A/N: This is it! The final chapter.
This has been a long and amazing journey, and I'm half-sad and half-ecstatic that it's complete. In this ending, we wonder what became of everyone, yet I think we can be satisfied that this tale ends where their brighter future begins.
Enormous thanks to my amazing beta, who has been a brilliant and valuable contributor to making this story the polished piece that it is. Without her, it wouldn't be half as good as it is now. Everyone, please take a moment to acknowledge the hard work she's put in, because I don't know what I would have done without her.
My eternal gratitude also goes to my readers, who have enjoyed, reviewed, encouraged, constructively critiqued, cheered, and paid me for my work of written love with their words, too. And, also, for the amazing patience you have displayed when chapters have been slow in coming out, or my slightly neurotic tendencies caused me to scramble to rewrite or tweak a chapter just before it's supposed to be posted.
As always, I do not own. But sometimes, there is a certain relief to not owning, because it leaves you free to explore a world of possibilities many, many times.
As a side note, if you write a review with questions, please be sure that you're logged in so that I can reply. :3
Thank you, all!
The day had dawned sunny and bright. Where there were fields, flowers bloomed with wild, breathtaking scents that carried in the breeze and made the world sweet while simultaneously causing people to sneeze and eyes to water, and not because of the breathtaking beauty. It was neither hot nor humid, but a pleasant day, the kind that drew even the most closeted people from their homes to enjoy it. It was one of those days that gave off the sensation that the world had been reborn overnight and begun anew—which was rather something of a let-down, because as with any other day, people had things to attend to.
Kingsley was in his office, reviewing several forms and reform propositions that needed his input—and, their progenitors would hope, his signature—when the door opened, and he looked up in time to see Harry peer inside, Selenius's face popping in just a foot or so below his from behind the doorframe.
"Er," Harry said, glancing down at Selenius rather awkwardly, who was looking up at him with a very sour look. "I'm about to head down to the courtroom—I'm dropping Selenius off here."
"You still could have snuck me in," Kingsley heard Selenius mutter to him, as Harry backed away, opening the door further to let him in.
"I'm not interested in a detention before school's even started," Harry deadpanned, and Kingsley suspected he was actually quite serious. He would be retaking his seventh year starting on September 1st, like everyone else—last year had officially been scratched. "That's a record that not even I'm willing to make. Well," he said, giving Kingsley a bit of a nod, "Have fun, I guess. I'll come back when it's over."
The door shut behind him with a click, and Selenius stood there, hands stuck in his pockets, and glaring at the floor with a sullen look. Kinglsey gave the boy a moment to wallow in his thoughts, and then sat up and leaned back in his chair.
"Have a seat," he offered, gesturing at the comfy chair opposite him. "I brought some stuff for you, just in case you forgot to bring anything—getting out of the house on time with something like this looming over can be a challenge, I know."
"I hate getting up early," Selenius grumbled, but his shoulders relaxed as he climbed into the proffered chair. He let out a muffled sound of surprise as he very nearly sank into it.
Kingsley gave him an easy smile that belied his laughter as Selenius struggled to sit up straight. It was very difficult for uptight ministry officials to try to argue their points when they were practically slumping in their seats, hence the reason Kingsley had chosen such a ridiculously plush chair. Selenius, however, kicked off his shoes and pulled up his feet so that he was now sitting cross-legged and upright, and then reached over for one of the chocolate frog cards that had been stacked to the side of the desk.
Kingsley reached over and tossed a Muggle Sudoku book onto the desk, along with the most recent editions of The Quibbler and the Daily Prophet. A bowl of sweets sat near the edge of the desk with the chocolate frog cards, and Selenius hesitated before reaching over and plucking out a sugar quill and sucking on it as he began to unwrap his chocolate frog.
"I don't get why I have to be here anyway," Selenius said, working around the quill. He glanced around the room, which was surprisingly well-organized, though every inch was covered with newspaper clippings and tacked notes. Almost reluctantly, he reached over for the Sudoku puzzle and nicked a quill from the desk, unable to resist the lure of the challenge. "I was there for Draco's trial."
"I'm sure your parents have their reasons," Kingsley said soothingly. Coming from anyone else, it would have sounded condescending, but from Kingsley, it had the desired effect of setting someone at ease. His eyes crinkled with concern, however, as he took in Selenius's defensive posture. "How is Mr. Malfoy, anyway?"
Selenius shrugged, removing the sugar quill from his mouth long enough to take a bite out of his chocolate frog. "He's going back to Hogwarts next year, I guess. Like everyone else."
"Are you looking forward to it?"
Selenius made a face. "If I wasn't repeating first year, sure. But after everything that happened last year… I guess I just really wish I could go off, you know? Have time to myself, try to get a grip on things." He suddenly looked uncomfortable. "But everyone just expects everything to fall in place afterwards—the war's over, so it feels like no one's allowed to dwell on it now. It's like you're not really supposed to talk about it, because no one wants to hear how bad it was for you, because they're convinced they had it worse, or that just because you didn't have it as bad as some means you shouldn't talk about it at all."
"Have you told your parents how you feel?" Kingsley didn't want to imagine the kid carrying all of this in his head alone. Surely Hermione, at least, was aware of what was going on with her son? Or Severus, perhaps— the man was frighteningly perceptive.
"They've got their own stuff going on," Selenius muttered, and his voice was getting softer with every word, so that Kingsley had to strain to hear him. "I mean, last year, I had to deal with everything by myself… I guess I'm used to that, now. Dad was… you know."
Kingsley made a noise that sounded like "Mhm," but he didn't press the issue. He was fairly well aware of what had gone on at Hogwarts during Severus Snape's reign as Headmaster. He had shown his son no favoritism, rarely acknowledged his very existence, and the entire experience had been a miserable one all around. But Selenius looked two words away from clamming up completely, so instead, he suggested:
"Maybe a repeat of your first year isn't such a bad idea," he offered. "Your teachers already know how smart you are—you can either breeze through classes and use the free time to do other things, or ask them to assign you extra material. I'm sure they'd be happy to oblige."
"You think?" Selenius looked almost hopeful.
"No one's saying you can't," Kingsley said with a gentle smile.
"I'll ask," Selenius said, but he sounded rather doubtful, as though he didn't dare expect more. Glancing at the newspapers on the desk, he added, "I've been keeping up with the Prophet, too. Draco doesn't talk about it, much, but his dad's not the only one in jail."
"Like who?" Kingsley prodded.
Selenius shrugged. "Crabbe and Goyle, I guess—they were in Draco's year. A lot of the families of some of the Slytherins—I don't think I'm going to be very popular, next year, since anyone who's not in jail is probably going to be very unhappy with me." He swallowed the remains of his chocolate frog, and then glanced down at the card that came with it. He gazed at it for a moment, and then looked up at Kingsley. "Do you collect chocolate frog cards?"
"I used to," Kingsley said, still absorbing the rest of what Selenius had told him. "When I was about your age. They were just about as popular then as they are now." He winked at Selenius. "My favorite used to be Agrippa, but in more recent years, I think it's become Albus Dumbledore."
At this, Selenius grinned, and help up the card almost sheepishly. Albus Dumbledore's visage peered out calmly from the frame, and then tipped off its hat in greeting before swaying out of view. "Yeah. He never hangs around for long, either."
"It's almost as though he still has plenty to do," Kingsley agreed.
Selenius's interest seemed to pick up at this. "Exactly. And I want to continue it, too."
Kingsley gave him a curious look. "What do you mean?"
"Well, he discovered the twelve uses of dragon's blood, right?" Selenius stated. "I want to be the one to find the thirteenth. Or—I dunno—maybe I'll figure something out that he never got, right? Stuff that no one ever really imagined possible."
Kingsley glanced down at the half-completed set of Sudoku puzzles, the empty chocolate frog wrapper lying on his desk, and finally the chocolate frog card of the brilliant old man with the famously sweet tooth, and smiled.
"Do you ever think things will get better?" Selenius suddenly blurted. He sat up a bit straighter. "That things will go back to being—normal?"
There was a sudden commotion outside, and they both turned to look around as the door was suddenly thrown open and a harried-looking ministry official burst in, quite out of breath, and with an air of unmistakable panic. He didn't even see Selenius as he strode in, glasses knocked askew as he vied unnecessarily for Kingsley's attention.
"Minister! …Minister, they've gone," he gasped.
"Of course they have," Kingsley said, looking rather unconcerned. "You couldn't expect them to stay all day, could you?"
"No! No—I mean, they left right in the middle of the trial—"
"Trial? I thought it was merely an inquiry."
"It is! It is—it's just—they left with no warning—"
"That must have been quite a feat, since you can't Apparate in or out of the courtrooms," Kinglsey observed.
"They snuck their wands in with them through security somehow," the man said, still panting. "And—and a portkey. They stayed for all of half an hour to tell us the bare bones of their story, and before we could start questioning them, they asked to give a demonstration, and—and—"
He paused to gasp for breath, and then said, "He—Professor Snape de-aged himself right before our eyes—we couldn't believe it when Mrs. Snape told us that she'd done it herself, but he just proved it right there for all of us, and—and then she left a dusty old notebook and a chocolate frog card on her chair, and they just—Portkeyed away. Gone!"
"He de-aged?" Kingsley asked curiously.
"We didn't believe—Mrs. Snape, when she explained that she herself had de-aged, that's how she slotted herself back in her timeline, she said—it was the basis for half her tale, we thought she was mad until they demonstrated how—de-aging! He de-aged himself!" the man exclaimed, spluttering, not quite sure how to express himself. "It is possible! And they—"
"That's all very interesting, but I'd be much more interested in seeing this notebook," Kingsley said with an air of accepting calm. "And the chocolate frog card. Where are they now?"
"Tell them to deliver the notebook and its contents to my office before lunch," Kingsley said, smiling. "In the condition they found it in, of course. Anything else?"
The man gazed at him dumbstruck, and then stuttered, "You're not—you're not going to go after them?"
"Why would I?" Kingsley said. "It's an inquiry, isn't it? That's what I've been told all along, anyway."
"Yes, yes, but—but…" the man broke off suddenly, seeing that Kingsley's unconcerned expression hadn't changed, and suddenly looked defeated. "I… I suppose that's all, sir. I just…"
"If you want to make yourself productive for the rest of the day, I'd start by calling up the Prophet and giving them the full story before they start nosing about," Kingsley said, opening up the morning edition and flipping it back closed for a moment to read the headline, before passing it across his desk. The man jumped when Selenius reached over to take it, finally noticing the boy's presence, and then looked back at the Minister.
"I—yes, I'll do that—right away—"
"And tell the Head of the Department of International Cooperation that I won't be able to make the meeting this evening, won't you?" Kingsley said, rising to his feet. Selenius set the paper aside and leapt off the chair, bending down to shove his shoes back on. "There's a dinner planned at the Burrow, and you know I'm never one to miss an opportunity for good cooking."
The ministry official stuttered for a moment, and then turned around, tripping over his robes as he left. The door didn't shut properly as he left, and the sounds of muffled, flurried noise could be heard coming from the hallway. Selenius grinned.
"Mrs. Weasley will be happy to hear that," he said, plucking another sugar quill from the desk and placing it on his tongue. "That's probably where mum and dad are, too. I think they already had plans to celebrate tonight. And Remus has been hinting at something for days."
At that moment, the door opened again, and Harry stuck his head back in. He was grinning, and it was in such a way that it seemed he wasn't able to help himself. In fact, he looked rather exhilarated as he took in the room and its occupants.
"Ready to go?" he said. "I've already lost Gryffindor ten points for cheek, and another ten for laughing. I've got nothing to lose by bringing you back before they've finished putting up party decorations—whoops," he said, looking at Kingsley. "Was that supposed to be a surprise?"
"I knew it!" Selenius crowed, leaping to his feet. "My birthday isn't for another month, but I knew they were coming up with something!"
"It's for the both of us," Harry said, smiling broadly. "We'll surprise them, shall we?"
Kingsley chuckled. "Tell Molly I'll be there as promised. And Selenius," he added gently, "at the very least, I'd talk to your mother if I were you. You too, Harry," he added, seeing the look on the older boy's face. "Don't keep things bottled up inside forever, and Hermione is a good person to talk to. Alright?"
"Right," Harry said bracingly.
Selenius fiddled with the chocolate frog card in his hand for a moment, and then pocketed it before glancing up at Harry. "Fine. I can always use you as a shield, anyway."
"Sorry to inform you, but I don't think that'll work with Hermione," Harry countered
"We'll see about that," Selenius said, grabbing hold of Harry's arm and half-dragging him from the office. "Let's go. I want to get there before they do!"
Kingsley watched the two of them disappear from the doorway, and heard Selenius's muffled exclamation of, "I want to see the looks on their faces!" fade away as they left. Kingsley let out a sigh that fell somewhere between amusement and something else, and then he got up to close the door. Before he could, however, it was pushed open once more, and the Auror who entered almost knocked him over.
"Oh—I'm sorry, sir—"
"My doorway the new thoroughfare, is that it?" Kingsley asked with good humor.
"I don't know about that, but I was told to give you this," the Auror said, thrusting a brown, leather-bound book into his hands. There was a chocolate frog card poking out between the middle. "I figured I'd get it to you now."
"Much appreciated, Williamson," Kingsley said, accepting the delivery.
The Auror let out a noncommittal sound at this, and then turned to leave. The door was properly shut behind him, and Kingsley walked around his desk and sat down in the chair, reclining in it as he opened the book and pulled out the chocolate frog card.
Albus Dumbledore's wizened old face smiled up at him from this card, his hand gesturing at the notebook. Without another word, Kingsley set it aside and opened the book to the first page, and at long last, let history meet the light of day.
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