Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine. Anything you recognize from JK Rowling's books is not mine. Anything you don't recognize is either mine or a typical fanfiction plot device. The Call of the Blood and the concepts associated with it – as a package, not as individual elements - are my creations, not the creations of JK Rowling – please email me if you wish to use them or a derivative of them in a story.
Partly inspired by the Marriage Law Challenge on WIKTT. See Chapter 1 for full disclaimer. Author's Notes at the end.
Warning:This fic is SS/HG and includes character death, descriptions of abuse, and adult situations.
Cloak of Courage
Chapter 27 - Epilogue
The key to ensure light over shadows prevail…
It was two days after the battle.
Two days, and the Headmaster's office looked exactly the way it always had, aside from the scrying glasses that still lay on the table. Fawkes sat on his perch, blinking at her. The bowl of sherbet lemons sat on Albus' desk, tempting her.
Two days, and so much had changed. Hogsmeade was slowly rebuilding, but it would take time. Even with magic. Unfortunately, some things could not be rebuilt. The knowledge of those deaths weighed heavily on them, but there was little they could have done to prevent it. As it was, thanks to Severus' information, the Ministry had been able to send a significant number of Aurors to protect the town.
Two days, and Hermione was already shocked by a new plan from Albus Dumbledore. Not an unpleasant shock, surely, but a shock nonetheless. She had come to his office for their scheduled meeting and had been mildly surprised to see Minerva already seated in front of the large desk. She had smiled and sat down, and then… No, best not to think of that, Hermione, she thought sternly.
"It's his final decision… or so he claims," Minerva said, the smile evident in her voice as she winked at the Headmaster. He tried to scowl at her but was unsuccessful.
Glancing at Minerva, she shook her head. "But…"
"At the end of the next school year, Minerva will become Head of Hogwarts. And, if you desire it, the position of Transfiguration professor will be yours." The weak sound of the Headmaster's voice worried her, though Madam Pomfrey had assured them all that he would make a complete recovery.
At least he had been released from the infirmary and was once again seated behind his formidable desk. Hermione, who had been ordered to a day of bed rest to recover from her own injuries, hadn't had the opportunity to visit him there. Thankfully. She didn't think she could handle seeing the strong wizard lying underneath white sheets, frail-looking without his magnificent robes. Severus had visited him and when she asked, had said, He looks old, lying there. I don't like it. Though his voice had been blank, the blood mark roiled with emotion. Yes, she was thankful that she hadn't seen that. It had been difficult enough seeing Remus there that morning.
The werewolf had finally been able to fulfill his heart's desire… Pettigrew was dead. By Remus' hand. But not without leaving a rather significant injury behind. Hermione was still a little foggy about the details, but Pettigrew had done something with that unnatural silver arm that injured Remus rather severely. Madam Pomfrey had initially wanted to transfer him to St. Mungo's but he had refused. Hermione understood. There was little they could do at St. Mungo's that Madam Pomfrey wasn't capable of doing – no matter who worked on it, he would still not regain the use of his arm.
Luckily, it wasn't his wand arm.
The sound of a clearing throat brought her back to the present. "Oh… I'm sorry, Headmaster. I was just-"
"It has only been two days, Hermione. It's completely understandable, my dear." Albus sat back and looked at her keenly. At least the ambush he had endured when he helped defend Hogsmeade after Voldemort's defeat hadn't dulled his wits. "How do you feel?"
Hermione shook her head slowly. "Strange. I don't… I don't know how to describe it. Strange, but comfortable… like this is how I was supposed to be. I think the…" She glanced at Minerva and forged ahead, "I think the Call has always been meant for me, Albus. It's a part of me…"
"Well, it does appear that we were fortunate in that respect. From what you told me of your impressions-"
And what I didn't tell you… Hermione thought sourly. She was still irritated by the Headmaster's use of Legilimency on her when she first arrived in the office.
Albus acknowledging her thought with a small nod. "I wish there had been another way to be sure, child, but as Headmaster of this school my first priority is the safety of the students."
She inclined her head reluctantly, signaling her understanding. Albus Dumbledore did what needed to be done: always. Which was, in fact, a good thing… who knew what would have happened had he not insisted – sometimes overtly, sometimes indirectly – that Hermione be involved in the final battle? That Severus continue his spying duties? That Harry be kept ignorant of the facts?
That she succumb to the Call?
It certainly all worked out in the end, she thought, looking into the Headmaster's eyes.
Albus smiled at her then, a bright, genuine smile. She couldn't help the smile that grew on her own face as his eyes twinkled at her from beneath white eyebrows.
--Is in the blood of the friend, bound in red…
After leaving the Headmaster's office, Hermione took a short detour by the lake. Stepping out into the crisp cold air, she shivered in delight. Snow on the ground, clear blue sky, birds chattering… it all lifted her spirits. Including the memory of a redheaded young man who placed friendship above all else.
"Thank you, Ron," she whispered, her breath forming a white fog in the air. Fog… an image of a red fog and a green fog, fighting for dominance, flashed through her mind. Thank Merlin the red fog had been there to help her. Who would have known? Who would have thought? The Call had actually protected her. Ron's blood, the Book of the Blood, the book that had forged her initial link to the Call had protected her.
Who would have thought, indeed?
She sat down in the snow, staring at the lake. Who would have thought any of this would happen? It was beyond anyone's imagination, surely… although it would be impossible to talk to Lavender and Parvati for some time. Once they find out that Lavender's prophecy was, in fact, a true prophecy, they would be ridiculously self-satisfied with their reliance on Divination.
She rubbed at the Blood Rites scar through her robes. A true prophecy, indeed.
Shaking her head, she stood and started back to the castle.
From dark to light, from despair to hope…
Entering their chambers, Hermione squinted. Severus had doused most of the candles, and the room was rather dim. She had felt a sort of sadness through the bond as she approached their chambers and she moved quietly so as not to disturb him. He was sitting in one of the armchairs, his head bowed, seemingly staring at the book sitting in his lap.
As she approached from behind, she saw his hand stroking something on the page before him. It was a photo album… wizarding photos… and one long finger was running along the edge of one photo. It was of a younger Severus and Rodolphus, standing in their Slytherin robes, waving at the camera. Neither one was smiling, but their stern faces often broke into smirks as they waved decorously from the picture.
Hermione smiled sadly and put her hands on his shoulder. He sighed and shut the book. "Severus?" She rubbed his shoulders, pressing into the tense muscles and was pleased when he leaned into her touch.
"You were friends for a very long time."
She continued to knead his shoulders and eventually his head fell back against her chest as he let out a soft sigh. Slowly, she moved her hands down his shoulders and to his chest, stroking slowly. Unfastening his robes, her hands slid underneath the cloth and met bare skin. She was unable to hold back a low moan as she caressed the warm, smooth skin and hard, lean muscles.
As if awakened by the sound, Severus' hands reached up and pulled hers away. He stood and dragged her around the chair, pressing against her, kissing her demandingly. She twined her arms around his neck, getting lost in the feel of his lips on hers, his tongue moving over hers… she felt a warm heat begin in her lower stomach as the deft movements of his tongue reminded her of his skills in that regard. With shaking hands, she helped him pull his clothes off before he grabbed her and spun her around, pressing against her from behind as he loosened the catch on her robes.
The burgundy cloth was flung away forcefully, as were her dress and underclothes, and then hands kneaded her breasts, fingers trailed down her stomach to tease between her legs. She couldn't hold back a gasp as his finger pressed into her and with an inarticulate growl, Severus spun her back around and lifted her by the hips, throwing her onto the couch.
They ended on the floor beside the couch, Severus collapsed beside her, panting heavily. She crept up to rest her head on his chest, listening to the hammering of his heart as they both slowly relaxed. His arms tightened around her and she smiled, draping on leg over his. They would be expected in the Great Hall for dinner, but until then… a nap. And then… maybe something else.
From stag to blade, from blade to flesh…
They did make it to dinner in the Great Hall on time, thanks to Severus' back protesting their location on the floor. She had felt a bit of guilt when she saw the bruise she had caused by flinging him to the floor, but he had just smirked at her in that way of his and told her not to worry about it.
So she didn't.
After dinner in the Great Hall, Harry asked her to go on a short walk with him. He was returning to the Burrow the next day and they hadn't had much of a chance to speak since the battle. She looked over at Severus, who was engrossed in a conversation about the respective abilities of the Gryffindor and Slytherin Quidditch, and she could tell by the outraged look on Minerva's face that he was enjoying himself immensely.
Stepping outside, their feet automatically drew them down the path to Hagrid's hut as they spoke. The half-giant wasn't there – he was lending his strength to the cleanup effort in Hogsmeade and wasn't expected back for a few days. Hermione had a suspicion that there was more to it than simple generosity of spirit – not that Hagrid was lacking in that respect, of course – but she thought the rather large-boned woman who had opened a small eatery in Hogsmeade the month before might have more to do with his decision.
"It's like I was telling Ginny before the battle… I feel like my father was watching, waiting for me to finally do it. Finally kill him. And I did… with his help."
"The stag. Your Patronus," Hermione whispered.
"Right. And… with my best friends' help. Both of you." Harry pulled her into a hug and she returned it, blinking back tears as he spoke. "I still miss Ron, but it seems… I dunno. Like it meant something, now. Since we were successful. Does that make any sense?"
Hermione pulled back to look him in the eye. "I think it makes perfect sense. I… I thought about him earlier, and it didn't hurt as much. Maybe that's why."
Harry bent down to pick up a colorful stone from the walkway. "I wonder if it's the same for the Weasleys? For Ginny?"
"I… I don't know. Maybe. I hope so." Hermione swallowed. "Tell… tell Ginny hello for me, Harry. It seems like ages since I've talked to her, and you'll see her before I do. When you visit the Burrow."
"I will. I was thinking about going with Neville to visit his parents first. They've made some big improvements, you know. His mum was able to talk to him for a little while yesterday. He owled me about it. And I'm… I'm able to travel now, without a major entourage. It'll be nice. Visit Diagon Alley, maybe go into Muggle London…" Harry's eyes shone and Hermione smiled at the pure delight she saw in them.
"You're free, now, Harry. Free."
Harry stopped and turned to face her. "So are you, Hermione. If… I mean, I know what you said. But now that the war's over, now that you don't really have to be bound to him anymore – are you sure?"
"I'm sure, Harry." Hermione smiled up at her friend. "I love him. And… well. We have a lot in common. One thing in particular… no one else could understand."
"I think I do, Hermione." The tone was oddly pensive and she glanced at him questioningly. He turned away, looking out across the field to Hagrid's hut. "I… had a link with Voldemort, through the scar. I guess it's some sort of blood marking, in a way. Like what you had – have - with Snape, but not so strong. And…"
"Harry, what are you trying to say?"
Harry turned back to her. "I know, Hermione. I know, because I felt it. I felt it when he was in you, when you were fighting… I felt the Call. I felt it before, too, but I didn't know what it was, then."
"Gods… Harry, do you still feel it?" Hermione grasped his arm urgently.
Harry shook his head. "No – when Voldemort was pulled into the blade it stopped. And I didn't feel it directly, just… the effects, I suppose." Raising a hand, he pulled a wisp of hair out of her face. "Be careful, Hermione."
Hermione sighed in relief. "I will be, Harry. Severus is helping."
Harry nodded and smiled before offering her his arm. "Then can I escort you back to the castle, Mrs. Snape?"
Giggling, Hermione took his arm. "Of course."
Betrayal brings hope, loyalty brings ruin…
In the deep hours of the night, Hermione lay in bed, staring blankly at the deep purple bed curtains. Her mind was racing and, try as she might to stop its fervent movement, she was unable to settle. She lay beside her husband, enjoying his warm breath on her cheek, and tried one last time to relax. Sadly, relaxation wouldn't come.
The Call… damn it, she thought to herself, climbing out of the bed. It still felt, sometimes, like a splinter in her skin… a tiny, thin splinter, just large enough to irritate but not large enough to cause actual pain. Except this splinter was in her mind.
Padding into the study, she lit a single candle and sat on the couch. Eyeing the journal that lay on the table in front of her, she lifted an eyebrow. Why not? Maybe if she got some of these thoughts that were roiling in her head down on paper, they'd leave her alone. With a shrug, she reached for a quill, opened the journal, and began to write.
The last couple of days have been both the fastest and slowest of my life. So much to take in, so many people to check on, to see if they're still alive and unhurt… I feel strangely lucky that so many of my friends are still healthy and living. I know how lucky I feel that Severus survived… and that I survived. And Harry… who would suspect Harry AND Albus would both survive? Though I think the entire situation has taken too much from the Headmaster. He's retiring at the end of next year and has asked me to be the Transfiguration professor. I think I'll do it, for now. I can use Severus' method of keeping the Call at bay that way… the students already think I'm mean, and with the last name I now bear… well. It goes with the territory, doesn't it?
At least I'll still be an apprentice for a year. That should give me time to revive my parents' campaign against this law. I know it worked out for me, but I think I was just lucky. Unbelievably lucky. If Severus didn't help me, I would be Mrs. Malfoy. Well, I'd be dead, more likely. Anyway, now that Severus is out of danger, I can do something about it. Get this stupid law repealed. It shouldn't take long. I think.
I need to stop thinking about it… thinking about it makes me angry and now when I get angry… it's almost too much sometimes. I'm glad Severus is here to help. It's more than I thought, keeping this under control, but at the same time I can't imagine me without this feel. I know that doesn't make any sense, but it protected me when I needed it to. And now, I'm paying it back.
Is this just a diary, now that they're gone? Or will Viktor still see what I write? I doubt it… I don't see why he'd be interested, now that the initial purpose has been met. Or not met, I suppose I should say. Though… maybe Viktor had always planned this – that I be kept safe, whatever the cost.
I'll likely never know. He's gone into hiding, or so Severus guesses… if any other Death Eaters found out about his protection of me… if any found out about his murder of Draco… there could be trouble. And then, Voldemort's body (I haven't thought of him as the Dark Lord ever since he entered my body… strange, really) – his body. Why did Viktor take it? All I can think of is what Severus said to me once: "There are many blood rituals, many blood magics."
Gods. I hope he isn't planning anything that could harm him. I won't forget him, or what he did to help me. Even if he did go about it in a bit of a misguided way, he truly seemed to care for me. And I'll always remember him.
With a sigh, she made to close the journal but stopped with a gasp. Handwriting began to appear on the page, immediately under her last line. Her eyes went wide as she stared at the familiar script.
Yes. I do care for you. If anyone hurts you, I will be ready.
Quickly lifting the quill again, she wrote, Viktor? Are you there?
She stared at the single word, her heart beating loudly in her ears. Raising the quill with shaking hands, she wrote a single word back.
She waited several minutes, but there was no reply. Tears formed in her eyes as she wrote one final line on the page.
Slowly, she shut the journal and stared at it. She was shaking, but not from fear. Some odd mixture of emotions coursed through her… guilt, sadness, hope… she needed Severus.
Blood rites will conquer the shadow
"What are you doing?"
Hermione didn't move. "Writing…" Glancing up at him, she smiled slightly at his rumpled form. He came when I needed him… "I couldn't sleep. It was… under my skin."
"I know you do… thank you, Severus." Sighing she sat back on the couch. "I should have just used Avada Kedavra… it wouldn't have been so strong of a link, that way. Except…"
"The protection… maybe if I were already linked to it wouldn't have given me as much help, when Voldemort…" Hermione's voice trailed off. "You said it had a will to propagate. I think… I think it wanted me, and that's why it helped me fight."
"Perhaps. You're young, female, bound to another of the Call… it makes sense."
"I know. And I saw… I saw the red, the red haze… when the green almost overwhelmed me, it came and helped me. And then, when I was… well, after, you know, after I fell, when you were holding me… I was about to go under I think, and it came, gave me energy." Hermione frowned. "You know, something Minerva said… a long while back. Or it seemed to be a long while back, at least. No experience is entirely negative. She was right."
Hermione sat silently, chewing her lip. There was something that had been nagging at her the past two days. "Severus… I didn't die. So how was it the Blood Rites? I tho-"
"You did, to be accurate. Your heart stopped. I… felt it." Severus' voice was very carefully controlled, but she could feel the riot of emotions through the blood bond. "If Fawkes… if the Call hadn't pushed you back… if Fawkes hadn't been there…"
"Oh, Merlin… Severus, that's why… is that why you cried? I've never seen you cry before…" Her stomach clenched at the thought.
And then strong hands fell on her shoulders, squeezing lightly. Warm, grounding.
The soft, silky voice. "Nor are you likely to, ever again."
The voice that grounded her, the love that grounded her. Placing the book on the table and laying the quill on top of it, she gave it one last glance before standing and catching Severus' hands in her own.
"I love you."
A smirk. "Come to bed."
With a smile, she followed him to the bedroom. The door shut firmly behind them.
And the Dark Lord will be dead.
A/N: Thank you all so much for your reading and reviewing. I sincerely hope you enjoyed the story, and thank you for all of your support and for continuing to read. (Note - extended edition of this scene can be found at lordandladysnape.net under the author name "WendyNat") There are a few links I want to share with you before my final "goodbye" – (to use these links, cut and paste into your browser and REMOVE spaces. Fanfic.net does not allow links, even without the www prefix, to appear correctly) Cloak FanArt:
Snapesforte has done a large amount of fanart for Cloak of Courage. Once I've gone through and polished up some minor typos and some word choices I'm not pleased with still, and once she's completed the scenes she wishes to illustrate, an illustrated version of Cloak of Courage will be posted at her website: www. designerpotions. com /ss/
You can see her completed Cloak art, and other wonderful illustrations, by using the menu at the left of the screen. Under Snape Art, click on "My Illustrations."
Subtilior did a drawing for the Chapter 9 hugging scene. It can be found here: www. deviantart. com / deviation /5651680/
Andrian did a drawing for the Chapter 11 letting-the-hair-down scene. It can be found here: www. artwanted. com / imageview.cfm?id=84729
And, of course, Nappies of Courage, Hawklaw's brilliant parody (and for anyone disappointed that there is no "baby Snape" in Cloak, you have to go read) can be found here: ashwinder. sycophanthex. com / viewstory. php?sid=4540. Warning - it IS NC-17.
(Unfortunately, with aff.net down I can't do the "House Points" that some of you asked for… it really wouldn't be fair. Soooo, once it's back up, give me a couple of weeks and I'll have a short PWP for you to read set in the Cloak "universe." I'll put the Points at the end of that for anyone that's interested.)