Author's Note: Ah, the final chapter! I truly hope that you've enjoyed this silly little tale. Thank you for reading!

Chapter Three

Severus had never been so annoyed in his life. Once again, he only had himself to blame — he had been the one to suggest she remain here last night so that he could attempt once more to cut her hair once her own natural locks had grown out again, after all. What he had not counted upon was the rest of the staff arriving by dinnertime.

That had caused a problem come morning, for during the night, Hermione's mad hair had managed to get from the couch, under the doorframe, into his bedroom and up onto the bed. He was thoroughly vexed as he spat hair out of his mouth, then set about trying to disentangle himself. Lucius's words from yesterday, which he had tried so bloody hard to block out, rang in his ears. He stumbled over the last of her hair, his feet hitting the cold floor. ''Bollocks,'' he muttered, shoving the hair further onto the bed and shuffling over to his bathroom. He was far too warm, having slept fully dressed. ''Too bloody early …''

He stared at his haggard reflection before grabbing his toothbrush, wondering when Hermione would wake. Sleep had not come quickly for him, not with the thought of her so close. That she felt safe in his presence, to sleep alone in his rooms … Dare he hope that Lucius was right?

''Bugger all.'' Severus locked the bathroom door and turned the shower on. He couldn't wait to get under the hot water.

Hermione stretched luxuriously on the enlarged couch. She felt wonderful. The best night's sleep she'd had in weeks. To be allowed into his rooms, to sleep here surrounded by his scent and snuggled warmly under his quilt with her head resting on one of his pillows … It was a dream come true. She sighed happily.

It was several minutes before she could rouse herself, throwing off the quilt and baring her shoulders and upper body to the chill of the room. She'd left her robe over his chair, and with the fire long out she regretted her decision to sleep only in her bra. Still.. lying on the couch with the silken touch of the blanket against her bare skin, knowing a mere door separated her from Severus … Hermione shivered and smiled, sliding her robes on.

She was perusing his bookshelf when there was tap on the door between them. ''Are you decent, Granger?''

''Only if by decent you mean dressed,'' she quipped, turning to smile at him as the door creaked open.

''Are you quite ready to try?''

''Yes, go ahead. I trust you.'' She was too busy seating herself to see the open look of longing on his angular face at her words.

''I will begin with the scissors as before,'' he told her. She turned to him and closed her eyes, preparing herself.

Hermione exhaled slowly. ''Okay. Ready.''

Severus tried to ignore her steady gaze as he went through the same routine he had yesterday with increasing frustration. The furrow between his brows grew ever deeper. Even his shears failed him, and he nearly pitched the damn things across the room in a fit of temper.

''Hold still,'' he growled, pulling his wand. Hermione didn't budge as he tried eight different cutting and severing charms, including one of his own creation. ''FUCK!''

Giggling, Hermione Summoned his wand from where it had landed. ''That's a first. I've never seen you get so frustrated you'd chuck your wand.''

''Not funny, Granger.''

She shrugged. ''Well, it was worth a try. We're just going to have to try to get the ring unstuck to end the curse. I do appreciate the help, though.'' She looked down at her hands hesitantly. ''You're a wonderful friend. I mean … if you want to be.''

Severus wavered. Should he take Lucius's advice? Risk himself and his heart? His hand brushed against hers and he waited for her to look at him ''I thought I told you last time you asked,'' he managed hoarsely. This was a bad idea, a terrible one — ''I have no interest in being friends.''

''Oh.'' She was crestfallen. Then her brain kicked her. Emphasis. He'd told her before she put on the ring … Merlin, she was daft! She'd only heard the negative! ''Oh!'' Brown eyes met black hopefully. Oh, poor man he looked positively gutted as he waited for her to respond … Flushing, Hermione cupped the side of his face and brushed her lips over his cheekbone. ''I would like that very much, Severus.''

''As would I.''

The simmering hope and fire in his glittering eyes made heat pool in her belly. All of a sudden, with everything she'd wanted right here in front of her, her hair didn't seem so important. She closed her eyes in anticipation, leaning closer with her face upturned and lips parted, waiting for him.

Long fingers thrust themselves into her hair and his mouth lowered to hers. A millimeter away, he paused. ''Stuck, you say?''

Hermione could have killed him when he drew back and stalked over to the small kitchen area, rummaging through a cupboard. Didn't … didn't he want to kiss her …? Was her breath bad? She cast a Freshening Charm as discreetly as she could. Okay. Maybe she could convince him to try again...

''Give me your hand,'' he demanded brusquely. She complied, admiring the warmth of his calloused skin, the way the cold tips of his lank, damp hair brushed over her knuckles.

''Oh, gross!'' Something slimy touched her ring finger and she tried to take her hand back.

''Stop squirming,'' Severus snarled, continuing to apply butter to her hand and ignoring the way her hair was twining around his arm. He looked at his handiwork a moment, nodding to himself. He retrieved his kerchief, wiping off his fingers before grasping the ring firmly . ''On the count of three, pull your hand back. One.''

''Two,'' Hermione said, giving him a nervous smile.

''Three.'' Severus twisted the ring, Hermione pulled, and it slid off cleanly. She cheered, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him soundly. Their noses bumped and he tilted his head so the hook of his nose rested against her warm cheek. Her lips nibbled on his until they parted and they tasted each other. The ring bounced across the room to a corner and lay there, forgotten.

His breath was minty fresh and Hermione held him closer. She loved the feel of his scratchy wool frock coat under her hands, his firm, narrow chest against hers … Severus's fingers dug into her hair, combing through her curls. To her pleasure, the excess hair seemed to fall from her own locks. To sit without the weight … She moaned softly.

Panting lightly, Severus pulled back to look at her with heavy-lidded eyes. He'd dreamed of kissing her, of having her in his arms, and they all fell short of the reality even if the way it had come about was less than ideal.

Hermione smiled at him, cheeks flushed. ''I guess all I needed was a kiss from Prince Charming to break the curse.'' He snorted. Him, charming? ''Then again, I suppose it was for the better. I actually like my hair, and I got my heart's desire in the end. Er – there's not a rule against this, us, is there?''

''If there is, I'll tender my resignation.'' Severus brushed his knuckles against her cheek and tried not to look as besotted as he felt. ''I doubt it's any surprise that working here has long since become lackluster.''

Giggling, she kissed him again. ''We should tell Minerva and head up for breakfast.''

''Tell Minerva about us?'' His brow furrowed.

''I meant about the ring.''

''An infinitely preferable matter for discourse.'' Severus rose smoothly, offering Hermione his hand. He watched her tidy her things for a moment before silently summoning the ring to his hand. He'd stop by the owlery later and send it to Ronald Weasley with a compulsion charm. The boy needed to learn a lesson about giving unsuspecting people enchanted objects.

''There. Thank you for the use of your couch.''

''My pleasure.'' His voice was low and he practically purred the last word. Blushing, Hermione kissed him one more time for good measure. She couldn't wait to finish breakfast … and the day … and perhaps a great many years more.

''So you're …'' Minerva paused, hesitating.

''Together, yes,'' Hermione replied easily. She tucked an errant curl behind her ear, impatient for this to be over. All she'd wanted was to get permission for both Severus and her to get out of staying at the castle over the hols.

''For how long?''

''Only since we got that stupid ring off my finger, so just over a year, I suppose. There's nothing against it,'' Hermione added. ''I did check.''

Minerva waived her hand. ''But you were fighting just last week!''

Hermione laughed. ''It was just an argument. Happens all the time. We're not actually fighting, it's more about arguing for the fun of it.''

''Well, he never would be happy with just any witch.'' Minerva nearly choked on her brogue. ''You are a good match, you know. I always thought so, watching the two of you interact.''

''We'd have been together sooner if I'd actually listened to how he said something versus his actual words,'' she confided sheepishly.

''Severus has always been that way.''

Hermione looked about the Headmistress's office, admiring the worn leather-bound books for what was likely the hundredth time. ''So it's alright if I steal him away for Christmas?''

''Of course. I'll ask Filius to stay behind. We don't often have many students staying over, and I daresay Severus really does deserve it. What are your plans?''

Grinning, Hermione leaned forward in the plush chair. ''I'm taking him to meet my parents. Things are moving rather quickly for us, and we're rather settled together.''

''Some couples just know. It was like that for myself and Dougal. As much as I cared for El, I still wish I'd married him.'' She sighed, taking a firm bite of her biscuit.

''You what?'' Ron gasped, dropping the plate of gingerbread men. Molly repaired the plate with a flick, glaring at her youngest son. ''You never did!''

''We did,'' Hermione confirmed, grinning. ''Ran right off with Mum and Dad and got it done. Absolutely no fuss. We can have a larger ceremony later if people are insistent over it, but we're happy. A little quick to some, but it was right for us.''

''So where is the git?'' Harry asked.

She slapped his arm lightly, cringing as the Warbeck song playing on the wireless hit a particularly high note. ''Don't call him that. He's at his home — er, our home now, I suppose. He really didn't want to come and I wasn't about to force him.''

Harry and Ron just blinked at her. She couldn't blame them, it really was a bit of a shock, she supposed. Still, she was positively euphoric. Severus had all but moved into her quarters over ten months ago anyway, and they'd passed many nights agreeably sharing his quilt. Well, he called it sharing, but he was a bit of a cover-hog. At least it gave her reason to cuddle close to him …

''—mione … Earth to Hermione!'' Harry snapped his fingers and she jumped, spilling her cocoa. ''Sorry. Tergeo!''

''It's alright. My mind's wandering a bit, that's all.''

'''Sokay.'' Harry studied her, his green eyes serious behind his lenses. ''And you're happy? Really and truly happy?''

Her lips curved into a soft smile. ''Yes.''

''All because of that bloody ring, I can't believe it …'' The redhead shook his head in disbelief, then pulled her into a hug. ''You're mad. Brilliant, but mad. Congratulations, 'Professor Snape'.''

''Oh good god,'' Hermione breathed. ''The poor students.''

''More like poor you,'' Ron muttered. ''Soon as you leave, Mum'll start knitting you baby booties, just wait.''

''Merlin.'' Was her faint reply.

Hermione giggled. ''I'm going to get your toes …''

''No!'' shrieked a small voice. The little feet burrowed under the quilt.

''I've got your toes! Rawr!'' Hermione pounced gleefully. Her daughter leapt from the bed, wearing the worn quilt like a cape and her curly black hair fluffed out from her head.

''Daddy! Daddy help!'' Severus grunted as she barreled into his legs and he hit the floor with a wince. ''Mummy's trying to get my toes!''

He smirked at his wife. ''It looks to me that you're on your own.''

''Daaaaaad! You're not playing right! You're supposed to protect me. You're a Prince, Mummy says so!''

He raised two eyebrows at the witch in question. ''Is that so?''

''Mummy says you're Prince Charming and that you saved her from a curse with true love's kiss!''

''For the love of Merlin, Hermione …'' Exasperated, he looked at his wife, leaning back on his elbows.

''Isn't it true?'' Her pout was the stuff of Hogwarts legend already.

''In a manner of speaking,'' he hedged. ''There was an enchantment involved, and I did kiss her.''

Wide-eyed, Rose dropped down and sat on his legs. ''An enchantment?''

''Oh yes. It made her hair grow because she accidentally wished on a ring given to her by a foolish redheaded imbecile.'' He stopped at Hermione's warning glare not to disillusion his daughter regarding her beloved Uncle Ron.

''So it grew like Rapunzel's?''

''Only in multiple-colours,'' he said, warming to his tale. Hermione smiled at him, love in her eyes. ''Only she'd made two wishes. One for any hair but hers, and the other for me. Her hair grew and grew, always finding its way to me, often knocking me arse over teakettle.''

''Severus! Language!''

''I won't repeat it,'' she sulked. Severus smirked. ''Daddy's told me not to.''

''Oh, Merlin …''

''STORY!'' she demanded, cutting off her mother.

''Not if you whinge at me,'' he snapped. Rose quieted. ''Now then … Your mother's hair kept curling around me, and we couldn't make it stop growing. We managed to get the bloody ring off, and when we kissed for the first time, she was back to her normal hair. Now are you satisfied?''

''Yes! My daddy's a prince!'' Rose hugged him gleefully.

''Alright, you've had your tale, now let him up.'' She assisted them both to their feet. ''Rosie, go get your bag.'' She looked at Severus. ''Minerva will be okay with her all night?''

He scoffed. ''Of course she will. I told her if she didn't watch her, I'd put Gryffindor's entire Quidditch team in detention for a month.''

''Horrid man.''

''Would you desire me any other way?''

''Never.'' Hermione kissed him soundly. ''Happy anniversary, love.''

''Shut up and kiss me again, witch,'' Severus growled.