EPILOGUE

If the years were kind to Harry Potter, they were doubly kind to Severus Snape. He and Harry slid together with little fuss or fanfare and the Weasleys accepted him without negative comment or complaint. The children took very little convincing, happily switching from "Uncle Sev'rus" to "Papa Sev'rus" and eventually, to Severus' chagrin, "Pop." The Potter-Snapes added a daughter when Lily was 6, courtesy of a surrogate arranged through Hermione, and another son two years later, just before Albus started at Hogwarts.

The family was hardly conventional, and no one was really surprised when Severus retired to the rebuilt Hogsmeade cottage to raise the children and continue his potions research. And while Harry and Severus never discussed who fathered which baby, Madeline's dark-as-night eyes and silky black hair gave her biological father away just as baby Will's green eyes did.

On September 1st, on a misty Autumn morning, while Muggle Londoners read of the birth of a future king to the Prince and Princess of Wales, witches and wizards waiting for the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station read in their Daily Prophet that Harry Potter would begin serving as Deputy Headmaster of Hogwarts this term and would be elevated to Headmaster in January, following the impending retirement of Minerva McGonagall. Some looked up from their papers to spot the Potter-Snape family on the platform. Draco Malfoy pocketed the paper thoughtfully, gazing down the platform at the two living men who had most influenced the course of his life. Harry was kneeling down in front of the smaller boy, the one that looked so much like him, holding his shoulders and talking to him, then gathering him in a hug. The older boy, the rough-and-tumble combination of Weasley and Potter with messy, auburn hair and bright brown eyes, held a small girl of three or so, bouncing her on his hip with practiced ease. The child caught Draco's eye as she chewed on the wing of a worn dragon plushie and Draco was struck by the dark onyx of those eyes, so like her father's. Severus handed a bundled baby off to Harry as he took his turn with the boy. A red-headed girl dashed around Harry's legs with another redheaded child at her heels, and Harry sat down on the platform and took the small girl from his oldest son to share his lap along with the infant. As Draco watched, the Hogwarts-bound boy slung his hands around Severus' neck and Severus stood, lifting him up and hugging him closely. As he turned he caught Draco staring at him and for a moment, only a moment, the corner of his mouth twitched upward into a smile.

Then the "All Aboard" sounded and Draco quickly turned back to his own wife and son. As Draco very unexpectedly fell to one knee to address his son at his level, Severus lowered Albus to the platform, letting go of him reluctantly, and the child clamored on board the train, trying to keep up with his brother and his cousins. Beside Severus, Ron Weasley lifted 4-year-old Miles onto his shoulders while Hermione tried to corral Lily and Hugo and Maddie scrambled off Harry's lap and lifted her arms to Severus, demanding a ride as well.

A moment later, Severus Snape stood on platform 9¾ of Kings Cross Station, his 3-year-old daughter sitting on his shoulders, her small warm hands cupped under his chin. He was mirrored by a redhead several inches taller with a bushy brown-haired boy pointing at the scarlet engine. They waved at the train as it steamed out of the station, stopping only when the last car was out of sight.

"Come on, Deputy Headmaster," said Severus, putting Maddie down with a pat on her behind and pulling Harry to his feet. The two nodded courteously at Draco and his wife as they walked by, looking stiffly alone without their son. Severus steadied Harry as he sorted out his bad leg then helped to settle Will in his carriage, snapping the warm liner around him.

"Hurry, Pop!" exclaimed Lily, taking his free hand. "We don't want to miss the sorting! James is sure Al will go right to Slytherin but I'm betting on Gryffindor…" Her voice trailed away as the two families joined the crowds moving toward the floo room and apparition points beside the barrier.

Many hours later, as they lay in their bed together, winding down after a long and tiring day, Harry shook his head one more time.

"Hufflepuff! And Scorpius Malfoy with him!"

Severus chuckled. "I'm sure the Malfoys will get over it…eventually. For all that the Malfoys and other purebreds value loyalty, they certainly do not expect their children to land in Hufflepuff. As for Albus, you must have seen it coming, Harry. Al may be brave and smart and cunning, but he is loyal above all else. Your daughters, you know, are both going to Slytherin, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait for Will before you have a chance at another Gryffindor."

Harry rolled his eyes. He didn't bother to argue about the girls-he was sure Severus was right about Lily but still reserved judgment on Maddy. "I'm just glad that Al's happy." He recalled the big smile on Al's face as the hat announced its choice after rather a long time on his head. The clapping and cheers coming from the Hufflepuff table were nearly deafening. The sorting had ended with Rose Weasley going to Ravenclaw. No surprises there. Harry yawned and snuggled into Severus' side and was asleep within minutes.

Severus leaned over to check that Will was still asleep in his cradle and well tucked in and that the night-time bottle on the bedside table was properly charmed to avoid spoiling. A red and gold phoenix plushie rested near the baby's feet and he fished it out and set it beside the bottle. He stilled, as he did most nights, to listen carefully to the quiet house a moment. Pancakes, the kneazle kit he'd given Lily for Christmas five years before, sneezed from her resting place at their feet.

"Nox," said Severus, satisfied that all was well. As the lights dimmed, he kissed the lightning-bolt shaped scar on Harry's forehead, then grazed his lips over the new L-shaped scar on his shoulder, acquired during a recent pick-up Quidditch game at the Weasleys. He retrieved his pillow which Harry had once again purloined, wrapped his arms around the sleeping deputy headmaster, closed his eyes and with a contented sigh, followed him peacefully into sleep.

FIN