::Stares in shock at Lycoris and her one, count them - ONE, flag::
The LAST CHAPTER!! ::sobs:: I'm sorry this is late, but I didn't really want to end it! But what do you think of this ending? Too fast? Too sappy? I know I said there would be no romance, but I added a slight overtone to the characters into a certain mood and talking. It's ONLY a vehicle. And I didn't mention Sirius, sorry Nexus, but he will be alright. I will go into more detail with him in the spin-off story, but I love him just as much as Snape. Of course, that doesn't mean I am adverse to a bit of character torture, quite the opposite. ::grins evilly as Snape, Sirius, Harry and Lycoris all back off fearfully, Lycoris running to hide behind Fluffy::
I think I'll probably call the next story, Harry Potter and the search for Redemption. Keep a look out with my name for it or if you want, ask me to e-mail you when it's up. Just make the e-mail address easy to find please.
The poem in this chapter was written by yours truly and then split up to create the chapter titles. Steal and I will kill! I'm calling it "Road to Redemption" and will prolly try and publish it eventually. It IS mine, H.L. Armstrong's. Do not take without permission.
I'm glad you've all enjoyed my story. Now please read this last chapter and, as always, ENJOY!!
Over the remaining summer months, Harry became a regular visitor to the dungeons. Occasionally, Ron or Hermione would accompany him, but normally it was only himself and Professor Snape that spent the warm summer days concocting potions and discussing defense techniques against the Dark Arts.
"Have you gone daft," Ron had exclaimed when he first discovered that Harry willingly went to see their most hated professor in the dungeons on a daily basis.
Harry, however, saw nothing wrong with the idea. He'd almost forgotten a time when his professor's snide comments and cold attitude had repelled him rather than reassure him. The others remembered though. It never failed to amaze McGonagall when she would enter a room to find the two in conversation, a half smile on Snape's lips and a warm look in his eyes as he sparred verbally with Harry who seemed to enjoy rather than fear the man's company. Even Ron came to admit, albeit much later, that the acerbic attitude of the cold professor had changed.
Or perhaps Professor Snape's ways had not changed. Perhaps, they simply had a new way of viewing that attitude now, as Hermione thoughtfully pointed out on a visit the last weekend before school was scheduled to start up again.
"You think," Ron asked as walked quietly down to the dungeons where they would meet Harry.
Hermione nodded, her bushy hair bouncing around her face, tempting Ron to brush it back. She turned to smile at him and Ron had a sudden insane urge to grab her and run off to Hogsmeade for the day. Instead, he simply blushed and concentrated on continuing on to Snape's rooms.
"What do you think changed things," Ron asked after a moment. "I mean, we used to hate him and he used to hate us! What made us all change our minds?"
Hermione simply shrugged, "I don't know..."
They continued on in silence for a few moments until Ron asked in a surprised sort of voice, "What, you're not going to run off to the library?"
Hermione stopped and looked at her friend quizzically, "Why would I go to the library? This isn't an answer that can be found in a book."
Ron gaped at her for a moment before breaking into laughter. Hermione frowned at him before finishing the last few steps to Snape's doorway. She raised her hand in a fist to knock, but never got the chance. Ron, afraid he'd hurt her feelings, dashed forward and stopped her hand.
"It's not a bad thing, Hermione," he told her hurriedly. "It's just...you."
Hermione smiled at him before leaning forward to kiss his cheek gently. Ron froze for a moment, but recovered in time to stop her from pulling away. He hugged her to him and she allowed him to, her surprise overcoming her good judgement.
"Where are you going," Snape asked his student curiously.
Harry Potter slowed his steps toward the door to the dungeon chamber just enough to tell his professor over his shoulder, "I thought I heard something! It might be Ron and Hermione!"
A small quirk of Snape's lips was all that gave away the fact that he was smiling. Quietly he followed Harry, growing worried when he noticed the boy still after throwing open the door.
"What's going on," he asked, hurrying to stand at Harry's back.
He glared over Harry's head to see Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in a seemingly blissful embrace. Neither seemed to notice or care that they were no longer alone, rather they both seemed too involved in the dream world they had created as they held one another.
"What are they doing..." breathed Harry after a moment.
Snape smiled evilly, a mischievous glint in his dark, obsidian eyes, "Why, don't you know a hug when you see one? Really, Potter, I didn't think your education was quite THAT neglected."
Harry glared up at Snape, "Of course I know what a hug is. But WHY are they hugging?"
Snape couldn't stop the soft chuckle from rising in his throat, "Why do you think? They're growing up. You didn't truly believe you'd always be the center of their worlds, did you?"
Harry shook his head, a sad atmosphere seeming to suddenly permeate the air around him. Snape sighed at it and, finally finished being amused by the sappy scene, loudly cleared his throat. Ron and Hermione jumped five feet apart as they turned wide-eyed and startled to face their audience.
"I do not believe the hallways to be suitable for young stallions such as yourself, Mister Weasley, to be suitable for such displays of affection," Snape told the tomato red boy that seemed to be attempting to smile. He watched the blush fade and a goofy smile creep across Ron's face as Ron glanced over at Hermione, who was likewise blushing, though also with a small, flustered smile.
Harry grinned, "'Bout time! Does this mean you're not going to argue anymore?"
Snape glanced quickly down at the boy's naivete, but calmed when he saw the bright look of mischief in his eyes. He smiled minutely and looked back up to see Hermione blush even deeper, if such a thing were possible, and Ron to turn the same color as his bright red hair. Snape turned quickly back around, deciding enough was enough.
"If our displays of affection are over with, there's a potion that needs to be finished," Snape told the three friends as he walked back to the simmering cauldron on the other side of the room. He hadn't walked very far before he was stopped by a pair of arms wrapping around his middle and squeezing briefly before releasing. Then Harry darted around him and ran ahead to the cauldron, followed closely by Ron.
Hermione had the same idea as Harry, though, it seemed. As she passed her still recovering Potions Master she stopped and turned, jumping up to wrap her arms around his neck. "Thank you," she whispered to him quickly, giving him an even quicker peck on the cheek and darting off after the boys before Snape could suddenly reverse to his old nasty self.
Snape watched the three chatter over the potion he had been teaching Harry as he allowed a small smile to creep over his face. He'd never allowed himself to feel before, but he had to admit it wasn't such a bad thing. He was slowly coming to a decision that he liked it better to be respected rather than feared by his students.
Slowly, he returned to the cauldron and it's bubbling pink contents, a smile lighting his suspiciously bright eyes even as it tugged at the corner of his lips.
School began, as per usual, September 1st and all the students returned, only mildly surprised to find Harry already there. Their biggest surprise was when they finally realized that Draco Malfoy did not seem to even want to mock Harry for no longer being wanted by the Dursley's, as the entire Wizarding World now knew was the case after the attack on their family.
Malfoy, for his part, did nothing to fill in the curious Slytherin dorm-mates who dared to enquire after his sudden loss of interest in Harry. He simply quieted all the more, fading into the background as surely as any shadow. Soon it was only a rare occurrence that he could be seen mocking his arch-rival and even Harry was forced to admit that the change was disturbing, when he could bring himself to notice.
Snape's change was far less noticeable. Most only noticed the change after a long while and hearing the gossip that said Harry could be seen venturing to his office even with out a detention or class to bring him there. It was only as they discussed the validity of the rumor that they realized he had not been giving out the detentions and deducting points as he had in all the past years. He was still the snide, feared teacher he had always been, but something had unmistakably changed about him and now his students found themselves looking forward to his classes, if only to continue their study of him. Not one student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry could say that they weren't at least somewhat interested in what could change their most hateful teacher, though only a few could boast to know exactly what that was.
And so, it was these few students that were all in agreement during the Christmas that the poem Dumbledore recited was very well-chosen.
On Rocky Paths of Glory
He Slips on Blood
He Stumbles Over Shadows
Straight into the Blind Unknown
Fearing the Heartbeat
He Stills Its Pounding
He Worries Over Its Silence
Searching for Its Sound Again
Lost in the Darkness
He Tries to Keep His Life
He Never Understood the Truth
That He Lived the Best
When He Let Go
He is a Redeemed Man
Only His Own Fears Left to Face
Until The Bloody Path Leads Home
Still, only one person could be found wishing the words really could be true as he watched the Headmaster recite them with cool, grey eyes. Cool, grey eyes filled with the need to believe in the hope of redemption.
Look for the spin-off, coming soon!!