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Fire, To Destroy All You've Done

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The Future Flows From Here

Part 5

Fire, To Destroy All You’ve Done

 ************

 

Saskya appears and beckons the two men to follow her. They follow her down into the cellars; Elise is sitting on a pile of cushions wrapped in a large blanket. She looks pale, but smiles at them as they sit with her. Saskya explains to them the process and dangers of the change for a new, young lycanthrope.

She takes them to the far end of the cellar and gives them the spells that will contain Elise if she loses control of the wolf and those charms that will ease the pain of the change back. She goes on to tell them about the other items in the room; water of course, but the blankets so that Elise can cover her nakedness when she changes back and something to eat, meat would be good.

‘All these things I was shown by Senora Valerina,’ Saskya tells them.

‘Wouldn’t Lyrus have needed all the same things?’ Harry asks.

‘Yes, but he was an adult, he would sort all that out for himself, I didn’t really have any part of that and as a child … well, his mother would have taught him. Now, with Elise, we still don’t know how strong or weak the lycanthropy is; Senora Valerina seems to think that it is fairly weak now, but as Elise ages, it may get stronger.’

‘How would she know?’ Harry asks, intrigued by this new subject.

‘Scent,’ Saskya replies. ‘The stronger the scent, the stronger the gene, for now, Elise’s wolf scent is faint, but that could change as she grows up.’

‘Grandmamma will help as well,’ Elise chimes in.

‘Of course she will, chérie. But now, no more changing, go and have a nice bath and wash your hair.’

With the blanket wrapped around her, Elise walks up to her uncle and offers him her cheek to kiss. She walks passed Harry and stops, turns around and gives him her cheek as well before running off. Harry blushes.

‘She is growing up quickly, Severus said as the three of them climb the cellar steps.

‘That she is,’ Saskya agrees and follows her daughter upstairs.

Severus turns to Harry. ‘Let’s wrap up and go for a walk.’

Harry glances out of the window. ‘OK. Great. But It’s snowing,’ he starts to protest.

‘Then you will need a hat and scarf,’ Severus said disappearing into his room.

By the time Harry has flung on an extra jumper and a heavy coat, Severus has left the house and is stomping down the garden. The snow is not too deep around the house as charms keep the snow at a reasonable depth, but he still sends small puffs of powdery flakes flying up as he walks. Harry chases after him, putting on his hat, scarf and gloves as he runs along. It is bitterly cold; the snow is only light, but the sky is laden and looks as if it is holding enough snow for the next year. As he runs, he can’t help but wonder what has caused Severus’s sudden mood change.

Severus is still ahead of him, his dark figure silhouetted sharply against the white snow, which makes it easy for Harry to keep him in his sights. Severus makes a sudden right and heads into the trees. Harry follows. In here, the forest floor is still fairly dry and snow free. It is also eerily quiet. He struggles on as the land rises before him and his warm breath becomes steam as it meets the frigid air.

Severus has stopped on the brow of the hill. Harry approaches him and stands just behind him, catching his breath. He sees the tautness in the stance and the way Severus’s gloved hands curl and uncurl. Without warning, Severus turns and catches him in a fierce embrace. Harry returns the hug.

‘What’s going on, Severus?’

‘I apologise, Harry. It’s nothing to do with you … it’s me. I tend to panic whenever something unexpected happens these days. And now, three unexpected things happened.’

‘Elise, the fête and the Malefoys.’

‘Yes. Here, in this … my home, I can escape.’ Severus pulls out of the embrace and turns away. ‘Back … then … I couldn’t escape. I had to stay and face it all. So much of it …,’ his head falls to his chest. ‘It was … overwhelming. But I had to keep the mask, the façade in place. You have no idea how liberating it is just to walk away from something.’

Harry moves to his side and slips his arm around the slender waist. ‘But even here, you still have to deal with it,’ Harry says.

‘Yes, but on my own terms. Hold me Harry … please.’

Harry envelopes him in a hug and he feels the man relax into his body. ‘I thought you were a goner earlier,’ he chuckles to lighten the mood.

‘And why’s that?’

‘She called you Severus,’ and he hears a soft laugh.

‘Did you get hugged when you were growing up?’ Severus asks.

‘Not until I arrived at Hogwarts, then Hermione would hug me; Hermione hugged all her friends. Then Molly of course, nobody hugs like Molly Weasley, her bosoms were two soft pillows that could possibly have suffocated you. It took me a long time to get used to it, hugging I mean … that it was acceptable or even … normal. What about you?’

Severus runs his hand through Harry’s hair. ‘Come on, let’s go to the top.’

‘What? This isn’t the top?’

Severus just smiles and sets off; once again, Harry follows. Ten minutes later they crest another hill and stand in the last line of trees. Severus leans against a tall Spruce and as Harry comes level to him, he grabs him, turns him around and points. ‘Look. The Alps, the Rhône Valley and beyond … the rest of Europe. Isn’t it magnificent?’

‘Very,’ Harry replies, ‘but you haven’t answered my question.’

Severus stares out at the soaring peaks of the Alps. ‘Sassi and I took refuge in each other. Our mother would hug us from time to time …’ his voice trails off. ‘Lily … your mother, taught me about friendship and she would hug me. It was nice. Things changed at Hogwarts. My fault. I take all the blame and responsibility …’

‘So Saskya was the only one to hug you out of love when you were children?’ Severus nods. ‘And later? Harry persists.

‘I had liaisons … lovers, not many, but enough to know that I couldn’t love any of them. Of course there was the little matter of them all being involved in some way with … the Dark Arts …’ again, his voice trails away and his eyes take on a haunted look as he remembers.

Harry dares not move, for to do so would break the moment. ‘Did …,’ he begins, ‘… did these lovers hurt you?’

‘That is the nature of the Dark, Harry.’

Harry now steps in front of his love, close enough so that their breath mingles on the cold air. ‘I will not hurt you, Severus. Ever.’

‘And for that, I am grateful. But …, perhaps the more pertinent question should be … would I hurt you?’

‘Do you want to?’

‘No. Never,’ Severus whispers.

‘Well then,’ Harry brushes Severus’s lips with a gentle kiss, ‘that’s all cleared up. We will not hurt each other and we will learn to trust each other and perhaps in time … hug each other.’ This time, Severus laughs out loud. ‘You have a lovely laugh, you need to do it more often. Now, c’mon, it’s stopped snowing and we’ll miss lunch,’ and he grabs Severus’s hand and together they make their way back to the house.

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

Lunch is a light snack as they would be feasting later. There is a lot of laughter around the table as well as broad hints about Yule time gifts.

‘Do you have a fête at Yule time, ‘Arry?’ Elise asks.

‘We have a Solstice Day celebration when you meet with family and friends for a meal and games,’ he replies.

‘And do you have a tree and a log?’ Marius continues.

‘Oh yes. The bigger the tree the better,’ Harry grins. ‘The tree at Hogwarts was the biggest I have ever seen.’

‘Is that true, Oncle?’ Marius continues.

‘Yes, ma petit, it was spectacular,’ Severus confirms.

‘And did you teach ‘Arry potions?’ Marius asks.

‘He tried,’ Harry answers, ‘but I was hopeless.’

‘I wouldn’t say hopeless,’ Severus says. ‘Well, yes actually … he was hopeless,’ and he is rewarded by Harry with a thump to his arm which makes everyone laugh.

Saskya gets up and begins clearing away. ‘I suggest a rest this afternoon as we will be out all night.’ With everyone’s help the kitchen is cleared in next to no time.

In their room, Severus and Harry undress, slip into bed and wrap their arms around each other. Neither speaks for a long time.

‘I have never been held by a lover who loved me,’ Severus breaks the silence. ‘I would never have thought that you, of all people, would hold me with love; would even consider loving me, old and ruined as I am.’

‘I’m broken as well,’ Harry replies. ‘Broken by life, loss and all the expectations people had … and still have of me. Sometimes …’ he stops.

‘Yes … sometimes?’

‘Sometimes I simply want to turn my back on everything, walk away and not look back. I need to know where I am going now, not where I’ve come from. I need to get away from my history and create a new life.’

They lay in each other’s arms, each lost in thought.

‘Tell me about Ginny Weasley,’ Severus says.

‘I love Ginny. She is the best kind of friend; she knew even before I did that I didn’t really like girls … not in that way.’

‘But the whole school thought that you were an item … that Harry and Ginny would marry at some point.’

‘Yeah, that was how she made it seem.’

‘And Miss Chan?’

‘I was confused … I thought if she liked me and I kissed her, I would feel … something … something like the other boys talked about all the bloody time. So I kissed her.’

‘And it was not enjoyable?’

‘No … she took my lack of knowledge about kissing girls as shyness when really … I had kissed boys before, and no, I will not tell you who, but there was nothing with Cho … it was as sexy as kissing an old aunt, if I had one.’

‘So Ginny stepped in and gave you a cover?’

‘Hmm, she asked me outright if I preferred boys; I was honest with her and said yes and she took it from there. Before I knew it, she had everyone believing that we were boy and girl friend and the girls backed off.’

‘And the boys?’

‘Oh the ones I liked didn’t back off … oh no … but the rest of them, well, I had a girlfriend didn’t I? Ginny and I spent a good deal of time together just to make it look good.’

‘You are fortunate to have such good friends, Harry. That pleases me.’ Severus kisses his brow and before long, they fall asleep.

It is the ringing of bells that wakes them up. Severus groans loudly. ’They have arrived,’ he says with no enthusiasm.

‘Will they object to me?’ Harry yawns until his jaw cracks.

‘They object to most things,’ Severus is runs his hand across the flat plain of Harry’s belly.

‘Shouldn’t we get up to meet them?’

‘No. There is something much … better we can do. The Malefoys can wait.’ He brushes Harry’s lips with a light kiss.

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

Saskya opens the door to her in-laws. After greeting them, the children coming running into the kitchen and engulf their grandparents in hugs and kisses. She puts coffee on to brew and glances anxiously towards the inside of the house. Severus and Harry will be out soon, she hopes; they must have heard the bells.

‘Severus not home?’ Edmo Malefoy asks, looking around.

‘He is resting,’ Saskya replies, taking their cloaks and hanging them up.

‘With ’Arry,’ Marius adds, earning him a clip on the ear from his big sister.

Edmo sniffs. ‘So Cygnus did not exaggerate. Harry Potter is indeed at Fermé Malefoy.’

‘With Severus?’ Lara Malefoy’s face is a picture of disapproval.

‘Come and drink this while it is hot,’ Saskya places bowls of steaming coffee on the table along with an assortment of sweet pastries. The children sit with them and help themselves to pastries as their grandparents quiz them about school.

Still Severus and Harry had not appeared.

‘I received your owl,’ Lara says at last. ‘We shall talk fully tomorrow, but in the meantime, does it worry her?’

Saskya shakes her head. ‘No, quite the opposite, she enjoys it.’

Elise smiles brightly at her grandmother from across the table. ‘Good. Fear is the worst thing,’ her mother-in-law says as she sips her coffee.

Time was getting on. ‘Children, go upstairs and change please.’

‘Oui, maman,’ they chorus and dash upstairs full of excitement for the coming night.

‘How are they reacting?’ Edmo nods to the upstairs.

‘Oh very well, very relaxed,’ Saskya smiles.

Edmo frowns. ‘Not about Elise,’ he snaps, ‘about their uncle and his male lover.’

Saskya stares at him, knowing exactly what he means. The anger creeps up her body and into her face. She is about to give him a severe reprimand but he is saved by Severus and Harry coming into the kitchen at last. She can’t help but smile softly at them.

Both had changed into their costume for the fête, the traditional men’s costume of the region; crisp white shirts with heavy lace at the collar, black trousers with wide woollen sashes. Severus’s was green with silver threads, Harry’s red with gold threads. Both held the large black, felt hats that gave the whole outfit an alpine feel.

‘Edmo, Lara,’ Severus shakes the elder Malefoy’s hand and kisses Lara’s. ‘May I introduce Harry Potter?’

‘Madame, monsieur Malefoy, very pleased to meet you,’ and he shakes both their hands, although Edmo doesn’t hold his very long.

‘You are looking very well, Severus,’ Lara comments. ‘It suits you.’ Edmo harrumphs and says nothing.

An awkward silence descends upon the kitchen. ‘Er … Severus, would you mind helping me clear the table?’

Severus frowns, but starts to clear the bowls and plates; he drops them into the sink where Saskya washes them. ‘What the hell were you doing?’ she hisses under her breath. ‘Didn’t you hear the bells?’

‘We were getting ready … why, what do you think we were doing?’ He looks at her and her cheeks redden. ‘Hmm … I am gratified that you think I am some kind of sex fiend. However …’ he kisses her cheek ‘… you have the wrong man for that,’ and he nods over at Harry.

For the first time in a long time, Saskya is flustered. She flaps the tea towel and places it in front of the stove to dry. ‘Stop smirking,’ she mutters to her twin while giving him a sharp elbow to his ribs. ‘Well,’ she addresses everyone, ‘I’m going to change and round the children up, I won’t be long.’

Upstairs, she finds the children dressed in their fête costumes and ready to go. She changes quickly and together, they troop downstairs. They enter the kitchen with a ‘tah-dah’ and the girls all twirl around. Marius is wearing the same outfit as Severus and Harry, only his sash is bright orange with white threads.

She and the two girls are wearing the traditional long, black skirts that end just above ankle to reveal white stockings and black shoes with silver buckles. Their white blouses also have lace collars but are enhanced with highly embroidered bodices. Over the skirt is a starched white apron and topping it off, a white linen cap with white ribbons trailing down the back.

‘Wow,’ was all Harry could manage as Marius bows and the women curtsy to everyone.

‘Right, let’s get our cloaks on and …’ but before Saskya could finish, claxons deafen them.

‘Wands ready,’ Severus commands.

‘Elise, go downstairs, Marius? You know what to do.’

Within seconds, four of the six adults apperate outside into the courtyard, wands extended, ready to deal with any intruders.

The kitchen door opens and Edmo steps out. ‘Well, this is very awkward,’ he calls. ‘I didn’t expect you still have Death Eater wards in place, Saskya.’

‘They are never down, papa,’ she replies. ‘Lumos,’ she commands and the courtyard is flooded with light.

There are four of them and they look both surprised and confused to be caught out by the alarms.

‘Lucius!’ Severus exclaims.

‘Malfoy!’ Harry shouts.

‘My fault entirely, I’m afraid,’ Edmo says, coming to stand by his cousins. ‘I should have mentioned when we first arrived that Lucius and his family are staying with us. Now, come along all of you, out of the cold.’

Harry looks at Severus and rolls his eyes. ‘Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe it,’ he mutters as they make their way back into the warm. Severus lays a hand on his arm, stopping him.

‘Are you comfortable with this Harry? After all you do have serious history with the Malfoys.’

‘In the spirit of Yule time, I will put aside my … animosity. But … should Draco or Lucius say or do anything … I will hex them,’ there is no smile on his face as he says the words.

‘Just not the Sectumsempra, I beg of you; it requires a lot of energy to heal.’ Harry’s nod is grim.

In the kitchen, Marius and Elise are up from the cellar and introductions are being made. Severus shakes hands all round and Draco introduces his fiancé, Astoria. Then it is Harry’s turn.

‘Are you a guest as well, Mr Potter?’ Lucius asks.

‘Yes, I am Mr Malfoy.’

‘Ah,’ is all Lucius says.

Draco simply nods at Harry without a smile. Harry reciprocates.

‘I was unaware you had a sister, Severus,’ Lucius’s tone is accusing.

Severus narrows his eyes. ‘Precisely,’ is all he says.

Saskya looks from one wizard to the next and although sure that wands will not be produced, the atmosphere needs to be broken. ‘Right, come along. Let’s get going or else all the mulled wine will be gone. Elise and Marius, choose your adult. Sabine, can you manage on your own this time?’

‘I will go with Oncle, maman.’

‘And I will go with ’Arry,’ Marius takes Harry’s arm.

‘Can I go with grandmaman, please?’ Elise smiles at her grandmother as she takes her arm.

‘Very well. Now papa, if you will give the location to the Malfoys, Severus and Marius know. It is a side apperation as it’s not far,’ Saskya gives out her orders.

‘Are we not going to the High Village?’ Harry asks.

‘Not this time. So now you all know the location, let’s go to the fête.’

 

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

Whatever Harry was expecting, it was not this. He was in what looked like a field. On one side, two huge marquees glowed with soft lights. On another side a huge log burned strongly, sending flames and sparks leaping into the night sky. In the light cast by the fire he could make out a massive, dark shadow. He shivered but somehow, he didn’t think it was the cold; he looked again at the shadow and again, a ripple of cold fear ran down his spine. There was no snow in the field and when he looked up, he could just make out the faint shimmer of a protection charm that covered the whole field.

‘Come along Harry,’ Saskya calls and beckons him towards one of the marquees. He runs to catch up with her. ‘Now, you help yourself to food and drink, you can dance or not, it’s up to you.’

He nods his understanding and watches as she moves off towards the food. He is about to follow when the music starts. It comes from the marquee in front of him. He moves inside and sees a group of musicians playing various instruments; small bagpipes, an accordion, a fiddle and the strangest thing Harry has ever seen. It is an instrument like no other; it plays a melody, but also a low droning sound. A crowd was gathering as one of the musicians starts to sing. He is aware of the body behind him and when a hand comes to rest on his shoulder, he smiles up at Severus.

‘What is it?’ he nods towards the strange instrument.

‘A hurdy- gurdy; a very old instrument but much favoured in these parts.’

‘And the language? It’s not French.’

Severus tilts his head and listens for a moment. ‘The local patois, a mixture of old French, German and … modern French.’

‘And what is he singing about?’

Severus cocks his head to one side and listens for a moment or two. ‘Snow … lost love … “my love has vanished like the snow/… here were Helen’s footsteps/here her dwelling/where she’s gone there is no telling” … then “where has Eloise gone?” This is about Abelard and Eloise … hum hum hmm …”some came riding … da da dah … England’s shame and our glory/has vanished like the snow”. It is a very old song.’

‘But who was Helen?’ Harry clapped along with the rest of the audience.

‘Helen of Troy.’

‘But …’ Harry frowns.

‘The history of the Wizarding community in Europe is long, Harry; very long.’

The music had started again and couples were pairing off and dancing. Harry starts to pull Severus onto the dance floor.

‘Harry …’

‘I’m sorry. I know. It would not be appropriate for me to dance with you. Or snog you. Or … grope you.’

‘Thank you Harry, I appreciate that,’ a small smile appears on his lips. ‘We will all be close by, so enjoy yourself.’

‘Will you dance?’

‘Of course. I love to dance,’ with that Severus walks onto the dance floor and is immediately partnered by a striking, tall woman.

Harry grins, this is a very different Severus and he finds himself falling ever more in love with the man. He turns away as the music changes to a lively jig and heads towards the food and drink. Inside the refreshment marquee, he finds the drinks area and before asking, a large tankard of sweet, spicy mulled wine is handed to him.

‘Oh, merci,’ he says. The server smiles and nods his head. Harry now has time to observe the rest of the gathering. Most are dressed in traditional costume; some in more usual Yule dress, although Lucius still favoured his ostentatious black, dragon skin suit. Draco shot him a glance from across the marquee. He ignores it.

‘Come on ’Arry, come dance with me,’ Elise grabs his hand and leads him outside and across to the dancing. To his horror, the dancing seems to have taken a divergent route and is now in full, traditional, folk dance swing.

‘Elise, I don’t know …’ he starts to protest.

‘It’s alright, I know a spell,’ she beams at him and before he can stop her, she takes out her wand and waves it over his feet; she mutters an incantation in French. Harry watches as the pale green of the spell covers his feet. ‘Come on, you will be fine now,’ and she pulls him into the circle of dancers. As he moves, he realises that indeed, his feet do know the steps. They dance around in a circle and then they polka around before coming back to his original spot and another partner.

He has no idea how many dances he danced, but each time, his feet knew the steps. He is, however, impressed with Elise’s confidence in the spell. The last dance, a traditional twirling and jumping affair, left him out of breath, thirsty and hungry. So before anyone could claim him again, he set off for refreshments. Severus was nowhere to be seen, although he had danced by Harry several times. As he walked, he hummed softly to himself. The tune the musicians were now playing stirred a memory. ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star …’ he sang as he entered the marquee.

‘Do you know this tune?’ Saskya was beside him and she thrusts a glass of something sparkly in his hand.

‘It’s called, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, I think I remember it from when I was young … at school maybe.’ He salutes Saskya with his glass and downs the contents in one.

‘Haarryyy!’ she cries.

When he looks at her, she seems to be swaying, along with the rest of the room. ‘Wow. That has to be the best lemonade I have ever had,’ he grins.

‘Harry, that was Champagne and it is meant to be sipped.’

‘Sorry,’ he says rather sheepishly.

‘You did very well with the dances, you seem to know them all,’ she piles food onto a plate that she hands to Harry.

He fills his mouth with the crusty bread and something brown and very tasty.’ ‘Oh no,’ he manages between mouthfuls, ‘Elise spelled my feet. This is delicious, what is it?’

‘Pâté. She spelled your feet? Just wait ‘til I find her,’ and with that, an annoyed Saskya leaves him.

‘What was all that about?’ Severus comes over to him, his own plate filled with food.

‘Elise spelled my feet so I can dance. I hope I haven’t got her into trouble,’ Harry says.

‘Hmm, did she now? We will have to keep a close eye on that one. Anyway, enjoying yourself?’

‘I would be enjoying myself more if I could dance with you.’

‘Perhaps we can arrange that for … later. Harry, it is nearly time to jump the Log. You don’t have to as there are certain … conditions.’

‘Such as?’

‘You are committing to starting the New Year with all past actions burnt away. It is a cleansing ritual and is extremely powerful.’

‘Are you going to do it?’

‘Yes, I believe I am strong enough this year. It is time for me to move forward and leave my past where it belongs.’

‘Will you start the New Year with me?’ Harry tries to phrase the question as conversationally as possible.

‘If you’ll have me,’ comes the response.

‘This is fabulous pâté, ‘Harry’s mouth curls around the bread in an effort to stop the blush that is reddening his cheeks.

‘And just what have you said to make Harry blush, Sev?’ Saskya joins the two of them.

‘Me? Nothing, I merely complimented the pâté … and don’t call me Sev. How is Elise?’

‘Sulking. It comes with the territory of burgeoning hormones. She’ll get over it and she will break the spell anytime you like Harry,’ she takes a piece of bread and pâté from Severus’s plate and pops it into her mouth.

‘Get your own, woman,’ he chides before popping an olive into her mouth.

Saskya grins. ‘You two jumping the Log?’

‘I am, Harry has yet to decide.’

‘Lucius and Draco are going to jump as well; Lara told me it’s why they wanted to be here this year,’ she says.

Harry snorts, ‘I don’t think they will ever change no matter how many logs they jump.’

The twins look first at Harry and then at each other.

‘What? What have I said,’ he protests.

‘Harry,’ Saskya takes his hand and drops her voice. ‘Jumping the Log is never to be taken lightly or irresponsibly. It is powerful, ancient magic and if you don’t mean what you pledge, that is, to recant and renounce all your previous wrongdoings, fears, crimes, then …’ she stops.

‘Then what?’

‘The fire will consume you,’ Saskya ends.

‘So, you’ll get burned … right?’

‘No Harry,’ Severus says, ‘the fire will consume you … totally. So if you still want to jump the Log … you must mean what you pledge.’

Harry releases the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, suddenly unsure. Maybe it was the effect of the Champagne, but somehow, he knows it isn’t. ‘Is it Dark Magic?’ He lowers his voice to a mere whisper.

‘No. It is much older and more powerful than Dark Magic. It is magic of the Light … the original magic. Wicked magicians took that power and corrupted it to make it Dark,’ Severus explains. ‘Now, I’m going to the Log.’ He squeezes Harry’s arm, kisses Saskya on the cheek and leaves them.

‘C’mon Harry,’ she grabs his arm and leads him out of the light filled marquee and into the darkness of the field. ‘Come and watch and see if you want to do it.’

‘Are you going to do it … jump the Log I mean?’ he asks.

‘Perhaps … one year,’ and she smiles sadly and says no more.

The crowd gathered in a huge circle around the blazing Log. Harry is sure the Log is burning higher and stronger than earlier in the evening. They find Severus and stand either side of him, the children join them. He reaches down and takes Severus’s hand and squeezes it; he is pleased when the gesture is returned.

He watches as a wizard approaches the flames; he can see the lips move but cannot hear words spoken. The wizard then walks into the flames; they rise up in long, golden tongues. Suddenly, the wizard emerges on the other side and a roar goes up from the crowd. The wizard raises his arms towards the night sky, either in thanks or supplication; perhaps both.

Harry leans into Severus. ‘Er, I thought you had to jump the log?’

‘You do … but you have to walk into the flames to do so,’ Severus’s eyes never leave the flaming Log.

‘Oh,’ Harry’s mouth is suddenly dry.

A hush falls over the crowd as three people step towards the Log. Harry knows who they are immediately; there is no mistaking the white, blonde hair of Lucius and Draco Malfoy; Narcissa stands between her husband and son. She steps up to the Log, her lips moving. As she is about to step into the flames, Lucius grabs her arm as if to pull her back. She simply turns and pats his cheek before turning and walking into the fire. Moments later she is standing on the other side, her arms lifted towards the sky.

Complete silence descends on the crowd once more as Lucius Malfoy steps up to the Log. His long hair reflects the orange and gold of the fire, turning it to flames. Harry watches; surely Lucius with all his hatred, his Dark Magic and a servant of the Dark Lord, could not survive the fire? Could he really change? He exhales as Lucius walks into the fire and the flames surround him.

The fire roars and the flames leap into the sky. A gasp of fear ripples through the crowd. The fire burns white hot and still Lucius has not reappeared. The seconds stretch into minutes and the crowd begins to murmur; perhaps this is the year when one of them is consumed and lost. Suddenly, a shout goes up and there is Lucius landing heavily on the ground as if jumping from a great height. His clothes smoulder and wisps of smoke curl away from him.

Harry gives a small gasp and looks at Severus, but his face is impassive except for the ghost of a smile. Attention now turns to Draco. He walks into the flames and emerges mere seconds later. His parents and Astoria hug him and walk towards the edge of the crowd that part to allow them through. Harry knows he has witnessed something exceptional.

There is no-one before the Log now, so Severus moves forward. Harry reaches out as if to stop him, but Saskya holds his arm. ‘What if he’s not strong enough,’ he doesn’t attempt to keep the concern out of his voice.

‘His is Harry. You have made him strong,’ and she puts her arm around his waist and pulls him into her.

Harry can only watch in terror as Severus walks up to the Log; he sees the lips move before he steps into the flames. He grabs Saskya’s hand and watches as the flames burn red, then golden and finally, blaze pure white as they leap up into the sky; and Severus is lost within them.

 

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