Author's Notes: Coming to a close! Let me just explain now that upon completetion of this chapter, I decided to move the story into romance, instead of letting it hang in porn without plot. I thought it unfair for readers wanting lots of lemon to stumble onto this is that section and it not be what they wanted it to be. The muses were urging me into a more romantic story… sorry to anyone disappointed. More detailed A/N at the end. For now, please enjoy this last chapter!
Snape blinked his eyes open slowly. It was relatively cold in his quarters, and he noticed only because just a short time before, he'd actually been warm for once. He'd truly been heated by another's body, by Hermione's body. He remembered how she'd wrapped herself so tightly around him; it had been heaven. But he frowned at the thought, and rose slightly to peer around his room – because Hermione was not in bed with him, and the resulting cold seeping into his skin was becoming highly disconcerting.
He listened carefully, supposing she might be in the loo. There was no sound of water, however, counting the possibility out. He felt for his wand at the bedside table and muttered, "Lumos."
Frowning, he lifted himself from the bed and started for the door to his bedroom, but it opened just as he reached it. Hermione stopped when she nearly ran into him, her eyes wide.
"Severus," she murmured, stepping into his room the rest of the way and closing the door. "Did you just wake up?"
"Where were you?" he asked grouchily. He suddenly realized he was stark naked, while she had donned the champagne-colored sheath dress from the previous night.
"I have something for you," she said uncomfortably, and moved toward the edge of his bed to sit. He noticed she was clutching a moderately small box in her hands, with a somber expression on her pretty face. He muttered a spell, and a pair of black pajama pants materialized over his lower half. He tied them as he joined her on the edge of the bed, facing her with a grave expression.
Hermione held the box out to him with shaking hands, gulping down the itch in her throat that signaled she might become emotional. She watched him open the box containing her gift as her eyes filled with tears. She'd promised herself she wouldn't cry, but watching him open her gift was her undoing.
"I thought… maybe, it might help you to remember me." Her voice was hesitant, shy. Her hands were clasped tightly in her lap, and she was chewing her lip near to off.
Snape's hands curled around the silver frame holding a picture of Hermione. The witch in the frame smiled mutely, looked up at him shyly from beneath her lashes, and then beamed at him before she averted her eyes and shrugged her shoulders as if to keep warm. He looked up at her, his eyes searching her face, spotting the tears filling her eyes.
"You're not exactly the type one forgets, Hermione." A hint of a smirk appeared, but it was sad and didn't reach his eyes. "You are the brightest witch of your age, after all."
She shrugged and scooted closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder as they both stared down at the photo. Her hand wrapped around his forearm, stroking his toned muscles as she struggled to get her emotions in check.
"I assume you'll be leaving on the train today, then?" he asked, breaking the silence between them. He had restrained his customary sneer, and Hermione was thankful for that.
"I am. The Ministry wants to recruit Harry, Ron and me immediately, and begin our training." She sighed softly, and a hot tear fell on his shoulder. "They want to… try us in different departments at first, but we all know Harry will end up being an Auror."
"Hermione, you don't have to do this." He pulled away and grasped her chin as he gazed down at her. "You don't have to try to explain to me. I can't ask you to stay… here with me. Can I?" His brow furrowed as if he regretted letting that slip. Before she could reply, he forged on, "And I can't leave. Hogwarts is all I've really known, and it suits me. The 'great bat of the dungeons'," he intoned mockingly.
Hermione squeezed his arm, and lifted her hand to cup his cheek. "I don't want to leave you. But I have to at least try, don't I? I'm so torn over this, Severus. I feel that if I do go, I won't be able to properly concentrate." Her eyes were desperate as they held his. "I'll be thinking of you. We waited so long to be together, and now…"
A fire the likes of which Snape had never felt stoked within him as he heard the distress in her voice, and he grabbed her shoulders, his eyes fierce. "You will always be mine," he vowed savagely, making Hermione's eyes widen. "As long as we've reached that understanding, I think we can work through the rest."
And although it seemed impossible, Hermione just nodded mutely, and believed him.
Two years later…
"Hermione!" The young American intern burst in through Hermione's office door, her eyes wide and her voice urgent. "There's a very angry-looking man out in the office! I would call security, if I were you. He looks dangerous." She was wringing her hands all the while she babbled.
Hermione stood gracefully from her chair and stepped around her desk. "I'm sure it's fine, Jessica. Did he say what he wanted?" Several dangerous-looking men came into the Department of International Cooperation daily, mostly because they were powerful to boot, and still making efforts to rebuild not only their offices but their alliances since the war's end.
Jessica followed her out, and kept pace just a step behind Hermione. The girl was eager and usually very bright, but Hermione had to admit, she rarely handled herself well in stressful situations.
As Hermione rounded the corner, however, she stopped short, and the young intern ran into her. This wasn't a stressful situation at all; this was a most joyous one. Standing before her, at the door to the department, was none other than Severus Snape, and he was scowling at shorter wizards asking for his autograph. When he spotted her, his scowl disappeared, and a hungry look came into her eyes.
Jessica appeared confused, her nose wrinkled in befuddlement. "Hermione?"
"He's not dangerous," she said, her voice growing higher with each word, until she finished shrilly, "He's my boyfriend!" Throwing her appropriate manner to the wind in the wake of his unexpected visit, she sprinted toward him and all but tackled him, her arms wrapping tightly around his neck as her lips met his in an ardent kiss.
Ignoring the gaping mouths around them, Hermione pulled away slightly to gaze up at Snape. She played with the ends of his hair while she bit her lower lip. It'd been six months since she'd seen him. In her two years away from Hogwarts, they'd only been able to visit each other a few times, with a promise to stay true. It hadn't been hard to be faithful to him, but it had been difficult to be away from him. But her training at the Ministry had concluded only a month before, just one month away from Hogwarts' summer vacation. Hermione felt giddy with the thought that she and Snape would finally be able to spend much more time together.
"You surprised me," she confessed, eyes bright. "Pleasantly," she added, her lips curling in a smile.
Snape smirked, his arms snug around her back. "I noticed."
"Did you want to come to my office?" she offered.
"Actually, I would like to take you out to lunch." His hands found her upper arms, and he pulled them from around his neck. The crowd gathering and gawking was becoming uncomfortable.
"Oh, of course!" Hermione entangled her fingers with Snape's as she turned to Jessica. "Tell Harold to take over, will you? I'll be back shortly."
Not waiting for the girl's answer, Hermione summoned her robes from her office and led Snape from the department. She kept her arm in his as they continued through the Ministry, Hermione calling out greetings every so often. Snape was gawked at several times, but they both ignored the attention and exited via Floo to Diagon Alley.
"Where are we going?" Hermione asked him offhandedly, still basking in the happiness she felt at being near him again. But she didn't need an answer, as Snape stopped abruptly in front of a small restaurant. He held the door open for her.
"Two for Snape," he announced to the hostess, who smiled and didn't even check her list as she led them to a small, circular table in the middle of the restaurant. Hermione was surprised Snape was so comfortable with such a table, but he pushed her chair in for her, and then seated himself across from her. She thought she saw an amused smirk on his face, but decided to ignore it, and reached for his hands.
"Severus," she said softly, squeezing his roughened hands. "You haven't even given me a proper kiss yet." She stroked his leg under the table with the toe of her high-heeled shoes, her eyes hungry. "I've missed you so."
Suddenly, Snape cursed softly and stood. "I had intended to draw this out, but you make that quite impossible." She was looking up at him so lovingly, he couldn't resist. He came around to her side of the table and knelt down, his eyes never her startled ones as he pulled out a small, velvet box from his robes.
"Hermione Granger… insufferable know-it-all," he teased, but at her outraged expression, continue hastily, "keeper of my heart." He opened the box to reveal a vintage-style diamond ring, reminiscent of a fashion Hermione had seen in Victorian-age books. The ring had three princess cut stones, with six round side stones. The band was solid white gold, and the way it glinted in the low light of the restaurant completely took her breath away.
"Severus," she whispered, tears forming in her eyes. She watched him remove the ring and take her left hand into his.
"Be my wife?" he entreated, his onyx eyes showing her all of his heartfelt emotions. He held the ring just at the tip of her fourth finger.
Hermione's face screwed up in what she was sure was an attractive expression as she struggled to hold her tears of happiness in. "Yes!" she fairly shouted, laughing breathlessly. "Yes!" She felt the ring slip onto her finger, and she didn't waste time in grabbing hold of Snape's shoulders and pulling him to her for a deep kiss.
Author's Notes: Well, here we are my friends! Thanks so much for following, and to those of you who reviewed (you know who you are, because I've tried to let you know in author's responses!), I can't tell you how much it meant to me! Kept me going, to be honest. I hope you enjoyed it, especially those of you who were worried at the end of the last chapter ;) You must've known an old romantic like me wouldn't separate our favorite couple! Again, the change… I felt was necessary. I'm clearly too much of a fluff lover.
Oh, before I forget! The engagement ring Snape presents to Hermione can be found here: http dot dot backslash backslash applesofgold dot come backslash QDR hyphen 4 dot h t m l
I thought it looked very much like something that suited Hermione; I like the spiral part, reminds me of her wand.
I'll now throw in a shameless plug for my other stories, which need some lovin', too. "Turn of the Tide" is going to be a long story with an actual plot, and I'm excited about it! And I keep getting ideas for unabashed little one-shots ;)
And as always, thank you so much to my multi-talented beta, Cheryl. She's freakin' incredible. I must also thank Slytherin-Me for her adoration and willingness to give me an honest review of this ending!