Pssst. If you're reading this chapter STOP! I have posted all the remaining chapters today, so go back to chapter 11 and start reading. I say this in case you aren't on the email notification for this story.
The reason I posted the remaining chapters is because A: I promised a kiss to some of you in chapter 11 and it doesn't happen then, and I didn't want to keep you waiting, and B: I simply must concentrate on my entry for the Secret Santa challenge on The Maple Bookshelf. If you haven't checked that site out, please do! We have such fun over there.
So many thanks to my sister, and to Onecelestialbeing, Whisper_gypsy, xpage394x, and TycheSong for all your valuable support and teaching. I am, as Severus' favorite words describes, a dunderhead, but you've all be incredibly patient with me, and I am in your debt.
Severus and Hermione regained consciousness after only a few moments. Each sat up rubbing their heads and surveying the damage.
Hermione looked at Severus. "Hubert?" she asked tentatively.
"Hyacinth?" Severus asked as tentatively back, and Hermione shook her head. "It is a good thing Albus is already dead, I would kill him for giving me that name," he said.
The couple chuckled.
"Do you remember everything, Hermione?"
"I do. How about you?"
"Severus, we talked about this. Yes, younger you would have to go through a lot, but when we got back, it would be over."
"But it doesn't make it easier, does it?"
"I suppose not." Hermione sighed.
They had talked about this situation time and again while in the past. They knew Severus would be dealing with the emotional issue of knowing he could have changed his decisions in the past if he could, influencing young Severus in his role as Hubert Prince, but Hermione and Albus had gone to great lengths to ensure it didn't happen, no matter if they wanted to change things either.
As the couple finished washing the cauldrons, Hermione was thinking hard about her relationship with Severus. She felt her knowledge of her snarky Master has increased now that she knew how young Severus felt, and that only enriched her feelings for the man the young boy had become. She found herself blurting out, "Severus, do you care for me?"
Severus stopped wiping a cauldron mid wipe. "How do you mean?"
"I mean as more than a friend. We were quite close before the accident, or at least I think so. I feel closer to you now, but for me, those feelings have turned to something a little more than friendship."
Severus set the rag and cauldron down and stepped toward Hermione. "Hy, I do care for you. I do care for you more than just as a friend." He put his arms on her shoulders and pulled her closer. "I don't want to be alone anymore; seeing myself as I was then made me realize how stupid and lonesome I was then and later. I will always care about Lily, but I can't be happy with a ghost. I could be happy with you, and if these last three years taught me anything, they have taught me that I am happy with you." He leaned down and kissed her.
It was not a long kiss, nor a deep one. It was full of comfort and promise, and Severus and Hermione were quite pleased with it. When it was over, Severus slid his hands down her arms and took both hands in his. "Shall we see where this goes?"
Hermione smiled. "I would like that." She kissed him again, and when she pulled back, she was happy to discover that Severus did indeed have a lovely dimple in his smile.
One Year Later
Hermione finished her final year with flying colors. Her relationship with Severus had strengthened and deepened, and they had consummated it about three months after it began (and Hermione was very happy to realize 'how nice for her' when she learned just how nature had made up for the nose).
Her bedroom in Severus' quarters became a storeroom once again as she spent all of her nights with him now.
One afternoon, shortly before Hogwarts' Graduation Day and Hermione's own final day of apprenticeship, she wandered in their quarters to find Severus at his desk with papers all around him. She went to the desk and touched a few papers. "What's all this?"
"I am thinking it's time for a change," he answered mysteriously.
"A change how?"
"Now that you have completed your apprenticeship, you have a couple of options. You could stay on at Hogwarts as a co-teacher with me, living in sin, or you could decide we're through and go off into the sunset riding Buckbeak or Witherwings or Wap Capulet, whatever he's calling himself these days."
Hermione looked shocked. "You don't honestly expect me to up and leave, do you?"
"Well, if you insist on remaining an annoyance to me, there is one other option."
"And…?" She gave him the poppy eyeball thing.
"These papers are the deed and drawings to Slig and Jiggers in Diagon Alley. Slig and Jigger wish to retire and have written me with an offer to take over the place. What if you and I leave Hogwarts together, buy the shop and run it …together? There is a flat over the shop. We could continue to live in sin or..." at this point he opened his hand and showed Hermione a gorgeous tear drop diamond ring with green emeralds on either side of it. "Or, you can marry me and make an honest man of me. And still run the shop."
Hermione tapped her lips with her finger. "Hmmm, so many options. Co-teaching with you is desirable. Living in sin feasible. Riding off into the sunset with, what was it you called him—Wap Capulet?—would mean that I wouldn't have to pick up your boxers and socks that you insist on leaving all over the place. Do you know how embarrassing it was the other day when Minerva came in and found your boxers under the table in the kitchen?"
"You said you couldn't wait to get to the bedroom; that the kitchen table was sturdy enough…"
Hermione waved her hand at him to stop him talking. "The last time I rode a flying creature I was dumped in a lake, no fun that. But what was that last option again?"
"HERMIONE!" Severus hollered and then closed his eyes to breathe deeply. "I am asking you to marry me. Will you or won't you?"
"Is that a yes?"
"Yes, you idiot. Yes, I will marry you, and we will leave Hogwarts together and run a shop."
Severus stood up and took Hermione's left hand in his right and slipped on the ring. "Good that's decided," he said. He began to drag Hermione to their bedroom. "Now, let's practice making the children," he said gleefully.
"CHILDREN?" Hermione gasped.
Thank you so much for reading my story. You've been so kind with your reviews and placing me and this story on your favorites. I have another little story planned to begin publishing in January, but as I said, I must work on my challenge story first! I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope that however you celebrate in your family and in your country, it will bring you joy.