Disclaimer: see Chapter One: Also, I do not own A Tale of Two Cities or any of the works of Charles Dickens.
Secrets and Lies
Chapter 24: Rediscovery
Kingsley sipped his tea, taking a short break from the mind-numbing paperwork, a necessary evil in his line of work. Slaving away in his office, alone and into the wee hours of the morning, he had written and rewritten his official account of that night at Hogwarts, but it still did not seem complete. Frustrated, he crumpled his latest parchment and lobbed it into the overflowing dustbin. Glaring at his notebook, he blearily scanned the notes he had taken when Draco confessed. I just need to finish this bloody report so I can go home; it's already two weeks overdue, he thought, running a hand over his bald head in exhaustion.
Nothing new leapt out at him, his notes were the same as the last fifty or so times he had read them. A surge of anger passed through the exhausted Auror and he pitched the notebook across the room in frustration. "I need more information! Why did he do that? Something is just missing!"
Slumping in his seat the Auror sulked for a moment before drawing his wand and summoning his notes backLowering his wand, the notebook landed on his desk in an untidy heap. He reached out and picked it up, for the first time seeing handwriting that was not his own. "What is this?"
Kingsley was meticulous in all that he did, to the point of perfectionism. For example, he would never write in the back of a notebook before finishing in the front. Peering more intently at the writing he wondered who had written in his book. How very odd, he thought, as he began to read.Dobby cannot keep my father from breaching his wards for much longer, so my time is short. I know I will not survive this, as I am no match for my father…
Kingsley's eyes widened. "What?" he asked as his eyes flicked to the bottom of the page. There in an untidy scrawl was the name Draco Malfoy. "Sweet mother of Merlin!" shouted Kingsley as he bounded from the chair and Apparated to the boundaries of Hogwarts.
Severus, who had been called to the headmaster's office the night after talking with Ron Weasley about joining his class, sat with Kingsley and Albus as they read the short note. It said:Dobby cannot keep my father from breaching his wards for much longer, so my time is short. I know I will not survive this, as I am no match for my father.
I am not a good person, nor have I ever made such a claim. And there are few people in my life that I have loved. One of those select few is Severus Snape. He has always shown to me that he cared, no matter what I did. He tried to steer me toward the correct path, but my father's influence was simply too great.
Professor Snape, I say this to you. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known." I can only hope that this is true.
To whomever reads this, I admit to most of the sins that were ascribed to me. To apologize would be hollow and untruthful. The only one that I would ask for forgiveness from is Professor Snape. Please do not mourn my passing overmuch. We will see one another again beyond the veil, but hopefully not for many, many years.
Severus swallowed hard and nodded to Kingsley, confirming that the handwriting was indeed Draco's.
"How was he able to write in your notebook?" Albus asked Kingsley.
"I had forgotten that when I first saw the bodies my notebook was on the floor by Draco's feet. I thought it had just fallen out when I was stunned, but it must have been deliberately removed by Draco." The Auror's brown eyes gleamed with excitement.
"It does explain a great deal," commented Albus. He looked over at Severus who was running his long fingers over the written words, as if trying to establish a connection with the fallen Slytherin. "Severus?"
"I'm fine, Albus," he replied, perhaps too quickly.
Kingsley's brows furrowed. "What was that he said to you? It's a far…"
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known," Severus answered. "It's a quote, Kingsley. My mother had a fondness for Muggle literature and music, so I am fairly well versed in both," Severus added. "I own a book by a Muggle author by the name of Charles Dickens. Draco quoted from his book A Tale of Two Cities, where one character gives his life for another. I remember Draco had been reading it."
The Potions Master snorted softly and almost smiled. "I'm just thankful that Draco left a record of what he was thinking." Severus sighed deeply, his emotions tumbling over themselves in his mind, sadness, guilt, pride, love and even a spark of happiness. "I'd like to keep this, Kingsley, if I may?" he asked softly, his black eyes shining as he focused on the Auror.
Kingsley has never seen the dour Potions Master in such a pensive mood. He blinked several times before he could find words to reply. "Oh…Of course, you may keep it. I just need to conjure a copy for myself and then you may have it."
Severus nodded; his eyes shimmering with unshed tears. "Thank you."
Nearly a week later Severus strode down the halls toward the headmaster's office, his quick steps belying his exhaustion following his first week back to teaching. He had received a message, via house-elf, just as he was about to retire for an early night, exhausted from the demands of the week.
The Potions Master was pleased that he had easily fallen back into a routine, but was surprised that he felt less irritable and had not given even one student detention since he had returned. His mood was surprisingly even, especially for him. Severus was prone to intensely irritable moods, yet he had not had one in some time. Attributing it to his sessions with the Mind Healer, he had pondered this during a conversation he had had with Poppy a few days earlier.
Madam Pomfrey had pulled him aside to tell him something about residual effects from the body-switching spell that had switched he and Ron Weasley.
The Weasley child had told the mediwitch that he had actually felt Snape's anxiety and horror intensely as Snape had uncovered Draco's lifeless body. After a few more pointed questions she told the teen that she had determined that there was a residual effect from the switching spell.
Apparently Ron Weasley told Poppy that he had also experienced a slight shift in his personality, becoming more studious and serious. The boy had not given that much thought but admitted that it was after the switch that he seemed more able to focus his intellect.
The mediwitch surmised that the aftereffects that Severus and Ron still experienced might likely be permanent.
Scoffing at the very idea Severus had snorted. Apparently this brilliant idea of Dumbledore's would cause him to be saddled with a scintilla of the Weasley boy's psyche for the rest of his life. He had frowned deeply at the mediwitch upon hearing this and in reply she had chuckled lightly. Poppy had told him he should thank Albus for having not allowed her to be the one that had switched with him.
Severus did not see the humor in the situation.
Turning his thoughts back to the present Severus began to think of a reason why Albus would call. Dumbledore would know that Severus must be tired after his first week back. The Slytherin hoped that this call was not with regards to the Magical Ear researcher. The single-sided implant was working well and he was reluctant to make any more changes, although the Magical Ear researcher was sending him frequent owls to ask him to schedule a time for the fitting of the newly configured implant for his other ear. The Potions Master was pleased to leave things as they were for the moment.
The only other reason that Severus could think of as to why he may have been summoned had to do with Draco Malfoy. Albus had been in talks with Andromeda Tonks, executrix of the Malfoy estate, to have Draco's body released to them in preparation for a funeral to be held at Hogwarts, after which it would be returned for entombment in the Malfoy crypt. Severus hoped that she had granted their request and that this was the reason for this unexpected meeting.
Severus reached the gargoyle, gave the password and stepped upon the moving staircase. As he reached the top of the staircase he could hear Albus inside the office speaking with someone else. He raised his hand to knock when the door opened and Severus found himself face-to-face with a smiling headmaster.
"Severus, thank you for coming. Come in and have a seat," said Albus affably, ushering him inside and leading him to a table and chairs where Andromeda Tonks was already seated and pouring herself some tea. The middle-aged witch was dressed smartly in simple yet elegant black robes; her dark hair pulled up into a knot on the back of her head. "You remember Andromeda?"
"Of course," Severus said nodding to the witch. "I hope this visit means you have brought us some good news?" he added politely.
Andromeda smiled, "Yes, Severus. You may have the funeral here. In fact, it may be better that way. Perhaps here we'll better be able to control crowds."
"Crowds?" Severus echoed, his lips curling downward as he took a seat at the table.
Andromeda's smile wilted a bit. "Yes. The other two funerals were quite unruly." Her dark eyes glittered with tears. "I wouldn't want that for Draco's funeral." She sniffled a bit, and drew out her handkerchief. "He was always such a polite boy." She blew her nose loudly. "I've never had to take care of any arrangements for such a young child. It's just beyond me!"
Albus slid into the chair close to Andromeda and rubbed her back comfortingly. "I will make security a priority. This funeral will not become a spectacle."
"Thank you, Albus," she said leaning forward to give the headmaster a light peck on the cheek. "You're such a dear." She then turned her attention to Severus, reaching out to squeeze his arm gently. "How are you holding up, dear?"
Bristling at the familiarity of the gesture, Severus straightened his spine and drew back from the touch. Sitting rigidly in his seat he unconsciously crossed his arms over his chest. "I am well," he answered tersely. His eyes were drawn to Albus who seemed to be urging him to say more. He took a deep cleansing breath before continuing, "Thank you for allowing us to have the funeral here."
"Of course, dear," the executrix answered. "People aren't exactly lining up for the pleasure of planning a funeral for the son of an escaped convict and likely Death Eater, " she answered. Seeing Severus' eyes narrowing, she gasped and covered her mouth.
Severus did not reply, but his black eyes flashed his indignation and his lips were drawn into a thin line. Trying to hold his tongue he clenched his jaw, the muscle twitching as he fought an inner battle to keep his control. He understood that he must not lash out at the executrix or she may rescind her offer to allow the funeral here. If it were held anywhere else Severus would not be able to attend, since he was still forced to stay on Hogwarts' grounds for his own safety.
"I'm so sorry, Severus. I…I have been under so much stress over this whole thing. Please forgive me. I meant no disrespect to you or to the poor child." She twisted her handkerchief in her hands. "Lucius' funeral was a circus! There were actually people there to protest that he was being buried in the family crypt! It was terrible!"
Albus quickly stepped in to smooth things over. "You brought something for Severus did you not, Andromeda?" he said motioning to a long flat package covered in brown paper and propped against the wall.
"Yes. Yes, I did," she said, exhaling loudly and quickly bustling over to the package. "This arrived two days ago, the artist demanding her commission. I thought I would ask you if you wanted it, Severus."
The Potions Master's anger dissipated, like mist in the morning sunlight. He swallowed hard, blinking rapidly. "Is it…Is it a portrait?" he asked.
"Yes. It's of Draco, of course. His mother had it commissioned and Draco sat for it over the summer, before everything started to…well, you know." Andromeda smiled sadly.
"As you know," she continued, "portraits have an infinitesimal part of their subject infused in the oil and canvas," she added. "It's… rather he's, a bit on the anxious side and didn't take the news of his death very well, the poor dear. I have filled him in on what has happened recently, at least what I know of things."
Albus scanned Severus closely, his blue eyes keen and penetrating. "If you would rather, I can keep the portrait here until such time as you would desire to take possession?"
"What?" Severus said uncomprehendingly. With a slight shake of his head to clear his thoughts he went on, "No, Albus, that won't be necessary. I…I…would like to have it," he said haltingly.
"Are you certain, dear?" Andromeda asked. "You are looking rather pale."
Severus bit back the sharp retort he so wanted to give, nodding instead, fearful that she may take the portrait otherwise. "It has been a long week," he conceded.
"I'm sure it has," she said sympathetically. She looked down at her clasped hands and then turned her attention to the headmaster "Before I go I need to meet with Ronald Weasley," Andromeda said her tone businesslike.
"Ronald Weasley? Why?" asked the headmaster.
She removed a parchment and a small suede sack from her purse. Scanning the parchment she said, "Yes, it is Ronald Weasley. I need to see him regarding reparations."
Ron numbly walked into his dorm room, followed closely by Ginny, Harry and Hermione. Ron sank down onto the side of his bed, looking pale and slightly ill. The redhead stared at the suede sack in his hand with revulsion.
"What is it?" Hermione aksed. "Are you ill?"
"No…She gave me Galleons," Ron said dazedly.
"Madam Pomfrey gave you Galleons?" asked Harry, unsure of why Ron had been called out.
"He wasn't summoned to the hospital wing, but to the headmaster's office," Hermione told them.
"Is it Dad? Or Mum?" Ginny asked, her eyes wide with fear as she clutched at Ron's arm.
"What? NO! No, nothing like that, Ginny," said Ron patting his sister's hand. "It was Tonks' mother. She's the execu-whatsis for the Malfoy estate."
"Executrix," supplied Hermione automatically.
"Whatever," replied Ron with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Anyway, she called me in to give me Galleons as reparations for what the Malfoys did."
"Galleons?" asked Ginny, wide-eyed as she stared at the bag. "How many?"
"Loads of them," Ron replied, tossing the bag beside him on his bed, the clinking of the coins turning his stomach.
"Galleons? That's a good thing, isn't it?" asked Harry, plopping down on his own bed.
"It doesn't seem right to take money for what happened," Ron said. "Lots of people have been victimized by Death Eaters and never got money for it. You lost your parents; Neville's parents were tortured into insanity. Why should I get money? What's so special about me?"
"Why shouldn't you get money?" asked Ginny, sticking her nose in the air. "You were victimized by those horrid Malfoys—two of them!"
"I'd rather not think about it, Ginny."
"You could get yourself the newest broom on the market, Ron!" said Ginny excitedly clutching her brother's arm as she sat on the bed beside him. "Then you can even give me your old one."
Harry chuckled low in his throat. "What a very noble idea, Ginny."
"You could always donate the money to charity," chimed in Hermione as she sat beside Harry on his bed.
"Donate it? I don't know. I just don't know." Ron sighed and lay back, closing his eyes, feeling a headache building behind them. Another headache, he groaned to himself, wincing and rubbing his temples.
Ron would simply have to accept that a small part of Severus Snape would always be inside him. His concentration had increased dramatically and his grades were higher than they had even been. The downside was that he was now suffering frequent headaches, something he had never had before.
Ron wasn't sure if it was a good trade off or not, but since he seemed to have no choice he would simply have to accept it. At least his marks were now good enough for him to at least try out for the Auror program.
After Ron had talked to the mediwitch about this faint connection during his last hospital wing stay, Madam Pomfrey said she could get some specialists in to examine him but she doubted that they would be able to do anything more. Dumbledore was one of the most powerful wizards of their time and if he could not correct it then it was not correctable, she had told him.
The redhead's only consolation at the time was that Snape would always have a touch of Gryffindor in him as well. Maybe that was what mellowed him enough to allow me in his NEWT class? he mused furrowing his brows. He pictured in his mind a mellow Snape, leaning his chair back on two legs, with his arms behind his head and a wide grin on his pale face. Ron chuckled a bit at the unlikely mental image.
"What's so funny?" asked Harry.
"It's nothing," Ron replied, rubbing his temples.
"Another headache?" asked Hermione, concern evident in her tone.
"Yes," Ron replied, frowning.
Neville strolled into the room and flicked on his Wizard's Wireless. An advert was currently being aired to lure people into Christmas shopping at Diagon Alley.
"And don't forget that certain wizard on your Christmas list," chirped the announcer. "Give him the gift of music!"
His headache momentarily forgotten, Ron sat up. "That's IT!"
Sitting in his armchair near the fire, Severus sipped his firewhisky, staring at the wrapped parcel, which was now in his study propped up against the wall. Brown paper still covered the portrait, which must be full-length judging by its size. Severus knew that the portrait was not the person, only a tiny fraction of Draco's essence was used to create the likeness. And yet Severus wanted, no needed, to be able to communicate with Draco, even if it was mostly through smoke and mirrors.
Albus had warned him not to become too attached to the image because it was more pigment than person, more representation than reality. The headmaster had likened magical portraits to the Mirror of Erised and warned Severus to be careful that he not become too involved in those who had passed on. Albus said he did not wish him to forgo socializing with the living to focus on the departed.
Rising and approaching the parcel the Potions Master drew his wand and flicked it at the wrapping, watching it slough off onto the floor like a snake shedding its skin.
Draco Malfoy had been painted seated on a throne-like chair, tall and ornate mahogany with intricately carved dragons and snakes around the high back, above the royal blue cushion. Draco sat regally, resplendent in outer robes of dove gray with inner robes of a pale blue. "I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to open the package," he said his gray eyes uncertain as he chewed on his lower lip and twisted his hands in his lap.
The Potions Master felt his heart clench and he wondered if perhaps he should've let Albus retain the portrait until more time had passed. A wave of sadness and regret washed over him and he took a deep swig from his glass in an attempt to steady his nerves.
"Sir, why did you take so long to finally unwrap me?" Draco asked softly.
Severus slowly placed his glass on the table. "I needed to…prepare myself…You look…well," he stammered past the lump in his throat.
"As good as can be expected, I suppose, considering I'm dead."
Shaking, Severus sunk down onto a chair, sorrow drawing him down. "Don't…don't say that, please."
"I never wanted to upset you, sir." The teen sat up straight and leaned forward. "Don't send me away, please."
Severus stared openly at the portrait, memories good and bad assailing him. "I would never do that, Draco." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment before continuing. "I'm so sorry."
Draco waved his hand in dismissal. "No worries. You did unwrap me eventually. I-I will admit I was beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic in that brown paper."
Severus ran a hand through his dark hair, frowning deeply. "No, Draco. You misunderstand me. I'm sorry because…it's my fault that you're…dead."
"No, it isn't. My aunt filled me in on everything and I was also listening when we were in the headmaster's office." Draco smirked at his former teacher. "Thanks for not leaving me there, by the way." Draco shuddered then took a deep breath and continued on, "I heard what you were all saying about that day, and about what was in the notebook. I'm pretty proud of myself. I stood up to my father." Draco sounded astounded with himself and shook his head in disbelief. "That's something I never would have expected of myself."
"But you died! I should've been able to stop that!"
Draco slumped in his seat. "From what I heard I thought I had stunned you, or had Dobby stun you. There wasn't anything you could do. I've always been very thorough about things when I put my mind to something. You taught me that."
"Can you forgive me?" Severus asked, his hands out in supplication.
"You didn't do anything, sir! Please, let's change the subject." Draco fidgeted anxiously in his seat. "Look, you didn't leave me hanging in Dumbledore's Hall of Boring Old People. You're forgiven. Now, can we talk about this funeral? I do hope you'll not be tight-fisted with the Galleons?"
Word had leaked out that there would be a funeral for young Draco Malfoy at Hogwarts. Owls carried numerous missives from hangers-on to the headmaster and other staff with the hope of wrangling an invitation.
Severus was adamant that the guest list would remain small and by invitation only. He would not countenance those would come to morbidly gawk at the proceedings. He had Filius Flitwick research charms that would prevent the uninvited from getting inside. Minerva had conjured special invitations, which contained a passkey per person. Albus was in charge of setting up security and he had Hagrid assist him in this. Pomona Sprout was in charge of the floral arrangements and even the house-elves were charged with arranging the small chapel room on the grounds with tastefully elegant furnishings per Draco's instructions.
On the day of the funeral Severus dressed in his finest black dress robes with the black satin piping and groomed himself meticulously. He slid on his freshly shined boots and was fastening them at the ankle when Draco spoke to him.
"Fix your collar, sir."
Severus finished with his boots and stood, smirking. He glanced in the mirror that Draco has asked him to place opposite the portrait. As Severus adjusted his collar he glanced to the young Slytherin and rose one eyebrow. "Do I pass inspection?"
Draco looked his teacher from top to bottom appraisingly. "I suppose you'll do. Would you like to go over the eulogy again?"
As Severus strode across the snow-covered grounds to the chapel his boots crunched loudly in the freshly fallen snow. Suddenly an icy gust of wind caught his cloak, whipping it out behind him, as the glacial wind blasted his thin frame and stung the exposed skin of his face. Drawing the garment closer about his body he quickened his pace. He thought he heard his name being called and he turned seeing Remus Lupin advancing.
"Severus, may I have a word?" asked Lupin politely, his words puffing out in an icy mist.
"I do not have the time right now, Lupin," Severus snapped irritably before turning to continue on his way.
"I understand that you're busy," replied Lupin, keeping up with the Potions Master, "but I did hear that you have a portrait of Draco."
"Yes," answered Severus brusquely.
"I'd like to come and see it, if I may?"
Severus stopped abruptly and whirled around causing Lupin to almost collide with him. The two stood silently staring at one another. The winds picked up again, whipping at their cloaks them.
Lupin shuddered pulling his threadbare cloak tighter about his thing frame. "It d-doesn't have to be t-today," he chattered through quickly numbing lips.
"I would not be opposed to your seeing the portrait, just not this week," Severus replied before turning on his heel to stride on to the chapel.
"How about next F-Friday?" called out Lupin hopefully, as he rubbed his hands together in an attempt to dispel the chill.
"Fine," murmured Severus as he reached the doors of the chapel.
As Severus entered the chapel he stopped for a second as his eyes accommodated to the somber, candlelit interior. The Potions Master stared straight ahead as he then strode purposely toward the dais upon which the lectern stood next to the lily-draped platinum casket. Stepping up Severus stopped in front of it for several seconds before he moved toward the lectern.
Draco will be pleased at the large crowd that has gathered, Severus thought. He made a mental note of all that had attended. Most of the faces were familiar to him, but a few were not.
Loud sobbing drew his attention to the front row, where Poppy and Tonks flanked a wailing Andromeda. The mediwitch and the young Auror were not outright crying, but their red noses and puffy eyes told the story of their grief. Beside that trio sat Molly her head on her husband's shoulder as her shoulders shook with silent tears.
On the other side of the aisle was Minerva, sitting rigidly, her eyes red-rimmed. Albus sat beside her and reached out to squeeze her hand. On his other side now sat Lupin who was whispering into Kingsley's ear.
As he witnessed the obvious grief of the attendees, Severus was again jolted by the reality of Draco's death. He had only been kidding himself in these last days, talking to that portrait. It wasn't Draco and could never be. Draco would never grow up and finish school; he would never choose a career. He would never get married and start a family. He would be forever remembered as a teen on the cusp of adulthood. There would be no children or grandchildren in his future. He was gone, forever. Severus gripped the lectern, his knuckles whitening.
Albus watched Severus intently, wondering why the Slytherin Head of House had not yet started the eulogy. The older wizard cursed himself silently for not recognizing that this task was too much for his young friend. Severus was simply too close to the child to be able to say what was in his heart.
Severus continued to stand there frozen, dumbstruck. He could not recall a single word of what he had intended to say. His eyes were drawn to the flower-draped coffin. Oh dear God, he thought. I cannot do this! He swayed slightly feeling dizzy.
Albus quickly rose and joined Severus on the dais, swiftly conjuring a chair and seating the Potions Master. Giving Severus' shoulder a reassuring squeeze, the headmaster then began to speak, "Thank you all for coming, for joining us in this time of mourning…"
The mourners spilled out of the chapel covering their eyes to protect them from the sunlight glinting off the snow as they trudged toward the castle for the reception.
Kingsley, Albus and Severus remained in the chapel. Kingsley was the first to speak. "That was nice, Albus." Cringing he added, "That wasn't the right thing to say, was it? I am terrible at this type of thing."
"I wouldn't be concerned, Kingsley," answered Albus. "I know what you mean." The headmaster patted the Auror's arm. "Go on ahead. You can let the others know that we'll be along directly."
Kingsley gave one last pitying glance to the Potions Master, who sat staring at the floor. The Auror had watched Severus throughout the service and the Slytherin had not moved a muscle, except for an occasional blink.
"Are you sure? Perhaps I can help?"
"Help with what?" asked Severus, his dark head snapping up, black eyes blazing. "Are you waiting for me to snap perhaps? Would you like a show?" he spat acidly.
"Severus, that's quite enough," the headmaster sternly replied.
Kingsley said no more, quietly taking his leave.
Albus then conjured an armchair for himself, groaning softly as he sunk into the puffy softness. "If you'd like to go back to your rooms I'll make your excuses."
"No…I'll go for a bit…I can't understand why I did that. I had practiced what I would say. Draco even helped me to write it."
"Perhaps it was the cognitive dissonance created in your mind between what you had been seeing, a living portrait of Draco, and what is reality, that Draco is no longer living." The headmaster held his tongue, refraining from asking again if Severus would like to give up the portrait.
"He seems so real, Albus."
"I know, Severus, I know."
"He's…He's really gone."
Severus leaned forward, hands on his knees. He felt a warm hand rubbing circles on his back. "I thought it wouldn't be a problem. I thought I could handle it."
"Don't concern yourself with that. People understand how much you loved Draco. No one would expect a father to give the eulogy for his own son. They will understand."
"I wasn't his father," Severus softly countered.
"No, you were far superior to that wizard. You were more of a father to Draco than anyone was in his life."
After a few moments of reflective silence, Severus stood and took a fortifying breath. "I'm ready."
Severus made an appearance at the reception, albeit a short one, begging off early with the excuse of a headache. It was not untrue. He slowly made his way back to his rooms, feeling hollow and sad. It seemed so real now that Draco was gone.
Albus had wanted to accompany Severus to his rooms but he had asked the headmaster to remain at the reception. Severus knew that Albus would likely check up on him anyway before he retired for the night regardless of what Severus would desire.
As the Potions Master turned the final corner leading to the dungeons he heard the frantic flapping of wings and ducked down as a large barn owl flew overhead, a package in it's beak. The owl passed him and then whipped around, changing direction and flying straight towards him.
"What the devil?" Severus ducked again as the owl released its package over his head. Wand out Severus stopped the package in mid-descent and glowered at the bird of prey. "If you're expecting a tip of any kind…don't."
The owl squawked haughtily and flew off.
Severus allowed the package to drift down into his outstretched hand. Scanning the return address he was surprised that he recognized it. Curious, he continued on his way.
As he almost reached his rooms he saw several of the free elves coming towards him. They were housed close to his quarters in the dungeons, yet he saw little of them. He recognized the one as Magnus. Nodding to the elves as he passed he said, "How are you?"
Magnus replied, "We are well. More are joining us every day. The headmaster has been most kind. Was your gift for the boy well received?"
"Yes, thanks you for your assistance. It has been many a year since I had shopped for comic books," Severus said smirking.
"I see you have a package?" Magnus said, pointing to the flat parcel.
"Yes, yet I don't recall ordering anything."
The elf smiled and exchanged a knowing glance with his comrade while Severus looked again at the parcel. "Have a good evening, Severus."
Severus nodded again and bid them a good evening, reaching his rooms and taking down the wards. As he entered he crossed the rooms headed right for the Firewhiskey in his liquor cabinet.
"How'd it go?" asked the portrait.
Severus shrugged, pouring himself a glass. "As good as could be expected. It was a funeral." Severus turned to face the portrait. "Remus Lupin would like to visit you."
"Oh? Okay." Draco spied the package. "What's that?"
"I'm not sure, but I do have an idea." He sat down his drink and used his wand to remove the wrapping, revealing a record album of Mozart's Violin Concerto Number Three in G major. Smiling slightly he said, "I did not order this."
"What is it?"
"A record album. It's one I had been seeking for some time." He slowly removed the record from the sleeve.
"Who sent it?"
"I'm not sure, but I do have an idea." Severus thought of a red-headed teen who knew far too much about him for his liking. Silly, sentimental Gryffindor, he thought, strangely unable to summon up his usual rancor.
The house-elves listened intently for the strains of music that they knew they would hear. The redheaded boy had asked them to assist him in purchasing an album for his teacher. They had readily agreed especially when the boy had offered them a large amount of money for keeping the purchase in strict confidence and having it delivered anonymously.
As the strains of music began Magnus approached Winky and asked her to dance. The two free elves whirled around the floor, the others laughing and dancing on their own as the music lifted their spirits.
Severus stood at the gramophone, smiling slightly. He felt the familiar euphoria when he listened to the music of his youth. Severus closed his eyes and pictured his mother hugging his small body tightly to her as she whirled around the room gracefully, her dark eyes dancing with happiness. Severus reached out to touch the large open-ended horn of the gramophone, running his fingers along the edge. The bliss he felt at hearing music again almost brought tears to his eyes. He would have music again. It wasn't lost to him after all.
After some time had passed Severus opened his eyes, seeing Draco watching him with a smirk on his face. "What?" asked Severus.
"You look happy."
Severus chuckled. "I feel happy, Draco."
"Just because of music?"
"Music is a lot of things to a lot of people. Did I ever tell you about my mother?"
Crossing the room to his bookcase he reached down and pulled out his old photo album blowing the dust off the cover. He then pulled a chair close to the painting. "Draco, to me, my mother was music…"
Author's Notes: I've finally done it. This story is complete! Woo hoo! Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed, you guys really are fantastic! Special thanks to Xiao Gui, without her help I'd still be sitting around going over fifty different scenarios in my mind for the final chapter.
There's fabulous fan art to accompany this last chapter, of a delicious Severus listening to his music. Click on my homepage and you'll be taken to Xiao Gui's fabulous artwork. Please let her know what you think.
Thanks to everyone, whether you've reviewed or not!
So long, (for now) and thanks for all the fish!