A Series of Epilogues

E4 - Meddlesome Mothers

Thirteen Months Later…

The fire crackled with the huge logs Oliver had split and dried earlier that year, and everywhere inside the tiny Cot Luchan was covered with Hermione's festive touch. Majestic holly boughs had been harvested from their tree outside and placed over the mantle and back door, the bright red berries striking against the almost polished-looking dark leaves. Garlands of evergreen wrapped the stair rails and banisters, and little twinkling fairy lights peaked out from between showy foliage. For the most part, the fairies stayed put – and Crookshanks enjoyed playing with the ones that didn't. Everywhere, the cottage smelled of turkey and stuffing, roast corn and spiced pie; Hermione had been busy since early this morning, surrounded by cookbooks, getting everything ready for their guests.

Oliver wandered into the kitchen, having just finished with the Prophet over his mid-morning coffee. Hermione was stirring something over the stove, concentrating carefully on her task, and he slipped behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder, enjoying the scent of cinnamon in her hair, even though it was tamed into a tight bun.

"Anything important happening today?" she asked.

Oliver hesitated for a moment, not really wanting to disturb the Christmas mood, but reluctantly spoke up. "Lucian Edgecombe turned up dead this mornin'. The Prophet published it as suicide." He exchanged a significant look with Hermione, and gave a sigh. "Oh, well. It's bluidy well Percy's problem now, isnae it?"

"Yes it is, Mister Coach of the Soon-To-Be-British-League-Champions," Hermione elbowed him playfully.

Oliver took the time to kiss his way along her neck, being sure to spend special attention to the soft spot behind her ears, until he was rewarded with a low moan. "Wha' time are they due?" he asked huskily.

He was answered by the sound of the door banging open, and Harry's loud call of "Happy Christmas!"

"Right about now, I'd say," Hermione said, wryly. Oliver just groaned, and banged his forehead against her shoulder.

Hermione had invited everyone who was important to her; the Weasleys, and Oliver's family, Ron and Harry, and even Viktor, who she was surprised to have Oliver suggest. Her dad was sitting quietly, sipping eggnog by the tree, watching the fluttering fairies with a bemused expression. She wasn't entirely certain, but she was pretty sure Fred had laced the cup with a generous helping of rum first, but she chose to ignore it.

Jamie and Michael and Oliver's da were sprawled like boys in various cushions and bean bag chairs around the floor, arguing good naturedly about various players, proposed trades and team standings. Oliver occasionally added his two cent's worth, but seemed content to be entertaining Julian with a small model Chinese Fireball that Charlie had brought. The little thing would strut around and occasionally belch a puff of smoke, and once, much to Julian's delight, snaked out a long forked tongue to tickle his nose. Kena and Adrianne were placing armloads of packages beneath an overflowing tree, while Ginny tried to escape from under Ron's belligerent eye to talk with a certain Bulgarian seeker, who had been giving her shy glances since their first meeting at the Ministry last week. Her desperate expression eventually won over Charlie, who with a smirk, challenged Ron to a game of Wizarding chess, completely distracting him for the rest of the evening.

Hermione was still in the kitchen, surrounded by overly helpful advice and admonishments from the eminently matriarchal Brighde and Molly. Hermione thought that perhaps she was in hell; they only called it Christmas. From the other room, she could hear Fred and George as they tried to catch Crookshanks, and feed him some kind of new product.

"When are yeh two going tae give us a grandbarin, then?" Oliver's mother was asking, again, and Hermione forced herself to remember that Oliver still wouldn't like it if she turned his mum into a purple toad.

Mrs. Weasley, who had been watching Hermione's preparations with hands that positively itched to get involved, chose that moment to chime in with "You know, everyone always loved my turkey - I'd be glad to help you, dear." And Hermione cursed Ginny's newfound interest in Bulgarian exports for causing her to abandon Hermione to face Molly's clutches completely alone.

When Crookshanks finally ran through the sweet potatoes, trying to get away from the twins, and Mrs. Wood began getting a bit too personal, commenting "Yeh should speak tae Oliver abou' trying this position next time yeh hae him alone; he's a braw lad, he could handle it - and I understand tha' it's the best if yeh wan' tae get pregnant, dear."

Hermione grabbed the spice jar she was working with so tightly she thought the glass might have squeaked in protest.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Weasley was examining the plum pudding, dubiously poking it with her wand, and, after casting a careful glance to see if Hermione was watching, began murmuring at it under her breath. With a satisfied sigh, she turned her attention to the carrots, and Hermione began counting down in her head…

"You know dear, you should try adding a glaze next time, it looks so much more attractive," she offered, helpfully.

4, Hermione thought, and she began attacking the mashed potatoes with a renewed antagonism. When Molly began helpfully criticising dessert, Hermione's blood pressure was causing her to see spots, and she whirled around, not entirely sure of what she was going to do, as long as it made them go away.

Oliver, with studied casualness, wandered into the kitchen, absently handing a sleepy Julian to the eager arms of his mother. He grinned, his lips crinkling, and Hermione immediately felt some of her tension drain. "Now, why don' I give yeh a hand for a bit?" he asked, as he reached out, and wiped a smudge of flour off of her nose. She watched gratefully over his shoulder as Brighde tried to subtly shoo Molly from the kitchen.

Oliver pulled her in closer, rubbing small circles at the base of her neck. The warmth of his body was entirely welcome, despite the heat of the kitchen, and she found herself burrowing closer. "You must have some kind of amazing sixth sense," she sighed.

She could feel his chest rumble under her check as he laughed. "You mean how yeh were abou' to whip yer wand out an' turn them both intae bats?"

She sniffed at the accusation but couldn't actually protest, before whispering, "We are not inviting them all again next year - we are leaving the country, if necessary."

He was trying not to laugh, much to her annoyance, and he must have felt her tense under his arms, because he promptly decided on a distraction. His fingers moved up, tracing the long line of her neck. The other hand lifted her chin when she stubbornly refused to cooperate. The tenderness in his gaze no longer flustered her, and she couldn't stop herself from responding to his gentle command as he brought his lips down to hers.

No matter how long it had been, or would be, she would never get used to the heady feeling of being kissed by this man. He teased her, keeping his kisses light, refusing to give in to her attempts to deepen it. Pushing up on her toes, Hermione dragged her fingers over his hard chest, to trace the sensitive skin at the base of his neck. He moaned against her lips, and now it was her turn to tease.

"Hermione," he growled, his voice sounding incredibly sexy when it was so gravelly, and she gave in, kissing him properly, nipping and licking his bottom lip before tangling her tongue with his.

Reluctantly, she pulled away, pushing gently on his broad chest to make him pull back enough for her to clear her head. He tucked her head to his shoulder almost protectively, rocking them gently, and Hermione let out a deep sigh, moving slightly so they could both stare at the face of the large wooden clock the Weasleys had given them hanging above the sink. The fourth hand's progress was barely perceptible, having only recently begun its journey towards twelve.

The quiet ticking filled the kitchen and Oliver's voice was husky in her ear as he leaned down to ask,

"Do yeh still wan' to tell them tha' you're pregnant, then?"

-The End-

Author's Note:

First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you to each and every person who has read, is reading, or is going to read this story. I couldn't have done this without all your amazing and unexpected support. I wish I could hug each one of you personally, just, in some small way, to let you know how much I've appreciated and cherished each one of your reviews and PM's; but unfortunately, that would probably qualify me as borderline stalkerish, now wouldn't it? :-p I am sending out a masive e-group hug to everyone though, as the next best thing *lol*

This is going to be incredibly long, so I hope you'll all forgive me :-) I found I had a scary amount of notes, here at the end, but feel free to skip this part if my creative journal-ish stuff doesn't really interest you.

Clan Wood does actually exist. I've tried to stay true to the historical details, but I did take some liberties with their tartan, strictly for visual reasons during the wedding chapter. The real tartan is a plaid that combines both emerald green and royal blue, with narrower lines done in black, white and red. Altogether, it didn't fit with the image I was trying to create for the scene, and their tartan became a mostly blue construct instead.

A sept is a clan or family who falls under the protection of a larger clan or family, and the Woods really are, or have been in past, a sept of the Watson clan. I have found references to small households of the Wood family being found in Aberdeenshire, though they are more numerous in the lowlands, around Angus and Kinkardineshire, and Perthshire. They did originally start as a Highland clan, but moved south, most likely around the time of King David I.

And as for little Julian Walker - Walker was my Grandfather's middle name, given to him by his Scottish mother, who of course, was a Walker ;-) Hey, it's my story, right? *lol* Somehow, it seemed a fitting tribute, as some of you know, my Grandfather passed away during the writing of this story – an event which interrupted the writing of it for nearly 15 months.

I've received a lot of questions about why I did certain things with the story, most of them having to do with the Wizard Duel required to settle the contract dispute. Many of you have pointed out that it's barbaric and perhaps even somewhat unbelievable, given that someone as sympathetic to Muggles as Percy Weasley is in charge.

You know what? You're probably right, and I've received some wonderful suggestions from helpful reviewers to help fix it, if I ever decide to re-write, but there actually was a reason for it in the first place: It was part of the rules of the original contest.

You see, when I started to write this, I wanted to take a stab at making a Marriage Law story that wasn't so cliché. I'd read a number of stories that used this challenge, and was always left feeling slightly dirty afterwards as the author, or authoress, often seemed to use it as an excuse to jam their favourite rare-pair together without the bother normally associated with trying to finesse such a pair into a relationship. Having said that, since then I have read some lovely Marriage Law stories that leave my poor attempt behind in the dust, but I accomplished what I set out to, I think; I've created a story that I enjoy reading (as well as an astonishing number of wonderful readers), and that, to me at least, doesn't commit any of the obvious sins so rampant in this category – I hope!

The original rules for the Marriage Law Challenge, which was posted by chelleybean AT ufie DOT org way back in 2004 on the Yahoo group WIKtT (or When I Kissed the Teacher), was intended for a Severus/Hermione pairing. Excepting that, I tried to follow the rest of them as faithfully as possible, with only minor modifications:


Your choice of how his contract comes to be:

1. Severus's father, desperate to save the Snape family, selects her for her brilliance and power.
2. Severus falls in love with Hermione, but she rejects him, forcing him to take a more 'high handed' approach.
3. There must be a confrontation between Severus and Hermione's father.
4. No Rape! Hermione must either skilfully convinced or romantically won over into being a willing participant in the marriage bed.
5. Lucius Malfoy must challenge, either by duel or wizard court, Snape's claim to Hermione in an attempt to get her for Draco.

Now, all that said, I realise some of you will be thinking I've set this up for a sequel –

I haven't. To me, this is how it had to end. Things in life don't always have neat, pat endings. I've given this story one happy ending, the one between Oliver and Hermione, but as with reality, there is always so much more going on in any given situation, that an end isn't always possible; life just goes on, and to end this story any other way just felt wrong. Not everything here is happy, but I think, overall, it is a happy ending. I hope you all agree with me that by doing it this way, I kept the integrity of the story intact.

Thank you again to all my many and amazing readers – I can't believe you guys stuck with me for four long years while I finished this story. I promised time and time again that I wouldn't abandon it, and see! I didn't. I honestly couldn't have done it without you guys, though. I've received some of the most touching reviews for this story – things that have made me more confident in my abilities as a writer, things that have made me understand the writing process and its effect on my readers just a little bit better, and things that have just plain made me feel good on a bad day. I have gone through a couple of the most significant events of my life while writing this story, both good things and bad; I got married to my own personal Oliver after a five year engagement, I got diagnosed with a life changing condition, and I lost the first of my close relatives when my Grandfather passed. Some of the things you have had to say to me over this time have touched me deeply, and I want to thank you all. *hugs*

As a side note, many have asked what I will be writing next, and I'm thrilled to say, I'm neck-deep in a new chaptered fic, this time a Seamus-Hermione, titled (for the moment, anyway) Irish Mist. It's another Romance-with-a-side-of-plot like this one. I'm still in the planning phases, though not for much longer as I'm feeling incredibly inspired, but I'd love to hear from you if you have any suggestions as to what you might like to see. I'm not promising anything, but any suggestion that I can use I will credit 

I love you all.

Until next time,