Man, the epilogue already! I am making faces like you would not believe. Seriously, the kind of faces I am making right now, like, you don't even know. And you won't even be able to SEE my faces because y'all are wherever the hell y'all live and I am in my house, being seen by NOBODY. I hope. Anyway the point is that you'll just have to imagine my faces. And also imagine what I look like. I'll make it a bit easier for you: I look exactly like Taylor Momsen. Ha ha, not really. IF ONLY. Anyway, enough nonsense. It's time for the END.

Chapter Fifty-Four: Epilogue

Severus' place down Spinner's End was always cold and dreary, but I liked it. I liked sitting by the bay window, drinking tea and watching the rain come down outside. The whole place just seemed grey. It could be depressing, sure. But then again, I'd lived in a dungeon for over a year. Depressing? Ha! This cold, rainy place was practically Disneyland. I was sitting cross-legged on the window seat, resting my arms on the windowsill and staring outside. Everything seemed blue. I was waiting for the sun to rise, for the sun to turn everything amber and breathe new life into the world. Footsteps echoed behind me but I didn't turn around. I could tell whose they were anyway.

"It's barely six," came Severus' voice from behind me. I laughed quietly.

"Surprised that I'm awake before you?" I muttered, still staring out the window. It was cold outside, I could tell. My breath was misting against the window.

"Pleasantly surprised that I didn't have to withstand your domestic abuse just for attempting to wake you up at a reasonable hour."

"Six is not a reasonable hour."

"Yet here you are."

"Shutup," I muttered. That wasn't the point, anyway. The point was that my tea was rapidly cooling. Well, it was mostly tea. I'd Irished it up a bit. But if you couldn't get squiffy before dawn now, when could you? Exactly. With that in mind, I drank the rest of it as fast as I could. Whoa, head-spin. Sweet.

Different footsteps, smaller ones, came to me from the stairway, but I still didn't turn around. A small body clambered up and imitated me, sitting cross-legged beside me and staring out the window. I remained staring though. I wouldn't break my gaze for no-one. If there was one thing that could be said about me, it was that I was strong-willed. Or that I was a supreme annoyance. I preferred the former. I reached my arm around the shoulders of that small body, though, as I stared out. The sun was just beginning to rise and the blue was fading from the snow.

"Next year we'll go to your grandparents' house, Lila," I muttered. Everything was a bright orange now. "The lake freezes over this time of year, you know."

"Okay," came the small voice from beside me. I turned to look at her. She'd only just turned three in August, my beautiful girl. Of course, she'd inherited the black hair that both her parents had looked fabulous in. She had big black eyes that glittered like shiny beetles and kind of unnerved me, to tell the truth. And her nose had a little bendy bit, right in the middle. It seemed unnatural, wrong even, that I could've created something so amazingly perfect in every way. I had to fight to refrain from shouting at her 'you germinated in my uterus!' since Severus had given me a talking-to about that.

I'd wanted to carry on the tradition that my mother had started. I wanted to name my child after a ninja turtle, if only to show her what a stupid idea that was. I was overruled on that count, though. Severus could really be a buzzkill. And he'd refused point-blank to name her after my best friend in the world, just because she could be a little unsavoury at times. Lucindy'd agreed to stop swearing in front of the kid, what more did he want? There was no pleasing some people, really.

"You're staring," muttered Severus from somewhere that seemed quite far away. I turned and narrowed my eyes at him, somehow tearing my eyes away from the wonderful thing that I had created, holy crap. My daughter flitted off to do whatever it is children do. Wreak havoc, probably. Break things. Get the VCR all sticky and jam-filled. It was nice to have someone else to blame that on.

"I'm allowed," I replied, standing up to glare properly. "When you do it, you look like a serial killer. I'm the one in charge of making sure you don't scar her for life, remember?"

"Of course."

"My life-scarring is okay, though," I said. "It's allowed."

A sound like something falling over came to us from the next room and Lila's voice carried through the quiet house. "Ah, shit." I smiled in what I hoped was an innocent way while Severus glared at me like I'd just pooped on his hat.

"And where did she learn that?" he queried in a deceptively calm voice. I affected a very serious expression.

"I have absolutely no idea," I said. "I can assure you, it wasn't Lucindy."

"I didn't think it was," he said evenly. "She is not the only lunatic I know who swears like a fishwife."

Argh. Argh. He was onto me. Quick, change the subject. Anything. "You still haven't wished me a merry Christmas," I said, trying to look very sweet and innocent. Swish! My sweet subject change worked. His eyebrows flicked up and he drew out a rose just opening from behind his back. I was probably the dumbest person on earth for not realising he was hiding something there, but I never said I was observant. I unfurled the parchment wrapped around the stem.

Raphaela,

Always.

Love.

I looked up and smiled at him in what I'm sure was a very goofy, unappealing way. Oh well. My smile gave way to a kind of uncontrollable giggle that sounded less like human laughter and more like someone messing around with a recorder. "You like me, you loser," I mocked, still grinning like an idiot. The corners of his mouth twitched in some semblance of a smile and that just made me grin even more goofily. I threw my arms around him. After some awkward hesitation, he drew his arms around my waist.

"I love you," I said, making all attempts to imitate a boa constrictor. One of us wouldn't get out of this alive.

"Merry Christmas, Raphaela," he replied. And it was.


A/N: And so marks the end of the absolute longest thing I have ever written in my entire life. Appreciate it, bitches.