A/N: I've told the story I wanted to tell and am ending Tuesdays with Severus with this chapter. The challenge of writing a story like this one, with an original plot, but on the tail of the previous character/relationship developing stories in this series, was more than I anticipated. With real life events (chiefly an unexpected upturn in business requiring many more hours of my time each week) vying for my time and affecting my creativity, I couldn't get chapters out regularly, and keeping details together became a challenge. I'm not a fan of WIPs that never seem to end. Thank you to all who have read the five stories in this series. I appreciate all of your comments and encouragement. When things calm down in my life, I'll start something new and will certainly post it here.

My task over the next few months is to reread these stories chapter by chapter, correct glaring errors and inconsistencies and all the Americanisms that crept in, then move to my account on AO3 as single-post stories so they can be turned into PDFs for off-site reading. Some of you have PM'd me to point out inconsistencies and I've gone back and corrected some, but if there are any that bother you, please PM me and I'll correct them.

Again, my heartfelt thanks to all who have reached this point in the story arc. These stories have kept me going through some hard times, but I am nothing without you. 3

SS


Chapter 21: The Wall

May 2, 1999

Harry sat on the great stone staircase leading to the castle doors, watching the sun slowly push up against the fading darkness over the Forbidden Forest.

He sat there, elbows resting on his knees, chin resting on his clasped hands, eyes on the horizon.

It was the second day of May.

Six months had passed since the Portkey had whisked him to Ireland; six months since he'd been released from his overnight stay at St. Mungo's following his week with Severus at Shell Cottage.

Ane exactly one year ago today, he'd walked up these stairs to face Voldemort for the final time.

The castle was just beginning to stir at this hour , but he'd tossed and turned all night, and had finally given up the fight for sleep and had wandered out here to watch the day begin.

This much anticipated day.

Time was going by so quickly that it nearly made his head spin.

With Hermione's cussed determination – he had to love her, admire her, for pushing him, for pushing herself – they'd both succeeded in catching up with their classes after their respective accidents. When it was all said and done, Harry had missed two full weeks of classes while Hermione had been out more than a month.

By the time he'd finally gotten caught up with his work, the term had ended and Christmas had been upon them.

Christmas.

Christmas came that year in a world without Voldemort.

And while the missing faces, the empty chairs, stood out even more starkly during the holidays, there had been so very much to celebrate.

Three weeks after Harry had broken away from the Portkey that nearly delivered him to LePonte, Severus had gone to the mind-healing ward where his sister, Estelle Smith, was being treated, to meet with her healers. They'd asked him to come, and one of the counselors at Hogwarts that was still on assignment to work with students following the events of the previous year, had met with him and suggested – strongly – that he at least give it a try. A week later, Severus began participating in weekly sessions. Family therapy, they called it.

And just after Christmas, Harry and Severus started spending their regular Tuesday evenings together at the Imelda Loftburg Wing at St. Mungo's where Estelle was being treated.

Christmas.

Harry's eyes were still focused on the horizon. The trees seemed to be glowing as the sun fought to rise above their branches. The air was still, the grounds quiet. A curl of smoke rose like a puff of breath from Hagrid's chimney.

Harry smiled.

Christmas had been so…normal.

Not that Harry had experienced a lot of normal in his life, but he thought he was learning to recognize it when he saw it.

He thought, just for a moment, of his previous Christmas. The Christmas of the year of the Horcrux hunt. How it has started – on Christmas Eve, in Godric's Hollow. Bathilda Bagshot. Nagini. How it had ended – on Boxing Day, in the Forest of Dean, with Ron's return and the destruction of the locket.

With Severus hiding in the trees. With his doe Patronus. With the Sword of Gryffindor.

There would never be another Christmas like that one. Never another Christmas, he hoped, with doubt and fear and cold so deep that it bored into his bones and chilled his very heart.

This year, he and Severus had stayed at Hogwarts and had Christmas dinner with the few faculty members and students who'd remained at the castle over the holidays. There had been Christmas crackers – Harry had pulled one with a second year Slytherin and had worn the silly train conductor's hat that popped out for the rest of the meal.

They'd gone to the Burrow for Boxing Day, and had tramped out in the new fallen snow in the moonlight for a snow ball war.

In previous years, Fred and George had always chosen the sides, each of them a team-leader by unspoken consensus. And while Harry doubted there'd been any snow ball fights the previous Christmas, Fred's absence was still loud and stark and painful.

Until Ron stepped in.

As naturally as if he'd been doing it his entire life, he stepped right up next to George, who was facing the rest of them looking like he was only half there, had pointed his finger at his sister and announced "Ginny."

"Ginny!" Hermione had exclaimed, pretending to be put out. She picked up a handful of snow and side-armed it at Ron. He dodged it and grinned.

"You throw like a girl," he explained, putting his arms over his face instinctively.

Harry and Ginny ended up on opposite teams and in the midst of the brawl, she tackled him, rubbing snow in his face, and they had the best snog, rolling in the snow in each others' arms, cold and warm and safe and happy and alive.

He'd given her a top-of-the-line broom for Christmas. It was an extravagant gift, and Severus had frowned, but she had her heart set on trying out for the professional leagues this summer, and was being actively scouted by several teams. She needed a broom, the kind of broom neither she nor her parents could afford, to put her on even ground with the other contenders.

And Harry had given her that broom, even though he knew it could be her ticket to a career that would take her away from him for long stretches of time. He'd be in London at the Auror Academy, then on active duty as an Auror, and she'd be traveling all over the world playing Quidditch.

That same Christmas, Severus had given Harry two small carved wooden figures – a buck and a doe. They stood on Harry's bookshelf now. It didn't matter that those deer meant different things to Harry and to Severus. No matter what, they were a shared symbol, and they meant family.

The sun was above the trees now, and the air was beginning to warm a bit. Harry watched as Hagrid left his hut and lumbered off toward the Forbidden Forest, the ghostly shape of Fang running circles around and through him while the young Corgi strayed away, coming back to him when he held out his dustbin sized hand behind him and casually snapped his fingers.

Harry smiled. All these years later, Hagrid, his first introduction to the magical world, still often brought a smile to his face.

He took his wand out of his robe pocket and did a quick Tempus.

6:25.

The shadowy outlines of the hour and minutes melted back into the air like the smoke from Hagrid's chimney.

Magic – magic had gotten more normal for him too.

Normal.

He'd hoped for a bit of normal when the term started in September, but then the letters had started up, and the trouble in Hogsmeade soon after, and the problems in Charms with his magic.

When he'd gotten back from St. Mungo's after the attempted kidnapping, Severus had set up a meeting with himself, Minerva and Professor Flitwick to discuss his theory about Harry's magic and how learning and performing spells had been affected by the Horcrux. How Harry had had to use a lot more power to overcome the effect of Voldemort's Horcrux, especially for positive spells such as healing. Of course, since the knowledge of the Horcruxes wasn't widespread, Severus had told them that Harry's magic had been affected by his connection to Voldemort.

Professor Flitwick and Minerva had argued back and forth about whether it was possible to unlearn and relearn magic. Flitwick, looking more excited than Harry had ever seen him, told them about a deprogramming routine that was sometimes tried on witches and wizards who leaned toward the Dark Arts. Minerva knew of magical training techniques parents sometimes used on children who showed little or no magical ability.

"But what Harry needs, I believe," Professor Flitwick had continued, "is to un-learn and re-learn only certain spells. Severus, you might consider some localized Obliviate spells. You'd have to be very precise…"

"No."

Harry and Severus had spoken at the same time. Harry smiled at Severus, happy to not have to argue. If Severus said no, the answer was no. Period.

"Spell theory, then," said Professor Flitwick, frowning.

"And control," added Minerva. "Limits. Skilled witches and wizards innately understand how much power to put in a spell – Harry can learn to moderate the kinds of spells that will cause trouble."

And since they didn't yet know exactly what those were, he'd spent nearly an entire day performing spell after spell after spell for them. Ginny and Ron were brought in as controls, while Hermione watched and took notes. No one asked her to take notes, but once she'd heard Severus' theory, she'd been so certain that he was right that she spent an extra hour every day in her already tight schedule researching ways of relearning basic spells.

Ron and Ginny, who had been pulled out of a half-day of classes each for the exercise, enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

"You want me to blast that bookshelf apart? Really?" Ron had asked, a broad smile on his face. He'd pulverized the shelf with a well-placed Reducto. He had, however, hesitated when asked to stun the Headmaster.

"We must test the spell," Severus had explained. "Professor McGonagall has already performed a cushioning spell on the floor around me."

"Wouldn't you rather have me stun Harry?" asked Ron. He glanced at Harry, shrugging. "Sorry, mate."

"Actually yes, I would. However, we need to test your spell against Harry's, so you must both use the same target."

"Ginny wouldn't ask twice," Harry muttered. He felt rather proud of that fact for some reason.

In the end, it was obvious that constructive spells of any sort were far stronger when cast by Harry than by his friends.

"There's nothing innately wrong with having the ability to heal, or to repair," said Severus the Tuesday evening after that long day of spellwork. "As long as you are aware of the effect of those spells when you utter them, we really do not have to undo anything."

Harry had looked up from his books. "I know," he'd said. But he'd gone back to reading about spell theory. He didn't have to say I just want to be normal for a change for Severus to understand what he wasn't saying.

He'd worked hard, and he'd had Hermione and Ron and Ginny's help. Hermione buried herself in theory, and Ginny and Ron tried to unlearn spells right along with him, then relearn them too.

"I can't just not do it," Ron had complained. "I don't even remember anymore not being able to do a levitation spell."

But now, Harry's spellwork was almost back to normal.

His healing spells were still powerful, but they were generally only effective on the target and not on everyone else in the general vicinity. His Patronus would always be strong; he hadn't even tried to unlearn that one. But his cheering charm no longer had the entire castle humming in the hallways when he cast it. The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had pulled him aside a couple of weeks ago when the Ministry had come to Hogwarts to give the practical tests to new applicants, asking him if he was interested in specialty course in emergency triage and healing.

He looked over at Reuben Peace, standing off to the side beside Severus, and Reuben gave him a thumbs up. Harry hadn't even realized there were trained Aurors who were also Healers.

Today, though, on the first Anniversary of the fall of Voldemort, he thought he might need that powerful cheering charm for Ginny and Ron.

The Ministry had designated today, this day, as Remembrance Day.

As if we could ever forget, Harry thought.

And despite how fast the time seemed to have flown, sometimes it was hard to believe an entire year had gone by. Riding that dragon out of Gringotts seemed like a century ago, not just a year. Facing Voldemort – was it even in this lifetime?

He let his gaze move over to the spot of lush green grass beneath the Astronomy Tower. Was it his imagination that the grass here was thicker, greener, taller than elsewhere on the grounds? Had it been only two years since Albus Dumbledore died?

Dumbledore.

Hallows or Horcruxes.

Harry rubbed his scar, glad that the choices in his life were a bit less critical now, if just as complicated.

He'd sit his N.E.W.T.s in a few weeks, then a few weeks after that, leave Hogwarts for good.

He and Ron had found a flat close to Diagon Alley, where Ron would be working full time with George at the joke shop as soon as school ended. They'd gone out flat hunting with Severus and Molly and Arthur over Easter break, and had looked at seven flats that Hermione had researched, settling on one, in the end, that was only a block away from the Leaky, a third-floor walk-up with high ceilings, a wizard-worthy fireplace, a solid wall of bookshelves in the sitting room and a pantry large enough to satisfy even Ron. They'd be outfitting the flat with cast-offs from Grimmauld Place and the Burrow.

Harry would start with the new class of Aurors in August. Ginny was trying out with the Harpies, the Wasps and the Tornadoes in July, and had the Healer training program as a backup plan.

Neville would be studying for his Mastery in Herbology. Luna was going off on a trip to Africa with her father.

Hermione was going to travel with her parents for the summer then start Uni in the fall. While she'd be living with her parents – officially – Harry knew he'd see her most days at the flat.

His eyes wandered over to the Quidditch pitch, around to the Lake. Behind him, he heard the stirrings of life in the castle as students began arriving in the Great Hall for breakfast.

He imagined a life where he'd wake up every morning to the sound of London traffic. Where he'd make his own breakfast and sit at the table in his pyjamas reading the morning Prophet before realizing he'd forgotten to hang up his training robes the night before, and having to sort them out because there would be no Hogwarts house elves picking up after him. A life of running to the market for bread and peanut butter and cooking on a stove and throwing out the sour milk from the refrigerator.

He'd be doing normal things.

He smiled vaguely, thinking of falling asleep with Ginny on the sofa, of waking up with her in his arms. A life where no one was checking to see that everyone was in their proper bed after curfew.

He and Severus had had a plan when this year started. A plan for a normal year, of meeting on Tuesday evenings to have dinner, to catch up on each other's activities, to talk about the day. In that dream world, there hadn't been a sister for Severus, mysterious deaths, unfulfilled dreams of a family by a woman who had lost every remnant of family she'd ever had. Severus had had Harry, and Harry had had Severus, and they'd been a team of two, father and son, heroes both who preferred to fade back into the woodwork and go on with their lives now that they'd done what they had to do.

But now Severus had a sister and Harry had an aunt.

They might never know why Eileen Snape had given away Severus' sister just after she was born, or even if Tobias had known about it, or known about the baby at all. Severus had been back to Spinner's End several times to go through boxes and look for clues, but even he admitted that there would likely never be any real answers.

LePonte had admitted that he'd planned to hold Harry hostage and demand a ransom for his release. Even under Veritaserum, he hadn't admitted that he'd planned to kill Harry. He seemed to think he'd be able to control both Harry and Estelle, giving Estelle the son she'd always wanted, though she may not have bargained for a nearly full-grown man with a very determined mind of his own. Now, LePonte was locked up in Azkaban, and though conditions there without the Dementors were certainly more humane than they had been, it was no party, either, and he was no longer a concern for any of them.

Estelle, however, was.

Without the consistent, if controlling and even brain-washing, presence of Jean LePonte, she was unanchored. She'd unwittingly participated in her sister's death by brewing the potion that had made Alex Sanders foolish and brave, the potion used by Death Eaters before a raid. She had lost a lover, a baby, a husband, a sister, her parents. The man who had controlled her for years was locked in prison. The only family she had – cousins by adoption – were challenging her claim on her adoptive parents' estate.

Before Harry had ever gone to see Estelle in the mind-healing ward with Severus, before their visits had become a weekly occasion, Severus had sat down with him one Tuesday evening, not long before Christmas, and had spoken to him about closure.

They'd started by talking about Albus Dumbledore, and how he died.

Some deaths were expected. Peaceful. Others were sudden, unexpected. They left one stranded, seeking answers, going through what ifs and if onlys.

Albus Dumbledore had been dying. The people that mattered had known this – could see this. Albus himself knew this and as such, made plans for his own end.

But Severus led Harry through all the deaths. Harry's parents. Cedric. Sirius. Dumbledore. Moody. Remus and Tonks. Fred.

While Harry might wonder why they had to die, or question why both Remus and Tonks chose to stay and fight when they had an infant son at home, or even blame himself for suggesting that Cedric and he take the cup at the same time, or for leading Sirius to the Ministry, he didn't have unanswered questions about how they died, or even why. Good reason or not, he understood – and accepted – what they had given, what they and sacrificed, why they had died.

But Stella – Severus was calling Estelle Stella now, as those closer to her always had – Stella had had Regulus Black's child. And she had nothing left of Regulus, and no closure. No idea how he died, or where, or even why.

This had come up in a joint session, because Estelle had known Regulus and Severus were friends of a sort, and Severus had told them that Harry knew Regulus' story. That he had heard it from the Black family's house elf, who had been there – been with Regulus. He told them it was not a pleasant story but still Estelle wanted it. Needed to hear it. And her healers agreed.

Harry had agreed to share it, but had surprised Severus by appearing at his door that Tuesday evening with Kreacher at his side.

And Kreacher had told the story, nearly word for word as Harry had first heard it, with all the emotion intact. And afterward, as Estelle sobbed, Harry's heart had caught in his throat as Kreacher removed the precious locket from around his neck and gifted it to the mother of his beloved master's lost son.

Harry didn't always enjoy their joint visits to St. Mungo's. They weren't really just visits. They were therapy. He soon realized it wasn't all about Estelle, either. It was about adoption. And finding family – making family – when you were already all grown up, or mostly so. He didn't think he needed this particular type of therapy. He didn't feel as if he needed closure with the Dursleys, for example. But Severus always thanked him for going to see Estelle, and in his eyes Harry could always see how grateful he was that Harry was there with him. They presented a united front, were proof positive to Estelle that family meant a lot more than blood.

And while Severus and Estelle shared a certain family resemblance, they were not easily marked as siblings by appearance only. But as Harry got to know this new aunt, he began to notice other similarities – in how they laughed, infrequent as that was, and in how their mouths twitched when they were trying not to smile.

It was hard for Harry to accept Estelle as Severus seemed to, but on a Tuesday when Severus had a horrible cold, Harry, realizing he sounded just like Madam Pomfrey, made him tea and lectured him for doing too much while he was ill, then bundled him in his chair with Potions Quarterly and went off to St. Mungo's on his own.

That was the afternoon Harry learned that Estelle would be leaving the hospital for a flat in Diagon Alley. She'd been given a job in the Apothecary there, where she'd be on probation until she proved herself stable. She told him about the small flat, and said she hoped he'd come visit her from time to time. They'd played gobstones together then, though he'd always been pants at it, and when the hour was up, he'd been surprised when she took his hand in hers and looked him in the eye and apologized for turning his year upside down.

And that niggling grudge he'd been holding on to, the resentment that Severus had been too ready to forgive her, disappeared just like that.

Because that look in her eyes – that was Severus. The way she held his eyes so intently, the way they spoke to him as clearly as her voice did.

He figured he'd be going by to visit her fairly often after he left Hogwarts. He'd be living right next to Diagon Alley, after all.

The sun was climbing its way into the sky when the castle door opened behind him. He heard Severus' soft chuckle but didn't even have time to turn around to see him before the headmaster was lowering himself to the top stair beside him.

"Morning, Severus," Harry said, scooting over a bit to give Severus and his robes more room.

"You go back and forth between Severus and Dad all the time," said Severus in response. "On a day such as today, I think I prefer Dad."

Harry smiled. "Right, Dad," he said. Then, even though Severus didn't ask for an explanation, Harry gave one. "I remember the sunrise on this day last year. I remember when it was all over, how the sun was shining through the cracks in the walls, into the Great Hall."

"I don't remember that sunrise," said Severus. His hand strayed to his neck and he ran his fingers over the scarring there, his own daily reminder of what the war had almost cost him.

Harry reached out and squeezed Severus' other hand. "No, you wouldn't, would you? Trust me. It was the best sunrise I've ever experienced, and the absolute worst."

He blinked, and in the space of that blink, saw the devastation of a year ago, the boulders, the uprooted trees, the bodies, the blood. He let out a slow breath, picturing Remus and Tonks lying dead, hand in hand, lined up in the Great Hall with the other casualties.

"Teddy's coming today," he said. "Andromeda was responsiblefor Tonks' and Ted's stones, and Remus' too, and she had Teddy put his handprint on Remus and Tonks.'"

A section of a courtyard wall would be rebuilt with the memorial stones, some simple, some ornate, all of them contributed by those who lost someone they loved to Voldemort's regime.

"Stella is planning to come as well," said Severus. "She and Kreacher worked together on a stone for Regulus."

Harry glanced over at Severus. He was watching Hagrid make his way back to his hut with what looked like a pair of fox kits in his arms.

"More pets," he said, shaking his head.

"I have an idea what Regulus' stone is going to have set in it," said Harry.

Severus nodded. "No doubt."

"Kreacher has taken to Estelle," said Harry. "I've asked him to keep her company this summer – to check in on her and help her out. Ron and I don't need a house elf, and there are plenty here at Hogwarts already."

Again, Severus nodded.

"Are you going to be alright without me?" Harry's voice was quiet. He was looking out past Hagrid's hut again, unable to meet Severus' eyes.

"I suppose I will," answered Severus. "I am told that it gets easier over time and that before too long I will enjoy having the fledgling bird out of the nest."

"You've been talking to Molly and Arthur, haven't you?" laughed Harry. "And I'm hardly a fledgling bird. I've survived on my own before."

"You have," said Severus. "But I'm hoping your life is about more than just surviving in the future."

He stood. Harry watched his keen gaze move about the grounds.

"It's going to be a long day. You should come in for some breakfast."

Harry nodded. "I'll be in soon," he said.

But he sat on the stairs looking at the horizon for a very long time.

/

It was a long day.

It was a day full of ceremony, and family, and friends. Of Ministry officials, and speeches, and visitors to Hogwarts. Teddy Lupin ran to Harry, arms stretched wide, and Harry scooped him up and carried him on his hip as if he'd been carrying little boys around for half his life.

There was a formal dinner, and a speech by the Minister of Magic.

The special plaque was laid in the floor of the Great Hall, on the spot where Voldemort fell.

Neither Harry nor Severus had liked the idea of marking the spot, especially given that it was in the middle of the Great Hall of Hogwarts, but the Ministry had proceeded anyway. At the very least, the plaque was small and set into the floor tiles.

"On this spot, Harry James Potter defeated Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort." It was followed by the date of the battle, and the phrase chosen by Severus.

"And the world will live as one."

But the plaque was not the only Memorial of the Battle and the years of Voldemort's terror leading to it.

Outside in the castle courtyard, the Wall of Remembrance had been built using stones designed by the family and friends of those lost in the War.

Above the courtyard, unseen and unheard, Headmaster Severus Snape walked the Headmaster's walkway.

He stopped his pacing and looked down into the empty courtyard.

It had been full of people at sunset, people young and old, watching as the Ministry masons set the final stones into the wall.

Harry had designed stones for his parents, for his godfather, and a final stone, smaller than the others, surface polished and smooth, for the house elf named Dobby. Severus had thought it had seemed cathartic for him, watching as each stone was sealed into the wall, building something solid and lasting, something integrated with the castle itself, from the names of the fallen.

And he watched as Harry hung back, as groups walked along the finished wall, grazing their hands along the polished stones, stopping to read, to admire, to exclaim, to weep.

Then finally going forward himself, flanked by the two friends who had accompanied him into the darkest of nights.

Pausing to study nearly every stone. Reaching out and tracing words with his fingers.

Constant Vigilance.

Dobby – a Free Elf

Our Cedric –So Much More than the Spare

My brother…myself

A grey stone with black veins with a golden locket set into it.

Two stones, side by side, with a child's handprint in each. Teddy Lupin would fit his hand to those stones for years to come, marveling how small he had been on that first Remembrance Day.

And as Severus had watched, Harry, Ron and Hermione had stopped, at last, before the largest stone, offset from the center of the wall, pure white marble.

Watched as Harry leaned in, pressed his cheek against the cold stone. Closed his eyes and remembered.

He allowed his friends to pull him away then, allowed them to turn his head, redirect his thoughts, away from the past, toward a future of hope and life and love.

/

Severus Snape stands in the courtyard now, alone.

It is nearly one o'clock in the morning, and the castle is silent.

Upstairs, in the eighth year dormitories, Harry Potter sleeps. His arm is flung over his eyes. His window is open. He is physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

But he is alive, unhurt, whole.

Severus stops in front of the stone he has designed, the white stone, the cornerstone of the war, of Harry's life, of his life.

Severus is not a demonstrative man. He is not overly emotional. He neither cries nor laughs easily. He believes himself stoic.

But what he loves, he protects fiercely.

And what he honors, he obeys.

He traces the words he has engraved with his own wand on this smooth stone.

Death is but the next great adventure.

He sighs, then smiles, thinking of Harry, and his future, the children he will have, the lives he will touch.

Not yet, Albus, he thinks.

Not yet.

Fin