"Hermione," he began, as he gazed at her bemusedly, "I have been wondering something for quite some time now."
Hermione gazed at him and waited for him to continue.
"You bathe before bed, as do I. As I have never missed my nightly bath, it has not escaped my notice that you have never missed your nightly bath, either," he observed, as he fingered a wet curl that hung by her ear.
"True," she answered, somewhat perplexed by his train of thought. Then she added, "Who would after spending the day in all those noxious fumes?" She laughed.
"However, in the mornings your routine is unpredictable. Some mornings you bathe fully, while others you merely wash your hair. I have been unable to discern a pattern or reason for this behaviour." He scowled. "I thought perhaps that on mornings when you only wash your hair, you were running late. However, upon observation, I have discovered that this is not the case. Some mornings when you are late you bathe fully, some mornings when you have extra time you only wash your hair. I must admit I am at a loss. After over a year of marriage, I am still unable to predict your morning routine, and therefore I am unable to accommodate it fully. Can you explain?" he asked.
Hermione blushed. "No, Severus, you'll think I'm silly."
"Hermione," he said warningly, "this is obviously not a random occurrence. Explain."
"Only if you promise not to laugh at me or call me silly," she bargained.
Severus schooled his face into impassive patience and said, "I will not laugh at you, nor will I call you silly. Now enlighten me."
"The mornings when I only wash my hair are mornings after," she said, in a tone that made it clear that she thought this to be a thorough and reasonable explanation.
"Mornings after?" Severus asked.
Hermione blushed. "Mornings after we have... Sweet Merlin! Are you going to make me spell it out, Severus?" she asked in exasperation.
"Spell it out? Hermione, I don't know what you are..." He paused to take in the meaningful look she was giving him. "Ah... after we have spent the night indulging in - "
"Yes," she cut across him. "Mornings after, I only wash my hair. That way I can keep your scent on my skin, your essence inside of me. I can close my eyes and remember your closeness. I can imagine you much more easily, if I have not washed you out of me. It can make me smile during the worst of days. Then on mornings like this morning, when there is nothing of you in me," she managed to blush even more deeply, "I take a full bath. Does that explain it?" she asked tentatively.
His dark eyes glittered as he gave her a seductive smile. "Foolish witch," he said gruffly, running his elegant hand over her cheek. After a minute, he spoke in his smooth velvet tones. "I was pondering your routine this morning because the Headmaster just told me he wants to meet with us in his office for breakfast in a little over an hour." Severus cocked his head to the side, raised an eyebrow, and regarded her. "It would seem, Madam Snape, that you are presented with a choice at this point. Will you continue with your bath and smell vanilla on your skin for the day, or would you perhaps prefer something else?"
"You never cease to amaze me," she said breathily. She smiled seductively and continued in a passionate voice. "I would prefer you, Severus."
Severus bent over the tub and took her lips with his. He nibbled her bottom lip, and she slid her tongue out to caress between his teeth and inner lips. He hissed with desire and plunged his tongue into her open mouth. Their kiss deepened in intensity as their hunger for each other sparked and flared. With the tip of her tongue, she stroked the inside of his mouth, causing him to moan with pleasure into hers. His deep voice sent delicious tingles up and down her spine. She tangled her hands in his hair and pulled him closer. Their teeth scraped as their kiss became frenzied. After a minute, he pulled back slightly and looked into her eyes.
"Hermione, you don't know what you do to me..."
"What, Severus, what do I do to you?" she asked innocently between the kisses she was raining on his jaw and neck. She felt him smile into her skin. She knew he knew her game. He knew she wanted to hear his voice.
He kissed, nipped, and sucked his way to her ear. He teased her ear with his tongue; then he purred in his deep dark voice. "You make me insane with want, Hermione." He kissed a slow agonising trail down her neck and throat to her shoulder and back up to her ear. "I want to kiss you." His voice dropped lower. "I want to touch you." His quiet voice vibrated in her ear. "I want to make you moan and call my name in ecstasy." His silky voice now became breathy, betraying his own desire. "I want to smell you." He continued to languidly pour his desires over her. "I want to taste you. I want to feel you. I want to fill you. I want you. I want all of you."
Hermione was shivering in delight. She could only breathe in short panting gasps. With his breath in her ear and his voice vibrating through her body, she was becoming mad with need.
He brought his mouth to her lips again and kissed her gently, softly, the slow velvet of his lips teasing and tantalising hers.
She pulled back and looked into his eyes. She slipped her hands into the top of his dressing gown. She watched his face as she touched him.
"Aaahhh... Hermione..." he groaned.
She smiled at her ability to reduce this extremely articulate wizard's vocabulary down to encompassing only primal sounds, and her name. As she continued her caresses, his mouth dropped open wordlessly, his head lolled back, and eyes closed. After mere minutes under her soft hands, he grasped her wrists to still her explorations. His eyes snapped open and fixed on hers. As she returned his gaze, she could see that his sharp intelligent eyes were now black pools of liquid desire.
She reached down and undid the belt of his dressing gown. It fell to the floor as she pulled him into the tub with her.
Severus and Hermione sat in Headmaster Albus Dumbledore's office. They shared a light breakfast with him, while waiting for him to come to the point of their meeting. Finally, after the house-elves had removed the last remnants of breakfast, Albus spoke of the matter at hand.
"Hermione, tonight is your Leaving-Feast and Ball. I do not want to see you standing sadly in a corner fearing to dance with your husband, while your classmates all dance with their sweethearts. Neither do I want to see your husband so disheartened by your sadness that he finds it necessary to make everyone in his vicinity as miserable as possible." Albus held up a hand. "Don't protest, Severus, for I know you would. I want everyone to enjoy themselves this evening, including you, my dear," Albus finished, as he handed Hermione a scroll. "Congratulations, you have now officially completed an unusually intense course of study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Yes, Severus. Hermione will still be allowed to participate in the Leaving Ceremony. I'll just give her a blank scroll then, as she has her true scroll now. If you will notice the date and time on your scroll, Hermione, you'll find that the date is today, and the time was entered when you took it from my hand." The Headmaster smiled.
"Thank you, Headmaster," Hermione said, as her face broke into a grin.
Severus took her hand in his and squeezed it, looking into her eyes. When he withdrew, he faced the Headmaster. He reached into his robes and brought out an envelope.
"Perhaps now is an appropriate time for me to give you this, Albus," he said with a closed expression.
The Headmaster took the envelope from Severus with some trepidation and opened it. He read it and looked at Severus with intense sadness. "This is your final decision?"
"Yes, Albus. I am sorry," Severus said.
"Why?" the Headmaster asked in an emotion rough voice.
Hermione put her hand on Severus's arm and spoke. "Albus, this wasn't..."
"...an easy decision," Severus finished.
"Severus's solicitor has been approached, as our identities as the creators of the Cruciatus Reversal Potion won't be known until tomorrow..." Hermione began.
"...with offers from many reputable companies, individuals, and the Ministry," Severus completed.
"The offers will give Severus enough projects to keep him busy researching full time."
"Yes, yes," the Headmaster said, smiling fondly at Severus, "you have never been one to take your earned place among the idle rich."
Severus sneered at the very thought and said, "With a child, it will be advantageous for both Hermione and I to be able to work from a home lab."
"We'll be working together, that's how we work best." Hermione smiled at Severus, who covered the hand that still rested on his arm, with his own.
Albus took all of this in for a minute, and then sighed. "Well then, Severus Snape, it is with deep regret that I accept your resignation."
Severus looked very uncomfortable. When he spoke, it sounded hollow and far off. "Albus, I will never be able to - "
The Headmaster, Severus's friend and mentor, cut him off. "Severus, my boy, it is I who thank you, I who will never be able to repay you. You have given so much for so long without any thought to your own needs or wants. Whatever I asked, whatever the Order needed, we were always guaranteed that you would agree to do it without consideration for your own safety or needs. You have gone through hell and back more times then I care to remember. You have suffered horribly, all for the sake of others. That's finally at an end. You are like a son to me, Severus; I would see you happy now. Contentment, Severus, happiness, and love are what I have always wanted you to have in your life. I believe you have found it now. I couldn't feel more joy for anything, than I feel at the knowledge that this has happened for you. All I would ask is to be kept abreast of your life. Let me know - "
"Albus," Severus chastised, in a mild version of his classroom tone.
"Did you really imagine that we wouldn't?" Hermione asked. After a pause, she continued. "You'll come to see us, Albus?"
"If you wish me to, my dear." His eyes twinkled.
"You know that we do, and we'll come to see you, as well," she asserted. "You're not getting rid of us that easily. We'll always want your company and need your counsel. Severus will just be in a better mood to accept it, now that he won't have to deal with all the dunderheads." She smiled.
"Where have you chosen to live?" the Headmaster asked.
"We are renovating the estate on Westray," Severus answered.
"Ah, I remember well when you purchased that property. It's a climate you will find pleasing and with an incredible coastline. If I'm not mistaken, it's the most scenic of Orkney's Northern Isles, a truly magnificent place. But to call that an estate; isn't it more of a small castle, Severus?" The Headmaster chuckled.
"Stone construction, and a turret, does not a castle make," Severus remarked snidely, as he glared at the Headmaster.
"I'd love to see your ideas for renovations, Hermione," the Headmaster said.
"I'll bring my sketches by, Albus." She smiled warmly at his interest, while she wondered how he knew she was the architect of the renovations.
"Well then, it would seem that is all for now, children. Enjoy yourselves tonight and tomorrow."
Severus scowled, and Hermione beamed at the Headmaster's parting words.
They walked through the corridors of Hogwarts towards the dungeons.
"You will want to visit Gryffindor Tower, will you not?" Severus asked. "I have some errands to attend to, myself, this morning."
"Perhaps," Hermione answered distractedly. She drew Severus into a window alcove. "Severus, will you accompany me to the ball tonight?"
"We will be there together, will we not?" he asked.
"No. No, Severus, will you... Oh, I don't know. I'm just so proud to be with you. I don't want to hide it anymore," she explained.
"Hermione, you know my reputation. Even my work for the Order has not really changed anyone's perception of me. Perhaps your reputation would benefit by continued secrecy."
At the thunderous look on her face, he changed tack quickly. "However, if you wish it, then we need not hide our relationship any longer. I am proud of you, as well, Hermione. It is an honour to have you for my wife."
He looked into her eyes, waved his hand and whispered, "Finite Incantatem." The disillusionment spell on their wedding rings cancelled with his incantation and wandless magic.
"I know an announcement would make you less than comfortable, Severus - " she began.
"Hermione, if you wish - "
"No, it's not necessary. I just don't want to have to hide my love for you anymore," she said.
"Then do not," he whispered.
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly.
When the kiss ended, he pulled back and smirked at her. "No one saw us," he said simply.
"That's okay. My kisses are for you, Severus. They're not a performance," she breathed.
He smiled warmly into her eyes, and she returned his smile with an intense look of love.
They stood in the alcove framed by the window, smiling into each other's eyes, for a very long time. This did not go unnoticed. Passing students slowed and stared at the Potions master and his Apprentice, as they gazed at each other. Then, not knowing what to make of it, the stunned students would hurry on. So lost were they in each other, Severus and Hermione failed to notice them or their reactions.
"May I escort you to Gryffindor Tower before I leave on my errands?" Severus asked in his silky voice.
"Yes, please," she said, as she beamed at him.
Severus and Hermione failed to notice the whispers and stares that followed them as they walked closely together, talking intimately. They were not quite touching, but you couldn't exactly see light between them. At the portrait of the Fat Lady, Severus kissed Hermione's hand before he left her. His lips lingered on her knuckles, and she blushed in pleasure.
Just before lunch, the door to their chambers flew open, startling Severus in much the same way his classroom entrances startled first-years. The difference being, before he could really register what was happening, he had his arms full of a weeping Hermione.
"You stupid, stupid, stupid wizard! Severus, I've never... I can't... Oh, Severus!" Her hold on him tightened, if that were possible.
He stroked her back and asked, with concern evident in his voice, "Hermione what is it. What's wrong?"
"How could you? How could you? Don't ever, ever...! Severus, don't you see? You can't... even if... Severus Snape, don't you ever!" Her words became unintelligible between sobs.
A coughing sound drew Severus's attention. Harry Potter stood in the open doorway. He looked grim and somewhat shaken. Harry nodded his head in the direction of the distraught Hermione as he spoke to Severus.
"She had a good morning, we all did. It was great, really. Until a few minutes ago. You see, I wanted to sort my memories of Voldemort, so I got a Pensieve. All I have in it now are the memories of the... incident... in the Great Hall. You know, the memories from before I used the Time-Turner. It's all so fresh, I didn't want those memories haunting the end-of-term festivities tonight or tomorrow. For me, those memories were real. I was there when they actually happened. Anyway, we were in my dormitory. Tonks was there, too, and she fell. She bumped into Hermione, and Hermione fell into my memories. She saw it all. She saw you kill yourself, and that... that upset her. Well, you can see for yourself what seeing your death did to her. I didn't think she was going to be able to speak clearly and tell you what was wrong with her. I didn't want you to think it was something even worse, so I came, too, to tell you. I'm sorry. I never meant for her to see that."
Harry could see Severus was furious that Hermione had seen that incident. However, he spoke in controlled tones. "I understand."
"I'll be going, then," Harry said sadly.
"Harry," Severus called him back, "it is good that you told me."
"I'm so sorry, Severus," Harry repeated.
Severus sighed, and forced his next words, "It was an accident."
Harry nodded to Severus and left.
Severus steered Hermione to the sofa and held her in his arms. He continued to stroke her back while he whispered soothingly in her ear. "We are alive. It did not happen. Harry stopped it. We are well and the threat is gone. My Love, please. It's all right, no one will hurt - "
"Severus, you... you... died. I saw you die. I never... Severus..." She cried as she held onto him with all her might.
"Hermione, I am alive, you are alive, and our unborn child is alive. We are fine. Stop now; this is a special day for you. Let it go. It did not happen. Harry stopped it. It did not happen. Please, My Love," he beseeched.
"I can't! You killed yourself. How could you? Oh, Severus... Severus, never, never... promise me... promise me no matter what... that you won't ever!"
"I will make you a promise. I will give you my word. I will do that for you. Albus always wanted me to, but I refused. The most I would promise him was not to take my own life until I had seen my mission through, until The Dark Lord was gone for good. But for you, My Love, for you I will make and keep the promise. I give you my oath. I vow to you that I will not intentionally die by my own hand," he said seriously.
She sat up and searched his face. "You swear it?" she asked quietly.
"If it is what you want, yes. I will never take my own life. Even in the face of your... even if you are... I can not even say it!" he growled. Severus visibly composed himself. "Hermione," he said seriously, as he looked deeply into her eyes.
She returned his gaze and waited for him to continue.
"I do swear to you that I will not intentionally end my life, regardless of the circumstances," he vowed.
"Severus," she whispered. She smoothed the hair from his face in repeated strokes as she spoke. "What I saw, I... Wait a minute. You saw it too, didn't you? You saw Harry's memories. That is why you... Oh, now I understand why you - "
At the reminder, Severus's eyes became hooded. Hermione could tell he was angry with himself at the knowledge that she had felt his tears the day he saw Harry's memories of her death; he was angry for allowing himself to even have tears. She kissed his eyes, his cheeks, and his mouth.
"We will live to a ripe old age together, Severus, and don't you ever forget it." She smiled into his eyes.
"That we will," Severus agreed, as he caressed her cheek. "Even if it means we have to let Harry Potter help us," he added with a wry smile.
"Severus, I love you. I love you so much," she whispered.
"And I love you," he admitted, as he wiped her face with his handkerchief.
Hermione's eyes filled anew. They overflowed with tears of happiness at his rare verbal expression. "Damn pregnancy hormones, I never act like this," she muttered in frustration.
Severus chuckled darkly. "I consider myself fortunate; without the pregnancy hormones you would most likely have chosen to do me bodily harm instead of crying."
Hermione swatted him on the shoulder. "I never!" she exclaimed, in a mock horrified tone.
He smiled and called "Accio Alsus Potion." A bottle of light green potion flew into his hand. "Close your eyes, Hermione," he whispered. He uncorked the bottle and poured some of the thick potion into his hands. He began applying the potion to her eyes with a soothing motion.
Hermione felt herself relaxing under Severus's gentle touch. She breathed deeply and smiled. When he finally stopped, she felt completely refreshed.
"What was that?" Hermione asked.
"Ever inquisitive," he said, chuckling deeply. "This," he held up the bottle, "is a blend of: burdock, arnica, bergamot, cucumber, euphrasia, and green tea."
'The Leaving-Feast, the dance for the departing seventh-years, and then tomorrow it's all over with the Leaving Ceremony,' Harry thought as he sat in the Great Hall, waiting for the feast to begin.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry noticed Severus and Hermione sweep in together. This was not unusual; it happened at every meal they attended since she became his Apprentice. However, there was something different when they entered the Hall this time. Harry did a quick double take. Yes. Hermione was on Severus's arm. Harry looked around to see if anyone else noticed. Now Severus was holding Hermione's chair for her; this too had been their mealtime ritual for more than a year and half now.
'No. Nobody noticed their unusual display of, hmm... arm holding,' Harry decided to himself.
Hermione was wearing sophisticated robes made from an array of striking fabrics. The square neck was cut low, and the traditional bell sleeves were modernised by the sheer fabric they were made from. The skirt flared dramatically to accommodate dancing. The robes had no lace or frills. The only ornamentation was a large, tastefully embroidered Celtic knot on the centre of the bodice. Hermione's hair was held back with her wedding diadem. Tonight she wore it as a headband, to give it a more casual look. She was notably without the locket, which she had worn everyday since Christmas. In its place was her anniversary gift from Severus: a diamond necklace set in platinum and gold that he had had custom-made for her. This was the only jewellery had on except for her wedding and engagement rings, which no one had noticed yet.
Harry couldn't help but hear the girls exclaiming over Hermione's outfit.
"Look at her robes."
"Look at her necklace."
"To flash like that, that necklace must be real."
"What's she holding her hair with?"
"Wow, those robes must be designer originals."
A boy's voice entered the conversation. "Where'd she get the money for robes and jewellery like that? Her parents were Muggle dentists. They didn't leave that much money."
The comment had been made by Ron, and this made Harry look to see what was so special about Hermione's robes. He hadn't noticed much when he had watched her walk in, but then robes were not a particular interest of his.
When everyone was seated, the Headmaster rose and gave his customary year-end speech. It wasn't really new to anyone but the first-years. The Headmaster really only had everyone's attention when he finally said, "Let the feast begin!"
Halfway through the feast, Ron tried to attract Harry's attention. "Harry, Harry," Ron hissed, "did you see that?"
"See what?" Harry asked around a mouthful of food. Harry was concentrating on eating, as he knew he would have to maintain his manners later. His date for the dance would arrive from her Ministry job right after the feast. Tonks. He smiled as he thought of her.
"Harry, did you hear what I said? Hermione just fed Snape off her plate. Off her fork. She fed him. Snape," Ron said.
"Harry, when she said she wouldn't go to the dance with me, I thought it was because she's technically a teacher and I'm still a student. You don't think she has a crush on Snape, do you?" Ron asked.
"Crush? Er... no. Not a crush."
"Nah, she couldn't, not on that git. After the Leaving Ceremony tomorrow, I'm going to ask her out. I won't be her student, then, so she can finally say yes. I'm sure she must've wanted to say yes all the times I've asked this year. Maybe she'll dance with me tonight. What do you think, Harry?" Ron smiled cockily.
"Well..." Many at the Gryffindor table had been listening to the conversation. Or rather listening to Ron talk, he'd been loud about it. "Er, sorry, Ron, I have to talk to someone."
Ron looked over at Lavender and was about to say something, when all the Gryffindors turned at what they heard.
"Severus!" Harry called.
"Harry?" Severus turned; he and Hermione had just begun walking towards the Slytherin table.
Now almost all eyes in the Hall were on Professor Snape and Harry. The Gryffindors were appalled, and the Slytherins were irate. The rest were just baffled, as Harry took Professor Snape aside and spoke quietly to him. A couple of minutes later, Harry headed back to the Gryffindor table.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Ron asked, amid a chorus of Gryffindors all voicing similar sentiments.
"What was what?" Harry asked, puzzled. He didn't realise that he and Professor Snape had called each other by their given names in front of people.
"You called that great horrid git by his first name!" Someone from down the table called.
Another voice chimed in. "And he didn't hex you or anything."
"Huh?" Harry asked.
He was spared further questioning when Professor Dumbledore rose and announced that the first through sixth years should return to their common rooms, and that the Leaving Ball would begin shortly.
"I gotta go meet Tonks in the Entrance Hall!" Harry said, grateful for an escape.
He heard Remus talking to Ginny as he got up. Remus had arrived as an honoured guest and would stay until the end of the Leaving Ceremony. This had happened last year, too. Harry had a strong suspicion that Dumbledore was gently introducing him to those parents who came to the Leaving Ceremony in an attempt to get him back on staff. Ginny was only a sixth year, but she would be at the Leaving Dance tonight. She was accompanying her brother Ron, who wouldn't ask anyone but Hermione to go with him.
'Ron's still got a thing for Hermione. This is going to be a disaster,' Harry thought to himself.
When Harry came back in, the House tables were gone. Small tables and chairs framed the Hall, and the lighting was lowered dramatically.
"Are those...? Oh my, floating, rotating disco balls?" Harry heard Hermione say in clear distaste.
"Indeed." Harry heard Severus respond.
He looked just in time to see the Potions master give the newly appearing decorations a disgusted sneer.
"Severus, Hermione!" Tonks greeted. She noticed that Hermione was on Severus's arm. "So is the cat out of the bag, then?"
"Good evening, Nymphadora," Severus responded, as he raised a sardonic eyebrow at the blue-haired witch.
Hermione added, "We aren't announcing anything, Tonks, but we're no longer hiding anything, either."
"Yeah, I guessed that by the wedding rings." Tonks grinned.
"No one else has noticed them yet," Hermione said in wonder.
"I'm an Auror, trained to observe." Tonks winked.
Remus and Ginny joined the group. "Ginny! Remus! Now our happy six-some is complete!" Tonks enthused. Hermione noticed Severus stifle an agonised groan.
The three couples moved to a discrete corner and continued to talk for several minutes. When the strains of a waltz began, they noticed the floor filling up.
"Let's dance, Harry," Tonks said, as she dragged him to the floor.
"The boy who lived, may end up the boy broken in a million pieces before this dance is over," Severus noted, as Tonks tripped her way onto the dance floor with Harry. Hermione, Ginny, and Remus attracted a bit of attention as they laughed at Severus's comment.
Severus took Hermione's hand and leaned in close to her ear. She smiled as she blushingly agreed to whatever he had whispered. Severus put his dress robes on a chair, exposing his elegant new black suit, complete with its customary frock coat. Hermione took his arm and, followed by the eyes of many of the people in their area of the Hall, they walked regally onto the dance floor. They flowed together into the waltz, moving as one. They didn't notice the looks and comments of those around them, but Harry and Tonks did. Mid waltz, Harry and Tonks left the floor and joined Remus and Ginny once more.
When the waltz ended, a fast-paced tune began. It shocked more then a few onlookers when Professor Snape and Hermione didn't leave the floor. Harry saw that he, Tonks, Ginny, and Remus were not the only ones watching. Word was spreading. Namely the exclamation "LOOK!" was spreading, and more people all around the Hall were stopping to watch Professor Snape and Hermione dance. It would seem that they could dance very well. Harry heard other utterances.
"Professor Snape, dancing?"
But Harry tuned them out and watched. Professor Snape spun Hermione around the floor, not missing a beat. Her skirt flared and swirled around her legs as he spun her out to arm's length and pulled her back against him again. They smiled at each other.
The sight of Professor Snape smiling caused more than a few whispered conversations to break out. No student, and almost none of the teachers, had ever seen him genuinely smile before.
The song was coming to an end. He spun her out to arm's length. As she spun back to him, their free hands clasped and their arms went straight out to their sides at shoulder height, allowing their bodies to press tightly together.
When the song ended and a slow song began, they turned in a fluid motion that brought one of her hands onto his shoulder, while one of his long arms came around her waist, holding her close in his embrace. Her free hand he held in his other, against his chest. She put her head on his shoulder, and he leaned his cheek on her head. They both closed their eyes and began to dance slowly as they held each other.
Harry, Remus, Tonks, and Ginny became alarmed at some of the reactions around them. Most of the reactions were about Professor Snape actually smiling. However, two reactions were making Harry nervous.
"Diversions," Harry said.
They had talked about this eventuality during the end of the waltz. Remus and Ginny chose to dance together and take some of the attention. They had really wanted to dance together anyway.
Harry headed Ron off as Tonks made her way towards Professor McGonagall. Tonks knocked over an entire table, including a full punch bowl, landing it directly on her target. This stopped the formidable Scotswoman in her tracks, distracting her completely. She had been advancing on Severus and Hermione with a horrified look on her face.
Severus and Hermione danced blissfully on, unaware of the averted disasters around them. When the song ended, they began to make their way to Remus and Ginny. As they walked, they decided that they wanted to leave and spend the rest of the evening alone together.
Severus and Hermione reached Remus and Ginny. At the same time, Tonks and Harry arrived, having finished dealing with the imminent problems of Ron and Professor McGonagall. The three couples talked for a little while, making plans to all meet the next morning.
When the other two couples went to dance, Hermione and Severus started to leave the Hall for their chambers. She was glad to have come with Severus, but Hermione wasn't much of a party person, and neither was Severus. She was on his arm again as they made their way towards the door, but this time her hand was covered affectionately by his. A few eyes still followed them; this time they were aware of the attention. It only made Hermione smile, which in turn drew a smile from Severus.
Severus leaned down and whispered in Hermione's ear. "Albus was twinkling so madly that I thought his head was one of the disco balls. Only the beard confirmed that it was indeed he."
Hermione's laughter rang behind them as they opened the doors and left for the evening.
More whispered gossip began as Severus and Hermione left the Great Hall touching, smiling, and laughing together.
After a long shared bath, they sat together on the sofa, waiting for their dripping wet hair to dry in front of the hearth. Even in late spring, the dungeons of Hogwarts warranted a fire at night to stave off the chill. Hermione was in a very scant gold lace chemise; Severus wore only his black dressing gown. Hermione sat astride Severus's lap, facing him, with one of his long arms enfolding her, holding her tightly to his chest. She had her arms around his shoulders and her face was snuggled into his neck. Severus's wedding ring gleamed in the firelight as he gently caressed Hermione's back with his free arm. His head leaned to the side, on hers, as they peacefully rested in each other's arms. Severus and Hermione had their eyes closed contentedly; the book they had been reading earlier lay open on the sofa beside them. Neither noticed the flames in the fireplace in front of them turn green.