Chapter 15

Severus woke the following morning as the sun poured in via the skylight.

Wait, skylight?

My bedchamber is in the dungeon.

Nevertheless, sunlight obstinately beamed into the room, brightening everything.

He sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes and, in the process, found himself holding an armful of plush, fluffy… something.

He held it at arm's length and saw, to his horror, a caricature of the Slytherin House Emblem, a soft, downy, plush, smiling, green and silver snake cuddle-up.

Snape scowled, but had to appreciate the fine craftsmanship.

The toy had a Cheshire cat kind of grin, infectious, compelling. It was also charmed to be charming, fluttering its long lashes.

The professor's scowl lessened.

'Teddie' snake warbled, then purred contentedly.

Severus smiled.

But when the cuddle-up laid a soft cheek on the professor's forearm, trilling for attention he laughed.

The first, honest laugh Severus Snape had produced in many a year - not since he was a schoolboy, not since he'd been friends with her.

He was as pleased as he was surprised to find joy in his own laughter, and he promised himself a healthy dose of mirth, everyday, until the scowl lines etched into his face became a distant memory.

"Only Miss Lovegood would think of such a thing."

He looked at his bedside table and saw it was nearly half-seven. "No classes today, students are going home for the summer hols. Wake me at seven, please."

The 'skylight' dimmed and Professor Snape burrowed back into his duvet, cuddling the snake teddie, smiling.

To say his entrance into the Great Hall for breakfast was unexpected would be a gross understatement.

Gone were the black billowing 'bat-robes', and in their place, a well tailored muggle suit topped off by a cape of green so dark as to be almost black. Parvati Patil recognized the suit as Armani's current offering - her father had several like it.

His hair was clean, practically glowing, and gathered in back with a leather tie.

The most striking change was the smile.

The warm, genuine smile with which he graced the Merlins' table first, then his colleagues at the Professors' table, then the rest of the school.

Wide-eyed and blinking, Minerva McGonagall managed to say, "Guid mornin, Severus."

"Guid mornin, Headmistress, Hou's aw wi ye?"

Filius Flitwick covered his guffaw with a faux cough, did Severus Snape just tease Minerva McGonagall?


The House of Merlin was packed and ready. Most were excited to be going home to family and friends, but none more so than Myrtle.

"Oh, I've been to Hogsmeade Village and points beyond, but, this part of the world is so sparsely populated, I always came back to the castle. I haven't been in a proper house since the Summer of Forty-two."

Harry chuckled, "Well, I'm not sure the Lovegoods' tower is a proper 'house', but it is home."

This earned him a smile and a hug from Luna.

"And Daddy got a permanent floo-connection for the Grangers' house, so we can visit Kensington as well."

Hermione nodded, then frowned, "Myrtle, will people be able to see you? Non-magical people, I mean."

The ghost girl smiled and shook her head, "No, not unless I want them to. That's the mark of a proper haunting."

"And my parents?"

"All you have to do is introduce me to them and them to me, and they'll be able to see me. But aren't you afraid it might scare them? I mean, a ghost in the house and all?"

It was Pansy's turn to laugh, "Myrtle, they have a witch for a daughter, I think you'll find them very accepting."

Hermione said, "And I'll be at the Lovegood 'Castle' as often as I can."

"Of course you will," Harry smirked, "because we can practice magic there all Summer."

Hermione rejoined, "Well, there's that too…"

With a triumphant "Whoop!" Neville enthused, "I got it!"

The four other Merlins looked and saw him holding what looked like a match box in the palm of his hand.

"Shrinking charm?" Pansy shrieked, "You got the shrinking charm!"

Looking rightfully smug, Neville said, "Yes. Yes I did."

"Brilliant," Hermione said, "Will you show me, um, us how?"

"Sure. Nothing to it."

In short order everyone's trunk was shrunk down. The only hitch was when Harry tried to lift his and couldn't. The tiny box refused to budge, as if it were glued to the floor."

Neville pulled him aside, "Um, Harry. Did you lighten the trunk first?"

Harry, red faced, slapped his own forehead with his open palm as he realized he'd reduced the trunk full of books in size but not in mass.


A quick reversal, followed by a lightening charm, followed by the shrinking spell and the Merlins were off.

They were met at the Main Gate by the still-smiling Professor Snape, "I know you plan to continue your advanced studies over the Summer, so I thought you might like this."

He gave Harry a dog-eared, battered old Sixth-form potions text.

"Um, thank you, Professor Snape." Harry said, tentatively.

"Open it."

Harry did and, seeing the heavily annotated margins, grew more and more animated as he flipped through the pages, "This, this is… Brilliant! Thank you, Professor, thank you!"

"This was my text for NEWT level potions, as you can see, I made some modifications here and there. Feel free to do the same. I know you'll be as brilliant at it as, well, as another potions prodigy I had the honor to know."

Decorum be damned, Harry hugged the tall professor, who returned the gesture in kind.

No further words were needed.

Luna smiled and handed Severus a thin book, saying, "It's not a first edition or anything, but I thought you might enjoy a little light reading."

Severus opened to the title page and read, A Christmas Carol, in Prose, being a Ghost Story of Christmas, by Charles Dickens, with Illustrations by John Leech. "If I recall, it's the story of an irredeemable, wretched, covetous old sinner whose life is completely turned around by ghosts and friends. All in a single night. Could we possibly imply an analogy here?"

Luna shrugged, "Well…"

He smiled, "It's been a long, long time since I've read this. I will enjoy it, thank you, thank you very much."

He gathered Luna into a hug and whispered, "God bless us, everyone."

The thestral-drawn carriages were lined up, and, owing to the very public departure of Quirrell in the Great Hall the previous January, everyone could see the otherwise invisible winged equines. The magical animals patiently endured having their flanks petted and patted before all the coaches were loaded and ready to set off.

The ride to London was, for the most part, uneventful. A very subdued Draco Malfoy politely knocked on their compartment door, then asked, "Pansy, what can I tell my father about, um, what we talked about."

Pansy bit back the first thing she wanted to say, but then, not unkindly, said, "Tell him that I need some more time, after all, I'm not yet twelve years old and that's much too early to be making a life changing decision, don't you think?"

Draco half-smiled and nodded, "Thank you, that should give us a little time at least."

As the youngest Malfoy retreated down the corridor with Goyle in tow, Hermione asked, "Where's Crabbe? I thought he was a Malfoy hanger-on."

Pansy frowned, "Apparently there was a falling out between Malfoy and Nott in Slytherin House. Greg Goyle went with Draco, and Vincent Crabbe with Theo Nott."

"I wonder what it was about?" Harry asked.

Myrtle faded into view, "According to the Bloody Baron… Um, can I just call him by his name?"

Surprised, Pansy asked, "You know his name?"

"Of course, it's Aaron."

Harry smiled, "So, he's the Bloody Baron Aaron?"

Hermione giggled, "No wonder he doesn't want anyone to know, 'Bloody Baron' is intimidating, 'Baron Aaron' is somewhat less so."

"Could be worse," Myrtle shrugged, "The gargoyle that guards the Headmaster's, well, now the Headmistress's office, is named Irving."

Bringing everyone back on task, Luna asked, "So, what happened in Slytherin?"

"According to Millie, you know, Millicent Bulstrode?"

They all nodded.

"Well, Millie said there was this big row in the common room, and Draco was calling for the Slytherins to maintain a low profile, not do anything that would draw undue attention to themselves. Meanwhile, Nott is complaining that all the advantages he'd grown up hearing about, pureblood supremacy stuff, you know?"

Again, they all nodded.

"Pureblood rule didn't count for anything anymore, how no one gave him proper respect for being from a pureblood family and how half-bloods and mudbloods needed to start wearing signs proclaiming their blood status.

"Then Draco said something about, 'Yes, blood is important, but what really mattered was magical power and ability.' Nott called him a 'blood traitor' and they pulled wands on each other and half the firsties sided with Draco while the other half, purebloods all, stood with Nott. A prefect had to break them up."

"What did Professor Snape do when he found out?" Harry asked.

"Apparently no one told him."

"Uh, oh." Neville mused aloud, "Makes you wonder who's really running that House."

Harry frowned, "Professor Snape needs to know. I'll write and tell him. Pansy, could you write Millie and ask if she can remember any other incidents like that one?"

They had to un-shrink one of the student trunks, Hermione's in fact, to get to some writing materials. The quills on top were the ones that had been charmed to write remotely. They sprang to life as soon as Harry put nib to parchment.

There are men here from the Ministry of Magic, part of some kind of census. They're asking some rather pointed questions about how you are treated in our home. Have to stop writing now, one is pointing his wand…

The pen stopped writing.

Hermione stared at the parchment, "That's Mum's handwriting, you don't suppose…"

"We're still three hours out," Harry said, "and even if we flew our brooms we'd only gain an hour at most."

Luna pulled out her trunk and un-shrunk it. Finding her own copy quill, she penned a quick note to her father.

No response.

She folded the missive and said, "Harry, give this to Hedwig. Have her take it to Daddy, something's not right with the Grangers."

Harry tied the short missive to his beloved owl's leg and whispered, "Fly, sweetheart, fly like you've never flown before!"

Neville opened the compartment window and Hedwig was off like a shot. Then Pansy closed the window as the wind was threatening to blow loose paper and small objects out the window.

Luna sat with Hermione and drew her into a tight hug, "Hedwig will be there in seconds, she's a right clever bird and a post owl to boot. She can fly through apparation space."

Harry sat on her other side and added, "She's probably found Xeno already."

A few more tense moments and Hedwig reappeared, flying parallel to the compartment.

Hermione jumped up to open the window.

When Hedwig was safely inside and the window was again closed, Harry removed the scrap of parchment that was Xeno's reply.

Hermione's parents have been registered by the Ministry of Magic as the non-magical guardians of a witch. They are okay, for now, we'll talk at length when you arrive.

See you soon,


The King's Cross Express hadn't ground to a halt when five anxious eleven and twelve year olds hopped off an onto Platform Nine and Three-quarters. There was Xeno, with Marissa Sessions, the first Healer Harry had met and, Fredrick and Helen Granger, safe and sound. Hermione ran, sobbing into their arms, "Oh, Mum, Dad, I… we were so worried!"

Neville and Pansy leaned into Harry and Luna and, in low tones, asked, "Do you need me and Pansy to go with you?"

"Thanks, mate. But I think we can sort it out. See you in Dreamscape later?"

"Oh, you know it." With that, Neville and Pansy went in search of their families.

Helen asked her daughter, "What had you so worried, Dear?"

"There was just a fragment of a message about people from the Ministry in our house, pointing wands…"

Fredrick chuckled, as if going along with a joke, "Whatever do you mean, Poppet? What note? What people?"

Luna, smiling brightly, said, "Oh, you! Hermione is always pranking us one way or another."

Then a significant glance to Xeno, who caught on quickly. "Well, let's be off then. First stop, The Leaky Cauldron, then on to home. Come along, Grangers, you're invited, of course."

The two dentists fell into step behind Xenophilius Lovegood.

Harry noticed that, in spite of the unseasonably warm late spring afternoon air, both Grangers wore long-sleeved shirts and jackets.

A short taxi ride to the magical pub and the entourage flooed to the Lovegoods' home.

As soon as the Grangers exited the fireplace Marissa dropped her wand from its sleeve holster into her hand, and directed the non-magicals to the overstuffed couch

"Won't you have a seat?"

They did and the Healer asked, "All comfy now? Good. Somnus."

And the Grangers slept.

Hermione began to get nervous again, "What is it, what's going on with my parents?"

Marissa scanned the sleeping muggles with her white Healer's Wand and three different diagnostic crystals.

Luna, very concerned, said, "Look at their left arms. There's something magical just above their inside-left elbows."

The Healer cocked one eyebrow, but did as asked.

"Bloody Hell!"

Hermione, crying now, begged, "What is it?"

"It's a Goddess-damned protean mark."

"A what?"

Marissa, looking very perturbed, said, "If the children could leave the room, please."

All three children stood resolute. Harry spoke for the group, "I don't think so, Healer Sessions."

With a sigh, Marissa touched the Grangers' jackets with her wand, making them disappear and then reappear, neatly folded on the sideboard. She then touched their shirts, leaving Helen in her bra and Fredrick in his undervest.

Sure enough, inside and slightly above the elbow joint there was a tattoo, an ing rune with a vertical line running through it. Picture two large Xs, one atop and connected to the other, with a vertical, bisecting line.

"It's a binding rune, and a protean charm. Someone had branded your parents like cattle, and placed a geas on them."

"What kind of geas?"

"One that forces them to comply with any command given by any witch or wizard."

Xenophilius groaned, "Oh no, the Harry Potter Child Welfare and Protection Act. It must have passed."

"But that requires the Queen's Endorsement." Marissa said, more than a little peeved.

"Not if the vote in the Wizengamot is unanimous."

"But it still requires the Royal Consent before becoming law."

"Any bill that garners unanimous support is sure to have the Queen's Approval."

Marissa was getting angrier by degrees, "But what the Ministry has done to these people is illegal!"

Xeno held up both his hands, palms out, and said, "I'm just being the devil's advocate here, as soon as the Queen signs off on the Bill it becomes the Law of the Monarchy, Magical and Mundane alike."

Miss Myrtle floated into the centre of the room, "If I may?"

Marissa looked askance at Xenophilius, "You didn't tell me your home was haunted."

"It's not, well, it wasn't. Um, pardon me, Miss…"

"Myrtle, Myrtle Malone, you might remember me from Hogwarts?"

Xeno and Marissa simultaneously said, "Moaning Myrtle?"

"An unfortunate appellation, but yes, that's me."

"How is it that you're here?" Xeno asked.

"By invitation, and good thing too. I think we can help."


Myrtle nodded, "The Ghosts of Great Britain."


Sirius Black was enjoying coffee with his best friend and closest advisor at the Black Family Property, Pembrokeshire, Wales, overlooking Freshwater West Beach.

"Remus, I have to do this. I have to get my own house in order before I lose myself in the pomposity of politics. Like a certain Minister of Magic who shall remain nameless."

The werewolf shrugged, "Too true, but think of all the good you could do."

"The Goblin Seneck had me exactly right, pride. Pride was how I survived Azkaban. It wasn't the sure and certain knowledge that I was innocent, well, innocent of the crimes I was imprisoned for. It was that I was sane, more or less, long after anyone else would have been driven completely insane.

"I carried my imprisonment as a diamond-hard point of pride when I found myself a free man. What I should have been was grateful for the ones who got me out, and I tried to be, I got them some nice awards and a very public pat on the back, but I stood to their right for the photos, you know why?"

"So your name would appear first on the caption."

Sirius nodded.

"So, I'm going to get my house in order. Care to come with me?"

"It'll upset the pureblood families if you're seen in the company of a known were."

"Won't it just?"

After coffee, the Chief Warlock and his werewolf companion apparated to the Malfoy Estate in Berkshire. The Lord of the Manor wasn't in, but the Lady was, and welcomed her cousin as the proper Head of her family. Sirius quickly fell into the pureblood dance of one-upsmanship and, conceding that Narcissa's husband had done rather well for himself by acquiring the estate as a dowry, asked to speak privately with the Malfoy son and heir.

Draco acted the proper pureblood prince, gracious and condescending in his own little castle, until Sirius simply told him, "Shut up, sit down and listen."

"The reason I'm speaking with you at all is because your mother, my cousin, is under a powerful enchantment, one that will not allow her to make an informed choice."


"What part of 'shut up' did you not understand? Your maternal grandfather sold your mother to Lucius Malfoy for his support of the Dark Lord Voldemort. The conditions of the sale required that your mother be 'the perfect mate' for her husband. Tell me, Draco, when was the last time you saw your mother smile?"

Draco looked thoughtful, then said, "Never."

"She used to smile, quite a bit. Her smile would light up a room. And she danced and sang and was so full of life, so full of joy. It broke my heart when she married Lucius, because I knew it would be a joyless marriage, but I didn't know until it was much too late that it would be, for her, a joyless existence."

The boy looked around the house, and sighed. "What can I do?"

"You? Nothing. But there is something I can do. If Narcissa's marriage were to be annulled, then she would revert to Narcissa Black."

"And I would be declared bastard." Draco's eyes narrowed, "You would do that to me?"

Sirius' glare was as effective as a silencing hex. "As I was saying. If your mother's marriage were to be annulled, she would revert to the Family Black, and her son could become my heir apparent."

"Could, not would?" Draco asked.

"Your choice, Draco. You could choose to stay with your father, who could adopt you after the annulment, or you could move into one of the Black Family Properties with your mum. I'll leave the choice up to you, but Narcissa will cease to be a Malfoy by the end of this day."

Three hours later, Sirius stood in the box reserved for the Chief Warlock and proclaimed, "I, Sirius Orion Black, Head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black do hereby declare the marriages of my cousins, Narcissa Black and Bellatrix Black annulled. Dowries and properties to be returned to the Black Family, with interest."

Proper pandemonium ensues as the now Minor House of Malfoy objected strenuously. The Lestrange membership had reverted to the Rosier and Black families upon their imprisonment ten years prior.

"And now," Sirius continued, "As I have family members to see and care for, I must, with regrets, stand down from the post of Chief Warlock. One must put one's own house in order first, after all."

For the first time in four centuries, members of the Cabal looked at each other with frank uncertainty.

The most junior member of the Cabal, Lucius Malfoy, was terrified of the inevitable political and economic repercussions. What if the Cabal were to find him… unnecessary?

In the Estate formerly known as Malfoy, now reclaimed as the Black Berkshire Manor, Narcissa Black smiled.


"Yes, Mistress Black?"

Narcissa raised an elegant brow, "Please have any and all things belonging to Lucius Malfoy sent to his, um, estate in Devon. There's a good elf."

"Yes, Mistress, we is already sending Malfoy things to the Malfoy cottage. Please, Mistress, is any elveses going with Malfoy Bad Faith Man?"

"I don't think so, Dobby, why break up what will finally become a happy home?"


Harry looked at his two best friends, then at Myrtle, "Care to test our theory?"


"Beg pardon?"

Myrtle smirked, "It's only a hypothesis. When we've tested the hypothesis and have an experimental result it becomes a theory."

Hermione smiled, "That's the scientific method."

"Right in one. A hypothesis can only be a theory if there's evidence to support it."

"Fine," Harry said, exasperated, "nitpickers. Would you like to test our hypothesis?"

Luna looked at her father, "Daddy, Harry and Hermione and I are going to visit the Grangers in Dreamscape, would you like to come along, or just watch."

"Watching sounds kind of boring, sweetheart."

"I knew you'd say that, Daddy. Marisa?"

"I'll just keep an eye on you for now."


With that, Fredrick and Helen Granger were flanked on the left by Hermione and Harry and on the right by Luna and Xeno.

The children, used to entering Dreamscape at will, were asleep in mere seconds.

"How do they do that?" Xeno groused, "I can't simply fall asleep at the drop of a hat."

Marissa smiled and tapped her lover on the head with her wand, saying, "Somnus."

Xeno looked around the old room, "Where am I? Luna, are you here?"

From another chamber he heard, "In here, Daddy."

Entering he found the Grangers along with Harry and Luna.

Fredrick was recounting the visit from the Ministry.

"There was a knock at the door, and two men, in maroon robes, identified themselves as Officers of the Wizengamot, and asked to be let into our home. I didn't see any reason not to, and we had a pleasant little visit. I made tea."

Helen interjected, "There was something, I don't know, not right about those two men. I picked up the Copy Quill and began to write you a note, hoping you'd get it either on the train or just before getting on."

Fredrick picked up, "They kept asking more personal questions, did we know of and approve of our witch daughter's friends, had we ever spanked you. When the one guy asked if I still bathed you I put a stop to the questions. What kind of question is that? That's when the wands came out."

He looked at his bare arm and rubbed the tattoo, "That's when they gave me this, your mother too. I couldn't stop them, hell, I didn't want to."

Xeno looked disgusted, "That was a compulsion hex, or worse, it may have been an imperious curse, very dark magic, that. Then they obliviated you, to make you forget the visit."

"If they cast a spell to make us forget," Helen asked, "Then how do we remember everything."

"The spell doesn't really make you forget," Xeno explained, "it makes it hard for you to remember things. Marisa explains it better, but it's like there are roads to memories, the obliviation hex closes the roads. But when we dream, we remember all kinds of things."

"So… this is a dream?" Fredrick asked.

"Yes and no," a new voice said, "You're asleep, but Dreamscape is a real place. What happens here carries over into the waking world."

"Mum, Dad, please meet our friend Myrtle."

"Pleased to meet you Myrtle, are you in class with this lot?"

"Not exactly, Mrs Granger, I'm a ghost."

"You don't look like a ghost."

"Thank you."

"Look at the tattoos," Harry said. "You saw them before, didn't you?"

The question was directed at Luna, who nodded, "Yes, there was a swarm of Nargelites, no doubt from the protean hex on their arms. Can anyone not see them?"

Helen and Fredrick were the only ones who asked, "See what?"

"Okay, not everyone in Dreamscape can see Nargelites, but apparently witches and wizards can."

"Luna?" Harry asked, "Remember how you removed that geas from the Hogans?"

Hermione, suddenly very excited asked, "Oh, Luna, could you?"

Luna shrugged and said, "It's worth a try."

She gaze became somewhat glassy as she moved her open fingers in a circular pattern in the air above Fredrick's left arm.

Sure enough the glowing motes began to swirl like tiny models of galaxies, or the foam in a cup of coffee when you add cream and sugar and stir it.

Luna willed the Nargelites to spin faster and faster, then suddenly shunted the tiny lights straight to the ground.

"Mister Granger, how do you feel?"

"Fine, really. Oddest thing, I think I felt something, like when you shuffle your feet on a carpet and then touch a doorknob and there's a spark?"

That was when everyone noticed the tattoo was gone.

Helen Granger held out her arm, "If you would, please?"

Harry asked, "May I try?"

Luna nodded and Helen said, "So long as you can make this bloody awful tattoo go away. I never got a tattoo because I never wanted one."

Harry focused on the space just above Helen Granger's arm and began the same swirling motions he saw Luna use, to little effect.

"Concentrate on the lights themselves, Harry, and start slow."

With renewed effort, Harry did. He willed the Nargelites to swirl and spin and, after much effort, started to see a result.

"Excellent," Luna cried, clapping as she did, "Now Hermione, you give it a try."

Hermione took over and she spun the little galaxies of light faster and faster until the streaks of light became circles."

Luna said, "Good, now, both of you, on three, force the Nargelites to ground, one… two… Now!"

Four hands snapped down and the tiny motes snapped to the ground and disappeared.

Helen and Fredrick hugged the children, "Can we wake up now?"


The six people on the couch stirred all at the same time.

Marissa sat in a chair watching them with a crystal in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.

"I've been a healer for ten years. If you had asked me yesterday, 'can anyone be cured of a protean hex?', I would have had to say, sorry. No, can't be done. And now I see two, one after the other, two protean marks, which are supposed to be permanent, fade away like so much dark smoke."

She looked at Xeno, "Care to explain that, sweetie?"

Xenophilius looked sheepish, "Um, magic?"


Thank you, Tommy King, marvelous magical Brit-picker, oh yes you are. In this story, if the voice feels authentically British, then it's all because of Tommy.

Ah kin do a raht fahn Suthurn aksayunt, on account a ah live in the 'Merikun Sayouth… So if Hahr-ee comes on dayoun tuh Macon? We'z all say-at.

Gotta give credit where it's due, Slytherin66 put the idea of a snake plush cuddle-toy in my head and I couldn't get it out.

I knew my treatment of Snape would be controversial, oddly enough, the reviews in favor of the 'forgiven' Severus far outnumber the negatives. Many thanks to all who have read and reviewed, even the negatives. I welcome honest, constructive criticism, and have edited whole chapters when there is a compelling reason to do so. For those who don't know the difference between constructive criticism and flaming, I do still have my flame-retardant flight suit and gloves…

I have just a germ of an idea, a re-telling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with a Hogwarts cast. Snape is the Scrooge character. That little nugget was alluded to in this chapter.