The 'cousins' had dutifully packed the contents of the house and workshop for transportation to the castle. Grandpa Brian proved beyond useful and after 'liberating' his own father from a Wizarding retirement village in Wales, had turned up at Hogwarts with all of the Bezoar's possessions in tow, much to the delight of Albus who managed to reacquaint himself with an old housemate.
"Slytherin! You were in Slytherin?"
Albus looked more amused than ever as he helped himself to a glass of pumpkin juice. Livia looked confused and furious at the same time.
"What's wrong with Slytherin? Daddy was in Slytherin."
"So was Voldemort."
"And Gramps and Granddad Albus!"
Sirius looked nonplussed for a moment as he faced off against the young girl. He didn't want to admit that he liked her, but he had never met a more honest child. They were all honest to a fault. Something that he could willingly attribute to their mother, but in evidence it seemed to come more from their father, which he had a problem with. The big problem though, was articulating his own problems, because when it came down to it, the Snapes had the winning ticket when it came to honesty and he didn't seem to be able to tear it from their grasp. And now, here was the Snape wife's grandfather and Albus Dumbledore reminiscing about their time in Slytherin. Sirius felt that he would choke on his own vomit if he actually managed to keep food down long enough for it not to cut off his air supply.
Harry and Ron looked equally horrified, only their food seemed to be more inclined to slide down their chins and back onto their plates until Hermione thumped a hard wide wooden heel onto a foot apiece. Minerva cast them a chastising glare and transfigured their serviettes into baby bibs, which sent all three small children into fits of giggles.
Severus wiped his own mouth to smother his amusement. Jude however was frowning at her grandfather.
"Jude, have I done something wrong?"
She frowned silently for a moment and then gestured to her family.
"You disappear off into what we are told is a Care Home because you 'needed full time care', which actually turns out to be a Wizarding retirement village. We haven't seen you over Christmas since before Zinia was born and have to travel all the way to Wales to see you. Now here you are levitating sculptures which I have to hire a crane to move to a gallery after beaming yourself and Dad and all of our stuff here. When we beamed over to Hogsmeade, we all had to be taken by different people. So I am assuming that what you did was pretty powerful, which begs the question 'why have you been pretending to be a crippled old man' and why couldn't you just beam over to see us?"
"I can't remember the word…"
"Thank-you. Don't avoid the question."
"I wasn't trying to. I understood that your parents had raised you entirely muggle…"
Brian choked a little on his food and looked a little sheepish.
"Well, I may have told them a thing or two. It was Mary who didn't want them to know really."
Jude's frown deepened. Severus gently took hold of her hand and squeezed reassuringly before turning to his father in law and Jude's grandfather.
"Perhaps this would be a discussion to have in private." The thought "don't you ever talk to each other?" drifted through his mind but refused to take hold. After all, he really didn't have any moral ground when it came to hiding one's magic.
After lunch Severus gathered the children together and took them off for a walk into Hogsmeade. The promise of a visit to a sweet shop, a pet shop and a magical joke shop managed to sway them away from their visiting relatives. Severus hoped that Jude would get the answers she wanted whilst they were away.
Albus Dumbledore lifted the tapestry and stood quietly for a moment just staring at the door in front of him. There was a time when he had come down here every night, hoping that it would all have been a bad dream or that what had happened could be undone. Many nights had found him crying for that which was lost. Selfish tears for himself and empathically spun tears that came through realisation. In the end he had had to choose his own sanity because continuing the ritual would have surely worn away at it and he would have sealed himself in with the power of grief.
A softly spoken word opened the tomb that he had created to his biggest guilt. Cold air and dusty stagnancy churned out into the corridor. The smell overpowered like a mixture of decomposed rodent and stale milk. Albus couldn't help but feel that the scent was fitting.
The room was reminiscent of the bedrooms of dead children, where the mother has preserved the last moment of life for eternity, refusing to let go in case she ceases to exist without the memory of destroyed joy and eternal pain. This was no child's bedroom though and the darkness exemplified the more tragic and depraved nature of the guilt. No mother would send her child into hell to play tag with the Devil but he had. So the room had sat in this state for over a decade. Not depicting the last moments of a child's joy, not cataloguing costumes from school plays and enshrining much loved toys but symbolising his own mistakes and failures.
Where the soft downy dressing gown of a beloved son would hang, a blood stained Death Eater robe was crucified on the door stile. There were no fairy tales on the book shelves, the well thumbed here were all survival manuals against dark creatures and darker arts.
The dried remains of Dreamless Sleep sat in place of a water jug and the bed was stark, bare of bear, symbolising the nature of 'alone'. There were no windows for an external perspective, all walls brought the occupant most introspectively away from the rest of the world, but on the shelf where a windowsill might have sat lay the one item that might have been found in the world of a beloved son. The glass tubes and rubber bungs set up to decant oil from a plant to a vial. More than reminiscent of a muggle chemistry set but for the deadly poison that had once been decanting there.
Albus had left it intact, untouched. Broken wand and obtuse note still where he had dropped them in his horror on the first day. He shuffled around the room, trying to decide just what it was he was here to do today. He had meant to do something, prepare them, offer them back or just wipe the past a little cleaner as time was allowing it. But now that he was here all he could remember was a few desolate moments when his beloved boy had opened up the Pandora's box of his mind and released the torment. Stooping to pick up Severus' last letter he couldn't help but think that, for himself, hope had most definitely been locked up inside these walls.
But Severus had escaped, taken only hope with him and now, maybe, this macabre mausoleum was no longer necessary.