Now That Your Rose Is In Bloom

Chapter 133

AN: Unfortunately I won't be able to update tomorrow due to traveling. Still, thank you for all the support! It is deeply appreciated!

I don't know how Severus can find this body beautiful.

Hermione stood in front of the golden full body mirror. She shivered as the frigid draft from a nearby window brushed her skin. Still, she made no move towards the folded clothes atop the porcelain toilet.

She ran her finger along her ribcage on down to her abdomen. It rested atop the scar on her pelvis. Tears clouded her eyes as she traced it.

The scar made her sick to her stomach.

She remembered the first night of her remission. It was nerve wracking enough to strip, but her heart stopped when her husband laid eyes on the scar. When Severus kissed it, she wept until she couldn't breathe. He had held her tight, as if she could have disappear at any moment. Soon, her shoulder was as wet as his. Even though they had not made love that night, something deeper, almost more sacred had transpired between them.

Despite the scars and the changes, Severus had found a way to love her body. Perhaps she was still unable to love it, but he claimed that he worshipped it enough for both of them. It was something she could believe.

Hermione ran her fingers through her bushy hair. When she first went into remission, she promised that she would never take having hair for granted again. That promise lasted all of a year, when she resumed cursing it for being so wild. The only difference was now she was quieter about her bodily complaints. There was no need to drag anyone else into her pity parties, especially given how desperately they had hoped she would live.

Hermione wiped her eyes. Even if this was the last time she would see her healthy body, she felt like Narcissus. Really, there was little wonderful about her body, at least nothing worth staring into a mirror for ten minutes. Yet it was still her body. For all of its faults, it was healthy, save the scar on her arm. Wasn't she well within her rights to get one last glimpse of herself before it was ravaged by medical treatments?

"Hermione?"

She startled.

"Hermione, are you in there?"

"Just give me a minute, Love," she grabbed her underwear and bra.

"Very well then," he replied.

"What do you need?"

"Neville is here to see you."

There was a lump in Hermione's throat. "Neville?"

"Yes," Severus replied.

"Oh," Hermione reached over and flushed the toilet. "Tell him I will be with him shortly."

"Do you want me to distract him?"

"If you could, please."

Hermione listened as Severus' footsteps grew softer. She threw on her undergarments and her shirt. Then, she ran a finger through the tangles in her hair. Her eyes fell onto the bottle of Sleekeazy's. Can Severus stall Neville long enough for me to put this on?

She spent two eternities trying to make her decision.

Hermione growled. At some point Neville is going to want to see me, though Merlin only knows why. Best come out as I am, even if I am far from presentable.

Hermione finished dressing. She strolled towards the front door, stopping twice to put a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

I hope I don't look like a clear mess. Merlin knows I'd love nothing more than to look like I have myself together.

"So Rose will still keep her job?"

A child ran up Hermione's spine. How much trouble is Rose in?

"She will maintain the position of Potions Professor as well as Head of the Slytherin House. Also she will have all the same responsibilities. The only thing which will change is that some of her duties will be turned over to her teaching assistant," Neville explained.

"Including grading?" Severus asked.

"Yes, including grading," Neville answered.

Severus shook his head.

"Is there a problem with that?"

"From a student perspective, no, but from a potions perspective, yes."

Neville cocked his head.

"Rose has such high standards for her students. I would hate to see them drop because some dunderhead came in and was more lenient than she," Severus continued.

Neville laughed. "That was exactly her concern."

"Perhaps those concerns should be taken into consideration. After all, we do not want the standards to fall too drastically."

"I am sure Ms. Khan will be just as strict a grader as Rose."

"Are you certain of that?"

Hermione chuckled and glided towards the men. "Severus, I am certain Rose's teaching assistant will do a fine job."

"A fine job doesn't cut it," Severus argued. "Only a perfect job will do."

Hermione put a hand on his shoulder. "I know in your eyes that nobody will ever be as perfect a potions professor as Rose, but you need to trust Neville to make the right decision for the school."

"Neville cannot be trusted near a cauldron. What makes him qualified to run a potions classroom?" Severus answered.

"Well I did hire your daughter as my potions professor," Neville cut in. "I'd say that means I've done one thing right for the Hogwarts potions program."

Severus' expression softened. "I suppose that was one of your wiser decisions."

Neville turned to Hermione. "How are you doing?"

"Well enough all things considered," Hermione answered.

Neville glanced down at her left arm. "I am glad to hear it."

Hermione sighed. "I suppose Rose told you about my condition."

"She did."

Hermione gulped.

Neville took her right hand. "You aren't alone."

"I know," she choked.

"I'm here for you," Neville continued. "If there's anything I can do then please do not hesitate to ask."

"Can you help keep Rose and Violet out of trouble?" Hermione asked.

Neville chuckled. "I can try to rein in Rose, but I fear Violet is hopeless."

Hermione laughed. "I was afraid you'd say that."

"She has not given you too much trouble though, has she?" Severus asked.

"She's no more troublesome than I was at her age," Neville answered.

Severus frowned. "Then it appears we are overdue for a long conversation."

Neville's eyes glistened. "Do not worry, I am more than capable of handling a student such as Violet. Compared to most of the other students, she is actually quite well-behaved."

"I'm glad to hear it," Hermione replied.

"Indeed," Severus answered. "If you two will excuse me, I have some brewing to catch up on."

"What are you brewing today?" Neville asked.

"I need to brew more sleeping draughts as well as a few Carea Gripis," he answered.

"Good luck," Hermione answered.

He leaned over and whispered in her ear, "So long as Neville does not help me I should not require any luck."

Hermione giggled.

He kissed her on the forehead before sauntering towards the basement.

Neville exhaled. "I remember when people thought you were entering a cold, loveless marriage. How wrong they were."

"I honestly didn't know what level of intimacy to expect when I married Severus," Hermione admitted. "He's far more affectionate than anyone ever imagined him to be."

"I always knew he had it in him," Neville answered.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Neville nodded.

"You were terrified of him. How could you imagine him as anything other than your bogart?" She asked.

Neville shrugged. "Even as a student I thought if he had someone to love he might not be so awful."

"Did you think he would be a good father?"

"Not necessarily."

Hermione twisted her lip.

"Still, I knew even then that everyone needs love. If he found the right person then I hoped that he could be happy," Neville answered. "Or at the very least he would stop yelling at me."

"You are beginning to sound like a Hogwarts headmaster," Hermione noted.

"Well, people always said I would be excellent at such a position," Neville replied. "I wonder if there are any job openings."

"Yes," Hermione gestured for him to follow her. They walked out of the atrium. "I believe there is a Hogwarts headmaster position open."

"Oh there is," Neville answered.

"Yes, but you'll have to oversee your bogart's oldest daughter," Hermione teased.

Neville smiled. "I believe I can handle her."

"What if Severus comes and reminds you of who you bogart was?"

"I'll just remember how tender he was when holding one of his children. That should be enough for me to conquer my fears."

Hermione paused. "I suppose Severus isn't quite as intimidating when he's behaving like a loving father."

"Oh no, he can be very intimidating when being a father," Neville answered. "I would never want to be the person he believes is going to harm his child."

"True," Hermione answered.

"Still," Neville's eyes sparkled again. "Having a family brings out the best in him. At his most loving, Severus is far from intimidating."

"Yes," Hermione replied. "I am quite lucky to have someone like him in my corner."

"He is even luckier to have you," Neville answered.

Hermione took a shaky breath, hoping Severus would feel that way once her body was a mere shadow of what it once was.