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“I have been thinking.“
Hermione was on alert instantly.
Her lover and companion of three years had never started a conversation in this inane fashion before. She looked at him. The years had been more than kind to him: his exile in a warm climate and coming to terms with his past had left nary a trace of the strict and forbidding Potions Master of her youth. Instead, he was a relaxed, tanned man at the height of his power, full of languid grace and laughter lines.
Severus Snape had not risen from the dead after they had begun their relationship, but he had had secret meetings on the continent with Kingsley Shacklebolt (honestly glad about his survival), Minerva McGonagall (at first tearful, then apologetic and finally tearful again) and one Harry Potter (surprisingly mature behaviour from both participants).
Hermione spent most of her time in Opicina. She Portkeyed to London for about ten days every two months to meet with clients or to wrap up projects. Their life together was surprisingly smooth for two people so used to living alone – after they’d learned to read each other's moods.
“You have been thinking?”
Was he blushing? Their love-life was quite adventurous already, considering both had rather staid personalities. Offhand, she couldn’t think of anything that would make him blush that they hadn’t tried before.
“You remember when you threw up on my shoes?”
“Yes. And I didn’t throw up on your shoes.”
“True, but this is too good a story not to be told.”
“You told it already! I didn’t know that the epitome of ladylike manners, Narcissa Malfoy, could howl like a hyena. And Minerva got the hiccups from laughing so hard at my expense, I might add.”
“I was thinking of telling the grandchildren.”
Now Hermione was more than alert. Whether accidentally or deliberately, they had never discussed the topic of children. Both were content in their relationship – its existence being a small miracle in and of itself – and their respective fields of work. And, as Hermione was acutely aware – because some of their nastier fights had resulted from it – there was a part of Severus which still contained the insecure youth who thought himself unworthy of love and friendship. Therefore, she answered as calmly as possible, “Perhaps we should have children before grandchildren.”
“Ah, yes. There’s no other way if we want real grandchildren.”
“Do you want children, Severus?”
He seemed to debate with himself whether to answer that but finally said, “I always thought it would be impossible. But now? Not a Dark Lord in sight, and you would hex me six ways from Sunday if I ever displayed anything remotely similar to my father’s behaviour. Do you want children? Do you want them with me?”
With the last two sentences he had looked away, turning towards the window.
Hermione suppressed a sigh – he was bound to interpret it in the wrong way. Feeling a rush of affection for a man who still expected a rejection, she stood up, walked up to him and put her arms around his waist, snuggling against his back.
“Yes, Severus, I want to have children. And I wouldn’t want them with anybody but you. They are bound to be precocious little know-it-alls, and you will spoil them rotten, but together we will manage. Are you all right with two or three? I would find more than that a bit daunting.”
She felt the tension leave his shoulders, felt his arms relaxing. Turning in her embrace to face her, he nestled in his trouser-pocket, withdrawing a small drawstring pouch. “Marry me?”
“Gladly. Anytime, anywhere.”
Severus managed to get the pouch open despite his trembling fingers and put an antique ring of Venetian origin on her finger before kissing her like his life depended on it.
Hermione – aware that her now-fiancé would feel very uncomfortable after such an uncharacteristic display of nerves and emotions – ended the moment with an attempt at levity. “You realise we won’t get much uninterrupted time when we have children? We should make the most of it now.”
He was already walking in the direction of their bedroom, never letting go of her hand.