Chapter 44 ~ Epilogue

Hermione awoke in a snoring Severus' arms, the sun just rising over the horizon. He had both arms wrapped around her, and she was pulled against his body, facing him.

She couldn't move.

What had awakened her was the sound of gurgling. Heavy gurgling as if a water tower were leaking out a large amount of water. If she were going to investigate, she'd have to wake the sleeping wizard. She wriggled a little.

"Severus," she said softly.

The wizard's dark eyes opened and rested on her for a moment, then she felt a throb against her belly as the rest of him woke up. He tightened his hold on her, pressing his erection against her. Then he attempted to roll on top of her, his intentions clear.

Who needed stars?

"Severus!" Hermione exclaimed, kicking out her leg to stop him.

"Watch it," Severus growled at her, thinking his goods were in danger.

"Stop being so randy and listen," Hermione hissed at him.

Scowling, Severus did just that, then suddenly released Hermione, sitting up and looking toward the oasis. The loud gurgling noise was coming from behind a clump of bushes.

He climbed over Hermione and picked up his robes, searching through it for his wand. He quickly Scourgified himself as Hermione slid out of the bed and quickly pulled on her skirt and tied her halter loosely. Her robes and wand were still where she left them last night, out past the last torch. She moved closer to Severus, following him. The wizard was fully dressed now and cautiously moving through the foliage surrounding the water.

He crouched, and Hermione crouched behind him, trying to see over his shoulder as he parted a few broad leaves as he peered out.

He blinked, then stood up and walked through the foliage.

"What is it?" Hermione hissed.

"A camel getting a drink," Snape replied as he walked up on the beast, which was thirstily drinking down a huge amount of water.

"Oh," Hermione sighed, walking up to the dromedary. Its flank had a little hairless scar on it.

"Oh, this is our camel!" she exclaimed as the beast finished drink and looked at her and Snape dully. "See, that's where I healed it. The hair won't grow back."

"We don't have a camel," Snape said, walking back toward the ottoman. He was starving.

"Come with me," Hermione told the camel, who grunted at her as she took the rope. It stalled as she tried to lead it through the palm trees.

"Come along," Hermione hissed, jerking on the rope, much as Haruun had when the camel stalled at entering the narrow alley. There was the same result, Hermione falling on her bum and nearly getting stepped on as the camel suddenly moved forward. She scrambled out of the way, her naked arse showing for a moment.

"Bloody camel," she hissed leading the beast back through the foliage to find a scowling Severus standing near the table where all the fruit had been the night before.

It was gone.

The wizard looked at the camel.

"Apparently, it ate before it drank," he said as Hermione released the camel and walked a little distance to where her carry-all rested in the sand. She pulled out her wand and her clothing, Scourgifying herself quickly and getting dressed.

She walked back to Severus, who asked, "You didn't happen to pack the cornucopia with you, did you?"

"No, I didn't think we'd need it," she replied.

The camel stared at them stupidly.

"I don't think it knows how to get back home, Severus. We're going to have to drop it off," Hermione said, catching hold of the rope.

Snape thought he might leave it here. Not only had it interrupted morning coitus, it had eaten all the food. Death was too good for it. But, there was Hermione, holding the rope and looking expectant. Snape knew where the camel merchant's location was, so with a sigh he walked up to Hermione and took her arm.

"Very well," he said shortly, then suddenly leaned in and kissed her. It wasn't a long kiss, but it was a very nice one. He pulled back, looking a bit awkward.

"I'll have to get used to doing that without expecting any further activity," he told her softly.

Hermione smiled at him.

"You certainly will. Not every kiss leads to sex," she informed him.

"I know. More's the pity," the Potions master replied tersely, then they all, including the camel, Disapparated.

The ungrateful camel dragged Hermione about thirty feet as it fled after reappearing in the desert several hundred yards away from the merchant camp. Once again traumatized by Apparition, it recognized its surroundings and made a beeline for the camel stalls.

Hermione left a trail in the sand, yelling "whoa!" at the camel as she tried to release her hand from the doubled over rope while Snape looked on in amusement. She looked as if she were water skiing, but in the sand as she skidded along.

He could have helped her, but then again, she could have helped his morning erection, gurgling or not. He watched her break free and flop face first into the sand. She got up spluttering, brushing sand from her robes and face, then shaking her fist at the long-gone camel.

"Stupid, bloody camel. I should have left you there," she hissed walking over to Severus and taking his arm with a bit of attitude.

"Get us back to the hotel," she griped.

He smirked at her, cast a Silencing spell around them this time and did just that.

Hermione, Snape and Haruun Malik Snape boarded the airplane heading back to England.

Yes, Haruun Malik Snape. Adopting him wasn't anything the Potions master intended, but he snapped, so now, he had a son. He didn't exactly acquire him legally—well he did—in a way. It depends on one's outlook.

Here's the short version.

The day before they were supposed to leave Egypt, Snape, Hermione and Haruun went to the consulate to pick up Haruun's papers so the boy could accompany them. Snape had made his application months ago and believed they had gone through.

When he requested the paperwork, they were taken to an office where Snape received the third degree.

"I was told it would be a simple matter to take the boy. He's an orphan after all," Snape said angrily to the rotund man sitting behind the desk in a vest and fez. He looked a lot like Mr. Answany, which didn't help matters in the least.

"We have concerns, Mr. Snape. Firstly, the boy is Muslim. How do we know he will be free to practice his faith with you?"

Snape snorted.

"Easily. I am completely godless. He could worship a dragon's business end if he wanted to do so. It makes no difference to me," the wizard snapped.

Hermione groaned. Severus wasn't making a good case for himself. Being godless was not a shining symbol of good character.

"Secondly, we have no references as to your character. Your financial status is more than adequate, but we are not in the habit of selling our young boys to rich foreigners. Rich, unmarried foreigners."

Hermione winced as Snape looked outraged.

"What are you implying?" he snarled.

The man didn't look the least bit frightened, although he should have.

"Nothing, Mr. Snape, but traffic in young boys for sex goes on every day. You cannot take Haruun until you meet certain qualifications. It would be easier to adopt the boy than assume guardianship."

Snape stared at the man. Haruun didn't say a word, but looked upset as he leaned against Hermione, who had her arm around his shoulder protectively.

"Fine, I'll adopt him, then," Snape said.

Hell, he was going to be responsible for him anyway. Haruun perked up immediately, a huge smile breaking out on his face. Mr. Snape wasn't going to leave him.

"All right. Go back out to the office and fill out the paperwork. You will be called in for an interview in about four months."

That's when Snape went berserk and Imperio'd everyone, from the clerk who gave him the paperwork, to the scheduler, to the board that examined backgrounds, to the judges that signed the paperwork and anyone else that had anything to do with adoptions.

Hermione and Haruun followed him silently as he went from place to place, finding out the next step in the process and where it had to be done and heading there, flicking spells like water until he had the adoptions papers stamped, sealed, filed and legal.

"Blasted bureaucracy," he growled as he strode ahead of them, heading back to the hotel, Haruun wearing a bright smile.

Snape was his father now.

"I believe in spanking," he informed Haruun.

"It is better than hexing my bottom," the boy replied with a smile.

"I still believe in that, too," the dark wizard said.

But Snape could have said he believed in the death penalty and Haruun wouldn't have lost that delighted smile. Hermione couldn't lose hers either. Severus hadn't hesitated when told it would be easier to adopt the young Egyptian. He was already committed to him and didn't intend to leave him behind. If it took magic to get him to England, then that was what had to get him there.

They sat in coach on the flight back, Snape irritated because Haruun kept leaning over him to look out the window and dropping peanut casings on his robes. Hermione was in the aisle seat.

"Should I call you 'father' or 'papa?'" Haruun asked him brightly.

Snape scowled down at him and Hermione hid her grin behind her hand as the dour wizard eyed the boy.

"You can call me 'Professor.' It's easier on the ear," Snape said tightly. "My ear."

"All right, Professor," Haruun said, then yawned and rested his head on Snape's shoulder.

Snape glowered at him, but to no effect. Haruun's eyes were closed. Snape continued to look down at the boy for a few seconds, and then looked over at Hermione, who was giving him a tender look. Snape's glower grew blacker and he quickly looked out the window as if something very interesting were out there. But he didn't move Haruun's head.

Since they had a few months before the new term at Hogwarts started, they had to decide what to do while waiting for Haruun to get his letter.

Hermione intended to go home to her parents, find temporary employment and rent her own flat. Snape blew a torch right at the airport.

"What? You come home from an adventure and go home to mummy and daddy?" the wizard seethed at her, snatching her luggage out of her hand. "That's—that's insane and juvenile! Have some pride!"

Hermione scowled at him.

"Severus, I don't have money like you do. I have to work with what I've got!" she informed him, grabbing at her bag. Snape held it out of reach.

Haruun sat on a bench with his chin resting in his hands, looking bored. He was used to them arguing. He wished they would hurry up. There was a whole new country to explore.

Snape stared at Hermione, realizing she was right. He had made arrangements to provide for her while they were traveling, but he hadn't thought about what she'd do when they had stopovers in England between adventures.

"Well—well I have work for you to do," Snape told her. "The next journey has to be planned and the details taken care of. I am letting you choose the next potion to look for, so you'll have plenty to keep you busy."

"And where am I supposed to live?" Hermione asked him pointedly.

Snape swallowed and actually ran his finger around his collar, looking a little paler than usual.

"With me," he said softly, then amended the statement. "With me and Haruun. You seem to be able to handle him better than I do."

Hermione blinked up at him.

"You want me to—to live with you and Haruun?" she asked him.

Snape cleared his throat.

"It makes sense. I have to rent a flat, after all. What difference would it make if it were two-bedroom or three-bedroom?" he asked her rather harshly.

"And what would I do for money?" she asked him.

"Same arrangements as when we travel. I'll recoup my expenditures eventually," Snape replied.

Eventually? Hermione stared at him and Snape's face turned expressionless, which meant he was trying to hide something. And that something was that he wanted Hermione with him. He didn't want to beg, however.

Hermione gave him a small smile.

"I'd prefer two-bedroom," she said softly.

Hermione and Haruun were walking in Diagon Alley, heading for Knockturn Alley to pick up some potions ingredients for Severus, who had gone back to brewing during the interim, sprucing up supplies for their next trip.

"Now, Haruun, stay close to me. Knockturn Alley is very dangerous," she told the boy, who pulled out his wand. It was a real wand attuned to him, purchased from Ollivander's. Ollivander's daughter ran it now. She was a pretty woman with strange, moon-colored eyes.

"I will cut them down if they try anything!" Haruun declared, swishing his wand around dangerously.

"Haruun, stop doing that!" Hermione chided him. "You might accidentally hex someone! Put it away."

Haruun did, but he remained in battle mode. He hoped someone did try something. He was anxious to have a real duel. The professor had taught him some very nasty spells. He didn't tell Hermione about half of them, knowing she wouldn't approve. But Snape told Haruun he was a Snape, so he was expected to act like a Snape and Snapes cast very nasty spells on those who challenged them.

"Hermione? Is that you?" a voice said behind her.

Hermione turned to see Ron standing there. Susan was with him and they were holding hands.

"Hi, Ron," Hermione said with a smile as he looked her over.

"Hello, Hermione," Susan said, looking a little uncomfortable.

"Hi, Susan," Hermione said, giving the plump caterer a smile.

Susan looked up at Ron.

"Ron, I'm going to go ahead to the store and look for that new self-cleaning pan, all right? Come along when you're done. It was good seeing you, Hermione."

"Bye, Susan," Hermione replied as the witch walked past her.

Haruun was sizing Ron up. He had red hair, freckles and very blue eyes. The boy felt him to be very strange looking. He should have seen the rest of the Weasleys.

"Wow, you're dark, Hermione," Ron commented, taking in her tan.

"The Egyptian sun," she replied. "I was out in it a lot."

"So, how was it?" he asked her a bit awkwardly.

"Exciting. Dangerous. Sobering," she replied.

Ron's eyes shifted to Haruun, who was looking back at him. For some reason, the boy didn't like Ron. There was something too familiar in the way he addressed Hermione, and Hermione was his father's woman. Plus, in Egypt, single men weren't supposed to address single women in such a way. It was fine for Snape and Hermione; they were already together, but this? Haruun stuck his chest out a bit.

"Who is this?" Ron asked her.

"I am Haruun Malik Snape," Haruun said proudly. "And who are you?"

"Haruun!" Hermione exclaimed at the challenge in the boy's voice.

Ron looked stunned. Snape? Did he say he was a Snape?

"Me? I'm Ron Weasley," he told the boy. "I'm an old friend of Hermione's."

Haruun cocked his head at him.

"How old?" he asked him, his dark eyes now drifting over Ron as if to judge if he were worthy to be Hermione's friend.

"We went to school together," Ron replied.

"I see. All right. You may continue to talk to her," Haruun said as Hermione stared at him in disbelief. "I will look at the owls."

And with that, Haruun walked over to the Owl Emporium and started looking at the beautiful caged birds.

Ron looked at Hermione incredulously.

"Snape? Snape has a son?" he asked Hermione.

"It's a long story, but yes, he adopted him. He'll be attending Hogwarts in the fall," she replied.

Ron shook his head.

"Snape as a dad? He's going to be one screwed up little bloke," he said in a low voice.

Hermione scowled.

"He'll be fine. Severus has been around children all his life. None of them came out any worse for wear. He's just strict," she said in his defense.


Hermione blushed slightly and suddenly, Ron knew everything. He felt a little pulse of something, but he couldn't identify what it was. Maybe disgust. Whatever. He had Susan and was very happy with her. If Hermione had gone blind and fallen under Snape's dark spell, that was her choice.

"So, how long are you going to be in England?" Ron asked her.

"Until Haruun is settled in Hogwarts. Then we're off again."

"Where are you going this time?"

"The Himalayas. There is supposed to be a sacred tribe of Yeti hidden in the mountains, protected by the monks. We're going to try and find out where they are located and if they have a potion that stops time. It's believed they do, the way they can appear and disappear so quickly."

Ron shook his head.

"The Himalayas. Pretty cold area," he said shortly.

"After Egypt, I look forward to a bit of cold weather. You can wrap yourself up against the cold. There's little you can do against the heat except cast temporary cooling spells."

An awkward and uncomfortable silence fell between them. Then Ron addressed the elephant standing on the sidewalk with them.

"Ah, I'm with Susan now. She's a caterer. A really nice witch," he said to Hermione. "And she loves the Chudley Canons."

Hermione gave him a smile then, and he smiled back at her.

"It sounds like a really good match, Ron. Food and Quidditch? She sounds perfect."

Ron nodded.

"She is, Hermione," he told her softly. "I guess everyone isn't destined to be together, even if they think they should be."

"No, Ron, they're not," she agreed. "But the good thing is friends can always stay friends—"

Ron blinked.

"Yeah," he said.

Hermione looked up at him warmly, then walked into him, giving him a hug.

Ron was surprised, but then he smiled, patting Hermione's back. The hug felt comfortable. Right. Almost the way hugs used to feel when they were friends in school. Of course, there was a little residual protectiveness, but that was to be expected. Ron still cared for her after all, and Hermione cared for him. She always would.

They separated.

"Hey, maybe you can come to the Three Broomsticks this weekend. Harry and Ginny will be there. You can even bring Snape—if you absolutely have to," Ron quipped, grinning. "But tell him to leave that black cloud that follows him everywhere at the door."

Hermione scowled at the redhead.

"Ronald Weasley, you haven't changed at all. Professor Snape is a fine wizard," she started in, Ron grinning at her until she stopped and shook her head.

"I guess some things don't change, do they?" she asked him softly

"No, but some things do, and for the better," Ron replied, looking toward the shop Susan was in. "And I have to go. I want to make sure Susan buys a pot large enough to make decent portions."

Same old Ron.

"All right. It was good seeing you, Ron," she said to the wizard.

"You, too, Hermione. Don't forget about the Three Broomsticks," he said walking away, waving.

"I won't," she said, waving after him.

She watched as he turned into the shop, then let out a sigh. She felt as if a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. That final bit of guilt she felt at leaving Ron. But he had bounced back and found someone else, someone more in line with what he wanted. Hermione hoped he'd be very happy with Susan.

"You embraced him. The professor wouldn't like that," Haruun suddenly piped up. His arms were tightly folded in the same manner his father folded his when displeased.

Hermione gave him a smile.

"Haruun, in the Western world, it is all right for men and women to embrace. I'm not breaking any laws," she told him as they started walking.

"Well, you should be," the boy said jealously.

Hermione ruffled Haruun's hair as she turned into Knockturn Alley, at last feeling that everything, absolutely everything was right in her world—and her life was finally what it should be.


A/N: And thank you for reading Yuleride! ***