Epilogue: Only To Be With You
Severus sat on the terrace overlooking the gardens, a stack of parchments and ledgers on the table in front of him. The early June afternoon was warm and sunny, with vibrant flowers on trees and bushes and the hum of bees in the garden.
He looked up from his paperwork at the sound of running feet and was greeted by his dark-haired son. Septimus was five and a half, a happy and inquisitive boy who could often be found with Ember in the Potions garden, or asking Maurice a million questions in his office. He had Severus' looks and colours, but seemed to have inherited Hermione's personality and her tendency to ask at least a thousand questions a minute.
"Da, can I go to Ember in the gardens? Please?" his son asked pleadingly.
"As long as you don't get in her way and ensure that you are helpful," he admonished and pulled his boy in for a hug before releasing him. Septimus smiled and ran off to join the Centaur who had shown an aptitude for Herbology early on and taken over managing the Potions garden. She'd also been the first Centaur accepted as a registered apprentice, under Pomona Sprout, and her thesis on the healing uses of plants usually overlooked by human gardeners was widely cited in the magical community.
Business had been going quite well over the past decade, well enough for him to hire five more people for brewing and administrative duties. Maurice had stayed with them and turned out to have a good eye for the business side of things, leaving Severus more time for the research that he enjoyed the most. His biggest success so far after the Mnemosyne Potion for Narcissa had been the improved Wolfsbane potion which was stable enough to be stored for a month, allowing more werewolves access to it since not many of them had access to a Potions Master to brew it for them fresh each month.
Maurice had never been able to get his Mastery but claimed he wasn't too upset about it, and together with Hermione and some other disgruntled Apprentices they'd actually made the Guild instate a consent claim on all, erm, extracurricular activities between a Master and their Apprentice.
His wife was mainly busy at the Ministry these days, working with Amelia at the Department of Mysteries on wards and advanced Arithmancy. She was also doing something obscure at the Department for Magical Creatures, advocating for her Centaur friends and for house elves and all the other beings that happened to tug her heartstrings. They'd married as soon as she was done with the Apprenticeship, in a small and rather intimate ceremony on the lawn of Prince Hall with friends and Hermione's family present. She still helped him with the business, especially on Arithmancy calculations for new inventions, but she didn't have to brew Pepper-Up anymore. Severus had done some consulting work for Amelia but had declined the offer of employment. Still, she brought some interesting puzzles for both of them to tinker with, and she paid reasonably well.
Aemiliana had died the previous summer and was buried on the grounds near the cottage she'd stayed in. She had made some kind of unholy alliance with Hermione's grandmother who had moved in with her shortly after their first Christmas at Prince Hall, to the benefit of all save perhaps Hermione when the two elder ladies drove her to distraction. Adeline had died three years ago, at the respectable age of ninety-three, but had at least met her two great-grandchildren although Sophia had only been a few months old at the time.
Finally he was done with the ledgers and Banished the paperwork back to the Potions office. The interior of Prince Hall was always changing, at the hands of the elves, his wife and the children, adjusting as their needs changed. As he looked out over the Grand Hall from upstairs he marvelled at the fact that this was his, somehow — the estate, a family, a successful business.
Footsteps from the foyer below alerted him to his wife's arrival by Floo from the Ministry. By their rapid pace he could deduce that she was still stressed and thinking about work, and decided to do something about that. A quick summons later and Tinsel was happy to be of service, promising to make them both proud. She quickly located him upstairs and made her way up the staircase.
"Wife," he murmured and embraced her, tracing her cheek with his lips. Ten years on and she was even more beautiful in his eyes. She raised her arms to encircle his neck while tilting her head up, demanding a kiss. He complied with perhaps a bit more intensity than she'd counted on, claiming her mouth for himself.
She broke free somewhat reluctantly and smiled up at him. "Husband."
She sighed and nestled in closer, resting her cheek against his shoulder, her forehead by his cheek. "We should collect the children and feed them, and I need to send off an owl to Amelia again, and Kingsley talked about some meeting in Vienna."
"Hermione, breathe," he chided and steered her towards their quarters. "Septimus is out with Ember and last I saw Sophia she was … helping Winky in the kitchens. They will survive. The children, undoubtedly. The others I am less sure of."
Hermione laughed and he could feel her relaxing in his arms. "Is that so? Should we celebrate?"
"We should indeed. Grumpy sent us some fresh strawberries from the garden and I believe one of your grandmother's bottles of champagne needs some emergency rescuing before it goes bad."
"Oh, how so?"
He smirked and frogmarched her towards their chambers and the huge bathtub they didn't often have occasion to share these days, what with work and other commitments. She gasped when she saw the dimmed lights, the full bath with fragrant oils, and the open bottle in a cooler with two glasses beside it, plus strawberries and melted chocolate.
"See? The bottle is opened. Whatever should we do, wife? It will spoil if left in such a state."
Hermione laughed at that. He felt his heart swell again at the sound. A decade by her side already, with hopefully many more to come. How had someone like him managed to catch the eye of someone like her? Nonetheless, he was immensely grateful for it as he didn't think very many women could meet his irritable snarkiness with an equal measure of hotheaded stubbornness, nor keep his interest with a quick mind and a voracious appetite for learning.
A whispered spell later and she was summarily undressed which caused her to quickly jump into the tub. He undressed and joined her, the bathtub was large enough for them to comfortably sit side by side while a charmed tray held the strawberries and drinks. She was about to say something but he silenced her with a chocolate-dipped strawberry and a flute of champagne.
"I love you, Severus," she said and turned to kiss him. She tasted of chocolate and strawberries and home.
"And I you, as you well know."
She fed him a strawberry in return and whatever Hermione had planned to do with the evening got summarily dismissed in favour of more pleasurable pursuits.
Yes, he truly was happy.
A/N: thanks everyone for following, fav'ing and commenting on this fic! This is the end of the road for this story, finally.