Author's Note: HELLO EVERYONE! Merry Christmas! 'The Unofficial Sherlock Cookbook' is on Amazon! Yay! I'm so thrilled! My friend and I worked so hard on it (author last name Luttmer, if you know someone who likes good food AND Sherlock!) And MERRY CHRISTMAS! Many thanks to mikimoto for taking a look at this chapter and catching some of my errors!

Chapter 36

Hermione was sitting curled up on the sofa humming tunelessly along to whatever song was on the wireless as he hung his cloak upon its usual peg. Her toes, polished a deep burgundy, were tapping on the throw pillow as she leafed through several parchments, toying with the pendant dangling from her slender neck. Severus scowled and plucked her feet up and dropped them onto the rug gently.

"The polish is dry," she grinned. "Promise." He didn't deign to respond to that, knowing it would prove futile. Instead, he gestured at the parchment, curious. "From Kingsley. He's less than pleased over how things happened in my department and doesn't want it to happen in the future. He wants to put together a committee to scrutinize departments, much like Muggles have Human Resources, and is asking if I'd be willing to head it."

Impressed, he motioned for her to elaborate. Are you going to take Kingsley up on his offer?

Hermione tilted her head, considering. "I'm thinking about it, to be honest. I know the laws and the workplace and the people. It would be a good idea. On the other hand... I have no desire to work for the Ministry." Her mouth hardened. "And I couldn't fairly scrutinize my old department, either."

Understandable, he told her. Although I am in agreement that such a position is sorely needed. Perhaps you should start your own consultant business and hire those you could train and trust.

She smiled at him, her mind clearly racing with possibilities. Already he could see the whirlwind of parchment and planners that would become her desk. "That would be perfect! You're brilliant!"

Severus scoffed. While I admit to possessing a higher level of intelligence than most of the cretins you come into contact with, I should not accept your accolades for merely expounding upon Kingsley's suggestion. It is something to which you would be well suited, Hermione.

"I'll consider it, then." She lifted her feet again, attempting to curl them under his leg for warmth, her toes wriggling in such a way that his lips twitched. Damn it... He snatched her toes and held them on his lap where they could not continue their quest, wrapping his fingers around them to warm them for several moments before bringing something up with her that he'd seen this morning.

Speaking of the Ministry, he signed: Hermione looked at him under her lashes. I gave this morning's Prophet to Nothing to shred, but not before I noticed an article on a certain courtroom fiasco. She had the grace to blush, her lips twitching.

"Something interesting happen?"

Indeed. It seems that several members of your former department had an issue with their voices becoming exceedingly high-pitched with every attempt to skirt the truth or lie outright. I believe that the water carafe shattered at one point. Skeeter was fascinated.

"Was she now?" Hermione tugged on an errant curl. "I'm sure there'll be an investigation. After all, it must be such an embarrassment, especially for so many to be affected and with such an important case."

He snorted. As if you would get caught.

She grinned, smugly unrepentant. "You're right; I wouldn't."

Severus tipped his head back, smirking. Clever, vindictive witch. Was it any wonder they got along so well?

"I think I want to do it," Hermione announced suddenly at dinner. Severus glanced up inquiringly from his meal. "The human-resources thing, I mean."

Ah, that. Only a week to consider the possibilities, he was surprised.

"I don't want to work for the Ministry," she said frankly, pushing the spinach about her plate. "They obviously can't be trusted. Your idea is much better, and I'd be available to more of the Wizarding world. I would be perfect for the role. The idea might even catch on!"

You would have your own empire, he told her, suppressing a smile. Hermione Granger, the new Dark Lady of human resources. All would answer to you on the subject of proper workplace etiquette or face your wrath.

Hermione laughed. It still warmed him that he had the power to make her do so, and it likely always would. Merlin help him, he was a besotted sod.

"But I think I would like to do it. It's just..." She hesitated, chewing thoughtfully. "I've looked at some of the costs for starting up a business – licenses and office space and all – and it would take most of my savings. Are you still alright with covering household bills while I do this?"

Severus scoffed. Of course I can, don't be daft. If I minded or was incapable of meeting the requirements of our household, Hermione, I would not have offered in the first place.

Hermione bounced happily, drawing Severus's attention to her breasts. Nothing attempted a leap onto the table, only to be shoved off by Hermione, who slipped him a piece of chicken. "Yes, it's a good thing to want to celebrate, but you can't just pop up here! Not even Crooks did that."

Exasperated, she shook her head. "He'll learn. He's still just a kitten."

Yes, soon he'll develop language skills and overthrow the household, he snarked. He's a bloody kitten from Hell. Ah, damn, that reminded him. Speaking of Hell, Cissy has invited us to brunch next weekend, if you are amenable. Draco will be in attendance.

"I can be cordial if he can," Hermione said sweetly. Her tone carried just a hint of a threat and he remembered her penchant for physical violence.

If he cannot be cordial, he shall answer to me, Severus replied tersely, his brows drawn into a fierce scowl. Cissy says that Astoria has been a good influence on him. If she is mistaken, then godson or not, Draco will be learning a lesson from me.

"Oh, Professor Snape, how kind." Hermione batted her eyelashes at him, winking as he choked on the bite of chicken.

Behave, he chided after wiping his mouth on his napkin.

"And if I don't?" The smirk she gave him made his cheeks warm and his cock stir. Damn the minx! His gaze turned knowing, and his nostrils flared.

Perhaps I shall show you later. Hermione shivered at his retort, her eyes going dark. It was a heady thing, and suddenly he was very much looking forward to tonight.

Severus awoke with a start - he knew how he wanted to propose. He lay still for a long moment, recapturing the idea that had come to him as Hermione breathed quietly next to him. She was warm in the bed beside him, her curls plastered to her back. The idea was...monumental. It would be a rather interesting magical breakthrough...if he could manage it.

Cautiously, he slid out from under the blankets, her hand falling limply to the mattress. He froze, trying not to shiver in the air of the room. November in Northern England wasn't kind to those forced to sleep nude by amorous lovers. Thankfully, she didn't wake and he Summoned his robe, belting it as he crept down the stairs.

Nothing meowed as he passed the living room and Severus jerked his head towards the kitchen. The little beast jumped down and followed him, bell jingling: the last thing he needed was for the cat to wake Hermione, so he may as well invite the bloody thing to tag along where he could keep an eye on him.

The basement floor was cold under his feet and Severus hissed in displeasure as he hurried to his computer, eager to perch on his stool with his feet up off the concrete. First things first – lay out the initial plan, then begin compiling the research. Muggle science would likely need to be utilised as well as magic. Nothing jumped onto his lap, purring amicably, and Severus stroked his ears absently as the system booted. jumped

I must be mad, he thought wildly. This cannot be an easy undertaking, especially not in secret, and not with so little time to work. Idly, he wondered if he could convince George to give him time off, and simply remain at the lab for a week or two without telling Hermione what he was up to. ...I shall need to make an inquiry. Merlin knew he was prone to working five days a week every week without time off.

He flicked his hand, casting a Silencing Charm at the door and ceiling so that she wouldn't hear him typing and got to work, barely registering the pierce of Nothing's claws when the cat clambered up to his shoulder to watch. The words flowed from his mind to his fingertips without any clear process, just a jumble. He could always sort it later; until then, this would have to suffice. He just needed the ideas out, and he needed them someplace that she would be unlikely to stumble across them.

Unlikely at it was that anyone would be seeing his notes, Severus still used the shorthand used by most Potioneers when he got to ingredients and compounds he may find useful. He typed feverishly, heedless of spelling errors, as he had no wish to still be at this when she awoke. Nothing dug further into his shoulder and he winced, shrugging to adjust the half-kneazle's balance.

I may need to research distillation, he mused, dismayed at the work ahead of him. If he could not complete such a task, it would not truly matter...but he longed to do it, now that the idea had come to him. It would be perfection if executed properly.

Frowning, he read over his notes. He'd have to owl Minerva, ask to borrow the Pensieve. He'd have to make a trip to Flourish and Blott's. He'd likely need to pester Filius and Aurora as well. Well, he could ask Cissy instead of Aurora – too much bad blood, and Cissy had always been a dab hand at Arithmancy. For Merlin's sake, she regularly wrote the Prophet's Weekly Puzzle under a nom de plume for amusement.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, sparing a glance at the small clock on the screen. Damn. How had he wasted two hours down here? No wonder his leg was beginning to cramp from his awkward position. Saving the document in two locations out of paranoia more than anything else, Severus rubbed his eyes wearily as the computer shut down. He was too old for late-night inspiration. He'd probably barely drag his arse out of bed on time in the morning, and would to drink as much tea as possible just to function.

Plucking the cat from his shoulder, he stroked the orange-and-black fur for a bit, waiting for his leg to wake up. Nothing purred under the attention. Mangy beast, he thought, but not unkindly. Severus flexed his knee experimentally – no pain, no numbness – and carried the cat upstairs after dispelling the Silencing charm.

Stepping carefully over that damned creaky step, he made his way back to their room. Hermione was still asleep but had kicked off the covers and was shivering, gooseflesh pebbling her fair skin. Despite his exhaustion, he smiled and deposited Nothing on the foot of the bed before hanging up his robe. The half-kneazle padded up the bed to curl on Hermione's pillow, yellow eyes daring Severus to remove him with the insolence that only cats are capable of.

"Shh," Severus told the little cretin and slowly worked his way into the bed, careful not to jostle his witch. Still, she slept on, even as he covered them both with the blankets before gathering her cool body close to the warmth of his and slipping into slumber once more.

Hermione turned another page in her book on human resource, her other hand toying idly with the pendant she wore, nearly marking herself with the Muggle highlighter she held. Severus felt inordinately proud of himself in his choice of jewelry, for she had only taken it off to shower since he'd given it to her. For a woman who didn't wear much jewelry, it gave him a thrill to see his offering so cherished.

For so many years he'd been quietly envious of the way Lucius had frequently bestowed trinkets upon Narcissa, or gifts upon Draco. That he himself had not only the monetary means to purchase items for someone, but had someone to make such purchases for? It was...stimulating, and he turned back to his research, written carefully in shorthand to keep it from Hermione's keen eyes.

A tapping at the window alerted the two of them – and Nothing, who promptly leapt from the side table just as Severus flicked his wand to allow the owl entry. "Damn it, Nothing, no!"

Vaulting off the couch, Hermione intercepted the cat just as the owl swooped to dodge. Nothing yowled, upset at having been stopped, and Severus shook his head in annoyance, reaching for the owl. Curious, he unfolded the parchment, scanned it briefly, then traded Hermione for the cat.

Severus glared at the little miscreant, then settled him into the crook of his elbow, stroking his fur. The bloody cat had better get over his penchant for owl-attacking quickly, or Severus would be most displeased. Granted, he liked his familiar, despite the way the little beast had attached itself to him rather than the other way around, but that particular habit was irritating.

Nothing began purring, and Hermione frowned at the parchment. "Should we go?" He shrugged. "It's probably a false alarm; Gin's not even due until mid-December."

Privately he agreed, watching her chew on her lip in indecision. Nothing weighted himself in Severus's arms, purring louder. Hermione glanced at the two of them and giggled. "Well, if Crooks taught me anything, it's that half-kneazles are clever. We stay home."

The damn cat looked rather smug, and Hermione scribbled a quick note on the parchment with a quill from the side table, highlighter jammed into her bun and leaving little yellow marks on her neck. She handed the letter back to the owl and moved to the window. "I told Harry to let me know by Patronus if the baby comes," she told him. Severus nodded. "There's no sense in panicking and rushing off to St. Mungo's for nothing, after all."

She closed the window and settled onto the sofa and Accio'd her book, flipping to find her place with a faint frown. He watched her a moment longer, her expressive face changing as she read, occasionally marking another line before chewing on the end of her marker. Nothing allowed himself to be shifted to his lap, and Severus inhaled deeply, pleased at the relaxed environment of their cozy sitting room, and Levitated a stout branch into the fire before picking up his own book once more.

Scowling, Severus handed his equations to Narcissa, who lifted a perfectly-shaped brow at him. "Really, Severus? These are child's play." He gestured for her to turn it over, and the other brow rose as well. "Oh, my. Well, it certainly will be a challenge. You really are an ambitious man, aren't you?"

He shrugged uncomfortably, scratching notes with his left hand, pen held awkwardly and his writing more cramped than usual. It was odd, seeing Cissy in her perfect clothing in the research lab at WWW's, sitting carefully on one of his stained and scuffed work stools.

Thanks to George realising that they needed a team to brew known shop items, rather than relying solely on himself and Severus, the room was decidedly less cramped than usual, giving the two of them plenty of work space. A Pensieve, borrowed from Minerva, sat by his elbow, casting pale silver light from its glimmering surface.

Absently, Cissy tapped her lacquered nail against her quill, and the muscle under his eye jumped. He should have have charmed a privacy screen or something. How the bloody hell was he supposed to think with that annoying sound? She tapped again and he tried to tune it out with a snarl.

In an effort to center himself, he set down his pen and touched his wand to his temple, concentrating until several strands clung to the tip. He'd chosen the strongest memories he could; pulling purely the emotional threads was going to be the difficult part. Distilling the resonance would be a relatively simple process once he had the emotions.

Flicking his wand at the chalkboard, it wrote: Are you trying to drive me mad with that incessant tapping?

"Hmm?" She glanced up from scratching her calculations down between taps and he clenched his jaw at her overly-sweet smile. "Severus, this workshop is enough to cause insanity. Anything I could do would merely be redundant. Do pay attention to your own part of your project."

This is why I never work with anyone, the chalk scrawled out. He was grateful that chalk couldn't convey the proper amount of irritation as she gave him the guileless face that had allowed her to lie to the Dark Lord unhindered. Severus huffed, and Cissy turned back to the arithmancy he asked her to do for him. For Hermione.

Barely restraining from throttling his so-called 'friend', he scowled and flicked his wand once more to erase the board. Enough is enough. Determined to make his own headway, he plunged his face into the Pensieve.

Severus was in the basement, fiddling with the Muggle perfume atomizer he'd purchased online for testing when combined with the liquid extraction spell he'd need when Hermione let out a screech from the sitting room. He leapt up, banging his knees on his desk so hard his eyes watered before charging up the stairs.

His concern was clearly wasted; the witch in question was entirely unharmed and in fact jumping about like a deranged rabbit. "Severus! Harry just sent his Patronus – Ginny's in labor! For real this time!"

Expression flat, he exhaled heavily from his nose. Oh, for fuck's sake. All that noise for such an occurrence? She hadn't been nearly so on-edge for Weasley's son... On the other hand, Hermione was closer to Harry than she was to her one-time-beau. "Are you ready? We should go now," she urged, running to the hall closet to pull her pea coat from its peg. "Everyone is probably already at St. Mungo's!"

One moment, Severus signed. He may as well acquiesce and accompany her to the hospital. Besides, he did need to test the liquid extraction spell on an unwitting person, and who better than Potter? I shall finish and be right up.

"Alright!" Hermione shoved her feet into boots and made shooing motions at him. "Hurry!"

Grumbling mentally, he stomped into the basement, Accio'd a Calming Draught, and began casting the necessary Charms at it. In theory the spell worked, but how much of it could be attributed to a placebo effect? Far better to use Harry once more as a test subject.

Compressing the extracted Draught to the atomizer took a bit of fumbling, but the test spray (aimed well away from himself) seemed to work just fine. He smirked. Excellent. A harmless Calming Draught, and likely to be needed, any way. After all, when Narcissa had been in labor with Draco, Lucius had required six Calming Draughts along with half of particularly old bottle brandy.

At least he'd kept his boots on this evening, knowing how cold the basement was in December, and he Summoned his cloak the moment he hit the kitchen, wrapping it around his shoulders with a flourish.

"Impressive," Hermione said, knit hat pulled securely over her curls. She was smiling, and he refrained from scowling at her enthusiasm.

They crunched across the snow, breath steaming in the air. Across the empty park, away from Spinner's End, they could see the faint glimmer of Christmas lights through the trees. Hermione's hand was tucked securely in his, and his cloak swept behind them, erasing their footprints.

It was a peaceful night, Severus thought as they neared the Apparition point they used. Stepping into the copse of evergreens, he closed his eyes as Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist for Apparition. A mere two weeks until Christmas. With luck, he would finish his plan in time.

Hermione kissed his chest through his jumper. "Ready."

He spun them both, landing in the waiting room of St. Mungo's with a sharp crack. Four red heads, and one black mid-pace, turned to greet them.

"'Mione!" Severus clamped down on his jealousy as Harry pulled her into a hug. "You made it! And Severus! Gin's in labor, they kicked me out of the delivery room for being underfoot for now. Well, not so much the Healers as Ginny herself. I didn't know she could scream so loudly. So much worse than those Braxton Hicks she had last month. And last week."

Then you've been having sex wrong, Severus thought blandly, lounging against the wall by Molly and Arthur. Hermione extracted herself from Harry carefully, laughing.

"Congratulations, Harry! Will they let you back in when she's closer?"

"Dunno." He shrugged, and Ron mirrored him apologetically.

"She was pretty mad. Martha didn't kick me." Ronald grinned at George, who snickered.

"That's because you weren't as wound up as boy-savior here." Severus snorted in agreement. Hermione plopped in the stiff wooden chair next to him, stuffing her hat into a pocket, followed by her gloves.

"Be nice," she admonished. Molly's knitting needles clacked, and Arthur took another sip of coffee, interminably calm. Then again, Severus reasoned, the man had been through the process eight times if you counted grandchildren. George looked down at the small game he was holding, offering the other side board to Ronald. "Hey, Ron. Where's Martha?"

"At home with 'Bert. I said it'd be fine for her to come, that everyone would be glad to see her, but I think she's a bit tuckered out and glad for a night in. 'Bert's finally sleeping through the night and we figured it might take a while, so she opted to stay in and sleep."

Molly nodded understandingly. "Let me know if you need me to take him for a night, Ronnie."

"Thanks, Mum."

Just then a Healer opened the door, and Harry nearly leapt across the room. "How is she?"

"Oh, Mr. Potter!" The young girl blushed. "I...I can check! I'm not part of the maternity team, so I don't know..."

"Yeah, please." Harry smiled at the flustered Healer, who disappeared back through the door. They all watched the nervous young man bounce on the balls of his feet until she reappeared.

"Still in labor, Mr. Potter. They said she's dilated pretty far, so it's only a matter of time."


Severus relaxed slowly as the assembled group settled in for the wait (aside from the father-to-be, who paced the length of the room restlessly), chatting quietly amongst themselves or, in Hermione's case, reading. He watched her covertly from behind the curtain of his hair. Even in the sickly yellow lights of the waiting room, she was beautiful. She held the paperback in one hand, her other elbow perched on her knee to prop her chin up on her fist, curls spilling down her back and over her shoulders.

What would it be like, he wondered, to be here waiting for their child to be born? His stomach clenched and he stared resolutely ahead. Idle daydreams! Before children, he needed to get the bloody stones to ask her to wed him.

Harry passed him again, and Severus sighed. That was starting to get on his nerves. He actually made it several minutes more before he gestured to Harry and painstakingly slowly he spelled out: Do you have to pace like that?

Green eyes stared at him, and Harry frowned, tense and every limb nearly vibrating. "I'm sorry, Severus. Is there a way you'd prefer me to pace? Perhaps I should pirouette at the turn?"

"Harry, calm down," Ronald interjected. "Sit down, for Merlin's sake. You're making all of us dizzy, Snape's just the one with the balls to say so."

"Language," Molly chided. "Harry, dear, really, it will be fine. Healer Brannaugh knows exactly what she's doing. Brought all of ours into this world without nary a problem."

"But -"

Oh, for fuck's sake. Exasperated, Severus stepped forward, using his cloak to block his actions from the rest of the room, and spritzed Harry in the face. The other man blinked as he inhaled sharply out of reflex.

"Mister Potter?" Another Healer poked his head out of the doors. "Your wife says you can, and I quote, 'get your damn arse back in here, you sodding git, you did this to me, you bloody well better be holding my hand until I break it'." The man looked rather apologetic. "Pardon the language, sir. She threatened to hex me if I didn't repeat it verbatim."

Harry laughed, calm. "That's Gin. She's wicked with a hex."

Hermione laughed softly as her friend walked dreamily through the door. "Poor Harry."

They sat quietly from then on, impatiently waiting. Even Severus finally gave in and sat next to Hermione, stretching out his long legs and crossing them at the ankles with a wince. Bloody chairs are damned uncomfortable. Ah well, at least the test was successful.

He must have dozed off, for it was light outside when the doors burst loudly open. Severus jerked his head from Hermione's shoulder. "It's a boy!"

Everyone surrounded the newest Potter with exclamations of felicitations, cooing over the blue-wrapped bundle with the squashed red face. "Oh, he's so sweet!" Hermione cried. "What name did you decide on?"

Harry beamed, pride etched on his face and Lily's eyes wet with tears. "James Sirius."

That poor, poor child, Severus thought.

It was finished. Severus stared at the little velvet box on his desk. He'd picked it up from Cissy two nights ago, and had finished assembling it all together. Everything worked, each component had passed every test. It was as perfect as he could make it.

He shouldn't do this. He shouldn't propose. What if she said no?

Coward, he told himself bitterly, stroking one finger along the box's softness. Fear of her rejection colored his thoughts and he reached for Occlumency to calm himself. Slowly, his expression smoothed itself out. No. Hermione loved him. She had firmly entrenched herself with him, had begun looking for office space and had already begun interviewing applicants.

She'd welcomed him into her heart and her life without reservation. She showed no sign of leaving; in fact, she spoke of everything in terms of them or theirs. 'Us'. 'Our'. He loved the way those words tasted in his mind, the way her lips shaped them.

Coward. He touched the box again, his chest tight. He was supposed to owl Cissy tomorrow with Hermione's reply. And when the hell had he ever not followed through with a plan? Never, he thought savagely.

Inscribing the runes in the air with his wand, he cast an illusion upon the box, changing it to look like one of the plain ones from Hermione's favoured trinket shoppe. Innocent and ready to surprise her.

A proposal on Christmas Eve. Trite, perhaps, but he could do this.

Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, was noisier than normal, the kitchen overloaded with the fragrance of Molly's cooking. The wail of a baby came from the sitting room and Severus hung his cloak on a peg, next to Hermione's.

She looked stunning, he thought. She'd chosen a flared chocolate-brown dress edged in rhinestones under her soft-looking cream cardigan tonight, her pendant resting on her decolletage. Even her sensible shoes looked twice as lovely as they had any right to be.

Severus headed for his library refuge as Hermione flitted off to greet the others, his palms sweating. His chest hurt, his breathing quick and shallow. He could do this. He could do this.

He paced a while in front of the fire, uncaring that his scarf – his beloved gift from Hermione, worn and loved – had been tossed carelessly onto a chair to protect it from his need to claw it from his neck in order to breathe. Was he sweating? He felt like he was sweating. Must be the fire.

By time Hermione made her appearance in the library, burdened with her usual tea tray and a large parcel floating behind her, he was seated in the armchair. "Thought you'd be in here as usual. Everyone says hello, and Professor McGonagall thanks you for the sachet."

He heard the question in her voice – after all, he'd never given Minerva anything. Not that he was about to explain himself, that he needed to thank the witch somehow for her interference on his behalf.

Of course, he thought to himself smugly, it's not without a certain addition. Catnip wasn't particularly odorous to the human nose, and he quite enjoyed the thought of Minerva-as-a-cat pawing frantically through drawers to find the pungent herb.

Hermione set down the tea tray and handed him the large parcel. "Since we've always done Christmas here," she said, blushing, "I thought I'd give this to you tonight. Happy Christmas, Severus."

Curious, he pulled at the bow. The bow and paper melted away, leaving him holding a cage. Inside the cage was an owl very much like the ones George had purchased for the shop. "It can read," Hermione offered softly. "I thought you might like to send mail from home, rather than work."

Without his permission, his lips curved. So thoughtful. He looked up to her. Thank you, Hermione.

"You're welcome." She kissed his forehead, and he grasped her wrist before she could sit. The owl hooted as he awkwardly set the cage on the floor and rose to his feet.

His heart hammered so painfully in his chest he thought he may well perish before he could pull the box from his pocket. Somehow, he managed it. Severus handed her the box the way he knew it should open. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think.

Hermione tilted her head and licked her lips as she grasped the box's lid and lifted it. The pressure he'd put on the atomizer released, spraying the carefully-distilled emotional resonance he'd prepared. Hours of painstakingly selected memories and feelings hit her with the same intensity that he himself felt.

He'd poured everything into this moment. Every ounce of love. The desire to spend his life with her. The need to make her happy. Each treasured moment. The consideration of a child rushing up to greet her.

It was the same as being naked for him and he stood stock-still for several heartbeats and watched as her mind took it all in. Slowly, Hermione looked straight into his eyes, her own suspiciously wet. His heart leapt into his throat as her lips parted.

"Oh, Severus." Her gaze darted down into the box, which was back to black velvet, staring at the gold ring, the pink flanked by white diamonds. "Oh, Severus!"

He felt heat suffusing his cheeks, mentally begging her to answer his unspoken question. Like hell I'm getting down on one knee.

"Severus..." Hermione stepped closer, trembling. "Yes, yes, yes!" Somehow the ring was on her finger and he was kissing her between her exclamations and tears, the box forgotten on the floor by the owl's cage. The metal was cool against his face as she punctuated her acceptance with further kisses.

My witch,he thought wildly, his heart fluttering within the confines of his ribs, nearly giddy with euphoria. My wife-to-be!

I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season! After the holidays I shall get to replying to reviews. Merry Christmas or whatever term you prefer!