Chapter 9

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I'm just having fun.

That night saw Severus finalizing his plans. He gave instructions to Blinky about dinner and set about deciding what to wear the next day so that he didn't feel rushed later. When he finally stopped and got ready to bed, Severus sat up with a book in his hand but was unable to concentrate on the words (which was very unusual for him). He was focused instead on Hermione's smile when she said she would like for them to be a couple. She had been absolutely beautiful in that moment. He wasn't used to thinking such things about the young lady in question… but he had begun to see her in a new light. She was absolutely perfect for him. And to think that he never would have given her a second glance if it hadn't been for that maddening marriage mandate the Ministry had managed to enforce. For once, he was thankful to the Ministry for their meddling.

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Hermione was thinking along the same lines as Severus when she crawled into bed that night after finishing her homework and spending some time with her friends. She loved to see Severus smile and it was even more gratifying that she only ever saw it when they were alone. She was beginning to see that she would never have been able to make things work with Ron the way she had hoped when they were younger and that he was a good match with Lavender; but more importantly she was beginning to see that she and Severus were perfect for each other. They complimented each other thoroughly. While she was for the most part kind and forgiving, Severus was mean and could hold a grudge. But on the other hand they were very similar. Both were extremely intelligent and enjoyed reading. They had a similar sense of humor (of course Hermione would never say the things that he said… she was too polite). Both were very powerful magically. Overall, they made a very nice couple indeed. Hermione fell asleep with another smile on her face dreaming about what kind of life they could build together thanks to the marriage mandate.

The next morning, Hermione woke with a smile. She was excited about her dinner with Severus. She really enjoyed spending time with him. It didn't matter that she had spent most of the afternoon with him yesterday. She wanted to be with him all the time. He made her happy. In the meantime, she decided that she would spend some time with her friends. She realized that she hadn't spent much time with just the boys recently. After going down to the common room she found the boys waiting for her.

"Good morning, Harry, Ron! Where are Ginny and Lavender? I haven't seen you guys without the two of them in a while," Hermione greeted her two best friends.

Harry smiled sheepishly and replied, "We know. We told them to go on down to breakfast and we'd wait for you. We have gotten to spend much time with you lately. And we miss you."

Hermione beamed at her friends. They made her very happy. Sometimes they could be typical males and ignore her completely and she was fine with that, but it was moments like this when she remembered why she was so close to them in the first place. They all really cared about each other. She would have to find time at some point today to tell them about her and Severus. They already knew that she had decided to get to know him in light of his petition on her behalf. But Hermione wanted them to know how things were going. She wasn't going to mention the few kisses that she had shared with him, but she could tell the boys that they were officially a couple.

Ron shocked Hermione on the way down to breakfast by remarking, "Hermione, you look happy. I'm glad that he makes you happy. I hope it lasts." Hermione and Harry both stopped dead in their tracks and stared at the back of Ron's head. Ron turned around and said, "What? I can't be observant now? Just because you're the smart one doesn't mean I'm completely stupid. I know that your smile lately is because of him. And while yes, I do wish it was someone else who put that smile on your face, I'm just happy that it's there. You deserve to be happy, Hermione."

Hermione didn't know what to say. Instead, she ran at Ron and tackled him in a giant hug. "Thank you, Ron! You can't know how much that means to me," she finally manage to say as she let him go.

Suddenly a deep voice sneered, "How touching. Five points from Gryffindor for turning me off my breakfast, Mr. Weasley."

The boys stiffened instantly and Hermione just sighed. "Good morning, Professor. Did you sleep well?" Hermione asked with the brightest smile she possessed (and as a daughter of dentists it was quite bright).

"Good morning, Ms. Granger. I did. Thank you for asking," Severus replied with a very small smile. He was secretly glad that Hermione's friends were happy for her. He wanted nothing but for her to be happy and he knew that those dunderheads were part of what makes her happy so he was willing to put up with them. But that didn't mean that he wanted them talking about him in the middle of the hallway. It also didn't mean that he wanted them to say things that were nice enough to make her hug them. He wanted all of her hugs to himself. He was a very jealous and possessive man. He would have to talk to her about that once he had his ring on her finger. Later, he thought, I don't want to ruin things. She has to say yes. There's still a chance she can say no. There's always that other petition that she has. I don't think she's responded to it yet… that thought was always in the back of Severus's mind. That's what had really put him off of his breakfast this morning. But her smile at him was slowly easing his mind. Besides, didn't she tell me just yesterday that she loves me? Surely she wouldn't say that unless she meant it. And if she really loves me then she'll marry me, not that dunderhead from the ministry, Severus hoped.

"You're very welcome, sir. I'll see you later," she responded with a wicked grin. She couldn't wait for dinner!

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Hermione parted from her friends early that afternoon. She wanted to get ready for dinner. She took a warm bath and allowed her hair to air dry while she put on her makeup. She applied a light layer to her eyes only to play up her best feature. Her skin was perfect so she didn't bother with foundation. She picked out her favorite casual dress and slipped it over her head and paired it with leggings and her favorite shoes. Then Hermione decided to try something new. She had found a charm that was supposed to tame wild curly hair and had done some research about it. Apparently it would cause her hair to fall in a cascade of smooth ringlets… and it worked! She was very happy about that. Now she wouldn't have to spend so much money on Sleekeazy Hair Potion. It was bloody expensive and too time consuming for her! This charm only took seconds and worked so much better. Deciding she was ready, Hermione made her way down to the dungeons just in time for dinner.

A/N: Sorry! I've been meaning to update, but it's been really busy around here.