AN: The Werewolf prank by Sirius Black against Severus Snape occurred in September of 1976 according to the HP Lexicon. The full moon of that month in that year was on the 20th. The Moon rose that night at 6:53 pm, and the sun set at 7:23 pm in Glasgow. I figured this was close enough to work as the times in Hogwarts. Also, the Lunar New Year fell on 1/31, and it was the year of the Dragon.

Hanzi is the proper name for the characters used in Chinese writing.

Yen has graciously edited this for me. Thank you!

Heartfelt Fears

Mingyu Sung stared about him, his eyes searching every nook and cranny. He didn't have to look to know that Lanfen was doing the same. There were not that many hiding places at West Kennet Long Barrow, but who knew where a tiny six-year-old could find. All Mingyu was glad about was that this didn't happen in the Puzzlewoods they had visited two days ago.

Several hours later, tired, scared, and despairing, the Sungs minus one, sat on their bed in the hotel. The Aurors were looking now. Lanfen and he had hunted all about the area before one had approached them. It was with broken, stuttering English that they explained that their son, Sung Lui, was missing. 'They are one of the few good things about this trip. There was that nice boy near the river and the Auror. Both of them did their best to understand and to help.' Drawing Lanfen into his arms, he rested his cheek on top of her head. Neither were shedding tears, that would come later, but for now, they hoped and were clinging to it as a lifeline.

§§§§§§

Michaelmas was not happy with his task. No one would be, but it was better that they were told than never knowing.

"Mr Sung," He swallowed lightly before continuing. "one of the caretakers saw a small child that fit your son's description playing in the grass near the barrow. He tripped over something, maybe a stone – the caretaker didn't find anything unusual when he went to investigate – and disappeared. Mr Barns said it looked like the lad Apparated away. Do you know anywhere that your son could focus on well enough to accidentally Apparate to? It will give us a starting point to work with. We are also checking into all missing portkeys that were reported to the Ministry in this area, and ones that failed to work at first. There is a possibility they finally activated."

Michaelmas was glad for the calm face and the steady eyes. Yes, his partner might say that the Sungs were unfeeling and cold, but he saw far more. He saw the shaking hands clasped tightly, the slight tremor of Mrs Sung's shoulders. He saw the pain in those dark eyes, both pairs. No, they were not unfeeling or cold, they were doing everything in their power not to fall apart because they both knew it would serve nothing. His partner was blind.

"Thank you, Auror Michaelmas for all the work you are doing for us. Sung Lui, he was fascinated with the stone circle. I think you call it Stonehenge. He also enjoyed the Puzzlewood and the stone circles in Orkney. I fear I do not recall their names." Mingyu was glad his voice didn't shake. He did not wish to give into his fear. To give into it was to accept the unacceptable. Lui would be found.

"I will alert the Aurors there to be on the lookout for him. Are you willing to tell me the other places you have visited while you've been here? I would feel more comfortable searching every one of them."

Lanfen picked up a list off the small dresser and crossed the room. "This is a copy of our itinerary."

Michaelmas accepted and glanced at it quickly. The family only had two sites left to see. "I will return this as soon as I have the Aurors alerted."

Searching both of their faces for a moment longer, Michaelmas spoke words he worried about once he had left. "We will find him. He'll be okay."

§§§§§§

Mingyu sat in the hotel garden with a cup of tea on the table next to him and his eyes gazing into the distance. He didn't see the rolling fields, nor the formal beds that surround him. No, his mind was lost in the past.

A small boy was learning to walk, stumbling beside the koi pond and Lanfen was hovering behind him. A trill of childish laughter echoed off the water.

A black head appeared around the door, eyes wide and a brush stained with ink waving in the air, the ink also colouring the hand that was holding it. "Come see the picture I drew, Dad." He preserved the section of wall but had scolded the boy.

A click of a beak and a hissing sound brought him out of his mind. Perched on the arm of his chair was an owl. It looked like a standard post owl, but he knew no one who would write him. 'Unless Michaelmas found something and couldn't come to tell us.'

Reaching out with a trembling hand, he untied the rolled up paper. That stopped him. It was not parchment, it was muggle paper with faint blue lines on it. Unrolling it carefully, fearfully, Mingyu felt his heart stop when he saw the messy handwriting, a handwriting that he was very familiar with.

He was so engrossed with the letter that he never noticed the owl leaving. When he reached the end, he didn't care that he was running across the garden and through the hotel. He didn't notice that he passed Michaelmas. All he knew was that he had to find Lanfen.

Michaelmas noticed Mr Sung rushing through the lobby, a scrap of muggle paper clutched tight in his hand. The man's eyes were bright, and the Auror would bet his last galleon that it wasn't sadness that caused the thin veil of unshed tears. Following the man quickly, hope blossomed in his chest. Hope that had been fading every day they hunted to no avail.

He stopped at the door, the sight on the other side to private for him to rush into. Mrs Sung was clinging to the note, tears running down her cheeks. His hopes started to shrivel.

"It is Lui's handwriting on the inside. I don't know whose it is that addressed it, but that is Lui's." Lanfen traced a finger on the words printed so carefully.

"I think it is the boy, Severus, who addressed the outside." Mingyu wrapped his arms around Lanfen holding her, giving into the tears of joy and relief that had threatened since the moment he unrolled the letter. "He is safe. He has been safe since the first day. Severus took him in and made him welcome."

Michaelmas sagged against the door frame, relief coursing it way through his body. Gathering up his strength, he moved quietly away from the door and slipped further down the hall. He then squared his shoulders and noisily walked down the hall. By the time he reached the room, the only evidence of the tears they cried was the faint tracks on their cheeks.

"I am sorry to report that we still have not found him." He stopped as a smile, the first real expression he had seen shown to any of them, curled on Mr Sung's face. "You have good news?"

"Yes," Mingyu held out the note, offering it to the Auror who had treated them with the utmost respect and care. "my son has written us. He vanished to the one place that I would never have thought to look for him. We became lost one time while looking for our next stop. I do not know where the town is, but a boy there helped us and played with my son. Please, tell us where to find the place in the address."

Michaelmas took the note, glancing over the Chinese, and folded it to see the address printed neatly in English on the front. "I fear I cannot tell you where it is, but I can have a portkey made to this location, and have it set to return you back here. Are you willing to come with me or would you rather I brought it back to you?"

"We will come."

§§§§§§

Michaelmas watched them disappear and knew he would wait until they returned. He needed to see the boy to close this for himself. While he waited, he called off the Kingdom wide hunt for the missing boy.

It was an hour before the family appeared. He stood to the side of the room, not expecting to be seen, not caring that he wasn't. He was content to see the small boy smiling up at his parents and the gentle hands of the father and mother resting on those little shoulders. That was the reason he was shocked when the Sung family walked towards him.

Mingyu, Lanfen, and Lui bowed slightly, hands clasped in front of their chest, their eyes shining with gratitude. "Auror Michaelmas, thank you for everything you did for our family."

Swallowing to clear the lump in his throat, he responded, "You are welcome. It was my duty."

He noticed the dark eyes dart about the room, taking in the others who were supposed to be working on the case before the settled back on him. Their message came through loud and clear to him. It wasn't just his duty they were thanking him for, they knew what the rest of the Aurors had said about them, and they were thanking him for not believing it. The family straightened up and headed out the door.

"Honestly, you think they would be happier that the boy was found. A smile, tears of joy, something."

Michaelmas cuffed his partner's shoulder. "There was something, you just didn't look in the right places."

§§§§§§

"Severus! NO!" Mingyu shot off his pillow, his breath rapid, his eyes wide with fear. A fear he remembered from long ago. The fear of losing his son, but this time it wasn't Lui he was afraid of losing, it was Severus.

Resting a trembling hand over his heart, he prayed as hard as he had those days so long ago when Lui had been missing that Severus would be protected. He didn't care if the protection came from an enemy or a friend, as long as his son came out of the situation alive.

"It was a vision?"

Lanfen's voice softly filled the darkened room as her hand rested on his trembling arm.

"Yes, Severus... he was attacked."

"Write him."

He turned slightly to look down at Lanfen. "It won't do any good."

"Mingyu, Severus would do better warned than not. Write him."

Gathering her hand into his, Mingyu drew a deep breath. "It is too late. The attack will take place within a few hours."

"Then write him so that he will tell us he is okay."

Mingyu could hear the worry in her voice no matter how she tried to mask it. "I will."

Knowing he wouldn't be sleeping anymore that night, he got up to start a letter he never wanted to write.

§§§§§§

Severus Snape stood as far from Sirius Black and James Potter as he possibly could. From his spot, he couldn't see if Pettigrew was there or not. It didn't matter one way or another though. A low snarl found its way out of his throat as he looked at the perpetrators of this event. He didn't care if Potter saved him, he knew that boy had to be in on it as well. Muffling the sound, he shifted his attention back to the Headmaster who was giving him a sad, disappointed look. Severus distinctly remembered the smiles offered to Potter.

Curling his hand into a fist, Severus listened to the other teens tell their side of the story. Of course, it was nothing like what happened.

Dumbledore focused on the only Slytherin in the office. "Mr Snape, why were you out on the grounds after dark? Especially that close to the Forbidden Forest."

Severus forced back the memory of the swaying branches of the Whomping Willow tree in the moonlight and then their sudden lack of movement when the small knot was pressed. He didn't want to think of what came next. "It was not after curfew, Headmaster, so I did not realize that it was forbidden to be out on the grounds. As for the Willow, Black mentioned that there was a secret to stopping the tree from moving. I thought to test this, as the bark and leaves of a Whomping Willow would make a nice addition to the potion ingredients we are to gather to be tested in the NEWT classes."

"Don't believe him, Headmaster!" Sirius growled, leaning forward in his seat so that he could glare at Snape. "He was spying. He has had his nose in Remus' business for years!"

The snarl came back as he was interrupted. 'Calm Severus. Do not let Black rile you up, not now. Not with Dumbledore watching.' Digging his nails into the palm of his hands, Severus forced his face blank and just watched Dumbledore, waiting for the Headmaster to finally punish the Marauders, at least Black and Potter for this evening's travesties. Black had given away the secret of the tree which was obviously, at least now it was obvious after facing what was at the other end of that tunnel, in place to protect people. By sharing that knowledge, Black had almost caused a student to be severely mauled or even killed.

Disappointed blue eyes rested on Black briefly before looking over at Severus. "Mr Snape, word of this event shall not be spoken in this school, nor anywhere else. Mr Lupin was not responsible and should not be punished due to a … mishap. If I hear the rumour spreading about, I will know where it came from, and shall consider an appropriate punishment."

Severus pressed his lips thin as he fought the loud exclamations that were trying to spew out. How could the Headmaster know that Lupin wasn't in on the plan? The others obviously were. How else would Potter know to be there to save him from the trap that Sirius laid out?

"You may head back to your dormitory, Mr Snape." Dumbledore waved the door unlocked and then waited quietly.

Severus looked between the Gryffindors clustered on one side of the room and then the door. Knowing that justice would not be served, he stormed out.

Flying down the stairwells, he eventually made it to his dormitory and to the safety of his bed. 'They got away with it. Just because Dumbledore doesn't want the werewolf to lose out on his education. He has his OWL credits, he can get a well-paying job as long as they don't ask about his once a month absences. He is also threatening me. I am positive that the appropriate punishment would be for me to leave this school as well. He would expel me over this, over me trying to keep a savage beast from harming the next person that Black decides to send down that tunnel.'

The unfairness of it all ate at him, but eventually, it settled into the black pool that resided in his mind where all the rest of life's bitter pills went. When it had faded, the memory of the menacing growl, the long muzzle full of sharp teeth, and the scrabbling claws came back full force.

Grabbing a piece of parchment and his writing implements, he curled up on his bed, his back pressed against the solid headboard and his curtains closed. Two gestures of his wand had the top of his headboard glowing with enough light to see what he was writing. Dipping his quill into his inkwell, Severus wrote a letter he never intended to send. Starting at the right corner of the parchment, the hanzi slipped down the page quickly.

Something horrible happened today. I was almost mauled by a werewolf. Yes, I said a werewolf. He is one of the group of students that have made my life … hard since I came to Hogwarts. I guess I need to tell you about them since I have always found other things more important to discuss. You know that there are four houses here at Hogwarts. I am a Slytherin, which you know, and our greatest rivals are the Gryffindors, the house I have told you Lily is part of. Well, these four students, they call themselves the Marauders, are also Gryffindors.

As the letter continued, bitter words filled the page. Past grievances flooded out of his fingers eventually culminating in the events of that evening. With a wave of his wand, the ink dried. He then let the parchment coil up into a cylinder and capped his inkwell. Closing his eyes, he slumped on the mattress, sleep claiming him after his head sunk into the pillow. His light spell faded slowly as he drifted off into far more pleasant dreams of the summer that ended less than a month ago.

§§§§§§

Severus clutched the letter in one hand as he packed his trunk. Everything he might need over the summer, including all his books and summer assignments, were systematically placed inside. He was glad that he wasn't going to need that many clothes as he had a wardrobe at home.

Closing the top and securing it, he glanced back at the letter. He couldn't believe that he had succeeded in convincing Dad and Mama Sung that he could stay the entire summer this year. He had to promise to stop by the Snape house and get his mother's permission to gone the summer. That had been his only worry, but last night he convinced her to write a letter saying that he could stay the summer at a friend's house. Now, with his mother's letter held securely, he hefted his trunk and headed out the door.

It didn't take long to reach the woods that he had first met the Sung family in. It took even less time to tie the silk ribbon about his wrist, tuck the note deep into his coat pocket and take a secure hold on his trunk handle. Casting a hopeful look about one last time, he activated the ribbon international portkey.

'I wish I could have seen Lily one last time. Maybe here she would have listened to me. Maybe here instead of at school, she would have forgiven me.' The thought blew away as he flew to the place he truly considered home.

Landing on his feet, Severus smiled at the familiar woods and path nearby. In no time he was at the door, calling out his greeting, and being met by Lui.

"You do have permission, right?" Lui looked so hopeful that Severus thought he would have forged permission just to not let him lose it.

"Yes, I do. Let's put my truck in the room and then I will take it to Dad."

Both of them walked quickly up the stairs, and then hurried back down them. They knocked on Dad's closed study door, hoping that he was in there.

"Enter." Mingyu smiled as both of his sons came through the door. He knew he would not be sending Severus home even if he didn't have parental permission. Lanfen would never agree to Severus leaving, and in truth, neither would he.

"The letter of permission from my mother, sir." Severus held out the letter that his mother had dashed off last night.

Scanning the letter, more for show than any other reason, Mingyu let a smile curl his lips. For the first time, they had proof of guardianship for the summer. Truthfully, the letter never stated when the guardianship ended. Setting it carefully into a protected drawer in his desk, he knew that he would be putting that letter with the record of the unofficial adoption of Severus. It would validate it, and if they pressed it, the letter could change the unofficial status. He would consult Bohai and his wife, Jiao, to see what was the best thing to do.

"Thank you, Severus. Mama is out in the gardens, go greet her, and then you two are free to do what you wish until supper time. After supper, we will be talking about the plans for summer."

§§§§§§

Severus sat at the Slytherin table refusing to look at the Marauders while eating his breakfast. Earlier that morning he had written another letter to his family, this one leaving out all the details of the events last night. There was no need to worry Mama, Dad, or Lui over something they could not control or even do something about. No one here at Hogwarts would recognize their authority over him, so neither Mama or Dad could talk to Albus about what occurred. They could not make sure that the Marauders received the appropriate punishment.

Pushing the eggs about on his plate, he let his mind drift off to the dream he woke up to. It was about last summer. He and Lui had spent most of the summer comparing their classes and what they've been taught. Dad signed both Lui and him up to take extra tutoring with Master Cheng just to get them out of the house. 'He said if we were so fascinated by learning what the other knew, then we should get something out of it. Next thing we knew we were brewing. I was practising all those potions that I helped Lui with throughout the years and he was attempting to brew the ones that I had been studying. Master Cheng let us practise spell work as well. It was fun, at least for me. Lui was more than happy when we went to Thailand for a week.'

His attention was grabbed as the owls flew in through the ceiling windows. Watching them spiral and swoop, one caught his attention. It was the one that normally carried the letters from the international owlery for him. He watched him, wondering who else was receiving post from so far away. When the great horned owl landed in front of him, he stared. It was not the normal letter day. That would be this coming Tuesday. The owl hooted and clicked his beak, snapping Severus out of his shock. Taking the tightly rolled scroll, he offered the bird some bacon.

The owl tilted his head, obviously inquiring about his return post. "Not today. I'll send it next time."

With another click of his beak, the owl took off, heading back out the windows.

Dropping his fork, Severus left the table, heading for the dormitory. Safely ensconced in his bed behind closed curtains, he broke the seal off of Dad's letter.

Scanning over the hanzi filling the page, Severus' eyes forced himself he slowed down and read it carefully. 'Dad had a vision dream about me. A dream in which I get attacked by something horrible and deadly. He couldn't see what attacked me and the dream ended before I am saved.'

He could see the worry and fear in every word. Dad's handwriting was typically much neater, his thoughts less scattered about. The very last line was a plea phrased as a request. Dad needed to hear that he was okay, he needed a letter from Severus today.

Glancing at the time, Severus knew he didn't have time to write another letter that explained the events from last night, so he grabbed the one that he had intended to burn that evening as well as the other letter he had written that morning and headed off to the owlery. He would post them to the international owlery with the directions to send them to express as Dad ordered him to do.

The rest of the day, a seed of happiness lodged itself in his chest, slowly pushing out the fear of last nights adventure. His family cared.

§§§§§§

When the owl alighted on the perch in the study, holding out its leg waiting for the post it was carrying to be taken, Mingyu almost collapsed to the floor. His legs wobbled badly as he crossed the room and his fingers trembled as he removed the scroll, one with familiar writing scrawled across the outside of it. It looked nothing like the childish block print that had adorned the first letter he had seen addressed by Severus, but it was just as welcome. A shuddering breath left his lungs as his fingers ghosted over the writing.

Severus was alive.

Digging an owl treat from the container on his desk, he sent the bird on its way and went in search of Lanfen.

An hour later found Mingyu and Lanfen at Bohai's house.

"We need to get him out of there." Mingyu nodded to the letter that was resting on Bohai's desk. Jiao and Bohai had just finished reading it, their faces set but their eyes showing their fury at this treatment of a family member. "I cannot have my son live like that without a reason. He can finish his education here."

Jiao crossed the room to the hearth and the collection of bones there. Picking up the scapula that she had read earlier that summer, she closed her eyes. "Mingyu, the bone … I burned a bone this summer to determine if we should take advantage of the letter that Severus' birth mother sent with him."

Mingyu and Lanfen looked from Bohai to Jiao. They didn't realize that the heads of the family had taken their request so seriously that Jiao, a Master of Divination who specialized in pyromancy, sought to see the paths of the future to find an answer.

Mingyu looked at the cracked bone in her hand, covered with writing and holes that didn't penetrate through the bone. "Could this event have caused a change in that answer?"

Jiao set the bone down and selected a fresh one from her basket next to the hearth. "For Severus, I will read a new one." Picking up her brush, she opened her container of cinnabar ink and then dipped her brush in. "I hope this was the reason he had to return after the summer."

Three sets of dark eyes watched Jiao carefully wrote on the bone the ancestor she wished to talk to and then she wrote her question on the scapula.

What does the future hold if the Sung family finally openly claims its child, Sung Severus, and bring him home?

Placing her wand into one of the holes, she cast a fire spell, heating the bone until everyone could hear it cracking.

A second bone was selected and the process was repeated.

What does the future hold if the Sung family does not yet openly claim its child, Sung Severus, and leaves him in the United Kingdom?

Once it had also cracked under the heat of her spell, Jiao turned the bones over to read their answers.

Wise dark eyes read the cracks, determining the colours present, checking for minute changes that could change the reading. Those eyes closed slowly and the head they were in bowed.

Jiao spoke softly, her voice filled with sadness. "The ancestors say that we cannot openly claim him, we cannot bring him home permanently, not for a long time. If we do, then the Wizarding world will suffer a greatly. A Dark wizard is coming and our Severus plays a pivotal role in his fall."

§§§§§§

Severus walked down the familiar path, listening to the wind in the trees and the feeling of home settling in his bone. The beginning of the school year had been rough, what with the Marauder's prank and Dumbledore's inaction, but all of that was behind him at this moment.

Lui met him halfway to the house. "Something is bothering Dad and Mama. They won't talk about it though. I think they are waiting for you to get there. Do you have any idea what it might be about?"

Glancing at his brother, Severus pondered a bit. "Maybe it is about that scare I had at the beginning of the year. They might want to scold me for being a fool."

Lui's eyes widened as he remembered the letter from Severus that explained the event. "You certainly were. Let's get in there so they can get this out of their system. Then you can get changed for dinner."

Lengthening his stride, Severus grinned as Lui did the same to keep up. "Is anyone else here?"

Lui shook his head. "No, you are the first to arrive this time. What did you do, leave in the middle of the night there?" When Severus nodded, he continued. "Did you sleep any?"

"I did, most of the day since I knew I was leaving late at night. I wanted to help with the last minute preparation."

"Well, it seems you'll get a talking to first and then we'll be put to work."

Laughing lightly, they rushed up the stairs to drop off Severus' things and then went to find their parents.

Mingyu smiled as Severus and Lui walked into the front room. "Welcome home, Severus."

"Thank you, Dad. It is wonderful to be here." Severus meant it too. A weight had fallen off his shoulders as he activated the portkey, leaving all his worries in Scotland. Turning slightly, he caught sight of Lanfen entering the room. "Good morning, Mama."

"Severus!" Lanfen's smile brightened the room. "Welcome home. You are earlier than we expected."

Lui shot a grin at his brother. "He left in the middle of the night. Now, are you ready to talk about what is bothering you? The family is here."

Mingyu and Lanfen's eyes met. Nodding slightly, Mingyu gestured for everyone to take a seat. Settling in his own, he remembered what Jiao said after she looked into Severus' fate even more that day. She left no means of known divination untried. 'Severus can know that fate is blocking his path home, that he has something he must do there, but you can not mention the Dark Wizard.'

"Severus, this past September, after my vision dream, you sent us the letter, one full of information that..." He trailed off. He didn't know how to explain how that letter affected him. He was grateful when Lanfen took up the conversation for him.

"It shocked us. It also showed how much we do not know, how much hurt and pain you are hiding, thinking that we cannot or will not be willing to handle. Or maybe that it was not something that we should be worried about."

Severus stared at them, his mind racing. This was something he didn't want to talk about. It was the mess he left back in Scotland. The Marauders could not be allowed to find a foothold here, not in China, not in his home – the one place free of them. "I don't want them here. They can't be here."

Mingyu gestured Severus to be quiet, and thankfully the teen obeyed. "They are not here. If those four … hoodlums ever touched the soil in our town, I would personally make sure that they knew how unwelcome they are. You are first and foremost a Sung - my son, Severus. I was mad, Severus, not at you, but at not knowing, not being able to be there to help you. To protect you, as it is my right to do. We took your letter to Grandfather Bohai, and asked for permission to bring you home."

Lui and Severus both looked shocked, their eyes wide. Then suddenly Severus' narrowed, his face closing off. "Then why am I not home? Why did Grandfather refuse?"

Clasping his hands tight in his lap, Mingyu hoped that this would not drive Severus to leave them. The child had grown up knowing rejection more than acceptance. "Grandmother Jiao sought out the advice of our ancestors. She asked what the future held if we did bring you home, and what it would hold if we didn't. She performed every means of divination that she has been trained in, every one that could be completed without you physically present."

Severus slumped against the back of the sofa, his face started to crumple in despair, but then it hardened into a blank stoic mask. "Shall I leave?"

"No!" Lanfen leaned forward, her hand grasping Severus' arm to keep him there. "No, you are not to leave."

"But you cannot stay," said Mingyu. "You are important to events that are occurring in the UK, and if we brought you here then it would change things too much."

"So, I can never stay home?" Poorly masked pain laced the words, and Lui's hand clasped onto Severus' other arm.

Mingyu moved and placed both hands on Severus' shoulders. Sinking until he was looking straight into those anguished eyes, he answered. "You will, but it is going to take time. Jiao said that we cannot openly claim you, nor can you move home yet, but you will one day. Until that day comes, I expect you here at least once a year. More if you can manage it. I expect letters and pictures. You are our family. You have been a member of this family since you were eleven years old, longer if you count only our four opinions."

Severus trembled under their hands. "I … I wanted to stay. Next year I wanted to be here. I wanted to finish my last year of school here, with Lui. I am seventeen – I am of legal age in the UK. Grandfather Bohai said I could decide then. He ..."

Lanfen ran a comforting hand through his hair. "Bohai wants you here. He is not happy that the Fates say it can't be so, not yet. Jiao is not happy either, that is why she looked at every possible way to get around this. She tried, but to no avail."

Severus dropped his head onto Mingyu's arm and just rested it there while his hopes and dreams crashed around him. The next few minutes stretched out in silence as his mind drifted, lost and without purpose. The only real and tangible things were his parents' firm hold on his arm and shoulders, and Lui's presence beside him.

Out of the rubble, he saw a new pattern, a new way. He would get his Potions Mastery in the UK and let Fate lead him where it needed him to be. Maybe then he could come home faster. 'Maybe I should get my Mastery here as well, but under Sung Severus.'

Releasing a deep heartfelt sigh, he lifted his head. "Thank you for telling me."

Mingyu and Lanfen both tightened their grips before releasing him. Lui gave him a sad smile and did the same.

Severus ran a smoothing hand down his trouser leg. "So, now that is out of the way, what shall we do to help finish preparing for tonight?"

"You need to change out of that school uniform, and then come help set up the fireworks. Lui, you are helping your mother."

§§§§§§

"Severus, come on. We have to get to the front so we can greet the family." Lui jumped from the table, leaving his books behind. Severus marked his place before doing the same.

"What do you think Aunt Meixui will wear this time?" Lui whispered to Severus as they watched family members walked towards the door.

"A gold robe, she loves gold, and it will have large red hibiscus flowers all over it," Severus whispered back while thinking that Dumbledore would like Meixui's robes.

"With butterflies flitting from flower to flower," was all that Lui was able to add before they were glared at by their parents.

Passing through the front gate, Bohai glanced down at Jiao. "Mingyu sent me a letter this morning. Lanfen and he told Severus that he was not allowed to stay."

"Did he say how Severus handled being told?" Jiao was worried that the boy they had both come to love would be crushed, and may even come to hate them for blocking what they had told him he could have so long ago.

"No." Bohai and Jiao paused to watch the group clustered near the door. "But he appears to be the same as normal. They are standing as a family, there is no rift there."

They made sure that they were the last to approach Mingyu's family.

"Sung Severus," Bohai smiled as the tall young man's eyes widened. "welcome home. I am happy that you are able to join us tonight."

Jiao smiled as Severus' surprise faded into an uncertain but happy look. "It is only right that you are with family tonight."

The uncertainty faded, leaving only the happiness. "I am glad I am able to be here. Welcome, Grandfather and Grandmother."

As the rest of his family echoed his greeting, they all walked in.

Severus walked through the filled room. A quick glance about showed that the people, all dressed in their best new brightly coloured clothes and jewellery, were spilling out into the hallway and possible some had moved back outside. Lui's soft chuckle sounded near his shoulder.

"There are so many in our family. I think about a quarter of the town is here."

Severus quirked a half grin. "That was why we were allowed to roam near and far. There was always someone who could punish … I mean watch us."

Lui's laughter ended when an uncle who had done both of those things stopped next to them.

"Severus, when are you coming home to stay? I thought, after you were here all summer, that you were."

Lui noticed Severus' shoulders tense. "Alas, Uncle, Severus' school schedule is different from ours. He is in the middle of his school year, whereas we are at the beginning."

Severus gave a tight nod. "I had considered the possibility this past summer, but a number of small issues cropped up, making it not the best option."

Uncle frowned lightly before continuing. "You will be home to acquire your mastery?"

"I do not know, sir. I have considered gaining my Western Potions Mastery first, as that is what my current training is in. I would then seek Master Cheng out to see if he was willing to exchange knowledge and then earn my Eastern Potions Mastery. But, it depends on what the future holds." Even as the words left his mouth, Severus felt the idea take root. He had thought about it a little bit while helping with the fireworks and while working on his homework, but now that it was spoken, the plan sounded even better.

A smile curled Uncle's lips. "Check with Master Cheng before you go through all that trouble, other than that, it sounds like a workable plan. We will miss you though."

"Thank you, Uncle." A quiet sigh escaped Severus and Lui's lips as the elderly man wandered away to talk to someone else.

"I hope we do not have to face any more questions like that tonight," whispered Lui.

"I agree," was Severus' whispered reply.

Not long after dinner was served. It was a loud boisterous affair as normal. Food filled the plates and bowls in abundance. After filling up on fish, prawns, and everything else that was offered, the family all headed out to watch the fireworks.

Mingyu and Severus beamed with quiet pride as the display went off without a hitch. The last, the one that they were the most worried about, was a long fire dragon dancing across the sky. As it slowly faded away, the extended family drifted away, heading to their individual homes.

§§§§§§

Mingyu watched through a window as Severus and Lui built leaf boats and sailed them on the koi pond. It was a scene he remembered clearly from every place that they visited when the boys were younger. They had floated them on a stream in the Philippines, in Thailand, in Australia, even down the river Nile on their first trip.

'It was the first thing they did together. Lui showed Severus how to make the boats that afternoon we were lost. He went between playing with Lui and attempting to help me figure out where we were compared to where we were supposed to be.'

The memory of that afternoon led to the memory of the time that he did not like to think of, the time that Lui had vanished. 'When we portkeyed to the place on the letter, the location that Severus had written out, we were back on that river bank. The first sound I heard was laughter. Lui's high pitched laughter and then the sound of Severus attempting to speak a word in Mandarin. When Lanfen and I found them, they were downstream building and floating leaf boats.'

Lanfen's voice was soft as she joined him at the window. "He is floating the bad away."

"The bad away?" He watched as Lui's intricately designed boat nudged Severus'.

"That is what Severus told me he was doing when I asked one year. He builds the leaf boats and lets them sail all his hurt and pain away. He does it every year, but normally he does it on the stream. I wonder why he floating the boats on the pond this year."

Lanfen walked away, heading out the door towards the teens. Mingyu followed her, wondering if she was going to ask Severus.

"I knew we were going to be family the moment I came back to your place and you saved me." Lui set another boat on the pond.

With a flick of his wand, Severus created a slight breeze to cause his boat to sail across the water. "How did you know that? I didn't think I would ever see you again once Dad and Mama came to rescue you."

"No magic, Severus!" Lui glared at the raised eyebrow that was directed at him. "Not even to get them moving."

"Fine. I won't."

"Good." Lui watched his boat float near the eddies next to the bridge."Now, how I knew? It was just a feeling, one deep in my bones. That was why I felt safe. I was with you."

As Mingyu and Lanfen settled on the bench near them, Lanfen rested an amazed look on her son. "I wish that I knew that at that time. I was terrified, sure you were scared, lost, and hurt."

"Did you know, Dad?" Severus twisted slightly so he could see Mingyu.

Mingyu shook his head. "Not until I received your letter."

"Severus," Lanfen nodded towards the leaf boats. "why are you floating your boats here? You told me once that they were taking the bad away, do you still believe that?"

Severus rested his gaze on the little leaf boats as he answered. "I do, but … you told me yesterday that you wanted to hear about that bad so you could at least know. So, I am leaving them with you."

Mingyu felt his heart warm at the trust that was being shown to them. "Thank you. We will do what we can to help you. Just ask, Severus. You are family, your troubles are our troubles."

"Yes, sir."

"Now, onto happier topics. I hear you are planning on becoming a Potions Master. Is that correct?" Mingyu relaxed as Severus' expression became serious.

"I do. I was thinking, since I am not allowed home yet, is to earn my Mastery there and then come here and earn one here. Do you think Master Cheng will apprentice me?"

Lui's laugh echoed over the pond. "He will, Severus. Don't worry about that."

"What are you going to Master in?" Severus asked Lui.

"Wandlore. I am going to craft the best wands in the country. People are going to come see me from all over, just like that one in Diagon Alley that you mentioned – Ollivander."

Lanfen and Mingyu smiled while their two sons discussed their futures.

§§§§§§

Severus walked down the halls of Hogwarts, his eyes searching for the Marauders or a trap left by them.

All the troubles he had left here were still waiting for him. 'At least I can tell Mama, Dad, and Lui about them now.'

He made it to the Slytherin common room unharmed. Stepping through the door, he wondered what Fate had in store for him that he couldn't leave.