Disclaimer:  Anything you recognize belongs to either JKR or Charlotte Bronte.  The plot belongs to me.  Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed this little story.  I'm glad you have enjoyed it.

Epilogue

"Reader, I married him…"

It was late summer…a time of year most conducive to picnics.  Severus, however, had long since abandoned any notion of eating.  He was lying on his back, his head nestled comfortably in Hermione's lap.  She was reading from the book that had started it all, one hand holding the book and the other caressing his hair in a scene of true bucolic bliss.

Severus had been listening to her voice with his eyes closed and felt more at peace with himself and the world in general than he had for a very long time.  It had been many months since their return to their own world and there had not been the hurdles to cross that they had feared.  Even Sirius, after the initial obligatory tantrum, was able to acknowledge that Hermione had regained some of her sparkle and was immensely thankful for that. Remus simply smiled knowingly…something Severus found quite unnerving.

Harry had also been very accepting…surprisingly so.  In the young man's mind, the most important thing in the world was happiness and, if his best friend was happy, that was good enough for him.  For some reason, which Severus could not explain, it seemed that Harry had expected this to happen.   Another shining example of Gryffindor presumptuousness…although Severus could not be overly irritated by it.  A simple raise of the eyebrows had been the only response given to Harry's mischievous grin.

Yes, Harry was certainly hiding something.   Severus thought it a pity that he could no longer take points from Gryffindor for the young wizard's cheek.

Hermione had even paid a short visit to the cemetery…she had to tell Ron in her own way…somehow it could not be right if her other best friend were left out.  Severus had accompanied her and they had stood there silently before the headstone…saying nothing but feeling everything.  Ron might not have liked it initially…he probably would have blown up over the whole thing, but even he would have understood in time.  Really, he had never been so very different from Harry…happiness was the most important thing…and there had been so little to be happy about.

Draco Malfoy did eventually regain his sanity (thanks to a potion Hermione had developed to finally restore Neville's parents' sanity) only to be sentenced for using the Libris curse and administered the Dementor's Kiss.  Severus and Hermione had been asked to participate as witnesses but had declined.  Sirius and Harry had gone in their place instead.  As Severus had said, despite his earlier feelings of revenge, he had no wish to witness the destruction of the last member of a wizarding family that had once been the epitome of honour.  He was pleased that the Ministry of Justice had seen fit to sell all the Malfoy assets and distribute them to families who had lost loved ones during the war…especially the Weasley family.  It felt that some sort of justice had been served.

Cornelius Fudge, disgraced beyond any hope, was summarily dismissed and left the country to live as little more than an exile.  Hermione, for one, was not sad to see him go.  Severus was not nearly so charitable…complaining loudly that he ought to have had his wand snapped in half…along with a couple of limbs.

Even teaching had become something of a surprising passion for Severus.  While he still maintained strict discipline in his classroom…he had become more equitable when it came to taking points from Gryffindors although it would have been a bit of a stretch to say that he didn't still favour the Slytherins to some small degree. 

Ah yes, old habits certainly died hard.

Severus found himself thinking about the past school year and how different it had been for him.  Having Hermione with him…well, in a matter of speaking, had transformed him although he didn't see it himself so much as heard it from other people.

"Really," he smirked, " I wasn't as bad as all that."

But, in his heart of hearts, he knew that his reputation had been well earned through years of lurking in the dungeons and robes that billowed dramatically with every step he took.  All to inspire terror in the heart of a hapless first year.  But, as with many other things that had concerned the Potions Master, it had all been a façade.  It was time to take off the mask he had been wearing, in a matter of speaking, and resume the task of living in a world that did not hold the specter of a maniacal evil like Voldemort.

A world where anything was possible…even his own happiness.

He could only hope that someday he would be regarded by the students with the same affection as Minerva who was also strict but felt to be eminently fair.

Hermione?  Well, she had always loved teaching and it had showed early on.  Severus had, on occasion, listened outside her classroom and had chuckled silently to himself over the eagerness with which she answered questions from her students.  He could almost imagine her raising her hand eagerly as she did when she was a student herself.  She had always known the right answer and never lost that enthusiasm…that drive…that thirst for that elusive bit of knowledge that was just around the next bend…in the next book…the next paragraph.

He opened his eyes and smiled.  Yes, life was indeed good…better than he could have expected.  He was in love with someone who loved him back.  Astonishing, really…something he had never thought possible.  And yet, here she was, with him.

But it was not enough…not for him.  He had discovered, some weeks ago, that he wanted more…and that had startled him.

He reached up and pulled her hand down from his hair and kissed it softly.  He smirked when she continued reading…although he noticed the slightest catch in her voice.  He took something from his other hand and slipped it onto her finger.

She did stop reading at that and looked down curiously.

"Severus…what are you…"

And stopped.  She looked at her hand in amazement.

"I believe it's called an engagement ring," he smirked.  "From what I have been told, it is a compulsory requirement when proposing marriage."

"Marriage!?"

"Well, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't be at all adverse to the idea of simply living together…but one must think of one's…descendants," he drawled impressively, wincing as Hermione hit him on the head with her book.

"Severus Snape…that is the single most unromantic marriage proposal I have ever heard," she exclaimed, trying to look displeased but failing miserably.

"I have never been very good at waxing romantic…reminds me a little too much of Lockhart and many pink hearts floating around," Severus rubbed his head in mock pain. 

"I wouldn't want you to be something you are not, you know," Hermione said seriously, admiring the ring and blushing.  "And I never expected that you would become a completely different person just to keep my interest…I rather like you just the way you are…unromantic, sensible, intelligent…"

"You've forgotten reasonably attractive, passionate and very intelligent…"

"Typical Slytherin arrogance, you overgrown bat," she giggled as he sat up to face her.

"Typical Gryffindor presumptuousness, you chatty know-it-all," he murmured, touching her lips softly with his fingers.

"And they say that romance is dead.  Look at us, Severus…it's as if we were conducting a proposal to audit parchment dimensions in the Ministry of Magic," Hermione's eyes shone with affection as his hand moved to her hair, twirling it around his fingers.

"You know how I feel about you, Hermione…why is it necessary to put so many words around it?  Would it make my feelings more real somehow if I expounded ad nauseum on your many virtues?  You know that I love you more than anything.  You know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Is that not enough?"

She looked at him and smiled.   She knew he was baiting her.  A Bronte-esque lifestyle was certainly nice to read about but there was something in the solid, practical reality that defined Severus Snape that was so much more fulfilling.  Fluff was highly over-rated and feelings were better expressed through sincere actions as opposed to flowery words.

"A kiss would be nice…just to seal the deal, of course," she said with a decidedly wry smirk.

Chuckling, Severus drew her into his arms and kissed her deeply, marveling, as he always did, at how right she felt against him.

"I suppose that makes it official," she whispered against his lips, feeling him smile.

"I think I rather like making it official," he murmured before kissing her all over again.

A/N:

Well, I will be taking a little break but will be back soon.  I have some revising to do of existing stories (including this one) but I plan to come out with a new chaptered Severus/Hermione story very soon.  I even have a beta reader (thanks Sharte).

Thanks for your support and hope you enjoyed the story.