D/C: For the last time, not mine : )
AN1: I appreciate everyone who has read and taken the time to review my story. Thank you so much! I'm kinda sad this story is ending. But Aha! I have started another, "You Are Who You Are", the first chapter of which I have posted right behind this one. If you should like to give it a chance, please read and review, and I will love you forever : )
Chapter 25: The Epilogue
Hermione sat uncomfortably beside her husband. She and Severus both had been summoned to the reading of Albus Dumbledore's will, nearly a month after the man was buried. Hermione thought back to the end of the war.
The final battle had gone on for hours after Albus died. As soon as Narcissa came to tend to Severus, who kept slipping in and out of consciousness, Hermione made the torturous decision to leave her husband and fight alongside her friends. As soon as Harry plunged the Gryffindor sword into Voldemort's heart, his followers stopped fighting. None managed to get away while aurors spent hours rounding up the survivors and herding them off to Azkaban. When Hermione finally returned to her husband, he was vehemently fighting with Narcissa about letting him go search for his wife. Narcissa had apparently put wards on the room to keep him from trying to fight in his weakened state.
When it was explained to him that he survived due to Dumbledore's sacrifice, the only word he spoke was "Fool." He would allow nothing else to be said on the matter, but Hermione could tell that he was not taking the loss of his friend well. He was even moodier than before the war, and had spent as much of the last month alone, only leaving their home to attend Narcissa's trial, at which all charges against her were acquitted. Now he sat here beside her, his face stone cold as they listened.
"And to Hermione Snape, at his request, I'd like to leave you with my elf. He is very loyal, and very fond of you. Please take good care of him."
Hermione couldn't believe it. Why on earth would he do that? She was against elf slavery! Next thing Hermione knew, the elf was standing in front of her and her husband, giving Hermione a very pleading look. Hermione didn't have time to blink before Severus grabbed the creature's hand.
Three months after the war ended, Hermione lay propped up in bed at Spinner's End, holding her newborn baby girl. She'd gone through what her husband declared a hard labor, though she was sure it was no worse than any other woman's labor, and had been ordered by Severus to rest in bed until told otherwise. Hermione smiled as she gazed down at the tiny baby. She never realized how badly she wanted to be a mother until two nights ago, when she brought her home.
"Would you care for some breakfast before your guests invade, I mean arrive?" Severus was lying in bed beside her, just watching her and the baby.
"Ooh, yes. And be nice to Hegi. He said that you threw some clothes at him yesterday."
"Blasted elf," Severus mumbled to himself as he lifted himself from the bed.
"Hey, Severus. Be nice. You'll have to accept him eventually."
"I'll not. That creature was responsible for-"
"The sequence of events that brought us together," Hermione reminded him gently.
She had never intended to tell Severus of Dumbledore's or the elf's involvements in their lives. But when they had been summoned to the reading of Dumbledore's will, the one that asked that they keep the elf, he took one look at the creature and recognized it as the long-fingered elf that attacked his wife. He tried to kill it right there in front of everyone, but McGonagall banished the creature to her quarters until they could talk everything out. He had quickly put the pieces together and realized what had happened. Hermione did her best to convince her husband that the whole situation erupted out of a miscommunication, but he still remained wary of the elf.
Severus stormed off to the kitchen to prepare Hermione's breakfast, while she gave the baby hers.
Minerva showed up first, bearing presents for the baby and mother. Not long later, Harry showed up with his fiancé, Ginny. Not moments after them, Ron and Draco arrived, they were now known and accepted as a couple, though it gave Draco's father a bit of a shock. Draco wasn't too worried about his father, since he was in Azkaban and couldn't do anything about it, but he seemed generally accepting anyway. Narcissa arrived just after the boys, and greeted everyone with a warm hug.
"How is she?" she asked, smilingly kindly.
"She's fine. I just don't want her pushing her limits with too much activity right after giving birth."
"Such a sweet husband, Severus."
"Speaking of, how's yours?"
"Lucius is fine. I visited him yesterday. Due to the testimony of a few of your former students, I believe that he will manage a reduced sentence. After all, he did turn in midst of the battle, and saved many lives, including Molly Weasley and Luna Lovegood."
"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Lucius was misguided, as I was once, but his heart is good." Severus nodded towards the bedroom, "You should go see her before she gets tired, which will be sooner than she's been insisting it will."
"I'm sure. How's the elf?"
"Well, that's good. It seems a good, loyal creature. I'm off to see Hermione now," she spoke the last sentence quickly when she saw Severus' face go dark.
"You seemed to have enjoyed yourself," Hermione said playfully as her husband crawled into bed beside her that night. He had just put the baby to sleep, and happily snuggled up close to his wife.
"And you seemed to have enjoyed sleeping most of the day."
"I did not!"
"I'm sorry, I only entertained your whole lot while you took two naps."
"Well, I'm sure that's a bit of an exaggeration," she pouted.
"Don't pout. It doesn't become you."
Hermione smiled and turned her head to kiss her husband, who rested comfortably on her shoulder.
"Severus, are happy it's a girl?" she asked quietly, "I know you wanted a boy."
"Of course. I am very happy that I have both her and you."
"Really? You're not upset that she's not a boy?"
"No. But if you're that concerned, we will try for a boy next time."
Hermione didn't notice his smirk and responded as though he'd been serious. "Next time? Really? You want more kids?"
"Yes! I mean, so long as you wanted them."
"Well, I don't fancy turning into the Weasley family, but I think two or three children would be well suited for our family."
"I love you, Severus."
"And I love you." Severus planted a soft kiss on her cheek and tried to roll over to go to sleep.
"Wait, Severus?" Severus stopped, sighed, and rolled back over to face his wife.
"You want to try now?" she asked coyly.
"I think not. You've just come out of labor! It would simply be irresponsible to try for another one this soon!"
"Well, we could always use a contraceptive potion for now."
"Why on earth-oh."
Hermione giggled at her husband's slow receiving of her invitation, and then smiled when he brought his lips to hers.
"Are you sure? It's only been-"
"I'm sure. I want you, right now," Hermione replied determinedly before pressing her lips against his once again.
Severus had barely made his way to her shirt when they heard the baby crying in the nursery.
Hermione giggled. Severus sighed.
"Hold that thought," he said as he put on his robe and made his way to the baby's room.
Fifteen minutes later, after changing a diaper and rocking his daughter back to sleep, Severus returned to his bed to find his wife sleeping. Simply shaking his head and smirking, he kissed Hermione's forehead and bade her goodnight.
Before falling asleep, Severus thought about his life before and after the war. He had never thought he would live to see life after, never thought he'd want to. When he'd found out what Dumbledore had done, he wanted to hate him, but couldn't. After all was said and done, he and wife were happy, just as Minerva insisted was Dumbledore's intention. Severus felt a pang of guilt for having any negative feelings towards the man he would have called his father. He had after all, used a spell only three have mastered in all wizarding history, giving his life's energy over to Severus to save him. To let him have a family.
Quietly, as he held his wife close to him, Severus thanked his belated friend.