Snape's lips curled into a thin smile while he slowly and carefully wiped gobstone juice off his face.
"Finally," he said, folding his napkin and setting down next to the stones. "I've seen mice learn with less difficulty."
Despite the wheelchair and his frequent fits of pain, Snape's velvety voice and snarky remarks still gave him a formidable air. One person, however, was seemingly unfazed by his demeanor.
"Promise you didn't let me win," said Hugo as he leaned nearly his entire frame over the Burrow's kitchen table to stare into Snape's eyes.
Severus arched an eyebrow and glared back at Hugo. He raised his napkin once again, this time to remove a slight, possibly imaginary, spray of spittle.
"Hmph," said the boy, settling back into his chair.
"How did you get so good at this game?" asked Lily in a small voice that wafted up from Snape's left side. She had been watching him beat Hugo at gobstones for the better part of an afternoon.
Dusty memories of his mother secretly pulling out her gobstones set when his father was out at work crept into Snape's head as he looked down at Potter's daughter. He could remember Eileen's sullen expression disappearing and being replaced by warm smiles as they played. It seemed like she preferred when Severus won to her own victory. In fact, those were the only moments that Snape could truly remember his mother being happy.
Snape had an unfamiliar urge to say something about her, but quickly batted the idea away. He hadn't the slightest clue how to begin with that type of conversation, especially with a child. Harry Potter's child at that, he had to remind himself. So, Snape simply said "practice," and pulled his scarf tighter around his neck.
Ceiling tiles shook over the table as thunder boomed across the sky. Rain continued to beat steadily against the house as it had been for hours.
"Oh, my," said Molly, looking out of the kitchen window with a hint of concern. "I hope these winds don't mess with the portkey again." She shook her head and busied herself with bringing a pot of tea over to Severus and the children.
"Are you cold, dear?" she asked when she saw him fiddling with his scarf.
"No," he dropped his hands to his lap. Severus was determined to be fussed over as little as possible with Potter's family. "I'm fine Molly, thank you."
"Have some tea anyway. Its always good in this weath-," the teapot rattled as a bolt of lightning lit up the kitchen, causing Molly to lurch into a tiny jump. "Really," she said, angrily pushing a small fist to the ceiling, as if admonishing the sky.
Hugo and Lily mouthed "dragon" to each other and ran to the window, hoping to catch another glimpse of lightning.
"Are you sure we can't ride our brooms just a little?" Hugo asked Molly while he watched her set down the tea.
"Please," Lily chimed in.
"Are you two joking? I can't believe I helped raise children who don't know how dangerous it would be to-"
"But Gran, real Quidditch players have to learn to play in loads of conditions," Lily argued.
"I thought you were all having fun playing gobstones," said Molly, both hands planted on her hips.
"Uncle Severus always wins," pouted Hugo.
"I believe you won our last round," the family turned to look at Snape as he spoke.
"So you didn't throw it?" Hugo's face lit up as he hurdled over to Snape.
Severus gave a small shrug and took a sip of tea, Hugo eyeing him warily.
"Here we are," croaked Grotsok, the goblin who brought Harry to a small Gringotts vault where Snape's belongings had been kept for nearly two decades.
Harry looked around at the sparse collection of boxes. He had never really gone through them, he felt it would have been a bit rude.
"Right, thank you Grotsok," said Harry, smiling at the grimacing goblin.
"I'll just do a compacting charm," he mumbled to himself over Grotsok's irritated breathing.
"Won't work," said the goblin, picking at a long, black, nail.
"What do you mean?" asked Harry, turning to look at him.
Grotsok tilted his head over to one small box near the corner of the vault. Harry followed his gesture, squatted down next to the box, and pulled open the lid. Inside, he saw his own face reflected back at him in a small, swirling pool.
How could he have forgotten? Harry caught himself rubbing his scar as he stared at the dismantled pieces of Albus Dumbledore's pensieve. He quickly pulled his hand down, always a bit disturbed by the old habit.
Harry vaguely remembered packing the pensieve up in a disjointed rush after the battle and wanting not to look at it again. The memories from Snape he had seen in the device tore apart his world more than anything else he had experienced that day- probably more than anything since he received his Hogwarts letter.
Looking at the pensieve now, he had a strange, itchy feeling behind his eyes and a swell of emotion in his chest.
"Well, I'll just carry this one then," said Harry while taking a deep breath and awkwardly picking up the package.
Ignoring the unimpressed stare from Grotsok he flicked his wand, condensing the rest of the packages into a small pile of marble-sized boxes. He moved to pick them up when he heard another voice from the vault doorway.
"Sorry to interrupt Mr. Potter," said Griphook, whose face was contorted into what Harry eventually realized might be a smile.
"Oh hello, Griphook!" said Harry as he shifted the weight of the box to his shoulder. He tried futilely to pull himself out of 19-year-old memories stirred by seeing the pensieve to remember proper goblin etiquette.
"An urgent message for you from the Mrs. Weasley in the Minister's office," Griphook said, handing Harry a piece of parchment.
Albus paced back and forth in front of the glowing green light streaming in from the Slytherin common room window. Beyond the glass, the giant squid seemed to be following his movements.
"It's perfect," said Scorpius, putting down the latest draft of Al's letter to his parents. "I think we've finally got it." He had been leaning back in one of the ebony wood chairs at the study table in the center of the room. After lowering the chair down onto its four legs, he folded up the letter and walked over to Al.
"You think?" Al took the letter from Scorpius' outstretched hand and gulped. They had been working on the letter during their free periods all day.
"Definitely. Any more editing and it'll be ruined." Scorpius put an arm around Al's shoulders and steered him away from the window. "To the owlry, my friend."
"Thanks for helping, Scorp." Al felt a rush of relief that it was done, and felt grateful for Scorpius. Over the past few days he felt grateful for Malfoy often. He was shaping up to be quite a good friend. "To the owlry," Al thrust his arm out dramatically, causing his friend to chuckle.
The two boys tiptoed through the school's hallways, trying to avoid Moriarty's gang.
When they got to the owlry, Al's hand shook as he tied the letter to his owl Athena's claw.
"Its alright mate," Scorpius assured him.
Al clumsily finished the knot, and they watched Athena expanded her large black wings and fly into the gray, cloudy sky.