A/N Third Chapter for today and LAST chapter! Don't miss 23 and 24! JCWriter

XXV

How Almost Everything is Put to Rights

Severus had no intention of waiting even one minute after that for the cure. The moment that Slughorn was safely in Thomas' hands, he sent Harry after Trelawney and sent out Owls and sparks and fires to the rest. In little more than the time it took he and Jennifer to shun their disguise spells, the two were off we St. Mungo's, and one by one, those affected and those who cared for them piled into a room together, along with the weeping Trelawney and the slightly singed Harry (who must have run into another 'friend' along the way.)

Alex sat beside her sister with a hand on her shoulder, watching intently as Severus began to murmur the countercurse. The light in the room became strange then…with the area above their heads looking darker and darker, but below the room seemed to go brighter and brighter. Finally the darkness began to swirl until a funnel developed, reaching down to Trelawney. Jennifer flinched, attempting to keep herself from reacting to the mad woman's howling as the darkness seeped into her, knowing that it was unavoidable. At last the funnel began to dissipate as only small dark clouds remained above their heads. Severus then closed his eyes, carefully reciting his poem backwards, and the cloud above his cloud too then faded. Aurelius was next, the most physically injured, and then Harry and Ginny, Anna and then Sirius, who changed shape only long enough to be sure of it before Anna pulled him back out of it. At last Alicia felt a tingle and heard the odd rhythm of her poem said, the light in her eyes growing brighter and brighter until they finally began to clear. Alicia blinked several times to try to get used to the increasing light until she began to make out shadows…and then a silhouette, and finally her father's black eyes, staring at her expectantly.

"I never thought I would glad to see you," Alicia admitted with open relief. Severus' lip twitched fractionally, but as he still had Jennifer and Corey left to do didn't comment, leaving the others to do the hugging.

"Are you sure that worked?" Corey joked, despite his lightheadedness when Severus finished the chant.

"We could open a window for you if you like," Severus offered tiredly as he finished, kneading his brow in relief.

"Do I get to push him out?" Doug joked, but was obviously glad to see his friend back to his normal. But Severus' attention had already turned back to Sibyl, shaking his head at the sobbing figure with a frown.

"Sibyl, just what are we to do with you?" Severus sighed.

"Back to Azkaban if you ask me," Harry said vehemently. "And no more visitors from friends."

"She needs help, Harry. Solitude will just make her worse," Ginny said.

"She'll only cause trouble if you try to help her," Aurelius warned. "She must face charges."

"But can we truly blame her solely for her situation?" Essie asked.

"She's a danger to the public," Sirius growled.

"You have been too, lately," Anna pointed out.

"Thanks to her!"

"Not all because of her!" Anna said quietly.

"That's enough," Severus said at last. "Victims should not be judges. It was wrong of me to ask such a question."

"Good thing Father never contacted Sibyl then, considering that he also had…" Jennifer caught herself when Severus' eyes darted over at her. "…had a bit of luck avoiding a harrowing situation."

"Yes, perhaps we should send her back to the Ministry," Severus said, and Ginny sighed.

"I'll take her out," Ginny volunteered.

"You could always put in a request that she receive medical visitations, you know," Severus added to her in a low voice as she passed him. Ginny smiled slightly at that, and then coaxed the woman up on her feet and out of the room.

"So just what was Slughorn's reasoning in all of this anyhow, Severus? After all we've suffered for it, we've a right to know," Sirius asked.

"Yes, come to think of it, you haven't told me that either," Harry said. Severus gazed at them for a long time.

"She promised him a way to cheat death," Severus finally answered. "But what he didn't understand was there truly isn't such a thing, only ways to postpone it. Sooner or later the time will come to all of us, despite our best efforts. But I for one intend to do what I can to make certain those that follow in our footsteps don't completely ruin what we leave behind."

"The fate of the world is once again in the hands of Hogwarts and Severus Snape," Harry joked.

"God help us all," Sirius added with a grin. Anna nudged him. "Think they'll let me go home now that I've learned how to sit and stay?"

"Come on, I'll help you pull a few strings. I think we could all use a good night's sleep in our actual houses," Harry said, getting up.

"Hey, let's have an old fashioned family dinner at Baker Street," Alexandria suggested. "I can't remember the last time all of us sat down together."

"Yes, I think that's a great idea. I would like to see everyone before I take off again," Alicia said, causing Jennifer and Severus both to stop and gaze at her.

"Don't tell me you're leaving all ready!" Jennifer said, glancing at Severus who frowned slightly at his younger daughter.

"I don't think there's any way I can make you understand what I've been through lately, but…I need to get away. I want to see the world again with my own eyes, paint the scenery for a change instead of what's moving on it, and remind myself not to take such things for granted…my sight, my art, or my family," Alicia said firmly. "There's just so much I haven't done or seen that I still want to see, now more than ever! I've been so busy studying art that I haven't taken much time to appreciate the background." She waited for someone to say something, but Severus and Jennifer were still gazing at her wordlessly. Alicia sighed. "I'll be back for Christmas."

"You will?" Jennifer said, brightening.

"Of course I will," Alicia said. "It's just that…just for once I'd like to go away without running," she explained.

"As you like, you are always just a painting away, after all," Severus said with a slight shrug, and Jennifer relaxed.

"That's right, and next time I'm needed home, I'm going to listen," Alicia promised, then went to join Alex, Aurelius and Andrew as they walked out the door.

"So at least something has been accomplished from all of this," Severus mused. "I suppose I should go fetch Fortuna for this little get together, and perhaps our friend 'Bill' as well…and give myself an opportunity to ask the rest of the family how long they were planning to scheme behind my back on the matter…"

"Severus, I am sorry. I suppose I should have told you when I saw him at the Sorting but, I was a bit miffed…"

"Yes you should have, then perhaps I might not have been forced to glance over his current marks and school record and eat my words," Severus said, taking her arm. "Although he is definitely going to have to lose his alter identity. I refuse to support this silly charade. Now I understand why you chose that particular spell to disguise us…"

"But he can stay?" Jennifer asked brightly.

"I can't very well turn him away now, can I, especially since his meddling along with Fortuna's cleverness is how we found out the true reason behind Slughorn's scheme. It's a good thing our rooms are on the fifth floor. He could never have known from the map that you were steps away from us instead of stories below, not that we were in any danger of losing the Stone. I had hidden it in Dumbledore's painting, which he had summarily turned over to keep them from watching," Severus said.

"Brilliant," Jennifer said with a grin. "You knew he would cover them in some way, didn't you?"

"Slughorn was a Professor here way too long not to understand that the paintings of this castle make up a lot of the security," Severus nodded. "Alicia's presence here actually gave me the idea. I doubt he would have figured out how to get it out even if he did suspect it."

"So now what's to happen to him?" Jennifer asked quietly.

"He'll die in prison from old age, I suppose, not realizing it wasn't the Stone he was looking for so much as a way to turn back the years, and that's something the Stone can't do," Severus said, Jennifer growing even more somber. "I believe I know what you're thinking about, Jennifer. You are most likely thinking of the same thing that occurred to me the moment the reason behind this all came out. How many more people out there can put together facts of events in our history and come to the conclusion that was so easily discerned by a dying man and a mad woman? That the Stone still exists," he said in a lowered voice. She shook her head.

"You made them forget about it, didn't you?" Jennifer said quietly.

"More or less; actually it was a distraction spell so they can't think about it. I had no choice, Jennifer. You must realize that," Severus said. Jennifer nodded slightly. "I convinced them that their true intention was to use the curse to fend off the Death Avatars that kept chasing him, and that is that."

"All the same, even with them out of the way, as more time goes by it will be harder to hide its existence from others," Jennifer admitted.

"Well, perhaps it's time that you let a wrinkle or two slip by as well then…." Severus suddenly found himself the recipient of a look of complete horror. "Yes, that's what I thought."

"After all, I'm a Potions Master, surely I could be using something," Jennifer said.

"So the excuse of a happy relationship doesn't work anymore, does it?" Severus taunted.

"Oh, no, that excuse died years ago," Jennifer teased.

"Send on the avatars," Severus said dryly, stepping into the mist and heading home.

The End.

And there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this second installment of the Headmaster Series. I'll most likely write another at some point, but for right now it's back to real writing for a bit...maybe in the summer...and no, I don't have a working title in mind yet, although I do have some avenues of character development I'd still like to explore, so we'll see! But for now, back to more serious projects. I really hope there were some surprises in there for you in this story, and I hope you liked Ambrose and Lucky. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the reviews! JCWriter.