Author's notes: Written for pythonblossom who wanted me to write a post-Hogwarts Snape/Luna. Many thanks to Abigail89 for all her help.
"'Do you know, I always thought unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!'
'Well, now that we have seen each other,' said the unicorn, 'if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.'"
--Lewis Carroll; Through the Looking Glass
Implausible, Irrational, Preposterous, Peculiar, and Just Plain Luna
He thought he was dead. It was the only way he could explain it.
The last thing he remembered was trying to sleep on the slab of concrete they called a bed in a cramped cell in Azkaban. There he waited, nearly a year, for the trial that everyone said was coming but that he doubted he'd live long enough to see. Suddenly, he heard voices--only not from inside his head, as was the normal case, but from outside his cell. There was a brief scuffle, a flash of bright yellow light and then--this. This place….
The sky was a soft violet, with clouds shaped like large puffy animals. Nifflers and snidgets, tadfoals and unicorns, drifted happily across the horizon. The grass at his feet was lush and striped like a candy cane. The landscape was dotted in a dizzying array of flowers of no recognizable species, colored in shades pinks and purples and blues and yellows and greens that he never knew existed in nature. Out of curiosity, he plucked a magenta-ish colored specimen whose petals started off slender and ballooned out so they appeared like overlapping teardrops. He leaned in and inhaled only to find that they smelled of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Yes, he was definitely dead. Whether it was heaven or hell remained to be seen.
The silence was broken by the tweeting of a small bird. He looked up to find the sound coming from a green and blue-checkered horse that was running across the meadow. It ran to a herd of other horses, all of varying checkerboard patterns and colors, grazing on the striped grass. The mixture of colors and shapes was nauseating. He was trying to steady himself when he sensed movement on the ground. He looked down to find that a lime-green frog had decided to make a nest on his foot. When he tried to kick the blasted thing off it mewed like a kitten.
Perhaps he wasn't dead. Perhaps, the Dark Lord returned and had finally captured him and was going to drive him to the brink of insanity until he finally killed himself just to escape the psychedelic explosion of color that was burning his retinas. Either way, Severus Snape was in trouble.
"I see you've met, Blinky."
Severus's head whipped around quickly as he reached for his wand, or more accurately, where his wand was supposed to be. His panic subsided when he realized that unless the Dark Lord had taken a new form, one of a young woman with buggy blue eyes and yellow hair wearing a necklace of tiny fluttering butterflies, he was safe. It was common knowledge that Voldemort was partial to brunettes, and butterflies made him break out in hives.
"Miss Lovegood?" His surprise at her presence disappeared when the remembered the idiosyncrasies of his environment. Luna Lovegood belonged in this place that made no sense, wherever it was. "Am I to assume that 'Blinky' is this repulsive creature that has chosen to take root on my shoe?"
"He likes you," she said plainly.
"If you like him I suggest you find him a new home."
As if understanding the words that were just spoken, or perhaps rethinking his choice of real estate, Blinky leapt off Severus's foot and onto Luna's shoulder where he (Severus assumed that the frog was a 'he' although 'Blinky' could really go either way) wrapped himself in a blanket of her hair. "Would you like some tea?" Luna asked with no acknowledgment of the frog had just perched itself on her clavicle.
"Tea?" Severus was burning with questions, the least of which was where the hell was he, but at that moment just the thought of having a hot cup of tea appealed to him in a way nothing else could. "Yes. Thank you." He hoped tea was really tea and not maple syrup or pickle brine; he had had enough surprises for one day.
He remained silent as a pair of discriminating eyes looked him over; Blinky was keeping his eye on Severus, peering at him from between the blond locks of Luna's hair. Severus wished at that moment he had his wand. There was no telling what sorts of potions he could make using such a creature.
Soon, however, all thoughts of potions experiments vanished. Any hopes of having a pleasant cup of hot tea evaporated when they came upon a small house on a hilltop. The small squat house looked more like a child's drawing than any kind of livable dwelling with its mushroom roof, rounded sides, and chimney that released heart shaped puffs of smoke. If he was lucky there would only be a cup of maple syrup waiting for him through the circular front door.
Sadly, the inside of the house was even more ghastly than the outside. There was no real furniture to speak of, nothing solid or even made of wood for that matter. Everything looked like it was made of marshmallow, gooey marshmallow. Worst of all, everything was unnaturally pink. In the middle of it all stood Severus Snape in all his black-cloaked glory, standing out like
a mortician in a three-ringed circus.
Severus paused to examine the room. Three-horned unicorns were grazing in what appeared to be murals painted right on the walls. They did not seem at all that troubled that he entered the room, and this concerned him as normally unicorns ran from him when they encountered one another in the Forbidden Forest. Between the frog on his shoe and the group of indifferent unicorns, Severus was beginning to feel that he had lost his touch when it came to frightening animals. If he were to also find that he could no longer make small children cry, then he'd have to find new hobbies and that was a bit heart breaking.
"Have a seat at the table," Luna said politely. The 'seat' was a plush pouf that rested on the floor next to a 'table' that looked to be made of spongy cork, and sat five inches off the ground. As soon as he sat down Blinky situated himself quite comfortably on an orange pillow to the left of him. It appeared that they were having a tea party. Lovely.
Severus turned for a brief second to sneer at his amphibiotic tablemate, and when he turned back the table was fully set with teacups, dessert plates, and flowered napkins. A platter overflowing with scones and muffins and all sorts of pastries sat in the middle next to a centerpiece of the misshapen flowers he had examined earlier.
Luna floated over with a teapot shaped like a phoenix's head, and began to pour out three cupfuls from its curved beak. As Severus's cup filled so did the air with the scent of what seemed to be his favorite peppermint tea. He took a sip only to find that it was just that and it already had the perfect amount of pixie-bee honey. He was nearly overcome by the warm familiarity that sat in his hand, and with an ill-advised thank you poised on his thin lips, he turned to Luna, who was softly humming as she poured out her own cup. To his surprise he found that the very same teapot that had dispensed his tea was now pouring thick hot dark chocolate into Luna's own cup. On a whim he turned to Blinky's cup to find it full of a cool pink liquid.
"It's lemonade," she said without looking up. "It's the only thing he'll drink."
Severus didn't know how to respond to that so he opted for drinking his tea and eating a currant scone. He didn't say a word as Luna chose a strawberry muffin and fed it to the three-horned unicorn on the wall mural. He was stone silent as Blinky chewed on lemon square. But when he looked out the far window to find a rainbow-striped seahorse swimming around in a blue green ocean, he had had enough.
"Where are we?"
Luna's expressionless face looked up. "We're here."
Of course, how foolish of him not realize that. "And where is here?"
"Where we are."
Severus took a deep breath, counted to twenty very slowly, and tried again. "Can you be more specific?"
She tilted her head slightly to the right. "Well, I've never really given it a name. All the good ones seemed to be taken already. I tried calling it Alfred once, but it didn't like that name at all."
Severus was wrong: she was the Dark Lord and his imminent demise was one noose and a short plank away. "Let's go about this another way. If I were to look on a globe where might I find this place?"
"Wherever we are, of course."
Severus felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on edge as his anger flared. "Listen carefully, you daft twit, if you cannot-" he began to grind out, but as the rage-filled words escaped his lips the entire house began to warp and wobble.
The walls swayed and shook and it felt like the whole place was about to implode around them. Severus grabbed Luna by the arm and rushed her outside, hoping that the house wouldn't collapse on them both, only to find that the outside was twisting and distorting in the same erratic fashion. He gasped aloud in shock. And suddenly, just as quickly as it was brought on, everything stopped and returned to its normal…to its previous state.
"What just happened?" he asked breathlessly.
"It doesn't like anger," was all she said.
"What doesn't like anger? What is this place?" He was nearly pleading now. The quirky folly of the location was quickly replaced by an ominous aura that made the peppermint tea and currant scone churn uneasily in his stomach.
"It's my place," she responded plainly.
"The place I go to get away. The one that's just for me….and now you."
"I don't –", he stopped himself because suddenly he did understand. Suddenly it became clear: mewing frogs and violet skies, teapots that held the drinker's desire, painted unicorns that ate strawberry muffins and Luna Lovegood, their sovereign queen. His legs buckled a bit and he nearly fell on the grass. He looked at Luna whose expression hadn't changed from the first time he saw her.
The Unanimis Incolumitas - the mind's haven. It took up no more than a few paragraphs in his childhood textbooks, this ancient magic that was thought to be nothing more than a fable. It said that some wizards, some very powerful wizards, had the ability to create a new plane of existence, a new world in their own minds that their corporeal forms could actually visit. It would be a safe haven in time of war or strife, a refuge in times of turmoil.
There was never any record of a wizard who could actually do this. Some thought this proved that the whole practice was just legend, folklore passed around by old wizards who liked to speak of the old days when magic was at its most pure and powerful. Others thought that it proved the wizards created so pleasant a place to visit that they never came back, choosing instead to live out eternity in their own minds.
Little was known about the practice other than it was so difficult it was thought to be impossible, a myth. But Severus found himself living within this myth, its architect, a whimsically strange girl who was barely twenty, staring back at him with large, unblinking eyes. If this was such a place, and she created it, and she also had the ability to bring him here, then he was looking at a witch whose power was inconceivable. Or, he was really insane, which seemed more likely of an answer.
"Miss Lovegood, why did this place begin to undulate as it just did?"
"I told you it doesn't like anger."
"Yes, I recall. Would you happen to know why?"
"It doesn't understand anger. It's a useless emotion."
Anger a useless emotion! Why, the mere thought of anyone making such a foolish statement made him furious. He was careful, however, not to voice his rage and keep his voice steady. "Why is it useless?"
"It just is. There is no use in being angry over something that's happened because being angry won't make it unhappen. There's no use in being angry over things that you can't help because they are things you can't help. There's no use in being angry over something other people do because that was their choice and your anger won't change that."
"You expect everyone to just accept things as they are?"
"Things can be changed or fixed without one needing to be angry. All anger does is displace reason and remove logic."
The words "reason" and "logic" coming from Luna Lovegood were more frightening than anything else he'd come into contact with so far. "Am I to understand that you, who has created a place like this, expects everyone to be….rational?"
"I don't expect anything, I just don't understand it. Anger doesn't make things better. It doesn't make people happier. It doesn't help anyone, so what's the point? Would you like to go for a swim?" she asked.
Without waiting for an answer and with Blinky in tow, she walked down past a cluster of pine trees decorated with Christmas lights and down to a pond that looked to be twice as vast as the Black Lake of Hogwarts. He didn't know how he could have possibly missed it before, and then he quickly realized that it most likely wasn't even there before that very moment.
He didn't join her. Instead he sat by the water's edge and watched as she walked right in, fully clothed. Blinky, at least, had the sense to put on a pair of red swimming trunks.
Severus watched as she splashed about laughing in high-pitched squeals as if she were a six-year-old child. Soon she was joined by a group of mermaids, not the green skinned variety that dwelt in the waters of the Scottish countryside, but the longhaired, pink-skinned beauties that lived in the imagination of all young girls.
Time passed slowly, or perhaps it didn't pass at all. It seemed to matter little. For all intents and purposes he was trapped in this world as much as he was trapped in any other, and he could do nothing but watch his captor play in the waters of some pretend pond. To make matters worse he had to be careful not to express anger or else the whole place could collapse around them. He had no idea what would happen after that. They might return to the real world or they might be dissipated in the ether. Neither of those options appealed to him at the moment.
He was staring blankly at the ground in front of him when two bare feet came into view. Luna was out of the water, completely dry, and currently looking down at him.
"Time to go home."
This time home turned out to be a small, delightfully rectangular residence that cropped up right next to Luna's toy house. It was sturdy looking, made of what seemed to be thick mahogany planks with only one window that had a thick dark green curtain covering it. Inside looked just like his old quarters at Hogwarts complete with four-poster bed, a well-stocked workstation, and shelves full of books and rolled parchment.
"How did you know what my private room looked like?" he asked, half-outraged, half-awed.
"I didn't," she said softly. "Good night."
He turned to her departing form. "Night? What do you mean night? It isn't dark out." He looked up to the violet sky and its cumulus menagerie, and noticed with a start that there was no sun. It was bright as noon and warm as a summer's day but there was no sun in the sky. On a whim, he looked down and realized that he cast no shadows on the ground. By the time he turned to Luna to mention this she was gone.
He had questions, nothing but questions, but he had no strength left to ask them. He didn't even bother to undress as he fell onto his bed and welcomed beautiful blackness.
The next morning -- he assumed it was morning thought he had no real way of telling -- came quickly. Severus opened his eyes to find the same austere surroundings he fell asleep to. He didn't know how much was a dream and how much was real, but for the simple comfort of waking up in his own private sanctuary, he was grateful.
With a sigh, he leaned back and closed his eyes. He thought of those months just before he found himself in this place, in the strange recesses of an addled mind, but realized he couldn't recall much. He was sure he remembered yesterday, but today there was little left. There was a room or rooms he was confined in and possibly, or most likely, an angry mob outside his window. Nothing else came to mind. Before he could dwell on it too long, he felt a weight bearing down on his chest. He opened his eyes to find Blinky sitting on him.
"He likes you," floated in the ethereal voice that was the only real thing in his life at the moment.
"You had mentioned that." Severus sat up and the frog slid down and landed on his lap with a soft mew.
"Why don't the animals look or sound the way they are supposed to?" he asked as Blinky licked a flipper and rubbed it against his temple.
Luna picked up the frog. "How do you know what they sound like? Have you ever listened?"
Severus went to answer back but, shockingly enough, the girl had a point. He had never really spent much time with animals. Not live ones, anyway. By the time he got them they were chopped up and pickled in jars in his supply cabinet. His idea of how animals behaved or sounded came from descriptions others had relayed to him, things he'd read, or simple assumptions. Who was he to say how they truly sounded, or if humans could even register the sounds correctly?
It suddenly occurred to him that Luna made a point and that he just defended it, albeit to himself. He found this development disturbing.
"Breakfast is outside. I thought we'd have a picnic."
"Of course, you did." Severus got up, thanked whatever god Luna left offerings to that there was a normal bathroom with normal bathroom things, and went out to have a picnic.
Much to his surprise the picnic was to be held on a real table with real chairs. This day was definitely looking up. Severus sat down in the empty seat across from Luna and to the left of Blinky. He was stunned to see the table full of his favorite breakfast foods: poached eggs, peppered mushrooms and sausages, fried tomatoes, toast with blackcurrant jam, melon slices, and a steaming pot of tea.
"You're hungry today," Luna chirped as she sat down.
Severus looked up to find Luna placing fresh strawberries in a bowl of hot porridge. Out of a quickly growing habit, he looked over to find Blinky chomping happily on a kipper.
"Did you make all this?" he asked as he sat and began eating.
"No, you did."
Severus had no idea what that meant. He would ask later along with the slew of other questions that had been bothering him since he first appeared in this strange place. First, he would eat until he exploded and then, once he finally did explode, he would eat again. He couldn't remember ever being so hungry; moreover, he couldn't remember food tasting so good.
"Today I thought we'd go ride the unicorns," Luna said, waking Severus from a near comatose state after the ingestion of more food that he would normally eat in a week.
"What unicorns? The only unicorns I've seen are the ones painted on your walls."
"Those are the ones."
Severus was about to ask how she planned on doing that when he stopped himself. This wasn't the real world, this was Luna Land and sane-people rules didn't apply here. If Luna wanted to ride unicorns that were painted on walls she could do so and quite easily. Instead, Severus chose to begin asking the questions that needed to be answered.
"Why am I here?" She went to answer, but he put his hands up and stopped her. He was leaving much too much room open for Luna's interpretation, and that was dangerous. "Why have you brought me here, to your private place?"
"We needed time."
"Time for what?"
This was not really the answer he was expecting. He was prepared to hear that this was some sort of punishment for a lifetime of bad choices or some prison meant to torture him with its excruciating cheer. "What are you preparing? I thought the matter was already decided and the trial itself was a formality."
"It was, but they made a mistake and we are trying to fix it."
The ridiculous thought that Luna Lovegood was trying to help him escape incarceration passed quickly through his mind. It made about as much sense as the orchard of trees whose tops spun like a pinwheels that had just popped up to the left of Luna's house. "Who is 'we'?" he asked cautiously.
"Me and Harry, Ron and Neville, Hermione, Ginny; the usual crew who do these sort of things."
"Harry? Potter?" The absurdity of the place paled in comparison to that last comment. "What are you talking about? Are those the names of the voices in your head?"
"They told me not to tell you."
"The voices in your head?"
This made her smile "You know who I'm talking about."
"Fine….the usual crew who do these sort of things. So then why tell me?"
"Because it's the truth and you've been lied to enough."
Severus froze at her words. She said them like she said everything else, without real inflection or emotion, just stating it like another might say "Today is Tuesday", or "It's 6 o'clock." But that one sentence, those few words, struck him mute.
"Now is when you ask me for more information," she said as she spread lime marmalade on burnt toast.
Severus didn't actually say anything in response, he gave a small nod instinctively knowing that Luna would know what it meant.
"Hermione figured it all out, like she figures out everything else. She kept saying there were too many things that didn't make sense, and you know how she hates things that don't make sense. She found out about the promise that you made to Draco's mum and figured that Dumbledore knew what was going to happen. She even reckons that you didn't want to do it in the first place but that he made you."
Severus heard the words she was saying but was confused by them. They sort of made sense, more than he thought she was capable of, but they couldn't possibly mean what he thought they meant. It was far more likely that he was losing his mind.
She cocked her head. "This is where you ask me what convinced Harry."
That is exactly what he wanted to ask but he wouldn't let her have the satisfaction. "If you know what I'm supposed to ask why don't you just tell me?"
"It's no fun to talk to yourself. I do that enough."
"Fine," he said with a sigh. "What convinced Potter?"
Minerva McGonagall could have waltzed across the meadow wearing little more than a purple beret and a feather boa, and he would have been less shocked than he was at that moment. "Longbottom? Neville Longbottom? How?"
"Good question." She smiled with pride as if she has just taught Severus a new trick. "Neville said Dumbledore didn't beg."
"What?" His head was beginning to spin.
"When Harry told everyone what happened in the tower, about how the Headmaster said, 'Please' or 'Severus, please' something like that, Neville said that Dumbledore would never plead for you not to kill him. That it must have meant something else."
Severus sat back and let her words sink in. He thought of that night, the night he…he…
"Stop, please." He placed his hands on the table palms down, trying to brace himself. Images were swirling around his head, voices called his name, and an invisible hand was tightening around his neck. It was too much. "I can't… I'm going back to my rooms."
Mercifully, she didn't try to stop him as stumbled back to his quarters. He fell onto the bed and closed his eyes and prayed for time to stop.
The look on Albus's face has haunted him every day since it happened years ago. It worked out as the Headmaster had said it would. Potter found the horcruxes, Voldemort was destroyed, order was restored. All that was left was his trial – the event of the century. A queue a mile long would wait to see the execution, see it all end once and for all. Among them was Severus, who just wanted it to be over – one way or another.
He stayed in his rooms for some time. Days maybe, it was hard to tell in this place. When he got really hungry food would appear, but otherwise he was left on his own and he was truly grateful. Whatever else Luna was or wasn't she knew when to give him his space. At least for a while. He wasn't surprised when there was finally a knock on his door.
"Come in, Miss Lovegood," he called out.
He heard the door click shut and the sound of feet shuffling across the floor.
"How did you know it was me?" she asked
He sat of on the edge of his bed and she sat down next to him. They were both silent for several minutes until she finally spoke.
"Regret is useless too," she said softly.
"Will the walls come crashing down?"
"No. It understands regret. But it's still a useless thing."
"Because it can't change anything?"
"And it can't make things better?"
He turned to her. "How do you do it?"
"Stop yourself from feeling it."
She smiled. "I come here."
"Why would you ever leave?"
"That's something I can't answer for you." She got up from the bed and stood before him.
"Come with me there's someone I want you to meet."
She slid her small hand into his and gently guided him back outside. Against his better judgment he allowed her to do so, partly because he truly felt he had no choice, and he hadn't the strength to fight her or this place any longer, but also partly because he liked the way her hand fit in his. It had been decades since someone held his hand.
They walked for a bit along the shore of Luna's lake. Severus was on the lookout for three- headed grindylows or twenty legged spiders, what he had not expected to find was a woman.
"Severus," Luna stated, "this is Mother."
Severus blinked several times at the person before him. She look like and older version of Luna with dark hair and could very well be her mother….but Luna's mother was dead. Had been dead for years. And no spell -- no spell -- could bring back the dead.
"You have questions?" the ghost asked.
"Always," he replied. "I always have questions."
"Not for me. For him." She motioned to something behind Severus and he froze. He knew who was behind him. He knew the moment he saw the elder Lovegood that this journey would not end before the faced his nightmares one more time.
"It's all right Severus," said a painfully familiar voice.
"No," he whispered. "It's not."
"Will you not turn around?"
"I…I can't." True to his word he was paralyzed. His heart was pounding wildly, and he prayed that this blasted place understood abject fear because if it didn't they were all about to implode in a truly spectacular display.
"Oh, Severus," the voice said mournfully. "Still so much hurt. So much grief. I can't tell you how much it pains me to know that I caused you such misery."
"You didn't. It was me. I .." He didn't know when it happened but he was alone. Luna was gone as was her mother. There were no animals stirring, no wind blowing, nothing but Severus and a past he still could not face. "Why are you here?"
"You brought me here."
"I most certainly did not."
"But you did, Severus. Have you not noticed yet that this place consists of your thoughts? Its very fabric is woven from your memories and your hopes, from your desires and your needs."
He shook his head wildly. "This is Luna's madness, not mine. "
"It was her's and now, it is yours as well."
Whatever it was was trying to confuse him, to hurt him for a lifetime of foolish mistakes and bad choices. "Are you here to punish me?"
"No, child. I'm here because you need forgivenss."
He felt his legs go weak. "Don't….don't say another word."
"I can't do this." He tightened his hands into fists. "Why couldn't you all just leave me alone? Why couldn't you just let me die?"
Severus felt the presence behind him move closer. "Because your time is not over. There is still much for you to do."
He laughed. "My usefulness ceased with the down fall of the Dark Lord."
"But your life didn't."
"The one you deserve to live, Severus. You've already sacrificed everything. You've made your penance. You've earned your absolution. It is time for you to live, not for others, but for yourself."
It was him, it had to be. Only he knew what Severus needed to hear, only he understood…"How do I do that?"
"You begin by turning around."
Whatever was behind him he had to see, see for himself. It was time to end this…one way or another. Severus closed his eyes and very slowly turned until he was facing the direction of the voice. Try as he might, however, he couldn't get himself to open his eyes.
"It is time, Severus. If you don't face me now you never will, and all this will all have been for naught."
Severus felt the tear travel down his face and he realized it was the first tear he had shed since he was an infant. He didn't cry when his mother died. He didn't cry when he fled Hogwarts. He didn't cry when he watched the memorial at the white tomb from a nearby mountaintop. But he was crying now, shedding this one tear for all the times he couldn't. "I can't do it. I can't face you."
With those words he let out a sob and opened his eyes. "Albus," he said in a strained breath and fell onto his knees. A pair of strong arms encircled him and held him close.
"There, there, Severus. It's all right."
"Albus, I'm…I'm sorry."
"Enough regret, dear boy. Enough sorrow." He held Severus tighter. "I never blamed you. I am not the one you need forgiveness from. I never was."
He clutched onto the arms that held him. "Don't leave me here, Albus. Take me with you."
"I told you already, it is not your time. There is still much to do."
"There's nothing for me here."
The arms around him grew tighter. "There's everything, Severus. Just don't be afraid to open your eyes."
There was a flash of white light and then, Albus was gone.
Severus remained rooted to the spot, his sore knees digging into the soft ground. He could still feel the headmaster's arms holding him, still hear the voice of the man he thought of as his father. He never wanted to move again.
"It's all right to get up." Luna's soft voice woke him from his reverie.
He looked up at her big round eyes. "I ….I can't."
"They don't ever leave us, you know," she said as she placed a hand on his shoulder.
He let out a soft sigh. "I don't know anything."
"That's not true. If anything, you know too much. Perhaps it's time to forget for a little while."
He looked up at her to ask her what she meant but he couldn't get the words out. Instead he remained frozen as she leaned forward and placed a small kiss on his lips. Neither closed their eyes, but instead watched each other as their lips met in the middle.
She pulled back and smiled. "Did I do that right?"
He only nodded back slowly. "It was fine."
Luna reached out a small hand. "Would you like to swim with me today?"
Without thinking on it too long, he answered: "Yes….yes, I believe I would."
He couldn't tell how much time had passed, months at the very least. He grew to understand the place, and after a time, the place grew to understand Severus as well. There was a magic there like nothing he had ever seen and doubted he would ever see it again. It was born of not only the most powerful of ancient magic but from the mind of a woman whose ability to believe in impossible things made it possible at all.
Everything seemed to taste better, perfectly seasoned food that never got cold, fresh fruit that was always in season. Soon, he found himself not quite so skeletally thin, and his skin had lost its sallow tint before long.
He shed his clothes early on, his thick black robes seemed out of place. He was free from them as well. Instead, in his closet he found of pair of light linen pants and they would be the only wardrobe he needed.
Severus swam with mermaids and ran with unicorns. He played games with Blinky and rode green and blue-checkered horses.
And there was Luna, who was maddening and enchanting. Beautiful and frightening. Implausible. Irrational. Preposterous. Peculiar. Insane and yet, the most sensible person he had ever met. Severus had not kissed her again after that one time, but he thought of it everyday.
If pressed, he might say he was happy. It seemed the right word but, frankly, he had had little experience with the emotion. The one thing he knew about it was that it was fleeting, so when he saw Luna walk toward him in the same dress she wore when he first entered the Unanimis Incolumitas he knew it was over.
"It's time to go back, isn't it?"
She had his robes, the heavy black robes of the real world in her arms. "What happens now?" he asked.
"We go back and make things right."
He took the robes from her. They felt like lead in his arms. "Can't we stay here?"
"You know we can't."
"I believe I told you once before I don't know anything."
Luna reached up and placed a lock of stray hair behind his ear. "You can't know joy without also knowing sorrow. If we stay here too long we forget how to live and only know how to be. And where's the fun in that?"
He knew she was right. He had come to know that she was always right. Without another protestation, he dressed. When he was done he turned to her. "We won't come back here, will we?"
"We might and we might not. The thing about this place is that it's always here when we need it, but we may find that we don't need it anymore."
"How can you know that?"
"Because we have each other and that's more than either of us ever had before."
He looked at this woman, this maddening, enchanting, beautiful, frightening woman and finally gave in to every temptation he ever repressed. He reached over to her and, placing his hands on either side of her waist, he kissed her. Her lips were soft and plush against his and he couldn't help but wrap his arms around her and lift her off the ground as he pulled her in tighter. Severus felt a warmth travel through his body, starting at that kiss and extending to the tips of his fingers and toes. When he finally released her he found her eyes closed and a smile across her face.
"Did I do that right?" he asked.
She nodded back enthusiastically. "It was perfect. I look forward to the next one."
"I promise you won't have to wait very long."
"Good," she said, her smile widening. "Are you ready to leave?"
"No, but I'm ready to get on with my life." He paused. "What about Blinky?"
"Oh, he's coming with us. He's already packed. Says someone has to take care of us, whatever that means. Is that all right?"
"Of course," Severus said with a smile. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Severus grabbed her hand and held it tightly. He was ready now and face the world and, more importantly, his future. And when the yellow light came to carry them home, he met it with his eyes open wide.Finis