and Hermione remembered taking together with fond amusement, and the meanings would not be immediately apparent to any ignorant layperson who happened to get a glimpse of the inscriptions.

It was not just that they had inscribed WunjoGeboEihwazEhwaz, and Kenaz onto their rings. They had over four months to work with them, and an Easter break in its entirety for her to keep the rings in her lab and charm them accordingly, tying the magic to each rune. On the outside, their rings were not particularly extraordinary; but on the inside of the band, and within each rune, Hermione imbued them with the magic, emotions, and meanings she wanted to make their marriage something unique and singularly important between the two of them.

Severus used the Easter break as an opportunity to brew two potions that, when Hermione finally handed the rings over to him, he dipped into them. The first made the rings lose the metallic properties that would cause them to react to other potions, which was necessary for Severus in particular. The second solidified the spells Hermione had cast on them, making them permanent.

Their rings were special and unique to them, gifted by an old friend, and made valuable by the energy and intent they poured into them. Severus added a Notice-Me-Not Charm to his ring, spelling it so that unless someone knew to look for it, their eyes would simply pass over it.

This was something that the two knew they would treasure the Headmaster for, his kind gift to them without insisting on attending what they wanted to be a very quick, low-key affair that was significant only in its sentimentality. The only thing Albus asked in return was that as soon as the honeymoon was over, they would to pay a visit to his office, as he had something important to show them—but it was something that could wait.

As planned, the ceremony itself was short. When the vicar uttered the final words—"You may kiss the bride"—Severus pulled her into a kiss that was deep, passionate, almost affirmative in its manner, yet surprisingly gentle. They nuzzled noses as they parted and then turned, both smiling, to face their witnesses. Ice cream cake, stacked three-layers high though it was only a foot-tall, was served courtesy of Florean Fortescue, and they all sat outside at one of the tables to eat it. It was the simplest wedding ceremony and reception Hermione had ever attended, and it was all hers—and she loved it. There was no pompous crowd, no hundred-fold hands to shake, no loud, raucous hoops to jump through.

They broke apart an hour and a half later, cheerful and happy, and Hermione personally thanked their other three guests while Moody took Severus aside, presumably to warn him to take good care of her. Hermione was not surprised, and frankly, she had no illusions that Severus would be at all intimidated. But Moody still had to have his say, and when Severus finally returned to her side, looking no worse for wear, Hermione hugged the grizzled old Auror in thanks—a feat that had taken years of trust to happen—and then left with her new husband. A single Apparition to Spinner's End, a few moments finagling with a tricky Muggle record player, and the two spent their wedding night dancing in each others' arms. A quiet, private ceremony, followed by a small and friendly reception, and closed with an intimate dance only between the two of them.

It was a far cry from the last time Hermione had listened to a Muggle recorder, which had been accompanied by cheering, stamping, screaming, and shouting. A very far cry from the tune of the Flamingo's much gentler song— I Only Have Eyes For You.

That night, as she turned slowly in her husband's arms, Hermione pushed away any and all thoughts of jealousy she might have ever had toward anyone else—Lily, specifically, setting such notions aside permanently. She and Severus had picked out the songs for tonight together, and she knew. Merlin, she knew. For her husband, for her lover, for her partner, for her Severus, she was the only one—and the same went for her. There was no one else for either of them. It was a simple, solid truth that was gloriously recognized on this night that was extraordinarily special for the both of them.

Their shoes came off first, so that they were circling slowly, their feet finding soothing purchase on the sheepskin rug. They were kicked away, and then Severus turned her around so that her back was to him. Resting his chin on her shoulder, both of them gazing into the flickering coals of the fireplace, he began to take apart the back of her robes, sliding them down her shoulders with care. Hermione returned the favor by silently twisting around to face him, her hands slipping each button of his own robes free, until she could pull them aside to reveal the pale expanse of his chest.

And that was how their dancing proceeded for the rest of the night. One piece at a time, one turn to each, they slowly undressed each other, taking their time to appreciate the sight before them, gently dragging each other down to the sheepskin rug that they so often found pleasure with each other with more often than their own bed. Lips slid across their necks, shoulders, arms, and the curves of their backs in a mutual quest to taste each other, to fully explore and absorb the person they had taken as their partner for life. It was like nothing that they had ever done before, and would probably never do again, and yet they both passed through the moments with lassitude and unhurried movements.

Eventually, as she knew he would, he pressed her down on her back with his weight. One finger slicing through the folds of her labia, smearing her wetness around before bringing his finger to his mouth to taste it, he bent down to nuzzle and lick at her neck before moving on to her lips, sliding them over hers in a kiss that was sensual and passionate, as he rocked himself into her with more gentleness, more care, something that was more explorative and considerably slower than any of their previous encounters had been.

Hermione was not a woman who particularly liked it slow—and Severus was not a man who preferred it that way, either—but for tonight, it was more about connection, about trulyfeeling the other person, than finding immediate, gratifying pleasure. It was about making the night memorable not because he had pounded her into a screaming orgasm, or because she had turned the occasion into a rare one by turning the tables on him and ambushing him with her mouth on his cock, but because they were simply being together. He was in her; she was around him. He felt her just as much as she was aware of him being inside her, on top of her, his hands pinning hers to either side of her head and twining their fingers together. It was about this moment where they were doing something that was utterly unique to them, that was special only in its sentimentality, that they would remember fondly for the singular fact that they were looking into each other's eyes. Sharing this moment.

That they were performing mutual, gentle legilimency on each other in a way that slowly absorbed the slow pleasure the other was experiencing and rebounded it upon itself, where they were taking in the others' thoughts and affectionately responding with their own.

Severus's lips attached themselves to the column of her neck, suckling as he rocked himself in her in a sensual grind, before slipping one hand down to where they were joined—a somewhat awkward move, in this position—to find her clitoris and roll it between his thumb and forefinger. He buried his face in her breasts, his breathing becoming heavier, as he struggled to continue this excruciating pace that was keeping him just barely on edge.

"I love you," he murmured, his voice slightly hoarse, as he continued to thrust in and out of her slowly. "Wife. My wife… it feels good to say it now, knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that it's true…"

Hermione arched underneath him, struggling to keep her eyes open as his fingers—ever talented—caused her to clench and spasm tightly around him in a way that made her feel every inch of the flesh that was thickly embedded in her.

"I… I can't tell you how long I've waited to hear you call me that, and know that it was true, too," Hermione whispered, stroking the back of his hands with her thumbs before reaching up to kiss his forehead. "Or to call you my husband."

"Mmh, good," Severus moaned, his eyes fluttering shut as she deliberately—very deliberately, this time—squeezed herself around him. "Oh, yes…"

They moved against each other with a little more force now, their moves still languid and decisive, their lips sliding against each other as they tasted. A few minutes later, Severus's hips bucked uncontrollably against her, his hands tightening their grip in hers, his face pulling into a grimace of pleasure, as he found release. He softened inside her, but didn't bother to pull out as he leaned over her, one hand still stroking against her clitoris, knowing she was moments away from reaching a small peak of pleasure herself.

"I love you," he told her lowly, his voice deep and sensuous as he bent down so that he could nuzzle her face even as she threw her head back, eyes squeezed tightly with pleasure. "I don't tell you often enough, but I try to make it known to you…"

"I know," Hermione gasped, grinding her hips slightly against him in response. "I know you do—trust me, I know…" he pulled away, slipping out of her, and pulled her to him as she began peppering his face with kisses. "And I love you too. Never forget that."

He shifted until he was lying on his side next to her, holding her in his arms, with more tenderness than he had ever done so before. This was not a suggestion of how the many nights they hoped would follow were expected to go, but this was the one night they had set aside in reserve to be gentle, to be kind, to open up and spill their guts in the privacy of their room, to share everything between the two of them. A moment to make themselves utterly and completely vulnerable to the other in a way that they do with no other.

"I love you."

"I love you…"

"I abhor redundancy," he muttered playfully, nuzzling her breasts.

"I think it's rather appropriate, in this case," Hermione murmured in response, smiling brightly at him as she stroked his hair.

"I will grant this is a special occasion for it."

"Well, so long as you say so…"

The tender moment was over, and they gave way to playfulness instead, nipping and laughing at each other, which eventually turned into tussling on the rug, which somehow ended with Hermione resting on top of Severus, nose-to-nose with him, looking happier than he remembered seeing her in a long time.

"We have the whole night to spend together," she murmured. "A whole uninterrupted night."

He gave her a wicked grin that reminded her so much of the time he had silver-tongued her into helping him sneak out of the castle for his birthday.

"I'm quite certain I know what you're thinking, Severus Snape—"

"Given that you're currently in my head, Mrs. Snape, I'd be rather surprised if you didn't—"

"Unfortunately, I didn't think to buy any whipped cream."

"Sod the whipped cream. We do have strawberries."

"Oh? Perhaps I should go check on that?"

"Please do. And bring some back with you."

"I love you."

"Mmmh, yes."

~o~O~o~

Their uninterrupted night of marital bliss extended into a honeymoon of three weeks, during which time they received several heartfelt gifts from the four people who had attended their wedding ceremony. Hagrid gave them a handkerchief—one that could have classified more as a blanket than a kerchief, according to Severus—that was hand-made, with stitching at the border that was apparently made of unicorn hair, and which Hermione folded neatly and kept at the foot of their bed. A book of advanced house-hold spells from Moody—a surprising gift, to say the least, until Hermione saw the annotation on the first page, warning her against complacency in upkeeping a house, that nearly had her in conniptions with laughter. A practical but lovely set of china from Kingsley, and a note from Florean Fortescue that the next time they stopped by for ice cream, it would be free.

Three days after they resignedly admitted that their three weeks of hedonism were over, they paid the Headmaster a visit, as requested, flooing into his office via invitation, and stepping out of the hearth shaking soot off their shoes.

"Ah, Hermione, Severus," Albus greeted them warmly, clasping his hands together. "Or should I say, the new Mrs. Snape with her husband." Hermione couldn't help grinning at this, but Severus managed to restrain his reaction to a smirk. "I hope you've enjoyed yourselves. Now, for the news you've been waiting for…"

The grin slid off Hermione's face. "Don't tell me you've found a way to send me back to my own timeline."

"Oh, I have," Dumbledore admitted, opening a drawer in his desk to search for something.

Hermione and Severus both stiffened.

"Although sending you 'back' to your own timeline is not quite the correct phrase—there is still no way to move forward in time that we are aware of, and given your recent marriage, I think it would be rather cruel to send you on your way," Dumbledore continued, setting a letter down on the desk. "No, indeed. Not in that manner. But when the year you left arrives, we'll have a way of slotting you back so that you may continue where you left off without anyone being the wiser."

Hermione's mouth opened for a moment, uncertain of what to say, and then shut it. Dumbledore seemed to understand that the two of them were at loss for words, for he slid the letter on his desk over to Hermione for her to peruse.

"My good friend Nicolas Flamel has generously agreed to help de-age you back to your sixteen-year-old self, once your fifth year arrives," Dumbledore explained kindly. "My idea, you see, is that you alone know when and where you will disappear exactly before you are thrown back in time. My advice is for you, as you are now—although with a minor appearance in terms of your age—to step in as soon as your former self disappears."

Comprehension dawned on Hermione—and, judging by the relieved expression of Severus's face, her husband as well. "I'll simply replace the version of me that first got thrown back in time—and then we'll be right back where I started, only I'll be continuing forward rather than going back in time—and without changing the fact that I went back in time, too."

"Precisely, my dear, precisely," Dumbledore said cheerfully.

"That's in nearly fourteen years," Hermione said softly. "That's a long time." She paused. "How am I supposed to go back to looking sixteen?"

"Nicolas Flamel stumbled upon something curious, very curious, on one of his travels," Dumbledore told her calmly. "He has a store of a liquid that is rather legendary, but can only be created under special circumstances— the means by which are nigh-impossible to recreate now. But he possesses a unique object called the Philosopher's Stone, which allows him to place the liquid in the right conditions upon which to be effective."

"Liquid…?" Hermione repeated.

"From what was formerly known as the fabled Fountain of Youth."

Hermione's jaw almost dropped. Severus was staring at the both of them, silently, his expression unreadable except for his eyes, which were flickering between them with a mixture of some undefinable emotions.

"I assume the plan is agreeable to you?" Dumbledore asked genially.

Hermione swallowed.

"Yes, sir."

The Headmaster clasped his hands together. "Excellent! I shall inform Nicholas, then."

Hermione nodded slowly, still trying to process what she had just been told—and what she had just agreed to.

"My god," she said aloud. "The fountain of youth."

"Wizards have spent their whole lives searching for such a thing," Severus murmured.

"Nicolas is over six hundred years old," Dumbledore informed them genially. "He has spent what I suppose translates into several lifetimes looking for it—and I must say he succeeded on the equivalent of a third."

"Is that how he has managed to stop himself from turning into a withered old walnut?" Severus drawled. "Keeping himself young for six-hundred years?"

"Indeed, although they have had to use it sparingly," Dumbledore responded, his tone musing. "Their supply is not unlimited."

At this, Hermione remained silent.

~o~O~o~

Hermione never took her wedding ring off. She kept the engagement ring in a box full of sentimentally significant objects—pictures of Lily, Alice, Marlene, James, Sirius, Remus, with their various letters and well-wishes. The engagement ring had been a promise of marriage, a promise that had been wonderfully, gloriously kept, and had been replaced with the wedding rings that Hermione and her husband had put so much into. It was neither charmed nor fixed in any way to make wearing it useful, and Hermione was not fond of wearing much jewelry, particularly on her hands. She was a small woman; there was no need for her to wear a lot of jewelry. Thus, she kept it safe, but rarely wore it.

The ring that Severus had slipped onto her finger during their ceremony, and had followed through on with a kiss, never left her hand. Not while she was working in her workroom, not while she showered, not while she slept, certainly not while she made love, and not when she was at work.

She had indeed taken a part-time job at Rosmerta's, going two days a week. She and Severus were gone from the house at the same time on Mondays and Wednesdays, spent their lunch breaks together, and the rest of the week in their respective labs or in each others' company. Severus was hitting on some valuable ideas that could turn out to revolutionize a small but nonetheless significant part of the Potions community. Hermione, meanwhile, was charting through Arithmancy, a timeline she had conducted of the future, and when she needed a break from that, Charms and Transfiguration work.

Cornelius Fudge, an ambitious yet prominent prospect for Minister once Bagnold retired, was already beginning his campaign for the next election within the Ministry. Milicent Bagnold was not planning on retiring until 1990, but if she could be persuaded that there was a suitable replacement, Hermione's impression of the woman was that she would rather step down and take her well-deserved retirement. The point of knowing this was to figure out how to manipulate Fudge into working with her, Bagnold into capitulating, and holding Hermione's support over Fudge as a means for his cooperation.

But that was simply a means to an end. Hermione did not particularly like Fudge. She was not doing this for his benefit.

No. Her real goal was Sirius Black.

He did not deserve to be locked up, and even if Hermione's methods were a bit unorthodox—something Severus would have been proud of, if she could ever confide this newest project of hers to him—she knew that she was doing right. She would find a way to free him from Azkaban without having the Wizarding World in an uproar.

All it required was one easily-corruptible politician.

~o~O~o~

Hermione set down the drinks, smiling at the patrons, before turning away to relieve herself of her duties for an hour. Severus had a meeting with a representative of the local Potioneer Society at lunch, and knowing this, Hermione had arranged her own lunch conference. Pouring herself a butterbeer, and seeing a familiar bowler hat walk through the door, she poured a second drink of gillywater for her guest and motioned for him to follow her to one of the private meeting rooms that Rosmerta had furbished as an added attraction for businessmen who wanted a drink with their meeting.

"Mrs. Snape," Fudge greeted her, removing his hat and twirling it absently in his hands as he shut the door behind him and took a seat opposite her. He gestured at the drink, raising the glass in thanks, before taking a sip. "Lovely choice of drink, my dear. I must compliment you for that."

Hermione gave him a tight, curl-lipped smile that was very reminiscent of her husband's. "Mr. Fudge. I believe we have business to discuss?"

"Your letter suggested you might be willing to help with my campaign," Fudge stated baldly, though there was not a slight crease to his forehead as he frowned. "And that if I refused to come to an agreement with you, you would put your resources into sabotaging my efforts."

"I work in an establishment that is an excellent place for influence," Hermione said, stirring her butterbeer with a spoon. "I also have some—contacts—in the Ministry who might be of assistance. Provided, of course, that we can come upon an agreement concerning why I'm willing to help you and what I want in return."

"Money, I expect," Fudge said, taking another sip.

"I have no interest in money," Hermione returned.

"Come now, Mrs. Snape," Fudge said, setting his glass down with a chuckle. "A teacher's salary, working a part-time job—I wouldn't be surprised if you budget everything. Of course you're interested in money."

"I can take care of my own fiscal problems, thank you," Hermione responded sourly. "Everything we have, we earned, and it will stay that way." She raised an eyebrow at him. "Besides, the stock market looks very promising—my shares are rising quite nicely."

"As you say," Fudge agreed. "What, then, could you possibly want? A different job, assuming I win the election?"

"No."

Fudge frowned. "A law pushed through?"

"Hardly," Hermione said, taking a tiny taste of her butterbeer.

"Then I must confess, I am at a loss."

Hermione slowly set her drink aside and sat up straight. She glanced lazily at the door once, as if to check that no one was listening, and then turned to face the politician sitting across from her.

"There is a man in Azkaban who was sent there without trial," she said quietly.

"You are a married woman, Mrs. Snape!" Fudge said, his face suddenly turning uncertain.

"This man was—is—one of my best friends, Mr. Fudge, not my lover." Hermione let out a dark chuckle. "He's one of the last people I'd ever contemplate having a romantic relationship with, to be honest."

"Nevertheless, you cannot expect me to just grant someone a pardon—"

"I'm not asking for a pardon," Hermione said, her expression unreadable.

"Then—I—I don't understand," Fudge said, blustering slightly.

"I want you to place this man in my custody," Hermione stated clearly. "The world will still assume he is in Azkaban. No one else in the Ministry will be aware. This will just be a secret between the two of us, Minister," she added, giving him a cold smile. "You will not see hair nor hide of him in the Wizarding World—and if you do, you will then tell the press that he has escaped from Azkaban, and you will be free to try and imprison him again at such a time. But as long as he is in hiding, under my watchful eye, you will perpetuate the misconception that he is still rotting in a cell, in the bowels of that dementor-infested hell he has been sent to."

Fudge was fingering his hat now, looking slightly uncertain, but Hermione knew she had his attention. "That's a lot to ask for, Mrs. Snape. I don't even know who this man is, or if your help is worth it."

Hermione leaned forward slightly in her seat. "If you don't make it to Minister, you will owe me nothing. But I will put all my considerable," she said, stressing the last word, "efforts into winning you the post, provided you agree to my request. The position as Minister is surely worth letting a man go free without the trouble of scandal and press."

Fudge's expression was one of raptured interest, the glazed look in his eyes telling Hermione that he was already imagining himself having won the election. "Who is this man?"

Hermione held a finger to her lips.

"Sirius Black."

~o~O~o~

Convincing Fudge after that had been an enormous task, but Hermione's skills of persuasion were a force to be reckoned with. By the time they had departed, Hermione had earned the to-be Minister's handshake on the matter, his solemn promise of his word, despite the fact that Hermione's payment consisted of letting an alleged mass murderer go free.

Hermione's next visit was to the office of the Minister herself. A request from Kingsley to put in a good word for her, a recommendation from Moody himself, and a month later, Hermione's presence was requested at the office of one Millicent Bagnold.

The woman looked to be in her late forties, with straw-blond hair, a worn but piercing gaze, and a thin smile. She had her back to the desk, facing the window, as she poured herself a glass of iced tea.

"They won't let me drink firewhiskey up here anymore," she lamented, as she set the pitcher down, turning around to face her guest. "Bloody bureaucrats. How can I help you?"

Hermione checked that the door was shut securely behind her, before moving to take a seat at the desk. She crossed one leg, folding her hands in her lap, and sat back, looking rather serene as she enlightened the Minister for the reason concerning her presence.

"It's been known for years that you've been waiting for an opportunity to retire," she began.

"I suppose you're about to offer yourself up for the job?" Bagnold asked dryly.

Hermione waved a hand dismissively. "Hardly. But I do know someone fit to replace you."

"I've heard that joke quite a bit for the past few years, Mrs. Snape."

"Cornelius Fudge is a rather promising candidate, don't you think?"

There was a pause.

"It's true that he's widely popular for the job," the Minister mused, setting her iced tea down.

Hermione smiled inwardly.

Perhaps this would be easier than she thought.

She was dealing with someone who did not want to be Minister anymore, but cared enough about the country to not leave it to fall in shambles in the hand of a total incompetent. If she could convince the woman that she had found the right person, her job was already halfway done. The woman would talk herself into the rest.

~o~O~o~

Two years was a long time to pull strings and convince people where to put their vote. Two years, and a handful of months later, Hermione had completed her fourth year as a professor of Hogwarts, and was smirking at the morning paper as the Daily Prophet announced the results of the final elections.

A lot had happened in that time. Severus had earned significant standing among the Potions community, having published two important discoveries concerning the refining of Wolfsbane and a formula for figuring out what kind of poisons could not be counteracted with bezoars. It had earned them a good deal of money that meant neither of them had to work part-time during the summer, leaving them with two favorable options: private research or spending time together.

They never ceased to enjoy being in the other's company. Hermione looked forward to waking up every morning with Severus beside her, and was pleased to rarely be allowed to go downstairs and make breakfast without receiving some considerable good-morning loving. At the age of twenty-four, Hermione and Severus were in their prime, and enjoying married life to the fullest. The students at Hogwarts still called her Professor Granger for the sake of reducing confusion, but for the last two years, she had been, and would continue to be, Hermione Snape.

Two years, and on this day, she had an appointment to keep with the new Minister of Magic.

Fudge sat at his desk, wearing a smile, although he looked pale and ill at ease as he contemplated what he was about to do. He surreptitiously requested that two Aurors to escort them to Azkaban for his first rounds of the place, and upon reaching the desolate place, bid them to wait for their return. Hermione had transfigured a rock into a large, thin, shaggy black dog, and as the three of them approached the cell of Sirius Black, Hermione watched the dementors hovering about them, waiting.

She held up her wand, taking a moment to remember her wedding night, and something large and silvery leapt forth, sprinting across the ground with purpose. In truth, Hermione was not entirely surprised that it had changed after all this time. But casting a Patronus had never been her strong suit, and she had not yet gotten a chance to get a good look at it; the form was too undefined. It was definitely not an otter, however.

The dementors, who had been floating closer, scattered at once, and Fudge took out the rusty iron keys to open the door. Hermione squinted at the man huddled in a corner of the cell, with his face buried in his arms, and she knelt down on the ground outside the bars for a better look.

"Sirius?" she whispered.

The man looked up, his black hair wild and unkempt, his eyes just as wary. "Hermione?" he whispered croakily.

Hermione turned to look at Fudge, who was staring at the ground, twirling his bowler hat nervously.

"The door's open," Hermione said. "You can come out."

Cautiously, Sirius stood, and Hermione helped him as he stumbled over the doorway. His skin hung off his bones, and his eyes were sunken into his face. His once handsome visage had been ravaged by starvation, neglect, and the dementors' presence, and it broke Hermione's heart to see the way his eyes flickered pitifully with barely-remaining hope. She urged the Transfigured dog in, placing a piece of ribbon around its neck, and watched as it took a seat in the corner. The ribbon glowed brightly, and a moment later, the dementors still hovering nearby started becoming agitated as they sensed human emotions emanating from the dog.

To Hermione's eyes, however, it looked as though the dog had been replaced with a copy of Sirius. It was nothing more than an illusion, of course. It fooled the dementors, and it fooled human eyesight. She quietly whispered into Sirius's ear for him to transform, and several minutes later, the three of them returned in the direction they had come, still accompanied by a stark, shaggy black dog.

One of the Aurors glanced down at the mangy thing as they passed. "You ought to take better care of your dog, miss."

"Oh, don't worry," Hermione said, as the dog glanced up at them with soulful, sunken eyes. "I will."

She then turned to glance at Minister, who was stepping into the boat they were to leave by, and as she took a seat next to him, she discretely pulled out her wand. He could not be allowed to remember that Sirius was an Animagus. An illegal one, at that. But he could remember that he had been instrumental in letting a wanted prisoner escape; the ruin it would bring to his career if he tried to reveal her part in it would make him hold his silence.

The boat was crossing the sea, and they were nearing sight of land when she pressed the tip of her wand into the Minister's neck.

"Obliviate!"

~o~O~o~

Tine Cottage had not been used by the Order for nearly three years, yet Nicholas Flamel had never requested that they no longer use it. Anyone was free to still pop in, but years after the war had ended, no one was particularly inclined to. No one lived there, no one used it, and after all this time, those who were privy to its location had all but forgotten it.

It was where Hermione arrived with a bedraggled and faint-looking Sirius Black, who collapsed at the kitchen table the moment they arrived, in his human form, sobbing.

Hermione did not try to dissuade him from doing so, but summoned a blanket for him, wrapping it around his shoulders for comfort, and then went through the cupboards for something to prepare, having stocked it three days prior. Several minutes later, she had warm soup stewing on the stove, and stirred it lightly as she listened to her friend let out his misery. Thin chicken noodle soup was served to him ten minutes later, not too rich to upset his severely weakened digestive system, but enough to start him off with.

As he ate, Hermione sat next to him, explaining the measures she had taken to help him escape.

"No one else knows," she told him quietly, as he hunched over his soup, his eyes shut in painful bliss at the first real food he had been privileged to in nearly four years. "No one elsecan know. I've worked out the contingencies beforehand, and we'll go over those, but first—we need to get some food in you."

"How—why?" Sirius asked hoarsely as he finished swallowing down another mouthful of soup. "Why would you help me?"

"I know you didn't betray James and Lily, Sirius."

"No. I would never."

Hermione nodded. "The world doesn't believe that, but I know better."

He turned to look at her, his eyes dark and sunken, nearly lifeless, though a faint flicker seemed to pass through them.

"Thank you, Hermione," he rasped, his tone piteous and grateful. "Thank you."

~o~O~o~

Sirius became Hermione's Secret. The one secret she kept from Severus, the thought she guarded jealously from the Headmaster, the knowledge that she hid from the world. She did not have a proper chance to sit down and fully discuss the series of events that had occurred after his imprisonment until well after a month later. He had progressed to solid food within two weeks, and was now eating three proper meals a day. He was still a skeletal figure, but the edge was taken off marginally, he had improved. Hermione knew he would bear the physical marks of his imprisonment for the rest of his life, but every time she saw him, he seemed to return more to himself. More to the man she remembered, the boy she had grown up with in Gryffindor house, the one who had always been at James Potter's side whenever mischief called.

"Harry's living with his aunt and uncle in Surrey," Hermione told him one evening, as she prepared a dinner of steak and spaghetti for him. She went to Flourish and Blotts to browse for books every Wednesday afternoon, and for half an hour afterward, she would Apparate to Tine Cottage for a visit. "I confess that they don't treat him well, but he is alive and much better off than he would be in the several alternatives I can think of. And he will be going to Hogwarts, in just a few years," she murmured, chopping some strawberries into a bowl before bringing it to the table with the rest of the meal. Sirius dug in heartily. "He'll be fine."

"Do you ever check up on him?" Sirius asked, in between ravenous bites of spaghetti.

"Occasionally," Hermione confessed. "I drop by about once a year, just linger out in front of the house, to catch a glimpse of him."

"He looks like James?"

"He looks like James. With Lily's eyes."

"I'm glad," Sirius whispered.

Hermione smiled. She didn't need to ask what he meant.

"And you?" he prodded, now moving on to the steak, mincing it into tiny pieces to make it easier to eat. His teeth had suffered, and though Hermione was repairing them with a bit of magic and discrete advice from Madam Pomfrey, they were still yellow and a bit loose in the gums. They would tighten up with repeated use of the Root-Strengthening Spell, she hoped. "You haven't told me about what you're doing with your life. Married? Kids? A bunch of curly-headed swots to come home to after a long day at the Ministry?"

Hermione laughed. "Nope."

"Not a spinster, I hope." Sirius was grinning almost playfully at this, a gesture that made Hermione's heart lighten with happiness that he was slowly but surely recovering.

"I'm married," she informed him. A pause, and then she let the other shoe drop. "My name is now Hermione Jane Snape."

There was a long, loud silence. Sirius's jaw dropped open, showing an uncomplimentary mix of the mashed steak in his mouth, and then he shut it quickly.

"Snape? You married Snape?"

Hermione held up the ring on her finger for him to see.

"Just remember that he's the man I love," she told him warningly.

Sirius's mouth twisted slightly, and it was several moments before he forced out the only neutral words he could manage. "I honestly never thought he was the marrying type."

Hermione shook her head, although she was smiling slightly. "We both teach at Hogwarts. I'm the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. My husband teaches Potions."

Sirius winced at the usage of 'my husband'. "I see. He doesn't know about me?"

"I love him, but I'm not stupid," Hermione said, leaning back in her chair.

"Small, heavenly mercies."

"Eat your dinner, Padfoot."

For the rest of the summer, Hermione paid Sirius a visit once a week. She bought him food, Transfigured his prison robes into plain, charcoal-grey ones that looked shabby but did their job. His teeth and gums recovered enough that he could eat solids without having to mince or mash them, and though he was still a haunted, gaunt figure, his ribs had disappeared ever so marginally, and his stomach was starting to pack on a little more flesh, though not by much. Hermione had set the rules for Tine Cottage from week one, giving him permission to wander around outside near the cottage as long as he was in his Animagus form, but forbidding him from going down to the nearby village or the sea. The fresh air did him good nonetheless, and he appreciated it all the same.

When school resumed, Hermione arranged for food to be sent to him from the kitchens once a week, finding one of the elves and appealing to their natural urge to be helpful, as well as the secondary one that was to go overboard and stuff someone full when they had only asked for a snack. Thus, the house elves she recruited were only too happy to send food to Tine Cottage, and from the unsigned letter she received from Sirius, he got the deliveries and enjoyed them immensely. Hermione was unable to visit him, but now that he was able to care for himself, she was content to let him work off of what the elves sent him.

On Halloween, she personally delivered to him a package of sweets that came from the stash the house elves had supplied at the feast. It was the first time she had given him candy, and though she warned him to take it easy with it, she got the impression that he had enjoyed the treats when and where he could get them.

Happy that Sirius was now well-cared and provided for, Hermione returned almost her entire focus to her work and her husband. During the summer, the times she had visited Sirius had been inconspicuous and unnoticeable. During the first two months of school, Severus noted to her that she had occasionally seemed thoughtful, distracted even. Now, however, he was pleased that whatever project that had been occupying her mind was apparently complete, and demonstrated it thoroughly.

The year passed without incident. Hermione remained in touch with Sirius with occasional, nondescript letters and inquiries concerning his needs and welfare.

The following Christmas was a delightful affair. They exchanged gifts and then spent their day in front of the fire, curled up on the sheepskin rug, with tea, a blanket, and a book. Christmas was often the only occasion Hermione could be guaranteed to see her husband's normally austere face soften. He was strict and unrelenting with the students, harsh to a degree that made even her cringe on occasion, and it was difficult for him to let go at the end of the day. But at Christmas, Hermione was treated to the side of her husband that he saved only for her, and it was on special days like this one that they could enjoy the lassitude of it properly.

His birthday, however, was another story. They had begun celebrating it with not only a trip to Fortescue's, but free rein to act out whatever sexual fantasy he wished. They would go out of their way to make it possible, to set aside the time and collect whatever materials might be needed in order to go through with it. Hermione's birthday was celebrated in a similar manner: it was the one day where she had her husband entirely at her mercy, and enjoyed it so. The year before, she had daringly tied him up and then teased him ruthlessly to the point where he had lowered himself to begging. This year, for his birthday, Severus wanted to try something that was again a little different, but would take more planning and consideration than they could normally set the time aside to do.

Given that Hermione knew what he was planning in advance this year—it was the end of 1985 now, a year since she had freed Sirius— and knowing that since his birthday fell on a weekday this year, they chose to go through with his gift during the Yule holidays and simply have ice cream on the actual day his natal day fell upon. Ice cream was no problem: arranging a fantasy needed uninterrupted time. They couldn't do it if they were both dealing with work.

It was how on Boxing Day, Hermione found herself mentally reviewing what they had planned out as she lay down on their bed, stripping her clothes off and setting them aside. She was unclasping the back of her bra when a warm, familiar breath gusted over her ear, and she felt another pair of hands helping her remove it. She felt him gathering her curls up into a knot on top of her head, lifting them up just enough to bare her neck, before she felt his lips begin nibbling on them.

His hands released her hair, and began sliding down her waist, trailing down to her legs. Hermione arched her head back and moaned as he went straight for the target, dipping his fingers below the waistband and stroking her.

Suddenly, without apparent warning—though Hermione had known this would happen—she found herself being flipped onto her back, her arms pinned by invisible bonds across the bed, leaving her utterly and completely exposed. This fantasy—this fantasy, for him, was to imagine that he had snuck into her room late one night, while they were both still students. That he had found her alone and undressing, and seducing her by the sheer virtue of taking her by surprise, had then incapacitated her enough to have his way. It was the fantasy of a teenager who desperately wanted to have her without reserve, and as Hermione began struggling against her bonds, knowing that it was exactly what he wanted, she couldn't help inwardly wondering just how often this particular scenario had dominated his thoughts while he had masturbated to thoughts of her.

Nothing about this scenario was real. Had it been, Hermione would have had him flat on his back, rather than being caught off-guard long enough to be made vulnerable. She would have been screaming her lungs out, using whatever wandless magic she was capable of to help herself. But this was a scenario based off the notion that she wanted it, and yet did not want, yet knew that she did, and his job was to shake her resolve not to have him by any means possible. It was a pure fantasy, which was the only reason why Hermione would ever agree to it. Because not only did she want Severus to enjoy his birthday—however his fantasy played out—she was genuinely interested in seeing what he would try. This was for both their pleasures.

She felt him hook his fingers in the waistband of her knickers, and begin sliding them down almost tauntingly. Hermione struggled in vain, wriggling underneath his hands, trying to shake him off futilely.

She let out a yelp as he surged over her, just as naked as she was, wearing a lascivious expression.

"I knew you wanted it."

"Liar!" Hermione snarled, struggling fruitlessly against the invisible ropes holding her arms in place. Her legs were free to move, but she was not exactly inclined to start kicking him. "You had me by surprise!"

"Still," he purred, leaning to whisper into her ear, "your reaction was rather… suggestive."

Hermione bared her teeth at him. "I'm certain your reaction would be just as suggestive if I ambushed you by the balls!"

"Only if I already wanted you, I think."

"Well I don't!"

He bent down to nuzzle her cheek, one hand maneuvering between her legs to continue where he had left off in pleasuring her. She was wet. She had been wet from the start, thanks to the lust potion he had slipped in her pumpkin juice earlier at lunch, as a part of his plan. It was a slow-acting one, but now that he had lit the fire underneath her, so to speak, it was racing through her veins, setting her whole body trembling with temptation for him. She was naturally not inclined to protest against him to begin with, such was the depth of her natural attraction to him, but with that potion acting like lighter fluid for her arousal…

The lust potion was a passing fancy of his, to see what she would be like tied up and helpless, with a raging need for him, and unable to find satisfaction unless he helped her. Already, it was making her whimper with need, even though she continued to try and protest. Yet, his thumbs had begun massaging the sides of her labia, slicking her with her own wetness, and given that she could actually smell her own arousal, she was certain he could too.

It certainly did nothing to deter him. A moment to bend down, giving her a long lick from clit to slit, and then he began suckling on her in earnest. Hermione nearly shrieked at this, now struggling not because she wanted to get free, but because—sod the fantasy!—she had to touch him, had to bury her fingers in his hair and press him down on her just right…

"You know, given your current reaction, I'm very much inclined to call you a liar," he murmured against her.

"Bastard," Hermione whimpered without reserve.

He nuzzled and nipped at her clitoris for a moment, and then pulled away, pressing the tip of his erection against her entrance. "You want this, don't you?"

"Yes—no—yes—no, no," Hermione moaned. Two sides of her were screaming for the affirmative, but the barely-sane part of her that was still trying to keep in line with his fantasy was reminding her that she was not supposed to make it this easy for him. "No—don't you dare!"

"Pity. You certainly look as though you need it." He ground himself against her anyway, and then withdrew, causing her to whine involuntarily in protest at the loss. "Your mouth says one thing, but your body says another."

Hermione bit her lower lip, attempting to shove aside the effects of the lust potion—a rather fruitless attempt, really, but it was all she had going for her—long enough to shake her head.

She watched as he leaned back on his haunches, twisting as he stretched over to reach for something on the nightstand. Hermione's neck strained painfully as she tried to see what it was that he was retrieving, and then her brows furrowed in confusion as she stared at the unfamiliar bottle. Panting heavily, with a mixture of natural and potion-induced lust, she posed the query to him. "What…what is that?"

"An experiment of mine."

"Oh no—oh no—you are not using me as your—your guinea pig!"

"I'm afraid that right now, you really don't have much choice." He unscrewed the lid, tilting the jar in her direction so that she could see the rose-colored cream, and then leaned back toward the nightstand to retrieve something else—a bit of cotton cloth—before dipping it in the cream. A moment to swirl it around, making certain that was thoroughly saturated, and then he pried her legs apart—she had clamped them shut upon seeing the jar of unknown ointment—and, hooking one of them over his shoulder and holding it there to stop her from blocking him again, he placed the cloth against her folds.

Hermione was genuinely curious as to what it was supposed to do. The academic in her was fascinated at the thought of what he might have done; he had told her beforehand that he was going to try something of his own devising, in addition to the lust potion, but he had merely smirked and refused to respond when she had inquired precisely what the experiment was. Hermione had not been particularly bothered, but now—now she was deadly curious, and combined with the fact that her body already felt on fire, and she badly wanted to throw the whole fantasy aside, free herself, and tackle him to the ground and fuck him—

"Oh!" She let out something that was between a gasp and a yelp, as she felt the skin where Severus was rubbing the cloth start to pulse unmistakable with need. He had placed something on there, something that made her undeniably more sensitive, made her need for sexual satiation more acute. She bit down hard on her lip, her head falling back against the mattress, as she tried to grind herself against the cloth, trying to garner what little friction she could—

Unfortunately, in this case, it was like trying to scratch a mosquito bite. Or more accurately, alleviate an itch from poison ivy by scratching the spot with something that still had poison ivy on it. The cloth was giving her only the faintest relief with the friction it provided, but it was also rubbing the cream more thoroughly into her folds, which merely resulted in exacerbating the problem. She could feel her folds pulsing with need, swollen and just plain needy

"Oh, fuck—fuck!"

"Language, Hermione."

He had pulled the cloth away, dipped it back into the jar, and was now lathering it over her again—even going so far as to dip it in slightly into her slit, causing her to buck as her body became increasingly frantic with need. She swore at him, and he merely watched her with amusement as she struggled to find some way to alleviate the need herself. Her attempts at finding friction were only resulting in exacerbating the problem, and in Hermione's opinion, he was clearly enjoying himself too much as he swiped more of the ointment onto the cloth, twisting it against the jar, and then pressed it deeper into her. Right into her passage.

Hermione's jaw dropped.

"Oh—fucking—mother of…"

Her body was already aflame with need for him, and if nothing else, that could be attributed to the lust potion. Her folds and her cunt, however, were almost unbearable; Hermione needed relief, and she needed it now, and the bastard was just sitting there and making it worse.

He pushed the cloth in as far as he could, and then withdrew it, before moving to take another helping of cream, this time rubbing it onto her nipples. They began to tingle warningly as the cloth, damp with both her juices and the bloody damned ointment, rubbed against them.

"Shite, Severus, stop!" Hermione wriggled and writhed uncontrollably, simply incapable of holding still, as her body waged war with her senses. She was moaning, nearly incoherent, but her words got the meaning across well enough. "Stop—fuck me, please, just stop—!"

"I thought you didn't want that." She was going to kill the bastard for this. Him and his silky baritone—

"I lied! I lied!"

He was smirking openly at her, as trailed the cloth mercilessly down her belly, causing it to flutter in anticipation under his ministrations. A moment later, he set it down, scourgifying his hands in case they had come in contact with the contaminated part of the cloth, and then wordlessly crumpled it into a ball. He picked it up gingerly, and then placed it at her lips.

"Open up."

Hermione bit down on her lower lip in refusal to comply, her eyes wide as she stared at the cloth with something akin to horror. He pressed it firmly against her lips, prodding her to obey.

"If you don't take this into your mouth, I won't give you what you want."

She let out an involuntary, muffled whimper. She felt his erection grind ever so slightly against her clitoris, and let out a high-pitched whine of need when he retreated a moment later.

"Open up," he purred, tracing the corner of her lip with one finger. "Or I'll put this somewhere else."

Hermione let out a moan, but shook her head, mouth clamped shut. He pulled the cloth away, and slowly began trailing it down her belly again, before pressing it instead at her entrance yet again.

"I'll put it in there instead of my cock," he growled.

Hermione's eyes widened even further, and she shook her head frantically, letting out a whimpering half-moan.

He gave her a cruel smirk, and pressed it into her ever so slightly. "I'll leave it there and go find a book to read."

Hermione let out a squeal and a gasp of outrage. Her lips parted. "You wouldn't!"

"Wouldn't I?" He challenged, wearing a sneering smile that was clearly triumphant.

Hermione wibbled for a moment, still writhing on the bed in wanton need, and then she obediently opened her mouth. He pulled the cloth away from her legs, quickly bringing it to her lips, and pressed it inside. Her mouth closed around it, and immediately, she tasted the cream mixed with her juices—an odd, odd combination of tastes—and felt her mouth begin to tingle slightly.

He sat back to watch her for a moment as she worked her jaw, trying to alleviate the sensations that were beginning to overtake her mouth. She jerked against her bonds, her mind empty and gone and replaced with one single need. She barely registered when he grasped her legs, hooking them both securely over his shoulders, and he leaned forward until she was almost doubled over, before pressing the tip of his erection against her again.

"Yes," he said, his tone thoughtful as he took in the glazed expression on her face. "I'd rather say you certainly look like you want this."

She let out a muffled whimper and a moan, both agreeing with him and begging him to hurry up.

Severus smirked, pressed his face forward until their noses were touching, nuzzling for a moment, before he slammed into her.

Oh, bliss! Hermione threw her head back again, nearly smacking her head into his, as she felt pleasurable delight and a fraction of advertised relief. The sensations in her mouth were not nearly as intense as the rest of her body—in fact, the more she worked it, the more it seemed to alleviate the tingling itch of pleasure roiling through her tongue, and she chewed and bit down on the cloth all the harder.

Severus began thrusting into her hard, pounding into her and meeting no resistance; she was too wet for that. Furthermore, it was pleasurable on several levels, and a little over ten seconds in, Hermione felt herself clamping down on him in sudden orgasm. She was that overwrought with pleasure, so on edge that the slightest bit of relief tipped her over—and then again and again, until she was spasming around him, squeezing like a hot, wet vise.

He grunted in surprise at this, clearly not expecting this reaction. Hermione had never experienced anything like this, and by logical extrapolation, Severus had not experienced anything like it either; he wouldn't have known, couldn't have known, what it would feel like to have Hermione strangling him in this particular manner. It hardly stopped him, for he merely began moving harder, faster, if somewhat more erratically.

Hermione clamped her eyes shut, unable to keep them open; she felt light-headed and dizzy, spots appearing in her vision behind her eyelids, and the sensation in her loins was only magnified by the lack of sight to distract her. His thrusts were providing certain relief, and she could feel the effects of the cream wearing off, but it no-less reduced the effect of the lust potion still running rampant through her body.

She was not at all satisfied when he let out a grunt, his hips jerking, as he came inside her. She let out noise between a whine and a squeal, muffled by the cloth in her mouth, and struggled against the bonds holding her down. He pulled away, letting her legs thump back onto the bed, as he watched her still writhing with need. Hermione's eyes flew open as she felt him remove her bonds. A moment to roll over onto her belly so that she could push herself onto shaky elbows, and then she managed to pull herself upright and tackle him.

In hindsight, he should have expected this. Hermione simply couldn't control herself. He might be satisfied, but she was not, and she scrabbled at him with all the gentleness of a feral animal, pushing him down on the bed and grinding herself against his leg. She tried to lean over to spit out the cloth, but Severus's hand clamping over her mouth sent the message through her fuzzy, desire-soaked brain that he didn't want her to, and instead made do by tucking her chin on his shoulder, burying her face in the sheets as she rocked against him, seeking more relief.

"Unbelievable," she heard him mutter, as he brought one hand between them to slip two fingers into her passage, his thumb massaging her clit. She shuddered around his fingers, clamping tightly, in yet another orgasm, and he let out an exclamation of disbelief. "Merlin—you're insatiable."

"Mroarh frault," Hermione mumbled incoherently, still gagged by the cloth.

His sharp intake of breath told her that he was perhaps finally realizing that he may have gone too far—or at least, misjudged how effective his creation was, combined with the lust potion, and a woman's ability to be continuously pleasured. Perhaps he had tested it on himself earlier and achieved a different sort of result—she did not know. Or perhaps he had not realized what the consequences of using such copious amounts would be. Nevertheless, he was now reaping the rewards, and as soon as the surprise had worn off, he had flipped her back onto her back, taking a moment to stroke himself back to hardness before thrusting inside her again.

They spent the next hour fucking. It was the most accurate term for it. It ended by degrees; Hermione went from frantic to merely desperate, to finally just in need of a little friction, a little pleasure by his hands. She writhed against the bedding as he took her from behind, alleviating the ridiculous amount of cream he had used on her passage as well as the stuff he had used on her belly. It ended with her curled up next to him, tired and thoroughly satiated, boneless to the core, and her eyes fluttering shut as he suckled gently on her nipples, scraping them every now and then with his teeth.

She was exhausted. Had things gone as planned, he might not have been before, but now Severus was thoroughly worn out. Inwardly pleased at the success of his experiment, a little put-out at how he had failed to gauge the right dosage, and just as worn-out and boneless as his wife. Her cheek was pressed against his chest, and she let out a little sigh of satisfaction before her eyes closed completely and she snuggled against him. He released her breast with a slight pop, taking a moment to tuck a stray lock of hair that had reverted to its naturally bushy state out of her face, before closing his own eyes and deciding that a nap was most certainly in order.

Hours later, he was awoken by a weak smack in the face with a pillow.

"I am never… ever… going to agree to be a guinea pig for your experiments. Ever," Hermione moaned, and he rolled over to watch her sit up, wincing and moving gingerly as she did so.

"I confess that things did not go as planned."

"That was rather obvious when I tackled you, I think," Hermione said dryly, working herself off the bed to see if her body was still in functioning order. She grimaced, and then turned to give him a tired, half-hearted glare. "For this, I am going to short-sheet your bed."

"We're married," Severus reminded her, moving to push her back down and retrieving his wand to summon two glasses of water. Hermione did not protest to this, but sat up and drank the glass down gratefully when it appeared. "You'd end up short-sheeting your bed, too."

"I'll sleep on the rug," Hermione groused.

"I'm afraid to ask how you plan to get downstairs, much less short-sheet the bed in the first place."

Hermione let out a weak chuckle, and then rolled over onto her side, snuggling into his chest. "I'm going to take another nap. When I wake up, if I've figured it out, I'll tell you."

Severus tugged the pillow she had used to smack him with over to his head, given that his neck was sore from sleeping at an awkward angle, and settled down to relax. "I look forward to it."

"Mmm. Yes." Hermione sighed and closed her eyes. "What do you want for breakfast tomorrow?"

"Whatever you're up to making, at this point," Severus drawled.

Hermione laughed. "Happy birthday, love."


Please review!

~Anubis Ankh