Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything recognizable to the HP-Universe, JK Rowling does. I'm not making any money off the writing of this fanfic.
Warning: This work of fanfiction is rated Mature because of language and adult content. If you are not of the appropriate age to read this fic, please do not read any further.
WARNING: This chapter is NOT work-safe
Epilogue - Multis Post Annis
Saturdays at the Homestead were very much looked forward to by the entire household. The children enjoyed it because Hermione didn't press them to study, and Severus liked it because it was Jake and Draco's day to manage the factory. It was one of the few quiet days that they could manage the 'quality family time' that Hermione insisted on having. As Severus lay cuddled up and spooning his wife, he was looking forward to some quality adult time.
"Good morning, love," Severus rumbled, his chest pressed against her back as he plucked lightly at her taut nipples.
Somewhere under a tangle of frizz his wife mumbled, "Morning," as she reached between them to pet his straining cock.
Good morning shags might have lacked some of the passion that their evenings had, but the chance for uninterrupted private moments never went to waste. His fingers ghosted across her ribs caressing lightly as his witch pressed herself more firmly against his groin, muffling her cry with her pillow. Their room could be spelled for sound, but Hermione would not permit it. Damned witch asserted that the children should always be able to access them, being able to hear them at all times was a mandatory function of parenting.
When the heel of his palm ground into her slick folds though, she moaned with abandon. Any curious little eyes looking in through the keyhole might have thought they were playing the 'tickle game' again – the keyhole was now spelled shut.
Just as Severus had gotten his first heavenly thrust in, Charlie woke up the house.
Hermione had never forgotten he had wanted a little yellow lab as a Christmas present. As a child, the dream of a puppy to lick his face and cuddle with him had been one he'd begged Saint Nicholas to fulfill, way past the age when writing to the fat man was sensible.
When the little thing had jumped from a box, all floppy ears and oversized paws, Severus had threatened to name him Jake. Hermione had stamped her foot and thrown an adorable fit. But it was Severus' dog, and he rather thought he could choose whatever name he wanted for the the little thing that immediately piddled on their carpet. A compromise was made. He didn't name the dog Jake. She didn't name their firstborn Hugo.
Instead he named the little shit Charlie. After the ginger-haired dragon wrangler who had once dated his wife - that way he could yell at the slobbering beast all day long and feel marginally better about his innate possessive streak. He should have named the damn dog 'Coitus Interruptus.'
Severus gripped the edge of her hip, holding her close to him; he nuzzled her neck to hold on to the moment. Hermione wiped a layer of hair away from her face and turned to him.
"The boys will be up."
Severus closed his eyes in silent acknowledgement of the fact. "In three. Two."
"Mum!" a voice larger than the boy yelled. "Mummy!"
They shared a small smile as Severus turned over to stare at the ornate ceiling and relax while his erection subsided. She wouldn't allow him to walk around the house with one. Wouldn't allow him to walk around his house naked either. Damned children. When he had imagined their children, they had been better behaved.
Despite threatening several times to throw the lot of them out into the cold streets with nary a Galleon between them, they continued to live under his roof.
Grumbling, Severus Accio'd modest pajamas. There was no telling when one of them would decide to leap into bed once Hermione unlocked their door.
"What's for breakfast, Mum!" Their middle child shouted.
Hermione slowly extricated herself from their bed, reaching for clothing and her frumpy housecoat, while Severus enjoyed a bit more of a lay in. Gone were the days of waking in an orderly fashion and living on a schedule. She looked longingly back towards the bed. No, not at her lounging husband - whose erection was still very ready for her to use - but at her fluffy pillow, before greeting the two boys.
It was all very sad. His children were born with a chronic disease: they could eat him out of house and home and still ask if there was afters. His seven year old, Gideon, the scrawny thing, was born with a hollow leg. Severus had believed Hermione that it was an honest affliction until his research into a cure had turned up that it was just a Muggle expression. Every once in awhile, he knocked on a limb just in case it echoed.
Severus stretched his arms above his head and listened to the sounds of the Homestead. The two boys running around in the kitchen. Charlie barking incessantly. Hermione clattering in the kitchen.
That was the one reason why Severus had a small regret about getting rid of most of the elves.
Hermione's cooking hadn't improved.
Ah, well. He supposed it was all part of his penance.
The Prophet had named him the Most Charitable Wizard of the Year for gifting his help to any charity that petitioned for one. Throughout the wizarding world Homestead elves were tending to the sick and needy while singing 'Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.' Severus felt rather sorry for the sick and needy. But barely legible thank you notes poured in from knee-high, teeth-gnashing elves, grateful for meaningful work. In hindsight, Severus moaned about not keeping a kitchen elf.
Tink was the only elf around and she had all the greenhouses all to herself. She wouldn't leave, and nobody would take her. The arrangement worked. And Tink managed to grow enough food that his starving children could occasionally eat.
Small bare feet stopped at the open bedroom door and Severus lifted his head to see which of his scamps had come for Daddy. As if to answer his unspoken question, a small squealing giggle announced her presence. Severus pretended not to notice.
Calla always thought she could creep up on him. Slytherin, the whole lot of them, and his youngest - his only daughter - in particular. As soon as she had been born, blood warding, original to the foundations of the manor and the Prince family, protected her bedroom. Hermione would have a fit if she knew the extent of them, but in this, Severus was immutable.
Dark baby ringlets appeared at the side of the bed. Severus closed his eyes as she hoisted herself up. Determined little witch. Calla slowly crawled to his motionless form. Through a crack in his eyelid, Severus waited patiently for the moment she was going to pounce. Sensing it, Severus bolted up and caught her.
The Tickle Monster was merciless.
Calla squealed and giggled until her chubby legs kicked and she couldn't draw breath. Satisfied, Severus got up and sat her on his hip.
At four, she was getting too old to be treated like a baby, but the days were spinning by quickly and there was no harm in holding on a bit more. Ignoring his hint that another two or five children would be welcome, Hermione had firmly announced that the baby factory was closed. And soon enough, their oldest would be ready for Hogwarts. It was enough to make him feel like an old man.
He was an old man.
In the kitchen there was chaos as the two boys, Andrew and Gideon, chased each other around making an unholy racket. When the noise got too loud, they'd be told to settle down, but Severus and Hermione let the boys play. They were seven and ten. Shouting and running around were what they did best. In their hands, they carried Harry Potter and Voldemort action figures that matched their jammies. Somewhere in the house were Hermione Granger and Severus Snape action figures, but Mum and Dad weren't as much fun to play with. And Mum and Dad were just fine with that.
Severus deposited Calla in her chair and kissed the top of her curly head.
His witch was at the stove doing things to eggs and toast that ought to have been illegal. And eating it would have been a civil rights violation. Severus gave her ten more minutes before Hermione gave up and made chocolate griddle cakes.
A cold nose butted against his arse and Severus turned to see Charlie sitting, leash in his mouth and his tail eagerly thumping. Severus slid a considering look to Hermione. She wouldn't walk him. It made perfect sense for Severus to fix breakfast as Hermione walked Charlie, but she wouldn't have it, and Charlie wouldn't be walked.
"Bugger," he muttered.
"I heard that! Language, Severus," Hermione admonished, not turning away from the culinary abomination that was blackening.
Severus accepted the soggy leash from Charlie's mouth and was jerked out the back door before his shoes were properly on. Charlie pulled him along the back walk towards the greenhouses, pausing every now and then to sniff at flowers and paw the earth for no reason at all. How he ended up with a dunderheaded dog was beyond him. Were Crooks alive, Severus was confident he would have straightened the canine out. Obedience school certainly hadn't. Charlie had failed. Twice. That's what he got for naming a dog after a Weasley.
Apparently there was something interesting and worth investigating in the bushes. Charlie crouched low and his rump wiggled like a cat's before pouncing.
"Charlie old boy, that's not a good –"
Charlie attacked then howled, backing out quickly and hiding cowardly behind Severus' legs.
"Stupid fool." Severus swiveled, wrapping the lead around him more firmly to give the whimpering dog a glare. "What have I said about hedgehogs?"
Hermione was going to freak out. She loved the damned little creatures so.
Losing patience, Severus twisted out of the tangled mess about his legs and summoned the petrified hog. If he didn't attempt to heal it, he could be assured of no sex for at least a week. Giving Charlie a stiff glare that would frighten any student, but which had no effect on the idiot dog, he pocketed the small creature and headed onward. His family was gathering to eat together, and he hated missing out.
After several minutes of attempting to remove Severus' arm from its shoulder socket, Charlie found acceptable shrubbery to fertilize. Severus rolled his eyes. If Tink caught him, Charlie would really have something to whimper about. Aiming his wand, Severus banished the mess and arched an exasperated eyebrow at man's best friend.
"Are you quite finished?"
Charlie led Severus all the way back into the house. It was morally wrong to zap the dog.
For that, he'd be without sex for a month, and Severus was really quite fond of sex.
Charlie was a small reminder that all the things he originally thought he wanted in the world weren't what he really wanted. His nose picked up the smell of griddle cakes and warm chocolate. It was a smell that reminded him that the things that he thought he hadn't ever wanted in the world meant the most to him. Obviously it was because he had shit luck and the Fates amused themselves at his expense.
Surely that was it.
Hermione's hips swayed to the beat of the tune she was humming as hot, gooey griddle cakes stacked up, and Severus smiled. Wrapping his arms around his love, he kissed the top of her head. Neither minded if the kids saw them being affectionate. Severus wanted to make sure that they knew their mother was loved. And that they were loved and wanted as well.
"Severus..." Hermione hissed, rubbing herself against him. "What do you have in your pants?" There was a distinct note of accusation in her voice.
He stepped back and gently pulled out the small trembling ball.
"Oh," she whispered, looking at the little creature before plucking it from his fingers and holding it gingerly to her bosom.
"Charlie attacked him." Severus withheld the 'can we get rid of him now?' The kids loved Charlie, even if he didn't know his own strength and repeatedly knocked them over when roughhousing. Hermione disappeared to Granger Industries to find the right dosage of Healing Draught for the hedgehog's weight, and Severus turned towards his messy lot of misbegotten heathens.
"Now, who's ready for a real breakfast?"
The children cheered for Daddy.
As Severus began to prepare omelets and shredded potatoes, he was undeniably happy. Stupidly in love with his wife, to whom he couldn't keep himself from whispering 'I love you.' Amazingly fulfilled with his philanthropic work. And damned proud of the dark-haired ankle-biters who had the misfortune of calling him Father. Hermione had once said she was looking for a happily ever after, and he hoped she had it. If not, he'd work the rest of his years to fix that.
"After all," he muttered to himself, "I'm not dead yet."
Epilogue title: Multis Post Annis - Many years later
I have so many people to thank. The Gilded Cage was not written in a vacuum, or just by me. I was helped by so many talented people who should share the warm fuzzy. Thank you to everyone who sent in name suggestions for the title of Severus' book. Rini corrected my atrocious Latin. Aberlioness found a monster legal-no-no, and even researched British law for me. TenderQuaintWitch's knowledge of the Middle Ages, church doctrine, and historical texts ensured that the storyline actually worked in terms of penance. Mollyssister and MiaMadwyn deserve all sorts of high praise for pimping the fic and being such a cheerleaders. AnnieTalbot and ferporcel have been such an encouragement. Mischievous-t kept me on the straight and narrow, by reading the chapters before they post to say, 'are you really going to write that? Seriously?'
I'm grateful to you all.
And honestly, I doubt any of it would be intelligible if it weren't for the amazing work of über-beta-extraordinaire, Christev. I heart her so. She is such a wonderful friend. The flowers, pearls, ponies, and chocolates aren't nearly enough. Thank you.
To all who've read and reviewed this fic, I appreciate all of your encouragement and guidance.
And like every good James Bond movie ending: AV will return with 'Goat Cheese.'
Yep. Goat Cheese. Try the Goat Cheese, I bet you'll like it.