Chapter Thirty-Seven: Bloom

There was a change in the air when they returned to Britain. They were more aware of each other, and also more comfortable with each other. Minor issues bothered Severus less; perhaps because he no longer feared that Hermione would leave him once she had her parents back. Hermione was also calmer now that she no longer feared her parents leaving her once she returned their memories to them.

Crookshanks had been spoilt rotten in Luna's care for two weeks, and it took many bribes before he would deign to allow Hermione her customary cuddles and Severus' usual stealth head scratches.

They also had to adjust to owning a new cat. Crookshanks had shown up one day with a soot-black kitten, and it was clear that no arguments would be made to let the kitten leave. The kitten was soon named Hecate because she was part-Kneazle as well and extremely rambunctious and prone to magical mischief, and also because it was magical how the surly old feline doted on her.

It was strange, returning to their lives after time away, but it felt good to return to their cottage and work their jobs and see their friends. Life went on.

Time passed. Hermione and Severus visited her parents again at Easter, and their relationship improved.

Ron quit his job with the Aurors and opened a gastro-pub named Weasley's, serving modern interpretations of his mother's cooking as well as other eclectic foods. One of his dishes Severus found particularly perplexing–it was "pigs in a blanket" three ways, with the sausages wrapped in bacon, and pastry, and cabbage.

In another surprising turn of events, Ron started dating Dudley, who had turned out to be a decent sort of young man who now worked as a semi-professional boxer.

"So telling me I looked like a Muggle boy was a compliment?" Hermione asked dryly.

"Yes!" Ron shouted, relieved. Well then.

Luna apprenticed to a Magizoologist, but still made time to send Hermione long illustrated letters from wherever she went in the world. Hermione treasured every word and picture, even if she did wonder at the existence of some of the strange creatures.

Draco became an informant for the Ministry, playing up the image of an ambiguously reformed socialite and fulfilling the Malfoy heir duties by day, and occasionally doing the brave thing to obtain information on new blood purist movements at night.

Time passed, and Severus' love for Hermione bloomed like the garden he tended to in his spare time, ostensibly for potions ingredients but full of flowers for her.

It was one thing to fall in love in the desperation of war, and another to learn to live and love each other during peacetime, when the greatest challenges to living well were their own demons.

They visited the Potters again at Halloween, and this year hurt a little less than the last.

1999 turned into 2000 and the world did not end, despite what Trelawney would try to tell them when they visited Hogwarts. Severus took that as encouraging a sign as any that perhaps the world would continue to not end at all.

It was a cold spring day when they destroyed the Resurrection stone. They did it in a warded section of their garden, far away from the apple tree and the flowers that they planted.

Severus could not believe that in the end, the solution to destroying the Resurrection stone was so simple. All he had to do was drive the Sword of Gryffindor into the crack that was already in the stone, and bash it against a hard rock. He tried not to think too hard on the fact that the Sword of Gryffindor had one day showed up in his study and refused to leave.

Then there was the sound of a quiet unearthly scream, and then he had two very ugly pieces of cracked obsidian in his garden, which he promptly Vanished.

It was a relief that the pieces Vanished at all.

He turned back to Hermione, uncertain of her reaction, and let out a sigh of relief when she hugged him tightly. A spot of wet warmness hit his chest where her tears fell, but Severus felt as if a great burden had left him.

The Elder Wand had been snapped. The Resurrection Stone broken. Potter had ownership of all three Hallows at the time of his death, but even the Hallows had not saved him, and probably drew him further into death. It was only the Invisibility Cloak that had ever served him, so Severus was content to let Weasley keep ownership of the cloak.

Some fairytales were just that–fairytales. But some…he looked down at the mass of curls pressed tight against his chest, wondering if Hermione could hear the speeding beat of his heart. He let out a breath which misted in the chilly air.

"Hermione," he said cautiously, because no matter how much life had changed him he was still a cautious man.


"I know I have never said the words before," he said, throat suddenly tightening. "But you know that I love you, right?"

Hermione smiled. "I know." He did not need her to say it back, because she already had.

"And–" Severus suddenly felt his palms sweat as he reached into his pocket for the empty hazelnut shell he had taken to carrying around with him, the hazelnut that had been there at the start when she had forgiven him for his hurtful words at the beginning of it all.

"I have this for you," he said, drawing back slightly so he could place the shell in her hands. "It opens at a touch."

Hermione's brows knitted together as she studied the glossy brown nut, and then she opened the nut to reveal a simple oval opal set in a pale gold ring.

"Severus…?" she asked very carefully, because in her hand sat his grandmother's engagement ring.

"I am not, and have never been a particularly nice man. I should probably have spent more time in Azkaban. But I am glad that I am not in Azkaban, because otherwise I would not be with you now. And…I know I am not easy to live with, but you manage it and enjoy it. It is something of a miracle. I may not always say the right thing, but you know I will try to make up for my wrongs. I may not always fix what I break immediately, but I do, eventually." Severus shivered in the cold winter air, and tried not to look too desperate.

The hush of their garden silently absorbed his words. Hermione's eyes glistened with unshed tears, and Severus was not sure if that was an encouraging sign or not, but he went on, unable to hold back the words.

"You have been the singular most amazing thing to happen to me, and I would be a fool to not ask you to stay with me for as long as you will have me. So please, would you marry me?" he asked, and wondered if he should get down on one knee after all. A stray hex had injured his left knee which made bending them difficult, but he felt the closest he had come to pleading since the night he gave his life over to Albus Dumbledore. He had hope that this time, he was giving his life over to a much more benevolent person.

"Of course," Hermione cried, and threw herself in his arms.

Severus caught her with a sharp exhale, and sighed in relief. He took his time to savour the joy and hope and anticipation coursing through him, and the scent of apple blossoms and hyacinths in the cool spring air.

Severus Snape did not believe in fairy tales, but he was beginning to believe in happy endings.

AN: It's been a longer than anticipated journey since I started this fic in 2019, but it was a great experience. Thank you everyone for following along this fic, and for making this a lovely writing experience. I hope everyone has a fantastic new year.