She said it that knew it best: yes, there were a lot (and I mean a lot) of flames for the final chapter, and I think I answered all of them. I respect people who flame without switching to 'anonymous' to do so, and so you will never get any grief from me for expressing your opinions - they're what I wrote this for, after all. However, there were equally as many positive reviews, and I want to thank you all equally for your feedback, long or short, posititive or negative (or in some cases, bloody outraged!). Oh, and I apologise for making people cry - I cried too, if that helps. I was going to make you all stew for the Epilogue, but i wrote it in longhand last night and thought I would get it typed up and posted now before the new term starts - too much work on for fanfiction now. Thank you to all who have reviewed, and all who have read without reviewing as well, and in particular to those who have reviewed throughout the whole journey. You've been great - you know who you are.
Here we go then: the epilogue. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: I am most definitely up to no good. Sorry.
"One Night Out on Good Behaviour."
"Do you ever think about Draco?" Ron was sitting in a large squashy armchair in his and Hermione's lounge, his slippered feet resting on the coffee table. Harry smiled at him pensively, before responding.
"It's so funny you should mention his name. I was only thinking about him the other day. Funny."
"Thinking about love, were you?"
He rubbed his jaw line thoughtfully and picked up his mug. "Not exactly," he said, taking a sip, "more general reminiscing, I suppose. We hated each other so much in school, even our relationship, it was so volatile, now that I look back, it almost deserved chapters… I missed him so much at the time, but thinking back on it now, we were so young, I wonder if it really would've lasted?"
"Unlike you and Severus, you mean," Ron said, shrewdly, twisting round briefly to check that his kids were still in the garden and hadn't 'gone exploring' again. "You bloody old married couple."
Harry nudged him with the side of his foot. "Look who's talking. But yes, that's what I meant. I don't know… I never stopped loving Draco, but in my head he'll always be eighteen. We're all perfect at eighteen. Sev's pushing for sixty in three months – we need to plan a 'do, by the way – and I swear the bloke just gets better and better looking… I have more greys than he does, you know, I think it's genetic – should I get it dyed, d'you think?"
Ron quirked an eyebrow at him. "Do whatever you want, you great ponce. I find it very ironic that he's aging so much better than you – it's karma, I tell you – karma for all your life of hideous privilege."
Harry laughed. "Irony indeed. Don't be a bastard." He sobered. "Ron, I think I should tell him I love him, before he tells me to get out and 'find someone younger' – again. I couldn't relieve those years… I just couldn't. They were interesting, but painful. I can't go back there… I think it might be time to finally make this thing permanent."
Ron shot him a surprised look. "In three years you haven't told him that you love him?"
"I've showed him, I think… you know how amazingly comfortable we are together… it's good, in a way, that we did call it off and let me get a bit wiser, get to know each other better before getting back into it… but no, I haven't told him. But now, I want to put him on my will – it's due for a renewal – and so I think I'd better say something."
"I think you'd better, mate. I – oh bloody hellfire, where's Jennifer, she's disappeared, hang on-" Ron trailed off as he'd bolted from his chair and through the French doors behind them. He reappeared a few minutes later, herding the two youngest of his unruly kids before him. "I think these two horrors need a bit of a break in their rooms – calm down a bit – you staying for dinner, Harry?"
"Uncle Harry, daddy's making us go to bed, can't we stay down here?" Ron and Hermione's youngest son was sticking his bottom lip out at him.
Harry blew a raspberry at the children, making them giggle, appalled by the rude noise. "Sorry kiddies, Uncle Harry's got to go, be good for your dad now, and give mummy lots of kisses for me, okay?" He bent down to hug them both and they came away with a sickle apiece – treasure indeed. They stampeded up the stairs: a herd of elephants. Ron clapped a hand on his shoulder and walked him to the floo.
"I'd better get up there before they find some other way to give me a heart attack. Good luck, mate."
He alighted in his kitchen and stood for a moment perusing the pile of post Severus must have rescued from the mat. There were a few bills, which he set aside, and some letters to him regarding charitable donations he had made through the Potter Trust, a fund he had set up at the age of twenty-five, when it had transpired that as the "next of kin" of Draco Malfoy – deceased – he had been named as the sole heir and inheritor of the Malfoy fortunes and estates – it would seem that following her infamous flight to France after the death of her husband, Narcissa Malfoy had never been heard from again. She had been declared legally dead and the family's assets had fallen into Harry's surprised and unwilling hands. After selling the Malfoy property and pooling the fortunes of Potter, Black and Malfoy, he had been appalled at the time to discover how excessively rich he was through inheritance. The Potter Trust had begun as an unobtrusive and legitimate manner of bestowing his wealth on worthy causes, and now boasted over a million donating members to the registered charity.
He skimmed through the requests briefly before spelling them to the study to give greater attention to at a later date. He stared at his hands for a moment as he sorted the rest of he mail into missives addressed to himself or Severus. The Malfoy signet ring caught his eye and he tried to calculate how many years he had worn it. Nineteen? More? He had thought about Draco more in the last three days or so than he had in the past ten years, and he couldn't help feeling as though this was a sign for something. He flicked his eyes towards the back door, wondering whether he should visit the grave at the end of the long garden. It had been many years since he had done so.
When he got down to the graveside, he could see that the grave itself was very overgrown now with nettles, particularly around the stone. He spent a few minutes carefully divesting the area of weeds using his wand, before scorgifying the headstone of moss and the general ravages of time. "Missed." Yes, sometimes that was still true. He missed the boy he had been with Draco. It had all been so intense back then. He traced the letters of the name, thoughtfully.
"I didn't think I'd find you out here."
Harry turned at the familiar deep and steady voice. Severus was standing behind him in the long grass, watching. "No, me either," he agreed, stepping away from the graveside and coming over to loop his arms around the other man's waist. He took in the defined, still relatively unlined face, and the coal black hair framing it – aging better than his own "salt and pepper" tones, as Hermione had termed them. Leaning in, he bestowed a chaste kiss on the soft dry lips. Severus smiled in his own deliberate way, and rested his forehead against Harry's.
"What was that for?"
"Nothing in particular. I love you, that's all."
"I love you too," Severus stroked his nape fondly, "in fact, there's something I need to talk to you about."
"What is it?"
"Come into the sitting room and I'll tell you. It's warm in there." They traversed the length of the garden companionably, and stole a longer kiss in the kitchen doorway. Severus suggested having some dinner before going upstairs, and they cooked companionably, talking about their day and discussing one of the charities that seemed most interested in some further support from the Potter Trust. Over the shepherds' pie, they began to plan the basics of Severus' sixtieth birthday party – he would only agree to something small, and Harry was happy to oblige him on that – neither of them were particularly big partygoers.
They ended up lying wrapped together on the sitting room sofa. Harry leant back into his lover's embrace, putting his hand over the one that had found its habitual possessive place on his waist. "What was it you wanted to talk about?"
Severus shifted and looked down at him. "My will." Harry looked at him, but said nothing. "I know you don't want to inherit any more money, but there's no one else I'd give it to. I had it changed last week. You have my full permission to invest every penny in the Trust, should you so choose."
Harry's hand sifted through the long black locks. "You're not going to die on me, are you?"
He laughed, "not planning on it, no," before kissing him soundly and turning more passionate. Nothing like a little chat about death to make you feel alive. Harry knew full well that as a wizard Severus could expect to live to nearly two hundred if he looked after himself, and it was a sign in his favour that after making it – albeit precariously – through two world wars, he had all this time now and he could be with Harry. Harry who had said that he loved him. They understood each other, inside. He broke the embrace, gently. "There is one other thing that goes with the will."
He got up and went across to the fireplace. Harry was lying on the sofa, watching him. Opening a box on the mantelpiece, he took from it a very ancient object. Harry sat up and stared at him. "I'm not asking you to wear it, you don't have to," he assured him, gently, "I know that the other… has never been cast aside, so all I ask, is that you keep it safe. I do now bestow it to you."
"Thank you," Harry said, quietly. He held it in his palm and looked at it. Severus asked him if he was coming to bed. "In a moment." He kissed his cheek softly and went out, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts.
It was difficult, taking off the Malfoy ring. It had been on his finger for so many years that Harry had to suck it to get it off, leaving a strange taste in his mouth. The taste of change, he thought to himself. His hand looked strangely bare without it, a bright white tan line marking years of shade. He put it carefully into the box on the mantelpiece, and closed the lid on it.
In the dim candlelight Severus had left for him in their bedroom, the Snape signet ring glinted with a single set sapphire in the soft yellow glow. He admired the naked column of his lover's back before stripping his own clothes, folding them carefully, and slipping quietly into bed, pressing a kiss to one scarred shoulder blade and wrapping an arm over the tempting hips. In sleep, Severus sighed and leaned back into his arms. Harry stroked his ring finger with his thumb, unconsciously learning the lines of the new ring as he recalled where he had hidden the second Potter signet ring he had had made.
Closing his eyes, the last thing he remembered before he succumbed to sleep, was the certain knowledge that they were going to be all right.
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