Several Months Later
Harry glanced around at his small apartment in central London and offered a soft sigh.
He tapped his wand, turning off the buzzing alarm. Work began in an hour and he had a busy day ahead of him.
A soft snore sounded next to him and through her fan of red hair, Harry smiled at the sleeping form of Ginny. The engagement ring she wore sparkled in the morning light. He leaned over, pressing a kiss to her warm cheek.
Her eyes cracked open and she beamed back at him. Harry felt his heart jump happily as her forefinger came to trace his cheek lovingly.
“Morning birthday boy,” she murmured her voice thick with sleep. “You’re up early.”
“Mmm,” Harry nodded. “Long day ahead. Best start early.”
He padded quickly to the shower, savouring as the warm water sluiced all over his body. He couldn’t keep the smile off of his face.
When he was dressed and munching on some bacon at the table an owl landed outside the nearby window. He smiled gratefully, knowing that his friends never forgot about him.
Even years after first meeting Hermione and Ron, this blessing of friendship wasn’t lost on him.
He inched the window open, laughing as the barn owl hopped in, looking exhausted. In its clutches were several parcels which it dumped onto the table rather unceremoniously as it fought to catch its breath.
“Poor thing. You deserve this more than me,” Harry said, offering a piece of his bacon which the owl took gratefully before swooping back out the window.
Harry opened the first package, laughing as he read the card (a golden snitch dancing along the front).
Despite seeing you every bloody day at work, Luna has insisted that I send you this birthday card because she says it’s the proper thing to do even though I think it’s mental. I’ll see you at work then, and I suppose I’ll see you at your birthday dinner tonight as well. Ron
Harry opened the small package that came along with the card, smiling widely as two tickets for the next Chudley Cannons match fell into his hands. Harry moved to the next package's card.
I hope that your birthday this year is absolutely brilliant! I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished – I hear that you’re doing so well in your new Auror position! And I know that next summer is going to be particularly exciting!
See you tonight!
Hermione and Severus
Harry didn’t know if he would ever get used to seeing their names together like they were now on the card. Hermione’s wide loopy writing and Snape’s tight, spiky scrawl next to it.
He opened the silver wrapping (topped with a gold bow) and smiled. Inside was a small phial of felix felicis and a book entitled “Wedding Diary” that when opened reminded Harry how many days remained until his wedding next summer and gave reminders like: “Ginny needs a dress or she’ll be in distress!” and “Don’t waste your hours and forget about flowers!”
All in all, it was a very Hermione gift to give.
A few more cards and presents were in the pile from McGonagall, Hagrid, Molly and Athur, Fred, Bill and Fleur and more. They were all loving and effusive and Harry felt his face blushing a deep crimson.
There was so much love for him here. How had he ever thought it necessary to find it in the past?
Harry couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in the last year. The travel through time, meeting his parents. Coming back changed – throwing himself happily into his work. Living in the present with Ginny. Proposing. For the first time he felt settled and content and he was so thankful.
A lone tear was at the edge of his eye and he brushed it away absently. Warm arms enveloped him and Ginny’s sweet-smelling hair was against his cheek.
“I have a gift for you as well,” she whispered in his ear. “But you have to come back to bed to open it.”
In the end, Harry decided that Ginny’s birthday gift was the best.
At the Ministry of Magic, Alice was tottering down the corridor on her too-high heels. She had recently been promoted and wanted to look her best – even if she wasn’t particularly comfortable, even after casting a comfort charm.
It was late, almost eight o’clock in the evening and the atrium was completely empty. It was often like this on Friday evenings – all the ministry personnel were excited to begin their weekends.
She smoothed her hair back, taking a deep breath as she rounded the corner of the atrium. She was heading towards her new office to discuss some policy changes and her arms were full of folders and parchment. She had spent most of the night up late reading and making notes.
She was looking at her documents as a dark figure made his way down the atrium in the other direction. If it hadn’t been for the characteristic billow of his travelling robes and the late hour she might not have noticed him at all.
His tone was neutral and she was immediately relieved. The last time the two had spoken it ended rather acrimoniously, and she was concerned of what he would do or say.
"I heard you work for the Ministry,” Alice said. “I almost couldn’t believe it.”
"I do," Snape replied curtly. A ghost of a smile was there - she had to admit that Snape working in the ministry was a laughable idea and yet the idea of him as an Unspeakable fit.
Alice looked at the tailored robes he wore, noticing he looked relaxed and almost younger in them. A flicker of curiosity went through her.
“I didn’t realize that the job required such ornate robes,” Alice admitted, rather surprised.
“It doesn’t,” Snape said. “I’ve been off all day. I’ve a dinner to attend.”
"What are you doing here then?" Alice asked suddenly nervous.
Snape was notoriously private – after their relationship she had seen few articles about him. There was that one ages ago citing suggestions that he may be linked with Hermione Granger –but surely not! She had been his student!
Another thought occurred to Alice, one that caused her smile to falter. Was Snape here to win her back?
The thought that he might be here to woo her caused a flush to wash over her body. He did cut a very dashing and masculine figure standing there in his dress robes. Alice absently brought her hand to smooth the hair at her temple.
"Picking someone up for dinner," Snape replied. His eyes flicked to her hand and he noticed the small gold band with a single pearl around her ring finger. "I see congratulations are in order."
"Oh! Yes," Alice smiled nervously, looking at the ring with a smile before darting her eyes up to Snape's face. "He's in the department of Magical Accidents and Catastophes. Rather high up position. We're getting married in the spring. He's already got two young boys from his previous marriage. They're lovely."
"It seems you've found everything you ever wanted," Snape observed in a tone that Alice found was quite genuine.
"I have," Alice nodded, unsure of herself. There was a great deal of pity welling up in her then as she looked to the tall man she had once convinced herself she was in love with.
He seemed so lost at the moment, so hopelessly out of place in the brightness of the atrium. She realized the Unspeakables were rarely seen within the Ministry itself – often ensconced in their own department or off on assignment.
Did he miss her? Alice wondered. Did he long for her? She'd always been able to help him advancing, without her his personal life was likely going into shambles. She never saw him in the society pages – unlike Alice herself who was often splashed there with her new beau.
"And you, Severus?" Alice inquired in the most pitiable of tones. "Have you found everything you've ever wanted?"
Snape was about to respond when a voice came from behind Alice and a figure with large amounts of bushy hair sped towards Snape.
"Oh you're already here! I'm sorry I ran late!” the young woman said, her voice quick paced and almost frantic. “Martin was helping me with the last minute changes to that proposal I was working on and I lost track of time! I hope we’re not the last to arrive! Harry will think we’ve forgotten all about his birthday!"
Snape smiled softly, extending his hand. The young woman looked a bit surprised, as if the open display of affection in public were new. With a small giggle the woman slid her hand into his effortlessly. Alice recognized her at once as Hermione Granger.
"It's no bother," Snape said gently. “I’m sure Potter will understand.”
Hermione was beaming up at Snape and to Alice's shock, Snape was returning it with a subtle smile of his own. Had she ever seen the man look so, calm and at ease?
All at once Alice was scandalized. Hadn't she suspected this? Even when the girl was the man's student? And here they were carrying on as if they were long-time lovers!
Alice was surprised that Rita Skeeter hadn't written an expose on at all. Even if the girl was no longer his student it still didn't seem quite right. How had they managed?
"Are you ready for dinner?" Hermione asked, her eyes soft. "I'm absolutely ravenous!"
As if feeling Alice's eyes on her for the first time since she arrived, Hermione turned her head in the woman's direction. Immediately the mirth in the girl's eyes was gone, replaced by an impassive mask of false politeness.
Snape saw his Gryffindor bristle at the familiar sight of Alice and he did his best not to chuckle aloud.
"Oh I'm sorry," Hermione said coolly as she stared Alice down, she smoothed her hair down nervously with her left hand. "Have I interrupted something?"
Alice was shocked to see the girl wearing a very intricate, very large diamond on her ring finger. It was much larger than the one Snape had presented Alice with all those months ago.
He’d gotten the swot a ring of that size? Merlin’s pants! A very malicious part of her was sure that she would go directly to Rita Skeeter with this. Surely the readers of the Daily Prophet would like to hear about this?
Alice noticed that Snape’s dark eyes were on her face.
"Not at all," Alice flustered, finding the dual gaze of the two to be quite disconcerting. There was a connection of power between the two as if one could hear what the other thought and felt.
"We were catching up. Alice was simply asking me if I found everything I ever wanted," Snape explained.
"That's a tall order!" Hermione said with a soft laugh. "And?"
"Well, I hadn't had time to answer yet," Snape teased gently. "A bossy little witch interrupted."
“Well! Don't leave her in suspense," Hermione said without a trace of embarrassment. She was staring up at Snape now with a playful yet determined look on her face. "I'm sure she'd love to hear your answer."
In fact Alice could have cared less about the response. Right now she had the strong desire to move as quickly away from the couple as possible.
His happiness was suddenly not something she cared much to hear about had the distinct feeling that it wouldn't matter if she was present or not.
"I've waited a very long time for happiness like this,” Snape said in a low rumble. "And now that I've found it, I have no intention of ever letting it go. I have found everything I've ever wanted."
And at this, Snape gave Hermione’s hand a little squeeze.
All the bitterness Alice had been holding onto dissipated at that small, innocuous gesture. That minute motion of affection caused a lump to rise in Alice’s throat.
"That's a very good response," Hermione said, blushing prettily under the tall man's heated gaze.
They all had what they wanted and Alice found the smile she gave them was genuine. All thoughts of running to Rita Skeeter were pushed from her mind.
"I'm very happy for you both," Alice offered gently.
Neither replied and Alice had the feeling that it was very hard for the girl to not tear up or leap into his arms at that moment.
"It was lovely seeing you two," Alice offered awkwardly glancing from face to face. "But I best be off."
Neither looked away from each other as they told her goodbye. Alice shuffled down the corridor, glancing back in enough time to see the two walking away to dinner.
The tall man looked down at the brunette speaking animatedly with such open affection that the girl turned pink and took his other hand tightly in her own. It looked easy and natural.
Snape dipped his head towards hers and captured her mouth in a soft and tender kiss before they headed towards the nearest hearth to floo their way to dinner.
As she watched them depart, Alice was struck with the thought that they looked as if they had known each other a lifetime.