"I am home, Mr. Creevey," Snape said firmly. "I have a job and a life here, both of which are infinitely preferable to anything I ever had back in England, and certainly more appealing than what awaits me should I return."
Dennis opened his mouth to protest, and Snape cut him off. "Don't contradict me, Creevey," he said dangerously, and Dennis shut his mouth with a snap.
Snape moved across the room to stand in front of him, where he regarded Dennis with those dark, unfathomable eyes that he still remembered from so long ago. "The world loves a dead hero, Mr. Creevey," said Snape, crossing his arms over his chest as he loomed over him. "He's conveniently out of the way, so that everyone can laud him and praise him, bestow upon him a lot of empty honours—and name their brats after him—and yet not have to trouble themselves with the man himself. The same cannot be said for a living loose end—suddenly, they no longer have a symbol, they have a person. People aren't the same as rose-colored memories, and you'll find that they tend to topple from their pedestals." His eyes glinted. "While world may love a martyr, Mr. Creevey, it resents a survivor."
Dennis stared at Snape, blinking, and nearly jumped out of his skin when the door suddenly flew open with a bang. "Uncle Greene! Uncle Andrews! It's—oh!"
A tiny Mexican girl had just dashed into the house but stopped short in the doorway, her eyes wide as she looked at Dennis. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she said, her voice high and clear and her English charmingly accented with just a touch of Manchester.
"Quite all right," said Snape. "Mr. Creevey was just leaving."
The little girl looked shyly at Dennis, bobbed a quick curtsey, and then ran across the room. She took a detour to kiss Sands on the cheek, which he endured with ill grace, before dashing over to stand just behind Snape, clinging to his shirt as she peered out at Dennis.
"What is here for me, you ask?" Snape said. "I have a home where I am respected for my abilities, not because Harry Bloody Potter says I should be. Where people speak to me not for the notoriety, but because they want my opinion. Where people don't look at me and see a symbol, they just see a man. I am here because this is my home, and it is where I want to be."
Dennis looked at him, and then he looked at the small but neat house, looked at Sands smirking from his chair, looked at the little girl; her small brown hand was clutched in Snape's shirt as she looked adoringly up at him with wide dark eyes, Snape's long fingers buried in her short black curls.
And he understood.
"Yes, sir," he said, and he stood.
Snape nodded curtly, and disentangled himself from the little girl to follow him as he made his way to the door. Dennis swung it open, and Snape spoke again. "The world isn't divided into Gryffindors and Death Eaters, Mr. Creevey," he rasped. "Not all of us want fame and notoriety, power and prestige; some of us just want peace and quiet."
And Dennis felt himself smiling. "I—I understand, Sir," he said. "But still—thank you. For everything." And he held out his hand. Snape sneered at him and ignored the proffered hand; Dennis dropped it, but he smiled even wider. "Goodbye, Professor—and I promise that I won't tell anyone where you are."
"No, Mr. Creevey," Snape agreed. "You won't." And he drew his wand.
The sun was sinking low in the on the horizon, the pale white shadow of the moon growing brighter as the bright blue of the late afternoon sky darkened to purple in the east. Lights were flickering on in the houses that lined the street as dusk began to fall. Dennis looked blinkingly around him, surprised—he didn't think he'd been out walking this long—or this far.
He looked behind him, at the pinks and golds painting their way across the twilit sky; he could hear the sounds of people coming home to dinner after a long day at work. The little bundles of peppers and herbs by the door beside him were swaying gently in the cool evening breeze that caressed his face. The day was ending.
Dennis thought of Colin, his brother—and then he thought of his son. He would be waiting for him back at the house, and his little sister, and Annie, too. He smiled, and started whistling tunelessly to himself as he walked down the street, towards his family, borne away on the sound of laughter from the lighted house behind him.
Final Author's Note: And that is the end. We would once again like to extend our thanks to the deleterians who inspired this pairing, to our fabulous betas for helping us to get this fic into posting order, and most of all to our readers, for your comments and encouragements and for sticking with us until the bitter end.
Mervin and Mrs. Hyde