Chapter 15 – A New Beginning

Dark Lord Defeated!

In a surprise revelation yesterday, Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge announced that the DMLE and the Unspeakables coordinated a decisive strike against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named resulting in the Dark Lord's defeat and the capture of many Death Eaters.

"Through tenacious resolve and an indefatigable focus on the protection of the citizens of Great Britain, the Ministry located the Dark Lord's stronghold. Our superbly trained Aurors and Unspeakables then attacked with an overwhelming force and won a momentous victory" said the Minister. "In an unprecedented show of international cooperation, auxiliary support was provided by a law enforcement branch of the United States magical government. We thank our cousins across the ocean for their encouragement and backing."

The names of the captured Death Eaters have not been released, but the Director of the DMLE, Amelia Bones stated that "All prisoners will be examined for the Dark Mark and interrogated using Veritaserum to ascertain whether they were willing followers of the Dark Lord or coerced through curses, potions or other means. Swift trials will be scheduled for his willing supporters." In the Dark Lord's first reign of terror, several prominent citizens declared that they compelled to serve through the Unforgiveable Imperius curse.

Rumors that a branch of the Muggle law enforcement or that Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived was involved in the victory against the Dark Lord were unsubstantiated.

Harry Potter snorted in disgust as Sirius finished reading the Daily Prophet article from the secure room at St. Mungos where the teen was under observation for a day due to the effects of the Cruciatus curse. "So it was thanks to Fudge's 'tenacious resolve and indefatigable focus' that Voldemort was defeated? Do you suppose he can really spin it that way?"

Sirius ruffled his godson's black hair, making it messier than before. "He's a politician. They have an infinite ability to view the world through their own special brand of rose-colored glasses. Do you mind that the public doesn't know you were there?"

The teen rolled his eyes at the older man. "Are you joking? I don't need any more publicity, good or bad. For all I know, the Daily Prophet would begin calling me the next Dark-Lord-in-Training or some such nonsense. Besides, I didn't actually vanquish him. I just helped delay him from casting a counter-curse to the acid pellets. I only hope that everyone now agrees that Trelawney's thrice-cursed prophecy has finally been fulfilled."

Remus spoke up from the doorway. "I saw Albus down the hall, but was able to convince him that you weren't up to visitors because of the after-effects of the Cruciatus." Harry stiffened at hearing the Headmaster's name, but then relaxed and smiled his thanks at Remus for his skillful deflection of the manipulative old man. Remus noticed the teen's reaction and said gently, "we do have Albus to thank for getting Sirius and I involved in the search and rescue effort. He had to pull quite a few strings to the Order included so that we could be there."

The teen sighed and nodded in agreement. "OK, so he came through that time. It doesn't mean that I forgive him for everything else he's done over the years. I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive him for trying to enslave me to that prophecy."

"Well, you'll be happy to know that he said even if the prophecy hadn't been fulfilled before, it probably was last night," Remus smiled.

"Finally," Sirius barked loudly. "It's about time!"

"What about the...what did the Headmaster call them when he tried to force me to return? Horcruxes?"

The gentle werewolf grinned. "Per Albus, Amelia Bones is taking over the search and destruction of those. Fudge apparently tried to insist that the spheres containing Voldemort's spirit be sent through the Veil immediately, but Amelia is insistent that every horcrux be destroyed first."

Sirius looked somber as he considered that. "Let's just hope that the Unspeakables in the Department of Mystery don't decide to 'experiment' on His spirit and somehow set him loose." All three shivered at the thought.

Amelia Bones looked up at the polite knock on her door and waved in the two American FBI agents. "Special Agents Sheppard and Peterson please come in and have a seat. I trust is your team fully recovered now?"

There had been no deaths on the side of the collaborating forces, but two FBI agents and two Aurors had sustained curse injuries that required hospitalization. One FBI agent had received a Breath Stealing curse that shut down his lungs. Fortunately, the FBI medics had known the counter curses.

"Thank you, Madame Bones. The team is in good health again." He waited politely for her to give permission to proceed.

With a brief nod she asked, "What can I do for you today?"

"My Director asked me to follow up on extradition proceedings for Lucius Malfoy. Will we be permitted to try him in the United States, or will he be sent to prison here first?"

Amelia shuffled through her in-box and pulled out a letter and perused it briefly. "Yes, the Director emphasized your government's desire for Mr. Malfoy to stand trial in the United States. There were some in the Ministry that wanted to believe the man's protestations of innocence due to coercion, but fortunately the Wizengamot supported my call to have every captured person interrogated under Veritaserum. He was questioned last night and admitted to freely taking the Dark Mark during the Dark Lord's first reign of terror. As a result, he is now an embarrassment to the Minister, so I was able to gain approval for the extradition." Her smile of satisfaction caused the Special Agent to make a mental note not to get on her bad side. The stories regarding the dagger prominently displayed on her desk hadn't hurt her reputation with the visiting agents either.

He stood and gave her a half bow. "Thank you, Madame Bones. I will arrange a detail to escort Mr. Malfoy to the United States at your convenience."

Minerva McGonagall was pleased to see the dark-clad figure of the Potions Master reading the newspaper impassively at the breakfast table three days after the defeat of Voldemort. He had been taken into custody and interrogated after the rescue mission and she had been worried that Albus wouldn't be able to save him a second time. She had volunteered to speak in his behalf, but hadn't been called. She smiled affectionately at him when he looked up as she seated herself beside him.

He inclined his head politely, "Good morning, Minerva."

She gave him a small smile and nod, "Good morning, Severus. Welcome back." The taciturn man simply raised one eyebrow and returned to his newspaper.

Minerva hid another smile at his behavior and unfolded her own paper. She poured herself a cup of tea and began to read through the front page stories before the rest of the staff arrived.

Lucius Malfoy to be Extradited to the United States!

In a surprising move, the Ministry of Magic has agreed to extradite prominent pureblood Lucius Malfoy to the United States for crimes allegedly committed in that country.

Malfoy was arrested at Voldemort's stronghold two nights ago and detained for questioning. Under DMLE Director Amelia Bones' new policies, all subjects detained during that raid were to be checked for the Dark Mark and questioned under Veritaserum. While it was known after the trials in the 1980's that the well-known patron of many political and humanitarian causes had been coerced under the Imperius curse to take the Dark Mark, under Veritaserum interrogation, Malfoy admitted that he had taken it freely during the Dark Lord's first reign. He also admitted to supporting You-Know-Who's reign of terror and criminal activities and was named as a participant or co-conspirator in over 40 criminal acts.

He is reported to stand accused of entering the United States illegally, attempted murder of two American citizens, as well as kidnapping and intent to commit murder of another American citizen. If convicted of all crimes, he would face the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. If he is not convicted, he will be returned to Great Britain to serve his term in Azkaban for his admitted Death Eater activities.

Minerva looked over at the Slytherin table, but didn't see Draco Malfoy. Perhaps it was simply too early yet, she considered. However, she had to wonder how many of their students would be impacted by having one or more family members imprisoned or Kissed. She would need to work with the other Heads of House to make sure the students were properly cared for. There was a rumor that the Ministry was trying to confiscate all assets of proven Death Eaters, whether that left their families destitute or not. They would have to make sure that everyone had a place to stay and possibly try to obtain scholarship funding for students that needed help with tuition.

She lowered her eyes to the next article and then glanced quickly over at the Potions Master, who was studiously paying attention to his breakfast.

Potions Master Severus Snape Exonerated

Potions Master and Hogwarts Potions Professor Severus Snape was once again exonerated for his crimes, even though he bears the Dark Mark of a Death Eater. After the first defeat of You-Know-Who in 1981, Albus Dumbledore championed the young Potions Master and stated that he had acted as a spy for the Light while feigning to be a spy for the Dark Lord.

It is reported that when the Dark Lord rose again after the dark ritual that led to the death of retired Auror Alastair Moody, Snape returned to Him and agreed to spy upon Albus Dumbledore and the Light, but was purportedly a double-agent actually working for Dumbledore again.

Under both truth spell and Veritaserum, Snape declared emphatically that he was a spy acting on behalf of the Light, although he did admit to having to commit crimes to maintain his cover as a loyal Death Eater. Albus Dumbledore insisted that the Potions Master saved innumerable lives by delivering information about planned attacks.

Senior Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt also spoke on behalf of the reported spy saying, "Snape may be one of the more unpleasant men I know, but he's also one of the bravest I've ever met. He put his life on the line every time he went in front of the Dark Lord. When the assault occurred on the Death Eater stronghold, he supported the Aurors during the fighting, then surrendered his wand and gave himself up. He deserves an Order of Merlin for the lives he saved as an undercover agent."

Snape was released without being charged with any crimes, but is required to maintain a monthly review with the DMLE for the next two years.

Minerva McGonagall closed the paper and looked over at her colleague who was sipping his coffee, after having read the newspaper with an impassive face. "I am sorry, Severus," she said quietly. "Shacklebolt is correct; you deserve an Order of Merlin for everything you've been through."

The Potions Master sneered, "Spies are simply an embarrassment for the victors after the smoke clears and no one wants to reward a former Death Eater. The best I could hope to expect was obscurity."

The stern older woman pursed her lips. "It doesn't mean I have to like it, Severus. You risked your life daily." She leaned over and laid a hand over his. "I hope you know that I respect and admire you for everything you did."

The speed with which his eyes flashed to hers was the only emotional reaction he displayed. After several moments, he nodded briefly and she squeezed his hand before releasing it. He looked down momentarily before meeting her eyes again and added, "I do plan to resign my position at Hogwarts in another year or two and dedicate my time to research Deputy Headmistress. However, I first need to make sure that all of my snakes are safe and well."

Minerva nodded ruefully. He had never enjoyed teaching, especially the younger years. His passion was in making and improving potions. "I understand. It doesn't mean I won't miss you, though. I had already thought about the need to meet with all House Heads to make sure any affected students had housing and tuition available. Your thoughts on a potential new Head for Slytherin would also be welcome. Perhaps you could train your successor."

He relaxed marginally at her concern for the students and inclined his head again before leaving to begin his discussions with his snakes.

Sirius Black paused outside the office door and tried to find any reason not to knock. He really didn't want to have this conversation, but it was the right thing to do. Both Harry and Remus had agreed and had encouraged him – almost pushed him out the Manor door – to proceed. After talking to Minerva, she also directed him to his current location. "Come on Padfoot," he muttered to himself, "so it's not going to be pleasant. Where's your Gryffindor courage?" He took a deep breath and knocked on the office door.

"Enter!" called the silky baritone sharply.

Severus Snape looked up from the book he was reviewing while standing at an overflowing bookcase and his face immediately twisted in aversion and hostility when he recognized his visitor. "Black, what are you doing here," he spat.

"Take it easy, Snape. I'm here on behalf of the students, especially those with parents caught in the raid on Riddle Manor."

The Potions Master looked at him with cold suspicion, then turned with a swish of his robes and sat behind his desk. "Speak," he snapped grimly.

Sirius couldn't help it; he really couldn't. "Woof!" he responded and then chuckled at the contempt on the other man's face. "Sorry, but you have to admit that you asked for it." He sat down, a bit more relaxed now.

"You don't like me and you have reason, Snape." His cheeks flushed in embarrassment as he remembered Harry's disapproval of the Marauders pranks against their contemporary. "I was bullied by Dudley and his gang my whole life, Padfoot," the teen had said. "What was funny to them was cruel and humiliating to me. What made you act like such bullies? How would you have liked being targeted like that?"

When confronted by his godson and his perspective, the older man had to stop and really consider his actions as a Hogwarts student. How would have loved to say he would have been good-natured about the pranks, but to be honest, some of them were pretty cruel. No, he had to admit that he would have been furious and would have retaliated against anyone who played those tricks. "I'm sorry, Pup. All I can say is that we were fifteen and idiots." It had taken another hour before his godson had softened enough to forgive him.

Sirius returned his attention to the Potions Master who was looking at him skeptically. "Yes, I admit that you have reason not to like me. I was an idiot when I was at Hogwarts. Harry called me a bully and described how he had been bullied his whole life. I had no right to be outraged on his behalf when I acted just like his bully of a cousin." He felt exposed and defenseless admitting this to Snape, but forced himself to continue. "I didn't think of myself as a bully, but as a prankster. You seemed to give as good as you got and I told myself that it was OK. But it wasn't." He met the other man's mistrustful eyes with as much sincerity as he could muster. "I was wrong and I apologize."

After several moments Snape said curtly, "What does that have to do with today's students?"

"I've heard that the Ministry is going to try to confiscate the assets of convicted Death Eaters." Sirius frowned at the short-sightedness of the Wizengamot members. "That could leave entire families without a home or resources. I have several properties in England that can be refurbished to provide housing for families and am willing to provide scholarships to students in need."

A slight widening of Snape's eyes and the lifting of one eyebrow was the only immediate reaction, so Sirius continued, "The Blacks are purebloods and an Ancient and Noble House that would be accepted by many of the families affected. My cousin Andromeda Tonks would oversee the scholarships and meet with the students twice a year to see review their grades and see if they need something beyond normal tuition, books and uniforms. While this will affect students in all Houses, I thought you might have the best insight into how to approach the students." He sat back in his chair and waited for the Head of Slytherin to respond.

Severus took a deep breath and tried to adjust as all of his perceptions twisted and warped. Sirius Black, the Gryffindor who loathed and despised Slytherins wanted to help his students? He looked at the man who tried to kill him years ago and shook his head slightly. "Why do you care what becomes of the children of Death Eaters Black? What's in it for you," he asked with distrust. He wasn't going to hand his students over only to be crushed later.

Sirius grimaced. "I deserved that. OK, you want honesty? You want me to bare my soul? Fine, I get my godson's respect, and that means a great deal to me." He leaned forward and said fervently, "Snape, this is the right thing to do. If the families are abandoned now, they will be fertile pickings for the next Dark Lord. I don't want that to happen. The Blacks have a dark enough history to be accepted by the dark families, and have a light family Head now that will be accepted by the neutral and light families. I have the properties that can be converted to give families living space, and possibly can provide work for those that want it."

The Potions Master stared at his old adversary, trying to find any hidden deceptions in his proposal. "You are proposing to house not only the students, but their families as well? For how long?"

Sirius leaned forward and nodded earnestly. "I have at least three good-sized properties standing empty that can hold quite a few people. Of course, I don't know the size of the families." He frowned for a few seconds and then added, "If those properties are insufficient, perhaps I should look into buying an apartment complex." He shook his head and looked again at Snape. "And it would be as long as it takes for them to become self-sufficient. I only have a few rules that would apply to anyone who takes me up on my offer."

Snape narrowed his eyes, certain that Black's plot would now come to light. "And what precisely would those rules be?"

"Hogwarts House affiliation stays at Hogwarts; I won't have Gryffindors attacking Slytherins or Slytherins attacking Hufflepuffs just because of their House while they are under my roof. They will be expected to maintain minimum grade requirements or class rank, but I'll want to work with you and the other House Heads to determine what those requirements should be." He stood and began pacing, his eyes getting animated and his voice rising in his excitement.

"Think about all we can do! Perhaps we could offer work-study programs and internships. Each of my properties has a steward and each one could probably help some who want to study estate management. I'll probably have to hire a Healer who travels between the properties, and maybe some students would be interested in a Healing apprenticeship." He began gesturing in large sweeping gestures as he paced. "And a school for the younger students! And if anyone is interested in teaching, they could intern in the school. Think of the possibilities, Snape!"

The Potions Master leaned back, staring at the passionate man in amazement. Black was being candid; the former spy would bet his life on it. "My NEWT level students would be able to prepare the potions a healer would need, such as headache and stomach draughts and basic healing potions," he offered.

Sirius turned to him with a wide grin. "Excellent! And if they want to pursue Healing or a Potions Mastery, it would be good experience for them." He realized he was halfway across the room and returned to his seat sheepishly, before leaning forward towards the other man. "What do you think, Snape? Will you help me set up something for the families in need?"

Severus inclined his head slowly. "I would not be opposed to participating in future discussions," he affirmed. "I will work with Minerva, Filius and Pomona to draft some proposals regarding minimal scholastics requirements and potential internship outlines."

Sirius beamed at the man he had once despised. "Thank you, Snape. I want to offer some hope to devastated families as quickly as possible, so perhaps we can draft a common letter from the House Heads introducing the concept to their students. That way, they and any remaining parents, guardians or siblings won't be shocked when I contact them."

"We should be able to have that notification by end of day tomorrow." The Potions Master looked at the other man warily. "You do realize that some families may be less than trusting of offers of assistance. They may even request that you pledge an Oath that you will not betray or abandon them."

To his surprise, the other man chuckled. "Harry said the same thing. He said after being perceived as dark by the Ministry and the general public as well as betrayed and abused by the Dark Lord, they will need more tangible proof of my sincerity. I can't say I blame them, although if their situation is desperate enough, they'll at least make use of what I offer until they have other viable options. I just want to avoid the other option being another Dark Lord."

Snape's thin lips twitched in a smirk. "Perhaps it will be feasible that we will be able to cooperate after all, Black."

Harry flopped down on his bed and looked around his room in contentment. Sirius and Remus had kept the press and even Dumbledore away from him, although he had given two statements to Amelia Bones and another to Special Agent Sheppard. Now that Voldemort was contained and a search was on for his horcruxes so that they could be destroyed, he finally had the chance to live a normal life. They had just returned home from Britain, and he savored the feeling.

Home. He had a real home with Sirius and Remus. He had gone from being an unwelcome and despised orphan to having adults who had proven that they not only wanted and loved him, but that they would put their lives on the line for him. He finally had learned that the Dursleys were the freaks, not him. Normal people do not lock children in cupboards and normal people do not let children continually be hungry. He had a feeling that Sirius had talked with Madame Bones about the Dursleys, as their treatment of him had come up in the second interview.

He was going to return to St. Croix at the beginning of the week, but for the next few days he would catch up with his friends around the world and give Sirius and Remus the time they needed so that they were willing to let him out of their sight again. At least Sirius had a new project that would keep him busy. Harry was quite proud of his formerly bigoted godfather. He had gone from detesting anyone wearing green and silver to being willing to give them another chance at life.

Sirius stood in the doorway watching his godson stare up at the ceiling with a fond smile. "What are you thinking of, Pup?" he asked.

Harry turned and beamed a grin at the older man. "I was just thinking that after ten years in Durskaban and then another two years in a magical castle filled with both magic and danger, I'm finally going to get a normal life. I have a nice normal home and I'm going back to a nice normal school. Maybe I'm going to get a 'happily ever after' ending", he added with a wry grin.

"To be perfectly serious, all's well that ends well," Sirius agreed with a smirk. He caught the pillow that came his way and descended on his godson with an evil grin. When Remus came to investigate the noise, he walked in to a snowstorm of feathers and two equally grinning and unrepentant faces.

The End

Thank you for reading "It's My Life" through to it's conclusion. I sincerely appreciated everyone who stayed with the story, submitted reviews, provided corrections or otherwise let me know your comments about the story.

Lastly, my thanks and appreciation to JK Rowling who created the Harry Potter world and permits budding writers to use her characters in our own stories.