Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.K. Rowling, and any quotes you may recognize are those of William Shakespeare.
"So tell me, with which of my nasty bits did you first fall in love?"
Hermione nearly choked on her tea. After a few coughs to clear her airway, she gave Severus a wicked smile. "Who said anything about being in love?"
They had been involved for the better part of a year, ever since that night they spent brewing the cure for Malfoy's curse. Of course, they had tried to keep their relationship as under wraps as they could, but it wasn't long before the others caught the smoldering looks that accompanied their usual banter. Hermione had never thought verbal sparring could be such incredible foreplay before she invited Severus into her bed.
She looked at her lover – the term "boyfriend" had never seemed fitting for him – and saw a small flash of hurt flicker across his eyes. Even after all this time, he still seemed uncertain of their relationship, even if he would never openly admit it. She clasped his hand in hers. "I fell in love with all of your nasty bits together," she answered. "For it's a total package that is so bad, it would never allow any good to intermingle. But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?"
Severus smiled. She loved his smile because, just like his laughter, it was a treat for her alone, something the rest of the world rarely saw.
"Suffer love, now there is the truth," he said. "Loving you has always been painful, because I do so against my will."
"Despite your poor heart," she said with a smirk.
"And a poor heart it will be if you keep insisting on spending so much of my gold at Madame Malkins," he said, raising an eyebrow.
"It wasn't that much, Severus, and I paid for it myself," she said. "Besides, I thought you would want me to look my best when I was at your side today."
"Are you absolutely certain that it is necessary for me to attend this dreaded event?"
She laughed at his pout. If anyone would have told her a year ago that Severus Snape pouted, she would have told him to lay off the Firewhisky.
"Yes, I am certain," she said, raising from her chair and walking to him. She settled herself in his lap. "It is Ron and Luna's wedding, and we have to be there."
"You are their friend. I despise the Weasley boy."
"No you don't," she said, taking his face in her hands. She found him incredibly adorable when he was being petulant, but she was smart enough to never voice that thought. Instead, she leaned toward his ear and whispered, "I promise to make it worth your while to go."
He cocked an eyebrow at her.
"The dress has matching lingerie."
"Is that so?"
"You'll just have to wait and see." She gave him a quick but passionate kiss. "It's time to get ready, or we'll be late."
"Oh, I think we will most definitely be late," he said, gathering her up in his arms and carrying her to the bedroom, her laughter trailing behind them.
At the reception, Hermione and Severus were seated with Harry, Ginny, Tonks and Remus, all of whom were well into their cups.
"So when is your big day?" Hermione asked Tonks, gesturing to the diamond sparkling on her finger.
"We're thinking in the spring," Tonks said, wrapping her hand around Remus' waist and leaning her head on his shoulder.
"It's about time someone put a leash on that wolf," Snape said, though without any real bite. While he would never be nice – he shuddered at the thought – to Hermione's friends, he attempted to be civil, and for him, that meant spewing a little less vitriol. He didn't really think it mattered much, because, much to his chagrin, her friends seemed to have become immune to his insults over the years.
As if to accentuate the point, Lupin smiled. "A leash, there is something we haven't tried," he said to Tonks.
"I don't know," Tonks said coyly. "I'm kind of partial to using our old school ties."
Snape blanched. He really didn't want to know anything about the sex life of the Metamorphmagus and the werewolf. He was sorry he even made the insult in the first place.
"So what about you two?" Ginny asked.
"What about us?" Hermione answered.
"When are you going to make an honest woman out of her, Snape?" The Boy Who Lived to Annoy Him asked.
"Yes, Severus," added Lupin. "When? Or are we going to have to lead the two of you to altar as well?"
Tonks elbowed Remus in the ribs hard enough to make him grunt as Ginny and Harry shot him an evil look. Snape immediately knew something was amiss. But it was Hermione who put the puzzle together first.
She turned to him and asked: "Severus, when did you first realize you cared for me?"
He felt uncomfortable talking about emotions in public, and Hermione was well aware of that fact. Before now, she had never pushed him to openly declare his love, show any signs of public affection or make any of their private lives public. But as he looked into her eyes, he knew this was an important question to her. He leaned over and whispered into her ear. "I knew I cared about you as more than an ex-student that day in your room at Grimmauld Place. I knew I … I loved you when I would have done anything to ease your pain when we cured your wound."
She ever so lightly brushed her lips against his. "I love you," she whispered back before looking at Tonks and Ginny. Her eyes darted between the two women as she asked him, "So you didn't have these feelings for me the night of Ron and Luna's engagement dinner at the Burrow?"
"No, I …"
"Well then Tonks, Ginny and Luna had been much deceived, because they had sworn you were helplessly in love with me that night."
The menace in her voice triggered Snape's own memory of that night and the conversation he had overheard in the garden. "When did you first love me?" he asked her.
She focused her attention on him, making him feel as though he was all that mattered. He loved that she could make him feel so special to her.
"When you found the cure."
"What cure?" Harry asked.
Snape ignored the interruption and glared at the boy.
"Then Remus, Harry and Ron had been much deceived for they had sworn you had professed your love for me to Tonks at Miss Lovegood's birthday party."
"What?" Hermione practically screeched.
"They swore you were almost sick with love for me," Snape continued, enjoying the indignation dancing across the face of his beloved, especially since her anger wasn't going to be directed toward him.
"They swore you were well-nigh dead for me!" she countered.
The couple turned to glare at their table mates.
"Uhm, so we may have given you a little push," Tonks confessed.
"It's not like you two wouldn't have figured out what we all saw on your own sooner or later," Lupin said with a shrug.
"We just thought you were both too stubborn to make a move on your own," said Ginny.
"And you Harry? You thought it would be fun to play with my emotions as well?" Hermione asked icily.
Snape tried not to smile at the fact Harry was about to face the full brunt of Hermione's anger. The prat is lucky I don't hex him. He deserves it for upsetting her, he thought as he reached out for her hand.
"I'm sorry, 'Mione. I really am," Harry pleaded. "But does it really matter how it happened? You are together and happy; isn't that all that matters?"
"I am very happy with Severus, Harry. Very happy." Snape felt her hand squeeze his as she pulled their joined hands to her lap. "But you shouldn't have tried to manipulate us. Any of you. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Just because we may be a little less emotional than the rest of you, doesn't mean our feelings are fodder for your entertainment."
Though he would blame it on the alcohol later, Snape couldn't stop himself from lightly brushing his lips across her cheek. She was eloquent and beautiful, and she had the rest of the table sitting as chastised as his first-year potions classes used to be. He decided to have some fun at their expense.
Knowing Hermione would catch on, with a heavy, put-upon sigh, he turned to face her. Holding out his hand, palm up toward her, he said. "Come, I will have you for a wife, but by this light, I take you for pity."
Not disappointing him, she placed her hand upon his. "I would not deny you, but by this good day, I take you partly because of great pressure," at this, she shot a glare to those around the table, "and partly to save your life for I fear you would suffer death by fallen pride otherwise."
"Since you never seem to know when to stop your mouth, I shall do it for you." He leaned over and surprised her by kissing her passionately before all those present.
When he withdrew, he grasped her hand and pulled a ring from his pocket. "Then say you will be mine, to bind me or undo me, I am not sure which."
He held his breath and watched the emotion fly across her face. Though he did intend to ask her to be his wife, he meant to do it in some private moment meant just for them, but he was so caught up in her that he decided he didn't want to wait another moment to be able to claim her as his own. When he saw the tears, he was frightened he had made a mistake.
But then she smiled.
"Of course!" she said, throwing her arms around him. "I love you, Severus."
She pulled back to meet his eyes. "And it would be my pleasure to bind you. I am not too sure about undoing you afterward though. I quite like the idea of you tied up at my mercy."
Severus did something that shocked all who were present even more. He threw his head back and laughed, long and hard, before sweeping Hermione up in his arms and carrying her out of the hall, leaving a stunned crowd behind.
Author's Note: This was my very first Harry Potter fan fic. Thank you for coming along for the ride and for the wonderful comments; they were greatly appreciated.
Big thanks to Zafania and Tjwritter, with their red pens and patience, for helping me and to my beta, Logical Quirk.