NOBODY CARED - Epilogue
Saturday, Jan. 18th, 1992 - Late Evening
Snape, sitting beside his son's bed, straightened as he heard the voice of the new, acting Headmaster behind him. "They're gone."
"Lupin?" asked Snape flatly, not comprehending what the man meant by his statement. Although Snape was trying to call Remus by his first name out of courtesy (they weren't friends!), when he was tired, he still slipped and called the Deputy Headmaster by his last name. There was no malice intended, though.
"The team from St. Mungo's are gone," clarified Remus as he Summoned a chair and sat down beside Snape. "They declared Albus' death as Natural Causes from old age. Nothing more. Albus' brother came to claim the body."
Snape frowned. "Aberforth? I thought he and Dumbledore had some sort of fallout when they were children."
Remus shrugged. He was so very tired. "I suppose old grudges don't matter when you're the last, surviving member of a family." Running his fingers exhaustedly through his hair, he mumbled, "Abe wants you at the funeral. No one else."
Snape, who was starting to drift off from sheer exhaustion, opened his eyes abruptly. "What? Me? Why?"
"Well, to be more precise, Abe said that you didn't have to attend the actual funeral itself, if you didn't want to, but he needed you to meet him at the cemetery because it would..." Remus closed his eyes, and pressed his fingers to the center of his forehead as he tried to recall the exact words he had been told. "Because Abe said, 'it'll only be when my miserable brother is beneath the dirt that I'm free'." Snape glowered in question at the werewolf, but Remus had no answer for him.
For a very long moment both men were silent. Snape used that moment to observe his nearly, sort of, almost (not!) friend, Remus Lupin.
Remus had not, surprisingly, settled in at Hogwarts. Even with help from Snape the paperwork that he was left to deal with as Deputy Headmaster was still designated, by Snape at least, as a nightmare. If anything, Snape had decided that the worst of the essays he had ever had to read were more interesting than the mind-numbing nonsense that came through Lupin's office. Constant complaints from parents, endless Ministerial, Board of Governors, and even Wizengamot paperwork that had to be shunted to the Headmaster. Never-ending mess!
As the Head of Gryffindor House, Remus had taken better to that job than as Deputy Headmaster. Remus was very good with his Gryffindors, and Snape hated to admit it, but those students manners had shown an improvement. They were still short-tempered, and dove in before thinking, but Remus had managed to instill manners to the lot of them that included a respect for ALL the Houses, and the teachers.
What stuck out the most for Snape was that for all of the werewolf's good points (yes, the wizard had them!), he simply did not look comfortable at Hogwarts.
Remus had managed, with the increase to his income, a passable wardrobe that was not threadbare, and worn. The wizard unfortunately had no taste beyond those out of date tweeds he insisted upon wearing. At meals he was quieter even than Snape, which was really saying something since Snape never invited conversation. With Remus, none of the staff seemed to pay him much attention.
One day, simply irritated with the man's apathy, which had nothing to do with the Full Moon arriving, Snape had demanded to know what it was Remus wished he were doing.
The Deputy automatically Incendio'd a Howler that was trying to dodge his wand. "Well?" asked Snape again as he put down his quill. "It is obvious to anyone taking a second look that this...!" he indicated the day's mound of paperwork, "... is not what you wish to be doing. So what is it? What would the quiet wizard that house's a werewolf really like to do - when he grows up?"
Remus smirked at the acidic absurdity of the man in black seated at a desk opposite him. Snape's sarcasm no longer took out chunks of flesh, as once it did. "Teaching is a fine thing, Severus, but I would much rather leave the magic to others. I did enjoy tutoring, and it is something I would not mind expanding into a kind of 'little red schoolhouse' sort of thing."
"Why don't you?" asked Snape reasonably.
"Galleons, Severus. Something a man in my circumstances never has quite enough of."
Remus wasn't pitying himself, simply stating a fact.
Studying the man seated beside him, his blonde hair streaked with grey, and his age masqueraded by a network of thin scars, Snape decided that Hogwarts would one day kill the wizard.
And then, the Potions Master had an idea.Sunday, Jan. 19th, 1992
Harry woke in the early morning to sound of soft snoring to the right of his bed. Turning slightly, he could see that his father was stretched out on the top of one of the Infirmary cots, asleep. For a moment Harry just observed the man he now called 'dad'.
Severus Snape was a fierce wizard, in Harry's mind. Intense even. Snape expected a great deal of Harry, but after his relatives, who never had any expectation beyond the hysterical about him, Harry liked it. The swift smile faded to a frown. Well, not always. He had to eat vegetables, and whether he was starving or not, they never tasted any better than most of his father's potions. Especially cauliflower!
There was bedtime, too, but since even the seventh years had a bedtime, Harry didn't balk at that restriction. It was his father's insistence that homework MUST be done before any fun could be had that sometimes rankled. His father didn't always understand that Harry never had been able to just run outside after classes, and play games with his friends. This sometimes annoyed Harry because the other Slytherins got to go outside, but if his father saw him, he had to go do his homework.
Despite the vegetables, the homework, and any other time he got annoyed with his father, Harry had to gleefully remind himself that now he finally had a father to get annoyed with!
And, a father who protected him.
Pulling the blankets up closer to his chin, he tried to recall what he could of that day in that strange room with Quirrell, Draco, and Hermione, and their fathers, and Madame Pomfrey, and the twins. The moment he had stepped into the room it seemed he was flying through the air until he hit something with his head. Swimmingly, he was in and out of consciousness, and he had felt oddly unattached to his body. He remembered, though, as his father had reached out for him after he had been thrown across the room. Snape had wrapped arms and cloak over him, reluctant to let go of his son. In all that chaos, Harry had felt safe enough to let the darkness creeping at the edge of his consciousness draw him down.
He was curious about what happened after he couldn't remember anything else. His eyebrows beetled together in concern, and wonder. Were Draco, and Hermione all right? What about...?
"Hey, Little Snape," whispered a cheerful voice to Harry's left. He shifted, and smiled up at Fred and George Weasley.
The other Weasley, Harry was sure it was George, held up an armful of colourful sweets. "Look, Harry! Candy!"
The twins seated themselves, and Fred glanced over at the Potions Master who, oddly, had not awakened at their arrival. "Tired, is he?" Fred asked softly with a nod towards the bed their Potions teacher occupied.
"S'pose," Harry nodded. He reached for a strawberry sugar quill, opened it, and bit into the granulated, rock-crystal-like sugar. "Can you guys tell me what happened?" whispered Harry.
George leaned forward, and began to speak in a very near, sepulchral timber, "Well, Harry, at the moment you were thrown across the room..."
Harry listened like a much younger child drawn into some horrible Grimm's fairy tale. George embellished the events, but he was accurate in his portrayal. Harry gasped, his eyes wide, when George revealed that Anubis had possessed him.
"He was in you, George?" breathed Harry. "What was it like?"
George frowned, thinking. He had been aware of another presence within him. He had even tried to shout out to his brother, but he couldn't. "Weird," declared George. "As though someone else were borrowing my skin for a merry jaunt."
That rather terrified Harry. Fred reached out, and touched Harry's arm, patting it reassuringly. "George is fine now, Harry."
George jumped up from his chair and danced an impromptu jig to get Harry to laugh, which he did.
And, Snape, exhausted to the core, slept blissfully on.
Monday, Jan. 20th, 1992
Madame Pomfrey released father and son from the Infirmary just before breakfast on Monday. Classes had been cancelled for the week to honour the deceased Headmaster. Snape had tried to send Harry to Slytherin so that he could brew, and brood, over Dumbledore's death.
Harry, without his friends was in turns bored, and had far too much time to think. It was that morning he had learned about the Headmaster's death, and that his father would be the sole attendee at the old wizard's funeral.
Deciding he couldn't deal with his thoughts, and being alone, Harry had returned to his father's quarters, and slipped into the private lab where he expected to find his father brewing potions.
Snape had a whole list of simple potions to brew for Madame Pomfrey, and after an inadequate breakfast of coffee, he had raided his potions supply cabinet, and laid out all the necessary ingredients. As he began chopping Dandelion Root, the memories he had tried to avoid invaded his thoughts.
Snape had placed the Headmaster upon a pedestal, but not out of something as foolish as love. After what he had suffered, as a child, at the adult's authority as a Headmaster of his school, he had no love for Albus Dumbledore.
With the Dark Lord becoming more aggressive in his attacks, Snape had hoped that the venerable, and powerful man, had seen the danger in prejudicing the Wizarding world against one House in Hogwarts. When Snape, realising his own, horrible, mistake at bringing evil to Lily's door, had confessed his sins to Dumbledore... he had hoped... not for absolution for himself, but perhaps a wisdom from the great wizard that would encompass Slytherin, his beloved House.
He would quickly learn that nothing changed.
Upon his first day as a teacher Snape had seen how not just most of the staff, but the Headmaster, had looked down upon, and ridiculed his House. At the Sorting Feast none of the children Sorted into Slytherin received any accolades beyond their new Head of House, and the other Slytherins. None of the staff applauded, and Dumbledore had done nothing. But twinkle, and smile. It seemed that a twinkle of the blue eyes, and an indulgent smile, made the Headmaster's favouritism of his own Gryffindors, a forgivable thing.
Snape had vowed himself to Dumbledore in the fight against Voldemort, but the new Head of Slytherin House had made his own vow to the children of his House; he would stand up for them where no one else would, and he would do his best to keep them safe.
When Harry had been surprisingly Sorted into Slytherin, Snape had held out some vague hope that with the Boy-Who-Lived in his House, the Headmaster might look upon his Snakes differently. Any shred of respect, perhaps even fear that he'd had towards the great wizard fled in the face of Dumbledore seeing Harry as a threat because he was now a Slytherin.
Startled by the small voice that shattered his grim thoughts Snape looked up from his brewing to see that his son had arrived. Harry had a slightly timid look to his face as his eyes darted around the room. It was a wariness that Snape had not seen in Harry's eyes for several months and it dismayed him to see it now, and to know that it had more than likely been the forces in the Dungeon under the Dungeon that had brought it back.
Snape opened his mouth to invite his son in, but both were interrupted by a startlingly loud clap of thunder with a concussive force that knocked the Potions Master from his stool, and slammed the door shut behind Harry.
Harry would have run to assist his father, but there was a very large bird blocking the way. The bird trilled softly, then left the desktop it had appeared on, and hopped over to Snape's desk. By then, the professor had picked himself up.
"That's the bird that carried the Headmaster to where we were in the attics," said Harry pointing at the large bird that had red, orange, yellow, and gold plumage.
"That's Fawkes!" stated Snape incredulously. "Whatever is he doing here?"
"Maybe he misses Professor Dumbledore," offered Harry, taking a step closer to his father by skirting around his father's desk, and ducking the long tail feathers.
"Perhaps, but Fawkes is a Phoenix, Harry." As though drawn by the great bird, Snape stepped closer, and was surprised when Fawkes bent towards him, and rubbed the crest of his head against the older wizard's chest. Tentatively Snape drew his hand down the Phoenix's neck. "It is exceedingly rare for a Phoenix to live after its master dies. We all thought that is what happened to Fawkes since we could not find him."
"Seems to be right here," smirked Harry. He reached out his index finger to touch Fawkes' plump breast. "He's soft!"
"And, you should be dead," muttered Snape to the bird.
Fawkes gave Snape something of a cross-eyed look of annoyance, and then trilled out a strange, staccatto squawk. Snape frowned, and the Phoenix repeated itself.
Something awakened in Snape's mind. A presence, but it did not speak to him in words. He received a sense of gentle power, and magic, and in that sense he knew that he had been chosen by the Phoenix.
Blinking in astonishment, Snape whispered, "Are you sure you wish to choose me as your new master, Fawkes?"
Fawkes nodded, and trilled happily. Harry's eyes widened. "Is he your familiar now, Dad?"
"So it would seem," breathed Snape. He wasn't just surprised, but he was shocked. He now had a familiar... and a Phoenix at that!
Sunday, Jan. 26th, 1992
Snape eyed his black dress robes as he stood before the full-length, oval mirror in his bedroom. The robes were new, and of the blackest black of wool, and silk. A part of him felt they were too good for Dumbledore, but he pushed away the thought.
It was time to forgive.
Turning away from the mirror, he strode into his sitting room, and was startled to see his son standing in the middle of the room. Harry was dressed in one of the suits of dress robes Snape had purchased earlier when he had adopted Harry.
"What are you doing here, Harry?" frowned Snape.
Harry took a deep breath. "I know you said only you were invited to the funeral, but I'm going." Snape scowled, and Harry braved the look by stepping forward one step. "Dad, we're family, right?" Snape nodded, still puzzled, but he listened. "Well, I think we should stand together as a family and say goodbye to Professor Dumbledore."
Snape gave his son a firmer nod, and added, "I think you are quite right, Harry." Placing his palm between his son's shoulder blades, the Snape family stepped into the Floo.
Seconds later, Harry and Snape arrived through the Leaky Cauldron's Floo. Without speaking to any curious by-standers, Snape led them both out of the tavern, and to an Apparation Point. Tucking his son against his side, Snape spun, and with a subtle crack, they were gone.
Harry wobbled slightly after Side-Along Apparation with his father. Snape caught the boy, and helped him to get steady before allowing the boy a few minutes to look around.
Upon seeing a number of headstones nearby, nestled in an overgrowth of grass, Harry stepped uneasily a little closer to Snape. They were in a small cemetery that appeared neglected, perhaps even long since abandoned. Even so, it had a tranquil air to it that once Harry took a breath of the clean breeze, he relaxed.
"Is this where the Headmaster is going to be buried, Dad?" whispered Harry.
"Not quite," hesitated Snape. "It will be just a bit further on. I thought you might wish to visit someone first."
Harry glanced back over his shoulder in puzzlement at his father wondering what he could mean. Snape placed a heavy hand on his son's shoulder, turning the boy slightly to face him. With a soft sigh, he replied to the unasked question, "Your mother and father were buried here, Harry."
Harry's eyes widened, and his mouth opened in a silent gasp. Part of him had always wondered, but a smaller part had never had the nerve to ask where they were. "Take a breath, child, and look over there." Snape was pointing just over Harry's shoulder.
Harry did take a breath, but he did not immediately face where his father was pointing. When Snape gently patted his cheek, the small boy breathed in, and turned.
He wasn't sure what he was expecting at this moment, but Harry felt odd, exhilarated, and infinitely sad. Just a few steps away were two gravestones. Unlike the others nearby that showed the ravages of the elements, and tendrils of spidery lichen, the stones marking his parents final resting places were clean. Upon each stone was also a wreath of flowers: lilies, and poppies.
Stepping a bit closer Harry could sense the magic that surrounded the stones, and the graves. He did not realise that he had been kneeling on the grass between the two graves until he stretched out a hand to touch the deeply carved letters that spelled his mother's name.
"Hi, Mum," the child whispered. He felt a little nervous, somewhat giddy, but sad, too. Harry's fingers then traced his father's name in the stone. "Hi, Dad." It felt like a very long time in which Harry did not want to move, nor did he quite know what to do. Just when Snape was intending to pull his son away, and end the silence, Harry spoke again. "I miss you both," he sighed. "I'm pretty sure you both miss me, too." He smiled gently. "I think... yeah..., no, I know I want to tell you, Mum and Dad, that I'm happy now. My Dad..." he turned, and held out his hand to Snape.
Snape hesitated, but when his son's hand remained beckoning to him, he grasped the small fingers, and knelt down, awkwardly beside the boy.
"I really love my Dad, and he loves me, so we're both happy, and it's all fine, now." For a moment longer they were both silent, and then Harry turned abruptly and wrapped his arms around Snape's neck, and climbed into the man's lap, and wrapped his legs around his father's waist.
The professor knew what Harry's gesture meant, and so with the assistance of a Featherlight Charm, a careful rise to his feet, Snape stood, carrying his son in his arms.
It was only a few minutes later that Snape was met by a tall, old man with over-hanging eyebrows of grey, and similar grey hair that fell to his shoulders. His eyes were a watery blue, much like those of Albus Dumbledore's. Snape knew this was Aberforth.
A scowling faced man, Aberforth Dumbledore usually wore breeches, and a rather suspect looking vest over a large, stained blouse. Today, no doubt in respect of his younger brother, Aberforth wore long white dress robes.
"What'cha got there, Severus?" queried Aberforth gruffly as he peered at Harry.
Harry quickly slid from his father's grasp, and Snape let his son stand upon the ground. "This is my son, Harry," replied Snape. "Harry, this is the Headmaster's older brother, Aberforth."
Harry stuck out his hand, "Sorry about your brother, Mr. Dumbledore."
"Jus', Abe, Harry." Aberforth grasped Harry's hand and shook it so firmly Harry thought he might lose a few teeth.
Aberforth turned sharply to the right and pointed towards a new looking Headstone. "Buried 'im already, they did. Best that way."
"Was there not a ceremony?" asked Snape slightly puzzled as he moved closer to the headstone that held no singular aspect other than the name of the grave's occupant.
The grizzled Aberforth shook his head. "Din't need any o' that nonsense. Be a lotta bloody reporters, cameras... nonsense." The older wizard scowled at the headstone as if it were personally responsible for his lot in life. "Prob'ly not what he wanted, but that sorta don't matter none. Respectable place, this is." He nodded, and glanced briefly around. His gaze then froze upon another stone. This headstone was dark grey with age, covered with lichen, and a tree branch had fallen partly over it.
Harry's attention had been caught by the headstone, and he read the only name upon it aloud, "Ariana."
Snape caught a quick flicker of pain in the older man's eyes. "Harry, do not stray, please." The order was soft, but firm. Harry quickly moved back to his father's side.
"Abe, I..." began Snape as he wondered what he had been invited to the funeral for.
The older wizard shoved a crystal phial towards Snape. The Potions Master almost recoiled as he recognised the wispy elements that drifted about in the glass container. They were memories. I have quite enough of my own, he thought vehemently, I do not need any of Dumbledore's.
Aberforth, perceiving the younger man's slight flinch, pulled the phial of memories away. He scowled at them. "Don't blame ya, Severus," groused Aberforth. "I wouldn't'a be givin' them to ya, but Albus made me swear him a Wand Oath that I'd keep 'em, and give 'em to ya if somethin' happened to him." Under his breath, the old wizard hissed at the new stone, "If'n somethin' din't happen to you firs'!"
Snape blanched for he had heard the near whisper, and it chilled him. It had been one thing to know that in his duties for the Order of the Phoenix the younger wizard had accepted that death might be his only reward, it was disheartening to hear someone else voice that truth.
"They are Albus' memories," Snape stated unnecessarily, and breaking the tense silence. Aberforth nodded. "Of what?"
Aberforth shrugged, but then grimaced. He then gruffed, "Albus wanted ya to know he weren't all bad. That he cared about'cha." Snape's gaze narrowed darkly, and the old wizard nodded. "Look, Severus, I never much liked my baby brother. Din't care for the way he swaggered about like some Gryffindor hero alla time. Like he knew what was right, an' nobody else did. He's not blameless, despicable, mebbe..." Aberforth shook his shaggy, grey head. "My vow ends when ya take 'em, Severus. Watch 'em or no'; it's up to you. Personally, I think it's just another way of him manipulatin' the situation to what he wanted. Change what ya might be thinkin' of him."
Reluctantly, Snape relieved old Aberforth of the memories. Harry stared curiously at them, then at the older wizard.
Aberforth turned and walked several feet away. Without looking behind him, he spoke sharply, "I'd toss 'em if I was ya, Severus!"
The old, bitter sounding wizard hurried away until in the distance Snape and Harry could hear the sharp crack of Apparition.
Snape was still staring at the phial of Dumbledore's memories when Harry looked worriedly up at his father.
"Dad...?" Harry's hand covered the phial, touching his father's fingers. His voice was heavy with worry, and concern.
Snape broke his gaze from the memory phial, and looked down at his son. "Harry? What is it?" There was a touch of irritation in his voice that caused Harry to flinch slightly.
"I think you should do what Abe... Mr. Dumbledore said." He tried to take the phial from his father, but Snape's fingers were still firmly wrapped around the crystal.
Wrapping his fingers completely around the phial, Snape tucked the memories into his frock coat's inner pocket.
"Home, Harry," Snape said simply gathering the young child to his side. The cracking sound of the Apparation sounded angry.
Wednesday, Jul. 1st, 1992
Despite the near emptiness of Hogwarts since all the students left at the end of term, Harry mostly occupied himself by playing with Fang, helping Hagrid plant seeds, and taking meals with his father.
He had heard no more about the old Headmaster's memories in the bottle, and Harry had not asked his father about them. The day they had come home from the funeral, Snape had closeted himself in his private lab, and had not spoken to his son at all.
After the day of Dumbledore's funeral, Snape had thrown himself into his end of term work. He finished up the grading for all of his classes, inspected the dorms of Slytherin House, and did his Potions supplies, and ingredients inventories.
This Wednesday Harry said his farewells to Fang and Hagrid, and was busy packing his trunk down in his father's dungeon quarters.
"Dad?" Harry wandered to his father's room where the man was neatly packing some books into his trunk. "Where are we going?"
"I shall enlighten you as to our destination when our guests arrive for lunch," replied Snape with the shadow of a smirk upon his lips.
Harry slouched in disappointment. He had been attempting to get the secret to their vacation retreat out of his father for the last few days. For a few seconds he glared at the floor, then looked up again, smiling slightly. "Guests?"
Snape had ordered lunch to be setup on a balcony just off the Great Hall. He and Harry arrived early, and although Harry was curious about their guests, he was also mesmerised by the view from the balcony that overlooked a wide portion of the grounds, and Professor Sprouts greenhouses. Snape was inspecting the table setting when he glanced towards his son, and saw Harry leaning rather precariously against the balcony's rail. With a quick stride, he caught Harry by the collar of his robes, and tugged gently.
"After all you have gone through, do you really wish to fall that great distance to the ground?" asked Snape a bit too sharply.
Harry quickly apologised, and shrugged away from his father's grip. He could not figure out his father. One minute he appeared at ease with the world, the next it seemed to Harry that his very presence irritated the older wizard. The weeks since the Headmaster's funeral had caused a perceptible distance between father and son, and Harry didn't like it.
He spoke up, bravely, almost like a Gryffindor, and asked timidly, "Dad, are you mad at me?" Snape frowned, not entirely understanding what precipitated such a question. Harry moved over to the table and sat down in one of the chairs, facing his father. "Well, you've been quiet, you know?" he began as he picked up a napkin, and started folding it nervously. "Ever since the funeral, and you were given... those memories." He shrugged, and worried a corner of the cloth napkin between his fingers. "Most times you're sorta all right, but then you snap, or yell at me, and I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything wrong."
Snape sighed, realising his behavior had been terribly erratic of late. He sat down at the table beside his son, and bent so that his elbows rested on the top of his knees. Although not an entirely comfortable position, it allowed him to sit eye-to-eye with his child.
"Harry, I do apologise to you. You are quite right in that you have done nothing to earn my ire. Those memories..." he sighed as he tried to think of what he might say. Clasping his hands together tightly, he began again, "Those memories from the Headmaster... I have not been able to decide if I should look at them, or be rid of them."
Harry gulped sympathetically. "What are they of? Are they bad?"
"They could shatter me," Snape sighed in a very low voice. He cringed as he had not meant for his son to have heard his utterance. Looking into Harry's eyes he was only further worrying, and confusing the boy. "Harry, at one time I held a great respect for Albus Dumbledore. I think I may have... even harbored affection for him. There was a time he was as the father my own had not been." He straightened his back, not letting go of his son's gaze. "However, he betrayed me, not just this year, but many times before that." He glowered slightly. "I was too stupid to realise it, at the time, and perhaps I would not have seen his manipulations this year had it not been for the fact that he put you in danger. He hurt, and betrayed you. I am sorry that I allowed that, Harry. An apology for my lapse is inadequate."
Harry dropped the napkin to the ground, and quickly slid off his chair to press himself between his father's knees, and wrap his arms around his waist, hugging Snape ferociously.
"I'm all right, Daddy," he assured his father firmly. "I trust you, and I know you're always going to protect me, no matter what." Snape smiled bitterly down upon his forgiving child, a cheek pressed against his sternum. Harry sighed as a comforting hand was drawn down his hair, and settled upon the back of his neck.
The little moment ended as Remus arrived, looking tired. He smiled wanly, though, intent upon enjoying this little lunch he had been invited to.
Snape could see that the exhaustion threaded through Remus' slightly stooped frame was from the additional paperwork he had inherited with the Headmaster's death. Snape had offered his assistance one night, and had simply been rebuffed with an alarming, rather wolfish snarl.
"Remus, I have a new potion that you would be perfect for testing," announced Snape as he pointed at a chair at the table, and bade the man to sit.
"Hi, Professor Lupin!" interjected Harry as he resumed his seat.
"Hello, Harry," he gave the boy a smile as he occupied a seat, and then gave the Potions Master a curious glance. Snape nodded to him, and simply held out his hand for an amber phial that had zoomed its way up from the dungeons after being Summoned.
Snape caught the potion, and brought it over to the weary wizard. He held it out. "It is a Revitalising Potion..."
Remus interrupted, "Those don't work for me, Severus."
"Of course they don't, wolf," snapped Snape irritably. "This one will. Drink it."
Remus took the phial, and regarded it skeptically for a moment. Snape's scowl became darker, and before the Potions Master could force it down his throat, he tipped it back.
Almost immediately, Remus felt a waking warmth slip smoothly through his bones, and veins. He straightened, blinked, and drew in a welcome, sighing breath. He smiled gratefully at the dark-haired wizard who was now eyeing him smugly.
"It works beautifully, Severus! What did you do?" asked Remus.
Snape seated himself, and put a biscuit on Harry's empty plate. The boy's impatience had emerged with a rhythmic thumping of his heels against the legs of his chair. Harry's face brightened at the sight of the biscuit, and the thumping stopped the moment he bit into the sweet, tasting buttery and caramel treat.
"There are quite a few potions that we witches and wizards take for granted. We don't think twice about their ability to work. However, such potions as Pepper-Up, Skele-Gro, and other healing potions either take a long time to work, or not at all, for werewolves. I have begun a line of standard potions that take into consideration the werewolf that exists even when it is quiescent."
"What does that mean?" asked Harry, licking at some tasty crumbs on his lower lip.
Snape smirked, "It means, Harry, that even though Professor Lupin does not look like his wolf, at the moment, it is still a part of him. In order to heal him properly, his wolf side must be taken into consideration in the formulation of those potions not compatible with the werewolf within."
Remus smiled. "That is great, Severus! It would be nice to not have to suffer a cold in my dressing gown, a box of tissues, and before the fire."
"A much needed improvement, no doubt." Snape slipped a scroll over to the werewolf. "This should help, as well."
Remus frowned at the scroll, but then lifted it, broke the seal, and unrolled it. As he read it, his eyes widened in disbelief. Finally he looked up. "Severus! This is your home! I can't take this!"
Snape shook his head. Harry had slipped from his seat to move by Remus' elbow so he could see what the document was. Silently he read the largest words: Deed to 1313 Spinner's End.
"Yes, you can. It hasn't been my home for a very long time, Remus." He closed his eyes against the fleeting memories of the past. "It never really was a home," he murmured, mostly to himself. A little louder he added, "And, in truth, I would much rather purchase something closer to Hogsmeade. Something with a large yard for Harry, and perhaps near other children his age to interact with during the Summers." Harry glanced up sharply at hearing his name. "However," sighed Snape. "After you see the place, you may not think it quite a gift. It has been neglected for a very long time."
"Is the neighborhood wizard or Muggle?" asked Remus.
"It was Muggle when I grew up there, but Lucius, who has been looking for a new project, bought the land." Snape smirked at Remus' wide-eyed glance. "About a year ago. I understand that as a wizarding neighborhood the place is looking much better."
Remus took a deep breath, looking down at the deed once more. "It will take a great deal of work, Remus," continued Snape. "But I believe it would suit your 'little red schoolhouse' admirably. That, and with the growth of a new neighborhood, children are going to require a place of learning."
Remus was quiet, still regarding the gift before him. It was unexpected. To be receiving such a gift from the wizard that had practically hated him for so long... just as Remus was about to get embarrassingly sappy, Harry nudged his elbow, and smiled.
"Can I see your schoolhouse when it's built, Professor?" Silently Snape thanked his son for derailing the emotional wolf. Harry, being quite serious, smiled up at his teacher.
Remus smiled back, "Maybe you'd like to help me with it, Harry. But, after I clean it all up."
"Sure! I can draw plans, and colour them, and stuff. It will be really cool!"
"What will be cool?" Poppy Pomfrey, in a simple dress of homespun cotton in a graduated wash of fading Autumn colours, stood in the doorway to the balcony. As her uniform was gone, so was her familiar medi-witch's cap. Her hair, a deep golden honey sprinkled with highlighting strands of silver, had been released from its usual severe bun. Her only other ornamentation was a simple necklace of silver chain that held a simple emerald. Her fingers touched the small gem at her throat as all eyes fell upon her.
Remus' jaw dropped open slightly. He had never seen this side of Hogwart's medi-witch. He had no idea this lovely woman lay beneath the starched uniform, and business-like exterior.
Snape's dark eyes became darker as the hint of a smile touched his lips. He drew in an appreciative breath, and then his gaze rested upon the necklace that dropped to the divot in her throat. He had been so certain that she would not wear it. In fact, he had expected the gift to be politely returned, and that perhaps she would not come to lunch.
"Poppy," he rose from the table, and strode over to her. He slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. "We are very pleased you could join us."
The medi-witch's cheeks blushed, but she salvaged most of her composure as she and Snape reached the table, and he helped her into a chair.
"You look really nice, Madame Pomfrey," Harry smiled. His compliment eased away the last of her nervousness.
"Thank you, Harry. Thank you for the invitation, Severus." He nodded, as he tapped the table for the salad. Poppy turned to the acting Headmaster. "How are you faring, Remus?"
"Tired," he acknowledged. "The Board of Governors has promised that I will not retain my position here for very long, thank Merlin."
Snape tossed the large bowl of salad that had appeared. While he served each of his guests, he asked, "Have they a candidate for the position already, Remus?"
"It seems so, Severus," he took a few bites of his salad. Harry glowered at his.
To Harry, lunch passed by with polite, yet adult... and sometimes boring... conversation. Pudding had been a luscious cheesecake flavoured with raspberry liqueur, and decorated with plump raspberries. Harry had nearly inhaled the confection. Consequently, he was finished before the adults were who were eating the cheesecake in small bites, with tea in between.
Harry let his head drop back against the top of his chair which allowed him a view of the balcony ceiling, and a fair bit of clear blue sky. As he watched, an odd looking, skeletally black creature that resembled a very skinny horse with wings flew overhead with a flock of birds. Watching the flight of the odd creature, and the birds, he began to hum, effectively tuning out the adults.
When Harry's disjointed hums were joined by the thumping of his heels against the legs of his chair, the conversation between Snape, Remus, and Poppy ended abruptly. Harry wasn't aware of it.
"Harry!" Snape's voice, after the third call, finally penetrated whatever daydream had taken the boy away, and Harry abruptly shifted so he was sitting upright. Remus chuckled softly, and Poppy smiled with quiet mirth as Harry's eyes wobbled in his head briefly. A wave of lightheadedness had swept his senses as he had raised his head.
Harry blinked rapidly and focused upon his father, who was frowning, but not terribly so. "Dad?"
"Getting bored, son?" asked Snape whose frown slid effortlessly into a smirk.
"Uhm... well," Harry glanced guiltily at Professor Lupin, and Madame Pomfrey.
"Did you hear where you'll be vacationing, Harry?" asked Remus with a knowing gleam to his amber gaze.
Harry frowned, and shook his head. "Where are..." but he was suddenly distracted as the great flying beast swept close to the balcony. Harry let out a yelp, dove from his chair, and from between his father's side, and right arm, he watched the terribly thin animal let out a snort, dive, and then sweep its powerful wings so that its body was lifted up, and away from the castle.
"Harry? Did you see the Thestral?" asked Snape worriedly as he drew his son to stand in front of him.
"Is that what the flying horse was, Dad?" Harry inquired as he watched the Thestral vanish in the distance.
"There is a small herd of Thestrals in the Forbidden Forest," replied Snape. He glanced at Poppy, who was frowning with a question in her eyes. Snape was certain it was the same question he had. How could Harry see the Thestrals.
"I thought Harry had been knocked unconscious before Hermione was..." a very dark warning from Snape had Remus clacking his mouth shut against his outburst.
"Harry did not see what happened to Miss Granger, although he has been told," Snape grit out.
Snape glanced down at his son, and was taken aback by the boy's annoyed glower. "What's a Thestral got to do with Hermione?" he demanded.
Snape's mind raced. Harry had not seen Hermione's death in the cell in the Dungeon Under the Dungeons, and Professor Quirrell had lived, although he had made himself scarce since then. "I am not certain how you saw it, child, since the legend is that only someone who has seen... death..." he began to explain slowly, but then the wizard realised something about his young son; Harry HAD seen death! Snape's hand clutched at a sharp pain in his chest. Harry had witnessed the death of his mother.
"Thestrals are remarkable creatures, Harry," interrupted Remus as he, too, suddenly understood what was causing Snape to clutch at his heart. "It is said that no one is able to see a Thestral unless they have witnessed someone's death."
Snape's lips thinned angrily at the werewolf for explaining what he seemed unable to do so. Harry, though, nodded sagely. "I saw my mum die." His words were simple, and every adult at the table felt their heart break a tiny bit for Harry.
Harry didn't quite like all the sorrowful gazes that looked down upon him, so he knew it was up to him to stop whatever this was that had made Remus, Madame Pomfrey, and his father sad. He smiled at his father, and inquired, "So, where are we going for vacation, Dad?"
"King's Island," replied Snape as he sat up, and motioned Harry to take his seat again. "It is an old, wizarding fishing village of the coast of New England in America."
"So we don't have to worry about magic?" asked Harry eagerly.
"Not at all, Harry. We shall get to go to the beach, where you may swim, and we shall even be able to see real, working wizarding ships." Snape was pleased by the excited glimmer in his child's luminous eyes.
"You mean like pirate ships?"
Remus and Poppy chuckled while Snape smiled. "No pirates, Harry, but you will enjoy them just the same."
"Can Draco and Hermione visit us?" entreated Harry. "I don't think I can go a whole Summer without them."
"I will write to Lucius and Narcissa. If their plans for the Summer can fit in a trip, I believe we will be able to accommodate them."
"Great! So when do we go?"
"In just an hour. We have a portkey to take us." Snape then cleared his throat, and glanced nervously at the medi-witch. "I did ask someone to join us on our vacation, Harry."
Harry was too excited to manage a frown of puzzlement, so he simply asked, and watched as his father hesitated. A very slight blush rose to the older man's cheeks, and he coughed slightly. "Who, Dad?" Harry demanded.
"I have asked Madame Pomfrey to join us, if that is all right with you?"
Harry turned to Poppy. "Can you swim, Madame Pomfrey?"
She laughed softly. "I most certainly can! Do you mind that I am coming?"
Harry shook his head. "Nope!"
Remus had seen Harry, Poppy, and Snape to the Apparation point outside of the gates of Hogwarts where Snape removed a battered bugler's horn from within his robes inner pocket.
Snape directed Harry to take hold of the bugler's horn, which he promptly did. He snickered to himself as he saw his father's fingers from his hand drift over Madame Pomfrey's fingers. Snape harrumphed at Harry, who just broke out in giggles, and Poppy blushed.
"Get ready," warned Snape. "Five, four, three, two, one!"
And, they vanished.
Remus was just about to turn back to the castle when his keen eyesight caught a sparkling glimmer of something in the dewy grass. He looked down at the ground. There, in the remains of one of Snape's bootprints, was the shattered remnants of a crystal phial. Its contents, shimmering wisps of pearl wizarding memories, spread out like tendrils before sinking into the earth, never to be seen again.
A/N: A great apology to everyone who waited so long for this epilogue, I am most sorry. Events at home became too much, and my writing was interrupted way too often. I then hit the dreaded "writer's block". I thank the dear Lastcrazyhorn who pulled me through, and who helped with her thoughts and ideas on this Epilogue.
I thank all of my readers for their lovely, and heartfelt comments, for without each and every one of you, I am nothing.
For anyone interested, a video has been made to illustrate this story. You will find a link to it on my profile.