A/N: This is the second of two endings that were written for this story. If you didn't read the other, you can go back a chapter to see the other as well. Each has its own appeal. But this is not a continuation after 'Ending A'.
I once again would like to thank Hayseed for her inspiring prompt and even more for her inspiring works. And I'd like to again thank my beta-reader, DeeMichelle, as well as Shiv5468 for Brit-picking. And, of course, I can't forget my wonderful friends for their cheer leading and encouragement.
Disclaimer: JKR owns it all. I simply borrowed.
Part III-Ending B
December 24, 2043
Dear Mrs. Weasley,
You have been named in the Last Will and Testament of Mr. Stephen R. Smith of South Bend, Indiana, United States.
Enclosed you will find a copy of the deceased's Last Will and Testament with the areas which are pertinent to you highlighted. You will also find that which has been bequeathed to you.
We are sorry for your loss. If you have any further questions, please contact us.
Attorney at Law
22 May 2042
Dear Mrs Weasley,
I think that to begin with, I should apologise. I fear that if I don't do that up front, then you won't read any further. Apologising isn't something that I do often, nor is it something that I do very well, but that alone should tell you that this is sincere. After all of this time, I realise that it would have perhaps been more prudent for me to have contacted you sooner, especially as now I have no intention of sending this to you until after my death, which will be soon enough. The magic that I had once cherished is now slowly killing me. It is my penance for not exercising my powers for so many years. This is the same disease that kills squibs at ages much younger than most witches or wizards. Even if I were to begin using my magic again, I have gone far too many years without its use and it would only serve to lengthen my life by a few months.
It is for not making contact with you sooner for which I apologise.
As I am sure a woman as clever as you would deduce, the box contains all of the letters you ever sent me. They were not food for the fire, but rather something that proved over time to provide me with another form of warmth.
When you first crossed paths with me at my bookshop all of those years ago, you took me by surprise. I had fully believed that I was in a place where I would not be found. There are not many wizards who frequent antique Muggle bookshops. For whatever reason, I believed you when you vowed not to speak of our encounter with another soul. That is, I believed that until I received your first letter.
Whereas you likely viewed it as reaching out to someone, I saw it as a threat. You not only knew who I was, but you also knew where I was. Your first letter was a very firm reminder of that. It was at that time when I decided to sell my shop and I began down the fifth career path of my lifetime.
As you now know, your letters continued to find me. The spell to forward your letters to my location was the only bit of magic that I have done since I left the wizarding world over forty years ago.
It was after your third missive when I realised that you were not out searching for me with the hopes of luring me back to England, to trial and to a rather cold and dingy cell in Azkaban. The process was a form of healing for you, as meagre as it was.
It wasn't until another four letters when I became aware how much your letters were healing me and my tattered, torn, dirty and wretched soul.
You once asked me who my most evil master was.
I feel that now I can finally answer that question for you. It was simply guilt. Guilt is a vile and corrosive parasite that eats away at your very being and once it attaches itself firmly to soul, it begins to control every aspect of your life. Albus Dumbledore knew that. He knew my sins well and he knew how to use that to his advantage. After all, if a man is never allowed to heal, he makes a willing servant. All in the vain hope that one day he may be given the blessing of no longer being in pain.
I had been certain that it was my destiny to die that day in the Shrieking Shack. However, Fate had other plans. I had not expected Potter to be there and it was my mission, my obligation, to find him before I died. I simply had to make it appear to my Lord that I was going to die so that he would leave me. The counter-spell had already been started before I realised that Potter was in the room.
At that point it was too late; I was doomed to continue living. I simply had to decide whether I wished to spend my remaining days in a changing world where the likes of me would not be welcome for years to come or for me to live my cursed life away from the magic which had damned me.
I used a concentrated dose of Polyjuice potion and a long-term Glamour charm on the body of one of the Death Eaters. I had to count on the fact that the survivors would wish to bury the dead quickly following the end of the battle. And you were wrong. No one helped me… no one knew.
All of it had been a gamble, to be sure, but one which paid off well for me. I spent years living in Switzerland, undetected by those who had known me. Though I was still tortured by Albus Dumbledore speaking in my ear about how I had failed him and how I had failed Lily.
Your first letter wasn't relegated as rubbish because it muffled that voice. It wasn't until your letter which informed me that your husband had died when the voice of Albus Dumbledore was silenced completely.
The tone of your letters changed at that time. And for the first time, I began to see similarities in our lives, similarities between you and Lily and, finally, I began to come to peace with my own life.
I felt an unfamiliar compulsion to reach out to you when you were mourning, but the timing was never right. At first it was too close to the death of your husband and then I became busy with work. Ensuring that you were able to acquire some of my most treasured tomes was the only way that I felt that I could communicate with you. It was all I could do without risking bringing attention to myself.
After you returned to the shop that I once owned, I knew that I had missed my chance to ever connect with you. You had at last received your confirmation that I was receiving and reading your letters, but that I had chosen to still remain in the shadows.
What you failed to realise is that after living my entire life in darkness it would have been too uncomfortable, and therefore undesirable, to suddenly be in the spotlight. And despite your reassurances, I did not wish to risk being locked away to spend my remaining days in prison. A letter from me would have been too easy for the Aurors to trace and written proof that I was alive would be enough to reopen my file and for the manhunt to begin. Isn't that right, Mrs Head-of-the-Wizengamot? Even if you and Mr Potter believed in my innocence and well meant intentions, you would have both been legally bound to follow the procedures and go through the judicial system. Which equates to there having been no certainties in the outcome.
Getting the books to you without bringing attention to myself was the only logical course of action for me to let you know that I was, in fact, still here.
After I sold my shop, I began a career as an antique book dealer and for several years I was never in the same place for more than a few days at a time. Ten years ago I came to South Bend, Indiana and I decided to stay. It seemed oddly fitting for reasons that you can surely deduce, and I have become comfortable here.
With the letters in the box, you will also find the final books of my Victor Hugo collection. They aren't as impressive as the other tomes that you have, but that is simply because they have been well-read. Just as writing those letters made you feel connected to me, reading these books has made me feel closer to you.
I came to know you through your letters. You became my shining light and my friend. You showed me that it was possible to have a life after Lily.
Too bad I only learned of that fact after it was a lifetime too late.
My dearest Hermione, thank you for the friendship, companionship and unconditional caring that you offered me. For what had seemed like a one-sided friendship to you equated to my whole world. You have, indeed, given me cause to commemorate each anniversary of the fall of the Dark Lord and I now view this time of year as a time of my own rebirth.
2 January 2044
I just wanted to tell you that it's very cold in Indiana right now. Mum was very tight-lipped about whom she wanted to see when we took the Portkey here, but she started to tell me a few things last night.
Did she ever tell you that for a few years she used to write to Severus Snape? You know who I'm talking about—that professor from Hogwarts who everyone spoke about. The one who all of the Gryffindors hated and the Slytherins adored…. The one who died during the Battle of Hogwarts…. The one who was the reason that Uncle Harry fought with the Board of School Governors insisting that they place his portrait in the Headmaster's office.
Yes, that Severus Snape.
It seems that Mum found him, very much alive, during one of our family trips when we were both still in school and she began writing to him. She said that he never wrote her back, but eventually he placed a few rare books in second-hand bookshops of cities that he knew she was planning on visiting.
Mum said that she received a letter from a solicitor the day before Christmas informing her that he had died—which explains why she seemed so distant on Christmas. It hit her pretty hard, Hugh. I didn't realise that she even knew the man outside of school, but it's obvious from her reaction that she cared for him. At least in some manner.
It was painful to watch her this afternoon. She went to the cemetery and found his marker. Mum asked to be left alone, so I told her I was going for a walk. I watched her from a small cropping of trees as she sat on that cold, wet ground, opened one of those old books of hers and quietly read a passage aloud. I'm not even sure what she read, she was so quiet. When she was finished, she placed the book back in her bag and then she pulled her wand slightly out of the sleeve of her sweater and discreetly cleared a small area in front of the grave marker. After that, she pulled out a small stack of envelopes and placed them in the clearing and with another flick, she lit them on fire.
She never shed a tear, but she seemed terribly resigned as she sat there and watched the flames consume what I believe were the letters she had sent to Snape. At first, I was more worried about her than I was after Dad died, but now, when I look at her, she appears to be almost at peace. It's as if an incredible weight has been lifted off of her shoulders. Mum hasn't said much since the trip to the cemetery this afternoon, but I honestly think she's going to be all right.
I hope that you and Grace are doing well. Mum and I will be home soon. She said that she wants to go visit the university near here before we leave. And, of course, see if there are any used bookshops around here. I'm sure there are. Aren't there always?
I love you,