Author's Notes: Here it is, the end of the story! I want to thank all of you who never failed to review, and who were patient with me as the story continued. Thank you to those of you who gave input, and who helped me out with difficult chapters. Most of all, thank you to my Beta, Slytherin-Me, for her endless encouragement and support and patience, and her naughty pictures of Snape to keep me inspired.

I've thought about a sequel but I'm not sure at this point. If it's something you'd like to see, please leave a review to let me know. In any case, I'm addicted to this pair and have a lot of groovy story ideas lined up, so I hope some of you will be interested!

H~S~H~S

Harry, Ginny, and Ron were waiting for her when she was transported back to the Ministry with the help of a Portkey. Though she was very skilled at Apparation, long-distance traveling could be intense, especially in the frenzied state of mind she was in. After shoving the ink bottle Portkey into her robes, she took a deep breath and faced her friends.

Ron was gazing at her oddly. That was what she had been afraid of. She had always been comfortable with her outside appearance, but it had been nice for a while to capture the attention of many wizards. Now she felt self-conscious, and she hated that. She scowled at Ron and started to move past her friends toward the Auror Office.

"Hermione," Ginny started, touching her elbow.

"What?" Hermione asked moodily, not glancing back.

"Snape asked us to tell you that dinner is at seven." Harry was frowning, watching her closely. He and Ginny knew her too well. She avoided their stares as she trudged into the office.

She was aching to see Severus, had missed him even though she had only been gone over the weekend. At the same time, she wanted to avoid him at all costs. He had been so intrigued with her because of her enhanced appearance. The thought of losing him, just as she'd lost her smooth locks and rouged face, was cripplingly disconcerting.

As she plopped down at her desk and shrugged out of her robes – revealing the little black dress she'd changed into before leaving Paris – she caught Ron staring at her from her peripheral. Frowning intensely, she all but hissed at him, "What are you staring at, Ronald?"

He cringed back from her fierce tone, but the puzzled look on his freckled face remained. He rubbed his chin as he leaned his hip against her desk. "It doesn't seem like… much was changed," he explained hesitantly, fearful of her wrath being unleashed.

She sneered, and would have been amused at how much she probably resembled Severus in that moment, except she wasn't amused at all by Ronald's comment. She turned away from them all and peered into the small Muggle mirror she kept at her desk, grateful it wouldn't be telling her she'd made a mistake in returning to her old self.

Ginny caught her husband's eye and tilted her head in the opposite direction, signaling she wanted him and Ron to back off. Her astute husband took the hint, and he grabbed Ron by the shoulder to lead him away.

"Hermione," Ginny began, her voice soft. She moved closer to her best friend, reaching out to rub her back consolingly.

"I can't do this right now!" Hermione exclaimed, shoving away from her desk and burying her face in her hands, trembling slightly.

Ginny smiled kindly down at her, continuing to comfort. "You took on a full-fledged vampire, Hermione. I think you can handle dinner with the man who loves you."

Hermione's head snapped up. "Don't say that. It's the whole reason I'm upset. This isn't about love, not to him. And it certainly won't be about anything else once he sees me."

When Ginny scoffed, Hermione looked pleadingly up at her. "The man is smitten, whether you've got frizzy hair or straight; whether you have eyeliner on or not."

If only that were the case, Hermione thought dismally to herself. She'd never felt so self-conscious, so unconfident. Even fighting in the Final Battle, knowing her life could end at any moment, she'd been more courageous than this.

"If he can't accept me for the way I am, I don't want him anyway," she announced, standing and running her fingers through her untamable hair. She faced Ginny resolutely, determinedly.

"You know this is all rubbish, right?" Ginny handed Hermione's robes to her. "You are enchanting."

Hermione was grateful for her friends, but sometimes, she thought they were absolutely unhinged.

H~S~H~S

The moment of truth would come soon.

He hadn't been this nervous in his entire life, not even while facing the Dark Lord in the Shrieking Shack. His insides were churning, and a fine sweat was breaking out across his brow. It was as if he had been holding back his declaration to Hermione for too long, and now he was one big pressure cooker, ready to explode at any moment. He needed to say the words to her, and yet, the gravity of those words still managed to give him the wiggins.

Severus shook his head as if to clear it and continued pacing outside of the restaurant in Hogsmeade. They were meeting at the exact same place they'd first shared dinner, something he'd arranged purposely for the occasion. He had much to say and prove to her.

Only, when Hermione met him outside, she did not seem to appreciate the choice of restaurant whatsoever. Color suffused her cheeks and she wouldn't quite meet his eye. Nevertheless, he took her robes for her and placed his hand at the small of her back to guide her to their table.

It felt good to have her back. His blood was raging, and he knew he would only ever feel this way for her. The little black dress she wore clung to her considerable womanly curves, and his palms itched to wrap themselves around those very curves. Her wild hair made him smile at the same time he wished to smooth it back from her face and nibble his way down her neck. But, as he helped her into her seat and she finally managed to look up at him, love blazing in her eyes along with a heap of uncertainty, he realized with a twisting in his chest that, as much as he loved her womanly body and silky skin, he was much fonder of her courageous and caring heart.

A wicked smile erupted onto his face as he felt himself become at ease with the knowledge. He loved her, and there wasn't a bloody thing wrong with that. The tides had effectively turned in his favor, and he wasn't about to conduct himself as an idiot and lose the woman seated before him.

After ordering their drinks, Severus caught her fidgety hands in his and leaned across the small table toward her. "You stole my breath when I first saw you, Hermione." His thumbs caressed her knuckles, and he willed her to meet his eyes. When she did, he was a little confused. Their tawny depths were filled with fire, apparently over his statement, and he wondered what he'd said wrong.

"Are you referring to when we first came here? Or now?" Her defensive, clipped tone would've made the old Severus proud.

He frowned and squeezed her fingers. "Both."

She pulled away from him as she spotted their server approaching. "Don't be ridiculous," she murmured under her breath, sitting up straight and inspecting the menu.

Severus was floored with the knowledge that, while he seemed to have finally gained a high amount of self-confidence, Hermione had lost some of hers… and he had had a part in that. He'd gushed over her appearance along with all the others; she had no reason to trust he would stick around. Determined, he snatched her fingers back into his when the server left, and squeezed until she glared up at him.

"All you could do the last time we were here was sit in awe and devour me with your eyes." A harsh laughed escaped her, making his chest tight. "And now look at me."

With a raised brow, Severus leaned in and murmured, "I see no difference."

Hermione jerked back, her expression incredulous. She recalled with stunning clarity her Fourth Year and the cruelness she'd had to face in Potions. The same words he'd used then to utterly destroy her now made her feel light, made her heart drop to her stomach in hopes that he was speaking the truth, that he meant what he said. To her horror, her lower lip started to tremble, and she met his obsidian eyes. "Truly?" She wasn't sure she wanted to believe. Believing meant potentially, down the road, getting hurt. And Severus could hurt her, very badly, if she permitted it.

But then he flashed the most incredible smile she'd ever seen anyone display, transforming his countenance into a youthful, breathtakingly handsome man – stopping her heart completely. Stroking her fingers, he said clearly, softly, "I love you, Hermione."

She sat in stunned silence, willing her joyful tears not to come, willing her heart to discontinue pounding its erratic rhythm. She realized she was gaping at him but couldn't bring herself to stop. Severus Snape loved her? It was better than her Order of Merlin, First Class. She just sat there gaping at him, hoping against hope that it could be true. But the man was smiling at her with his heart in his black eyes. Severus Snape, former Death Eater, all-around mean, snarky, sarcastic git, was professing his love to her and appeared to mean it wholeheartedly. She was sure he was incapable of smiling like that unless he meant it.

"Your dinner," their server announced as he appeared at their table holding a tray, and she had an unsettling urge to giggle as Severus glared daggers at the interrupting young man. He seemed to grudgingly accept that they needed to eat, and picked up his fork with a muttered oath. Hermione let her bliss wash over her, casting sneaky glances at him from under her lashes as she ate her own meal.

They both finished sooner than was perhaps expected, but then both of them were filled with anticipation.

"Come back to my quarters with me," he commanded, his eyes intent on her face.

The corner of her mouth twitched. "We haven't even had dessert yet." She wanted to throw her head back and laugh at their remembered first date.

"I promise you," he murmured huskily, "you wouldn't miss it."

She did laugh then, but nodded and watched him lovingly as he impatiently – just as last time – dealt with their server in his haste to get her into his bed. He all but shoved her robes onto her shoulders and dragged her out into the crisp night air down to the path leading to Hogwarts.

She dug in her heels and put her hands on her hips. "What were your intentions when you invited me to dinner, Severus?" Her eyes sparkled. It was too much fun, being in the same situation as their first time together, and yet knowing the outcome would be so much more satisfying. He'd recreated all of this for her, to reassure her, and though Hermione was an independent, confident woman… it felt good to be reassured. To feel loved, not just by any man, but by Severus Snape.

He stalked toward her, making her knees go weak. She loved it when he did that; it set flames licking along her skin. Just as before, he caught her around the waist with one arm, while his other wrapped around her shoulder and his fingers sank into her hair. "I didn't think you would ever be wondering over my intentions." He dipped his head to press kisses to her throat, curving her like a bow over his arm. "I intend to take you back to my quarters, strip you bare and have my wicked way with you, and show you in addition to telling you how very much you mean to me." He ground his hips into hers, making her breath hitch in her throat. "How much I love you." He captured her lips then, pressing her tight to him as he explored her mouth passionately. When he pulled back, he pressed his forehead to hers and whispered, "And you will say it back, woman."

"And show you," Hermione whispered, locking her arms tight behind her back. "Don't forget the showing part."

Severus laughed, and the sound was music to her ears. He swung her up into his arms and took the last few steps to the castle doors.

From the shadows, Headmistress McGonagall observed them with a smirk on her face.

H~S~H~S

Hermione stood at the end of Severus' massive bed, breathing shallowly. The dark ebony wood of the bed frame contrasted nicely with the Slytherin green sheets. "I've never been in here," she whispered faintly, slightly marveling over that fact. True, she'd almost been here a couple of times, but Severus had never succeeded in getting her past the threshold. Now she was here and it felt like she was absolutely past the point of no return… right where she wanted to be. She was reeling from his earlier admission, and now that she had time to devote to letting it wash through her and spread joy throughout her nervous system, she wasn't about to waste time.

She turned toward him where he leaned against the bedroom door, watching her closely. His obsidian eyes were narrowed in hunger for what was to come, yet at the same time they were deep with some emotion – love. It had to be. And she was astounded.

She dropped her robes from her shoulders, her eyes never leaving his, even as she walked slowly backwards until the backs of her knees hit the great black chest at the end of the bed. She slowly lowered to perch atop it, and leisurely ran her hand along her leg as she raised her knee so that she could remove her heels.

Severus stalked forward, just like she'd known he would. He knelt in front of her and took her slim ankle in his palm so that he could ease first one shoe off and then the other. His touch was urgent but gentle as he ghosted his fingers across her legs.

"You do enjoy undressing me, Severus." She was smirking, pleased, overjoyed, so grateful she could call this man hers.

"I anticipate it much the same way as some student would anticipate entering Honeydukes." He rested his forehead against one of her knees as his lips caressed the smooth skin of her leg. Hermione's fingers traveled through his dark hair, massaging his scalp gently as they both reveled in their shared adoration.

But then Severus lifted his dark head, and she knew she was in for one extremely satisfying night.

Large, deft fingers trailed up her smooth thighs, leaving behind chills in their wake. His hands wrapped around the thin lace of her knickers, and tugged them down over her hips ever so slowly. Severus seemed enthralled as he watched her shimmy on the black chest, helping him remove her undergarments. When he got them to the backs of her knees, he stripped them down her legs in one smooth motion with a wicked smirk. Lust gleamed dark in his eyes as he gripped the edge of her dress and leaned forward onto his knees to slip it over her head. She wanted to laugh at his flabbergasted expression when he discovered she hadn't bothered with a bra; the dress was cut so low in the back it hadn't been possible to wear one. But the laughter died on its way out of her throat. Severus was wearing that utterly serious expression, the one she figured the Big Bad Wolf must have worn when he came across Little Red Riding Hood in the old fairy tale.

He rose before her and slipped his own robes off, his eyes devouring her body as he did so. Hermione stood, as well, and reached up to caress the buttons of his black jacket, eyeing them speculatively. She dropped to her knees on the floor, grasping for her robe, and her cheek brushed against the hard, heavy evidence of his wealth of desire. She blushed as he hissed, and smiled up at him apologetically.

He shoved a hand into her curls and breathed, "I quite like you in that position."

Hermione raised a brow even as a slow grin broke out across her lips. "Agreed." She wrapped her hand around her wand from her robes, and leaned back on her calves to perform a little swish and flick. His clothes dropped by themselves with the spell, and she savored the sight of his naked flesh. He was lean, but ripped, like some sort of jungle panther; he got much exercise in his role of Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, that much was evident. His pale, smooth skin was dusted liberally with manly dark hairs; she appreciated the trail down his abdomen, leading her to one of her favorite parts of him. She'd long gotten used to the multitude of scars decorating his body, thought they showed him as a courageous man, not the coward many had named him before the war. Her eyes returned to his bobbing erection in front of her face. He was quite the extraordinary man.

"Take your time, m'lady," he ground out through clenched teeth, his fists convulsing at his sides. "I'll just wait patiently."

They both knew he wasn't a patient man, especially when it came to something he wanted badly. Taking mercy on him, she came up on her knees once more and wrapped her hand around the base of his impressive cock, bringing her lips toward the tip so slowly she felt his entire body tremble. She blew across his heated flesh, and he groaned. His hands came up to sink into her curls as she opened her mouth around him and took him in.

Stars burst behind his eyes, stunning him as she moved her mouth forward and back, laving him leisurely with her tongue. Her mouth was hot, moist, just like the sanctuary between her legs – a kind of Heaven. He arched into her, demanding she take more, and when she obediently took as much as she could of his length into the warm cavern of her mouth and sucked, while squeezing the base of his cock, the top of his head near to blew off.

She was fierce now in her oral exploration of him, her mouth suctioning wildly while her hands stroked his testicles. Higher and higher she took him, and he could feel himself about to explode… But just before he reached his climax, she drew back, her hands clutching his thighs, her mouth pouty and her eyes hooded. He stared down at her as a tic in his jaw started, and his gaze narrowed dangerously when she sat back on her calves, running her nails across his thighs as she gave him a wicked smile.

His nostrils flared. "You'll pay for that, wench," he promised retaliation in a gruff voice. He snatched her under her arms and drew her up, stifling the gasp that nearly slipped out of him as her smooth skin slid up his body, as the tiny hairs at the junction of her thighs rasped against his straining cock.

Hermione's hands gripped his shoulders. "I was hoping you'd say that." She used his shoulders to pull herself up so that she could press her lips to his. Her tongue slid along his lower lip, and when he tried to draw her into his open mouth, she teased him yet again by moving from his lips to his jaw, pressing tiny kisses to the tight muscles there.

A low growl escaped him moments before he grabbed her waist and lifted her, tossing her back onto his bed. There had been a time when he had eagerly anticipated seeing her skin flushed Gryffindor red from his ministrations, contrasting with his Slytherin green sheets, and nothing had changed. He fell on her like a hungry wolf before she had time to blink, tugging her to the end of the bed and jerking her legs apart. He slid them over his shoulders.

She was glistening with desire. The sight of her parted folds fervently awaiting his attentions transformed his erection into a throbbing beast. He bent his head and stroked his tongue up her opened center, and she writhed as she cried his name. He was just as teasing as she had been, blowing cool air against her heated core, pressing kisses so close to where she needed them most but not quite there, nipping at the tender flesh of her inner thighs. Only when she started pleading unabashedly with him, crying, "I love you, Severus, oh please, oh please!" did he appease her, finding her pulsating clit with his tongue and then closing his lips around the swollen bud, sucking at her feverishly. Her hips were bucking uncontrollably, her hands clutching the sheets beside her hips until her knuckles turned white. Severus used his thumb and forefinger to gently pinch her clit while he thrust his tongue into her core, a promise of things to come. He fucked her with his tongue while he stroked her with his deft fingers, but he returned the favor and stopped short just before her orgasm overwhelmed her.

As he lifted her to situate her at the top of the bed and rose over her, tears spilled out of her eyes. He kissed them away, stroking her face, her neck, her waist, even as he settled between her thighs.

"I'll make it up to you," he promised her on a loving whisper, then kissed her gently. His lips moved down her chin to her neck, and he pressed an open-mouthed kiss to the spot just below her ear. She responded by moaning softly and stroking his calves with her toes, and so he continued down her throat to her collarbone. He nibbled gently, as his hands came up to cup her breasts.

He never dreamed he'd have a woman such as Hermione. She was utterly beautiful to him, shining from the inside so that he could barely breathe with the weight of his love for her. He nuzzled the valley between her breasts, worshipping her in his own way. His palms cupped the weight of her gorgeous breasts as he rolled his thumbs across her peaked nipples. Unable to resist the lure of taut buds, he bent his head and stroked his tongue across first one, then the other, nuzzling in between tasting them. He massaged the heavy weight of her flesh, pleased when she lifted her hips and began to rub against him.

"I love you, Hermione," he whispered against her cheek as he penetrated her tight, fiery sheath. She wrapped her arms around him, her nails immediately digging into his back to urge him on – he loved that, that she could demand things of him in her uninhibited state. He pressed wet kisses to her neck as he rode her slowly, easing in and out, a kind of torture for them both as her inner muscles clamped around him.

"More," she begged of him, opening her eyes and cupping his face in her hands, arching up against him eagerly.

Severus captured her lips, kissing her passionately. Their tongues dueled fiercely as he continued his leisurely pace. She pinched his arse, and he drew back with a husky, strained chuckle. "No more until you return the words."

Hermione clenched her thighs tightly around his waist, bringing him deeper into her. He groaned loudly into her ear, and she did it again. "That's unfair, Severus." She raised her hips, drawing him even deeper, and felt him edge along that sweet, delicious spot inside of her. Her moan mingled with his. "I tell you all the time," she bit out, her arms tight around his back.

"Say it, or neither of us gets to come." The tip of him ghosted along that spot once more as his hands squeezed around her thighs. He felt as if his heart was going to explode out of his chest.

"I love you," she half-whimpered, stroking his hair back from his face so she could look into his eyes. "I love you more than books."

He throbbed inside of her in response to her heated words, and would've laughed if he didn't feel perilously close to losing control. "I love you more than the Dark Arts," he told her, and it was the only warning she received before he thrust deeply into her, hiking her legs up so high they were nearly on his shoulders. His fingers dug into her waist as he pounded into her, hitting her sweet spot full on now, along with grinding against her swollen clit. They moaned each other's names, holding on tightly to one another as they rose higher and higher, reaching the pinnacle of their love together.

A delighted scream ripped out of Hermione's throat as her climax threw her in a free fall; Severus roared above her like some great big lion. They exploded into joyful fragments, coming together after teasing each other mercilessly. Hermione knew she would never be the same; Severus knew it, as well.

He rolled over onto his back, taking her with him, before he could collapse on top of her. Hermione collapsed on top of him, instead. He wrapped his arms around her and rubbed is chin across the top of her head affectionately, and she cuddled against his warm, spent body, satisfied and purring like a well-fed kitten.

"Will we always feel this way, Severus?" Hermione asked, her voice muffled against his chest. Her arms tightened around him, her legs entwined with his.

"Forever, Hermione. There's been a turn of the tide… for both of us." He kissed the top of her head, and they fell asleep dreaming of their future together.