Disclaimer: None of those associated with Hogwarts and its environs are my property (beyond paying for the books, of course). I am merely playing with JKR's toys and promise to return them unharmed. Well, maybe a little singed, but that can't be helped.
Warning: This story contains gigantic, humungous spoilers of HBP. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? Go and read something by a real author.
Oh, and this particular plot device isn't that original, either. I haven't seen it in fanfiction, though… see the final A/Ns for details.
The storm lasted three days and four nights and covered all of the British Isles from the Shetland and Orkney islands down to Land's End. Harry may have been soaked to the bone by the time he made it back to the order, but by some miracle he managed to keep the baby and the phoenix dry. He was cold, and as soon as he found himself inside the cheerful kitchen of the latest headquarters his shivers degenerated into shudders. Kingsley diagnosed delayed reaction to shock and sent Harry to bed after Harry got a short version of the story out through chattering teeth. Harry wouldn't sleep, though, not until the baby and Fawkes were sleeping in a make-shift cot next to his bed. And although the baby slept through the thunder and lightning, Harry found that when the storm woke him (as it did those three nights) he'd sleep better afterwards if he checked that Fawkes and the baby were still safe. One time he looked into the cot and saw two small, scorched skeletons, but when he woke up gasping from that nightmare he found nothing amiss. The sleeping baby had one hand curled up next to its head. Harry touched the palm and was reminded of one of Snape's memories when the tiny fingers automatically closed around one of his like a sea-anemone. He wondered with a yawn who that memory-baby had been, and drifted off into a dream where he kept trying to reach out and pull Snape out of the dissolving nothingness… but the rules of the tournament said he was only allowed to grab one of Snape's fingers.
Harry stayed inside those three days, too; writing letters to Ginny he couldn't send until the weather had calmed down enough for Hedwig to fly and only opening the window of his garret bedroom occasionally to poke his head out and feel the rain on his face and in his hair. But he went downstairs often enough to add his voice to the meetings.
By day three there had already been a few messages from "Lethe". The first was interesting, to say the least. Apparently Voldemort was livid on two accounts: Firstly, Snape was dead and, secondly and even worse, all the books and notes he'd owned had vanished. None of the Death Eaters knew where, and Voldemort had been driven into a frothing fit by their lack of results. Harry wished, occasionally, he still had his scar and the connection to Voldemort. Voldemort foaming at the mouth and chewing the carpets would have been something to see. Early on the third morning, Kingsley went to Gringott's and found a box with a small voodoo poppet. The poppet looked more than a little like someone of Harry's acquaintance, and the short note which came with it gave brief details on the effects of a clear potion found by the half-a-dozen Death Eaters who'd cleared out Snape's workroom.
According to Lethe, the Death Eaters had been foolish enough to sample the contents of a wine bottle with its illegible label. The effects had been nasty and – according to the few surviving witness – contagious through line-of-sight. The initial half-dozen Death Eaters had taken out seventy-one others before the area had been sealed and anyone inside left to die (here, Lethe included a list of names, some of them high-ranking and powerful enough for Remus and Kingsley to high-five each other before remembering their solemnity – death was death, after all). Narcissa herself and Draco were spared. Because Draco and his mother had been sighted briefly in France by Tonks (who was working in with some werewolves from Breton, whom had a very different idea of werewolf superiority to the majority of the British werewolves), Harry suspected Narcissa, knowing Snape well enough to suspect anything he'd made, touched, looked at or heard about, had taken Draco away for a couple of days while the storm still raged to console him over the loss of his professor – and get the hell away from any fall-out. Harry had occasionally (like when he'd woken from a nightmare of charred flesh and bone crumbling under his touch) wondered how much of Draco's memory Narcissa had excised. Not that he was fond of Malfoy in any way, shape or form, but he wouldn't wish the memory of Snape's charred face and hands on his worst enemy. Which wasn't, currently, Draco.
Shame Voldemort hadn't been in the line-of-sight of the infected Death Eaters… Snape's potion might have given him a run for his money. Harry wondered if Voldemort suspected Snape, but Lethe's notes suggested otherwise. Voldemort was furious with Harry for taking down one of his chief advisors. Harry read that as meaning Snape was still considered a loyal Death Eater. Even despite the potion.
"But how were they ever stupid enough to drink something out of a musty old bottle that wasn't labelled properly?" Harry asked, yawning. He'd just given Kingsley the box to take back with the Pashmina inside it. It was the evening of the third day and he felt in need of company that could carry the other half of a conversation. Harry had been stuck inside for three days, someone had bought cleaning spray from a Muggle supermarket and now the house smelt like the Dursleys', Harry was the only one who could cook and he hated cooking, the clock in the corner ticked arrhythmically and was about to send him psychotic … and if Remus didn't say something interesting and significantly above an IQ level of fifteen in the next three seconds there would be Trouble.
The sight of Remus Lupin tickling the baby's fingers and toes did make him smile, though. Remus was in a particularly good mood and had been since yesterday, when Rosmerta sent a message via Minerva to let him know she'd found something addressed to him personally. That "something" had turned out to be a pallet of cola tins. Remus had opened one of them and gagged at the vile smell but then, as he later told Harry, half a minute later when he stopped blinking from the sheer shock of disbelief, he'd actually danced a little dance of joy. In the tins was enough wolfsbane for the next year, by which time someone from the Ministry or Hermione (who was in raptures after the discovery, especially as she had found her calling this year and was fast on the way to becoming this age's great research witch) should be able to make sense of the typed note that accompanied it and which gave directions on how it could be made large-scale in batches, something no-one had done before.
Hermione had been very interested in the note. She had received a note, too, written on a Muggle typewriter which by some massive coincidence had the same blurred e key.
Harry wondered how many notes would eventually turn up with dodgy e's.
Remus gently extricated his finger from one grasping, pudgy baby-fist. "I suspect Snape put something on it to make them think it was perfectly safe… and something he'd been saving for a special occasion. It's what I would have done, had I been in a particularly nasty frame of mind." Remus smiled as tiny fingers curled around the tip of one of his square fingers, which was stained with ink again. He'd been writing a lot of letters to Tonks and, unlike Harry's letter to Ginny, Remus could justify the expense of secure, cross-border floo deliveries. Harry propped his chin on his hand and wondered if they would make good parents for the baby. Maybe not. Remus never said as much, but Harry knew from something Tonks had accidentally dropped (words that time instead of a set of dinner plates) that he wanted children of his own line. "Is that what you did, hmm?" Remus said to the baby. He tickled the pink sole of one foot, which kicked as if it was controlled by something completely outside of the brain.
"Is that normal? The… way he kicks, that is. Obviously going around poisoning people isn't normal in a healthy society, although given that Snape was involvedI guess that was pretty normal behaviour… He's… not got some nerve problem or something…?"
Remus looked up, expression lightly amused at Harry's concern. He'd taken to wearing half-moon glasses recently and it was a look Harry was still adjusting to. Especially given how much greyer Remus had gone since Dumbledore's death. "Hmm? Oh, yes. Babies don't have much control over their bodies. But he can follow my face. See…? Oh, he's fallen asleep again. Well, never mind. Where's Fawkes? Funny how the baby sleeps better with a phoenix as a teddy."
Funny, too, how those few who in the know referred to him as "the baby" rather than "Severus". Harry wasn't sure if it was because they were made uncomfortable by reminders of the baby's former identity, or if they were trying to actively embrace this new incarnation. He hoped it was the second, but cynicism made a good argument for the first.
All in all, it was a bit of a worry finding a home for a baby. Harry refused to put Severus – whatever his name was going to be – in an orphanage. Of course the older members of the Order would try to make the decision, but Harry would sooner kidnap the baby and run off to Australia and live in the Outback with wild dingoes before he left this baby in an orphanage. Or with Dursley-equivalents. And not just because Narcissa might send him dangerously flawed information as revenge. Thankfully, Hermione had sent a second, optimistic, message through the floo last night, so dingoes and Dursleys probably wouldn't be involved. Hermione – always one for coming through in a pinch. Apart from Remus, Kingsley, Tonks and McGonagall (who, when Harry had finally judged her ready to see the baby without hexing it, had picked it up and burst into tears), Narcissa and possibly Draco (but hopefully not), the only others who knew were Hermione and Ron.
Harry wouldn't have it any other way.
Late in the morning of the fourth day, Harry took the baby and Fawkes and slipped out the back door. He'd stayed long enough to hear Lethe's message (which told of the mysterious death of Wormtail, who'd somehow accidentally had his head pop off followed by his arms and legs. Quite messy, by all accounts. Lethe wondered if Caminus had anything to say regarding what had happened. But Harry decided not to enlighten her on the cause of the mystery. He was still trying to work out how he felt now that he was officially (in his mind, anyway) a murderer, and how that separated him from a Death Eater. He didn't want Lethe rubbing his nose in the fact. It was a shame he couldn't talk to Remus about it, but how did you open up a conversation like that? "Uh, Remus? Did I mention that the voodoo poppet I decapitated, dismembered, and threw in the fire was a sympathetic magic representation of your old schoolmate? No?" Harry didn't think he could cope with anyone thinking him capable of it, even though they'd been setting him up for years to kill Voldemort.
What would Narcissa do with the information? She should be able to work it out herself, considering Lethe was the one who'd given Harry the poppet. With a bit of luck she'd take it as a warning on how far Harry couldn't be pushed.
But he still wished he could talk to someone about it.
Maybe he should stay and talk to Remus?
No. He had an appointment to keep. And it was his secret – his to deal with, his to weather.
This was something Hermione and Ron needn't know about, either, he told himself as he the catch of the door clicked shut behind him.
For that matter, he didn't tell Remus or anyone else where he and the baby were going – the fewer people who knew, he considered, the better. Outside in an otherwise dingy alley, Harry bent down to the baby and whispered, "Hey, I'm a murderer. I killed someone without really being sure it would work, but he died and my intention was certainly there. So I'm a murderer. Should I do anything about it? What" – he swallowed – "did you do? Oh yeah." Harry's shoulders sagged. "You died for it."
Talking about it didn't help, no. But then the phoenix chick chirped a small bubble of sound that popped in Harry's heart. It woke the baby, who didn't cry, but merely opened sleepy eyes to peer up at Harry before yawning in a display of toothless gums that really shouldn't have been as endearing as it was… and nodded off again.
Harry shook his head, lifted his face to the sky and breathed deep. The morning was good. It was fresh. It was new. Even the front page of a local paper, blown into a puddle so that only half the print was legible, cried out the good news: the first blue sky over Liverpool in a year. That mist which had hung for the better part of the year and been blamed for the massive rise in suicides had vanished. The blue sky wasn't expected to last long, especially this early in the year, but…
Stepping over the newspaper and puddle with a long stride, Harry felt the mist's absence like he felt the sun warm on his face. In the shadows of the alley behind the temporary base in Liverpool (13 Grimmauld place was being used as the decoy and nothing more), Harry made sure the baby was secure in his arms, and disapparated.
Harry's Apparition skills still needed a little polishing and the baby cried when they arrived, but Fawkes (already sprouting the first red and gold feathers and looking slightly less ugly) sang softly and the baby settled, as he always did.
He was in another alley under another blue sky, but this one was somewhere on the outskirts of London and had the sounds of a busy road coming from just over a grey concrete wall. He could smell diesel mixed in with a faint hint of salt, so he couldn't be too far from the sea. Harry looked around with his hand discretely on his wand. He needn't have worried.
"Hermione." She was standing next to a pile of scrap, pretending something so disorderly didn't exist. A massive pack was leaned up against the wall.
He leaned forward and she kissed his cheek. It was a new thing, this cheek-kissing. Something natural that had come after he'd decided to grow up and not return for his seventh year at Hogwarts. Mind you, as the school had closed anyway it wasn't like he was making that much of a stand, but Harry knew in his heart he couldn't have returned until he'd done something about Dumbledore's death.
And now here he was. Not at Hogwarts. Not yet. But on his way back.
"How are the books?"
Hermione glowed. That had been her first message of last night: a courier had showed up with boxes of books. Biographies, histories, books on magic, a first edition of Hogwarts, a History… and all of it only accompanied by a short letter addressed to: "The biggest bibliophile I've ever known other than myself" typed with the e's slightly higher than they should be. However many books there had been, the letter said there would be more: but not until Hermione's twenty-first birthday, with the third and final instalment when she turned twenty-eight. All the books had (to Hermione's surprise) been benign at the least and (she'd said in her note to Harry) she'd not have been surprised had he heard her whoops of delight at some of the treasures she'd found.
"What's in the pack? Not the books?"
"No. I didn't think you'd know what a baby needs, so I've been shopping." She ignored Harry's raised eyebrows and unvoiced (but obvious) opinion that she'd bought out the entire shop, and held out her arms. "May I hold him?"
Harry smiled. He'd never thought of Hermione as a baby-person before, but she'd surprised him so often he'd given up pigeon-holing her. "Sure. Here. Remember to support the head…" He grinned at Hermione's familiar expression of amused condescension. "Hey, I've been researching!" he protested.
"Wow, you have changed," she said as she took the baby. "What's our secret ward-word?"
"Huh. 'Death to all Muggles.' Just joking! Sorry. 'Pickled eyeballs.' And I still can't believe you chose it instead of Ron."
"Well, I thought we were all getting a little too grown-up… Hello, Fawkes."
"Where's Ron? I thought he was going to be here."
"I am. Ta-dah!" Harry jumped and spun, then let out his breath and shook his head, grinning. After tucking his wand into his pocket, Ron climbed down from the roof of one of the sheds behind them.
Harry folded his arms. "What – did you think it wasn't me?"
"Werrll, before you gave the pass-ward we thought I should just keep an eye on things. And then you made that crack about me choosing the secret word… So I thought maybe you were Malfoy in disguise."
"I would have called you 'Weasel' or asked Hermione if I could borrow her mirror or something if I was."
"Yeah, that was a major clue as well. So… is that the greasy git? Sorry," he added quickly. Something about Harry's expression must have warned him. Harry clamped down on his anger. If he hadn't been there and seen what he'd seen, maybe he'd say something along the same lines.
How many others would say that – and worse? While part of Harry fumed gently, another part – the part that had had to grow up too fast – took this information and tucked away for future use.
Harry frowned, for a change a little anxious about something in the future that wasn't Voldemort. "It's… someone. He needs a new name, though. And maybe not from you." He flinched as a shadow flickered across the alley, but it was just a starling. And the pocket sneakoscope he'd been given by Moody didn't activate. (The sneakoscope was the latest from the Department of Mysteries boffin, Kew, and it vibrated if someone was telling lies or was directing malevolent intentions towards the holder… plus it doubled as a Muggle cellphone. Harry doubted Arthur Weasley knew about it, but, if he did, he'd turned a blind eye.)
Hermione looked down at the baby, which had a spookily similar expression as it gazed back up. Both looked extremely dubious at the sight of the other. Then Hermione broke the moment by smiling, rocking the baby just enough to make it gurgle. "He can't really see much at this age," she said in her lecturer voice. "All they see are lights and shadows. But, and this is the amazing thing, they can see smiles and frowns. So when you smile at a baby, it…"
"Amazing," said Ron, who was not smiling. "Um, Herm', love, I…"
Hermione widened her eyes at him. "But we've been wanting a baby for ages!"
Ron looked in immediate need of a bezoar.
The baby blew a bubble and yawned. "Oh, that's cute!" Then, taking pity on Ron, Hermione laughed. "Ron, of course I don't want to adopt Snape. Severus… Steven. Yes, Steven. It's a name I've always liked, and it's not too dissimilar. It's also about as Muggle as you get. Besides, we're not married and we'd have to move to another country to look after him. I doubt your mother would approve."
Ron nodded as if he wanted her to think he regretted being unable to adopt the baby. "No, she wouldn't."
Hermione winked at Harry. "Do you have a home for him? It's best if not too many people know. Mrs Malfoy was right – he's going to have enemies on both sides of the fence. Killing enemies."
"I know. And I don't."
"'Good'?" Harry and Ron looked at each other.
"Yes, good. Because my parents have wanted another baby for years, but they can't adopt a baby from Great Britain because the government says they're too old now. But if anyone asks, I can tell them that Professor Snape and I were having a raging affair and it's our baby."
Ron's eyes were bugging and he was slowly turning purple. The strangled sounds coming out of the corners of his mouth (along with a few bubbles of spit) sounded like, "You… he… never in my-!… I."
Hermione shrugged. "That's only if the question should come up. I've talked to Mum and Dad about it… Mum was a bit dubious – she asked me if this was the Professor Nazi Hippie chap who'd… well, maybe I'd described him a little that way, but I told her he's now a brand-new baby. The books and the note went a long way towards changing their opinion of him… I guess I'd better not let them see the ones he's going to let me have when I get older, though… And Dad said that tabula rasa was a definite plus, but I think they'd take him on even if he had his memories."
"I don't know about memories, but…" Harry swallowed. He hadn't thought it would be so hard to talk about what had happened. He'd told the basics to a few members of the Order, but at that time he'd been fairly dazed still and it hadn't felt real. Now, something twisted inside him at the memory of that dissolving mind. "He… at the end he had hardly anything left but hate. I wouldn't have thought it possible that anyone, but I don't want your parents taking on anyth- anyone they can't handle."
"We already knew he wasn't a very nice person, Harry," Hermione said, making faces at the baby.
Harry winced. Putting into words what he'd experienced seemed puny and disrespectful, and although he wanted a good home for the baby he also wanted the adoptive parents to know what they were getting into. If for no better reason than forewarned is forearmed. He – the baby, that was – needed parents who would be strong enough to cope with a child who really needed good guidance and a lot of love. "I just think they should know what they're getting into," he finished lamely.
"He's got a point," Ron said, making Harry bristle again even though he knew Ron was being logical.
Harry smoothed down the hairs on the back of his neck as Hermione said, "Mum and Dad are pretty strong. They dealt with me okay – not that I was trouble in the traditional sense, but they had to cope with the sort of support a young Muggle-born witch needs. They're the best choice when you think it through… if you knew them better you'd agree, Harry." Harry ducked his head, conceding the point. He'd never got to know Hermione's parents. He still felt awkward around Muggles – he kept expecting Mr and Mrs Granger to call Hermione a freak. Hermione continued, "They've never told me how badly they wanted another child, but when I told them… well, Mum started crying."
"What is it with babies making people cry?" Harry said. "I would have thought it would be the other way around. But even McGonagall needed a box of tissues yesterday. Why'd your mum start?"
"Probably because she knew she was about to adopt a – what did you call him, again?" asked Ron.
"Oh, hush," said Hermione, bumping her shoulder into his affectionately. "There's a doctor who's friends with Mum and Dad. I can fake some symptoms – don't ask, Ron, and you won't need to find out – and he'll write up the birth certificate to say I'm the mother. Mum and Dad were a bit dubious, but we've got to do something to get a birth certificate."
"You're going to pretend you're his mother?" Harry knew Hermione was brave, but this took the cake – bakery and all.
"Yes. Luckily Ron and I have already – um." She blushed scarlet. Ron was blushing even redder, and Harry decided a quick change of topic was in order before either of his friends spontaneously combusted. He doubted they'd get off as easily as Seve- Steven.
"Ah… Your parents. Are they going to stay in England?"
"They've been wanting to close the clinic and move to the south of France for the last two years… they only stayed because they were worried about me," she told Harry, sounding apologetic although he didn't know why. "But now they can have someone else to worry about… and it'll get them out of England. France is safer at the moment. Another old schoolmate of Dad's is too busy and needs a partner – it's ideal, especially as you said you want him to go to Beauxbatons."
Harry shook his head weakly. "It is perfect. I keep looking for the loop-hole." Any loop-hole, really, that would let him keep the baby under his protection a little longer.
"When one comes up, I'll tell you. I promise. So relax a little in the meantime. You've got enough to do, getting ready for the end of the week and everything. Me, too, come to think of it. Neville's got some really uncanny ideas – he's been talking to Luna, I bet. Ron's, well, let's just say it's about time wizards had someone in their midst who can treat war as dispassionately as a chess game."
Ron rolled his eyes. "I'm dispassionate now, am I?"
Hermione grinned. "Sorry – that wasn't quite right. But you've got a knack for strategy, that's all. Is it okay if I take him now, Harry?"
Harry eyed the massive pack of baby things. He guessed Hermione had never thought it wouldn't be okay.
"Yeah, sure. Um. Can I…?" Harry took the baby back one last time, just to check the teddy-bear blanket Remus had bought him was in place, or so he told himself. Bluish eyes that were beginning to develop pigment gazed up at him with infinite trust. Harry swallowed. "You'll be fine," he whispered huskily.
Ron shouldered the pack. He glared good-naturedly at Hermione. "Lucky you used that shrinking charm, eh?"
"Very," Hermione replied seriously, not noticing the affectionate ribbing. She was busy making sure the phoenix was tucked in with the baby. "There we go. I'll take him straight to Mum and Dad's. Coming, Harry?"
Harry shook his head. "No. I've stuff to do back at HQ." Stuff which only underscored the fact that the best way he had of keeping the baby safe was to make sure it was somewhere far, far away. Not in a war-zone, to be more precise.
Hermione sighed. "Yes. I'll see you there mid-afternoon. I've got some plans for using the Dark Mark as a portkey so we can all go in together rather than you alone…"
Harry nodded and smiled wryly. "That'd be welcome. I don't want to have everyone depending on me to get those wards down." When he'd taken the Dark Mark from the corpse something in it must have attuned to him. When anyone else tried to touch it, it turned to smoke and had to be sucked into an ether tube and distilled, which was a long, complicated process and, as Remus had said with the sort of grin that everyone was finding easier now, bloody exasperating and typical Snape. "See you then, then."
Hermione smiled and Ron nodded at Harry. "Don't worry. He'll be fine. I'll… We'll make sure he's safe for you. And him," he added, his grin slightly awry but no less genuine. "See ya, mate." The sharp crack! as he Disapparated came a split second after Hermione's.
Harry looked around. No-one had come to investigate, and if they did he'd just say it was a truck backfiring on the motorway. He started, his heart racing, when thought he saw something looking out at him.
It was a piece of mirror sitting against the fence. The rain had washed enough of the dirt from it for Harry to see his own face.
He leaned over and saw his eyes. It took him a moment to realise what the oddity about his reflection was, then he realised two things:
His scar was gone. That was good, he supposed.
But not as good at what he saw in his own eyes. That hollowed-out look of mute despair was also gone. He looked… somehow renewed.
Harry straightened and squared his shoulders. There was planning to do. He could just as easily be dead this time next week, and just because the Dementors were gone (or severely diminished at the least) didn't mean all the Death Eaters were, too, even with whatever traps Snape had left lying around. Harry couldn't stay out in the open enjoying the sun like a normal person – he was a target standing out here alone like this. Time to get back to headquarters.
But for the moment before he Disapparated, Harry lifted his face to the sky again and felt the warmth of simply being and knew there was redemption left in this world. Maybe it teetered and wobbled on its axis alarmingly, but, like some gyroscope that mysteriously generated its own spin, it never quite toppled. Fingers crossed, it knew what it was doing.
And beneath this respite of blue sky Harry knew, too, that he could and would deal with whatever the world threw at him next.
After a third crack! the alley was empty except for a small scarlet feather, which lifted and blew away in the breeze.
A/N the first: Once upon a time in a time so long ago graphic novels were called comics, a girl borrowed a comic off a friend. It was called "Tales of the Macabre" or somesuch. In between stories of human frailties and payback for bad deeds done, there was one story that girl never forgot (although she since forgot the author's name and was unable to credit that person justly for influencing a future fanfic). The story was about and old woman who lived alone except for her regrets at what she hadn't done with her life. But she was a kind woman who didn't inflict her bitterness on anyone other than herself, and one day when a pair of children brought her a shabby old bird in need of care, she took the bird in and gave it food and water and whatever medicine it would take. But the bird seemed to have a fever. It grew hotter and hotter, until it was too hot to touch. Then the house was seen to catch on fire. A man who tried to get through the fire to save her thought he saw a magnificent bird made of flame rise from the roof. No-one could have survived the heat of the blaze. But when the man went into the house, he found the old woman's sitting room untouched. The bird that had been in it was gone, as was the old woman, but in the middle of the floor was a new-born baby girl.
The man took the baby away and hoped she would grow up into someone who lived fully and without regrets.
And the girl who read the comic grew up but remembered it for years and years and finally re-wrote it with different characters. So very little of the story was hers, really; not the characters and not the idea of the second chance you get through a phoenix… but that idea is as old as the idea of the phoenix itself, perhaps, so maybe the story belongs to everyone. Maybe it's an indication of how many people feel like they need it. (Especially those who lack originality so have their fun faffing about with other writers' characters. ;-P )
A/N the second: yeah, I wanted to leave the ending open like this. If you really need to know (because that was the end of this story), Harry goes in and kicks Voldie's backside. Death Eaters, 0; Order of the Phoenix, 276. (Would have been 279, but three Malfoys managed to mysteriously Be Somewhere Else.) Fill in your own victory party scene where Ron proposes to Hermione and Moody gets so drunk he throws up on Mrs Norris and proposes to Filch. Oh, and if anyone was wondering how Snape can channel a kazillion volts without dying immediately, he's a wizard. He knows really cool stuff about… um… stuff and stuff (and thus means a fanfic writer doesn't have to work too hard on background to the plot). I have considered writing something set several years after the victory party involving Harry and Narcissa, both of whom have Major Issues concerning Dangerous Situations – well, Harry's entitled to them, poor kid. But frankly I've got enough to do with that pesky thing known as Real Life … and there's a certain tall, black, bad-tempered horse needing attention in another fanfic. Oh, and that follow-up to Katabatic which was started a year and a half ago and left to simmer… and the other follow-up to Katabatic which has been bugging me for two years… ai-ya…
Cheers to reviewers (you guys make my day better):
Oya: I think there are already enough Snape babyfics out there and I wasn't ever planning on writing one. But I'll keep it in mind as I owe you something for all the reviews you've given me… but if I do it will probably be set when he's about three or four, and it'll be Harry-centric and involve Narcissa (but not as a care-taker).
Donroth: yeah, I've never seen H/N as a pairing; she really came from out of nowhere. Glad you thought it was hot – it wasn't initially what I was aiming at but then it seemed to write itself. Yikes.
hotcocoalatte: Yes, I'm pretty certain given how upset she was in HBP she'd do anything for Draco – and renouncing Voldie wouldn't be a big step for mother who knows sometimes the best form of defence is attack.
Persephone Lupin: Yes, I think Narcissa could be the wild card in the next book. She's got the style for it, certainly. A couple of people suggested giving Snape to Molly and I do quite like her, but I thought it safer for Snape to be taken away from preconceptions. Yes… liked your epilogue! Cheers for that.
AngelFYI13: Yes, mad, bad and dangerous to know, as bookwyrm said. But with a more solid object for her love than Bellatrix has.
Bookwyrm: good – I wanted Harry to have more depth, but I'm not good at portraying the subtleties. Yes, you were right about Narcissa – it's all from Harry's PoV so the real limits of her sanity or otherwise would not be known to him. And wouldn't it rock to grow up with a phoenix?
Firestar: cheers – but that was the last chapter.
Duj: ta. I don't think canon!Snape is capable of a happy ending… or being happy, period. Not unless there's some major intervention, anyway. I get the impression he's borderline psychotic and only held in check by the forces that have driven him to the brink of insanity, ironically enough (Voldemort, his work as a spy for whichever side he takes in the end).
Lump: …or just "the baby" ;-)
LM: Cheers. I think Snape might just have lucked out with this one, though.
Bianca. Ah. The other person who wants a baby!Snape fic. I'm afraid it's going to be unlikely from me… but keep checking my page just in case, because I would most definitely be covering those points you raised. Oya is also pushing for a baby!Snape fic… it would be a young Steven fic, though and I think there are a few of those out there (Mystical Dragon did a particularly cute and angsty one). This story finishes here; I've got too much else to do, unfortunately, and it was Harry's ability to reshape his idea of the world that I wanted to work on. I decided to leave the Patronus clouded as, although I could stick any manner of mythical creatures up in the storm (and had two in particular I would have liked to use), I thought it might be more fun for the readers to "insert Patronus A into Slot B", so to speak.
SirJimmy7: yay – I really enjoyed writing Fawkes like this.
Excessivelyperky: I think Latin for hope is 'lotto' – but that may be a tad cynical of me. :-D Molly must know some people, yes, and I expect Harry might have asked her eventually, but she tends to be a bit controlling. And Harry wanted more input into Steven's future – which he should get with the Grangers, once he gets of his instinctive mistrust (which he knows is groundless with them) of Muggles. Molly's relatives might be too easy to track down for any axe-grinding Death Eater. Where is this Evil Overlord Page of which you speak? It might help me iron out my moustache-twirling clichés.
Cheers, guys. Phew! It's over. I can… hold it… what is this horse doing looking in my window? Why is it glaring at me like that? Doesn't it know this is the fifth floor? Who let it into the building, anyway? And how the hell did it get up that claustrophobic stairwell? Obviously it couldn't have come up the fire escape as those are luxury items in Taiwanese architecture…
Yeah, someone wants attention… and peppermints. Well, it will have to wait – there's a typhoon coming over and I have mops and buckets to get ready.
Anyone still reading this far? Darn. Well, if you're really bored...
I apologise in advance.
...And now for something completely different. (Cartoonish foot comes down on cartoonish Hogwarts with a squelching noise)
Here's a small 2am idea I've written out for any of you who've read this far and need something light and a little whacked-out after the above angst-fest you've just waded through. I'm afraid it just wouldn't go anywhere else. WARNING! Some dragging of POLITICS into it (you probably shouldn't read this if you're a Republican). Oh, and bad language. Spoilers for – well, goodness knows. Can't see this cropping up in anything legit.
Harry goes to an alternate dimension. (How does he get there? Who knows? Who cares?) He finds Snape, whose hair is still greasy but tied back tightly in a pony tail and who wears sunglasses even in his office. Snape of this dimension is acting as an agent for Voldemort, whose squawks of indignation can be faintly heard from the receiver held slightly away from Snape's ear.
Snape stubs out a cigarette on a Grateful Dead ashtray, baresthe yellow teeth of a terminal nicotine addictand uses his most mellow voice on the person on the other end of the line.
"Tom, Tom, whoa there, babycakes… No dark lord drives a Honda. A black stretch limo or a Humvee at the least – Arnie drives a Hummer, it's classy! Yeah, I know the Honda's a good family car, but do you think 'family guy' is really You, babe? Plus, sweetheart, think of all the fuel you'll squander! Your new idea could be to drive the major oil-consuming countries into conflict over dwindling resources and thus bring about a global – What? Done already? Who? Oh, fuck, yeah. The other Dark Lord. Yeah, well, don't worry, babe, something'll be found before you can say 'release the hounds'. Yeah, yeah… I'll get on to it. Don't worry your sweet self over it, babe. Death Eater's word. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. No problemo. Yeah. But I wouldn't advise a lengthy alliance. Short term and I'll sharpen the knife myself to make sure it goes into his back without a hitch."
Puts down phone. Asks Harry: "Who the fuck's Dubya's representative? Any idea?"
Harry shakes his head and makes sure the door isn't locked behind him.
Snape yells into intercom, "Cissy, find me Dubya's rep! And book me in for another rhinoplasty. This one's wearing off…. What? For Christ's sake, no! Not him: that's the same doctor that freak-arse pop singer used. I've got enough troubles without my nose imploding!"
Pulls open a drawer, pulls out a bottle of pills and washes down a handful with a swig of whiskey. Offers a second handful to Harry.
Slowly, Harry backs out of the room and shuts the door as quietly as possible. He clicks his heels together three times, saying, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's…" and disappears in a really cool shower of sparks that fell off the back of a Spielberg film.
Blame Bob Roberts.
(If you thought that was bad, be grateful I didn't write up the one where Snape is teaching English to Osama bin Laden. That one has a happy ending… providing you're not Osama, of course.)