Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.

AU. Why does Snape never eat at Order of the Phoenix Headquarters? What is the truth behind the animosity between he and Lupin? What does Voldemort have in store this time for the wizarding world...and Snape? Read on…

Bittersweet Symphony

by NativeMoon

Chapter 1: Free Me

The fall term of Harry Potter's Sixth Year

Professor Severus Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, walked quickly to get out of the rain. He always went elsewhere for his dinner rather than remaining at Grimmauld Place with the rest of the Order of The Phoenix. The reason for this had to do with matters that were deeply personal as much as it did with the rest of the Order's blatant mistrust and aversion to him and his presence amongst them. The way he was regarded within the Order did bother him subconsciously; but as with most things he buried it deep inside and willed it not to touch him. But inevitably it did and would show itself through his caustic and cruel persona.

Nothing he'd done was ever good enough. He was no fool. He'd always known that risking his life by returning to the fold of his enemy would never garner him any respect from any of them. The Potions Master needed to be rid of Lord Voldemort as much as anyone else but for very different reasons. However, no one else cared about the dark magic that bound him to the Dark Lord. The only way to get some semblance of a real life and peace was to see to it that Voldemort was destroyed once and for all. Why Dumbledore hadn't just destroyed him outright was still a mystery to many, not the least of whom was Professor Snape. However, no one else had to take the risks or make the considerable sacrifices that he was making.

The sacrifices he'd always had to make – at the Headmaster's insistence.

XxxOOOxxX

Lisa Bey ran inside the brown brick schoolhouse. The last thing she'd needed was to have to stay late at work; but thank god it was her last week. One more day and she was free from the monotony of working for an investment bank in its corporate communications department. She could focus the design business she'd had going on the side and set her own schedule.

It was better this way all things considered.

"Hello Mrs. Anderson. Thanks so much for having Sebastian and Selena – I was on my way out the door but wasn't fast enough for the boss…"

"No problem at all Miss Bey. They rather enjoyed themselves with the others," said the after-school playgroup leader. "You should consider letting us have them in the after-school programme…"

"Sounds like a great idea – you can have them then!"

Lisa and Mrs. Anderson had a laugh as they filled out a little form with the necessary details. The playgroup mistress told her about the rather comical show-and-tell that the children had today in assembly.

"MUMMY!" came a little voice.

Lisa's six year-old son hurled himself against his mother's legs.

"Hello sweetpea! Mrs. Anderson says you were having fun…"

"Uh huh! Look what I made!"

Sebastian handed his mother a soaking wet piece of paper loaded with bright watercolours.

"That's beautiful baby!" Lisa said with a big smile. "Is that for me?"

"Uh uh – Daddy!"

"Oooo well isn't Daddy lucky then!"

"You have something else for your mummy, don't you Sebastian?" asked Mrs. Anderson with a wink.

"Uh huh!"

Sebastian ran to his table and grabbed a bright green lump of Play-Doh.

"Look what I made Mummy!" he said thrusting it in his mother's hand.

"Well done! Is it a doggy?"

"NO!"

"A cow?"

"NO!" Sebastian said with giggles this time.

"Hmmmm let me see…"

"Mummy you know what it is!" said Sebastian with a fake pout.

"Yes – it's Emerald isn't it?" asked Lisa with a big grin.

Emerald was the owl given to her by Sebastian's father. Owls were common where they lived, so seeing one more near the house would not draw undue attention.

"YAY!" Sebastian clapped and then ran a mad circle around his mother.

"MUMMY!" came another little squeal.

Her four year-old daughter Selena padded over in her pink and white fairy princess costume complete with wings, pink glittery slippers and a plastic magic wand with a glittery star at the end.

"How's my little princess hmmm?"

"Look!" said Selena as she thrust a big red blob in her mother's hand.

"That's gorgeous sweetie – that for me?"

Selena shook her head 'no'.

"For Daddy?"

Selena shook her head 'yes".

"Hmmm is it a pig?"

"NO!"

"Hmmm is it…a…car?"

"NO!"

"Well I give up Princess…what is it then?"

"IT'S DADDY!"

"OOO it looks just like him petal!"

Sebastian thought this was funny and started running around again peeling with laughter. The other children started clapping and shouting and running around with him.

"Alright, alright! Calm down everybody! Say goodbye to Sebastian and Selena and let's finish our projects…" said Mrs. Anderson with a grin as she shooed the children back to their tables and the other two classroom assistants.

Lisa gathered her children's lunchboxes, raincoats and hats and Wellington boots from their little cubes. She sat on one of the little kiddie stools nearby.

"Come on Seb, Sel – time to motor!"

Sebastian ran over with his pots of Play-Doh, some art and crafts projects that he'd finished some time ago but kept forgetting and his little backpack. He dumped them unceremoniously in his mother's lap. Selena ran over and dumped her crafts on the floor along with her backpack.

"Oh no you don't mes amies!"

Her children were masters at getting her to sort things out for them. But their mother folded her arms and waited patiently while they packed away their things. Their little backpacks wouldn't hold it all and Sebastian didn't want his paintings to get 'smushed' so Lisa had to put some things in the leather satchel she used for work. Selena was not one to be left out and pressed her little blobs, canisters of paints and Play-Doh on her mother.

She buttoned Sebastian and Selena up tight amidst much complaining and then let them say goodbye to their playmates before they left. Selena refused to take off her fairy costume and Lisa had to wrap her coat around her and carry her.

Once they were at her car, Lisa bundled them into their children's seats in the back seat of the car.

"Mummy I'm hungry…" said Sebastian with a tired moan.

"I'll fix your tea as soon as we get home ok?"

"Mummy I want Daddy!" said Selena with a sulky pout very much like her father's.

"I know honey; I want to see Daddy too…" came a sad reply.

Lisa couldn't help it. A few tears started rolling down her cheeks.

"Why are you crying Mummy?" asked Sebastian as he gave his mother a poke.

"Mummy's tired sweetpea…it's been a long day…"

She'd love nothing more than to see her children's father every night and have them be like a normal family. But it just wasn't possible.

Not yet.

XxxOOOxxX

Remus Lupin stood under a tree some distance away, watching as Lisa bundled the children into her Muggle transport. Of all the regrets about his life, she was undoubtedly the biggest. He should handle things a lot differently with her. He certainly could do if he just tapped into his formidable Gryffindor bravery. He would do well to find a bit a Slytherin cunning and resourcefulness, he thought to himself.

Lisa's parents had always tolerated him enough; but would never contemplate the thought of their daughter marrying one so lowly as him with his shabby patched-up clothes and no serious prospects for employment. Her lies about him over the years had not fooled them one bit.

Still, he was surprised that her parents even bothered to see him last week. No doubt they had their reasons and they had to be very interesting ones. Whatever they were, the senior Beys were playing their cards close to their chest.

Remus wished things could be different between he and Lisa. But he still believed that she was much safer without him than she was with him; especially since she was a Muggle. Seeing her with the children – it always broke his heart being reminded of just what he was missing. He was tired of living like this; of not having a proper family with her and a stable home life for them, but had no choice.

He'd always had to make sacrifices – at the Headmaster's insistence.

XxxOOOxxX

Professor Snape let himself in the back entrance of a detached house at the end of a road. It was quite unlike what anyone would have imagined he'd live in had they known about it. It was a spacious and very pretty powder blue and cream Regency style house resplendent with Juliet balconies. When he saw the house near the little village of Eastcote-Upon-Barnet he knew it was the one. It was set back from the road behind large hedges and tall trees. There was ample land all around it and its front and back gardens were lush and full.

It was the perfect house in the perfect location.

He hung up his wet things in the little wet room off the conservatory and then went into the kitchen. He might as well get dinner on while he had a hot shower. A few waves of his wand and there would be roast chicken and potatoes, dinner rolls, gravy and mixed vegetables of carrots, peas and corn.

Everything was cooking in the large blue Aga range. A few more flicks of his wand and the table was set. He went back to the sitting room and started a fire in the large fireplace. It was really hammering it down outside with rain and wind now. It felt and looked more a like typical English winter than autumn.

As he stood up Severus looked around the familiar untidiness of the large room and let out a deep sigh.

It was so good to be home.

XxxOOOxxX

Lisa pulled into her garage and sighed as she locked it electronically behind them.

"Alright you two…dinner and bed!"

There were none of the usual howls of protest from the back. She turned around. Both her babies were fast asleep, worn out by the afternoon's activities and the drive home. She couldn't help but smile. There were some regrets she had about her life, but her children was not one of them.

Neither was their father.

Lisa unpacked the boot and carried the kids' things into the hall along with the groceries she'd picked up on the way home. She'd leave them there for the time being. She took a deep breath from tiredness and then stood stock-still. Was that chicken she was smelling? She walked into the kitchen and let out a sigh of relief.

She had to resist the temptation to go tearing through the house. The children needed tending to. She made it as far as the hallway.

"Hello Angel," came a familiar silky whisper of a baritone.

Lisa forgot her usual self-restraint and ran into her husband's arms.

"We've missed you so much," she sobbed as they held each other tightly.

"I know," replied Severus gently as he savoured being able to hold the woman he loved in his arms once more. "I've missed you too – you have no idea how much…"

They hugged and kissed and could not bear to let go of each other.

"Where are the children?"

"In the car; they fell asleep after we went to the market. I ended up getting them their tea in the restaurant there. Seb has his father's appetite…"

Severus took his wife by the hand and walked her back to the garage. Sebastian and Selena were still fast asleep. It never ceased to amaze him what exotic combinations of both their parents his children were in looks and temperament. Sebastian had his black hair and eyes, and a more delicate version of his prominent nose (so far). Selena's hair was the same rich reddish-brown hue as her mothers and looked just like her, even down to her amber eyes. Sebastian's hair was straight like his but Selena's was long and loosely curly and wispy like Lisa's own. They had a much paler version of their mother's dark honey-coloured skin and even Sebastian looked more like her with his large eyes than he did his father – 'mercifully thank the Goddess', Severus had thought as his son got older.

But there would be no doubts as to who their father was were he to ever be seen with his children, especially Sebastian.

At times Sebastian also seemed to have some of his peculiar brand of Snape temperament, much to his chagrin. He would do his best to see that both of his children were not anything like him in personality in their everyday lives. He wanted them to have every opportunity for happiness and comfort, especially growing up. God forbid his children should ever experience the kind of home life he'd survived. In many ways there were definitely their mother's children. And they would get along much better in the world were they like their mother rather than him.

Severus undid the seatbelt and security straps on Selena's seat and picked her up. He couldn't resist a chuckle.

"I see I have created a monster," he said silkily as he adjusted his long arms to accommodate his daughter's giant fairy wings.

"I told you not to get her that costume; I can't get her to take it off when she's not in school. They had show-and-tell today so she wore it specially. She was very proud that she's her daddy's fairy princess…" said Lisa with a grin as she picked up their son and locked the car. "Your princess, Severus."

"Was she?" he asked softly in amazement after they went back inside where it was warm and put the children to bed.

"Yes – they are both very proud of their Daddy. You are their favourite topic after Spongebob Squarepants and Pokemon. Selena insisted that she wanted to see you in the market and of course that started off Sebastian. They both love you Severus, and they miss you terribly…just like their mum…"

Severus took a deep breath and blinked back tears as he adjusted the covers over his daughter and son. He leaned over and gave them each a gentle kiss on the forehead as they slept, clutching their favourite teddy bears which he'd given them last Christmas. They never liked sleeping alone during a storm. They were deathly afraid of them – just like their mother.

Lisa wrapped her arms around him from the back as he sat on the bed.

There was a jerk of his shoulders and Lisa took him into her arms. There were only three people in the world that could ever make Severus Snape feel anything: his wife, son and daughter. He had missed out on so much with them, though it was not his choice to do so. Dumbledore had kept him from life imprisonment in Azkaban and given him a job that also brought with it a measure of protection and respect in the Wizarding world. But whenever the Headmaster said 'jump' his response always had to be 'how high'.

The Potions Master was Dumbledore's lapdog as much as he'd been The Dark Lord's.

He was not free of either of them.

The only way he would ever be free would be to vanquish the Dark Lord once and for all. Then he would no longer be useful to the Headmaster or in his debt and could finally walk away from life at Hogwarts.

"I'm sorry Severus – I shouldn't have said those things…"

Professor Snape angrily brushed the tears off his cheeks and faced his wife.

"It is me that should apologise. I have ruined your life and our children's! What kind of man does not shoulder the responsibilities of his own family?!"

Selena stirred.

"Daddy?" she mumbled.

"Yes, Princess…its Daddy…" he said in a whisper even more quiet than his usual whisper of a voice as he gave his daughter a hug. "Go back to sleep…"

Selena rolled over and fell back into a deep sleep as her father adjusted the covers once more.

"I think we can put Seb down in his room…" said Severus as he picked up his still sleeping son clutching his Paddington Bear.

They left Selena's door slightly ajar and then went into their son's room to put him down for the night.

"The benefits of the after-school playgroup. I had to work late and they were kind enough to let the children stay again. The group leader tells me they enjoyed themselves and from what I could see they definitely did. So I signed them up today. They only ask for a small donation to help with supplies and snacks and things…"

Severus sighed. He was missing out on so much. He just wanted his wife and children and to be a proper husband and father to them.

"I made another deposit into the house account today. Do not worry about the cost."

They had always had a joint account with a major Muggle 'High Street' bank in Lisa's name only. However, he had access to it through a duplicate debit card and internet banking. It was a far safer and discreet arrangement than having it with Gringotts. Severus only kept a reasonable amount of funds in an account of his own with the wizarding bank run by goblins for appearances sake. Only enough that he could afford to lose.

Now that Voldemort was back and even stronger than before, there was no doubting that sooner or later the goblins would finally be persuaded to join his ranks. And if that happened it would take some doing to wrestle control of the bank from them. There weren't enough goblins on Dumbledore's side to ensure that the bank would not be one of the first wizarding institutions to fall.

Voldemort was being much more intelligent with his strategies this time around.

The Order was in for some major shocks when he filed his next report.