Thanks everyone for reading.
This is my last post. My very last post. I have no other fanfics ready, but hopefully if and when I write another, I will meet you all again. To my regular reviewers, a very big thank you. You have been a source of pleasure to me over this past year and supported me in my writing. Thank you. Thank you.
I'm now off to join the SSA - Severus Snapeics Annonymous. I'm addicted - but is it really an addiction I want to be cured of? I don't think so.
Enjoy the Half-Blood Prince, everyone. lol, Severusgirl.
THE ULTIMATE WEAPON
Hermione stood quite still, her arms by her side, her wand in her hand. She wore a silver necklace with a pendant of some kind settled at her breast and every so often the pendant would wink as the shimmering light from the ceiling caught it.
She watched them impassively as they filed into the chamber.
Ron made a sudden move forward. Lupin grabbed his arm. "Careful," he warned.
"It's Hermione!" said Ron.
"I know." Lupin kept a restraining arm on Ron.
Harry shivered as he looked at Hermione. The resemblance to Bellatrix was alarming.
Something was very wrong. This Hermione did not seem to want to be rescued. She looked as though she was waiting to receive them, that they were her guests.
"I imagine you are not alone, Miss Granger," said Dumbledore, his voice ringing around the hall and up into the dome.
Harry and Ron looked at him. His tone was quite level and chatty, but there was a slight edge to his voice as though he were here to do business with Hermione rather than rescue her.
"You imagine correctly, Dumbledore," she replied, her voice devoid of any warmth. Harry couldn't remember ever before hearing Hermione address a teacher without using the word 'Professor' in front of their name. "He is all around. He watches us."
"Are you well, Miss Granger?"
Ron frowned and Harry knew what he was thinking. Why was Dumbledore having a friendly little chat with Hermione? Why not just grab her and go? It was only then Harry realised there was no way to get to her. The stone island was of course, completely cut off from where they stood by the lake.
"I am well. I have not been treated cruelly," she replied.
"That is good to hear."
Dumbledore seemed to have the measure of a situation Harry was yet to understand. He stood with his hands folded in front of him and spoke to Hermione quite casually.
"I assume you have business to complete before you are able to join us on our journey back to school?" Dumbledore continued. "Would you be good enough to tell us what that business might be?"
"She is to kill each and every one of you!" came a cold, high-pitched voice, seemingly from every part of the chamber. "All but the Potter boy."
It was unmistakably Voldemort.
"Tom," said Dumbledore, his eyes glancing over the room. "You realise Miss Granger belongs with us? We have come to take her back."
"She belongs to me," said Voldemort. "She has the Mark. She came when I called. She will do my bidding."
"She may have your Mark, Tom, but it was given forcibly. She came to you against her will. Given the freedom of choice, she would choose her friends; those she loves."
"She has no love," laughed Voldemort. "She has no affection. I have removed all trace of human emotion from her memory. She cares for no one."
"That isn't possible," whispered Lupin, shocked. "The magic needed to accomplish that..."
"Would be very dark indeed," finished the voice. "Do you doubt my abilities? Would you put them to the test?"
Dumbledore looked at them all.
"Do nothing," he said and turned and walked to the edge of the lake.
"Miss Granger," he said. "I hold you in the highest regard. I believe your natural sense of right and wrong will prevail before you cause any of us harm."
"You are the Headmaster of my school," said Hermione. "Nothing more." She lifted her wand and a red fire blasted from the end towards Dumbledore.
Dumbledore also lifted his wand and deflected the spell with ease.
Ron and Harry let out a shout and grabbed each other by the arm.
Harry couldn't believe what he'd just seen.
Hermione had actually attacked Dumbledore!
"You see, Dumbledore, she will attack and kill you all without remorse!"
"THAT'S NOT TRUE!" yelled Ron. "SHE'D NEVER ATTACK ME OR HARRY. WE'RE BEST FRIENDS. WE'VE SHARED TOO MUCH."
Lupin made a grab for Ron as he sprang forward towards Dumbledore, but Ron shook him off.
"Hermione, it's me, Ron. We're friends, remember? We fought a troll together. We've fought Death Eaters together. You haven't forgotten?"
Hermione looked at him.
"No, Ron, I haven't forgotten - but I don't remember being your friend. You are nothing but something to be disposed of..." Again she lifted her wand. Again Dumbledore caught and deflected the spell before it reached Ron.
Ron's face was full of disbelief and shock. Lupin went forward and gently touched his shoulder, then brought him back to where Harry stood.
"You see, Dumbledore," laughed the voice. "I have the ultimate weapon. Someone you care about cares nothing for you. She will do my bidding and attack you all, but will you be able to retaliate and harm her? I think not!"
There was cold amusement in the voice and Harry finally realised the predicament they were in.
Which of them would or could kill Hermione? Not him or Ron. Certainly not Dumbledore or Lupin.
And then with a chill that covered him like a cold shower, he knew. Which of their party would he consider most likely to murder? Which person seemed himself devoid of any emotion other than rage?
At that moment Harry made up his mind he would kill Snape before he would allow him to harm Hermione.
The vapour shifted. A solid object was rising up and parting it. Harry watched and recognised it - a causeway. A stone path between where they stood and Hermione.
"Cross the causeway, any one of you," the voice invited. "She has spells more powerful than you could imagine. Who will be the first to fight? Which will be the first to die?"
"Have you grown so cowardly, Tom, that you would have this young woman do your killing?" said Dumbledore. "I thought you were proud of your powers? At least do us the honour of a fair and equal fight."
The cold laugh echoed around the room.
"I am not cowardly, Dumbledore. Nor am I stupid. Let Potter watch as you all die, one by one, by his friend's hand, for I know you will not kill her. I shall then give him a 'fair and equal fight.'"
Dumbledore returned to Harry and the others. He drew a circle on the ground with his wand, enclosing their group.
"That will prevent him from hearing us," he said, although he continued in a low voice. "We cannot touch her. Anything we do to stop her attacking us will cause her harm."
"We have to get her off the island," said Lupin. "That's where most of his power over her is contained. She has to come across the causeway."
"She will kill any one of us who tries to reach her," said Snape.
"What we need," said Dumbledore. "Is to get through to her emotions."
"She hasn't got any," said Ron, bleakly. "He's taken them all. She doesn't care about anyone."
They fell silent. Dumbledore put his index fingers together and put them to his lips as he bowed his head in thought. Harry felt useless. He could see no way out of the situation.
"Unless..." said Dumbledore, slowly.
"Yes?" said Lupin, hopefully.
Dumbledore lifted his head and glanced over at Hermione.
"She still wears the Scribe's Crystal around her neck," he said, turning to look directly at Snape.
Snape's mouth fell open slightly and a horrified look came over his face.
"It may be her only hope..."
"NO! Emphatically NO!" He turned his back on Dumbledore and drew his cloak around his body.
Lupin stepped up and spoke to his back.
"If you have any way of getting her across that causeway, Severus, for Merlin's sake, do it!"
"You have no idea what is being asked, Lupin," spat Snape. "I advise you to keep out of this."
Dumbledore waved a hand at Lupin indicating he should remain silent. Then he turned to address Snape's back.
"Severus, I understand the enormity of what I am asking. You objected to my actions from the beginning - but are those objections worth more than Miss Granger's life? Than all our lives? I appeal to you - as a fellow human being."
Snape turned slowly to look at Dumbledore, unfolding his arms as he did so. Dumbledore had obviously touched a nerve somewhere. Snape had the desperate expression of a man trapped. His black eyes flickered momentarily towards Harry and Ron. Dumbledore saw this and said,
"I assure you that saving the life of their friend will outweigh anything else they may think. We are in a desperate situation, Severus, and we have one weapon left to us. Once again I beg you - look to your humane side."
Snape looked murderous.
He glared at Dumbledore, but Dumbledore just stared straight back into his eyes. It was Snape who backed down.
"Very well," he hissed. "But under the strongest possible protest." He brushed past Dumbledore and swept out of the circle to the edge of the causeway.
"Severus Snape!" said Voldemort with glee. "My Death Eater turned traitor. How delightful that you are to be the first to die."
Snape was standing at the beginning of the causeway. His feet had now disappeared from view as the vapour rolled around his ankles.
Meanwhile, Dumbledore had waved his wand. Harry realised he had cast a Whispering Charm on the entire circle when Dumbledore whispered quickly,
"Miss Granger, you still wear the Scribe's Crystal. Do you recall why you wear it?"
A flicker of a frown crossed Hermione's face.
"It acts as a Pensive," they heard her whisper. "You placed a memory from my head into the Crystal." Hermione touched the Crystal with her free hand.
"Please open the Crystal and remove the stopper."
"Prepare to do battle, Snape," ordered Voldemort.
Hermione lifted her wand and pointed it towards Snape.
"Before you do anything, Miss Granger," whispered Dumbledore, urgently. "Please remove the stopper. It is, after all, your memory in the Crystal. You surely would want it back? It may be important."
Hermione turned her head a fraction to look in their direction. After the smallest hesitation, she flicked open the top of the Crystal and released the stopper.
Dumbledore sighed with relief and erased the Whispering Charm.
"Step forward Snape, and fight if you dare," the high-pitched laugh rang around the room.
Harry watched a thin, wispy silver thread curl up from inside the Crystal and disappear into Hermione's hair. She gave a sudden jolt backwards and gasped.
Snape took this as his cue. He stepped onto the causeway and slowly walked up until he had reached half way. He had not raised his wand.
Hermione seemed to have gone into a kind of daze.
Harry heard a male voice and looked around to see who had spoken. The voice had sounded uncannily like Snape's, but the tone most definitely did not. This voice was polite, gentle; warm, even.
Confused, Harry looked towards Snape again.
In her daze, Hermione's wand had drifted off course and now pointed somewhere to the right.
"Miss Granger, would you look at me please."
It was Snape!
Harry had seen his lips move.
He couldn't believe what he was hearing. There was a tenderness in the voice that was a million miles away from Snape's cold drawling sneer.
Hermione turned her head and looked in Snape's direction. She moved forward of the table, pointing her wand towards him, but whereas before the wand had been held firmly and confidently, it now trembled.
"You do not raise your wand, Snape," said Voldemort. "You cannot fight her? I thought you of all people..."
"I do not raise my wand," said Snape, speaking softly as he maintained eye contact with Hermione, "because I do not believe Miss Granger can find it in her heart to harm me."
What's he on about? thought Harry. If she can attack Dumbledore and Ron, she'll have no problem attacking Snape.
The cruel, mocking laugh echoed around the hall.
"Her heart is an organ that keeps her alive, Snape, nothing more. You will die a traitor's death - slowly and painfully. KILL HIM!"
Harry saw Dumbledore grip his own wand tighter.
Hermione took an unsteady step towards Snape.
"Cruc...Cruc..." Hermione couldn't get the word out. Harry noticed tears trickling down her cheeks.
Snape began walking slowly up the causeway towards her, ignoring the wand still pointing directly at his chest.
"Cruc...Cruci..." Hermione's voice trembled thickly.
"KILL HIM!" came the order again.
The word came out so feebly that the green light merely trickled from the end of her wand and Snape brushed it aside like a cobweb.
"Miss Granger, I know you have no wish to harm me. Would you join me on the causeway?" said Snape.
"SHE WILL NOT GO," cried Voldemort. "SHE IS UNDER MY COMMAND."
"Miss Granger...?" Snape took another step forward and reached out his hand towards her.
Hermione took another unsteady step, this time down the first step of the island.
A violent hiss escaped from Voldemort and he suddenly appeared in the centre of the island. Black robed, thin and menacing, he lifted his wand and sent a red flash towards Snape.
Dumbledore swished his wand and deflected the spell into the vapour where it hissed and spluttered as it disappeared.
Meanwhile, Hermione had reached out and put her hand in Snape's.
Harry felt Ron shudder beside him.
"What am I seeing...?" Ron sounded disturbed.
Hermione lowered her wand, stepped down the final steps and onto the causeway. She smiled at Snape and the look in her eyes was unmistakable.
"I think I'm going to be sick..." said Ron, turning away.
Snape, still holding Hermione's hand, put his other arm around her and guided her along the causeway towards Dumbledore.
"I WILL KILL YOU BOTH MYSELF!"
Voldemort's wand exploded with green light. This time, both Dumbledore and Lupin sent deflecting spells towards it. Like the last, they landed in the water with a hiss.
A spell exploded in their direction. Dumbledore was quick enough to deflect it before it hit them, but it caught Lupin on the left arm. He spun round, his face contorted with pain.
Their attention momentarily distracted by Lupin, even Dumbledore's reaction was too slow. The spell hit Snape in the middle of his back and he collapsed lifeless to the ground.
Hermione screamed. Snape had fallen half way over the edge of the causeway. She grabbed his arm and held on frantically, trying to stop him from tumbling into the vapour.
Dumbledore sprang forward, his wand pointing at Voldemort.
"Miss Granger, return to the main land," he said, urgently.
But Hermione ignored him. She was grasping at Snape, doing everything she could to stop him falling.
"HERMIONE!" yelled Harry, springing forward. If they didn't help her, Harry could see Snape was going to fall, taking Hermione with him.
"HARRY, STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" commanded Dumbledore, but Harry was already on the causeway, running towards Hermione.
Streams of red spells were exploding all around as Dumbledore and Lupin deflected Voldemort's attacks.
Harry reached Hermione and grabbed hold of Snape's arm. Ron arrived quickly after and together they pulled Snape's body away from the causeway's edge.
Dumbledore and Lupin were now on the causeway, firing spells that failed to penetrate the island and reach Voldemort. All they could do was deflect Voldemort's spells and stop them harming anyone.
Harry and Ron were trying to get Hermione away, at the same time ducking to avoid the overhead fire, but Hermione was resisting. She seemed determined to stay with Snape.
A particularly violent spell exploded quite close. Hermione managed to release herself and turned towards the island to return to Snape. Absolute terror gripped Harry as he saw the green flash leave Voldemort's wand at that precise moment and head straight for Hermione.
The spell hit the Crystal. At first it seemed the Crystal had absorbed the spell, but then shards of brilliant light exploded from it and filled the room with a blinding white light. It buzzed all around them, sending an electrical charge through the air.
Hermione screamed once more and crumpled to the ground.
Horrified, Harry went to grab her, but pulled away immediately as a powerful static charge clicked through his body. Then Ron bent to help her and also pulled his hand away quickly.
"Harry. Ron. Come away from her," said Dumbledore.
"But..." said Harry.
"Both of you-walk towards me. Please. Trust me."
Harry looked at Dumbledore and saw he held his arm across Lupin, preventing him from coming forward. They both looked as though they were seeing something they couldn't quite believe.
Slowly, reluctantly, he and Ron did as they were told.
Hermione still lay on the ground but her body was enclosed in a fizzing white light. It was so bright that her black robe now looked grey.
Dumbledore motioned for Harry and Ron to step behind him.
There came a groaning noise from Hermione's direction and her arms moved to push herself up from the ground, slowly and laboriously.
Harry noticed the attacks had stopped. When he looked towards the island he saw Voldemort standing there, his wand at his side, his red eyes piercing from inside the blackness of the hood. He seemed to be as fascinated by what was going on as they were.
Hermione began to uncurl. Her whole body seemed to shine with a light radiating from within.
The groaning changed to a low growl. It was a raw animal-like sound, low and rasping. It grew louder and fiercer the more Hermione stood upright.
Then suddenly she was standing. Glowing with the white light, enclosed in an aura of energy that shifted and pulsated, she was almost luminous.
She took a deep breath and in one fluid movement turned, brought her wand in a graceful arc over her head and pointed it towards Voldemort. With a voice so full of power it shook Harry's insides, she cried,
The spell blasted through the protection of the horseshoe and enclosed Voldemort in a cage of green light.
And then he vanished, leaving a negative image on the air before it dissolved into a wispy tendril of smoke.
There followed a crackle rather like a firework. The static around them dwindled and died, leaving a silence hanging heavily in the air.
Harry stared at Hermione, feeling he had just witnessed something important. Quite what that something was, he wasn't sure but the greatness of it had not been missed. He glanced at the others. Ron looked frightened; Lupin, shocked; Dumbledore…
Hermione lowered her wand and turned to them. Her presence seemed to fill the room.
Dumbledore broke away from their group and walked up to her. He took both her hands in his and then leant forward and kissed her on both cheeks.
"I am privileged to have witnessed the emergence of a truly great witch," he said. "Welcome back."
"I'm sorry I attacked you," she said. "It seemed the right thing to do at the time."
"I am delighted that you are sorry," smiled Dumbledore. "It marks the return of your emotions."
Hermione's face paled. She broke away from Dumbledore, turned and went to Snape.
She waved her wand and in a replay of what had happened at Caverna Caeli, a stretcher appeared, only this time Hermione was summoning it for Snape.
"He isn't dead," said Dumbledore, gently.
"I know." Harry heard a sob catch in Hermione's throat.
"Perhaps," said Dumbledore, kindly. "It might be best to return the memory to the Crystal now?"
She glanced at Dumbledore and then back at Snape.
"Not yet," she said softly, adjusting the blanket unnecessarily. "Not until I get him safely back to Madam Pomfrey."
"Dumbledore," said Lupin quietly. "I think we should leave."
"There is little point in ordering you both to bed," said Dumbledore as they arrived back at his office. "I don't expect either of you will be able to sleep."
Hermione and Lupin had taken Snape to the Hospital Wing.
"Professor, what happened to Hermione?" said Ron. "Is she going to Azkaban? Did she kill Voldemort?"
"No," answered Harry, rubbing his head. "She didn't kill him. But he's not feeling very well." he grinned across at Ron.
"Neither will Hermione be going to Azkaban," said Dumbledore. "That sentence is only given when an Unforgivable is used on another human being - and there is not a Court in this land that would describe Voldemort as that."
"What's happened to her, Professor?" asked Harry. "What was all that white light and fizzing?"
"Hermione has undergone a metamorphosis," said Dumbledore. "It is a truly great and rare occurrence, especially in one so young. In the time she's had with Voldemort he has trained her and given her powers beyond anything she would have learned at school. The Crystal also has powers of its own and when it was hit, those powers were activated. I believe she would now be fighting by Voldemort's side as one of the most powerful witches of her age, if he had not made the mistake of harming the one person she cared for."
"You mean, if Voldemort hadn't attacked Snape, she would have changed into a Dark Witch?" said Harry, horrified.
"Yes, Harry. It came as close as that," Dumbledore replied. "As it is, we now have that power on our side."
"Hang on...just a minute...since when does Hermione 'care' for Snape?" demanded Ron. "Tell me this is some kind of weird Lockhart thing. She had a stupid crush on him, too..."
Dumbledore remained silent for a second or two.
"Hermione had difficulty coming to terms with the Mark on her hand - both physically and mentally," he said. "Something she would never confess even to her closest friends. The only person who could wholly relate to her problems and help her through them was Professor Snape. Such things can cause us to see someone in a different light."
"What sort of light? Pitch dark so she couldn't see sense?" spluttered Ron.
"I do not condone the situation, Ron, but I am wise enough to acknowledge that sometimes we cannot help where our heart leads us."
Dumbledore perched on the corner of his desk in front of them.
"You have to remember - she shares the stigma of the Dark Mark with Professor Snape. They fought a battle for their lives together-against Bellatrix Lestrange. Powerful things to have in common."
"Just because they fought Bellatrix together she goes and falls in l...? I can't believe it, it's ridiculous!"
"Is it, Ron?" said Dumbledore, looking Ron in the eye. "Are you sure you can't understand how someone can find affection for another after fighting say, a mountain troll together, for instance?"
Ron went scarlet.
"Hermione has found in Professor Snape a kind of kindred spirit and out of that has grown her affection for him. What you witnessed tonight was a vast exaggeration of those emotions.
"You have to realise that when she released the stopper from the Crystal and the memory re-entered her head, it was the only drop of affection in the whole of her body; Voldemort had removed everything else. The emotion was therefore far more intense. And it saved our lives."
"Snape knew what was in the Crystal!" said Harry, suddenly realising. "That's why he didn't want it opened..."
"Professor Snape was horrified when he discovered Hermione was harbouring these emotions. You will remember the day in the Potions lesson when Miss Granger was having trouble with the Call? Professor Snape had to go into her mind to help her. It was then he discovered how she was feeling. After much deliberation, the three of us decided it would be best to remove the memory from her head. Professor Snape wanted the memory destroyed completely, but we had no right to do that. Instead, we placed it in the Scribe's Crystal which she wore around her neck."
"So Snape doesn't care at all?" said Harry, feeling curiously bitter, but not surprised that Snape could be so dismissive of Hermione's feelings.
"I do know that his respect for Hermione has grown from that time in Caverna Caeli, and believe me, the respect of Severus Snape is a rare thing indeed. As for affection? Suffice it to say it is not in his nature to care for anyone in that way." Dumbledore gave a little smile. "And a jolly good thing too! That would have complicated things! He was, after all, her teacher."
Dumbledore walked around the desk and sat down in his chair. He rested his arms on the desktop and looked at Harry and Ron.
"I don't expect either of you to appreciate immediately the change that has taken place in Hermione," he said. "Her metamorphosis means she is one of the most powerful witches alive. Her knowledge is now beyond anything we can teach her at Hogwarts."
Harry stared at Dumbledore.
"Y...you're going to ask her to leave!" he said, astounded.
"I shall certainly present her with that option," answered Dumbledore. "Hopefully she will agree to joining the Order. She now has far more to do outside school than in."
"Hermione'd never choose to leave Hogwarts now!" said Ron. "We've got NEWTs next year! There's no way she'd miss those!"
"That may be so," said Dumbledore. "We shall see."
There was a brief knock on the door and it opened.
"Ah, Miss Granger, Remus. Come in..."
Harry had no explanation for it, but both he and Ron got to their feet as Hermione entered the room, followed by Lupin.
Hermione was still dressed in the black robe, the belt and the pendant. There was a radiance about her, an energy. The way she walked and the way she stood was so self-assured and confident, Harry felt he was looking at a Professor rather than someone his own age. He realised perhaps Dumbledore was right. Harry couldn't imagine Hermione sitting at a desk as a student again.
"He is settled," she told Dumbledore. "Madam Pomfrey thinks he will be conscious by morning."
"Now, Miss Granger," he said. "If I remember correctly, you could probably do with a cup of tea after your experience."
"Yes, I could."
Dumbledore summoned a tray with five steaming mugs of hot tea. Lupin took his and sat down. Hermione remained standing.
"Harry. Ron..." she stopped and glanced at them both standing in front of her. They both sat immediately. "I'm sorry I attacked you..."
"Awww that's OK..."
"Don't worry about it..."
"I realise I am missing most of my emotions, but I can feel them coming back slowly. It's very easy to like you both. I can see why I did." She smiled at them. Curiously, her eyes now twinkled just as Dumbledore's did.
Ron's face went scarlet again and Harry felt himself go very warm.
"I know Professor Dumbledore has explained to you what's happened. Especially...the business with the Crystal - and I know what you must be thinking. I would have thought the same a year ago. Please don't judge me. I was frightened and he was the only person I could turn to."
"We thought Snape was training you to be a Death Eater," said Ron. "You could have told us."
"Could I? How do you think you would have reacted?" asked Hermione, matter-of-factly. "How have you reacted tonight?"
Ron shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
"The only person who knew was Professor Trelawney."
"Trelawney!" said Harry.
"Yes. Somehow she picked up on everything at the Christmas lunch. I was so shocked, I didn't have time to deny it. But she was very kind. Underneath all that mystic nonsense she's really quite a good councilor. She advised me to go and speak to Professor Dumbledore, but I was too embarrassed. Of course, I should have done because he eventually had the wonderful idea of putting the memory in the Crystal." She smiled at Dumbledore.
"And the rest, as they say, is history," he smiled back.
"As for my transformation - I'm not quite sure I understand the full implications or why it's happened to me. I feel as if I've had a whole library of knowledge stuffed into my brain. I feel a kind of energy bubbling inside that I shall have to learn to deal with. It's all very confusing.
"But there's one thing I am quite clear about," she turned and looked directly at Harry. "Whatever the Prophecy may say about you having to kill Voldemort, Harry, you won't be doing it alone. I shall be right by your side, with Professor Dumbledore on the other. And with our combined powers,
"I'm absolutely convinced we can win."
A/N - That's all, folks. I realise there might be some unanswered questions, but I was a rookie when I wrote this, so indulge me a little, please. I do have an idea for a one-shot H/S fic rolling around my brain, but I'm going to wait and see what the HBP has in store for our man before I write it. I expect I'll be back, anyhow. Like I said, I'm addicted.
Emma Barrows - Thanks, Emma. What's new? The Half-Blood Prince, of course!
Thouandl - I had to leave the chapter somewhere, and you can't really expect an author to pass up the opportunity of a cliffie, can you? Lots of love and thanks for all your support. Severusgirlx
Queen of the Faeries - The mirror. Yes, I admit a convenience to fit my plot. When I was a child (in the UK), there was a little kiosk near where my nana lived that was the only place around that sold American comics. Only twice did my mum buy one for me - 'Casper'. I remember in the front there were tiny adverts for 'X-Ray Specs' and 'Spy Pens' etc., which always intrigued me. I saw Neville's mirror as something like that - a cheap stocking-filler that no one had any great expectations of, but which helped on this occasion. Thank you for your reviews. I'm very very glad you didn't remain a silent reader. lol.
FemmeLoki - This was my very first fanfic - I hadn't got into the swing of our Sev at that point, that's why there was no snarky comment upon Harry's arrival. I know him better now. But perhaps not as well as I would like! I was so pleased when you returned to us - don't go away for that long ever again! lol.
Lydia - I had my thoughts about Snape's origins when I wrote this a few years ago. Those thoughts have changed now. I too hope JKR will bring our Sev into the light. She's led her adult readers to believe he's moving towards redemption. I hope she isn't doing a double-bluff on us. It would break my heart if he turns out to be a double-agent for Voldemort. It would also make a mockery of all the romances we've written about him. As to the body - the sea is cruel. Also, I believe that news of the discovery would have been hurried, and perhaps not all the details conveyed. Albus would have gone swiftly without knowing the full details.