Disclaimer – not mine, making no money off it.
Chapter 20, or "Harry Potter and the Obligatory Epilogue"
Severus watched the very proud Lucius and the smugly delighted Narcissa as Lucius cradled his new daughter in his arms. Draco was dancing around behind his father. "Let me hold her, can I hold her?" Lucius didn't appear to hear him while the healer pronounced Narcissa well-recovered and the baby healthy.
Dudley and Harry whispered to each other from the doorway. Severus could hear them discussing the newborn. It was just as well they couldn't be heard since they were trying to figure out why the wrinkled, red-faced baby with no hair to be seen was being described as beautiful.
Severus viewed the baby a bit doubtfully, himself. Rita and he had made good partners in stirring up trouble as well as enjoying Rita's 'passion' for a good scoop. Rita now had a sure bestseller going to print that was factual biography of Albus with only a bit of speculation, and she made sure the readers knew when she was doing so. Harry was, of course, mentioned especially at the end while the adventure with Voldemort and the Sorcerer's stone.
Rita had found a new sacred cow to roast with Flamel and his idiocy in lending the stone to Albus. The editors had been aghast at some of the things Rita had revealed. Plus, although many things had been exposed in the news, seeing the pattern of deception as it was shown in the book made it difficult for even a die-hard Dumbledore follower to ignore the fact that Albus had an agenda of his own in the works.
Severus had thought that 'the book' would be the only 'baby' Rita would be interested in. Now, with Rita carefully taking the baby girl from Lucius to hold while Draco continued to whine that it was his turn, Severus wasn't so sure. She smiled at the baby, who was being christened 'Diana Petunia Malfoy.
Severus shrugged mentally. They had spoken about formalizing their relationship and Severus had to admit that they would get along rather well and they had a growing affection for each other. Severus quirked an eyebrow at her and she answered with a small smirk. Yes, Rita was leaning toward motherhood. What a child they were likely have, Severus thought, and gave a long-suffering sigh.
Sirius watched with horror as a malicious Rita passed him the baby girl. He'd been thrilled when they asked him to be godfather to little Diana. He now realized they wanted him to actually hold the baby. He'd avoided doing much with Harry until his godson been able to walk, terrified he'd hurt the child. Now he had this tiny infant in his hands. He finally remembered how to coo and rock a baby, even if she was smaller than Harry had been.
"When can I hold her?" Draco asked plaintively.
Lucius patted Draco's head absently. "Hush, you'll make the baby cry. You never liked loud noises when you were this size."
Sirius passed the baby off to Vernon, who held Diana expertly and chirped at her, winning a smile from the bemused infant.
"Thank you for making Petunia her middle name." Vernon smiled at Narcissa. Petunia had always wanted a daughter, but she'd have been pleased to have a namesake.
"We owe your late wife a great deal." Narcissa smiled softly. Petunia had become a popular name, recently. Since Harry had returned to the wizarding world and Petunia's story had become known, there had been a lot of babies named Petunia.
Vernon carefully handed the small bundle to a dismayed Severus, who tried to look pleased and after a few moments handed her back to her beaming father.
"Dad!?" Draco yanked desperately on Lucius' robes as he took Diana back from Severus.
Lucius looked down at Draco, "Ah, Draco, would you like to hold your sister before we put her in her bassinet?"
"Yes." Draco answered with gusting sigh. He took the girl with a possessive smile. At last, he had a sibling! He hoped she would like Quidditch … and the footie games as well.
Harry trotted Rusty ahead of the line of Camargue horses that everyone else was on. Rusty may have been retired for a decade and a half, and was now old enough to vote but he still disliked having other horses ahead of him.
Rita and Harry had made a good chunk of money collaborating on a children's book about Rusty, telling of his racing career. How he had started out a skinny, overlooked yearling and becoming a racer of note. Petunia was mentioned as well as his friendship with Harry. The terrible accident at the racetrack and his rescue by Severus fixing his leg with a spell had gained Severus more admiration and respect among incoming students than his fame as a Potions Master ever had.
The book had been meant to introduce wizard children to at least a few aspects of the muggle world in an interesting manner and it had been a success at that.
Harry patted Rusty's shoulder, connecting long enough to promise apples and carrots when they reached the clearing at the top of the hillside. Harry smiled when they reached their destination; it had an impressive overlook, letting them have an eagle's view of the Malfoy Manor below them. Lucius certainly liked having a good look around his realm.
Harry, Dudley and Draco unsaddled the horses and put magical ties on them, allowing them to graze, but not go too far. Harry gave Rusty his promised treats as well as the other horses. They had varied tastes. Dudley's mount liked fig newtons, Draco's horse liked oranges, and more than one of them enjoyed peppermints.
Diana, who was soon to graduate from Hogwarts helped lay out the picnic, the younger twins – Romulus Lucien and Remus James - set up chairs that house elves popped in with, while Lucius cast insect repelling charms. The youngest girl, Laurel, raced around with Severus and Rita's daughter Margery and Sirius' son Gareth. The ranks of wizarding children had definitely expanded in the last decade.
Severus watched Harry, as he always did, ready to reassure the man if he showed signs of worrying about the scar. He hadn't done so in the last few years and Severus hoped he would simply forget about the Horcrux. Harry was in the diplomatic corps, for now, but Severus expected that when he finally tired of travel he would settle into serious study of magical creatures, since he was able to talk to them after a fashion, just as he talked to the horses.
Vernon was not there, he'd stayed home with Dudley's wife and young son. Judith disliked riding and Gregori was only three. Judith was a witch, but she had a muggleborn father and was comfortable in either world.
Vernon's new wife was also a witch who had been widowed by Voldemort in the first war, though technically there hadn't really been a second one. Her children and extended family had met Vernon and liked what they saw and knew the benefit of being even loosely connected with Harry Potter. They were only distantly related to the Malfoy's, but it was enough to satisfy Lucius and Narcissa that they would be able to keep the Dursley family close.
Vernon still worked as Lucius' racing stable accountant, he was not really well enough to take on a huge business, but Dudley now had joined him and they oversaw most of the stable and Dudley did much of the training. It kept them busy and employed rather profitably.
It was enough to keep Vernon and Dudley in the Dower House where Lucius could be assured that no one in the wizarding world forgot that the Malfoys had saved Harry Potter and his family from the streets.
The picnic finally ended, to Severus' relief. He enjoyed the outdoors, but only in a comfortable garden or a well-kept lawn. 'Roughing it' in a forest glade, even one warded against pests was only enjoyable because his daughter Margery liked it. Still, leaving meant climbing back onto one of those aggravating equines. He firmly believed that a person had to be numb at both ends to enjoy horseback riding.
Harry once again took the lead, in deference to Rusty's need to always be ahead of every other horse, even if they weren't racing.
They were within sight of the stables, to Severus' relief when Harry stiffened in the saddle, grabbing at his head with a groan. Rusty sidestepped, trying to keep Harry on his back, but Harry slumped over and rolled off Rusty's shoulder and onto the ground.
Severus and Lucius got to him first, but soon there was a crowd around Harry. Severus pillowed Harry's head in his lap and the crowd gasped, seeing a trickle of black liquid streaming out of Harry's scar. Lucius produced a handkerchief and wetted it down with an aguamenti. He wiped the thick goo off Harry's face and Draco put the handkerchief into a magic-suppressing bag for inspection later.
Severus and Lucius hovered Harry onto a conjured stretcher took him into the Manor, settling him into the bedroom he used when he was not out of the country. The Dursley family filled the dower house and Harry was always gone, so the switch had suited everyone. Plus it made the Malfoys happy, since they finally had Harry under their roof.
Severus and Lucius stared at each other in dread until Dudley finally said what they all were thinking. "Someone needs to check on that Dumblemort fellow."
Severus nodded unhappily. "I'll go."
The walk down the corridors of St Mungo's seemed especially long this time. Severus had been there frequently, at first, when Albus and company had been admitted. He still came here several times a month to check on things. He supposed it was a self-imposed penance, since he'd engineered the whole thing. Some part of his mind felt he'd had no right to pass judgment on either wizard.
Oh, he'd have made the same decision no matter what and most of his conscience did not bother him. That little piece that muttered unhappily at him kept him checking on his old masters, both his old masters.
The struggle for dominance had lasted a few days but soon Voldemort had been in charge, though mostly he was not able to form a coherent sentence for months. By that time only the healer in charge of the unit had any interest in their least favored resident and as there was nothing to be done to reverse any of the damage, well Dumblemort had very few looking in on him.
A few of Albus' most faithful had tried to visit, but when they realized the wizard in charge was Voldemort they had ceased visiting as well.
Once Voldemort started to talk sense, Severus had struck a bargain. Voldemort would 'not cast any doubts on Severus' credibility as a upstanding member of wizarding society and Severus would keep him comfortable with whatever he wanted in his well-padded suite in the Straightjacket Inn'.
Voldemort had grumbled, but he had no magic, no followers left, no one in the permanently spell-damaged ward was likely to listen to him if he said Severus had played Albus and Voldemort for fools. Worse, they probably wouldn't care. Even dragging out old wrongs done by Severus would be of little use. The Aurors were unlikely to listen, as the wizarding world was moving on.
Voldemort quietly made lists of what he wanted, books and newspapers mostly. Chocolate frogs and cauldron cakes were also favored. Severus was presented with a list on most visits and he complied for the most part.
Amelia had once cornered him once, asking why he was doing this even a decade after Dumblemort's admission to the long-term 'somewhat dangerous' ward.
Severus had tried to answer at least a little truthfully. "Albus could have been a great leader, and he did try for years to be just that. Voldemort was one of Albus' great failures; he also could have been great. I visit them to remember what I don't ever want to become. It happened to them, and it most certainly could happen to me."
Amelia had nodded, eyeing him. She was aware that Severus was not far behind Albus in power (at least before Albus lost it all.) If checking on Dumblemort kept him honest, that was fine with her.
Severus finally reached the end of the corridor and was met by a surprised Director of the spell-damage unit. "Headmaster Snape, we about to contact you. I'm afraid Albus Dumbledore has passed on."
Severus tried to look surprised. "Ah, I thought he looked unwell when I visited last week, but I didn't expect it to be fatal."
Severus was led to the morgue and he perused the remains almost with relief. As long as Harry woke up unaffected, this was a good thing. He spared a brief thought to Voldemort. Had his spirit finally passed on to where it belonged? He hoped so, if only so everyone had closure. Tom Riddle was the last ghost anyone needed roaming around.
Severus had long ago made arrangements for Albus to be buried with his mother and sister. Albus' brother had washed his hands of Britain altogether and gone to New Zealand, so there was no one to object.
Severus flooed back to Malfoy Manor and was relieved to find Harry awake and staring at a mirror. The scar was now just a thin line, nearly invisible. Severus shooed everyone else out after assuring them of Dumblemort's final demise.
"It's just about gone, Severus." Harry said happily.
"Yes, the horcrux came undone completely when Voldemort and Albus died." Severus sat next to the bed and looked at his old student sternly. "I expect no more excuses from you about why you haven't asked Susan Bones to marry you. Do it soon or some other, smarter, wizard will snatch her from you. Your Aunt Petunia would come back and kick you if that happened."
Harry nodded, "Yes, even Draco's engaged to Hermione, now. I had better get on with it. Aunt Petunia would have liked Susan, I think."
Severus nodded and hustled Harry out to the floo, "No time like the present. I know you've had the ring for over a year."
"Another Auror in the family?" Lucius asked with mock peevishness, as he watched Harry leave for the Auror department. "Isn't having Draco in those hideously loud uniforms enough?"