A/N: I'd be curious to know which you prefer: EM, or EM-E?
Epilogue - EM-E - A Taste of The Good Life Ahead
Sunday morning rang in with an off-beat breakfast experience, enhanced by the emotional unbalance of the entire student body, and indeed the entire staff. People were being very careful with each other. Lot's of pats on the back or shoulder, eyes meeting across the room to hold meaningful contact and nod an unspoken word of acknowledgement, and a lower volume to their voices overall. Dumbledore was moving around among the students, stopping to speak to them individually or as a small group.
Severus entered the Great Hall with Harry, this time wearing his standard black trousers and white shirt, but no robes. He'd trimmed his goatee back to a very short length and was still debating when to shave it completely off. Harry had suggested he keep it, but Severus was not at all certain he could sustain his easier manner when on the receiving end of the type of attention he'd encountered the previous evening. And after having played the guitar with Lucius and Dean Thomas, to the very giddy delight of far too large of an audience…. well, Lucius' comment that he had officially become a sex symbol had pulled the proverbial rug from beneath his already precarious self assurance.
I will need to remind them all that I can be a real bastard, he thought without much conviction. This morning, he'd awoken to a degree of numbness and emptiness that he logically knew was a void created by ending Voldemort's hold on him for good. But that didn't make it any easier to handle. And Harry was easily in as bad of a quandary as he. The boy had emerged from the bathroom after his morning shower, looking completely lost and vulnerable. He'd come right over to Severus and clung to him for a long stretch. Severus had even debated sitting with Harry in his lap again, but had rejected the idea because he knew his son had rounded a bend in the last couple of weeks. The kind of distress Harry was under now was the kind that would be resolved by simply moving forward, rather than coming to stillness, and curling into a cocoon of safety and shelter. I suppose the same is true for me.
Remus caught Severus' eye and smiled mildly. He watched the way Harry seemed reluctant to break away from his father, but finally did so, sitting down between Hermione and Ginny and across from his four male dorm mates.
Lucius appeared as Severus was nearing the professors' table, and the two of them took seats on either side of Remus.
"You've shaved," Remus acknowledged to Lucius.
"Yes, and my wife will reward me for it when I return to the manor this afternoon."
"So soon?" Remus asked in alarm. He looked over at Severus, but continued to address Lucius, "But I missed the jam session last night. I'm damned sorry I did. I was hoping there'd be occasion for another." He tilted his head and watched the color rise up through Severus' cheeks.
"Tsk, tsk, Remus," Lucius chided from his other side, "you should know by now that you have to approach such delicate topics very carefully with Severus."
Remus barked a laugh, and then turned red himself when Severus murmured in a low tone,
"I have a feeling you were pleasantly engaged elsewhere, Wolf, and that what you did instead would have certainly been preferable to some fractured attempts at music making… or perhaps you engaged in your own version of fractured attempts?"
Lucius laughed loudly as Remus held his hands up to signal surrender. "I retract my comment."
A swarm of owls swept into the room to deliver the Sunday Edition of the Daily Prophet.
HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED IS GONE!
Yes! He is truly gone! Every citizen of Wizarding Brittain owes a Life Debt to
Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Remus Lupin and Lucius Malfoy!
They've done it! In what will go down in history as a brutal, yet valiantly heroic show of magical mastery and skill, five wizards came together to obliterate the last of - let's say it together, people - Lord Voldemort's reign of terror! Saturday, the First of February, 1996, will be forever known as the day Wizarding Brittain reclaimed the Light.
It apparently began on Christmas Day, when young Harry Potter confronted Lord Voldemort and through some very well timed and clever uses of simple spells, managed to destroy the corporeal body that had been magically resurrected with Harry's own blood just last summer. But Voldemort had left behind some enchanted items that a few of his followers were determined to use to as a means to reclaim his power. Albus Dumbledore had suspected this to be the case, and in recent weeks, along with Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Lucius Malfoy and Remus Lupin had been forced to confront the likes of a very demented Cornelius Fudge, and the clearly corrupted and twisted Dolores Umbridge. Pius Thickeness attempted to do them harm while under the umbrella of Ministry authority, and the elusive Peter Pettrigrew conspired with Bellatrix Lestrange to make a massive attack on the school and its inhabitants. In every attempted attack, the assailants were stopped by this unlikely team of wizards, who are now each known to possess tremendous defensive talents in battle. Why, even one of them can fly, some sources say…
Wizarding Brittain is grateful to our heroes! Many, many relieved witches and wizards are breathing more easily today, and many had much to add to this distinguished reporter's exposé on the visually overwhelming showdown that occurred on the school grounds. I share with you now, the behind-the-scenes storyline of struggle for each of these wizards to overcome fear, prejudice and misfortune….
Harry could feel his eyes bug out as he read comments from an odd assortment of people about his character and perseverance throughout his entire experience since finding out that he was a wizard.
…"I knew when I met 'arry that he was good. Never assumed nothin', never expected nothin', neither. Just a good, caring soul," Care of Magical Creatures Professor Hagrid claimed emphatically.
…"I've felt terribly guilty about the day that the girl died at our school. Harry had helped me to the Infirmary because I'd fallen down the icy stairs of the Owlery. He carried me on his back all of the way! Then he got attacked by those horrible older boys." This was from second year Hogwarts student, Mabel Dawlish.
…"Harry tried to let us all know that things were far more dire than we could possibly realize," former Hogwarts Housemate, Cormack McClaggen admitted. "He's right smart, and wicked accurate with his spells. I wish now that I'd listened to him."
…"I never imagined that Mr. Potter was dealing with such horrendous burdens over the years I've taught him at Hogwarts," Charms Professor Filius Flitwick confided. "Lesser wizards would have turned dark, but not Harry."
…"He didn't belong with us," Petunia Dursley declared in an impromtu interview just this morning when I sought her out to see if she was proud of her nephew's accomplishments. "Severus Snape is welcome to him. I'm sure they are quite well suited for each other." This reporter wonders at the sincerity behind Harry's aunt's words. I'm guessing Harry Potter is quite happy to be both legally independent through Emancipation, and recently adopted by Professor Severus Snape.
…"Harry was my first real friend and Hogwarts," fourth year Ravenclaw, Luna Lovegood, revealed. "It's in the nature of some wizards to be bullies, but not Harry. His instincts are to help others. I know how to look after myself, thanks to him."
Harry looked up and took in the sight of all of the heads bowed over the paper, everyone hungrily reading the commentary. He'd only gotten through a small segment of the piece on him, and already he was completely gobsmacked to see this stuff in print.
An arm looped through his. It was Hermione, and she was smiling at him. "It's about time, isn't it?"
The dream team each had their praises sung later in the article, and finally Albus Dumbledore was hailed as the one very brave leader who'd staked his reputation and career on his declarations, only to have repeatedly suffered the loss of his position at Hogwarts, as well as to have been wanted for prosecution of imaginary crimes. Vindication! Rita Skeeter had declared.
"I can't say I'm pleased to have my condition revealed in print," Remus snarled in frustration.
"It is a very important step towards equal opportunity for all who have suffered a similar fate, Remus," Lucius explained. "It's a first step. A political one, yes, but it will force the masses to acknowledge your value to society."
Severus slapped the paper down, glowering off at nothing. Who in the hell had told that idiot Skeeter about his friendship with Lily Potter? He felt utterly naked, sitting there in front of all of these people, who would no doubt put two and two together and conclude that his wretched behavior towards Harry in the past had been exactly what it was - misdirected rage at the way his life had been torn to pieces when he'd lost Lily to James Potter.
"It's one sentence, Severus," Remus said knowingly, but with an undertone that advised Severus to relax. "Out of what… ten paragraphs, you fixate on one that reveals you had a friendship with your adopted son's mother in your youth?"
Severus turned disgruntled eyes to his new friend. Remus raised his eyebrows, waiting. "It's hardly a secret, I realize, but until now, I've never heard any reference to that part of my past making its way through the gossip circuit."
"You can handle it," Remus said. He narrowed his own eyes when Severus gave him a resentful glare. "We were fifteen."
"Harry is fifteen."
"Yes, and would you expect that twenty years from now, his peers would define him by his response to the article that revealed his home life with Lily's sister?" Remus asked. He saw a shift in the dark haired wizard's expression. "You are not defined by that loss by anyone but yourself, Severus." He paused. Severus was paling slightly and growing visibly uncomfortable. "Let it go now."
Harry checked his watch. "Remus will be here shortly," he told his dad before flopping tiredly on the sofa. "I'll be glad when Friday comes."
It was the thirteenth of April, the last Sunday before the onset of the Easter holiday, and also the first night of the lunar phase. The coming week was set to impose an intense practice session for OWLs for the fifth years, so that they could get a sense of which subjects to brush up on during the remaining time before the actual tests.
"We have been offered the gift of a stay at Shell Cottage next week, on the coast in Cornwall," Severus told Harry. Harry jumped to his feet unable to process what he'd just heard. "I'm taking you on a vacation, Young Harry," Severus confirmed. The boy let out a whoop and came over to hug him. Severus wrapped his arms around his growing son, squeezing him with slowly increasing pressure. Harry was struggling not to give into the burst of laughter he knew his father was attempting to force from him when the fireplace roared to life. Remus stepped through the green flames in time to hear Severus add, "You will take the entire week to act your age, and to relax and enjoy being free."
Harry squirmed out of the hug to look at him in shock. "But it's only a month until OWLs."
"You are already very well prepared." Severus looked over at Remus, who had a slight frown of confusion mingling with his worn expression. "And you are invited as well, Wolf," he said in exaggerated enunciation, which induced amusement in both Harry and Remus. "Bring your lovely fiancée, if you… must," he added in a modified Snape tone that forced a rush of color into the werewolf's face.
"Thank you for the invitation, Severus," Remus responded with a smirk. "Where will I be going, exactly?"
"In the meantime," Severus said with a tone, "I would appreciate it if you would refrain from telling my son…things about me."
Remus gave Harry a confused look, and Harry started to laugh. He'd recently told Severus what Remus had conveyed about Lily's musical interests, and how she'd talked about Severus to Remus. "Dad, that was on the other timeline."
"Severus," Remus said in exasperation, "you cannot hold me accountable for things I did on that realm. I have no idea what the context was, but-"
"But you felt it was just fine to fill Harry's mind with your insights." Severus was on a roll, and was indeed enjoying the light degree of defensive protest he was inducing. He returned his attention to Harry, "You may also invite a few of your friends. I could stomach Weasley, Granger and Longbottom." The happy smile he received from Harry nearly brought tears to his eyes.
"I've never been on a vacation like that," Harry said softly. He darted his eyes over to Remus. "You'll go too?" As soon as Remus nodded Harry added, "And what about the Malfoys?"
"Lucius has long promised his wife a quiet week at home with his family," Severus said. "But I'm sure we could persuade them to agree to a visit."
Within hours of their arrival at Shell Cottage, Harry and his friends had staked out the two largest bedrooms of the seven within the house. Ginny and Luna had been added to the list of visitors, so there was an even split of boys to girls. Severus supervised them carefully, determined that no one would compromise his or her youthful virtue under his watch, but the six teens still seemed to fair well as a group, without needing to pair off. This can't last, he thought, realizing his brief discussions thus far with Harry about sex needed to be a bit more thorough, and soon.
Remus stayed in the cottage with them, with Tonks dropping in, between work shifts, but never staying in the bedroom. They would disappear for several hours at a time, presumably to find privacy elsewhere, and Severus appreciated their discretion.
Narcissa had happily agreed that Lucius and Draco should come for an overnight stay, knowing that her husband especially was missing the regular contact with his friends. So when they arrived on Wednesday afternoon, in time for Lucius to help Remus and Severus magically install a platform out in the deeper water that had several levels from which to dive or jump, the scene quickly turned into a jovial beach party. The adults had retreated from the water and were contemplating the indulgence of an alcoholic beverage.
"Look what I nicked from Arthur's cupboard!" Tonks announced as she made her way along the sand to join the group. "He's charmed it to work without muggle power sources," she explained, winking at Severus before setting a large muggle boom box down beside Remus. "Look, love, I've loaded it up with some lovely hits!"
Severus marveled at the new but familiar sensation of cool sand slipping between his toes as he walked back down to the beach from the house, after changing into worn jeans and sweatshirt to withstand the growing chill in the later afternoon breeze. Tonks' magical muggle music box was cycling through a Chicago's Greatest Hits collection, as it had been doing for the better part of the past hour. Severus was consciously allowing the music to become an altogether new soundtrack, for a new stage of his life, and refraining from wallowing in the sad memories he'd thus far tagged to much of the music from his youth with Lily.
"Dad? We were thinking of camping outside by a fire tonight, on the sand," Harry addressed Severus carefully, seeming to realize he was interrupting deep thoughts. The boy was full of hesitation when he asked, "Will that be alright? The sky is so clear, we can see every star."
Severus narrowed his eyes as he took in Harry's lightly sunburned, nervously hopeful expression. His son had finally grown, at least two inches already, and was finally filling out. Harry had yet to recognize for himself that he was quite the handsome young wizard. "It will be fine, but I will join you," Severus replied. Instead of a glower at the parental invasion of the teenaged space, Harry's eyes lit up and he flashed a happy grin before racing back toward the water. Severus chuckled softly at the way Harry came to a near standstill at the water's edge and proceeded into the mild surf with caution.
"He's not a particularly strong swimmer," Miss Granger said from where she was sitting on a blanket with a book, already having changed into warm dry clothes as well.
"I can't help but wonder why he doesn't use his peripheral magic to give himself buoyancy," Severus commented. He dropped down to sit in the sand a few feet away from her.
The rest of their group was out splashing and yelling in the water. Remus and Lucius had introduced the ever popular launching charm that propelled the teens up and out of the water and high, high into the sky. Ronald, Draco, and Ginevra had taken full advantage of the magical enhancement, and had at this point mastered multiple somersaults per launch. Harry swam back over to the platform and climbed up to sit with Tonks, Neville, and Luna, who were all calling out challenges and suggestions for new acrobatic feats. Remus and Lucius next sent both Ron and Draco high up and out into the open air to attempt horizontal spirals as they flew. Both boys lost their nerve midflight, letting out wails of unexpected fear and botching their attempts.
Hermione laughed loudly as the rival teens splattered noisily around when they hit the water, far, far out, and complained loudly about the long swim back. She looked over at at her potions professor with shining eyes. "I'm really happy for you, Professor, for you and Harry," she said softly. "And I'm grateful to you, for Harry's sake."
Severus indulged a small smile, but couldn't help the snarky tone in his gentle jab when he said, "I'm quite certain you are, Miss Granger. After all, you finally have a willing study partner, do you not?"
Evening set in, and the sun-drenched ensemble built a lively fire to keep them warm. It's amber glow shone over their dinner plates, which sat on their laps. Severus had barbecued pork chops and sausages, and brought out an enormous salad that Luna and Tonks had put together earlier. Lucius had brought a large quantity of chestnuts to roast afterward, and Hermione produced a plastic bag of muggle marshmallows, so their feast lasted for a couple of leisurely hours.
"Well, I'm off for my shift," Tonks said sadly. There was a collective sound of regret, and multiple overlapping 'bye, Tonks! as Remus jumped up to walk her to the edge of the anti-muggle wards, farther down the beach, and where the shadows would dim the view of him kissing her goodbye and watching her disapparate.
"Who's up for a night swim?" Ron asked.
Severus didn't miss the wary look Draco turned to his father, obviously out of habit, from a past when he would typically have been scolded harshly for even considering asking to join in. But Lucius smirked and responded indulgently as he stood and produced his wand, "You'll all need a solid warming charm if you're going to be so outrageous."
Harry helped Severus banish the dishes to the kitchen and cleared the chairs farther back from the fire.
"Not up for a chilly dunk in the surf, Harry?" Lucius asked as he sat on one of the blankets Severus had spread out to replace the chairs.
"Nah," Harry said. "I'm not that confident in the water."
Severus couldn't gauge the extent to which this bothered the boy, but he was grateful when Lucius responded with, "You will need to come to the manor this summer. I can show you some proper strokes in the pool. That's where Draco learned. It's where I learned." He shot a look at Severus. "It's where I taught your father, as a matter of fact, the summer after his fifth year."
"Well, then, on with the tradition," Harry quipped. He stretched out on his back on a blanket near to Severus and stared up at the stars.
Severus summoned his guitar and began to test the tuning very quietly. He'd been playing regularly, but not again for an audience since that night after the "final encounter" with Wormtail. Lately he'd been in the mood to play songs written by George Harrison, and his fingers strummed the opening notes of Isn't It A Pity?
Finally, Remus grinned when he heard the music, over the more subdued teen conversation echoing from the surface of the water and reverberating back over the beach. He'd been attempting to very subtly suggest that Severus should play for them all week, but had thus far only received withering looks directed back his way. He was very careful to approach the scene as silently as possible and found a comfortable spot to enjoy the show.
Lucius was goading Severus to play something that they all knew.
"There is little excuse to not know Harrison's solo career," Severus said with mock disgust.
"No complaints here!" Harry chimed in.
"Get your bass in hand, then, Luci," Severus said in his Snape tone and promptly launched into a trio of songs from The Beatles Abbey Road: She Came in Through The Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, and Carry That Weight. The two wizards sang softly as they played.
Harry saw Remus and wobbled his eyebrows, wanting to laugh at the open admiration on the wan wizard's face. In the silence that followed, Severus turned an innocently indulgent look to Remus. "Well, Wolf? What's your pleasure?"
"Anything from the Let It Be album would be lovely," Remus said with a broad smile.
Severus sighed loudly and made a production of summoning a chair and sitting with the guitar on his knee. He started right in, sending a challenging look at Lucius to keep up, as he strummed far more loudly and rapidly than previously, and started to sing Two of Us. Lucius joined in.
"…Two of us, riding nowhere, spending someone's hard-earned pay… You and me Sunday driving, not arriving, on our way back home… We're on our way home, we're on our way home. We're going home…"
Harry stared at his dad in awe. Merlin, my dad is such a bad-arse.
~ END ~
A/N: I feel bereft, I admit it. I don't want to let this one go. But it's done.
I will write another story, I'm quite sure of that. But not for a few months, unless I hit a wall with my books. If you like my storytelling style (first getting embedded in the characters' lives, and then finding out they are in peril, and finally being pulled into mayhem along with them), you might like my original fiction. Check out my bio, if you're tempted.
Also, I welcome your comments and thoughts through the PM on this site, so stay in touch!
All my best ~ cre8tvdeb