"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything."

-Chuck Palahniuk

"What was that about then?" Hermione asked conversationally when Severus emerged once more from the floo.

"I had a proposition to make the ministry in relation to your research," he explained just above a whisper when he saw that Philip was once again sleeping.

"What would that be?" Hermione asked, her curiosity peaked.

"Well I cannot convince them to remove your obliviation, nor can I convince them to release your research," Severus explained. "But I have convinced them to keep on a singularly trained healer at St. Mungos who is trained to deal with any case of cancer that may come through the doors."

"Who?" Hermione asked with a raised brow.

"Me," he said with a half smirk. "Each case that may arise will be treated with the utmost secrecy. Each patient will be required to take an unbreakable vow of secrecy, or they will be obliviated and made to believe they were treated for a particularly virulent strain of influenza. Other arrangements will have to be made when the time comes that I am unable to continue treating anyone, but for now the research will not be buried in a way that leave muggleborns to die a painful death or subject themselves to barbaric muggle medicine."

"How in the world did you manage that?" Hermione said, her eyes stinging with happy tears.

"Perseverance, and Slytherin practices," he said with a shrug. "Besides, it was about time I got a new job don't you think?"

"What will you be doing when there aren't treating someone, cancer isn't all that common in this community after all," Hermione questioned.

"I will occasionally brew for them, as their current staff is seriously lacking." Severus said as he pulled her into his arms. "But mostly I will be able to stay home. I want to look after Philip when you are at work. I don't want him being raised by a nanny or a house elf."

Hermione, no longer distracted by trying to track down the reason for her own obliviation, was able to focus her attention on memory research when she wasn't working directly with her staff. So far she hadn't made much progress in relation to bringing back her parents memories, but she was fully enveloped in that research once more.

It was different this time though, she didn't cry over her books. Her research wasn't a punishment, and it no longer took up all of her time. She devoted part of her day to it at work, broke up with frequent lunches with Harry, and at the end of the day she left it behind to spend time with her husband and her son. It was also different because it was no longer just about her parents. She had stumbled onto a line of intelligence that might allow her to unbury the memories that Lockhart had caused himself by using a broken wand, or even those that the Longbottoms were assumed to have lost to mental illness.

Her research was fulfilling, her staff was hardworking, and her family was always happy to see here when she came home from work. Hermione couldn't help but beam with happiness when her life was more perfect than she could ever dream of it being. Philip was growing rapidly now that he was two months old, and his eyes had already begun to take on an intelligent gleam, there was no denying that he was his parent's son.

People did not know how to deal with Severus when they saw him in public. For decades he had been the dower man that easily parted a crowd with his angry features, but now when he swept through the streets that lead him to St. Mungos hospital he could be seen with a smile on his face. Occasionally he was even seen wearing a Moby Wrap with a fidgeting infant in tow. Somehow people were still afraid of him, but now they weren't sure why. He didn't look frightful.

Severus Snape was a happy father, and a happy husband. When he had served the Dark Lord he had never dared to dream he could have this kind of happiness. He hadn't even bothered to dream of it when he was living in solitude in France. For more years than he wanted to count he didn't dare hope about anything, and yet now he was full of it.

Most of his hope was directed at his son. When the war had ended, and he had found himself a broken man, he had been certain that all hope and innocence was gone from the world. But he could see both of those things in his son's eyes. Philip was the picture of innocence and Severus wouldn't let a soul take that from him. He was almost grateful for the war he had fought in, because their victory meant that his son would never have to hurt like he had, like his mother once had.

And even though it went against what decades of life had ingrained in him, Severus began to believe in the idea of happily ever after. He had a job that made a difference, and so did his wife. They had a healthy happy son who loved them, and who they loved dearly. Hermione maintained a healthy relationship with her close friends and had even found a way to make peace with her ex-husband. Severus had found it in him to make friends with the Weasley parents, and the Potter family, and to be comfortable with it. Things had fallen into place and created a world where smiling took no effort, and he no longer cared who saw him do it.

The End