Epilogue: Chasing Rainbows
Soon it was the last day before Easter break, and students and teachers alike were all busy packing and sending things home by owl, unable to wait for the winter term to end. Well, everyone, that is, except for Holly and Harry Snape. Oh, it wasn't that the two didn't want to return home to Spinner's End for the break, but they would miss the family and friends they had made at Hogwarts. Although, Harry had a sneaking suspicion that their father might be planning on inviting Grandpa Al and Uncle Argus to their house for Easter dinner. And probably Narcissa and Draco too. He had been rather vague when Harry had asked him if they would be having dinner with just the three of them.
It had snowed lightly the night before, so the ground was coated with a soft lacy blanket of sparkling crystals and flurries were drifting through the air, spinning and swirling in a frosty dance across the sky. The sun was shining, and whenever a ray struck a half-formed snowflake it created a faint misty rainbow. Both Snape children found that phenomenon amazing, and at first they watched from the castle entrance in awe, bundled in scarves, gloves, and caps at their father's insistence. "You do not want me to have to nurse you through an illness during the holiday, now do you?" he had queried when Harry had protested the need for cold weather gear. "Didn't think so. Put your cap and gloves on then, Mr. Snape. And that goes for you too, Miss Snape." They had obeyed, then come out for one last romp on the grounds before heading home.
The adoption had gone through without a hitch, and now Holly was officially Severus's daughter-Holly Amanda Snape. Not only that, but Narcissa's divorce from Lucius had also gone through posthumously, they had reported him dead by a miscast curse, and now she was once again Narcissa Ariadne Black. Draco would have liked to change his name too, but he had to remain a Malfoy in order to inherit the Malfoy fortune and the manor when he came of age. After that, however, he could legally change his name if he still wanted to. Draco and Narcissa had already left for Malfoy Manor, Narcissa still had some things to settle now that Lucius was deceased.
Right then, however, the two Snapes weren't thinking about anything except the way the light created brilliant rainbows across the sky and Harry squinted and laughed aloud at the wind sprites that had suddenly come to dance and flutter inbetween the colored bands of light.
"What's so funny, Harry?"
"Uh, the wind sprites. They're doing all kinds of dives and things in and out of the rainbows." Harry replied, before remembering that Holly probably couldn't see them. Wind sprites were usually only visible to those strong in magic.
But his sister put a hand over her eyes to shield them from the wintery glare and gasped. "Oh! I see one! Oh, look! He's flying backwards!" Holly giggled, watching the antics of one particular sprite in glee.
"You . . .you can see them?" Harry repeated, astonished. "But I thought only wizard kids could see them."
Holly shrugged. "I don't know about that, Harry. All I know is that I can see two or three of them, right over there," she pointed to where six or seven were cavorting upon the breeze.
"That's what you see? I see seven." Harry said.
"Seven?" Holly peered hard, but still saw three. "Where?"
Harry told her, but she still could only see three sprites. She didn't realize that her Sight enabled her to see the elusive creatures some of the time. "Maybe I can only see some of them, 'cause I'm a Squib," she mused, then decided it didn't matter. "Can all wizards see them, Harry?"
"No. Dad said that only ones who are innocent and truly believe in them will be able to see them. They don't show themselves to just anyone. They brought me to him when I was a baby on Christmas Eve and since then I've seen them every winter, as soon as the weather is cold enough to snow, they come, riding the snowflakes."
"I think they're beautiful," his sister said, smiling as one that was smaller than the rest slid down a rainbow and onto a falling snowflake.
The sprites were barely the size of her hand, blue-skinned and pointy-eared, naked except for a few wisps of fluffy fur about their necks and waists. Their wings resembled a dragonfly's, all iridescent and delicate, etched in silver. When they flew they laughed, and their laugh sounded like bells chiming, high and sweet.
They chased each other across the sky, playing tag in and out of the rainbows.
Suddenly Holly had an idea. She tugged on Harry's coat and said, "Harry, let's play tag and chase rainbows like the sprites."
"Huh? How do you chase a rainbow? It doesn't move," said her literal-minded brother.
"Not like us, silly, but it'll fade in and out and then reappear in a different place. Like that one. Or that one. See what I mean?"
"Oh. I get it now."
"C'mon. Let's play. The person who spots the most rainbows wins and the loser gets to be It when we play tag. My mum and I used to play that all the time when it snowed. If she wasn't too busy, that is." A pang of sorrow struck her then, as she recalled her beautiful dark-haired mother running through the snow, tasting snowflakes on her tongue and laughing like a little girl, her crimson cashmere scarf like a robin redbreast against her seal brown coat, her sapphire eyes glittering with joy as she chased after the elusive rainbows.
I miss you, Mum, Holly thought sadly, then she put the sadness form her, for today was not a day to feel sorrow. Valina would have said any day when there were rainbows in winter was a day to be joyful and thank God you were alive to see it. And I am glad. I'm glad to be here with Harry and my new dad and to know that I'm blood related to Herne the Hunter. She caressed the silver brooch of the leaping stag and mistletoe Herne had given her, which remained pinned to her cloak until Severus removed the charm on it, so it could not get lost or stolen. Though Holly suspected that if any thief were fool enough to try and steal the brooch, something nasty would happen to them. Herne did not tolerate fools and thieves.
She raced down the stairs and across the lawn, her golden brown hair streaming behind her like the wings of a wren. She spun about in a circle, her hands out, laughing and tasting the snow. "Mmm! An orange popsicle."
"An orange popsicle?" Harry threw her an odd look, until he caught on to her game, then he too started to taste snowflakes and pretend they tasted like some of his favorite foods. "Cinnamon scones!"
"Honey on bread with butter."
"Hot cocoa with marshmallows!"
"Chocolate chip mint ice cream!" Harry yelled.
"Butternut squash with brown sugar!"
"What? Butternut squash? Ugh! That's just gross, Holl."
"Why? I love it. My mum used to make it for supper sometimes, along with turkey."
"Yuck! Vegetables!" Harry made an awful face. "You're such a girl, liking vegetables." He stuck his tongue out at her.
"You're such a boy, Harry, making a big deal because something's healthy," she returned, and made a funny face back at him.
Then she pointed to a rainbow hanging in the air just above them. "There! I see the first one."
Harry quickly glanced around. "I see another one," he indicated a rainbow off to the left.
They ran through the snow, following the dancing rainbows all over the lawn, as far as Hagrid's cottage, and then back again. They were having so much fun spotting them they forgot to keep count and when they halted, neither of them knew who had seen the most rainbows.
"Oh, who cares?" Harry said, smirking. Then he nailed Holly in the head with a snowball.
"Tag, you're It, Holl!"
"Brat!" she shrieked, brushing snow off her cap.
Harry sprinted away and she chased him. She grabbed a handful of snow and pelted him in the back with it.
"Ha! Now you're It, Mr. Smartypants!"
Harry whirled around, pretending to be angry. "Run, you cheeky little snow girl! Before I bury you in a snow drift!"
She fled, pretending to shriek in terror. Then she started laughing. "What snowdrift? The snow isn't even up to my ankles."
"Uh . . .well . . .I'll . . .wash your face with it," he amended hastily.
"First you gotta catch me, slow poke!"
Which was not as easy as it seemed, for though Harry was bigger, Holly could twist and turn like a cat and she was very light on her feet and quick. She ducked around bushes and pine trees and boulders, giggling and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
But finally Harry caught her and tickled her until she begged for mercy.
The two played for a solid hour and a half, until they were breathless and red-cheeked, and their hands and feet were tingling from the cold. "That was fun!" Harry said, brushing snow off his scarf. "We'll have to play that at home in the backyard."
"Sure. I'm going to miss it here, though. Playing cards and having tea with Uncle Argus and Grandpa Al slipping us sweets when Dad's back was turned," Holly said wistfully. "And grooming Dancer and Duchess and the foals."
"Me too. But we'll be coming back in two weeks, you know. So it's not forever, Holl. And after the summer, I'll be a student here and so will Draco."
"I know. And then what about me?"
"You'll be here too, of course! You think Dad's gonna let you stay home for nine months alone?"
"No, but . . .it won't be the same. I mean, my tutoring will be the same, but you'll be in class half the time and what do I do in the meantime?"
"Uh, do yourself a favor and don't ask Dad that question," Harry warned. "Otherwise he'll give you tons of homework and you won't have time to be bored at all. You could play with Magik and Silver, maybe even ride the unicorns. Hagrid said if they let us, we could ride them sometimes."
"I'd like that, but what about . . .friends?"
"I don't understand."
"What about you making new friends here, Harry? What if you meet someone and they want to be your friend but not mine? Then what?"
"Then I'll tell them if they can't be friends with my sister, they can't be friends with me. All or nothing, Holly. I'd never be friends with a Squib hater, you ought to know that. Look, when we're out of class, you can come and do stuff with Draco and me, same as always."
"Yup. Wouldn't be the same without you. Draco and I discussed it. We swore an oath to always stick together, since we're family, even if we were Sorted into different Houses. And you're part of our family, so quit worrying, okay? And if anybody tries to bully you, come and find us and we'll stomp their arse."
"Dad doesn't like you fighting."
"What Dad doesn't know won't bother him," Harry said impudently. "Nobody messes with my little sister."
"And nobody messes with my big brother either," Holly said, then stuck snow down his pants. "Except me!"
"Ahhh!" he yelped, jumping up and down. "Holly Amanda Snape, you are sooo dead!"
Laughing, she fled, giggling uncontrollably like a drunken wind sprite.
He tackled her into the snow, threatening to conjure a snowbank and dump her in it, when a huge wolf raced up and knocked him flat on his back, mock-growling.
"Yay! Silver to the rescue!"
"Aww, no fair, you big mutt!" Harry groaned, then he chased after the playful wolf.
They rolled over and over in the snow, Harry was laughing and Silver was growling with that playful croon in his voice that he only used when romping with family members. His big teeth never touched the small wizard, Silver was inordinately careful, knowing full well even a playful snap might hurt the boy. He allowed Harry to wrestle him to the ground, but an instant later had thrown the boy off and was up and running circles about Holly, who threw a snowball at him.
Together, the great wolf and his two human charges romped in the winter afternoon, while above them wind sprites fluttered and chimed and rainbows danced in the air. They quite lost track of time, until they heard a familiar silky baritone calling them from the edge of the lawn.
"Holly! Harry! And you too, Silver! Come inside, it's almost dusk and the temperature's dropping. And it's suppertime," Severus added when the three showed no signs of having heard him.
That brought the horseplay, or wolf-play rather, to a halt.
"Dinner? Yay! I'm starving!" shouted Harry. He turned and ran past his father towards the castle.
Silver followed, drooling eagerly.
"Me too! Wait for me, Harry!" Holly cried, sprinting after the wolf and her brother, her hair flying every which way.
Severus shook his head ruefully. "I'm raising a bunch of barbarians, Merlin help me!" Then he cleared his throat. "Ahem! Aren't you forgetting something?"
They skidded to a stop and looked back at him.
"Walking quietly inside, not stampeding like a herd of unicorns," Severus reprimanded softly. "And how about giving me a proper greeting, since I haven't seen you two since breakfast?"
"Oh. Right." Harry muttered. "Hi, Dad. How was your day? Mine was great. Now can I go and eat?"
"Go." Severus waved him off.
Holly rolled her eyes in disgust. "Boys! They've got no manners." She came back and hugged Severus, burying her face in the warmth of his black woolen great coat. He smelled like cinnamon and marjoram and other spices, from the herbs in his pockets. "Hello, Dad. Did you finish grading all those nasty finals? And packing up all your ingredients?"
"Yes to both questions, Little Sprite," he answered, hugging her back and summoning a brush and running it quickly through her hair, neatening it before entering the castle for supper. "You're wet, let me cast a drying charm on you before you catch your death," he said, and did so.
"Harry knocked me in the snow, we were playing tag," she explained as they walked up to the castle at a more leisurely pace. "And chasing rainbows and tasting snowflakes and seeing wind sprites."
"Oh? Sounds like you were busy then." He smiled reminiscently. "Just the way Lily, Harry's mother, and I used to play when we were children." Then he stopped dead. "Wait. You saw wind sprites, Holly? But I thought . . ."
"That I couldn't 'cause I didn't have magic?" she finished. "Well, I couldn't see them all like Harry, but I did see a few. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm a Seer, Dad."
"Yes. A Seer's eyes see things ordinary eyes can not. It must be Herne's blood in you, child. You are his true daughter."
Holly nodded. "And yours, Dad."
"Always mine," he murmured, then put an arm about her, and together father and daughter made their way to the Great Hall for one last supper with Albus, Filch, Hagrid, and Harry. It had been a season of laughter and tears, peril and renewal, but neither would have traded it for anything.
The wind sprites serenaded them with snowflakes and laughter as they entered the castle, but before the great entrance doors shut, Holly stuck her head out and caught one last snowflake and whispered to the winged fae, "Goodbye! I'll see you again next winter!"
Then she carefully shut the door and ran to catch up to her father, who was already striding into the hall and down to the staff table where the rest of their family and friends waited.
One last surprise, how did you all like it?
I really enjoyed writing this one, it gave me a chance to explore some rather touchy issues, like prejudice, and play around with Celtic mythology, and let me give Sev a daughter and Harry and Draco a sister. No romance in this one, but who knows, maybe next time . . .Would any of you like to see a sequel when they're all in Hogwarts for first year?
And now, I have to go and work on Irresistible Chemistry, my Sev/ Lily story set during the Marauder era. If you haven't read it yet, please check it out and let me know what you think! A carton of chocolate frogs, a bag of lemon drops, and a hug from Severus (he's in the mood to hug today) to everyone who has reviewed and will be reviewing this. The blessings of the wind sprites be upon you!