And here comes the last instalment. Hope it's a happy enough ending. Enjoy!

Loads of thank yous to the wonderful people who took the time to review so far! Your reviews kept me going!

Many, many thanks again to my most wonderful beta cecelle who improved the story immensely! (If there are still mistakes in this chapter, they are solely mine, I changed and added quite a bit after the beta-reading, my apologies.) Also I want to thank Elsa2 for her suggestions and encouragement. Everybody who has no clue why there is a reference to a New Zealand Mountain Parrot, read Elsa2's stories, they are magnificent!

lydia: tried to contact you but the e-mail address didn't work, sorry.

Disclaimer: not mine, and no money made ...

Now on with the epilogue ...

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Snape nodded towards the single chair that stood not far from the bed. The wizard was propped up in his bed with numerous white pillows. He still looked awfully pale and sick, but the healers had assured Harry that it would only be a matter of a few weeks, strict bed rest and healthy food, and afterwards a nice holiday at the coast to fully restore his former professor to health. Although Harry could hardly imagine Snape sunbathing and enjoying himself with a cool drink in some holiday resort, he fully agreed with the bed rest and food thing.

After Remus Lupin had brought Snape to St Mungo's, the healers had had a hard time keeping the man alive. Flinging their code of honour to the wind, some, seeing who their patient was, had stubbornly refused to even try. However, this changed when Dumbledore's will was found. It had been hidden in a secret drawer in his desk at Hogwarts. Of course, the desk had been carefully searched after the headmaster's death; the drawer simply had never been there before, but suddenly it was. Obviously it had been timed to appear once Voldemort was dead. The will proved beyond doubt that Snape had acted strictly on Dumbledore's orders. In an extraordinary meeting, the Wizengamot had declared his deed a 'necessity of war in the service of the light' and cleared him from all charges. The Aurors positioned at the entrance to Snape's sick room had received new orders; instead of preventing the man from breaking out (something the badly wounded wizard wouldn't have been able to do anyway), they now were to prevent anybody from breaking in; there were still a few Death Eaters on the loose, Peter Pettigrew among others, and they were eager to take revenge. Finally, after almost two weeks of searching, the healers had found an effective antidote to the snake venom. However, Snape had been so weakened from the violent cramps and burning fever caused by the poison that they had thought they would lose him nevertheless. Fortunately, they were wrong, and their patient slowly began to recover. The blackened burn mark that had caused the healers quite a headache had started to heal of its own accord, and the Dark Mark burned into the wizard's left forearm was fading.

"Sir, I came to bring you something - from the Ministry," Harry said, reaching into his pocket. He put an oblong package carrying the seal of the Minister of Magic on the bedside table. "Mr Ollivander said it should work just as fine for you as your old one since he made it from the same materials. And if not, you just drop by his shop and get another one, he said." Harry smiled conspiratorially. "The Ministry pays."

"So they broke my wand?" Snape stated flatly.

"They didn't believe me when I told them that you helped me destroy Voldemort," Harry explained. "Thought I was Confunded. And Professor McGonagall was unconscious from a bad curse."

Snape nodded thoughtfully. "They found the prisoners, then?"

"Yes, sir, Ollivander, Fortescue and all the others were rescued right after the final battle, not in exactly the best shape, but alive." A flicker of relief crossed Snape's pale face. It had always bugged him that he had not been able to disclose the location of Voldemort's prison to the Order as, ironically, the place had been hidden by a Fidelius Charm. "McNair was rather eager to tell the Aurors where to find them," Harry continued. "Now it's only ten years of Azkaban for him instead of a life sentence, and without Dementors ..."

Snape nodded again, then frowned. "What I still don't understand, Potter, is why the Amoris Infinitas spell worked although there was no sacrifice. Would you enlighten me?" he said.

"There was a sacrifice. You won't remember because you hit your head on a stone." Harry began to grin in spite of himself.

Snape arched an eyebrow. "Yes, Potter? Would you care to share what is apparently so amusing?"

"Sorry, sir, it's not really funny, only - you remember the Hippogriff Hagrid kept, the one that attacked you when Malfoy and you fled from Hogwarts?"

Snape nodded darkly.

"He must have seen you aiming your wand at me," continued Harry. "He might even have recognised you. Trying to save me, he flew at you the same moment Voldemort uttered the death curse."

"The Hippogriff died?" Snape asked incredulously.

"The curse must have hit him instead of you."

"How disappointing," Snape sneered.

"Hagrid was desperate ..." Harry said, grinning again. Somehow, he felt strangely elated, in spite of the sad topic and the gloomy Potions master's presence. One of Luna's Wrackspurts must have hit him, there was no other possible explanation. "But Buckbeak got a nice funeral - and an Order of Merlin, First Class!"

"You are joking, Potter!"

"No, sir," said Harry. "Oh, I almost forgot," he added, suppressing another mischievous grin, "here is yours, sir." Harry put a small package with a red ribbon on the table. "You missed the ceremony, though, I'm afraid. And," again he rummaged through his pockets, finally producing a sealed roll of parchment, "this is for you, too. A copy of Professor Dumbledore's will. Looks as if he left all his earthly belongings to you, including a vault full of lemon drops." Harry had to bite his tongue in order not to laugh out loud at Snape's look of utter incredulity.

The door opened and a nurse stuck her head through the gap, most probably saving Harry from a scathing remark. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but visiting hour's over, I'm afraid. Mr Snape needs his rest."

"All right," Harry let the roll of parchment drop on the bed within easy reach for the sick wizard and stood up from his chair. "I'd better go." He turned to leave, but stopped again and fished another package from his pocket. "Professor McGonagall asked me to deliver some get well cards from the Order if you were well enough, and from -"

"Mr Potter, please." The nurse had appeared again and was now holding the door wide open for Harry to follow her out.

Harry dropped the stack of cards on the nightstand and made for the door. "See you around, Professor," he said and slipped through the door, shutting it silently behind him.

Snape scowled. Obnoxious boy, he wasn't his professor anymore. Or was he? After all, Harry hadn't finished his NEWT classes yet due to the war. He didn't intend to come back to Hogwarts? Merlin forbid! Snape sighed heavily and closed his eyes. Another year of teaching the brat. He felt a bad headache building behind his temples. Although, the boy hadn't missed a single 'sir' today, he had to admit, there might still be hope ...

He sighed again. This had certainly been a most enlightening visit. Obviously, he was not only alive against all odds, cleared from all charges and in the good graces of the-boy-who-lived-to-kill-Voldemort, but was the owner of an Order of Merlin, First Class, and the sole heir of Albus Dumbledore. Who would have thought of this? Certainly not him. And now his nightstand was filling with get well cards – soon it might even be Chocolate Frogs or Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans ... He shuddered at the thought. Glancing over at the nightstand, his gaze fell upon a card that had sat there for several days already, and his expression softened. It was a Muggle card from New Zealand with a Mountain Parrot on it – from Draco and Narcissa. With his help, they had left the country shortly after Dumbledore's death and were posing as Muggles now on the other side of the world, safe from both Aurors and Death Eaters. In a few years they might be able to come back ...

Wearily, Snape picked up the stack of cards from the Order. Not that he was interested in their inane scribbling, but there might be some important information in it that Potter had conveniently forgotten to tell him about ...

The topmost envelope was addressed to 'The most courageous wizard of all times'. He sneered at the title. They weren't making fun of him? Inside the envelope was a card with a bubbling cauldron whose surface was incessantly forming the words 'Get well soon'. Luckily, it was not a singing cauldron ... He turned the card over. There was only one short sentence and a signature. The sneer vanished from his gaunt face and a faint and genuine smile began to play around Snape's thin lips as he read the words:

Herewith I declare that James Potter was a big-headed, arrogant git,

Harry Potter


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Enjoyed it? Please leave a review, I need to know what you think of the ending! If you missed a romance for our dear Potions master, then imagine him on his recuperation holiday at the beach where he meets a certain Hannah Hannigan ... (switch over to cecelle's 'Mist and Vapors', you have to imagine only a few minor changes, then it fits perfectly to my story, LOL).

There will be a little one-shot companion piece up shortly, Severus and Lily in the Potions classroom ...

And unfortunately, this will be the last one for a long time since school starts again soon and I won't have the time to write anymore, sigh. If you liked my story and are interested in more Snape-centered fics, you might want to have a look at my older stories (if you haven't read them already), although they are pretty much AU now. 'Trapped' has a lot of Snape-torture and hurt/care, as has 'Shedding One's Soul', a pre-canon fic. And there are a couple of one-shots, too. Have fun reading!

And thanks again for reading and reviewing!

Persephone Lupin