Disclaimer: Not mine, don't own it — I wish! Unfortunately, Harry Potter belongs to JKR and not to me; I'm just playing in her sandbox.
» Hermione changes her name during the story. However, to make it easier to understand, I'll continue to refer to Hermione by the name we all know. The only times her new name will be used is when she introduces herself to new people, or when someone is speaking to her and addresses her by name.
» A longer chapter than any of the others in this story but I didn't really want to split this final chapter. Thank you for following Nonie (Hermione), Aimée and Severus et al on this journey.
» The rating has changed because of this last chapter; even though it's not particularly explicit, I wanted to be careful.
» Thank you to atokkota for her support and feedback.
Penny and Hermione stayed in Britain for another week after that Sunday lunch before returning to Canada. Three days after their return, Severus arrived. Penny and Phoebe had moved in with Olivier by this time and Hermione nervously welcomed Severus into the flat. "I've cleared space for you in my room," she said. "Unless you want Penny's room?"
"No, witch, I do not want Penny's room," he said silkily, amusement twinkling in his eyes.
"Oh. Good," she replied skittishly.
Severus walked over to Hermione and took her in his arms. "I know you're nervous — I am too. I've never lived intimately with anyone before, but I'm looking forward to it. I want to go to sleep at night holding you in my arms and wake up in the morning with you curled up against me. I want to watch you grow old and I want to see your daughter grow into the stunning woman I'm sure she'll become. She's too like her mother to be anything else. Relationships aren't easy, they require hard work, but unlike your Ex, I'm willing to make that effort." Severus reached up with one hand to cup her cheek. "I've fallen in love with you, Nonie Gale, and I can't imagine anything better than spending the rest of my life with you."
Hermione had tears brimming in her eyes. "I didn't think you would be the type for romantic speeches," she whispered. "But I'm so glad to have been surprised. I love you too, Severus Snape. I promise also to make the effort to make our relationship work, Severus. I know there will be times when we'll disagree, even fight, but I'm willing to meet you half way. Ronald expected me to accede to everything he wanted but I know you won't be like that. Sometimes I'll concede to you, sometimes you'll concede to me, and other times we'll both give a little to meet in the middle in order to come to a compromise that suits us both. As long as it's not just one of us making all the concessions, we'll be fine."
"Yes, we will be," he said warmly, smiling into her eyes.
With that, Hermione relaxed and helped Severus begin his unpacking and settle in. His potions equipment would have to wait until his lab would be ready and it would take a while to work out where to put all of his books, but he unpacked enough to feel at home.
That night, two very apprehensive people got into bed next to each other. Hermione usually wore cotton shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt to bed. She wanted to wear something more glamorous for Severus but did not feel comfortable in anything too overtly sexy, like some of the negligées Penny had started wearing when she had begun sleeping with Olivier. Penny had helped her find a silk, lace-trimmed, short babydoll chemise, with matching, boyshort knickers, all the while jokingly cringing over helping Hermione find "lingerie to attract Professor Snape!" Liking the feel of the babydoll and boyshorts, which were similar enough in cut to her usual nightwear for her to feel comfortable in them, Hermione had invested in a few such sets of nightwear, and the intense and heated look Severus directed her way when he saw her wearing these made her glad she had done so.
Hermione inched over towards Severus, who put his arm around her and pulled her up close against him. Running his hands down her arm and across her back, he whispered in her ear. "You're beautiful. I don't know what I ever did to deserve you, but I feel truly blessed."
Hermione moaned at his voice whispering sexily in her ear and reached up to kiss him. Severus responded with the most passionate, heated kiss she had ever experienced and she moaned again. At that, his control snapped and he reached down to pull the babydoll over her head and throw it down on the floor. Moments later, the knickers followed suit. Severus explored Hermione's body thoroughly, caressing, kissing and nibbling her soft, silky skin, until Hermione felt she was on fire. When his mouth finally latched onto her breast, her body arched off the bed.
"Severus!" she screamed. "More, please more," she begged. His hand slid down her body to her hot, wet centre and she groaned when she felt a finger enter her. "Now, Severus. I need you inside me now."
Only too happy to oblige, he slid over the fevered witch and plunged inside. "So tight," he groaned as he felt her inner muscles clench around him. A few thrusts were all he needed before Hermione screamed out her ecstasy and, as her inner sheath pulsed around him, he too lost control and, with a yell, he exploded within her.
Severus rolled off Hermione and pulled the sated witch into his side. "I'm glad Penny and Olivier insisted on Aimée staying with them tonight," Hermione whispered. "I don't think we remembered the silencing charms."
"At least we remembered the contraceptive charm," he replied wryly.
Hermione looked at Severus curiously. "Do you want children?"
"I would love to have a child with you, Nonie, but not just yet. We need to spend some time with each other first," he explained.
Hermione agreed. "I'm not sure whether Aimée would be happy or embarrassed to have a baby brother or sister," she laughed.
"She is all right with you and I being together, isn't she?" he asked, suddenly worried.
"Don't worry about that, Severus. Didn't you notice when we were in Britain that any time she was unsure or nervous, she immediately made her way to your side? You're her mentor and her protector. She adores you and she already regards you as a father," Hermione assured him. "I know we might have some teething problems as we all adjust but don't doubt that she's very happy about our relationship."
Reassured, Severus pressed a kiss to her head, then closed his eyes and fell asleep, Hermione following suit not long after. Early the next morning, she was woken by Severus getting busy under the covers. "Last night, we were both desperate for completion but today, I fully intend to take my time and get to know every inch of your delectable body," he purred.
An hour later, Hermione was lying bonelessly in bed. Severus had lived up to his promise and had taken his time exploring her body thoroughly. He had brought her to the brink of orgasm several times before finally letting her fall over the edge.
Where Hermione was languid and ready to fall asleep again, Severus was energised. "Come on, up you get!" he encouraged her. "Aimée will be back soon and you don't want her to find us still in bed, do you?" He flung the covers off her and, taking her hands, pulled Hermione up into a sitting position.
"Go and shower while I start making breakfast. For some reason, I'm absolutely famished," he said, sending a naughty look in her direction.
Hermione stumbled into the shower and let the jets wake her up. By the time she joined Severus in the kitchen, he was setting out a hearty breakfast. Hermione sat down at the table and greedily tucked in. "This is wonderful, Severus."
Severus smiled into her eyes. "I'm a Potions Master, Nonie. Cooking is very similar to brewing potions."
"I know," she replied, with a matching smile. "But that doesn't mean I can't compliment your cooking."
They were sitting staring into each others' eyes, food cooling unnoticed in front of them, when Aimée came bouncing in, Velvet yipping at her heels. "Hey, no making goo-goo eyes at each other in front of the children!" she joked, snagging a piece of toast and heading off to her bedroom. Brought back to themselves, Hermione and Severus continued eating.
"What are your plans, Severus?" Hermione asked in curiosity.
"Well, I hold the patents on several potions, which bring in a nice income for me. I also have most of my savings from my Hogwarts salary, since I had very little expenses during the school year. Since the war, I have also had time to write a number of books, not just the family potions book that I know you own, and the royalties for these are very good. I'm not hurting for money, so I can contribute to the household expenses."
Hermione blushed. "That wasn't what I meant," she said. "Penny was talking about remodelling a bit to install a potions lab in her old room if you want? Or will you be opening your own business and keep your lab there?"
It was Severus' turn to blush. "I'm sorry, that was ungracious of me, wasn't it? This situation is as new for me as it is for you and I'm feeling a bit discomposed."
Hermione took his hand. "It's all right, Severus. It'll take time for you to settle in. I know that, and so does Aimée."
"Thank you," he said warmly. "I think what I'd like to do is open my own business where I can research and also supply the more complicated brews that the regular apothecary shops don't provide. These would probably be supplied to hospitals in the main but, in general, the apothecary shops only sell things like Calming Draughts, Pepper-Up and mild Pain Relievers — basic potions really — and they can be a bit variable in reliability, depending on the brewer. Not all apothecaries use Potions Masters to brew their supplies. So there's a definite market for commercially made potions. I'm also interested in the muggle natural health market. Obviously, I can't use magical ingredients but I think I can tap into that market. At first, I'll only need a personal lab but once I start getting contracts, I'll need a proper business premises with commercial labs designed for both specialist and mass market brewing. I've already started reaching out to the magical hospitals here in Canada and I hope that my reputation will have preceded me. The local apothecary shop here in Montréal was definitely interested in my supplying him when I was last here. The apothecary doesn't have brewing skills— he mainly supplies ingredients — and he would be grateful to have a trustworthy brewer, as he said he'd been having problems with quality from his regular potions supplier. I don't think I want to brew in this apartment, though. It would be too hard to set up proper safety wards and I don't want to put you or Aimée at risk."
Hermione looked thoughtful. "There's a basement below the child care centre, which Penny doesn't really use. She might be able to convert some of the space into a lab, if you prefer that."
Severus looked interested. "That would be good," he said. "Basements tend to be heavily reinforced. It could be more easily adapted into a safe lab than a room in this apartment could."
"We'll talk to Penny then," said Hermione decisively.
And so they did. Penny was happy to agree to the conversion, especially as Severus insisted on contributing to the costs. Eventually, they agreed that Penny would be responsible for any building work, such as fitting in proper air vents and adding plumbing, so Severus would have a sink with a running water supply, while Severus would be responsible for fitting out the lab. Severus also took the opportunity to build some greenhouses on the rooftop patio, so that he could grow his own ingredients for his personal use and his research. Penny contracted a magical builder and the work was soon done. Severus began brewing for the magical hospitals and some apothecaries, using his spare time for research and development. He soon built up enough of a clientele that he was ready to start a more commercial operation for brewing and quickly sourced appropriate premises in the magical district, although he intended to maintain the lab below the child care centre as well; he could not conceive of not having a lab in his home.
Severus contacted Sauveterre and asked Potions Mistress Green for her recommendations as to former pupils who might be interested in a commercial apprenticeship. His terms were quite generous. Unlike normal apprenticeship terms, he would not require the apprentices to pay him to teach them and would even pay them a salary for their commercial brewing for his business. However, the commercial brewing would not be sufficient for them to attain a Mastery. For that, they would need to show skill with advanced potions, rather than the mass-produced, everyday potions that his business would mostly be producing, and they would also need to create their own original potions. Severus promised his apprentices that he would give them all the support, advice and training they would need in attaining their Mastery, and would also allow them to use his lab facilities for their personal brewing, but they would have to fund the research and brewing required for their Mastery themselves. As they would in any case need to fund their own research and brewing even in a more traditional apprenticeship, all-in-all, it was an attractive offer and he soon had a team of apprentices working for him. He was not convinced that they would all progress beyond journeyman level but he had no doubts that they would all attain at least that. At journeyman level, they would be competent brewers, which would be sufficient for them to make a career as such, brewing either for him or else for an apothecary shop or a hospital potions department.
Two months after Severus arrived in Canada, Hermione received a letter from George:
My idiot little brother got in a punch-up with a reporter in front of a group of fans, most of whom were children and were scared out their wits. The Kestrels had already warned him twice about his temper and they fired him on the spot. He's now back home and completely unemployable, since he has absolutely no skills. He did easy subjects at Hogwarts instead of practical ones, his OWL results were poor and his NEWTs non-existent. He didn't even take the honorary NEWTs offered after the war, because he felt that as a 'war hero' he didn't need them. Romilda is now an assistant at Madam Malkin's, though she doesn't bring in very much, from what I understand, and has also had at least one warning about her attitude.
About the only thing Ron is fit for is perhaps to take over from Argus Filch, who wants to retire, only Minerva won't allow Ron to be around the students. Even Aberforth Dumbledore won't give him a job sweeping floors and washing glasses, because he won't allow anyone with Ron's temper around alcohol.
Ron is taking it out on Pansy and the girls. He tried forcing his way into the flat but, fortunately, he knows nothing about ward-breaking and I made sure both the shop and the flat have the very best wards. He says it's all Pansy's fault because "If she had just done the decent thing and gone away quietly like the whore she is" his reputation wouldn't have been damaged. I encouraged Pansy to press charges against him but, quite frankly, she's too scared of him. He has also found out about Aimée and threatened to take her away from you but the entire family rallied against him, especially Percy, who said that he would never dream of removing Phoebe from her mother.
I actually slipped Ron some Veritaserum and the entire family was horrified by the sentiments Ron expressed. He made it very clear that he wanted to "make that Mudblood bastard bitch sorry she had ever been born." When I asked what he would do to Aimée, he replied that he fully intended to beat the living daylights out of her. Literally. I've only given you the gist of what Ron said but there was no question that he meant every malevolent word. Ron truly wants to beat Aimée to death.
Mum made it very clear indeed that the entire family would testify against Ron if he took his case to the Wizengamot. We would all provide memories as well, so there can be no question of either the veracity of our stories, or of Ron's genuine hatred towards his daughter. Canada won't automatically give Ron custody, the way it would most likely happen here if you still lived in Britain, and the Wizengamot and the Ministry won't risk causing an international incident and damaging relations with Canada by trying to force Aimée to live with a dangerously abusive father. Kingsley has privately assured us that the Ministry won't support any claims Ron may make.
I don't know if Severus has told you but he and Harry have been campaigning for years to allow children of Hogwarts age to have a say in where they live outside school, after they both grew up in unsuitable environments. Kingsley was there when I fed Ron the Veritaserum, and he was so horrified by what fell out of Ron's mouth that it's finally spurred him on to introduce legislation to that effect. Kingsley is now pushing to have it become law as quickly as possible. Of course, children won't be able to move out of home just because they're annoyed their parents wouldn't buy them the latest broom! There will be strict guidelines, and case workers to support the children. Should it become necessary, a children's home will be opened to house anyone with nowhere else to go; Kingsley has already approached Mum for her advice in setting it up — he says there's no one else with as much experience as her of raising children! Anyway, if Ron tries to take his case to the Wizengamot, Kingsley has promised to tie up the case in red tape until after the law is in effect (it helps when the Minister for Magic is a family friend!), which he hopes will be before the Christmas holidays begin. It really is being fast-tracked. Aimée would then have a chance to refuse to live with Ron, which I'm sure will be a great relief to you.
For safety's sake, though, I found the Deluminator like you asked (it was in a drawer in his room in the Burrow — I don't think he even remembers about its existence) and Bill removed all the tracking spells. The only thing it does now is turn the lights on and off. I'll let you know if you're ever in any danger, although Ron can't exactly afford to travel to Canada right now, so he's not about to turn up on your doorstep with murder on his mind.
All this has decided Pansy that she wants to get out of Britain — the sooner the better. As I mentioned when you were here, I'm thinking of opening a store in Canada but I hadn't yet decided where. Could you find somewhere for Pansy and the girls to stay? Pansy can then research after she arrives and decide what city she thinks would be the best in which to open the first store.
George was not exaggerating in his letter. The entire Weasley family was appalled at the way Ron kept threatening to "Teach the mongrel bitch a lesson for getting our precious Reuben in trouble — she should have been put down at birth." There was no doubt in anyone's mind that he meant every disturbingly violent and vicious word he uttered concerning Aimée. It was frighteningly clear that Ron's feelings towards his daughter were anything but benign, and since Hermione and Aimée were not available, Ron had turned his attentions towards Pansy and her daughters in lieu of Hermione and Aimée. Pansy was now desperate to get out of Ron's reach.
Even Harry had finally come to understand that Hermione had not kept Aimee from Ron out of petty revenge, but out of a genuine need to protect her daughter. Harry had always known that Ron had an explosive temper but he had not recognised the violence simmering inside his friend. Harry now realised that Hermione had seen something in Ron to which he himself had been oblivious. Even after Ron's own family had acknowledged that their son and brother had serious problems, Harry had deliberately ignored the warning signs, which had been increasingly obvious for a very long time. Harry had willingly sacrificed his friendship with Hermione for that of Ron, who now reminded the green-eyed wizard far too much of his Uncle Vernon for his best friend's peace of mind. Unfortunately for Harry, this realisation had come too late to salvage his friendship with his former female best friend.
Hermione sat silently musing after she read the letter from George. "What are you thinking?" asked Severus curiously.
"I wonder if Ron might have been cursed in some way during the war to have caused him to become this way? Or perhaps the brains that attacked him during the Battle at the Department of Mysteries might have had an effect on him? Or even the Horcruxes — Harry, Ron and I all spent considerable time wearing one around our necks and he was very susceptible to it. He always had a temper but he was never violent when we were children; perhaps the brains and/or the Horcrux could have made him more volatile. Or it could be that he simply has PTSD, and some counselling and some anger management classes could make all the difference," Hermione considered.
"Or he could just be an arrogant, self-obsessed fool!" Severus commented acerbically. "You know it's no longer your problem, don't you? You spent enough time trying to help him grow up and, as you yourself have said in the past, there comes a time when we have to take responsibility for our own actions," he continued, more gently.
"I know. And I wish I could just put Ron Weasley out of my mind, but I can't help thinking about his behaviour," Hermione explained ruefully. For all that Hermione had once described Harry Potter as having a "saving people thing," she was not much better, taking it upon herself to try and solve everyone's problems.
Severus sighed but said nothing. He knew his witch well enough to be aware that she would keep dwelling on this if she did not take some form of action. "What's your suggestion?" he asked in resignation.
"I know there still aren't any Mind Healers in Britain but there are in other parts of the world. When I integrated into the wizarding world here in Canada, I spent some time with a Mind Healer, in order to deal with my issues from the war and from my so-called relationship with Ron, and it helped me enormously. I think I'll suggest to George that perhaps the Weasleys need to push for a Mind Healer programme at St Mungo's. I'm sure Ron isn't the only person who could benefit from it. Hell, between them, I'm sure George and Harry can afford to contract a Mind Healer to come to Britain especially to help Ron, if that's what it takes! I'll suggest it to George and my part will end as soon as I send that letter," the curly-haired witch assured her concerned lover, knowing that Severus did not want to see her tear herself up over Ron Weasley. "I'll have done my duty and it'll no longer be my concern."
Hermione immediately wrote back to George with her theories and recommendations regarding Ron and then resolutely put him out of her mind, once and for all. She also wrote to invite Pansy to come as soon as she wanted to. "We have a couple of spare rooms," she wrote. "Your girls will have to share a room but as long as they don't mind doing that, you're welcome to stay for as long as you need to. You can then take your time deciding where to open the shop, and to source premises — you may or may not want to live above the shop again but there will be no need for you to rush into any decisions."
Pansy gratefully wrote to accept and, within a fortnight, she, Gaia and Freya were safely installed in the flat in Montréal. They were very glad to be there: Ronald was showing increasing signs of instability and he had terrified them all. Hermione and Severus made the small family welcome and the Clearwaters and Bellamys followed suit. In the end, Pansy decided to open the first WWW store in Montréal. This was partly because she had come to know the city; partly because she had a support network there; and partly because, even though the main wizarding shopping areas were in Toronto and Vancouver, Montréal was the primary supplier of school equipment and uniforms for Sauveterre. (Boyce Curran's custom wands may have been works of art, but they were not commonly purchased for schoolchildren; rather they were more likely to be graduation presents.) With schoolchildren being WWW's biggest customers, it made sense to open the shop in the same magical district as the school supplies were sold.
Pansy did indeed buy premises with a flat above, which she moved into with her daughters a year after arriving in Montréal. This was just in time, as Hermione had just discovered she was pregnant and so she and Severus would require more space in their apartment, which they had purchased from Penny. In due course, Hermione gave birth to a little boy, with raven coloured hair and deep black eyes, just like his father.
"My little raven," Severus said lovingly, as he held his new son in his arms.
"That's your patronus, isn't it?" asked Hermione interestedly. Severus' patronus had been a doe for many years, reflecting his feelings for Harry Potter's mother, who he had once loved and then inadvertently betrayed. After the war, he had been able to put her behind him and his patronus had changed to reflect himself.
"What about raven names? There's Corbin, or Bertram perhaps. Corbin means raven and Bertram means bright raven. Bertram is a Shakespearean name," she said enthusiastically. "Or perhaps Bran, which is a Celtic name for raven. There's also Corvus, since you have a Latin name."
"Didn't you say that your family has a tradition of Shakespearean names?" asked Severus.
"Yes, but I didn't follow it with Aimée," she replied.
"That's because you had other, more important reasons, for choosing her name. I'd rather not give him a Latin name; it should be something more mainstream, even if it's not a common name today. If we choose a raven name in honour of me, then we should also choose a Shakespearean name in honour of you," he said, smiling lovingly at his wife, who he had married a month after Pansy and her daughters had moved into their own flat.
"Bertram Snape?" asked Hermione and he nodded in agreement. "I like it," she said happily.
"I do, too," he agreed.
For all that Aimée was slightly embarrassed to have a brother so much younger than herself, she also adored little Bertie and spoiled him rotten. Aimée was Bertie's favourite person and when she was home, he could usually be found running around after her on chubby legs. It amused Hermione to see what a bright and sunny child Bertie was. "Not like his Dad at all," she teased Severus.
To be honest, Severus' talents had always been wasted teaching anything below NEWT level potions and he had been very frustrated as a schoolteacher. Severus had thrown himself whole-heartedly into his new life and was flourishing. Indeed, now that the stresses and strains of the war were over, and he was neither spying on a sociopathic madman for an ungrateful manipulator, nor teaching ungrateful and uninterested schoolchildren, he had mellowed considerably. "Not that anyone you ever taught in Hogwarts would ever believe it," Hermione teased him.
"Certainly not your idiot former friends," Severus snorted in agreement.
Although busy with their jobs and the two children, Severus and Hermione made sure to carve out time for themselves. Their favourite place to go on dates was the jazz club where Severus had taken Hermione on their very first date, when he was just visiting her in Canada.
For their first anniversary, Severus had prepared a surprise for the woman he loved. They were at the jazz club again and, to Hermione's amazement, he excused himself from their table with a kiss to her cheek, and went over to the band, who welcomed him warmly. Severus disappeared backstage for a moment and returned with a clarinet in his hands.
"We have a special treat tonight," announced the band leader. "It's Severus and Hermione's anniversary and Severus would like to tell his lovely lady just how much he loves her. Hermione, this is for you."
Severus sat himself down with the band and began to play, while Hermione sat with her jaw on the floor. The band joined in, allowing him to take the lead, and the band leader began to sing. Severus played a number of songs with the band, all love songs like Tenderly, Love is Here to Stay, The Very Thought of You, My Funny Valentine and Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup. By now, Hermione had recovered from her shock and when the band leader changed the mood, moving onto slightly more upbeat songs, Severus carefully placed his clarinet down and rejoined his wife. As the band leader sang Moondance, Severus swept Hermione, who was laughing with delight, into his arms and began to dance with her, to the applause of the rest of the audience. The other diners let them complete their dance before joining them on the dance floor.
The formerly lonely and bitter man looked at the beautiful woman gazing at him with love in her sparkling brown eyes. "How did I get so lucky? What did I do to deserve you?" he whispered in her ear.
"You love me, and I love you," she replied simply and caught his lips in a loving kiss.
Later that night, the two lay tangled up together in bed. Their loving had been very tender and sweet that night. It had actually brought tears to their eyes.
"I didn't know you played an instrument," Hermione commented idly, her fingers lightly running across Severus' chest as she spoke. Looking up at him, she was surprised to see him blushing.
"I began learning many years ago, when I was a teenager. I really wanted to be a saxophonist because teens thought the sax was cool and a chick magnet," he explained self-deprecatingly. Hearing Hermione snicker at his expense, even though that had been his intention, Severus gave her a gentle pinch and she muffled her laughter against his chest.
"The problem with that plan was that obtaining a saxophone, not to mention finding someone to teach me, in Cokeworth in the seventies was impossible. Instead I managed to find an old clarinet for sale in a local pawn shop. It had been there for long enough that the owner of the shop had decided it was never going to be redeemed and he was selling it off, so I decided to buy it and learn to play the clarinet instead of the sax. It seemed a more realistic dream. Besides, I always did like listening to Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw," he commented absently.
"I would have thought you might want a guitar instead. I can see teenage boys thinking rocking away on a guitar would be cool. It would probably also have been easier to find a guitar teacher, or even to teach yourself," Hermione observed.
"Oh, undoubtedly," Severus agreed. "I would definitely have seen rocking away on a guitar as cool — with the added advantage that it would have annoyed my father to no end. I'm sure it would have been easier to learn, either with a teacher or by teaching myself, and it would also have been cheaper to buy. But the pawn shop had a clarinet for sale and not a guitar, so clarinet it was — even if it wasn't cool! But then, I wasn't exactly one of the cool kids either. I never really did walk the same path as the others around me," he added sadly and Hermione cuddled into him reassuringly.
"The pawn shop owner didn't exactly have people pounding on the door to buy the clarinet, so he agreed to hold it for me while I saved up the money," Severus continued. "I spent a couple of summers doing odd jobs, so I could buy the instrument. I even managed to find someone who could teach me. Before the local mill shut down, it had a brass band. Many people moved away after the mill closed but, of course, not everyone had the means or opportunity to do so. Among those who stayed in Cokeworth after the closure of the mill was an old horn player from the brass band. I think he had been in a military band or armed forces' concert party during the Second World War. He knew enough to teach me the basics of the clarinet, even though it wasn't his instrument, and he taught me how to read music. I didn't have the chance to learn more than that before I finished Hogwarts, and then I was too busy with my Mastery studies and, of course, I got caught up in the Death Eaters.
"After the First Blood War was over, I used to apparate to Glasgow for an hour's lesson from a proper music teacher a couple of times a week. I put it aside when Potter started Hogwarts, though. At that point, there were unmistakeable signs that the Second Blood War was coming. Between that and trying to keep Potter, Weasley and yourself alive during all your adventures at school, I didn't have time for music lessons anymore. I did continue playing in the privacy of my chambers, though, especially when I needed stress relief. It was my own choice to return to Hogwarts after the Second Blood War," he explained with a sigh. "Despite that, I was still frustrated there and I found it soothing to be able to play out my moods in music. I haven't really played much since I came to Canada because my life is now so full I don't need to search for ways to fill the emptiness and silence, but I wanted to do something special for you, dear heart."
"You succeeded. I loved it! Thank you, my love. It was beautiful," Hermione said, kissing him. The kisses soon turned amorous again, as Hermione rewarded her lover for his touching and moving surprise earlier that evening.
From then on, Severus always played for Hermione on special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Knowing that he did this for her alone made it very precious to her, and Hermione treasured it each and every time he stepped out of his comfort zone to serenade her.
Aimée continued to receive extra-curricular potions tuition from Severus, who had adopted her when he married Hermione. To no one's regret, Ron had willingly washed his hands of the daughter he did not want, on condition that Aimée agree never to contact Ron, Romilda or Reuben; it was a condition Aimée and Hermione were only too happy to accept.
After being fired by the Kenmare Kestrals, Ron and his family had moved into the Burrow, since Romilda's salary was insufficient to support them and pay Reuben's school fees as well. Harry and George sponsored a new Mind Healer clinic and made every effort to have it up and running as quickly as possible. Ronald, upon being informed by his parents that a condition of his family being allowed to live in the Burrow was that he attend sessions at the clinic, went berserk and it took Molly, Arthur and Bill all to subdue him; he ended up being the first sectioned in-patient at the clinic and was there for nearly a year before being released. The Mind Healers used a combination of counselling and potions that mimicked the Muggle drugs used to treat various mental disorders, and thought it was likely that Ron would be on a potions regimen for the rest of his life. Once Ron was released for out-patient treatment, George took him on as a mail order clerk at WWW. The combination of counselling and medication had helped Ron become rational enough to realise just how out-of-control he had been and he felt sufficiently shamed by his attitude and behaviour towards Hermione, Pansy and their daughters that he had agreed to relinquish all parental rights over all three girls. Ron never did more than that to make amends, preferring an 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude but Pansy and Hermione were both perfectly happy with that much.
Reuben, who had been on strict probation at Hogwarts ever since he attacked Aimée, had been terrified of his father's berserk rage and this was a wake-up call with regard to his own behaviour. Coming under the influence of his grandparents while living at the Burrow made an enormous difference to the young lad, and Molly and Arthur spent much time with their grandson, trying to re-educate him with regard to his behavioural issues.
Molly had thought long and hard about the nature vs nurture debate that Hermione had mentioned and this had disturbed her greatly. She knew her children had been brought up not to use violence, so Ron's behaviour could not be said to fall on the 'nurture' side of the scale. This left 'nature' and, knowing that Ron had inherited her own temper, made a dismayed Molly feel very guilty indeed. So it was actually a relief to her when the Mind Healers diagnosed a mental disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder¹⁹. The Mind Healers explained that this had probably always been an underlying condition with the potential to develop into a full‑blown disorder, but that it had probably been triggered and exacerbated both by PTSD and also, as Hermione had suspected, by Ron's experiences after Voldemort's return. Even the fact that Ron had been more susceptible than Harry or Hermione to the negative emotions of the Horcrux was probably due to this underlying condition. Reuben's behaviour, however, was purely down to nurture: not having been taught any better by his parents, the boy had simply followed his father's example.
Reuben also began sessions with a Mind Healer, who came to Hogwarts twice a week to help him manage his anger and work through his self-entitlement issues. Although his behaviour improved significantly, Reuben remained a poor scholar, much like his father had been. Reuben failed all his NEWTs and barely scraped together four OWLs at Acceptable grades and one OWL at Exceeds Expectations. Minerva privately admitted that the only reason his father did better in his own results was because Hermione had been there to push Ron to study, while Reuben's friends were all slackers like himself. Quidditch-mad like the rest of the Weasleys, Reuben counted himself lucky to get a job at Quality Quidditch Supplies in Diagon Alley, as he knew he was not a good enough player to be taken on by any team.
His half-sister, Aimée, on the other hand, excelled at her studies and was granted her Mastery in Potions at the unprecedented age of fifteen, much to her proud parents' pleasure and joy. A few years after finishing school, the bright young witch went into business with her adoptive father and the two of them became renowned for the original potions and natural health remedies they created. Before joining Severus in the business, however, Aimée in fact underwent training as a Healer, as did Phoebe before her. While Phoebe went to work with Melissa Clearwater, Aimée put her knowledge as a Healer to use in her potions work, going on to develop cures for several conditions and illnesses that had previously been thought to be incurable. Even Severus, who had himself been a prodigy at potions, had to admit that Aimée far surpassed her Master in that area of potions. She never did find out exactly what special abilities the Kitsune who donated the whisker for her wand had, but combined with her ability at creating healing potions, and the Caladrius feather as the second core in her wand, the family surmised that it was most likely healing abilities of some sort.
As Aimée blossomed under Severus' tutelage and fatherly guidance, she often remembered what the Hogwarts Sorting Hat had said to her before placing her in Slytherin: being in this House will certainly help you along the direction your heart wishes to take. It was not what she had imagined when the Sorting Hat said that to her, but being sorted into Slytherin had brought Severus into their family, and his tutelage and encouragement had set her firmly on the path to attaining her Mastery in Potions.
Pansy married a caring and considerate wizard, who owned the magical pet store where Hermione and Aimée had bought their pets, Polgara and Velvet. The pet shop adjoined WWW, and as Pansy and Phillipe both lived above their premises and her husband needed to stay there to care properly for the animals in his shop, the couple decided to knock through the adjoining wall in their living quarters and create one large apartment for their family instead of buying a house together. After finishing Sauveterre, Freya joined Pansy in the joke shop, Gaia went to work with Penny in the childcare centre and their step-brother, Adam, joined his father in the pet shop. Pansy and Philippe had another daughter, who they named Roxanne; she apprenticed under Boyce Curran to become a wandmaker to rival her Master. Roxanne's husband, Bertie Snape, was inspired by listening to his father serenade his mother to become a musician, playing not only the clarinet, but also the oboe and both the alto and tenor saxophones; a truly gifted musician, he opened his own wizarding jazz club, where he became magical Canada's equivalent to Ronnie Scott.²⁰
Hermione corresponded fairly regularly with Minerva and certain Weasleys, namely Molly and Arthur, Bill and Fleur, George and Angelina and, somewhat surprisingly, Percy and Audrey. They had all come to visit a number of times and Aimée, Penny and Phoebe now wrote to those Weasleys and their families frequently, too. While Hermione also wrote occasionally to Ginny, her correspondence with the Potters was minimal. This did not upset Hermione, however; she did not dwell on the past. Why would she? What was most important in her life was right here in Montréal. Between Severus, Aimée and Bertie, the Clearwaters, the Bellamys and even Pansy and her family, Hermione now had a richness of family that she could not have imagined when she left Britain for what she thought would be a lonely life in Canada. 'And it's all because I wanted to protect that which was most precious to me,' she mused, smiling at her beloved husband and children.
¹⁹ I'm aware my Ron bashing was a bit extreme and the canon character doesn't really deserve that. I wanted to give a reason behind Ron's behaviour, linking it back to both the way he always lost his temper very easily even as a child and also to his greater susceptibility to mind magics. Remember Ron took a long time to throw off the effects of the Imperius completely when Crouch Jr put their whole class under the Imperius—the effects lingered even after it was lifted—plus Ron was affected by the Horcrux more than Hermione or even Harry, who was under a double dose of Horcrux, given that he had one inside him! I also wanted to touch lightly on the fact that their war experiences could have had long-lasting effects on those who were involved, effects that could escalate without being addressed. I wouldn't have expected everyone to be able to put it all behind them as though it had never happened and, considering Ron's rather volatile temper, he was the best candidate to have problems. I apologise for not going into greater depth but the story was about Hermione moving on from her experiences, and not about Ron.
²⁰ wikipedia dot org / wiki / Ronnie_Scott and wikipedia dot org / wiki / Ronnie_Scott's_Jazz_Club, for those who are unfamiliar with Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club