"I do not blame you," Severus said sincerely, meeting her eyes directly.

Hermione jerked her head to the side, looking away. She wiped the tears the hung perilously from her eyebrows and shook her head slightly. "I blame me. If I had listened..." she took a deep breath, "If I had listened, Adrian would be alive." She clutched her arms around her abdomen.

Leaning her head back on the pillows, she mumured hoarsely, "It wasn't an equal trade."

They were both silent for a long time. At one point, Hermione's hand sought out Severus' own, and they simply sat there, connected by such a simple yet loving gesture.

Using his free hand to brush the hair out of his face, Severus took a deep breath. "Hermione?" he asked quietly.

"Yes?" Hermione answered softly.

"...marry me?" Severus asked, his dark eyes never leaving Hermione's face.

Her brow furrowed in confusion. "But...Severus...we are married," she said slowly as if she were suspecting foul play.

"No, m'dear, we have a slip of paper. A paper can't withstand much. Too much heat can wither it to ashes. I want to do it right, Hermione. I want to be yours," Severus said softly.

Hermione hiccoughed loudly and Severus feared she was going to burst into tears again. "I'm not sure I...can."

Severus nodded deeply, almost as he had expected this response. "Hermione...I can wait as long as you need me to. I want, no need, you to be sure."

Hermione didn't smile, but somehow, in an almost inpercievable way, she seemed happier.

As the dust settled, so to speak, and the hype of the demise of Voldemort died down, many things became painstakingly clear. One such thing was the falsehoods that Austiere had fed to the general populace, looking for praise that wasn't rightfully hers. She wasn't harmed, other than socially, and today she lives somewhere obscure in the United States. She never apologized, and to this day, believes that she was right and deserving.

Hermione and Snape got remarried. They have no children, as Hermione is barren. But that does not stop their life from being fullfilling. Many professions are out of the question for them, so they content themselves with being entrepneurs, developing new charms, transfigurations, and of course, potions. Life isn't a bouquet of roses, but then again, what is? Besides the obvious, of course, and that's the roses.

A/N: You're all probably furious with me. And honestly, I cannot blame you. But, at least allow me to make a suitable arguement for myself before you all go bezerk.

This is not my best work. By far. I chose to do the Marriage Law Challenge because mainly, it's easy. I was new to the fandom, new to writing in general, and I had not a clue what I was doing or what I was getting myself into.

I recently took a break from fiction altogether. I needed some time away, to reassess what I thought I was doing here. I'm not impressed with myself, if anything, I'm slightly ashamed of my work. While I feel that this story has been an accomplishment for me in terms of helping me develop my own style and writing skills, I fear it isn't what I had hoped or planned it would be.

I may come back to this story at one time and attempt to rebuild it. But, with the ever-mounting numbers of MLC fics out there, I probably will not. If you're looking for a good MLC fic, there are already scores of them out there for you to find. It's so easy to get sucked into one "type" of story, whether it be you're into "arranged marriage fics", "apprentice fics", "hurt and comfort fics" or so have you. I'm guilty of it, I know. But there comes a point where a writer, and a reader, has to decide if they want to hear the same song sung to a different tune or they want to get into rock music instead. My point is, ladies and gentlemen, I'm sick of the ordinary. I'm tired of the average. And this story...while not horrendous...is not nearly up to my own standards of originality and plot.

I'm glad so many of you enjoyed my fiction. Honestly, it means a lot to me. You've all helped me grow as a writer, and for that, I thank you.

Until next time, all.

A Perfect Lie