This is it - in which all Hades breaks loose ... Rated PG-13; some book 4 spoilers. The Potterverse and all the original characters are J.K. Rowling's.
Voldemort's livid eyes were if possible redder than before, angrier than his circle of followers had ever seen them. "They escaped," he hissed into the evening air. "And we know the Potter witch was among their number, because she and I are the only Parseltongues now living - and Nagini was misled by her words."
He paced the Circle. "Just last night she was here - here - within easy reach," he fumed. "And yet she has escaped me again. Snape will certainly reveal all, if he has not done so already, and she will be lost to me. Dumbledore will lose no time in finding her a mate."
His followers would have cowered back from the Circle if they had dared. Voldemort continued his strides, fury in every line of the terrible face. He halted abruptly in the center of the ring. "We will attack," he said. "We will storm Hogwarts and take her."
One of the Death Eaters shifted, clearing his throat.
"Yes, Lucius?" Voldemort said softly, dangerously.
"We still have not been able to counter the charms surrounding the Castle, My Lord," Malfoy said nervously. "We will not be able to enter in the numbers needed to wage a battle."
"Very true, Lucius," Voldemort agreed. "And yet, if we are daring, I think there may be a way. We will need to bring in some of our allies. But perhaps by tomorrow night, under cover of darkness..."
Severus stroked Rose's back as she slept in his arms. He felt his eyes stinging absurdly. She was so sweet, so trusting, but innocent no longer ... as much as he loved her, as much as she'd come to him willingly, he felt as if he'd committed an act of desecration.
He shook his head abruptly. This was ridiculous. If it had not been now, not been him, it would have been later with someone else. Rose was not meant to lead a life of solitude; she was made for partnership, for family. He shuddered, remembering the threat that had hung over her. Thank God they needn't worry about that any longer.
Rose stirred, sighing. "All right, love?" he murmured to her half-opened eyes, gathering her closer to him and caressing her tangled hair, now free of the knot she had worn it in for their wedding.
"Mmm, yes," she said with a sleepy smile. She nestled her head under his chin and closed her eyes again. Running his fingers through her hair, he pulled out the last of the white rosebuds that had crowned her and placed it on the bedside stand. He drew the blankets over them both and closed his eyes.
A rapping on the door startled him out of his sleep. The rapping continued, escalating to banging. "Master Snape!" It was the high voice of a House-elf.
He got up, throwing on his white robe as Rose opened her eyes in confusion. "What is it, Severus?"
"I don't know yet," he murmured. But he could guess.
Winky was at the door, eyes huge in her tiny face. "Apologies, sir, but Master Dumbledore needs you now," she squeaked.
"Where?" He snatched up his wand and followed her into the corridor. Rose was close behind, struggling into robes she'd hurriedly pulled from a closet, tucking her own wand into a pocket. The lamps were all lit; it must be well past sunset.
"The conference room," Winky said, hurrying ahead of them. They reached the room to find Order members milling about. Dumbledore caught sight of Rose and Severus hand in hand at the doorway, and his face relaxed. "Please, everyone," he said, raising his voice over the din of confused exclamation. "Please, take your seats and be calm."
Rose sat next to her husband in a back corner, noting briefly that the entire Order seemed to be present. There was Sirius next to Arabella, both turning to give her worried looks; there was Remus beside them; there were Mundungus and Tom and Minerva and Frederick - and there were Arthur and Molly Weasley, recalled from Romania. Mrs Weasley was giving her an odd look, and she realised she was still holding Severus' hand. She blushed a bit but did not let go.
"We have just learned that the Death Eaters are attacking Hogsmeade," Dumbledore said gravely. "The Dark Mark has been sent up over the town. A witch and wizard were killed before the townspeople were able to barricade themselves inside." The room was silent now. "The Death Eaters have brought with them a large number of creatures sympathetic to their cause: ogres, the northern goblins, trolls, and other such. It seems they have decided to wage an all-out battle.
"The protections on Hogwarts are still active, so this castle should remain an oasis of safety for our House-elves and Madam Pomfrey, who is setting up an infirmary in the Great Hall at this moment. I will need the rest of you to assemble as many of our friends and allies as you can gather in the space of - shall we say, twenty minutes? I will temporarily undo the charm preventing Apparition from within these grounds, so you can all leave at once. We will meet on the path from the castle to the town, as near the entrance to Hogsmeade as we can get without being seen.
"We have reason to believe - " Dumbledore's eyes flicked over to the corner where Rose was sitting - "that the last of the Potters is still Voldemort's main target. Therefore Rose will stay here at Hogwarts."
"No!" Rose gasped, jumping from her seat, but Severus tightened his grip on her hand almost painfully. "You'll remain here," he said in a tone Rose had never thought to hear from him again: harsh, almost menacing, shocking her into silence. His eyes were deadly cold, but the cold was not directed at her. Dumbledore was continuing as though he hadn't heard Rose's outburst.
"Friends, I wish you all Godspeed," he said heavily. He closed his eyes, raised his wand, and swung it in a slow circle over his head while uttering a lengthy incantation. "You may go," he said finally.
The little group began to blink out of sight. Sirius strode over to give Rose a fierce hug. Arabella kissed her on the cheek. "Good - good luck," Rose said, struggling to hold back tears.
"We'll be back, love," Sirius said with certainty, and they were gone, Remus nodding encouragingly at Rose before following in their wake.
Molly and Arthur Weasley approached, Molly still glancing from Severus to Rose. She looked up and down Snape's white robe and drew in a sudden breath. "Rose! Are you actually - "
Rose smiled a little, though her vision was becoming more and more blurred. "Married, yes," she whispered. "I'll tell you all about it when you return." She hugged them both, and the Weasleys too Disapparated.
Finally she, Severus, and Dumbledore were the only ones left. "Rose, no matter what you see or hear, I want your word that you won't leave the castle," Dumbledore said, looking at her solemnly.
"You have it," she said in a low voice, glancing at her husband. Must stay calm ... he can't see me worry. "I'll help Madam Pomfrey," she added, striving for a normal tone.
Dumbledore nodded. "Good. Severus, will you meet me at the Hogsmeade gate? Then I can put the Anti-Apparition Charm back on Hogwarts. And I will need your help to complete the Beckoning Charm as well. My dear - " He kissed Rose's cheek, then was gone.
Husband and wife faced each other. Rose's tears finally spilled. "I'm sorry," she choked, hiding her face in her hands. "I didn't want you to see me like this."
"I'll return," he said firmly, pulling her hands away from her face, pulling her close. "Do you think I would lose you now?" He kissed her roughly, and it was like their first kiss, longing and joy mingled with desperation -
She broke away. "I love you, Severus," she whispered. "Come back quickly."
"I promise, love," he said, barely loud enough to be heard. He stroked his thumb along her cheek, brushing away the last of her tears. Then he too was gone.
Madam Pomfrey had the House-elves to help her get ready, until any - casualties began coming in. Rose made a quick decision and found the central staircase, running up and up. She came out at the top of the Astronomy tower, panting for breath as she approached the parapet. The platform was, as always, dimly lit by lanterns shaded red; the reddish light allowed stargazers to see their way about without ruining their night vision. She tilted the nearest telescope down from the stars, over the trees toward Hogsmeade.
Even without magnification, multicoloured sparks and flames cast an eerily festive glow over the town. If she hadn't known better she'd have thought there was a celebration in progress. But the Dark Mark still hung in the sky, glowing green and gigantic over the tiny buildings. Rose steeled herself and bent her head to the eyepiece.
People were running to and fro before the offices of what she thought must be the Hogsmeade Howler - poor Mundungus, there were flames pouring from the windows. Further down the street an enormous shape - no, two - three - lumbered along, swinging enormous clubs, smashing windows and walls as they went. Too big even for ogres ... giants? She stood for several minutes, unable to tear her eyes from the activity below, until -
"So. Well met, Rose Potter."
She whirled around, hand at her throat as the old scar burned anew -
Voldemort stood before her, his eyes glowing redder than ever in the scarlet light that bathed his menacing form.
Snape made his way silently into the town, taking cover behind bushes and around corners, looking carefully in each direction before moving again. The screaming was distant, the blasting of spells and scorch of flames was nowhere near - yet. He looked behind him to see Dumbledore, dim in the glow of wandlight and flame, directing his ill-assorted troops. Knots of witches and wizards were deploying themselves between buildings; he spotted Black and Figg and the Weasleys among their number.
Fawkes and an assembly of Hogwarts owls were flying to all corners of the scene, preparing to gather intelligence. A small band of centaurs led by Firenze was moving off toward the ogres, who were busy wrecking shops along the main avenue. Amazing that Firenze had persuaded any of his normally neutral brethren to join him, but it seemed that the centaur community was waking up at last.
Snape blinked and rubbed his watering eyes. Were those trees approaching the Hogsmeade gate? It looked as though a part of the wood had sprouted feet and was marching behind them. But no - it seemed Dumbledore's Beckoning Spell had successfully reached Hagrid as well as Firenze. Luckily the Portkeys Dumbledore gave his staff worked as well on giants as they did on humans. Snape counted six enormous figures, each at least twenty feet tall, bringing up the rear.
On their flank was an odd band of creatures, led by a grizzled gentleman in a worn cloak who Snape guessed was Godfrey Lupin. Remus Lupin stood next to his uncle, and the two wizards seemed to be communicating with the animals. Remus was surrounded by an attentive pack of wolves - perhaps becoming a creature like them on a monthly basis had its advantages after all - and Godfrey was growling to an assorted group that included a stag, two unicorns that glowed ghostly white, a pack of ferrets, and a hippogriff. Godfrey mounted the hippogriff and Snape watched them fly toward the blazing scene.
He turned back to the village once again. His task was to find Death Eaters and immobilise them one by one. He knew more of them by sight than any other soldier in Dumbledore's little army did.
Five careful minutes later, he had reached the edge of the action. A hooded figure just ahead stood with his back to Snape, raising a wand in the direction of the nearest house -
"Expelliarmus!" Snape cast the spell hurriedly in his foe's direction. The other wizard was flung onto his face, his wand sailing up and back into Snape's hand. He ran forward and rolled the other man over.
"Crouch!" he exclaimed. His fury surged anew, remembering what this man had done to Rose.
"Snape," Bartemius gasped, still getting his breath back. Then, incredibly, he smiled.
"What have you got to be so happy about?" Snape growled.
"Nothing at all," said Crouch, hastily smothering his grin as he stumbled to his feet. Snape kept his wand pointed carefully at Crouch's chest. That smile bothered him; there was something too knowing about it.
"Veritas!" Snape said suddenly.
Crouch was unprepared for his attack. He stood before Snape, his face going slack, his hands dropping to his sides.
"I command you to answer truthfully: why did you smile to see me?"
Crouch seemed to be struggling to keep silent, but the words were dragged from him by the Truth spell Snape had cast. "You were here, not at Hogwarts," he mumbled.
Snape had to lean close to listen. "Why should you want me here?"
More mumbling. "If you are here, others are here, and our plan has worked. Hogwarts is left unprotected."
Snape frowned. "What about Dumbledore's spells?"
"He lifted the Anti-Apparition Charm as we thought he would. For just long enough."
Snape seized Crouch by the shoulders, shaking him. "What are you saying?"
"My Lord is there now searching for his bride, who surely was left in the safety of the castle." Crouch's smile had returned. His eyes were sickeningly empty as Snape abruptly let him go and whirled around.
Snape ran back, scarcely bothering to conceal himself - he had to find -
"Dumbledore!" he panted, reaching the headmaster at last. In a few hurried words he explained how they'd been taken in by Voldemort's diversion.
Dumbledore raised his wand with a wrathful expression. He waved his hand in a slow circle in the direction of Hogwarts, speaking the words of incantation as before, but hurriedly. "Go, Severus," he said. "I will send as many others as I can reach, and then follow myself. We will leave some number of our band here to deal with this - " He gestured to the fighting in the distance.
Snape closed his eyes, concentrating on the Great Hall of Hogwarts castle.
Madam Pomfrey and her helpers were setting up blankets and pillows atop the four House tables. She was astonished when Snape Apparated into her line of vision. "Poppy," he said urgently, "We think Voldemort himself has entered the castle. Have you seen any sign of him?"
For a moment she could hardly speak. "No, I've seen and heard nothing," she finally stammered.
"Where is Rose?" Snape asked sharply, looking around.
"I haven't seen her at all today. Shall I - "
"Bar the doors and open them to none but us," Snape said. "Dumbledore said he would send others and he will follow himself. You know all the members of the Order?"
Poppy Pomfrey nodded, her eyes wide.
"They may have other allies with them. I have to find Rose, she's in danger. If you see her - keep her here." He ran from the Hall, Madam Pomfrey staring after him.
Oh God, where could she be? Where would she have gone - if she was still here at all - but he couldn't let himself think like that.
He stopped, trying to collect his thoughts. The castle was enormous and he would lose a lot of time if he didn't think this through. Where would Rose go first?
If he had been left behind in the crucial moment, with nothing but worry about the battle and his friends' safety uppermost in his mind, he would go -
He shut his eyes and concentrated with all his will on the Astronomy tower.
"You," she whispered, hand still at her throat. Her scar was throbbing as never before, not even that night in the cemetery when Voldemort was resurrected. "How - "
But it was all too clear. The Hogsmeade attack was merely a smokescreen. His whole aim had been Hogwarts all along.
"You're a clever witch, I'm sure you can figure it out," he purred, his wand pointing directly at her. She'd never be able to pull hers out of her pocket in time. "Of course Dumbledore would have to allow his lackeys a quick exit from the castle, once he knew the town was in danger. We merely stood by, trying repeatedly to Apparate until at last we were able to. To foil any possible lookout, we decided it was best to start at the top of the castle. And now I find, to my immense good fortune ... you." He smiled horribly, baring pointed teeth.
We ... Rose finally noticed the Death Eaters flanking their lord, three on each side of him, standing silent in black hoods and cloaks. Standing in a half-circle, they blocked her access to the only door into the tower. All six wands were trained on her in addition to Voldemort's.
"I even brought a few of your classmates with me, thinking they might be useful in navigating the castle," Voldemort continued, indicating the three hooded shapes on his left. "But fortunately, now there is no need. We shall leave from here at once. Though surely Dumbledore has reinstated the protections against Apparition, so we will have to travel by more conventional means." He indicated the broomstick held by each Death Eater.
Rose felt her heart pounding. "It's useless, Voldemort," she said. "I know what you intended, but I'm - married now." She held up her left hand, where her ring glinted in the reddish light of the lanterns.
Voldemort let out a hissing breath. "Is that so," he said. "And yet, anyone can put a ring on one finger. Perhaps - "
"I assure you," Rose began, fear churning in her stomach, when suddenly behind Voldemort she saw -
"Sev - !" She choked on his name, just managing to stop herself from crying it out and giving him away. She dragged her eyes back to the hideous gaze still fixed relentlessly on her.
"I - I am certainly not what you require," she continued breathlessly.
"Is that so?" he sneered again. "You'll permit me to doubt that. Now - " He raised his wand, and at that moment Severus acted. He raised his wand behind Voldemort's back and cried "Expelliarmus!"
But two of the Death Eaters caught sight of his arm moving and sprang on him. His wand arm was knocked roughly back, his spell shooting harmlessly into the skies as he was dragged before the Dark Lord. To Rose's horror Severus was quickly subdued by the two who held him. He lay prostrate at Voldemort's feet, breathing hard as he looked up at his enemy.
"She's right, you're too late, Voldemort," he snarled.
Voldemort studied him and his blue robes, all the time pointing his wand at Rose. He gave a jerk of the head. One of the hooded figures moved abruptly to Rose's side and seized her arms, holding them firmly behind her back.
"Ah, the bridegroom, I see," the Dark Lord mused. "So the lover has won his heart's desire and in the process ruined my plans. But I believe I promised you a reward myself, did I not? Perhaps not what I originally had in mind, but this will have to do. Now watch closely, Severus." Never raising his eyes from Snape, Voldemort kept his wand pointed at Rose's heart and cried, "Avada - "
"No!" came a muffled shout. One of the hooded trio at Voldemort's left sprang in front of Rose, pushing her back against the Death Eater who held her - she stumbled and sent them both to the floor -
" - Kedavra!" The rogue Death Eater, still standing with his arms spread out as if to protect Rose, was struck full in the chest by the jet of green light. He fell to the flagstones without a sound. Rose wrenched herself away from the stunned Death Eater who held her and bent over the inert figure, pulling off the black hood.
For a moment she could only stare down at her dead classmate. "Gregory," she murmured brokenly at last, stroking his limp hair just once. Then she straightened, her eyes blazing as she searched her pockets vainly for her wand. "Voldemort, are you satisfied now? You've just destroyed one of your own, a schoolboy."
"He meant less than nothing, especially since he betrayed me," Voldemort spat, advancing on her. "Perhaps I should spare you after all ... if only to find out what has inspired so much devotion among two of my Death Eaters."
Rose was grabbed once again by the Death Eater behind her, who held her fast though she tried to shrink back. Her expression was contemptuous. "Something you'd never understand," she muttered.
"What was that?" Cold bony fingers caught her chin, turning her face from side to side. "Passably pretty, certainly a good bit of spirit ... and the courage of Gryffindor, no doubt. Hmmm." She did her best to conceal her horror as the livid face approached, the red eyes narrowing, the slit of a mouth curving, moving to cover hers as Severus let out a cry of fury -
"Voldemort!" The voice Rose heard was Dumbledore's, but the tone was one she had never heard before: commanding and deep, majestic in its wrath. The Dark Lord whirled around to face his foe. Rose trembled with rising nausea - he'd been so very close.
Dumbledore was advancing, blue eyes afire. Blue flames are hotter than red ... hadn't Severus cautioned them about that in a Potions class long ago?
A small corps of witches and wizards was moving slowly behind Dumbledore, wands raised. Suddenly all was bedlam: spells were fired, sparks flew, Death Eaters cried out. Rose wrenched away from the fierce grip on her arms as the man holding her reached for his wand. She fell to her knees on the stone pavement, searching for her own wand, finally retrieving it from a darkened corner.
By the time she stood again, the five remaining Death Eaters were held captive in a huddle by the door and Voldemort stood alone at the parapet, wand still raised. Severus dragged himself to Rose's side; she saw at a glance he was having problems with one ankle. She reached out and took his hand, eyes fixed on the Dark Lord.
"You think you've won," Voldemort taunted Dumbledore. "You think I won't find other followers, take other forms, do whatever I must - " Suddenly he hurled himself off the parapet. Rose and Severus, who were closest, sprang to the railing. As one they directed both their wands at the falling figure, which was transforming before their eyes into a mighty vulture. "Avada Kedavra!" they shouted in unison.
Two beams of light shot from their wands and joined in midair. Where each beam had been green, the two together joined to form one intense ray, so thick and such a bright gold that it hurt their eyes to look at it. It shot to the enormous bird and haloed it with golden fire.
A terrible screaming filled the air, a cry neither avian nor human, and all over the tower platform people covered their ears against the dreadful sound. The vulture was consumed before their eyes until the appalling sound faded away, and only a golden mist was left behind to dissipate gently into the evening air.
Far in the distance, the Dark Mark hanging over Hogsmeade burst into thousands of twinkling green stars that fell and flickered out like a spent firework.
A long moment later, the survivors on the Tower turned to look at one another in stunned silence. Dumbledore was first to speak. "The Darkness has fallen," he said simply. His face and voice were filled with an exhausted joy.
Severus started. "You mean - " He stopped, trying to recall the exact words.
"Yes," said Dumbledore. "The prophecy you heard, Severus, was precisely true." He saw Rose's puzzled look and recited:
"Where Serpent and Lion together are found,
When Slytherin to Gryffindor be bound,
Then enemy no longer shall enemy call,
Then shall the Darkness fall."
Rose pondered the words. "So when Severus and I were married, we set a train of events in motion somehow?" She couldn't believe it had been as simple as all that.
"Sybill Trelawney made a very similar prophecy once while in a genuine trance," Dumbledore mused. "I admit for a long time I could see no favourable interpretations, and I could only console myself with the knowledge that even true prophecies were notoriously tricky. And then you grew up, Rose, and I saw that you and Severus were becoming more than teacher and student, more than colleagues, and my hope grew."
"You sly devil," Severus said with a twisted grin. "So this was your plan all along."
"Not my plan, no," said Dumbledore composedly. "But my hope? Yes. I admit I did what I could to, erm, facilitate things." Rose thought of how he'd offered her a teaching position; how he'd had Severus explain Voldemort's plans to her.
"But what about the 'enemy' bit?" she objected. "I don't think Severus and I were ever really enemies."
"No, but he and your guardian were," Dumbledore replied. Rose remembered how at her wedding celebration - had it actually been just that very afternoon? - Sirius and Severus had shaken hands and agreed to start anew.
"But how did I do the Killing Curse?" she suddenly asked, bewildered. "I've never attempted it before, never even thought I would try it."
"You did it with me," Severus said. "We did it together."
Dumbledore nodded. "Only the two of you together could have produced the energy needed to finally kill the Dark Lord. That's what the prophecy meant, in the end. Certainly you've known how to do it, Rose; you knew the spell, it was burnt into you, literally." She put a hand to her scar, where the pain had faded at last. "What you lacked was motive and that you got tonight, as your deadliest enemy prepared to escape yet again."
He turned to the little group of witches and wizards behind them. "But here I am, gabbling on, and we need to gather our forces. Are there any casualties here?"
"Mundungus has a broken arm, and Frederick is out cold, but I think we're all right otherwise," came Minerva McGonagall's voice.
"Then let us repair to the Great Hall. Minerva, could you and Tom Apparate back to Hogsmeade and tell them what's happened? Bring any wounded back here. It seems the fighting is over." They turned to look over the parapet once again and saw flames still burning, but no sparks were flying, no spells being cast across the darkness. The disappearance of the Dark Mark had signalled the end of the battle to more than their own little band.
Dumbledore led the remaining Order members and the captured Death Eaters through the door. The Death Eaters were a silent and sullen group; now they were unmasked, Rose saw Draco and Lucius Malfoy as well as Vincent Crabbe among their number.
As the rest of the wizards and witches left the Tower platform, Rose paused by the prone figure of Gregory Goyle. She took his lifeless hand, tears welling in her eyes. Severus stooped next to her. "He saved your life, Rose," he said quietly. "There was nothing you could have done."
"I know," she said. She saw a glint of silver at his collar and ran one finger beneath it, pulling out the slender chain still holding the little cross she'd given him. That day he'd kissed her in the corridor outside the portrait hole seemed so long ago.
"You gave him that, didn't you," Severus said. She nodded, unable to look up.
Severus conjured a stretcher and lifted Goyle's limp body onto it. Rose helped guide it slowly downstairs, her every step leaden as they joined the group in the Great Hall. Sirius and Arabella ran over to hug her, Remus asked if she was all right, and Mrs Weasley led her to a chair.
"Don't forget my husband," Rose said faintly. The shock of the evening's events was suddenly catching her up, making her feel lightheaded and dizzy. "Severus?" But he and Sirius were speaking earnestly, and Sirius had his arm around Arabella.
"Good," Rose murmured. "I'm glad - " and she passed out, slumping right into Arthur Weasley's arms.
When she woke again, she stared up at the unfamiliar hangings of the four-poster above her. She turned her head to find Severus smiling at her. Weariness was in every line of his face, but he was smiling.
"Back with us so soon, love?" he said gently.
"How long was I out?" she asked in some confusion. Of course, they were back in their newlywed quarters, she recognised the draperies now.
"A few hours. You slid from a faint into a natural sleep, and Poppy Pomfrey said it was the best thing for you. So I brought you here and tucked you up. Winky was with you until a little bit ago, in case you woke."
"Haven't you slept at all, Severus?" She tried to sit up, but he pressed her gently back against the pillows. "No, there was a good deal to do - Dumbledore had to send out an entire flock of owls, we had to get the wounded to the Great Hall and count heads over in Hogsmeade..."
"Were many hurt?"
"Six people from Hogsmeade were killed," Severus said soberly. "Goyle was the only Death Eater to die. One Centaur, a few of Godfrey's animals, but the rest of us escaped with only some injuries."
Rose sighed. "Come here, Severus," she said, pulling back the covers in invitation. Someone had dressed her in a warm nightgown, she saw. "You look exhausted. Come rest."
He pulled off his torn and stained bridegroom's robe. "If you don't mind me all dirty," he said a bit hesitantly. "I was going to have a wash."
"Only if it'll make you feel better," Rose said. "I don't mind, I'm just so glad you're here."
He slid into bed beside her. "All I need to make me feel better is you," he growled low into her ear. He wrapped one arm around her waist and spooned up tight against her back.
"Oooh, you're cold," she said with a little laugh. But she didn't pull away.
"Running barefoot and underdressed through these drafty corridors'll do that to a man," he said drowsily, his eyes closing.
"Look, Severus," Rose said just as he was drifting off.
Severus lifted his head. The sky outside the French doors had become lighter and lighter for the last several minutes. Now a golden and glorious sunrise was spreading through the clouds that streaked the heavens, reflecting pink and salmon and yellow in the still waters of the lake below. Rose had never seen a sunrise like it. "Isn't that lovely? No darkness, Severus. Not anymore."
"It's beautiful. But not as beautiful as you, love," her husband murmured, kissing her cheek lingeringly before resting his head on the pillow again. He tightened his arms around Rose and buried his face in her hair.
"You came back to me," she said. "Just as you promised."
"I'll always keep my promises to you, Rose," Severus said into her hair. "The Lion and Serpent are together. For always."
"I like the sound of that," Rose said, nestling herself more comfortably into her husband's embrace. Their eyes drifted shut as the morning chorus of birds filled the room.
Author's Note: Thanks so much to all my faithful reviewers, and to all those who gave me encouragement to continue. I wanted to finish revising this before Book 7 came out, so I could read "Deathly Hallows" with nothing else on my mind - it looks like I've just made it. :) Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for letting us play in the marvelous world you've created! Wishing everyone an enjoyable time with book 7 and a happy end to Harry's adventures. I leave you with these few words: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!