The bell above the door jingled and Severus looked up from his ledger to see Draco Malfoy trudging into his apothecary with his face grey and ashen; his eyes red-rimmed.
"She died, Uncle," he said, his chest heaving. "Astoria died. The blood curse. It…"
"Oh, my dear boy," Severus muttered as he stepped away from the counter and flicked the sign on the door to 'Closed,' with his wand. "I am so sorry."
"I just wanted you to know in person," Draco said, obviously fighting back the tears. "You, Hermione, Liam and Aislinn, Rose and Hugo are more than welcome to come...to the funeral."
"Of course, we will be there," Severus said, patting his godson on his shoulder. "But the twins?"
"Astoria loved babies and would have liked a big family if it wasn't for the curse." He sniffed and shuddered. "Your babies are welcome."
"They're growing far too fast," Severus said, wistfully. "They're nearly two."
"I think Scorpius would really appreciate Rose's support, Severus," Draco said with a plea in his voice. "He is being so strong but I can tell he is struggling."
"Mother sent an owl, but father hasn't spoken to me and I am unlikely to hear from him." He shook his head and ran his hand shakily through his pale hair. "You're more of a father to me these days. And you're only three years older than me."
Severus gripped the young man's shoulder and released him to browse the shelf behind him.
"My mother betrayed Voldemort because of her love for me, but yet I marry against their wishes and…"
"People are different in times of crisis," Severus explained, thinking of his own mother. Only last year, she had been discovered by neo-Death Eaters and instead of telling them where her son was, she let herself be tortured to the brink of insanity by the Cruciatus curse. When Severus visited her in hospital, she apologised profusely for the wrongs she had committed.
"I was willing to die, Severus," Eileen said in a harsh voice as she feebly reached for his hand. He allowed her to touch it, feeling her dry, rough skin graze his. "I would have died if those Aurors hadn't stumbled upon us. I would never have told them where you were."
She took in a raspy breath that sounded more like a death rattle. "I know it doesn't make up for the way I let your father treat you. I know I have so much blame on my shoulders. I know…"
It hadn't been an easy decision, but seeing his mother lying in St Mungo's dying had been a turning point. He couldn't completely forgive her, but he asked Hermione and his children if they minded Eileen coming to spend her final days with them.
Eileen was expected to spend a few weeks at most with little more than palliative care. She defied those odds, however, and though she couldn't walk very far or for very long, she helped out around the house where she could. She enjoyed brief interactions with the twins and surprisingly got on exceedingly well with Hugo before he returned to Hogwarts with Rose.
Severus found what he was looking for on a shelf and passed it to Draco.
"For the grief," he said, placing it in his pale hands. "For you and Scorpius."
"I must pay." Draco was insistent but Severus shook his head.
"I will not accept money for helping my godson."
"Thank you, Uncle." He pocketed the vial. "Please give my love to the Granger-Snapes and the Granger-Weasleys."
Severus nodded. "Will do."
Moments after Draco left his apothecary, the Floo flared in the backroom and Hermione stepped out into the shop front with a twin in each hand, looking harried and worn.
"My lovely wife," Severus greeted her warmly with a kiss on the cheek and relinquished Aislinn from her. He appraised her messy bun and dark smudges under her eyes, guessing that she hadn't had a chance to nap yet. Today was his day to work and her day to stay at home. They had both come to an arrangement where Hermione worked two and a half days at the Ministry and the rest of the week at home. Severus worked the other two and a half days at the Apothecary and then Luna Lovegood worked the weekend. It meant they both got to work and parent in equal measures leaving the weekend for themselves.
"Daddy!" Aislinn tugged at his hair with one hand while the other wrapped around his shoulder. "Daddy working."
"Daddy is working, sweet." Severus bopped her on the nose and then did the same to Liam who scowled back.
"Hello, Liam," he said with mock severity.
Both his children had short fuzzy black curls but Hermione's warm eyes. Liam got his nose and Hermione's mouth while Aislinn got both Hermione's nose and mouth. But their personalities were all theirs.
"Daddy, sad?" Liam asked, clutching his doll. "Daddy have big feelings."
Hermione tilted her head in question.
"Yes, Liam; Daddy had bad news." He took a deep breath in and met Hermione's eyes. "Astoria."
"Oh," Hermione said, suddenly crestfallen. "I am sorry, Severus."
He nodded. "My students shouldn't be the ones…not before me…" He shook his head. "Draco…" Liam proffered his doll to him and he took it from his son with a swift kiss on his prominent nose.
"I will go out the back and make you some tea." Hermione placed Liam down. "Stay with Daddy."
"Shall we take a quick look outside to see if the neighbour's dog is there?" Severus suggested, taking Liam's hand and guiding them through the narrow aisles.
Just as Hermione placed the tea tray on the desk in Severus' office, the Floo flared up and out-stepped Minerva with a gaggle of Seventh Years behind her.
"Oh," Hermione gasped in shock.
"Mrs Granger-Snape." Minerva nodded warmly. "Is Mr Granger-Snape ready for tutoring?"
"Oh, shi—sugar," Hermione swore. "I had totally forgotten. He is outside with the twins."
"It's quite alright, Hermione," Minerva said. "We are a smidge early."
Ever since Severus had handed in his notice to Minerva to run the Apothecary, Severus had been tutoring N.E.W.T students once a week in the room above the shop. Designed to house the owner, it was just an empty space making it perfect for tutoring students. Minerva and Severus had struck the compromise when she had tried to insist he remained employed at Hogwarts. Severus didn't mind the work, and Hermione believed he actually relished it. N.E.W.T students wanted to be there, and because it was such a small group, he could almost relax and enjoy himself.
"You forget when having babies that you are quite forgetful," Hermione explained as she unlocked the door to the upstairs rooms for the students. "The second time—or rather third time around has come as a bit of a shock to me, despite having done it twice before."
"Ah, but not with twins," Minerva said, indicating to the students that they should ascend the stairs to their workspace. "And not with Severus as the father," she added as the last child went through the door.
"Severus is a brilliant father," Hermione said, defensively. After two and a bit years of marriage, she was still finding herself having to defend Severus.
"I know, Hermione," Minerva said. "He is doing a remarkable job, but it is a bit different when you don't have the full force of the Weasley's behind you as well."
Hermione considered this. While Molly and Authur had taken Rose and Hugo a fair bit over the years, this time around only Hermione's parents offered to babysit them. There was also a difference in their lifestyle, with both of them working and being the stay at home parents. Eileen was also needing a lot of care with the community nurse from St. Mungos only visiting every second day for half an hour and a doctor once a week. She knew Molly would take the twins if she asked, but they had seven children and multiple grandchildren of their own to contend with. Surprisingly, the ones that offered the most help were Ronald and Lavinia. Lavinia didn't want her own children but was quite happy to play aunty.
Tandem feeding was also the definition of exhaustion. And they never slept at the same time. It came with the benefit of hearing Severus sing as he tried to console a forlorn, colicky infant. Those moments had almost been worth the sleep deprivation. Almost.
"Good afternoon, Minerva," Severus said, sweeping into the room with one child in each arm.
"Severus, I forgot about your tutoring," Hermione said, collecting Aislinn off her father. "I shouldn't have sprung ourselves on you."
"I welcome any and all visits," he said, bending down to kiss her brow. "You know this."
"They're all upstairs, Severus," Minerva said, with a nod. "I will be back at five to collect them."
Once Minerva left, Hermione led both children to the Floo. "Say goodbye to Daddy."
"I will see you three very soon." He turned to Hermione. "I will make dinner tonight while you take a nap." Severus kissed all three of them before they shuffled through the Floo.
"She—I was just here, wasn't I?" Hermione asked, shaking her head as if clearing it from a daze. "Past me was just here."
"You compared me to your ex-husband," Severus retorted, sounding disgruntled.
"Did you not already have the memory of this when we went to the Department of Mysteries?" Hermione watched him shake his head. "I didn't know what to think when I woke up and your cock was between my legs."
"You never told me that bit," he said, resetting the room into the predawn darkness. "You never told me that you'd seen me naked—felt me naked."
Hermione flushed as she did five years ago. "I guess I was a little preoccupied with the fact that we were married to bother also mentioning the fact we nearly fucked."
"We didn't nearly fuck," Severus said with a huff. "Of all the things to exaggerate."
Hermione swallowed, thankful for the cover of darkness. "Actually, you're wrong."
"I am not!"
"I very nearly regretted stopping what yo—we'd started." She felt the heat creep down her neck, which was ridiculous as she was married to this man and had two of his children. And they often fucked.
"Is that right?" he asked, with an edge of humour. "If only you both could have been in here at the same time. I would have unashamedly taken advantage of that situation."
Hermione squawked. "You wouldn't."
"I would. Two horny Hermiones to myself?" His hand landed heavily on her thigh. "It would be asinine not to enjoy that moment."
"Double the work for you," Hermione pointed out. "Half the work for me."
"Since when has making love to me been work?"
"A couple of times." She thought back to one particular night where they'd thought having sex was a good idea, but they'd both been too tired and too stressed, and after fumbling around together without any progress, Hermione had stormed off frustrated, and they'd had a row about stupid mundane, domestic things. It had ended when Severus started laughing. Shocked out of her irritation, she'd asked him what was so funny, and he'd told her that this was a mark of a real married couple and he was happy that he got to experience their first fight. Hermione had been worried at that point, but he reassured her that he knew fights were healthy and normal if handled correctly. He assured her they would handle it correctly.
"There have certainly been a few aborted attempts after Aislinn and Liam were born," he admitted. "But that doesn't mean you're dissatisfied with our sex life, does it?"
Sometimes his old insecurities still leaked in. She thought it best to show him, so she reached over and dragged her nails over his chest down, down, down as he shuddered and groaned beneath her hand. He was still semi-cocked and it took a mere touch to have him fully erect in her hand.
"How could I have mistaken this for my ex-husband?" she said, as she added a twist with her hand as she approached the tip. "I must have been out of my mind."
"Flattery won't get you anywhere," he said, in a choked voice.
Without warning, he shifted and rolled until he was over her and the head of his cock was nudging at her opening. His deft fingers were weaving between them, rubbing her slickness along his length. The contact set her on fire and she raised her hips to try and gain friction against him.
"Patience, my wife," he said in a deep murmur that sent goosebumps racing across her scalp. Oh, but his voice. He seemed to notice her reaction and chuckled. "Shall I recite some poetry for you this morning? Will that have you coming around my cock while you wantonly moan my name?"
Hermione merely moaned.
"Wild nights - Wild nights!" he said. Low. Husky. Sensual. His cock, he rubbed against her clit in ever agonising circles. "Were I with thee, wild nights should be our luxury!"
"Mmm." She jerked her hips up, trying to encourage him to fill her.
"Futile - the winds - to a heart in port," he continued, rising an octave. "Done with the compass - done with the chart!" He inserted the tip of his erection but no further as he replaced his cock with his nimble fingers once more. "Rowing in Eden - Ah - the sea! Might I but moor - tonight - In thee!" He pushed himself into her a further inch. ^1
"Severus," she hissed, arching her back and trying not to thrash too wildly as she felt hot liquid desire gush from her to coat his cock.
"Emily Dickinson really works wonders with you," he teased as he sheathed himself fully inside her. "Lady, I will touch you with my mind. Touch you and touch and touch until you give me suddenly a smile, shyly obscene." ^2
"E.E. Cummings," Hermione said, digging her fingers into his sinewy shoulders.
"This is not a test, Hermione," he said, thrusting into her with a painful, blissful force that had her tipping her head back and crying out. "Unless you are coming, I don't need to hear you moaning Cummings name." He nipped her jaw. "Only mine. Forever, only mine."
"Severus Granger-Snape," Hermione said as if that was the answer to his final statement.
"Desist, Hermione," he said, as he picked up a brutal pace. "Not everything is a chance for you to boast of your intellect."
Hermione felt the building pressure as his fingers worked her and he pummelled her body with his, his gasps and groans stirring her on.
"I am in the most exquisite distress astride you now," he said, harshly. "Sweating, feeling an impetuous volcano strain at its peak inside wanting to explode my sweetest self all over you." ^3
"Mmm." Hermione pressed him closer to her body by wrapping her legs around his wiry frame. He seemed incapable of speech now as they fought to find the right rhythm between them. Sometimes faltering, sometimes hitting the right, perfect note. She dug her fingers into his hair, scraping his scalp and letting his lips find hers.
Suddenly on the verge of her climax, Severus stopped, every muscle in his body tense.
Hermione closed her eyes and bit back a moan. "Yes, darling?"
"I had a nightmare. Can I come into bed with you and Daddy?"
Severus swore under his breath and slowly eased out of her and then rolled off.
"Have you been to the toilet first?" Severus asked, his voice still not under his control. "Go to the bathroom first and then you may join us."
Hermione heard her son pad off down the hallway as Severus darted out of bed to retrieve their nightclothes. They hurriedly and wordlessly got dressed before Severus stalked out of the room to assist his son. Hermione groaned into her hands as she collapsed back against her pillow.
When her husband and son clambered into bed—Liam between his parents—she smiled fondly at them both in the dim light and snuggled against her son, with her arm around Severus at the same time.
"I love you, Liam," Severus said, throatily. "I love you, Hermione."
"Love you more, Daddy," Liam said around a yawn.
Hermione blinked and saw herself sitting at a table in a hotel room playing cards. She stared down at her hands, feeling frustrated that her last memory was seeing her husband half naked standing in front of her in a hotel room in New Zealand. Now she was suddenly sitting in front of Severus in a grey shirt and he was looking askew at her.
"It's your turn," he said, frowning. Hermione glanced at her hand and then at the cards on the table. Realisation dawned—her past self had just been there, and it was over six years since she nearly won this hand before being ripped back into 2016.
She cleared her throat as she hastily selected the cards she needed to play. She placed them down and watched Severus scowl slightly as she won the game. She wondered how long they could go before he clocked onto her being his wife and not the woman he had been crushing on six years ago.
"I think you should take your shirt back off," Hermione suggested, innocently. "As a consequence of losing that hand."
Severus placed his cards down and gathered up the ones in play to insert back into the deck. He shuffled the cards while keeping his dark stare focused on her. She squirmed under his gaze.
"Is that so?" he asked, slowly. "And I might ask why you are inclined to see me without my shirt?"
She shrugged. "I haven't played any variation of strip games since my Muggle University days."
"And it's definitely something that would keep me awake." Hermione tugged on a loose curl. "I am sure you want your wife back and not be lumbered with a me that hasn't…fallen in love with you yet. Lest I fall asleep."
"We wouldn't want that, no," he replied dryly.
"Let's keep you awake then, shall we?" He leaned back in his chair and slowly pulled his t-shirt over his head, then eyed her as he threw the shirt behind him. Hermione licked her lips as her eyes dipped down to map the scars and chest hairs she knew so well. As she followed the thin dusting of hair below his black pyjama pants, she darted her eyes up to her husband's face and followed it with a convincing blush. Her eyes fell to his left forearm—a faint white scar lay where his Dark Mark used to reside—something he no longer hid from the world. In fact, Hermione often encouraged him to roll up his sleeves are bare his forearms. They were strong, sinewy and elegant, covered as they were in a scattering of black hair, but they could still issue a stab of desire when she saw them. Especially with the missing Dark Mark.
They played the next round of cards, Hermione stifling her yawns with the back of her hand and rubbing her eyes.
"Do we have any children?" she asked, casually as she thought about Aislinn and Liam back home in the UK with her parents.
"You have Rose and Hugo," he said through gritted teeth.
"But did we—"
"You know I can't answer that." He levelled a glare at her and took his turn, winning the round. "I think you should take your shorts off."
Hermione was well aware that she wasn't wearing any knickers underneath. She placed her cards down on the deck slowly as she wondered if he was onto her. "I don't think I am wearing anything underneath."
Severus shrugged. "I know you're not. But if you play a game with me, you play by the rules."
"I am going to fetch a towel to sit on," she said, standing up and pretending to look for the bathroom. "I will not be so discourteous as to sit unclothed on a chair that doesn't belong to me."
"Of course." He indicated the bathroom with a wave of his hand. She nodded her thanks and retrieved a towel, returning moments later to place it on the seat.
Severus was leaning back with his hands steepled in front of his mouth.
Hermione took a deep breath, trying to channel her younger self. "Can you look away at least while I take them off?"
Severus inclined his head as if he was thinking about it but then shook his head. She growled but sat down stiffly in her chair instead. Awkwardly and with much knocking and banging on the table, she managed to take her shorts off below his line of vision.
"That was a bit dishonourable," Severus accused with a glint in his eye.
"It is self-preservation. I will only lose the next rounds out of sheer mortification of being seen naked by my housemate and former professor if I didn't at least try to be discreet." She shifted on the towel, feeling uncomfortable despite the fact this was her husband. Her husband, who had been there as she went into labour and saw blood, mucus, babies and excrement pushed out of her, and now she was self-consciously sitting with her bottom half naked, hidden by the table. It was absurd.
"Besides, I am still mad at you for up and leaving us, so the last thing I want is to reward you with my nudity." She stuck her nose up in the air in mock affrontment.
"You should have thought about that before you started playing this game, love." He had shuffled the cards and was dealing them out. "I hope it is keeping you awake as you planned."
"Hopefully I will wake up soon."
"Hmm." He traced his lips while he studied his cards.
"Won't your wife be a bit disorientated to find herself sitting naked playing cards?"
"I don't know, do you?"
"I'm not your wife."
"Hmm," was all he said once more.
They played the game and thankfully Hermione won. She crowed cheerfully as she added her cards back to the deck.
"Take off your—" Before she could finish, he stood up and pushed his pyjama bottoms down until they hit the ground and he stood there, unashamedly with his cock pride of place. Hermione felt her mouth go dry, and she felt heat creep down her neck at a rate of knots. She shifted side to side on the towel. She hurriedly looked away, covering her face in her hands. "What are you doing?"
Hermione grunted and peeked out of her fingers, and gasped and hid her face as she saw him touching himself in long, languid strokes.
"I think I am the overall loser," he said softly. Dangerously. He knew. There was no way he would be playing along this far if he didn't know she was his wife. He'd have been too insecure and worried about terrifying her younger self.
"Are you?" She boldly looked up, placing her palms down on the table. "Looks like you're winning to me."
"You're not the actor you think you are, you know," he replied with his half-smile. "I know you too well to know when you're my wife and when you're not."
"Damn," she said, laughing. "It was worth a shot."
"Was it?" He approached her with his cock still fisted in his hand. He traced the outline of her mouth with one fingertip. "I do so admire your effort at trying to deceive me." He kissed her.
Hermione swallowed her laugh as his eyes dropped to her now exposed lower half.
"Stand up," he ordered and Hermione found herself rising on steady feet. He guided her to stretch her arms above her head as he slipped her top off. He placed a kiss on the swell of each breast. "Hello, my darlings."
Hermione rolled her eyes affectionately as his hands grazed her nipples and then rested on her shoulders to turn her towards the table gently.
Hermione felt his hands slide down her arms and clutch her hands, placing them palm down on the tabletop. She was half aware of the stack of cards sliding over and scattering across the table. His hands, both a mixture of smooth skin and calluses, cupped her behind and tenderly stroked her flesh making her nerves flare all the way down to her toes.
She obeyed, and his hand moved to her slit, a curious digit fondling her seam. She could still hear the sound of his hand stroking himself as he became more adventurous with his fingers, sinking them into her core and pressing a thumb to her clit.
"Fuck," Hermione cried as he lined himself at her entrance. She loved it when he took her from behind. It was the position she was most likely to come from penetration alone. Sure enough, he removed his hand and gripped her hips as he thrust into her until he bottomed out with a loud groan.
"My wife," he crooned as he leaned over her and nipped a spot on her shoulder before soothing it with his tongue. "My wife that pretended to be so cunning."
"Did I fool you for a moment at all?" she asked, breathlessly as he pistoned his hips against her bottom.
"Perhaps only briefly."
He was setting a punishing pace now, and Hermione could feel her insides melting and condensing until everything tightened. She dug her nails into the fake wood of the tabletop as she rose her backside to meet his thrusts even deeper.
"Severus!" she cried as her orgasm washed over her. And she ground against him as she rode out the aftershocks.
"Hermione," he cried in turn as he stilled, and she could feel the heat of his seed filling her. His hot breath skittered across her spine and up her nape. His lips descended on her shoulder blades. His hands moved in steady circles around her waist. Slowly, he eased out of her and helped her off the table.
"So that's that." Hermione slipped into the circle of his arms. "No more markers or glimpses into our future. We are going the rest of the way completely blind now."
Severus pressed a firm kiss to the top of her head. "The future is ours."
"Cheesy," Hermione remarked, feeling the combined liquids of their lovemaking trekking down her inner thigh. She wondered where her wand was but felt disinclined to leave his arms.
"What do we have planned for tomorrow?" he asked as he stroked slow, steady hands down her spine.
"A trip to the Auckland Botanical Gardens to see the Magic section and then we have a lunch booked with a Kaumātua who is a foraging expert."
"Sounds like a busy day." Severus kissed her temple but still resisted letting her go. "Thank you for your dedication to planning and organising."
"Thank you for never teasing me about my colour-coded folders."
He chuckled. "As if I would tease you about something so fundamental to your entire personality."
She glared up at him.
"Your teeth and hair don't count." He pressed a finger to her lips. "Your hair has its own personality separate from yours."
She cuffed him affectionately. "It's a good thing I love you."
"It's a good thing we promised to irritate each other for the rest of our lives." Severus captured her lips with his in a searing, demanding kiss. Irritating, indeed.
1."Wild Nights" by Emily Dickinson
2."xvii" by E.E. Cummings
3. "Described" by Wendy Maltz
Huge thanks to foxfaceinthewindow for beta reading the final half or so of this story. Thank you for your commas!
And thank you to everyone that has read this and especially those who commented/reviewed it. That has meant the absolute world to me. I will eventually get around to replying to you all. :) This fic has been a blast to write and I am excited that I managed to finish it. My attention span is…well, I have four wips I can't decide on so that should tell you how my brain usually works. Completing something is momentous for me.
Anyway, I will hopefully see some of you next time, or I might see you on your fics (with this account or my alt—mostly likely my alt).
Bye and thank you!