A/N: Just over a year ago, the first draft of the first chapter appeared, pencilled into the back of my diary in near illegible handwriting. Today, I am posting the last chapter in a fic that grew from my first estimate (40,000 words) to over 100,000 and all in all did better than I could ever have imagined.
Thank you everyone for your reviews, support and suggestions throughout, they made a diference and I really appreciated every one, even the couple of flames I got (my first flames! I was so excited).
My next project will be a post HBP fic which I am plotting at the moment. I'm finding it quite a challenge since JKR has already outlined more or less what will happen and I'm having to work around it. Still, whether it will be HP/SS or just a mentor relationship, you can be assured that I will never let good!Snape vanish from my mind.
There is only one question that you've requested that I answer and that is about young Master Malfoy's name. His full name is Henry Severus Malfoy, which is indeed after Harry. Harry, to the best of our knowledge, is just Harry but Harry is also a common nickname for Henry, certainly in the UK. For instance, Prince Harry's real name is Henry but royal tradition means that he is always called Harry. I hope this clears it up once and for all.
Now, on with the chapter...
Harry James Evans Potter, Headmaster of Hogwarts, twice Order of Merlin first class, Wizengamot member, High Warlock, Heir of Slytherin and Gryffindor and, most importantly to him, a proud adoptive father and godfather sat in his chair at the head table at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and watched the year begin.
It was nearing eight o'clock on the first of September2005 and the new school year was beginning. Just a moment ago, the great double doors at the far end of the Hall had swung open once more to allow the mass of black-robed students to take its rightful place at the House tables in front of him.
That morning, James had carefully transfigured a plain black robe into a vivid purple. While he wasn't about to put on one of Albus's robes in their garish yellows and lime greens and pinks, he would, for old time's sake, wear something brighter and more cheerful than his preferred forest green. Besides, purple was one of the colours associated with Hogwarts headmaster, even if it wasn't quite that shade.
They were chattering, talking loudly in their excitement and he smiled: the end of the previous term had been strained and unusually quiet - it was good to see things back to normal.
Half way down the Slytherin table, he could see his adopted son Alistair, talking as eagerly as the rest. They had finally adopted him using the full rights early that summer and he'd added the name 'Slytherin' to his own. Just the thought of Alistair made a warm glow spread over him. He had a family now, a real one and it was every bit as good as he imagined and much more.
As his eyes roamed over the other tables, he was reminded of the missing Ravenclaw sixth year, Walter Smethley, the boy who had invited Death Eaters into the school. Removed immediately to the Order of the Phoenix Headquarters, he had been left there for two weeks under close supervision partly to allow him to consider his misdeeds but more importantly to allow them to get Hogwarts back on her feet before being distracted. When he had come to see him, they had had a long talk about purebloods and muggleborns and the genetics behind it all, and he had left behind a much quieter young 'pureblood'. After that, he had sought out Draco and asked him to take the brat in for the year in the hope of teaching him the error of his ways.
Dear Draco: their first meeting after the battle had gone surprisingly well, possibly because Hermione had stunned them, levitated them into the room and tied them securely to chairs. Restricted from magic use as he had been because of his injuries, he had been unable to free himself and the discussion had been civilised - mere shouting rather than cursing. In the end, he had grovelled and Draco had accepted his apology. The next day, well out of Hermione's way, they had removed themselves from the castle to indulge in their punch up. She had not been happy when they returned.
Minerva wasn't sitting beside him though, and her loss was something he was constantly reminded of, despite the fact that all of her customary duties were being performed perfectly by her successors in her various jobs. After a rather tearful farewell party just after the end of the summer term, she had packed her bags and travelled back to her family home on one of the west coast islands. He had asked which one but she had looked at him and decided that with his admittedly rudimentary knowledge of Scottish geography, it would be safer if he kept in contact using owl post. She was now, apparently, contentedly enjoying her retirement and was considering opening a home for mistreated Kneazles with her childhood friend, Arabella Gooderson, now Arabella Figg.
Looking along the staff table now, he smiled at the two new staff members. Really it had been extremely lucky that they had been able to come at such short notice and he had told them as much, only to have them smile indulgently at him and say that both they and their previous employers would have moved mountains to make it possible. Ron, a relatively high ranking Auror, had taken on Defence Against the Dark Arts up to sixth year - the seventh years would be taken by the Headmaster himself - and Hermione had taken on Transfigurations. It had always been one of the harder subjects to find a good teacher in, partly because it wasn't as glamorous as the Dark Arts job or as technically simple as Muggle Studies. He was confident that she could handle it and had made them joint Heads of Gryffindor House, with himself acting as an advisor should they decide that they needed one.
The side door opened now and a much loved figure in long black robes strode in at the head of an endearingly timid looking line of first years. The older students fell immediately silent, probably already anticipating the feast they would receive when the Sorting was over. Severus Snape, despite objecting at the start, was turning out to be a Deputy Headmaster at least of Minerva's standard already, his careful organisation making life much easier for the both of them. He was also proving to enjoy family life much more than he would have anticipated as a student.
The Headmaster smiled as he looked at the tiny children, looking in wonder at all of the new things around them. Even those from wizarding families were unlikely to have seen something of Hogwarts standards, the ceiling alone was a hugely powerful piece of magic that, to his knowledge, no one had been able to replicate perfectly. In the flickering light from the candles high above them, they looked pale and wide-eyed.
As soon as they stopped, Severus easily retrieved the little stool from the end of the staff table and placed the Sorting Hat carefully on it: ragged or not, it was the very hat that Godric Gryffindor had worn and all of the teachers treated it with great respect. As he stepped back, the entire Hall began to stare at the hat, the first years slowly following suit, though looking confused as to why. For a few seconds, there was complete silence. Then the hat twitched. A rip near the brim opened wide like a mouth - and the hat began to sing.
The teachers listened intently, praying that there would be no warnings or ultimatums as there had been in previous years. As soon as it finished, James glanced down the table at Hermione, who he knew would be able to retrieve any important nugget from the song. She shook her head, relief clearly shown on her face, and they turned back to observe the first years, joining in the riotous applause from the students with a little more decorum. The hat bowed to each of the four tables and then was perfectly still again, looking deceivingly like a normal, mundane, old hat.
Severus now stepped forward holding a long roll of parchment covered in names that had been painstakingly copied out from the Book at the same time as the invitation letters.
"When I call your name, you will come forward and sit on the stool," he said, face solemn. "You will then put on the hat and be Sorted into your House. Brocklehurst, Jonathan!"
A tiny boy with a mop of shaggy brown hair stepped out of the line and edged towards the stool with a look of extreme terror. He sat down, put the hat on his head and there was a long pause.
"Ravenclaw!" the hat shouted and the boy's shoulders relaxed. He removed the hat and scurried over to the table which was beckoning him over.
The Sorting continued, the ancient ritual just the same as it was every other year and had been for over a millennia. When it was over, Severus moved the stool out of the way again and came to take his seat on James's right hand side, smiling slightly as he met his eyes. James stood up and clapped his hands. The Hall fell silent.
"Welcome! Welcome all, to another year at Hogwarts. Before we begin our feast, I am calling for a toast. To Albus Dumbledore, the greatest Headmaster Hogwarts has known for a very long time!"
"Albus Dumbledore!" the students chorused, downing their glasses of pumpkin juice as one. The older ones in particular were serious, the looks on their faces strange; the youngest, especially the first years, looked confused but went along with the rest of the school. James inclined his head to them and beamed down at them.
"Now there is only one thing left for me to say now: enjoy the feast! Thank you!"
He sat back down, smiling at the clapping and cheering. Waving his hand, over his plate, he signalled to the house elves that they were ready for the food and it appeared magically on the plates. If anything, the cheering got even louder, then fell down to a murmur as they tucked into the delicious Hogwarts' fare.
Down at the tables, the ghosts were introducing themselves to the youngest. On the Slytherin table, a couple of them were looking nervous as the Bloody Baron took his seat between them, the Hufflepuffs were already chatting cheerfully to the Fat Friar. The Gryffindors, while talking happily enough to Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington were eyeing the Bloody Baron with great interest.
At last, when they had eaten their fill, James waved his hand again and the remnants of the puddings vanished, leaving the plates completely clean. He stood up and the Hall fell silent once more.
"Just a few more words now that we are no longer likely to expire of hunger, and yes I do remember how it feels at your age. There are one or two start of term notices for me to give you.
"First years should note that the forest in the grounds is called the Forbidden Forest for a reason and is banned to all students. A few of our older students should also pay attention to this reminder. Mr Filch, our caretaker, has also asked me to remind you all that no magic should be used between classes in the corridors. The list of banned items can, as always, be found on his office door and to the best of my knowledge, includes every item sold in Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes.
"Quidditch trials will be held this year in the second week of term and will be organised by our capable Quidditch captains. Should you be interested in playing speak to them and put your name on the sign up list that should be going up soon in your common rooms. First years are not allowed to participate in trials and will only be offered a place on the team in extreme circumstances and after due consultation between staff members.
"And now, before we go to bed, let us sign the school song!"
James inwardly sighed at this but it was a school tradition and had been one of Albus's favourites. It was no big deal for him to allow it to be sung once a year. He flicked his wand and a golden ribbon snaked out of the end to it, rose up and shaped itself into words.
"Everyone pick their favourite tune," he said, "and off we go!"
"Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they're bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we've forgot,
Just do your best, we'll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot."
The noise was terrible. Simply, utterly dreadful, there was no denying it. Whichever idiot had thought up the idea of a school song without a set tune had been completely mad, bonkers, dotty and cursed by every generation of teachers since him. Unless of course, he'd done it as a way of getting his revenge on those of his students to take up teaching posts themselves.
As always, everyone finished the song at different times. When the last children, a gang of sixth year Gryffindors, finished, the Hall burst into applause. Hiding a wince at his newly brought on headache, James joined in. As it died down, he spoke again.
"Bedtime now," he said with relief. "Off you go."
He waited, watching while the first years were shepherded off by the prefects and the others left in their threes and fours for their home away from home in their dormitories. James wasn't stupid, he knew that the older years would be up a couple of hours yet, but the little ones needed their rest.
When they'd all gone, he sat back in his chair and smiled. He'd made it without embarrassing himself or Albus's memory. Severus came to put a hand on his shoulder. James turned to look up and smiled at the promise of things to come. He'd never wanted a boring life and as Headmaster of a wizarding school, he was guaranteed never to have one.
A/N: There you have it, the end of the story. There won't be a sequel - I can't think of anything to write about. Should anyone be interested in translating it or writing a sequel, please contact me.
Please leave me a review, especially those of you who haven't reviewed before, so I can see just how many people I'm aiming at and what you liked and disliked about the story so I can improve for next time around. After that many words, I think I deserve a few cookies.