Actions

Work Header

Si Tu n’Étais Pas Là

Work Text:

The Future Flows From Here

Part 6

Si Tu n’Étais Pas Là

************

‘C’mon Severus, c’mon,’ Harry mutters, ‘step out … pleeease.’ The flames roar upwards once more and suddenly, there he is, on the other side. He lands gently on the grass, stands and lifts his arms skywards. ‘Thank Merlin,’ Harry groans and starts to walk towards him, but Saskya grabs his arm and holds him back; she shakes her head.

Severus moves towards his family, but on the way, Lucius Malfoy steps in front of him. They exchange words Harry cannot hear; then Lucius holds out his hand. It is several heart beats before Severus shakes the offered hand. He then takes Draco’s offered hand before moving towards his family. They engulf him in hugs and kisses. When Harry looks at him, he thinks Severus looks tired, but somehow less tense, as if some great weight has been removed from him.

‘I am famished,’ Severus says, ‘let’s get some food, then there is a night of dancing ahead.’ He puts his arm around Saskya and with the children in tow, they set off for the marquees. Before he follows, Harry turns to look at the Log. Its flames are now merely ordinary, as if it is about to extinguish itself. The crowd is also dispersing towards refreshments and dancing. He starts to follow Severus and Saskya.

‘Harry Potter,’ the voice is barely a whisper.

He turns around expecting to see someone he knows; but the area is empty. With a shrug he continues on his way.

‘Harry James Potter,’ the voice says again, louder this time.

Harry frowns and looks at the disappearing figures of Severus and his family. He turns back to the Log, feeling an unseen pull. He moves towards the Log and for the first time, he sees the Standing Stone, it must have been hidden while the fire burned brightly, but now, it loomed menacingly over the Log.

‘Welcome, Harry Potter. Do you wish to jump the Log?’ The disembodied voice asks.

Harry looks around suspiciously, expecting someone to step out of the shadows and shout “gotcha!” But there is no-one there, he is alone and for some reason, getting angry; whoever it is playing silly buggers with him can bloody well play it on their own. He turns to leave.

‘Oh, but you haven’t answered my question, Harry Potter.’

‘I would if I knew who the bloody hell I was talking to,’ the anger is welling up inside him, his arms rigid by his side as he clenches his hands into a fist; something he would do during the War when the need to fight crept up on him … or in a Potions class when Severus would …

‘Yes, that is what I am talking about,’ the voice seemed amused. ‘There is no point in professing love for someone you used to hate if you still carry that hatred within you.’

‘Look, who is this and how do you know my name? And I don’t, I have forgiven him.’

‘And what about Lucius and Draco? Have you forgiven them?’

‘That’s different,’ he is yelling, his face now flushed red in his anger and his fists are raised, ready to fight.

‘Yet Lucius Malfoy was prepared to risk death to redeem himself; as was the one you profess to love. Surely you are not so arrogant as to believe you do not need redeeming?’

‘Who … are … you?’ He turns a full circle in an attempt to see who is goading him. Large rocks don’t speak, do they? He has not felt fury … and such despair like this since the War.

‘Everybody. And Nobody. I ask again, are you prepared?’

Harry takes a deep breath in, attempting to suppress the panicked sob that is building in his throat.

Can he let go of the anger and hatred he harbours for Vernon, Petunia and Dudley and how they made him suffer? Can he forgive Lucius for making him and his friends suffer? He needs Draco’s forgiveness for using the Sectumsempra and leaving him to die; after all, Draco was as much a victim of Voldemort as he was.

He takes a step towards the Log and stops; the flames respond and rise up a little higher. He needs to rid himself of the hatred he carried towards Severus for so long while he was at Hogwarts.

Suddenly deflated, his head drops to his chest and his hands and arms relax. Whoever or whatever the voice is, it is right. How can he tell Severus he loves him when his memory and the very fabric of his being remembers the loathing he felt towards him? And what about the incident when he tried to hex Severus with his own spell?

No. He needs to leave the past where it belongs, consigned to history, but healed. He needs to move forward without the baggage and shadows that still cling to him. This is his opportunity to do what he has always wanted to do.

He raises his head and stares defiantly at the Standing Stone. ‘I am ready,’ he answers, surprised by his calmness.

‘Very well. All you need to do is say it out loud and jump the Log.’

He nods and walks up to the Log; the flames begin to flare up. ‘I forgive the Dursleys for all …’

‘Haarryy!’

Severus and Saskya are running towards him. Severus catches him by the shoulders. ‘Harry, are you sure? You don’t have to do this now … there will be other years.’

Harry smiles gently at his lover and cups his face. ‘Severus, I am in love with you. If you will have me I want to spend the rest of my life with you …’

‘But …’

‘… Sshh. I’m sure. I need to do this.’ And he steps away and clears his throat. ‘I forgive the Dursley’s for all their ill treatment of me. I forgive Lucius Malfoy for the harm and hurt he caused me. I ask that Draco Malfoy can find it within himself to forgive me for the hurt I caused him. I sincerely regret my actions towards him.’ His voice is strong and steady as he takes another deep breath. ‘I ask for the forgiveness of Severus Snape. I treated him disgracefully during my years at Hogwarts. I hurt him in thoughts, words and deeds. I understand clearly now the task he had undertaken … to keep me … and others … safe, even at the cost of his own life. I love him deeply. Lastly, I need to forgive myself for all that I did as a child … and during the War.’

Without looking back, he steps into the fire, it roars to life with huge tongues of flames licking the night sky. Harry is lifted up in the flames as they wrap themselves around him, yet he is not burned. He holds his arms out to his sides, allowing the flames to lick at them. He watches as dark shadows and black pieces of what he thinks must be scorched flesh, rise from his body. He closes his eyes as his body floats in the fiery inferno. He stays like this for so long he thinks his clothes must soon catch fire.

He opens his eyes and sees it. The Log is before him and he jumps at it, or rather, he is pushed by some unseen force. His glasses fall forward at he hits the earth with a thump. Then arms are pulling up and Severus is holding him.

‘I thought you were going to perish,’ he whispers in Harry’s ear. ‘I could not have lived without you.’

Harry pushes his glasses firmly up his nose and grins. ‘Severus, I’m the Boy Who Lived … have a little faith,’ and he hugs him back.

‘How do you feel?’ Severus asks.

Harry pats himself down.’ Well, I seem to be in one piece … and I feel … different, yeah, almost … lighter.’

‘Oh do come along you two,’ Saskya complains, ‘there is mulled wine, food and dancing to be had,’ and she places herself between them and links her arms through theirs. ‘Plenty of time for the goo-goo sloppy stuff later.’

‘Goo-goo sloppy stuff? What in the name of all Hades is that?’ Severus says.

‘Oh you know, all the things you are good at, Sev. Kissing, cuddling, fu …’

‘I do not cuddle and don’t call me Sev,’ her brother snaps.

‘Alright, Sevvi,’ Saskya and Harry chorus.

Severus grunts his displeasure but gives them each a chaste kiss.

The marquee is filled with people eating, drinking, and laughing. Saskya hands Harry a large goblet of mulled wine and the three salute each other. ‘The future!’ she says as they clink goblets together.

Harry eats a full plate of food and stands beside the Severus, at ease for the first time in his life.

‘C’mon, Oncle ’Arry,’ Elise grabs his hand and pulls him towards the dancing. ‘Dance with me again.’

He smiles at Severus, who smiles indulgently back. In the dancing marquee, a lively Two Step is under way and he and Elise join the crowd. He catches a glimpse of Severus who is being led onto the dance floor by Sabine. Saskya is partnered by her father in law and Marius … Marius is dancing very close to an attractive young lady, oblivious to the music and everyone around them. Severus smiles at Harry as he passes him and Harry feels the warmth of love wash over him.

***********

Grey dawn is struggling to make itself seen through the heavily falling snow as they arrive back at Ferme Malefoy. Saskya makes up rooms for her guests as no-one wants to leave just yet.

Once in their room, Severus pulls Harry into him. ‘You said you would like to dance with me,’ he says. Harry nods and stands in front of him. Severus takes his wand and with a theatrical twirl, he creates falling snow.

‘Severus, it’s snowing outside. Do we really need snow indoors?’

‘Ah, Harry … you don’t understand … outside is everyone else’s snow … this … this is our snow. Now, shall we?’ And without further ado, he pulls Harry into him and starts to slow dance. He hums a tune as they dance and Harry chuckles. ‘Oh, so you think my effort at dancing is … inadequate?’

‘No, no … it’s just that …’

‘What?’

‘It’s just that … when I was younger and I thought about what my adult life might be like … it was nothing like this.’

‘And that disappoints you?’

‘No! Just the opposite, I think any other outcome would disappoint me,’ and Severus leans down and kisses his neck, his cheeks and finally, his lips. His mouth is soft on his and Harry finds himself struggling against the familiar rush of warmth and the urge to melt into a kiss that bursts through all bounds of reason. He rests his cheek against Severus as they shuffle around the room. Dawn finally appears but neither man notices.

‘Tell me about Saskya,’ Harry breaks the silence.

‘Tell you what?’

‘I have seen her use very simple magic … but I get the sense that she is very capable.’

‘Hmm, yes, she is … very capable, believe me,’ Severus replies.

‘So, is she as good as you?’

Severus doesn’t respond at first, he stops in the middle of the room, stops the snow with a wave of his hand and takes a deep breath. ‘Let’s get into bed,’ they undress and he leads Harry to their bed. Harry snuggles into him as they get comfortable.

‘Saskya is beyond good,’ Severus says at last. ‘She is a natural and talented witch. You might even say … brilliant. Top of her class in most things. Where I had to struggle with my studies … she didn’t. I was shy, tongue tied and unpopular. She was outgoing, garrulous and very popular’. He pauses. ‘We were very different when we were young; but fiercely loyal and protective of each other. She knew me better than anyone … she still does.’

He falls silent for so long that Harry thinks he has fallen asleep.

‘After I left Hogwarts, I travelled for a while. Then Albus requested that I take up the position of Potions Master at the school. I had nothing better to do … so I accepted.’

‘When was this?’ Harry asks.

‘Before the First Wizarding War. Naturally, being at Hogwarts brought me back into contact with Lucius and … the Death Eaters. Lily and James were getting married … Remus was the only one I could tolerate … so,’ he faltered ‘… with no other friends, I was initiated into the Order.’

‘The Order … of the Phoenix?’

Severus gives a small, bitter laugh. ‘No, the Order of Death Eaters. That’s when I first met … him. Anyway, after a few months, I thought I had fallen in love. He was handsome and I was naïve … I thought that … he loved me. I was overjoyed. I finally had someone in my life who wanted to be with me … someone who wasn’t my twin.’

Again, he falls into silence.

‘Was he a Death Eater?’ Harry prompts.

‘Of course.’

‘What happened?’

Severus sighs heavily. ‘I was still able to come home quite often. Saskya was happy that I was happy. Oh she wasn’t pleased that I was a Death Eater … she thought it dangerous and not … right. But I convinced her otherwise and she accepted my choice’.

Harry glances at Severus and sees that his eyes are closed, not in sleep, but as he remembers. ‘Severus, you don’t have to tell me ...’

Severus opens his eyes and looks at Harry, his face softens. ‘You asked a question Harry. I am answering that question … but there is background to that answer … and you should know it.’

Harry nods. ‘This was before she married Lyrus and had children?’

‘Yes, but this was our home, she has lived here most of her life for safety; the Malefoy’s took care of her. So … I came home one day. She knew immediately something was wrong; she would look at me, follow me with her eyes. She asked me if I was hurt in any way. I said I had had a fall but I was healing. Of course … my twin is much brighter than me … she didn’t believe me.’

‘Was it an accident?’

Severus doesn’t reply at first. ‘No. The way she looked at me … she knew there was more. I tried keeping out of her way as much as I could, but she ambushed me one day … out there … in the forest. She confronted me and asked outright if … if … my lover had hurt me. I denied again.’

‘Then what happened?’

‘I had no idea she was so skilled a Ligilimens. She went straight to the memory. I tried to raise my barriers … but I wasn’t quick enough. She saw it all and knew who it was. She released me very gently … but her face. Her face was full of rage. I have seen her angry Harry, but this time …’ Severus rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling. ‘I begged her not to do anything … but her rage was boiling over … she vanished. I knew where she was going of course so I followed. He was alone in his house … I arrived mere seconds after her. She walked up to him. I called to her not to do anything … that he was very dangerous. She turned to look at me and do you know what she said?’ Harry shakes his head. ‘“Not as dangerous as me”’.

It was no more than a whisper.

Silence descended upon the room again and it was many minutes before Severus continued his story.

‘She lifted her hand to hit him … but instead, it was an energy bolt. He laughed at her as if he was … enjoying himself. I called to her again. “Don’t do it!” but she was deaf to my entreaties. His smile suddenly vanished.’

‘Not … the Aver Kedavra?’ Harry gasped.

‘Oh no. Not for our Sassi … that would have killed him with very little pain. She applied the Cruciatus, slowly at first then stronger and stronger … until he was screaming and writhing in agony. I ran to her to try and stop her, but she pushed me away with Impedimenta as if I were … a feather … or a snowflake and she did not stop the Cruciatus … two spells at once Harry … do you know how exceptional that is?’. Harry watched as Severus’s face crumpled at the memory.

‘So, he’s in St Mungo’s?’

‘No.’

‘So … she stopped before he lost his mind?’

‘No.’

‘What then? What happened?’ Harry persists even as his insides are twisting with worry.

‘She looked down at him on the floor. “Nobody hurts my brother”, she said. I think he may have mouthed “brother?” just before she re-applied the Cruciatus … just enough to kill him.’

Harry exhaled the breath he had been holding; he dared not ask any more questions.

‘She came back to herself, released me … looked at him lying on the floor, his body bent double, there was blood seeping from his eyes, his nose and ears … I think his brain may have exploded. Then she fled and came back here. Nothing was ever said by the other Death Eaters over his demise; no arrest was made. But she had changed … I watched her for days, tearing herself apart. After that, apart from the wards and charms around the house, a Lumos every now and then and some broomstick flying and apperating … she has not used her magic since that day.’

Neither speaks. Harry simply searches for Severus’s hand under the covers and holds it. His mind is in turmoil at what he has just heard. How could such a delightful, loving witch have done something so terrible?

‘Severus,’ he says after a while ‘she must love you so much.’

‘She does Harry.’

‘Severus?’

‘Yes, Harry?’

‘I would do the same if anyone hurt you again.’

Severus turns to face him. ‘Thank you. But I don’t think it’s going to be necessary ever again.’

They wrap themselves around each other and fall asleep.

************

Yule arrives and both sets of Malefoys/Malfoys stay. Saskya can’t remember a Yule like it. There is fun and laughter, too much food and wine is consumed, and so far, there has been no sign of duelling wands; and for this she is grateful.

Lara Malefoy has spent a good deal of time with Elise and thinks that for now, the gene is weak, but it may get stronger over the years.

She watches Draco and Harry; they have spent a little time together and when she asked Harry what they talked about, he replied, “the future”. She thinks this is a good sign; they are being civil to each other and not resorting to hexes. Harry, she notices still has problems with Lucius Malfoy though. Lucius has changed considerably and she finds him a delightful guest, every bit as gracious as his French cousins. He and Harry are civil to each other, but she knows it is because they are both guests, rather than friends. Well, some hurts will take longer to heal than others.

Nor is Edmo Malefoy happy with the openly loving relationship Severus and Harry share. He would ‘tut’ loudly should they kiss or hold hands. The children of course, have no such qualms. In fact, when the two of them were not in their room, there would be at least one of the children attached to them. If they are sitting on the couch, Elise or Marius, sometimes both, would fling themselves at them and snuggle up. She did her best to control the youngsters, but they adored Harry and the young man genuinely didn’t seem to mind. More than once though, she caught Severus’s pleading look and she would rescue them from her adoring offspring.

She was also pleased when Harry, Draco and Astoria showed the younger children charms and simple spells that they had not seen before. And when Sabine had taken Harry up to the Potions Room to help her, she reported back that Harry was far from hopeless when it came to Potions.

She knows it will not last. Yule will be over in two more days and her guests will leave. What then? Going into the sitting room, she picks up her knitting and sits by the fire. Harry and Severus are ‘napping’ in their room. The children are beginning to sort their things out for the return to school next week; for Marius this also means finishing off homework. The other adults are taking advantage of a bright day without snow falling and have gone for a walk. She falls into the rhythmic click of the needles. Harry came to her earlier in the day and told her he is going to ask Severus if he would like to live with him in London. He was concerned of course, not for Severus, but for her. She had smiled and assured him that as long as Severus came back from time to time, she would be happy.

It breaks her heart of course, but she cannot deny Severus this chance of happiness.

She watches as her guests come through the garden gate. The pale winter sun reflects off the snow, making it shimmer. She hears their laughter, puts aside her knitting and goes to put fresh coffee on.

************

Harry moves his arse against him and he moans softly. They both doze in the hazy time that comes before being fully awake. Words cannot describe the feeling of getting into bed with someone you love, who loves you and making love. He made full love to Harry on Yule night; it was one of Harry’s gifts to him. The days since then had been joyful and the nights … more so.

‘I can hear the cogs in your brain working, y’know,’ Harry’s drowsy voice comes to him. ‘Knut for your thoughts?’

‘I am committing this Yule to my memory,’ he says with a kiss to back of Harry’s head.

‘Yeah, it has been great. But why do you need to remember it like it will disappear?’ Harry turns in his arms and faces him. Severus says nothing. ‘Great Merlin, Severus! You think this is it don’t you? That I’m going to leave you and you’ll be left with nothing but memories.’

Severus rolls onto his back. ‘Once you have left, will your mouth remember the taste of my love?’

Harry’s reply is a kiss. ‘Severus, I fully intend not to leave you. Well … yes I have leave to go back to the Ministry, but that’s not the end of us … unless …?’

‘Unless what?’

‘Unless it’s what you want.’

‘Harry, if I could I would keep you by side forever.’

‘And I will be by your side forever and we will make new memories.’

‘I would like that,’ Severus says. Harry lays his head on Severus’s shoulder as they lay in the quiet room. ‘You know I don’t want you to leave … don’t you?’ Severus adds.

‘Yes. But I have a job and I enjoy that job … well mostly I enjoy it. Not the flying hexes and curses part; I don’t like that.’

They stay silent again in each other’s arms. Dawn has not yet arrived so the world is still in darkness. From somewhere deep within the house someone is moving around; there is the flush and rush of water then a creak of beams before the house settles into quiet again.

‘Severus?’ Harry says. ‘Would you consider living in London? I mean I could work and then … come home to you.’

‘You want us to live together?’

‘Yeah, why not?’

‘Raised eyebrows for one thing and … I have commitments …’

‘Yes I know … and Saskya says she would be happy with the arrangement just as long as you come back once in a while.’

‘Huh … why is it that my sister gets consulted on things before me?’

‘Because she’s your twin,’ Harry replies as if that explains everything.

‘Interfering busy body is what she is.’

‘But you love her anyway,’ Harry’s hand ghosts over Severus’s chest.

‘Naturally.’

‘Well then …’ Harry cocks his head to the side in enquiry.

‘I think between you and my twin … my life is going to be very interesting,’ he reaches over a kisses the tip of Harry’s nose. ‘Now … as this is your last morning with me … for the time being, we really must have …’

‘… More sex?’

‘I was going to suggest a nice cup of tea in bed … but more sex works just as well.’ He pulls Harry on top of him and melts as the eager mouth finds his.

************

Saskya walks into the warmth of the kitchen and puts the owl post on the table. She has just arrived back from Beauxbatons. She travelled with the children this time so she could speak with the staff about Elise. She was relieved to discover that there are already three Lycanthropes at the school and the staff is well drilled in their care and security.

Taking off her coat, she sets about making a fresh pot of coffee. The house is empty and still, and she doesn’t like it. After the hurly burly of Yule and having the children home, it seems unnatural to have an empty house. And of course, Severus no longer lives here. His presence in the house was always reassuring. He had left the day after Harry to begin sorting out where he and Harry were going to live and more importantly, to gauge how their relationship is received by the British wizarding community.

She pours herself a bowl of hot coffee and sits to sort through the post. There is the usual stuff; the invoice from the school for fees, already paid; a letter of thanks from the English Malfoys for an enjoyable Yule; another letter from her in-laws, well mostly from Edmo, thanking her for Yule and hoping that Severus is not becoming too serious over the young Harry Potter. This made her laugh – oh yes, fat chance of that Edmo as they are already living together. The last item was a copy of ‘The Quibbler’; Severus subscribes to it as he says that amongst the drivel there was always one nugget of sound information.

She flips through the pages as she drinks her coffee. It all appears nonsense to her and despite what Severus may say, she could not find anything that was informative or sound. She pushes it aside and sighs heavily. What is she going to do now? The children are safe at school; Severus is giddily in love and starting a new life, good for him. Suddenly, she has no purpose in her life; she is directionless, drifting. She does not want to become the type of mother that only lives to be with her children. She needs something to do … a purpose … something to occupy her while the children are at school … and perhaps beyond. After all, they will not live at home forever.

Her eyes fall to the back page of ‘The Quibbler’. There is a small box at the bottom of the page it reads;

WANTED!!! Serious Person To Undertake RESEARCH OF A MOST IMPORTANT NATURE. Must Be Willing To Travel And Work Unusual Hours. Generous Remuneration. Reply In Writing In The First Instance to Xenophilius Lovegood, Ottery St Catchpole.”

The advertisement piques her interest. A job! That could be just the thing to keep her occupied. Going to a drawer, she removes parchment, ink and a quill. She sits at the table and writes:

 

 6th January.

Lyon Manor, France.

Dear Mr Lovegood,

With reference to your advertisement in the current issue of The Quibbler, I am interested in applying for the position of researcher. I would be grateful is you could let me have further details of what the position may entail and what the remuneration will be.

Yours sincerely,

S. Lyon.

 

She seals it and makes her way to the Owlry. She gives Hercule the sealed letter, ‘Xenophilius Lovegood, Ottery St Catchpole,’ Hercule gives a low hoot and flies off.

Of course, nothing will come of it, there’s bound to be several applications and after all she does live in France and he would be looking for someone more local. She spends the rest of the day tidying the house, doing laundry and generally clearing up after Yule.

The next morning there is a letter waiting for her in the Owlry. She breaks the seal.

 

6 January,

Dear Ms/Mrs/Mr Lyon,

Many thanks for your letter of enquiry regarding the position of researcher. The main research will be travelling across Europe looking for and cataloguing any sightings and/or findings of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack. This elusive and secretive creature has formed part of my research for several years, and as my current assistant is leaving, I am in need of another helper.

As to remuneration, I am able to offer 10 Galleons per hour when based in Great Britain (I note your address in France) – and should research be required further afield, then of course, The Quibbler will reimburse you for your travel and out of pocket expenses.

I would be delighted to meet you to discuss your employment further and therefore would like you to attend for an interview on 9 January at 2pm, here at Ottery St Catchpole.

I look forward to meeting you, etc. etc. etc.

With warmest wishes.

X Lovegood.

 

She re-reads the letter. The 9th of January would be difficult as it is their birthday; on the other hand, she has not heard from Severus about any celebration, joint or otherwise, so …

************

‘You’ve been where?’ Severus says, disbelief fills his voice.

‘As I have just told you …. Ottery St Catchpole,’ she replies, as calmly as she can.

‘Isn’t that where Xenophilius lives?’ Harry chimes in.

‘Why in the name of all Hades would you go to visit Xenophilius Lovegood?’

‘Because of a job.’

This is not going as well as she thought it would. She had gone along for this interview, and while Xenophilius was obviously eccentric, he was not dangerous. He also had some very good theories about … well, some very strange things. But they had had tea, chatted and he offered her job then and there, with a start date of a weeks’ time.

She had then apperated to the quiet side street where the Leaky Cauldron was located and walked the rest of the way to Harry and Severus’s new flat. It was in the old part of the City, quite near the river. It has views over a courtyard, two bedrooms, a living room and kitchen, with a separate bathroom. It is furnished in what Saskya terms, Post Modern Masculine. There was not one piece of bubbly soft furnishing anywhere. It suited the two men very well.

They were sitting in the living room after a celebratory supper at a very swanky Muggle restaurant. Presents had been exchanged and now the three of them were sitting sipping tea before bed. She had been invited to stay overnight and had agreed.

‘Sassi … the man is demented … it is a well-known fact …’ Severus slumps back in his chair. ‘I won’t allow it,’ he says.

Saskya laughs out loud. ‘Oh, mais oui ma petit chou chou! Of course I will obey your every command!’

‘Be serious Sassi … you can’t work for him … anyway, what would you be researching, eh?’

‘The existence of Crumple–Horned Snorkacks.’

Both men splutter and choke on their tea and she spends the next minutes thumping them on the back and they choke and laugh at the same time.

‘You cannot be serious!’ and Harry starts laughing again. ‘He has been looking for these creatures since I was at Hogwarts … probably before. And he has never, ever found one.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because, lovely sister mine … they do not exist,’ and Severus finishes his tea. ‘Right, bed-time … we will continue this discussion in the morning.’

Lying in bed, she feels crushed. Xenophilius didn’t seem dangerous; eccentric, mad maybe … but not dangerous … surely not? There is a soft tap at her door.

‘Sassi, are you still awake?’

‘Come in, Sev, I’m not asleep,’ she sits up, pulling the counterpane up to her chin against the chilly January night.

Severus sits on the bed. ‘I apologise if I sounded … off hand and sharp early … but … ‘

‘Sev, is he dangerous?’

‘Not exactly dangerous … more … irresponsible. He has some very strange ideas and this Crumple-Horned Snorkack thing … well it’s his obsession. Did he tell you that immediately after the War, he and Luna went off searching for this non-existent beast and that he wasted so much money …’

‘Who’s Luna?’

‘His daughter, a thoroughly charming woman but she shares his … eccentric ideas.’

‘Ah … she must be the assistant he referred to … the one he’s losing.’

He takes her hand and holds it. ‘Why this sudden need to have a job?’

She thinks about the question and how best to answer him. She decides to be honest. ‘I’m becoming redundant. The children are growing up … Sabine will leave home in the next couple of years, Marius will follow and so eventually, will Elise. Sev, I am so happy for you … you have your life … a life filled with Harry. So I just want … to have something useful to do,’ there, she has said it.

He kisses her hand. ‘Believe it or not, I do understand how you feel … there were times when I felt useless, forgotten … but Crumple – Horned Snorkacks? Really?’ He cocks his head and she finds herself laughing. ‘If you are certain that you want a job … I could ask Harry if there is anything at the Ministry …’

‘No, Sev … you know that won’t work.’

‘My darling, you are going to have overcome your … guilt about that. It is in the past … you were avenging me …’

‘… But if the Ministry ever look at my memories for some reason … I will be sent off to Azkaban forever.’ For some unexplained reason, she bursts into tears and Severus bundles her into his arms and cradles her.

‘You know you should have jumped the Log at Yule, don’t you?’

She nods. ‘I was too scared … what I did was unforgiveable … and I know I would have been punished.’

‘Would you like Harry and me to come back and live with you?’

‘Great Merlin no! I refuse to be a wallflower while you two are canoodling,’ she smiled.

‘Then … how about going to visit Senora Lopez? That would give you something to do and perhaps distance will give you … a fresh perspective?’

‘Oh … and perhaps I can look for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks along the way?’

He cuffed her as she settled back against the pillows. ‘When do you have to give him an answer?’

‘Tomorrow.’

‘Well then, my advice … is sleep on it,’ he leans over and kisses her cheek. ‘We shall have breakfast after Harry has gone to work and talk some more.’

‘Thank you Sev … Happy Birthday!’

‘And to you, Sassi. Good night.’

He closes the door and she snuggles down into the warmth of the bed. Perhaps there were options. Perhaps there were other things she could do besides searching for fantastical beasts. She closes her eyes. Perhaps there is a future out there for her after all.

************

In their bedroom, Severus undresses and naked, climbs into bed and snuggles into Harry.

‘Have you managed to talk her out of it?’ Harry mutters, half asleep.

‘I think so.’

‘Is she going to be alright?’

‘I believe so.’

Harry turns over. ‘Good, now set the privacy wards, this could get noisy.’

‘Oh I hope so,’ Severus smiles. With a wave of his hand, he sets the wards before setting his hand to much more important things.

************

 

FIN