Originally Posted 8/31/16, last revised 10/27/16.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, and while I've never met her and am not one of her subjects, I have nothing but respect for the Queen. Information about British law and letters to and from the Queen comes from online research and is accurate to the best of my knowledge.

Epilogue 3: Severus Snape

"On the charge of Treason against the Crown, how do you find?"

"Not Guilty."

Severus Snape let out the breath he'd been holding for the past twenty seconds and felt himself relax slightly. He hadn't been cleared of all charges, but he had been acquitted on the two most serious ones: Sedition and Treason. While this meant he was probably looking at some time in Azkaban, or wherever prisoners were being held these days, it also spared him from a likely death sentence. Plus, once he was out he would never have to return to Hogwarts again.

While the judge thanked the jury for their verdicts, he turned to his barrister and said, "Thank you."

His barrister nodded and said, "You're welcome. Hopefully they won't lock you up for too long."

Snape nodded, then shrugged nonchalantly. "However long it is, I'll live. It's better than the alternative, especially since the Dark Lord is gone."

"True, true," said his barrister absently as he collected his papers.

The judge banged his gavel once to get everyone's attention. Snape turned back to the judge and stood straight again, awaiting his fate while the barrister continued putting his things together.

"Severus Snape," intoned the judge, "the jury has found you guilty of fourteen counts of Abuse of Authority, while finding you not guilty of the charges of Sedition and Treason against the Crown. Do you have anything you wish to say before I pronounce your sentence?"

"Yes, My Lord," said Snape. "I just want to say that I have no intention of returning to teaching now that the Dark Lord is defeated, and I stand ready to accept my punishment."

"I see," said the judge, thinking for a moment. "Very well. Severus Snape, I sentence you to fourteen terms of two years each in the custody of Her Majesty's Magical Prison, to be served concurrently. Additionally, the second year of each term is hereby suspended dependent on your good behavior while incarcerated. Should you keep yourself out of trouble, that second year will be converted to probation following your release. Otherwise you will serve the entire term before being released. Do you have any questions?"

"No, My Lord," replied Snape. "Thank you for your generosity."

"Thank me by keeping your nose clean and not making me regret it, understood?"

"Yes, My Lord."

"Good," said the judge, banging his gavel. "Court is adjourned."

As Snape was led off to wherever he was to be held, he considered his situation carefully. On the one hand, he had a year to spend in prison, served who-knows-where. On the other hand, even if it was Azkaban, he knew that the dementors would no longer be used, and it was only a year. Plus, he had every intention of keeping himself out of trouble and not having to serve that second year.

No, the real positive of this situation was that in no more than two years time he would be free one way or another. Free from the Dark Lord, free from Dumbledore, free from having to teach students at Hogwarts. And most of all, free from having to see Harry bloody Potter ever again. It was that last thought that made him smile as he was led from the courtroom.

Severus Snape unconsciously rubbed his left forearm as he walked out of the Ministry of Magic a mostly free man. He had just finished registering with the DMLE's new parole office, and as long as he kept himself out of trouble for the next twelve months he'd be completely free. As he headed for the public Floo he realized that for perhaps the first time ever, he was finally the master of his own destiny.

With the death of Voldemort, Snape had found himself free from what he expected to be a lifetime of servitude to a madman, one he'd regretted pledging himself to from nearly the beginning. With Dumbledore's fall from grace he'd lost the protection of his other master, and found himself in the custody of Her Majesty's forces with no one to help him. Fortunately for him, his willingness to help against his first master, along with the efficacy of the help he ultimately provided, went a long way towards sparing him.

In the end, he'd spent a year in prison for abusing his students at Hogwarts, and had to stay clean for another to avoid going back, but that had also probably been the best thing that could have happened to him. When the news of his being a Death Eater had first gotten out, there were many people who wanted nothing more than take a few shots at him. A year later everyone had calmed down, especially after the story of his cooperation was released, and the worst he'd had to deal with was some disdainful looks.

The other thing that had happened was that he'd been kept mostly away from the other prisoners. At first it was ostensibly for his own protection, but he came to prefer it that way, and convinced the guards to leave him there. He'd spent a lot of time thinking, and had come to several realizations about himself and his future. Most notably was the realization that he didn't just hate teaching children, but he pretty much hated dealing with anyone and everyone. He'd much rather spend all day by himself in a potions lab than having to deal with other people, which had led to his current plan.

After taking the Floo to the Three Broomsticks, he quickly purchased a copy of the Daily Prophet and Apparated to his home. After confirming that there was nothing quite like it listed in the Prophet, he began to finalize his plans.

Life was good, thought Severus Snape as he walked into his potions lab. It was over a year and a half since he had been released from prison, and his mail-order potions business was thriving. Being able to brew even the most complicated potions had served him well, especially among the British werewolf population. Even if it did mean having to brew for Remus Lupin on a regular basis.

But the full moon had passed a few days ago and he wouldn't have to start the next batch of the Wolfsbane Potion for another couple of weeks, so he dropped that line of thought and went to check on the potions he had under stasis or otherwise brewing. Once he had confirmed that everything was as he expected, he went to check the day's mail. It wasn't safe to have owls in the lab, so he had a separate post room adjacent to it for receiving and sending orders.

He opened each letter and separated them by type: requests for common potions he had in stock, requests for potions he would have to brew specifically, and other correspondence that wasn't orders. He mused to himself that if he got much busier he'd need to hire an assistant, something he would never have even considered even a year ago, until the last letter made his train of thought derail.

It had no return address, so he'd checked it for spells (there were none) before opening it. The handwriting looked familiar, but he didn't recognize it at first, and so read the letter feeling pleased about its contents. It wasn't until he got to the end and saw the signature that he dropped it like a hot potato, his expression turning sour.

5th August, 1998

Dear Professor Snape,

Congratulations on your potions business, I hear it's doing well. Actually, from what I've heard, it's doing so well you might need an assistant. Thanks to you teaching me how to brew under pressure, I got an O on my Potions O.W.L. a couple years ago, and just found out I received an O on my Potions N.E.W.T. as well. Since I know you only ever wanted to work with the best, I figured I'd see if you were interested in taking me on as an apprentice and to help you with your business. While classroom teaching may not have suited you, I wonder if working one-on-one would be a better way of learning from a skilled Potions Master like you.

If you're interested, all of my owl correspondence is currently handled through the Crown Ambassador's office. Just send your reply there with my name on it and they'll make sure I get it right away. I look forward to hearing from you, and even if you're not interested I wish you the best of luck with your business.

(signed) Sir Harry James Potter, KCVO

P.S. I'm only joking about the apprentice/assistant position, but I did get Os in both my Potions O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. It's amazing what you can learn from a teacher who actually wants to teach!

(animated smiley face)

He picked up the letter and read it again, this time reading the P.S. as well. He blew out a breath when he saw that Potter was joking about being his apprentice, considering even the concept to be cringeworthy. Still, now that he was no longer trapped in his teaching position at Hogwarts, he could appreciate the humor behind the letter, and the smiley face that occasionally stuck out its tongue at him. Probably Black's contribution, he decided.

Shaking his head, he decided that he'd have to find a creative way to respond, and if he couldn't he'd just ignore it. Besides, potions didn't just brew themselves, and he'd gotten half a dozen custom orders today alone. Picking up the stack of them, he returned to the lab to start working on them. Once they were in process he could send out the orders that were already in stock, hopefully before it was time for lunch.

If anyone who'd known Professor Snape from Hogwarts had been there to watch him as he started brewing his first order, they would have been shocked to see him not only without a scowl on his face, but actually smiling.