A/N Second of TWO chapters today and last in the book, don't miss chapter forty-one!
Counting One's Blessings
Dale went over to Boulderdash's workbench with a silly grin on his face as the goblin stood on top of it and pinned a gold owl to his collar. The rest of the order broke out into claps and cheers.
"Well? Who else was it going to go to? It was surprising any more feathers could be mashed into that box after the avalanche he got this year," Boulderdash grunted, and the students chuckled as Dale returned to his seat beside Lucky. "I would also like to congratulate the entire order for the fact that Miss Snape somehow managed to get an E in Transfiguration on her OWLS..." everyone broke out into cheers again, while Lucky looked quite smug. "And of course, Ambrose, who only missed one question out of all his OWLS total."
"Wow, one? Only one? Which one did you miss?" Delia asked when the furor died down again.
"Oh, it was a history question about the Arthurian period," Ambrose admitted.
"What? But I thought you knew that era better than anyone, Ambrose!" Delia exclaimed, getting a few confirmations from either side of her.
"Yes, I know. That's the problem," Ambrose said sheepishly and everyone laughed at that.
"I have one other announcement, and that's concerning our guest tonight," Boulderdash said. Mike, who had been sitting quietly between Delia and Ambrose, looked up in surprise.
"First off, I suppose I should say on behalf of everyone here, thanks to all the help you gave the order both with the stands and helping organize and run events for the course of this year," everyone clapped warmly at that, smiling at Mike. "And second, I've had a few words with the Headmaster, and he has agreed the increase the number in the order to an even twenty, provided that we consider a particular candidate for entry. And considering he's already sitting at the table," he added with a spark in his beady eyes. "I doubt that's going to be a problem."
"All in favor?" Ambrose said, and hands went up all around. Only Beth on the far side of the table shrank bank so no one could see her around Veronica and Helena. "Welcome to the order, Mike!" Ambrose said cheerfully. Another round of applause went up around him.
"Welcome to the family," Delia added in a softer voice.
"I think I could use one about now," Mike agreed with a genuine smile, and earned encouraging claps on the back from both Ambrose and Delia in return.
"LINE UP!" Corey shouted up the stairs for the third time, and finally a thunderstorm of children appeared all in their Sunday best. Corey caught Destiny who was struggling to keep up with the others, tying the dragging ribbon into a bow to keep her from tripping on it.
"Where should I line up?" Llewellyn asked.
"You can stand here at the end beside Natalie for now, Leu," Corey said, "although I have a feeling when Mom gets here she'll want her fair share of fussing over you."
"Is she very fussy?" Leu asked nervously.
"Yes," Corey said.
"Why, Corey!" Rose exclaimed disapprovingly.
"Oh, but you're much fussier dear, of course," Corey teased playfully.
"Now, I expect all of you to be on your best behavior today, especially you, Corey," Rose chided him.
"Yes, mum," Corey said glibly back.
"Charles, let me see your new dress robes," Rose said, deciding ignoring him would be the safer option.
"Can't someone else be the ring bearer for a change?" Charles the Third complained.
"I have a feeling that Jay or Rus will be earning that title next time, assuming that we have anymore weddings anytime soon," Corey chuckled. "I seem to be running out of unmarried siblings."
"What about him?" Hope said, thumbing over towards Leu, who stared wide-eyed at her in return.
"I think Lucky's going to be next," Natalie confided to her.
"Don't you dare say anything like that when your grandfather shows up," Rose said as she straightened Amber's gown. She paused then, wondering if she heard a knock on the door. "That might be them now... don't you dare break the line up, young lady!" she warned Amber, pulling her back into line.
"I've got it," Corey grinned, unsurprised when he found arms around him the moment he opened the door.
"Corey! You look fabulous!" Jennifer said, hugging him excitedly. "Where's Leu? Did the robes fit?"
"They're all in there, Mom," Corey chuckled.
Jennifer hurried into the other room, greeting them warmly and commenting on the girl's dresses before she began to fuss over Leu's hair and robes down to every button and seam while he stood with a serious expression and his chin up, determined to live up to whatever it was she was going on about.
"And how has Llewellyn been?" Severus asked.
"Terrible. He's way too obedient," Corey said, Severus giving him a dirty look. "But don't worry, I've been trying my best to corrupt him."
"Thank you," Severus said sarcastically.
"So how's the other plan going?" Corey asked. Severus gazed at him questioningly. "You know, to catch up with my five," he winked. Severus glanced in the other room, noting that Jennifer was too busy to notice them, and finally shook his head.
"We've decided to put the idea to rest, Corey. The fact of the matter is the potions weren't working, whether my poison immunity somehow threw off the demon blood potion or if it was some other factor, I have no idea," Severus admitted.
"Are you sure you two weren't just trying too hard?" Corey whispered.
"Whatever the reason, Toby's advice on the bottle was to know when to let go, and Jennifer and I have decided to take that advice to heart, although I admit not without its pains, and not just on Jennifer's part," Severus admitted quietly. "I envy you, Corey, having the opportunity to raise your children in a house they'll never have to run away from, or their shoulders heavy from the blanket of fear that you and your siblings had to live with all your Hogwarts years. And I envy Thomas, for fighting for and earning the opportunity to have his second chance with Maurice, and in the process making his own peace with Jennifer's childhood as well."
"It was all the two of you, you know," Corey said, Severus glancing over at him questioningly. "My opportunity to raise a safe and happy family and Thomas' opportunity for a second chance at life... neither of those could have happened if it hadn't been for everything you've done. From providing a home for me and support for my sister, pulling me out of one mess and another, ending Voldemort's terror and helping Harry hunt down Death Eaters afterwards, taking out Lorcan only to have to turn around and spend years getting rid of Ciardoth. And all those little things that have added up... like the changes to the school that have come about over the years, whether by simple negotiations or by open defiance against the board, to make sure that every new generation has a better shot at a good future than last generation, no matter what they're background or where they came from. Not toe mention helping kids like Lucky and Leu, not only by providing a home but helping them to realize they don't have to be trapped by their past and can still have those same opportunities that you've worked so hard to provide. And no, I know that is not the same as actually being able to reap those rewards for yourself and Mom, but that doesn't mean your efforts aren't paying off in spades elsewhere. And we're all quite grateful, actually... more grateful than you can probably imagine, and some of us, not naming any names, are more grateful than we realize that we are," he added. He gazed lovingly at his children and his wife, who had her hands on her hips and was looking at him with open exasperation.
"Corey! What are you two doing lurking about in the hall? We do have a wedding to go to, or have you forgotten? I'm not going to get this army all the way to the Grove without them tripping over their dresses all the way without your help," Rose scolded him.
"That's what you think," Corey said as they stepped into the room. "Heels up!" he ordered, and the five Willowby children obediently stood on their toes for a moment and then carefully lifted up their toes even with their heels so that they were all floating several inches off the floor. Rose's jaw dropped, while Jennifer had to put her hands over her mouth to keep from laughing outright. "Nobody in my family is catching any bouquets today," Corey declared. "Hands!"
Taking Natalie's hand, Corey walked towards the door with a train of laughing kids coasting behind him above the ground. Rose had to quickly jump on the end to steady the youngest two as they left, the troupe looking more like a carnival ride than a procession.
"Those Willowby children can be rather noisy, can't they?" Llewellyn said solemnly.
"They're just happy, that's all," Jennifer grinned at him.
"Giddy," Severus agreed expressionlessly. Jennifer chuckled at him and put an arm around Leu as the three of them followed behind.
"Well! If it isn't Severus Snape," Rolanda said from where she and Alvin Archibald were standing at the edge of the Grove. "Damn man, don't you ever change?"
"You certainly don't," Severus retorted, taking her hand and then Alvin's while Jennifer demanded a hug from both.
"It's so good to see both of you! Where's your daughter?" Jennifer asked Rolanda.
"Oh, Trish is helping Ginger and the girls, but I think I'd be more worried about Aurelius is if I were you. He looks like he's attending a funeral. So does Andrew, but that I expected," Rolanda added in a lower tone. Alvin gave his wife a disapproving look. "My daughter keeps going on about she's so glad Ginger picked the sensible one. Personally, other than his good looks, I don't understand what she sees in him. He's too much like his father."
"Thank you," Severus said dryly.
"And who is this with you?" Alvin asked, giving the boy a thin but pleasant smile.
"This is Llewellyn Murphy, the newest addition to the Snape family," Severus said evenly, Leu nodding politely in response.
"Oh no! Don't tell me she did it to you again!" Rolanda said with a short laugh.
"It wasn't me this time. It was Severus," Jennifer said with a smile.
"Really?" Rolanda said, obviously quite impressed.
"Leu, this is Headmaster Archibald from Durmstrang and his wife, Rolanda. They're Ginger's grandparents and old friends of ours."
"Would you stop putting old in there, Jennifer?" Rolanda scolded.
"As if the word 'grandparents' is any better," Alvin said with amusement.
"Who isn't these days?" Rolanda said with amusement. "So where's the other one, Jennifer?"
"Oh, she's here somewhere. She went on ahead when we went to fetch Leu. I probably ought to go find her, come to think of it," Jennifer said. "We're having a party in Corey's yard after the wedding, a sort of welcome to the family sort of party if you want to come."
"Sure, why not?" Rolanda agreed as they all began to walk through the Grove together. They soon ran a large crowd standing around or sitting in chairs set up near the heart of Keki's Grove, while the curious trees stretched over them to watch; the Grove was no stranger to weddings.
Aurelius was having second thoughts of picking that location, wondering if he even had the right to be there at all. Corey had made his way to his side, and along with Harry, Stock and Heph did their best to break Aurelius out of his automaton demeanor. Jennifer smiled reassuringly at him as they walked out. He had little to worry about, her thoughts reasoned, knowing he would pick up on it. The Grove would have behaved differently had it not approved. Aurelius sighed silently to himself and turned his attention back to Corey.
Lindsay and Lucky, deciding that the reserved front seating was way too conspicuous, chose to sit in the row right behind the family seats instead, while the Willowby children, all getting stuck participating in the procession, all staked their claims on the front row seats and kept changing and switching so often that Rose had to settle it herself. Alex, Ben and the boys bravely took the far side of the row, so Jennifer and Severus settled Leu in the second row just in front of Lindsay and Lucky.
"I don't suppose you're going to sit up here with us?" Severus asked Lucky.
"I can see fine from here," Lucky assured him. He was about to explain that wasn't what he meant when Jennifer put a hand on his shoulder.
"Severus, look," Jennifer said softly. Severus followed her gaze where standing at the very back stood Andrew. He was leaning on one of the back chairs with whitened knuckles with an expression so steely grey that it sent a chill down Jennifer's back. "He's so cold... it reminds me of the haunted expression you sometimes got on your face when we first met," she murmured.
"And for one of the same reasons," Severus murmured in return. "I'll be back."
"Are you going to try to talk to him?" Jennifer asked.
"It won't be anything he wants to hear," Severus said quietly back, and Jennifer slowly sat down next to Leu while Severus wandered over to where Andrew was standing.
"I see you've arrived," Severus said in a low voice.
"Well else would I be? I have a brother getting married, don't I?" Andrew snapped.
"And yet you're back here, away from him and the rest of your family," Severus observed.
"I don't deserve to be up there, nor do I want to be," Andrew said icily, then shook his head. "It's over, you know. I incinerated all my address and appointment books and changed the lock on my doors. I even closed out my post box and returned anything that wasn't family or school related and cancelled all my periodicals except for intellectual magazines. I'm done with women, totally and completely. They're not worth the trouble, and I have better things to do with my life then spend it all on trivial companions that never truly cared about anything I did unless it was to them or for them. My teaching is all that matters now... that's why I never wanted to get into a serious relationship in the first place."
"Is it?" Severus asked calmly.
"Yes, and it's time I stopped fooling around with these petty pursuits when I should be concentrating on it," Andrew concluded.
"I see," Severus said.
"You don't believe me, do you? I mean it this time, you know," Andrew said.
"Oh, I believe you are sincere, Andrew, the problem is with that is you are simply too late," Severus said evenly. "I once warned you that if you weren't careful there would come a time when you would find yourself regretting your choices, knowing that your path could have been quite different had you acted other than you did. I even warned you that if you did not take heed that some day you would come to face to face with a student that could have been yours had you chosen a different path. Now it is only a matter of time before that comes to pass, only in an added irony, that student will be a niece or nephew of yours. Somehow you are going to have to learn to deal with that, Andrew, and I don't envy you," he admitted.
Severus stepped away, unsurprised to see Andrew brooding even deeper than before, but knowing very well there was nothing he could do to help him through it. He heard his named called, and glad for the distraction, stepped over to where Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Ron stood in the aisle.
"Just why is it that every time I go anywhere and see the four of you standing together that I feel like I'm walking into the middle of a conspiracy?" Severus asked.
"Because you usually are," Ron said with a grin.
"It's a good sort of conspiracy, Severus, at least I hope so," Harry said, unfazed by the dubious look he got in return. "Hermione was telling us that your current Defense teacher isn't planning to stay on another year?"
"No, he isn't," Severus said with a shrug. "I believe Professor Heron is finally tired of running from his past and is going home to try and get a job at his alma mater at both my own and Archibald's recommendation. I think he's finally realized that he can't run from himself," he said, glancing up at Hermione.
"He was never a bad teacher," Hermione put in. "But I think getting rid of all that baggage of his will help him be a better one."
"Yes, that's why I supported the decision," Severus nodded. "Even if that means having another Defense teacher to fill next year."
"That is what we wanted to talk to you about," Harry interrupted. "Or really, what I wanted to talk to you about." Severus squinted at him. "Look, Severus, you know the Auror department is in a bad way right now. Very few people who want to be an Auror actually make it all the way through training, and the problem with that is that lately there have been years when so few students even came out of there with the requirements needed to start training that... well, most years we don't have any new people coming in at all. The majority of Aurors left are older than me by a generation and many of them are ready to retire, and to be honest it'd be a lot safer if they did retire. But they know I'm strapped and they won't do that until the department looks like it can fend for itself."
"Are you trying to tell me you want me to put some sort of recruitment spin in my Defense class?" Severus said with a grimace of pure distaste at the idea.
"I'd rather do my own spinning, if it's all the same to you," Harry said evenly. "What I'm asking is how would you feel if I came in and taught Defense for a year."
Severus looked over at Hermione then back at Harry again.
"And just what about the Auror department?" Severus asked.
"Aurelius had that job long before I did, Severus. He's willing to take over for the duration, and it's probably a blessing in disguise for him since he'll be making some extra money he can put into setting up a household. As for Draco, I just talked to him a minute ago," Harry said, thumbing over to the large Ministry section where Draco was sitting with his granddaughter in his lap. "He said he's in favor of anything that can get me out of his hair for ten months, especially when the public would approve of the method."
"Fine. But I want you there a few days earlier so we can go over your agenda line by line... and discuss etiquette for married faculty members," he added for good measure, glancing seriously between Harry and Ginny. Ginny smiled innocently. "And no fan clubs."
"I'll keep that in mind," Harry said dryly, while Severus took a moment to pay his respects to the Minister.
But after he had a word with Draco, he felt a sharp poke in the arm and looked around to see Alicia standing beside him looking quite irate.
"My mother is a baby thief!" Alicia declared with a scowl.
"Perhaps if you didn't hoard them so, she wouldn't feel the need to!" Severus retorted unsympathetically.
"Yes, she would!" Alicia said, and then heard Francis calling her and stomped away.
"My goodness, Severus, your children grow more like you by the day," said the unmistakable voice of Toby the Tinker from right behind him. "Especially that one," he added, pointing towards where Andrew stood by himself like a statue despite Halbert's valiant attempts to cheer him up.
"He will get over it... someday," Severus said evenly.
"Yes, I believe he will," Toby said thoughtfully. "He's changed too over the last year, and change is never easy, as necessary as it is for life to progress."
"You need not tell me what I already know," Severus said. "We wouldn't be here in this Grove right now if that weren't so, as painful as this year as been."
"How very true," Toby said.
"Do you suppose Aurelius is rushing this?" Severus murmured, a little reluctant to voice the concern. But Toby simply smiled.
"No, I think not," Toby said. "The boy has held himself back to preserve his youth as long as possible, but it was so long in coming that now he's simply playing catch up. But I think within a year or two of married life will settle all that out...with its normal share of ups and downs, of course. They'll be quite all right, Severus... well, as long as the universe doesn't split apart at the seams or anything." Severus blinked in surprise, gazing questioningly at Toby and his sudden change of tone only to notice that his facial features and eyes had a more Merlin look than usual.
"Was that a random flippant remark, or was that meant as something more foreboding?" Severus asked.
"Well, actually, there was a bit of a point to it," Toby admitted vaguely. "It's about that matter I brought up when I came to see you last year...the one I need your help with. I don't suppose you'll have time this summer to help me with something?"
"Jennifer and I are taking Llewellyn boating off the coast of Florida so we can all get to know one another better," Severus explained.
"Ah, probably a good idea. How long will you be gone?"
"A week or two," Severus said.
"Any chance you can come back for the Solstice order meeting?" Toby asked. Severus thought it over.
"I suppose I can key home for an evening if we stay the full two weeks, if it's important," Severus decided.
"It is. And you will help me?" Toby asked.
"If it's feasible," Severus said noncommittally.
"Splendid! Then I'll leave you alone until then, you could use a bit of a rest after last year."
"More than a bit, in my mind," Severus said.
"Oh... well, we'll see," Toby said. "I suppose I had better head up front now, before the groom gets cold feet," he winked. Severus frowned thoughtfully, and found his way over to his seat.
"Feet off the chairs," Severus said as he sat down, and Lindsay and Lucky quickly put tucked their feet back. Beside him, Llewellyn slipped his feet back as well, hoping that he hadn't noticed.
"Is something wrong, Severus?" Jennifer asked from where she sat gently bouncing Dawn on her lap.
"I made the mistake of talking to Toby for a moment, and now all the sudden I feel as if I've been tricked into doing something I'm not particularly going to like," Severus said.
"Oh? Like what?" Jennifer asked.
"I have no idea," Severus admitted, "and I'm not sure I want to know."
"Excuse me!" Jennifer began pouting in a way of protest when Alicia came to steal her daughter back, but Alicia took the baby anyway. "Get your own!" she harrumphed and stomped back to her seat, and Jennifer's fake pout suddenly took a haunted look that Alicia missed completely.
"That was her way of telling us she changed her mind about not approving," Severus said softly.
"A lot of good that does now," Jennifer said in complete resignation, then saw her husband's expression. "It's all right, Severus," she said in a gentler, more reassuring tone. "We have a new son," Jennifer said, Leu smiling uncertainly at the arm around him. "In a few short minutes we'll have a new daughter, and no matter what happens in our lives, I don't ever think you and I will ever have a quiet house to come home to."
Severus stared at her.
"I can't make up my mind on whether that's a good thing or not," Severus said flatly, and then realized that everyone was taking their places and had to pay attention as a line of Willowby girls from youngest to oldest were being pulled out of the aisle by their waiting mother.
Aurelius attempted to exhale silently to calm his nerves, but in the end everyone heard it as he offered his arm to Ginger, who gave him a flirtatious smile. Immediately he seemed to freeze, mesmerized by whatever it was he was reading from her eyes, and was in fact doing it so much that Toby had to stop several times during the ceremony to remind him where he was.
But as they were exchanging rings there was a noise that sounded to Jennifer like a soft nicker, and noticed Aurelius look up suddenly alert. And although most of the guest were not even aware just what had startled him, he clearly sensed the movement of four curious Unicorns passing close enough to the trees that their rustling leaves seemed to acknowledge their presence.
"I see there are no objections," Toby said with some certainty with a subtle glance behind his shoulder as well as out towards the audience where Andrew was standing with a hardened expression. He turned back to Aurelius and Ginger, putting his hands over theirs. "In that case, by the power invested in me by God, the Ministry, and these two people for talking me into doing this in the first place, I now pronounce you wizard and biscuit...er, I mean wife, of course," he quickly corrected, but the dirty look Ginger gave him melted away as Aurelius kissed her.
As the crowd broke out into applause, Ginger felt herself getting carried away with the moment and tossed her bouquet over her shoulder just to get it out of her way. Surprised exclamations rang out and Severus found himself ducking reactively to the object coming towards him, only to realize belatedly that by doing so it landed in the row right behind him and into Lucky's lap. Lucky's jaw dropped, matching her father's own horrified expression.
"That doesn't count! She didn't say the spell yet!" Lindsay protested irritably.
"You know, Lindsay does have a point. That might have been just chance," Jennifer said quickly.
"Everything that happens to Lucky is by Chance, that is the entire problem," Severus retorted, and Jennifer smiled sympathetically at him, while Lucky was quickly realizing from the looks and grins she was getting from everyone else that it wasn't going to be thrown again.
Fortunately for her, once they got to Corey's and settled in for a family gathering the focus turned to Leu, who didn't want to be the center of attention any more than she did. In fact, he was so quiet and uncomfortable with the crowd that Lucky finally began feeling a bit sorry to him and went over to sit beside him.
"It'll be okay, Leu. I was kinda overwhelmed when I found out how many people I was going to be related to when I got adopted in this nuthouse too," Lucky said.
"Nuthouse?" Jennifer said indignantly.
"I think Lucky has a point," Sirius chuckled.
"Are you really lucky?" Leu asked seriously.
"Yeah, I think so," Lucky said after thinking about it a moment. "It's been a rough year, but all in all I think my luck's gotten even better since I've been a Snape."
"I hope mine gets better too," Leu said wistfully.
"It's getting better already if you ask me. Look at it this way, Leu. You're lucky number seven!" Lucky said cheerfully, patting his back.
Suddenly a loud deep moan sounded from behind them and they looked around to see Severus standing a few feet away clutching his drink with a look of pain on his pallid face.
"Dear God, we caught up with the Weasleys!" Severus exclaimed in horror. Jennifer broke out into a hearty chuckle as if lost in a memory.
"Does that mean you don't want me in your family after all?" Leu asked with a concerned expression on his face. Severus clamped his jaw shut in attempt to contain the grimace developing.
"Or me?" Lucky challenged him.
"Or what about us?" Alex added.
"It's far too late to turn us in," Alicia chuckled.
"If it's too late for you guys, it's definitely too late for me," Corey added.
"If this kid goes, I go. Somebody's gotta look after him," Lucky declared. "And I've had some experience looking after kids his age, you know."
"You have school, not to mention a rather intensive summer of studying for college," Severus reminded her. "Besides, no one is going anywhere, dreaded number or no dreaded number; not Llewellyn nor anyone else in this family. It's time we counted our blessings instead of our curses for a change."
"I definitely agree with you there, Severus," Jennifer chimed in. "And no one can deny we have plenty of blessings to count," she added mischievously.
"Yes, aren't we lucky," Severus said dryly.
His older children mercilessly taunted him, making a play at trying to count every family member. So Severus quickly grabbed up the family storybook as a diversion, knowing they would all settle down as they waited for him to begin reading the next story.
A/N And thanks for reading, and I hope you liked this book! Taking on Murphy's Law was a bear and a cub, but hopefully you liked the theme all the same. So anyhow, here's the deal. I have two books planned, finishing out Lucky's last two years, and then I plan to take a break and give my original fiction some special TLC for while. I do have some plans for Leu, so I probably won't leave it forever, nor will it be two and a half years like last time, but I'd say six months to a year is probably accurate, long enough to get a couple of the stories I've been working on circulating into the dreaded 'thanks but no thanks' cycle. But stay tuned, because I really don't think you're going to be disappointed in the last two books. For teasers on BOTH books, see below. Thanks again, reviews always welcome, and thanks for the thoughtful reviews for this book, it was a challenging book to write! Stay tuned for Jennifer Craw and the Winds of the Otherworld in 2-4 weeks from now. Hope to see you then! JCWriter
When Severus is forced to travel to the Otherworld to preserve the balance between the universes, he goes out of his way to take every precaution. He considers every possible outcome, every possible snag, and every possible danger and setback. With his uncanny talents of plans and backup plans, he thought he had everything covered. But there was one thing he hadn't planned on; he hadn't planned on getting stuck.
Jennifer Craw and the Winds of the Otherworld
Four Wizards. Four backgrounds. Four motives. Four goals.
Combined they are relentless, determined to help each other reach those goals,
No matter what it takes. No matter who stands in their way, and perhaps because of who stands in their way.
The shadows of darkness loom over Hogwarts as the Snape family come face to face with just how dangerous
the Synchronius cantrip can be....
Jennifer Craw and the Coming of the Four Horsemen