12

All good things come to an end, and this is the end for Consequences of the Truth. It's been a much more involved process than I ever expected it to be. I took up Severitas' challenge because I wanted to write a story that I hadn't seen done, at least not the way I thought it should be done, without any real expectation that I could write anything. On the other end of it, I have learned so much about writing, and about developing the characters you play with. Thank you so much to the people who have left such wonderful reviews, they have meant more than I can say! I hope you enjoy the last gasp!

Dedication: To Burt, for helping me make it better, to Lelia for being the spur that drove me to finish, and for my other children, who've given me the the time I needed to concentrate.

I don't own anything. Just enjoyed playing with them!

Chapter 32

Finally Home

Harry sat on his bed, musing over the changes the last few weeks had brought. Tomorrow classes would start, and his life would be consumed with studies and Quidditch.

When he and the rest of the students had trooped into the infirmary, they'd been expecting to be in the deepest trouble in their lives so far. Possibly deep enough to be expelled. They had settled themselves in their chairs and steeled themselves for the worst. To their surprise, the Headmaster had insisted on them telling their story from beginning to end without interruption. At the end of their lengthy recitation, silence had filled the large room.

"You are aware that you have broken some of the most sacred rules of this institution along with blatantly and willfully disobeying the direct order of a professor?" Dumbledore eyed each of them in turn, waiting until they either nodded or said 'yes Sir' before moving on to the next person. "Very well then. Having said that, I must congratulate you all. You have shown yourselves equal to bearing the burden of tasks beyond your years. Now, if there are no questions, I suggest we adjourn this meeting. Molly, Arthur, Severus, I'm sure you'll have things to say to your children. May I suggest you wait until tomorrow?"

"One moment, Headmaster." Severus turned to Ron and Fred, who were sitting next to each other. "Thank you for your help, and for bringing me back here."

The two Weasley's looked at Snape in disbelief. They would never have expected their crusty old teacher to ever express gratitude, even if it were deserved!

Ron opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the door to the infirmary flying open with a crash. A mud covered man appeared, long black hair tangled and wild about his head. He was hauling a smaller man by the back of his coat, and had his wand out and at the ready.

"Sirius!" Harry bounded to his feet, staring in shock at his Guardian.

"Look who I found Professor!" Sirius dragged his captive over to the Headmaster and cast him to the floor at Dumbledore's feet.

"Good Lord, it's Peter Pettigrew! Sirius…you found him!" Lupin sprang forward to clap Sirius on the back in congratulation.

"Well done Sirius! Bring him along with you, we'll go summon the ministry to take care of him." Dumbledore led the way toward the door of the infirmary leading Sirius and Wormtail, who was followed by Professors McGonagall and Lupin. He turned back to at the door, looked sternly at Professor Snape, and said "Severus, I expect to see you in my office at 10:00. We still have some matters to discuss."

Snape winced slightly, knowing that this was one interview he was not going to enjoy. He looked over at Harry, who was sitting in his chair, one shoe on, the charred mess of the other on the table in front of where Dumbledore had been sitting. His blood ran cold at the thought of the risks his son had taken. They'd have to have a discussion about his behavior, but Dumbledore was right, it could wait until morning, the boy was practically falling asleep where he sat.

Molly Weasley had moved over to her children, and was busily examining each of them to assure herself that they'd taken no ill through this business. She included Hermione in her exam, Hermione seemed almost like one of her own. Madame Pomphrey had examined each of them, but she needed to see for herself. Arthur was in quiet discussion with Bill and Percy Weasley, who had been among the forces at Upper Hesrod. Percy sported a sling around one arm, while Bill had a bandage around his forehead where a branch had whipped down and hit him in the dark. He didn't think it was severe enough for Madame Pomphrey's none to gentle ministrations.

Severus walked over to Harry, intending to advise him to go to bed. He leaned down over the dozing boy, but as he did so, Harry's eyes snapped open and looked into his.

"I'm sorry Dad, I know you told me to stay here, but I couldn't."

Severus sat wearily in the empty chair next to Harry's. "Why, Harry?"

Harry sat quietly for a minute, gathering his thoughts. "I just found you. I couldn't lose you too." A tear slipped down and splashed on his hand.

Severus found himself deeply touched. How could Harry have developed feelings for him that fast? It wasn't as though he'd tried that hard to be a good father to the boy. He looked at Harry's bowed head, reached over, and patted it awkwardly.

Molly smiled to herself. She'd seen been about to walk over to Harry to make sure he was uninjured when she'd seen Severus sit next to him. She watched the two of them out of the corner of her eye as she talked with Hermione and Ginny. It looked as though Snape was finding his way as a parent.

"Well, it's late, or should I say early!" Mrs. Weasley pointed to the clock on the wall of the infirmary, which read 4:30. "Off to bed with you now. We'll talk in the morning!"

"Will you stay here tonight Mum?" Ginny was lagging behind the others for some reason.

"Yes Ginny. Professor Dumbldore has arranged for us to have rooms here for the night. I think Percy and Bill wanted to stay in Gryffindor Tower though, for old times sake." Arthur Weasley joined his wife, putting his arm around her wearily. It had been a long night for all of them.

"One of you can have my bed." Harry was moving toward the door with his father.

"Where are you staying then?" Ron's eyes were glassy with fatigue as they followed his friend.

"I'm staying with Dad down in his rooms." Harry flashed a bright smile to the rest of them, and followed Snape out the door, leaving a shocked silence behind.

"Well, that's unexpected," Arthur murmured.

"No, not unexpected, and very, very good." Molly said with a smile. She herded her children out the door, realizing as she was about to leave that there was one child missing. She turned around to look behind her, and was just in time to see Ginny hurriedly pick up Harry's charred shoe and tuck it in her pocket. Her eyebrows rose slightly. Hmmmm. Things hadn't changed there then. She'd need to talk to Arthur. And perhaps change the tone of her discussion with Ginny tomorrow.

"Goodnight Mum, Dad," chorused back at them as the children headed toward Gryffindor Tower and their beds. Thankfully all safe, and for the most part sound.

The next day, New Years Day, had gone by quickly. They had all slept through breakfast, and some nearly slept through lunch. Harry had awakened to find his father's chambers empty, but a note on the desk in the sitting room explained that he was meeting with Dumbledore and would return. And that Harry should order food delivered to him here, and not leave under any circumstances. The last was capitalized and underlined several times with long, dark, black strokes. Harry grinned a little to himself, and wondered how long it was going to be before his father trusted him to stay where he was put.

A tentative knock sounded at the door after Harry had finished his meal, and when he opened it, he found Ron, Hermione, and Ginny standing on the other side.

"Come in!" Harry opened the door wider.

"Are you sure Professor Snape won't mind?" Ron looked around cautiously as he entered the room, seemingly expecting Snape himself to jump out and order him to leave.

"Ron, you know Professor McGonagall wouldn't have told us how to find Harry if it weren't alright!" Hermione was already examining the bookshelves on the far wall.

"Are you alright Harry? We were worried when you didn't appear for lunch." Ginny watched Harry closely, as though assuring herself that he was fine.

"I'm fine. I slept better than I have in a long while. I just can't leave." Harry made his way over to Snape's desk and showed them the letter he'd left.

"Wow, I guess that's pretty clear!" Ron looked a bit surprised at the note. It sounded like something his mum would send. The idea of Snape as a concerned parent was a bit odd, but he supposed he'd have to get used to it since Harry was his best friend.

Harry threw himself into a plush leather armchair and waved the rest of them into chairs before asking "So what did your parents say?"

Ron and Ginny looked at each other uncomfortably. They didn't really want to relive the experience.

"They both had a lot to say." Ron looked down at his scuffed shoes. "The worst is that we all have to go home. All four of us Weasley's I mean. Mum wants us under her eye, and she has a list of the most disgusting jobs she can think of around the house. We get to do all of it until term starts.

Ginny nodded glumly in agreement. Her mother had had a special 'chat' with her about the proper behavior of young ladies, and how you didn't chase boys. Sometimes it was scary how much mum knew. She didn't think anyone but Hermione knew how much she cared for Harry.

"What about you Hermione?" Harry looked enquiringly at her.

"Haven't heard yet. Professor McGonagall sent them an owl last night, explaining everything."

Just then a tapping at the door got their attention. Harry went to the door, and was surprised to find Argus Filch standing on the other side, a post owl on his arm. "I believe this belongs to one of you." The owl hopped off Filch's arm and flew into the room, settling in front of Hermione, who looked at it in horror.

"Uhm, thank you Mr. Filch," Harry said as he closed the door before Hermione could reach for the flaming red envelope clutched in the owl's beak. It had already begun to smoke a bit.

"Better open it, Hermione," Ron said sympathetically.

Hermione gingerly loosened the flap while the others covered their ears.

"Hermione Michelle Granger! We cannot believe that you would do something so foolhardy, something so dangerous, something so……idiotic! I thought we raised you to think! This little escapade will not go unpunished! Young lady, you are to get yourself back home for the rest of the holidays immediately! Professor McGonagall has advised us that you can be transported to Diagon Alley, we will pick you up there tonight at 5:00pm. You had better not be late!" Hermione had sunk lower and lower in her chair during the diatribe, her hands over her face in shocked embarrassment. How had her parents known about howlers? Never in her wildest imagination had she ever thought that they'd do something like that.

Ron leaned over and patted her consolingly on the arm after the howler burst into flame. "At least it wasn't in front of the whole school like mine was."

Harry took his hands from his ears. "So you'll all be going home. I haven't seen Dad, so I don't know what I'll be doing."

"You'll be going home also." Snape had entered unnoticed during the howler, and a look of ill-concealed mirth flickered in his face. "And I can assure you a life of drudgery awaits."

Harry groaned, thinking that his father was likely to be very good at finding odious tasks for him to do. But at least he'd be at home. And he had someone who cared enough to treat him like a parent should. Actually, he had a parent now! He couldn't stop the big smile that spread across his face at that thought.

"You find that humorous Mr. Snape? Let me tell you, I have a very long list just waiting for you!"

All four student's stared in shock at Professor Snape. What had he just called Harry?

"What did you call me?"

"Mr. Snape." Severus crossed the room and sat behind his desk. "I think you all must be aware by now that I've been a spy for Professor Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix for many years. Unfortunately, Voldemort and many of the Death Eaters also now know that I'm a spy, and know that Harry is my son. Many of them heard you shout to me last night, Harry. I know for certain that Lucius Malfoy has made the connection." A frown crossed Snape's forehead. He'd have to watch out for Malfoy. No knowing what nasty surprises he might come up with. "As I can't continue spying, there doesn't seem to be any reason to hide our relationship any longer." Snape opened his desk drawer and took out a folded newspaper. "Especially since I saw the front page of the paper." He unfolded it and handed it to Harry.

Harry stared in shock at the headline. Instead of a large story about the battle of Upper Hesrod, the headline read "Harry Potter not a Potter, Father Severus Snape." The body of the article mentioned that Snape had been a spy against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for years, and that he'd be taking up a new top secret position in the fight against the Death Eaters. Harry finished reading the article and passed it without comment to Hermione. Ron leaned in to read over her shoulder, while Ginny watched Professor Snape and Harry with interest.

"Does this mean I can come home with you for holidays?" Harry was intent on figuring out just how this affected him.

"Yes Harry, if you want to. You should also know that Sirius Black has been cleared of all wrong doing. Cornelius Fudge was so glad to have Peter Pettigrew and the information he had that he absolved Black of the penalties from escaping from Azkaban. So, if you want, you may go to him when he has a place set up." Severus moved uncomfortably in his chair.

"Is that what you want, Sir?" Harry watched his father intently.

"It's not a case of what I want Harry. This is your decision to make, and only you can make it." Severus had already decided he wouldn't stand in Harry's way if he wanted to live with Sirius instead. At least he'd see Harry during the school year.

"I already know. I want to stay with you, Dad."

Severus nodded slowly, surprised at the relief he felt. "Well then, I suggest you and your friends get to work. The afternoon is passing, and you all have packing to do, I believe."

The students stood and moved to the door in a group. Harry reached the door first and held it open for the others. Ginny paused when it was her turn, looked back at Professor Snape, who was reading the paper with a melancholy expression on his face, and signaled Harry to wait for a moment. She walked quietly over to Snape's side, waited until he looked up from his paper, put her arms around him in a hug, and kissed his cheek like she would her own father. Snape froze in astonishment, and watched as she went back to the door, smiled at Harry, and slipped through the opening. Harry seemed equally surprised as he waved goodbye to his father, and then closed the door.

They had left that evening for home, and Harry had been very surprised at the type of drudgery his father had in mind. It had been hard work, no doubt about it. The first morning Snape had sent to the central registry for a house witch. Someone who could not only clean but cook, and would be able to keep the house in running order while the two of them were at Hogwarts. Severus had been closeted in his library most of the morning, finally coming out with a merry, round cheeked face, and her husband, who was almost painfully thin. While Mrs. Dandle cared for the house, her husband would take care of the gardens and the grounds. That night they'd sat down to a meal of impressive proportions, Mrs. Dandle seemed to have made it her priority in life to "fatten them up".

The real work had begun the following morning. Dad had gotten him up before daylight, hauled him down the stairs to the newly cleaned dining room, and hustled him through an abbreviated breakfast. They'd put their cloaks on, and spent the day in Diagon Alley discussing fabrics and wallpaper and paint with an interior décor witch. When they got home, hungry and tired, Snape had suggested that he look around some of the rooms after dinner and see if he saw any furniture he'd like to have in his room. Harry had found a dresser with real claw feet on it that he'd liked, and it had been a simple matter to send it on its way to his room, clawed feet ticking on the floor as it walked.

The third day brought the decorator witch and her assistants to the house. They had spent most of the next week refurbishing and redecorating most of the rooms in the chateau, and Harry had been pressed into service as a general worker of all trades. Apparently this was his father's idea of drudgery, because he'd been made to hang new wallpaper, scrape off old wallpaper, strip polish off of chairs, and hang curtains. Harry had found it fascinating, especially as his own room took shape.

This morning Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall had appeared. They met with Dad in his library for awhile, and then Harry was called in.

"Harry, you are looking well!" Dumbledore was smiling cheerily at Harry.

"Thank you Sir." Harry sat down apprehensively in the chair nearest his father.

"Well, I won't take up your time. Professor McGonagall is confident that she has perfected the appearance charm that she and Ms. Granger have been working on. We came to ask if you would like it performed before you return to school." Dumbledore watched Harry as he blinked in surprise.

Harry looked at his father, who looked dispassionately back at him. This was his decision.

"Professor, I don't need it any longer…but I was wondering if you could take the rest of the spell my mother put on me off." Harry looked back at his father, and saw him relax slightly in his chair. He'd not realized Snape had been awaiting his answer so tensely.

"Yes, Harry, I can do that." Professor McGonagall rose from her chair, stood behind Harry, and softly spoke an incantation. Harry felt some of the bones in his face move, and the hair on his head itch slightly.

"Oh my." Minerva McGonagall moved to the front of Harry. "Albus, just look at him!"

Harry, feeling a little concerned, looked over toward his father, who was staring at him in shock. "What's the matter?"

"I think you should look, Harry." Dumbledore gestured toward a mirror hanging above the mantle.

Harry walked slowly over to it, unsure if he wanted to see the changes. Professor McGonagall could always change him back if it looked too bad.

He peered into the mirror, and saw someone who looked like him, but subtly changed. His cheekbones were accentuated now, while a dimple had somehow appeared in his chin. His nose had stayed the same, as had his eyes, but his hair was a deep, glossy black with auburn highlights. Instead of being wild, or completely straight like Snape's, it waved down past his ears and on to his collar. Harry removed his glasses and looked again. That was better. He threw them casually on a nearby table.

"I don't understand. It's a change, but…." Harry could see the adults looking at him in the mirror. He turned to face them.

"You look quite like your mother, Harry." Snape came to stand before him. "Looking at you, as you truly are, is like seeing her come back to me."

"Well, Severus, we'll be on our way then. We'll see you this evening, Harry." With that, the professors had left.

Harry stirred uneasily on his bed. The light was starting to fade from his room as the sun settled behind the trees. They'd be leaving soon. A knock sounded at his door, and then it opened.

"Harry, are you ready?" His father already had on his cape and was carrying a traveling bag.

"Yes." Harry got off of his bed, grabbed his luggage, and walked to his father. When he got to the door, he turned for one last look at the blue and green room that had come to mean so much to him over the last week.

Severus watched as Harry drank in his room. "Come on, you'll be home before you know it."

Harry allowed himself to be towed gently from the room, down to the study where they would floo to Hogsmead. Home. Finally home.

End