Dear reader: FFN is currently holding its reviews hostage, hence why I have been unable to reply to you and am still in the dark as to whether or not you enjoyed the last chapter. In any case, the story is now finally complete. I might write out the sequel someday –there's a Snape-shaped hole in my soul that needs filling– and if it turns out somewhat passable, I might post that too.

Until such a time, thank you very much for reading!

~o~

Angel's Trumpet: Home

Severus came out of Rose's room soon after. He looked not quite himself with the bedraggled hair and in nothing but a cotton tee shirt – he would usually wear clothes that gave off a more severe impression. Yet he would have looked very much at home had he not stopped to stand awkward and stiff by her coffee table.

"Do you want anything?" she asked nervously, sensing a change in atmosphere with Rose not there. "I might still have a few drops of that port left. Or perhaps you would prefer something stronger?" Her eyes landed on the parcel of angel's trumpet from Cavan, which lay on the kitchen countertop. "Or do you have to do something about that immediately? I wasn't sure how far that vial would last you, but if you have to brew a potion now, I could help."

Apparently, her default reflex to them being alone was to chat excessively. Not a good strategy for what she had in mind, especially when suggesting he do something completely different.

"It can wait," he said softly, sending a jolt of excitement through her. "I want…"

She caught the faintest grimace in his expression, but he did not have to explain, for she wanted it as well. Swallowing, she approached him slowly.

"I'm so happy to have you back," she said. "I was at the trial, you know, I think you saw me. But until Harry came this evening, I almost feared they would change their minds."

"Mm." He backed against the sofa a bit, resting his hand on its headrest and watching her come closer.

"Are you tired?" she asked.

"No." His eyes widened. She saw the lie in them and the alarm, and she knew that if she didn't act now, she never would. Her gaze caught on a wet patch on his shirt from where is hair was drying.

"Your hair is wet." Taking what felt like a giant leap, she touched him there.

He blinked. "I can–"

"No. I like your hair." She traced a streak of grey lodged in between the black. Her hand found his cheek while his remained passively by his sides.

"I like you face. I like your nose." She touched him there as well, receiving an incredulous look in reply.

"I like your eyes."

"They're nothing special."

But they were. And as she looked into them she thought she could almost see his mind. Like she was performing legilimency on him –even though she had no idea how.

She saw his hopes there. She saw him having always been alone, not by choice, but simply by being who he was. And she saw that he was terrified that she would leave him too.

Her fingers found his lips and after a moment's hesitation, she leaned in and exchanged them for her mouth.

It was achingly gentle. Her lungs had no air. The kiss they shared in the infirmary a lifetime ago had been nothing like this. That was exploration, a voyage into a new, unknown land she had longed to reach. It had been instinct and excitement and joy.

This was different. This kiss was not as much about pleasure, it was a question. Not an erotic one, but fragile. He told her things with his lips and they were the same as what she had seen in his eyes.

"Severus," she murmured in reproach, pulling back a bit. "Don't you know I love you?"

At last he stirred, placing his arms slowly on her shoulders to look upon her face. After a moment's hesitation, he hugged her tightly. "You must have lost your mind," he whispered into her hair. "But I won't complain. You'll never hear me complain."

She snaked her arms around his waist and listened to his heartbeat, tilting her head up slightly with a mind to kiss him again. His mouth had that perfect bow she loved, though his teeth were a little uneven admittedly, and not quite white any more. Yet…they were perfectly fine, now that she had a good look at them. Perfectly something.

"…and your teeth," she murmured. "I love them too."

He snorted; a gentle huff of breath that tickled her forehead. "Your eyesight is surely worse than mine."

"Will you sleep with me tonight?" she blurted.

He looked suddenly terrified. "Yes. You want–?"

How could someone so clever be so silly? It was enough to make her blush. But Hermione took a deep breath. She could be brave enough for the both of them. "Of course I do," she said. Untangling from his embrace, she took his hand in hers and tugged. "Come with me."

She placed Severus on her bed and there he remained as she discarded her blouse without ceremony. His eyes trailed down her body, eating up every detail, as though he wanted to preserve the memory of her forever.

"Oh," he said quietly. "You're–"

"Thank you." She smiled. "May I?"

He watched her in silence as she pulled the tee shirt over his head. It had grown on her since first acquaintance and she would surely insist he wore it again sometime. Perhaps she would tease him about it later, in a gentle way. She dearly enjoyed seeing if she could make him loose his mask and smile. But now she needed more.

Severus had a fine dusting of hair in the centre of his chest. She glimpsed some of it beneath his arms as well and it trailed over his stomach and downward into mystery. Something curled, deep in her belly, and she didn't care if her cheeks were aflame.

"I've waited so long to touch you."

"I waited longer," he said, his fingers finding a path down her bare arm. "I was convinced you would prefer Hern over me. By all accounts, you still should." He looked up at her with a spark of mirth in his eyes. "Perhaps we ought to check you for jinxes, just in case."

"I have no need for a cursebreaker." She straddled him with girlish glee and her trusty old bedframe creaked when she pushed him down into the hollow in the middle of the mattress. "Is there a way to explain love, Severus? Why do you love me? I'm not perfect either."

"You could have fooled me." His eyes lingered on the curse scar by her left breast. "Who would not love you?"

"You'll let me fool you now?" She laughed; they joy of being with him bubbling up from somewhere deep inside her. "That's very agreeable of you. And convenient for me."

"I'll let you do anything you want," he said seriously.

"And if I want you?"

He squeezed her thigh, hard enough to leave a bruise. "That too."

It was everything she wanted to hear – what she had longed for during long autumn months. She let her hand roam from the bend of his elbow to the rounding of his shoulder. From there, her fingers went to the scar on his neck and down to the dip of his jugular notch. The combination of his warm, soft skin and the manly sturdiness made her breath quicken.

He was far from what most women would consider ideal, yet Hermione found that those crooked, imperfect bits of him intriguing. Like the chipped teeth and the small paunch he had, which gently rounded out the sharp angles of his ribs. Or that jagged scar in the centre of his chest that she would ask him about some day.

Her fingers walked down past his sternum and he trembled. From her position on his lap, she could tell he was more than ready for her.

"Take it off," she grunted, getting up and doing short work of her own trousers. "Since you're offering, I'll have all of you."

He complied with the swiftness of a teenager and before she had the time to react and get a proper look at him, he was on top of her. But it did not matter. She would take her time with him another day.

His hair hung in stings around her face, like ink, and his nose pressed into her cheek as he kissed her. He was heavy, but it felt just right with his weight pressing her down.

He pulled back to look at her.

"It's…been awhile," he said softly, "…longer than I'd care to admit."

"Do it," she whispered, locking her legs behind his back. Her body needed no further persuasion today than the sight of him and the anticipation of feeling him inside. "That's okay, do it now."

He sank into her and she clutched at his shoulders, tugging forward to draw him close, and then pushing him slightly away. He went along with her motion, arching his back a little, and the low groan he made, deep in his throat, was almost pained.

She touched herself as they moved like one, chasing their pleasure together. It was as though they had always been lovers.

~o~

Severus jerked awake with a gasp and a racing heart, thinking for a split second that he was about to fall off the wrought-iron bench in Azkaban. It was pitch dark and he was faintly aware of a presence by his side. Proudfoot? No. His mind was foggy. Had Greyback finally escaped his cell?

But then the someone snivelled softly –something he could imagine neither Greyback nor Proudfoot would ever do– and he felt a tiny hand on his arm.

"Rose?" He exhaled shakily.

"Sev'rus," she said, hiccupping. "The monster beneath my bed has taken Kitten."

The relief made him almost want to laugh, but he composed himself for Rose's sake –she had a tendency to take her toys' wellbeing very seriously.

"Hush, child." He took her hand in his own and stood, biting back a curse as he stubbed a toe on the bedside cabinet. Aided by Rose's excellent night vision, they made it safely out of the bedroom.

"I can't sleep," said Rose, wiping tears on her sleeve. Severus couldn't see her face well in the dim light, but the sounds of her breath told him she was still crying.

"Come here." He picked her up and she wound her small arms around his neck. "I happen to know something that might help."

He felt her nod against his cheek, her nose making small wet spots on his nightshirt. Ah well, away went the need for a tissue. He carried her into Hermione's small kitchen where he placed her atop the counter. "Sit here for a moment, Rose, and try not to fall down, hm?"

"Okay." They both squinted against the light when he opened the fridge. It wasn't strictly needed at the castle, but Hermione kept a small supply of rations in there. Probably for just these kind of situations, he thought as he pulled out a small bottle.

"I don't have my glasses on, Rose. Is this the milk you're used to drinking?" At her nod, he poured some over to a small casserole to heat it.

"Why can't you sleep then?" he asked while searching the room for cups. "Did you drop your kitten on the floor?"

"The monster took it." Rose shivered as she shifted to show him the right cupboard. "I think it's under my bed. I had to jump and run to get to you and then it was…dark."

"Huh." He wouldn't tell her that monsters did not exist, because he certainly knew to the contrary. Although they didn't usually lurk under little girl's beds.

"Sometimes," he said quietly, stirring the milk, "back when I was head of house, the first-years would wake up in the night as well."

"They did?" Rose watched him with interest, unaware that such childish afflictions also happened to eleven-year olds.

"All the time." He turned the heat off when steam started rising from the casserole. "Can you guess what the house elves did for them?"

Rose smiled wanly. "They made warm milk, didn't they?"

"That's right." He poured two cups and handed one to her. "They did it when someone were sick as well. Or homesick, even." He watched her while tasting his own, swallowing with a small sigh. "Is it working?"

"Thanks, Sev'rus, it works. But your hug worked almost better." She giggled softly, the signs of distress slowly fading. "Do you have warm milk as well?"

"Mm, even I wake up at night sometimes." He didn't have to mention his earlier scare thinking of Greyback, nor that he sometimes had nightmares about the Dark Lord. "And if I can't sleep this is the best remedy."

"Better than potions?"

"Much better." He smiled when Rose cracked a yawn. "Almost as good as a hug. Do you think you can sleep now?"

"Mhm." She slid drowsily off the counter, not minding the height at all, and leaned into him to bury her face in his shirt. "Carry me?"

"All right." He picked her up and placed the empty cups and the casserole in the sink to deal with in the morning. Rose's arms were limp when she hugged him and she was practically asleep by the time he carried her to her room.

He placed her snugly beneath the covers and when finding poor Kitten on the floor next to the bed, he placed it in the crook of her arm, watching as she nuzzled it to her chest in sleepy recognition.

What a marvel she was. So pure and bright, so easy to forgive. Lightly brushing a fiery curl from her forehead, he found it hard to tear his eyes off her.

He tried his best to be quiet when toeing his way back to Hermione's room. And both for Rose's benefit and his own, he let the door just slightly ajar so that a sliver of light found its way across the floor.

It was strange, almost foreign, to sleep like a normal bed again. And what was stranger still, was the feeling when Hermione snuggled into his side with a content sigh, entwining her legs with his in her sleep.

He had wanted to wait up for her earlier. Somehow, to know that this was truly real, he had wanted to watch her just like this. After their time together, she had slinked off to the bathroom and closed the door. But he hadn't slept properly for days. And then the sounds of her brushing her teeth or washing her face or whatever it was she was doing in there were probably the most relaxing and grounding thing he had ever experienced.

But he could watch her now and so he did.

He lay there for a long time, listening to her even breaths, and when she shifted again and a chilly hand crept up beneath his shirt in search of warmth, he placed his own hand on top of hers and pressed it close.

Much later, he drifted awake to the sensation of feather light touches caressing him. They traced the lines on his brow, between his eyes, tickled the bridge of his nose, fluttered down his cheek and ended up in his hair where they played around with it clumsily in an odd sort of pattern. It felt like someone unqualified was trying to braid it.

He sighed and opened one eye to squint at the sparse rays of light that made the hoarfrost on the stained glass window sparkle. It had to be early in the morning. The sun wasn't fully up yet, but dawn was breaking. Since he went away, the weather in Scotland had tuned for the colder, but he was snug beneath the blanket.

The old bedframe creaked a little when he shifted. The sheets smelled like laundry soap and Hermione.

He turned his head to the side to see Rose sit above him at the edge of the mattress. Her face was blurry still; he had not yet managed to blink the fog from his eyes. But he could tell that her pyjama was green with a pink dinosaur on the chest, contrasting vividly with her shock of red hair, which stood out every which way.

Her eyes sparkled as she looked down at him. They were full of life and trust and a warm pain went through him. Severus went with his hand to smoothen her hair, stroking it slightly, and he felt a little awkward of doing it.

"I didn't think you'd still be here," said Rose. Her tiny hands gave up on the braid and went to pluck gently on the neckline of his shirt, not quite touching the scar form Nagini.

Severus rolled over slightly, concealing a small frown as he did. He hadn't thought he'd be here either, in every sense of the word. And that he was, exactly where he wanted to be for once in his life, was so unbelievable that it scared him slightly.

"I am," he said, trying to appear confident. "I promised that, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did." Rose grinned. "Why is Mum still sleeping?"

And with that simple gesture, she washed away his fears. It went into him, lodging itself somewhere beneath his breastbone. She asked him as though it was something he should know. As though all this –him, here in Hermione's room- was normal and not something new and fragile. As though this was what the future looked like. It felt like a closed door had somehow opened up for him.

Severus nodded, placing a finger at his lips to quiet her. "Leave her be, child. Yesterday was a long day."

"Yes," whispered Rose impatiently, "but it's morning now. You've been asleep for a very long time. And we have so much to do."

Of course they had. Severus knew from the look on Rose's face that a day of playing doll lay before him, but he didn't mind in the least. He would be anything she wanted him to be.

"I want breakfast first." He paused to look at his hands, which were still sore and useless. He wouldn't be making any potions today. But it didn't matter. Nothing of that mattered anymore. He didn't need his hands to be Lady Marian. "I want eggs," he murmured to himself. "And sausages…and coffee." He stretched his back carefully and groaned. "I think a train ran me over."

Rose watched him and there was suddenly a shyness in her eyes. "You do look tired." She pulled back a little and bit her bottom lip. "Sev'rus, you're not going aaway again, are you?"

As though he could. Here he was thinking he was the one to be abandoned, and she managed to put him to shame.

"Never," he said. No matter what happened, he would find a way. "My sweet Rose. I love you like you were my daughter. I'm not leaving you for anything."

Rose smiled as though the full force of the sun was inside her. She jumped him, in that way she had, all pointy knees and wild hair and edgy elbows and her little hands were around his neck and she clung to him for dear life.

He closed his arms around her as she whispered a happy "Sev'rus" in his ear.