At last we come to the very end. Even now this story is just a little bit AU, given the revelations regarding Snape and Lily in DH, but not overly so. People do move on many times…at least, if they're given the opportunity to do so. This is the epilogue that fits in with canon, so of course there are DH spoilers within. I do plan to write my "happy ending" epilogue in the next few days; I'll post in my LiveJournal (I'm christinex1001 over there…the link's in my profile), so check it out if you'd like to see how I wanted this story to really end. I need to give myself a little time to write the alternate; I cried enough as I was writing this one.

Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

—Dylan Thomas


Minerva McGonagall surveyed the cluttered contents of Dumbledore's study and sighed. So many matters to attend to, so many wrongs that had to be righted somehow. In the frenzy of rebuilding and cleansing that had followed the Battle for Hogwarts, she had managed to avoid this one last, unwelcome task. Arguments had been made that the school couldn't possibly be ready for the fall term, but the remaining staff and most of the wizarding world had agreed that there were very few things which would more quickly restore a sense of normality than the rebuilding of Hogwarts.

There had been almost unanimous agreement that McGonagall should take over the post of Headmistress, and she had not had the strength to demur. Still, inwardly she looked on her newfound position as a temporary situation, one which would change when someone more suitable could be found. Who that person might be, she couldn't hazard a guess. She only knew that she felt herself unworthy of such an exalted position. The battle and recognition of loss that had followed had drained her, and many times she found all she really longed to do was rest. That, however, was out of the question, and she soldiered on as best she could, thinking that perhaps the return of the students in September would lend her some much-needed strength. The start of term always invigorated her, with its promise of new talent and excited fresh faces, and she hoped the familiar rhythms of the school year would work their same magic on her this time around.

She had left Dumbledore's office until last, saying that her own quarters served her quite well and that there was no need to immediately relocate, especially since there were far more pressing matters to attend to. But with so many of the wizarding world and so many of the magical creatures who lived in Hogwarts and its environs all lending a helping hand in the school's rebuilding, one by one all those issues had been addressed. It fell to her now, as Dumbledore's successor, to take stock of his office, to inventory the items there and keep those as she thought she might need and relegate the rest to storage. A Headmaster's things were never thrown away, of course, but merely warehoused against future need.

The house-elves had already left her a stack of boxes, all spelled so that their contents would be neatly lettered on the side once they were filled. She wondered briefly if she placed some of Dumbledore's mysterious instruments inside whether she would at last know their true purpose. But it seemed somehow sacrilegious to remove any of the delicate, glistening mechanisms, and she decided to leave those for last. Perhaps she would just allow them to remain where they were. There was something soothing about their soft whirring, about the tiny puffs of smoke they let out at regular intervals.

The high bookshelves seemed equally daunting, although she dutifully stepped closer to survey the titles. These, too, she would leave undisturbed, save for adding certain volumes from her own collection. On the top shelf were a series of unmarked leather-bound books; she pulled one down at random and saw that it was a scrapbook of some sort, filled with photos of long-departed students who cheerily grinned and waved from the pages. Next to it was another scrapbook filled with cuttings from The Prophet, most with pithy commentary scribbled in the margins, all in Dumbledore's spidery hand. Suppressing a smile, McGonagall returned the book to its place on the shelf and turned. Then she spied the black cabinet off in the corner, and her smile faded as she recognized the piece of furniture that held Dumbledore's Pensieve and the memories he had collected.

Those she didn't know what to do with, although she knew the Pensieve had certainly proved useful on several occasions. Still, it felt odd to be holding on to memories that had not been entrusted directly to her care, and she decided that those at least could be boxed up and put in storage for now.

All of the small bottles had been clearly labeled with names and dates. Some of the names she recognized, but many were unfamiliar to her. But she handled all of them with delicate care, uttering a modified version of the Cushioning Charm as she did so in order for them to rest safely in the box. The Pensieve itself she set on a small table so as to keep it out of the way as she worked.

At the very back of the cupboard was a series of smaller black bottles, twenty in number, all with the cryptic legend "SS 96." McGonagall picked one of them up and looked at it, eyes narrowed; the handwriting was unmistakably Dumbledore's. Quite clearly they were initials, rather than a full name, but why the Headmaster had thought these memories needed the simple subterfuge, she wasn't sure. Whose memories would have needed that extra protection?

She almost laughed at herself as the answer came to her. Really, she must be slowing down in her later years. Whose could they be, but Severus Snape's? At the thought of the departed Potions master, the look of grim humor on her face abruptly faded.

Poor Severus, she thought then. Certainly she had had her own moments when she despised him, had even found herself hating him in the aftermath of Dumbledore's death, although she had tried to tell herself that harboring such emotions would not bring the Headmaster back. Then again, Snape had done little to endear himself to those around him, had made himself brittle and caustic and cruel, all the while hiding a secret so deep that no one had guessed at it, not even Voldemort. At the thought of how the erstwhile Potions master had died, her throat seemed to close up, and she blinked away the useless tears. Weeping would bring no one back, and she could only hope that the poor man had finally found peace somewhere far beyond this world.

Would it be intruding, to see what these small black bottles held, what memories he thought were so dangerous or painful or otherwise unwanted that he had given them over to the Headmaster for safekeeping? And yet, he had obviously wanted them saved, or they would not be here at all.

Just one, she told herself, and selected a bottle at random, the one numbered "5." Then she pulled out the stopper, and poured the gleaming, silvery fluid into the Pensieve. Taking a breath, she lowered her face into Snape's memory.

Damp, cool air, the hum of voices and automobiles and, somewhere, the bass pounding of someone's stereo. Muggle territory, then, although McGonagall did not recognize the street, which appeared to have a mix of shops and pubs and neat houses in rows. What could have led Professor Snape, who had always evinced a true disdain for the nonmagical world, to such a place?

She received her second shock when she realized Snape wore plain, dark Muggle clothing, not his customary robes. Since she couldn't recall a time since he had joined the staff when he hadn't worn those robes, it was disconcerting -- to say the least -- to see him in such nondescript garb. The lank black hair was the same, however, as was the forbidding frown he wore as he marched down the sidewalk, not bothering to give those with whom he shared the streets a second glance. It was clear that he had a particular destination in mind.

He approached a house in the center of the row, a neat little place with a green-painted door and flowers blooming in window boxes that fronted the bay windows. Without hesitation, he raised his hand and knocked.

A moment passed without an answer, and Snape had raised his hand to knock once again when all of a sudden the door opened and a very pretty, if somewhat untidy-looking, young woman peered out.

"Oh," she said, in distinctly Northern accents, "it's you."

With his customary insouciance, Snape asked if he could speak to the young woman, who appeared to allow him into her house with some reluctance. McGonagall watched in increasing bemusement as Snape discussed the young woman's "powers" with her -- since the Transfigurations professor had not seen the memory which held their first meeting, she deduced something extraordinary must have happened to attract Snape's attention. Then the conversation went on into even more amazing revelations, as the young woman -- who seemed to be named Celeste Jenkins -- apparently allowed Snape into her mind, where he saw…what? Evidence that Celeste was no Muggle, as far as McGonagall could tell. She felt the flare of pain just as the memory-Snape did, and she jerked her head up out of the Pensieve, breathing in quick gasps as the familiar surroundings of Dumbledore's study fell into place around her.

McGonagall gripped the edge of the table which held the Pensieve in order to steady herself. So somehow Snape had discovered a young woman in possession of certain powers, a woman who for some reason had never been raised in the wizarding world. Interesting, but she still couldn't see why Snape felt the need to have these memories hidden away. Certainly they were no more dangerous than countless others he carried around with him.

Then again, she had only seen one piece of a larger story. There was more going on here than she could catch from that single memory, and although she had promised herself she would look at only one, it seemed that closer examination was necessary. So she grasped the bottle marked "1," poured it into the Pensieve, and went back into Snape's memories.

The story that unfolded as she moved from bottle to bottle was as strange as it was fascinating, all the more so because McGonagall saw in the memories a side of the Potions master she had never witnessed before, a man who had, against his better judgment, allowed feelings to develop for the lovely young woman whom Dumbledore had entrusted to Snape's charge. Certain memories were too private, and McGonagall withdrew as soon as she realized what they contained, but by the end, as she saw the Potions master lift his head against the cold wind and walk resolutely up toward the school, her heart ached, both for him and for the woman he had left behind. Now he was gone, and Celeste would never know what had become of him.

McGonagall lifted her face one final time from the Pensieve, only to find her cheeks wet with tears. The terrible cruelty of it all tore at her. True, he had found isolated moments of beauty and love with Celeste Jenkins, but those had been all too few, and in the end he had had to give them up, hand them over to Dumbledore's safekeeping. Celeste had known their cause was probably hopeless, McGonagall realized. The girl had seen, in that one shared moment in the shabby hotel room in London, what Dumbledore's fate would be, and still she had allowed Snape to Obliviate her. Now all that was left of their story were these scattered memories, and the journal she had handed to Snape at the last.

The journal! McGonagall started, realization coursing through her like an electric current. Surely it fell to her now, as Headmistress of Hogwarts, to locate Celeste's journal and return it to the young woman. Surely she deserved that much, even if the man she had loved was gone forever. She deserved to know the truth of things.

But where would Dumbledore have hidden it? She went over to his desk and began pawing through the drawers, but she found nothing that remotely resembled the slim leather-bound book she sought. Loose parchment, and broken quills, and half-eaten bags of sweets, and what looked like the remains of a few confiscated Skiving Snackboxes, but nothing else. Perhaps a hidden compartment, or a spelled chamber somewhere within the office? But if that were the case, would she even be able to break one of Dumbledore's enchantments?

She ran her hands over the walls, seeking the hidden charge that signaled a Charm had been used, but found nothing. Nor was there anything detectable beyond the office in Dumbledore's sleeping chamber. Feeling a bit wild, McGonagall returned to the main office and stared at the bookcase, at its rows of leather in various shades and hues with their printing in gold and silver and bronze on the spine. Then her gaze moved upward, to the shelf which held the scrapbooks she had noticed previously. One seemed smaller and thinner than the others, its slender spine of dark red leather barely peeping out between two ostentatious purple-backed volumes.

"Accio journal!" she said, not bothering to draw out her wand. Immediately the little book sailed off the shelf and into her waiting hand.

The "purloined letter" trick, Albus? she thought. What better way to hide something than in plain sight? She would have had no idea what she was looking for if she hadn't witnessed that last wrenching scene between Snape and Celeste.

Hands trembling a little, McGonagall opened the journal, scanning quickly for anything that looked helpful. Several passages she stopped to read in more depth, thinking she might find a clue. But although she knew Celeste had been hidden in Birmingham and had taken on the alias of "Selena Jones," McGonagall had very little else to go on. She had a vague idea that Muggles had books where you could look up their direction; perhaps she could ask Arthur Weasley for advice.

She came to the last page and flipped it over, seeing only a blank sheet and the facing endpaper. Then her gaze sharpened as she noted some tiny characters, much smaller than Celeste's normal handwriting, block printed in the gutter as it curved into the spine: 26 Edgehill Road.

Could it really be as simple as that? Perhaps Celeste, knowing Dumbledore would not be around to restore hers or Snape's memories, had written down her address in the hope that perhaps one day Severus would see it.

Another hope dashed, as so many had been in the War, but McGonagall knew what she must do. She had not ventured openly into the Muggle world for some time, but this was a task she must undertake as Dumbledore's heir. Besides, she owed Professor Snape that much. It would not bring him back, nor would it make up for the bitter feelings she had shown him, but at least in giving the journal to Celeste McGonagall could begin to find some sort of absolution.

With a sigh, she left the Headmaster's office and returned to her own chambers. Somewhere hidden within the depths of her wardrobe was an old set of Muggle clothing. She could only hope that it was not too much out of date….

In the bright sunlight, the street looked somehow even shabbier than it had in Snape's memories. But the stoop at number 26 Edgehill Road was swept spotlessly clean, and a pot with bright geraniums stood guard at the front door. A mat of woven coir printed with more flowers sat directly in front of that door.

Feeling an odd sense of déjà vu, even though this door was painted dull brown and not bright green, McGonagall lifted her hand to knock. Across the street, an older man shuffled out onto his own front step, retrieved his newspaper, and gave her an odd look. She smoothed down the skirt of her paisley dress and hoped it wasn't too dreadfully out of place.

Then the door opened, and McGonagall found herself staring into Celeste Jenkins' wide dark-green eyes. The young woman's eyebrows lifted, and she said, "Yes?"

McGonagall opened her mouth, began, "Cele -- " then paused and amended, "Selena Jones?"

"Yes?" Celeste repeated, looking more puzzled than ever.

"I am an old friend of your parents," McGonagall went on, using the lie she hoped would gain her entry to Celeste's flat. "When I heard you were living in Birmingham, I knew I would have to come for a visit."

"A friend of my parents?" The door opened an inch more, but Celeste still appeared wary. "I didn't know they had any friends in Birmingham."

"They didn't," McGonagall replied. "My name is Mrs. McGonagall, and I'm originally from Aberdeen. But I lived for a time in Carnforth, and that is where I made their acquaintance."

The mention of the obscure little Lancashire town where Celeste had spent her early years seemed to mollify her; she produced a smile and said, "Do come in, Mrs. McGonagall. Your timing is wonderful, actually -- I just brewed a pot of tea. Would you like some?"

"Very much, thank you," responded McGonagall, following Celeste into the small front room.

The last time McGonagall had seen the chamber had been in Snape's memories, and it was clear that in the intervening two years Celeste had done what she could do improve the place. The walls had been painted a soft sage green, and curtains of striped chintz hung from the window. The furniture was obviously secondhand, but it looked as if it was of fairly good quality. A dreamy landscape of what appeared to be the Welsh countryside hung on one wall. McGonagall wondered what instinct or trace of memory from her time in Wales had led Celeste to choose that particular print.

"I'll be right out with the tea," said Celeste. "Please make yourself at home." With that she disappeared toward the back of the flat, presumably in the direction of the kitchen. When the young woman turned, McGonagall could see that she had cut her hair; in Snape's memories it had reached to her waist, but now it hung about a hand's-span beneath her shoulders.

There being nothing else to do, McGonagall settled herself in the wing chair, feeling slightly more at home in that than she would have on the couch. It had been some time since she'd been in a Muggle dwelling, but she recognized the television set that perched on top of a low table of dark wood, as well as the stereophonic equipment that sat on a bookshelf on the opposite wall.

Celeste returned, bringing with her a plain tea set of heavy cream-glazed ceramic ware. She poured out for McGonagall, then asked, "Milk? Sugar?"

"One lump of sugar, no milk."

The niceties at length dispensed with, Celeste sat down on the couch and gave McGonagall a piercing look. "It's odd, but I really can't recall you at all, Mrs. McGonagall."

McGonagall took a sip of her tea before replying, "Well, you were very young."

After a moment, Celeste shrugged. "I suppose that must be it -- although I must admit that sometimes I think my memory is going at a very young age. I went in for some tests a while back, but they couldn't find anything wrong."

No doubt an effect of the Obliviation Snape had performed, but of course it was far too early in the conversation for McGonagall to venture such a statement. "Oh, we all have our moments of forgetfulness, I would think." She paused, then added, "And what did bring you to Birmingham? It had seemed as if you were well settled in Manchester."

A strange expression passed over Celeste's face, a mixture of confusion, frustration, and…fear? McGonagall couldn't say for sure, but for whatever reason, the mention of Manchester had stirred up something in the young woman's mind.

Then Celeste raised a hand and said, "Oh, the same tired story, I'm afraid. Relationship gone wrong, nothing much to keep me there. I decided it was time to start over."

McGonagall gave what she hoped was a sympathetic nod. "And so you've been here how long?"

"Just a little more than two years," Celeste replied. "I suppose it doesn't look like much, but I've made a few friends here, and I've managed to scrape along." For a second she looked very tired, but then she summoned a smile. "And what brings you to Birmingham, Mrs. McGonagall?"

A lie had gotten her in the door, but McGonagall knew it was now time for the truth. Why, then, did it feel so difficult to do what must come next? She had faced Death Eaters in the halls of Hogwarts, after all -- how hard could it be to tell this earnest-faced young woman the truth about her past? Didn't she deserve to know the real reason why she had come here to Birmingham.

"You bring me here, as a matter of fact," McGonagall said at last, and reached into the carpet bag she had brought with her. From within she drew out Celeste's red-backed journal. "This is yours, I believe."

Frowning, Celeste took the proffered volume and stared down at it as if she'd never seen it before. "Are you sure?" Brow still creased, she opened the cover and shook her head at the writing on the flyleaf. "'The diary of Celeste Jenkins'? But that's not my name, although…." She trailed off, hand shaking a little as she turned a page. "How odd -- that does look just like my writing!"

"It is yours," McGonagall said gently. "Just as that was your name, up until two years ago, when you were forced to go into hiding."

"Hiding? What on earth are you talking about?" Celeste gave a nervous-sounding laugh and added, "Am I some sort of criminal?"

McGonagall shook her head. "No, my dear, far from it. You will find your side of things in there, if you choose to read it."

"'My side of things'?" Celeste echoed. "What other side is there?"

"The side of someone you once knew," McGonagall replied. "Which is how I came to know that you were here at all. He -- this information was left to me in trust, and I've come to seek you out now so that you may know the truth of things."

Eyes narrowed, Celeste looked back down at the book she held. "'I met the most extraordinary man today,'" she read aloud. "'Mr. Snape'…why does that name sound familiar somehow?"

McGonagall blinked against the stinging moisture she felt gather in her eyes. "Because you once knew him very well…perhaps better than anyone else."

Celeste shut the book with a snap. "I think you had better tell me exactly what is going on."

"Of course." For the first time McGonagall really focused on the thick band of gold, studded with blood-colored garnets, that Celeste wore on the ring finger of her left hand. "But first you will need to remove your ring."

Immediately Celeste's hand curled into a protective fist. "What on earth for? I never take it off -- it's about the only thing my mother left me!"

The denial was to be expected, of course. No doubt Snape had left buried some deep-seated suggestion that the ring could never be removed; it would require more than a simple request to get Celeste to take it off. Still, McGonagall had at least tried the polite way to handle the troublesome artifact.

She murmured, "Accio ring!" and the band of gold slipped off Celeste's fingers, flew through the air, and landed neatly in McGonagall's outstretched palm.

"How did you -- what the devil do you think you're doing?" Celeste demanded, hand already reaching out to reclaim her treasure. Then she paused, and lifted the same hand to her forehead. "What on earth? I feel so odd…."

"What you feel is your powers returning to you."

The young woman managed a shaky laugh. "My powers? I don't have any powers!"

Smiling grimly, McGonagall said, "You don't? Take my hand."

"I really don't -- "

Ignoring Celeste's protests, McGonagall reached out and took the young woman's hand, holding it firmly in her own bony fingers. She recalled Snape's first memory of Celeste, how he had seen her in the bookshop and followed her home, the image clear in her mind as if it had happened to her and not a man now dead.

For a second Celeste sat stock-still, eyes wide. Then she withdrew her hand as if she'd been stung and burst out, "How did you do that? That was a memory of me…and him!"

"I did nothing," McGonagall said calmly. "What you just experienced is known as Legilimency, or the art of reading another's thoughts. It is your greatest gift, that and Divination."

"And the man I saw?"

"Severus Snape, who found you in Manchester, recognized your powers, sought to train you." Very quietly she added, "The man who loved you."

Celeste's lower lip trembled. "I seem to recall something…but it's all so hazy somehow, like bits and pieces of a dream."

"That is because he Obliviated you," McGonagall replied. "Erased your memories, that is. It had to be done, for your safety."

"Obliviate…." Celeste murmured, then shook her head. "That's not even a proper word!"

"It is, in the wizarding world." McGonagall ignored Celeste's lifted eyebrows and went on inexorably, "Because of your gifts you were sought by a dark wizard, a very evil man who wished to use them for his own purposes. Severus hid you away, erased your memories, and gave you that ring -- an artifact which blocks magical ability -- so that you could pass undetected in the Muggle world."

Looking dazed, Celeste lifted her tea and took a large gulp. "What's a Muggle?"

"A person without magical abilities. I know this must have come as a dreadful shock, my dear, but you have the evidence of your own powers to prove the truth of what I'm saying. Could you ever read minds before just now, when I took your ring away?"

"No," Celeste replied slowly, and then her mouth tightened a little. "And I've never seen anyone make a ring jump off a finger like that, although I'm sure there are quite a few pickpockets out there who would like to learn that particular trick."

"Well, then," said McGonagall, thinking that should explain everything.

Celeste set her mug back down on the low table that fronted the couch and asked, "But why now? If I were hidden for such a dreadful reason, why have you come to me now?"

Perhaps it would be better to lead with the good news. "The War is over," McGonagall replied. "The Dark Lord has been defeated, and there is no longer any reason for you to hide yourself away in the Muggle world."

Questions practically started out of Celeste's eyes, and McGonagall dreaded the one she was sure to ask next: But why have you come, and not Severus, if he was the one who hid me in the first place, the one who loved me?

Even as the young woman's lips parted to make the inquiry, they were interrupted by probably the last thing McGonagall had expected to hear: the unmistakable wail of a young child.

Immediately Celeste stood. "Nap time's over, I fear." She gave McGonagall a stern look. "Just a moment -- I still have questions I need answered."

As do I, McGonagall thought, feeling as if she'd just been hit on the side of the head by a Bludger. But she managed to nod and pick up her own tea as if nothing untoward had just occurred.

Celeste left the room, disappearing down a short hallway that opened off from the front room. A few moments later she returned, holding a squirming child who looked to be a little over a year old. From the blue onesie the child wore, McGonagall guessed it to be a boy. More disconcerting, however, was the shock of black hair that topped the child's head.

"This is Steven," Celeste said. "Say hello to Mrs. McGonagall, Steven."

The child turned curious dark eyes on the Headmistress, who stared back at him almost fearfully. Was it possible?

"He hasn't started talking yet," Celeste went on, "but I know he understands everything I say. I think he's just processing."

McGonagall found her voice. "And his father?"

Celeste gave her a tight little smile. "Well, that's the funny thing, isn't it? My ex, Alex, is down on the birth certificate as Steven's father, but I never asked for any support…mostly because although I couldn't remember being with anyone except Alex, Steven really doesn't look a thing like him. Nor me, actually, although as he's getting older I think he's going to have my nose."

Thank goodness for that, McGonagall thought.

"Funny that Severus Snape's hair was black," Celeste commented. "And his eyes dark." For a moment Celeste was still, her lips brushing across the top of the baby's thick hair. "You said he loved me?"

"Very much."

"What happened to him?"

There was no easy way to say it. Her voice flat, McGonagall replied, "He's dead, Celeste."

The young woman's eyes looked suspiciously bright, but her voice was calm enough as she said, "Was it because of the War?"

"Yes." McGonagall cleared her throat. "He was a very brave man, Celeste, one whose bravery was all the greater because he worked in secret, with no hope of glory or recognition. Indeed, it was only after he was gone that we realized how much he had done to save us all from the Dark Lord."

"But not himself."

Not trusting herself to speak, McGonagall could only shake her head. That the boy was his seemed obvious, although she couldn't quite figure out how -- after all, she remembered seeing Snape mix up the contraceptive potions for Celeste in one of his memories.

Celeste crossed back over the couch and sat down, settling her son on her lap. Cradling him with one arm, she reached out with her free hand and picked up the journal once again -- holding it at arm's length, away from Steven's inquisitive fingers -- then flipped through the pages until she got to an entry near the end. A corner of her mouth trembled, but she looked up at McGonagall and said, "Well that explains it."

"What does?"

"The entry from July 12th. I won't read the whole thing, but just this bit…" Celeste frowned at the handwritten page and read aloud, "'Severus has gone, and I am left to wait once again. I know he's told me as much as he could of what's going to happen, but still I know he's holding things back. Well, I have a secret of my own, I suppose. Last night I poured the potion away instead of drinking it. I know it was a foolish thing to do, but I suppose it's just my way of defying the universe. Just this one roll of the dice. It will probably come to nothing, but if we are to be separated, perhaps at least I'll have one thing of his to remember him by, even if I won't consciously realize it.'" She broke off then and dropped the journal onto the couch next to her. "He is Severus' child, isn't he?"

The boy's appearance seemed to confirm that. "I think so, my dear. He does very much resemble him."

Celeste nodded, and bent down and kissed the boy on the cheek very gently. He stared up at her with somber eyes, as if he somehow understood the reason for the sudden display of affection. When the young woman looked up, her face was pale, but McGonagall could see no trace of tears in her eyes. Her voice firm, Celeste asked, "So what happens next?"

From the diary of Celeste Jenkins

August 14, 1998

Once again my life has been turned over, and yet this time I tell myself it is all for the good. Nothing will bring Severus back to me, and nothing will restore Steven's father to him, but at least now I have something to remember, something to cling to as the days and years pass.

Professor McGonagall -- for indeed that was what she was, current Headmistress of Hogwarts -- brought me back to the school so that I might see Severus' memories for myself. And between those recollections and the writings in my journal, I was able to live the story again, although I knew I would never have my own memories of those events fully restored. Little remained of Severus in his private quarters at the school, but I was able to take away a few books, a photograph of a heavy-browed young woman who Professor McGonagall told me was Severus' mother, a magical bookmark. It seemed a pitifully small legacy for so great a man, but it appeared he had been ridding himself of his personal belongings for some time, as if he were aware at some level that his time on this earth was limited. At least I had a few mementos that I could keep, and which one I day I could give to Steven.

Everyone was very kind -- Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey and the tiny little Professor Flitwick and the charming if somewhat overbearing Professor Slughorn. If they were shocked that Severus had managed to leave behind a son, none of them revealed their surprise to me. I was pressed to take up residence in Hogsmeade, so that I might avail myself of all the wizarding world had to offer and which I had been denied for so long. I took rooms in one of the inns there for a time, but I felt out of place, almost as if I were in a foreign country. My powers could not be disputed, and therefore I should have been at ease, but I had lived too long in the nonmagical world. I felt restless, knowing I could not stay there forever.

I had no roots in Birmingham, and at first I thought to return to Manchester, to see if I could reclaim the only home I had truly known. But even though I at length managed to unravel the dreadful tangle the place had gotten into due to back taxes, I realized I didn't really want to live there, either. Since an arcane wizarding test had determined that Steven truly was Severus' heir, he had inherited all of his father's gold at Gringott's, the wizard bank. It's a shocking amount, really, but I suppose a salary can begin to stack up if one doesn't have to worry about paying for one's room and board. I am Steven's trustee, but the interest alone is enough to keep us comfortable, and the proceeds from the sale of my house in Manchester have only served to relieve my last anxiety as to how I would continue to support myself and my son.

In the end, I have decided to return to Wales, to buy a cottage by the sea, where Steven can grow up with the wind and the water, where he can live in the one place where his father had found a small measure of happiness. Every day my heart aches at the thought that I will never see him again, never hear the black-honey drawl of his voice, never feel those robes wrap around me as he holds me in his arms. But I have had plenty of time to get used to being alone…and I'm not truly alone if I have Steven with me. He is my strength, my comfort, my living reminder of the love Severus and I shared. Perhaps one day we can be reunited somewhere beyond the reach of this world. I pray for such a thing each night, and hope that, wherever he is, he can look down and see the wonderful child we created together.

In time the summons to Hogwarts will come, and Steven will take his place with the other children from the wizarding world, to learn all manner of wondrous things that I was denied. I don't begrudge him this -- if not for my parents' discretion, I might not even be alive today -- but I do look forward to hearing of his studies, and hope that he will do well. Perhaps one day he will even take his place among the other professors there, to teach Potions as his father before him once did.

I think Severus would like that….