A/N: Remember, Remember ends with this chapter. I've left another short note at the end.
Number 24 Hyacinth Park is a neat brick cottage with big square windows, a wrap-around porch and wooden trellises holding up sweat peas and morning glories, clematis and climbing roses. There isn't an automobile parked out front on the gravel lane, but there is an old-fashioned pram with over-sized wheels and an adjustable sun shield sitting expectantly in the yard. Three comfortable wooden rockers are grouped together on the wide porch and a child's swing hangs from the branch of an English Elm between the porch and the lane. A lazy white cat, blue-eyed and deaf as a doorknob, is stretched out in the grass beneath the pram. It grooms itself fastidiously as it watches oh-so-casually two red squirrels run atop the low wooden fence and hop the space of the open gate.
The cottage is just outside of the wizarding village of Hogsmeade, a five-minute walk from the town's far edge, ten minutes from Honeydukes and fifteen from the train station. Wizards live here. There are no electric porch lights, no satellite dishes, no gasoline powered lawn mowers, and the Muggle washing machine and dryer have been charmed to work without electricity. Children go through a lot of dirty clothes and cleaning charms can only go so far.
It wasn't all sunshine and flowers for this couple. In the space of twelve months, Severus and Sophie had dated, broken up, dated others, gotten back together, cohabited, broken up and gotten back together a final time, this time for good. During the weeks after the first break up, Severus had dated exactly six women, each of them exactly two times. He'd then appeared at Sophie's door and insisted that she marry him. When she'd finally let him into her flat, she suggested that they live together first, to test the waters so to speak, and that had lasted another four months before an argument over children—he was game, she felt she was too old—sent him walking again. They met in the middle the next time, at a pre-Hogwarts gathering at the Burrow, agreeing on one more child, a small private wedding, a honeymoon in Paris and a new home to fill with new memories.
The cottage door opens, and Sophie walks out carrying a blue-wrapped bundle. She's not pretty by everyday standards, but she is striking, and she is happy, and that happiness is apparent in her every movement. She sits in a rocking chair and begins to rock, looking expectantly out at the lane, eyes traveling up the road, following the sound of laughter. A little girl, caramel skinned, dressed in denim overalls and a yellow blouse under a lightweight robe, runs through the gate and up the walk, pauses to squat and scratch the white cat then continues running up the stairs and across the wooden floorboards of the porch until she is at her mother's knee, kissing her baby brother, holding out her hands automatically for a quick Scourgify.
Severus and Anna walk together, Anna taller than Sophie now, talking quietly. Severus has his hands clasped behind his back and is wearing everyday robes over dark pants and a green button-down shirt. He no longer wears turtlenecks. Today he has on snake-skin boots with a thin belt to match. His hair is tied back at the nape of his neck, still black shot with silver. He is clean shaven. His oldest daughter is coming home for half-term break. She is almost 16 now, a Slytherin prefect, and has already proven to be an accomplished witch. Severus is proud of her, but no more so than when she smiles broadly as they pass through the gate and runs up to the porch, a "Mum!" on her lips.
Severus still has connections to the Muggle world, though he never returned from the sabbatical he began the summer magic came back into his life. The Squires Treatment for early-onset Alzheimer's has taken the world by storm, providing hope to families cursed with one of the genes so far identified. The reclusive scientist behind the break-through will likely one day receive a Nobel Prize for his efforts. Severus will funnel the money into scholarships and grants for budding young scientists and researchers and continue his quiet life in Hogsmeade in the six-room cottage with the gazebo in the back garden and the lazy blue-eyed cat on the front porch. He keeps a small potions lab in the basement with a floo connection to his larger lab in Diagon Alley but most days he stays home with the children while Sophie floos to Gringott's where she works as an investment planner for wizards diversifying their portfolios in Muggle markets.
Severus sits in a rocking chair on that front porch now, with Anna on one side of him and Sophie on the other. Harriet (named after Sophie's mother, though everyone assumes she is named for her famous godfather) climbs into his lap and, as she is wont to do, hugs him around his neck and kisses the tip of his nose. It is a wet kiss, as always, and smells of the graham cracker animals she ate before they walked to meet Anna. She climbs from her Papa's lap onto her big sister's and Sophie stands and hands baby Rory to Severus and Severus stands and expertly tucks him into the pram. Anna pushes the pram down the walk, Harriet dancing beside her while Sophie and Severus follow, hand in hand.
They are walking to the Potter's home, of course.
Harry Potter and his family still live in the medium-sized cottage that Harry purchased the year he began teaching at Hogwarts, the year after Ginny was injured, the year that Lily became a first-year.
James, of course, is gone from Hogwarts, and he works for Severus, or technically for Severus' institute. He's taken a rather small flat in Diagon Alley with his cousin Fred. Fred works with his father at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Ron looks up and smiles whenever someone comes in and says "Fred and George!" The store is doing immensely well still, and Ron has developed a talent for business strategy that has kept them not only in the black but among the top 50 British Wizarding businesses for the past ten years.
It was no surprise to everyone that it was James, not Severus' namesake Albus, who approached Severus about an apprenticeship. Albus resembles his father most in both looks and interests, and seems headed for a career as an Auror. He is in his last year at Hogwarts now, and has his eye on a certain Slytherin prefect, a fifth year, who lives not too far from the Potter cottage. He's a tiny bit afraid of her father, however, a quiet man, but a strict one, but he's practically grown up these past years with Anna. She's remained Lily's best friend, despite the difference in house affiliation.
The girls, in fact, are cooing over baby Rory now. He's a small thing still, only three months old, and he's begun smiling in earnest since the last time they saw him, wet gummy smiles that start at his mouth but move to his bright dark eyes. Lily is holding him. She's taken him out of the pram and he grabs a handful of her long red hair and puts it in his mouth. She patiently removes it and smiles as Sophie gives her the teething ring. Harriet runs right to Albus, as she always does. She's only two, and she doesn't see him all that often, but she loves him all the more for it. Oh, she loves Harry too, but Harry is still inside so Albus lifts her up and plucks the little girl on his shoulders, tickling her calves until she giggles. Anna looks over and catches his eyes. She smiles. Albus smiles back. He has Harry's smile, his delighted grin. Severus watches him, watches them.
Inside the house, Harry is sitting in the kitchen watching as Ginny kneads the bread dough. She doesn't live at Potter's Nook with them, but he brought her here from the Burrow last night, after the dinner in the Great Hall marked the beginning of half-term break. Ginny has come quite a distance since the summer that he bought this cottage, since Severus came back to life and found his magic and his memories just where he had left them. She can't live alone; she tends to wander at times, and is forgetful enough to leave the oven on or the fire blazing. Baking and gardening fill her days now. She works with Molly at a small shop in Diagon Alley, a bakery and café enterprise suggested by Severus with seed money from George and Severus' own businesses and from Harry himself. She spends summer evenings with Harry and the children at the cottage. She loves the children, and they her, and while she no longer feels or acts like a child herself, she is not a mother to them, no matter they call her Mum and she poses in family pictures and sat next to Harry when James came to him with the idea of apprenticing to Severus.
She loves Harry too, and he her, but she is not really a wife to him, despite the wedding band on her finger and the fact that she is Ginevra Weasley Potter. They don't share a bed but they share a family. She held his hand in St. Mungo's when his appendix ruptured last year, but the children were there too, and Molly and Arthur, and Ron and Hermione, and even Severus and Sophie. Sophie, already five months along with Rory, stayed through with him the first night and held his hand in much the same way Ginny had.
It is enough for him now to have Ginny largely whole, and making new memories of her own, having a productive yet quiet life. He misses a partner in his life though, and has grappled with this feeling and the guilt it brings him to think of looking elsewhere for that kind of love. The love he sees manifested in those around him; the quiet, respectful, just under the surface love between Severus and Sophie, the enduring love between Arthur and Molly, the true life partnership in Hermione and Ron. It would be easier, he knows, if Ginny found someone else first. She is still beautiful, though much more serious than before, much more deliberate, melting snow rather than Indian Summer.
She puts the dough in the loaf pan to rise, washes her hands at the sink, wipes them on the towel hanging there. Her eyes stray to the window above the sink and she looks into the back garden where the green fronds of the daffodils and irises are pushing out of the loose soil. She comments on the coming summer, and the garden she will plant here, and Harry smiles and beckons to her and they walk outside together.
Lily is still holding baby Rory. He's gumming her knuckle now, and Al and Anna are sitting together on the porch swing with Harriet between them, Lily sitting on the rail in front of them while Al makes faces at the baby and Harriet babbles about a shovel and a blue cauldron, but she's really talking about a beach bucket—she calls all buckets cauldrons. She climbs into Anna's lap again.
Severus and Sophie stand up from the porch stair where they were seated when the door opens. Harry's been busy at school. He hasn't seen his friends in several weeks. The baby has grown and has started to smile in that time. Sophie is looking more her usual self after the difficult pregnancy—she is 49 now after all—and the worry has left Severus' eyes now that the much loved but unplanned baby is here, whole and hearty, and Sophie's blood pressure is back in control and the edema is gone.
Ginny smiles shyly. After all this time, all the time she has spent with Severus these past years, she is still shy around him. He has spent countless hours talking with her, drawing her out to determine how she learns best (visually) and what activities suit her (physical ones, ones that can be divided into short incremental tasks, like baking) and what regimen of medications and potions most helps her short-term memory issues. He will always be a professor to her, a doctor, a professional, and not her friend. But she trusts him, and is comfortable around him.
Severus and Sophie follow Ginny and Harry back into the house, leaving the children on the porch along with the fat little Jack Russell terrier mix Harry calls "Horace."
Lily smiles as Albus stretches out his arms, the right one coming to rest along the back of the swing, an obvious gesture not lost on Anna, who winks at her friend as she scoots fractionally further away from Albus, teasing him as only she knows how. She likes him and wishes he'd have asked her to the Yule Ball this year, but she'd promised Scorpius in September and had gone with him even though his eye had already turned to Lily.
The sound of laughter wraps around the little home as Albus' side of the swing suddenly drops lower, the chain compromised by weight or by magic, and Anna falls into his side and Harriet squeals and jumps down and the terrier follows her into the yard, waddling in a fair imitation of his namesake.
Lily rolls her eyes as Albus steals a quick kiss, just a peck really, and Anna blushes ever so slightly, not wanting to show her hand yet but unable to control the pleased little feeling inside.
And Severus, glancing out the front window of the sitting room, remembers.
He remembers summer days at the house in Surrey, when Anna was as small as Harriet, when he had no real friends, no family, and he'd been so new at being a father and so out of his element. It was just he and Anna back then, forging a bond of need and love so strong, so very strong. But it was Anna, wasn't it, that had led him here, to this place, to this time, because he'd seen eventually that that need and that love would not be enough. He'd seen it when she ran with the Weasley children on that first visit to the Burrow, when she'd jumped off the shoulders of the giant in the lake, when she'd embarrassed him so much on Platform 9 ¾ the first time they'd gone there together and when she kissed him and he'd called her Pumpkin in the Great Hall after the feast.
He's given the world its first real hope in combating inherited dementia, and he's shaken up the Board of Governors with his practical recommendations and has gotten quite a few of them pushed through. He even has Harry on the Headmaster track now—serving as deputy to Minerva's replacement and thinking and acting like the leader he is.
Lily sees him looking out the window. She holds up baby Rory to see his Papa and lifts his hand in a baby wave.
Severus' own hand comes up to wave back.
Here was his success. Here was his life.
That he must always remember.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who read to the end and for all the encouraging comments and reviews. I have a couple other projects in mind but enjoy these characters enough to come back to them someday. Again, thanks! I'll start adding some recommendations to my profile page of works I'm reading and enjoying. Cheers! -SS