"Professor Snape! Professor Snape! Professor Snape, sir! Professor Snape, are you in there?"

As the loud pounding on his door pulled him from a deep slumber, shrill shouts prompted him to jump out of bed, wand at the ready. Only then did he realize he had fallen asleep in his robes. Thanking Merlin that he was dressed for a crisis, he yanked open his door to catch Hermione Granger mid knock. She launched into a breathless explanation before he could manage an approximation of a sneer.

"Professor Snape! You have to talk to Rose! You have to tell her it's not her fault!"

"Miss Granger," he thundered as his temper temporarily got the better of him. "Compose yourself. What has occurred to make you this anxious? And, for Circe's sake, why have you left Rose alone if you think her distraught?"

The bushy-haired Gryffindor bit her bottom lip as she took a few cleansing breaths. Even afterwards, she spoke in a horrified rush.

"It's early yet, and not many people have seen it, but Alicia Spinnett thought Rose needed to know, and, of course she did, but she's blaming herself, and I don't know what to do. I'm afraid she might do something stupid, especially after Draco. It isn't her fault. You simply must tell her that because—well, sir, I think she might do something drastic, and I can't be with her all the time, and I've told her you can't possibly hate her, but—"

"Miss Granger!"

Startled, she squeaked in surprise and then flushed in embarrassment. But, she did settle down.

"Sorry, Professor. I . . . ." Reluctantly, she handed him the Sunday edition of the Daily Prophet. "You need to see this."

Grabbing the newspaper impatiently out of her hands, he scanned the headline. Every muscle in his body tensed with rage, but he remained outwardly impassive. His curt tone, however, betrayed his inner turmoil.

"Thank you, Miss Granger. Return to Gryffindor Tower immediately. Do not let Rose out of your sight. She'll have need of her friends."

To her credit, the teen didn't waste time talking. Instead, she fled down the dungeon corridor towards the stairs. Slamming the door shut behind him, Snape scanned the damn newspaper, but the lurid headline remained the same.

Lily Potter:

Saint or Strumpet?

-Rita Skeeter

Long revered as the mother of the Girl Who Lived, the integrity of Lily Evans Potter has been called into question as her daughter's shocking parentage comes to light.

The young muggleborn witch married James Potter, the sole heir to the vast Potter fortune, on August 12, 1978. The couple continued their public opposition of You-Know-Who after their nuptials, becoming prominent champions of Muggle-born causes. Still newlyweds, Evans and Potter were both lauded as heroes for successfully defying the aforementioned wizard three times before going into hiding in early December of 1979.

Many looked to the seemingly happy couple as a beacon of hope. Few were so public with their affection in such dark times. Who can forget the New Year's bash held at the Potter estates to welcome in 1979? The fireworks alone cost several thousand galleons.

However, shocking truths have recently been unearthed which prove the happy façade was nothing more than a hypocritical sham. Rose Potter, infant savior of the Wizarding World, is, in fact, not a Potter at all. Instead, she is the illegitimate lovechild of Lily Evans and former Death Eater Severus Snape. Some might wish to deny such an ugly truth, but it has been confirmed by an unlikely source—the child in question herself!

According to Dirk Cresswell, the Ministry official on Portkey duty when the two arrived at the Quidditch World Cup, "They were dressed like twins, both wearing odd, matching Muggle clothing, and I couldn't help but notice the resemblance. I even remarked upon it, and the girl [Rose Potter] agreed. It was only after I saw her scar that Snape tried to deny the relationship."

If that weren't confirmation enough, a fellow Hogwarts student corroborates the respected wizard's tale. "Potter called Professor Snape 'Dad' in class on Friday. I don't think you need any more proof than that. Why else would a Slytherin be saddled with raising a Gryffindor?"

Why else, indeed? The details of Rose Potter's guardianship have been kept secret, but it is known that she resided with Lily Evan's Muggle sister at least until the summer of 1993 when she was spotted in Diagon Alley with Arthur Weasley, who works in the Office of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, and his wife, Millie. When asked how a former Death Eater could be allowed to adopt the witch who defeated You-Know-Who, a junior Ministry official had this to say. "The documents are irrefutable and irrevocable, or the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would have immediately removed her from his care. As much as it pains me to admit it, it appears Lily Potter was nothing more than a tawdry tart."

In light of this irrefutable proof, one must ask if James Potter was aware of his young wife's betrayal. Did he die thinking the child for whom he sacrificed so much was his? Or did he suspect that something was amiss? The same junior Ministry official confided that the Potter vault was practically empty when Rose attempted to claim her fortune. Perhaps the most damning evidence of all, without a proper heir, the Potter mansion located outside of Salisbury remains empty to this day.

We may never know the answer. But one thing is certain. The Girl Who Lived is not the girl we thought her to be, which may have chilling implications for the wizarding world.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Walking into the Gryffindor Common Room with Minerva at his heels, Severus dared anyone to comment. Most took one look at his stony expression and fled. The Weasley children, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Katie Bell, Angelina Johnson and Alicia Spinnet sat in a tight bunch around Rose, as if they could protect her from such baseless lies. As soon as she saw him, however, she pushed her way out of her friends' protective circle to run sobbing into his arms.

"I ruined Mum's reputation. I didn't mean to, honestly, I didn't! I just . . . Please don't be angry. I'm sorry. I truly am. Please, please, Dad, don't hate me. I didn't think. I'm sorry!"

Her cries quickly overcame her ability to speak, and McGonagall quietly suggested he take Rose to his quarters. Making a snap decision, he used the fireplace to Floo directly into his chambers and then to Spinner's End. The house already had acquired a fine layer of dust on the bookshelves and had that empty, unlived air about it. But, there was no denying they were home.

Sitting with the witch he loved like a daughter while she blubbered into his robes, Severus felt oddly relieved. Reading the article, he had feared Rose might distance herself from him as a reaction to the twisted truths contained in Rita Skeeter's lies. But she hadn't shied away from calling him Dad. Though a selfish sentiment, he found her behavior reassuring. She did not blame him for the fiasco. Now, he just had to convince her not to blame herself.

When her sobs finally turned to sniffles, he offered her a tissue. Briefly looking up as she took it, he could see the devastation written on her face. Her wet eyelashes had clumped together, and thick snot dripped from her red, wet, runny nose.

"You are a wonderful witch, Rose. I am very proud to have you for a daughter."

Hastily wiping her nose, she balled the dirty tissue into her fist. "You're not angry?"

"At Rita Skeeter? Beyond measurement. At you? Hardly. Did I not give you express permission to address me however you wished?"

"Not during class," she snuffled morosely.

He waved her protest away. "Extenuating circumstances. If Draco had not made such a fuss, I doubt anyone would have noticed."

"Yeah, he's a ruddy git," she mumbled before tremulously meeting his gaze. "Mum was a good person. I never meant to hurt her. Even my father . . . . I didn't do it on purpose. I just . . . why do I make a mess of everything?"

"You were not the one to write that article, Rose. Rita Skeeter did. She took a few words out of context and twisted them into a lie to sell newspapers."

Unexpectedly, she pulled away, pulling her knees to her chest and squeezing her eyes shut. When it became clear that she had every intention of remaining in such a state, he gently shook her arm.

"Rose, it's not your fault."

For the longest time, she didn't respond. Long after he'd given up hope of a reply, her voice crackled with shame.

"Sometimes, I wish it was true."

Torture was too good for the Skeeter woman. "Nevertheless, those lies are not your fault. You are not being punished for wishing. Wishes have no more power in the wizarding world than the Muggle world. You didn't cause this, Rose."

When she didn't immediately react, he added softly, "Your parents would understand. You were little more than a babe when they were killed."

Cracking open her eyes, she retorted, "I dishonored my father by addressing you with a title that rightfully belongs to him. And, now my lies have brought shame to my mother as well. Of course it's my fault!"

"Where did you hear that?" he demanded. "Rose, I expect you to answer me. Those are not your words. You are parroting someone else."

With obvious reluctance, she pulled a folded piece of parchment from the pocket of her jeans. He took it with no little amount of trepidation. As he read, his face drained of color.

My Dear Rose,

By now you have read today's edition of the Daily Prophet. Please believe me when I say that I made every attempt to convince Miss Skeeter not to publish the article. In the end, I could only persuade her not to use any quotes directly attributed to me. What you have said publically is damning enough without added ammunition from one of James and Lily's friends. I am quite sure she would have taken anything I said out of context.

I must admit to being terribly disappointed in you. Although I more than most know that Severus has performed his duties as your guardian exceptionally well, your unthinking remarks have greatly dishonored James, who sacrificed his life so you might live. James Potter is your father and always will be. I can only imagine how much it would have hurt him to hear you refer to his childhood enemy as your dad.

I assume that you did not intentionally bring your mother's virtue into question. Lily, too, died protecting you, and the public speculation that she could ever be unfaithful to the man she loved above all else would have humiliated and shamed her.

I do not understand your reasoning in making such a spectacle of yourself. There is no doubt, however, that you have dishonored your father by addressing Severus with a title that could only properly belong to James. And, now your lies have brought shame to Lily as well.

I sincerely hope that you and Severus will strongly refute the mistaken conclusions drawn in the inflammatory article. Only then can you become the witch of whom your parents could be proud.

Respectfully,

Remus J. Lupin

As he reread the missive, tears streamed down Rose's face. "See? My fault."

Pocketing the letter, he pulled out another tissue to blot her face. "It's a load of tripe. Lupin tried to kill you last year. He is hardly the voice of reason in this matter."

When she opened her mouth to protest, he held up his hand. "Do not make the mistake of defending him. Not to me. I've heard enough from Black." Standing, he made a snap decision. "Come, there is something you need to see."

Glassy, bloodshot eyes met his, and he held out his hand. Without hesitation, she took it, dropping the dirty tissues to the floor. Before he could lose his nerve, he Apparated them to a fallow field split in two by a winding country road.

For once managing to remain on her feet during their landing, Rose turned in obvious confusion. "Where are we?"

"A few miles from where we need to be."

Without waiting to see if she followed, he began walking towards the asphalt road. It was a sunny morning, and there was just enough wind to make their journey pleasant without being cold. She followed behind muttering under her breath. Holding back a smile, he pretended not to hear when she called him an inscrutable, mysterious git. He much preferred her annoyance to tears.

After walking briskly for almost a mile, they came across a gnarled apple tree. Half of the branches were dead, but a few were heavy with pale, green fruit. With a simple Cutting Charm, Severus liberated some of the more promising looking specimens. Tossing a slightly bruised apple to Rose, he searched for a few others that hadn't been eaten by worms. Picking them up, he continued walking. Considering the fast work she made of the tart fruit, he guessed she hadn't eaten breakfast either. Wordlessly, he tossed her another apple. She made a face, but sank her teeth into the dappled green skin.

Munching on his own impromptu breakfast, he tried to shake the feeling that he had made a horrible mistake. Albus would be livid once he realized he had taken Rose away from Hogwarts. But, the old man would likely be in a temper as soon as he read the Daily Prophet, so perhaps the two outrages would somehow cancel each other out. Minerva would scold, but certainly understand once he had the chance to explain. And, Black—well, he didn't really wish to consider Black at the moment. Lupin's accusatory rant had temporarily soured him against the Marauders in general. Potter's taste in friends truly had been execrable, save Lily, of course.

"Is that a village at the bottom of the hill?"

"Yes," he answered shortly, doing his best to keep his eyes on the road. He didn't wish to see their destination any sooner than needed.

"Well? Are you going to tell me its name? Or do I have to guess?"

Rose's still blotchy face almost convinced him that the trip was nothing more than a dangerous exercise in sentimental folly. But, he gritted his teeth and plodded on.

"I'm taking you to Godric's Hollow."

Amazingly, she showed no reaction to the news, and he reluctantly concluded that she didn't understand the significance of their destination. Silently cursing his own stupidity, he stopped in the middle of the quiet road to gaze thoughtfully upon the small yet quaint town.

"Dad? What is it? What does this place have to do with Rita Skeeter's article?"

"Godric's Hollow has nothing to do with that witch's lies. But, it has everything to do with you." He gestured towards the town. "This is the place where the Dark Lord killed your parents, Rose. Godric's Hollow was once your home."

A shudder ran through her and she looked up at him in a panic. "Why? Why take me here after I've ruined everything? What if someone see us? They're liable to hex us both."

"Two reasons. To prove to you once and for all that what happened that Halloween night was not your fault. And to convince you that you haven't ruined anything."

"Yeah, not to be a pessimist or anything, but I don't think seeing the house where I lived as a baby is going to convince me of either."

Her skepticism would have been laughable had her voice not cracked so often. Rose really had no idea of what had happened that night save those terrible few seconds when the Dark Lord had taken her mother's life. He couldn't believe the old man hadn't at least mentioned the war memorial. He had certainly urged Severus to visit often enough.

"Be that as it may, I believe differently."

Ignoring her angry sputtering, he resumed his trek towards Godric's Hollow. When he reached the bottom of the gentle slope, he turned around to find her unmoved at the top of the hill. For a moment, he considered going back for her, but he trusted his instincts and continued walking, although he ambled rather than strode at his usual brisk pace. Within ten minutes she strolled by his side, scrutinizing the neat cottages with a wary eye.

"So, which one is it?"

Approaching the town square, his Occlumency skills masked his growing anxiety. He'd seen pictures of the destruction, but he didn't know how he'd react to the standing in front of the site where Lily had been killed. For Rose's sake, he couldn't wallow in misplaced guilt.

"I've been told there is no mistaking it."

She grabbed his arm, stopping him in the middle of a pedestrian crossing. "You've been told? You mean you've never been here before?"

"Shall I award points for that brilliant deduction?"

As she wiped her nose against the back of her hand, her eyes grew huge. "You're as nervous as I am!"

A blue Fiat honked impatiently as they stood in the middle of the street. Pulling Rose to the sidewalk, he defensively crossed his arms. "Perhaps." As she continued to stare, he begrudgingly added, "You aren't the only one who needs closure, Rose."

Her mouth dropped open and he had to fight the urge to tell her she'd catch flies. Swiftly snapping out of it, she awkwardly patted his arm. "It's okay, Dad. I'm sure my parents would be proud of you, too."

He sniffed loudly because it was such a ridiculous notion. It definitely had nothing to do with the odd tightness in his throat or the pressure behind his eyes.

"The house is down the street on the opposite side of the square. It shouldn't take too much longer to reach it."

Just as those words had passed his lips, the bells of the small stone church called the faithful to Sunday services. As they reached the square, Rose looked longingly at the people filing inside. Snape felt a pang of guilt. He'd never asked the child if Petunia had taken her to church.

"Would you like attend services, Rose? We aren't on a schedule."

Hanging her head, she mumbled. "I've never been. Freaks aren't allowed."

"What have I told you about that word?" he hissed as he led her determinedly towards the ancient sanctuary.

"Not to use—No effing way!"

"Language, young lady," he admonished sternly until his eyes followed hers to the tall obelisk that dominated the square. Magically, it had transformed into a statue of three people, three very familiar people. Mute, they both stood awkwardly before it, their gazes transfixed.

"They look so happy," she finally whispered. "They had to go into hiding because of me. How can they seem so happy?"

He tore his eyes off the carving of James, Lily and the carefree child she carried in her arms. The baby in that frozen tableau stood beside him, now on the verge of adulthood, her anguish a heartrending contrast to the joyful emotions frozen on the stone figures' faces.

"They loved each other. And, they loved you. How could they not?"

With those few words, he abruptly understood how empty his life had been before he had taken Rose into his heart and into his home. The guilt he had borne after Lily's death had poisoned him as certainly as if he had ingested unadulterated wormwood. He had wasted all those years of freedom from the Dark Lord, existing rather than living. And, now that he had finally allowed himself to live, the monster threatened once more.

"I should have grown up here. I should have had a family. Why couldn't Voldemort have left me alone?"

Her ragged entreaty pulled him from his own thoughts. Unable to give her an answer, he squeezed her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Rose."

Sniffling, she allowed him to lead her into the church. The bells had gone silent, and to Snape's dismay the priest gestured for them to come forward when he noticed the pair standing awkwardly in the back. Every member of the congregation watched as they walked reluctantly down the middle aisle to take their place in the empty front pew. Hiding his embarrassment, the wizard picked up a worn copy of the Book of Common Prayer and opened it to the correct page for Rose. She spent a few minutes diligently following along before her eyes drifted to the beautiful stained glass windows which filled the building with majestic colors.

As the prayers of his early childhood washed over him, Severus felt his rage slowly drain away. While he would like nothing better than to hex that Skeeter woman within an inch of her life, he refused to dwell on the ridiculous article in the Daily Prophet. As he had told Narcissa when the horrid witch had defamed her, true friends would not believe such lies and the rest didn't matter. In time, the girl he loved like a daughter would learn the truth of that as well.

Lost in his thoughts, the time passed far more quickly than he had realized. It seemed like they had just entered when the congregation began to sing the recessional hymn. He had no idea what readings had been proclaimed, nor could he remember a word of the homily, save a vague sense that it had had something to do with judging oneself before judging another. In retrospect, it seemed strangely appropriate.

When the final chord of the organ had died away, Rose eagerly turned towards him. "They didn't talk about burning witches once."

He raised an eyebrow. "Who told you they did?"

"Dudley." As soon as she said her cousin's name, she sheepishly ran her fingers through her long, dark hair. "I guess he had a good laugh at that one."

Sitting in the front pew, they were some of the last to leave. The elderly vicar stood near the front steps, talking to a few members of the congregation. As soon as he saw them, however, he deliberately excused himself to approach the latecomers. Snape stifled a groan. He didn't like being noticed, especially by some well-meaning clergyman who would invariably ask too many uncomfortable questions.

The man did nothing of the sort. Instead, he heartily shook Rose's hand. "Miss Potter, I am so delighted to see you. You've grown into a lovely young woman."

The smile on Rose's face froze; she dropped the man's hand to take a half-step behind her guardian. Severus, for his part, fingered the pocket of his black trousers, itching to brandish his wand.

"Thanks," she murmured and then looked the balding man in the eye as she regained some self-confidence. "Um, have we met? I'm afraid I don't recall."

"I'm the one who should apologize," he immediately replied. "I'm sure you were too young to remember your life in Godric's Hollow. But as soon as I saw you, I knew. Your mother's eyes were that exact shade of green. Have you had a chance to visit the churchyard yet? I assure you that your parents' graves are well maintained. In fact, if you give me a moment to change out of my vestments, I'd be happy to show you where they're located."

Rose didn't give the man another thought. She raced towards the churchyard, slowing only long enough to pass through the narrow kissing gate.

"Thank you, Vicar, but as you can see, Rose would rather find it on her own."

"Mr. Snape, wait."

Severus spun on his heel to face the man, his wand at the ready. "How do you know my name?"

The elderly man remained remarkably composed. He even nodded in approval when he noticed Snape's wand.

"I'm a Squib, Mr. Snape. But, my wife Mary is a witch. I read the Daily Prophet this morning and discovered you were Miss Potter's guardian. I wish the laws against libel in the wizarding world were as strict as the Muggle ones. The lies that reporter had the audacity to print must have been quite upsetting for Rose. Still, the Lord works in mysterious ways. I must thank you for bringing her here. Many of us have wondered how Lily and James' child has fared throughout the years. They will give thanks now that I can tell them she is protected and well cared for."

He didn't know how to begin to respond to such a statement. Feeling oddly discomfited, he pocketed his wand. "Yes, well, I should be going. Rose will be wondering where I am."

"Certainly, I've detained you long enough." Then, with a gentle compassion that unnerved Snape most of all, he quietly added, "I pray you both find the peace you're searching for."

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

He found her easily enough in the quiet churchyard. She stood in front of a white marble headstone which encompassed two graves. Etched into the marble were the names of her parents, their birthdates and the date they died. Underneath those two inscriptions was an epitaph that Severus suspected Albus had chosen: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

As soon as she noticed him standing behind her, she hastily wiped her eyes. "What's that writing mean? Professor Dumbledore told me no one can bring back the dead."

"The Headmaster is correct, Rose. The epitaph on your parents' grave is a quote from the Bible. It refers to the promise of life after death, although I believe John Donne captured the sentiment much better."

As he gazed upon gleaming white headstone, he softly recited,

"Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;

For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die."

She stared at him, her mouth agape, either from incomprehension or an inability to believe he could quote poetry. When Severus finished, he found his vision blurring with unshed tears. Hastily, he wiped his eyes much like Rose had done when she had first spotted him.

"That's . . . ."

She trailed off before he could discover if she thought it brilliant or hideous. Plucking distractedly at her bracelet, she continued to stand in front of the grave for almost a half an hour. He backed away to give her some privacy, discovering quite by accident the gravesite of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, Albus' mother and sister. He thought it odd that his mentor had never mentioned that he hailed from the same village where the Potters had lived. In fact, Albus had shared little about his early years, and Severus had never once thought to ask, going so far as to interrogate his brother Aberforth instead.

Eventually, Rose found him as he wandered through the oldest section of the cemetery. She'd been crying again, but he handed her a few tissues without commenting.

"Thanks." Loudly blowing her nose, she looked inquisitively around. "These stones are ancient. Look, one of them has moss growing on it."

Peering at the crumbling stone, he saw that it was inscribed with a strange, triangular symbol that definitely marked the grave as belonging to a witch or wizard. Mildly curious, he peered at the inscription, but the most he could make out was the name Ignotus and that the surname began with a 'P'.

"Godric's Hollow is said to have been named after Godric Gryffindor. Some of these stones could be close to a thousand years old depending on the strength of the spell used to preserve them."

"From the way this section looks, I'd say the spells are long gone."

"Indeed. Would you like to see the house now?"

She shrugged and he took her hand. "We'll go together. And, then, ice cream at Fortescue's. I left without informing anyone where we were going. Might as well be hanged for a dragon as an egg."

"Lunch first? Those apples weren't too filling."

Since she hadn't squawked about being seen in Diagon Alley, he readily agreed. As they passed the pub in the square and walked down the peaceful lane of tidy cottages, Rose tightened her grip on his hand. Their pace slowed the farther they walked, but far too soon for either of them, they stood in front of the sad ruins.

The damage was far worse than Snape had imagined. Part of the top floor had been completely blown apart. Dangling bits of wood and shards of glass were all that remained of the windows. Ivy climbed the walls while the grass grew waist-high, and the hedge had need of a chainsaw rather than pruning clippers.

"I have to see."

As soon as Rose touched the rusty gate, a wooden sign rose up out of the overgrown ground. Inscribed in golden letters, it said:

On this spot, on the night of 31 October 1981,

Lily and James Potter lost their lives.

Their daughter, Rose, remains the only wizard

Ever to have survived the Killing Curse.

This house, invisible to Muggles, has been left

In its ruined state as a monument to the Potters

And as a reminder of the violence

That tore apart their family.

No matter how hard he swallowed, Severus couldn't remove the tight knot that had formed in his throat. Standing next to him, silent tears ran down Rose's face as she traced the graffiti on the outer edges of the sign. Most had simply carved their initials, although some had left short messages expressing their sympathy and gratitude.

Giving his hand a final squeeze, she pushed against the gate with all her might. The sign retreated into the ground as the rusty metal gave way with a screech. The scraggly weeds and overgrown grass parted before her, and he trailed cautiously behind. When she reached the gaping hole where the front door had been, Rose hesitated for a moment, but then went inside. With a final look towards the front gate, Severus followed, his glowing wand illuminating the dark shadows inside the house.

"My father tried to buy Mum and me some time," Rose announced in a monotonous tone as she climbed the rotting stairs. To Severus, she appeared lost in the horrible memory of Lily's death, the very memory the Dementors had unleashed on the ride to Hogwarts the previous year. When she finally reached the top floor of the house, she absently stroked the wooden cot that sat at the edge of the destruction. Her unfocused eyes only bolstered his opinion that she had slipped into a trance-like state.

"Stand aside, you silly girl. Stand aside. Stand aside."

Then, abruptly she spun towards him, wand out, her face temporarily distorted with anger and grief. For a moment, he thought her fury directed at him, and readied himself for her judgment. However, the destructive spells she hurled flew over his head to explode harmlessly in the bright sky above.

"He's nothing more than a bloody coward! I was a baby! I wasn't any threat to him! He didn't have to kill them! I should have had a mum and dad! I shouldn't have grown up in a cupboard! I should have grown up knowing about magic and riding a broom and laughing at my dad's stupid jokes and playing with my brothers and sisters just like Ron! But Voldemort stole all that from me! He's nothing but a fucking coward who was so afraid of a stupid prophecy that he was willing to kill a baby! Well, you know what? I'm going to kill him! I'm going to kill him if it's the last thing I do! Because no one else should have to lose their parents like I did! Do you hear me, Snape? No one! No one!

She collapsed in his arms, keening with grief, gasping for air and apologizing for screaming at him all at once. All he could do was hold her and tell her how sorry he was, how if he could have done things differently he would have. And, still she cried, and he cried with her, for once allowing himself to express the sorrow that had gnawed at him for so many years.

"I'm sorry, Dad. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have gone off like that. I was just so angry. It's not fair. It's just not fair."

"No, Rose, it's not," he assured her as he searched his pockets for more tissues. She'd already used the lot, so he took the cuff of his sleeve and carefully wiped her nose before scourgifying his shirt.

The sight of him doing something so utterly undignified pulled a laugh from her throat. "Look at us. We're a right mess."

"I daresay I have suffered worse indignities."

"Name one."

"Have you seen Longbottom's boggart?"

This time, she collapsed from her giggles. He sat beside her, a stupid grin on his face. After everything, Rose Potter could still laugh, which was something of a miracle in itself. After a while, they solemnly explored the rest of the house. Nothing triggered Rose's memory, but she did find a shoebox full of letters underneath her parent's bed.

Holding onto the box tightly with both hands, she took a last look around James and Lily's bedroom. "I think we can leave now, Dad. I think I've seen everything I need to see."

"Are you certain, Rose? It is unlikely you will be able to visit your home again."

"This house hasn't been my home for a long time. And, I think Mum and Dad would be happy that I found a new home with you." With the resilience of the young, she smiled. "Let's go, Dad. I'm famished."

They discussed lunch possibilities as they walked down the stairs and out the remnants of the house. Rose wanted to go into Muggle London to eat at a restaurant Dudley had once bragged about. Severus, on the other hand, was perfectly content to dine at the Leaky Cauldron, arguing that it was conveniently located near Fortescue's. He had been about to suggest adding a visit to Quality Quidditch Supplies when he glanced at the gate. Instinctively, he pulled Rose behind him. Outside of the ruins of the Potter's home stood Albus Dumbledore. There wasn't a twinkle to be seen in his ice cold eyes.

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Author's Notes - Hi again! Although some of you might have seen this coming for a while now, this particular chapter was a difficult one to pull together. The Potter's epitaph, much of the description of Godric's Hollow and the sign which magically appears in front of the ruined house are all taken from The Deathly Hallows, and all credit for those wonderful details goes to J.K Rowling, not me. I tried to write the article for the Daily Prophet in the same spirit as the ones mentioned in the books. So, yes, it is lurid and a trifle inaccurate due to the Quick Quotes Quill and Rita Skeeter's love of scandal. And, the poem of course belongs to John Donne. I do apologize for the formatting. The article looked much better in Word, but the indentions and justification didn't translate here.

As for why I had them visit Godric's Hollow, I'd always wondered how Harry might have reacted had he been able to visit before it became a deadly trap. While no one can ever know, I believe Rose (and Severus) will find the visit of great benefit in the months to come. And, no, Ignotus Peverell has no significance to this story at this point in time, but it is his moss-covered grave Rose points out to Snape in the churchyard.

Hope you enjoyed the latest chapter! A big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read, review and put this story on alert or favorite. I hope it doesn't disappoint.