A/N: WARNING: I got a bit mushy in light of Christmas. So, if you don't want to read this kind of Snape, then stop at the end of the previous chapter, which was the original ending. If you want to learn more about Heaven, and are okay with an OOC Snape, then read on.
1 year later / 1 year post-Voldemort
As Harry walked up the beaten path, he reminisced about the year that had passed since he, Snape, and Dobby had defeated Voldemort. After fully recuperating at his mum's cottage, as well as giving the Wizarding World time to settle into a Voldemort-free existence, Snape and Harry had returned to Hogwarts. School had been on break for the summer holiday, but all of the teachers had returned to greet them and celebrate their success. Upon Harry's insistence, a sheepish Dobby had made his way up from the kitchens to accept everyone's praises as well. Dumbledore himself had escorted the three of them to the Ministry and had overseen their interviews in front of the entire Wizengamot. Harry's had been the easiest, with him receiving a standing ovation and an Order of Merlin First Class almost immediately. Snape's case had been more challenging, what with his history as a Death Eater and only Dumbledore as a witness to his redemption. It took Snape showing everyone that he now lacked the Dark Mark—as well as the knowledge that anyone carrying the Dark Mark had died when Voldemort did—that had finally persuaded the remaining members who were most reticent to forgive Snape for past crimes committed in the Dark Lord's service. That left Dobby. The house elf's interview had lasted the longest, and it took all of Dumbledore's, his, and Snape's persuasive skills to ensure that Dobby became the first non-human creature to be awarded an Order of Merlin First Class. Exhausted, they had all returned to the castle, triumphant in their Order of Merlins and in their welcome back to the Wizarding World. The only disappointment had come the next morning when, at breakfast with Dumbledore, Harry had learned that Snape had already departed the school. Shortly thereafter, Dobby had joined the potions master. It had taken Harry nearly a year to track down Snape's whereabouts, and as he continued up the path, he wondered just what the reclusive wizard's welcome would be like. No one had seen Snape since his interview at the Ministry. Dumbledore had requested that Harry respect the man's privacy, and Harry had done so, but today was the one year anniversary of Voldemort's defeat, and while the remainder of the Wizarding World had gathered together to celebrate, Harry had been preoccupied with thoughts of the man and the elf who, together, had saved his life.
As Harry approached the unassuming stone cottage, he took in the flowers and herbs growing out of crooked wooden window boxes as well as haphazardly along the cobblestone path. Their disarray was offset by a maze of neat garden plots along the side of the abode, filled with a variety of plants which Harry assumed to be potions ingredients. He smiled at the thought of Snape and Dobby working together to grow and harvest the many different varieties. As a soft wind fluttered through the trees that dotted the property, Harry could smell the sweet scent of flower blossoms floating on the air. He felt at peace here, and was not the least surprised that Snape had chosen a location so far out in the country. With no neighbors in sight, and no media knocking at his door at all hours of the day and night as they had with Harry, Harry could definitely see the appeal of having a country home to escape to.
With a mixture of trepidation and anticipation, he knocked at the plain wooden door and waited. Surely Snape had already been alerted to his presence. Snape would have had wards galore surrounding his property. That thought brought another one quickly on its heels: if Snape had not wanted Harry to be able to find this place, he wouldn't have been able to. Thus, Snape must have keyed his wards to accept Harry. As Harry pondered the significance of this, the cottage door swung open.
"Harry Potter, sir!" a shrill voice squealed. Harry looked down to see the owner of the voice and nearly keeled over in shock.
"Dobby?" Harry asked.
Smiling widely, Dobby nodded. "Yes, Harry Potter, sir."
"Wow," Harry breathed. "You look so…"
"Refined?" a sharp voice intoned from the background, its owner unseen.
"Yeah," Harry breathed. Harry shook the house elf's hand heartily and smiled. "You look great, Dobby, really you do."
Dobby beamed at the complement, spinning around in a circle to show off his wardrobe. He was dressed in a long, black frock coat with small black buttons from neck to navel, and long tails that nearly touched the ground. Beneath that he wore what looked like black pantaloons, and he even had shiny black shoes on his feet. Harry realized that he'd never seen an elf wear shoes before.
"Dobby is still wearing the socks Harry Potter gave him, sir," Dobby said, extending each leg in turn to show Harry one bright orange sock with black stripes and one lime green sock with red polka dots.
"That's great, Dobby," Harry said, stepping into the cottage.
Harry barely had a chance to look around as he followed Dobby toward what he would soon realize was the kitchen. What he did notice was that the cottage was full of light and color, with windows letting in the afternoon sun, their rays dancing off of books and parchment, and sea shells? Harry was so busy trying to wrap his mind around that fact, and how different this place was from how he'd expected the bat of the dungeons to live, that he nearly tripped when he saw the potions master himself.
"Snape," he breathed in surprise, looking the man up and down.
"Potter," Snape said, raising his eyes only a moment from the cauldron brochure he was perusing.
"You look…" Harry stammered, taking in the man's tanned, healthy complexion and casual yet respect-worthy attire. The Snape he had known had been sallow-skinned with greasy hair and a lined, work-weary face. This man looked 20 years younger, and dare he say it, relaxed and… content? Harry shook his head, wondering if this unexpected image of his potions master would change. When it didn't, he cleared his throat and said instead: "It's good to see you. Thank you for allowing me into your home."
Snape merely nodded, not looking up from his catalog.
"How are things going?" Harry inquired, feeling a bit awkward. He had felt the urge to spend at least part of this day with the two friends who had kept him sane and helped him to defeat the evilest wizard of all time. But now that he was here, he wasn't quite sure what to say.
"Professor Snape is training Dobby in potions, Harry Potter, sir," Dobby said, beaming with pride. "Professor Snape is a good and patient teacher. He is showing Dobby how to choose all of the ingredients and how to use them properly. He is even allowing Dobby to package the potions and send them by owl to fill the orders, sir."
Harry grinned. "I am sure you are doing a very good job, Dobby."
Snape ruffled the paper in his hands. "It is remarkable what one can teach someone who wants to learn," Snape said, meeting Harry's gaze with a pointed look.
"I suppose it is," Harry conceded. "Will you return to Hogwarts to teach next year, sir?" Dumbledore had announced that Snape was taking a well-deserved break during Harry's seventh year. Harry wondered if Snape's decision not to teach had had anything to do with the fact that Harry would have been in his class.
Snape laid the brochure on the table and laced his fingers together, studying Harry with a calculating expression. "That remains to be seen," Snape replied. "And you, Potter, what will you do now that you have graduated?"
Harry had been asking himself that very question. "That remains to be seen," he echoed, producing a bottle of Ogden's Finest Firewhiskey and three glass goblets from a knapsack he'd been carrying with him. "Care to drink to our indecision?" he asked.
Snape rolled his obsidian eyes, but reached for one of the glasses nonetheless. "I am not indecisive," he countered. "I am merely considering my options."
"Me too," Harry said as he popped the top on the whiskey and poured whiskey into Snape's goblet. He poured some for Dobby, who looked astonished at being included, and then filled his own glass as well. "Here's to the future," he said, raising his cup. Dobby squeaked and Snape grunted, but after a loud clink, they all took a swig of the fiery liquid. Harry had to pound a coughing Dobby on the back after whiskey nearly caused the elf to choke, but once they'd settled in, it didn't take long to finish off the whole bottle.
4 years later /5 years post-Voldemort
"Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby chimed, relief evident on his face.
"Sorry I'm late," Harry said, shedding his rain-sodden cloak and stepping out of his shoes once inside the door. "I was delayed at the Burrow." Harry followed the eager house elf into the kitchen where Snape was seated, a copy of the Daily Prophet spread out before him.
"Anything interesting?" Harry asked.
"There never is," Snape muttered, closing the paper and setting it aside as he accepted the bottle of Ogden's Finest Firewhiskey that Harry handed him. Expertly uncorking it, Snape poured the amber liquid into the three crystal goblets already arranged on the table.
As had become their custom, Harry raised his goblet to clink with the others. Harry normally started off the toasts, but looked to Dobby this night instead. Dobby, feeling the weight of Harry's expectation, looked startled. When Snape's gaze joined Harry's, Dobby squeaked "To another year of potions learning with Master Snape, sir, and another year of good health for Harry Potter, sir."
Snape quirked an eyebrow at Harry, but when Harry looked away, Snape spoke, "To one year in my illustrious career at Hogwarts without any dunderheads for students."
Hands trembling, Harry choked back a nervous laugh at Snape's sardonic words. Steadying himself, he pronounced: "To my soon-to-be bride, Ginny Weasley."
Dobby squealed with delight, while Snape looked faintly amused. Together, the three of them sipped their drinks, contemplating the year to come.
2 years later / 7 years post-Voldemort
"To another dreaded year with the idiots who call themselves my students," Snape grumbled.
"To Master Snape, sir," Dobby intoned, "and to my friend Harry Potter, sir, and his Ginny."
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Harry chimed in: "To my unborn child, who is due to be born next month."
Snape choked on his drink. "The child of rule-breaker Potter and his hellfire wife? Merlin help us all."
Harry beamed with excitement and winked at Dobby, taking a long swig of his whiskey before topping off all of their goblets in celebration.
1 year later / 8 years post-Voldemort
"To the newest member of my growing family who arrived a fortnight ago," Harry said, raising his goblet, "Albus Severus Potter."
Snape froze, his own cup half-way to his mouth, his expression comically confused. "You named him WHAT?" Snape spluttered, banging his crystal goblet down on the table.
Dobby rushed to Snape's side, mopping up the spilled liquid with a tea towel.
"Albus Severus," Harry repeated calmly, bowing his head to hide his smile. Risking a look at his former potions masters, Harry added, "A fine name, don't you agree?"
1.5 years later / 9.5 years post-Voldemort
Harry knocked vigorously on the wooden door before rubbing his hands together, as much from the cold as nerves. The wind blew icy and brisk, ruffling his cloak and whipping the freshly fallen snow into his face. He was taking a chance that Snape would even be here over the Christmas holiday. It was out of character for Harry to visit any time other than their unspoken annual tradition each spring to mark the Mad Man's death.
Harry had just raised his hand to knock again when Snape opened the door.
"What has happened?" Snape inquired, a look of concern momentarily fleeting across his normally unreadable features.
Harry hesitated. Why he felt compelled to share his news with Snape was beyond him, yet the impulse was there, undeniable and unrelenting.
"May I come in?" Harry asked.
Snape quirked an eyebrow and stepped aside, motioning Harry toward the kitchen, which was their usual meeting place.
As Harry strode past, he noticed numerous potions awards newly framed and hanging in the hallway.
"Dobby," Snape allowed, his voice tinged with exasperation.
Harry nodded knowingly. Those two were made for each other. "Where is Dobby?" Harry asked.
"He is brewing. Shall I fetch him?"
"Please," Harry said. Dobby was wise beyond measure and made a good buffer when it came to Snape's irascible nature and abrupt mood swings.
With shaky hands, Harry fetched the crystal goblets from the cabinet and poured three tall glasses of their usual poison: Ogden's Finest Firewhiskey. Then he sat down and waited.
"Harry Potter, sir!" Dobby cried. "It is good to see you, sir!"
"And you," Harry said, relaxing at the elf's presence while taking in his appearance. Dobby looked more and more like Snape each time Harry saw him if that were possible. Dressed in forbidding clothing like his adopted master, Dobby's bright, mismatched socks were the only reminder of his more humble beginnings. "How are you, Dobby?"
"Dobby is very good, sir. Master Snape is teaching Dobby much, sir. Dobby is brewing his own potions now, sir."
"That's great, Dobby," Harry said, returning Dobby's proud smile.
Harry glanced up in time to see the potions master himself enter the room. His dark robes swung around him like a second skin, his expression as he took in the glasses of firewhiskey grim. He looked less at ease than he did when Harry visited in the summer. Harry guessed that the strain of Hogwarts' students added extra lines to the man's face.
"What brings you here, Potter?" Snape inquired.
"Two things, actually," Harry hedged. He fumbled with the stem of his goblet, trying to pluck up his courage. "I wanted to ask you about your… " Harry swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. "About your daughter. Henrietta." Henrietta Evan, Heaven. His half-sister.
Snape paled, the muscles of his face contorting into something very unwelcoming, and his shoulders bunching as if readying for a fight.
"I'm sorry," Harry quickly interjected. "I didn't mean to spring this on you like this, but…"
"But what?" Snape snapped, anger clear in his tone.
"Ginny… we… we had a daughter. Three months ago. And she…" Harry paused, and bit his lip. Tension hung in the air as thick as molasses.
An interminable silence passed before Snape barked with impatience. "She what?"
Unable to say the words, Harry pulled a photograph from his pocket, and with a look of regret, slid it across the table to Snape.
As his gaze alighted on the moving photograph, Snape felt as if someone had just sucker punched him in the gut, hard. "Heaven," he breathed. He glanced quickly at Potter to see if this was some kind of sick joke, but the look on Potter's face assured him it was not.
His hands trembling and his throat swelling shut, he studied the baby girl in the photo. His baby girl. "No," he whispered. "It's not possible." But she looked identical. She had the same bright green eyes—Lily's eyes—the same black hair. She even had that one tight springy curl at her left temple, the one that no matter how many times he had pulled the silky strands through his fingers to straighten it, it had always sprung right back to its original shape. Her cheeks were rosy and her cupid's bow lips were pursed in a way that reminded Snape of an impending storm. She might bellow at some perceived injustice, or she might burst into laughter if he could just distract her long enough to forget. He would tickle the soft skin on the bottom of her feet, or blow raspberries on her tummy. He remembered how her whole face would change, reflecting delight instead of insolence. How she'd reach for him and touch his stubbly cheek, giggling for all the world to see. How Lily would sidle up next to them, lean her shoulder against his, and stroke Heaven's baby fine hair first, and then his own thicker, raven hair before kissing them both on the cheek in turn before returning to whatever she had been doing. He ran his index finger longingly along the babe's cheek, his heart aching in a way he thought he'd never have to suffer again.
Abruptly Snape pushed up from the table, leaving a nervous Potter and a stunned Dobby behind as he paced over to the sink. Bracing himself against the cool porcelain, he stared blankly out into the back gardens, the bleak and forlorn landscape mirroring the desolation of his soul.
Feeling ill at ease, Harry exchanged a worried glance with Dobby.
"We named her Lily," Harry offered, hoping his words might lend some comfort. "Lily Luna Potter."
Harry watched as Snape nodded once, his back still turned, but otherwise remained rigid.
"Would you like to meet her?" Harry asked tentatively. He heard a stifled sob and knew that that was the wrong thing to say. He felt like he should go the man, offer some comfort, but Snape was not a man that accepted such things from others.
"Why did you come here tonight, Potter? Why tell me this?" Snape rasped.
Harry felt the whip of accusation in Snape's words. Why had he felt the need to tell Snape? To bring up the man's most painful past? "Honestly," Harry whispered, "I'm not sure. It feels like a sign. Ever since she was born, I had this feeling that you were supposed to be a part of her life. Even though I named Al after you, I didn't have the same feeling with him." Harry paused, considering his next words. "And then, as she grew, I just knew. I tried to ignore it, but as each day passed, I knew she looked more and more like Heaven. This photo sealed it," he said, a lump forming in his own throat. When Ginny had brought the photos home, newly developed, that one had slipped from the stack and onto the floor. When he'd picked it up, he'd gasped. There, before his eyes, was the identical image to the one he'd seen projected from Snape's mind the night that Voldemort had tortured them both with their memories—it was the image of his mother and Snape's daughter Heaven, now his daughter Lily. He had no idea what that meant, but it had led to a decision neither he nor Ginny had ever anticipated making.
"There's more," Harry croaked. "Ginny and I, we… we want you to be her godfather."
Snape felt his carefully constructed world splinter into a million jagged-edged pieces. Try as he might to pick up the fragments and shove them back into place, he couldn't. Potter had seen to that. Flexing his shoulders and trying to regain control of his trembling limbs, Snape turned back to the boy-turned-man who'd invaded his otherwise peaceful holiday break. "Leave."
Potter looked stunned. "What?"
"Leave!" Snape demanded, his gaze hard and his voice fierce. In a quieter tone, he added, "Come back tomorrow. Bring the child."
Snape watched as Harry looked to Dobby, surprise tinged with a shadow of triumph spilling across his features.
1 day later / 9.5 years post-Voldemort
A different man opened the door to Harry and his young daughter. Gone was the haughty, harsh, self-assured potions master. In his place was a man who looked as nervous and scared as a new father. With Dobby bobbing by his side, not a choking-hazard-of-a-button to be seen between the two of them, Snape ushered Harry and the warmly bundled baby into the sitting room. Surprised not to be in the kitchen, Harry took in his surroundings. A fire burned in the grate, giving the toasty room a soothing, homey feel. Harry unwrapped the sleeping child and looked to Snape.
"Can you hold her a minute? I'd like to get out of my cloak."
Snape looked apprehensive but nodded. As Harry handed his third child over to Snape, he realized that unlike himself, who held his children every day, Snape hadn't held a baby in over 20 years. At first awkward and stiff, Harry breathed a sigh of relief as Snape seemed to remember his time as a father and settled into a more relaxed position, baby Lily cradled in the older man's arms, secure against his chest.
Harry slipped out of his now too warm cloak and shed his jumper as well. Lily started to fuss, and Harry stepped forward to relieve Snape of the crying child, but as he did so, a strange sound filled the air. Harry froze, unable to believe his ears. Was Snape singing? An eerie, but undeniably beautiful, Irish ballad drifted toward him. As his formerly fierce potions master rocked Lily, he seemed to be remembering a distant time when it was his own daughter he comforted and rocked back to sleep.
Harry shared an amazed glance with Dobby, who looked equally taken aback. Finally, Harry sank into a chair, shock still washing over him. He leaned his head back and listened to the melody, his eyes growing as heavy as his daughter's in the overly warm room, the crackling of the fire and glowing embers as relaxing as the Burrow after an evening of good food, wine, and company.
When Harry next opened his eyes, it was Snape who had his head back, eyes closed. Only a soft hum came from the man now while Lily slept on, her fingers in her mouth.
"Heaven did that too," Snape murmured.
The sound of Snape's baritone voice made Harry jump. "Did what?"
"Sucked her middle and ring fingers while she slept. Always those two," he reminisced. "And when she woke up, she'd try and stick those same two fingers into her mother's or my mouth," Snape said, a sigh of longing in his voice.
Harry's own mouth dropped open. "Lily does that too."
"I know," Snape said. "She woke up briefly while you were asleep."
Harry bit his lip, trying to pluck up the courage to ask what was on his mind. Softly, he said, "What happened to Heaven?"
After a long pause, Snape said, his voice equally soft, "We never knew. She passed away in her sleep when she was 9 months old. The Muggle doctors called it 'cot death'. We didn't dare take her to St. Mungo's for an autopsy for fear of being discovered. Your mother and I had married in secret." A fondly reminiscent look passed over Snape's features at his next words: "Heaven was a surprise." Snape paused and took a deep breath. "Your mother never forgave herself."
Harry swallowed, knowing full well that Snape never forgave himself either. Harry doubted he himself would react any differently if the same thing happened to one of his children. The self-recriminations and if only's would be endless.
Harry glanced at Dobby, whose orblike eyes were filled with tears. Harry had to clear his own throat before speaking. "I'm very sorry for your loss, Professor." He knew his words would do little to fill the void, but perhaps his daughter could mend some of the damage.
Snape shook his head once, as if to ward off the sad memories. Opening his eyes to meet Harry's, he said. "The answer to your question is yes."
"Yes, I would be honored to be her godfather," Snape said, looking down at the baby girl sleeping in his arms Your mother always believed in signs. I used to think it was her superstitious Muggle upbringing."
"Remus told me she believed in second chances, too," Harry said.
Snape made a non-committal sound at Harry's pronouncement, as if not quite willing to go that far. Then he closed his eyes, leaned back in his chair, and continued to hum softly while rocking the sleeping child.
Harry looked at Dobby, a tentative smile etched on his face. Dobby, bless him, gave Harry a thumb's up sign, which Harry returned with dawning hope.