Three years later
"Ready, Dad?" Arista asked, looking inquiringly at her father, who was fidgeting nervously in his dress robes.
Severus slanted a wry look at her. "I ought to be asking you that question, you know." He took her arm in his.
She laughed up at him. "You never ask questions you already know the answers to. Except in your classroom. I've been ready for this moment three years ago. But it was worth the wait."
"Be sure to tell Drake that." Severus said, smiling tenderly down at her. "Be happy, Arista mine."
"I will, Dad. As happy as you and Mom were." She flicked the veil back from her face and kissed him on the cheek. "She's watching, you know."
"Of course she is, Arista Eileen. Do you think she'd miss her only daughter's wedding?" Severus said, and brushed several tears from his eyes. "Damn!" he muttered. "I promised myself I wouldn't do that."
"It's okay, everybody's father cries at his daughter's wedding. Mel says hers cried like a baby." She gave his arm a comforting squeeze. "Don't worry, Dad. You won't have time to miss me, you'll be too busy arranging Trish's wedding next," Arista told him, grinning impishly.
"After which I'll be broke," he sighed.
"Too bad you didn't have sons, huh?" she teased gently.
"They would have been a lot less trouble than daughters," he agreed, his eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Hey, you asked. Next time, don't ask a question—" he began.
"Unless you want to know the answer," she finished. "I've heard that one already, Professor."
"One thing I won't miss is your smart mouth," he shot back.
"Like father, like daughter," she returned, and grinned cheekily at him. He opened his mouth to argue with her, then shut it when he realized she was right, the impudent minx. "I love you, Dad."
"Love you too," he said. "Even when I want to strangle you," he added, smirking.
"I'm gonna tell Trish to elope to Vegas," Arista threatened. "Saves you money and her aggravation."
"Saves her aggravation?" he repeated incredulously. "What about me? With all the aggravation you two have given me, I'm surprised my hair isn't all white by now," he said, touching the white lock emphatically.
The strains of a wedding march drifted through the tall wooden doors. She straightened and tossed her veil over her head. "There's our cue."
Severus tucked her arm in his and opened the tall wooden doors leading into the church. He was wearing his dress robes, the same ones he'd worn when he'd christened baby Amelia Flynn. This once, he was not using a cane, for he'd flatly refused to walk his daughter down the aisle leaning on a crutch like an old man. He'd swallowed a pain relieving draft just before coming to the church and he led Arista down the aisle confidently, barely favoring the leg at all.
"You look just like your mother," he whispered in her ear as they walked. On either side of the aisle, people smiled and threw rose petals. "Beautiful beyond compare."
Arista smiled up at him, blinking back tears of her own. "Thanks, Dad. I think that's the best compliment I ever got. Although they say all brides are beautiful on their wedding day."
"Maybe so, but none of them can hold a candle to my daughter."
At the altar, Father O'Brien awaited them, he was the wizard-priest who had officiated at Amelia's baptism. Drake was waiting for them, dressed superbly in a knockout tux and tailored dress robes that had probably cost him half his salary as newly inducted Dark Hunter. Not that he cared. He was only going to get married once, after all. He had eyes only for his new bride, drinking in the sight of her like a man dying of thirst does a pool of spring water.
Arista's eyes met his, and the connection between them flared like an electric current, so strong that even the most unmagical Muggle present felt it.
Severus swallowed hard upon seeing it, for just so had he looked upon Amelia, once upon a summer's day, long ago. It was ever so with soulbonded pairs. Their love was a tangible thing, so strong that it transcended death.
They made their way to the two steps of the altar, and there Severus halted, turning his daughter to face him, and bending slightly to kiss her gently on the cheek in farewell. "Be happy, Arista Eileen."
"I will," she said, kissing him back. She embraced him, hugging him for a long moment. "You're not really losing me, you know. You're just getting some much needed peace and quiet. And Drake as your new son."
"True." He released her as Drake came up to them, and Severus placed his daughter's hand in the Hunter's. "Take care of her, Drake. She's the best part of me and Amelia."
"I know that, Severus. And I'll love her for all of forever." Drake promised, taking Arista's hand gently in his own and grinning at her. In his smile was all the love in his heart.
It matched the smile she gave him in return exactly.
Then they turned away to mount the steps.
Severus stepped back three paces, going to stand behind Kit, who was the best man, Flick, and the twin ringbearers, Drew and Nick. There goes my baby, he thought sadly. It seems like only yesterday I was sending her off on the train to Hogwarts.
She'll be fine, Sev, Amelia whispered in his head. She's like you, beloved, at home wherever she goes, for her home is where her heart is. And that's with Drake, who'll cherish her like you did me.
He could feel his wife's presence then, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder. He glanced sidelong out of the corner of his eye, and to his utter shock he saw Amelia standing next to him, smiling brightly.
He froze, too astonished to form a coherent thought.
Why so surprised, Sev? You were the one who said I'd never miss her wedding day. Yes, but even I never . . .you really ARE here, aren't you, Amy? Yes, dear heart. But only you and Arista can see me. Nothing could keep me away, not on this day of all days. Oh Sev, she's so beautiful, my baby girl. Just like her mother,
Yes, but even I never . . .you really ARE here, aren't you, Amy?
Yes, dear heart. But only you and Arista can see me. Nothing could keep me away, not on this day of all days. Oh Sev, she's so beautiful, my baby girl.
Just like her mother,he thought, and his hand clasped Amelia's.
But she's got her father's eyes, those wonderful dark expressive eyes, that enchanted me from the first moment I looked into them. Not by half, love. I love everything about you, but especially your eyes. I'm glad Arista inherited them. Me too. Better my eyes than my nose,
Severus blushed slightly. My eyes are my best feature.
Not by half, love. I love everything about you, but especially your eyes. I'm glad Arista inherited them.
Me too. Better my eyes than my nose,he thought, his mouth quirking in a wry smile.
I love your nose, Snape. It reminds me of a falcon.
Severus looked at her askance.
Don't believe me, mister? Here, I'll prove it. And then she kissed him on the tip of it.
He shivered, for her touch was ecstasy and agony, ice and fire, but he wouldn't have traded it for anything. Flesh or spirit, her touch electrified him, and he craved it the way an alcoholic did a drink.
Amelia, good God in heaven!
She grinned impishly at him. D'you believe me now, Sev? Yes, but please don't do that again. I'm not stone, you know. Okay, I'll behave. That's a first. Stop it, Sev. Or else I'll kiss you again. May she have the time and the happiness we never could,
I'd like nothing better, as you well know. Then he sighed inwardly. However, this is Arista's day, not ours.
Yes, but please don't do that again. I'm not stone, you know.
Okay, I'll behave.
That's a first.
Stop it, Sev. Or else I'll kiss you again.
May she have the time and the happiness we never could,Amelia wished fervently, gazing at the couple, her eyes sparkling with what would have been tears, if ghosts could cry.
The ceremony was almost over, Father O'Brien called for the rings, which were brought up proudly by the twins. Drake took Arista's hand in his, put the gold band on her finger and said clearly, "With this ring, I thee wed, Arista Eileen Snape. I am yours, in sickness and in health, through good times and bad, I give you my heart, for all of forever. Do you accept it?"
"I do," answered Arista. She took the other ring from Nick. "With this ring, I thee wed, Drake Robert Lockwood. I am yours, in sickness and in health, through good times and bad, I give you my heart, for all of forever. Do you accept it."
"I do," Drake said.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife," said Father O'Brien, sketching the sign of the cross over the couple, it glistened in the air, touched with magic. "Go on then, son, kiss the bride!" he urged.
Drake needed no encouragement. Their kiss was the stuff of dreams, and everyone who saw it shivered with unmitigated passion and joy, for Arista was projecting her emotions unknowingly.
"Now that's what I call a kiss!" Kit remarked, grinning knowingly.
"You taking notes?" Mel called, eyeing her husband suggestively.
Kit blushed. Then he said, "Where d'you think he learned it from, Mel?"
Mel snickered, then composed herself when Trish elbowed her in the ribs.
Next to them, Trina, the bridesmaid, and Marietta, the flower girl, were giggling uncontrollably. Despite the four years difference in their ages, the two girls had become fast friends since meeting each other last week during the wedding rehearsals.
"Do grown-ups always behave like this at a wedding?" whispered Marietta to Trina.
Trina shrugged. "Got me. This is the first wedding I've ever been in. But it sure is funny, the way they act over a little kiss."
"That's grown-ups for you," Marietta stated, then they both started laughing again, until Trish hushed them.
"Bossy," Marietta said, and stuck her tongue out at her cousin when her back was turned. Then she glanced about guiltily.
But no one had seen save her uncle, who shook a reproving finger at her and mouthed the words, "Behave, minx!"
The irrepressible scamp knew better than to disobey Severus and she flashed him an apologetic stare then turned around and folded her hands over her basket filled with rose petals, an innocent flower girl once more.
Lord, Sev! She's something else, my niece. Amelia said, laughing behind her hand.
Tell me about it. She's a little scamp, my Marietta. But I love her anyway, the imp. She reminds me of myself at that age. Mischief squared. My thoughts exactly.
Arista and Drake turned around to walk back up the aisle.
She reminds me of myself at that age. Mischief squared.
My thoughts exactly.
For a single instant Arista's eyes met Amelia's, and she gasped.
Congratulations, sweetheart. I wish you every happiness, Amelia sent.
Thanks, Mom, Arista sent back, her eyes glittering with unshed tears. I knew you'd make it.
Wouldn't miss it for the world, baby. I love you. Amelia blew her daughter a kiss. Goodbye, Arista mine. Love your new husband with everything you've got, like I love your dad. She turned to Severus, who was staring at her pleadingly. I have to go now, Sev. But you know we'll meet again someday, my love. Remember me.
Always, Amelia Snape.
Then she was gone in a cloud of golden sparkles, traveling the starry road back to the blessed realm to await her beloved at heaven's gate.
* * * * * *
The reception was held at a large hall somewhere south of the Poconos, with three large fireplaces for those guests travelling by Floo powder and a nearby portal for the newlyweds, who were flown in on dragonback by Fireflash. The rest of the bridal party and Severus were flown by Topaz and Sunstrike, who considered it a singular honor to fly the former Headmaster to his destination.
The dragons were made welcome at the party, Fireflash sang along with the band, and Topaz and Sunstrike spent the evening chatting pleasantly with some of the guests from Britain, mostly Drake's relatives, who had never seen a bronze dragon before. Several of them had remarked on the huge size of the hall, wondering why it was so large, until they met the dragons.
After dancing the required father-daughter dance with Arista, to Tim McGraw's My Little Girl, Severus sat talking to Robin and Valerie Lockwood, Drake's parents. The pain-relieving potion he'd drunk earlier was starting to wear off, and he needed to sit down for awhile before the leg stiffened up too much. I must be getting old, if one dance can make my leg feel like a block of wood, he thought, concealing a wince and surreptitiously massaging it under the table.
Out on the dance floor, Drake and Arista, Trish and Flick, and Mel and Kit were twirling to a fast bit of rock and roll, having the time of their lives, as were most of the other guests. Many old alumni from Hogwarts were there, including Harry Potter, his new wife Ginny, Ron and Hermione, also newlyweds, and the Weasley twins, Fred and George as well as Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom.
All of the Hogwarts crowd was dancing lively, though no one could best Drake and Arista, who'd been the recipient of several lessons from Drake's mom Val, who was once a dance instructor.
Arista had bustled up the train of her gorgeous white gown studded with crystals and seed pearls so she could move without fear of treading on it. Her auburn hair blazed in the mageglobes' light like a beacon, for she had removed her veil for the reception. She was wearing her mother's locket, a blue garter, and a pair of Trish's diamond earrings to complete the old good luck saying of something borrowed (earrings), something blue (garter), something old (locket), and something new (dress). She'd also had on a pair of fancy Prada heels, but had since kicked them off so she could dance quicker.
"Uh oh!" Fred teased, eyeing her stocking clad feet. "Snape's taking her shoes off. You know what that means, George?"
"Yeah, it means Neville better not step on her toes tonight," George answered, smirking.
"Uh, yeah, but it also means she's gonna to dance the rest of us into the ground," Fred warned.
"Except Drake," Mel snickered. "He won't let her, his pride won't permit it."
Fred raised an eyebrow. "That true, Lockwood?"
Drake shrugged. "Well . . .since it's her wedding day . . .I'll let her win."
Arista elbowed him in the ribs. "Like blazes you will, love!"
Drake gave her a sheepish grin, and George nudged Fred and hissed, "Uh oh, trouble in paradise. Their first row and they've only been married, what, three hours?"
"Troublemakers!" Ginny scolded. "The two of you are impossible. No wonder no woman has asked you to marry them."
The twins exchanged stunned glances. "Untrue!" they chorused. "We've had plenty of dates."
"Really?" their sister said. " Name two girls."
"Uh . . ."
"Fine pair you two are, can't even remember the names of your own dates," Ginny snorted. "Don't pay any attention to them, Drake. They're just jealous."
Drake chuckled, beaming. "So's every man here tonight, I think. Except my father and Severus, that is." And he gave Arista such a look of tenderness and love that she immediately quit being annoyed with him and smiled at him.
The band began to play an old Italian dance tune—the tarantella, which had its roots in ancient Rome, and was a traditional dance at every Amarotti wedding. Harry looked at Ron. "Uh, I don't know this one, do you?"
Ron shook his head. "No, I don't know half of them, Harry. I just let Hermione lead, mostly, so I don't look like an utter jackass."
"Smart of you," Harry muttered. "Maybe I ought to try that."
But Arista, Drake, Trish, Mel, and half the other Amarottis had gathered in a large circle, linking their arms together. "C'mon, Harry and Ron!" they beckoned them to join the circle.
"But we don't know how to dance this one!" Ron sputtered.
"It's a piece of cake, mate!" laughed Kit. "Look, even Marietta can do it!" he indicated Arista's seven-year-old cousin, who was standing next to Trina, grinning.
Ron looked at Harry, who was being tugged into the circle by an eager Ginny. "Uh . . ."
"Oh, Ron, for Godsakes!" his wife muttered, giving him a Look. "Get over here!"
"Yes, dear," he groaned and joined the circle. "Bloody hell, Lockwood, but couldn't you pick some normal music?"
"Calm down, Weasley," Drake soothed. "This is an easy one, just follow Arista and me and do what we do."
"Oh sure! Follow you two, the two best dancers in the whole bloody place, saving your mum, I'll bet," Ron rolled his eyes, then tried to imitate Drake and Arista's graceful skipping dance. The two twirled about each other then parted to face each other and do a kind of jig, reminding Ron of a happy spider. (Indeed the name tarantella means tarantula in Italian). Next thing he knew, he was being pulled back into a large circle and dancing in a huge ring about the bride and groom, who then bowed gracefully and surrendered the spotlight to Mel and Kit, who were also not bad at dancing.
Harry whistled, for once Mel had been known as a clumsy awkward girl while at school, given the awful name Staggering Melly by her nemesis Brittany Marsh. "Merlin, but who'd of thought Mel could dance like that?" he said to Ginny.
"This is nothing, Harry!" whooped Kit, who was panting trying to keep up with his wife, who could dance like a dervish. "You ought to see her dance the mambo!"
"Or the Macarena!" added Trish.
"But nobody beats her and Uncle Sev at the waltz," shouted Marietta, spinning in circles and giggling.
Harry nearly fell over in shock. "What?? You've gotta be kidding, Marietta! Mel and . . .and Headmaster Snape?"
"He's Director Snape now, Harry," Marietta corrected. "And he and Mel dance like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire."
"Who?" Ron looked puzzled.
"Famous Muggle American movie stars and professional dancers," Drake explained.
Ron gaped at him. "You're putting me on, Lockwood!"
"Nuh-uh!" Marietta shook her head emphatically, her strawberry blond curls bouncing. "Just wait till they play a waltz, then you'll see. Uncle Sev and Mel waltz better than Anna and the King of Siam in The King and I."
"You watch too many old movies with my dad, minx!" Arista chuckled, ruffling her hair affectionately. "But she's right. Even with that leg of his, Dad can still dance."
"Where'd he bloody learn?" Fred wondered.
"My mom, I think," Arista replied, then twirled away in Drake's arms.
"So, Kit, how's it feel to be working for the Auror Department?" Drake queried as they danced near him and Mel.
"Drake, that's a four letter word I don't mention in mixed company," his friend answered. "And that's all I'm gonna say, pal."
"Don't let him fool you, Drake, he loves his job," Mel said, tossing her black curls out of her face. Both of them were attached to the Aurors, Mel as a ghostwalker and Kit as a special advisor. She looked at Trish, who was dancing on their other side with the irrepressible Flick, her fiancee. "Trish, how was your first year teaching?"
"Uh . . .it was about what Severus told me to expect. Two parts exciting to three parts aggravating," she admitted with a smile. "Some of those four year olds can really get on your nerves. But I love it anyway."
"You teach, Trish?" Harry exclaimed.
"Yeah, preschool. It's something else."
"Following in old Snape's footsteps, eh?" Ron said.
Trish burst out laughing. "Uh, I guess you could say that, but I really can't imagine Severus teaching four-year-olds, can you?"
Hermione shook her head, also laughing. "He'd scare them half to death!"
"That's for sure. But at least he wouldn't have any behavior problems," Trish sighed. "Half of my class ends up in time out, they're such rotten brats. I haven't learned how to perfect the Snape glare yet."
"You mean, like this?" Marietta said, and gave a pretty good imitation of her uncle's famous glower.
"You definitely have been spending too much time with him," Drake said, grinning.
All of the professor's former students agreed.
"You're a fine one to talk, Drake," Mel said. "Considering he's your boss as well as your father-in-law now."
"Better stay on his good side, Lockwood," Harry teased.
"Unlike you, Potter," Drake shot back, his gray eyes sparkling. "I know better than to mouth off to him, since he can do a lot worse than give me detention now."
"When did you ever earn detention from him, Drake?" Hermione asked wonderingly.
"Never, probably. He's a Slytherin," Ron snorted.
"Wrong, Ron. He's never hesitated to give detention to his own House, especially when it was deserved," Drake defended his mentor. "Trust me on that. He gave me detention just before the war began with Lucius Malfoy and all."
"Really? What for?"
Drake coughed, then said, "Uh, for trying to drown Malfoy in his own cauldron one afternoon in Potions. He was subbing for Slughorn, and Malfoy was being his usual snarky self, making remarks about me and Arista. I got mad and next thing I knew, I was shoving the smartass head down in his Silencing Solution."
"I remember that now!" Harry said, his green eyes dancing. "It was the funniest thing I ever saw."
"Too bad Severus didn't think so," Drake sighed ruefully. "I think he practically dragged me off Malfoy by my ears. And once he got me alone in his office . . .he tore strips off me for my temper. He said, I'll never forget this, "While it might be extremely gratifying to drown Malfoy, Mr. Lockwood, you will refrain from doing violence to another student in my class ever again, am I understood? Because the first thing a good Hunter needs to learn is how to control his emotions, not let them run away with him. That being so, you will write Next time I will control my temper 300 times for me."
"Merlin! 300 times!" exclaimed Ginny.
"Yeah," Drake grimaced. "My hand was about to fall off by the time I was done, I'll tell you. And all the while I was writing, he was glowering down at me and lecturing me until I wanted to go crawl under a table. But it worked. 'Cause when I faced Malfoy that time in the hall after his bloody dad nearly killed Arista, I was able to keep from killing him and all I did was Stun him."
"And you think that was a good thing?" Ron cried.
"It was. Because Malfoy's not worth a murder charge," Drake replied evenly. "He wasn't a convicted Death Eater, remember? Even if he did betray Hogwarts, that's not a strong enough motive to kill him. Much as I would have loved to dig a grave for the miserable bugger and throw him in it, I let him live so justice could be done. Which it was, as all of you know."
"I still say he's better off dead," Ron grumbled. "He's gonna cause trouble again, mark me."
"Then Uncle Sev will kick his butt for him," Marietta stated. "Just like he did when he hexed my stuffed dog Sevvy."
"He can't, Marietta. His authority as Director only extends to the US, not Britain." Kit informed her. "But I sure will, if he dares to step across the line again."
"Me too," Harry agreed, for he too was an Auror.
"Enough about Malfoy," Arista said suddenly. "Just talking about him makes me ill, and that's not how I want to feel on my wedding day."
All of them obligingly changed the subject.
The band began to play another fast-paced rock and roll number, and they were soon absorbed in it, laughing hilariously at the Weasley brothers, who couldn't dance to save their skins, and who didn't give a damn either.
Severus turned back to Valerie Lockwood, a pretty woman in her late thirties with wavy brown hair and a vivacious smile, much like her son's.
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear that last question, Val, the music was so loud," he apologized for his wandering attention span.
"I know, I'm surprised I can still hear myself think," Val laughed. "The young people's taste in music isn't what it was in my day. They seem to prefer all noise and no words. Anyway, I wanted to know what you do now that you've resigned as Headmaster of Hogwarts, Severus? You live and work in America now, isn't that right?"
"I do," he answered, but before he could say anything further, his spellophone chimed. He considered ignoring it, but then figured he'd better answer it, in case it was an emergency. With his job, one never knew.
He slipped the small black disk emblazoned with the Dark Hunter crest out of his pocket and flipped it open, hitting the Send button as he did so. "Snape here."
The image gel stirred and the face of one of his employees popped up. "What's the problem now, Stanley?"
"Sir, I know you told me not to call you today, but I needed to know what you wanted me to do with the file on the Nighthawk case," the other wizard began.
Severus scowled. "Excuse me," he said to the Lockwoods. "Stanley, did I or did I not leave you explicit instructions that I wasn't to be called unless it was a national emergency?"
"Yes, sir, but we captured another one of the ringleaders and I thought you should know, so . . ."
"A national emergency, Stanley," Snape interrupted his overeager assistant. "Meaning that unless the White House is under attack, the President's been assassinated, or somebody's blown up the World Trade Center, I am currently unavailable, understood? This is my daughter's wedding day, for Godsake."
"I know, sir."
"Then why are you calling me?" he demanded exasperatedly.
Stanley hemmed and hawed for a few more minutes, before Snape said, "If you have any questions, why don't you talk to Miss Finn, she's your supervisor, right?"
"Uh, yes, sir. I'll do that. Sorry for bothering you, Director. Bye."
Snape sighed and closed the spellophone. "In my line of work, there's no such thing as a day off."
"Mine either," Dr. Lockwood said sympathetically. "Unless I'm across the ocean and temporarily missing in action."
"Sometimes I'm tempted to go missing in action," Snape said.
"What do you do, Severus?" Val queried, her eyes alight with curiosity. "It sounds like you're in law enforcement."
"I am, in a manner of speaking. I'm the Director of the Dark Hunter Intelligence Agency here, which is similar to our Auror Department." Snape explained. "Only on a much bigger scale. They requested me after the previous Director retired three years ago, because of my undercover work with the late Albus Dumbledore. I had to keep putting them off, however, because I was currently Headmaster of Hogwarts and couldn't leave in the middle of my term. Then too, Arista was still in school, and I wasn't about to pull her out in her last year."
"I wouldn't have either," said Val approvingly.
"Then I agreed to a second year as Headmaster since I couldn't find anyone I trusted to take over the school, except one man, and the Ministry wasn't about to let him take the post. Eventually, however, I managed to convince those bubble-headed fools that Remus Lupin was the best man for the job, even if he was a werewolf. He was a hero too, fought and killed that piece of trash Greyback during the second Battle of Hogwarts. Once I did that, I could resign without regrets and I did so. The DHIA contacted me again regarding the Director position, it was still open if I wanted it."
"And you took it, naturally," Val surmised.
"Who could blame him?" said Robin. "It probably pays a lot more than being Headmaster of Hogwarts."
Severus nodded. "That's true, but money wasn't my only reason for accepting the position. Most of my relatives live here in the States, and Arista was going to move over here as well once she graduated, since Drake was attending the Dark Hunter Academy in New York and she wanted to be near him. And the job itself appealed to me, I've the greatest respect for the Dark Hunters, my late wife was one, and so I accepted and here I am."
"I'll bet the Auror Department's kicking themselves for not offering you a job first," Robin said with a chuckle.
Snape shrugged. "Maybe now they are, but not back then. Back then I was still considered undesirable by their standards, due to a youthful indiscretion. They still suspected me of having ties to the Death Eaters, you see."
"You've got to be kidding!" Val exclaimed. "How dumb can they get? After all you did fighting Lucius Malfoy and protecting the school and Dumbledore appointing you his successor, they dared to question your allegiance?"
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" Severus said, a bitter twist to his mouth.
"Bunch of horses' arses, if you ask me," Robin said angrily.
Severus spread his hands in a so-what gesture. "That's bureaucracy for you. They believe what they want to believe, not the truth. And it suited them to paint me as a villain, evidence to the contrary. The Dark Hunters had no such prejudices, which was why I went to work for them." He did not bother telling them that his reputation in the States was that of a celebrated hero and a friend to the bronze dragons. What he had done in his past as a teenager did not matter to the Hunters, who were inclined to overlook little indiscretions in their leaders.
"Good for you, Severus!" Robin said. "Those pompous know-nothings in the Ministry always aggravate me past bearing. They tried to pass a legislation saying that we Magical Creatures vets couldn't treat the more dangerous species of animals, like griffins and dragons, not that we get many of them anyhow, but still who are they to tell me what I can and can't heal?"
Just then, the Marciano twins, Drew and Nick, some other Amarotti cousins, Trina, and Marietta raced past, laughing. Seven-year-old Marietta paused beside their table, grinning, to say hello to the Lockwoods and her uncle. "Hey, Uncle Sev, great party!"
She was wearing a pretty satin emerald green gown, one that was not the full length gown the other bridesmaids wore, but it came down to her ankles. It complemented perfectly her strawberry blond curls and her blue eyes.
"What are you up to now, little minx?" Severus asked, calling her by the nickname he'd given her long ago, at age three-and-a-half.
"Nothing," she said quickly.
Severus raised an eyebrow at her denial. "Nothing I want to know about, you mean."
"No, really, Uncle Sev, we aren't up to anything. The twins wanted Trina to show them a new dance step, that's all."
"If I know the twins, that's only half of what they wanted. I'm sure the other half of their brains are busy plotting new ways to get into trouble."
Marietta made a face at him. "You always think we're up to something."
"Because nine times out of ten you are up to something," Severus teased.
"Not today I'm not," she admitted shamelessly. "I promised you I wouldn't get into trouble and I always keep my promises," Marietta said, coming over to sit on his lap the way she used to do as a toddler.
"You certainly try to," her uncle agreed, then shifted her to his good knee, for his lame leg couldn't bear her weight for long. "You're nearly too big for my lap, minx," he said, tweaking her nose.
"But never for bedtime stories," she said, for she often stayed over his house, and he always told her a story at bedtime, a tradition that had begun one Fourth of July night four summers ago.
"No, you're never too old for those," Robin agreed. "How old are you now, Marietta?"
"I'm seven. I start second grade this year, and soon I'll be old enough to learn real magic. Uncle Sev says he'll teach me Potions and Defense, just as if I went to Hogwarts."
"She's been begging for me to teach her magic since I first met her," Severus laughed. "And now you can finally get your wish, Marietta, since I live in Point Pleasant now."
Marietta beamed. "Uncle Sev's the best teacher in the world."
The Lockwoods smiled at her utter sincerity. Severus coughed, embarrassed at his niece's frank admiration. "Uh, well, that's a matter of opinion, Marietta. We'll see what you say once you start lessons with me, young lady. Most of my former students will tell you I'm a drill sergeant and far too critical of them. You might end up hating me sometimes."
Marietta shook her head firmly. "No I won't. Colin says the harder the practice the better the student."
"Colin's right, but no teenager wants to listen to that piece of advice," Severus said. "I'll wager you won't either when you're older."
"Maybe, but I still think you're the best teacher, Uncle Sev, and I can't wait till I can learn magic."
Severus smiled at her, for nothing, not even one of his famous Snape glares, dampened her enthusiasm for long. "You've got a ways to go till then, Marietta. Now why don't you go and play with the other kids?"
"Okay!" she agreed and slipped off his lap to go and find them.
"You're going to have your hands full with that one when she's apprentice age, Severus," predicted Val.
"God help me," he sighed. "She'll be a strong magician though, and probably a Transfiguration Mistress to rival Minerva McGonagall one day, if she ever settles down and learns to control that impulsive streak. But I'll worry about that later. I've enough to deal with running the DHIA, never mind tutoring mischievous apprentices."
"Don't let him fool you, Robin. Sev thrives on adversity," said Colin from behind them. "That's why he's the Director." He was holding little Amy in his arms. "Say hi to your godfather, Amy."
The little girl gave him a bright grin. She had dark hair just like her mother Jenna, but her blue eyes were pure Colin, as was the devilish grin. "Hello, Uncle Sev!" She wriggled in her father's arms. "Down, please."
"Okay, but you stay right here by me and Uncle Sev, snippet," Colin ordered, setting the child on her feet.
She immediately ran up to Severus and held out her arms. "Up!" she ordered imperiously.
"How do you ask, Amy?"
"That's my girl," Severus praised, and he picked her up. Amy cuddled happily on his knee, eating appetizers from his plate, and listening to her godfather and her daddy discussing her favorite story, the time when they'd fought the wicked Lord Voldemort together somewhere far away in a place called Hogwarts.
It was a story she had heard many times before, but she never tired of hearing it, for it was a wonderful adventure full of interesting creatures, brave heroes, scary villains, and magic. Best of all, it was true, and the people in it were all ones she knew and loved.
Severus Snape, former Hogwarts professor and Headmaster, looked down at his wife's namesake and smiled contentedly. He had come a long way from the lonely shy boy of Spinners End, and there had been much pain and sorrow in his life, but no longer. For now he had what he'd always wanted, a home and a family, and a job that challenged his skills to the utmost. Life was good, and he lifted his glass in a toast to Arista and Drake, two of the very best wizards anywhere, and looked forward to a future without shadows and doom, at peace at last.
Until he glanced up and found a smiling Mel at his elbow. "Hi, Severus. Care to waltz with me?"
He blinked, considering the state of his leg for about five seconds, before he caught sight of Harry, Ron, and Hermione staring at him in amazement. He could read them like a book, and he knew they thought he was going to refuse Mel's request.
Hiding a smirk, he gently handed Amy back to Colin and stood up. "I'd be honored, Mrs. Ambrosius, to partner you."
Then the Director took Mel's hand and stepped out onto the dance floor, ignoring the utter shock on the faces of his former students, and began gliding to the soft strains of a waltz, unhampered by his bad leg for once. And Harry and Ron discovered to their mutual astonishment that Marietta had not been exaggerating. Severus and Mel really were good dancers, as good as those Muggle movie stars whose names they'd forgotten.
"I don't believe it," Ron whispered. "You heal his leg or something, Arista?"
"No, Ron. But today he's like his old self, because nothing would let him spoil his daughter's wedding day. Not even a lame leg."
Harry smiled, watching half in envy as the Director and Mel twirled across the floor gracefully. "I shouldn't really be surprised. I mean, this is Severus Snape we're talking about, and nobody can best him when it comes to sheer will and determination."
"That's for sure," all of them agreed and for once they were all grateful for it. Those qualities had saved their lives more than once during the war and would continue to do so, thanks to the stubborn perseverance of one perfectionist professor, who inspired them to be the very best they could be.
End Story Notes:
So how did you all like this? Please let me know!
I have a sequel for this--so you can all see what Severus is up to in his new position as Director of DHI PLUS he gets a new family member and is enlisted by none other than Harry Potter to catch a rogue wizard called the Shifter who's kidnapped his very pregnant wife Ginny. Lots of Harry and Sev interaction in this one and a bit of Arista too!
If you want the first chapter posted, review this one! The more requests I get, the faster I'll post the sequel.
If you want to know when the sequel is posted add me to your Author Alert subscription, that will let you when I post it.
And for those of you who want something different with more canon pairings--please read my new fic Irresistable Chemistry, it's a Sev/ Lily AND Petunia/James story, though it starts out with Severus and Lily first and James and Petunia later. Also, the real romance in it doesn't come in until chapter three, because they're FRIENDS and children first, but after that it will be very present, though nothing graphic. It will run through seventh year and beyond and also feature REGULUS BLACK.