Severus found Hermione in the kitchens. She looked up from her lesson plans and smiled. "You're home."
Since it was the beginning of the term, and Minerva had begun to draw on his resources more and more as the years went on, it wasn't unusual for Severus to stumble in around one or two, or floo to say he wouldn't be making it back that night. Severus took the seat next to her. "You should be in bed."
Severus' lips tightened in displeasure. "Another nightmare?"
Hermione reached out to cup his chin in her palm. "Do try not to look so worried. It's most likely just stress." The last year had been an uphill climb, with her and Ruel colluding to pass legislation allowing werewolves jobs outside of the school so long as they stayed on school grounds and worked for the companies/laboratories/schools through owl or floo communication. The law had gone into effect a month ago, but there were still kinks and the beginning of the term meant that she once again had more on her mind than the quibbles and queries the Ministry kept throwing her way.
Severus removed her hand from his chin, encasing it in both of his. "Would you like something for it?"
Normally, despite trusting Severus and his skills completely, Hermione was loathe to take anything to help her sleep. This was the third week in a row, however, that her sleep patterns had been disrupted by the dreams, and she was exhausted. "Have a smidge of the Dreamless?"
"Upstairs, in the storeroom. I'll go for it in a moment."
"Appreciated, I'm sure." She pulled her hand away, pushed her seat back, and moved to stand over him until he allowed her access to his lap. She curled herself over his legs, tucking her head onto his shoulder. "We miss you."
He wrapped his arm around her, holding her securely to his chest. "Two more weeks at the most and I'll be able to start making it home by dinner at the latest."
He rested his chin atop her head. "What are the nightmares about, Min?"
She considered lying. She despised withholding any sort of truth from either him or Remus, but in certain cases it was the lesser of the evils. She decided that in this case telling the truth was the better option, but only by a slim margin. "Ron and Harry."
Underneath her, he stiffened. "Regularly?"
"Nearly every night."
"It's been years since… That hasn't occurred since before we became lovers."
Hermione soaked up the feeling of him admitting what they were. All his actions spoke of it, she was as good as married to both him and Remus, but it was rare that he ever said anything to confirm what they were to each other, and she always hoarded those moments. "The last time it was this bad was when I first moved into this house. I've had them since then, but nothing like this. I've thought of consulting someone who might know, Ginny's been looking into Dream Consultants for me, but so far she hasn't found anyone she feels confident sending me to."
"I will speak with her. Perhaps if we combine our resources someone can be found."
"Severus, she doesn't know what the dreams are about."
She sighed into his neck. "Remus will be upset at me, keeping you to myself for so long."
Severus stood, picking her up and taking her with him without pause. "It's all too obvious whom you love more."
Hermione pinched him. He didn't deign to let on that he'd noticed.
Luna and Terry came to the school for dinner. They brought Beatrice, their four year old. She immediately attached herself to the older kids and they, in return, refused to return her to her parents. The rate of werewolf infection was drastically down and now most incoming students were sent from other countries, either due to their parents not wanting them or to the parents feeling that this was the safest place for them. As a result, anyone new, even if she was just a visitor, was a novel experience.
Remus and Terry got off on a conversation about the current changes being made to Animagus law (the ministry was trying to crack down on unregistered Animagia.) Hermione was thoroughly tired of talking about legislation in any form, though, so she told Luna, "Last month's Quibbler went above and beyond."
Luna grinned. "You still think it's rubbish."
Hermione was too tired to prevaricate. "Entertaining, wholesome rubbish. Zev and I spend days reading our favorite parts to each other. We've even gotten Severus to laugh a few times."
"That's something I ought to be writing about. Nobody would believe me, though."
Hermione inclined her head in acknowledgment. Luna said, "You look to be dead on your feet."
Hermione shrugged. "Stress, bad sleeping patterns."
Luna waited her out.
"Ginny mentioned she was looking for someone. Wanted to know if I had any ideas." Luna was a good person to ask about these things, so Hermione wasn't terribly surprised.
"Were you able to help?"
Luna put her fork down. "You're not the type to talk to someone. There's too much you consider sacred."
Hermione knew this was a problem, but Ginny wanted her to try and that was enough to make Hermione consent. "The way people react, even still, when I talk about Harry-"
"The dreams are about Harry?"
"Repetitive dreams about the two of them?" Luna sounded worried.
Hermione sympathized, but Luna was listening in that somewhat unobtrusive way that she'd learned somewhere between the death of her father and the birth of her child, and Hermione just couldn't seem to pass the opportunity up. "It's as though my brain is playing out every possible option of how they could have died. I've yet to see the real thing, thank Merlin, but I can't shake the feeling that it'll show up somewhere along the way. Not that this is that much better."
Luna contemplated Hermione for a few seconds. "I don’t think you will see that, Min."
Hermione took another bite. "You didn’t used to be so solidly optimistic."
Luna laughed softly. "For someone who knows everything about the areas she knows anything in, you sure skipped completely over certain subjects, didn't you?"
Hermione shook her head. "What are you talking about?"
"I was recruited by several of the more prestigious magical institutions after my OWL and NEWT scores in Divinations were released. I was the most impressive candidate in the area my year."
Hermione -- who, once having let go of her (only mildly misguided) anger at Trelawney, had realized that certain disciplines within the subject could be immensely useful -- was surprised that she had never heard of this at all. "I guess The Quibbler's lucky you have a Hufflepuff's sense of loyalty."
Luna nodded. "You have no idea. I still get offers. Regularly."
Hermione went back to where they had started. "How do you Interpret the dreams, then?"
Luna asked her a question in return. "Why do you think Snape and Remus are going to leave you?"
Hermione frowned. "I don't."
"Your brain does."
"That's impossible. Remus is bloody well stuck with me, literally, and Severus… Well, I mean, honestly, Severus."
"That's all fine and good, but the world's store of rational thought isn't going to change this, Min. You need to find a way to reassure your subconscious of that fact."
Luna looked apologetic, but said, "Not a one."
Hermione awoke with Harry calling her name. Her eyes slammed open before she forced them closed again for a few seconds, attempting to wipe out the images with alternate ones of nothing. Remus's hand, warm from sleep, came up between her shoulder blades. "Min?"
She took a deep breath. "Nothing, luv, go back to sleep."
Remus had a knack for knowing when not to listen. "You want some water? I'm going to get myself some."
Hermione noticed that swallowing was taking more effort than it technically should have. "I'll come with."
Remus seemed about to say something, but instead just took her hand and helped her out of bed. He waited, his hands under her elbows, until he could be sure she was steady and then started walking. She followed.
He motioned for her to sit down at the table and she obeyed without arguing. He poured them each a glass of water before sitting down across from her, handing hers over. "Look, tonight at dinner. I wasn't eavesdropping, per se, just-"
Hermione cut him off with a slight motioning of her hand. Remus had uncommonly good hearing. It wasn't an unusual trait in werewolves. She had gotten used to him hearing snippets of conversation that weren't meant for him. "What did you hear?"
"I'm not stuck with you, you realize? I could name at least three other women, all of age, who would take me at the drop of a hat if I suddenly lost my mind and decided to 'leave you.'"
"Really? Because I can think of four, and that's without working at it."
"I know you love me, Remus." Hermione sighed. "Which is why it doesn't make sense that these dreams would hint at an anxiety over either of you leaving me. I'm, well, I'm as sure as I ever am of anything that both of you love me and plan on being around for some time."
"Is that how Luna interpreted the dreams?"
"Mm. And Luna, you know her, flights of fancy all over the place until it comes down to the people she loves. If she wasn't pretty sure, I'm quite positive she just wouldn't have said anything."
Severus chose that moment to sweep into the room. "A note would be appreciated, if you plan on continuing these nocturnal wanderings."
Hermione smiled apologetically. "How was your day?"
"Not worth speaking of, yours?"
Hermione said, "Passable," at the same time that Remus answered, "Long."
Severus snickered. "Now then, what was Miss Lovegood nattering on about?"
Hermione shook her head. "She was just poking a bit at the dreams for me. Evidently she's something of a phenom in Divinations."
"Of course she is, her family's long had a gift of the Sight."
"Of course they have," Hermione said.
Severus tilted his head. "I don't suppose there would have been any reason for you to know that."
Remus said, "It's just so easy to get used to you knowing everything."
Severus smirked in agreement. "What did her 'poking' produce?"
Hermione strived for a tone that documented just how blithe she was feeling about all of this as she said, "It seems my subconscious has decided that I'm worried about the both of you leaving me."
She was still taking a sip when Severus decided to say, "Perhaps it is long past time that we took some sort of vows or made some type of official commitment, then. When I get a moment, I'm sure I could look to see if there's any precedent for more than two people doing such with each other."
Hermione swallowed incorrectly and Remus stood to rub at her back while she hacked out dihydrogen monoxide infested carbon dioxide. When she had regained her breath it was Remus who used the returning calm to ask, "Official commitment?"
Severus drew himself into his most authoritative stance, as good a sign as any that he was feeling horridly insecure. "To give the mind something tangible to reference. After all, I find it perfectly understandable. We are none of us strangers to having loved ones abandon us in one form or another." His tone implicated that he was talking about the price of manufacturing new pewter cauldrons, but his eyes were a mix of vulnerability and frustration at that very emotion.
Hermione nodded, her eyes still tearing a bit from the choking. "It makes sense. I have more time than you do at the moment, I can certainly handle the research."
Remus said, "I have more time than either of you, by quite some measure. I'll be the one in charge of seeing if there's anything 'conventional' available. If there's not, then we can discuss what's possible at a later date. For the moment, I'm to bed. I'd be happier about that fact if the two of you were up to following me."
Hermione allowed Remus to tug her up from her seat. In turn, she took Severus's hand. Selfishly, she maneuvered herself into the middle of them for the walk back to the room.
Zev looked up from the potion that he was brewing for Clara's Cleaning Company, a wizarding manufacturer of industrial strength cleaning formulas. He was working for them under the new "proxy worker" rules, both brewing their already established products and researching ways to create new ones. The work wasn't as exciting as most of the stuff that Severus and Hydrea (who'd ended up staying even once she'd gotten her Masters certification; it was easier being married to Ruel if she could actually live in the same place with him) generally cut him in on. Without a Masters certification, however (and that level of education was still decidedly unavailable to werewolves, it was one of many on a list of Hermione's yet-to-be-fought battles) he wasn't able to hire onto any of the more prestigious Potions Development firms, not even with the recommendations of two firmly established Masters. Zev didn't seem to mind so long as Severus and Hydrea still let him work with them. A job "outside" of the school was still a fantastically novel thing, and all of Zev's friends were both jealous and proud of him.
"I don’t think I'm understanding you correctly," he said. "Severus proposed?"
"Well, I think that's romanticizing the situation a fair bit." Hermione frowned.
"De-romanticize it for me, please."
At a loss, Hermione rolled her hands. "It was more… I suppose you could say he thinks we should take things to the next level. He wants me to feel better."
"Can't blame him there."
"It may be a moot point. Remus says that so far all he's been able to find is a ceremony that will allow Severus to take me as his wife and name Remus his official concubine. Even there he's not really sure how it works, since his translation spell isn't really helping. Mandarin is evidently somewhat idiomatic."
Zev stirred at the potion. "What about something like a low-level bonding?"
"Generally bonds, like marriages, involve two people."
"Mm, but the bond you place on children going to their homes for the hols involves two people and the grounds of this school, yes? If it's possible to do with a third magical entity, it should be possible to do with a third person. I mean, there are all kinds of spells that aren't specifically bonds that mimic the magic of a bond and involve more than two people. A Fidelius, for example."
Hermione tilted her head. "It's a good thought. I'll talk to the others, see what their reactions are. Between the three of us I'm sure we'll find a suitable solution."
Zev asked quietly, "Are you going to have a ceremony?"
Hermione honestly hadn't even thought about it. "I don't know. Probably not. Can you imagine how Severus would feel?"
Zev set his stirring instrument to the side precisely, as though afraid of keeping it in his hand. "I used to dream about that, you know. You in a white robe, Remus in full dress, Severus with even more buttons than normal. Gold, they were always gold in my dreams. Meant something special."
Hermione faltered. "I don’t understand."
"When you adopted me, that changed everything. Made my world somewhere that I could want to be again." Zev leaned cautiously over the cauldron, compressing his lips. "As I understood it, when things became official, then they were safe. So, in my mind, if you married Remus and Severus, they could never leave me."
"Zev. Even if one or both of them had left me-"
"I know, mom. I was a kid."
"You're not that much older now."
Zev smiled a thin, funny smile. "Older enough."
"Would you like a ceremony?"
"I'd like for these to disappear." Zev reached out to her, gently touching the soft skin underneath her eyes where she knew the bruising due to sleeplessness was becoming apparent.
Quickly as she could, Hermione captured Zev's hand and kissed it. The metal of the bracelet he had made for her their first Christmas at the school pressed into both their skins, leaving a mark when she finally untwined her fingers.
The first weekend that Severus had actually been able to return home for most of it they spent largely in their rooms. Kieran winked at Hermione when they all emerged for dinner Saturday night, but the truth of it all had been less than scandalous (otherwise known as exciting.) In truth Severus, Remus and Hermione all had assignments to mark and mostly just wanted to be close to each other without the interference of others.
When Severus had technically moved in five years earlier they had been allowed three adjacent rooms. They knocked out walls and put new ones into place, structuring the area like a small flat without a kitchen. There was a bedroom, a living area, a table that could be used for either eating or marking, and a bathroom of considerable size.
Remus was draped over the sofa, marking papers while sprawled out on his belly for most of the day; Hermione and Severus were both using opposite sides of the table. When Hermione discovered that she'd given points to a child that she should have taken them from she said, "I've been thinking that a ceremony might be necessary. Even if there's no way to make things official."
Remus said, "I've been looking into Zev's bonding idea, I think I'm getting somewhere."
Severus asked, "A ceremony?"
Hermione knew that she could tell him Zev seemed to desire one and that would be the end of the conversation. She decided to pretend like he might actually listen to her as well. "A girl only gets married once, you know."
Remus sat up to keep an eye on the proceedings but didn't say anything. Severus pushed aside the paper he was currently ripping at with a red-inked quill. "We can hope so, at the very least."
"Not something big," Hermione said. "It's not like we get so many chances to celebrate much of anything here."
Remus evidently decided that the moment had come for him to add his two sickles. "I should like to see the both of you dressed for the occasion." When Hermione looked over at him, his eyes were sparkling with a cross between wistfulness and unrealized lust.
Severus, on the other hand, looked at the table. "I shouldn’t be entirely opposed to that side effect."
"I don’t want Remus to spend all this time finding a way to make this possible and then do it in private, as though it's something not fit to be put in books or shown the light of day. I'm so… I deserve to show the two of you off, even if it's only to people who will get why I'm to be envied anyway. There's a lot of things that I'm willing to pretend shame over to get what I want, I fake humility every time I get myself into another argument with the Ministry, but the two of you are where I draw that line."
Remus and Severus shared a look that ended with Remus asking, "The Great Hall, do you think, or the grounds? I can think of benefits to either one."
Severus went to collect Remus from the library after arriving home from a long day at Hogwarts to find Hermione the only one in their rooms. She said, "He's still looking for something that will work."
Remus had found all types of bindings for three people, but most of them were unsavory at best and Dark at worst. Severus strode back out of the room and returned ten minutes later with a bemused Remus. Severus was saying, "She's not going to like it any more than I."
Remus bent over Hermione to give her a kiss. "No, but she's got that incredible brain. It might give us somewhere to start."
"What are the two of you bickering about?" Hermione allowed herself to be pulled up from the chair and over to the couch. Remus sat at one end, settling her against his chest. Severus took the other, drawing her feet up into his lap.
Severus said, "The werewolf has found yet another deeply repulsive suggestion as a way to mock matrimonial tradition."
Remus sighed into her hair. "I realize what I have isn't ideal, Severus, but I think it might lead to something more satisfactory."
Hermione cut in before they could work themselves into a lather. "Tell me."
Severus narrowed his eyes. Hermione would have put money on the fact that Remus was making a face. She smacked his leg lightly. "Talk."
He did. "The werewolf tattoos are magically reinforced tattoos."
"Of course they are," she said, "they're burnt in with Tracking Ink."
"That's an oversimplification," Remus told her. "Once the ink is burnt in, it can be activated to do several things besides just Track. For instance, if someone wanted to use the tattoo as a Binding Source, it would be just perfect."
Binding Sources were old magic. The only reason Hermione knew anything about them was from all her research into Oath Magic, which it closely resembled. "In other words, they could use them to enslave the werewolves."
"Basically," Remus's tone was blithe. Too blithe. He kept talking, "The important thing is, evidently, if two people were already bound together, as in, say, marriage, the Binding Source could be charmed to recognize both those people as the 'master.'"
"Sounds perfect, doesn't it? I've always wanted to enslave my lovers." Severus was practically spitting with fury.
Hermione thought they were probably going to be discussing whatever it was this was bringing up for him later but for the moment, "What if we all had a potential Binding Source? I mean, people wear rings to signify that they are bound, ours would just have to be something a bit more permanent. We could relay the Binding through each other, don't you think?" To calm Severus, who was looking as near apoplectic as anyone showing almost no emotion could, Hermione said, "Yes, I know, it would be the equivalent of taking mastery over one another, but then, what marriage isn't? There's always a power trade when promising one person to another, whether in commerce or matrimony. And you know damned well that at times the two have been completely interchangeable. The fact is that we trust each other enough to be all right placing our 'freedom' in each other's hands. Or, in this case, each other's skin."
"Also," Remus said softly, and Hermione knew exactly where his mind was at, "a Binding gets around the Werewolf Marriage Laws."
The WML required all non-werewolves who "took on conjugal associations and duties toward werewolves" to be bound into that werewolf's tracking signal, taking responsibility for his actions. A Binding, however, wasn't a marriage and it would have been redundant to enforce a double Binding, particularly seeing as how there was no legal precedent for it.
Severus was breathing shallowly and Hermione was thinking about telling him that it was far from too late to back out when Remus reached out and pulled Severus's arm, the one with the Mark, into his hand. "It won't be like before."
Hermione allowed herself a moment of feeling completely mentally deficient before rejoining the conversation. "For one thing, there won't be pain; not when the ink is applied and not when you Bind yourself to us. For another thing…we love you." She knew she had been planning on saying something more eloquent and insightful than that, but when the moment had come, it had seemed the only thing to say.
The hand Severus still had around her foot -- gripping the appendage as though it were his last link to this earth -- loosened, and she figured it had been the right thing to say. Remus noticed this and added a helpful, "Loads."
Severus glared but didn't pull his arm away from the hold that Remus still had on it. Hermione asked, "Ink rings, then? Or something else?"
Trevor hugged her when she came to meet him at the edge of the school's wards. "A Christmas card at the hols is no substitute for a visit."
Hermione couldn't say that she was sad not to have been back to the parlor for a while, but she had missed Trevor's non-judgmental friendliness. "I'll try and do better. Thanks for coming out." She had been nervous that he wouldn't. She didn't want anyone but Trevor doing their tattoos, but asking an everyday wizard to come into the Den of the Beast (as she knew the school was called by the general public) was no small thing.
"I've been curious about this place since you opened it. I've heard far too much not to take up an invitation once received."
Hermione puzzled over that a bit. "You could've come at any time. You just had to ask."
"And say what? That I was curious? You wouldn't have taken that as a way of my saying I wanted to visit the zoo, or some such?"
Hermione could see his point, but she hated to think that people stayed away for reasons that weren't fear. Fear was one thing, something they continued to attempt to chip away at, but the lack of invitation was another. She would have to think it over. Shaking her head slightly, she handed him a piece of parchment. On it there was a small design linking an R, an H, and an S, all drawn out in script. "We want it done 'round our ring fingers."
"Shouldn't be a problem."
"Here's where it gets tricky. I need the Binding on the ink to be left uncompleted."
Trevor stopped walking. "Min-"
"We plan on completing it tomorrow." It was a Friday. "There's going to be a ceremony."
"You're going to use a Fire Tattoo to bind yourself to two other people?" Trevor sounded like he was trying to tamp down on an urge to run.
Hermione turned to him. "Trevor. I've rebuilt my world around these two men, and they in turn around me. What difference does a little bit of magic make between us?"
"That's not a little magic. That's-"
"The type that you can't walk away from." Hermione kept her voice level. The last thing she needed now was to sound possessive or psychotic. "Trust me. We know. We've talked and talked and talked about it."
Trevor shifted his weight from one side to the other several times. Finally he said, "On one condition."
Hermione spread her hands. "Let's hear it, then."
"I get to stay for the wedding."
Hermione laughed. "Please. There's going to be so much food, you have no idea."
Trevor walked the few steps to catch up with her and she began leading them toward the main entry again. She said, "We have the order in which we want to have it done planned. Severus is…concerned at the idea of putting another mark on himself." Severus's history as a Death Eater Turned Spy was common knowledge. In many classrooms it was now a mandatory part of the History curriculum. "He made his own Numbing Potion, it's not an insult, though he may act like it is. He can be a bit abrasive but really it's mostly just nerves."
Trevor gave her an understanding look. "I can handle it. Most people who come in aren't the old professional that you are, love."
Hermione said, "Thanks, again. Really."
Trevor shook his head. "Not at all."
Hermione's mum, once she'd learned that her daughter was doing anything near similar getting married, had insisted on things being as traditional as humanly possible. Hermione often felt that she'd somehow betrayed her parents in some slight way, running off and holing up in a world that was so entirely apart from theirs, so when there was something small that made them happy, she always endeavored to make sure they received it.
Still, she had warned her mum that Severus and Remus needed to be completely comfortable with all the proceedings. At which point Genie said, "Darling, all I want is to see your father give you away. A white dress would be nice, but…"
Hermione had approached Minerva to ask, "I don't imagine you'd be interested in officiating this thing we're doing? I know it's not a wedding in the strictest sense, really a Binding Ceremony which is a little less, er, traditional, but I'm looking to have it be more of a wedding type feel."
Minerva gave Hermione the same look Minerva used to pin on students who were giving foolish or misguided answers. "How can you think I would be anything other than honored?"
Severus and Remus immediately agreed that Zev should be the best man, with Ruel and Charlie as groomsmen. Hermione asked Ginny to be her maid-of-honor, Nymph and Hydrea being given the role of bridesmaids.
Hermione consented to going dress shopping with her mother, so she insisted that everyone be dressed formally, but other than that there were no specific robes required.
Hermione chose the Great Hall over the courtyard, because she had built this school to be a home and it felt right to be married inside its walls. No sooner had she said, "It's just, that hall is part of my home-" had Remus interrupted to agree, "Yes, mine as well. The only one I've known since childhood."
Under the dual front (and not really caring much one way or the other) Severus had asked, "Will there need be decorations?"
Kieran and Redda seemed intent on taking care of all those details however. Kieran had informed her, "If I can’t be the one to give you away, then I will at least be the one to give you a rousing good time."
As far as Hermione could tell, the whole school was feeling that way. She was constantly seeing the students, even down to the youngest of them, running this message or that message from one faculty member to another to prepare for the day. By the time Trevor arrived, the school was in a flurry of activity and she wasn't allowed anywhere near the Great Hall.
She led him up the stairs to her rooms with the others, where Severus and Remus were waiting. She made introductions, Remus smiling and eagerly taking Trevor's hand (which, she noticed, Trevor didn't even hesitate to put out for either man.) Severus was a bit more reserved, but polite all the same.
Hermione said, "We agreed that Remus would go first, Severus second, I last. Is there somewhere you wish to set up?"
Trevor put his tools on the table and drew a chair to the right position for him to work. "You said you would have the potion here?"
Severus disappeared for a moment and came back with three bottles. He set them down on the other side of the table from where Trevor had set up camp. Remus plucked one up. Before swallowing, he tilted his face up to Severus, "Thanks for brewing this, I always trust your stuff more."
He didn't touch Severus, but then Severus didn't like being touched in front of people he didn't trust. Remus swallowed the stuff and went to sit in the chair before he had to be helped there. Trevor asked, "Can I see the design again?"
Hermione rustled through her desk and came up with the requested item. Trevor perused it for a second. "Ring finger, correct?"
She nodded. Trevor checked the state of Remus' reactions and went to work.
Ginny got Hermione situated in the dress then stepped back and said, "Oh. Min."
Hermione spun toward the mirror. "What? What is it?"
Ginny came up from behind and wrapped her arms around Hermione, pulling Hermione's hands back. "Look at yourself."
Earlier that morning, Tsalel -- one of the students who'd been sent to them from abroad and the girl that Zev was crushing on so badly he couldn't speak when within ten feet of her -- had come and pinned Hermione's hair into an up-do with flowers that Redda had sent down. Emile, the Herbology Professor, was in charge of the floral decorations but Redda sent a note, "I'll be damned if none of my flowers see their way into this day."
The dress was a simple fall of white silk, one layer of tulle under the skirt for a minimum amount of added volume. Above Hermione's breasts, the expanse of dress that covered her chest was sheer. There was no adornment and it was sleeveless and backless, as Hermione had wanted as many of the tattoos that corresponded to Remus and Severus as possible on display. She looked in the mirror and tried to see what Ginny wanted her to. Finally she asked, "What, Gin?"
Ginny smiled in that way that Hermione knew meant she was repressing laughter. "You're so beautiful."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I still have a face to put on." Hermione sat down at the dresser and set to directing Cosmetic Charms and even doing some of the work the old fashioned way. When she was done, she stood, looked at herself in the full-length mirror and said, "This is what- I mean, I'm doing the right thing, aren't I?"
Ginny turned Hermione around to where the two women were facing each other. "How does the unBound ink feel?"
Hermione nodded. "Incomplete."
Ginny didn’t say another word, just held out her elbow and led Hermione to where her father was waiting. Ginny left them, moving to go organize the rest of the bridal party. Cal took in the sight of his daughter and pulled her into him in a cautious hug, careful not to muss her. "Nervous?"
"You wouldn't think so after seven years, would you?"
Cal chuckled. "I'm glad you decided to do this."
It was the first thing her dad had said one way or the other and it caught her off guard. "I didn’t know it meant anything to you and mum."
"We would've been fine without it, so long as you were happy, but there have been so many things that I haven't gotten to do with you. I didn't get to attend any graduation ceremonies, despite how brilliant you've always been. I didn't get to brag about where you went for your undergraduate or about your job, even if what you were doing was leaps and bounds more important than the neighbors' children. It's not that I ever needed that stuff from you, your mother and I always knew that we had every right to be proud of you and didn't need tangible proof of that, but every once in a while it's nice. Nice to look at you and tell you how much I love you and do something a father is supposed to do."
Hermione blinked. "Dad."
"Should I save the talk about how we'd appreciate more grandchildren for a later date?"
Hermione made a choked sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sob. "That might be best."
Ginny made her way back, Nymph and Hydrea following. She said, "Everything's in place. You'll follow Hydrea in, all right?"
Verona's mother had been a Muggle piano instructor, and Verona had learned to play before coming to Hogwarts. Steven and Gerard had bought her a piano a few years into living at the school and Verona had consented to giving lessons to anyone interested. It had sparked other students's interest in alternate instruments and Kieran had consulted with Hermione about ordering in, "those teach-yourself manuals that I remember one of my Muggle-born colleagues saying Muggles were quite fond of."
The result was a trio of musicians who had put together a march and a recessional for the wedding. The music began. Ginny winked at Hermione before opening the door to the Great Hall and starting down the aisle.
At the end of it, Severus and Remus were waiting.
The ceremony itself was nearly silent. Unlike most marriages, the only "vows" that needed to be spoken were that of consenting to the Binding. Minerva asked them each in turn, her eyes serious and warm. Hermione accepted, then Remus, then Severus. Minerva chanted the incantation necessary.
Hermione had thirteen fire-based tattoos. Every single one of them was Bound into her skin, it was necessary for the ink to appear as it was supposed to. Never once had she felt anything like the finishing of this one. While it was rare for her to walk into a room and not be conscious of whether either of them were there, of what they were doing, how they looked, all of these things, that was habit built of seven years of being in love and a whole lifetime of knowing the necessity of observation skills.
This was different. It wasn't that she knew they were standing next to her because her eyes were telling her that or she could hear their breathing, although she could. No, she just knew they were there. A small tug at her finger, a whisper at her mind was all it was, and yet it was everything.
Severus' eyes widened slightly and Remus touched both of them, as though he couldn't stop himself. Hermione imagined he probably couldn't; Remus was enormously tactile.
Minerva smiled. "The Binding is complete."
Hermione didn't have to be told but the words cemented it inside her head.
She let herself be led back down the aisle between the two men, glad that they were now both touching her. It made the Bond less elusive, easier to acclimate to. They seated her between them at the table that had been set up for the wedding party. She tried listening to what Ginny and Zev were saying in their toasts. She caught some of it.
She caught Ginny's, "…have survived and flourished and changed the world together…" and Zev's, "…taught me everything I needed to know, including how to brew the best toothpaste and why Jarveys make bad pets, despite being cute…" but not much more than that.
She was pretty sure she ate. It seemed that Remus put food on her plate and that she tucked in like a good girl but if asked later there was no way she would have been able to tell anyone what was served. Music struck up again and she got the sense that Remus and Severus were speaking. She could hear the words but it was more that the Bond seemed to be coursing through her, as though she were a conduit. Hermione wondered if Severus would feel that way were she to speak to Remus and vice versa.
Remus whispered in her ear, "Severus has allowed me this first dance."
That brought Hermione back to reality. "What does he have up his sleeve?"
"I think he merely wants to be the one to steal you."
Hermione wanted to be stolen. Back and forth and back and forth. It reminded her that both these men considered her worthy of it. Remus stood and held out a hand to her. She took it and let him lead her out to the dance floor. Once they'd begun, other couples began to filter in around them.
Remus bent his forehead to hers. "You look magnificent."
Hermione scratched her fingers over the soft velvet of his royal blue robes, her right hand coming up to curl around his left bicep where the ink of words that referred to her hid. "I doubt I have anything on you."
Remus twirled her a bit, which was considerably more fancy than anything Hermione had been expecting of him but she went along with it. He asked, "How does it feel?"
She said, "Weird," because he wouldn't take it the wrong way.
"Like suddenly you have someone else's blood flowing through your veins?"
It was a surprisingly accurate description. "Precisely."
"I'm glad it's the two of you. It feels new, even though it's not."
"This part is."
The song ended and Remus said, "Speaking of this part-"
Severus was already on them, sweeping her away with what Hermione knew was a playful scowl at Remus. Some of the children looked rather unsure. She gave him a reproachful look. "Behave."
"It's my wedding, I can do as I wish."
Hermione had never once heard Severus espouse the it's-my-party-and-I'll-cry-if-I-want-to theory and it made her throw her head back in laughter. "Mm." When she settled down, her eyes caught on something she had noticed before but without considering what it meant. "Gold buttons. I didn't think I told you about that."
"You didn't." Severus wasn't looking at her.
"You wanted to know how Zev would feel about his ceremony."
"As I understand it, children are often uncomfortable at the thought of having their parent's affections usurped by a significant other."
"Severus, so far as Zev is concerned, you are his parent. Yes, technically Remus's name is on the adoption papers but he could care less. As he understands it, you've been around every bit as long and helped him through just as many tough times. What exactly do you think being a parent is?"
Severus looked unsure but he was bold enough to hazard a guess. "Wearing ridiculously flashy buttons to one's Binding Ceremony to said child's mother?"
She laughed but her love for him was so overwhelming that it threatened to overtake her lungs and not allow her the air necessary for such mirth. She said, "I think they're actually quite smart-looking."
"Well yes, but then Gryffindor has never won any awards for being the most well appareled House, has it?"
"You'd be surprised," Remus said from behind her, startling her. She hadn't even realized the song was over.
"After everything I've seen in my lifetime?" Severus considered. "Possibly a little. I take it you want her back?"
"No," Remus said, and unlatched Severus' arms from the proper position they'd maintained so elegantly. Moving in closer, Remus's chest pressed up against her back and he placed Severus' hands with one at Remus's waist and another clasped in his hand. It was a tight fit, there being just enough room for Hermione to breathe. That was all she needed. Remus said, "I'm taking you both back."
Severus began to lead.