Save the Last Dance

A/N: 1 Galleon is equal to approximately $5

Severus decided he would take Arista home for the rest of the Christmas holiday until
the Yule Ball. Arista therefore had to hurry up and pack, which she did with Mel's help. "You and Tricia need to come over so we can discuss what the heck we're wearing for the Ball. Oh, and you can borrow some of my shoes, my mom left me tons of them."

"Cool. But I don't think they'll fit my big feet."

"So we'll spell 'em to your size," Arista said, then hugged her. "I'll send you a letter
with Nightfall inviting you over in a few days."

"See you soon," Mel said, hugging her back. "Hey, have you got a date for the Ball yet?"

"No. And I don't know if I ever will," Arista admitted.

"Why not? Half the guys in the school will probably want to go out with you now."

"No, they won't. Because none of them have the guts enough to talk to my father."

"Oh. Wait a minute, you mean a guy has to ask your dad's permission?"

"Yeah. He's old fashioned that way."

Mel cast her a look of utter sympathy. "Good luck then, Arista."

"Do you have a date?"

"Um, Kit asked me last night," Mel admitted flushing. "I said yes."

"Good for you!" Arista said. "Do you know if Trish has anybody?"

"Nope. If she does, she never said."

The two friends bid each other goodbye and Arista levitated her trunk down to the
entrance hall and sat down on it to wait for her father. Comfrey was curled in her carrier, drowsing.

She was thinking about finding a dress for the Ball when she looked up and found
Drake at her elbow. "Oh! You scared me."

"Sorry. It's a habit," he said, referring to his soundless approach.

"Are you going home for the holidays?"

"Tomorrow. It's my little sister Trina's birthday. She's eight." He glanced down at his
sneakers, chewing his lower lip nervously.

"Tell her Happy Birthday from me."

"I will." He didn't look at her.

She was puzzled by his behavior. "Drake? Is there, uh, something the matter?"

"No. I . . .it's just . . .well, I was w-wondering if you . . .did anybody ask you to the Ball yet?" he finally managed, inbetween pauses where he counted breaths.

"No. Why?"

There was a rather long pause. Finally he asked, "So . . .would you like to go with me then?" His gray eyes met hers.

"You're asking me out?" she repeated incredulously.

"Umm . . .yeah."

"Sure I'll go with you. Only . . .there's a bit of a problem."

He grinned at her. "I know. You don't have a dress."

"No, well, that's a problem too, just not the one I meant."

"Huh?"

"It's my dad."

"He won't let you go? Because of the giant?"

"No, he's not mad at me for that anymore. It's just that . . .this is going to sound stupid
. . .but if you want to go with me, you have to ask his permission . . .he thinks we're still in the 1940's or whatever . . .If you don't want to go now, it's okay . . ."

"Arista, it's all right," Drake held up a hand. "Really. It's not a problem."

"It's not?" she gaped at him.

"Should it be?"

"Well . . .most guys wouldn't dare ask him for anything, especially not to take out his
only daughter on a date, even if it is to a school dance. Not even if they were in Slytherin."

"I'm not most Slytherins," said Drake simply.

"No, you're not. He doesn't scare you."

"No reason why he should. I learned a long time ago, you only need to be scared of
him if you misbehave. And asking his daughter to the Yule Ball ain't misbehaving, is it?"

She shook her head, giving him a gentle smile. A black trunk and several bags landed next to her, followed by a set of familiar footsteps. "Here's your chance. Go for it."

Drake squared his shoulders, drawing himself up to his full height. He seemed small next to the tall figure of the professor.

"Arista, are you all set?" Severus asked. "Because the Hogwarts Express is only running for a short time this afternoon."

"Yeah, I've got everything, Dad."

"Good." He glanced at Drake who was standing quietly beside him. "Hello, Lockwood. Was there something you needed to see me about?"

"Yes, sir." There was no hesitation in his manner now. He looked Professor Snape
directly in the eyes and said softly, "I'd like to take Arista to the Ball. If that's okay with you, sir?"

Severus eyed the boy for a moment, considering. Drake did not look away, meeting
his scrutiny steadily. Finally, a kid with guts enough to stand up and ask to take my daughter out. And this one's respectful too, not like most boys his age, he thought.

Arista was frozen on her trunk, her hands clasped together, not daring to look at them.
Her lips moved in a silent prayer. Please, Dad, please don't scare him away. He's the only date I'll ever get this late in the term and I'd really like to go with him.
Severus cleared his throat. "So, Drake, you want to take my daughter out to the Yule
Ball?"

"I do, sir."

"Have you asked her yet?"

"Just now, sir."

"She said yes, I take it. All right, Mr. Lockwood, you can escort Arista to the Ball."
Arista breathed again. Then she saw her father's eyes narrow in warning. "However, see that you treat her with respect, young man. Otherwise you'll answer to me."

Drake did not flinch. "Understood, sir."

Severus clapped him lightly on the shoulder, giving him a smile. "You'll do, Lockwood. And now, if you'll excuse us, we really have to be going. Have a nice Christmas."

"You too, sir." He turned to Arista. "See you at the Ball, Arista."

"Bye, Drake." Arista waved at him, then picked up Comfrey's carrier and followed her
father out of the entrance hall, the trunks floating gracefully behind her.

* * * * * *
After unpacking her trunk, Arista went downstairs to the kitchen to fix herself
something to eat. There wasn't much in the pantry, since no one had been home to go grocery shopping. She found a jar of peanut butter and made herself a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich. Then she walked into the den, where Snape was rearranging papers on his desk in the alcove. "Dad, we need some food. And we desperately need Christmas decorations."

"Make a list," he said without looking up. "We'll go out in awhile and get whatever we need."

Arista snagged a quill from his desk and dug a scrap of paper from her pocket. "Where are we gonna get a tree a week before Christmas? All the good ones are taken."

"Hagrid's bringing it. I picked it out before we left Hogwarts." Severus said. "It should be here by tomorrow morning."

"Really? That's cool." She returned to writing down a list of food and decorations.

* * * * * *
The tree was in a corner of the den, decorated with various glass balls, candy canes, and gold ribbons as well as twinkling red and green fairy lights. A crystal star shone with a soft rainbow light and the tree skirt was a dark green velvet with silver trim. The rest of the little house was decorated tastefully with holly and evergreen boughs twined with red ribbons above the fireplace and more ribbons and pinecones and little silver bells were twirled about the banister going up the stairs. A wreath hung on the door and the bushes in front of the walk had been draped with strings of popcorn and cranberries, Christmas decorations that were also food for the birds and squirrels.

Even Comfrey sported a new red velvet bow about her neck. The whole house smelled sweetly of evergreen and cinnamon and spices. Arista surveyed the tree from the kitchen, while absently snitching gingerbread cookies from a platter on thecounter.

"The tree looks great. Wonder how many presents I'll have under it?"

"None, if you don't quit eating all my cookies," Severus answered, removing a tray of
gingerbread men from the oven.

She gave him an injured look. "What are you making them for, if I can't eat them?"

"I said you could have some, not the whole plate. The rest are for Christmas."

"But they're so good," she said, and grabbed another one when his back was turned.

"I saw that!" he said without turning around.

"How? You got eyes in the back of your head?"

"You bet I do, after thirteen years of teaching all you incorrigible brats." He turned
around. "Go invite your friends over or something and let me cook in peace. Now get!" he ordered, giving her a swat with his spatula.

She whistled for Nightfall, Severus's tawny owl, and fastened two letters to the bird's
leg. "Got a job for you, sweetie. Bring these to Mel and Tricia." She fed Nightfall a piece of ham. The owl chirruped and rubbed his head against her hand before flying out the open kitchen window.

Severus finished removing the last tray of gingerbread from the oven. He'd forgotten
how much work they were to make, since he hadn't baked cookies in thirteen years. There had been no need to, since he spent all the holidays at the school.

Twenty-five minutes later the doorbell rang.

"Something smells absolutely divine," said Tricia, as she walked into the house followed by Mel.

"Dad's gingerbread cookies," Arista informed her, hanging their coats, scarves, and
hats up on the coat rack. Then she led the way into the kitchen, where Severus had just begun to wash the dishes with a cleaning charm.

"Hello, Professor!" Mel said, sniffing appreciatively. The aroma of gingerbread was
heavy in the air.

"Hello, Mel, Tricia," he greeted them. "Help yourself," he indicated the plate of gingerbread cookies.

Mel bit into her cookie and sighed. "Oh my God! This is the best gingerbread I've ever
tasted."

Tricia agreed. "What spell did you use, Professor? Because I've never tasted anything
like this."

"None," Severus answered, eating one himself. "I made them from scratch."

"Told you he could cook," Arista laughed at the girls' astonished expressions.

"And without magic too." Tricia said, taking another cookie.

"I never use magic when I cook. It doesn't taste right." The Potions Master said,
getting some milk out of the fridge. Looks like I haven't lost my touch. He handed a glass to each of them.

"Maybe that's why my mother's cooking tastes like cardboard sometimes," remarked
Mel, munching an arm off of her second gingerbread man.

"Probably. Conjured food never tastes as good as homemade." Arista quoted, making Severus smile.

After they had finished their snack, Arista took them upstairs to her bedroom to show
them her shoe collection. Severus went into the den to look at the copy of Potions Weekly that had just arrived in the mail that morning. The fire was crackling merrily and the lights from the tree sparkled, reflecting off the array of pretty glass bottles on the mantle.

Snape settled in his recliner, flipping through the magazine. Nightfall perched on the
back of his chair, nibbling the buttered toast square he'd been given as a reward for delivering the letters earlier. The Potions Master idly reached up a finger to scratch the bird's chest, while he scanned the articles on various kinds of drafts and solutions.

It felt good to be home, especially now that Arista was here. His house had not felt like much of a home at all since Amelia had died, simply a place where he went when he wasn't teaching. But now it did. It was too bad Amelia wasn't here to share it with him.

There was an interesting article on a new sleeping draft that he began to read. Lately,
he'd been having trouble sleeping again, and the brand of the Death Eaters, which was usually invisible, had begun to darken and burn. He swore softly, for he knew well what that portended. Soon he would have to resume his spying for the Order of the Phoenix, for when Voldemort returned they must be prepared. He only prayed he could keep Arista safe during the dark times that were sure to follow.

But not just yet, he thought lazily. Right then all he wanted was to enjoy the first
holiday he'd ever had with his daughter. That took priority over his secret agenda for now.

Suddenly, there came the sounds of teenage girls laughing, shrieking, and giggling.
Several loud thumps followed, as if they were falling off of the bed or something. Nightfall woke up from his nap and hooted softly in irritation, then tucked his headback under his wing.

"What the blazes is going on up there?" he asked the owl. More giggling could be heard. "On second thought, I don't want to know."

He turned back to his article.

An excited squeal drifted down the stairs. "Look at this! Pradas! Oh my God! Snape's
got Pradas!"

"No way! Let me see those!"

"What about these? Black Coach boots! They'll go smashing with my black skirt, don't
you think? I want these!"

Take them, please! Take them all, she's got a dozen more pairs just like them. He
winced as the squeals rose into a register unheard of to the human ear. Oh, the joys of having a teenage girl. God help me, I think I'm going to go deaf. He tried in vain to concentrate on his magazine.

"Where's my wand, dammit? These are too tight."

"Hey, I was trying those on! The green Candelabras. Don't take them away."

Snape wished someone would take him away. Far away, to a deserted island. "Is it
really necessary for them to scream so loud? They're only shoes, for Godsake, not the Crown Jewels."

He could feel his head beginning to throb. And I have HOW many more years of this?

The ceiling shook in time to the girls' footsteps. "What the hell are they doing now—having a bloody parade?"

Comfrey shot down the stairs, her fur standing on end. She sprang up on his lap,
huddling in a ball, a nervous wreck. He began to stroke her gently. "Couldn't take it, huh? I don't blame you. Sounds like the Charge of the damn Light Brigade up there. And that's with only three of them. Could you imagine what it would be like with more?" Comfrey mewed, and rubbed against his hand. "You're right. I won't even go there."

The squeals subsided and he breathed a sigh of relief. Now he had only half of a
migraine. "Tomorrow we're having a shoe sale, I swear it. I refuse to go through this every time her friends come over. Or better yet, let her go over their house, that way their parents can deal with this insanity. They're probably used to it."

Comfrey began to purr, and gradually Snape's frazzled nerves were soothed and
calmed. He began to re-read his article for the thirtieth time.

Had Snape ventured upstairs to Arista's bedroom at that moment, he would have had
a stroke. Dozens of pairs of shoes of every description, color, brand (Muggle and Wizard), and three different sizes covered the floor and exploded out of the closet. And they were only a portion of the Amarotti collection, all of which Arista had inherited. The rest were still in boxes in the closet. Arista had spent an entire two weeks over the summer organizing the shoes by season and color and occasion-i.e.—winter, black Gucci, dress shoes. Otherwise she'd never find anything.

The girls had used a summoning charm to call the shoes from their racks in the closet. Some of the odd sounds the professor had heard in the den were from three boxes of shoes hitting the floor at once. It was a teenage girl's shoe paradise. Arista had generously allowed her friends to choose three pairs of shoes each, one pair for the Yule Ball and the others for everyday around the school. And she had promised they could return in the summer and pick out some more.

Tricia and Mel went into transports. They were now sprawled across Arista's bed, their new acquisitions stacked neatly on the desk, though Mel was still wearing her new Coach sneakers, which had been altered by magic to fit her. All of them were studying the array of fashion magazines Tricia had brought from her house.

There were copies of Witch Weekly, Teen Witches, The Sartorial Sorceress, and Spell- o-rama, which wasn't only a fashion magazine, but had some hot pictures of teen wizard heartthrobs. Some of the giggling and squealing had been over a young wizard rock star called Zappo.

While they perused the fashion mags, they had also discussed their dates for the Ball (cause for more screaming, when they found out Drake had asked out Arista and Trish had snared Rowan Glendower, who was a Ravenclaw fifth-year and substitute Seeker for the House team).

"Oh, Bulstrode's gonna be green when you show up with Rowan," giggled Mel. "She's been after him for simply ages, practically ambushed him in the garden one day. You rule, Trish!"

Tricia grinned proudly. "And I didn't have to do anything. He asked me. I almost
passed out right there in the corridor. I can't believe he actually noticed me with all Marsh's girls throwing themselves at him."

"Beauty's only skin deep. Class will win over it every time, if the guy's smart. And
you're class to your fingertips, Tricia Greenbough," Arista said. "And you've a personality about you too."

Tricia beamed.

"I'll say. All Marsh and her maidens like to talk about is me, myself, and I," Mel
added. "Who wants to have a conversation with a mirror?"

Trish sighed dreamily. "Not my Rowan. I feel like Cinderella." Then her eyes lit on
a small blue oval disk covered in silver sparkles resting on Arista's nightstand. "A
spellophone! Mel, she's got a spellophone! But they're brand new, how'd you ever find one? My mum tried to order me one from Sophisticates and Spells and they were all sold out."

"That was a present from Remus Lupin. A thank-you for giving him my improved
Wolfsbane Potion. It came two days ago. Dad has the ring component."

"Ooo I'm so jealous!" Mel cried, picking up the little sparkling disk, which was about
the size of a mirror compact and flipping it open.

The top part of the spellophone had two buttons on it, Send and Receive. The bottom
portion was covered in a silvery gel, which hardened when not in use. They were all the rage this year. The spellophone was a communication device so parents and friends could keep in touch with the holder without resorting to cumbersome letters or Reminder Charms. It consisted of the ring component, which was a ring linked to the image disk. There were often two or three rings with a spellophone. When a person turned the ring around on his or her finger and spoke the disk holder's name, it activated the spell set in the disk and the person could talk to the holder just as if they were standing next to them, and vice versa. The image gel on the bottom of the disk would create a copy of the person's face when the ringer called and the ring had a small gel bubble on it as well so the disk holder could reply.

"How many rings did it come with?" Tricia asked, looking at the little disk with longing.

"Three, but Dad won't let me give them to you yet. He says we've got to field test it first."

"So what are we waiting for? Let's go field test it! We'll go dress shopping," Tricia
said happily, jumping to her feet. "I think they're having a sale at the Witch Emporium today."

"Oh, I am so there!" cried Mel, grabbing her broom. "Good thing mum and dad gave me my allowance plus money for my dress this morning."

"I still have to ask for mine," Arista admitted. "He was baking, so I didn't have a
chance." She tucked the spellophone in the pocket of her jeans.

"So let's go ask him," Mel said, starting to open the door.

Arista gestured and the door swung shut. "Hold it, girlfriend. You don't go anywhere
until you help me clean up this mess. You got any idea how much trouble I'd be in if he came up here and saw this?" She gestured to the floor.

"Ye gods!" Mel yelped. "Hell hath no fury like Professor Snape." She drew her wand
and spoke a neaten-up charm. Shoes began to fly into boxes and return to the closet.

Tricia pointed her wand at another section of the room. "I'll finish this while you two
go and ask him," she volunteered. "I don't mind."

"Thanks!" Arista said, and released the locking charm on the door.

They found Severus in the recliner, halfway through Potions Weekly, circling items
with a quill. The cat was asleep on his knee and Nightfall was drowsing on his accustomed perch at the back. A goblet of cider and a half-bitten cookie were on the end table beside the recliner.

"Hey, Dad. The girls and I wanted to go shopping." Arista said, walking up to him.

He put a finger in the magazine and looked up. "Not for shoes."

"Already got enough of those," she laughed. "I need a dress. You know, for the Ball."

"And we want to test the spellophone," Mel added, her eyes glowing.

"I figured as much." The ring component was on his right hand, a silver band with what looked like a moonstone cabochon. "So, how much are we talking here? One hundred Galleons?"

"Umm . . .well . . ." Arista looked helplessly at Mel. She had no clue how much a Ball
dress cost.

Before Mel could say anything, Severus said, "Two hundred? Come on, I haven't got
all day. Two fifty?"

"I guess two hundred's good," Arista began, and Mel elbowed her in the ribs hard.

"Two fifty sounds about right, Professor. Inflation, you know."

"Fine. You know where my key is, Arista." He took a shiny gold parchment from his
pocket and signed it. "Here's a note for the goblin manager," He handed her a Gringott's bank note with the amount written in and signed on the bottom. Underage wizards couldn't make withdrawals from an account unless their name was on it, or had a bank note signed by their parent or guardian.

"Thanks, Dad. What time do you want us to come home?"

"I'll call you when dinner's ready," he said. "See if this ring really works the way Lupin said it would." He turned back to his magazine.

"See you later, Professor," Mel said, and dragged Arista out of the room. "Yo, Trish!
We're ready to fly."

"Coming!"

Then Mel began pulling on her coat, saying in an undertone, "You bleeding cracked,
girl? When a man offers you two hundred and fifty Galleons, you take it! You don't try and give it back, you twit!"

"But, Mel, does a dress really cost that much? I felt like I was ripping him off."

"Hey, he offered. Besides, even if the dress doesn't cost all two fifty we can
accessorize. Don't you know anything, Snape? You might be able to do brain surgery, but you sure as blazes don't know how to clothes shop. Good thing you've got me and Trish."

Tricia joined them a moment later. "Two hundred and fifty Galleons!" she repeated,
her eyes bugging out. "We can buy top of the line with that. A dress that will blow even
Brittany Marsh away. Can you adopt me?"

Arista picked up her broom. "Trish, Brittany's got more money than God. Her father's
a bank consultant."

"Trust me. We're gonna blow her away, or my mum's not Glinda Greenbough." She
was rubbing her hands eagerly. "Diagon Alley, look out, 'cause the S. R. girls are on the prowl."

"Mrrow!" Mel said and they flew out the door, laughing hysterically.

Severus heaved a sigh as the door shut. Finally, some peace and quiet! It's a beautiful thing, the sound of silence.

Three hours later, the spellophone chimed. Arista flipped it open and pressed the
Receive button. Professor's Snape's face arose from the gel and said, "Hi, Arista. I've got dinner all ready, so come home now."

She hit Send and spoke into the disk. "Will do, Dad. Be home in seven. It works
awesome, doesn't it? Love you, bye."

Her friends sighed in envy as she closed the silvery disk.

A teenage witch passing by with her mother saw it and gave a cry. "Mum! She's got
a spellophone, no fair! I want one too."

"Ask your father, dear," was all her mother said, dragging her daughter away.

"C'mon, let's get out of here," Arista said, uneasy at the attention she was getting from most of the young girls on the street, who were staring at her with undisguised envy and loathing. She hopped on her broom.

"You said it, girlfriend." Tricia gave her a high five. "Our shopping trip was a brilliant
success. And I'm starving!"

They arrived back at Spinner's End just as Severus was setting down the pan of lasagna and garlic bread.

Arista squealed in delight. "Yum! Lasagna! My favorite. Wait'll you taste this, it's an
old Amarotti recipe. It's to die for."

"How was your shopping trip? Get everything you needed?" he asked, putting down
a pitcher of iced tea with lemon on the kitchen table.

"Oh, yeah. It was great." Arista said, giving him a hug on her way to her chair.

"Wait'll you see the dress, Professor," Mel said. "It's a knockout."

"It's gonna knock Brittany dead," Tricia added gleefully.

Severus' eyes gleamed. "Good. About time someone took the little snot down a peg.
Acts like she owns the whole universe."

"Why, Professor! She's a Slytherin," exclaimed Mel.

"So? Just because she's Slytherin doesn't mean I like her. She's also a spoiled rotten brat that needs a good spanking. Give her one, Arista."

"I will, Dad. Wait and see." Then she helped herself to a huge piece of lasagna.

* * * * * *
They had decided to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, since Christmas Day they had to travel back to Hogwarts for the Yule Ball. It had snowed, light powdery stuff that clung to all the trees and gates and lamp posts, making everything sparkle with an icy white glow.

Their Christmas feast was a small turkey with all the trimmings, another pan of lasagna, bread with honey butter, mugs of spiced cider and last but not least, a chocolate cream pie. They played a recording sent by Fireflash of the bronze dragon singing Christmas carols. It was better than anything on the WWN (Wireless Wizarding Network).

Arista kept casting longing glances at the pile of presents under the tree.

"Oh, go and open them," Severus relented after fifteen minutes of mute glances.

"Yes!" She beckoned him to follow her. "You've got some too, you know."

He leaned on the edge of the sofa, watching her, a contended smile on his face.

From Mel she got a blue leather journal and a new Everlast Eagle Quill, which was
reputed to never run out of ink. The card attached read, Now you can write down all those crazy ideas in your head, girlfriend. Merry Christmas! Love, Mel. From Tricia there was a subscription to Healer's Digest. Kit sent her a box of Chocolate Frogs. Drake gave her a certificate for 10 Galleons to Flourish and Blotts. "Awesome! There's a new book coming out that I want."

"There always is," Severus laughed. "And these are from me." He pointed his wand.
"Accio!" Three brightly wrapped boxes appeared at her feet.

She tore open the largest. "Galen's Concise Medical Encyclopedia and Veterinary
Handbook!
I've been wanting this for months. Thanks so much!"

"You're welcome. Go on, open the other two."

The next gift was a pretty crystal bottle of perfume. She opened it and inhaled the
sweet fragrance of lemon blossom, a touch of honey, and wild berries. "Beautiful! I'll use this tomorrow night." She examined the box to see who had made it. "What store made this? I don't see a label."

"You're looking at him."

"You made this? For me?" she stared up at him. "That's so awesome, Dad!" She
dabbed some on her wrists. "Does it have a name?"

"I called it Mystic Touch," he answered. "For my healer daughter."

"You're the best, Dad." She grinned at him. Then she opened the last box, it was small, wrapped in green and gold tissue. Inside were a dainty pair of gold heart-shaped earrings with miniature phoenixes engraved upon them. "Oh! They match my locket! I love them!"

"I figured you'd need something to wear for the Ball," he said, his eyes twinkling.

"That's what you were doing all those nights in your lab," she cried, then jumped up
and hugged him. "I love you, Dad."

"Love you too," he said.

She snapped her fingers and two silver and green packages appeared on the couch.
"Merry Christmas, Dad."

"What's this?"

"Presents! Open them!" she was practically jumping up and down.

The first one was a huge book of all kinds of rare potion recipes, The Potion Master's
Bible: A Guide to Rare and Unusual and Expert Potions.
"Where did you find this? Bosworth sold his last copy weeks ago."

"To me. Like it?"

"You know I do. Thank you."

"Open the next one. It's even better," she urged.

She watched impatiently as he unwrapped the flat square package.

For a moment he could do nothing but stare at it. It was a large portrait of the original
photo taken by Fireflash in the glen. A much younger Severus Snape was holding Amelia and smiling at her, and she was laughing up at him. The frame was a burnished cherry wood with a brass plate on it that read: Severus and Amelia Summer, 1980.
"I figured you could, uh, hang it in here, above the fireplace. So then you could look
at her whenever you wanted," Arista said, uncertainty creeping into her voice. "Don't you like it?"

"I . . ." for one minute he could not find his voice. "It's perfect," he managed to say,
blinking rapidly. His vision blurred with tears. He looked up at the empty spot on the wall above the mantle. "Let's put it up where it belongs."

He gestured and the portrait zoomed up and hung itself on the wall. "Merry Christmas, Amelia, my love," he whispered. Two tears trickled down his cheeks. He quickly wiped a hand across his eyes. It's just a picture, Snape, no need to get all emotional over it, he scolded himself gently.

Arista came and put her arm around him, leaning her head on his shoulder. "She was really beautiful, wasn't she?"

"Yes. In every way possible. But so's her daughter. Never doubt that, Arista."He
smiled down at her. "I know I don't say this enough, but I'm proud of you, Arista. You are such an accomplished magician and you remind me so much of your mother, which is the highest compliment I can give you. She would be proud of you too."Arista was so moved she couldn't talk, so she simply settled for hugging him tighter and projecting her own feelings of love and happiness at him. They remained that way for several minutes, looking up at the portrait of the auburn-haired woman that had made the impossible possible, bringing hope and love to a lonely wizard so long ago.

Just then there came a loud BANG. "What was that?" Arista cried, jumping like a
startled deer. "It sounded like it was coming from outside."

There came a soft hoot, repeated two times.

"That's the Express Post. Must be Jenna and Colin's Christmas present for you," her
father said, going to open the door. "They did send me a letter saying it was coming."

"It got here early then," Arista said, following him.

They threw open the door to find a large box on the porch. A huge red bow was atop
it, and tied on with twine was a small scroll. Two eagle owls were perched on it, hooting quietly.

"Wow! What is it?"

"I don't have any idea," Severus admitted, feeding the eagle owls pieces of turkey as
a thank you. They flew off into the night. "Why don't you read the note?"

Arista undid the scroll. "To Arista and Severus Snape,
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from your favorite Dark Hunters in America.
We hope you are all doing well and got lots of snow. Jenna and I are great, we're
expecting a baby in about five months. Got any advice for me, Sev? I think I'm gonna need it. Fireflash says hi. Anyway, here's a gift for you and Arista. Remember when we had that conversation about magehounds over the summer, Severus? You told me you wanted to see one—"

"Flynn, you didn't!" Severus groaned, putting two and two together. "Please tell me
that's not what I think it is!"

"—so we thought you'd like to adopt Scout. He's a retired magehound that worked
on the New York force for twelve years and he needed a good home where people would appreciate him and love him. Magehounds are very intelligent and they live for about forty years, so you'll have him around to play with your grandchildren, Sev. We've sent along all of his things, just open the crate. Oh, and if you want him to track something for you just tell him Search! and show him a picture or an object and he'll find it. He once tracked a dark wizard across the Rockies, no joke. Have fun and Merry Christmas!

Colin and Jenna
"A dog! They got me a dog!" Arista was already kneeling down to undo the latch on
the crate.

Flynn, I'm going to throttle you! I said I wanted to SEE one, not own one. "It's a damn
conspiracy! Why don't we just hang out a sign—Snape's Animal Rescue—and be done with it?" he muttered, scowling at the wooden crate with its red bow.

"Come on, baby," his daughter was crooning. "Come out and see your new home. Come on, Scout."

"And let's hope he doesn't wreck the place," Snape grumbled.

A dark nose stuck itself out of the crate, sniffing eagerly. Then all at once a sleek
golden hound emerged, shaking himself, his long ears flopping. He had huge blue eyes and resembled a foxhound. He gazed about him alertly.

"He's gorgeous! Hello, Scout!" Arista cried.

The magehound's tail began to wag. Then he barked and began to cover Arista's face in kisses. She threw her arms about the dog's neck. "Isn't he wonderful, Dad?"

Snape eyed the pair resignedly. "Just what I always wanted. A dog that lives for half
a human lifetime. Thanks ever so much, Flynn."

"Aww, come on, Dad. He's a great dog. I mean, he's already housetrained and he
probably knows all kinds of tricks and stuff, since he was a Hunter's partner." She released the dog, whose tail was still wagging. "Say hello to him, Dad."

Snape looked at the dog and rolled his eyes. To his surprise the dog sat down in front of him and offered up a paw. The Potions Master took it. "All right, I suppose you can stay. But let's get one thing straight, dog. I'm the boss here, not you. That means you do what I say when I say it. And the number one rule here is you leave my things alone. God help you if you chew my robes, my shoes, or my wand . . .I'll ship you right back across the ocean. And no begging at the table, or sleeping on my bed, or barking at two o'clock in the morning for no reason. . . are we clear on all that?" He knelt down to look the dog in the eye.

Scout looked right back at him. Then he barked and slurped his tongue across Snape's face.

The Potions Master grimaced. "What? You think I'll like you if you lick me to death?
Fat chance. Make up to my daughter, not me." He wiped his face on his sleeve. Then he rose to his feet. "Some Christmas present. What's next? A cow and a horse in the backyard?" he went back inside, still grumbling.

Arista turned to gather Scout's food and dishes out of the crate. "Don't mind him. He
just likes to complain, he never means half of it. Welcome home, Scout. You're gonna love it here."

She held open the door and the magehound walked sedately inside.

When she staggered in the door five minutes later, laden down with the dog's
belongings, including food, dishes, leash, and chew bones, she found Scout eating leftover turkey and gravy in the kitchen.

Her father was watching the dog eat, frowning. "What were they feeding him over
there, grass?"

Arista hid a grin and began rearranging the pantry to make room for Scout's food and
treats. When she glanced up again, she saw that Scout was sitting down next to her father, who was petting the magehound's silken ears.

Drake Lockwood waited anxiously in the entrance hall, his eyes scanning the milling
students, all of whom were waiting for the doors to the Great Hall to be thrown open at 8 o'clock, which was when the Ball would begin. He didn't see Arista anywhere. He fought back the urge to pace, instead playing idly with a sickle in his pocket, making it dance along the backs of his fingers, then flipping it up and catching it with his opposite hand. He was wearing a white dress shirt with a black tie and black trousers, mirror-finished shoes and black robes with deep green trim. His hair had been trimmed neatly for once about his ears and it was brushed back off his forehead.

"Hey, Drake! Looking sharp!" It was Mel, who was dressed in a smashing black and
white number that accented her tall frame and long legs to perfection. Her normally wild curly hair was tamed and piled atop her head and she wore a strand of pearls about her neck and another bracelet on her wrist. On her feet were black Gucci heels.

"Mel," he breathed a sigh of relief. "You look great! Have you seen Arista anywhere?"

"Relax, Lockwood. She'll be along. She's just being fashionably late."

Drake gave her a blank look. "Huh? Why would she do that?"

"Beats me, mate," said Kit, coming up beside Mel. "Girls are strange, you ought to
know that." He was dressed in the same white and black dress clothes as Drake, but he had a red tie and deep red robes with gold lions on them. His sandy hair had been slicked back with some kind of gel so it stayed away from his face. "I haven't see Trish yet either."

"There she is!" Mel pointed to where Trish was making her way across the room with
her partner, the incomparable Rowan. "Doesn't she look fabulous?"

Drake and Kit whistled. For Tricia was wearing some kind of turquoise dress with a
soft flowing white satin shawl that made her look slim and stunningly pretty. She had left her long blond hair loose and it flowed around her head like a halo. It had small fairy lights in it, blue and white ones. Around her neck was a silver star pendant and on her feet were white sandals, Witchfords.

"You know, I never noticed it before, but Trish is really pretty," Kit said.

Mel elbowed him in the ribs. "Hey, no ogling other guy's dates, Ambrosius. Even if
she is my best friend."

Kit flushed. Then he looked at Mel and said sweetly, "But you look like a million Galleons, Melinda Seton."

"Flatterer," Mel snorted, but Kit could tell she was pleased nevertheless.

Trish came up to them, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "Hi, guys. You all look
incredible." She introduced Rowan to them. Then while the boys were talking about
Quidditch, she drew Mel off to one side and pointed across the way to where Brittany Marsh was standing, surrounded by her usual clique of Slytherin girls. "Check out the Marsh Queen and her court."

Brittany looked like she'd just stepped out of the pages of the Sophisticated Sorceress. The Slytherin girl had a long white sheath on accented with fox fur around the bodice and the hem. A belt that glittered with what Mel suspected were real diamonds was about her slim waist and she was wearing more diamonds on her throat and in her ears. She also was wearing several bracelets as well and her cape was pure white ermine with a silver serpent clasp. Her hair was, as always, sleek and coifed up in the latest style, she had dusted it with glitter.

Beside her stood James Hathaway, the king drone, in a white suit with green robes that probably came straight out of the Wizarding Gentlemen, the top men's fashion magazine.

"She reminds me of the Snow Queen," whispered Mel. "All ice-cold and mean as a
frost serpent."

"Yeah, she looks good," Tricia admitted grudgingly. "But watch her melt when she
sees Arista. Where is she, anyhow?"

"She should be here soon. Want me to call her spellophone?" Mel asked, looking up
at the clock in the hall. It read 7:45. She twirled the ring on her left hand meaningfully.

"No, wait." Tricia reached out a hand and pointed towards the stairs leading to
Ravenclaw Tower. "Look, here she comes now."

Heads turned and eyes widened and voices hushed as the girl came slowly down the stairs. Gone was the small auburn-haired waif in the black robes. In her place was a vision in royal blue that glided down the stairs wearing midnight blue Pradas.

Arista's dress was a royal blue sprinkled with tiny crystals that twinkled as they caught the light. It was made of soft silky material that clung and flowed, she had one arm bare and the other covered with a graceful sweep of a sleeve. Fastened to the back of her dress was a long gauzy stole, royal blue in color.

Her hair was a soft auburn cap on her head, a blaze of autumn color in the midst of
December. Around her neck was the phoenix locket and on her ears were Severus's Christmas earrings. Mystic Touch had been applied to her wrists and the back of her neck and her lips were tinged gently with a rose lip gloss. Her dark eyes glowed in the soft light, sparkling happily.

"Holy God, is that Snape?"

"Look at her!"

"Where did she get that dress?" a Beauxbaton's girl whispered.

"And those shoes!" murmured a Slytherin girl enviously.

"I want her jewelry. I've never seen anything like that before."

Half the boys were struck dumb, and Drake simply stared at her until Mel nudged him
and hissed at him to quit gaping like an idiot.

Brittany and her crowd wore expressions ranging from disbelief to envy and the ice
queen herself looked as if she wanted to gnash her teeth and burst into tears or scream. Her partner, Hathaway, couldn't take his eyes off Arista, he looked like a man that had just missed his last train to an important meeting, dazed and confused.

Arista crossed the hall and came right up to Drake. "Hi."

Drake opened his mouth, but nothing came out of it. He cleared his throat. "Wow!"
Then he grinned. "Arista, you look . . .beautiful. Wow!"

She laughed. "Thanks. Sorry I was late. This stupid stole kept getting caught on my
shoes. It's too long."

"It looks fine. Really." Drake reassured her.

The doors opened at that precise moment and the students began to file in, lining up
along the aisle between the tables in pairs. Drake and Arista were among the last to enter, Drake escorting Arista with a hand on her arm. Whispered comments still flowed after them about how Arista looked in her royal blue dress.

As they passed Brittany and Hathaway, who were standing in the middle of the pairs,
Brittany wearing an extremely sulky look on her face, Drake looked directly at Hathaway and said loudly, "Eat your heart out, Hathaway. Here's the prettiest girl in school and you aren't fit to shine her shoes. Merry Christmas."

Then he led Arista up the aisle to the front of the line, his head lifted proudly.

"Drake!" Arista hissed, blushing furiously. "How could you say that?"

"It's the truth." Drake said simply.

At the staff table, the teachers were looking at all the students as well. "Oh, Severus,
your daughter looks beautiful," said Minerva softly. She was wearing a red and green tartan gown with a large thistle on her hat. "That dress is simply stunning on her."

That's my girl, Severus thought proudly. He was in black dress robes, a white shirt and black pants, a Slytherin crest pinned on his tie. He looked surprisingly handsome that night. "Thank you, Minerva. She looks just like her mother."

"But she's got your eyes, Severus. Those eyes that see everything," Dumbledore said
kindly. "You should be very proud of her, she's a remarkable young lady. Like both of her parents."

"I am," Snape said, looking over at Drake and Arista fondly. You're the very best thing
in my life, Arista Snape.

Then Dumbledore gave a signal and everyone sat down to dinner. Everyone could
order whatever you liked best for dinner tonight. Arista ordered lobster tails with drawn butter and rice pilaf. Drake had fillet mignon with mashed potatoes. Mel had lamb chops with russet potatoes and carrots. Kit ordered stuffed veal chops and salad. Tricia had chicken cordon bleu and green beans with almonds.

They ate hungrily, the food was very good. "Did you see Marsh's face when you went
by, Arista?" Mel asked.

"Yeah. She looked like she'd just swallowed a whole cauldron of willowbark laced
with Decongestion Draft."

"Absolutely pea-green!" Trish snickered. "Didn't I tell you? You blew her away!"

"Right back to the swamp where she belongs," Drake said.

"Thrashed her good and proper, you did, Snape," chuckled Mel wickedly.

"Serves her right," Kit laughed.

"I'll say," agreed Rowan, eating his roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. "Those other
guys are all wishing they were us tonight. Because we've got the best girls in the room."

"Damn straight we do," Kit said enthusiastically, nearly knocking over his water glass.

Soon dinner was over and the dancing started. The four champions led the first dance, then the other students were invited to join in with their partners if they wished. Arista looked over at Drake inquiringly. "Do you want to dance? We don't have to."

"Why not?" He held out a hand.

She found he was a surprisingly good dancer, light on his feet and with a good ear for
the tempo of the music. He guided her gently about the floor, his hands firm about her waist, but not groping.

"Hey, you're pretty good, Drake."

"Thanks." He flushed and said, very softly, "Don't ever tell anyone this Arista, but the
reason I can dance is because my mother's a dance instructor. She used to do it professionally till she met my dad and had kids. She's been giving me lessons."

"Wow. No wonder you're good. What's your dad do?"

"He's a vet. Takes care of magical animals and stuff."

"Not R. A. Lockwood!" Arista gasped. "He wrote Fantastic Beasts and The Handbook
of Veterinary Medicine."

"Yeah, that's him. Dr. Robin Alexander Lockwood."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

Drake shrugged. "I don't know. Too busy, I guess."

"You have to see my new dog, then. He's a magehound from America, his name's
Scout, and he's the most awesome dog ever." Arista told him.

"A real magehound? But they all died out over here."

"I know. But Scout was a gift to me from my old teachers, Colin and Jenna."

"My dad would flip if he knew there was an honest to God magehound here," Drake
snickered.

"He should come and see Scout over the summer then."

"I'll tell him," said Drake.

They danced two more dances before Arista said she wanted to sit down for a bit. Once she was rested she took a turn on the floor with Kit, who was not as good a dancer as Drake, though he only stepped on her foot once. Then Neville approached her and asked if she wanted to dance with him. She agreed, though he was an even worse partner than Kit, and she feared her feet wouldn't survive.

"How's your parents?"

"Great. They said to tell you hi." Neville answered, flushing slightly. "We've moved
out of my gran's house now. How was your Christmas?"

"It was really good. One of the best I've had," she said, then winced as he stepped on
her foot. "Want to get something to drink? It's really hot in here."

"Sure." They walked back to the table, where there were pitchers of iced pumpkin juice and cranberry punch.

Neville, Drake, and Arista sat drinking punch and watching the other students and
teachers dance, while Arista surreptitiously rubbed her sore feet under the table. They watched Brittany sail by with Hathaway, looking all smug.

"She dances like she's got a stick up her you know what," Drake muttered.

Arista and Neville nearly collapsed on the floor with laughter.

"Drake! My God!"

He gave her an innocent look. "What? It's true."

"The king snake shows his fangs," Arista chuckled.

Neville looked puzzled. "What's that? I don't understand."

"It's an inside joke," Arista told him. "Don't worry about it."

"Okay," Neville shrugged.

Tricia came over and Drake escorted her out on the floor at her request. Rowan asked Arista and they danced near Tricia and Drake, laughing and talking.

"Look at Mel," Drake said excitedly, pointing to where Mel was dancing a complicated
flamenco step with a fifth-year Gryffindor, her black and white dress swirling and flouncing . Arista, Drake, Tricia, Kit, and Rowan began cheering loudly.

"Way to go, Seton!" they all yelled.

"Ha! I'd like to see anybody call her Staggering Melly now," said Arista.

"Mel the Mambo Queen is more like it," Drake said, clapping as Mel finished her
dance.

Mel came up to them, all flushed and happy.

"Who taught you to dance, Seton?" asked Drake.

"Would you believe, my aunt?" Mel replied, smiling with unfeigned delight. "See,
she's dancing with Dumbledore."

They all looked and saw Professor Sprout dancing gaily with Dumbledore.

"But it was all those self-defense lessons that really did it, Arista. All those stupid
balance on one foot and those other maneuvers you made me do. I guess it knocked the awkward stage right out of me."

"Or you just grew out of it, the way I said you would," Arista countered, grinning at her
friend.

They all made their way back to the table, tired after all the exertion. Cups of tea and
hot cocoa were being served, along with several kinds of pastries and cakes.

As they were sampling the desserts, the announcer spoke up, saying the next song, a soft melody, was the last dance of the evening.

Most of the students were sitting down now, slumped over in their chairs, nibbling at
the desserts. Dumbledore was partnered with McGonagall and Hagrid rose with Madam Maxine, the Headmistress of Beauxbatons, who was the only woman in the room big enough to partner him. Professor Sprout and Professor Flitwick paired off too.

Arista darted a glance up at the staff table, and saw her father sitting alone, watching
the others. "Excuse me," she said suddenly, rising and heading towards the staff table.

Severus looked up at Arista's approach, and smiled. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Yes. This is the last dance of the Ball."

"I know."

"Dance with me?" she held out her hand.

He gaped at her. "You want to dance with me? What about Mr. Lockwood over there?"

"I've danced with him all night. But I saved the last dance for you."

He took her hand in his own. "As you wish, Miss Snape."

She allowed him to escort her back to the floor where Dumbledore and some of the
others were standing. Several of the students gaped at them.

"Uh, Dad? You can dance, right?" she asked, suddenly horrified that she would make
him embarrass himself in front of the whole school.

Severus glanced down at his daughter and smiled. "No need to worry about that,
Arista. I know how. Though I must admit I haven't felt like dancing with anyone in over
thirteen years."

"Not since Mom."

He nodded, placing one hand about her waist. "Until now, that is."

The band began to play, a gentle melody that reminded him of another day, when he'd danced with another auburn-haired woman in a secret glen to a tune played by a bronze dragon. He waltzed carefully with his daughter, who smiled up at him brightly.

"Wow, you're better than Drake."

"I ought to be, I've had more practice," he said, laughing.

"Then I'm glad I saved the best for last. Are you happy, Dad?"

"Very happy. Because of you, Arista."

"Me? But I drive you crazy."

"Like all teenagers do their parents. But you know something? Having you in my life
is the very best thing of all."

Then the Potions Master of Hogwarts twirled his daughter all across the dance floor,
and for the first time in thirteen years he was happy and at peace with his life and he didn't care who knew of it. Let them stare. The light had come back into his world and that was all that mattered.

So they danced, the Potions Master and his beautiful daughter, and somewhere far
above them an auburn-haired angel laughed. What did I tell you, Sev? Nothing is impossible if you believe in love, for that is the greatest magic of all.

A/N: If you'd like to experience some of the delicious food
mentioned in this book, scroll down for some recipes from Sev's cookbook. You won't be disappointed!

Yes, this is the end of my first Sev & Arista novel. I'd appreciate knowing what you
thought. Who was your favorite character? The spellophone and most of the wizarding magazines are my own creation. What did you think?

But this is NOT the end!! I'll be posting a sequel soon, probably in 2 weeks. Meanwhile, you can read Shadow Puppets or my new one-shot A Friend in Need, which takes place inbetween parts 1 and 2 of TVBT, and stars Maverick and details the infamous eating of Dumbledore's boots among other things! Just a bit of light humor.

The sequel will be called Arista Snape and the Bronze Dragons and it takes place the next summer. Sev and Arista go to America for a vacation and to meet their Amarotti relatives and attend the christening of Colin and Jenna's baby. But then they get involved in hunting down a group of dragonslayers who are trying to slaughter all the bronze dragons, and their leader is Sev's former student! Get ready for an action packed summer, this is also the novel where you meet Marietta, Sev's adorable mischievous niece, who steals his heart! (And hopefully yours too!)

Sev's Cookbook

Snape's Honey Bars
Makes 10 bars

2 ½ c rolled oats
½ c & 1 T all purpose flour
½ t baking soda
½ t vanilla extract
¼ c & 2 T butter, softened
1/4C & 3 t honey
3 T packed brown sugar
1 c & 2 T mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ c dried cranberries
½ c sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan. In large mixing bowl, combine
oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, butter, honey, & brown sugar. Stir in ½ cups of chips,
cranberries, & sunflower seeds. Lightly press mixture into pan. Reduce oven temp to 325º and
bake for 18-22 min. or till golden brown.
Let cool for 10 min., then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before
removing.
Wrap with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks,
longer if you've got a preserving spell. Great to take along hiking or anywhere you need a quick snack.

You may add or substitute ingredients in place of the chips, sunflower seeds, or
cranberries, such as nuts or peanut butter chips, ½ c each, according to your preference.
---Prof. S. Snape

Amelia's Lasagna

Makes enough to feed 8-10 people approx.

You may make your own sauce as opposed to buying it in a jar (though Amelia says
that's cheating), but if you do make your own, it takes almost half a day! So, if you're in a hurry, just buy a 24oz jar of your favorite brand of marinara sauce. It will taste fine. All of the seasonings below are to taste, there are no specific measurements (sigh!), so use your own judgement.

1 box of lasagna noodles
2 lbs ground beef
24 oz jar of marinara sauce or your own recipe
2 lbs of ricotta cheese
1 lb. mozzarella, shredded
2 eggs
salt
pepper
garlic powder
basil
grated Parmesan & Romano cheese
parsley

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Drain. In a large mixing bowl place the
ground beef, ricotta, mozzarella, eggs, and all the spices. Mix thoroughly and taste it. If it needs more of some spice, add it. Set it aside.

Fill a large pot with 6 cups of water and some salt. Put in a dash of vegetable oil.
Bring to a boil, then add lasagna noodles. Cook according to directions on box. When noodles are done, lift them gently out of the pot and lay them flat on top of pieces of wax paper. (You might need to use a table for this step. I do.) Let them cool until you can handle them without burning your fingers, about 10 min.
Preheat oven to 350º.
Get a large metal or glass 13x9 inch pan. Open the jar of sauce and cover the bottom
of the pan with it. Then top with 3 noodles. Layer some of the meat and cheese mixture over
it, covering the noodles. Then cover with more sauce. Repeat layers until you have reached
top of pan. Cover the last layer with sauce. You may also sprinkle with shredded mozzarella,
if desired. Bake at 350º for 30-40 min or until sauce is bubbly.
Heats up well as leftovers or you can freeze it. Makes a great Christmas dinner.

---Prof. S. Snape

Double Chocolate Cake
Makes 1 cake, serves 4-8 approx.

2 c flour
1 T baking powder
2 eggs
1 c sour cream
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp, quartered
½ c water
½ t baking soda
2 c sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1 12oz pkg. chocolate chips
½ c & 2 T cocoa
1 can of chocolate frosting

Preheat oven to 350º. Sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a small mixing
bowl twice. Beat sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Add
butter and mix well. Add sour cream, water, vanilla and beat until blended. Then add flour
mixture and cocoa, beat slowly just until flout is absorbed—do not overbeat! Fold in
chocolate chips.
Grease a large bundt pan. Pour cake batter in and bake at 350º for 1 hour.
Using a plate, invert the pan until the cake comes out. You may have to run the edge
of a butter knife around the pan to loosen the cake. Cool on the plate completely before
frosting.
This makes a wonderful birthday cake.

---Prof. S. Snape