Warning: This is pretty much angst-free and unabashedly fluffy...


The Book of Love

It seemed so long ago that their story had started. A bushy-haired, brown-eyed girl and a greasy-haired, hook-nosed man twenty years her senior….

I know the answers, she thought. Why isn't he calling on me? Her hand was in the air, waving wildly, as the black-haired boy with the curious scar stammered out his ignorance. Harry Potter - she had met him on the train. The thin, tall man asking the questions was roundly ignoring her.

She had been mesmerized by the words of the Potions master. Bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses….His voice was low, almost a whisper, enthralling her with every word. Here was reality – she was part of this world now, this world where paintings talked and owls brought mail. Where you could bottle fame and brew glory. And this man would teach her.

The questions weren't hard. And so she waved her hand higher and higher, trying to show him that she had prepared, had studied, even if Potter hadn't. She wasn't a dunderhead, even if she had spent the last decade wondering what the heck was the matter with her, why strange things kept happening around her. Until Professor McGonagall had come with her Hogwarts letter, and had explained to her and her parents that there was a whole world they had never even known existed, and that Hermione was a part of that world.

It had been a relief, like finally getting a diagnosis for a chronic condition that had puzzled the doctors. The black-haired, stern woman had put a name to the strangeness that had been Hermione's life. She, the daughter of two dentists, was a witch. And now she was here, just one witch among many witches and wizards.

"Sit down," the Potions master snapped at her. His voice had lost the quality it had had before; it sounded petulant and waspish now. She did as told and sat down, humiliated. Yes, later she realized she had been too over-eager, too intent on showing off to him what she knew. But right then, it had hurt.

It had been like that all through her school years, one step forward and two steps back, a complicated dance that sometimes moved her closer to him before taking her further away. One minute there would be awe and admiration, the next humiliation and anger.

She had misjudged him, over and over again. Maybe it was because he looked like the archetypical villain. Maybe it was because moments of greatness were followed by moments of astounding pettiness. Maybe because the riddle that was Severus Snape was the hardest she would ever have to figure out. And just when she thought she had got close to solving it, when after the last battle she had finally come to realize what an astounding man he was, even as the rest of the wizarding world ignored all he had done, she had passed her N.E.W.T.s and left Hogwarts.

Yet sometimes in her dreams, she still heard his voice, the voice that could read the Encyclopedia of Toadstools to her and make it sound captivating, and saw his eyes, dark, glittering, and fathomless, bewitching her mind, ensnaring her senses...

-o.o.o-

She had come back to Hogwarts five years later, after she had finished Healer training at St. Mungo's. Through seven years of school, it had been her dream to become an Auror, and she had worked tirelessly towards that goal. It had not been until after the Final Battle that she decided she was tired of chasing after darkness.

Too much pain, too much death. She had seen too much of the Dark side of magic already; she didn't want to see any more. And so she had turned to healing, easing pain instead of inflicting it, fighting death instead of facing it.

When she had heard that Madam Pomfrey was leaving Hogwarts to take a promotion at the hospital, she had jumped at the chance. She had told herself that it had nothing to do with the brooding figure of the Potions master, still dancing around the edges of her dreams.

"Well, look who we have here," she heard a familiar voice behind her the first day on the job. "The insufferable know-it-all is back." If it hadn't been for the tone of amusement in his voice, she would have been angry. As it was, she just shrugged her shoulders and grinned at him in embarrassment.

"Well, Granger, looks like you've done all right for yourself," he said, looking at the Healer's insignia on her robe.

"It's good to see you again, Sir," she answered, an answer which earned her a smirk, a smirk that made her nostalgic. She knew that smirk like the back of her hand.

"You don't need to address me as 'Sir'; I'm not your teacher any more."

"All right, Sir."

One side of his mouth twitched into a half-smile, and there was a crinkle at the corner of his eyes that make him look much more attractive. "If you need any potions for the infirmary, don't hesitate to let me know. You're probably aware that I did the same for your predecessor."

"Thank you, Sir." She blushed beet-red when she realized she had done it again. This would be a hard habit to break. That time, he laughed out loud. It wasn't a musical laugh; as a matter of fact, it sounded more like rusty trumpet crossed with honking goose. She had never heard him laugh before. She liked the sound.

Over time, they had become friends. She had often come to him for advice – after almost twenty years of teaching Potions, he knew more about antidotes than she ever would. After a while, he had become "Severus" instead of "Professor Snape". Worrying over students together, toiling over steaming cauldrons in quiet companionship, they had slowly got used to each other's presence, and when Hermione had finally gathered all her courage and had asked him to come for tea, he had said yes.

-o.o.o-

It had happened at a commemorative ball given on the tenth anniversary of Voldemort's defeat. The Ministry had sent invitations to all those who had been part of that Final Battle.

"Come on, it'll be fun," she had said, and he had reluctantly let her talk him into it. So here he was, uncomfortably standing on the edge of a sea of couples turning to the music. He knew it had been a mistake to come. He saw Harry Potter waltzing by, his arms gently around the Weasley girl he had married. They still looked complete besotted with each other.

Over against the other wall, Severus saw Hermione talking to another Weasley. Ron now worked in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department, following in the footsteps of his father. The redhead seemed to have finally acquired a girlfriend, who was shyly smiling as he introduced her to his old friend.

Hermione looked beautiful tonight – she had for once taken care with her hair, now piled on top of her head in perfect curls, exposing her white neck. Her dark red dress robe lent a rosy tinge to her skin and clung just-so to the soft curves of her body. Suddenly, he felt short of breath. She looked up as she felt his gaze upon her, and walked back to him with a smile on her face. The band struck up the next tune.

"Oh heavens, I hate that song," she said, laughing. "Dance with me."

"I don't dance," he said brusquely. "You know that."

"It's a slowdance. All you have to do is step from one foot to the other. I guarantee even you can manage that," she answered teasingly, as she pulled him to the edge of the dance floor and clasped her hands behind his neck. Looking up at him, she started singing along softly to the song,"…And Iiiii will always love youuuuu…."

It made him laugh, as she knew it would. She was completely tone-deaf. Not that that had ever stopped her.

She grew still then, and her eyes looked soft in the light of the chandelier. "It's true, you know. I love you."

He looked at her in wonder. Gently, her hands pulled his face down towards hers, and then her lips were touching his, softly, questioningly. Suddenly, his arms wrapped around her and he held on tightly, burying his face against her neck like a drowning man. She held him as they rocked to the music, held him for what seemed like an eternity. When he finally looked up again, there were tears in her eyes. "Do you know how long I have waited for this?" she asked, her voice shaking slightly.

Instead of answering, he bent down and kissed her again, deeply, passionately. I've waited twenty years longer, he thought, as everything around them faded away.

-o.o.o-

He had planned everything to the last detail – dinner at a nice restaurant, then a chamber music concert, after that a walk along the loch in the moonlight. He had even planned the evening around the full moon, daring the clouds to show themselves and interfere. He wanted everything to be perfect.

And the clouds had obeyed – unlike one stupid first-year, who had managed to get himself mangled by falling off an illegally acquired broomstick. He could have cheerfully strangled the dunderhead. Today, of all days.

When she finally walked into his quarters two hours late, he looked at her with a sour expression.

"I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting, Severus, but you know it was an emergency." She tiredly sat down next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder. "He's going to be fine."

Who cared if the kid would be fine or not. The concert was half over by now, and all his plans had gone out the window.

"Would you mind if we went out another night? I'm just too tired right now. Maybe on Friday?"

"Fine," he snapped. He stood up and walked over to the fireplace.

"You know I didn't stand you up on purpose," she said, a bit of an edge to her voice.

He just shrugged, his back still towards her.

"Well?" she asked. "Would you tell me why you look like seven days of rainy weather?"

"Just forget it."

"Have it your way then, Severus. I'm going to bed, and you can sulk in peace." She got up and left, closing the door behind her a little too forcefully, muttering something with the words "acting like a two year old" in it.

He stood quietly for a moment, and then sat back down on the sofa. Digging into the pocket of his jacket, he pulled out the small velvet box he had stowed there, ready for the opportune moment. He snapped open the lid and, lips pinched into a hard line, looked at the glittering diamond ring inside. The opportune moment would seemingly have to wait a while longer.

Right then, the door opened again. "Severus, I don't want to go to bed angry at you, so…." She stopped abruptly as she took in the scene. "What is that?"

He snapped the lid of the box shut quickly. "Nothing."

She sat down next to him and held out her hand. "Let me see."

Reluctantly, he handed her the box. He heard her inhale sharply as she opened it. "Oh, Severus…"

"I wanted to surprise you," he said bitterly. "Take you out; make it an evening to remember."

In answer, she put her hand against his cheek and kissed him. "What is wrong with right now?"

Everything, he thought. All of a sudden his mouth felt dry and his palms got damp.

"Well?" she whispered. The look in her eyes took his breath away.

Fumbling, he removed the ring from its case, and then took her left hand in his. "Would you do me the great honor of becoming my wife?" His voice shook as he slid the ring onto her slender finger.

"Yes." He could hear the joy in her voice. "Oh, yes." And all of a sudden there was music in the air and moonlight in her eyes. Perfect. Everything was perfect.

-o.o.o-

It seemed so long ago that their story had started. A bushy-haired, brown-eyed girl, and a greasy-haired, hook-nosed man twenty years her senior….

The age difference didn't matter so much now. Severus looked at his sleeping wife with tenderness. After thirty years of marriage, both of them had grey in their hair and wrinkles on their faces. Thirty years of ups and downs, hills and valleys, the sacred and the mundane. There had been bitter fights, and sweet making-up that almost made the fights worth it. There had been dirty socks and dishes and morning breath. There had been laughter and tears, boredom and nights of wonder. She had learned to live with his moodiness, and he had learned to live with toothpaste in the sink. She knew him better than anyone else, knew his moods and his peculiarities, every scar on his body and his soul. And still, she loved him.

It seemed so long ago their story had started. And he would not have wanted to miss a single word.


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In response to a question in the reviews (would they have had grey hair?) - by the end of the story, Snape would be around eighty. Dumbledore seems to have kept his hair color until quite old, but Fudge, Barty Crouch, Amelia Bones, Hooch, and Lupin (all of whom seem to be around Wizarding middle age or younger) are described as having grey hair, or grey in their hair. So I felt free to imagine grey hair for the two of them. ;-)