Mr and Mrs Wilkins, of number four, Willow Tree Crescent, were proud to say they were perfectly abnormal, thank you very much.
A pair of professional dentists by trade, they had moved to the small Australian coastal village of Woolmara Crossing a few years earlier, attracted by the views, the tranquillity - and by the rumours of witchcraft that the villagers themselves did nothing to deny.
Many unexplained incidents had been reported as happening in Woolmara Crossing, and visitors tended not to stay very long, finding the residents a little too … odd for their tastes.
In short, the village was generally left to its own devices, a quirky little place with oddly shaped houses for curious people.
Monica Wilkins loved everything about it.
She couldn’t quite remember when her interest in all things magical had started, but her obsession had grown over the years. Her husband, Wendell, had been fairly amused at first, but he soon became just as enthralled by the news cuttings and stories that she began to gather, the books on witchcraft and wizardry that she compulsively checked out of the library, and her insistence that she knew magic to be real, but couldn’t explain why.
A chance visit to Woolmara Crossing had whet her appetite, and before she and Wendell had left that day, they’d already viewed the house that was to become theirs.
Willow Tree Crescent was a small, crescent-shaped pathway that was home to seven houses, set just across the road from a sandy beach. Monica had decided that number four would be their new home before they’d even crossed the threshold.
She just knew it.
Wendell had rolled his eyes and capitulated to his younger wife, as he always did. If Monica just knew something, they just had to run with it. Keeping his wife happy was no hardship, and the house was beautiful, in a wonderfully secluded location, and they loved their neighbours as dearly as if they were family.
The couple next door had caught her attention not long after they moved in. A dark-haired man with severe but handsome features, lived there with his much younger wife (or partner, Monica wasn’t sure if they were actually married, since they wore no rings) their noticeable age difference reminding Monica a little of Wendell and herself.
The girl … there was something ethereal about her that had captured Monica’s heart from the first time she’d laid eyes on her. Heavily pregnant when she and Wendell had moved in, Monica often saw the girl walking about in the garden, her curly hair blowing about her face in the sea breeze, looking serene and content.
Monica was drawn to her. She could not tell if it was her beauty, her sweet nature, or something else entirely – but there was something ‘other-worldly’ about her, as if the girl had lived a thousand lifetimes, and knew everything there was to know.
The couple did not seem to have any family. No one ever visited, but they appeared to like it that way. The man would stride down to the harbour every morning, dressed in head-to-toe black, and along with many of the other residents of the curious village, would board a boat that took him away for the day, returning at dusk. The girl would always be at the gate without fail to greet him, his lined face lighting up as he saw her waiting for his return.
The man would sweep the girl up and kiss her so passionately, as if they were a pair of star-crossed lovers who were destined never to see one another again after that moment.
Sometimes their kisses would be so raw, so visceral, that Monica would need to look away, breathless, fearing that she was intruding on an intensely private and painful moment.
The baby girl had been born without noise or fuss, and no ambulances had been called. One day she was just simply … there. Favouring her father, the pale-skinned infant had arrived with a shock of jet black hair and huge black eyes.
Small chats over the garden fence as the girl walked her new baby around the lawn, singing softly to her, became an invitation to for her to come over and hold the child, and led, over time to cups of tea and long lunches. They grew close, with Monica and Wendell accepting the baby as a grandchild, so enamoured were they of her.
The baby girl grew into an irrepressible toddler without a care in the world, her black hair beginning to bend in the same way that her mother’s curls did.
Wendell sawed a gap in the fence that connected their two gardens together, and made a child-sized little gate that the small girl would often use, and her mother would find her on the neighbouring lawn making daisy chains with her assumed grandparents.
Wendell and Monica had no children, so the gift of the child-next-door’s company was an exquisite one.
Eileen Prince had flown to Australia on a Muggle aeroplane, met at the airport by the curious sight of her son, lightly tanned and casually dressed, driving a motor car.
Severus had corresponded with her for a year after they had left Britain, regular owls that documented their progress – his work, Hermione’s pregnancy, and the subsequent birth of their healthy daughter.
Finally, Eileen could wait no longer, and handed in her notice at Hogwarts, ready to be rid of Irma Pince forever.
She purchased number six, Willow Tree Crescent, a small two-bedroomed house next door to Severus and Hermione, where her granddaughter could stay the night when she wished.
The heat and sunlight soon turned Eileen’s skin from deathly pale to the same light tan as her son. She allowed her long, greying-black hair to flow loose in the breeze, no longer scraping it back into the severe bun that she had worn all her adult life. She looked in every way the epitome of how a mature witch should look.
Eileen felt free, and her magic felt new and vital. The demons of her past began to fade in the sunshine, and in the love of her son and grandchild. She loved Hermione too, but wished that Severus would make an honest witch of the girl. Eileen Prince finally began to smile again, and found a new joy in every day.
Woolmara Crossing was an almost fully wizarding enclave, and the few Muggles who lived there were either aware of the magical world, or were tolerant of their rather odd neighbours. She had developed a warm relationship with the Wilkins, a Muggle couple whom Hermione had explained were actually her real parents, but due to a precocious Obliviate she had placed upon them during the last year of the war, they were unlikely ever to remember that.
Eileen would watch Monica playing with the baby in the garden between their two homes, so loving and gentle, but never knowing she was the child’s true grandmother. She would never know. Eileen’s softening heart wept for them both, for this half-relationship had to be enough for Hermione, her mother could not be fully returned to her.
Her fine son would leave every morning for work, taking the boat from the harbour, never once neglecting to bestow a passionate kiss upon his partner. Severus would never allow Hermione to feel unloved, not for one day. He was attentive, caring, and Eileen burst with pride every day at the man he had become, from such inauspicious beginnings.
Eileen would often accompany Severus to the water’s edge, lingering to talk to the harbour workers once the boat had left. A grizzly old wizard called Gerald, a former sailor with a bright ginger beard, would invite her to take tea with him before returning home, and sometimes she would.
Sometimes she wouldn’t, but did not like the sad look in his eyes when she refused him, so she more often than not made time for tea, if she were not required to help care for her granddaughter that day.
Eileen liked Gerald. He was kind and gentle, a huge man made burly from his work on the harbour. One day, she would invite him into her home for dinner, for this wizard was nothing like Tobias.
Angel Granger-Snape skipped back through the little gate that led from Granma and Granpa Wilkins’ garden, and back into her own, which was number five. She had sneaked a glass of pink lemonade and a tiny pink cupcake and sensibly eaten them out of sight, hidden with Granma in the kitchen.
Angel ran to the front gate of her own house, watched over by Granma, as they had heard the school boat return to the harbour, which meant that Mumma and Dadda would soon be home.
Dadda was a teacher at the school on the magic island, and he would go there every morning in a long black cloak and come home every night. Mumma said he was a scary teacher that made all the children scared of him. This made Angel giggle, because Dadda wasn’t scary at all, especially when she tweaked his big nose or plaited his long hair.
This year, Mumma had started at the school on the magic island too, she was going to be a teacher now.
Mumma had stayed at home with Angel when she was a little baby, but now she was four years old and a big girl, Angel was going to stay with either Granma Wilkins or Granma Prince and have fun, while Mumma did lessons to learn how to be a teacher.
Granma Wilkins would sometimes take her to the surgery where she worked, where she and Granpa would mend people’s teeth. There wasn’t much magic there, although she liked to make their equipment float around when they weren’t looking, giggling when Granpa couldn’t find his mouth mirror, or his rubber gloves.
Granma Prince would read to her from her big book of magical fairytales, making her eyes widen with stories of Babbity Rabbity, The Witch and the Hopping Pot, and her favourite; The Fountain of Fair Fortune.
Angel knew that Granma Prince was magic, like Mumma and Dadda and her. Granma and Granpa Wilkins were not magic. That meant they were Muggles. But they knew a little bit about magic, and it was okay to do magic in front of them.
In seven years, when she was finally eleven and a grown-up witch, she herself would go on the boat to the big school with Mumma and Dadda.
Angel thought that seemed like an awfully long time to wait.
Hermione stepped off the boat and walked on to the unplottable island for the first time, amazed at the size and scale of the castle that had come into view as they had sailed closer.
This was Oceania – the witchcraft and wizardry school for the magical children of Australia, New Zealand, and the hundreds of surrounding islands, and today was the first day of her apprenticeship under the renowned Charms master, Professor Mainwaring. She had already survived two interviews with the man; he was definitely not easy to impress, and Hermione was certain the stern professor would challenge her to do her very best.
She had completed the Australian equivalent of the NEWT exams on a course of home study whilst caring for Angel as a young baby, leaving her qualified and ready to start her apprenticeship once Angel was old enough to be left for the day. Having Eileen on one side and her own parents on the other, there was always a willing pair of hands keen to spend time with Angel.
Her daughter was stunning. Despite Severus’ fears that Angel would end up looking like a female version of himself, in reality it was no bad thing. There was no a Snape child wasn’t going to inherit the black hair and eyes, for that gene was so dominant, but it was madly curly, just like Hermione’s own.
Oceania was built on the top of an atoll that jutted out of the sea like an enormous rook, almost fully surrounded by a beautiful coral reef, that encircled the huge lagoon. Students could either board at the school, or arrive and depart each day using the magical boats that left from harbours in magical villages like Woolmara Crossing, or from the many islands. The school harbours and boat houses could be found deep inside the lagoon. It was a stunning place to work, and Hermione was delighted that they had both secured teaching positions there.
Severus, for the first time in his career, had simply been able to teach, with no other obligations apart from his own, and had found to his utter surprise, that he quite enjoyed the experience.
Free to set his own syllabus, he had opted for DADA over Potions, since he felt that was his strongest area, but he’d set up one of the spare rooms at home as a Potions laboratory, where he continued to research and experiment with rare potions. He also enjoyed brewing very basic recipes with Angel, and watching their twin raven heads bent over a bubbling cauldron was something that Hermione enjoyed peeking her head around the door to see.
She herself couldn’t wait to start teaching and learning. They had decided against any more babies for the time being, since Angel had not been planned and Hermione was still so very young, with a career that she was desperate to get started in. There would be plenty of time for more children in the future, when and if they decided to expand their family.
Occasionally though, Hermione would cry.
She would cry for the friends she had lost, cry for the parents she had Obliviated, and cry for the life she had left behind.
And on those occasions, her wonderful Severus would scoop her up into his arms, take her to bed and pour his love into her, reminding her of why she’d made the choices she had.
And every time, she would remember.
Severus walked along the beach, hand-in-hand with his small daughter, kicking up the sand and surf as they shuffled along. He was barefoot, his black trousers rolled to mid-calf and a white shirt casually held together with a few buttons. The skin of his chest was no longer alabaster white, but lightly tanned, and he found himself unashamed of his scars, and felt no need to keep them covered. He had kept his hair long, and it blew gently around his face as they walked.
Angel was also barefoot, squealing at the feel of the wet sand between her toes. Her flowery dress, no doubt one of his mother’s creations, was already a little wet and dirty, but it was no matter, for the child was having fun. Hermione would soon join them, she was just putting the finishing touches to her first assignment for Professor Mainwaring, and he knew she wanted it to be perfect.
He’d swept Angel up from the living room where she’d been disturbing her mother and headed across the quiet road to the beach, enjoying this time alone with his precious child, a child he never in a million years thought he would be lucky enough to have.
His daughter was beautiful, favouring him in her looks, but in a softer, more subtle way. He had no doubt he would be the most staggeringly over-protective father the world had ever known, particularly when Angel left for school.
Oceania, the witchcraft and wizardry school where he and Hermione now both worked, took both boarders and day pupils, but the overwhelming majority of students opted to board, wanting the full school experience, which included clubs and societies that ran outside of school hours, Quidditch above the coral reef and those all-important late nights trying not to get caught by the staff on patrol.
It was not so different to Hogwarts, and yet it was half a world away. They could never return to Britain – they had made their choice when Hermione had snapped her wand outside London Heathrow airport, from where they had flown to Australia using their Muggle passports after fleeing the castle that day. This had signified her voluntary exit from wizarding Britain.
Once settled in the wizarding enclave of Woolmara Crossing, they had travelled to Sydney to a hidden magical street, not dissimilar to Diagon Alley, where they’d finally met with the wandmaker, who had fitted them for their new, permanent wands.
Severus’ new wand was a rich mahogany, so dark brown that it appeared black, which suited him. It had no markings, other than a slight carving to the handle which aided his grip. Hermione’s was hornbeam, intricately carved like her first wand, and both wands had a dragon heartstring core. Their new wands soon began to bend themselves to their magical signatures, and that vital connection between a witch or wizard and their wand started to form.
They had made a good life for themselves, made complete when Hermione’s parents had unwittingly been drawn to the magical aura of Woolmara Crossing, and possibly to their forgotten daughter as they purchased the house next door.
Severus knew that Hermione was distraught that she could not restore their memories, but their current relationship was at least a comfort – the time she spent with them where they’d told her they wished for a daughter, bringing tears of regret to her eyes – tears that he’d kissed away, reassuring her once again that she had made the right choice to move them.
Bringing his own mother over from Britain had been the last piece of the puzzle, ensuring her safety and happiness meant a great deal to him, although he wasn’t particularly impressed with her attentions towards the hairy, ginger harbour wizard who took her for tea every morning. He was too Weasley for Severus’ liking.
Angel was jumping up and down in the shallow water, waving her hands at Hermione, who was indeed walking down the sandy beach towards them, looking like an angel herself in a long summer dress, abundant hair flowing and glinting in the sunshine, her feet beautifully bare.
How on earth had he managed to keep this witch for his own? It defied all reasonable sense.
He smiled as Hermione lifted Angel into a warm hug, kissing their daughter on her chubby cheeks and (thankfully) tiny nose as Angel played with her curls, pulling her mother’s face close to her own. Once the requisite amount of kisses had been accepted, Angel wriggled to get down, wanting her little feet back in the slippery surf.
Severus stepped behind Hermione and wrapped his long arms around her, kissing her cheek, her temple, her ear, her neck, and enjoyed feeling her shiver against him.
“I love you today, as I do every day,” he whispered.
“I love you too,” she replied, looking out at the horizon, their adored daughter splashing in the foreground.
He swallowed hard, for the oddest question had suddenly appeared at the forefront of his mind, making a lump form in his throat that meant he had to ask it – now.
“Do you wish to bond?” he asked, with a cough.
“That was still a terrible proposal, Severus.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Of course. The time is right. I told you that you would know.”
Severus dropped his mouth to Hermione’s and began to kiss her, sealing their agreement to bond, and dipping down without missing a single beat of the kiss to pick up his daughter, who was now pulling upon his hand.
Tucking one Angel under his arm, and kissing the other, Severus Snape could only think of how insanely fortunate he was.
It had all been worth it.