Title: Secret Identity
Age-Range Category: Five
Characters/Pairing: Severus Snape/Hermione Granger, George Weasley
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
Summary: Hermione helps George test a new potion that determines soulmates. How will she handle finding out that her soulmate is a dead man?
Hermione hurried into the café, looking around as she rushed in. She spotted Roderick almost immediately. He was sitting at a table towards the back. She motioned to the hostess that she'd found whom she was looking for and headed for the table. She admired Roderick as she approached him. He was a handsome man with long brown hair that fell a little past his shoulders. He usually wore it tied back, but today it flowed around him. He was tall, standing almost a head taller than she, and was lean and fit. His dark brown eyes were expressive and seemed to be able to read her, even when she didn't want him to.
They'd been seeing each other for two years now. She was in love with him, but she wasn't sure what his feelings were. He was affectionate, and she felt that he did love her, but he'd never said the words. The last thing she wanted to do was to push him into something he didn't want.
Finding she'd arrived at the table, she smiled at him and kissed his cheek before sitting across from him.
"I thought you were going to make some excuse to not meet me today," Roderick said to her by way of greeting.
"I'm sorry! Eric wanted to go over my report with a fine-tooth comb and it took at least twenty minutes longer than I'd planned. I rushed over as soon as I was done."
He smiled at her. "I figured it was something like that. You get buried in your work so easily."
Hermione chuckled. Roderick definitely knew her well.
They ordered quickly and chatted while awaiting their food.
"You've taken the afternoon off?" Roderick asked.
"Yes, George has asked me to try another one of his new experiments. He hopes it's ready for marketing."
"What is it?"
"He hasn't said yet. He wanted to tell me what it was this afternoon before I try it."
"I don't know why you indulge him so. Remember when you had hives for three days from one of his concoctions?" Roderick asked indignantly.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, that was rather uncomfortable, but most of the time nothing at all happens."
"You're still too indulgent of the boy."
"Boy!" she cried with a half-laugh. "He's twenty-seven. Just because you're forty-five doesn't mean that everyone younger than you is a child! Whatever do you think of me?"
"I think you are magnificent, but could definitely do better than someone as old as I."
"Roderick, you're being mental. You are not old!"
He arched an eyebrow at her but said nothing. They changed the subject as their food arrived and continued chatting through lunch.
"Do you have a case you're working on right now?" Hermione asked.
Roderick gave her a level look. "I can't discuss my work, Hermione, you know that."
"Of course, but you can say whether you're working on something new without giving away trade secrets, can't you?"
He sighed. "That's true," he agreed simply.
He took several bites of his food, and Hermione went back to her meal as well. She felt wrong-footed by his silence. It was unlike him.
"I am working on the same thing I've been working on this whole time. I believe it will be a lengthy mission and will occupy much of my endeavors with the Department of Mysteries."
Hermione nodded and gave him a small smile.
"Eric liked my idea for Aurors to be able to monitor movements of suspects," Hermione told him. "The spell I showed him would introduce a tracking device unknown to the person it's cast upon."
"I told you it was brilliant," Roderick said as he took a bite of his potatoes.
Hermione smiled at him. He was always very encouraging to her.
"They'll be testing the spell for the rest of the month, and if it works as planned, the Aurors will start using it next month."
"It's too bad that the witch or wizard has to be within wand-shot to have the spell placed on them," Roderick mused. "Have you thought of a way to cast it and have the spell find the person no matter where they are located?"
"I'm still working on that aspect. I've found that the spell will travel, but not very far at this point. I'm still working on wording that will let it dissipate and reappear wherever the suspect is, even if we don't know where that is. Eric said if we can accomplish that, the tracking part might even become moot."
He tilted his head as he regarded her. "I'm sure you'll find the answer, Hermione. You always do."
She smiled at him as she rose from the table.
"Thank you for your confidence. I need to be getting along to the joke shop. George seemed excited about his new invention."
"Well, be careful. I don't want you to turn green."
She giggled before stepping over to him and kissing him. A thrill passed through her body at his touch and kiss. She marveled that after two years this man could still affect her the way he did. Pulling back before anything got too intense, she smiled at him.
"I'll see you tomorrow night, then."
"I'll probably stop by sometime during the day to rescue you from your paperwork," Roderick replied.
Hermione sighed. "I'm sure that will be a welcome relief. I'll see you then."
She waved and turned to leave. As she opened the door to the café and stepped into the street, she wondered where her relationship with Roderick would go. He was affectionate, but he was an incredibly private man. It had taken five months before he'd even kissed her. Even though they spent almost all their time together, he'd still never spoken of his feelings for her. She worried that maybe this was just a lark to him… something to keep him occupied until someone better suited came along.
She bit her lower lip. She was being overly sensitive about the whole thing. He'd never looked at any other women when he was with her. Perhaps he was just not demonstrative. That wasn't unusual among many men she'd known. She supposed she'd been spoiled, as Harry and Ron usually didn't hide their feelings from her.
Looking up, she was surprised to see that she'd already arrived at Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. Opening the door, the bell announced her arrival. George looked up from a customer he was helping and gave her a wide grin. Finishing up with the other person, he moved quickly toward her.
"Hermione! So good to see you. Thanks for helping me."
"Roderick is worried you're going to give me hives again, George."
"Not this time. There's nothing in the new potion that should have any adverse effects."
He turned and motioned for her to follow him. They traveled through the shop into a back room where, as George put it, all the 'magic' happened. They headed to a table in the back, where a lone potion bottle sat awaiting their arrival. Hermione came up and looked at the green potion before looking at George.
"So, what does this one do?" She picked up the paper with the list of potion ingredients on it.
George puffed with pride. "It's a soulmate potion. I've had loads of complaints about the love potions, and I'm hoping to replace them with this."
"I thought the love potions were one of your biggest sellers."
George nodded. "Funny, isn't it? People go mad over them, then they complain because they don't produce real results. I mean, it says right on the bottle that feelings are only temporary and will not induce true love!"
His hands went up in the air in frustration. He then reached down and picked up the vial.
"This, however, will show the drinker the person they are meant to be with. If it works, it's a foolproof way to find someone who will truly love and care about you."
Hermione arched an eyebrow at George. "That seems like a tall order. How does it find that person?"
"That's the trade secret."
Hermione shook her head at him. "Fine, keep your secrets." She extended her hand for the vial. "How long does it take to work, and what should I expect to see?"
"You should have a vision of yourself with your intended within ten seconds of drinking it."
She nodded. "And you said there are no side effects?"
"Okay, get your wand ready in case I turn blue."
"Hermione, I just said…"
She grinned. "I'm kidding; I'm kidding!"
She unstopped the bottle and downed the potion in one swallow. Her eyes became misty as the potion took effect. Suddenly, she was in a park in the arms of her supposed soulmate. She looked up into the eyes of…
He looked down lovingly at her and pulled her into a passionate kiss. His kiss seemed familiar, like he had kissed her many times before. Her heart soared at his touch and she fell into his kiss, reveling in the love she felt for him. Her mouth opened with his gentle prodding and he filled her completely. She felt drawn into him. His passion for her awoke something deep within her, and she knew she loved this man. At long last, Severus pulled away.
"I love you, Hermione. I will love you forever."
The vision dissipated in tendrils of smoke and Hermione gasped. Reaching up to her chest, she took two steps back and looked at George incredulously. Gasping for breath, she calmed herself before speaking to him.
"The potion doesn't work," she said.
"How can you say that? I know you saw something."
Hermione put her hand down. "Yes, something that can never be!"
"Who was it? You recognized him, right?"
She nodded. "Oh, yes, I recognized him! He's someone I can't be with."
"Well, even if you don't get along now, maybe in the future…"
"There can be no future; the man I saw is dead!"
"That can't be," George said. "I made sure that no one who was already dead would be included in the possibilities. It would do no good to find out you were meant to be with Godric Gryffindor a thousand years ago. Who did you see!"
Hermione turned and crossed her arms in front of her. She looked to the floor.
"Was it Fred?" he asked tentatively.
Hermione turned back around, compassion in her eyes. "No, George. It wasn't Fred." She furrowed her brow as she thought on George's words. "If you'd been careful that it wouldn't select dead people, how did I see him?"
"Perhaps you should tell me who it is," George said carefully.
Hermione grimaced. "It was Severus Snape."
George shrugged. "Well, his body was never found."
Hermione's hands came down and she balled them into fists. "That's not funny! The man died in one of the most horrid ways and all you can do is joke?"
"Seriously, Hermione. Remember the search that went on when his body disappeared? They questioned every Death Eater that had been apprehended. They searched and watched his home for months. He just up and disappeared. Maybe he lived?"
"How can that be?"
George shrugged. "I don't know, but I swear, this potion is incapable of creating an attachment with a dead person."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Well, I've researched this potion for two years. It's foolproof in finding your soulmate. It never includes the dead, and the vision you see is experienced by both parties," George said quietly.
Hermione's eyebrows shot up her forehead. "What? You mean to say that anyone who takes this potion will have a real experience with their soulmate? George, I don't think you've thought this through very well. How would you feel if you were going about your day, then just had this random vision of love about someone? You'd think you were going mad. And not everyone is ready to have that information thrust upon them. What if the intended is already in a relationship, or married for that matter?"
George's eyebrows furrowed. "I hadn't thought of that." He eyed the now-empty vial. "And I suppose you're right; it would be a shock to find yourself in the throes of passion with someone you hadn't expected, or might not even know."
"That's another point. If it was someone you didn't know, how would you be able to find out who it was? I saw no identifying information in my scene."
George's shoulders sagged. "You're right, of course. I guess it will take some time before this is ready to be marketed."
"George…" Hermione looked at him and gave him a lopsided grin. "It's an amazing concept, and the vision felt so real. I think you have the start of something wonderful if you can get all the kinks out of it."
George nodded. "I don't know how you could have seen Snape. I double and triple checked my calculations to ensure that no one who'd died would be considered."
Hermione shrugged. "I don't know," she said wistfully. "It would be nice if he had survived."
George's eyes met hers. "You mean, you'd be okay with him being your soulmate?"
Hermione thought about it. "I'd expected to see Roderick, to be fully honest, but there was something about Snape that felt… familiar… that felt right. I've always admired him, George. I think that would actually be something I would have considered had he lived."
"Don't tell Roddy that!" George cried.
Hermione shook her head. "You know not to call him that. He has a way of finding out these things. You'll be hexed in the back before you know it."
George grinned. "Well, I'm just saying, he probably wouldn't be happy to find out you're attracted to the Greasy Git."
Hermione's eyebrows furrowed and she looked at him angrily. "Don't call him that! For Merlin's sake, the man gave his life to save all of us. He's a hero!"
George put up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay. Sorry to badmouth your soulmate."
Hermione's hands formed into fists again, and she almost stamped her foot. "He's not my soulmate!" she cried. She surprised herself in the feeling of dismay that enveloped her with that statement.
George looked thoughtful. "I honestly don't know what happened, but despite it not working as it should, Severus Snape was your soulmate, or you'd not have seen him. I apologize, Hermione. My desire for this potion is to give people something to hope for that can actually happen, unlike the love potions that just give a fake result."
Hermione looked down at the floor. She suddenly felt bereft. "It's okay, George. You'll get it right. It may take a while, but I've no doubt that once this is working right, it will be a best seller." She looked back at him. "I should get going."
George nodded and moved towards her. He hugged her quickly. "Don't be a stranger. Mum is always asking about you. You don't come by like you used to."
Hermione nodded in agreement. "You're right. I've been so busy that it's hard to find the time."
"That's because you're always with Roddy. You can bring him along, you know."
Hermione laughed. "Roderick is a private man. You know that. He's not fond of crowds, and anytime there's something going on at the Burrow, it's definitely a crowd."
"Yeah, yeah. Just come by. With or without your man."
"I will," she promised and left the shop.
Severus Snape sat at his desk in shock. He'd just had the most intense vision he'd ever experienced, and Hermione Granger had been the center of it. He rose and moved towards the exit.
"I'm not feeling well. I'll be back in the office tomorrow," he muttered to his coworker, who only nodded and gave him a curious look.
Severus stormed out, quickly made his way to the Apparition point, and reappeared in his apartment. He frowned as his mind filled with the vision he'd just experienced. His heart felt ill. How he wished that that vision had been real.
He quietly moved to the large mirror above his fireplace. He'd placed it there to remember. He always had to remember who he was, and the mirror was the best way to help him understand himself. He stared at the vision before him. Brown hair, dark brown eyes, nice build, handsome face… Roderick Spencer stared back at him. He swallowed as he knew that Hermione could never know that beneath the glamour, Severus Snape was the man she was involved with.
He'd sworn an oath never to reveal his identity to anyone. It hadn't been a magical oath because he'd been told that his word was all that was needed… that the Department of Mysteries trusted him. He'd felt proud that after all the years he'd been looked upon as evil, someone had actually admired him and believed him to be trustworthy. It's what had made him decide to join the Department in the first place seven years prior, soon after his supposed death.
He'd awakened on the Shrieking Shack's floor in a pool of blood. He'd taken an antivenin and blood replenisher before meeting Voldemort, and had known that was the only reason he was still alive. Knowing that he couldn't stay in the shack, he went to the only place he could… his home at Spinner's End. Barely able to move, he'd tossed down the few potions he'd had on his person while casting Notice-Me-Not spells and as many wards as he could manage on his home. He'd collapsed and not awakened for what he'd assumed to be twenty-four hours. He'd cast more wards on the house, cleaned himself up, and taken more potions, finally collapsing on his bed. That's where the Aurors had found him much later.
He'd awakened, frightened half to death that they'd just kill him right there, but they hadn't. They'd put a glamour on him and shuttled him to St. Mungo's, where unknowingly, the Healers saved Severus Snape's life. While he was recuperating, he'd learned the outcome of the battle and that no charges were pending against him.
Newly elected Minister Shacklebolt had come to visit him, proffering an Order of Merlin on him. He'd frowned at the Minister, but Shacklebolt just grinned at him. Kingsley had then offered him a job. Severus was to change his name and appearance and work for him at the Department of Mysteries. His duties would be to hunt down missing Death Eaters and find and apprehend new dark wizards. After mulling it over for a day or two, he took the job. The glamour that had been put on him was made permanent, only being able to be lifted by the words 'I am Severus Snape' being uttered by him. He assured Kingsley that those were words he would rarely mutter, and only in the privacy of his own warded home.
After the Ministry faked a long search, he was declared dead. His home in Spinner's End was sold and he'd bought a flat in London. Thus his new life had begun. Despite not being himself, he'd found a new freedom he'd never thought possible. Able to leave all the negative connotations of Severus Snape behind him, he found he could do as he wished.
Severus looked into the mirror again, seeing the handsome man before him. That man had given him a new lease on life. He enjoyed his work. He loved his new life free from students. He was… happy. Then Hermione had come into his life. She started working at the Ministry a year after him with seven O's under her belt from her N.E.W.T.S.
For some reason, she'd come up and introduced herself as Severus was entering the building one day. He coolly greeted her and moved on, thinking nothing of the encounter. He was surprised to find that she sought him out to say hello on a daily basis. Despite his coolness, she didn't take offense. Evidently, Hermione Granger did not take hints.
Their friendship grew, and they would share lunches together, but Severus still kept his distance from her. He'd found it harder and harder to do so, though. They continued in this way for a very long time until finally, after berating himself for his utter foolishness, he asked her to dinner. She'd blushed and nodded, and that was that. He was smitten. Their relationship had grown from there.
Again, he took everything very slowly. His feelings for her grew more intense, but he held them back. He grimaced as he looked in the mirror still.
"I am Severus Snape."
The glamour melted away, leaving his true form looking back at him. His ugly form. A form that Hermione Granger would shrink from, never being able to accept. It's why he'd never said anything to her. He knew what her reaction would be, and it wouldn't be acceptance. She was too good for him.
"And yet, you love her," he said with a scowl.
He wanted to tell her of his love, but he couldn't. He was too honorable a man to not tell her who he truly was. As it was, it pained him to pretend to be Roderick and nothing more. He was an honorable man, yes. One who had made an oath not to tell anyone who he was.
But that was before he'd fallen in love with someone who knew him before his new life. Someone who had never respected or even liked him. He couldn't admit his true feelings for Hermione because if he did, he would have to tell her who he was, and then everything would be over. He'd get a vow from her not to divulge his secret, but she would forever know that the man she'd been involved with for two years had been lying to her. Not only that, he'd been the man who had killed her Headmaster and who had made countless nasty comments to her.
"Know it all."
"I see no difference."
He closed his eyes at that last remark. He'd known two seconds after he'd uttered it that he'd been wrong to say it. He'd been so entrenched in his part that he sometimes didn't think of consequences. Severus sighed. He knew Hermione was a forgiving sort, but could she forgive him for his past mistakes? Could she forgive him for lying to her for two years?
He stared at his face in the mirror. He rubbed his hands over his face as he tried to erase his past completely. He knew, though, that it could never be erased. It was a part of him.
"I am Roderick Spencer."
The glamour surrounded him again. He was the handsome man he'd become at his faked death. The man Hermione wanted.
The vision he had of the two of them came to him again. That is who he really was. If Hermione were to truly be with him and want him, she'd need to know everything about him. He needed to tell her who he was. He'd known that for a very long time now, but the vision gave him the courage to finally tell her. Perhaps it would work out in the end. Maybe she could love him for him.
Hermione sat curled up on her couch, staring at nothing. Her mind was far away, thinking about Severus Snape. To be honest, she hadn't thought much about him after his death. She'd mourned him, and after learning the truth about him, felt horrible that he'd died instead of being able to live his life as he should have. However, life went on, and she was busy. Once a year she'd think of those who were lost in the battle on its anniversary, and sometimes something would remind her of everything and everyone they'd lost. Other than that, she tried not to think about the dead.
After that potion-induced vision, she couldn't get Severus Snape out of her head. She'd come home and sat in the same spot for two hours, just thinking about him possibly being her soulmate. She wondered if she missed out on something that could have been fulfilling.
Then there was Roderick. She loved him. She knew she did, but she was unsure that he felt the same. She wanted him to love her, but what if he just didn't feel that way? If she were honest with herself, she'd hoped that something permanent could happen with Roderick. Was she forcing herself on him, thinking that he wanted something permanent? Was she being foolish?
Then there was the question of Snape. What if Severus Snape had lived and somehow had fallen in love with her?
She put her head in her hands. Her mind was foggy and she couldn't concentrate. Severus Snape was dead. Honestly, it didn't matter whether he could have fallen in love with her or not. She would never have the opportunity to test the vision of him being her soulmate. It wasn't fair to Roderick either. She sniffed as a tear tracked down her cheek.
Her arms surrounded her. She hugged herself furiously.
"I love Roderick. This is foolishness," she whispered.
She stood up and went over to her fireplace. Sticking her head in, she said Roderick's name and found herself looking into his living room.
The man looked up from the book he was reading. Hermione saw the title: Potions throughout the Ages and her mind went directly to Severus Snape. She shook her head to clear it.
"Are you free? Can I come through?" she said.
"Yes, of course," he said in his dark voice.
Hermione noticed for the first time that his voice was almost like Snape's.
"Give me a minute. I forgot I need to do something," Hermione said.
She pulled back from the Floo and furrowed her brow. Now that she thought about it, there were several things about Roderick that made her think about Severus Snape. Aside from the voice and interest in potions, he had a rapier wit. His sarcasm was one of the things that attracted her to him. Then there was his intelligence. The man was brilliant. He truly was the only person she'd ever found who understood her completely. He was a bit of a loner, just like Professor Snape had been too.
Hermione put her head in her hands. "Don't tell me I've had a latent attraction to Severus Snape, and I was first interested in Roderick because he reminds me of him!"
She dropped her hands down and closed her eyes.
"It can't be that. I mean… I never even thought about him for years…. I did find him attractive in my sixth year when he was teaching Defense, but it was never anything but a passing thought…. No, it's not possible… Oh, Merlin, what if it is? What if my whole relationship was based on some psychological desire for a dead man!"
She shook her head to clear it. "This is insane! What on earth am I thinking? Even if that was even a little bit of the truth, the reality is that I love Roderick for who he is, not because he reminds me subconsciously of some other man. I need to stop this right now."
She determinedly moved toward the fireplace and threw some Floo powder in. She bit her lower lip as she stepped through the Floo. Roderick rose to meet her. His arms wrapped around her, and his head bent low. He kissed her reverently. Hermione was taken away by his kiss, forgetting all the fretting she'd just been doing. She marveled at the way he always gave her chills.
Once they'd separated, Roderick arched an eyebrow at her.
"I didn't expect to see you until tomorrow," he said.
"I know, is it okay that I came over?"
"Of course. I always enjoy seeing you; you know that."
Hermione unwrapped herself from him and wandered over to the sofa. Throwing herself down onto it, she looked to the floor.
"Is something wrong, Hermione?" Roderick asked.
She closed her eyes. "Yes," she said finally.
Roderick settled next to her on the sofa and took her hand. "Talk to me."
Hermione looked down at his hand over hers and placed her other hand on his. She looked up to meet his gaze.
"I had a disturbing experience today with George," she said.
"I see no hives."
Hermione smirked. "Thankfully, no. His potion didn't affect me that way. It did have a unique effect, though."
"Tell me," Roderick said.
Hermione pulled her hands from his and sat back on the sofa.
"The potion he had me test is actually quite clever. It's a replacement for the love potions he sells. He finds they're more trouble than they're worth, so he thought that this other potion would be a good substitute for the love potion."
"What does this other potion do?" Roderick asked.
Hermione's gaze fell to her lap. "It's supposed to show you your soulmate."
Roderick tensed. He cleared his throat before speaking. "You were disappointed in who you saw," he said frankly.
Hermione looked at Roderick nervously. She rose and moved over to the fireplace, staring at the flames of the fire.
Severus stared as Hermione rose and went to the fireplace. When she'd mentioned soulmates, his stomach had felt like it had plummeted to the floor. She was upset, so whatever she expected to see, she hadn't. But had she wanted to see him, or someone else? He couldn't bring himself to ask if she wanted to see him. He didn't know if he could accept the truth of what she would say. He needed to know, though, didn't he?
"Who did you want to see?" he asked tentatively.
Hermione turned back to him looking puzzled. "Why, you of course!"
Severus relaxed some. "Hermione, it's okay if you didn't want to see me. I understand."
"Roderick, you are the one I wanted to see. I'm so upset because not only did I not see you, but the man I did see…"
She turned back to the fire, her eyes closed tightly. The reality of what she was saying slowly sunk into Severus as he gazed at her back. Whomever this man was she had seen, he wasn't that man. The man she was meant to be with wasn't him, and would never be him.
"Are you sure this potion worked?"
Her shoulders sagged. "That's the only thing about the potion that I'm sure about. George's calculations are perfect. It showed my soulmate, I'm sure of that." She turned back to him then. "But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't be able to be with anyone else, of course."
"Who was it, Hermione? You obviously know him, and you're upset about who it is."
Her eyes were big as she looked up at him. "It was Severus Snape," she said as she quickly looked away.
Severus felt like he'd been hit by a brick wall. His mind spun as he processed what she said.
"Wait… what exactly did you see?"
"Roderick, you don't want to hear the details, I assure you."
"No, I do," he said urgently. "Tell me what you saw."
She shrugged. "We were in each other's arms, proclaiming our love for one another. We kissed. It felt like he was right there."
Severus was stunned. He stared at her as everything began to make sense.
"Does the other person feel anything?" he asked absently.
Hermione turned and gave him a curious look. "Yes, but how would you know that?"
Severus thought fast. He looked at her. "I've read some things on this type of potion. Sometimes they show the other person the same… vision."
Hermione relaxed a little, but then she frowned and looked back to the fire. Severus' lips formed a line. She was upset. Of course, she would be. Why would she ever think that Severus Snape would be a good match for her? He looked to the floor. The small hope that had been building with her revelation was dashed in pieces as he realized she'd never be able to love him.
"You must be repulsed that it was Snape whom you saw," he said bitterly.
Hermione huffed. "I wasn't repulsed." She turned to face him. "Roderick, the man is dead. Besides being involved with you, even if I wanted to seek him out as a soulmate, I couldn't. He's dead."
"He's dead…" Severus looked into her eyes curiously. "That's what you're upset about?"
"Well, yes! George assured me that he'd carefully created the potion so that no dead person would be considered, yet I saw a dead man." Her arms came up in a sign of helplessness. "How could I see him if he's dead then? George even suggested he's not dead after all. Have you ever heard of anything so insane?"
Severus raised an eyebrow at her.
"So, you're saying if he were alive you'd consider him?" Severus asked suspiciously.
Hermione looked at him curiously.
"I mean… Snape was an arse, wasn't he? A traitor, a murderer. From what I understand he was an all-around git as well."
Hermione spun around, looking furious. "Severus Snape was not a traitor, nor was he a murderer! He may have been caustic, but I'm sure he had a reason to be the way he was. You know not of what you speak, Roderick."
He was amazed at her passion. Passion for him.
"Wasn't he cruel to you?" he asked, wondering what her answer would be.
Hermione shrugged. "Yes, yes, he was. He said some things to me that were thoughtless." She looked down. "I don't know why he really treated me like he did, but when everything came out about him, I thought long and hard about all of it. He was a spy, Roderick. How could a spy who was working with the dark ever treat someone like me with respect?" She folded her arms in front of her. "I mean, I am Harry Potter's best friend, and I'm Muggleborn as well." She shrugged. "Maybe he did it on purpose. Maybe he liked treating children the way he did, but I'd rather think that it was part of his persona… that it was an act." She looked up at him. "Do you think that makes me sound mad?"
He was looking at her in shock, amazed that she had such an outlook. "I think it's very forgiving of you. I doubt many would see such things in Severus Snape."
She nodded. "That's really not the point, though, is it? This vision has made me question everything, including us. I mean… Oh, I don't even know what I mean!" Her hands came up and weaved into her hair, pulling at it in frustration as she turned back to the fireplace.
Severus rose and came up behind her.
"What do you want, Hermione?"
Her hands came down and she hugged herself as she burst into tears. "I don't know! I mean, I want you, but I don't even know if you want the same thing, and even if you do, what does that vision mean, and how will it affect us?"
Severus turned her around and pulled her into his arms. He looked up into the mirror and saw them together, Hermione in his arms, her head tucked under his chin. His brown eyes studied Roderick in the mirror. Perhaps it was time to break his oath and tell Hermione his secret. After this conversation, he felt that her reaction would be much more positive than he was expecting. He rubbed her back and held her a while, just reveling in her closeness. Finally, he pushed her away slightly so he could see her face.
"Hermione, I need to tell you something."
"What is it?" she asked, her brows furrowing.
"It's something you must promise to never tell anyone. Even a slight slip of the tongue could be… fatal for me."
Her hand came up to his shoulder, and she squeezed him. "Of course, Roderick. You know you can trust me."
He smiled shyly at her. "I know I can." The smile fell from his face and he became serious again. "Before I tell you, I want you to know that I've wanted to tell you all this time, but I couldn't. Please forgive me."
'Roderick… please, just tell me."
"It would be easier if I showed you."
"I am Severus Snape."
Severus' glamour fell away and he stood before Hermione as his true self. Hermione's mouth dropped open, and she lost her footing as she sunk down. Severus reached out and steadied her. She closed her mouth, but other than that she was frozen. She didn't move, she didn't blink, she just stared at him.
His voice seemed to draw her from her stupor. Her eyes met his.
"You've been alive?"
Severus' cheeks reddened. "Guilty as charged."
Her hand came up to his cheek. "You're alive…"
"I think we've established that…"
He was cut off by her lips on his. He was stunned and didn't even reciprocate. Hermione pulled back.
"I just kissed Severus Snape."
"You're not upset with me?"
Hermione looked from his lips to his eyes. "Part of me is. The other part is just ecstatic that you're standing in front of me. I can't believe it's you."
She studied him longer, noting every facet of his face as she touched him.
"How is this possible?" she murmured.
"Come, let's sit." He motioned to the sofa, and they settled themselves into it. Severus looked down for a while, collecting his thoughts.
"The Aurors found me a day or so after I disappeared from the Shack. I'd Apparated to my home and was near death. I thought they were going to kill me right there. Instead, they patched me up for travel, glamoured me, and took me to St. Mungo's, where I was cured."
"But everyone searched for you for over a month."
"That was all propaganda. The Ministry wanted to make my death believable."
"But why did they fake your death? Why couldn't you tell anyone you survived?"
"I took an oath not to divulge my identity. It's part of my work for the Department of Mysteries."
A tear fell down Hermione's face. "But why? Severus, people mourned for you."
He snorted. "No, they didn't!"
She stood up from the sofa. "Yes, they did! Minerva was inconsolable."
Severus rose as well and huffed. "I hardly believe she was inconsolable. I guess she did look mildly upset at the funeral."
Hermione's eyes snapped to Severus'. "You were there?"
He smirked. "How could I miss my own funeral?"
Hermione's mouth dropped open. "You went as Roderick?"
He nodded crisply.
"Then you saw there were people who were mourning you. I was mourning you."
"There were several people who surprised me, I'll admit it. I was rather shocked to see you crying."
Hermione huffed. "I can't believe you were there all along. Were you laughing at us? Did you think we were all a bunch of fools?"
"I was shocked that anyone had even shown up! Imagine my surprise when the entire Great Hall was filled for the funeral of a spy and a murderer. Besides, Hermione, what would you have me do? I'd made an oath not to tell anyone I had lived. Should I have just popped up in the middle of my own funeral? I could have yelled, 'Surprise! I'm still around! Go back to your hating of me.'" Severus grimaced. "I don't know why all those people were there, Hermione, but it wasn't to mourn my death."
Hermione relaxed. "I'm sorry. You're right, of course. I thought that myself for a bit, but in speaking with them, they wanted to honor your sacrifice. They may not have liked you, but they respected what you did to save our world."
Severus' shoulders lost their tenseness. "They told you that?"
They were quiet for a while, both staring off into nothingness as their minds were filled with memories of the past. Finally, Hermione spoke.
"Why did it take you two years to tell me? Was this all just a game to you?"
"Hermione, it's not like that…"
"What is it like, then?" She turned from him and moved back to the fireplace. She folded her arms in front of her as she stared into the flames. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I wanted to, Hermione, I swear to you I did, but the oath I took kept me from saying anything to you."
She turned towards him again. "What changed, then?"
"I've wanted to tell you all along. It's been eating away at me, but I kept telling myself I'd made that promise, and I'm a man of my word." He shook his head and frowned. "Lying to you, however, goes against everything I believe in. I knew I needed to tell you. Our relationship was getting more and more serious, and I couldn't have you believe me to be Roderick when in actuality I am Severus Snape."
Her stance softened somewhat. "I know you are a man of your word, Severus. I just…"
He moved towards her, his hands reaching out to her and grasping her arms.
"I don't know what you want, Severus. Sometimes I think you're as invested in this relationship as I am, and sometimes it just seems like you're having a little fun before something serious comes along." She pulled herself from him and turned away. "I mean… I appreciate you being honest with me, and I understand why you haven't told me who you were before now, but it's taken two years for you to tell me this. How serious can you be about us?"
Severus' heart was in his throat. If he didn't say something fast, he was going to lose her, he knew it.
"Hermione… I fell in love with you a long time ago. I just didn't know how to tell you. I knew I had to reveal who I truly was before I told you how I felt. I hesitated in doing so because I didn't want to break my oath, and I also feared your rejection."
"But I'm not rejecting you, Severus."
"I was fairly convinced that when you found out you were dating the… What did they call me? The Greasy Git… you would turn and run the other way, you'd be so mortified."
"Oh Severus, I'm not mortified. I'm certainly surprised, though."
"I'm not who you fell for, Hermione. I don't know how you could not be mortified."
She studied him. Severus felt naked in front of her as her eyes searched his then moved to his nose; his mouth; up to his hair; and then down his frame.
"The thing is, Severus, you are who I fell in love with. No matter whether your hair is black or brown or whether your name is Roderick or Severus, you are the same person."
"When you look at me… the real me… you must see the awful man I used to be."
"Tell me about that man, Severus. Why was he the way he was? Was I right about you?"
Severus shrunk back away from her. He composed himself and stood straight. His walls went up as he tried to formulate how he could explain himself to her. He sighed finally.
"It was an act for the most part, but I enjoyed playing it. I won't deny it. My life was run by two crazed wizards, and the only thing I had control of was my attitude towards others. As a spy, I couldn't have the Dark Lord thinking I was being kind to any of you, so I couldn't be friendly to you. But I will admit that I got some thrill out of snapping at you and Weasley, and especially Potter. I had a big chip on my shoulder when it came to him, and there was no love lost between us."
Hermione looked down. "Can I ask you about a specific thing?"
He nodded. "Please," he said, realizing she hadn't seen his nod.
"Do you remember when Draco and Harry threw hexes at each other and one of them hit me?" She glanced up at him, looking apprehensive.
Severus looked at her. This would be when she would realize he was a total git and she'd walk out of his life. He nodded but said nothing.
"Did you mean what you said? Do you even remember it?"
"When I said I saw no difference with your teeth?"
She looked vulnerable as she nodded. Severus sighed.
"I did mean it."
She looked away. "Oh," she said in a small voice. "I had hoped…"
He reached out to her then and grasped her hand. "Hermione, the minute that came out of my mouth, I knew I had gone too far. I couldn't apologize to you because of my role, but I would have if I had been able to. It's one of the many things I regret. I'm so sorry, Hermione. Please don't hate me for it."
He barely dared to look at her. He knew what he'd done was unforgivable, and he'd been ostracized from others before for his thoughtless diatribe. This would be the end of them, he knew it.
Hermione lifted her head and met his eyes. "Thank you."
Severus arched a brow at her. "For what?" he asked incredulously.
"For apologizing now, when you could."
He looked down at the floor as he thought about what she'd said. A small glimmer of hope sprouted within him. Did he dare let it fester or push it down until it disappeared into nothing? Deciding to hold out hope, he closed his eyes and asked his question.
"Do you hate me, then?"
"Severus Snape, I could never hate you! I… I love you." She paused for a minute. "I'm in love with Severus Snape…" she said incredulously.
"You're truly in love with me?"
She nodded her head. "I just wasn't sure if you loved me. I mean… as Roderick."
"I love you as Roderick, I love you as Severus, I will love you eternally as them both if you'll have me."
"Truly?" Hermione said, hope shining in her eyes.
He reached out and caressed her cheek. "Truly," he said reverently. Then his lips were on hers. He kissed her lovingly and pulled back. "I've wanted to say that to you for so long now." His lips returned to hers and he groaned as he lavished her with his love. They stayed like that, enveloped in each other's love for quite some time. Finally, they separated, both a bit out of breath. Hermione smiled up at him.
"I am Roderick Spencer," Severus said simply. His glamour enveloped him and Severus Snape's form was no more.
"Why did you do that?" Hermione asked as she gave him a puzzled look.
"This is what I look like now, Hermione. This is who I must be all the time. I can take my disguise off here in my home, but only for a little while. I have lived as Roderick Spencer for seven years, and I'm accustomed to doing so. It's just easier than switching back and forth all the time." His lips thinned. "You must remember to never call me Severus in public. It may be best if you never call me that again."
Hermione's hand came up and cupped his cheek. "Please, may I call you Severus when we're alone?"
He arched an eyebrow at her. "I didn't think it would mean that much to you. You've called me Roderick since the first day you met me at the Ministry."
"I know but…" she looked down sheepishly. "We have something special, and I would like to express it by calling you by your given name."
A grin spread over Severus' face as he pulled her back into a passionate kiss.
"I love you, Hermione," he said between kisses.
"I love you too… Severus," Hermione responded once she caught her breath.
"Daddy, Daddy, tell us a story!" six-year-old Elaine cried.
"Yes, Dad, a story would be lovely," a very mature eight-year-old Hattie stated.
"Could you tell us the story of you and Mum?" asked four-year-old Jonathan.
Roderick arched an eyebrow at his three black-haired children. He smirked thinking about the reactions their friends had to the three of them. There had been talk when Hattie came along with jet-black curls and black eyes. More sniggering had happened when Elaine had straight black hair and Hermione's brown eyes. When Jonathan had come along, Harry Potter had accused Hermione of having an affair with the ghost of Severus Snape. The boy truly was the spitting image of his father.
With every birth, Roderick had explained away the oddness of their children's coloring by telling their friends that he was the fairest of his family. Everyone else for three generations had black hair and dark eyes. He'd joked that he'd thought he'd been illegitimate until he'd started having children.
His wool-gathering was interrupted by Hermione joining the family on the sofa.
"Isn't it time for bed?" she asked as she kissed the top of each child's head.
"Daddy's gonna tell us the story of how you got married!" Elaine cried excitedly.
Hermione looked at Roderick. "Is that so?"
Roderick arched an eyebrow. "It certainly is. It's a story for the ages that should be repeated often."
"Well, by all means," Hermione said as she flourished her hand at him, "go ahead and tell it, then."
"All right. Children, once upon a time, there was a very lonely man. He'd had a hard go of it, and he wasn't very well-liked. He wished his life would change for the better. He decided that instead of wishing things would be different, he'd actually make them different. He decided to change the way he acted and got a totally new job."
"That's when he met Mummy!" Elaine said as she bounced up and down.
Roderick smiled at her. "Yes, but before that, he'd settled into his new way of life and found he was happy."
He glanced at Hermione, a small, shy smile on his face as he gave her a loving look. His eyes met hers, and she smiled back at him. He continued on with the story.
"Then he met a very feisty witch who couldn't take no for an answer and his entire existence changed once again. He fell in love with her, but could never tell her. He was afraid that when she learned the kind of man he'd been in his past, she'd never want to be with him. 'What would she say if she knew who I really was?' he'd say to himself over and over again. The man knew in his heart she'd hate him."
Hermione reached out to him, her arm snaking along the back of the sofa to tousle his brown hair.
"But she didn't, did she, Dad?" Hattie asked seriously.
"No, Hattie, because she was the kindest, most caring woman in the world. The man finally came to his senses, knowing he could never tell her his true feelings if she didn't know what he was like in the past. He told her everything, and do you know what she said?"
All three chimed in unison, "I love you for who you are now, not who you were then!"
Roderick nodded, suddenly overcome with emotion. "That's right," he said finally when he felt his voice wouldn't break. "The man learned a valuable lesson that day. He learned that when you try your hardest to be a different person, love can overlook past mistakes. He knew then that he never wanted to be without the witch. He asked her to be his wife soon after that. They were married and had three very troublesome children who would never go to bed unless they had a story."
"Dad!" Hattie cried.
"That's just mean," Jonathan pouted.
"Oh, Daddy's just kidding, right Dad?" Elaine said with a smirk. Severus smirked back.
Hermione shook her head. "You two… Two peas in a pod," she said. "Now, off to bed, all of you. We'll be up in a minute."
The children scurried upstairs to await their good-night hugs and kisses. Hermione looked at Roderick.
"Hattie is doing a good job not letting the cat out of the bag," Hermione mused.
"I told you she was old enough to know the truth about who I am and why she looks the way she does." His eyes met Hermione's. "She's proud of the fact that she's mine."
Hermione scooted over and hugged Roderick. "Of course she is. You're a hero… Severus," she whispered.
He smirked and pulled her even closer. They sat together like that for a while.
"You haven't choked up at that story in a long time," she mused.
He shrugged. "It all just hit me tonight, just how lucky I am."
Hermione smiled and hugged him tighter. "I'm lucky too. I adore my husband, and he adores me."
Severus pulled back so he could look at his wife. "Yes, he does. I love you, Severus loves you, and we both love you eternally."
Hermione giggled at the saying he'd told her every day since he revealed his secret identity. She leaned up and kissed him passionately. As she pulled away, she smiled at him again.
"I may not be two people, but I love you eternally as well."
"And I'm grateful for that," he concluded. "We should go upstairs before the wailing starts because of our inattention to the children. Their life is so difficult."
Hermione giggled. She rose from the sofa and extended her hand. Roderick rose and took it, pulling it up to his lips and kissing it as his eyes never left hers.
"When we're done with the children, I want to show you how much I love you… as you. No glamour tonight," Hermione said as she stared back into his eyes.
His eyebrow arched as he withdrew from her hand. "Well, let's get going then."
Hermione yelped as Severus darted away, pulling her along. He raced up the stairs with her in tow as she giggled all the way.