disclaimer: JK Rowling owns the Harry Potter books, world, characters, etc. Not me.

So a very speedy update! Hope you all enjoy it! This will be the last chapter in this story.

Epilogue

On Saturday morning, on the day all of the students would return from Christmas break, Harry woke excited and nervous. He slipped out of the warm bed - his bed, it would be his once the custody papers went through - and placed his new glasses on his nose, marveling again at how clear everything looked. He dressed quickly (using a switching spell, as Snape had done, to change his shirt) and left his room - his room, shutting the door behind him.

When he came out into the dining area, he found Snape standing by the table, looking unusually tired and unkempt. He held his hands behind his back as he watched Harry approach.

"Sir?" Harry asked, a bit wary. The man was acting rather strange. What if he had changed his mind about being his guardian? "Is something wrong, sir?"

One corner of Snape's mouth twitched upwards, just slightly. "No, Harry. I actually have something for you." He brought his right hand out from behind his back and held up a small vial, filled with a murky potion.

Harry's eyes widened. "Is that…? But it wasn't finished yesterday! Did you stay up all night, sir? You didn't need to do that, I'm fine-"

"It is of no consequence, Harry," Snape interrupted him waving his left hand to dismiss Harry's protestations. "I wanted to try to finish it for you before the students arrive. I know how hard this has been for you, Harry, I wanted to try to fix it for you."

Harry blushed and looked down, examining his bound hands. "You didn't have to sir, but thank you."

"Do not thank me too much just yet, Harry, it may not work. It should work, and it certainly will not make it worse… If it does not work, it will definitely work if I just add a bit more of the lacewing flies…" Snape trailed off, looking thoughtful.

Harry suppressed a snort. Snape could get much too excited about potions. "Sir?" he prompted him.

Snape looked back at Harry. "The point is, it should work, but there is a chance it will not as I have not been able to test it on a human subject, so I do not want you to get your hopes up too high."

Harry nodded and reached for the vial, which Snape handed to him. He fumbled for a moment with the stopper on the vial, having a difficult time getting the leverage he needed, until Snape finally took it and opened it for him. Harry blushed again, then took the vial back. He was about to drink it when he had a sudden thought.

"Sir, how do I take it? Do I drink it or pour it on my hands?" he asked.

"You take this one orally. I prefer not to make potions that work by skin contact; it is too easy to splash or spill, as we learned a couple of weeks ago."

Harry nodded and, after hesitating only a moment, downed the potion.

Almost immediately, he felt a tingling in his arms, starting at his shoulders and spreading down to his hands. He gasped as it grew more intense, centering around his wrists, and then the force holding his wrists together suddenly loosened. Cautiously, he moved his hands apart, and grinned when he succeeded.

"Look, sir! It worked!" he exclaimed, spreading his hands apart in front of him to demonstrate. However, when his hands reached the width of his torso, about a foot apart, they stopped, unwilling to spread apart further. His face fell. "Oh," he said, glancing up at Snape.

A flicker of disappointment crossed Snape's face before he schooled it back to his usual impassivity. "It looks as though it did not work. Or at least, not fully." Snape glanced away, unable to look at the dejected expression on Harry's face. "I am sorry, Harry. I do know how to fix it now, though, it should only take a couple of days. I am sorry I raised your hopes." He grimaced and muttered to himself, "I was so sure it would work…"

"It's ok, really, Professor," Harry hurried to reassure him, forcing a smile onto his face. He was still very grateful for all that Snape had done, and he had seen how hard the man had worked on the antidote, especially over the past week. "It's not so bad, people probably won't even notice now. And it will hardly get in the way. As long as I don't have to play a game of Quidditch, it'll be fine, really."

Snape looked back at Harry and gave him a very small smile. "All right, well, I believe it is time for breakfast, anyway."

Several minutes into their meal, Harry set down his fork and addressed Snape. "Sir? May I ask you about something?" he began tentatively.

Snape also set down his fork. "You may." He tried to keep his face open and reassuring, although it was difficult since he was so accustomed to wearing a surly scowl or a blank face.

Harry began playing idly with his eggs as he tried to compose his question. "I was wondering… Do you think Ron and Hermione will be ok with this? With you being my guardian, I mean? How do I tell them? And do I have to tell them about the… the Dursleys?"

"Harry, if they are truly your friends, which I believe they are, then they will be ok with whatever makes you happy - provided it is not something dangerous or illegal, of course," he added with a hint of sternness. "I believe you may find it a bit difficult to convince them that you are sincere in your new opinion of me, Mr. Weasley in particular may be rather stubborn, but I am confident that they will eventually come around. As for whether to tell them about your relatives, that is entirely up to you." Snape steepled his fingers in thought, then added. "I will caution you, though, that Ms. Granger will likely not let the matter go until she has some explanation for your change in guardianship. And, I believe that it may be beneficial in the long run for you to give them at least some idea that you were mistreated there. You need your friends, Harry," he said, looking into Harry's emerald eyes. "And you cannot maintain a close relationship when there are secrets and lies between you. That said, you need only tell them what you are comfortable with, and you may certainly take your time doing so. If they badger you about it, then let me or Minerva know, and we will handle it."

Harry nodded. "Ok. I think I can do that."

Snape inclined his head and resumed eating. "Good."

~~~ That Summer ~~~

"Harry, what color is your potion meant to be at this stage?" Snape drawled from behind Harry, startling him slightly.

"Er, purple?" Harry answered, looking up at his guardian.

Snape nodded, crossing his arms. "And what color is it?"

Harry looked back down into his cauldron. "Green, I think."

Snape rolled his eyes, sweeping back over to his own desk in the Potions lab and muttering "Evanesco" over his shoulder. "You really are a dunderhead at potions, Potter."

Harry grinned and cheekily called after him, "But what fun would it be if I were good at them?"

The End.

A/N: What did you think? I hope the ending does not seem too abrupt to people. I had originally planned to add a few more scenes, but they ended up feeling unnecessary to me. It seemed cleaner to end it like this.

Reviews, please, to let me know! And thank you for all of the reviews and encouragement throughout this story - it's been a lot of fun!