Author's Note: Here we are. The final chapter. I guess it wasn't a quick tale after all! This ending which has long been planned for our beloved couple. I'm ending this a la Rowling – if you liked where chapter thirty-nine ended and aren't a fan of the whole "nineteen years later" thing, don't read this. So I guess it's like two endings in that regard.
Are there things left unanswered? Of course, that's what potential one-shots are for. (I'm totally down to write little things if people want them. I do plan on a one shot from Hermione's POV about his scarf, his first gift at some point.) But they are happy and together, and thus we leave them, looking off into the future, as all such things best end: a new beginning.
That said, thank you. Thank you all so much, for reading, for favoriting or following, for kudos and reviews. It means a great deal to me for all of your support, and I love you all for it!
The station was far too crowded for his tastes, the Express belching smoke and momentarily obscuring his vision as they came through the divide between nine and ten. Knowing their son was safe with his grandparents, Severus returned the startled squeeze Rose gave him as they neared the gaggle of red-heads on the platform.
Next to him, Hermione kept pace with Rose's trolley, Nothing curled up in the wicker carrier. It was too soon for her to be eleven. Didn't Hermione dash down the stairs that morning a month ago to throw her arms around him and tell him they'd be parents? Wasn't it just last week that she'd been brought home from St Mungo's? A handful of days since he'd cleaned spit-up off his frock coat?
Rose grinned gaily up at him, oblivious to her parents' turmoil. Hermione'd braided her curly dark hair this morning, but the look in her brown eyes was the same excitement as when she'd first used magic on her own with intent. Merlin knew that it had been impossible to keep books shelved after that little display... She was destined to be quite a powerful witch.
"I see Uncle Harry! And Al!" Only his firm grip kept her from darting off towards his godson and Harry. She'd inherited his own gawky limbs and tended to run like an ambling colt, and he didn't wish to risk her falling under the train. A foolish fear, but he'd rather gotten used to such worries after Hermione had announced her second pregnancy to him - it was pointless to fret himself sick, after all.
"Sorry." Rose laid her head briefly against his arm. "I know, Dad, I'm supposed to stay with you and Mum. But I should remind you that I'm eleven and going off to Hogwarts..."
Exasperated, he gave her a quelling look she was all too familiar with. Hermione laughed at them, pushing the trolley past staring witches and wizards. "Precisely why we want you close as long as possible. We're going to miss you."
Rose rolled her eyes. "At least I can go visit your portraits," she told them airily. Oh, to have had her unconcern as a child. "Auntie Minerva said they were in the school. I was wondering, Dad - does yours talk? Auntie says you had a 'divine' voice."
Startled, he looked at her sharply, but was saved from the necessity of answering by their arrival at The Potters' side just as he was saying some trite drivel about his second son's name. He didn't have the heart to tell his daughter that their portraits – his Headmaster portrait and the one of the Golden Trio Hermione had talked Minerva into installing as a wedding present so that the truth of the war would never fade (and so Severus himself would never be alone in any capacity) – would neither speak nor move until after their passing in order to obtain all of their memories and personality. If she truly desired to hear his voice, perhaps he should offer to let her use a Pensieve with him... when she was older. Much, much older – and far more responsible.
"Al!" Rose relinquished his hand to hug her cousin, and Severus raised an eyebrow at Harry.
How droll, he told him as Harry pushed his hair out of his eyes. The other man shrugged.
"It's true. Besides, he's really worried about it. James has been giving him a hard time all summer, even after he talked to you about it." The Gryffindor in question was busy chatting to his cousin and her corpulent father at the moment, but Severus knew he'd break off to greet Rose any moment.
Slytherin would be good fit for him, and I doubt his extended family would allow any teasing to befall him, Severus replied. And it's entirely likely that Rose will be joining him there. I do believe she intends to convince him of it on the train.
"No," said Harry, feigning shock. "Rose? Your Rose? In Slytherin and dragging Al with her? Merlin's knees, that's so unlikely! I mean, we are talking about the same girl here, right? The one who gets an idea in her head and sets out to do it with terrifying determination and seems to wrap us all around her finger no matter how much we say it's not going to happen?"
Severus snorted. At least Sebastian is better than that – he sees right through her. Destined for Ravenclaw, I'd wager.
"Makes you wonder what the last will be – Hullo, Hermione. Feeling alright?" Harry pulled her into a hug, her eyes darting to where Rose was talking animatedly to her adopted 'cousins'.
"I'm pregnant, Harry, not sick... Does Ginny let you talk like this to all the girls, or just me?" Hermione moved to hug the red-head in question so Severus grasped Rose's trolley to stop it from being moved aside by impatient parents.
"Just you," Ginevra told her, Lily's hand in hers.
James was putting on airs again, and Severus resisted a familiar urge to punch the boy in the mouth for looking at his daughter that way. Cocky, arrogant little...
"Hey!" Ronald pushed through the crowd, nudging past Ginevra to get to Hermione and pulling her into a tight embrace as she laughed. To the side, Martha was adjusting Norbert's red and gold scarf, while Hugo looked on, his eyes large in his pale, freckled face. Severus took a moment to be grateful that Rose lacked any worries about attending Hogwarts. Fearless, he thought. Just like her mother.
"Where's Sebastian?" Ronald asked, sending Norbert off with James to stow their trunks.
"With my mum. It's Rose's first time and she wanted it to be special. He gets to go himself next year, after all." Sebastian had, for good or for ill, inherited both of their swotty natures, just like his sister. Unlike his sister, however, he tended to eschew scheming in favor of simply learning. Severus had even taken it upon himself to start teaching him Potions since the boy clearly took after him in that regard. Sebastian had his mother's height thus far, standing on the stool in the gleaming lab and studying over Severus's shoulder with his solemn brown eyes and his thin black hair tied back out of the way.
"I can't believe Lily's going next year, too," Ginevra murmured. "It seems like such a short time ago that they were all babies."
Hermione laughed. "I know what you mean! It seems like yesterday that I caught Rose transplanting her namesake flowers into Severus's boots while proclaiming that 'daddy's feet smell'." She sighed, wistful, her hand caressing her belly. Their gift, their unexpected babe, rested under her fingers. "I'm going to miss her."
"She won't be alone, at least," Harry pointed out. "She's got James, and Al, and Bert, and even Hugo will be there, too."
"Oh, Malfoy's here," Ron interjected, pointing with his chin.
"Is that Scorpius?" Martha asked, foisting bagged lunches for her boys off on Hugo to carry.
It is, Severus replied while Hermione translated absently. They were both mindful of the way their daughter's eyes lit up and how she rushed towards the pale boy, grabbing his hands and chattering animatedly. Draco looked on, nodding faintly to their group. Severus inclined his head and excused himself from the rest as Ronald began loudly declaring at Rose had best out-do the youngest Malfoy in school.
Severus pulled paper and a self-inking quill from his pocket. "Draco."
"You told him about the war, then." The quill scratched over the small spiral-bound paper.
"Not much of a choice," the blond muttered sourly once he'd read it. "I've tried to do a better job with him than my father did with me, but he's still going to have a hard go of if people hold prejudices. I refuse to let him go into it blind."
"A wise decision," Severus wrote, and Draco nodded wearily. "How is Narcissa?"
"Good. She wants to see her nephew and whatever-else soon," he warned. Severus rolled his eyes. Narcissa has insisted on playing Aunt to his children, and he liked the witch too much to put up a fight. Better, seeing his mother so pleased had warmed Draco up to Hermione considerably, and the two had managed to become almost-friends over the years. Almost.
Rose had her heart set on Scorpius, however, so Hermione and Draco were doing their utmost to keep the peace. The boy didn't have a chance at dodging her, and thankfully that would keep the eldest Potter from joining the family if all went to Rose's machinations. Not that he had any doubt his daughter would succeed... Hell, he'd already had to tell her – very firmly – that she would not be trying out for Quidditch until next year.
"I'll owl her soon," Severus scrawled in reply.
"Uh – your wife's crying," Draco managed, jerking his chin uncomfortably over Severus's shoulder.
Oh, sod it all. Severus turned and pushed past a gaggle of children to reach Hermione's side just as she accepted a handkerchief from Martha.
"Sorry." Hermione dabbed at her eyes, blowing her nose loudly. The tiny rose gold charms, one for each anniversary, dangling from the thin gold chain on her wrist caught the light. "Bloody hormones."
Uncaring of gawking eyes, he pulled her into his embrace, dark eyes watching Rose as she walked towards them after a jaunty wave at Scorpius. She was too young to go off to Hogwarts. Despite having taken her to purchase her wand, Rose being eleven seemed impossible. He'd watched her take her first steps, fed her mushed bananas, and kissed skinned knees. It couldn't be so long since he'd come home late from work to find Hermione trying to teach Rose sign language for "Daddy" just to surprise him. And indeed, they'd counted it as her first word – Sebastian had made up for that by shrieking "Mama" a few years after – uncaring that it was signed and not spoken.
"Mum?" Rose tugged on Hermione's sleeve.
"It's okay, love. Mummy's just a bit emotional."
"Well, I don't see why. It's not look there's another Dark Lord out there." Severus winced, glaring at her. Rose sighed, exasperated. "Yes, Dad, I know, don't tempt fate."
Hermione pulled away and adjusted Rose's jumper. "We're just going to miss you is all."
"I'll be fine! It's not like I won't know anybody." Rose nibbled on her lower lip for a moment. She turned her head, checking not to be overheard. Her profile was similar to her mother's, though she had gotten his nose's size albeit thankfully not the hook. Sebastian, however, was doomed. "You will owl me as soon as the baby arrives, right?"
"As soon as we're at St Mungo's, I'll have Severus get word to you, I promise."
"But I won't get an owl until the morning post!"
Severus smirked. Who says I'd send a ruddy owl? If a Patronus shows up, you'll know, and Longbottom knows to get you to the hospital to meet your squalling pink sibling.
"True." Rose flung herself at them both. "I will miss you."
His breath caught and the three of them embraced each other tightly. Eleven and time to let her go to Hogwarts. Eleven years since rocking her in his arms quietly shushing her cries or rocking her to sleep in the creaky old chair from Molly. Fiercely, he pressed his lips to the top of her head.
We will miss you, too, he replied, his throat tight. Determined not to make an arse of himself in front of so many former students, he changed the subject. You have your lunch?
"Yes,"she replied impatiently, looking every inch their daughter. Merlin help her professors.
Don't forget to change prior to arriving at school.
Don't... He hesitated. Don't forget to write us.
Rose hugged him again, burying her face in his chest. "I won't, Daddy." He barely heard her whisper, and squeezed her tight. "Promise."
"We'll owl you every week. Don't let Nothing eat your quills or anyone else's pet," Hermione added.
Rose laughed, extricating herself from him, and they all pretended not to see the tears staining his front. "I can't wait to field questions about you two. James says it gets pretty bad sometimes."
A finger poked into his ribs, a not-so-subtle reminder from his wife, and he tried to wipe the scowl from his face at the boy's name. People were staring, Ronald grinning and telling his second son he was famous, the Potters loading trunks onto the train. Rose waved at Scorpius once more, spelling something he couldn't quite catch from this angle. Idly, Severus wondered how much sign language she'd be using in class and getting in trouble for.
Perhaps they shouldn't have taught her runes. Ah, well. Hindsight.
Rose clambered onto the train, hair bouncing. Ginevra was wiping at her eyes and Martha was shoving a large tin of what was likely biscuits into the window that two red heads were poking out of. Out the corner of his eye he saw James Potter trading chocolate frog cards with another student and lazily referring to Harry as a tosser. Amusing little miscreant when he wasn't eyeing Rose.
Together, Hermione and he walked down the length of the car to stand by Draco and the rest of their friends. Sunlight blinded him briefly and when he looked at the gleaming train car windows after for a moment he thought he saw a scrawny, unloved little boy and a scared, lonely little girl reflected in the windows. But his vision cleared and it was only Severus and Hermione, middle-aged with gray temples and laugh lines and wild curls with a rounded belly.
"Bye, Mum. Bye, Dad. I love you!" Rose shouted over the engine, waving excitedly from her compartment. She'd donned a rather faded and exceptionally soft scarf of a deep, deep green, almost black, and the ends fluttered in the wind.
They joined in the waving parents and siblings, watching as the train puffed away from the station until they could no longer see their daughter. Hermione sniffled, smiling through her tears. "Bet she's in Slytherin."
He laughed silently, leaning to brush her lips with his.
You know she will be. Come now, he urged once the train was long gone from sight. I believe we have a promise to keep to our son before he storms the museums on his own and we have to bail him out.
"So true." Hermione leaned her head on his arm briefly as they walked towards the divider back to the Muggle station. "I love you, Severus."
He didn't even have to turn her to reply, a mere tightening of his fingers on her waist was enough for her to know the words he wished to say. I love you, too, Hermione.
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