Set approximately one hundred and three years later

Neatly avoiding Sybilla Weasley in a corridor crowded with pupils as they emerged from their last lessons of the day, Snape saw a familiar plump figure ahead of him. He stopped so abruptly that a Hufflepuff bumped into him, gave a squeak of dismay, and rebounded into the equally terrifying figure of the Warden.

"Hermione!" Ron picked her up, swung her around, bussed her soundly on the cheek, set her back down and walked through the stone wall to wherever he had been going.

His wand hand itching, Snape crossed the stream of children by the simple expedient of glaring them to a standstill. Finally standing in front of her, he absorbed all the familiar details for so long that the corridor had emptied.

"Minister," he said formally.

"Not as of nine o'clock this morning," said Hermione cheerfully. "Why not just smile and get it over with?"

"And ruin my reputation? You're early."

"Shall I go away again? I bribed Buttercup into giving me her portkey session. I've missed you," she added, with the honesty which still had the power to disconcert him, even after all these years.

Snape drew her behind the shelter of an arras and kissed her soundly. "Good," he said simply.

"You look tired," she noted critically.

"I don't sleep so well when you're away," he said, because it was pointless to deny it after all these years."

"Nor do I. Is there any reason you've stopped kissing me?"

The deep creases fanning out from the corners of his eyes deepened as he smiled. "103 years and I still haven't managed to teach you the merits of patience." His head bent, just as the high, panicky sounds of a first year seeking him out jolted them apart, even though they were hidden from sight.

"Fucking children," Snape muttered, before he returned to the corridor. "Yes, Miss Longbottom? And I warn you, I'll have truck with nothing less than a full scale disaster..."

It was almost midnight before they were free to be alone together again.

"Severus, do you remember when you asked me to marry you?"

Snape peered at Hermione from over the top of his spectacles, his dark eyes narrowing with suspicion. "I remember you saying no."

"Yes, well, I didn't want you to feel you'd been railroaded into marriage by everyone else's expectations."

"That was very thoughtful of you."

"There's no need to take that sceptical tone with me."

Snape set down his book, took off his spectacles and prepared to be entertained.

Hermione glared at him for all of twenty seconds before she cracked. "There's no chance of you helping me out here," she said, getting even crosser when that faint, crooked smile of his still did strange things to her heart.

"None whatsoever," he assured her.

"Will you marry me?" Hermione blurted out. If she had hoped to surprise him she was doomed to disappointment.

"I'll have to think about it," he said promptly.

"Really, Severus! You've had one hundred and three years to think about it."

"I thought you didn't want to railroad me?"

"You are the most infuriating wizard..."

Adept in Hermione-watching, Snape stopped teasing, left his chair and took her hand in his. "Of course I'll marry you," he said, kissing her ink-stained palm. "Now, if you like."

Her chin quivered before she steadied it. "Yes. Let's. Right now."

"Would it be in poor taste for me to ask what's the hurry? After one hundred and three years of unmarried - well, bliss is probably carrying things a bit too far - life why this sudden urgency to legalise things?"

"Oh, no reason," said Hermione airily, her fingers closing around his.

"You saw Harry last week." Snape went very still. "You're not... You're not ill, are you?" His grip became painfully tight.

"No, of course I'm not," Hermione reassured him. "Healthy as can be. Even if I am shaped like a cottage loaf with spectacles."

"Cottage loaf?" He sank onto a worn but comfortable sofa, the faded red leather flattering his pewter coloured hair.

"It's bread. Shaped like so." Hermione's hands moved in two descriptive arcs.

"Ah." He gave the faintest of smiles. "Yes, you are," he agreed happily. "But I'd still like to know what made you propose? You only had that interview with Magician's Monthly this morning and... Wait a minute. Wasn't that with Pansy Parkinson-that-was?"

"And on her fifth marriage contract," said Hermione. "As she took pains to tell me. Twice."

"Ah, all is explained," said Snape.

"I don't know what you mean," said Hermione, unconvincingly.

He cocked his head. "So Pansy didn't start twitting the just-resigned Minister of Magic about her single state. I might have known I'd be your last resort," he sighed, with a faint air of melancholy.

"You're a shocking liar," said Hermione, kissing his chin. "I'm so glad you've never grown a beard," she added inconsequentially. "Move over and give me a cuddle. And don't look so hard done by. That sofa is wide enough for both of us to stretch out if we snuggle."

Snape's lips parted in protest at the word 'snuggle' but he shifted obediently.

"And you know damn well that the only reason I didn't marry you forty seven years ago was because it would have lead to all kinds of gossip if the Minister of Magic had been married to the headmaster of Hogwarts. Not to mention compromising our ability to do our respective jobs."

"I think you just liked to sneak off to your lover whenever you could."

"It had it's moments," Hermione allowed. "You're going to miss Hogwarts."

"Yes," he agreed because it would be pointless to deny it. "But I believe that Adela Creevy will make a good headmistress."

"When you said we could marry now, how soon is that?"

"Now means now," he said, craning his neck the better to direct his glare. "I would have thought you would know that after all the marriages you've dragged me to - "

" - that would be one, Harry's. And you didn't stop complaining the entire time."

" - one would think you would have learnt something about wizarding marriages. The contract takes approximately two minutes. No fuss. No hordes of people you never want to see again offering inane remarks or smutty jokes. Any witch or wizard can perform the ceremony. I thought perhaps the Warden?" Snape added.

Hermione wriggled, almost fell off the sofa, was rescued and moved to safer, if bonier ground.

"Ron will have kittens," she said with glee. "Oh, do let's. Now." She scrambled to her feet, then peered down at herself. "But I'll have to change. I've got ink on my - "

"You're filthy," Snape realised. "But I'll take you, stains and all. I'm not risking you changing your mind. We'll spend our wedding night at the House of Mirth."

"You romantic you. Only you forget, I know you. Whose lecturing there tonight?"

"I'll call Ron, shall I?" said Snape evasively.

Safely tucked up in their marriage bed, Snape idly toyed with a lock of his wife's bushy grey hair. "Do you realise this is the first time either of us have been free from all responsibility?"

Hermione gave a luxurious stretch of well-being and flicked her thumb over his right nipple. "I know. Isn't it wonderful? We're not due in Nepal until October. What shall we do until then?"

"Frivol," said Snape, propping himself up on one elbow for what was intended as a swift kiss.


I can only apologise again to those who feel shortchanged but there's no way I have another 80,000 words of FFI in me, and that's what it would have taken to write it properly.