Chapter Nine

A cupid's arrow is a very powerful thing. And getting over it was no walk in the park. It was like waking very slowly...to discover that you had been on a drinking binge the night before. Severus stumbled after Hermione into the lab. His head pounded. Snippets of poetry ran through his brain, and he felt utterly bereft if she wasn't by his side. The embarrassment had yet to hit him.

"I'm so sorry," Hermione said quickly. "I'll clean it up." He surveyed the room, momentarily confused. A noxious potion dripped off what was left of his work bench and spattered on the floor where a green smoke rose up. What had happened?

"Leave it," he ordered her when she stepped away to clean the mess. "My love," he added for no good reason. "The house-elves will take care of it."

It was a show of how worried for him she was that she didn't argue about leaving a potentially dangerous mess for the house-elves to clean.

"Do you want some tea?" she asked after she saw him settled on the couch in his rooms.

"No, darling" he said, trying not throw up at his gratuitous use of pet names. "I want you to stay here with me." He pulled her down onto him. She sighed, but acquiesced. He wrapped his arms around her. Hermione avoided his eyes, burying her head in his chest instead. Probably afraid to look at him lest she prompt more poetry.

It was for the best that he had been hit with the arrow rather than her, he decided. Looking back, he hadn't really thought this plan through, and if it had been Hermione clinging to him like that with such sappy declarations of love, he would not have had the reservoir of patience with her that she had had with him. He would be going back and having another discussion with that sales clerk. They should include warnings with the things!

"I'm so sorry," he murmured into her hair.

"It wasn't your fault. The headmaster should know better than to let those things loose in a school full of hormonal teenagers."

Or horny professors as it turned out, Severus thought. But she didn't blame him. She blamed Dumbledore. His luck seemed to be changing. It did sound like just the thing the barmy headmaster would do. Not at all what grumpy Potions professors did. And maybe if he played it right she might want to comfort him. This whole debacle could work in his favor yet. He certainly wasn't stupid enough to tell her the whole thing had been his idea to get into bed.

But even still, it was a hard blow to his ego. She had seen him smile. She had heard him quote Shakespeare. Now that she had a taste of all that, would she be content with his normal sneering self? Still suffering from the effects of the arrow, he ventured to ask.

"Yes, of course," she cooed, looking up at him. Good, good. He didn't want to lose her over this. The whole idea was to keep her around, not drive her away.

She was silent for a moment before asking, "Did you mean those things you said before?"

"No," he said. Her face fell, and a pain ripped through his chest to see it. That wasn't what he meant. "I mean yes," he corrected quickly.

"Well which is it?" she asked indignantly.

"I'm not exactly prone to poetry, Hermione," he said with a sneer. It was a step in the right direction that he was able to sneer at all, although he couldn't but help put a 'love' at the end of her name.

"But the sentiment behind it?"

"Do I love you?" he asked. She nodded. He pondered that for a moment. Did he love her? Truly? He liked being around her. She was one of the few people he could stand to be around. He thought she was beautiful, her smile, that gleam in her eyes, the curve of her breasts. If only she would let him touch her. He reached out to touch her chest. She pulled away with a sad look, her eyes glistening.

"I see," she said. He grabbed her hand as she stood.

"No, wait." She stopped her retreat, turning to look down at him.

Did he love her? She was intelligent and would never bore him. She had a quick and wicked sense of humor and could keep up with him even at his snarkiest. She had proven her patience and willingness to take care of him this evening. He tried to imagine life without her, and resulting images were bleak. He hadn't known how depressing his previous life had been until she had come into it. He was an addict. He couldn't go back to that sad existence now that he had seen what he could have. He realized that it didn't matter if she never let him touch her as long as he could be around her.

It was a sacrifice he was desperately hoping he wouldn't have to make.

"Marry me."

"What?" she asked aghast.

He was shocked himself. Where had that come? Although it would serve his purposes. If she said yes then he would have her all to himself. He never had been one for sharing, and especially not the one person he truly cared for. And if she said no, well then he could just write it off as an aftereffect of the cupid's arrow. Unwittingly, he had stumbled into the best possible proposal situation. He gave himself a mental pat on the back and then waited for her response.

"Do you mean that?"

"Yes."

"It's not the cupid talking?" she asked suspiciously. Damn! He should have known she would want confirmation of his feelings. So much for the pat on the back. His next words might mean the difference between eternal bliss and lonely life as a bachelor, as well as a shag or a slap. Why couldn't women just take what men said at face value?

He tried to discern whether or not her suspicion was likely to mean that she was would say yes or laugh in his face.

"If it was, it would have been much more eloquent than that," he said with a scowl. His head really, really hurt. And his chest stung a bit too.

"So you love me?" He did, but he was rethinking the reasoning behind that with all of these pesky questions.

"Yes, you irritating ninny!" He had been hoping on saving this declaration for the perfect moment, drawing out the tension as she waited, trying to draw out the words from an emotionally stunted man such as himself. They would have meant so much more then. He would have enjoyed the battle of wills. Of course, she probably would have just got impatient and left him. And it looked as though he wasn't getting her into bed without them, so better now than later, he reckoned.

"I love you too," she said, launching herself into his arms.

"Ow!" he complained as she collided with his tender chest.

"Sorry," she said, trying her best to be soothing. It wasn't really working. He would suggest later to her that the medical field might not be the best idea in her continued career search.

"So is that a yes?" he asked irritated when she had finally settled next to him in a position more comfortable to them both.

"To what?" If she was playing hard to get, he was going to throw her bodily from the room. This night was not turning out like he wanted at all.

"To will you marry me?"

"Yes, yes of course."

"Good."

He thought about it for a moment. He always assumed he would remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. Most men who had been solitary as long as he had might have been panicked at the thought at the loss of their freedom, but since he hadn't had much of that anyway, he wasn't all that concerned. And he would be waking up with a warm, feminine body next to him for the rest of his life. Looking down at Hermione, who had snuggled up next to him on the couch, he thought he would certainly look forward to that.

"One more question…."

"No, I will not sleep with you tonight. You're hardly in the condition to at the moment, and you have class in the morning."

He shook his head. If what he thought was true, he was reassessing sleeping with her in the first place. It would definitely have to wait until she brewed that potion correctly. But he had just proposed, and he did want to sleep with her eventually, so he tried to be delicate. As delicate as Severus Snape could be at any rate.

"Just what was that potion? And who was it for?" he asked sternly. She looked up at him, guilt written all over her face.

"It was for McGonagall," she said quickly. "And it wouldn't have gone so bad except that you distracted me!" So it wasn't for her. Relief washed over him.

"You thought it was for me!" she exclaimed. He flinched, waiting for the onslaught, but the next thing he knew she was kissing him passionately. He didn't want to be rude, so he responded in kind.

"What was that for?" he asked when she pulled away.

"You must really love me if you proposed anyway," she sighed, kissing him again. He didn't bother to tell her that the cupid's arrow had muddled his brain to the point that he hadn't really thought of it until afterwards, but that was a minor point anyway.


And they lived happily ever after. Well except for the occasional snarking and that one time they fought to the point that Severus ended back in the hospital. (He was quite irritated to learn that her dueling skills surpassed his own and tried to convince her that it was only because he held back, not wanting to hurt a woman, especially one who was his wife, and all. She hardly believed him, but nodded anyway, feeling guilty at both putting them there and having pride in the ability to do so. Not that she mentioned the last part, though she overdid it on the first, to the point that he snapped at her to shut her gob and bring him some tea.)

The End.

A/N: Thanks for reading! I've enjoyed writing this, and I hope you've enjoyed reading it.