The usual applies. I own nothing and make nothing, and if you recognise it, it belongs to J K Rowling.
This is it...we are finally at the end. I thought I would just mention that there might be just a bit of OOC in this chapter, and further explanation will be in the Author's Notes at the end.
This chapter wasn't betaed. I was in such a hurry to get it posted, that I didn't get it double checked for errors. So I apologise in advance for any mistakes.
Thank you for reading and enjoy!
Severus slowly walked down the long corridor that he had been down only once before. Only one room stood in his way before freedom. He had been here for three years, and had finally finished his sentence. He was hesitant to follow the guard, and although he would never admit it, he was worried that no one would be there to greet him, other than Ministry representatives. Disappointment was nothing new to him, but in the past two years, he had finally allowed himself to feel just the tiniest bit of hope. And... she promised she would be there. She had visited him regularly until the past two months, but he had not heard from her at all since then, and Minerva would not tell him anything as well. A slight uneasiness was building in him as he thought of the possible reasons for her not visiting. He shook the thoughts from his head, putting up his protective shields as they reached the door.
The guard opened the door, and Severus let out his breath when he saw her there. Hermione smiled at him, and he couldn't help but let his eyes rove down her body. She had on robes of a deep chocolate brown that brought out the flecks of amber in her eyes. Her hair was pulled up into a loose twist, with curly tendrils escaping and framing her face. She walked towards him and gently grasped his hand, leading him towards the paperwork that would finally free him.
They both stood at the Apparation point outside of Azkaban, and he watched as she slowly pulled something out of her robes.
"An Auror is supposed to give this to you, for the final piece of paperwork, but Harry let me bend the rules a bit." She smiled at Severus as she placed the ebony wand in his palm. "It's official now." She leaned into him and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. "You are free."
"I-I...thank you, Hermione." He mumbled, seemingly lost for words.
"Are you ready?" She smiled at him, squeezing his hand gently as she pulled him closer.
"Yes." He replied hesitantly, giving her a questioning look by raising his eyebrow slightly. "Although I don't know where we are going. My home..," he started, shaking his head slightly, "...it is gone. I..,"
Hermione cut him off with a chaste kiss on the lips. "I know Severus. The Ministry-," she stopped and shook her head slightly. "My flat was gone as well." She looked up and smiled at him before speaking once again. "I have a surprise for you. I know you aren't fond of surprises, but I think you will like this one. I have a portkey since you haven't Apparated in more than three years, and I think it will be easier on you than side-along."
She gave him a quick kiss before the familiar tug took them away.
Severus stood in place, breathing quickly as he waited for the nausea to pass. As he started to look around, he momentarily panicked as the the cobblestone streets and buildings reminded him too much of Diagon Alley. As he looked closely at the signs on the buildings, he breathed a sigh of relief when he realised he wasn't in Diagon Alley, or even Great Britain or Scotland for that matter.
"The signs...they are," he mumbled as he tried to form a cohesive thought. "Where are we?" he finally asked.
"Sráidbhaile Draíochta Aois," she smiled at him once again. "I'm sure I didn't come close to pronouncing that correctly. It translates loosely to 'village of old magic.' We are in southern Ireland, not too far from Kenmare. I guess you could say this is the Diagon Alley of Ireland."
They slowly walked down the cobblestone street, and he looked in the shop windows since he wasn't familiar enough with the language to read the signs. Walking past a half dozen shops, they finally stopped in front of a store that had a much newer sign. He gazed at the window, and smiled as he saw the display of books.
"As much as I love books, I'm afraid that I do not have the Galleons to purchase any at the moment."
"Well, then I guess it is a good thing that I know the proprietor of this shop. Quite well, actually." She smiled at him as she waited for him to comprehend what she was hinting at.
He stared at her for several moments, before his eyebrows rose sharply as he figured it out. "This is your shop?"
"Yes. Follow me," she grasped his hand and gently pulled him into the shop. "Harry saw it for sale right before I was released. It was already a bookstore, but the owner was retiring and wanted to sell the shop. Harry wanted to give me the money to buy it, but I insisted on it being a loan." She ran her hand down the spine of a book, then looked up at him. "I've done pretty well, and have already paid back most of the loan."
He glanced around the shop, looking at the rows of books, before making his way towards the middle of the store. He looked at the empty space ahead, and then over at her, giving her a puzzled expression. "Are you planning on expanding?"
"The owner had planned to before he decided to retire, and this half of the store had originally been another shop before he took the wall down."
"Why haven't you expanded, if you are doing so well?"
"Well, I kind of thought that it might be more useful for the town to have an apothecary. The residents have to Apparate to either Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade for potions, since they don't have a potions master here." She gave him a devious smile.
"You did this for me?" His voice was incredulous. "But...why?" He asked much more softly, confusion evident in his tone.
"Because I care about you, because you deserve it...because I could." Hermione looked up at him and gently pushed his hair away from his face. "But mostly, because I love you, Severus Snape."
"Oh, Hermione," he paused and wiped a tear from his cheek. "This-this...no one has ever done anything like this for me." He put his hand around her waist, pulling her body close to his. He leaned in quickly, crashing his lips into hers. Once their lips met, he slowed down and let her take the lead, gently opening his mouth to her tongue. Neither one wanted the kiss to end, but their lips finally parted when they both needed to catch their breath.
Once they had both separated, Hermione grasped his hand and pulled him towards the backroom behind the register.
"If you don't mind, I have one more thing that I would like to show you," she spoke quietly as she pulled him towards the stairs in the small room.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Severus's eyes widened as he glanced around the open room. It was a perfect mix of Muggle and wizarding style, and he smiled as he gazed at the two comfortable looking chairs facing the fireplace.
"You have a lovely flat, Hermione." He walked through the sitting room, his hands grazing the books on the bookshelves as he headed towards the kitchen.
"Thank you," she said as she walked into the kitchen. "Would you like some tea?"
"That would be wonderful."
Severus walked back into the sitting room, and perused the books once more as he had a seat. As he read the titles of each book, his brows rose in shock as he recognised not only many of the titles, but the books themselves.
"Hermione, are these-," but he stopped as she came back into the room with the teacups.
"Yes, they are your books, Severus. I thought...," she paused for a moment, a nervous expression on her face. "I thought that you would feel more welcome in your home with your own books."
"I know it was presumptuous of me, but-," she stopped speaking as he pulled her down toward him, silencing her with a kiss.
Hermione pulled away slowly, slightly panting as she tried to catch her breath. "So I take it that that is a yes? That you are okay with this?"
"Of course it's a yes, you daft woman." The corner of his lip quirked up as he spoke. "But are you positive that you want to do this? I'm not an easy man to live with."
"Severus, I've wanted to do this ever since we had the conversation about the future in the courtyard. I know this isn't Greece or Spain, or somewhere warm, but it still seemed perfect." She gently ran her hand down his cheek as she continued. "There are so many reasons I want to do this. You made the potion to cure me with the polyjuice accident in my second year, and you saved me from Professor Lupin when he was changed. And all the things you did that we were unaware of at the time while we were on the run." She leaned closer and kissed his neck, "But mostly, because I love you."
"Hermione, I...," he turned her head towards him, and started kissing her, wrapping his arms tightly around her as he deepened the kiss. As he started to pull away, he whispered so softly, that she only barely heard him. "I love you, too."
Hermione's smile was radiant as she pulled away from him. "Would you like to see the rest of our home?"
Our Home, he thought as she pulled him towards one of the rooms. He had lived at Hogwarts most of his life, and when he wasn't there, he lived at Spinner's End. But neither of those had been home...not really. He now had a job, a home, and someone who not only wanted to be with him, but loved him as well. It may have taken him forty-two years to get to this point, but he wasn't going to waste even another minute of it.
"Yes," he replied smiling, ready to start his new life.
A/N...Okay, I've got a lot to say this time since this is the end of the story, lol.
First, my OOC warning was for Severus getting emotional. Although I personally don't see this as OOC for him, considering he did cry over Lily in the flashbacks in DH, I've been told to give this warning just in case others might think differently.
And I have very little knowledge about Ireland. So I apologise if my little bit of research isn't accurate. I used heavily from some tourist sights and Google Translate for the village name.
Lastly, I'm still not 100% satisfied with this chapter, but visualising it in your head and writing it are two very different things. This is how I wanted it to end, but I always struggle a bit with the dialogue. I also wanted the ending to be very open- in my own mind, they are a bit on the broken side after staying in Azkaban, so I just couldn't write the whole 'happily married, white picket fence house and two kids' ending, at least not at this point, and this is where I wanted it to end. If you see it that way, that's great- but I just left it up to the reader what happens next.
Thank you for reading, and your reviews are very much appreciated!