A/N: Warning! Fluff alert! But hey, that's what an epilogue is for, right?
Sadly, they're still not mine, and I'm putting them back for a while now. Well, not really – I have 2 more stories in the works, which I will begin posting as soon as I have a complete draft (check out my author profile for a preview). I want to thank everyone for reading, and especially those who have reviewed or commented or favorited. I live for that! Of course, if you haven't been reviewing, this is your last, best chance to let me know what you thought of it … *winks*
Eight months later
Harry knocked once, then let himself in. "Are you sure I can't talk you out of this?" he asked.
Hermione laughed, leaning forward to look in the mirror. The hairdresser had done wonders with her bushy hair – it hung in smooth ringlets past her shoulders, with flowers woven through it, falling perfectly to the top of her off-the-shoulder gown. "You don't even really want to talk me out of it, Harry. This is the first you've mentioned it, and we've been engaged since Christmas. Admit it, he's growing on you."
"Well, he's not as awful as he used to be," Harry admitted. "And, much as I hate to say it, he really is crazy about you. Not even the most determined Slytherin, which he is, could fake that kind of nauseating devotion."
She laughed again, "Now, Harry, you know you're secretly jealous. You want someone that you can adore that much for yourself."
"No, thanks," Harry responded with a shudder. "Not for years, yet, anyway – I'm enjoying playing the field just fine, thank you very much."
"Just wait, Harry," Hermione said dreamily. "It's the best thing in the world, you'll see."
"Yeah, yeah, so you keep telling me," he replied dryly, then changed the subject abruptly. "Where are your parents?" Harry asked.
"Oh, Mum just headed to her seat, and Dad went with her – said he wanted to make sure everything's ready. He'll be back in a minute."
Another quick knock, and Ginny poked her head in. "You nearly ready?" she asked.
"Yes," Hermione said, thinking back over the past year. "I've been ready for ages. Since last October, actually."
"I didn't mean that," Ginny said wryly. "I meant, do you have your flowers, did you do a last check of your lipstick, that kind of thing?"
"Oh, well, I'm ready in that sense, too," Hermione grinned.
Just then, her father returned. "We're all set. The groom is standing at the altar, looking like he wants to be pacing." He looked at Harry and frowned. "Shouldn't you be out there? You're the best man, are you not?"
Harry said, "Sadly, I am." He shook his head. "What's the world coming to, anyway?"
Hermione laughed and stood, turning to face him. She quickly kissed his cheek. "Get out there. It's time for me to be married."
He saluted smartly, said, "Yes, ma'am." He turned to leave. At the door, he turned back to her. He said, very seriously, "Be happy, Hermione. You deserve it."
She smiled. "Thanks, Harry."
Severus fidgeted as he waited for Hermione to make her appearance. He couldn't believe their wedding day was finally here. He had wanted to elope, but as usual, he couldn't bring himself to disappoint Hermione, who wanted a real wedding – a Muggle wedding, no less – with her family and friends present to wish them happiness.
Many of his former students were here, and he supposed it was likely that he had grown more tolerant, rather than that they had become less annoying, as it always seemed to him. Hermione had a way of making him take himself, and everyone else, just a little less seriously. So he hardly even heard them whispering about how they never would have thought Severus would actually fall in love and marry someone.
He loved Hermione more every day – more than he had ever imagined he could love anyone. These days, he could even remember Lily with a mild, nostalgic fondness, recognizing that his love for her, while real enough at the time, had been a pale imitation of what he now felt for Hermione.
Potter appeared at his side, patting his pocket to reassure Severus that he had the ring. Severus still wasn't quite sure how it had happened that Potter became his best man – perhaps it was because Dumbledore was performing the ceremony, and Severus didn't really have anyone else in his life that could be called a friend. Well, he amended silently, there was Minerva, of course, but she hardly seemed appropriate as a best man.
Or perhaps it was as simple as he and Potter had developed a friendship of sorts. After all, now that Severus was finally over everything that had happened between himself and Potter's parents, and now that he was happier than he could ever have imagined being, Potter didn't seem to be such a bad guy, after all. For certain, they had a common concern for the happiness and wellbeing of a certain bushy-haired Gryffindor know-it-all to bind them together. As it happened, Severus could tolerate a lot in someone who had Hermione's best interests at heart.
In any event, Severus no longer minded so much when Hermione wanted him to spend time with her friends. Most of them were here today, except the Weasley boy, who was playing professional Quidditch and was out of the country. Severus suspected the boy hadn't quite gotten past the shock of learning exactly who Hermione was marrying, but both Potter and Hermione assured him the boy would eventually come around. Apparently, he had a history of taking his time accepting things he wasn't pleased about.
Severus forced his attention back to more pleasant matters. Hermione would, at any moment, be walking down the aisle that had been created in the Great Hall for the occasion. He smiled in anticipation. She had kept with tradition and refused to see him last night or this morning, and he couldn't wait to see her. He had missed her.
At last, Miss Weasley appeared, and began walking down the aisle. Severus hardly saw her, so anxious was he to catch sight of his bride.
When she finally appeared, on her father's arm, she was so beautiful that he forgot to breathe, until Potter elbowed him and whispered, "Breathe! She won't be happy if you faint." Severus didn't even bother to glare at Potter, so enthralled was he by the sight of his bride approaching.
She glided down the aisle, and when she reached his side, she smiled up at him and whispered, "I love you."
He smiled, and at long last, the words spilled from his lips for the first time, although they both knew he had said it in a thousand other ways in the past year. "And I love you."
Her smile grew, and, with complete disregard for tradition, she kissed him right then, even before the ceremony had a chance to begin.
Several moments later, Dumbledore cleared his throat, and the pair broke apart. They grinned sheepishly at him, and Severus said, "Feel free to proceed whenever you're ready."
Smiling benevolently, Dumbledore said dryly, "Thank you, Severus." Then looking delightedly at both of them, he cleared his throat and began, "Dearly beloved …"
At the reception, Severus waited impatiently for the guests to finish making their way through the receiving line. After what seemed an age, the last stragglers had been greeted, and he took Hermione's hand and led her onto the dance floor. A waltz began, and, just as he had all those months ago, he bowed formally.
They danced the night away, just like that first time, and like they had on several occasions since then. The difference was, Severus no longer cared that everyone knew he adored his bride. All he cared about was that she was enjoying herself.
They took breaks from dancing tonight, to eat and drink, and to chat and laugh with their guests. Hermione danced with her father twice, and Potter once. Severus danced once with Minerva, but was otherwise content to watch Hermione enjoy herself.
As the reception wound down, Severus and Hermione slipped away to begin their honeymoon. They would spend tonight in his quarters, then leave in the morning for a long trip to all the most romantic cities Europe had to offer – Paris, Venice, Rome, Florence, Athens, Vienna. Hermione seemed thrilled at the prospect – all those libraries and museums to explore! They weren't due to return until the end of the summer, in fact, just before the students were due to return for the fall term.
Spying them leaving, Dumbledore turned to Minerva and said, "You see! Everything worked out perfectly, just as it should." He sounded inordinately pleased with himself, in Minerva's considered opinion.
Minerva rolled her eyes. "That was more due to Hermione's patience than to anything you did. In fact, in case you've forgotten, your interference came close to ruining everything."
"Yes, but instead, they wound up closer than ever," Dumbledore said happily. "You know, I've been thinking…"
"Oh, no," Minerva groaned. "Please don't tell me you've set your sights on some other unfortunate couple."
"Who, me?" Dumbledore asked innocently. "No, no, I've learned my lesson. I won't be making any more attempts to help a couple find true love anytime soon – even though I did pull it off in the end in this one case."
"No, Albus, you didn't," Minerva said severely. "Hermione did, and Severus did. You didn't do anything helpful at all." She paused, not sure she should ask. She found she couldn't resist – after all, if she didn't know what he was planning, she couldn't try to talk some sense into him. "All right, what were you thinking, if you weren't matchmaking again?"
He smiled. "I was thinking that you and I should get out on the dance floor and show everyone how it's done."
She laughed. "All right, Albus, let's dance."
As they began to dance a foxtrot, Albus said, "Will you look at that? Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley are dancing together. Don't they make a fine-looking couple?"
"Albus," Minerva warned, "Don't even think it …"
"Why, Minerva, I'm shocked. Didn't I just say I was finished with matchmaking?"
"Oh, Albus, just shut up and dance, will you?"
In Severus's quarters, Hermione was giggling as Severus danced her around the room. "This was the best wedding ever," she said, as he twirled her.
"Of course it was," he said. "It was ours – nothing could top that."
"True." He dipped her, then, and she gasped in surprise. He took the opportunity to steal a kiss. They continued like that for several minutes, dancing and chatting and kissing.
Eventually, he began gradually removing their clothing as they danced. He started with her veil, just pulling a hairpin here and there when one was in reach until it slipped free. He tossed it on a chair as they danced past. Then he shrugged out of his jacket and tugged on the end of his bowtie to open it. Next, he reached for the zipper on her dress, and when she shrugged it off, he lifted her out of it, then picked up the dance where he had interrupted it.
She began working the buttons on his shirt, whenever the dance put her in a position to do so. He pulled her slip over her head. She unfastened his trousers, and he kicked them away. At last, when their remaining clothes were ill-suited to removal while dancing, he danced her over to the bed. Kissing her, he whispered. "I love you, Hermione."
"I love you, too, Severus."
He kissed her again. "I didn't know I could ever be this happy," he said.
"I know what you mean," she said, eyes misting. "I feel so lucky. How did we get this lucky?"
He smiled. "Well, it all started when you cast a spell." He nudged her backwards, and she fell onto the bed, pulling him with her.
"You mean the chair spell?" she asked.
His smile broadened, and he began removing her garters and stockings. "No, darling, I don't. You had me bewitched long before you cast that silly spell."
She giggled. "I did, did I?" She ran her hands over his chest, then slid one into his boxers. He shuddered in response, then freed her from her bra.
He began stroking her with his fingers as he spoke. "You did. And I tried every counterspell I could think of, before I realized that the smart man would simply surrender at once. So, being a smart man, that's what I did."
She moaned, but tried to keep up the conversation as he began following his hands with his lips and tongue. "Mmmmm, you're a very smart –" But then she seemed to lose her train of thought, as she gasped and stopped talking. Neither of them said anything else for quite a while.
As they drifted off to sleep, Severus heard her whisper, "Love you …"
He smiled sleepily, pulling her closer. "Love you, too …"
Just before sleep overtook him, he thought contentedly, She must have cast a spell … anything this magnificent must be magic …