Epilogue - Into the Great Wide Open

Severus thought back to their first year together as he sat with a book in the lilac arbour overlooking the garden of their cottage on a sunny July afternoon, almost eight years after the end of the war. She had simply moved in that night after the Ministry ball, only returning to Grimmauld Place to fetch some clothes and the grumpy orange thing she called a cat on the Sunday afternoon. It hadn't exactly been planned that way but neither of them saw a point with spending nights apart just for the sake of it, especially with Hermione busy at the Ministry during the weekdays and often staying late just because she enjoyed the work. The scandal of his courtship of an ex-student paled quickly in the face of the more juicy scandal of Kingsley being seen together with one Luna Lovegood, however, and media attention waned reasonably quickly.

She'd chased down Mastery titles in Charms and Arithmancy and also often helped him with brewing or setting up the Arithmancy calculations for new research ideas. He had actually managed to get the improved Wolfsbane sorted and registered at the Ministry just after Christmas, after too many failures, late nights and painful shifts for Remus. The revenue from the patent on that potion alone left him quite comfortable, so much so that he didn't have to worry about chasing brewing contracts for simple brews like Pepper-Up or Calming Draughts other than for Hogwarts. His needs were rather modest, after all, as long as he was able to buy new Potions ingredients, journals, books and the like. Somehow he was also pulled into assessing and breaking Dark curses, wards and hexes for various clients including both Gringotts curse-breaker division and on occasion even the Unspeakables. He enjoyed the challenge, however, and it did get him out of the house occasionally.

They argued, quite a lot, neither of them willing to admit defeat and often one or the other would surreptitiously bring up something outrageous just to spark a debate. He'd also had to endure more than his fair share of Weasleys, not to mention Potter, but after some initial tension the redheads had settled into mostly ignoring him which was just fine by him. Bill occasionally got in touch with him to share experiences from his job or ask for advice, and the twins had asked for some input on a few potions-based products.

He'd dreaded the Meeting of the Parents but to his surprise it actually went well. Hermione had brought Lucius along which he found odd at first before seeing him interact with the Grangers. They accepted him as Hermione's choice, David surreptitiously pulling him aside to wish him luck which had earned both of them a box on the arm when Hermione noticed, and Juliette whispering something to Hermione about his backside which he pretended not to have heard.

They'd married in a handfasting ceremony already the next summer after the Ministry ball, held at the Grangers' cottage in Cornwall so that the Muggle part of the family would be able to join in. Lucius had surprised them by gifting them the cottage they still resided in, located in a small community in West Sussex. Their nearest neighbours were wizarding families too but the closest village was Muggle. The cottage had been magically expanded inside, and came with a large barn on the grounds that Severus promptly converted to a Potions lab.

The ceremony had been surprisingly bearable, officiated by Minerva. Hermione had looked ethereally beautiful in a sheer white dress and a dazzling smile just for him. Although he'd had to endure more people than he had wanted, Hermione had also been adamant to keep the ceremony private and personal, and so they were mainly surrounded by Weasleys, Grangers and some other of Hermione's relatives, and some Hogwarts staff and former students. Hermione's French grandmother had spent a lot of time chatting with Lucius and getting rather sloshed on champagne, but apparently Lucius had enjoyed her company so much so that he visited her vineyard in France a few months later.

Their bond had meant that even his secret insecurities had to admit defeat. She did, actually, against all odds, love him. He knew; he could feel it. He could also feel when she was upset over something, or happy, and thus managed to figure out what to do and what not to do in a relationship relatively quickly.

Hermione came out through the garden door of the cottage and waddled up to him, belly first, seeking a kiss. She looked as beautiful as ever, he thought, and the fact that her current state made her, well, curvier than usual was only adding to her appeal although she complained about a sore back and that she had to go up to pee every two hours at night and frequently craved Wasabi nuts and candied cashews. A trade-off that was completely worth it, in his opinion, not that he ever told her that.

"Mum!" a young girl called and ran after her.

Octavia Eileen Snape was another of those surprises life had brought him. Three years old, raven black hair much like his but slightly curly like her mother's, his own black eyes but thankfully Hermione's nose. His wife always said that she liked his nose, claiming it made him look like a Roman emperor, but he had never believed it.

He'd never thought he would be a father, in fact he had been quite certain that he'd never qualify for the role, either due to never finding someone crazy enough to let him become one or due to his own father being shitty enough to get him disqualified from the mere thought of it. The day of her birth had been the most terrifying, amazing, exhausting and worrying day of his life, and he would never forget the feeling of holding that tiny, wrinkly baby who was looking up at him with eyes as black as his own.

A young wife, a family of three, soon to be four, a headstrong phoenix, a grumpy cat/half-kneazle and two house elves, as Winky's special friend Spiky had insisted to move in with them from Hogwarts. It was more than he had ever dreamt of. The irony that he had Bellatrix Lestrange to thank for it was not lost on him.

Yes. He was happy.