Epilogue: The Next Generation
Five years later:
I sat on the grass next to Lily and watched as our twins and Fred Weasley's twin girls ran about with Aurora at their heels. Aurora, typical collie that she was, kept trying to herd the children away from the duck pond. Aurora, or Rory, as the kids called her, was wary of water, ever since Hallie had fallen into the pond when she was three and almost drowned trying to grab a duckling. The silver and gold collie had jumped into the water and saved her, overcoming her dislike of getting wet. I suppose it is a collie's nature to be a hero, or a protector, or a guardian of the helpless.
Fred had married Angelina Johnson after they had finished school and they were the proud parents of twin girls, Roxanne and Julia, age three. They had played together with Gabe and Hallie since they could walk, and Hallie regarded them as sisters because of the nearly two year difference in their age. Fred's twin, George, had married Alicia Spinnet and they were expecting their first child. Fred and George had often babysat the twins for us, as had their younger siblings, Ron and Ginny, and so they had been invited to the Snape family picnic, which took place at the park where Lily and I used to play. Ginny and Ron couldn't make it, they were off with their Quidditch team on tour, but the Weasley twins and their spouses were playing a game of Quidditch using Don't See Me charms.
My mother and father were sitting on a picnic bench, sipping ice cold lemonade and watching as little Danielle Lily Potter pulled herself across the large blanket. My granddaughter was fourteen months, and she had Harry's green eyes and Hermione's curly hair. Despite his having sworn he would never follow in my footsteps and marry his best friend, Harry had changed his mind when he was seventeen, and realized that Hermione was not only his friend, but his other half. As for Hermione, she had always loved Harry, but had never said anything because she didn't want to spoil their friendship in case he didn't feel the same. But once they got to talking it over, they realized they truly did have feelings for each other, very strong ones, and the rest was a foregone conclusion.
Dani, as we called her, was extremely bright and inquisitive, and frequently had me and Lily in stitches with the things she said. She repeated everything and anything, often at the worst possible time. Hermione was a professor at Hogwarts, teaching Muggle Studies, and one of her colleagues happened to be Draco Malfoy, the Flying Instructor, replacing Madam Hooch. One day, Hermione had Dani with her when she went to question Draco about a detention he had given one of her students, causing the student to be late to her class and miss an important lecture.
Draco had been most indignant about Hermione taking him to task, and had said pompously, "Really, Potter, who do you think you are? I'll have you know that my family goes back generations—"
"What does that have to do with anything, Malfoy? Are you saying you're better than me because you're a pureblood? Because Harry always told me you were a bigot and—"
"A arsehole. Daddy said you're a sodding arsehole," Dani had announced, shocking both adults into dead silence.
Hermione said later that she didn't know whether to laugh or to be mortified, because what Dani had repeated was true. Harry had never liked Draco, ever since that ill-fated Quidditch match, and when he had heard that Draco was teaching at Hogwarts and making remarks about Hermione behind her back to some of the staff, he had promptly expressed his opinion about Malfoy to his wife. Dani had supposedly been napping on the couch during their discussion, but everyone knows little pitchers have big ears and blabber mouths.
Draco had nearly had apoplexy, much to Harry's amusement.
That little incident made me and Lily chuckle for days, as well as Eileen and Tobias.
"Got an answer for everything, just like her mum," was what Tobias had said when he learned about the incident.
Harry was Hogwarts' medi-wizard now, since Madam Pomfrey had retired last year and Headmistress McGonagall had picked him as her replacement out of all the applicants she had from St. Mungos. Dumbledore had been removed from the position of Headmaster after almost asphyxiating on a lemon drop and causing himself severe brain trauma due to lack of oxygen. He was now in St. Mungos as a permanent resident in the Memory Loss Ward, roommates with the fraudulent Gilderoy Lockhart, who had accidentally had himself Obliviated by a student during a demonstration. The two nutters deserved each other, in my opinion.
The long ago prophecy made by Bellatrix turned out to be a dud, since Voldemort had never returned from the dead, proving my theory that sometimes a Seer only Sees one possible future, and that can be changed by the choices we make. Thank Merlin! My children and grandchildren would grow up safe and happy, in a world free of war and darkness.
It was a glorious day, bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. I was enjoying the summer sunshine as well as the company of my family and friends. It had taken me the better part of five years to finally forgive Tobias for hurting me and my mother all those years ago. But finally the wounds that had reopened when he came back into my life had scabbed over and my past no longer haunted me. I would never fully trust the man, but at least I could allow him back in my life and he adored his grandchildren. Matter of fact, he spoiled them rotten.
I dreaded when they came back from a weekend at Granddad and Grammy's house, because Tobias let them get away with murder, and Hallie was a little terror until Lily and I laid down the law to her again, and even Gabriel acted out. One time, after Hallie had "borrowed" my razor and shaved poor Aurora's ruff off, I asked my unrepentant four-year-old why she had done such a thing to our dog and she had replied, "'Cause I'm a princess and I can do whatever I want. Granddad says so. So there!"
I had told her what she did was wrong and she ought to apologize to poor Aurora and she shook her head stubbornly and snapped, "No! And you can't make me."
Her insolence and disrespect had earned her a spanking from me, for that was one thing I never tolerated from any of my children, and afterwards she had sobbed that she was telling her grandfather on me. When Tobias visited later on that afternoon, she had told him all about how mean I was and the wretched traitor turned to me and said, "For Godsake, Severus, go easy on the kid, she's only four." That from a man who could have given a drill sergeant lessons in discipline! But he melted like butter when it came to his grandchildren and hated to see them unhappy, even if it was deserved. My mother was the same way, allowing her grandchildren liberties in her flat that she never had permitted me growing up.
It had shocked me speechless then, but now I understood better since Dani had come into my life. Your grandchild was a chance for you to have fun and to share your hard earned wisdom with, and you left the disciplining up to her parents, mostly.
Aurora had managed to successfully herd the children away from the pond, and now they were throwing a ball for her to fetch. Like her predecessor, Rory could perform various tricks on command, as well as being able to think independently when the situation arose. She was one of the few dogs I knew who never set foot across my property unless told to do so, and could accompany me for walks without a lead. She would stay and guard the house if told to do so, but was happiest by my side. On any given evening, she could be found curled close to me, her head on my foot, or in my lap, asking to be petted. Her only flaws were a tendency to beg at the table and the fact that she was terrified of thunder and lightning.
Some dogs have that phobia and there is nothing you can do save try and calm them down. Aurora howled and shook and hid under a chair when a storm was nigh, and I had to give her small doses of a Calming Draught to settle her down. She also hated getting wet and sometimes refused to go out in the rain. She also hated baths, but would tolerate me giving her one, though she glared at me as if I were torturing her the entire time.
I loved her dearly, and so did my family, and she in turn gave to us her own loyal and gentle heart. There were few people she disliked, Aurora could make friends with a stone, but two of them happened to be at the picnic. One was Lily's sister, Petunia, who was so uptight and fussy that she couldn't stand animals, calling them dirty nasty creatures. Aurora always made sure to come by and lick her hands and rub up against her expensive suits, shedding a carpet of red-gold hair on her. Gave Petunia fits and made Lily smile.
The other was Petunia's son, Dudley, who was spoiled and arrogant and liked to tease small children till they cried. He was a bully and I detested him. So did my dog. She barked and growled at him from the moment he walked into my house till the moment he left. He had gotten a good spanking from me once for kicking Aurora down the steps when she was a puppy, and he had never forgotten or forgiven me for it. Not that I cared. A child who abused an animal often grew up into a petty and abusive man, and the only reason I tolerated him at the picnic was to keep the peace in the family.
He was leaning against a tree, stuffing his face with watermelon and some of the chocolate and peanut butter sandwich cake that my mother had made, he looked like a rugby player gone to seed, and when he wasn't eating, he was passing remarks about everyone.
Usually, I kept a sharp eye on him, but I got distracted by Dani putting grass in her mouth. "No! Grass isn't for little girls," I said, picking her up and removing the grass from her mouth. She immediately began to wail until Lily handed me a sprinkled sugar cake to give her instead.
"Mmmm . . .good!" she declared, and stuffed half the treat into her mouth while sitting on my lap.
Two minutes later, Gabe came over crying. "Dad, Dudley says my name is stupid 'cause I was named after a dog! He called me dog breath and said I was pug-ugly!"
He was quickly followed by Hallie, who looked like she wanted to hex someone. "So I kicked him in the knee for being nasty, Dad, and he said he was going to knock me to the moon."
"He was gonna 'mack Hallie," put in Roxanne. "He's nasty!"
"And mean!" added her twin, they were both redheads, though not identical. "We no like him!"
"He what?" I hissed, furious.
"Severus, you'd better go over there," my father called, jerking his head towards Dudley, who was now being confronted by a sizzling mad Harry.
"Mum, take Dani." I handed her my granddaughter and rose to my feet.
Behind me I heard Lily say to Hallie, "Hallie, you know you're not supposed to kick people."
"But Mum, he was being mean to Gabe and I have to defend my brother. Granddad said so."
"You tell 'em, princess. Lily, you ought to tell that sister of yours to teach her kid some manners," Dad said disapprovingly.
Petunia had gone into the ladies room to fix up her makeup, it was running in the heat, or so she said. In any case, she wasn't there to curb her son.
I strode over to where my son and Dudley were faced off, Harry was glaring at his cousin fit to kill, and Dudley wore a sulky indignant expression on his face that was better suited to a five-year-old.
"You ever raise a hand to my little sister again, I'm going to break all your fingers," Harry growled.
Aurora crouched next to him, snarling and barking angrily.
"Shut up, mutt!" cried Dudley, looking as if he were going to try and kick Aurora. "Mangy bitch!"
"Kick my dog, Dursley, and I'll kick your arse to China and back again." Harry warned, clenching his fists.
"You and what army?" Dudley brayed, he outweighed Harry by at least forty pounds. He shook a fist in Harry's face mockingly. "I'm so scared!"
Aurora's growl deepened and I feared she was about to spring at the fat pig.
Not wanting to endure a lawsuit, I snapped my fingers and said, "Aurora, down!"
The dog obeyed, lying down instantly.
"Boys, what is going on here?" I demanded.
"Dad, he tried to hit Hallie, so I stopped him," Harry informed me hotly.
"Uncle Severus, the little brat kicked me for no reason!" Dudley whined.
"Liar," Harry refuted. "She kicked you after you called Gabe names and told him he needed to crawl around on all fours like a dog and made him cry."
"Kid's a little wuss," Dudley sneered. "But then, he would be, named after some stupid dog."
"That dog was probably smarter than you, Dudley, and more obedient," I snapped. "How old are you again?"
"Nineteen," came the sullen response.
"Really? You act more like a nine-year-old, teasing little boys that way. What's the matter with you?"
"It was a joke, Uncle Severus." He shrank back from me.
"Funny, isn't it, how you're the only one laughing?" I scowled ferociously. "Grow up, nephew, before I de-age you and stick you in a corner like the spoiled toddler you resemble."
He blanched, "You wouldn't! You wizards aren't allowed to use magic outside of school, Mum told me!"
Harry started to chuckle derisively. "That only applied to underage wizards, you dolt!"
Aurora barked in agreement.
"Shut it, mutt," Dudley shouted, very red-faced. "Before I kick your teeth in." He lifted his foot menacingly.
I stepped in front of Aurora and gave the dumb twit a death glare. "Mr. Dursley," I said, my tone colder than winter and harder than iron, the tone all my children knew meant they were in serious trouble. "I would have thought you'd learned your lesson after the last time you kicked my dog. Need I repeat it?"
"You can't, Uncle Sev!" Dudley bleated. "I'm too big to spank."
"Not if he de-ages you, Dud. Then your arse is grass, you can bet on that. Dad will wallop you like a stray dog." Harry smirked, clearly enjoying pulling one over on the rotten bugger. He knew as well as I did that there was no spell that could instantly de-age a person. But if there had been, I would have used it in a heartbeat to teach my nephew some manners.
Dudley's eyes were bugging out. "No! Please! I'm sorry . . .I'll never do it again!" he begged.
"Never do what again?" I prompted.
"Kick your dog."
"Make fun of your kid."
"See that you don't. Or else I'll send you crying to your mother." I warned, my eyes like obsidian ice.
"Yes, sir." He whimpered pathetically.
"Now go and tell Gabe you're sorry. Then perhaps you ought to leave, since it seems all you're here to do is make trouble and criticize your elders."
He took the hint. "Okay, Uncle Sev. I never wanted to come here anyway, but Mum made me. Why would I want to hang around you unnatural freaks? You're the definition of abnormal."
I suppressed the urge to slap him a good one.
"Who are you calling abnormal, you great pudding?" Harry bristled.
I laid a hand on his shoulder and shook my head twice. Let it go, I urged silently.
Harry subsided, controlling his temper as I had taught him. I had no wish to add a fist fight to the activities going on. "Where's Gabe?" he asked.
"Over there, with Dani, Mum, and Hermione." I pointed to where my son was being hugged and comforted by all three witches.
Harry walked towards them, followed by Dudley.
I watched as my nephew went and apologized to my son and received a reluctant apology in turn from my daughter at Lily's urging. Dudley glared at her ungraciously, then muttered something about being bored and needing to visit some friends from Smeltings. He hopped on his expensive motorcycle, a candy apple red Triumph, just barely squeezing his immense buttocks onto the seat. I was amazed the bike didn't collapse. The engine roared and Dudley sped off, his buttocks jiggling as he shifted his weight.
I suppose the sight must have been too much to resist, because the next thing I saw was Aurora springing to her feet and racing down the road, chasing Dudley. She was having the time of her life, jumping up and nipping his bottom and barking, trying to herd him away from us.
He yelped and yipped like a cowardly cur, finally gunning the engine and vanishing out of sight in a cloud of foul smoke.
I whistled sharply, and Aurora turned and came back to me.
"Yay, Rory!" cheered Hallie and Gabe. "Eat 'im up!"
Everyone laughed, except for Petunia. Her pinched face grew even tighter and she sniffed, "Well, I never! Making sport of my poor baby that way! You ought to be ashamed. Mangy cur! She needs to be beaten!"
"So does your son." Tobias drawled, his face dark with anger. He had never liked the Dursleys and didn't give damn if they and all the rest of the world knew about it. "He could use a good couple licks with a belt to knock that high and might attitude out of him."
Petunia gasped. "How dare you? My Dudley is a sensitive, gifted, brilliant boy—"
Tobias snorted. "Sure he is. And I'm the Easter bunny. Lady, that kid's a selfish spoiled beast and about as sensitive as a box of rocks."
"Tobias!" Mum elbowed him in the ribs.
"What? She's delusional. Everything I said was true and all of us know it."
"Like you can talk, Tobias Snape! You're nothing but a drunken derelict."
"Was," Dad corrected, unfazed by her insults. "And that's got nothing to do with your son's attitude. You ought to have taught him better when he was Gabe's age, like Sev did with Harry. "
Petunia turned an unbecoming shade of crimson. "I'll not stand here and be lectured by the likes of you, Tobias Snape, you pickle-brained tosspot."
"Fine. Then leave."
Petunia spun around. "Lily, I don't know how you stand this insufferable rude lout as your father-in-law. If he were mine, I'd shoot myself. I'm leaving, I'll not stay and see my Diddykins maligned by you lot of freaks and deadbeats!"
"Freaks and deadbeats?" Lily said frostily. "Here I thought you'd changed , Tuney. I guess I was wrong."
"If the shoe fits, little sister . . ." Petunia replied. "I warned you, Lily, what would happen if you married Snape. You'd be dragged down in the gutter just like-"
"Don't finish that sentence, Petunia." Lily cut her off, her green eyes blazing. "If you're going to go down that old road again, you might as well follow your son back home to Surrey. Goodbye, sister dearest."
Petunia put her nose in the air. "Good day, little sister." She snatched up her purse and stalked off across the grass towards the parking lot.
All of us breathed a sigh of relief. Good riddance!
"Arsehole!" Dani piped up.
"Out of the mouths of babes," My father said, laughing.
"Harry, I'm going to kill you," Hermione snapped. Then she looked at her daughter. "Young lady, you do NOT say that word! It's very bad."
"Why? Daddy says it." Dani pointed out with her toddler's logic.
"Daddy's going to get his mouth washed out with soap."
"Oooh, Harry's in trouble!" sang Hallie, thinking it funny that her older brother was threatened with the same punishment she was for using foul language.
"Uh oh," said Danielle, and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
"Sorry," Harry apologized, giving Hermione his best hangdog expression. He picked up Dani and spun her around. "Hey, little miss. Don't go saying everything you hear. You want to get me in trouble?"
Dani grinned at him, her smile pure mischief. And pure Snape. "Bad Daddy!"
"Who, me?" Harry feigned innocence.
She nodded. "Mummy says so."
"Guess we know who wears the pants in that house," George remarked, chuckling.
"Poor bloke!" said Fred, sympathetically. "He's surrounded by know-it-alls."
"Like you, Daddy!" his girls chorused.
"Lucky me," Fred grinned ruefully.
While Harry fell to tickling Dani, Aurora and I went to sit next to Gabriel, who still looked unhappy. Gabe threw his arms about the lovable collie and hugged her. "You're a good dog, Rory." Aurora industriously washed the last traces of tears from his cheeks. "Stop it! I don't need a bath, silly collie." He gently pushed her muzzle away. Then he looked at me. "Dad, how come I'm named after a dog? Was it 'cause I'm ugly?"
"Certainly not!" I answered firmly. "Come here, Gabe." I picked him up and set him in my lap. "Don't listen to anything your fool cousin says. He isn't winning any beauty contests himself. You have your mum's beautiful copper colored hair and my eyes , and are the handsomest five-year-old I know."
"I'm five and three-quarters, Dad."
"I stand corrected. There's not an ugly bone in your body, imp, and don't ever let anyone tell you different. You were named after the archangel Gabriel and a very special dog, my collie Gabriel, who brought peace and love and understanding to everyone around him. He was the most loyal dog I ever had, and he saved Harry's life once when your brother was a baby and ran into the street. He was a real hero and I loved him very much."
"Did he die?"
"Yes. Now he's in heaven with your other grandparents. An angel with a fur coat."
My son giggled. "You're silly, Dad."
I tweaked his nose. "I can show you pictures of Gaby when we get home. He was the best friend anyone could ask for and whenever I needed him, he was there. After he died, I built a kind of memorial for him, but then I realized that the best memorial was right in my head. And when you were born, I thought you needed a strong name, a name you could be proud of. So I named you Gabriel."
"Oh." He leaned back against me, his small chest heaving a sigh of relief.
"Stupid Dudley!" Hallie rolled her eyes. "Who was I named after, Dad?"
"You were named after your grandmothers. Hallie was Mum's mother and Eileen is Gram's name."
"Your dad and I picked those names because they were special and so were you," Lily chimed in, tousling Hallie's hair. "You should be proud of your name, both of you."
"Will you tell me more about Gaby?" my son asked.
"Yes. When we get home, I'll show you the album and read you a story I wrote," I promised. "In the meantime, why don't you go and play with Roxy and Julie and Aurora?"
Gabriel hesitated until Hallie said kindly, "Come on, Gabe. We can play school an' I 'll let you be the potions professor this time."
"Okay. And if you don't do your homework I'll take away a gazillion points, like Dad does."
"What's a gazillion?" asked Roxanne.
"It's a number so big that you'll be in school forever trying to get rid of it," Fred told her.
"Wow! Cool! I wanna go to school forever." Roxanne slipped from his arms and followed her pals a short distance away to play.
"Where'd she come from?" George wondered, scratching his head.
Fred shrugged. "That's Angie's influence, not mine."
"Naturally," his wife said, and we smiled.
Lily leaned her head against my shoulder. "What a beautiful day. I'm sorry Petunia and Dudley nearly spoiled it. I never should have invited them."
"It wasn't your fault, Mum," Harry said diplomatically. "They're the ones who chose to act like snobs and cause trouble."
"There's one in every family," Tobias remarked.
"Two in ours," said George ruefully.
"Percy and Percy's wife," Fred added. "Don't let it get you down, Lily. We don't. You have a great family and it's their loss for not wanting to be a part of it."
Lily smiled. "Thank you."
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Harry whisper something in his daughter's ear and set her down.
She crawled rapidly across the blanket and into Lily's lap. "Don' be sad, Gran." She threw her arms about Lily and kissed her. "All better!"
Lily cuddled her close. "You're the best medicine, baby girl."
Harry winked at me and I gave him a nod of approval. Then I Summoned a glass of lemonade and slowly drank it while watching Aurora fetch a stick over and over, the children had tired of school and now romped with the collie and played on the swings, laughing and giggling. I looked about at my extended family and thought about how lucky I was to be where I am today and how far I had come from the poor ragged boy from Spinner's End, whose best friends had been a red-haired girl and a collie. But for a dog, my story might have had a very different ending.
Thank you, Gabriel.
Writing this story has allowed me to grieve the loss of a good friend, and at the same time realize how lucky I and my family were to have him in our lives. We will never forget him. I truly believe that the love of a pet-dog, cat, bird, or whatever-changes us for the better and teaches us love and compassion and to accept people as they are and not how we wish them to be. The love of an animal is an amazing thing, because it never dies. And if you know the love of an animal, then you are truly blessed. Here's to all the Gabriels out there and to those whose lives they have changed. And thanks to everyone who has read this, I hope you enjoyed Sev and Gabe's journey.