Chapter Twelve: Epilogue

95 years later

Office of the Headmistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Hogsmeade, Scotland

Sunlight streamed in through leaded glass windows, warming the hands and face of the very old witch who sat behind the beautiful cherry desk. Her face was lined and wrinkled, but her eyes were bright, her hair a long tangle of riotous snow-white ringlets. She had papers spread before her on her desk, but she was not reading any of them. Instead she was looking up at the picture over the mantel.

"Did you say something, Severus?"

"Hermione, my dear, it is time."

"Finally! I have waited so long. I'm definitely ready." Hermione Granger-Weasley gave the austerely dressed wizard in the portrait a brilliant smile as he stepped as close as he could to the front of his portrait and reached out his hand to her. His face wore a tender smile, and his eyes were glowing with love for the woman who sat at the desk.

"Then come with me, dearest one."

At his softly murmured invitation, she got slowly to her feet and made her way to the fireplace. Gone were the frivolous high-heeled shoes and tailored suits—they had been replaced with gracefully cut robes and ballet flats. For a very old woman, she moved with grace and purpose. A subtle bit of wand work transfigured the low tea table into a short bank of stairs, and she climbed up them easily, her gaze locked with his. She reached out to him. When her hand touched his on the canvas, it was suddenly a young hand again, unwrinkled and unlined. There was a gentle glow around her form as her worn out physical body slumped down to sit on the stairs.

Then her image was there in the portrait beside his. Her hair was a honeyed tangle of curls, her skin smooth and glowing with health, her mouth curved up in a smile of pure joy.

"I can't believe you are finally here." Gently, almost reverently, he wrapped his arms around her, his hands cradling her head, long fingers tunneling through the tangles of curls. He had waited 95 years to do that, and the reality was worth every second of the wait. "Welcome to my world, my very dear Miss Granger."

She laughed and snuggled into the arms of Severus Snape, then twined her hands around the back of his neck to pull his head down. Standing on tiptoe, she raised her lips to meet his.

"Here's the first one I owe you."

~0o0~ Finite ~0o0~