The sight of Hermione's distinctive ural owl Archimedes always caused a minor skirmish amongst the residents of the top table. Minerva would declare it was for her as soon as the owl swooped through the open window, while Severus would sit back smugly and wait for the owl to come to him. Of course, some days it really was for the Headmistress and barely disguised sulking was the result, but most of the time she wrote to him.
It had been eighteen months since she left Hogwarts and Archimedes had been kept busy ferrying letters between the two of them for most of that time. Hermione had started as she meant to carry on, with chatty, informative letters from Australia where she visited her parents - their memories having been restored by the local Aurory after the war. His responses had been suitably acerbic and biting but she had continued unperturbed. Summer had been followed swiftly by the Autumn and her first term at University. She had regaled him with tales of her lecturers and fellow classmates and how much she enjoyed learning at an advanced level, and he had returned them with stories of his own of the school and the latest calamities within his classes. By unspoken agreement she avoided talk of the other two members of the golden trio.
Soon the letters between them had become more personal. Professor and Miss Granger became Severus and Hermione. She told him of her hopes and dreams, and her cautious forays into dating. He ignored the stab of regret in his heart when she wrote of other men, and encouraged her in his own dry way, knowing it was the right thing to do. He also allowed her closer, telling tales of his youth during his apprenticeship and of his own ambitions in life. Despite the physical distance between them, they became close friends.
The Summer after her first year, before the school broke up, she came back to Hogwarts for a week to visit the staff. Staying in guest quarters, she'd spent her days in the library and unofficially assisting in Vector's classroom, and her evenings visiting her favourite Professors. On her first day back at Hogwarts she had found a place for dinner had been set for her next to Severus, and she had smiled up at him shyly and blushed most becomingly (he thought). It had taken all five minutes for her to forget her nerves and chatter away to him nineteen to the dozen about all her news. He bore it in near-silence, but she knew him well enough through their letters now to see beneath that to the man underneath who was pleased she had so much to say to him.
Her dining place remained next to him for the whole of her visit. She could not spend every evening with him as they both had other obligations, but she was at least able to enjoy sharing her meals with him, albeit in front of the whole school and the benevolently amused staff.
They had kissed properly for the first time during that summer visit.
Her last evening had been spent with him in his quarters, sharing a bottle of wine. Eventually she had summoned her courage to broach whether she was still too young for him to consider something more than friends, and he had been most gratified when his response caused her to immediately pounce on him.
Alas, various commitments had kept them apart for the last six months other than the occasional lunch or dinner in Cambridge or Hogsmead, when they could both get away. But their letters continued. They both knew this had the potential to be something wonderful for them both and that there was no need to rush things. It was something of an old-fashioned courtship but that suited them both. Hermione was far too busy with her studies, and with the fun of being a student in a city seemingly full of them, muggle and wizarding alike. Severus, on the other hand, was sensible to the fickle nature of young women and had no desire to invest too heavily until he was sure that Hermione really did want him.
Now though, eighteen months after Hermione had left Hogwarts as a student, they were both ready to take the next step. Hermione's parents were still living in Australia and so Severus had suggested she might want to spend Christmas with him, either at Hogwarts or at his house in Cokeworth. Her ready acceptance showed him just how welcome his suggestion was. And so, tentative and then firm plans had been made between them. She was to spend the holidays with him - Christmas at Hogwarts with the rest of the faculty, and then New Years at Spinner's End, just the two of them. He hoped it would finally be time to take her to his bed. She hoped the same.
Christmas saw Severus frequently looking down at the beautiful, accomplished young witch at his side with pride. She was everything he could ever ask for, and he saw every day how her potential in life was fast being realised. Neither of them knew whether they would end up sharing the rest of their lives, or just a short while, but he certainly hoped Hermione would be a part of his world for many years to come.
A/N - Thanks to all those who have read this story, especially those who took the time to review and share their thoughts. You are what makes me into a better writer! I hope this epilogue brings closure for you all - I know many were hoping for something steamier, but that's not how I saw this story ending given the angst of the Hermione/Ron relationship.
Again, thanks for reading!