They had known each other for fifteen going on sixteen years. He had been her teacher for seven years; they had been colleagues for five. Friends for four, and now Hermione Granger, war heroine and Order of Merlin first class recipient had fallen head over heals in love with Severus Snape.

She couldn't pin point the exact moment it happened, all she knew was that one morning she began looking at him as more than her terrifying ex potions master, the notorious death eater spy, or even just simply as her friend. Slowly, cautiously, she began to spend more time with him. As a typical Gryffindor she wore her heart on her sleeve for the world to see, and he was far too apt at reading her emotions. So getting closer to him was by far one of the most challenging things she had ever done. Second to fighting in the war.

Hermione had worked hard to gain his respect and later his trust. She knew she would never gain his love.

Like everyone who was present during the final downfall of Lord Voldemort at the hands of Harry Potter, she knew of Snape's feelings for Lilly Evans Potter. And as his friend she knew those feelings had not diminished.

Hermione had only brought up his unrequited feelings once, and after the unfortunate incident that conversation had caused she had vowed never to mention Lilly's name to Severus again. She valued his friendship and his feelings too much to risk angering or upsetting him.

Sitting at her seat at the head table in the great hall Hermione was jerked from her mussing about the dark and mysterious potions master, when the man himself sat down next to her and offered her tea.

Startled, she looked up as he touched her elbow, meeting his curious and slightly concerned gaze, Hermione almost lost herself in his obsidian black eyes.

"Hermione...Hermione. Do you want some tea? What's wrong with you this morning woman?"

She heard his voice, saw his lips move and jolted back to earth.

"N...nothing. Sorry. Bad nights sleep, the nightmares...they're still...well, I still have them now and then", she felt bad having used her less frequent nightmares of the war, but she could hardly tell him that she had been daydreaming of how his lips would feel upon her own.

"Yes." Snape said softly, "They plague us all from time to time". He removed his hand from her arm, and began pilling eggs and bacon on to his plate. Hermione felt suddenly cold without his tender grip on her elbow. She turned away from him and stared down at her own empty breakfast plate.

Snape glanced sideways at Hermione his brows furrowed in confusion. She had become increasingly distracted lately and he couldn't explain why. She was an apt occlumens thanks to his own training during her first year back as a student after the war. She had been overwhelmed with the events of the war and the final battle, specifically her ordeal with Bellatrix Lestrange, and was determined to put an end to her nightmares. Snape had allowed himself to be coerced into giving her Occlumency lessons by Headmistress McGonagall, and she had proved to be an exceptionally quick learner. However now, he was rather regretting ever giving in to her demands for occlumency lessons, as he couldn't gain knowledge on what it was that was bothering her.

Despite his original belief that she was an insufferable know it all, who was only out to obtain praise for her brilliance, he had, in the last four years they had worked together as colleagues, come to respect her opinion and value her as one of the few true friends he actually had.

During the final battle it was she who came to his rescue along with McGonagall. After the boy who lived to be a pain in his arse for a second time around, had announced that he had been innocent of all crimes he was accused of, Hermione and McGonagall had run to the shrieking shack as soon as possible in order to try and prevent his death.

The last thing he remembered of his time in the shrieking shack was passing out due to blood loss, after giving Potter his memories. The next thing he knew he was awakening in a comfy hospital bed at St Mungos with Miss Granger curled up and asleep in his bed side chair.

She had insisted on remaining by his side while the healers examined him, and only after they had announced that he was in the all clear and that he wouldn't be dieing anytime soon, did she leave to check on her other friends. He did not see her again, although McGonagall had arrived only a day after he awoke with Potter and Weasley in toe. All were regretful of their treatment of him, particularly Potter. The guilt of suspecting him of treachery for so many years seemed to have taken its toll on the boy, who was nearly in tears apologising to him. He respected Potters apology, although he would never respect the boy himself, imbecile of child was so much like his father it made Snape sick.

He had easily forgiven McGonagall for her behaviour towards him for the last year. He had killed her best friend of over twenty years; she had every right not to trust him. Their relationship had mended itself almost instantly, with Snape returning to his job as potions master in order to help Minerva with the refurbishment of the school, and later take care of the increase in students who returned to Hogwarts the year after.

Amongst them was of course Hermione Granger, although thankfully he was spared the agony of teaching Potter, Weasley and Longbottom. The latter of which had been introduced as the new herbology teacher after the painful loss of Pomona Sprout during the final battle.

Although Snape had kept a strictly professional relationship between him and Miss Granger while she was a student, he couldn't help but admire her ability to put what she had learned during the war into practise. She was just as enthusiastic as she had been before the war, but her attitude was much more adult. She had aged beyond her years, witnessed things no child should ever have to face, the resulting effect was a greatly damaged nineteen year old.

But she had worked hard, eventually taking her NEWT's five months before the rest of the seventh year students. And at the start of the New Year she had been back, taking over from McGonagall as the new transfiguration teacher. McGonagall could hardly be expected to run the school and teach at the same time for longer than was necessary, and Hermione Granger was the perfect candidate for her replacement.

Of course she had eventually wormed her way into Severus' life. First it was just the need to talk to someone, someone who understood what it was like to be on the run, to be afraid of being discovered at every turn. Someone who could understand the struggle to come to terms with the losses of her friends. And he did understand, he understood perfectly what it was like to lose someone you loved. But that didn't mean he wanted to discuss his feelings with her.

She was determined however, and eventually, just like he had with her occlumency lessons, he had given in to her demands. He wasn't sure why he felt such a strong urge to please her, to help her, but he couldn't deny her his support.

It hadn't taken long. Soon she was a frequent visitor to his chambers, they talked, although never about his emotions, only ever hers. They played chess, read together and on occasion she even convinced him to leave the safety of the school grounds, and venture to Hogsmeade for a drink and a bite to eat in the evenings.

Then one night she finally cracked, and after a whole year in which she had made herself a central part in his day to day life, she asked the dreaded questions. Questions that must have been building within her for longer then she would let on.

"Why are you still in love with Lilly?"

"Why do you feel the need to suppress your feelings?"

"Why is Lilly the key to your heart, what makes her so special?"

He had sat, rigidly in his favourite armchair in front of the fire, staring at her with an expressionless face for a long while. After suppressing the urge to throw her from his rooms he drew in a few calming breaths, clenched and unclenched his fists a few times, and then he stood up and walked from the room. Leaving Hermione staring blackly after him.

He had not spoken a word to her for two months straight after that night. He had not acknowledged her presence at all. If she sat next to him in the great hall, he would leave, if she tried to approach him in the corridor he would walk the other way. If she banged on his chamber door for hours on end, demanding his attention, he would put up a silencing spell and go to bed. He ignored her completely, and successfully.

That was, until she stopped trying to get him to talk to her. Then he started to want her back. Started to notice the subtle signs of her withdrawing into herself again, the way she had been after the war. She began to look paler, began to skip meals, her students began to suffer because of her lack of concentration in class. Her lesson plans were practically non existent; she just sat behind her desk as her students attempted whatever spell she had written on the board. The bags under her eyes conveyed her lack of sleep, they gave away the fact that her nightmares had returned tenfold.

Finally, he had had enough. He missed her, a realisation that startled and disturbed him immensely, but was nevertheless true. He missed having her company in his chambers, the quiet reading sessions they had shared, her laughter at one of his humourless jokes, her attempts at getting him to enjoy their rare nights out. Her friendship.

The realisation that he, Severus Snape, valued Hermione Grangers friendship, possible above all else, was what lead to his determination to regain her trust and apologise for his actions. During his rounds one stormy late night in August, Severus had encounter Hermione on top of the astronomy tower, tear tracks marring her pale cheeks as she had looked out over the grounds.

She turned upon hearing him approach and promptly wiped away the evidence of her distress, although her red rimmed eyes and flushed cheeks gave away her distress.

"Sever...Professor Snape" she amended, "I apologise, I'll just leave". She made to move past him, but he caught her elbow and pulled her to him. She looked up at him with sad, empty eyes, and he had felt utter helplessness. Pulling her in to an awkward hug, Snape had held her to him as she broke down again.

"Wh..Why did you leave me!" She had sobbed. "I n..n..needed you, and left me!"
He held her tighter and apologised over and over. Stroking her hair softly he had eventually calmed her down enough to get her off the top of the ice cold tower and back to her quarters. After a cup of tea and a much needed discussion in which she had apologised for her inappropriate questioning of him about Lilly, and he had apologised for his immature reaction, they had fallen asleep on her couch.

The incident had never been discussed again, Hermione had returned to her usual enthusiastic self, and her students had been immensely relieved to have their witty talented teacher back.

Lately however, Severus was becoming increasingly unsure of his own feelings. He knew he valued Hermione as a friend, but now, now he wasn't sure if friendship was enough.

Glancing again at Hermione, he saw that she was one again lost in her thoughts, staring down at her empty plate, brows furrowed and chewing her lush bottom lip.

When he had started thinking of her lips as lush, he wasn't sure, but now every time he looked at her, he imagined what it would feel like to finally kiss the young woman who had wormed her way so thoroughly into his life, and, dare he think it...his heart?

After Lilly he had never expected to feel anything for another woman, never wanted to. But somehow Hermione Granger, his former insufferable student, had managed, against all the odds to make him consider falling in love again.

His pulse would quicken when she smiled, when she hugged him he would become lost in the sensation of her curves pressed against him. When she was concentrating particularly hard on a 6th year essay, or a new novel she was reading, that delicious bottom lip would be sucked in between her teeth, and Severus would not be able to stand for at least another thirty minutes for fear of embarrassing himself.

He knew she could never look at him in the way she had once looked at Weasley. He was not a young athletic auror. He was an old, ugly potions master, who had the indecent status as an ex death eater. No woman with the aspirations of one Hermione Granger should ever have to be tied down to a man like him. Yet, he couldn't help but notice that since Hermione's break up from the idiot red headed boy, that she had not shown the slightest interest in any male company, despite the offers rolling in. They could not go out to dinner without some block eyeing up the war heroine of the century. But not once had she offered them her number, and every time she had declined their request for drinks at a later date. She would take Severus' arm and lead him to a seat, where she would promptly begin taking of the latest potions journal she had read, and whether he had any new projects lined up that he might need her help with.

Another glance at Hermione's seat and Severus was surprised to see she had gone. He had been so caught up in his musings about the young transfigurations teacher that he hadn't noticed when she had left.

Getting to his feet, he left the hall swiftly in search of the young brunette. He did not notice the twinkling brown eyes of the headmistress follow him out of the hall, nor the slight smile playing about her mouth. She knew all too well of the conflicting emotions the young pair were having, and hoped that they would realise they were in love sooner rather than later. The sexual tension between the two was thicker than honeydukes' creamiest toffee.

Since it was a Saturday and a Hogsmeade weekend for the students, Hermione had decided to take advantage of their absence and take a stroll around the lake. The blistering heat from the summer sun washed over her as she moved slowly around the edges of the great black lake, and she hadn't walked far when she gave into the urge to take off her cloak.

Her thoughts had once again turned to one Severus Snape. She felt a fool for being unable to quench her desire for the man, she knew perfectly well that his heart belonged to another, and that she would have to give him up in order to maintain their friendship.

Coming to a stop on the far east side of the lake, she rested against a nearby tree of the forbidden forest and leaned back into its shade. Closing her eyes Hermione felt the light summer breeze float over her skin, loose strands of her hair fluttering about her face. If she concentrated hard enough she could almost conjure up the rich herby smell she associated with the dour potions master. Feel his arms wind their way around her waist, and his lips press against her neck, she could imagine herself reaching up to hold his head in place, while his hands splayed over her stomach moving slowly over her shirt, lifting it up in order to touch her bare skin underneath.

A twig snapped nearby. Pulling herself away from the tree she turned swiftly in the direction of the noise, drawing her wand from her sleeve at the same time. Ready to blast her intruder into high heaven for ruining her daydream, she was mildly surprised to find the object of her fantasy standing a few feet away from her, his hands raised in a gesture of peace and a slight smirk playing about his mouth.

"You're not usually so jumpy Miss Granger" he said playfully, "Is everything alright?"
Hermione caught her breath.

"Of course Severus. I'm sorry. I was just resting. It's nice once in a while to get away from the crowds of students. I thought I'd take advantage of their absence for the day and get some alone time." She smiled softly at him, then frowned when he turned away.

"Where are you going?" she said, far too quickly for her liking. She did not want to appear needy.

"I can take a hint Miss Granger" Snape said smoothly, but there was something about his voice that told Hermione she had offended him. "I will leave you to your peace."
He turned to leave once again.

"I didn't mean you, you daft man." Hermione protested. Snape turned back to her, one long dark eyebrow raised at being called such a thing.

"As great an insult it is to be called a daft man as you so elegantly put it, I do not wish to disturb you."
"You're not. I promise. I always enjoy your company Severus, you know that."

She smiled. That perfect toothy smile that always set his heart beating that little bit faster. He couldn't help but smile slightly back.

Hermione remembered the first time she had ever seen that smile. She had nearly passed out from shock.

Severus Snape didn't smile.

But over the years she had grown used to it, and felt privileged whenever he bestowed that smile on her, it was such a rare occurrence and she was one of very few who ever saw it. Her heart rate picked up slightly.

"Join me?" She asked tentatively. She knew Snape valued his privacy and she did not want, even after all their years of friendship, to appear as though she was forcing her presence upon him.

However he nodded, and moved to stand next to her resting against the large tree, looking out over the lake.

After a long few minutes she spoke, quietly so as not to break the peaceful atmosphere.

"What do you see when you look out there?"

The question surprised Severus. He was unsure of his answer. If he was perfectly honest he saw a lake. A lake that was filled with creatures of the deep and that had its smooth surface disturbed once every now and then, by a large tentacle protruding from its depths.

"I see...nature." He said uncertainly. It almost sounded like a question.

Hermione laughed. "Yes. Yes there is that. But I wondered, do you ever look out over these grounds and picture the past, or the future? There have been so many times when I have examined the castle from afar and remembered the destruction the war caused. The towers destroyed, explosions shattering the windows, the dead lying on the ground..."

She trailed off. Severus was unsure what to say. He was not good at comforting people. Yes he and Hermione had talked of the war, but they had never gone so deep as to get emotional about it. She had simply needed to speak to someone who was unafraid of talking about the devastating effects the war had caused. Everyone else seemed to deem it unimportant to their future, and refused to discuss it with her. But it was integral to her future, it was important that she understand the past in order to move forward. That was why she came to him, because he knew that feeling, and was willing to share her memories, and his own, in order to move on.

Just as he was contemplating putting a comforting arm around her, she spoke again.

"But sometimes I look out, and I wonder what will become of me and this place in the years to come? Will I forever work here as a professor, or will I one day leave this place to take on new challenges and new pursuits? I don't know if I can ever imagine myself leaving, but then again, staying was never something I intended to do for much longer than a few years. I never saw Hogwarts as my future; I thought my future was beyond its walls..." She trailed off again.

And suddenly Snape was finding it hard to breath. He was now entirely focused on the young woman standing next to him in the shade of the trees. Leave? She couldn't leave! If she left Hogwarts, then she would be leaving him. He was unable to comprehend a life at Hogwarts without her now. She had been his student for so long, and then his colleague and friend. If she left he would be alone. Of course the rest of the staff would consider themselves his friends, but really, if he thought about it, the only real friends he had amongst the staff were Hermione and Minerva.


He looked down at Hermione. She was watching him with caution, her hand on his arm.
He realised he was breathing rapidly and from the heat in his cheeks recognised he was flushed. Suddenly he could name the emotions that had been building within his chest upon hearing her mention a life beyond the castle walls, away from him. Fear, betrayal...Anger!

"Leaving. Leaving! How can you consider such a thing? After everything I have done for you!" he spoke quietly but with a fierce intensity that had Hermione's eyes widening to the size of saucers.

"Wh-" she began to ask, but he cut her off.

Grabbing her by her upper arms he moved her so that she was pinned between himself and the tree they had been resting upon.

"You are just like the rest of them. Albus, my mother, my father...Lilly. You never planned on staying did you? Did you! You just needed me to get over your own feelings of insecurity, to fix you when you were broken. And now that you're mended you're going to take off, move on and never come back!" His words were spat at her, angrily he pushed he harder against the tree, his hands tightening on her arms.

Hermione stared up at him in disbelief and fear. She had never seen him this angry. Not even as a student.

"Severus what is wrong with you? Let go of me...Ow Severus you're hurting me. Let go!" She didn't understand what had just happened, he had mentioned Lilly. He had compared her to Lilly. And suddenly she felt her own anger spiked.

Glaring up at him she spoke forcefully, pushing against his chest to emphasise her anger.

"Don't you dare compare me to that...that awful excuse for a friend!" she almost shouted. "I am nothing like her. I wouldn't leave those who loved me because of one stupid argument, because of one moment of anger, and then never talk to them again. I would forgive you anything Severus Snape, even if you called me a mudblood, because I am nothing like her! Do you hear me? I never said I was leaving you. I can't leave you behind. I can't because I..." She caught herself suddenly and stared, wide eyed up at the man holding her against the tree. She had nearly said it; she had nearly confessed her love to him. Oh no, she could feel tears pricking at the corners of her eyes and lowered her head squeezing them shut to keep the tears at bay. Praying to god that he would release her so she could run from him and his scrutinizing gaze.

Severus stared down at the woman in his arms. All anger had left him, his grip on her arms loosened and he suddenly felt terrific shame over his actions. How could he have hurt her? This beautiful woman, who had been so kind to him these past years, had shown him compassion and friendship.

Her reaction to being compared to Lilly was surprising. He didn't know she knew so much about his relationship with the red head. How did she know about the argument in which he had called her a mud...wait? Potter! Of course, of course the boy would have told her what he had witnessed in his memories. He would have told her and Weasley. His anger quickly returned, but when he looked down on her fragile frame, pushed back against the tree, head lowered and with what looked like tears running slowly down her cheeks, he faltered.

She hadn't finished her outburst. She had stopped, and looked at him with such fear in he eyes you would think he resembled Lord Voldemort himself.

Slowly, cautiously as though afraid of frightening her, Snape moved back towards her.

"You, what Hermione?" he asked softly. "You what?"
But she shook her head and raised her hands to cover her face. He heard her mumble and leaned closed to distinguish what she was saying.

"Please, please don't ask me. I can't...I can't.'ll leave. I can't. Please" She was crying harder now, and Snape could do no more than step in and pull her into his arms.

He felt her stiffen at first and she tried to remove herself from his embrace, but he held firm and eventually her struggles subsided and she leaned into him, crying into his chest.

Hermione let all of her frustration and heartache out. Gripping Snape's cloak she buried her head in his chest and sobbed. She cried for her unrequited love, for the friendship that would never be enough, for past emotions and traumas caused by the war that she had kept buried for so many years. For the loss of all her friends, for the pain Severus had been through, for his own lost love, for everything.

Finally, her tears subsided and she lifted her head to look up at the man holding her. His face bore a sombre expression and he gazed down at her with such tender concern that she almost wept again. She opened her mouth, intending to reassure him of her sanity and blame her tears on lack of sleep again, but before she could utter a word, her lips had been covered by his own.

He wasn't sure what had made him do it, but seeing her staring up at him, her eyes red from crying, her face blotchy and covered in tear tracks, he realised he had never seen her so beautiful. She was baring her soul to him, and he could not take his eyes off her. He caught sight of her swollen red lips and something inside him had snapped. Lowering his head, he hadn't realised what he was doing until he felt her lips claimed by his own.

Horror struck at his own actions he did not move for a few seconds. He felt her tense and immediately tried to rectify the situation. Intent on pulling back and apologising profusely before running to his dungeons to hide he had almost pulled away.

But then he felt her lips move under his.

Kissing him gently, almost afraid of her own actions she sucked his bottom lip between her own. He stood, shocked and again unable to move, unable to reciprocate.

He was so caught up in her feeling of his lips being sucked and nibbled by this beautiful witch in front of him that he failed to notice her tense again, and only registered her unease when she pulled back, looking as horror-struck as he had felt only moments before.

He hadn't wanted it. God, he had just done it out of pity. She had never felt so stupid. Looking up at him with tear filled eyes, she tried to pull away. Desperately trying to escape his hold on her.

"I'" She tried to apologise, to make the situation right.

Severus stared down at her and with dawning comprehension, realised he had not kissed her back, despite him being the one to initiate the contact. She thought he was rejecting her, regretting his actions.

Quickly and smoothly, he pulled the struggling witch back into his tight embrace and cupped her cheek with one rough calloused hand.

"Hermione" he said softly.

She raised her head, confusion and fear written plainly on her face.

Always the Gryffindor he thought smirking inwardly.

He lowered his head once more, keeping his eyes open, staring into her own, which where now beginning to fill with realisation,
He kissed her again, slowly, cautiously, wanting her to read his own emotions in both his eyes and his kiss.

The suddenly, as though she had been restraining herself for a lifetime, Hermione threw he arms around his neck and pressed herself against him tightly, kissing him back for all she was worth.

He felt his head spin, but couldn't help a slight smile. Her enthusiasm was equally matched by his own, and soon she was once again pressed against the tree.

Hermione was over the moon. She was kissing Severus Snape. He was kissing her.

When he had said her name, with such gentleness, she thought she must be dreaming. But there was no mistaking the lust in his eyes; the feel of his lips on hers only heightened her realisation that he wanted her too.

She did not know if what he felt was love. But she was not going to pass up the opportunity to have the man she loved, if only for one time.

Pulling him to her, she began pushing his cloak off his shoulders, as it fell to the ground beneath them; her hands immediately went to the buttons of his frock coat. Dimly she wondered how he could wear so many layers at this time of year, but as his lips moved down her jaw and to her neck all coherent thought left her.

Severus meanwhile was thoroughly enjoying the feel of her small hands tearing at his clothing. As his lips moved down her neck to her pulse point, he became aware of his own hands already pulling her shirt up in haste. His hands skimming her smooth skin beneath.

It did not take long before each was divested of the rest of their clothing, leaving them standing in the blazing sun in nothing but their underclothes. They each took a moment to stare at each other with lust clouded eyes.

Hermione felt a momentary pang of shame as she realised she was in plain white cotton underwear, but a glance at Severus' face told her he did not mind in the slightest. His own eyes were boring into her skin with such fiery need that she felt he might scorch her flesh from his gaze alone.

As her own eyes took him in she felt another pang. This time of sadness. Although lean and strong, Snape's torso was covered in scars. Most appeared to be from what looked like muggle weapons, knife wounds and what looked like marks from a wipe were visible. But there were defiantly scars obtained by dark curses as well. She moved her hands over his torso, smoothing his hot skin and biting her lip as his muscles rippled under her touch.

Glancing back up at him she could detect uncertainty in his heated gaze. Reading his own fear of rejection she lowered her head and placed a long soothing kiss to a particularly painful looking scar that wound its way from his left shoulder to the centre of his chest. Raising her head to meet his gaze once more she whispered up to him, her voice full with lust.

"You are beautiful".

Unable to bare the tension any longer, Snape picked her up and lay her down on his cloak, covering her body with his own.

Looking deeply into her eyes he knew he had to tell her, knew he could not go on without her after this. He needed to know she felt the same.

"Hermione. I have wanted, for longer than I can admit to myself." His voice had taken on a gravely tone which he almost didn't recognise. Hermione shivered under him with almost unrestrained desire. Her eyes shinning as his words sunk in.

It was now or never.

"And I Severus, have loved you for longer than I can remember." She had said it. Afraid all of a sudden that she had gone too far, had ruined the moment, she hid her face in his shoulder.

Severus stared. Loved him? She loved him! And suddenly he smiled. Pulling away from her slightly so that she could not hide, he met her gaze.

"Tell me again" he said quietly.

Hermione was unsure she had heard correctly, but looking up at him, seeing him smile down at her with such affection she knew she could only give him what he asked.

"I love you Severus Snape".

The next thing she knew she was being kissed long and hard by the man above her. His body pressing down onto her own, his hips grinding into her, making it clear that he wanted her just as much as she wanted him.

The rest of their clothes were quickly removed and foreplay all but forgotten, Severus pushed into the willing, wonderful witch beneath him.

Both gasped at the sensation of finally being joined. Staring into each others eyes Severus finally spoke the words his heart had been telling him for so long.

"I love you Hermione". Tears welled in her eyes as his words washed over her. Unable to speak she pulled his head down to bestow another lingering kiss on his welcoming lips.

Afterwards they lay there, Hermione curled into Severus' side, drawing patterns on his sweat covered chest. One of his arms wrapped around her stroking her shoulder, the other behind his head.

Neither could remember ever feeling so content before.

Finally unable to bear it any longer Hermione raised her head and looked down on the man she loved.

"Yes" he said, without opening his eyes.

She frowned and was about to ask what he meant, when he opened his eyes and smiled.

"Yes, I meant it. I love you."

Hermione beamed, leaning over to kiss him again. Repeating the words against his mouth.

"What now?" she asked after some time.

"Now? Now we sleep. We have the rest of our lives to discuss what comes next" Severus said, a smile touching his lips. "But I don't plan on letting you go Miss Granger, so I do hope you can put up with your dour old potions master."

Hermione looked down at him meeting the dark eyes that had haunted her dreams for so long. There was still a slight uncertainly in their depths, as though he was afraid of disappointing.

"You are not old Severus. You may be dour at times but so would anyone who had to put up with as many dunderheads as you do in potions." She smiled slightly as his still uncertain look. "I love you Severus. And I will continue to love you for the rest of my life. I will not be letting you go either, so I do hope you can put up with insufferable know it alls with unruly hair." She smirked as his eyes flashed in amusement.

"Oh, I think I can just about cope" he said softly, kissing her once more before she replaced her head on his chest, breathing in the scent that was just so, him. Yes Hermione decided, as she curled once more into his embrace, this is definitely where she belonged.

Severus' arm tightened around her, holding her protectively to him. He had spent many years as a potions professor, and now that he finally had the woman he loved vowing to spend the rest of her life loving him, he did not fear leaving the castle that he considered his first home, and haven. In fact he was rather looking forward to the adventures that awaited him and the woman in his arms.

Eventually both succumbed to sleep, under the warm summer sun in the shade of the trees, hidden from the prying eyes of staff and students.

Their future, although proving to be the happiest years of their lives and greatly rewarding in many ways, would not be smooth sailing. There would most definitely be times of heated disputes, and many impassioned quarrels leading to the most satisfying make up sex either had ever had. But what more would you expect from a stubborn Gryffindor and a sneaky Slytherin.