Epilogue: So This is Love

Hermione smiled as she looked over at her fiancé of two days. He glared at her in return. Severus truly wasn't much of a morning person. She'd known that before she'd come over this morning, but that didn't make her any more pleased about dealing with it. She could only imagine what he'd be like to wake up to every morning… but that led to an entirely different line of thought.

She smiled.

"You are entirely too happy in the mornings," Severus grumbled.

"You haven't even asked me why I came by so early," she pointed out.

"I don't have to. You are absolutely bubbling with the desire to tell me, it is blatantly obvious what happened."

"They are sacking her."

Severus put down his copy of the Daily Prophet. "I told you that they would."

"Healer Sedgwick was suspended this morning for her actions. And then, when they went to lock her out of her office they found some interesting things. She is now under investigation by the Ministry for suspected Death Eater activity. Or, at the very least, for being a sympathiser. Either way, she should be on her way to Azkaban within the month."

Severus nodded. "Good. It took them long enough. Your complaint was filed over two months ago."

Well, that was true. It had taken a long time, and it had finally been statements from witnesses and an owl from Harry Potter that got the Chief of Staff at St Mungo's to pay any attention to her complaint.

When Hermione said nothing else, Severus picked up his newspaper again.

Hermione walked to the table and picked up a piece of toast, which she smeared with a thin layer of Marmite before eating. She knew quite well that the Dark Magic which they'd found in Healer Sedgwick's office had come from her stapler. (Severus had told Hermione that his Transfigurations never held for very long, but his Dark curses would hold for years.) The stapler had held an untraceable Dark spell on it. It was a highly illegal spell which was known only to Aurors and Death Eaters.

What had surprised Hermione, was that the Security Wizard at St Mungo's had also found three other items which held similar spells. She wasn't sure if those had truly belonged to her former mentor or if Severus had placed those in her office as well, and she could tell by his mood that now was not a good time to ask… if it ever was.

She sat in the chair at the table, grabbed another piece of toast, and started to stare at Severus as he continued to sip his coffee and read the newspaper. Their time together over the last three months had been surprisingly comfortable. It had been awkward at first, when they talked and realised that they'd already said the same things to each other before in their dreams. The 'getting to know you' phase was almost redundant to them and it took a few uncomfortable dates before they were able to move past that.

It had also taken time, for both of them to get over the misconceptions of what they thought that the other person was like. Severus, though snarky, was not the complete bastard that she'd always thought him to be. And she'd had to convince him that she really didn't think that she knew everything.

Severus had been right, that spark she could have sworn that she'd felt when they first touched had dissipated. It was a residual bit of the magic, and for a while she had worried at how a real relationship could be built under seemingly false pretences. She knew that her feelings were real, but she was uncertain about his. After all, Severus Snape was not a man who was prone to showing his emotions.

She would never forget the night that she confessed her concerns to him. It was Valentine's Day and Hermione had been in an irritatingly bad mood. She'd been feeling maudlin over the overly sappy and commercial holiday. When Severus had noticed her mood, he'd goaded her into an argument until she told him the true reason for her snit. Instead of defending himself, Severus had sat her on the sofa and kissed her softly. He then walked over to the bookshelf, pulled a tattered old tome off of the shelf and returned to join her.

And then he began to read to her the story of a scullery maid, her evil stepmother, and her going to a ball where she met her Prince Charming.

"Are you quite finished staring at me?"

"Perhaps. Are you finished being grumpy?"

"Perhaps." He put down his paper and stood from his chair. Severus moved and held out his hand to her. "Come," he said simply as he led her over to the sofa where he sat and pulled her down with him, placing his arm over her shoulder and drawing her close against his chest. "I am glad that things are finally resolved."

"Thanks to you."

"I never could understand how the woman who stood up for the rights of house-elves wouldn't stand up for herself in a situation of abuse of authority."

Hermione shrugged. "I wouldn't have allowed her to get away with something truly atrocious. I just figured that some mentors were like that and I only had to go through it for a year. I had no idea that she had a personal vendetta against me."

Then after a moment, she added, "But don't think that means I am going to be a submissive wife."

He snorted. "No, definitely not."

Severus held her close and slowly began to rub her arm. She may no longer feel a spark when he touched her, but the safe and secure feeling of being loved was much better. And he did love her. He may not say the words often, but it was there in the things that he did. It was the way that he touched her, the way he held her, kissed her, made love to her and… when he read to her.

As if reading her mind, Severus Summoned a book from a shelf, opened it and began to read.

Hermione relaxed as his deep, melodic voice washed over her and began to caress her very soul.

"Once upon a time…" he said as she closed her eyes and smiled.

A/N: Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed. I am thrilled that so many people seemed to enjoy this story. It was a joy to write.

And more thanks to my beta-readers, alpha-readers (aka cheerleaders) and especially to KeladryLupin who inspired the story. My singular goal was to write something that she would enjoy. :)

Hugs to KeladryLupin.

As many people recognised, the chapter titles are all from Disney movies:

"I Still Believe"—song from Cinderella III
"Are We Dancing"—song from The Happiest Millionaire
"Once Upon a Dream"—song from Sleeping Beauty
"Something There"—song from Beauty and the Beast
"A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes"—song from Cinderella
"I'm Wishing"—song from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
"I Won't Say (I'm In Love)—song from Hercules
"So This is Love"—song from Cinderella