Epilogue

Because of the changes in the timeline, the ages of Harry's children do not go along with Canon.

Hermione awoke to a presence at the side of her bed. The dark form was sniffling. Hermione opened her eyes and looked to her five year old daughter.

"Emily, what's wrong?" she asked.

"I had a bad dream," the little girl sniffed.

"Oh. Do you want to talk about it?" Hermione asked.

She could barely make out the distinct shaking of the girl's head in the dark.

"Come here," Hermione soothed.

She reached out and took her daughter by the waist and hoisted her onto the bed, over her body and in between Severus and her. Emily's straight dark blonde hair fell over Hermione's face as she lifted her over herself. Severus shifted a little and cracked his eyes open.

"Emily, why are you in our bed?" he asked his child.

"I had a bad dream, Daddy."

"Did you want to talk about it, sweetie?" Severus asked her.

Her tiny arms encircled her father and she said everything hurriedly.

"Mommy was walking out by the lake and the squid grabbed her and dragged her into the water!"

Severus rubbed Emily's back.

"It's okay, Emmie. It was only a dream. You know dreams are not real."

Emily sniffed. "I know," she said quietly.

Severus kissed the top of her head.

"Do you feel better?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Are you ready to go back to bed now?"

She nodded.

"Do you want me to tuck you back in?"

She shook her head. "Mommy do it."

Hermione smiled to herself as she dragged herself out of bed. She extended her hand and took her daughter back to her room and securely tucked her in again for the night. She returned to bed, expecting to find Severus back asleep, but he wrapped his arm around her when she laid back down.

"All better?" he asked.

"She was asleep before I pulled the covers over her."

Hermione pulled herself closer to Severus and put her arm over his chest. She was just falling back to sleep when there were urgent wails heard in the next room. She cracked her eyes open and moaned.

"I'll get him," Severus told her.

"He's probably hungry, Severus," she mumbled.

"Leave everything to me," he assured her.

She was back to sleep before he left the room.

Going quietly into the baby's room, Severus stared down into the crib at his wailing son. The little black haired boy wiggled and his face crunched up in annoyance as he cried.

Severus reached in and lifted the little boy out of the crib, immediately quieting him. Severus sat the boy in the crook of his arm and looked at him.

"What's all the hubbub about, Sebastian?"

The baby smiled at him and grabbed his nose. Severus rolled his eyes. All of their three children had had a love affair with his nose, but Sebastian put them all to shame. The boy overlooked favorite toys, pacifiers, and bottles and demanded Severus' honker. Severus wondered why they even bothered buying any toys for the eight month old little boy. He was only happy when he had a hold of Severus' nose. He even went so far as to suck on it. It was at the most inopportune times also. Severus would be overseeing a detention and his boy at the same time and little Sebastian would reach for his Dad's nose, insert it in his tiny mouth, and commence sucking and gurgling all at the same time. Of course the student would chuckle when he or she noticed. How was Severus supposed to have order when this baby made him into a laughing stock?

Severus emerged from his musings and tapped his wand over the bottle that was on the changing stand, warming it for Sebastian.

"Mom says you're hungry," he told the boy matter of factly.

Picking up the bottle, he got Sebastian into a more comfortable position and inserted the nipple into the little boy's mouth. The baby sucked greedily at the bottle.

"It would seem that your mother is right," Severus mused as he settled himself into the rocking chair between the crib and changing stand.

Sebastian pulled the bottle from his mouth and gave Severus a big grin, his black eyes meeting his father's and seeming to smile too.

"Now then, Sebastian, this isn't play time," Severus said quietly as he reinserted the bottle into the boy's mouth.

"Finish your meal and get back to sleep," he ordered.

The baby smiled at him again and reached for his nose.

"Come on, take the bottle," Severus murmured.

The baby began to suck vigorously again. Severus rocked him and watched him eat, reflecting once again on the miracle that was birth. He had watched his beautiful Hermione carry all three of their children, and had the privilege of seeing them be born. Each and every one had been a treasure to behold. He remembered holding their first child, Marcus, for the first time ten years ago. His curly black hair forming a little bush atop his head, Severus had marveled at how perfect he was, even though he had been the smallest baby Severus had ever seen. He had held the baby reverently and shown him to Hermione. She had smiled with her beautiful smile at the boy. Severus finally felt it would be possible for him to share her smile with another person on the Earth with Marcus' arrival. She was the consummate mother; kind, caring, loving, and watchful.

They had been blissfully happy before the children came along, but they had found that something they never even knew was missing had suddenly filled their lives with the arrival of Marcus.

Coming back to reality, Severus noticed that finally Sebastian's eyes had drooped shut and the bottle lay at an odd angle against Severus' chest. The little boy's mouth hung open from when he was suckling. Severus quietly rose and placed the boy back in his crib, hoping that he wouldn't awaken again. Straightening up, he quietly left the room and headed back to bed.

Severus crawled back into bed and pulled the covers over him. Hermione was facing him, but was fast asleep. He admired her as she slept. She had not seemed to age in the twelve years they had been married. Well, he knew deep down that she had, but she was still as beautiful as ever, if not more so.

As if she had sensed his staring, she cracked her eyes open at him.

"Did he need to be fed?" she asked sleepily.

Severus pushed her hair out of her face and told her yes.

"Thank you for taking him. He's kept me up for the last three nights. I don't think he'll ever sleep through the night."

"He just can't get enough of his mother," Severus mused.

"Very funny," Hermione replied before placing her arm around his chest and snuggling up to him.

They held each other in a loving embrace as they both fell back to sleep.

oooOOOooo

"Mom, Dad! It's time to get up!"

Severus groaned as his oldest child played alarm clock for them. He glanced at the real clock and noticed it was already eight in the morning. Hadn't they just been up a couple of hours ago? He felt Hermione stir next to him. She sat up.

"Come on, we have plenty to do before the picnic," she said as she hauled herself out of bed.

"I suppose," he said, frowning, as he dragged himself from the comfort of the bed. "When are we meeting Harry and Ginny?"

"At eleven o'clock. That will give the kids plenty of time to run around before we eat."

"Mm hmm," Severus mumbled as he stumbled over to the bathroom and into the shower.

He quickly disrobed and got in, letting the water course over his body, waking him up. He was letting the water hit his chest with his eyes closed, when he felt two arms encircle his waist.

"Did you want some company?" Hermione purred into his ear.

He smiled devilishly and turned around to face her, wrapping her in his arms.

"I always want your company," he quipped, before kissing her soundly.

oooOOOooo

The Snape family made their way out of Hogwarts Castle and out onto the grounds. They were headed for the lake, a picnic basket in Severus' hand.

"Come on!" Marcus demanded, "We'll be late!"

"You can't be late to a picnic, Marcus," Severus said with a roll of his eyes.

"But I can see they're there already!" the boy cried as he pointed.

"You may run along ahead if you can't be patient enough to arrive with the rest of the family."

"Thanks Dad," Marcus said and sprinted the distance between his family and the Potters, who had set a huge blanket out on the shore of the lake.

Hermione smiled after him.

"You would think he never saw them, the way he acts," she mused.

"Well, we only live in the same castle as they do, they hardly ever get a chance to see one another," Severus commented tartly.

Emily, who was holding her mom's hand, looked up at Hermione.

"Can I run ahead too?" she asked with big eyes.

Hermione laughed. "Go ahead, Emmie," she told her.

Soon the little girl was bounding after her brother.

Hermione looked to baby Sebastian, who was in her arms. "Pretty soon this one will be running right after them," she said.

"Shudder the thought! He's our last child; he can stay a baby forever as far as I'm concerned."

Hermione looked tentatively at Severus. He didn't notice her glance or look of worry because at that moment, Sebastian had made a wild dive for Severus' side. He steadied the baby with his free arm as the boy toppled toward him.

"Perhaps we should switch cargo?" Hermione asked.

"Fine," Severus said as he handed her the picnic basket and lifted Sebastian out of Hermione's arms.

Of course, the baby went straight for Severus' nose, enveloping it in his tiny mouth. Severus could feel his little tongue dance over the top of it. Perhaps he should invent a pacifier in the shape of his nose; he had never met a baby that wasn't enthralled with it.

At long last, they had made it to the blanket and the Potter family. Harry and Ginny smiled up at them and greeted them.

"Where did the kids run off to?" Hermione asked, as she looked around.

Harry pointed. "They headed in that direction."

Ginny held three year old Lily on her lap. Severus sat next to her and let baby Sebastian giggle and coo at Lily, who laughed at him.

"Baby Bastian laugh!" Lily exclaimed.

Everyone smiled at the toddler and her musings.

Suddenly all of the rest of the children came bounding up, eleven year old James in the lead, closely followed by Marcus, a ten year old Albus, and Emily, who was struggling to keep up with the older kids. They had been ignoring her the whole time, and she decided to plop down on the blanket and play with Lily instead. She got up in Lily's face and started saying nonsense to her in her high voice.

"Mom, can we go by the edge of the Forbidden Forest?" James asked Ginny.

"James, it's called the Forbidden Forest for a reason," Ginny told him.

"We won't go in it, we promise!" James exclaimed.

His statement was followed by wide eyed nods from the other two boys.

Ginny glanced at Harry, who glanced at Severus. Severus turned to the three boys.

"You may play by the edge, but if any of you step one foot in the Forest, this outing is over, is that understood?" He looked at the boys with a stern look that would make most of his students cower at their desks. These three boys just laughed.

"Thanks Uncle Severus!" Albus said, as they turned and ran away.

Harry leaned back and watched his children run off. James was in the beginning of his first year as a Hogwarts student, and felt he knew more about the castle than any of his cousins. He was sadly mistaken, as Marcus and Albus had found just about every secret passageway that existed, even without the use of Harry's Marauder Map.

"Is James adjusting to student life?" Hermione asked. "I wish I could have him in my class already."

"He loves it," Harry mused. "He thinks he owns the place. He wants me to give him breaks in Defense, but I've told him a thousand times, he gets treated just like every other student in the class. It annoys him to no end!"

"Yes, he thinks I owe him something in Potions also. He's too much like his Grandfather," Severus said, but there was no malice in his words.

"My Dad would never expect things from you, Severus!" Ginny cried.

Severus leveled a look at her that said she was a dunderhead. "I meant his namesake, silly woman!"

"Oh, yeah, of course," Ginny said as she turned red with embarrassment.

oooOOOooo

Soon enough they had summoned the children, and everyone was digging in to lunch. Hermione picked at her sandwich, only taking a few bites before abandoning it on her plate.

"Is something wrong, love," Severus asked her. "You haven't had much of an appetite these last couple of days."

Hermione's eyebrows shot up. "Oh no, nothing. I'm just not hungry." She looked away and followed Emily, who had already finished eating, and was walking along the shore of the lake, tossing stones in as she came upon them.

The boys were talking about school. James was filling the other two's heads with horror stories of the teachers. Of course, he refrained from saying anything about Severus or Harry. That would be left for when they were out of earshot of their parents.

Soon enough the boys had finished, and had bounded off to the edge of the Forbidden Forest again. Ginny looked over to Hermione.

"So, we're thinking of having another baby," she said excitedly.

Hermione smiled at her. "Really, Ginny? Are you ready for four kids?"

"Oh, what's one more?" Ginny scoffed.

"Sleepless nights," Severus piped in, "as well as diapers that never go away, and nine months of torture while you carry around a basketball in your abdomen."

"Oh, Severus! Come on!" Ginny argued. "Yes those are all there, but what about the wonder of having a baby in the house?"

"You can have Sebastian, if you'd like. He still doesn't sleep through the night."

"He'd never survive without your nose, Severus," Harry piped in.

"Yes, of course you're right. But then you'd get a taste of what a baby is like once again. One tends to forget, when the child isn't wailing at all hours of the night, how little sleep one gets."

"Oh, Severus, you're such a party pooper sometimes!" Ginny cried.

"Well, do what you see fit, but as for Hermione and I, we are through bearing children. Isn't that right, Hermione?" He looked to Hermione in confirmation.

Hermione had been eerily quiet throughout the whole conversation. Now she just gave Severus a tight smile and looked back over at Emily.

"Emmie! You're getting a bit close to the water, hon!" she yelled to Emily.

She then quickly got up and rushed over to Emily's side, taking her hand and they began to walk around the lake. Emily looked up into her mother's face as they began their walk and got a troubled look on her own face.

"Is something wrong, Mommy?" Emily asked.

Hermione looked down in surprise. She hadn't realized her emotions had been written all over her face. Of course, that was nothing new. Severus had always accused her of wearing her heart on her sleeve and being easy to read. She, naturally, felt the same about him; they knew each other so well.

"Oh, honey, everything's fine. I'm just worried about something I need to tell your father."

"What do you need to tell him?"

Hermione flashed a smile down at her youngest. "It's a secret that I can't even tell you yet. But when the time is right, I will tell everyone, okay?"

"Is it a good secret?" Emily said eagerly.

"I think it is, but I'm not sure that Dad will be very happy," Hermione said with a new frown.

"Are we getting a dog?" Emily yelled and jumped up and down.

Hermione laughed at her lively daughter's enthusiasm. "No, sweetheart, we aren't getting a dog. Let's forget about it right now and have a nice walk."

"Okay, Mommy, if you say so. Did you know that the Merpeople keep Grindylows as pets?" Emily asked excitedly.

"Yes, I had heard that," Hermione told her daughter.

The next ten minutes were spent by Emily talking about everything that came into her head. Hermione counted the changes in conversations. They totaled fifteen. Hermione smiled at her daughter, who had her own penchant for asking questions about everything and anything. She had barely answered one question when Emily had changed subject or asked another. Hermione shook her head. Emily was surely going to be a know-it-all like her mother.

oooOOOooo

Hermione lay in bed in the dark and stared at the ceiling. Severus' rhythmic breathing was soothing to listen to, but her mind was racing a mile a minute, nonetheless. What was she going to do? She had found out yesterday she was pregnant, but they had not planned on having anymore children, and Severus was happy as a clam with that decision. His comments today at the picnic had proven that to Hermione without a doubt.

She absently felt her stomach, not that there was any sign of a baby yet, she was only about ten weeks along. She had been so involved with school that she hadn't had time to think about her body until it started fighting against her. She had awakened with a queasy stomach for the last several weeks, culminating in her throwing up the morning before and again this morning after Severus had dressed and gone to take care of Sebastian.

The throwing up had clinched it for her and she had performed the necessary spell, confirming her pregnancy. She had not told Severus, because she was unsure of his reaction. Now she was downright fearful. What would he say? He didn't want anymore children. He was sick of getting up every night to tend a baby. A tear fell from her eye and dropped down her face to the pillow. Hermione rose and left the bedroom to stare out the enchanted window in the sitting room. More tears came freely as she stared at the moon as it sat above the lake and made the water shimmer with the light from its full face.

She didn't know what to do, or how to tell him. Would he be angry? Would he pretend to be happy, but secretly be miserable? Hermione put her face in her hands and began to sob. She really didn't know what to expect from Severus. He was usually so easy going, but this was a life changing event, and he could have a terrible temper. She suddenly felt Severus' arms surrounding her and his body pressing into hers from behind.

"What's wrong, love?" Severus asked with concern.

Hermione stiffened at his presence. She hadn't meant to wake him, and now she would be forced to tell him her news. Severus turned her toward him and looked at her with concern.

"Why are you crying?"

Hermione struggled to control her tears and hormones. She looked into Severus' concerned face and felt his love for her. No matter how he would take this, she was sure he would always love her.

"I have some news for you," she said finally.

Severus tensed. "Are you sick?" he asked in fear.

Hermione smiled ruefully. "No, love, it's nothing like that."

Severus pulled her closer. "Then what has you so upset?"

"I . . . I'm . . . Oh, you're going to be angry!"

Severus' eyebrows moved together. "What am I going to be angry about?"

"It's just that, you've made your opinion perfectly clear, and we had agreed, and . . ."

"Hermione, you're not making any sense."

Hermione gave Severus a pleading look before she blurted out her secret.

"I'm pregnant."

Severus' eyes widened. "Did you just say you were pregnant?" he repeated.

Hermione blanched. "Yes."

Severus' grin was so wide; Hermione could not mistake his happiness for acting. He lifted her up and twirled her around in the air, placing her back on the ground only to envelop her in a hug and kiss her passionately. When he pulled back from her, his Cheshire cat grin was still plastered on his face.

Hermione was thoroughly confused.

"I thought we were done having children," she asked quizzically.

Severus looked to her with sudden realization. He had been spouting off all day as to how they were through with having children. Of course she had been crying her eyes out because she was expecting. He pulled her close once again.

"Oh, Hermione, I'm sorry. I've confused you considerably." He pulled her away from him so he could see her face. "We had discussed this after having Sebastian and had agreed not to have anymore, but I've always wanted more kids. I know your pregnancies are difficult and that newborns are a lot of work, so I would never ask you to have another one if you didn't want to. I was happy, even if we didn't have more, so felt fine about spouting off about never having more kids. But Hermione," he said, giving her a boyish grin, "I'm ecstatic."

Hermione laughed in relief. "Severus! I was beside myself. I thought you would hate that we were having another baby."

"Are you happy about it, love?" Severus asked her tentatively.

"I'm ecstatic too!" Hermione told him.

Severus pulled his wife to him and kissed her passionately. He thought of the last twelve years they had shared and was grateful for every minute. He had waited for her for what seemed to be forever, but she had finally come back to him. Now she was giving him another gift of her love, another child.

Severus pulled back and looked at Hermione; his life. He was happier than he ever thought possible and more so than his counterpart could have ever been, and it was all because of this beautiful witch who loved him. Leaning back into her, he kissed her again and again. He was the luckiest man alive.

The End


A/N: So there it is. Major thanks to Lilith Kayden for her wonderful beta-ing services. A huge bow and lots of hugs to you, dear reader, for sticking with this very long story. I'm sad that it has come to an end. I actually teared up as I typed 'The End' there at the end. I really didn't think it would go so quickly. I will certainly miss all of your comments and suggestions. Keep an eye out for me, I am hardly done writing. As a matter of fact, my mind has been racing with stories as of late and there is an SS/OC I have that has been waiting in the wings while I have finished this one.

I am not planning a sequel to this, for those of you who are wondering. But I never say never. Hermione may very well start beating me over the head again for another story with her Severus. Thank you all again for your interest and your kind words. I never expected this to fly like it has, but it tickles me to death that you all have loved it so.