ARE WE THERE YET?
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit tribute to the works of JK Rowling who created and, together with her publishers and licensees, owns the characters and settings elaborated herein.
Thanks to my reviewers and especially to my previewers, Bellegeste and Cecelle. This story is not compatible with HBP, as it is the sequel to a story written before that came out, but it draws on HBP canon where possible.
"Are we –"
" – there yet?" asked Arielle and Aislynn in the twin-speak they'd been learning from their Uncles George and Fred for seven years. It had been cute when they were four.
"We'd have been there hours ago if only we'd Apparated with Am and Addie and Alison!" Thea said, with as much energy the fiftieth as the first time she'd said it.
"Shut up, Thea!" said one of her younger sisters. "You're the only one in the car with a license."
"We've got dozens of cousins. They're picking up the Grangers that way; they could have picked you up too," Thea said. Her parents had offered Aunt Hermione's parents a lift, but they'd had the sense to take the short way there. Her mouth thinned. "Besides, Dad could Apparate if only he wasn't so stubborn."
"That's enough, Anthea!" her mother snapped. "Your father's given all of you the choice of which world to live in and you will give him the same courtesy. Not another word!"
Thea folded her lips and glowered at Aggie and Alfrida, who were glaring back at her.
"But are we –"
" – there yet?" the twins wailed.
As their daughters climbed out of the minibus forty minutes later and ran into the house, Adam and Manda heaved a dual sigh of relief.
"She'll grow out of it," Manda said, patting his arm. Thea was the most like him. Was that why he and she were always arguing?
Adam stared at and through the steering wheel at the red-brown ground where the dirt road petered out into his mother's yard. The girls loved it here. They had only happy memories of the place.
"Will she?" he asked. "I didn't."
Manda twitched at the sleeveless jersey shift-dress and lace shrug that had sparked a twenty minute tirade from Thea that morning – too pink, too Muggle and too slinky for a mother to wear – and pulled out her lipstick.
"You're here, aren't you?" she said.
Adam stared across the yard, empty of chickens for once, ahead to the space beside the front door that used to hold a jumble of Wellington boots, summer and winter. It too had been cleared and the door had been repainted the same colour.
The party had spilled over from the house into the garden. Adam wandered through the crowd, sometimes with his wife, sometimes without, as groups formed and reformed around them or she went off to help her sisters-in-law with the food. He made laborious conversation with his extended family – at least the nephews and nieces got his name right – shook hands with Harry and Hannah Potter, and smiled pleasantly at all comers till his cheeks ached and his eyes smarted.
"We do appreciate the effort," said a voice at his ear.
Adam turned and smiled.
"Severus, congratulations! I was looking for you."
"I thought you might be. I was Marking the Circle with Neville." He should have known Callie would insist on a traditional ceremony, complete with all observances, even the traditional duties of the fathers of bride and groom.
"Little Callie a bride!" Adam marvelled. "I can still see her bossing my girls around as if she had eleven little sisters instead of just one. Remember how excited she was with each new baby?"
Twenty-one years of memories flooded Severus's mind, from the first time he'd held her, a squalling, furious bundle that fitted neatly into the crook of his arm, with her mother's nose and his mother's hair, till the kiss she'd given him this morning at breakfast.
"I could hardly forget," he said grimly, "as she used to ask searching questions about why we didn't give her any of her own."
"I never knew that. What did you tell her?" Adam said.
"We persuaded her to settle for kittens. She always was as obstinate as her mother." He'd never been able to refuse her anything, from the first time she'd held a pudgy little baby hand out to yank at his hair and stuck her finger in his nose instead.
"And as caring. I don't think Ron would ever have got through school without Hermione," Adam said. "I don't know whether the same holds true for Callie's friends, but they're certainly lucky to have her beside them."
"You know she credits you with making the match."
"Yes, she told me." Adam smiled, remembering what Callie had said. If Frank and I hadn't spent all third year sneaking around trying to figure out where you fitted into his family, it might never have occurred to us to try fitting me in too. "I'm sure she gives me too much praise for something that was probably inevitable from the moment they were born."
"Not inevitable, I believe, but certainly not unlikely." His friendship with Neville was of longer date than their children's births and their wives had been close since school.
"Who'd have thought with both of us having only girls that we'd wind up connected by marriage?" Adam mused.
"I certainly didn't expect Callie to marry a Gryffindor." Much less a Longbottom.
His eyes roamed over dozens of heads in all shades of red, from strawberry-blonde to deepest auburn, with a sprinkling of brown, black, golden, grey and silver. The guests were mostly colleagues, students and ex-students – and ninety percent of them were Housemates. It was a very Weasley wedding.
Adam's mouth twitched.
"Marrying cross-house is one of the things she gets from you."
"So Hermione's been reminding me," Severus said.
She'd smiled as she told him he couldn't blame their daughter for doing the same thing he'd done and he'd held back the thought that it wasn't the same, not the same at all. He'd been starting afresh, having pulled his old life down around his ears. It hadn't been a free choice, as his daughter's was, a choice amid plenty; it had been a choice of desperation and need, one oasis in a desert of desolation. And it had proven a good choice, a happy choice – but there were too many Gryffindors here.
"Frank's a lot like his father," Adam said. As sweet-tempered as Neville, but with more of Ginny's brass. "They'll be happy together."
"They're lucky." Adam stared into the medium distance, absently noting where a gnome popped up his head, gaped and swiftly disappeared. How often he'd helped de-gnome the garden as a child, before the job was passed to younger brothers. "To find what they need so close to home." He closed and opened his eyes and sighed again. "To know that their choices are approved and applauded."
Severus's eyes clouded.
"They are lucky," he agreed. To have roots they don't need to cut in order to flourish in the sunshine. "I hope all our girls are as fortunate."
Both men gazed out at the crowd, remembering other times that would never return.
"Why such sombre faces at such a happy time?" Minerva asked as she joined them. "You do have such a talent for moping when you should be merrymaking, Severus." Under her pointed emerald hat, her eyes twinkled. "Adam, you haven't met my husband, I believe. Amory Marchant, Adam Wales."
Adam smiled mechanically as they shook hands. He should have been happy at least someone remembered he wasn't Percy any longer, but it only reminded him that his siblings did not.
"Pleased to meet you at last. You're the man who broke the curse," he said.
The man was since his time but he'd heard of him, of course. The longest-serving Defense teacher since Grindelwald days, his daughters' Head of House: so this was Severus's mentor, as Severus was his.
"I believe the credit for that goes to Mr Potter," Amory replied. "He disposed of the caster and the curse disposed of itself."
"Indeed. We have so much to be thankful to Harry for," said Severus, with a slight edge. He owed Harry more than he liked to remember.
He hadn't been able to refuse Harry's offered forgiveness seven years ago, but the knowledge that Harry knew one of his darkest secrets, his hand in his parents' deaths, had been like a gall chafing his spirit, prompting him to confess it to Hermione that same night. He'd expected her to draw back in horror. Instead she'd drawn him close and held him, stroking his hair, his cheek against her breast, till he stopped trembling.
"I wondered," was all she'd said. "But nothing from that time could ever change things between us."
After that, perforce, he'd been family with the Potters. He admitted the necessity; family were the companions you didn't get to choose.
"About time you admitted that," Minerva said trenchantly. "The number of time we argued over that boy when he was at school! You wouldn't hear a word in his favour."
And he didn't want to hear one now either, so he said nothing.
"Old hurts have sharp points," Amory said, stroking his neat beard. "All the more when they rip you unawares at times of celebration."
Severus frowned. At Draco's naming ceremony, Narcissa had cried for her sisters and Lucius had – No! He wasn't going to think of the Malfoys. He was never going to think of them. He turned his head to watch Bill's scarred face crease into a smile of welcome as his older daughter transferred a whinging toddler into his arms.
"Life and loss go together as surely as tree and leaves," Amory mused. "Few joys stay evergreen forever and yet new life seeds in the litter."
Adam looked up. You could always tell when someone spoke from personal experience, however flowery their language.
"Does the tree regret losing the leaf as much as the leaf regrets the tree?" he asked. And which am I, in this situation? Leaf torn adrift or tree reft of cover?
"At first. But then new leaves grow. Not in the same place perhaps, but grow they do."
"Only to fall again." Adam's eyes stared into memory. And once fallen, they couldn't be put back. Whether they wanted it or not.
"Yes. Each binding is a severing, each beginning an end. We welcome the new life even as we mourn the old."
When Severus found Hermione again, she was reminiscing with the Longbottoms. The shimmering, shifting greens of her robes reminded him of the cold January morning in Malfoy Forest almost twenty-five years earlier when she'd looked at him with seeing eyes for the first time. When he occasionally still woke shivering from nightmares, that was the image he placed behind his eyelids as he burrowed his face in his wife's irrepressible curls.
"I can't even remember any more why I was so scared of him then," Neville was saying as Severus approached from behind. "It just seems silly now."
"Boo," Severus said in his ear.
Neville turned his head, smiling.
"Twenty-five years too late for that," he pointed out.
"I've always wished I'd seen it," Ginny added. Severus dressed as her gran-in-law, heels, handbag and all, had been hilarious in the retelling all those years ago and had quickly entered into school legend, but it must have been even funnier in the seeing.
"It was rather unforgettable." Hermione's lips quivered and her eyes laughed into her husband's.
"Is that why you made Madame Malkin add green trim to my robes?" he grumbled, flicking fretfully at the piping on his cuffs. He didn't think he'd ever seen the cantankerous old biddy in any other colour.
"No, but now you mention it, I recall that the vulture hat suited you perfectly," Hermione teased. "What's wrong with green? It's the only colour other than black or grey that you ever wear."
"Only to House Slytherin matches," he defended, "or sometimes a scarf in winter."
"I didn't expect you to mind wearing Slytherin colours," she said bemused. "Now, if it had been crimson!"
""It probably will be, next time," Ginny said. Neville's Great-Auntie Enid was beckoning from the back door. Ginny pointed to him as well as herself in mute question. It seemed they were both wanted. "Just wait till it's Cammie's turn."
Severus scowled after them.
"Next time," he muttered. "As if this isn't bad enough. It's such a very Gryffindor wedding."
"Look around you." Hermione's eyes were as bright and brown as ever. "You're leading such a very Gryffindor life."
It was true. Here were his family, his confidants and closest friends, the people he'd surrounded himself with, the people he'd chosen or that had chosen him. The ones that were left.
"Severus?" A voice came at his left. "Do you think Manda would come to the Quidditch World Cup in Calais if we got them all tickets?"
He turned and raised an eyebrow.
"Ronald, I know Quidditch is the be-all and end-all of your life, but –"
"If you weren't so fond of the sound of your own sneer, I could get a word in edgewise. It's nothing to do with what I like. It was something Percy said that gave me the idea."
"You mean Adam."
The younger man ignored him and blithely continued.
"See, I asked him if there wasn't anything at all he missed about being a wizard and he said 'Not really, except Quidditch.' " His voice rose on the last word.
His listeners were similarly surprised.
"You don't think that might be just trying to find common ground, because you're coaching the Cannons Juniors?" Hermione asked.
"More likely you misheard him saying 'Quitting it,' " suggested her husband sourly.
"Ha, ha," Ron replied, unabashed. "I was gobsmacked, of course, because he never played that I can remember, but he said just because he didn't play didn't mean he didn't like watching and he'd never really got into Muggle sports. So I talked it over with the others – we're all going – and we thought, why not, eh? We haven't done anything together as a family since the Death Eaters spoiled the Cup in '94. And Mum didn't come that time."
"You're doing something together as a family now," Hermione pointed out. "I'd have thought a wedding was a better way of getting together than Quidditch."
"That's just because you don't like it yourself," Ron said, sharing with Severus a glance of entirely male exasperation at her incomprehension of the important things in life.
Hermione gave her husband a surreptitious poke in the side.
"Don't tell me you're planning to go too," she said.
"While the thought of ruining all my students' and ex-students' pleasure is a tempting one, no. I've far too much to do in relation to the Ministry's latest nonsense." Reviving the Triwizards again! Had they learnt nothing from last time?
The ceremony began at midday. Severus stood next to Hermione. Heart swelling, he looked at his girls, Callie, her hair like a fall of dark silk over the cream gown that her mother and grandmother had worn before her, and Cammie, a quicksilver sprite in jade-green, silver ribbons coiled in her hands.
Behind them stood their best friends, Gerrilyn and Tavia and Alison, in jade likewise, and beside them, Frank and four of his cousins, their heads as bright as copper kettles. And almost as empty, he repeated to himself the words he'd so often flung at them in school, knowing he was being unreasonable. They were none of them talented brewers, but they were well enough.
From across the Circle, Neville caught his eye and smiled. Severus felt his mouth twitch into an unaccustomed smile in return. Ginevra slipped her hand into Neville's and her head against his shoulder. All here were family, or near enough so.
The old familiar words washed over them.
"May you be to each other as air on a mountain-peak, water in the desert, fire on a cold night, the good earth, ever-giving. May wisdom guide you, kindness unite you, passion warm you and loyalty sustain you…"
Now for the Binding, now the loving-cup. On their wives' return, he moved forward in unison with Neville, his cloak in his hands, and presented it, as he and Neville intoned the ritual release.
"Go with good fortune, go with good will, go with my blessing, to new home and hearth."
Frank wrapped the cloak around himself and his new bride, holding it high with one hand as he kissed her beneath it.
And it was done. A binding and a severing, just as Amory had said.
"They say that life is a journey," Neville told the assembly after the feast. "The important thing is not how quickly you get where you're going, but that you go in the right direction. Together."
Adam squeezed his wife's hand in silent thanksgiving, yet he couldn't help wondering. Are we there yet?
"Frank, Callie." Neville smiled at his son and new-made daughter. "Remember that the best travel companions understand that the trip is better than the destination and take time to enjoy the ride –"
Perhaps we don't need to be.
A/N It seems everyone in HP-fanfiction who writes a wedding feels the need to make up his/her own version of a wizarding ceremony. This is mine, based on the four elements and the folk saying regarding threefold repetition, "What I tell you three times is true."
BTW, the colour of the Snape-Boggart's dress wasn't actually specified in canon, but Neville said his grandmother wore "a long dress … green, normally …" and Lupin said his spell should force "Professor Boggart Snape …into …that green dress…"
Severus Snape m Hermione Granger
Calendula Marigold (Callie) - age 21
Camomile Aster (Cammie) - age 19
Gerrilyn (Gerry) Nott and Tavia (Tavie) Greengrass are Callie's best friends.
Adam Wales (aka Percy Weasley) m Amanda (Manda)
Alison - age 19
twins Amalie (Am) and Adelaide (Addie) - age 18
Anthea (Thea) - age 17
Abigail - age 16
Aglaia (Aggie) - age 14 1/2
Amy-Rose - age 13
Alfrida - age 12
twins Arielle and Aislynn - 10 1/2
Bill Weasley m Fleur Delacour
Charlie Weasley m
Ron Weasley m Susan Bones
twins Michael Jacob and Diana
Neville Longbottom m Ginny Weasley
Minerva McGonagall m Amory Marchant
Harry Potter m Hannah Abbott