Don't assume that things went smoothly from there on out. By no means.
Problem Number One: Minerva told Severus in no uncertain terms that he was stuck with Deputy Head. He fussed, he snarled, he threatened to leave -- which I countermanded by threatening to put the cottage on the market immediately, among other things -- and eventually he sullenly conceded.
Problem Number Two: Minerva told him the teacher who'd taken Potions during his illness would remain to teach the Firsts through Thirds. Repeat the above reaction, with the exception that I pointed out this would give him time to plan his advanced curriculum and work on renovating the Hall. He eventually admitted this was an acceptable idea.
The week away had done him good. I hadn't pushed him to continue with his physical therapy -- though I'd done my best to keep him walking, for the physical exercise -- and he found with some gratification that his magical focus had improved significantly. He wouldn't be back to his full powers for a while, but it was a heartening advance.
Vector had recovered, although she still started at loud noises. And Alastor had dodged the worst of the Panel of Inquiry's sanctions: he was staying to teach another year, so Minerva wouldn't have to find another DADA instructor. She was already having difficulty replacing Filius. Sirius Black -- now pardoned and able to appear as himself -- was returning for Transfigurations, though of course it was explained as a new hire. (No one questioned Valentine Jonson's sudden disappearance, although some wit erected a tombstone with 'Valentine Jonson, killed for excess obnoxiousness' etched on the front in the middle of the Quad late one night well into term. And no, I'm not going to tell you what I bribed Hooch with to get her to help. Sirius was not amused, but he couldn't prove a thing.) Minerva herself was much better, almost fully recovered, physically and emotionally, from the assault and battle.
Harry Potter was another matter.
He'd spent the summer recuperating at the Burrow, but he was withdrawn. Molly confided that Ron, finally ashamed with himself, had made concilatory gestures. Harry hadn't exactly rebuffed them, but there was a wall there: he'd shut himself off. Not even Hermione Granger could seem to bridge the gap between them, now.
I hadn't realised how bad it was, though, until Harry cornered me in the folly at the lake just before the start of term.
"Professor Snape looks a lot better," he murmured as he took a seat beside me on the bench, and glanced at the ring on my finger -- no longer concealed.
"Give him a few more months, and he'll be back to one hundred percent," I said with amusement. "Don't expect any miracles, and enjoy it while it lasts."
He snorted. "I don't." He glanced uneasily at my hand again. "What are we supposed -- I mean, are you going by --"
"Hunter is fine in class," I told him. "Though if you let 'Mrs Snape,' slip occasionally in his presence it might impress him just a bit."
The shadow of a grin crossed his face. "Sorry. It's still hard to imagine...."
"Do tell. I wouldn't have dreamed it was possible, not after that first year. Just goes to show you, doesn't it?" I looked at him. "Have you asked him about Godric's Hollow yet?"
He shook his head and swallowed convulsively.
"I'd do it before term," I advised him. "It's going to be rough on him once classes start. Get him now, while he still has breathing space."
"I will," Harry said distantly.
"Good. Clear the air."
"I'm not going to like what I hear, am I?"
"No, though probably not just for the reason you think. You'll probably need to adjust your perceptions of him a bit.... People are seldom as black as they are painted. With a few notable exceptions."
"It's so difficult...." Harry mused.
"It would be much simpler if everything were black-and-white, wouldn't it?" I said softly.
"Yeah." He shifted awkwardly.
"Harry," I prodded gently, "I doubt you walked all the way up here to inquire about Professor Snape's health. What is it?"
He blushed to his roots, and looked for the right words.
"I... there's something I want to do, and I think you're the only one who can help me."
I set aside my book and gave him my full attention.
"I want to leave," he blurted out.
"Hogwarts?" I asked, surprised. Not that I could blame him.
"No, not -- that is, not just Hogwarts. The whole thing. The Wizarding World."
That was a shock.
"You want me to help you go Muggle?"
"But Harry, you've lived in the Muggle World -- surely you've some idea --"
"No," he said grimly. "The Dursleys -- my aunt and uncle -- never let me... they didn't let me have anything like a normal life, not like Hermione's or Seamus'. I might as well've been Dobby at the Malfoys', without the kicking."
Jaysus, Mary and Joseph.
No wonder I sensed such a deep well of anger in him.
"That's my point," he said decisively. "I don't fit into either world, but at least out there nobody knows about the 'Boy Who Lived' stuff. Nobody cares if I've got money or who my parents were, or if I killed bloody Voldemort. I can't take it here anymore. I just want to... disappear. I'd ask Sirius, but he'll argue with me."
I couldn't help it: I laughed. "Well, that is his job, as your guardian."
"I know, but I'm seventeen already; I'm technically an adult."
"In the Wizarding World," I reminded him gently. "I'm not sure about the Muggle World. I can ask my friend Lucy, if you're like -- that's her field -- but I suspect if you're thinking in terms of emancipation, there's more involved in the Muggle World than you think."
"Would you, please?" he asked miserably. "I don't want to go back to the Dursleys, either."
"I'll ask. Look, Harry, do you just want my help, or will you consider some advice?"
"Do I have a choice?" he asked wryly as he pushed his glasses back up his nose.
"Not really, no. It's a package deal."
"Go ahead, then."
"You could leave now assuming Muggle emancipation's possible, and I can't fault you for wanting to. But you're limiting your options a lot by doing so. You've only got to stick it out one more year."
That thought was, frankly, the only thing that had kept me going through the worst of my frustration, trying to finish my degree so I could support Ian.
"You finish, get your NEWTs and certifications behind you, and then you can do whatever you like -- you'll be in the clear. You could go Muggle and forget all about wizardry, but be able to function in both worlds if necessary. By the end of the year your feelings may have changed, you know. You may be more comfortable, and find something you want to do here."
"I doubt it --"
"I know you feel that way now," I interrupted him. "But I can tell you from experience that it's much more difficult to get back into something like this later. Close the door and throw away the key now, and you may find yourself regretting it further down the line."
"But I need to start learning how to survive out there."
"And we can do that, within certain limits. Take a Practical for my class -- we'll work with Lucy and see if we can't get you some experiences out there this year. I managed something similar for Ben Ackerley my first year, he was interested in Muggle politics, and spent a lot of time outside. With Headmistress' permission I'm sure we can figure out something for you. Get your feet wet before you dive off the deep end. It can be really rough out there, you know, even for people who've lived in it all their lives."
He stared out at the lake for a long time.
"Just think about it for a few days," I pleaded. "There's no real rush, is there? And better to have a plan, one you can defend to Sirius. You know he'll come looking for you if you just take off, and with his damned nose he'd probably find you straightaway."
He fought the impulse, but finally cracked a grin at that.
"If you still feel the same, I'll do what I can," I added quietly. "Just promise me you won't do anything rash in the meantime. You've made me into an accessory of sorts now, and I'd feel horrible if something happened to you."
"All right," he finally said. "Three days. I'll think about it."
"Good. I'll go ahead and check with Lucy so I have an answer for you by then."
He nodded soberly. "Thanks, Professor Hunter." He rose to leave, and added uncertainly, "You won't say anything to anyone?"
"You keep your promise and I won't. We'll have to say something to Headmistress eventually, if you elect to take a Practical. But if you scarper on me," I warned him, "I'll sic Sirius and Alastor on you, and Lucy's department as well -- you'd likely end up back with your aunt and uncle. I'm counting on your sense of honour, all right?"
He nodded and made an awkward move to shake my hand.
"Remember what I told you in that room," I said softly as I grasped his hand. "You don't have to do this alone."
"I remember," he said, and then turned and loped away in the direction of Hogsmeade, all gangly arms and legs and too-long hair, and still looking as though he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"Blast it, woman, what is your difficulty?" Severus snarled the fourth time I shifted in the bed, accidently kicking his shins.
I flopped onto my back and stared at the ceiling.
"Is Harry Potter in danger? From any Death Eaters still out there?" I asked reflectively.
Despite the calm with which I asked, Severus was alarmed enough to pull himself upright to sit against the headboard and stare at me.
"What do you mean?" he asked suspiciously.
"I mean," I said with asperity, "hypothetically speaking -- and if you jump to conclusions I shall thump you -- were he to leave Hogwarts... or the Wizarding World, for that matter, how much danger might he face from them?"
"Hypothetically?" he said sarcastically. "There are at least nine known Death Eaters still unaccounted for -- excluding the bloody Lestranges, who are in a class of fanaticism and viciousness all their own. So yes, if he took it in his head to Leave early and decided to open a shop in Diagon Alley he would be in some danger."
"And if he went to the Muggle World and laid low -- a new identity, perhaps a different country -- what would you rate his chances then?"
"I've no idea. With a new identity and a Muggle life -- totally Muggle, performing absolutely no magic -- he might have a chance."
I digested that in silence for a while.
It was a command to give him my full attention, so I sighed and sat up to face him. I wasn't getting any sleep, anyway.
"Are you telling me," Severus said, dangerously quiet, "that Potter is planning to run away?"
"Off the record, between my husband and myself -- not the Deputy Head -- I'm telling you he wants to."
"Oh, good gods. When did you learn this, and why didn't you go straight to Minerva?"
"Just this afternoon, and I promised not to say anything yet on the condition that he thought about it for a few days. I'm trying to persuade him to stay," I said to forestall another expletive, "and I made him promise he wouldn't take off until he'd considered it and given me a decision."
"He wants you to help?" Severus said disbelievingly.
"Well, who else? We're damned lucky he did -- he might have just taken off, you know."
"Still might, though he promised on his honour. Look, if he's bound to do it I'd rather help him, one way or the other. No one has the right to force him to stay, do they?"
"No," Severus admitted grimly. "But of all the imbecilic, thoughtless --"
"He's young, Severus," I said tiredly, "and he's hurting. And I know at least two people in this room who committed imbecilic, thoughtless acts when they were young and foolish."
I had him on that one. He probably sneered at me, but as it was a warm night we hadn't lit the fire, so I couldn't see his face.
"So what is your plan?" he finally asked.
"If I can't persuade him to stay through his NEWTs and certification, to hook him up with Lucy. She can keep an eye on him and get him started. I think he'd be comfortable around her, she's non-threatening, has great rapport with that age group. And if he does stay out the year, perhaps he'll have changed his mind."
"You had bloody well better hope he keeps his promise," Severus muttered, and pounded at his pillow before settling back down.
"I am. Hence the worried sleeplessness." I wriggled back down myself, and tried to drop off. And then I picked up on something Severus had said.
"What did you mean, 'totally Muggle, absolutely no magic'?"
Severus gave a long-suffering sigh and deliberately turned to me.
"A sensitive searcher could pick up on the traces of the magic he performs --"
"How can they trace his, apart from all the other --"
"-- because --"
He shifted closer and clamped an arm about my waist.
"-- some peoples' magic has a distinctive signature. Theoretically they could recogise Potter's and track him down -- even without him actually performing magic. If he used a magical object, say, an Invisibility Cloak."
I mentally raced through the implication of that.
"How theoretic is that, Severus?"
He mumbled something into the back of my head.
"I said -- Merlin's beard, woman, I can sense the boy, all right? I always have done, from the first day he set foot in Hogwarts. It has to be fairly close proximity, but I know when he's lurking about in that bloody cloak of his father's."
"But how? I mean, is that normal?"
"No, certainly not without a Magical Eye in the case of the cloak. Probably something from that night at Godric's Hollow."
"Oh. So it may be just you, then. What about the Fidelius Charm?"
"Won't help if you can't talk him into staying long enough to arrange it," he muttered.
"But would Minerva --"
"Miranda, shut up and go to sleep," he hissed in my ear, and tucked his legs behind mine.
I shut up. He went to sleep.
Yule holiday is fast approaching, and life at Hogwarts has begun to resume something like normality. As normal as life is at Hogwarts, at any rate.
Severus has rebounded with a vengeance: he's nearly back at top form, although I've noticed that when he loses his temper it saps him a bit. He's noticed as well, and it making an effort to control it -- even around Neville Longbottom, which is astounding. Poppy and the specialists at St. Mungo's are wary of his overall physical condition, though, and they've warned me that he's not likely to live as long as the average wizard. He's still likely to outlive me.
It's become apparent, through a surprising little twist of Fate, that he'll have to stay at Hogwarts for longer than anticipated (for which Minerva and I are both grateful). He's grumbling, of course, but I can live with that better than his absence.
Gregory Goyle is the surprise in my Christmas stocking this year -- an early one. The first day of classes he reported to me and informed me he'd arranged his schedule so he could still assist me -- and he truly has: his writing is much improved, and he can assess even the essay work with a great deal of accuracy now. I think he might be considering nonfiction writing as a possible profession, and I wish him heaps of luck in it -- he's going to need it. The Wizarding World doesn't value writers any more highly than does the Muggle.
Longbottom's already been accepted into an apprentice program at St. Mungo's, and has been flooing back and forth when he can escape Hermione Granger's clutches. She's determined to bring him through his NEWTs with respectable scores. I suspect she herself will become a teacher -- eventually. She's brilliant enough to go into research, and I think Severus has his eye on her for his Potions apprenticeship if he can drag her away from Arithmancy.
Sirius is squiring the new Charms teacher -- and yes, she's fit in quite well. A bit too perky for Severus' nature and mine, but we seldom deal with her. She has that enthusiasm common to most new teachers. I hope she doesn't lose it, though I wish she could moderate it a bit when she's not in the classroom.
Alastor is his usual, gruff self, and Hagrid the same in a rather sunnier fashion. (He has a new dog, by the way, an enormous puppy which as yet hasn't demonstrated Fang's tendency to drool, thank goodness.)
I wish I had one. I miss having dogs. If I thought there was a snowball's chance in hell that Severus would tolerate it, I'd find one. (I would not accept one from Hagrid: Lord knows what it would turn into.)
Arthur and Molly are well. Molly seems to have found her niche in the Infirmary and is content to stay there. Arthur (drumroll, please...) has been named Deputy Minister of Muggle Affairs. It hasn't stopped him from indulging in his more illicit pursuits: two entire rooms at Heart's Solace are dedicated to his toys and experiments. (He nearly electrocuted himself, just last week, mucking about with a small television. I would have warned him that transformers can still carry a charge, had he bothered to ask. Instead, he's taken great pride in showing off his "eklecticity" burns, and refusing to let Poppy heal them.) He and Molly seem content to remain at Heart's Solace, and Severus has resigned himself to their staying.
The Twins are back in Diagon Alley -- through what magical feat of trickery or insurance fraud, I don't know; and Ron still hasn't decided what he wants to do.
Which brings me to Harry Potter.
He stayed, as it happened, with the understanding that he might choose to leave before certifying. I didn't have a thing to do with it: I'd explained the situation to Lucy, took him to see her, and I think she talked some sense into him. He floos down to London on the week ends and is trying his hand at a Muggle job, just to get a taste of what it's like. Minerva and Miss Climpson between them somehow got him the necessary credentials to pass in the Muggle world. He rather pointedly turned down offers from several professional Quidditch teams.
He and Ron are still barely on speaking terms. I don't think they'll ever be closer, for which I hope Ronald Weasley has a bloody great regret. Ron's a decent sort, but he tends to think the grass is always greener elsewhere.
Oh, yes. The Patronus thing.
I've proved Alastor's theory about Patroni and Muggles, to a point: I still can't do one bloody bit of magic other than that, which proves to him, at least, that it's not a purely magical skill. He dragged me back out to the Forest after things had calmed down and made me produce it again.
The problem is, I can only bring it out in the Forest. (I suppose I might be able to do so at the Leenane cottage, but Severus knows better than to suggest I try.) Alastor dug into the history of Hogwarts' founding, and sure enough -- the Founders picked the site specifically because of the heavy concentration of the Old Magic. Not only does it tend to discourage Muggles from trespassing, but the Founders were able to tap into it. The Old and "New" Magics are not entirely compatible -- one reason Hogwarts and the Forest seem to co-exist a bit uneasily -- but it works.This ability is likely the combination of that bit of Druid blood, the Old Magic in the Forest, and my own bloody stubbornness and acceptance that Magic exists. I suspect Severus had something to do with it as well, though he denies outright any skulduggery, spells, or transfers of his own power -- before Conligabimus Aeternus at least, he always slyly replies, which makes me want to thump him because he still refuses to tell me all the implications of the rite. (If we were unconsciously bonded before the actual rite it would explain the raven as a second Patronus, but there's no way of telling: there's no recorded precedent, and trying to get Severus to talk about his feelings is as pointless and frustrating as trying to squeeze pumpkin juice from a stone.)
I've accepted that I'm apparently a freak of Nature and left it at that, but I'm still curious about the potential implications. Was there a time when all people benefitted from the magic about them, not only wizards? When the Old "Nature" Magic allowed us to communicate with our guardian spirits? We write them off as "instinct," now, of course -- but could we once all produce them as real entities, as part of the Fight-or-Flight response? (Because that's certainly what I felt when faced with that bloody Dementor.)
I'm not curious enough, however, to let Alastor submit me as a guinea-pig to the Ministry. A carefully-disguised case study is pointless as well: too many people are aware of the scandal of a Muggle at Hogwarts, and would put two and two together.
I doubt the Ministry researchers would be sensitive or particularly happy about the whole business, in any case. It's far too comfortable for the Wizarding World to assume that the line of demarcation between Muggle and Magical remains intact and inviolable. I know that doesn't sound at all complimentary toward them, but it's true: they are just as inclined to the same ethnocentrism and cultural bias as the rest of humanity. No reason to expect them to be any different.
I will admit, though, that the memory of Ian is no longer the only one that can bring out the lioness. I'm not going to tell you specifically -- it's far too personal -- but I think you can guess, at any rate.
The Wizarding World has changed in some respects, but not materially; not at its core.
The Albion is still in use, though it is used interchangably with knuts and Galleons. There's still a great mistrust of the goblins, so Protheroe decided to leave the new currency intact. Voldemort wasn't content to simply hold peoples' funds hostage: he allowed his men to pillage the vaults, starting with his most obvious and wealthy enemies -- including Severus. To give the goblins credit, they refused to open the vaults, so the Death Eaters had to figure out how to break in themselves.
Draco Malfoy and his mother are presumably living on his father's ill-gotten gains from that fiasco. The Aurors tracked them down to Buenos Aires, of all places, and are still keeping an eye on them. He's been warned not to return; the Ministry's decided not to actively prosecute, apparently because of his action in deflecting his father's curse at Severus. He's nothing left to return to, in any case: the estates and titles of the Death Eaters closest to Voldemort were confiscated, the estates liquidated to pay for reparations. The families weren't left destitute, but the very clear message was that they'd have to make their own ways, now, and not depend upon hereditary priviledge.
Lucius Malfoy currently resides in the psychiatric ward at St. Mungos, drugged to the gills. (Not that it's necessary, Neville tells me: his brain is more or less the consistency of a rather thick porridge.) It would be safer to let him die to prevent any rescue attempts, and certainly kinder to let him slip away, I suppose -- the medications they give him are partly simply to keep him alive -- but it should come as no surprise that not many in the Wizarding World are kindly disposed toward the Malfoys.
Protheroe is proving to be an astute politician and able administrator. And when it comes to oversight of Hogwarts, he leaves bloody well alone.
I had a nice surprise the other day; a notice from Gringotts to the effect that the Ministry had arranged for a transfer to my Wizarding account. The Swiss account had been closed, and I'd thought they'd used every bit of it -- but apparently not, and a conscientious Percy and Climpson made sure I got the remainder back. A whopping equivalent of £ 4,000.
I quietly laid the statement scroll on Severus' desk with a scribbled notation, "Wiltshire?".
He raised his eyebrows, but didn't quibble. His pride no longer extends to very practical financial matters, thankfully. And I think he wants very badly for this dream of his to become reality. I do, too: he deserves it.
Some things in this World haven't changed in the slightest.
There's still a lamentable tendency to distinguish between Muggleborn and Magical. It's most apparent with the students, who still fling about derogatory terms with appalling frequency.
We would like to think that Voldemort is finally, truly gone, but no one's taking wagers. Lucius Malfoy's and Krum's Marks are still intact, though dormant, and Harry Potter still bears his scar. Too much to expect them all to go away. Real life doesn't work like that: there are no clear, easy answers.
So we are determined to do what we can: heal those we can, prepare the young ones in the best way we know how to face the myriad challenges we know they'll face, whether their future includes Voldemort or not. (Sooner or later there will be a Voldemort: human nature simply doesn't change to conform to our wishes and prayers.)
We simply try to do our best, every day.
I'm flipping though the morning owl-mail delivery, and I stop to examine a postcard in the stack: non-magical, one of several similar items from around the world that I've received over the last few years. It's not signed, but I recognise the scribbled writing. The boy -- man, now -- is conscientious about fulfilling his promise to me to let me know what he's up to (vaguely, for safety's sake) and how well he's doing. I read it and smile, and reach across the breakfast table to place it next to Severus' plate. I've got the boy's sly little joke with his choice of this particular card and site -- a group of vastly underpowered men fighting a powerful enemy and against seemingly insurmountable odds -- and I wonder if Severus will.
Severus glances at it and frowns ('The Alamo? What the bloody blazes is that?' is clearly his thought), and then he cautiously flips the card over with the butter-knife -- as if it might bite -- and reads both caption and message with seeming disinterest. (I happen to know he's almost as anxious as I to receive these updates, though.)
He hasn't got the reference even after reading the caption, which is gratifying in a way. Despite his incredible intellect my husband is still fallible -- though you'll never hear me admit it to anyone but Minerva.
He snorts and mumbles, "Idiot," and returns to his toast and hellishly tannic tea.
It's his standard response to these missives, and there's no point in arguing with him or trying to change his attitude. It's simply inconceivable to him that someone with such potential would waste it -- would deny it, outright. But he quietly helped me make the arrangements, nonetheless, and by the time the Fidelius Charm was necessary he coached the participants through the ritual himself. Neither Sirius nor I would agree to be the Secret Keeper -- Sirius because he was the obvious choice should someone want the information, and I on the grounds that the boy is likely to outlive me by a great many years. It wasn't Severus, either, so I think you can deduce the next most likely suspect.
The boy -- sorry, I still think of him that way, and it's habitual not to refer to him by name for safety -- is doing quite well, actually. He's found a job that allows him to travel -- a good thing, that: it keeps him moving, and he doesn't settle in one place for too long. He's not well-off, as the raid on Gringotts nearly wiped out his inheritance. But he's comfortable, by Muggle standards, and seems happy with his gypsy life. I know the lure of it as well as its disadvantages; I lived it myself for many years, before Ian.
A suspicious, muffled thud comes from the tiny bath and loo upstairs, and Severus and I stare apprehensively at the ceiling.
"I'll go," I say with a sigh, and Severus lifts his teacup and takes a long, relieved sip. He's quite happy to let me deal by myself with the inevitable disruptions that our two endeavors cause on a daily, almost hourly, basis. Even Winky and the cottage Elf, Darby, have been known to throw up their hands in exasperation.
I think it's time to put this account away for good, now. Severus won't be returning with me to Hogwarts this term, and I'm truly going to have my hands full. If I file it among my other papers I'll be tempted to take it out and muck about with it: edit it, smooth out the rough edges, or, God forbid, censor it or try to make it more palatable for general consumption, which wasn't its intended purpose. Working on Christopher Marlowe's journal has given me an idea: I'll take this one back to the school and leave it in Merlin and Nimue's care, perhaps ask the Charms Mistress to charm it for me, so it will remain unreadable until long after I'm gone (make that long after Severus is gone: he'd throttle me if he knew half of what I've written).
I'm still upset that he's never received the full recognition that he deserves in all this, you see. He likely never will: historians often take their subjects at face value and on others' estimations until something surprising turns up to challenge their assumptions. It galls me that Severus will always be thought of as "that greasy git," and his more obviously laudable achievements explained away as aberrations or anomalies -- and the more secret efforts and private sacrifices recognised not at all.
Perhaps this ungainly, sprawling memoir will, someday, change that.
Miranda D. Snape
July 20th, 2003
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