The usual disclaimers apply.

xx

EPILOGUE - May 1st 1998

A dark-cloaked figure ran as fast as possible, covering as much ground as humanly possible, towards the Shrieking Shack. The figure was a blur, feet it seemed, barely touching the ground, and even if someone had paid close attention to the figure, which nobody did since everyone was busy elsewhere, they could have never guessed out who it was, running as possessed to the old, dreary building. As a matter of fact, most of those few people who could have recognised her, thought that this person was far away, was in London, mourning the end of her marriage, mourning the fact that this person had never known her husband, mourning her Uncle whom her husband had killed.

And those who thought so were all wrong. Tisiphone Snape had never lived in London in her entire life. She worked there, yes, occasionally, in St Mungo's but her home, her place of residence had always been Hogwarts. She wasn't mourning the end of her marriage because, well, it wasn't over. Wasn't over at all. On the contrary. Marie was only 4 months old – their little 'accident'. She knew her husband well. The only truth was that she mourned her Uncle, but so was her husband and the word 'killed' wasn't quite precise in that context either.

Mrs Snape ran up the stairs in the Shrieking Shack, not knowing, but praying that she wasn't too late. That he had done everything according to plan. She burst into the room, taken back by the amount of blood on the dirty floor and pale, deadly looking Severus laying in that pool of sticky, red liquid. She fell to her knees beside him, closing her eyes, waving her wand in an intricate pattern over her apparently dead husband's body. She knelt, waited for what seemed like an eternity, until there was a gasping, gurgling sound and she immediately pulled a vial out of her cloak and tipped the entire content into his mouth, then waving her wand over his neck again, working steadily but as quickly as she could and she watched, in fascination and awe and utter happiness, how he began to breathe again, how his wounds closed and how he opened his eyes. Before he could say a word, she wrapped a white cloth around his neck as well in addition to the healing spell, then sat back on her heels and tried to calm herself.

"Tizzy," he mumbled but she only shook her head, tears gleaming in her eyes.

"Why do I always have to fix you, hm?" she asked, very, very relieved that she had managed it this time. A close call, too close for her liking.

"Are you alright?" he asked trying to swallow and closing his eyes in pain.

"I know it hurts. I can't give you anything for the pain."

"I know," he groaned, "Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine."

"Marie?"

"With her Nana Eileen," she replied, ignored his grimace and waved her wand, once more, around, cleaning up the blood he had lain in. Anything to keep busy. Anything not to think about how close she had come to losing him. "This potion was utter genius, Severus."

He groaned again, his fingers searching for the wounds on his neck and fingering the white cloth it had been bandaged with. "Yes. I've been known to be quite brilliant from time to time," he coughed and tried to swallow.

"Mum sends her love and says she's sorry she almost hit you," she smiled, trying to change the subject and holding his hands in hers to keep him from touching his wounds. He would not, she feared, take well to her plan for the side-along apparition. One minutiae of the plan she had changed on her own. Well, he would be furious. But as long as he was alive, she could deal with that.

"Sorry she's almost hit me? She almost killed me," he hissed.

"Yes," she said slowly, stretching the syllable as long as she could, "she's sorry for that too."

"Bloody woman."

"That's mothers-in-law, Severus," she chuckled, wiping a lone tear that had made its way down her cheek away before she bent down and kissed him on the mouth. "I'm so relieved."

"It all worked out according to plan. Though you should not have vanished the blood."

Tizzy rolled her eyes and hugged him as he lay there on the dirty floor. Of course he would have to think it was a mere hug but she had to get him away and quickly. Had to get back to the castle as well without being seen. Still, her husband's safety was more important now. And she knew only one place that he would be utterly safe in. Not Spinner's End as it had been their plan at first, and where he thought he would go. No, she couldn't let him be there on his own. She closed her eyes, focused on the place she wanted to bring him to and with a pop, the Shrieking Shack was empty and nothing showed signs that a horrible attempt to murder Severus Snape had just failed.

"So," a moment later, Tizzy heard the familiar voice of her mother-in-law. "He did use the snake. Idiotic man," she muttered.

"Yes," Tizzy replied, trying not to giggle or laugh from relief and at Severus's horrified face at seeing where he had been taken, "just as my darling husband thought he would. And the idea with the modification of the Juliet-Potion was just ingenious."

"So it was only triggered by the snake-venom? Making you..." Eileen Prince seemed truly astonished.

"Do you still doubt me, or my ability, Mother?" he snapped where leant heavily on his wife.

"No, Severus, I don't," she smiled, "I never have. But you look like you could use a lie-down and some tea."

"No pain potions, Eileen," Tizzy cautioned, "It would interfere with the modified Juliet."

She nodded and rushed away into the kitchen and Tizzy counted to three in her head before Severus, though tired and being put on the couch, after she had taken his shoes off and had put his feet on the couch, began his tirade. "We had a plan, Tisiphone. A clear, concise, working plan. Why did you change it? And to here?"

Tizzy smiled gently. "Because this is safe, this is unplottable. And because your daughter is here. And she and your mother will take care of you as long as I'm gone."

"Gone?" he asked, looking furious. "That was not the plan either."

"I have to," she tried to soothe and sat down by his side on the edge of the couch, her fingers tracing the lines on his face. "You need to rest, it's the only way that will help since the Juliet will do all the Healing. Please, Severus. I need to go back and help Poppy."

"No," he shouted furiously and wanted to get up from where he lay but her hands held him back.

"Be quiet or you'll wake Marie and you rest. You might feel well now but you know it's only the potion. Bloody brilliant Potions Master you are. You stay on this couch," she hissed back. "And I will go back and return here as soon as I can."

She looked at him and swallowing around the lump in her throat, she bent forward, and lay her head gently on his chest. She held on tightly to him, tightly but carefully and he seemed to have stopped fighting for a moment as well. Maybe the exhaustion had taken over. The Juliet-Potion worked in the way that it gave him a short span of time to get himself away after being awoken by someone, her in this instance. But he would feel groggy and tired. On top of all the things he had to do during the past months. She truly wouldn't be surprised if he slept the next few days. And he deserved it.

"I don't want to let you go," he whispered tiredly, kissing her fingers.

"I know but I have to. I return as soon as I can and I'm safe in the Infirmary."

"If he wins..."

"Then I will come back as soon as possible and we'll think of something new. But he won't. He won't, Severus," she pushed herself up slightly before she lowered her head to his, kissing him fiercely and he wrapped his arms tightly around herself, clearly not wanting to let her go.

"If you stop that snogging now, someone's here to say hello to Mummy and Daddy," Eileen interrupted. "Honestly, you're not twenty any more," she added good naturedly and when Tizzy extracted herself from her husband, struggling from the grip he had on her, she saw her mother-in-law with her baby on her arm. She jumped up from the couch and took her daughter, cuddling her to her chest, kissing her and the baby kept smiling and gurgling, smelling so good. Oh, Marie there made her want to stay and hide with Severus and Eileen but she knew she couldn't.

"Here," she smiled and put the girl on Severus's chest and had to bit her lip when she saw how tenderly he encircled the little one's body with his arms, holding her to him, kissing her head and for a minute or so, he only observed his daughter the way he always did – with wonder in his eyes, with the utmost happiness and joy and she knew he would be fine there. And he would stay on that couch as long as he had Marie with him.

"They're very sweet," Eileen muttered in her direction.

"They are," Tizzy replied sadly. "I have to go back."

"I'll open the floo for a moment," she nodded. Tizzy nodded and her eyes met Severus's and she smiled. Loved this man, loved this little girl, loved both of them more than anything else in the world. She pressed her lips together for a moment before she walked over and silently kissed her baby and her husband.

xx

"Severus? Severus!" there was a weight on his chest and something insistently pushing his shoulder. He must have dropped off and opened his eyes blearily.

"What?" he asked and the wound on his neck throbbed horribly. He knew somewhere in his mind that it had to be that way, that it would heal and that he had to go through it. Had to endure it and it was all made simpler when his eyes fell on the little girl sleeping on his chest. But Marie with her four months could not possibly push against his shoulder that way and the memory came rushing back. He was at Mother's house. He had, so far, survived. His and Tizzy's plan had worked. Had given Potter parts of his memory. Had seemingly died. Had quite expected the the venom to react quite so quickly with the Juliet-Potion but Tizzy had been in time. His lovely, lovely wife.

But – she had gone back. And now his mother woke him with a strange expression on her face. "What?" he snapped again, and hushed himself immediately when Marie on his chest stirred.

"It's over, Severus," she said shakily.

"What's over?"

"The war. Potter killed him."

He stared at his mother in utter disbelief, then sat up, Marie pressed against his chest. "Say that again," he said voicelessly.

"Potter killed him. He's gone. Forever. Completely destroyed. The war's over," she repeated, tears springing to her eyes.

"Tisiphone...," Severus asked.

"Tiz is fine. She sent the message through. She's fine and she will be over in a moment just has some work to do," Eileen smiled at him, as he made a strangled sound, Marie on his chest stirring again, sitting there, thoughts upside down in his head. Over. Finally. Over. He could stop playing hide and seek with his family. He could take Marie out and show her the Lake and everything. He could stop being Headmaster. Did not have to stand the mock glares of Minerva. None of them would have to play-act any more. He could now at least openly bicker with his mother-in-law and not only try and stare her down.

"And she told me to remind you to lie down. And I have her permission to stick you to the couch. She said hexing would not interfere with the potion," the smile turned into a grin. "I have no doubt that she will have my head if you don't get a hundred percent well again."

Slowly, Marie was looking at him with her dark blue eyes and blinked before she smilingly pushed her head against his chest, snuggling on to him, and he lowered himself with his daughter back on the couch. He cuddled her close, kissed her and when he noticed his mother leaving again, he didn't know where, he held her up a bit, kissed her, let her put her head against the good side of his neck and sighed deeply.

"Daddy's still alive, Marie. Didn't think I would survive. And your Mummy too. He's gone and we're still here, I can't believe it. It worked. And you'll grow up in a world without war if I have anything to say about it. Maybe we'll have to move away. I don't know yet but when your Nana Minnie is Headmistress, I doubt I want to teach there. But it's your Mummy's home and it's been my home for such a long time. And even if there is no danger, Hogwarts is the safest place anywhere on earth and I want you growing up in a safe place. Now that I can actually see you growing up. I can see you growing up, Marie. I never thought this would happen. Can you believe I was angry at your Mummy when she said she was pregnant with you? We had a huge fight, baby, she said she didn't care, she wanted something from me in case I didn't survive and both of us thought that there was a massive chance that I wouldn't. You're really lucky that you still have your Daddy and I'm lucky I have you and your Mummy made me see what a great thing a baby is. It was probably the greatest day of my life when you arrived. And now I'm still here. I can still...," words failed him now and he had to hug his baby tightly to him, buried his nose in the soft, lovely-smelling baby hair, breathed in her scent, baby powder and milk and a full nappy.

"Mother?" he growled very softly so his mother would not hear him at all. "May I get up to change my daughter's nappy? No answer? Good then," he pushed himself up, ignoring the blinding headache and throbbing of his wounds as well as the dizziness and wanted to get up.

"Lie back down," his mother stepped into the room and glared menacingly. "Now!"

"Marie needs a fresh nappy and you wouldn't answer," he said petulantly.

"You should have shouted then," she said no-nonsensically and took the girl from his arms. "Lie down now."

He grabbed his head. It would probably be better, yes. He sank down onto the cushions and closed his eyes tiredly. As brilliant as the potion had worked, he would have to make modifications to make the effects quicker, to make the healing quicker.

After he had taken a nap.

xx

"Is he okay?" Tisiphone said urgently, her feet half in the fireplace still.

"Yes. He's sleeping," Eileen smiled, the baby suckling happily on a bottle in her arms.

Tizzy nodded, relieved and overwhelmed, exhausted, happy. Happy beyond belief. She rushed over to her mother-in-law, hugged her and her baby. "It's over, Eileen, it's really over. I saw Harry and he's well. They're all well, Eileen. There are some that didn't make it and some that are wounded but it's over," tears began pouring down her cheeks. "It's finally over," she sobbed, muffled into her mother-in-law's shoulder.

"Yes, it's over," she whispered back and kissed her hair. "Now, why don't you go into the living room and look after him? I'll bring Marie in as soon as she's fed."

Tizzy nodded, wiped her tears away as best as she could and darted into the living room, enlarged the couch and lay down next to her husband, careful of his wounds cuddling him, holding him. Revelling in the feeling that this was not the dream, that this was real. That the war was over, finally, and that she was in the arms of her snoring husband. Life could be good again soon. Very, very soon.

xx

"Where is he?" he heard, muffled, far away and his long nose picked up a scent. A scent he knew well and he opened his eyes, the corners of his mouth twitching.

"Did you sleep well?" his wife said gently, in his arms, there. On the couch. In his mother's living room. Tizzy. There.

He grumbled and immediately wrapped his arms around her. "Are you alright?" he asked, pulling her closer, sniffing her hair.

"I'm fine. Tired but fine."

He sighed. "Tell me what happened."

Tizzy shook her head. "There's not much to tell, Severus. I was in the Infirmary, did as much as I could and suddenly, there were cries and..."

"There you are. Silly boy," Minerva stormed into the living room, her hair dishevelled and her robes dirty. "Are you alright? Couldn't have moved in the way we planned, could you? I almost killed you."

"Your aim was always a little off," he dead-panned with a smirk and made his mother-in-law huff. "Could we go home?" he asked his wife who only smirked back when Eileen put the baby back on his chest.

"No. I have a salve for your neck simmering in the kitchen and you will continue to rest," Eileen said gently, before she turned to Minerva and both women glared for a moment at one another before they hugged each other fiercely.

Severus huffed and looked first at his baby, then his wife, then his mother-in-law and mother, hugged his wife and his daughter.

"We made it, Severus," he heard Tisiphone speak in his ear and he could only nod, pull his two girls close and sniffed their scent.

Severus Snape knew that no dream could ever be as good as this. Even if his mother and mother-in-law had already begun fighting again and Tizzy was giggling into his ear and Marie was beginning to cry. Nothing could be better.

xx

Thank you!