Disclaimer – This is not the work of J.K. Rowlings and I mean no copyright infringement to her, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, Warner Brothers, nor anyone else. This story is not for profit - just simply for fun.

Chapter 15 – Come, Build a Land

Come, build a land where the mantle of praises

Resound from spirits once faint and once weak;

Where like oaks of righteousness stand her people.

Oh, come build the land, my people we seek.

"We'll Build a Land" by Barbara Zanotti*

Albus Dumbledore made his way across the quad towards two of his favorite people – Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape. The two Heads of Houses were supervising the dueling class, newly incorporated into the curriculum, of their students. It had been Severus' idea, a safe way in which the two Houses could work out some of their notorious feud, as well as burn off the excess energy young Slytherins and Gryffindors tended to possess.

Albus smiled as he watched the dueling from afar. It had really been a superb idea. The two Houses had gone for it wholeheartedly, and rather than raise animosity as Albus had originally feared, it tended to create camaraderie. It didn't hurt either that Minerva and Severus often had them fight in pairs with mixed House partners.

Albus stopped his ambling and moved himself over to the edge of a stone fountain. He preferred to watch for a bit from a distance, as his presence seemed to make Severus self-conscious. He had spent such large amounts of time ensuring the well being of the Slytherin that every time he now approached, the man acted as if he was being supervised.

Truthfully, no longer did Albus worry that Severus might take his life. It had been months since he had needed a minder. Instead, he now relied on the Potions Master to mind Marcus Flint, who was doing quite well as the school's new caretaker. As he was not a squib like Argus Filch, his work was completed much faster and he had plenty of spare time to help Severus with the Slytherins.

And the Slytherins did take up quite a bit of time. It had been Severus who had formulated a plan for restructuring his House in the hopes that it could be once again returned to a House of honor, with its name and reputation properly restored. His plan included such simple items as refurnishing the common area, rotating the Head Boy/Head Girl positions so that a Slytherin would be given the position periodically, appointing an assistant Head of House (Mr. Flint) and placing a portrait of Phineas Nigellus in the common room to spy...well, report anyway, on the activities of the Slytherins. More daunting was the need to convince the other staff members to treat the Slytherins with more dignity, and to be more tolerant of their needs for showmanship and pride in front of the other Houses. Similarly difficult was convincing the other students to treat their Slytherin schoolmates with respect, and not contempt. But with Albus, Minerva and Filius coming down hard on bullying from all Houses, the other students stopped, and in turn so did the Slytherins. It didn't hurt either that by now almost everyone knew that the Slytherin Head of House was most likely the most powerful wizard in the world, and that he had helped Harry Potter to defeat Voldemort. Indeed, Albus had quite an amusing time spreading the most outlandish rumors concerning the feats that Severus supposedly accomplished during the final battle. The only thing more amazing than the stories he told, thought Albus, was that so few questioned the veracity of his claims. Well, thought Albus, as Severus always liked to say, "the world is one part fool and a second part dunderhead!"

Growing tired of watching from afar the Headmaster approached his staff members. Severus harrumphed at his approach.

"Checking up on me, again, Headmaster?"

Albus chuckled. He wondered if he would ever be able to convince the man that he simply enjoyed his company. "No Severus, checking up on Minerva. You know how much trouble she can be."

"Indeed I do," was Severus' dry retort. Minerva simple pursed her lips and walked a few feet away from both men.

Albus winked at Severus. "She's not near enough fun when she won't take the bait." He then took out his little pouch and offered it to Severus. "I have toffees today."

Severus reached in and popped two into his mouth. Albus smiled, he had definitely had a most positive effect on the boy.

 In truth the entire summer's experience had had a life altering effect. The Headmaster wasn't sure what it was that had made all the difference, indeed he might never really know for certain. Was it unbinding the magic, and returning to the man what should have been his, that washed away most of his anger? Was it the end of the war with Voldemort, which meant an end to all the pain and frustration that living a double life had created? Or perhaps it was the friendships that now existed between Severus and Minerva, Poppy and yes, even Remus and Hermione, that could not have existed before. For once Severus had shown his true self to them - even as only a small child – it was truly impossible for him to put that mask back on. They had seen him for what he was and they liked him. That, mused Albus, was no small thing for a man who had spent most of his life without companionship.

Whatever it was, it had changed his Head of Slytherin. Severus was calmer, more outgoing, and definitely less angry. Though it could never be said that he was a sweet or gentle man, Albus knew that he would always remember that Severus had once been both of those.

Just as Albus was about to ask Severus if he would like to see the small box of items he had held onto from the summer – including a porcelain potions bowl and a small green tunic - one of the Gryffindor students was blasted into the air and landed with a thump. A moment later hair began to grow all over the downed student's body, covering every area except his eyes, which looked out wide and fearful.  Both Severus and Minerva strode over to the fallen boy and his Slytherin dueling partner. Severus put out a hand to stay anything Minerva had to say, and then crossed his arms, peering down at his fourth year Slytherin.

"You can fix this, I presume, Mr. Stoker?"

The Slytherin swallowed, "No, Sir."

"What is the third rule of Slytherin House?" Albus chuckled to himself. Severus had invented the 'Ten Rules of Slytherin House' and had them literally tattooed (albeit temporarily) on their foreheads the first month of school.

The boy became stiff and barked out the third rule as if he where at Auror training school. "'Never do what you cannot undo', Sir."

"That will be ten points from Slytherin for breaking a House rule. You will also escort Mr. Calvin to the Hospital Wing. Furthermore, by breakfast Saturday morning you will have written the third rule of Slytherin House one thousand times. That is five hundred times for breaking the rule, and five hundred times for getting caught."

It took all Albus had not to break out in laughter at that last part. Well, Slytherin House was not Gryffindor and Severus certainly knew how to handle them. He had to give the man high marks for creativity.

The boy walked towards the castle door, his hand on the shoulder of his hairy Gryffindor counterpart. The school bell sounded and the remaining students pocketed their wands and gathered up their bags. It was time to go inside. The winter sun was dipping behind the castle, and while the quad protected the students from the worst of the winter winds, it would soon be dark and quite a bit colder.

Albus smiled at his two companions. "Can I invite the two of you to my chambers this evening? Amelia Bones sent me a lovely bottle of port in gratitude for my help with her campaign. It seems the polls show she is firmly in the lead."

Severus snorted, "As much as I would love to partake of anything that is indirectly associated with the removal of that dunderhead Fudge from office, I have promised Minerva here a game of chess in the dungeons tonight."

Minerva smirked. "Yes, Severus is attempting to regain his dignity after last week's defeat."

 Albus thought briefly to himself that with Minerva taking on Severus' facial expressions, perhaps the two where spending too much time together. "You could play your game in my office. I have a lovely wizarding chess set you know. Given to me by my Great-grandfather."

Severus sneered. "I used to have a lovely chess set. But someone will not return my pawn. So now I have an incomplete chess set."

Minerva shook her head firmly and managed the feat of looking down her nose at someone who was taller than her. "That kneazle is in repayment for several items of mine you destroyed. You offered it freely and I accepted it as such. Now, if you continue working with me on transfiguration, I am sure a talented wizard such as yourself will be able to transfigure your own kneazle in no time."

For a moment Albus actually thought he heard Severus growl at the Head of Gryffindor. But whatever he did hear, it did not last long because Severus suddenly turned around in a sweep of robes and stalked inside. It seemed that there were only two things that the world's most powerful wizard could not to manage – the first was a successful transfiguration, and the second was getting the upper hand with Professor McGonagall. Amazing, thought Albus, how some things never really change.

The End

I know this chapter was short, but that is often the nature of epilogues! I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as I did writing it. If you have a moment I would greatly appreciate knowing what you thought of the story in its entirety and any suggestions or comments you may have. This was my first posted HP story and any feedback will help me in future stories (I welcome suggestions for future stories too). I do know that Severus wound up a bit OC at the end, but that was intentional as I wanted to write a story in which returning to his childhood could ultimately result in his having a better future.

Thank you so very much for taking the time to read!!! And a very special thank you, as always, for those who have taken the time to review.

*The title of the story and the verse in italics comes from a hymn called "We'll Build a Land." I am usually more of a pop rock person than a hymnal person, but this is one of my favorite songs. If you want the full set of words, just type the name of the song into a search engine and you can take a look. It is very simply a song about rallying people from a world of destruction to building a better place for all. Inspiration for the House of Slytherin, as well as the rest of us. ;-)