It was heartbreaking, watching him struggle back. All his unconscious grace was gone, replaced by the awkward jerkiness of limbs that refused to obey his brain's commands. He had to learn to walk again, first by simply exercising muscles that had begun to atrophy, and then to regain coordination between the muscles and synapses. As absolutely nothing was wrong with his awareness and brain function themselves, it was horrible for him.
Poppy was unfailingly gentle, though implacable; but at one point I lost it -- and in front of her, too.
"If you don't stop whinging," I hissed at him during one particularly fraught therapy session, " -- and that's the most charitable word I can find for it -- I'm going to call Sirius in and have him put a Silencing Charm on your big, ungrateful gob."
Consternation flickered through his eyes, swiftly followed by anger, and then he glared back at me. He refused to speak to me for the rest of the day, and Poppy had to put me to bed with a Calming Potion.
He knew I wouldn't do it, but I was rather ashamed of myself for losing my temper with him.
On the other hand, it had shut him up for at least an hour.
By the end of July Poppy had released him to his rooms, and he seemed marginally more comfortable. He could walk short distances with the aid of the walking stick he'd lent me last year, but attempts at anything other than the simplest magic left him exhausted, and his frustration grew.
It was time for a break, I thought, for both of us. So I made a call to my rental agency, and conscripted Arthur in on my plot. And in mid-August, Arthur and I abducted Severus.
Severus blinked owlishly when Arthur popped us in, and puzzled at the sight of the cottage for a moment; then he recognised it from the pictures he'd seen, and relaxed. We hadn't told him where we were taking him: I think he'd been afraid it was Wiltshire, with all the attendant problems of warding and unwarding and relying on the Elves for everything.
It's a sad thing when a man can't even unlock his own front door. Muggle ways, as clumsy and inelegant as they are, sometimes have advantages.
"My word, Miranda, it's beautiful," Arthur said admiringly.
"Right now it is," I said with a grin. "You wouldn't want to see it in the middle of winter. Come on, let's get inside: the wind can still put a chill in you."
Arthur -- tactfully keeping his hands clasped behind his back -- stayed with Severus and slowly walked along beside him in case he faltered; I hurried on ahead to the door, unlocked it, went straight to the kitchen to put the kettle on the cooker.
"Stay for tea, Arthur?" I called over my shoulder as they entered, and I heard Severus give a muffled oath as he collapsed into Da's old chair near the fireplace.
"Ta, Miranda, but I can't -- Moll expects me back," he said as he pulled our Reduced baggage from his pockets and Engorged it to normal size. "I'll be back next Sunday, four-ish, right?"
"Right. Thanks," I said, and planted a kiss on his ruddy cheek.
Arthur did stop to play with the light switch on his way out, and then with a muttered, " 'Stounding," he'd popped back to Hogsmeade.
"Turnabout is fair play?" Severus said dryly as I closed and bolted the door.
I shrugged. "I thought we could use a holiday," I said nonchalantly. "And I'm thinking of putting it on the market, so I wanted to come back one last time."
"Is that necessary?" he said sharply.
It was. I'm not joking about the finances: my Muggle account was cleaned out, and there was very little left of Albus' money -- and it was in the Ministry's hands, in any case.
"It's self-supporting at the best of times," I said with another shrug, "but it needs an overhaul to compete with other rentals, and I'm not willing to put that much into it anymore."
"If you're doing this from some misguided attempt to raise ready cash --" he started to argue.
"Severus, it's not home anymore; Hogwarts is," I said patiently (which was true, if not the primary and pressing reason I was thinking of selling). "There are some things in the attic I want to go through and dispose of, and I'll decide by the end of the week. It's time to move on."
He looked doubtful, but he had the grace to shut up and let me struggle with the decision myself.
I bullied him into taking some tea, and then settled him in the downstairs bedroom before heading upstairs to the tiny attic to begin my sort-through, setting aside some old clothes of Da's that might serve for Severus for the week. Assuming I could a) get him out of the cottage and b) persuade him to wear a dead man's Muggle clothing.
Wizards are spoiled, just as urban Muggles are. The Elves do all the nasty stuff -- one never has to see your dinner all the way from hoof or fin to table.
"I know how to wring a chicken's neck, too," I said with amusement at the squeamish look on his face.
"You really did live off the land, didn't you?" he murmured.
"Everyone did, at least if you were as poor as we were. You only went into Leenane for staples. We kept a pig every year until late fall, and then we killed and smoked the poor bugger. Be grateful you're not seeing that."
He puttered about the cottage quietly, reading some of Da's old books; one very good day he went out and sat in front of the cottage, staring out at the sea. He'd probably have been interested in Gran's garden plot, but it was long gone, except for the straggling survivors of the wattle fence that had protected the herb beds from the wind off the sea.
That night, after we'd finished supper and I'd opened a bottle of Shiraz Lucy'd sent us, he was finally ready to tell me how the end had come about: how he and Almeida had managed to taint the Elixir and deliver it to Voldemort's hands.
"Almeida quickly determined that the Elixir didn't confer immortality at all. It simply healed existing wounds and regenerated damaged cells, including aging cells. Presumably if one continued taking it it would allow one to live indefinitely, as with the Philosopher's Stone." He smiled wryly. "He's kept one rat going long past its normal lifespan."
"He's still mucking about with it?" I asked, surprised.
"Only with the remaining, tainted Elixir. We've already destroyed the pure supplies, as well as the notes, journals, and analyses."
"What about Gerhardt's work?"
"Also gone. Our contact -- the one who made it in to Gerhardt -- made certain that was done."
"And who was --"
"Ah -- first things first," he stilled me with an upraised hand, enjoying my impatience. "The tainting. Almeida -- the nephew -- was able to isolate the compound that targeted general cells, and engineer it to work only on human and rodent DNA. I knew part of Voldemort's regeneration came through his serpent Nagini's donation -- hence some of his reptilian characteristics -- and those parts of his genetic structure which he owed to Nagini were unaffected by the Elixir."
"I wondered, when I saw the teeth."
"You saw?" he asked, startled. I hadn't told him of the Phoenix mirror, so we had to tangent onto that for a while.
"I'm not certain whether I want to praise or damn Albus, at the moment," he muttered after I'd explained. "A post-script? What if you'd forgot? And blast it, how was he always able to anticipate --"
"Miss Climpson once told me there was Divination in his family, she'd been at Hogwarts with his nephew. 'Spooky,' she termed it."
"As good an explanation as any, I suppose -- I have to agree with 'spooky.' And the Phoenix mirror explains how Potter appeared out of thin air, as well."
"At any rate," I said, redirecting the conversation, "the tainted Elixir must be why Voldemort was affected by Harry's Avada Kedavra -- the reptilian parts, at least. But why wasn't Harry affected by Voldemort's curse?"
"I've no idea," Severus admitted. "It could be Potter was somehow granted part of Voldemort's human immunity, though I can't explain how. We know he gained some of Voldemort's power earlier because of the Godric's Hollow incident, but how could the Elixir have benefitted him?" He puzzled it over for a minute and I stayed quiet, content to watch him run the through the possibilities in his mind, as fluidly and brilliantly as quicksilver. "Voldemort acquired Potter's blood during the Triwzard Tournament incident. Perhaps Voldemort's power misread the target -- thought that Potter was Voldemort, in a sense, and so was ineffective." He shrugged irritably. "Or perhaps Lily's sacrifice still protects the boy. We simply can't tell, as he's a unique case in the history of wizarding."
"Could it have been the way Harry chose to fight?"
"What do you mean?"
"Not for the Wizarding World -- not for a cause, but for individuals. Willing to die for them, and assuming he would have to."
"You mean the power of his good intent."
"In his casting of the curse, possibly. But the deflection? Not likely. In general, intent is only significant when casting a spell or curse, not defending. Why?"
"You looked rather... happy with him, that's all."
Severus considered this for a while and then granted, "That was the first time I've seen him deal with such a situation with maturity. He was rational and focussed." He considered it some more and then admitted, "He did well."
I never expected to hear that from Severus Snape -- which just goes to show you how much I still underestimated him at times.
"How was the Elixir delivered to Voldemort?" I prodded.
"I truly couldn't tell you, you know," he prefaced the explanation. "Not only for the reason I gave you, but because it might put the agents in greater jeopardy."
"I know, I acted like an eejit," I said impatiently. "Go on, quit stalling."
His lips twitched at my admission before he continued. "Viktor Krum and Sirius Black," he finally granted.
"Krum came to Albus shortly before the assasination and asked to be put to use. Albus apprised him of my true status and told Krum we might take him up on the offer in future. When I became aware of Gerhardt's disappearance and needed to learn of his and Voldemort's whereabouts, I contacted Krum -- I couldn't use any of our former operatives, as they were likely under suspicion. One had been killed at the same time I was ousted. I didn't expect Krum to like my suggestion," Severus admitted, "but he accepted it. I needed someone back in the circle, as close to Voldemort as possible."
"So Krum became a Death Eater?" I said, aghast.
"He took the Mark," Severus corrected me softly. "Purely out of necessity. Undoubtedly he had to... prove himself, but I'm certain he managed it in the least harmful ways he could. He's refused to tell me how, though I can well imagine. I'd given him very strict orders to do what he had to... just as Albus had to me," he admitted softly, and I could tell that the admission hurt him (though whether it was the thought of sending Krum into the same mess he'd had to endure, or the memory of Albus telling him he must continue to do horrid things, I couldn't tell). "It wasn't for long. There were several months of... negotiations while he had to convince Lucius Malfoy of his discontent and desire to commit to Voldemort."
"And he was able to determine where Voldemort was hiding?"
"A radius within which it was likely, thanks to a kind of reverse-Portkey the Weasley Twins developed, based on some Muggle device -- I can't recall what they called it --"
"GPS?" I choked. "Global Positioning System?"
"Yes. The device was dropped at the meeting site, and when its receiver was later activated it Portkeyed one to the site and allowed Fred and George to determine where the meeting had occurred."
"Isn't there some kind of locator charm they could have put on Krum, instead?"
"No, those are far too easy to sense -- Krum would have been discovered almost immediately. But the other Death Eaters wouldn't think to worry about something as innocuous as a pen-knife accidentally lost at the site, which didn't immediately give off the type of signal a Portkey does." He shot a suspicious look my way. "What?"
"Had to rely a lot on Mugglish technology, didn't you?" I replied through a smug grin.
"I've never denied its potential usefulness," he retorted. "Just its efficacy in the magical world. At any rate, this... device had to be shielded from magical interference, of course, and its true purpose well-concealed. Filius and Vector had perfected the shielding charms in dealing with your rooms, and the Twins managed all the... the triangulation, I think they called it. And then we narrowed it down to the three most probable sites, and sent Black in determine which it was and to contact Gerhardt."
"How could you be certain Gerhardt was working under duress?"
"I couldn't, although I thought it likely. I knew him slightly, from correspondence and a conference or two. He impressed me as a pure researcher -- not in the least interested in ideologies or politics, but not the type to discount the horror Voldemort would unleash, either."
"Another Oppenheimer," I murmured.
"Atomic weaponry -- nothing germane to this," I said hastily. "I'll tell you someday."
"Black observed him for a while and determined we could trust him -- he'd approached him in his Animagus form, you see. At any rate, Gerhardt wasn't naive enough to think Voldemort was going to let him live, whether he succeeded in producing the Elixir or not. So Black smuggled in the tainted potion to him, and then we released the supplies of the two last ingredients -- the orchid," he said pointedly, "was the other variety of Stanhopea, the one with no magical value. Demonstrations with a small sample of the viable potion with a few rodents and sleight of hand was all it took to convince Voldemort that Gerhardt had produced the Elixir."
"But how did Sirius --"
"Vials concealed under a dog-collar. His own idea," Severus conceded. "Otherwise we would have had to trust Gerhardt to brew it himself, and hope he could make the alterations on his own. And we weren't convinced he could -- it took all Almeida's ingenuity and Muggle techniques to alter it, after brewing."
"I can't believe Sirius got through," I said.
"Gerhardt's human guards were, thankfully, quite thick, and not skilled or powerful enough to sense an Animagus, and the Dementors guarding the premises couldn't tell either. All any of them saw or sensed was a Muggle stray that Gerhardt befriended during his daily exercise. They were even careless enough to allow Gerhardt to take Black into the facility."
"And Sirius couldn't make it back to Hogwarts in time --"
"No. He stayed to try and get Gerhardt out, but it was too late. As soon as Voldemort had taken the first dose, secured several others, and determined he had complete notes -- or so he thought -- Gerhardt was killed. But after Voldemort and the others left for Hogwarts Black destroyed Gerhardt's notes and the remaining Elixir and ingredients. Even if Potter had failed Voldemort would have been unable to duplicate the Elixir, and another group could have had a shot at killing him."
I nestled back in the cushions to digest all this while Severus sipped at the Shiraz.
"How much of this did you tell the Panel of Inquiry?" I finally asked. They'd come to debrief Severus in the Infirmary, as soon as Poppy'd given them leave. He hadn't been happy about it -- for much the same reason I hadn't, when called before Fudge -- and we'd had a job getting him dressed and situated to his satisfaction.
"Nothing. Protheroe stayed, however, and I informed him of everything -- which is why Black's full pardon was finally pushed through the Wizengamot."
There was a faint note of bitterness in that, and I repressed a smile. I knew what that was about, and I had information Severus wasn't privy to, for once.
"Hang on a moment," I said casually, and left for the bedroom to rummage around in the bottom of my bag.
When I returned I handed him the long, flat box and sat back down on the sofa; he started, and made no move to open it.
"Go ahead," I prompted him, and he set his wine glass aside and cautiously opened the box, staring at the contents.
"Much more impressive than the Third Class," I noted when he proved uncharacteristically tongue-tied.
The Ministry had held a vast Memorial and Honours service while Severus was still comatose; I hadn't bothered to attend, as I was totally focussed on him. Protheroe had visited Hogwarts later and had left Severus' Order of Merlin, First Class in my hands.
"Black only rated a Third?" Severus asked with a faintly triumphant gleam in his eyes.
"Me," I corrected him indignantly, "in recognition of the financial contribution. Second Muggle in the history of the Honour.... I wonder who the first was?" I puzzled. "Black was supposed to get his -- a Second -- a couple of days ago along with the pardon, Arthur told me. Said Krum would get one too, though I didn't know why at the time."
He sniffed disparagingly at what he evidently thought was the injustice in that arrangement.
"And where is yours? I've never seen the Third Class," he asked delicately.
"Back at the foundry. They'd got the name wrong," I said serenely, "and I asked Protheroe if they might adjust it to Snape. I'd no idea they'd have to entirely re-cast the bloody thing."
The gleam returned to his eyes, but for a very different reason; the Order was hastily discarded on the side table in favour of a Very Good Snog. (I'd suspected he'd appreciate the gesture, but not that much.)
My price might or might not be above rubies, but in Severus' eyes I evidently rated higher than the Order of Merlin, First Class.
After a bit -- when I'd caught my breath -- I snuggled a little closer and casually asked, "You knew, didn't you?"
He started a bit, puzzled, and then got it and relaxed.
"Yes -- or rather, I suspected it would happen in short order. Two days before, Black had reported through our contact that Gerhardt had received the ingredients from the supplier in Knockturn Alley. I didn't think Voldemort would wait long to make his move after that, not after his disappointment with the Gringotts fiasco. How did you guess?"
"Deduced it from your behavior that morning. In hindsight, of course."
He cleared his throat.
"How careless of me," he said wryly. "Not that I'd do anything differently, given the chance," he added pointedly.
"Of course not. Though if I'd had an inkling, I would have tried to stay awake long enough to continue the conversation," I said apologetically.
"Yes, that was rather callous of you," he murmured, "though I think you know by now what I meant to say."
"Oh, I've known that for a long time."
"Well, there's no other reasonable explanation for it all, is there?"
"None, although I expect you'd like to hear me admit it, all the same."
"In your own time. If it's any consolation, the first time is the worst. It gets easier."
"I hope so, for your sake. I've managed to avoid it for an unconscionably long time."
He took a deep breath, shifted to press his lips to my forehead, and whispered the words against my skin.
"You didn't bring the boy here?" Severus murmured as I cleared away some weeds that straggled over the graves.
"No. Dennis wanted him."
"And you let him?" he asked, surprised.
I sat back on my heels, swiped at my damp forehead, and stared out at the sea.
"Well, he was his father, however... inadequate. He was prepared to kick up a legal fuss, too, and I had other things to worry about -- Lucy, and getting well myself. Besides, I had the best of Ian, and what was left wasn't really him," I said softly.
I think that shocked Severus more than a little. Wizards, I had found out in May -- in nearly the worst way possible -- take the disposition of their families' bodies very seriously, though they acknowledge that the individual's essence is gone. Immolation of the body and wand on a pyre or a more Muggle-like cremation is the rule, by the way. There's no real interment, though some older traditions allowed for that.
"Someday," Severus muttered, "when I'm... feeling more myself, I should like to track down Mr. Neill. In the darkest alley available, if possible."
Although I would normally have seconded the sentiment, I was rather more interested in the first part of his statement. It was the first glimmer of hope for a full recovery that Severus had expressed.
"Not worth the trouble," I said with a laugh, and glanced back at him. Da's heavy pullover fit him well across the shoulders, but hung off his frame: he still hadn't gained back the weight he'd lost. The lines that had creased his face during Cruciatus seizures were now permanently etched there, and his hair had begun to come in silver at the roots.
"I'm a bit curious..." he said suddenly, and limped over to join me at Gran's grave, surreptitiously slipping his wand out of his sleeve (he insisted on carrying it, though it was practically useless to him, in his condition), and stood beside me.
"What are you --"
"Hush," he ordered, and closed his eyes, focussing on whatever vibe he was getting; then he opened them and gave a puzzled shake of his head, and slipped the wand back out of sight.
"I'll tell you later," he said with an uneasy glance back at the road, where Conor McNulty waited for us in his taxi (Leenane's only taxi).
When we got back to the cottage and I'd set to making our supper, he made his way to the kitchen and explained as I worked.
"Minerva told me what you did," he said.
"What, with the Blessing?"
"Minerva needs to keep her gob shut," I muttered in embarrassment.
"Agreed, but that's not the point. She also reminded me of what the Sorting Hat said -- 'None the Founders recognised.' Meaning, magic."
"And you wondered if Gran had unrecognised talent."
"Yes. And no, I didn't get that sense, at all. You often can tell from remains, even very old ones. But what is perplexing is that I can feel it here."
"The cottage?" I asked, surprised.
"The land, to be precise. A great deal of magic was performed here, in the past -- distant, but still there. You get the same sense at the henges and places like the smaller standing stones."
"Huh," was my brilliant response.
"How long has your family been here?"
"No idea. The cottage hasn't been here that long, a hundred years at most."
"And ownership has stayed in the family?"
"I -- I don't know, Severus, we've never been big ones for genealogy. The surname changed a lot, though -- I remember seeing that on the settlement papers -- so maybe it was passed through the maternal line."
"That would make sense," he said thoughtfully. "The older traditions favour matrilineal control and inheritance."
I gave up any pretense of continuing with the supper preparations and plopped down on the stool next to him. "All right, what's this about?"
"There are a few cases, like the Longbottoms, where a family was appointed the guardian of an old and sacred site."
"And you think this is such a case? But the Longbottoms are magical, and as you've finally admitted, my family's not."
"But might have been, in the far past -- especially, as Alastor tells me," he said with an arch of the brow, "that the Hat connected your bloodline to a particular Druid."
I swore rather loudly, making no attempt to conceal it, and decided to give Loose-Lips Moody a bloody good ticking-off when we returned to Hogwarts."It could have been bred out, and through some fluke of genetics the boy reverted," Severus continued smugly. "It's never been satisfactorily explained how Muggleborns gain their abilities, after all. The boy could have had wizarding blood from both sides, for all we know."
He was going to twit me unmercifully about this, now, and probably drive me mad with poking about in my family history -- once he got hold of an idea like that, he'd worry it as tenaciously as a terrier with a rat.
Besides, I'd wanted to keep a few of my secrets to divulge later: what's good for the gander....
"So what you're telling me," I said slowly when I'd finally calmed down, "is that you think the Dying Blessing is what's left of an old Druidic ritual, passed down in my family."
"It's a possibility. Quite a good one, in fact, considering, although I'd want to study a translation. Alastor gave me it in brief, though he said it was in the Old Irish, and he hadn't much of that."
"Hah. Gotcha," I said smugly.
He looked only slightly miffed. He'd picked up some modern Irish from me -- the juicy bits, nothing he could use in polite conversation -- but was at sea when it came to the older form.
"Would you --?" he hazarded delicately.
"I'll consider it, but not now. I'm on holiday. But," I added to mollify him, "There is something I could show you -- tomorrow," I said sternly, to forestall his questions. "It'll take some crawling about, and I'm not in the mood tonight."
I'd found the stone when I was nine or ten, and surprisingly, Gran couldn't tell me what it was. I wiggled to the very back of the cellar to where it butted against the foundation of the house, beneath the last, bowed piece of shelving, wedged myself against the other wall, and shone the light so Severus could see.
It was at the very bottom course of the cottage's foundation and deeply incised with a distinctive anti-clockwise spiral and asterisk-like stars, the kind one sees at the kerbstones at Newgrange.
"Is it original to the site?" Severus demanded.
"Jaysus, Severus, I don't know. Could be, but people around here are practical and reuse building materials. They could have carted it from somewhere else."
He determinedly crawled closer and reached for the stone, running his fingers over the surface.
"It's the same feeling," he noted, "but not enough to account for the overall impression. I suspect it's from an ancient building that was on site."
"Is curiosity satisfied?" I groused. "I'm getting a crick in my neck."
He took the time to count the coils of the spiral, and then backed out.
"Interesting," he observed once the worst of the dirt was brushed from our clothes.
"Interesting? That's all you've got to say?"
He shrugged. "Something to investigate when I retire. I do wish you wouldn't sell."
"What do you mean, retire?" I asked suspiciously once we were back in the cottage.
"You don't think I'm going to keep teaching the imbeciles, do you?" he said with a snort.
"Oh, come on, you're a born teacher, all evidence to the contrary."
"But I don't have to teach at Hogwarts. And I've been thinking of what to do with that monstrous pile in Wiltshire."
"Teach Potions privately?"
"Post-NEWT apprentices, certainly. Britain hasn't had a decent graduate Potions programme since Salisbury closed."
"What am I supposed to do?" I asked, outraged.
He shruged again. "Teach at Hogwarts. Research. Go back to Theatre, if you like -- I don't care. You can always Floo to Wiltshire."
"Have you said anything to Minerva?" I asked, miserable.
I got up and went back to peeling potatoes -- not a good move; as flustered as his announcement had made me, I nearly sliced my hand open.
"I'll make you a deal," I said hesitantly. "Stick it out at Hogwarts for at least another year, and I'll put off selling unless I absolutely have to."
"Done," he said immediately. Far too quickly, in fact.
I'd been had, somehow. I suspected he hadn't intended to go quite that soon, so it wasn't much of a hardship to make the deal.
It still disturbed me, though. Having finally found my mate, I wasn't prepared to pursue a long-distance relationship, flooing notwithstanding. But once his mind was made up....
I heard him rise awkwardly and limp around the counter -- no more unearthly stealth, not for a long time, at least -- and he slipped an arm around my waist.
"I have the distinct impression that you might actually miss me," he murmured in my ear. "Or do I flatter myself?"
"It's possible I might," I allowed tartly. "But more likely that I simply want to keep an eye on you. You tend to get yourself into the most appalling messes."
A chuckle rumbled through his too-thin chest, and he planted a kiss behind my ear before slowly making his way to the fire in the main room and settling down with a book.
I couldn't have cared less.
It was absolute heaven holding him in my arms afterward, as he fell into an exhausted sleep. I suspected it had been weighing on his mind -- he evidently wasn't immune to the performance anxiety that plagues the male of the species, and he'd pointedly refrained from any obvious intimate gestures before then, the celebratory snog of a couple of days ago notwithstanding.
But it appeared Severus was still capable of exercising one particular kind of magic, given rest and encouragement. I suspected the more mundane variety would follow in time.
Back to BNW Index
"Spooky" Dumbledore: hmmmmmmmm. Albus admitted his great-uncle emigrated to the Colonies.... I wonder if a female descendent married a Mulder.
GPS: used in Quillusion's Soul Searching to determine Voldemort's whereabouts; I couldn't quite convince myself that GPS would be effective (because of the warding Voldemort undoubtedly placed about any meeting site) or safe for the user, so I asked the Twins to fiddle with the idea and come up with a magical equivalent. It isn't technically the same, more like a two-part Portkey: someone with a Locator Charm on them has to Portkey to the site and their location is determined.
'My price might or might not be above rubies': The Bible, Proverbs 31:10. "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies."
I'm sure Leenane isn't quite the backwater I've portrayed. My apologies. That part of Galway is known, however, as 'the Back of Beyond.'
Why does Severus keep calling Ian 'the boy'? You got me. I suspect that when Miranda and Ian first came to Hogwarts he thought of them collectively as 'that annoying woman and the boy', and it's just habitual. I asked him about it and told him it was perfectly all right to say 'your nephew' or 'Ian', and he told me in no uncertain terms that as Miranda didn't seem to mind it was none of my bloody business. (I think he's getting tired of my meddling: I'll have to butt out of their life soon.)
Full Irish breakfast: Yum. We're talking the usual eggs and bacon -- but Irish bacon, which is a loin cut and cured quite differently than American bacon; lovely, lovely sausages which aren't as highly spiced as our and often have rusks as an ingredient (look it up); and often grilled tomato and soda bread. If you live in the NYC area, visit The Snuggery in the Bronx near Eastern Parkway -- they have a small grocery attached, and you can take home packaged bacon and sausages as well as fresh bread and Brit biscuits, canned goods, and condiments. They also have a website you can place orders through.
Newgrange: a very elaborate site and structure in Ireland with intricately carved stones, for what intended purpose isn't really known (it was likely a tomb, but may have had astrological or astronomic significance). There are similar sites at Knowth and Dowth. I've never been there but there are several websites on it (start with Knowth.com); it looks fascinating, as are the speculations regarding its purpose and the meaning of the carvings.
No, Miranda isn't implying that Magic is actually mundane or commonplace -- just that it is by comparison to the way Severus makes her feel, whether he's at the top of his form or not. ;)