Severus shrank the battered cardboard box that was perched on his old sofa and handed it to Hermione. He took a brief glance at her as she stepped through the Floo, but when their eyes met he purposely looked away.
He had never imagined that leaving the house in Spinner's End would be so difficult. After all, he had lived at Hogwarts for most of his life, and he had never felt any real sense of belonging in the house. It held more sad and depressing memories than happy ones, and the latter involved Hermione and their first night together in his old bedroom.
He made his way up the stairs and into his lab. Except it wasn't his lab any more. All of the equipment was now neatly boxed and ready for installing in the extension of Hilltop Cottage. It wasn't a wand created extension, but had been built properly at his insistence. Magical expansion was all well and good, but there was always a risk of breakdown at inopportune moments, and Severus didn't trust it. Bricks and mortar had more integrity, and safety had to be priority, particularly if Donovan was going to assist in the lab when he was older.
Severus ran his hand over the dusty workbench. He imagined it would be tossed with the rest of the house when the bulldozers moved in, and he couldn't say he was sorry. He couldn't imagine a family living happily in the house where the taint of his poor and unhappy childhood had followed him like a spectre.
In his bedroom, no furniture remained. Hermione had insisted on donating it all to the local church charity, and all that was left was the threadbare carpet and the musty old curtains. Severus looked out of the window. The scrub ground was now surrounded by metal fencing which bore the signs of a local building firm and estate agent. The area was designated for new building, affordable housing and luxury apartments. The whole of Spinner's End would be gone by the end of the year.
Severus sighed. He wondered how different his life might have been had he been born into pure-blood stock. Lucius had led a charmed life, but it had only gained him wealth and status with other pure-bloods. He wasn't happy. Not in the way that Severus was happy. No. His life had been the right one for him, for without it, he wouldn't be where he was now.
As he walked down the old, broken stairs for the very last time, Severus said a silent thank you to the house in Spinner's End. It had brought Hermione to him, in a strange and roundabout way. For that he would be eternally thankful.
Hermione waited anxiously by the gate of Hilltop Cottage. The taxi was late by approximately four minutes, and Donovan was getting bored.
'Down,' he said firmly.
'No,' Hermione said, distracted as she strained her ears for the sound of the car. Finally, she saw an old blue motor chug its way down the lane, and she half-laughed and half-cursed under her breath.
As the car stopped, Hermione waved at Mike, who sat grinning behind the wheel, then climbed into the back and settled herself and Donovan comfortably.
'How's things with you, Hermione?' Mike asked, looking at her in the rear view mirror.
'Great, thank you, Mike.' Hermione was not going to share her personal information, but they had known each other for so long now, Mike knew not to ask.
'Town Hall, isn't it?' he asked instead, his eyes now focussed on the road.
'That's right.' Hermione straightened Donovan's jacket and tried to flatten the insistent curl that would not lie flat, and the boy pulled his head away in protest.
'No.' He glared at her with such a familiar look she couldn't help but laugh. He really was his father's son.
After ten minutes in the car, Donovan was so restless that Hermione thought she may need to use a Silencing charm on him, but with a sigh of relief, they pulled up outside the Town Hall and Donovan saw Severus waiting for them.
'Daddy,' he said happily, straining to get away from Hermione as soon as the car door opened.
Severus immediately lifted his son from the car while Hermione paid Mike, and he smiled at her warmly as she turned back to them.
'You look lovely,' he said, eyeing her sky blue dress and silver sandals. The sun was shining and catching golden highlights in her hair, and she radiated happiness as she tipped her head to kiss him.
'Let's do this,' she said, taking his hand.
'Everyone is inside,' Severus said as he adjusted Donovan on his hip and they walked up the stone steps.
Hermione stifled a giggle as she saw Minerva, Harry and Ginny standing in their Muggle clothes. Harry looked normal, in a pale grey suit, and Ginny was wearing one of Hermione's old dresses, lengthened to fit. But Minerva looked like she had stepped out of the pages of Country Life, with a tartan skirt, matching hat and a cable-knit sweater. It didn't really matter what any of them were wearing. Hermione was just so happy that they were there.
'Well,' said Minerva, her eyes sparkling as she looked at the family walking towards them. 'You all look very presentable.'
'Verbose as usual,' Severus said, smirking.
'Be quiet, Severus,' the old witch said with a glare. 'I may suddenly start to feel as weak as an ill kitten, and then where would you be?'
Severus paled, and the gathered friends all laughed at him. The thought of returning to Hogwarts after only a month of pure bliss away from the place made his stomach churn uncomfortably.
'Let's do this, shall we?' he said quickly, changing the subject and missing the amused glance that passed between Hermione and Minerva.
He handed Donovan over to Harry, and thought briefly of the irony that the only other man he really trusted with his son was the boy wonder himself.
As they walked up the stairs to the Registrar's office, they looked like an ordinary, if eccentric group of individuals who were attending a civil marriage. No one would possibly have guessed that some of the most powerful magic in the whole of wizarding Britain was gathered in the small town of New Mills.
The pub was noisy and full of laughter. Donovan, popular as always with men and women alike, ran between tables, laughing and giggling with the customers, and petting the mangy old dog that seemed to reside permanently in the porch way. No one seemed to know who owned him. He was just the pub dog. But Donovan loved him.
Severus eyed him carefully. He had never been allowed a dog at Spinner's End, but he knew that if Donovan ever asked for one, he would have it before the end of that day. He could refuse him nothing.
Hermione took his hand and linked her fingers through his. He glanced down, and the sight of their plain gold bands rubbing together made him jolt with the enormity of it all.
Severus Snape wasn't usually given to expressing his emotions in public, so he surreptitiously rubbed away the stray tear on the shoulder of his jacket. The only person to notice was Harry, who smiled to himself before going to the bar for another round of drinks. If ever someone needed a whisky, it was Severus.
They decided against a honeymoon. A family holiday had seemed like a much better idea, neither of them wanting to leave Donovan at home. It was a revelation to Severus, watching families on the beach. He found himself making sand castles. He thought they were ridiculous, but they made Donovan happy and Hermione happy.
That was the point of everything, really.