Chapter 7: Intermission

Severus laid the bouquet of flowers by the Potters' grave. He stood up and bowed his head in reverence.

Ten years. Could it really be ten years past?

Severus was amazed. Ten years since he had found relative peace; ten years since the fall of his master, Lord Voldemort. Even now he dared not say the name out loud. That was the man, no, the creature who had led him on to damnation.

And the man who was beside him was the man who had brought him to salvation.

Albus was humming a requiem he had composed for the Potters just before their funeral as he cleaned up the grave. It was soft, whimsical and sincere, more suitable for Evans than Potter. Severus thought she would appreciate it more than her husband would. But then, the tune was from Albus. Potter would have been touched.

If souls existed and watched mortals all…

Strange how the gods worked. Now that Severus knew what true friendship meant, after all those years with his mentor, he felt a tinge of sympathy for Potter that no visitor came by his and Evans' grave but some of the Hogwarts' staff and the Order of the Phoenix.

Potter's friends… that group, who stuck together fiercely when they were in school, was in disarray.

Lupin, the unfortunate werewolf, gone into travelling round the world, in part to seek a cure for his condition, in part because of that which left him with no stable job. Severus remembered Albus offering Lupin the DADA position once, but that werewolf was too proud. Too typically Gryffindor.

Pettigrew, killed on the same day as Potter and Evans were, by the one they trusted… Black. That wretch, locked away in Azkaban forever, shrouded by despair and surrounded by Dementors.

What a melancholic fate to befall this group of four friends. Severus might have had derived relish from the thought before. But he was merely solemn now. True, he still hated Black with every fibre of his being, and he had wanted to be the one to catch him, but that was ten years ago. Many things had happened after that.

Yet, the irony, that it was he, Severus Snape, the ex-schoolmate viewed with contempt, who had been visiting the Potters' grave every year, did not escape him.

Albus finished his task. Checking the time, he spoke to Severus, "I should go soon to the Ministry to discuss about the admissions of the Hogwarts's students next term."

Severus shook his head, "A waste of time just for the sake of formality. It is you who are the one in charge Hogwarts. A Muggleborn learns that immediately once he or she enters the school. Albus, you command more respect than Fudge himself."

"Ah…" Albus looked on at the grave meaningfully, "This year will be different."

Severus followed Albus's gaze. Yes, he sighed inwardly. This coming term would be different.

Harry Potter would be joining them, taking his rightful place in the wizarding world.

Severus recalled the image of a tiny boy, with the resemblance of his father and eyes of his mother and wondered whom he would be like. It would be tedious to discover that Potter's son was the replica of his father in character as well.

"Have you ever seen him Albus? During his life with his Muggle relatives?"

"I did not think it wise. Too many magical disturbances would be attracting unwanted attention. But you know Arabella's been watching over him. Poor child. Orphaned and alone. Never having a chance to visit his parents' grave. I'm told his relatives do not treat him as their kin. Still, he is safe. He's survived worse, and it's a comfort to note he's finally to be among us."

"That is not what I'm concerned about."

"He doesn't know anything about James and Lily or magic in the first place Severus. I'm certain he won't be stepping into Hogwarts with prejudices against you."

"Also not what I'm concerned about. You know me perfectly well, thank you Albus. I don't give a damn what students think of me. Year in, year out, I've come to the conclusion that they are all dunderheads, stifling the intellectual atmosphere we professors try to achieve. McGonagall may tolerate it admiringly, Flitwick may embrace them affectionately, but I for one will continue smiting them as they deserve."

Albus looked quite offended. Then he took it in stride and smiled wryly, "Did you hear of the new rumour the fifth-years circulate about you?"

"Anything original?" Severus asked hopefully.

"They are absolutely sure that you are a vampire."

"What of the sun?"

"You're a Potions Master, are you not? You make a salve to protect you. Oh, by the way, you've been careless too. The students have discovered that you drink the blood of abandoned babies. If they are firstborns, they're better. Apparently they enhance your power."

Severus pondered over it, "How many babies have I drank from?"
"Countless. Babies are fast disappearing each day in the wizarding world. Only no one dares report it or you'll kill him or her."

"Very logical. And it fits the theory of my being a bat."

"I never know when you're serious or joking," Albus laughed, and then became sombre, "What is it that you're worried about Severus?"

Severus heaved out reluctantly, "He won't be Harry Potter. He'll be the Boy-Who-Lived."

Realisation dawned on Albus's face, "Ah, I see where your direction is. You fear of a potential backlash when Harry who's simply a puny boy in the Muggle world finds himself famous to every witch and wizard in the world. The boy who single-handedly overthrew Voldemort. Yes, it isn't true, I know. It was Lily who saved us by sacrificing for Harry. But it's the common perspective. That is not to say Harry will not be the capable wizard it seems he will be. Remember the prophesy. But till then… You think he can't handle the reputation he unknowingly gained."

"He's eleven, an ignorant child. Corruption is easy. Ill-bred egoism, over confidence, the likes. It's easy to fall into the trap when everyone worships you."

"What would you have said if I was the one who said that to you when you were eleven?"

Severus smirked triumphantly, "That I was never young. I was old when I was born."

Albus looked startled. The regret he felt was hidden quickly, "Yes, you were. In your way. You might be interested to find that Harry may have more similarities with you than you expect."

Severus stared away at the clear-blue skies. He did not quite believe that, but he did not try to deny it. "Who knows?" he said simply.

Who knew what would happen? The world slept in peace for the past ten years, but Severus was always aware of the lingering threat that covered them. Time did not dim the memories of his youth nor diminish the threat that was the return of Lord Voldemort.

With Harry Potter soon in play, Severus had the discomforting foresight that many important events would follow the boy's arrival. The turning points they met on the road. He could see easily, the world plunging into darkness again after the liberation from it. And it may be just this boy who could turn the tide. Somehow, Severus could not seek confidence in that.

"We'll help Harry of course," Albus broke into his thoughts, "We'll guide him."

Severus said, "You'll help him. Don't bring me into this."

"You'll be his professor Severus. Like it or not, he'll be your responsibility."

The thought pleased and rattled Severus. On the one hand, it meant that Potter's brat would be under his control. On the other hand, it meant having to save the boy's hide were matters to escalate to that point. Well, after all, he needed to clear his debt he owed to Potter. It was more than ten years overdue.

His conscience rankled at him again. "Being the bastard as ever Severus. Judging the boy even before you've seen him."

Severus frowned to himself.

Albus left Severus by the grave when he apparated to the Ministry.

Severus began talking. His speech was directed at Evans, as usual. He ignored Potter.

"Your son's coming to Hogwarts. Can you see him? Are you there? I don't know what to believe. They say the souls are all around. But I don't see them and I don't feel the light. I can only feel the filth, the persistent dread of what's to come. And when it does come, do the heavens guard us? Or will we be abandoned to purgatory? Cast aside for the crimes we commit? And will the innocent be watched and taken into the loving arms of those above, even as they fall on earth? What can be done?"

Severus paused. It did not matter. He had sworn to protect this sorry world from evil. He would do it with his last breath. For better or worse, they had to face it squarely.

"I'll watch over your son Lily. But you better keep an eye on him as well. I have a suspicion he is going to be like his father."

With that, Severus left. As he meandered his way among the various graves out of the cemetery, he wondered at how peaceful a place like this could be. A final resting ground for those who left for another world, perhaps one that was greener and fairer.

Till then, the living had to deal with what was given to them here.

~***~

Author's Note:

I'll be having a hiatus for this fanfic so as to concentrate on my other fanfic. This chapter can be seen as the end before the entry of Harry Potter, or the beginning of the canon. As it is, this fanfic can stand on its own even if I decide not to continue.

Thanks to all the lovely reviewers. Reviews are what keep us fanfic writers going. Ha.

So, so long for now. Take care all.