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Notes: I have no excuse. I bow in shame. :(
A Father's Sin
Chapter 47—Final Acts
The battlefield had grown strangely silent at Malfoy's unusual actions, and most eyes were fixed on his place between to the armies. Voldemort's glee seemed to bleed through the air, raising the hair on the back of Severus' neck. The Dark Lord moved from the back of the army, where he had been waiting silently, allowing events to take their course until his turn to strike the finishing blow arrived. Lucius Malfoy stood silently, expression strangely blank as he held the book aloft.
"Well Dumbledore, it seems you have failed. The book is mine!" Voldemort laughed, his smile a terrifying distortion of his lips.
"Oh? I would not count my battles won before they are finished, Tom," Dumbledore replied, sounding strangely amused despite the seriousness of the situation.
"Ah, but victory is inevitable. You know that once I have the book and read a few simple words, no magic in the world will stand in the way of my Serpent's Children."
"Perhaps. But that does not mean we will not try," Dumbledore said.
Voldemort seethed, and directed his attention abruptly to Lucius.
"Lucius! Bring it to me!" he commanded.
The blonde wizard turned toward him, his face still oddly disinterested. The hand holding the book lowered slightly, as if to bring it to his side. He held it balanced on his palm at waist height. Suddenly, he stared at it intensely. Before anyone knew what was happening, the book burst into bright blue flames that devoured the entire tome as if it were rice paper. Voldemort's scream of rage echoed across the field as Lucius shook the smoldering ashes from his hand, allowing them to scatter on the wind. Not even a 'Reparo' spell had the faintest hope of fixing it, now.
"Malfoy!" Voldemort screamed, looking as if he'd forgotten about his wand and was preparing to tear the man to pieces with his own hands.
Lucius, however, only smirked and turned away, before bowing very deliberately toward Dumbledore. And then, he Apparated away with a mockingly loud 'pop.'
Silence remained on the battlefield for only a moment. Witches and wizards on both sides were confused by what had happened and shifted uneasily. But then Voldemort's rage swelled to a nearly palpable force, and he screamed, clearly crazed, at his followers.
"KILL THEM ALL! Every last one!"
Before his voice had echoed away the battle had begun again, the curses thrown with renewed vigor. Already the battlefield was speckled with the fallen, both dead and wounded, though neither army seemed to have outmatched the other.
"Well, who wouldda thought. Malfoy, a good guy," Sirius muttered.
"Hmm. More likely he expects Dumbledore to win, and wants to be on the winning side," Remus mused.
Severus ignored their banter, his eyes instead fixed on the black wolf at his side.
Remus stood surveying the battle, eyes sharp, and wand in hand should any enemy make it that far back. His eyes were narrowed, flicking back and forth over the field.
"Sirius, Severus…the battle doesn't seem to be going very well," he said quietly, as if reluctant to share the unhappy news.
The scene wasn't a pleasant one. Voldemort's anger over the loss of book and loyal servant seemed to have translated to the Death Eater's increased ferocity. The Death Eaters were very clearly pushing the advantage now, the Serpent's Children mowing through the ranks with disturbing ease. Most spells that hit them seemed to have no effect. Only petrifying spells and the killing curse seemed to work. The problem was, though, that most of Hogwarts' defenders were reluctant to use the killing curse on children, and the petrifying spells only worked for a few minutes at most. Voldemort was stalking behind the lines, apparently raving with anger, and shouting furious insults and orders at his army.
Severus finally looked away from checking his son-turned-wolf for injuries and took in the state of affairs. He quickly recognized the Serpent's Children as the problem. They were Voldemort's primary advantage because they could not feel pain, fear, or weakness, and because the light wizards were reluctant to attack them. What they needed was something to remove them from the equation.
"Remus, you said the Serpent's Children only follow specific orders, correct?" he asked.
The werewolf nodded uncertainly.
"So, what do you imagine their orders are right now?" Severus asked.
"Well, they would probably still be what Dumbledore said, possibly to attack anyone not in Death Eater robes, or…oh!" Remus said, catching on to the Potions Master's line of thinking.
"If ALL our robes were charmed to resemble Death Eater robes, we would have the advantage until they could give them new orders," Severus said, smirking.
"It would have to be all at once, though. I don't know a spell that could pull that off. Do you?" Remus asked.
"No, but I'm confident that Dumbledore does. Black?" Severus asked, looking to the darkly grinning man behind Remus.
"I'm on it," he said. He promptly transformed and took off into the fray.
Not far from where Snape sat with Zachary, Hermione rose from her place hidden among the grasses, her feline form flowing quietly and quickly over the ground. At first, she had merely spied on the group to find out how Harry was doing and to relay the information back to Ron and Draco. However, when they had begun talking about the Serpent's Children, an idea had slipped into her head. She knew it was probably just as crazy, if not more so, than Zachary's plan to kidnap Lucius Malfoy had been, but she wasn't about to stand by and watch the battle rage on if there was something she could do to stop it.
Ron and Draco were waiting by the castle walls, crouched just out of sight of most of the professors. Hermione swiftly shifted form as she approached, smiling at their anxious faces.
"Is he okay?" Ron asked hurriedly, nearly bouncing on his heels.
Draco was biting his lip, looking just as anxious to find out.
"Relax, Zach's fine. His Animagus form is apparently immune to the summoning. So as long as he stays a wolf, his mind is safe," Hermione assured them.
"Good. But really, who's not an Animagus in our year?" Draco muttered, and shook his head.
Ron was grinning ear to ear.
"Listen, while I was down there, I heard some more about the Serpent's Children. I have an idea that should really help to turn the battle in our favor, but I would need both of your help."
"This won't require any martyrs, will it? Because while I'm all in favor of us winning, I hadn't exactly planned on 'dying for the cause,'" Draco said, shivering dramatically.
"It'll be risky, but mostly just for me and Ron." Hermione looked thoughtfully at Draco, her eyes narrowing. "Do you perhaps…know how to cast the Imperius?" she asked, a slow smirk creeping across her face.
Draco smiled smugly.
"Oh, on the average wizard. What do you have in mind?"
Draco hurried down the slope, weaving among the wounded and those tending them. Weasley and Granger were already well on their way to completing their part of the plan. They only had to give Draco enough time to do his part. He hoped that Zachary could do what they needed him to. After all, Zach had been injured and weakened. Would he be strong enough?
Seeing the black wolf and his Head of House kneeling in the grass, Draco slid to a stop. Snape whirled around with a startled look on his face, but something in Draco's expression kept him from yelling immediately.
"Mr. Malfoy?" he asked.
The wolf, Zach, turned to look at him with a happy grin on his face.
"Professor…Granger and Weasley…" Draco panted, only partially faking his nervousness.
"What is it?" Snape insisted. Zach whined softly, ears perked straight up.
"They're missing. We wanted to find out how Zach was doing, and we got separated. We were supposed to meet back at the main doors, but they haven't shown up. I think they must have been captured," Draco said, doing his best wide-eyed, shocked expression.
Professor Snape immediately stood and turned, eyes scanning the battlefield. "When did you last see them?"
"About twenty minutes ago, I think."
"Draco, stay here with Zach for a minute. I'll be right back," Snape commanded, and Draco nodded solemnly. As soon as Snape was out of hearing distance, Draco threw his arm around Zach's furry neck and began speaking quietly.
"Zachary, listen closely, all right? Weasley and Granger are fine. We have a plan to turn this battle around, and they've already set it in motion. In a few minutes, the Dark Lord is going to be very, very angry. And when he is, we need your help. As soon as he starts throwing a fit, you need to switch back to human form and take control, got it? You need to take control." Draco had spoken in a rush and sat back and fell silent when Snape returned from his errand a moment later.
Zachary stared at Draco strangely, but nodded slowly. Draco smiled thinly and gave a subtle wink. His part was finished.
Hermione was whispering quietly to herself from where she sat, bound by magical rope, just outside the line of trees. Ron was sitting next to her, glaring sullenly. One of his feet was tapping impatiently against the ground, though his eyes were alert to their surroundings. So far, the plan was going smoothly. With Draco's help, they had been captured by a Death Eater and brought behind enemy lines. Draco's Imperius Curse had made sure that the Death Eater bound them instead of stunning them, and that they were left near the Serpent's Children. All of the Death Eaters were too preoccupied with the battle to pay much attention to a pair of teenagers bound and helpless. Hermione was sure that if Voldemort discovered them sitting right in his lap, things would get a lot more dangerous, but if things continued to go smoothly, they'd be gone before it ever got to that point.
Silently, Hermione finished her whispered counting and turned to Ron. "Did you find him?" Hermione asked softly.
"He's hanging back like You-know-Who. He's the one with the slicked-back brown hair, just to the left and behind the Serpent's Children."
Hermione nodded, fixing the boy in question in her line of sight.
"Okay. Are you ready?" she said, steeling herself for what they were about to do.
Ron nodded, looking much more prepared for the battle ahead than she was. "Let's go."
Almost in sync, the two transformed into their animal counterparts. The conjured ropes slid easily from their smaller forms, and they began slinking through the tall grass, eyes fixed on the brown-haired boy. They didn't stop until they were no more than an arm's length away from the boy's heels.
Hermione quivered with nervousness as she crouched in the grass, body almost completely flat to the ground. Ron stopped next to her, his nose twitching in anticipation. The brown-haired boy towered above them, hands on his hips, surveying the battlefield like a kingdom. Harry had been apt in his description: the boy really did look like a Malfoy, save for the hair.
Shaking away her stray thoughts, Hermione tensed her muscles, letting out a very quiet growl in signal. Not an instant later, she and Ron sprung through the air. Ron's aim was true, his jaws clamped firmly on the wrist of the boy's wand-arm, and Hermione would have winced at the sound of cracking bones if she hadn't been busy sinking her claws into the boy's shoulders. Her better half protested against purposely harming a complete stranger, no matter how evil, but she forced herself to think of all the people who had already died because of him. The boy flailed wildly, screaming obscenities, and obviously more concerned with shaking them off than with thinking up a coherent plan of action.
Her powerful hind legs braced on the boy's back, Hermione quickly ripped her wickedly sharp claws across the boy's shoulders. The black cloak shredded easily, and her job went much quicker than expected. With a loud snarl, Hermione leapt from the boy's back, taking the majority of his black cloak with her. Ron followed not even half a second later, a thin wand clamped in his narrow muzzle. They were inside the tree line in and instant, taking refuge in the gnarled roots of a thick old tree. Peering cautiously around the tree, Hermione watched to see the fruits of their labor.
The boy stood furiously, clutching a savage gash Hermione had left across one shoulder. A dark serpent tattoo marred one of the boy's cheeks, in stark contrast to his pale skin. He turned to bark orders to the rest of the Serpent's Children, but his yelling had drawn their attention. For a moment, he stood with eyes widened in horror as no less than twelve wands were aimed at him. His mouth began to move, but it wasn't quick enough. Jets of sickly green light flashed, and Hermione closed her eyes, huddling back in the tree roots. Professor Lupin had been right after all. Without his cloak, the Serpent's Children had seen even their leader as an enemy.
Something soft nudged her side, and Hermione looked up to see Ron's worried gaze watching her, discernible even in his fox form. He made a quiet sound, and motioned off toward the deeper trees. He was right. They needed to leave before Voldemort realized what had happened and all hell broke loose.
"Now, Zach!" Draco suddenly yelled, and Harry yelped, stumbling back from the boy who had been standing quietly at his side.
He had no idea what Ron and Hermione had been hoping to accomplish. And he had no idea how to do what they'd asked him too; although, that didn't mean he wouldn't try.
With a soft 'pop' he returned to human form, immediately aware of the cold seeping from the tattoo on his forehead. He fought the instinct to fight against it, dimly aware of his father's shocked face in front of him. Instead, he closed his eyes and focused on the cold, mentally chasing the feeling to see where it would lead. In a way it was very similar to his scar's link to Voldemort, as if something massive and powerful were pressing in on him, and sooner or later he'd have no choice but to push beyond it or be engulfed entirely. For a moment Harry felt as if he were fainting, as if his legs were giving way and all the blood had deserted his head. Abruptly, the feeling was gone, replaced by silence. He opened his eyes, and saw someplace entirely different.
Standing in the darkness, it seemed in every direction he looked there were threads leading out into the endless black. Some threads ended nearby, at small spheres of pulsing white light. Others disappeared off in the distance, like fading stars. One star seemed to glow brighter than the rest with a gold tinge to its light, though even now it was dimming. As he looked across the dark space, he saw some of the spheres drawing sluggishly toward the gold one. Sudden understanding of the situation drove Harry to race toward the globe. It felt as if he flew through the darkness, over motionless spheres and others creeping closer. Harry imagined he was on his broomstick flying over a dark Quidditch pitch, racing for the golden snitch. Several of the spheres were drawing closer to the gold, but they were moving much, much slower than Harry. When at last he drew near, he could feel a soothing warmth in the light. Before it could grow too small, Harry took a deep breath, and threw himself into the light. As he entered he was aware of something else leaving, and then all he saw was light.
When the light cleared, yet another scene lay before him. The edges of everything were blurred, and moved in strange, jerky motions. At first Harry thought he was himself again, standing on the battle field. But then he realized he was staring at himself standing next to his father, as if he'd been dropped in a Pensieve memory. Voldemort was closer in this vision, a thick, rotting book opened in his hands. His high, sibilant voice was chanting, and the foreign words could be heard even over the din of battle.
Harry watched as the Serpent's Children began to congregate, and the Light Wizards drew back from them as if they were deadly to look upon. Harry watched as his own body began to move toward Voldemort, brushing off his father's attempts to hold him as if the man were as weak as a child. The man seemed stricken as he was thrown to the ground, face pale in shock and desperation. Harry's heart hurt for his father, even though he knew that this, whatever it was, wasn't real.
The Children continued to move, stopping in a silent mass before the Dark Lord who chanted even faster, his voice rising and falling in hypnotic rhythm. The words seemed to change after a moment, growing more frantic and loud. Harry watched, horrified, as the Serpent's Children pushed together, and suddenly seemed to change. A swirling cloud of black magic curled up from the ground at their feet, twisting like smoke around their bodies until they were nearly indistinct. When the air cleared, the thing that was left was more awful than any basilisk could have dreamed of being. It was a snake far larger than any creature Harry had ever fought with fangs as long as a man was tall and eyes like narrow, fiery windows. The creature slowly raised itself from the ground, poising high above them all as if considering who to devour first. It was Voldemort who broke the silence. He closed the book in his hands with a loud snap, and, a proud smile on his face, issued one command.
Faster than any beast that size should have moved, it flashed among Voldemort's enemies like lightning. The venom it spat into the crowds set cloaks and flesh aflame, leaving great smoking pits in the earth. It's ruddy scales seemed just as immune to spells as the Serpent's Children had been, and it devoured its attackers with relish.
Harry turned his face away, unable to stomach the image any longer. He didn't want to see who else would die. He didn't want to see the snake with scales that looked eerily like screaming faces. He knew his father was still out there, and his eyes unconsciously sought him out. It didn't take long to find him. The man was on his knees, staring blindly toward where the snake had first appeared. He looked broken, as if someone had ripped out everything inside and shattered what was left. Harry cringed, and found his eyes focused once again on the creature and snakelike man behind it. A voice suddenly cut through the din of screams and battle, seeming to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once.
It was a neutral voice, without obvious gender or inflection."This is what we are. This is our purpose. Our minds and bodies are one to command."
Harry shuddered as its eyes locked with his.
Harry blinked, and it seemed as if the vision simply dissolved, leaving him staring at a battlefield mercifully free of snake monsters.
Yet something was different. His awareness seemed to somehow stretch beyond himself, and he understood at once that it was the Serpent's Children. The knowledge of what they were capable of was suddenly a part of him, as if he'd known it all along. It was a heady feeling, and the power of it called to him. It felt as if he was supposed to command his army, to make them grovel and bow to his slightest whim. All it would take was a word; not one of them could deny him. His mind was their mind.
Abruptly, he recognized the feeling. It was as if he was in third year again, with his wand aimed at the quivering Peter Pettigrew. He'd ached then to exercise the power at his fingertips, just as he did now. Only now, he knew what he had to do.
"Stop," he said, and though it was barely whispered, every Serpent's Child on the field grew utterly still.
"Harry!" Suddenly hands were on his shoulders, clutching almost painfully tight. His father was staring at him with wide, panicked eyes.
"Dad, I'm okay. I'm okay," Harry assured him. The man looked him up and down, no doubt searching for any trace of pain or injury. Snape bowed his head with relief, though his possessive grip didn't loosen a fraction. His expression abruptly grew hard.
"You and I are going to have a very long talk about your foolhardy stunts when this is all over," he said. "Now, did you just do what I think you did?"
"We don't need to worry about the Serpent's Children anymore."
"Hey, what's going on over here? Dumbledore was going to cast the spell to switch the Death Eater's robes when they just stopped! Hey! Aren't you supposed to stay a wolf?" Sirius asked, practically sliding to a stop beside them.
Harry stared at his godfather, trying to make out everything the excitable man had said.
"Easy, Black. Zach apparently has control of them now," Severus said.
"What?! Hey, then you can turn them back on the Death Eaters! They won't stand a chance if the Serpent's Children are on our side."
"They aren't on our side, Sirius," Harry said, his voice oddly low.
"What do you mean?"
"They aren't on anybody's side. It wasn't their choice to be here. Voldemort took away any choice they had when he summoned them. I won't take that from them too."
"But…Zach, think of what they could do! We could end this battle in minutes!" Sirius said anxiously, practically jumping up and down.
"Black…" Severus began, but Harry cut him off.
"Sirius, no." Though it was said quietly, Sirius closed his mouth with a snap and nodded.
Harry turned to look at the battle, his eyes focusing on the silent, still figures amidst the chaos. A few light witches and wizards were taking the opportunity to attack the Children, but most were simply pushing the advantage against the Death Eaters. Narrowing his eyes, Harry sought out the thread of magic that connected them all. He gave it a gentle tug and willed every last one to leave the battlefield. As one, the Children began to move, silently herding past the flashing of curses and even those few wizards who had resorted to physical combat. Before ending the connection, he left them with the command to head to the safety of the castle.
"Um…in case anyone's forgotten, there is a battle going on, and you've just pissed off the Dark Lord," Draco interrupted, looking suddenly nervous.
Almost as if on cue, Voldemort's unearthly scream of rage echoed across the battlefield. Witches and wizards on both sides of the fight paused to look. The Dark Lord had never appeared so furious. The snake-like man looked as if the loss of his Serpent's Children had been the final straw, and he'd gone mad with fury over the loss.
"SNAPE!" the Dark Lord screamed, and Harry was positive that the enraged wizard's eyes locked with his own even across the battlefield. Suddenly, Voldemort disappeared from behind the dwindling lines of Death Eaters.
Harry was shocked. Surely the Dark Lord wouldn't be fleeing already? But Harry had his answer a moment later, when a loud 'pop' echoed from directly behind them. Whirling at the noise, Snape pulled Harry to his chest as they leapt to their feet.
"So…just as devious as your father. I knew I should have killed you the instant I set eyes on you. However, I won't be making the same mistake twice!" Voldemort said, his eyes smoldering with fury.
"What, aiming for three?" Sirius barked, placing himself boldly between the Dark Lord and his targets. He twirled his wand almost carelessly between his fingertips, though his shoulders and face were set with an uncharacteristic determination.
"Ah, Sirius Black, the disgrace to the Black family name. Step aside. I'm sure your sister is eager to see you," The Dark Lord mocked, his own wand held delicately, as if he were about to conduct a magnificent symphony.
"'Fraid not. You see, I've got a soft spot for Snape and his kid here."
"Very well then. Crucio!" Voldemort hissed, body snapping into sudden motion like a snake striking at its prey.
Sirius, however, hadn't been inducted into the Order of the Phoenix for nothing. He dodged the spell and retaliated with a spell of his own, leaping from side to side as if he were fencing.
"Zach, give me your wand, and I will Apparate you to safety," Severus said quietly, discreetly leading Harry further away from the dueling wizards.
Harry looked up, startled. "No way, Dad. I know what the prophecy said. I have to be here to help defeat him!"
"You're injured, and how do you know the prophecy meant you would defeat him today?" Severus countered.
"I just do, okay? I can't le—" a sudden pop startled them all, and Sirius howled as the Dark Lord's Cruciatus struck him head on, spinning him through to air to lay thrashing in the grass.
A masked Death eater had appeared behind the dark lord, who was grinning in sick joy as he tortured his enemy.
"Sirius!" Harry yelled, jerking in Severus grasp, but he restrained himself from running to the fallen wizard only because Remus was already on his way.
Death eaters who were not engaged in duels of their own had decided to follow Voldemort's lead and began appearing behind the Dark Lord. The light wizards were quick to follow, but the damage had already been done.
"Zachary!" Severus urged, indicating the wand in the young wizard's hand.
"No, Dad, I…Protego!" Harry's wand whipped up and a silvery shield blocked Voldemort's spell, sending it sizzling off into the grass. Voldemort's cruel laughter filled the silence, the Death eaters moving to engage the light wizards who had followed them. Even now, Remus was defending a recovering Sirius from Bellatrix Lestrange.
"Come now, Zachary. I'm your master after all; surely you won't begrudge me a little duel?" the Dark Lord purred, twirling his wand in a mocking imitation of Sirius' earlier trick.
"You are not and will never be my master, Voldemort. You created something you could not control. Did it hurt to see the Serpent's Children taken from you?" Harry returned, his own wand clutched firmly in his left hand. His right arm was held uselessly to his chest, throbbing dully. He had not had time to have it mended since his encounter with the elder Malfoy.
"Crucio!" Voldemort screamed, eyes wide and teeth bared with fury. Harry sidestepped deftly, dimly aware of his father moving not far behind him.
Severus, meanwhile, was struggling desperately to formulate a plan. He had no wand, and without it he had no way of defending Harry without getting in his way. The few wandless spells he knew were useless in this situation. And so Severus lingered, waiting to leap to his son's aid when the opportunity arose. The boy was an excellent dueler, although he was no where near the Dark Lord's level. And now, having to cast left handed….
A sudden sound to his left made Severus realize with a feral smile that there was indeed something he could do. In a flash he shifted into his lion form, leaping through the air at a Death eater trying to sneak up on his son. With no regrets, his jaws clamped shut on the Death eater's throat, crushing the windpipe like an overripe fruit. No sooner had the body dropped to the ground than he was off again, prowling behind his son for another victim. He took down a second Death Eater closing in on Remus, and a third who had Kingsley Shacklebolt under the Cruciatus. All the while his ears were perked, focused solely on the sound of his son's duel.
Severus was licking the blood from his lips when two words caused his head to snap up.
"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort hissed.
Almost simultaneously, Harry yelled, "Expecto Patronum!" The two spells collided in midair, locking together like a laser beam. The Patronus spell did not behave normally as it met the acid green of the killing curse. Rather than forming a stag, it maintained a steady, bluish-white beam.
"Potter! So this is where you hid!" Voldemort hissed, at once recognizing the brother to his own wand.
"I was never a Potter! And I won't let you take my family again!" Harry swore. His left arm was shaking madly. Sweat was beading on his brow, and blood had begun to ooze from the thin cut on his throat again. The beam of the green spell had begun to overtake the blue, pushing it ever closer to Harry's wand.
Not knowing if his plan would work, Severus leapt to his son's side, sliding quickly back into human form again. He wrapped one arm around Harry's shoulder's, adding his grip to his son's on the wand.
"Expecto Patronum!" he commanded, willing his magic to his son and through the wand.
The effect was immediate. The blue beam pulsed, thrusting the green back with ease. Voldemort was shrieking, shouting incoherently as he struggled to control his own spell. The beams edged closer to his wand, until finally they met the tip, and exploded in bright white light. Two huge white shapes erupted from the wand, Patroni brighter than any Severus had seen before. One was a huge roaring lion, while the other was a sleek wolf with head thrown back in a howl. The two circled the dark lord, before diving at him like hawks on a field mouse. They disappeared inside Voldemort, and his screams shook the very foundations of the school. His body was aglow as it twisted and thrashed, his skeletal hands clawing at his own skin. The light grew brighter, and for the second time an explosion rocked the grounds. White sparks flew into the air like a supernova, leaving nothing but a smoldering crater in the grass.
As the sparks cleared, the two Patroni bounded from the crater. The wolf leapt deftly into Harry's wand, while the lion leapt directly into Severus himself.
A bright wink of light brought Severus' attention back to the crater, where the remains of Voldemort's wand lay in a charred pile. A wisp of bluish light escaped the wand, and suddenly a crowd of glowing blue figures were standing in the grass, smiling.
"Mom?" Harry said quietly, and Severus' grasp tightened on the boy in shock. In the front of the crowd, waving with a proud smile on her face, was Lily Evans. James Potter stood a little way back, smiling just as widely.
"Lily…" Severus whispered, his heart aching all over again. Her proud eyes looked over her son, and then moved to Severus himself. Their eyes met, and Severus knew all at once the words she did not speak.
Pride. Approval. Love. Forgiveness.
He felt his chest tighten at the flood of emotion, eyes prickling with the strange sensation of tears. All too soon the figures began to fade. Eventually, they disappeared into the morning light.
"Wait!" Harry called, moving to run into the field. But the ghostly images had gone, and he sagged against his father's restraining hand.
Suddenly, Severus hissed, grasping his left arm. As quickly as it had come, the white-hot pain began to fade. Aware of his son's worried gaze, he frantically rolled up his left sleeve, almost afraid that what he was hoping for wouldn't be true. But there, where for decades Voldemort's black mark had marred his flesh, only a faint, fading bruise remained.
"It's over," he choked out, casting his own shocked gaze up to meet his son's.
Harry stared, his shocked expression slowly fading to one of absolute joy.
"It's over! We're free!" Harry exclaimed and captured his father in a desperate, one-armed hug. Neither one had the words to truly express their feelings. A war that neither had truly believed would end had been won. And now, they were at last free to live their lives.
End notes: Only the Epilogue remains, and will be uploaded once I finish cleaning it up.
Regarding the Patroni/Animagus forms:
The Lion: The lion almost universally represents bravery and loyalty, but I also picked it for Severus because of its power, grace, and, and protectiveness. Severus always reminded me of a large, predatory cat lying in wait. Like a lion, I also see him as very, very powerful, though he doesn't often show it. Also, the mane of unkempt hair and perpetual snarl didn't hurt. *smirk*
The Wolf: Wolves are incredibly social creatures. The 'lone wolf' idea is largely a myth...they rarely survive long without the support of a pack. Wolves are very smart, incredibly loyal animals once their trust is earned. They also work best as a group. I associate Harry with a Wolf because of how important family and 'pack' are to him, because of his resilience despite all odds, and because he's still young and playful at heart.
The lynx: Smart, lithe, stronger than they look. 'nuff said.
The Fox: Crafty, good at solving puzzles, orange hair...yeah, I know...cliche!
The Horse: Proud and powerful
I hope everyone enjoys Half-Blood Prince on Tuesday! See ya!