After I quit my apprenticeship with Severus, the rest of the school year passed torturously slow. Though I was slightly sad to have to give up my degree in Potions instruction, it was a little easier to simply focus on my Herbology work and not have to pretend to be "normal" around Severus in class. Even though I was no longer his apprentice, I ended up seeing more of Severus than I had in the past, since I now slept with him in his rooms every night, only returning to my own to change clothes and exit into the rest of the castle. I moved Caligula into the dungeons with me permanently as well, telling him that if he so much as unsheathed a claw anywhere away from his scratching post, he would find himself bald for the rest of his life. This he accepted grudgingly, and Severus's valuable possessions were spared. As for Caligula himself, he resentfully tolerated Severus, but let him know that he was still the alpha male with every strutting pass he made around the parlour.
Though for Severus and me things were practically perfect at first, trouble soon descended on the school once more. Right after the students returned from their Easter break, Hermione Granger and Penelope Clearwater were both petrified when the attacks around the school unfortunately resumed. That night Professor Dumbledore was forced to step aside as headmaster by an order from the school governors, though Severus commented he was sure Lucius Malfoy had forced their acquiescence to suit his own agenda. And as if that wasn't horrible enough, Hagrid was actually arrested and brought to Azkaban on the charge of being the one who released Slytherin's monster. Severus explained to me later that night that when the Chamber of Secrets had been opened fifty years ago, Hagrid had been blamed then as well and expelled. The boy who'd supposedly caught him later became the Dark Lord himself. Though it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that Hagrid had been framed before, he'd never been formally exonerated and thus was forced to be the Ministry's scapegoat in this time of trouble. I hoped with all of my heart that the real perpetrator would soon be caught, and we could have both Hagrid and Professor Dumbledore back with us once more.
The rest of April and May passed edgily, every day bringing the fear that perhaps today would be the time when someone was actually killed. Our worst fears were almost brought into reality when the monster of Slytherin snatched little Ginny Weasley and stole her away into the so-called Chamber of Secrets. Ginny's disappearance sombrely capped an otherwise wonderful day; that morning I'd assisted Professor Sprout as she harvested the mandrakes. As the evening passed, tense as a bowstring, I helped Severus brew the Mandrake Draught to restore the petrified students while we waited to hear the worst about Ginny.
I'm not sure exactly how everything unfolded, but by the end of the night, not only was Ginny back with us and perfectly safe (saved by her brother Ron and Harry Potter), but Professor Dumbledore was also reinstated as headmaster, Hagrid was released from Azkaban, and Lockhart somehow ended up with all of his memories erased. From what I'd garnered from the few words of conversation I held with him before he was shipped off to Saint Mungo's—which mainly consisted of him asking me repeatedly what was my name again, and was I, hopefully, his girlfriend—I found the change to be a definite improvement. That night everyone in the castle stayed up until the early hours of the morning for an impromptu feast, the highlight of the festivities being the sight of the once petrified students running into the Great Hall to join their classmates in their celebration.
Though, as a treat for making it through such an arduous year, the students were excused from their final exams, I was not. At the end of June, just before the conclusion of the final term, I had my final evaluation with Professor Sprout, where I had to teach a day of Herbology lessons on my own. Professor Sprout told me at the end of the final class that I had passed with the highest marks she'd ever awarded an apprentice. Since the following day was a Saturday, Severus and I stayed up all night celebrating the conclusion of at least one of my apprenticeships by drinking sparkling cider and pretending we were drunk; since my expectant condition disallowed alcohol, Severus abstained as well so I wouldn't feel left out.
Finally the school year ended, and all of the students were shipped off back to their homes across Great Britain. The following day I returned to my own home in Nova Scotia by successfully Apparating all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. That afternoon I had a very long sit-down with my mom and told her everything that'd happened to me over the past ten months. At first she was furious I hadn't told her straight away about Severus and my pregnancy, but she eventually calmed down and admitted that she'd much preferred hearing about it this way as opposed to in a letter. As we'd arranged before I left the school, Severus arrived the next morning to meet my mom and my grandparents. After a week of visiting other relatives and showing Severus around my hometown, we both returned to Hogwarts to begin preparations for our wedding. Professor Dumbledore kindly allowed me to remain in residence in my old rooms at the castle, though of course, I hardly ever actually slept there, and he also happily consented to our wish of being married on the school grounds near the lake.
Severus and I decided to buy a house in Hogsmeade since he couldn't stomach the thought of living in Greyadder House just yet, and it wouldn't really be appropriate for me to live in the school with a small child. We assumed the arrangement would work out well enough since I could visit Severus every evening I wanted, and we could live together in town the entire summer. However, we'd just begun our house hunt when we heard that Sirius Black, a convicted mass-murderer, had escaped from Azkaban. Since Severus admitted that Black was one of his enemies from his school days, and we also received word Dementors were going be patrolling Hogsmeade once the term started to "protect" the school, we decided it would be safest for me to live in the castle after all. Professor Dumbledore granted us permission immediately, so we put off purchasing a house until a later date.
After what seemed like a century of waiting, Severus and I were finally married on August the twenty-first. The ceremony was small and intimate with only our closest friends, colleagues, and my family in attendance. In a moment of whimsy, I'd written to the parents of Nan Cobble and Luna Lovegood to ask their permission for the pair to be my flower-girls. The parents had consented, though slightly confused, I'm sure, as to why I'd favour those two students over all the others, but I just couldn't think of anyone better for the job. During the ceremony, Luna and Nan walked side-by-side down the white carpet, Nan throwing rose petals like they were grenades and Luna too distracted with watching the clouds above her to remember to drop any flowers at all from her own basket. As I peeked out of my pavilion, I laughed so hard watching both them and Severus's pained expression as they approached him, that I had to quickly Vanish and reapply my mascara so I wouldn't look like a raccoon from bawling tears of hilarity.
Once I began my own procession down the aisle, all thoughts evaporated from my mind as I walked toward Severus, who looked criminally handsome in his black dress robes. I barely remember the actual ceremony, and I have no idea what vows I spoke. All I remember is being held transfixed by the glimmering grey of Severus's eyes and the moment when they blinked out, and I found myself kissing him to the uproarious delight of the crowd.
During the reception I took a minute to escape from the well-wishers to seek out Nan. After traipsing around half of the lakeside with my dress hitched up to save the hem from mud, I found Nan sitting by herself on the shore of the great watery expanse. She hadn't bothered to protect her dress, and I could see a damp spot working its way through the viridian dupioni up her back. She, however, seemed completely unbothered by it and was amusing herself by throwing petit fours into the lake. Knowing by now that asking what she was doing would probably not explain it, I simply walked up to her. Deciding a little mud never really hurt anyone, especially a bride who was now as proficient in magic as I was, I plopped down on the wet sand next to Nan.
"Hi, Mistress Asphodel!" Nan said with a huge grin. I don't think she quite understood just yet that that wasn't my name anymore.
"Hi, Nan," I replied, watching as she resumed her overhand lobbing of desserts as far as she could into the water.
"Nan, I need to ask you something," I said.
"Uh huh!" Nan had run out of petit four ammunition, so she turned to face me.
"Do you remember a few months ago, when you saw me in the library and told me, 'He's going to be ok,' a few times?" I hoped in her delightful vapidity, she hadn't forgotten what I was talking about.
Fortunately, she instantly said, "Yup!"
"Who was the 'he' you were referring to?" I asked.
Nan rolled her huge, brown eyes melodramatically and replied with pretend exasperation, "Professor Snape, of course! And he is ok, just like I told you. See?"
I smiled, Nan's exuberance charming me like it always did.
"And how exactly did you know that?" I asked lightly, smoothing the cream tissue silk of my skirt to give my hands something to do while I anticipated her answer.
Nan smiled brightly and replied, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, "I dreamt about it, so it had to be true!"
I'm sure with anyone else, her reply would've raised a few eyebrows and probably sent some fingers circling around ears. Perhaps Nan was used to this sort of response to statements of hers, for her shining eyes seemed to be hiding a fear of yet another adult refusing to take her seriously. She hugged her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them while gazing out across the brilliant blue expanse. I reached out and took Nan's hand in mine.
"I believe you. Thank you so much, Nan, for telling me that when you did," I said solemnly. With my words Nan's effervescent mood suddenly returned, and she beamed at me.
Realizing Severus would probably be wondering where I'd disappeared to, I stood and Vanished the mud from my skirt with my wand, which I had stashed in the hollow busk of my dress's corseted bodice (I was starting to "show" without that little bit of couture magic). Neither Severus nor myself went anywhere without our wands these days. Nan waved me goodbye as I made to start back up the path to the reception tents.
But after just a few steps, I turned around and asked worriedly, "Have you told your parents about your dreams?"
Nan nodded vigorously, the motion jostling a thick tangle of curls free from her barely contained braid. "Oh, of course! They think my dreams are really cool!"
I nodded in satisfaction. "Good," I said simply then began the treacherous climb back up the path, my high satin heels slipping more than once on the smooth pebbles.
When I had crested the top of the hill, Nan's distant shout of, "Hi hi!" brought my attention back to the lake. I was just in time to see a huge, pink tentacle wave at where I knew Nan to be sitting before dropping back underwater with a crashing splash. Nan's joyful cry of, "WOO HOO!" stayed with me in my heart long after I re-joined my husband at our party.
After the wedding Severus and I had a scant week to honeymoon in Paris before he had to return to the school to quickly pull things together for the coming year. On the evening following our amazing wedding night, as Severus and I were strolling idly through the Tuileries after an evening at the Opera he'd insisted upon, I realized it was exactly one year to the day since I'd crashed into him in the upper hallways of St. Mungo's Hospital. I couldn't believe it was only a year ago when I'd met Severus, and now here we were, walking hand and hand as husband and wife. I knew that if I were somehow able to go back in time and talk to myself that afternoon following Severus's London lecture, my past-self would probably laugh in my own face if told that within a year, I would be married to the man I'd just mortified myself in front of.
Our honeymoon passed painfully quickly, and before we knew it, a new school year at Hogwarts had begun. Since I was no longer a staff member, I didn't feel right attending meals in the Great Hall, although Professor Dumbledore had graciously invited me to. Therefore, I was not present at the Welcoming Feast when Professor Dumbledore stated offhandedly, after introducing Professor Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and a Mr. Sebastian Irons, the new Ancient Runes apprentice, that, incidentally, over the summer I had wed Professor Snape and that the students were to refrain from bothering me while I was staying in the castle. At this announcement, Severus recalled to me later, a couple of the boys who'd apparently been rather in love with me last year sputtered loudly in protest. Since there wasn't much for me to do, stuck in the castle without a job, I took to hanging out in the library and helping students with their homework like I had in the past, completely happy with them "bothering" me after all.
Severus turned out to be just the sort of over-protective father-to-be that I'd figured he would. He had at first insisted that I go to weekly check-ups with Madam Pomfrey but, between her and me, Severus was finally convinced that once a month was plenty sufficient. After Sirius Black broke into the castle over Halloween, Severus didn't want me to even leave the dungeons without him. That I immediately put a stop to, informing him that I was not going to remain stuck in our rooms while he was in class all day, and if I could manage a Revenant on my own, then I could certainly handle a simple homicidal maniac. Again Severus relented, and until I grew too big with the baby to even want to walk around, I kept up my usual wanderings around the castle and grounds.
Though I enjoyed every minute of my pregnancy (at least in hindsight), around the end of the eighth month, I couldn't wait to get the baby out of me. There isn't much magic can do when a baby is adamant that your ribs make wonderful footrests. Finally, the happy day came, and in the early, first hours of the New Year, Armand Charles Snape was born at Hogwarts. He was delivered by Hortense Alden, who was still practicing her excellent midwifery in Hampshire and had helped my own husband enter this world. I was able to stave off the utter exhaustion following his delivery long enough to give Armand his first nursing before I dropped off into sweet unconsciousness, my newborn son cuddled by my side.
I slept for several hours, and the first thing that greets my eyes upon opening is the sight of Severus brushing back the few wisps of black hair from our son's forehead and kissing him there lightly. I keep my head slack against the pillow, content to simply watch them for a while, my heart overflowing with joy and contentedness.
But mixed in with those wonderful feelings is the slightest dash of fear. Severus is concerned that Black's escape from Azkaban might be a herald of the Dark Lord returning to power. Even now he occasionally feels a twinge of pain from the Dark Mark on his arm, as though it's fighting to break free to the surface. Whispers from Severus's former Death Eater contacts hint that the Dark Lord is seeking followers to help restore him to his former strength. And, if he succeeds, what will be Severus's fate? Will he have to return to his previous role as a spy to ensure our safety from the Dark Lord's vengeance?
Brushing those painful thoughts aside, I force myself to breathe in every detail of this moment so it will live in my memory forever. As though sensing I'm awake, tiny Armand turns his storm-grey eyes toward me and blinks thoughtfully for a beat before bursting into ferocious tears. I laugh as Severus starts at the sudden eruption and gesture for him to bring the baby over, so I can appease his hunger once more. As I nurse Armand, Severus lies down beside me on our bed and wraps an arm around my shoulders while resting his head against mine. I don't know what the future will bring, but I know that for now, for this one moment, there is nothing more in the world that I need.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for following Avrille and Severus all the way to the end. But it's not really the end, is it? Due to popular demand and my own desire to wrap up their story more completely, Severus's and Avrille's story continues in my completed sequel, Nothing Else Matters, which takes the pair through to the end of Deathly Hallows.
If you haven't done so already, I would love to receive a review on how you liked the story. Just a sentence or so will do! Reviews mean so much to me. I put four years into this story and two and a half into its successor, so could you spare me a couple seconds? Thanks a million, and please recommend the story to anyone you know who might enjoy it as well! If you have any questions or comments, I have a Meet The Author thread over at the forums. A link to it can be found on my author page. ~Renny