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But For A Dog by Snapegirl

Format: Novel
Chapters: 25
Word Count: 127,285
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, Snape, Lily, James, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Snape/Lily, James/Lily, Harry/Hermione

First Published: 10/29/2010
Last Chapter: 12/14/2010
Last Updated: 12/14/2010

Summary:
Severus tells how his life took a very different path because he had two best friends-one was Lily and the other a collie. Severus-centric, will have Harry in later chapters.Features loyal and fierce Lily! AU!SS/LE
 
 


Chapter 1: Sixpence Pup
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*this story is told in journal format, from Severus' POV.  It follows some events in the books loosely.*

Snape's Journal

May 22nd, 1993:

I woke this morning and looked to the foot of my bed, expecting to see a large red-gold lump of fur, only to recall that he was no longer with me. Which brought a lump to my throat and the damnable sting of tears to my eyes, even though he has been gone for nearly four weeks. You'll get over it, my well-meaning neighbors murmur when they think I can't hear. He was old, it was his time. Time and past time, yes, I know that. My head knows that, but my heart whispers a different tale. A tale of loyalty and love and friendship that lasted a lifetime. His lifetime. I started keeping a journal two years ago as a way to organize my thoughts, but now I wish to tell a story, the story of a friendship that saved me from making the biggest mistake of my life, that saved me from despair and darkness. But for a dog . . .

June 18th, 1967:

"So, do ya want 'im or not, boy? "Tis the last of the litter, a puny runt. If you don't take 'im, I'll have to get rid of 'im. Don't keep no worthless mutts 'round here," said Mr. Tyms.

He was a big-shot dog fancier, come down from Edinburgh, moved into the big house across from the mill, which had shut down due to the workers being on strike. I knew because my dad was one of them, and he was always sniping about more pay and better hours, and then going to the pub to drown his sorrows, as Mum said. That was something new, usually Dad stayed home evenings, ate dinner, and went to sleep. Mum read or sewed or showed me bits of magical lore, but since Dad had gone on strike, she worked late down at the apothecary. I was bored, and I wanted a dog, always had. I knew we couldn't afford one, but . . .I had come to see the collie puppies anyway, there had been an advert in the paper.

"What do you mean, get rid of 'im?" I asked, staring at the fluffy red-gold collie pup, who was sitting at my feet, looking up at me with wise brown eyes.

"You know," Tyms said, and he mimed wringing someone's neck.

I was horrified. But I didn't doubt Tyms' word. I had heard once in school that was what these rich breeders did with unwanted puppies. I looked down at the puppy, who seemed so alive, and so happy to be with me, and I said suddenly, "How much you want for 'im, sir?"

"Sixpence and you can have 'im, lad. Save me the trouble of drowning the tyke."

"Done," I said, and handed him the money I had gotten for my birthday. Then I picked up the gangly bundle of collie and waved goodbye.

I started for home at a fast pace, before Tyms could change his mind. I was now the owner of a purebred collie, the son of a champion show dog whose name I could not remember. But that didn't matter. I now had a friend and was no longer bored.

The puppy licked my face and I smiled. "Hey, boy. Now I have to think up a good name for you. You'll have to stay in the shed outside, 'cause Mum and Dad won't let me have a dog, but if they don't know you're here, they can't tell me no." I had no idea how I was going to feed the little furball, but I would figure something out. Right now I had to think of a suitable name. A common name, like Rex, or Spike, or Caesar wouldn't do. This was a special dog.

All the way home, near a quarter of a mile, I thought about a name. The collie lay quietly in my arms, panting from the heat, and I was dripping with sweat, but nothing bothered me that day. My arms ached from carrying him, but I didn't want to put him down, he might run off, as I had no lead to put on him. I was wearing my best pair of jeans and a soft blue shirt, all of which had dog hair on them, Mum would have a fit, but I had to look respectable when I went to see Tyms, otherwise he wouldn't have let me see his dogs. Rich people set great store about how one looks.

By the time I reached my street, Spinner's End, my hair was all over my face and I was tired and thirsty. But I had chosen a name for my new pet. "I'm going to call you Gabriel, like the archangel," I told the dog, who wagged his tail and licked me. "Because you're a special dog, and he was special angel."

I went to the shed and put the puppy down inside. Nobody went in here anymore. It was musty and full of old potting soil and dull tools and there was a ratty old blanket on the floor. Gabriel went and sniffed all around and then curled up on the blanket.

"I'll be back with some food and water soon. Welcome home."

I went inside, Mum was upstairs sleeping and I thought Dad was down at the pub. I found some leftover hamburger casserole in the fridge and put it in with a torn up slice of bread in an old chipped bowl. I found an old dented biscuit tin under the sink and put water in it after I washed it out. Then I went and fed my dog.

He ate hungrily and then he pounced on my shoelaces and started to gnaw them. "No!" I cried. "You can't eat those. They're my good shoes, Mum will turn me over her knee if they get ruined."

I quickly found an old piece of rope for him to chew. Then I took off my shoes and socks. No sense in courting trouble, she was going to be ticked about the dog hair as it was. I sighed and wished the dog hair would just vanish and save me from getting my ears chewed off. Lately, Mum and Dad had been in snippy moods and I got yelled at for everything.

Suddenly I got a weird feeling in the back of my head, and then the dog hair just zipped off my shirt and jeans and into a little ball which rolled onto the floor. I stared at it. "Wow! Look at that, Gabriel! I think . . .I think I just did magic!"

He cocked his head. I knelt and ruffled his fur. "I'd tell Mum but then I'd get in trouble. It'll be our secret, okay?" Little did I know, it would be the first of many he and I would share.

I saw him start sniffing and walking in a circle and I picked him up and put him outside on the grass. After he'd gone and done his business I petted him. "Good dog! You're a smart dog, Gaby!" I praised. "And being smart's better than being big. I don't care if you are a runt, like Mr. Tyms says. I'll bet you're smarter than all his dogs put together. I'm small for my age too, but someday I'll be a great wizard and then nobody will ever tease me or call me "Charity Boy" again."

Since Dad went on strike, eight months ago, we'd had to "make ends meet" as Mum said, and so I couldn't get new clothes, but had to make do with seconds from the secondhand shop or else she'd cut down a shirt or two from Dad. I hated how I looked now, it sucked being poor. A year ago I was just another kid, but now I was "that poor Snape boy" and grown-ups gave me looks of pity and kids sneered at me in the park or at school.

I played with my new puppy till it grew dark, then I went and put him in the shed, grabbed my shoes and went back inside. Mum was cooking at the stove, something that smelled like beef stew. She gave me a cursory glance.

"Sev, why are you wearing your good clothes?"

I shrugged. "I felt like it."

"Well, go and get changed and wash up for supper. Your dad will be home any minute and you know he doesn't like to be kept waiting on supper."

"Yes ma'am," I said. I raced upstairs to get changed. Our house was small, the size of a shoebox, but it was cozy and I had never known anything else.

When I came downstairs, Dad was in the kitchen, he smelled of smoke and beer from the pub. His dark hair was tousled and there was something funny about his eyes. "Hi, Dad." I said. I would have run to hug him once, but since the strike, he was often tired and didn't seem to want me hugging him all that much.

"'lo, boy. What you been up to?"

"Nothin'. Just playing."

"Not getting into trouble, are ya?"

"No, sir."

"Better not be." He reached out and tousled my hair. "Sit and eat."

Mum had already put bowls of beef stew on the table. Mine was only half full, and I knew better than to ask why. It was all part of "making ends meet" whatever that meant. I ate slowly, I was hungry, but I knew better than to just gulp it down. It wasn't mannerly.

When we had almost finished eating, Mum asked Dad, "Toby, have you spoken to Mr. Wheeler yet about that job?"

"Yeah. He's already filled the position," Dad grunted.

"Oh, well, have you tried . . ." and she started suggesting other places and stuff that Dad should look into, and that made him mad.

"You can't get blood from a stone, woman, now quit nagging me!"

"I'm only trying to help!"

"You'd help more if you quit sticking your nose into my business and let it be!"

"Let it be! If not for me, there wouldn't be food on the table! We can't go on like this, Toby."

"Then maybe you ought to use your Gift and make it better, Eileen!" He was glaring at her now.

"I can't do that. Magic doesn't work like that." She began.

"Aye, that's what you always say. What good is having magic then if you can't use it for something worthwhile, huh?"

I cringed, for I hated it when they quarreled and that's all they seemed to do lately. Dad didn't understand that there were laws about the use of magic on Muggles and if Mum got caught breaking them, she'd go to Azkaban and then where would we be? I'd be stuck with him living off pretzels and crisps and stale beer.

"Tobias, I explained to you before, there are rules—" Mum began, using her "be reasonable" tone.

"Rules! Ha! You only follow rules when it suits you . . .Lady Prince!" he spat. "Fuck the rules!"

I dropped my spoon on the floor. I was forbidden to ever say that word or else I'd get to have a dose of Mum's special mouthwash tonic, which tasted horrible, and I wondered why it was okay for Dad to say it. I bent to pick up my spoon and when I straightened up, Dad was glaring at me.

"What's the matter with you, boy? Too clumsy to hold a spoon?"

"N-No, sir." I stuttered out of fear, for his glare was terrifiying.

"N-Now why are you stuttering, boy?" he mocked me. "Ain't you learned to talk yet, brat?"

I was afraid to open my mouth and remained quiet. I hated when he was like this.

"Answer me, Severus!"

"Tobias, leave him alone!" Mum yelled. "Don't take your temper out on him, he's done nothing to deserve it. Severus, go play outside. Go!"

I grabbed my bowl off the table and raced out the back door. Behind me, I could hear the sound of a bowl breaking and Dad saying more bad words. I wished Mum would wash out his mouth with her mouthwash.

Once outside, I made my way to the shed, and opened it.

Gabriel had been sleeping, but he woke up when I came in, and jumped all over me. "Hey, didja miss me?" I asked. I petted him with my free hand. "Hungry? Wanna share?"

I sat on the ground, and ate a few more spoonfuls of supper and then gave the rest to him. There wasn't much left but Gabriel licked the bowl clean. Then he sprawled in my lap and I hugged him. It felt so good to hug him, he smelled like grass and some kind of puppy shampoo and he was soft and warm. I buried my nose in his fur and whispered, "They're fighting again. I hate it. Why do they have to fight all the time? Why can't they just not talk to each other? Why can't Dad just get some work? I'm so sick of them yelling. It makes my stomach hurt."

I started to cry then, because now I was afraid of my father, who never seemed happy at all, and no matter what I did, I couldn't please him. It had never been that way before. My parents used to love each other once. Now it seemed like they hated each other . . .and I was just in the way . . .maybe they hated me too . . .I hugged my puppy, my forbidden friend, and cried harder.

He put his nose against my neck and licked me, as if to say, don't cry, I'm here. And I shall never leave you.

Snape's Journal:

He never did. I kept Gabriel a secret from my parents until the day my father walked out on us, packed up and left in the middle of the night when I was eight, right in the dead of winter in January and we never saw him again. I was both happy and sad to see him go, happy because at least he wouldn't bully and whack me one for no reason, and sad because even though he had become a stranger I feared more often than not, he was still my father and I needed him. But I guess he didn't need me.

I had been feeding Gabriel scraps from my dinner every night, and as a result was growing much too thin. My mother gave me some horrible Nutrient potion to drink and took me to see a Healer. He said there was nothing wrong with me. My mother knew there was something going on, she was a very smart woman, except in her choice of husbands.

I recall her looking me straight in the eye after we came home and saying, "Severus Snape, what are you up to?"

And I didn't dare lie to her. Lying was a cardinal sin in my house growing up. It was the only thing that would ever earn me a spanking. So I gathered up my courage and I said, "I got a dog, Mum, and he needs to eat too, so I've been sharing my supper with him."

"A dog? But where have you been keeping him?"

"In the shed."

She just looked at me. "Oh, Severus!"

We walked out to the shed together and she met my collie, who had grown too big now for laps and was a gangly scrawny seven-month-old dog. His coat was just starting to grow out and I had tried to keep it combed, but sometimes he got dirt and burrs in it. "His name is Gabriel, Mum, and I bought him with my own money and—"

"How long has he been here?"

"Uh, since June." I said worriedly. I threw my arms about the dog and cried, "He's mine! Don't make me give him away! Please!" The expression on her face was . . .odd. I couldn't figure out if she were angry or not.

She opened her mouth and closed it several times. Then she just shook her head. "Oh, Severus! Next time ask first before you get a pet, won't you?"

"But he would have been killed because he was a runt, Mum. I had to save him. I had to."

"Killed?"

"Yeah. He was one of Mr. Tym's dog's pups, and he said he was too small and worthless so he was going to strangle him or something," I said.

"That's disgusting!" she scowled and I knew she wouldn't make me give up my dog. She looked me up and down. "Well, if that's how he would have ended up . . .I can't really make you take him back and since you've been caring for him all the time . . .He can stay. But don't ever let me catch you giving your supper to him again, young man! That dog is going to eat dog food like every other dog and you are not going to starve yourself, understood?"

"Yes, Mum."

"I cannot believe you nearly wasted away because of a dog!" she scolded, exasperated.

"Mum, he's not just a dog. He's my best friend," I argued.

"Oh, Severus!" was all she said, and then she shepherded us both into the house, and made me a ham and cheese sandwich, and she watched while I ate every bit of it. Then she conjured a meat bone for Gabriel and he ate it under the table by my feet.

And that was how I acquired the best friend I would ever have, one who would be there throughout all the good and bad times in my life, and who would never abandon me, and in the end save me from my own folly and despair. But more about that later. For now, I am hungry, and need to stretch out my hand before it grows too cramped.

I set down my pen and rose from my desk and made my way into my kitchen. The house felt too quiet and I wondered why until I realized that I couldn't hear the familiar click of toenails padding along behind me. It was a sound I hadn't heard in weeks and had never known I'd miss until now. Sighing, I began to make myself a sandwich and eat it, and my eyes glanced every so often to a now empty spot next to my chair.

This was written in part to help myself get over the loss of losing my sister's collie, who was a family pet, and who recently passed away. Much of the behavior of the dog in this story is based upon the real Gabriel, who was a special dog, and who began life as a runt who was supposed to be an undersized collie. There will be some canon references, but much of this will be AU. This is a story for animal lovers so it will focus mainly on Sev's relationship with his dog. Harry will come into the story later, as Severus narrates certain key events in his life. Enjoy!
 


Chapter 2: Two Friends
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Snape's Journal

May 23rd, 1968:

Life was good for us for awhile, with Mum working steadily and able to put a bit aside for my Hogwarts tuition and for a rainy day. For the first time since Dad lost his job, I went to bed with a full stomach, and did not have to forgo sweets because we needed to make ends meet. It was quite a change, and then there was my dog to think about as well. Gabriel was growing nearly as fast as I was now that he was getting a balanced meal twice a day, instead of scraps, and Mum had bought me a real collar with a name tag she'd spelled with my name, his name, and our address and phone number. She also bought me a brush and comb and some stuff to make his coat free of tangles.

His coat was also growing in, and it was no longer the color of peach fuzz, but a deep reddish gold on his head and back and most of his tail, which had a black spot halfway down it. The tips of his ears and part of his forehead were darkening to a brown color, but he was not dark like Lassie. He was a color called red-gold sable, according to the collie manual I borrowed from the library. He had a snowy ruff and four white feet and a white tail tip. I can see him so clearly in my mind, that I sometimes think if I were but to turn my head . . .there he would be, lying sprawled on the floor. My photographic memory is both blessing and curse.

I miss him with an ache that will not abate, a deep throbbing pain deep beneath my breastbone. He lived a long long life, longer than an ordinary dog, and that due to my interference, but more of that later. Right now I wish to remember the early times, when I was innocent, and my best friend was a harum scarum puppy who seemed to enjoy running away all over the neighborhood unless I had him on a leash. Should I look away for an instant, or forget to latch the screen door, he would push it open and be off down the street.

It was a daily occurrence , and soon all my neighbors recognized my dog on sight. Most times when he ran away I would follow, calling him to come home. But occasionally he escaped without my knowledge, and then some neighbor or other would return him to me. "Severus, here's your dog. Found him digging in my rose bushes . . .or playing with my terrier . . .he was playing ball with my kids . . .and then I would thank whoever it was and drag my misbehaving puppy inside and scold him for running off again.

"Why can't you ever just stay in the yard? You could get run over by a car! Silly mutt!" I would stand there frowning at him, and he would crouch at my feet, head adroop, the picture of canine repentance. "You know, Gaby, if my dad were here, he'd tell you to go and play in the street. How come you like going over other people's houses so much?"

Maybe he missed other dogs, but I knew it was no use begging Mum to get another dog, it was too expensive. So I decided to take him for long walks down by the play park, so he could see other dogs and people. I also started obedience training him. By the time he was a year old, he had grown tremendously, his shoulders were broad and powerful andMum asked me again if I was sure he was the runt of the litter. "He's so big, Sev! I never saw a collie that big!"

He was almost to my shoulder now and I had grown an inch or two over the summer, though I was still skinny as a stick. "Yes, Mum, I'm sure. Mr. Tyms said he was too small to make a decent show dog and he was going to destroy him."

"Humph! Guess he was wrong."

"Was he ever!" Sometimes I was tempted to go back and show Tyms what he'd given away for sixpence, but then I was afraid he might take the collie back, because he'd been proven wrong. I had no bill of sale, after all, and I was just a kid and he was a rich dog breeder, he could have said I'd stolen Gabe. So I made sure to stay away from the Tyms' place. Thank goodness Gabriel never ran away over in that direction.

I had taught him to walk quietly on leash, so when we went to the park, he paced alongside me, and didn't drag me all over. People always complimented me on what a beautiful dog I had and how well-mannered he was. That made me feel good. One day, in early July, I came across two sisters playing on the swings near the duck pond, actually Gabriel introduced me to them . . .

I was standing behind a large bush of some kind, observing the two newcomers to determine if they might be friendly. I had a distrust of newcomers, mostly because I had been teased and bullied by all too many of them. I didn't have any real friends, because I 'd had a few accidental magic episodes and scared people. They all thought I was a freak and too smart for my own good, since I always got top marks in my subjects. I could read at a very advanced level, I had learned when I was three, and books had always been my friends. While the other children were still sounding out sentences like 'the fat cat sat on the big mat' I was reading C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Aesop's Fables. Gabriel wagged his tail and tugged at his lead. All he wanted to do was go and meet them.

I watched for a few minutes more, noting that they seemed to be sisters, they had similar facial features and though one's hair was blond and the other was a redhead. The elder girl appeared to be about three years older than her sister, who looked to be eight, my age. They were wearing knee length dresses, the blond in sky blue and the red-haired girl in green, which matched her eyes.

"Watch me, Tuney, watch me!" the younger girl sang, pumping her little feet faster and faster.

Her sister gave her an annoyed look. "Lily, why can't you call me Petunia now, instead of that stupid baby name? It was fine when you were learning to talk, but now it makes you sound stupid."

She flashed her sister a hurt look. "I thought you didn't mind it. You said you liked having a nickname."

"Yeah, back when I was seven. I'm eleven now and it's embarrassing. Don't you know anything, Lily?"

"Yes!" she replied, stung. "I can do things you can only dream of, Tuney!"

"Like what?"

"This." Then she jumped off the swing when it was its highest point.

I gasped, sure she was going to end up face first on the ground with her nose or arm broken.

Instead she soared through the air light as thistledown and landed gracefully on the grass, just like a deer.

My eyes widened, not because I'd seen her do the impossible, but because she was like me, a fledgling witch. She was the first child I'd ever met that had the Gift of sorcery within her. I could hardly stop myself from grinning. Finally, here was another such as myself.

Petunia was staring at her little sister, dismay and horror written all over her narrow face. "Lily! What if someone saw? You know you're not supposed to do . . .things like that! You promised Mummy!"

Lily hung her head, looking miserable. "But Tuney, I couldn't help it. It just happened!"

"You're a liar! You wanted that to happen, and you didn't care if anybody saw either!" Petunia stormed. "You don't care if you have a reputation as a freaky kid, but I do! I don't want to be known as a freak's sister, like we were in Manchester! I thought you were going to quit doing all that creepy stuff and act normally!"

Lily began to cry and I wanted to smack Petunia for being so nasty. What Lily had done was normal—for a young witch just learning about her power.

"I-I am trying! But sometimes it slips away from me, Tuney, and I just can't help it."

"You're pathetic! I'm going to pretend we're not related!" she declared and then she got off the swing and walked away with her nose in the air.

Good riddance! Who needs you, you prissy mare face? I thought, curling my lip. I wouldn't be your brother if you paid me.

Lily started to cry harder, but she didn't make any move to follow her sister, who soon disappeared down one of the bike trails to the other side of the park.

It was then that Gabriel decided to take matters into his own paws.

He jerked the lead from my fingers and ran over to Lily and started to lick her face, whining softly. He hated it when children cried. Lily gasped upon finding my collie earnestly licking her. "Oh! What a beauty! Where did you come from, girl? Are you lost?"

"No, he's mine. His name is Gabriel." I said, revealing myself. I snapped my fingers at my dog. "Gabe, quit that. You'll get her all mucky."

The collie immediately sat down, wagging his tail and grinning his signature collie smile of welcome.

Lily wiped her eyes and looked up. "I don't mind. I like dogs. He looks—"

"—like Lassie," I finished. I heard that all the time, people just naturally assumed my collie was a girl, thanks to the famous TV show star. "Do you live around here?" I had never seen her here before this.

"I just moved here. My name's Lily Evans." She held out a hand for me to shake.

"Severus Snape," I replied and took hers gently. "But you can call me Sev," I said. I don't know why I said that, because normally only Mum called me Sev.

Just then her sister—don't call me Tuney anymore—reappeared and saw us. "Lily!" she screamed, like Lily was being attacked or something. "Get away from that mangy mutt, it could have fleas or diseases!" she called bossily. "You don't know where it's been."

My eyes flashed. How dare she call my dog mangy? Or say he had fleas! He was perfectly clean, he had a flea collar and I had just brushed him last night. I whirled to face her, my chin thrust out. "My dog's not a mutt, he's a pedigreed collie, and he doesn't have fleas or mange, he's probably cleaner than you are!"

Petunia came up to me and looked me up and down with a haughty expression. "Oh, right. Well, he's certainly cleaner than you. Where do you get your clothes—the ragpickers?"

"Tuney!"

I rolled my eyes. "These are play clothes, so I don't get my good ones dirty. Don't you know anything?"

Sure they had a few holes and my sneakers had the laces chewed because Gabriel had gotten to them before I could stop him back when he chewed everything, but they weren't ready for the ragshop yet, and I ought to know, having worn stuff from there back in the days when Dad was still at home. But Petunia was a nose-in-the-air stuck up piece and God forbid something had a tear in it. I hated girls like that, and longed to knock her in the dirt just to see if it would stick to her and scrub her hair with mud. I settled for glaring at her instead.

She sniffed audibly, as if there was a bad smell about me. "Lily, you shouldn't talk to strangers."

"He's not a stranger, we've been introduced."

"By whom?" Petunia asked arrogantly.

"The dog," Lily answered, her eyes sparkling with impudence. "His name's Sev Snape and the collie's Gabriel."

At the sound of his name, Gabe's ears pricked and he barked softly. I gave him a signal and he lifted a paw for Lily to shake.

"Oh!" She grinned and took his paw. "So pleased to meet you, sir! How clever! What else can he do?"

"Shed and drool and eat you out of house and home!" said Petunia spitefully.

I wanted so badly to knock her on her superior arse—if she had been a boy I would have—but only cowards hit girls, Mum said. And I was no coward. Gabe came to my rescue. He sidled up to Petunia and rubbed against her dress, getting dog hair all over it.

She squealed and tried to push him away, and he turned his head and licked her entire face in one big slurp. I swear he did it on purpose.

"Aww! How cute!" Lily cooed.

"Eeeww!" Petunia screeched. "Dog slobber! I've been kissed by a dog! Yuck!"

"Get hot water! Get some iodine! I've got dog germs!" I mocked, making my voice go high and squeaky, like Lucy's from the Peanuts movies. Lily giggled. "A dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's."

Petunia spat on the ground. "That's a lie! Dogs eat dirt and they lick themselves you-know-where! Filthy beasts!" She was frantically scrubbing her face.

"People do a lot worse with their mouths."

"You're disgusting, Snape!"

"And you're a drama queen!" I shot back.

"Lily, let's go home," Petunia ordered. "You don't need to hang around this little creep and his mutt!"

Lily shook her head. "No. I want to play with Sev and Gabriel. You can go if you want."

"You have to come home, Lily, I say so!"

"You're not the boss of me, Tuney!"

"Stop calling me that!" she grabbed hold of Lily's arm and tried to drag her away.

Lily glared at her hotly and Petunia's shoe laces suddenly tied themselves together and she tripped, falling on her pinched face into the dirt. "Oops! Don't you know how to tie your shoes yet?"

Petunia sat up, sniveling. "You did that on purpose, you little freak. Just wait! I'm telling Mum you used your weird power again and then you'll really be in for it." She struggled to unknot the laces and finally she succeeded. Then she ran off, yelling that she was going to tell.

"You always do," Lily muttered, rolling her eyes. Then she looked back at me worriedly, as if afraid of what I might say or do. "Umm . . .I can explain . . ."

I laughed. "Neat trick. What else can you do?"

"You're not afraid? Or think I'm weird?"

"You're not weird, Lily. You're a witch."

"I am?"

"Uh huh. I know, because my mom's a witch and I'm a wizard."

"There's no such thing! Only in stories. You're having me on."

"Watch," I picked up a small rock and concentrated hard. When I opened my hand, there was a butterfly sitting on my palm. I let it fly away. "See?"

"You really are a wizard!"

"Yes. We can do magic just like you."

"And is he a magic collie?"

I laughed. "No, he's just a dog."

"Have you always been able to do magic? Are we the only ones who can?"

I shook my head. "No, there are lots of us, but we're hidden all over the world. Muggles, like your sister, wouldn't recognize us, because we hide in plain sight most times." I told her all about Hogwarts and she listened closely.

"Really? I always thought I was weird. Petunia used to say I was switched at birth with an alien from Venus."

"That's dumb. You're not a freak, you have a special gift. I'll bet she's just jealous, because you've got magic and she doesn't."

"Of what? All I can do is move things through the air."

"When you're older and get a wand you'll be able to do more." I spent the rest of the afternoon explaining all about the magical world to her. She was fascinated. By both my world and my dog. She wanted to see him perform new tricks.

I never minded showing off my dog and so I put him through his paces.

Gabriel could do all kinds of tricks, I'd taught him all the basics—like "shake", "roll over" and "speak", but his best trick was herding. Collies are herders and they are happiest working for their masters. It didn't take me long to teach him that trick on command.

By chance there was a duck pond in the park and some ducklings had been born recently. I waved my hand at them. "Bring them in, Gabriel!" I ordered.

My collie sprang away and raced about the pond, gently and quickly corralling the baby ducks. He herded them all towards us, while mama duck honked and screeched.

Peep! Peep! Peep!

"Oh, they're darling!" Lily exclaimed.

Even I had to admit they were kind of cute all fuzzy yellow down.

Gabriel herded them expertly, nudging them right to us. Lily knelt and petted one.

"Good dog!" I called and tossed a biscuit in the air.

He caught it easily. Then I told him to bring the ducklings back to their mum, who was going crazy, flapping her wings and quacking hysterically.

Gabe trotted away, pushing the ducklings back to mama. Mama duck pushed all her babies into the pond and swam out into the center where they were safe from huge furry dogs.

"What a wonderful dog!" Lily said and she hugged him to her.

"You want to give him a treat?" I handed her one. "Make him sit first."

She did, and the dog took the treat gently.

By then it was getting close to supper and I knew Mum would be searching for me if I didn't go home soon. "Where do you live? I'll walk you home."

"25 Spinner's End."

"Spinner's End? Me too. I live at number seven, just down the row."

"That means we're neighbors! Oh, that's great!"

We started walking back towards home. I let Lily hold Gaby's leash. She was full of questions about my parents.

"If your mum runs an apothecary—is that like a chemist?"

"Yes. But she brews potions instead of pills."

"Neat! What does your dad do?"

I bit my lip. "He used to work in the cotton mill over there," I pointed to it. "But he left us awhile ago, and I don't know where he is or what he's doing." Probably getting drunk, I thought bitterly. It pained me to speak of Tobias, because I both loved and hated him for what he had done. A part of me wanted him to come home so I'd have a dad again, but the other part knew we were better off without him and if he had been home a year ago, I'd never be able to keep my dog. But sometimes I missed the old days, before the mill shut down, when I used to run and sit on his lap and he'd read to me from the comics section of the paper and share his tea with me.

I changed the subject. "What's your mum and dad do?"

"Dad's a mechanic, he runs Evans' Garage in town. Mum used to be a schoolteacher, but she quit after she had us girls." Lily told me frankly.

We had almost reached our street and I paused. "Will you get in trouble for what you did to your tattletale sister?"

"Probably not. Mum knows I can't help it, that sometimes things just happen around me."

"It's called accidental magic and it'll happen until you get your wand and learn how to focus really good. Least that's what my mother says."

"That's good! I hate when bad things happen around me." Lily said in relief. I gave her a worried look. "Don't worry, Tuney's always telling on me, once my dad threatened to tape her mouth shut if she didn't quit it. I wish he had."

Finally we reached her house and she waved from the porch. "Bye, Sev! Come and see me tomorrow!"

Snape's Journal:

"Bye, Sev! Come and see me tomorrow!" How often Lily had spoken those words to me growing up. She was the only child my age on the street and we were inseparable—me, Lily, and Gabriel. We went everywhere together, to the park, to the ice cream shoppe, to the cinema.

Once, we snuck Gabe in through the back door of the movie theater and hid him under our seats. It nearly worked too, until some busybody spotted his tail sticking out and started yelling about wild animals. Idiot! A collie doesn't even look wild, and we don't have any kind of wild dogs or wolves in Yorkshire.

But it was enough to nearly start a panic and it brought the manager of the theater on the run. He grabbed us both by the ears and threw all of us out, including my confused dog, and threatened to have us arrested for disturbing the peace. I couldn't keep my mouth shut then and I said, "That lady inside there disturbed the peace more than my dog. All he was doing was lying on the floor all quiet."

"None of your cheek, boy!" scolded the manager, and he cuffed me across the back of the head.

"Don't you hit him!" Lily cried, then she kicked him in the shin.

He yelled and Gabriel started barking and growling. He never would have bitten the stupid guy, but the big jackass started screaming, "Mad dog!" and next thing you know the police were there.

I was terrified and angry that they would try and take Gabriel away, maybe put him in the pound or something, and I was all set to do something that would have gotten me grounded for life, like blow up the police car. Luckily, one of the officers there was another neighbor of mine, Officer Danvers, and he and Gabe went way back. Gabriel used to play with his police dog, Hunter, when he was a little puppy and ran away.

"What's the problem here?"

"Officer, this dog here almost bit me and these two hooligans snuck him into the theater and nearly caused a riot. He ought to be put down, he's a dangerous animal."

Now I wanted to kick him in the other shin. "No, he's not! He didn't do nothin' to you, you big git! He was only barking 'cause you smacked me."

Gabriel growled low in his throat as the manager started to raise his hand again.

"Sir! You have no call to hit that child!" Officer Danvers said, and grabbed the manager's arm.

"He's a cheeky brat who deserves a lesson in manners."

"Not from you he doesn't." Officer Danvers stated. He looked at me and at my dog. "Severus Snape, did you really sneak your dog into the theater?"

I dropped my eyes. "Yessir."

"Why would you do such a thing, son? You know dogs aren't allowed there."

"It was hot and I didn't want Gabriel to stay all that time in the heat, and if we brought him home, we would have missed the movie. I didn't think it was such a big deal. He was just lying quietly under our seats. Until some crazy idiot starts screaming about wild animals and getting people all upset."

"You cost me a day's sales probably, you little brat!" the manager shook his fist at me. People were streaming out of the theater.

"It was a lousy movie anyway," I shot back.

"Severus! What would your mum say if she heard you talk like that?" reproved the police officer.

"Sorry," I muttered, though I wasn't sorry at all.

"Somebody ought to take you over their knee, boy!"

I backed up into Officer Danvers. I was furious, but also afraid a little.

"Settle down, Mr. Gleason. Before I arrest you for attempted assault of a minor."

"How 'bout bringing that mutt to the pound and putting a bullet in its brain? I swear it's rabid."

"Mr. Gleason, I know this dog and he's no more a mad dog than my own German shepherd. He didn't bite you, did he?"

"Err . . .no."

"Then you're lucky. My Hunter would have taken you out if you had struck me."

The manager sputtered. "And this little spitfire here kicked me!" He pointed to Lily.

"You hit Sev!" she glared right back at him. "You don't have any right to hit him!"

"The girl's right. Although you shouldn't go around kicking people either, young lady." Danvers reprimanded. "Apologize."

Lily did.

"That's not good enough! What about my sales? I demand compensation!"

I gulped. I knew what that word meant, it meant money. Mum was going to kill me.

Danvers told the other police officer to go in and find out who had left and demanded a refund. It turned out that five people had done that, and then he told the fat prig that he would take both of us home and speak to our parents and we could each pay half the money back.

Gleason agreed and we got to ride in the police cruiser with Gabriel inbetween us. It would have been cool, except I knew Mum was going to kill me.

We dropped Lily off first, and I thought her mum, Sara, was going to pass out. She kept babbling apologies and then she took some notes out of her purse and paid Officer Danvers. Then she dragged Lily into the house by her ear, scolding her loudly. I felt sorry for her.

Then it was my turn. Mum ran out on the porch when she saw the police car. "Oh, God! Where's my baby? Where's Severus, Austin?"

"Right here, Eileen," Officer Danvers opened the back of the cruiser and Gabriel and I climbed out. "He's fine. But there was a bit of an incident down at the theater."

Mum grabbed me and hugged me hard. Then she let me go and asked, "What incident? Please, come in and we can discuss this sitting down."

"All right."

Danvers told her everything. I just sat there, waiting for her to tell me that we were getting rid of my dog or that she was going to tell me never to play with Lily again. I couldn't believe how one little prank had gone so wrong.

When he was finished, she told me to fetch her purse, said that she was deeply sorry I had caused such a commotion and that she would deal with me herself.

"Don't be too hard on the lad, Eileen. No real harm was done," Danvers said, I got the odd feeling he was more amused than angry. Pity my mother wasn't.

"Thank you, Austin. Have a pleasant day."

He left and then she turned to me and said, "Severus Tobias Snape, what on earth were you thinking? Taking a dog into a movie theater?"

"That I didn't want Gabe to get heat stroke," I answered. "It was really hot out there, Mum."

"Why didn't you just bring him home?"

"There wasn't time. We would've missed the show."

"So instead you cause a major disturbance. I'm so ashamed of you, young man! This isn't how I taught you to behave!"

Now I felt horrible. I hated disappointing her. I apologized.

"Go to your room. I'll come up later and discuss your punishment."

I slunk away like a beaten cur. At the top of the stairs, I said, "Please don't send Gabriel away, Mum. It wasn't his fault. Please. I'd rather be beaten than have you give him away!" I sniffled, for I was on the verge of tears.

"Severus, I would never send that dog away for a mistake you caused. Now, go to your room, and put your nose in the corner. Now, young man!"

I obeyed.

"Gabriel, stay," she ordered when he would have followed me.

He obeyed too. He wasn't dumb enough to cross Mum in a temper.

She made me wait for ten minutes before coming up and lecturing me into the next century. My punishment was to write a letter to Mr. Gleason apologizing for my prank and then I was grounded for two weeks, no friends, no potion-making, no library, nothing but chores and an early bedtime. Early meaning seven o'clock, when it was still light out. I also got a single smack on my bottom for my cheeky mouth. Even Gabriel was confined to the house, except for when I walked him. That was the only good thing about my punishment, that I had the dog to share it. I found out later that Lily was punished the same as me, except she had Petunia to sneer at her all through her grounding. Though she got Tuney back by turning her hair green with another spate of accidental magic. It took a week to wear off and she had to wear a kerchief over her head.

Mum also sent a letter to Mr. Gleason, I learned weeks later, telling him off for hitting me and threatening to sue his arse or worse if he ever lifted a finger to me again. The owner heard about it and was furious and broke him back down to a ticket taker for his poor customer service skills and put another manager in his place. Needless to say, he blamed me and Lily for his demotion, and when we were finally allowed to go to the cinema again, we made sure we never bought tickets from him, afraid he might cheat us or something. There was even a piece in the local paper, but the reporter presented it as a kind of spoof, so it wasn't too bad.

Even so, that was the last time I ever played a dumb prank like that. I had been lucky that Officer Danvers had been there instead of another police officer that afternoon, or else it might have meant the end for my dog. Nothing was worth that.

I set down my quill and realized it was now five o'clock in the morning. Merlin, but I hadn't thought about that incident in years. Funny, what your mind remembers when its sleep deprived. Of course, nothing could match the candle-making incident when I was nine . . .I yawned. I'd write that one down later, right now my eyes were closing.

I crawled into bed and the last coherent thought I had before drifting off to sleep was that my feet were cold because Gabriel wasn't there to warm them.

The real Gabriel, like the fictional one, learned all kinds of hand signals, ran away continuously as a puppy and a year old dog, and herded kittens, though he would have herded ducks too if there had been any in my sister's backyard to herd. He was a very smart dog and very protective towards his family. Most collies are great with kids and other animals, the only problem with them is they shed very badly and require lots and lots of grooming.

Who can't wait to find out what mischief Sev and Lily got into next chapter?
 


Chapter 3: Of Candles and Ouija Boards
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May 26, 1993:

After I had cremated Gabriel, I had created a sort of memorial to him upon my mantel. First was the urn, then I had placed a picture of him running about the yard during the autumn, when his red-gold coat was set off to a burnished sheen by the red, gold, and orange foliage. In addition to the picture, I also had a small votive candle, similar to those used in churches, that I lit every night before I went to sleep. The two items were inside his dog collar, which I had saved. It was one I had made as a nine-year-old, using a leather-making kit. Inexpert as it had been, it had nevertheless lasted a lifetime. It was of three different shades of leather, a deep brown, a mahogany brown, and a light brown, and they were braided together and capped with leather ties. It was old and worn now, but I recalled how it looked when it was new, and how proud I had been when I'd put it and his dog tags on him the first time.

I stroked the cracked leather and smiled. Then I looked at the candle, and that in turn reminded me of the disastrous incident that had occurred when I was nine, when Lily and I had tried to make our own candles for a summoning ceremony. It had all started with Petunia and her friends, Macy and Andrea . . .

October 29th, 1969:

Lily and I were in her backyard, tossing a Frisbee for Gabe to fetch, it was one of those crisp October afternoons, where all the leaves had changed and piles of them fell all over the yard. It was Petunia's job to help us rake them up, but two of her friends had shown up and she had abandoned her chore to go and gossip with them or whatever girls did. Lily and I managed to rake all the leaves into a large pile, but then Gabriel jumped in it and scattered them all over again when we played fetch with him.

I groaned. "Now look what you've done, Gabe!"

The collie wagged his tail, not understanding why it was wrong to race through the crisp leaves.

"Just leave it. Let Tuney handle it, she was supposed to be raking anyhow," Lily said dismissively, taking the Frisbee from Gabe's mouth. "Let's go inside and have some cider. Mum has some warming on the stove. She always makes it around Halloween time."

I followed her into the house, I had been a guest in the Evans' home ever since we'd met in the park that day. There were ginger spice biscuits on the counter, we helped ourselves to them and cups of slowly simmering cider. Then we started to talk about Halloween, and going trick-or-treating. I never had much money for a costume, so I usually went as something simple, like a zombie or a ghost. This year, however, I could get a real costume, and I was going as Dracula.

"What are you going as, Lil?"

"A trapeze artist. Mum took my old gymnastic uniform and sewed sequins on it and dusted it with glitter. I already have tights and old ballet shoes that we can re-do. Mum was going to go shop today for a fancy cape like the one we saw Melina Starflyer wear in the center ring at the circus last month."

The circus had been great and Lily had said afterwards that if she hadn't been a witch, she would have wanted to be a trapeze artist. I had liked the elephant and dog and tiger acts the best, the animals were awesome.

"Sounds cool. Where should we go this year?" We always planned our route, based on who gave out what sweets and how far we had to walk.

"I think we should start with Mrs. Coates house this year. She gave out the big bars of Cadbury Crunchies."

"Right, and then there's Mr. Adams' house and he gives out candy apples." I reminded her. They were homemade and excellent.

Just then we heard squeals of fright from the den.

"Oh, it moved!"

"Did not, Macy. You're just seeing things!"

"Am not, Andrea. I swear to God, it moved over to the 'H"."

"Let me see that thing!"

"You dimwits!" Petunia's voice echoed scornfully through the house. "Don't you know you need to use a Ouija board on Halloween night, when all the spirits are awake and able to cross over."

"You do? Who says?"

"My little sister is into all this occult stuff, she thinks she's a witch, and she said that Halloween is a time when the gateway between the living and the dead is open. That's when black witches use ceremonies to summon up the dead in rituals."

"Oooh! Sounds really creepy!" said Macy. "Can your little sis summon up ghosts?"

"I don't know. Her and that Snape kid are both nuts. But I read in this magazine that in order to call the dead you need two thick black candles made according to this recipe."

Lily and I exchanged glances. "What recipe?" I mouthed.

Lily just shrugged. "I don't know," she whispered in my ear. "Let's go find out."

She walked into the den and I trailed her, Gabriel beside me.

"What are you all doing?" Lily asked.

The three were sitting around a Ouija board with a pointer trained upon the letter 'H", looking both scared and disbelieving. Petunia looked up and scowled at us. "Beat it, weirdos. And take the mutt with you."

"He's not a mutt!" I snapped, defending my dog.

Gabriel was sniffing curiously at the Ouija board. He sneezed then shook his head.

"Oooh what a beautiful collie!" squealed Macy, she was a skinny girl with long stringy blond hair. She reached out to pet Gabe, who licked her hand.

"What's her name?" asked Andrea, she was a brunette who had a bob, also petting my dog.

Gabe just ate up the attention.

"His name is Gabriel," I corrected.

"That's a pretty name. Like an angel," said Macy.

"Enough with the dumb dog!" Petunia said disgustedly.

"Hey. Is it true that you know black magic?" Andrea asked Lily and me.

Lily snickered. "No."

"Well, do you know how to raise the dead?" asked Macy.

"What do we look like, necromancers?" I asked, rolling my eyes. "Please!"

Gabriel chose that moment to sit down . . .right on the Ouija board.

"Get that blasted dog out of here!" Tuney shrilled. She could have put a cat in heat to shame and she sure was as bitchy as one.

Her friends didn't seem to mind though, they just laughed and kept petting him.

"Gabe, come," I called and my dog rose and came to sit at my left side.

"Lily, you and Snape are always brewing up stupid fake things," Petunia said, her eyes shimmering with anger and something else . . .jealousy. Unlike her friends, she knew magic was real."Can you make candles?"

"Candles?" Lily repeated.

"Yes, you know, the things you light and use in jack-o-lanterns? We need candle for the ritual."

"What ritual?" Lily asked.

"The one where we summon up dead relatives. I want to summon up our great-grandmother, she sounds interesting. I need these candles for the ritual." She thrust a piece of paper at Lily. I peeked over her shoulder and saw the article was titled "How to Create Midnight Candles to Summon Those From Beyond the Grave! It's Easy!

Lily stared at Petunia with wide eyes. "Tuney, you shouldn't . . .summoning up the dead is a bad idea. They don't like to be disturbed."

"So what? They should expect to be disturbed on Halloween. Can you make the candles or not?"

Lily read the recipe. So did I. "Yeah, I guess. But why can't you make them?"

Petunia shrugged. "Because I don't feel like it. Besides, you're always bragging about how you two little warlocks can brew anything in Snape's kitchen. So prove it."

I was getting sick and tired of her attitude, so I said, just to shut her up, "Okay, we will."

"Good! Have them ready by Halloween. Or else we'll summon up some ghosts to haunt you!" Petunia cackled.

I snorted. Between the three of them, they might have been able to summon up a dust mite. "Now I'm really scared!" I mocked.

"Beat it, Snape! And take your mutt with you."

I made a face at her. Honestly, when she got on her high horse, she was unbearable!

"Be nice to him, Tuney! Or else you can find someone else to make your candles." Lily snapped.

"Fine! Will you please leave, Mr. Snape?" she said in mocking politeness. "And do take your hairy canine with you."

Lily and I left, retreating to the haven of the backyard and the play house there. Mr. Evans, whom I rarely saw, since he usually worked when I came over, had built it himself for Tuney and Lily.

Together we squished inside the little wooden house, it had benches built into the wall and pillows and a small table. We both read the recipe for the candles.

2 blocks of beeswax, melted (12oz)

A handful of powdered ash

A pinch of elder bark

2tsp of ground cloves

Mouse blood

A sprinkling of mold

Two drops of narcissus essence

Candle mold

String for wick

Stir well all ingredients and let come to a boil. Pour into candle mold with wick and let cool. Light on Halloween to summon those spirits you wish to commune with.

"Yuck! Mouse blood," Lily wrinkled her nose. "Do we have to put that in?

"No. This isn't like a real spell, Lil. It's a fake Muggle one. It won't make a difference if we leave that out since it won't work anyway."

"Yeah. I mean, if it did work, then we would have this book in the wizarding libraries, right?"

"Right. Only Tuney's dumb enough to believe it'll really work."

"So . . .can we make the candles at your house?"

"Yeah. It doesn't sound too hard. I have an old cauldron we can use, it'll fit on the stove." I said, since neither of us could make magical fire for our cauldrons yet. "I'll get half the ingredients and you can get the other half."

We divided up the ingredients, I would supply the wax and the ash since I had lots of that kind of thing at home, because we had a fireplace and Lily didn't. And Mum used wax a lot to seal her vials when she finished extra batches of potions. I also had ground elder bark and a candle mold. Lily would bring the cloves, the string, the narcissus essence, and the mold.

Mum would be working tomorrow, so we could make the candles then. She had a mid-shift tomorrow and afterwards was going to pick up my costume from the Halloween shop—she had put it on hold. Everything was set. It should have been an easy project, I thought. Instead, it turned out to be a huge blunder.

Saturday

October 30, 1969

7 Spinner's End:

I waited until Mum had left for work and I had cleaned up my room and the den, since those were my chores that day, besides taking care of my dog, before I went over Lily's house to tell her to come on over so we could start making the candles. I had everything set out on the counter, just like I did when I made potions with Mum. Gabriel was lying on the floor under the kitchen table, licking up the crumbs from lunch.

Lily opened the door as soon as I rang the bell.

"Is everything ready?' she asked.

"Yes. Did you get everything?"

"Right here." She had a shoebox beside her foot. "Mum, I'm going to play over Sev's house!" she yelled over her shoulder.

"Okay, Lily! Just be home for supper!"

"I will! See you later!"

Off we went to my house.

We followed the recipe and dumped everything into the pot, and I turned up the burner on high. "Go open the window," I ordered Lily, while I stirred the gross mixture with a long handled stirrer I had brought up from the potions lab last night. "I don't want my kitchen to smell like this nasty sludge."

While Lily went to open the window, I stood on a chair and stirred the cauldron. The wax slowly started to melt and I wrinkled my nose. The stuff smelled foul and my eyes began to stream. I started to cough.

Gabriel whined and pawed at his face. Clearly this stuff was making him sick too. Nothing I'd ever made had ever smelled this bad before.

"Sev? You okay? That stuff smells awful." Lily said, coming to stand next to me.

"Tell me about it." I said, then I started coughing again. The stench was like burning wood and rotting leaves and it was utterly disgusting. My eyes were hurting so much I could barely see. "Lily, get me a wet cloth." I ordered. I couldn't tell if the wax was hot enough, I thought it would start to bubble like a potion and was waiting for it to happen.

Lily handed me a wet dishcloth. I mopped my eyes.

"Want me to take a turn?" she asked.

"Sure."

I hopped down from the stool and started cutting the string and putting it in the mold. My eyes still burned and I went into the bathroom to wash my face.

I could hear Lily start coughing too as she went to stir the sludge.

"Sev? What's it look like when it's done?"

"I don't know," I called back. "Wait till it bubbles."

"Okay."

I stuck my head under the faucet and let the water run into my eyes.

I heard the phone ring.

It rang twice, and then I heard Lily pick it up from the stand in the hallway, since we had no phone jack in the kitchen.

"We're making it right now, Tuney! Yes, now let me get off the phone, we have it cooking on the stove!"

That's it, you tell her, Lily! I thought, removing my head from the water and drying my face off with a towel.

All of a sudden I heard Gabriel start barking like crazy. He barked and barked and I knew that something was wrong. I ran out of the bathroom and down the hall.

"SEVERUS! The kitchen's on FIRE!"

Lily was screaming, standing in the doorway of my kitchen, staring in horror at the stove, where fire was shooting up from the cauldron and this thick black smoke was billowing up to the ceiling.

"Holy shit!" I gasped. How had this happened? "Lily, what the hell?"

"I don't know what happened, Sev!" she was bawling. "All I did was talk to Tuney, I w-was only gone a few minutes and when I came back . . .it was on fire! We need to call the fire department!"

"Call!" I cried.

Then I heard my collie bark again and I screamed, "Gaby! Where is he?"

"Sev, he was in the kitchen! He was asleep on the floor!"

"No!" I screamed. "Gabriel, come!"

I could see my dog, he was backed up by the window, barking frantically while the fire spread across the ceiling.

"Gaby! Gaby!"

I didn't think, I just ran in there.

The kitchen was full of black smoke and as soon as I entered it, I was overwhelmed by the terrible stench and started coughing and gasping. But I managed to make my way over to the dog and tug on his collar. "Come on! We . . .have . . .to get . . .out . . ."

But the collie refused to go anywhere near the kitchen entrance. So I tried to heave him out the kitchen window. "Gabe, jump! Jump!"

He was barking and I finally got him to calm down enough to obey me. The window was barely wide enough for him to get through and I had to shove his hind end out.

"Sev. Where are you? Sev!"

Lily! She was still in the house. "Get out, Lily! Get out!" I shrieked.

"Sev!"

"Gabe, go get her!" I ordered, then doubled over, coughing uncontrollably.

Gabriel raced away. I learned later than he had burst through the screen door and dragged Lily out by her shirt tail.

Right then, I was half-passed out from the smoke and I just barely climbed out the window. I landed on the grass and then I knew nothing more until a day later, when I woke up in hospital, and found my mother hovering over me.

May 26th, 1993:

The doctors said I was very lucky, that the stuff we had added to the candle wax had mixed together and formed a toxic smoke, which was why my eyes had been burning and stinging while I'd stirred. The wax had spontaneously combusted because it had reached a flashpoint, which happened because we didn't know how to test it for the proper temperature. It turned out we should have used a candy thermometer, but since the recipe didn't say that, we had no idea that wax didn't bubble like a potion, it just got hotter until it ignited.

I had to get oxygen for two days and my throat was very sore and I could only eat Jello and ice cream and drink water for three days. Mum burst into tears when I finally opened my eyes, she told me I could have died.

The fire department had put out the fire before it had spread, and the only damage had been to the kitchen ceiling and part of the counter. But for weeks afterwards, that part of the house smelled like burnt mold. Lily and Gaby were fine, though Lily had went to the hospital also and gotten checked out.

Thanks to Tuney we had missed Halloween, my house had almost burnt down, and I almost died.

After three days, I was released from the hospital and Mum came home. Lily had taken care of Gaby while Mum stayed with me, and as soon as the car pulled up in the drive, he flew out of Lily's house and jumped all over me, licking me and making a strange sort of crooning noise. To this day I cannot describe exactly how it sounded, it was a unique noise that he made when he was very happy, a cross between a whine and a growl. I went down on one knee and hugged him. "Hey, Gaby. I missed you," I whispered, my voice was still not up to snuff.

"Come inside, Sev." Mum said, after she had thanked the Evans' for looking after Gabriel. "You need to take some potions and then take a nap."

I didn't want a nap, I wasn't tired, but I also knew it was a mistake to argue with my mother. She hadn't said anything while I was in hospital about the fire, but I knew she had to be furious. I was probably going to end up grounded for the year.

Lily ran out of her house and hugged me as I was walking up the steps. "Oh, Sev! Are you going to be all right? I was so worried!"

"Yeah. My . . .voice is just . . .it's hard to talk. . . from the smoke . . ."

"Oh. I'm so sorry. Mum said . . .she said we never should have tried something like that alone . . .that we were very foolish and we were lucky not to have died! I told her that it was Tuney's idea to make the candles to use with the Ouiji board and now she's grounded and so am I. Till December. And Mum spanked us too."

"Sorry," I said, wincing. Though I was sorry I had gotten Lily in trouble, I didn't really feel sorry for Petunia, who blamed both of us for her stupid idea, according to Lily, and she had gotten spanked both for being irresponsible and for saying that she wished my house had burnt down so I'd move away from here.

"Lily, dear, Sev needs to rest. Come by tomorrow afternoon and see him. He'll be out of school for a week." Mum told her. "He needs time for his voice to heal."

"Okay, Mrs. Snape. I'm really sorry about everything!" Lily said, her green eyes filled with tears.

Mum hugged her. "Child, it was a very stupid mistake and thank Merlin you both lived to tell of it. I hope you've learned your lesson and it's over and done with now."

Lily cried a little into her shirt and then she left to go home.

Mum herded me and Gabriel upstairs to my room. Then she told me to change into pajamas and she fetched the potions from her lab.

She gave me a Lung Repair Cordial, a Breathe Ease Elixir and a Sore Throat Soother. All of them tasted God-awful, and afterwards I felt sort of sick and sort of sleepy. Mum made me lay down and before I knew it, I was asleep, with Gabriel lying across my feet, like he always did.

The next day, after a second round of potions, Mum tore strips out of me for being so irresponsible and reckless and asked how I could have been so foolish as to try something like that unsupervised? I can still hear her saying, "How many times have I told you, Severus Snape, never ever make a potion or cook anything or use the stove when I'm not home? You know better!"

"Sorry. I didn't mean it. . ."

"You nearly died! You nearly died!" She shook me hard and then she started to cry.

That made me cry too, as the seriousness of what had almost happened finally sunk in. I hugged her and sobbed more apologies.

When we finally quit bawling, she said, "You're grounded for a month, young man! I'd turn you over my knee too, but I think the fire punished you more than I could have. But if you ever do anything so foolish again I'll make sure you can't sit down for a day."

"I won't, Mum."

"I love you, Sev." She said then, stroking my hair. "And I couldn't bear it if I lost you."

"Love you too."

Gabriel whined and licked us both on the hand. He hated when we were upset. "Or you either, you big beast!" She ruffled his fur. His ruff was finally growing in, and he was starting to look like a grown collie now.

One near death experience and an almost-burnt house had been enough to teach me the value of obeying the rules when it came to making potions or candles or playing with fire. Unlike some Gryffindors I could name, I learned from my mistakes. Lily came over every day after school to bring me my homework, for which I was very grateful. I had read all the books I had and needed something to keep me from going crazy.

She also bought me three books, as a get well gift. They were dog stories I had never read before. Two were by Albert Payson Terhune—the classics Lad: A Dog and Gray Dawn. The other was Eric Knight's Lassie Come Home, about the famous Yorkshire collie.

I still have those books, they are now worn and dog-eared from being read so much, but Lily's inscription is still legible on the flyleaf of each of them. Get well soon, Sev! Love, Lily. They have a place upon my bookshelf and every so often I will take them out and re-read them. And the kitchen still has the large black stain upon the ceiling over the stove, Mum left it there to remind me of my folly, which to this day I have never forgotten.

Well, how do you like Sev and Lily's childhood so far?

I know some of you probably will think Sev was nuts to run back into the kitchen to try and save his dog, but I would have done the same for one of my pets, because I am a crazy animal lover.

The candle incident I described really happened to a neighbor of my sister's, her teenage daughter and friend were trying to make candles and set her house on fire. Thank goodness no one was injured and the fire department was right across the street, so no real damage was done. Apparently, according to the fire department, there are a lot of accidents involving candle wax by novice chandlers.
 


Chapter 4: Not Without My Dog!
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Snape's Journal:

May 30th, 1993:

The Manchester Courier was advertising the annual dog show as I read the morning paper. I got both a wizard and Muggle paper, so I could keep abreast of news in both worlds, since I lived in both. I knew other half-bloods who had chosen one or the other for whatever reason, but I had always felt comfortable in both worlds, picking and choosing which customs I followed based on my personal preference. I did, of course keep the Wizarding Statute of Secrecy, because I did not wish for any Aurors to come and hound me, though no one in Muggle society would ever believe the truth. Magic was for fairytales and movies and children with big imaginations. No right-thinking adult would ever think magic was real, and if they did, they kept it to themselves or were thought crazy.

My eyes were drawn to the advert, and I recalled the one time I had ever attended a dog show, as a participant, with Gabriel by my side. I had been eleven, it was the summer just before I attended Hogwarts, and Lily was the one who encouraged me to do so . . .

June, 1971:

"Look at this, Sev!" Lily rushed up the porch steps just as Gabe and I were coming out the door. She was waving a newspaper in her hand. "First annual dog show to be held at the Manchester Civic Center! All breeds of dogs welcome. Registered and unregistered purebreds may be shown. Junior handler class for children 11 years and up." She thrust the paper under my nose.

I read the advertisement and looked down at my collie. Gabriel stood beside me, panting and wagging his tail at Lily. "You think I should enter? I mean, I know Gabe's a purebred and as good as any collie there, but . . .I don't have any money for the entrance fee and I don't know if he'd like being shown. How do you show a dog, anyhow?"

"You've never watched the Westminster Dog Show on TV?" Lily asked, her evergreen eyes alight with dreams of blue ribbons.

"My dad broke our old set and Mum doesn't want to waste money on TV when she needs it for tuition for Hogwarts," I said bluntly.

"Oh, right. Well, I've seen it lots of times and all you have to do is walk in a circle and then stand next to your dog while a judge runs his hands over him and looks at him. It's sort of like a beauty pageant for dogs. I think Gabe would win, he's the most gorgeous collie ever!" Lily gushed loyally.

"He's the only collie you know," I laughed.

"He's prettier than Lassie. Oh, do enter, Sev!"

"How? I don't have any money for an entrance fee."

She pointed to a small box under the Rules and Regulations portion of the ad. "Look there! It says all junior handlers can show their first dog for a sixpence. You've got that much, right?"

"Yeah." How ironic, for that was how much I had paid for Gabriel.

"Well then . . .fill out the entry form on here and send it on in!" she urged.

I bit my lip. How could I compete with kids who had probably done stuff like this for years? I didn't want to make a laughingstock out of myself or my dog. I didn't know the first thing about dog shows. "I don't know, Lil. Gabe's not . . .well, he's not been trained for this kind of thing . . ."

"Severus, he's the smartest dog I know, and wasn't his father a champion show dog?"

"Yeah. I think so."

"Then he has as good a chance as any. Blood will tell, Sev," Lily said stoutly. "Wouldn't you like it if everyone admired him and you won a blue ribbon?"

I looked again at my dog. I already knew he was the best dog, a champion. But it would be great if other people knew it too. "All right. I'll fill out the form. After I tell Mum."

"I'm sure she won't mind. Not if you're using your own money and all." Lily said. "The show's on a Sunday afternoon, so it won't conflict with school or homework."

"You've got it all figured out, haven't you?"

She grinned. "I had to, just to convince you."

I laughed for she knew me too well. We had about a month to get Gabe ready, the show was scheduled for July 6th. "Clever, Lily, very clever."

"I'll help you all I can," she promised.

I knelt down and looked into Gabriel's deep brown eyes. "Would you like to be in a dog show, Gabe? Show all those fancy dog people how great you are?"

Gabriel barked an affirmative. I know you probably think I'm crazy, but I swear he understood every word I spoke to him.

Mum gave her permission for me to enter the show, and I filled out the form as best I could, letting her sign the bottom, and including the fee, before sending it to the people in charge of the show. A few days later I received a voucher with my name and Gabriel's name on it, registered for July 6th, 1971 Manchester dog show, Junior Collie Class for collies two to four years of age. Lily nearly jumped up and down when I showed it to her.

"Now we'd best get started," She said. "First we need a book on collies so we can see the breed standard and see if Gabe meets all the requirements."

"Breed standard?"

"It's how they determine what a breed should look like and what are faults and stuff. Just get a book from the library, Sev. And see if you can find some on grooming and dog show handling as well."

I went to the library the next day and found everything I needed.

The stuff I needed to learn was easy, and Gabriel already knew how to walk calmly on my left on a lead. I did have to teach him how to square up, however, and remain still while Lily ran her hands over him like a judge would. He kept wanting to lick her face. But every time he remained facing forward, I gave him a treat and he soon caught on. There was an awful lot of stuff in the collie breed standard that I didn't get, but the most important things, the shape of his ears and his head and four white feet, Gabriel had. His coat was thick and bushy and shiny, thanks to Mum giving him a raw egg for breakfast every morning, and I bathed and brushed him once a week.

For the show, I even brushed his teeth. He didn't like it much though, I guess mint isn't a dog's favorite flavor.

I asked Mum how to clip a dog's nails, and she took down a spellbook on wizard pets and taught me a spell to trim Gabe's nails. It worked brilliantly.

Then we worked on walking slowly and proudly around in a circle, while Lily pretended to be the judge. She would stand in the center of a pretend circle and say things like, "Gait your dog, please, sir." Meaning I should run Gabe around the circle so she could see how he moved at a trot. Or she would say "Pose your dog, sir!"

Then I had to make him stand with his feet shoulder width apart, still as a statue, head up and alert, while I knelt beside him on one knee, one hand under his head and the other resting on his back just before his tail. I taught Gabe how to pose for about five to ten minutes, and the only thing he still did wrong was he started to wag his tail when Lily moved towards him.

I didn't know how to keep him from doing that, and just had to hope he didn't do it when the real judge came over.

I did my best to trim him according to the picture in the grooming book, but wasn't sure if I did a good enough job.

The show lead was a problem, as I didn't have any money to get one, they were kind of expensive. Mum told me she'd just Glamour up his regular collar and lead so it looked like one.

I knew it was kind of cheating, but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?

Finally, the day of the show arrived. I had brushed and bathed Gabriel till he shone that morning, and kept him indoors till Mrs. Evans could drive us over to the dog show. Mum's car barely ran, and today it was acting up. Plus it was too small for all of us plus a huge collie.

I started to feel sick to my stomach an hour before we were to leave. This always happened to me before anything major, like an important exam or a speech. Mum said it was nerves and I'd grow out of it. Sometimes I sicked up. That day, I fought it, drank loads of ginger ale followed by a swig of a Stomach Soother, and felt better. I was dressed in my good set of trousers, pressed, and a button down collared short-sleeved shirt colored yellow, it matched Gabriel, sort of. I was also wearing my good loafers and Mum had trimmed my hair. Normally I hated that, but this time I knew it was necessary. For some reason, adults think a kid with long hair looks grungy or sloppy. Go figure!

We all piled into the Evans' big station wagon, and Gabe got to sit in the back boot, where he could stretch out and look out the rear window. I hoped he wouldn't go nuts when we got to the show, and saw all the other dogs. He loved other dogs and wanted to play with them whenever he saw one.

Sure enough, as soon as we entered the center, and he smelled and saw the bunches of other dogs, from huge Great Danes to tiny Yorkies, Gabriel started pulling at his lead and whining, trying to greet them.

"Settle down!" I ordered in my best no-nonsense tone. "Stop it!"

Gabriel looked up at me, his brown eyes puzzled, and then he began to "talk" to me. He had an odd habit of making strange up-and-down half-growls and whines, which sounded almost as if he were trying to form words. I didn't know if all collies did that, or only him, but he started it now.

"Hey," I said, petting him. "You can't play with those other dogs now, Gabriel. You gotta behave and just calm down, okay? Here," I fed him a dog biscuit. He gulped it down. "Good dog. Heel," I ordered.

We began to walk through the center. I looked around and found the Registration Booth and headed over to it, Mum, Lily, and Mrs. Evans following me.

The place was swarming with dogs of all kinds, all of them barking their heads off. I would have gotten a headache if I hadn't been so focused on my dog behaving.

I turned in my papers, and got an armband with the number 9 on it, and the form that told me I would be in ring three at three-thirty for the Junior handling class. I also got a number for Gabriel's bench where he would stay till the class was called. I checked my watch. Two-forty. We had a bit of a wait.

Once at the bench, which was a wooden platform covered with some kind of fuzzy cushion with sides, and a ring you could clip a lead to, I had Gabe come up on it and lie down. He was nervous, panting and drooling. I ran a comb through his mane and gave him some water.

"Stay!" I told him when he kept trying to see over the side.

He obeyed, but he didn't like it.

"Sorry. After the show, you can play with the other dogs," I said.

"Let's go and see the other collies," Lily suggested.

"Don't go far," Mum cautioned.

"We won't."

"And make sure you're back here before your class is called," said Mrs. Evans.

I rolled my eyes. As if I'd forget that!

"Severus!" Mum frowned at me.

"Sorry," I mumbled and quit rolling my eyes.

Lily dragged me two benches over and we saw another collie, she was almost pure white with a black and tan head. She was nice looking, but her coat wasn't as thick as Gaby's. We saw about ten other collies, and they were all good looking, but I thought Gabe looked the best. Yes, I was prejudiced, I'll admit it.

Then Lily whispered in my ear, "There are some fine looking collies here, but nobody can hold a candle to Gabriel, Sev."

I felt better when she said that. Of course, being my friend, she would say that, but it still felt good. All the nervous butterflies had almost left me by the time we headed back towards our bench. I saw a boy about my age standing in front of it, eyeing Gabriel, who was wagging his tail. The boy had sandy hair and was wearing a fancy suit. For some reason, he made the hairs on the back of my neck bristle.

As I came up to him, he turned and said, with a sneer, "This your collie?"

"Yes."

"You should just withdraw and go home," he said dismissively.

"Why?" Lily asked, before I could.

"Because it's obvious your dog's a cull, and he'll never make it past the first round. Are you sure he's a real collie?"

I wanted to slug him right in his fat mouth. How dare he call my dog a cull?

Lily glared at him. "Of course he's a real collie! Anyone can see that! Maybe you need glasses."

"Did I ask you?" he demanded, all high and mighty.

"Why don't you go back and look at your own dog, before I do something you'll regret." My hands were balled into fists.

"Like what? You shrimp, I could take you with one hand behind my back."

"Sev could take you in his sleep!" Lily snapped.

"You always let girls do your talking for you?"

"If they're right." I said coldly. I wanted so bad to just mop the floor with his arrogant arse.

Gabriel started to bark, I knew he could tell I didn't like the kid.

"Shut up, mutt!" the boy growled.

"Excuse me, young man, but why are you bothering my dog?" demanded my mother, she had just returned from the ladies room.

The kid turned around. "Beg pardon, ma'am, but your dog is very unfriendly. If you don't watch it, I'll report you."

Mum fixed him with a Look, one that never failed to make me feel two feet tall. "Do not lie to me, young man. My dog is not unfriendly, merely protective of my son. And I will report you for starting trouble if you don't head back the way you came and mind your own business."

He backed up a step. "I wasn't doin' nothing," he cried, a distinct nasal whine in his voice.

"Then why do you look like a guilty schoolboy caught putting tacks on the teacher's chair?" she demanded. "You're up to no good. Now get!"

He looked like he was about to argue, then he thought better of it and just turned about. "Interfering ugly bitch!" he muttered as he went by.

I nearly lost it then and attacked him.

But Mum grabbed me and cried, "Severus, control yourself!"

"But Mum, he said—"

"I know." Mum declared coldly. "And if I had the raising of him, he wouldn't be able to sit down for a day."

"Then let me go." I tried to wriggle free of her grip, but she refused to let go.

"No. You shall not sink to his level, Severus. He's baiting you, son, hoping you'll give in and start a fight with him, so he can get you disqualified. Brawls aren't allowed."

I relaxed, though my blood boiled still. He had done the unforgivable and insulted my mother!

"I'd have to agree with you, Eileen," said Mrs. Evans. "It's a ploy so he can get rid of you and Gabriel. I'll bet he's scared silly to go up against you in the ring, Severus. And he just said those things to make you mad so you'd hit him and get thrown out."

"What a nasty little git!" Lily said. "You want me to punch him out for you?"

"Lily! I taught you better than that, my girl! A lady doesn't go around punching boys." Her mum scolded.

"Not even when they really need it?"

"Not even then," Mrs. Evans said. "Heaven help me, but you ought to have been a boy!"

"I know," Lily sighed. "Boys have all the fun."

I kept quiet, because I agreed with her. At least when my mum wasn't around, I could defend the family honor. A girl had to wait till her older brother or friend did it for her. Or they did if they were "proper ladies".

Mum patted my shoulder. "Don't worry, Sev. You can beat him in the ring, whoever he is. That'll be more satisfying and hurt him worse than if you beat his head into the wall."

Much as I hated to admit it, she was probably right.

Finally, our class was called.

I unsnapped Gaby's lead and he jumped down to stand at my side.

"Good luck, son!" Mum told me.

"Knock 'em dead, Sev!" Liky crowed, and she bent and kissed Gabriel on the forehead.

"Lily, for heaven's sake!" groaned Mrs. Evans.

'What? He's perfectly clean, Mum. And he doesn't have fleas."

They made their way to their seats beside the ring.

I was the third handler and dog pair to enter the ring. To my dismay, I saw the insulting boy was first. I quickly looked at his dog. He had a very pretty collie, a tricolor male named Six Times Lucky, that was slightly smaller than Gabriel. I had to admit, he looked every inch a professional show dog, and the kid looked like he'd been doing this his whole life. He had that bored superior air about him.

I felt my nerves start to return. What was I doing here? I was nobody, just a kid with a pet collie. Did I really think I could compete with these other dogs, who had probably been in shows since they were small puppies? Who was I kidding?

My palms started sweating and I wiped them on my trousers quickly. I wrapped the lead about my right hand and concentrated on breathing deeply.

There were six dogs in this group, and when the judge called our name and the dog's name, we were supposed to gait the dog around the ring.

Snot-Brat went first, his real name was Gene Tolliver. God, he even sounded like a toff! I watched him and felt envious because he looked so sure of himself. The judge made a few notes and motioned for him to stop and pose the dog. Then he waved a girl with a blue merle collie next, that one I really liked, her coat was gorgeous, and her handler was very good and very pretty as well.

Then it was our turn. I remembered to hold the lead in my left and hold my arm out a bit from my body, and to jog purposefully about the ring. Gaby performed excellently, he was happy, alert, and trotted easily in a smooth flowing motion. I was the one who feared I'd trip and fall over.

Once we were back at our place, I halted and posed my collie. Gabe seemed to sense this was no time to get distracted, for he remained facing forward as I kneeled beside him.

Finally all the other collies had been gaited and the judge came over to examine the dogs.

The judge was quick and thorough. In about three minutes he was coming towards us, and I nearly died. My dog was wagging his tail slightly. No, oh, no! I hissed, "Gabe, look here." He focused on the treat.

The judge nodded and smiled at me, I must have looked on the verge of sicking up. But I refused to disgrace myself that way.

He knelt and started looking at Gabe's teeth, running his hands over him, picking up his feet.

I held my breath. Stand still, boy. Please!

He did and I had to bite back a grin. But all of a sudden I was the one in danger of moving. I had to pee really bad, it must have been the ginger ale I had drank. I started to pray to Merlin to help me. Finally the judge was finished and had moved on to the next dog.

Ten minutes had never seemed so long.

After a moment, the judge signaled us to gait the dogs again. Moving helped a little. When we came to a halt again, he pointed first to the girl with the merle, whose name was Tipperary Magic, and then to me and then to Snot-Brat. I was shocked, knowing that he had just pulled us out for a closer examination.

This was for the ribbon . . .I had a good chance of coming in second and hopefully beating Tolliver.

Judge waved the others away, and concentrated on us.

He had us go round the ring once more. I was in agony but I gritted my teeth. Hurry up, please!

"Pose your dogs," he said.

Then he came back for a last inspection.

He lingered longest over me and the merle.

Pick someone already! I longed to scream. Before I wet my damn pants!

Finally he stood up, wrote something on his chart and went over and fetched the ribbons.

He walked up to Snot-Brat and handed him the yellow third place.

Ha! I had beaten him. Serves him right. He looked like he was about to cry.

The judge had the second place ribbon in his hand. I watched him approach, waited for it to be placed in my hand.

Instead he walked past me . . .and handed the red ribbon to the girl and Tipperary Magic.

The crowd gasped and then applauded loudly.

"Winner, Junior Collie Class, Gabriel, handler Severus Snape," he announced before he bent and pinned the blue ribbon on me. He motioned me to come and stand before the merle and I did. "You've got a fine dog there, son. Best collie I've ever seen."

"Thank you, sir." I whispered.

I saw Mum and Lily and Mrs. Evans clapping and screaming. I was very proud of my dog and also very desperate to use the bathroom. At this point I would have been happy to use a potted plant.

Gabriel's tail was wagging and he barked happily.

Someone snapped a picture and then we were waved out of the ring.

As soon as I could find Lily and Mum, I handed Lily Gabe's lead. "Hold this. I'll be right back!"

"Sev? What are you—oh." She could see where I was headed.

I ran so fast it was like I Apparated. After, I returned to find that my show wasn't quite over. Because I'd won my class, I now had to compete for Best of Breed with the older dogs.

"Maybe you'll win there too!" said Lily hopefully.

"I'm very proud of you, Sev," Mum said and hugged me.

I didn't expect to win anything else, but I actually got picked for Best of Breed Opposite, because the dog who won the class was a female, and I was the best male.

Lily was in transports. "Now you're up for Best In Show!"

I felt dizzy. I had never expected to do this well. Not in a million years. But my pet collie was proving his breeding.

We had a long wait for Best in Show. Gabe dozed while Lily and I went and ate lunch, we had Cornish pasties and drank lemonade. I made sure I used the bathroom before going into the ring this time.

We didn't win. Some fluffy Pekinese was chosen top dog. But I didn't mind too much. I had come home with two ribbons and some very interesting memories. Lily was mad that they hadn't chosen Gabriel.

"That other dog was so . . .so ugly! Gabriel was the better dog, not that yappy old thing. Looks like a feather duster with feet!"

"Lily, you can't win them all," said Mum.

Some people came up to us as we were packing up and asked if we were interested in breeding my dog.

Mum said maybe a little later and took their names and phone number. "Hold on to that," she said.

Then we all went home, where Gaby got a steak dinner to celebrate his win and I had the satisfaction of looking that toerag Tolliver right in the eye and saying. "Who has the cull now?" right before we left.

May 30, 1993:

My eyes slide from the paper to the framed ribbons and picture that the show reporter mailed us weeks later. It's strange, how you can miss an animal something fierce. Losing Gabriel was, in its own way, as bad as losing Lily had been. Mostly because he had always been by my side, even when I attended Hogwarts.

As a matter of fact, I nearly didn't go at all because of it.

Lily and I had gotten our letters right after the dog show, and at first all seemed well. I was so excited, even though I'd been reasonably sure I would receive one, that I didn't bother reading the list of school requirements until the beginning of August. Only then did I pull out that second piece of parchment and read it over. I skimmed through the books, Mum already said we could go to Diagon Alley with Lily early and pick up everything. Cauldrons and robes I already knew about. But then I came to the line about pets.

"Students may bring with them a cat, a rat, or a toad."

Nothing was said about a dog.

I felt my stomach do a flipflop. Didn't witches and wizards have dogs? Or was I the only one? It had never even occurred to me what would happen to Gabriel while I was gone to school. Oh, I knew Mum would take care of him, she loved him, but the collie had never been away from me before. And while he was no Lassie Come Home, I could picture him cold and hungry and lost trying to find me. Or pining away and starving for me. Horrified, I ran and found my mother in the basement lab, she was bottling Euphoria Drafts for her work.

I waited until she had finished, I knew better than to interrupt her, then I burst out, "Mum, what do I do about Gabriel?"

"Hmm? Sev, what are you talking about? Why do you need to do something with Gabriel?"

"When I'm at school. Look, it says I can only take a cat, rat, or owl to school!" I thrust the paper at her. "What about my dog? I can't just leave him here. Sometimes you work late, who'll let him out? And he'll miss me something terrible." I was growing more and more frantic. "What if he runs away and gets lost trying to find me? How come you can bring a dumb toad and not a dog? Don't other wizard kids have dogs?"

She laid a hand on my shoulder. "Sev, I'm sure they do, but bringing a dog to school is . . .well . . .it's impractical. Dogs are a lot of work and some dogs might not behave well and could cause trouble."

"Mine wouldn't! He knows how to behave and he doesn't ever have accidents inside anymore. Besides, he's not just a pet, he's my friend!"

And that was the heart of the matter. How could I go off to school, for nine months out of the year, and leave behind my best friend? He would think I had abandoned him. He might even forget me.

"I know, love, but it's school policy—" Mum began. "You don't bring Gabe to school now."

"That's different. I come home every day and he waits for me by the bus stop." Suddenly it was too much. By going to Hogwarts I would be giving up my home and my family for nearly a year, and everything familiar. Even though Lily would be there too, it wouldn't be the same without my dog. I would be hundreds of miles from home and what if nobody liked me? I had never made friends easily. I was too smart and quiet and tended to get overlooked, or worse, mocked. I had stopped caring since I had my collie, because a dog loves you always, no matter what you are or what you look like. I knew that whatever kids at school believed, I would always have Gabriel. Until I realized dogs weren't allowed at Hogwarts. "I'm not going!" I cried. "Not without my dog!"

Mum just stared at me. "Severus, you have to go. I've already paid your tuition for the first half a year."

"Get a refund then. If Gabe isn't welcome there, then neither am I."

"Sev, you're being ridiculous."

"No, I'm not. Banning dogs as pets is . . .it's discrimination!" I shouted.

"Severus, you're overreacting. Be reasonable. Gabriel will be fine here . . ."

"No, he won't! He'll be miserable and so will I! And you don't care! All you care about is the money!"

As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them. But I was in a temper and sick at the thought of leaving my beloved dog alone and so I blurted out the first thing to come into my head that was nasty and hurtful.

"Severus Tobias Snape!" Mum yelled, furious. "How dare you say such a thing?" Next thing I knew, she'd turned me about and given me a solid smack on my backside. "Go to your room, young man!"

Then I did something I normally would have never done—I burst into tears. Not because of the smack, that stung, but not too bad, Mum never hit me hard enough to really hurt, but because I was frustrated and terrified and my mother didn't seem to understand what it would mean for me to give up my dog. Who cared about education? Or learning magic? I ran all the way upstairs and into my room and threw myself on my bed and cried.

Gabriel thrust his nose under my chin and whined and licked me. I hugged him and bawled into his fur. "I don't care what she says! I'm not leaving you! I'll run away and live like a gypsy with you first!"

Gabriel made a soothing sound and continued to lick me. Eventually, I fell asleep, one hand clutching his ruff.

I apologized to Mum at supper for my nasty mouth, but I still didn't relent about not going to school. I became so depressed over the thought of leaving my dog that I lost my appetite and threw up after I ate anything. I hid it from Mum for a week, then she found out and dosed me with potions, but I still could barely eat. Or sleep. In fact, I started to sleep walk, I was so stressed.

After the third night Mum was awakened by Gabriel barking because I had wandered out into the yard in the dead of night, she started giving me Dreamless Sleep. "Severus, you have to stop this. You're making yourself sick."

"I can't."

"Yes, you can. Sev, I promise I will take the best care of Gabe while you're away. I'll send you pictures and letters every week. He'll be the most spoiled collie in Britain."

I knew she meant well. But it wasn't enough. "I need him, Mum. And he needs me." Why couldn't she understand? Why? "I'm not going without him."

There was two weeks left of summer and I wasn't enjoying any of it. Lily kept asking me questions about Hogwarts and I kept brushing her off or snapping at her to just ask Mum. Finally, she shouted, "What's wrong with you, Severus? Why are you acting like this?"

So I told her.

"But . . .but you have to take him, Sev! It'd be like losing your arm if you didn't!"

"I know," I said and then I smiled. Finally, someone who understood! "But what can I do? Mum says I can't take a dog to Hogwarts. It's against regulations."

Lily thought for a minute. "I don't see why not. Why don't you write to the Headmaster, Sev? Tell him about you and Gabe. He seemed like a nice man when he talked with my parents about me having magic back in May. I'm sure he'll understand."

I gaped at her. It was so simple. Why hadn't I seen it before?

"Got a pen, Lil?"

I wrote Dumbledore and told him everything about me and my dog. I can't remember the exact words now, but I was very passionate. It took me half-an-hour. Then I mailed the letter with Mum's owl.

I felt a little better then and played with Lily and Gabe down at the park.

A week later I received a reply to my letter.

I was in Lily's yard, helping her plant some sunflowers. The owl flew directly to me. With trembling fingers, I broke the old-fashioned wax seal. Then I slid the parchment out and stared at it for a few moments. Finally I opened it.

Dear Mr. Snape,

I see no reason why you cannot bring your dog to school, provided you bring food and make sure he has a place to stay while you are in class. I recommend you write my gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, he also had a large dog, a boarhound named Fang, who would be delighted to have a playmate during the day. There was a time when many students here had dogs, but it has since fallen out of fashion. However, if your dog is as well-behaved as you say, I am sure he will be no trouble at all.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Headmaster

"Well? Don't keep me in suspense! What did he say?"

I grinned at her. "He said yes! Guess I'll be going to Hogwarts after all."

Lily cheered and hugged me and then I ran home to tell my mother that her son wasn't going to be a delinquent.

I would like to thank my sister Angela for her help with dog shows and preperation and handling tips, since she bred and showed English springers for years and all her daughters were junior handlers.
 


Chapter 5: A Collie Cometh
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Snape's Journal

June 1st, 1993:

I haven't felt much like writing lately, been under the weather with a bad cold and the weather outside has been stormy, which always plays hell with my sinuses this time of year. You might not think a Potions Master like myself would be prone to sinus infections, but the fact is, we work with so many substances that can be abrasive or destroy lung tissue that we're more susceptible than most to sinus and respiratory ailments. I always keep several potions on hand to deal with colds and coughs and all that damn rot. But this cold snuck up on me unaware, I wasn't really paying attention to my health since Gabriel died, and as a result I developed a bad head cold and had to dose myself silly with Sinus Cordials and Decongestion Drafts till I was ready to smother. Then I spent the next few days brewing more to replenish my stock.

So it's not till this evening that I've felt well enough to pick up my quill again.

September 1st, 1971:

Gabriel whined and scratched at the door of his cage, which was right in front of my feet. "Hush, boy!" I ordered softly. "You're not allowed out on the train. Now quit making a fuss before the conductor or prefect or whoever's in charge here comes and kicks us off!" I thumped the top of the cage with my hand and said sternly, "Quiet!"

Gabriel whimpered once more in token rebellion before he settled his great head upon his small forepaws and peered out the cage door. I reached in and scratched his muzzle gently. "Good boy!"

"Aww, poor baby!" Lily murmured, kneeling on her side, the cage was inbetween our two seats in the compartment, and she too pet my collie through the cage wire. Her owl, Cosmic, chirruped loudly from her cage on Lily's seat. Lily had just purchased her from Eeylops Owl Emporium a week ago, when me and Mum went with her to Diagon Alley for school supplies. Cosmic was an ebony speckled owl, meaning she had black feathers with little white specks on them, like stars in the night sky. She was a small owl, only a foot and a half high and at first Lily had wanted to call her Groovy. It took me two days to convince her not to, because wizards would never get the reference and think she was odd. "Groovy" was an expression Muggle kids used to describe something cool. I didn't know what the wizard equivalent was, because despite having a witch mother, Mum wasn't up on modern phrases, and since I lived in a Muggle neighborhood I had no chance to learn current wizardspeak.

Lily took my advice and agreed to name her owl Cosmic, which was yet another familiar Muggle expression, but also a word wizards should know. Mum had told me that a lot of purebloods went to Hogwarts and not all of them were tolerant of Muggleborns. Especially outspoken bright ones like Lily. So I resolved to try and look out for her as best I could, like we had always done.

Gabriel stopped pawing at the cage and went to sleep, I had had the devil of a time convincing the Head Boy that I was allowed to take my dog with me, until I showed him Dumbledore's letter, than he shut up and let me be. He wanted me to put Gabe in the baggage car, alone, with all the other luggage, but I refused. "My dog's not a trunk, and if he's not with me, he'll start howling. Really loud. Do you want to listen to howling the whole ride? No? Then let him stay with me."

"He's a really good dog," Lily added helpfully. "He won't be any trouble."

"All right. It's your funeral though, if he causes a ruckus."

So Gabe was allowed to remain with us in our compartment—in his cage, even though he hated it.

"I can't wait till we get there!" Lily said excitedly, she had been paging through her Charms text, trying to figure out how to cast a couple of basic incantations. "What House do you think we'll be Sorted into, Sev?"

I had thought a lot about that, I guess it's the first thing most kids think of after they get their letter and school stuff. The four Houses all have different things to recommend them and flaws as well. Of them, the two biggest rivals are Gryffindor and Slytherin, though Mum told me that wasn't always the case. Once Gryffindors and Slytherins were friends and friendly rivals, the animosity started when Tom Riddle (later known as Voldemort) came to school and started up the old pureblood supremacy thing again. Of course, everyone knows what he became, and because he turned to darkness and took a lot of other wizards with him, Slytherins developed a reputation for evil. It was unfair, since there were dark wizards in all the Houses, not just Slytherin, Mum says evil knows no boundaries of class, or race, or House. Mum was a Slytherin, and she certainly wasn't evil, or anything like it. Nor was she prejudiced, despite being from an old pureblood family. They'd disowned her for marrying my dad, and she hadn't seen them since. Sometimes I wondered if she missed them, or maybe she was glad to get away from them. She never really talked about the Princes and I never really asked, since I didn't want to know people who'd kicked my mother out and forgot about her. See, that's the bad thing about Slytherins, they get stuck up on pureblood versus Muggle, and forget that we're all human beings, magical or not. And they're proud and ambitious and smart, though not just book smart, but street smart. They also had cool House colors—green and silver.

I loved the color green, it was soothing and reminded me of growing things, plants and herbs, and it was the color of new life. It also went well with my dark hair and my other favorite color, which was black. Green was also the color of Lily's eyes. Silver was a good color too, it wasn't too showy, and it was considered a sacred and holy metal, one that repelled demons and undead and werewolves. I also liked snakes, and was not spit scared of them like some people were. They performed a great environmental service by eating the toads and mice and rats and insects, keeping us from being overrun by the nasty vermin. Yes, some could be poisonous, but a snake would leave you alone unless you stepped on it or disturbed its home, it wouldn't actively hunt you, like a lion.

The lion was the Gryffindor symbol, because Gryffindors were supposed to be brave and wanted the king of beasts on their banner. Bravery was overrated, in my opinion. Having courage didn't make you a better person, and Mum always said too much courage made you reckless and prone to getting yourself killed. Gryffindors were also loud and opinionated and most of them couldn't keep a secret to save their arse. Even their colors were showy—red and gold. Red was the color of the uniforms of British grenadiers at Buckingham Palace, but I had never liked red personally. Too bright. I hated it when people stared at me. Same thing with gold. Gold was a metal associated with kings, and I guess Gryffindors had a high opinion of themselves because of it. I didn't think I would fit into that House.

Ravenclaw was another possibility. The Ravenclaws were the bookworms of Hogwarts and they loved studying and research above all else. A Ravenclaw could forget food if they were immersed in a particularly thorny object of study. They were great inventors of new magic and lacked the prejudices of either Slytherin or Gryffindor. Their colors were blue and bronze, bronze for the eagle on their House crest. Now I could definitely see myself there. I loved books, loved learning, and could study with the best of them if need be. I could see myself as a Raven, and Lily also.

Hufflepuff wasn't bad either. They had a badger as their symbol, a fierce animal. Their colors were yellow and black and the only thing that bothered me about this house was the fact that its members tended to be thoughtful and rather too friendly. They were also hardworking and loyal, two qualities which I had, but I wasn't too trusting and not very social either. Mum had said all the Hufflepuffs she knew were kind and sweet and always eager to help, sometimes too eager. And they liked to hug. A lot.

Now I don't mind getting hugs from my mother, or even Lily sometimes, but I wasn't the touchy feely type at all. And I didn't go around hugging strangers. Matter of fact, the only people I'd ever hugged was Mum and Lily. And I was a quiet type, I hated crowds, and I also had a rather sharp tongue and a temper to match. I'd gotten that from my dad, unfortunately. So I didn't think Hufflepuff would be a good choice for me either.

"Sev! You're woolgathering again!" Lily shook my shoulder. "Earth to Severus!"

"Huh?" I blinked. "Oh, sorry. Umm . . .I think I'd probably be Sorted into either Ravenclaw or Slytherin."

I started to expound upon the merits of both Houses, and just as I was telling her Slytherin's good points, the door to our compartment swung open and three boys peered in. The train had not yet left the station, as we were still boarding all the students—it took a long time before everyone was settled—and I looked up, startled, to see who had so rudely barged into the compartment.

"Oi, have you got any room for a few more?" said one boy, he was good-looking, with hair that stuck up all over his head and glasses, wearing expensive robes and a gray jumper and trousers that looked custom made. Pureblood with loads of Galleons, I thought.

His buddy next to him was also dressed to the nines, and he too was a pretty boy, dark hair with a wave to it, bright brown eyes, and a smile girls probably loved. Another one of the pureblood money set.

The third kid didn't seem to come from that class, he looked more ordinary, but there was something that set my teeth on edge about him. He was small, with a rat-like nose and squinty eyes and he had mousy brown hair. He was dressed in decent robes and all, but something told me he didn't have the trust funds the other two did. He looked up at the one with the glasses and there was a weird expression on his face—like he was staring up at a hero or a big shot actor.

Humph! An arse-kisser, I thought with a silent sneer.

"No, sorry, we're full," Lily replied politely.

I figured they'd leave then, but when they remained staring at us and Gabriel in his cage, I pointedly turned and said to Lily, hoping they'd take a hint, " . . .like I was saying, Lil, if you're Sorted into Slytherin you'll be among some very talented and ambitious—"

"—evil dark wizards, like You-Know-Who," put in the one with the glasses. "You don't want to get Sorted into that House, doll." He flashed Lily a patented smile. Then he glared at me. "You a dark wizard? Or just a snake-lover?"

"What's it to you?" I snapped. His arrogant attitude was really ticking me off. "Not all Slytherins are dark. My mother was a Slytherin, she's an apothecary now—"

"Does she work in Knockturn Alley, for Borgin and Burkes?" demanded the prig.

I balled up a fist. "Listen, you bloody arsehole, don't you talk like that about my mother, or I swear I'll shove your wand up your damn arse, got me?" He was bigger than me, but I wasn't about to let any privileged snob talk like that about my mother.

"Oooh, what a dirty mouth he's got, eh, James?" cried the rat-like one. He waved a finger at me. "Somebody ought to wash out your mouth."

I gave him the finger. Normally I wouldn't have used such language, especially with Lily there, but the little rotter had just insulted my mother!

"I'd like to see you try, you little piss-ant," laughed James. "You try and hex me and I'll send you crying home to your mummy, right, Sirius?"

Sirius nodded. "Slytherins suck, and I should know, since my family's all come from there."

"That's a terrible thing to say!" Lily cried. "Why don't you all leave?"

"Why don't you come with us? You don't need to hang around a slimy snake like him."

"I don't need to hang around a pack of ignoramuses who wouldn't know a decent person if they tripped over them," Lily snapped, her eyes blazing. "How dare you say that about Severus' mum? Eileen Snape is a wonderful person, kind and smart and if that's the sort of witch Slytherin turns out, I'd be proud to be in that House!"

"Huh? Ignoramus? What's that?" asked Rat Boy, scratching his head.

"You are," I replied. How could someone this stupid be attending Hogwarts? Didn't they have standards or something? Or did people get in based on who their family was? It was something I'd never considered before.

"Hey, look, a dog!" the idiot exclaimed, having only just noticed Gabe's kennel. "Hey, boy!" He went to thump Gabriel's cage and I grabbed his arm. "Oww! Leggo of me!"

"Leave my dog alone!" I ordered.

Gabriel woke up, hearing the tone of dislike in my voice, and started to bark angrily.

"Ahhh! A vicious brute!" yelped Rat Boy. He stumbled backwards, even though any idiot could see Gabriel couldn't get out, and landed flat on his cowardly arse. God, but he was pathetic! He practically crawled behind Sirius and James.

"Hey, bringing a dog to school is against the rules, Snivellus!" Sirius cried, coining my most detested nickname.

"Typical Slytherin, always breaking rules," mocked James.

"He's not breaking the rules," Lily defended before I could speak.

"Is too! Don't believe everything he says, Red. Slytherins lie all the time," Sirius said.

"My name's not Red or doll! It's Lily! Lily Evans!"

"Evans? That's not a pureblood name. You must be Muggleborn then," Sirius declared.

"So what if I am? Does it bother you?" Lily growled.

"No, but it does explain why you were listening to this little greaseball here," James said loftily.

Gabriel was going nuts inside the kennel, barking furiously. I had never seen him act like that with anyone before, usually he was very friendly with strangers, especially kids. Which told me something. These three were trouble. My collie was a very good judge of character, and he clearly didn't like any of them. Then again, neither did I.

"You'd better hush that dog up, Snivellus! Or else you and him are going to end up walking back home to whatever dark hovel you crawled out of." Sirius sniggered. He went to peer into the cage. "What kind of mutt d'you got in there, anyhow?"

"That's not a mutt! He's a pedigreed collie!"

"Oh, right. Tell us another one, Snivellus!" James hooted. "You can't even afford decent robes, like you could afford a pedigreed dog! What a pack of lies!"

"It isn't! Gabriel won Best Junior Collie and Best of Breed at the Manchester dog show!" Lily told them.

"He tell you that, Red?"

"He didn't need to tell me, Prig, I was there. I saw it all. I even took a picture." Lily glared at them. "Now go and bother someone else, you're upsetting the dog."

Gabriel was trying to chew through the mesh now and his barking was bringing some other people to our compartment. Damn! "Get out! Now!"

"Make us," taunted Rat Boy from behind the two other boys.

I'd had all I was going to take from them. My temper exploded. And when that happened now, my magic reacted. I felt a hot burning behind my eyes and suddenly all three of them were shoved violently into the corridor and the door to our compartment slammed shut and locked.

"What's going on out here?" demanded the prefect I had trouble with before.

"That greasy kid in there cast a hex on us and we weren't doing anything but looking at his dog," lied James.

"And it tried to bite me!" added Rat Boy.

"All of you clear out of here and find a seat." The prefect ordered. "Now!"

Everyone, which was about nine people, obeyed.

Then the prefect banged on the door to our compartment. "Hey! Unlock this door! No compartments are allowed to be locked on this train!"

Lily went to open the door while I calmed Gabe down. "Sev, it's stuck! It won't open!"

Oh great! My magic had caused the door to lock, but I didn't know how to undo it.

"What spell did you cast?"

"I don't know. I just got mad and it happened."

"Firsties!" the prefect pulled out his wand and cast a charm that unlocked the door. Then he walked in and frowned down at us. "Look here, Mr—what's your name?"

"Severus Snape." I answered.

"Snape, you can't go around hexing people whenever you feel like it, it's against school policy, and I warned you what would happen if you didn't keep that dog quiet."

"It wasn't his fault," I cried angrily. "Those other kids, James and Sirius and whoever the other one was, they came in here and started with me!"

"They insulted his mum and wouldn't get out when we told them to leave." Lily defended. "That's why Gabriel was barking."

The prefect looked like he didn't believe a word we said. "That dog doesn't belong at school, and note or no note, I'm lodging a complaint with the Headmaster against it and you, Snape. You're a troublemaker."

I remained with my mouth open. Me, a troublemaker? I had done nothing except defend myself.

"Now keep that dog quiet or else!" The prefect left, and I worried the whole rest of the ride to school what would happen if Dumbledore changed his mind and told me to send Gabe home.

June 1, 1993:

That was my first meeting with James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew, who would later be known as the Marauders. We detested each other on sight and never stopped. I learned later that the annoying prefect was named Barnaby Pickens, he was a distant cousin of James Potter, a Gryffindor, and so inclined to take his relative's side. Neopotism, such a joy to practice!

Dumbledore did not tell me to take Gabriel home, thank heaven. I don't think I'd have survived my first year there if it wasn't for Gabriel. The Sorting was abysmal, Lily ended up in Gryffindor and I was Sorted into Slytherin, like Mum. I was stunned. How could this have happened, me and my best friend Sorted into rival Houses? It was a living nightmare.

When I had gone up to be Sorted, people started muttering because Gabriel was walking beside me, off his lead. He sat down next to the stool while I put the Hat on and gave it a suspicious growl when it cried, "SLYTHERIN!" But other than that, he behaved, and my new Housemates thought he was a great dog and everyone, especially the girls, wanted to pet him. Gabe ate up most of the attention, but soon it was too much and he retreated beneath the table to lie across my feet.

I had received another letter from the Headmaster before I left for school, and he had told me that after the feast I was to visit the gamekeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, and he would help me arrange things for Gabriel while I was in class. After I had told my prefect, a tall blond aristocrat named Lucius Malfoy, what I needed to do, he dismissed me with a wave, and handed me a map of the castle and the grounds, so I could find my way to the dungeons, where we Slytherins had our common room.

"Remember, Snape, our password is runespoor fangs, now hurry up and get going, lights out are at ten, no exceptions."

It was eight thirty now. "What about my trunk?"

"It's already in your room, don't worry about it. House elves took care of it. Move it!"

This time I obeyed, and we headed out of the castle, Gabe trotting happily at my side.

He sure was glad to be out of that kennel, and he was smiling his signature collie grin as I walked down the path towards the gamekeeper's cottage.

Hagrid, Gabriel, Fang, and I hit it off immediately. Hagrid was delighted to have another wizard dog-lover here and Fang was overjoyed to have a playmate. So was Gabe. My collie loved other dogs and hated it when I dragged him away from them. Fang and Gabe started chasing each other across the lawn, though my dog was far faster than the boarhound. Collies are naturally agile and can turn on a sixpence, since they were bred to herd sheep.

Hagrid agreed to watch my dog while I was in class, and to feed him dinner, if I would leave his food at the hut. I was pleased to do as he asked. "Don' worry about a thing, Severus. Me an' Fang will keep Gabe company till you can be with him again. We're glad to help. Fang's been lonesome without another dog t'keep him company."

"Thanks again, sir. I have to go, I have curfew," I said, whistling my collie to my side.

Gabriel came, reluctantly.

"Hagrid, Severus. Jus' plain Hagrid. Sir's fer professors, which I'm not."

"See you later, Hagrid," I called and then we left the hut.

Gabe was sulking, and I stroked his fur. "Stop that. You can see Fang tomorrow, and play all day with him while I'm in class. But right now we've got to get back to the castle before I'm late."

I hurried up the path, Gabriel trotting beside me, his plumed tail wagging. It was almost a quarter past nine.

"Sev!" a voice called out from the shrubbery. "Sev, it's me, Lily!"

Gabriel burst into the shrubbery and his tail started wagging like crazy.

"Hey! Quit licking me!" giggled Lily, and then she came out from behind the plant.

"Lil, why are you lurking in the shrubbery?"

"Because I didn't want anyone to see me sneaking out," she said guiltily. "I'm supposed to be in my room, unpacking, but I just had to see you . . .oh, Sev, what are we going to do?"

"Do? About what?"

"About the fact that you're in Slytherin and I'm in Gryffindor with those dunderheads!" she wailed. "I hate them and now I'm stuck with them for Housemates."

"Lily, there's nothing we can do," I said sadly.

"Are you sure? Maybe I could ask the Hat to-to ReSort me or something? I don't want to be enemies with you, Sev!" She looked on the verge of tears.

"The Hat can't do that. But Lil, listen to me. Just because our Houses are rivals doesn't mean we have to be too. I mean, you're still my best friend, no matter what. Right?"

"Yes, of course. But what if . . .what if they tell us not to be friends?"

"Who? The professors? The prefects?"

She nodded, biting her lip.

"That's not going to happen. I think the professors want us to be friends with people from other Houses, and as for the prefects, all they care about is if we follow the school rules and don't lose points for our House. They can't tell us who to be friends with, and if they do, just ignore them. I'll always be your friend, Lil. Always."

"Me too, Sev," Then she threw her arms around me and hugged me.

I rolled my eyes. Girls!

We headed back to the castle, Gabriel frisking beside us. As we came into the Entrance Hall, we were met by a stern witch wearing a tartan shawl and a green robe, it was Minerva McGonagall.

"Oh! Hello, professor!" Lily squeaked.

"And what, may I ask, are you two doing outside at this time of night? You both ought to be in your rooms, unpacking."

I thought quickly. "Err . . .I had to take my dog for a walk, Professor. He's been cooped up in a crate the whole train ride and Lily just wanted to come with me, that's all." I indicated Gabriel, who was sitting alertly by my feet.

"Your dog? But Hogwart's policy doesn't allow—ah, so you're the one Albus told us about, the student with a dog for a familiar. You'd be Severus Snape, correct?"

"Yes, ma'am. And this is Gabriel. Say hello, Gabe."

Gabe, responding to my silent cue, immediately offered a paw for her to shake.

McGonagall was charmed. "Thank you! Pleased to make your acquaintance." She gently took his paw and shook it. "What lovely manners he has!" She stroked his broad head, her eyes suddenly far away. "You know, I had a collie when I was a little girl. He was my father's, helped him herd sheep on occasion, we McGonagalls have always been shepherds, and Jock was a champion herder. He could find any sheep that strayed, and us too. Once, I was three, I wandered outside and got lost in a rain storm, and Jock found me and brought me home on his back. Such a braw bright dog he was! I shall never forget him."

She wiped a tear from her eye. "I was nine when he passed on, and I never had another dog since. Only cats. Your collie reminds me of him very much."

Gabriel licked her hand.

He had made yet another friend, and a lucky thing it was, because about a month after school started, the Marauders began their persecution of me, and by extension, my dog as well.

But right then all I knew was that my dog was proving a great ice breaker, and McGonagall sent us off to my common room without taking any points and I reached it before curfew, met my Head of House, Horace Slughorn, who also was happy to welcome my collie to Hogwarts, and then he told me to get my uniform set for school and go to bed.

When I finally got to my room and got out my pajamas, and fixed my clothes for tomorrow, it was already lights out. I had no time to sort through my things or write to Mum. I barely had time to use the bathroom before I got into bed, all my other roommates were asleep, and I had Gabe sleep on my bed across the bottom, so I could burrow my toes in his fur. He never minded, and the dungeons were chilly. By the time Lucius came around to do a bed check, I was asleep, and a red-gold collie was lying on my feet, watchful and alert.

Which was where he would be for the next twenty years. Yes, he lived to a very great—almost impossible age—for a dog, but more about that later.

My cough has returned with a vengeance, and I cannot properly hold a quill while I'm gasping for air, so I shall have to continue this tomorrow.

I set down my quill, coughing hard, and turn to fetch some more Cough Elixir from my nightstand when I hear a tap at my door.

"Yes?"

"Dad, you sound like you're gonna keel over," my son informed me, poking his dark head around the door. "Have you been taking your potions?"

"I'm taking one right now, Mr. Nosy." I told him. I summon the potion to me and swallow it, grimacing at the taste. "Happy now?"

He grinned at me. "You've been in here all afternoon. What're you writing, a book?" He came in to peer at my journal.

"That's my private journal," I began.

"You're writing a book about Gabe!" he exclaimed. "Can I read it?"

"When it's finished."

"When will that be?"

"I don't know. Now, it's time for me to make supper."

"Good, I'm starving."

I steered him gently away from my desk. "Go, go and set the table," I ordered.

"Okay." His eyes fell on the spot near my desk where Gabriel used to lie. "I miss him. Even after a month, I still look . . ." he trailed off, his eyes filled with tears.

I gave his shoulder a squeeze, but otherwise didn't say anything about his crying. He was thirteen and touchy about being caught crying, it was unmanly. "I know. I still look too. A month isn't so long. He was here when you were a baby, it's only natural you would still remember him."

"Yeah." He quickly swiped a hand across his eyes. "I won't ever forget, Dad."

"Nor will I." I shut my journal.

"What are we having for dinner? And please, not chicken soup again!"

"What's wrong with my chicken soup?"

"I'm sick of it. It's all you've been making for three days!"

"I was sick, you can't expect me to cook a full course meal when I'm half-asleep."

"I could have made something."

"Something edible?" I countered. "I think not."

He made a face at me. "If you make chicken soup again, I'm going to hurl."

"You do like to complain, don't you?"

"So? I'm a teenager."

"Brat!" I gave him a light swat on the bottom. "Quit being cheeky and set the table."

He rolled his eyes at me. "Sir, yes, sir!" he gave me a mock salute.

I turned away to gather the ingredients for a salad and hamburgers, thinking that it was because of Gabriel that I had my son, but that too is a tale for another time.

Well, what did you think of this part?

Yes, I deliberately left out the name of Severus's son. That will be revealed later.

Next: More to come with Sev and Lily's schooldays, the Marauders, and Gabe!

Please review and let me know how you're enjoying this, it really makes my day.
 


Chapter 6: Accidental Ingestion
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Snape's Journal

June 5th, 1993:

I've finally gotten a chance to sit down and record my thoughts again after taking care of my son for three days, he caught my cold too and I had to practically tie him to his bed to get him to rest. I swear, the boy thinks he's invincible or something! And he fights me every time when I dose him with potions, to the point where I threaten to sit on him, hold his nose, and pour them down his throat like I would for a sick puppy. Either that or get a big syringe from my lab and inject them into his bottom. I actually did that once, when he was sick with a stomach virus and couldn't stop vomiting, he couldn't keep the Anti-Nausea potion down long enough for it to work, so I had to go with the injection route. Twice. He told me he hated me for a day afterwards and he's never forgotten it. So when he started with his attitude, I gave him a patented glare and said, "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you take the potions I'm giving you and rest, or the hard way, I go and get my syringe and give you a shot. What's it going to be?"

"You're a sadist, Dad." He sulked. "Give me the damn potions."

"Mind your mouth," I ordered, and gave him the potions.

"Ugh! Tastes like old socks." He grimaced.

"Would you rather have the shot?"

"No way!" He paled. "D'you have any idea how much that hurt? I couldn't sit for hours!"

"You're exaggerating. I held you on my lap for about twenty minutes and then you fell asleep."

"Yeah and my bum had bruises on it for a week," he accused.

"You're still living, aren't you?" I pointed out. "So it was worth it. Now quit running your mouth, son, and just close your eyes."

I waited until he had fallen asleep before retreating to the sanctuary of my room and getting out my book and my pen.

I had learned much about caring for sick animals and making Healing potions at school, but not in potions class. No, those skills I learned from Hagrid, who knew how to treat almost any animal, and Madam Pomfrey, who often needed extra potions brewed that Slughorn didn't have time to brew.

But the first time I had ever had to brew a healing potion was for Gabriel, during my second year, when the Marauders locked him for hours in the broom shed . . .

April, 1972

Hogwarts:

Herbology was my last class of the day on Wednesdays, and it was always a double, meaning we had it for two hours, practical in the greenhouse and notes in the classroom after. I had left Gabe with Hagrid, like I had done last year, and I thought everything was fine. Little did I know that my tormentors, the Marauders, were at it again. Now they had expanded their number to four, though this latest member, Gryffindor Remus Lupin, didn't seem quite as prank happy as the other three. Then again, maybe he was the mastermind, because the other three had about half a brain between them, or so it seemed to me.

They were always acting up in class, playing fools, making other students' experiments and spellcasting go wrong. They even pranked some of the teachers, like Flitwick, who shared their annoying sense of humor. Not McGonagall though. The one time Potter put a dungbomb in her classroom was the last. She had him and Black, since the two had collaborated, in detention so fast their heads were still spinning around. And it wasn't just a detention writing lines either. Lily said she heard them moaning that they'd had to shovel manure from Hagrid's animal pens and then spread it on Professor Sprout's garden. By the time they were done they stank like manure and the stench lasted for over a day. Served them right though.

Of course, they simply redirected their need to humiliate others onto different targets, and I was one of their most frequent ones. Why? Probably because I was a Slytherin and I was also best friends with a Gryffindor girl, one that stupid Potter also had a thing for. He kept following her around, trying to talk to her, but Lily wouldn't give him the time of day. She totally ignored him. And for some reason he didn't get the message and kept on after her. Dunderhead!

The Marauders, as they were unofficially known, treated the school like their own private pranking ground. They generally chose students who were unpopular and looked or acted odd and had almost no friends, and there fore no one to stick up for them. Macy Underwood was a frequent target, she was a year younger and had buck teeth and frizzy blond hair, Black called her Macy Woodchuck and cast tripping hexes on her and acne hexes and once they stuck her robes to her chair and she ripped them trying to get up. She was a Hufflepuff, and they played that trick on her as she was leaving potions class.

I had class next and heard everyone laughing and saw the four sniggering and knew something had gone on. When I looked inside the classroom, I saw the girl in tears, struggling to stand up. Everyone else was enjoying the show, the idiots! So I waved my wand and canceled the spell, Mum had taught me a simple Dispelling charm over the summer. She looked up, sniveling, and saw me. I put a finger to my lips and she nodded, then got up, gathered her torn robes around her and ran off down the hall.

"Hey, Macy!" brayed Potter. "Why didn't ya chew your way out? Your teeth could have handled that chair leg!"

I longed to cram the chair into his smug face. But I knew better than to start anything, because if a Slytherin and a Gryffindor got into a fight, no matter what the reason, it was always a Slytherin's fault. Because we were the Dark House, Voldemort's legacy, and Gryffindors blew sunshine out their arse and had halos because they were so honorable. Oh, and rumor had it that Merlin was a Gryffindor, despite the fact that Merlin had lived and died long before Hogwarts was founded.

"You're a moron, Potter," I said coldly, then swept in to take my seat. Lily soon followed, shaking her head in disgust.

"Watch it, Snape. Or some night we'll come into your dungeon and throw you and your bed into the lake." Sirius taunted.

"And your little dog too!" added Peter.

I spun on the little rat. "Listen, pondslime. You touch my dog and I'll hex you so bad your own mother won't recognize you. Got me?"

Coward Pettigrew shrank away to hide behind Remus, who looked at me and said, "Snape, calm down. You know Peter's afraid of dogs."

I glared at him. "Keep your pet rat on a leash, Lupin. Or else."

Then Slughorn came in, and I wished he'd come in earlier to catch the Marauders hexing poor Macy, and we had to pay attention to the lesson .

The next day was Wednesday, and I came out of the greenhouse and whistled for Gabriel, like always.

He usually came to me right away, or was waiting for me outside the greenhouse, don't ask me how he always knew where I was. But that day, he wasn't there. And he didn't come to my whistle. I'd had class with the Ravenclaws that day, not the Gryffindors, and so did not know that the Marauders had done anything to my dog until I overheard Potter and Black as they were returning from the Quidditch pitch.

I had been calling and whistling frantically for the better part of half-an-hour, scared that he had gone into the Forbidden Forest and gotten lost, when I overheard Potter and Black sniggering as they walked back from Quidditch practice. James was a Chaser and Black a Beater, they loved the fame that being on the Quidditch team brought them. All the Gryffindor girls and even some girls in my own House, I have to admit, made puppy dog eyes over them. They had this indefinable charm that made people forgive them for even the worst misdeeds, except for me, who was not blinded by their good looks and popularity. I knew them for what they were, spoiled, arrogant, bored, little rich boys with nothing better to do than make trouble.

I had come up from behind them and saw Black elbow Potter in the ribs. "That trick was pure genius, James! Pure genius! That slimeball Snivellus will be crying into his dessert tonight when he can't find his stupid collie. And he'll never think to look in the broom shed, because the little prick can't fly a broom to save his life."

"It's a good thing the damn mutt quit barking finally," James said. "Otherwise somebody else, like Hagrid, might have heard and let him out." They gave each other a high five. "Score one for pulling one over on Snivvy!"

I didn't wait to hear anymore. I ran as fast as I could to the broomshed and tugged upon the handle. It was locked. "Gabriel!" I shouted. "Gabe!"

I could hear, faintly, him whimpering inside.

"Hang on, I'll get you out!" I cried. How long had he been in there? An hour? Two? Longer?

I yanked my wand from my arm holder and pointed it at the door. "Alohomora!" I snarled, and such was the force of my will that the lock blew off the door and landed a few feet away in the grass.

I yanked open the door.

There, lying on the floor amid over fifty brooms hanging on racks, was Gabe. He was so weak from lack of water that he could barely lift his head. He thumped his tail once or twice when he saw me, but other than that made no attempt to get up.

"Gabe? It's me, Sev!" I went on my knees and hugged him about the neck. "Oh God, Gabe!"

He feebily tried to lick my hand.

His eyes were glazed and dull and his tongue lolled from his mouth. "Wait here, boy. I'll get help."

I tore off across the lawn, taking the shortcut through a stand of small birch and pine until I reached Hagrid's. I banged on the door with all my might. "Hagrid! Open up! It's Severus! I need you!"

It was few seconds before I heard Fang's bark of welcome and then Hagrid's steps. The door opened. "Severus? What's all the fuss?"

"You gotta help me, Hagrid, please! It's Gabriel! Potter and Black locked him in the broom shed for hours and he's almost half-dead."

"Calm down, Sev. Let's go and get 'im."

I led him back to the shed, which wasn't really necessary, since Hagrid knew every inch of the grounds. He knelt and picked up my dog in two seconds.

"Is he going to be all right?" I asked anxiously, half-running to keep up.

"Well, he's still breathin'," Hagrid answered, but his eyes looked grave beneath his bushy black eyebrows.

"What's that supposed to mean? He's not going to . . .die, is he?" I had force myself to say the words.

"Nah, Sev. I don't think so. He's jus' real thirsty and prob'ly hungry too. A few potions oughta see him right."

By now we had reached the hut, and Hagrid told me to get the thick sheepskin blanket hanging over his sofa and set it down in front of the hearth. He gently placed Gabe on the blanket and said, "Severus, get him a bowl of water and some o' the stew I got in that pot on the stove."

I did all he asked, putting the water by Gabe's head. He could barely drink, and I had to help him using a spoon.

Hagrid Flooed Madam Pomfrey in the Hospital Wing, and she told us to give Gabe a diluted Strengthening Potion, two or three spoonfuls at a time.

Hagrid helped me, showing me how to hold his head up and gently stroke his throat to make him swallow. Once the potion was in him, he began to rally, his tail thumping on the floor with more vigor and his eyes brightened. He drank all the water in the bowl and I refilled it. He drank another bowl and then another. Then he ate the beef stew.

"See, Sev? He's gonna be fine." Hagrid patted my shoulder gently, and handed me a handkerchief that was the size of a shawl.

I didn't even realize I'd been crying until then. I took the handkerchief and used a corner of it to dry my eyes and blow my nose. "Thanks, Hagrid. If you hadn't helped me, I might have . . .lost him."

"No need t'thank me. I'm always glad t'help an animal or a student if they ask me."

I knelt and hugged my collie, who continued eating, not minding my arms about his ruff. When he was done, he lay back down with his head in my lap, and I stroked his ears. "I never thought they'd hurt my dog," I murmured, half to myself. I felt a rush of anger such as I'd never known. "They're gonna pay!"

"Sev, are y'sure that's wise? They're four an' you're one."

"Two if you count Lily. Three if you count Gabriel." I said. "Hagrid, they almost killed my dog!"

"What they did was wrong, aye, but did they know lockin' the dog up would be bad for 'im?"

"Why are you making excuses for them?" I spat. "I don't care if they knew it would kill him or not, they deliberately set out to hurt my dog and this time I'm going to inform the Headmaster! They ought to be kicked out! After I beat the living snot out of them!"

"Sev, I know yer angry an' I can understand that, but ya gotta have proof b'fore you go before Dumbledore. . ."

"I do have proof! I heard them talking when they were coming back from Quidditch practice," I snapped. "What more proof do I need?" I gestured at Gabriel. "You saw what he was like when you came to get him. He could have died! And they did it just because they could, because they wanted to get back at me. Well, nobody hurts my dog and gets off! Nobody!"

Cups and saucers started to rattle upon the cupboard shelves.

"Sev, calm down."

I drew in a deep breath, struggling to control my temper. Finally I got it under wraps enough so I didn't break any of Hagrid's crockery. "Sorry."

"Thas' okay, Sev."

Gaby started licking me, and I buried my hands in his thick ruff. "Hagrid, d'you mind if I leave him here with you while I go and talk to the Headmaster?"

"Not at all, Sev. Fang and I'll keep him company."

"Thanks." Then I whispered in one tulip-shaped ear, "I'll be back, Gabe."

Then I headed out of the hut and towards the castle. I was furious, and determined that the Marauders—or at least Potter and Black—wouldn't get off this time.

June 5th, 1993:

I was very naïve then, being only twelve. Hagrid had been right, since Potter and Black maintained they had nothing to do with locking the dog in there, and they had each other to back up their story, and I had only the fact that I had overheard a private discussion, plus I hadn't actually seen them lock Gabriel in there, made my case null and void. Dumbledore said he couldn't punish them without definitive proof and so they walked away. Again.

The unfairness of it all made me want to cry. Once again, Gryffindor had triumphed over Slytherin. That was when I started to really hate the Marauders. Before I had found them a detestable annoyance, but now . . .now I just wanted to get them expelled and out of my life. Bitter and angry, I strode from the office and went back to Hagrid's to collect Gabriel. The only professor who had any fairness to her during that fake hearing was McGonagall. "While I am willing to give you two the benefit of the doubt for now, since, as you say, you were in your common room after Quidditch, know this: if I ever discover that you really had a hand in putting a defenseless animal into a locked shed and abandoning it, I will see to it that you are expelled—after I take a stick to ye for doing such an awful thing! Now off to bed, the pair of you!"

They went and she expressed her concern over Gabriel, and said she hoped he would be better soon.

When I told Lily the next morning, she blew up. She waited until we were in the corridor after Charms and then she went right up to Potter and yelled, "You stupid arsehole! How dare you do that to Gabriel!"

"What? What'd I do?"

"Don't act all innocent with me, Potter! We both know it was you and Black who shut Gabe into the broom shed."

"Even if it was, so what?"

"So he nearly died of dehydration, you dumbarse!" Then she kicked him. Hard. Right in the family jewels.

He went to his knees on the floor, groaning.

"Bloody hell, Evans!" cried his best mate. "How could you just—"

She whirled on him, fire in her eyes. "You want to be next, Black? Keep talking."

He shrank away. I pulled my wand and cast a Boil Jinx, not really crippling, but then I really didn't know any good hexes back then, and that one was the most painful I knew. Black yelped like the mongrel cur he was when they started to pop up all over his face. I cast the same again on Potter and on Pettigrew too. I would have cast the same on Lupin as well, but just then Flitwick showed up and I used the chance while he was helping the Marauders to leave the scene of the crime. So did Lily.

"Guess we showed them, huh?" my best friend said.

"We did," I agreed, then gave her a high five.

I checked my watch, it was almost eleven PM and I went to go check on my son.

He was still awake, looking very grumpy and bored. "Not asleep yet?"

"No," he said, with the unspoken word "obviously" added in there.

"Would you like a Sleeping Draught?"

He shook his head. "I hate them. They make me feel like I'm all fuzzy when I wake up. What I'd really like is to get out of this bed."

"Tomorrow. If your fever is down and you're not coughing as much." I said.

"But I'm so bored!"

"Bored?" I glanced about his room, which had a large floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with all kinds of books, both magical and Muggle ones, and there was a TV across from the bed, with a VCR, and movies, plus drawing and writing materials in a drawer in the nightstand. I hadn't had anything close to this growing up. "With all of your books and movies, how can you possibly be bored?"

"I just am. And I can't sleep 'cause I'm bored."

I sat on the edge of the bed. "I have a cure for that."

"Does it involve potions?" he asked suspiciously.

"No. it involves you being quiet while I tell you a story."

"Dad, I'm too old for bedtime stories."

"Very well. Then you can bore yourself to sleep," I said, and made to leave.

"Wait!" he called.

I turned, one eyebrow raised.

"Okay, maybe I'm not too old. I'll shut up and listen." He shot me a pleading glance.

"For a change," I teased and returned to the bed. "Now, lie down and no talking." He flopped gracelessly down upon his pillow. "Once upon a time, there was a little boy—"

"Dad! Come on!"

I smirked. "You don't like that beginning? It's a classic."

He rolled his eyes. "I'm not five! What's the real story?"

"Do you remember you asked me once how Gabriel came to live so long?"

"Yeah? A long time ago. You told me someday you'd tell me how it happened. But you never did."

"I got distracted. So now you get to find out. Interested?"

"Yes. Go on."

I began.

Early June, 1973

Hogwarts:

Slughorn wanted us to have partners for our potions final, at least for the lab portion. So Lily and I were partners. It had been that way since our very first class, when Slughorn wished us to pair up with a person from the opposite House. When he discovered how well we worked and both of us loved potions, he was delighted. He gave us special permission to brew after class and work on our own projects in the lab. We promised not to blow anything up.

Ever since that time when Gabe got locked in the broom shed, I was afraid to let him run around by himself all day. So I got special permission from my Head to allow my collie to lie in the back of the dungeon while Lily and I brewed our Youth Potion. We were among the last to finish, because our potion was so advanced. It was usually brewed by fourth years, but Lily and I were sure we could do it.

Gabriel had been dozing on the cool stone floor beside the professor's desk while we brewed and Slughorn snoozed with a copy of the Potioneer's Journal. He sometimes did this in the afternoon, and Lily and I, not being troublemakers, used the time he napped to finish up our final exam and bottle our solution. The Youth Potion yielded three vials and we labeled them and set them on top of Slughorn's desk.

"Do you think we should wake him?" Lily asked me.

Slughorn was snoring away, and we both chuckled.

"I guess we should, "

But before we could do that, there came the sound of something exploding and the whole castle shook.

"What the bloody hell was that?" the professor cried, leaping up from his chair.

The resulting shockwave caused the desk to shake and some potions to topple over. The third vial of Youth Potion fell off the desk and onto the floor.

It broke all over.

"Ah . . .Merlin, professor!" Lily cried.

Gabriel had woken up and began barking loudly.

"Don't worry, Miss Evans. I can clean it up in a snap," Slughorn said. "Let's see if we can figure out what made that appallingly loud bang."

We all moved towards the lab entrance and peered out the door.

There was nobody in the corridor and we couldn't see any smoke or debris, so whatever had blown up wasn't down here. We even walked a little ways down the corridor, checking to see if there were anything going on in the empty dungeons, but they were all dark and no one was about. Slughorn's office was intact too.

"Hmm . . .must have happened on another floor. I wonder what it could have been?" pondered our Potions professor.

"It was probably the Marauders throwing a lighted match down the toilet again," I predicted.

"Either that or blowing up Filch's office again," Lily predicted.

Filch was always on a campaign to catch them misbehaving and it had been war between them since day one.

Slughorn chuckled. "You might be right at that. Those boys do love to stir up trouble."

We returned to the classroom to get our books and Gabriel, and the professor still had the spilled potion to clean up.

I walked back inside to find my collie lapping up the remains of the Youth Potion.

I stared at him in horror. "No! Gabe, no!" I cried, running over and yanking him away from the yellow puddle. "You can't drink that!" But it was too late.

"Oh, dear." Slughorn muttered.

"Professor! Will it hurt him?" I cried. "Is a Youth Potion dangerous for dogs?"

"I shouldn't think so." Professor Slughorn replied. "Look, he seems perfectly fine, except his coat seems more shiny."

I peered at my collie. It was true, his red-gold coat did have a shiny luster to it. "Is he going to turn back into a puppy now?"

"Oh no. Youth Potion, despite its name, doesn't return you to a baby. It merely slows your aging. It would take a DeAging Potion to return your dog to a puppy."

"So . . .what will the potion do to him?" asked Lily.

"Well, it appears he's ingested most of the vial, so I would say that it will extend his lifespan by . . .oh . . .maybe ten or fifteen years. The potion should also prevent him from getting common ailments, like colds and flus. It was, on the whole, a rather fortunate accident, wouldn't you say?"

I looked down at my dog, who still had small yellow flecks on his nose. "Silly collie," I said affectionately. "Who wants to live forever?" I ruffled his fur and he slurped my arm. Given what might have happened, I suppose an accidental ingestion of Youth Potion wasn't the disaster it could have been. Though I did wonder why Gabe would have started to drink it in the first place. Until I saw the crumbs on the floor and an empty plate teetering on the edge of the desk.

Only then did I remember the professor had been eating a roast beef and cheese sandwich before nodding off. The explosion had caused the sandwich to fall on the floor into the spilled potion. That would have been too tempting for any dog to resist and so Gabriel had eaten the potion soaked sandwich first and then went back to lick up any crumbs.

He was lucky he hadn't eaten any glass fragments, I thought, "Come on, Gabe. I'm starving and I really want to find out what caused that explosion."

He followed me happily upstairs, and so did Lily.

We later discovered that the explosion was because of that dimwit Pettigrew, trying to scare Moaning Myrtle out of the U-bend by chucking a lighted wizard cracker after a dungbomb down the toilet.

Like I said before . . .they don't make them any stupider than that.

June 5th, 1993:

" . . .and that's how Gabriel lived to be twenty-five," I concluded.

My son was quiet for a moment. Then he looked up at me and said wistfully, "But Dad, if Gaby drank the potion, then how did he die? I mean, doesn't a Youth Potion give you eternal youth?"

I shook my head. "No. Like Professor Slughorn said, a Youth Potion can prolong your life, but not forever. That's a fallacy. Eventually, the potion Gabriel drank wore off and when that happened . . .he died of natural causes."

"I wish he'd drunk more of it."

I sighed. "Sometimes . . .so do I. But you have to be grateful that we had him as long as we did. Otherwise, you might have never known him."

He thought about that for a brief moment. "You're right. That was a great story, Dad."

"Then I didn't bore you to sleep?"

"My eyes are open, aren't they?" he replied cheekily.

"Go to sleep, young man."

"How? I've been trapped in this bed all day. I'm not tired."

"Count phoenixes then."

"Already tried that."

I sighed. He was going to be difficult. It had always been easier to get him to sleep as a child when Gabriel was lying next to him. Then I got an idea. "Turn over."

"What for?"

"You'll see. Turn over."

"You're not going to . . .spank me or anything, are you?"

"Since when have I spanked you over not going to sleep?" I demanded.

"Uh . . .that time I was eight, you said if I didn't stop annoying you and go to bed you'd spank me."

"And you kept jumping on the couch and knocked over my tea mug, and you ended up over my knee."

He made a face. "Yeah, I know."

"Then you also ought to know that I would never punish you without fair warning. Unless there's something you're not telling me."

"Like what?"

"Like something you feel guilty over and don't want to admit to because you know you'll be in trouble."

He shook his head rapidly. "I haven't done anything lately to get in trouble for. I've been sick and force fed noxious potions by my horrible father."

"Do as I say."

He obeyed . . .finally. I then set my hand on his back and began to rub small circles on it and also to card his hair, which was dark like mine.

"Merlin, if you wanted to rub my back, Dad, why didn't you just say so?" he grumbled into his pillow.

"It was more amusing watching you squirm," I said with a wicked chuckle.

"Real nice." Then he yawned.

I continued rubbing and carding, recalling how many times I'd done this same thing when he was a baby. It never failed to put him to sleep.

It didn't now.

Within a few minutes he was asleep and I was almost asleep myself. I carefully tucked the covers about him and whispered, "Sleep well, my son. I'll see you in the morning."

Then I headed for my own room, my eyes starting to close in spite of myself.

Hope you all liked this part. I know some of you were wondering just how Gaby lived to such an advanced age and now you know.

How did you like the conversations between Sev and his son . . .who shall remain nameless for awhile longer? Of course, you are free to guess his identity in your review.

I've also updated Irresistible Chemistry too, for those of you who are reading that story.
 


Chapter 7: Gryffindor's Mermaid
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Snape's Journal

June 11th, 1993:

Today was a trying morning. My son woke up cranky and insolent and determined to irritate me past bearing. I wonder if it's an adolescent thing and if I was ever like this at his age and what my mother did about it. I'll have to ask her next time I talk with her, maybe she can give me some pointers on how to handle him that don't involve chaining him to a wall in my lab till he learns better manners or throttling him. Apparently, we were all out of his favorite cereal, which was cause for a sulking fit, and then when we went down to my lab for his morning potions lesson, today we were brewing a Water Walking Draft, a complicated solution, but not one that he couldn't handle—if he concentrated—he mucked it up and I made him do it over.

You would have thought I'd asked him to brew thirty batches of Dreamless Sleep in forty-eight hours, the way he argued.

"Do it over? But Dad . . .!"

"You heard me. You're going to re-do the entire potion and follow the directions correctly this time and brew it right. Begin."

He scowled, reminding me of myself. "Let's not and say I did."

"None of your cheek now. Start cutting up the gillyweed." I directed.

He complied, but not before mumbling, "Whoever invented this draft was a bloody bugger!"

Now I scowled. "For your information, boy, I invented that potion. Now quit that whining and mind your mouth or it'll get washed out."

"Yes, sir. You invented this potion?" he repeated. "No wonder it's impossible to brew. It's a genius level one."

"Flattery won't help you. Keep working and mind how you dice the roots on step six."

He groaned. "Dad, I really don't feel like doing potions today. Can't we just skip it and I'll brew tomorrow?"

"No. I made this schedule for you specifically and we're sticking to it." I said firmly. He sometimes thought because I homeschooled him that he could wheedle me into changing his schedule around to suit himself. Fat chance of that! "Practice makes perfect. Doing it over is the only way you'll learn how to brew properly."

He huffed and muttered angrily as he hacked apart gillyweed with a sharp knife. "This class sucks! I'll bet you don't torture your other students at the Academy like this!"

"My students there know not to question my authority and pay attention." I crossed my arms and glowered down at him. The attitude was really grating on me. "I'm going to warn you once more, young man, lose the attitude. Or else your broom is mine."

"Okay! Okay!" He turned back and began adding the gillyweed to his simmering cauldron. "Bloody dungeon bat!" He thought I couldn't hear him over the crackle of the fire and the bubbling hiss of the potion.

Oh, how wrong he was!

I caught his shoulder and spun him about. "What did you just call me?"

He gulped. "Nothing!"

"Lying to me now, are you?" Now I was very angry. I didn't tolerate lies from him and he knew that. I'd taught him better when he was six.

"No! I mean . . .Yes . . .I'm sorry! Please, don't take my broom away!" he turned pleading eyes to me, reminding me of Gabriel when he was begging for a hamburger.

"Repeat what you said to me."

He squirmed like he'd had a red hot poker applied to his behind and looked down at my shoes. "I . . .I called you a bat."

"Exact words."

"Dad, please . . .I didn't mean it . . ."

"Then why did you say it?"

"I was mad . . .I dunno why . . ."

"Repeat what you said."

He did. Then he begged me again not to take his broom away. "Please? I'll . . .I'll let you beat me! Just don't take my broom away, sir! I have a Quidditch match coming up and I need to practice." He played on the local Junior Quidditch League, which was something that had just started this year.

"This is non-negotiable," I said firmly, hardening my heart against his eyes. "Besides, you have never in your life been beaten, child. I hardly ever raise a hand to you."

"Mum spanked me really hard once," he objected.

"For playing with the stove, I know. She didn't leave marks and it was over clothes."I pointed out. My wife tended to be quicker to spank than I was, then again, she hadn't lived with my father. "Not even close. Your broom is mine for the weekend. Next time control your temper and don't be disrespectful."

"You're so unfair!"

"Deal with it." I said. I hated making him unhappy, but I knew if I wasn't firm, he would walk all over me.

"I hate you!" he shouted. "You're an evil git!"

My eyes flashed. That was the last straw. I would take a lot from the insolent whelp, but not that. "You asked for this," I said angrily. Then I propped my leg up on the bottom rung of the lab stool and bent my obnoxious son over my knee.

Ten smacks later he was sniffling over his ingredients, trying to pretend he wasn't crying. "Here." I handed him a green hanky. "Wipe your eyes, salt water isn't an ingredient for this potion."

"Sorry."

"You should be." I surreptitiously rubbed my hand on my hip, a spanking tended to hurt both of us. Which told me I should avoid doing it as much as possible.

He completed the potion without any backtalk after that, I said this effort was much better than the last one and gave him a passing grade. "Now, was that so difficult? You could have avoided getting in trouble if you had simply done as I asked in the first place."

He just nodded, plainly ashamed of his childish outburst. "When's Mum coming home?"

"Soon. Looking for sympathy?" I teased.

He snorted. "Yeah, right. You're a marshmallow compared to her."

" I'm a what?"

He backed away. "Forget I ever said that. I'm going to pick up my room before I end up grounded."

"Wise decision, since your mother will inspect it when she comes home. Dismissed."

"Did you write her about Gabe?"

"No. I thought it was better if she heard the bad news in person. Get!"

He bolted up the stairs.

My wife, a Special Agent Auror, had been away on assignment for three months. There were times when she couldn't write to me at all, not and maintain her cover, and this was one of them. She was supposed to arrive home tonight, and I dreaded having to break the news to her. She had adored Gabe, and would be devastated that he had died while she was away, and didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

I carefully bottle the WaterWalking Draft and let my mind wander back to the first time I had created that draft, in fourth year, and won Slughorn's Best Potion Invented by a Student award. Later, though, it had saved Lily's life, when she had been the victim of the Marauders sick sense of humor . . .

May 5th 1975

Hogwarts School:

The first I knew of that something was wrong was when Gabriel took the sleeve of my pajamas and dragged me half out of bed, whining urgently. I woke up, looked at my watch, it was one o'clock in the morning. "Ahh, Gabe! Don't tell me you have to go out?" I groaned, rubbed my eyes, and pulled on my trainers. Why was it, I wondered irritably, that dogs couldn't learn to use a litter box at night?

Gabriel was practically dancing on his hind legs, and I hurried out of the common room and down the corridor to a secret entrance I had discovered while hiding from the Four Horsemen one day. I quickly tapped the sequence of stones and the secret door slid open, and Gabe tore across the lawn, barking.

What the hell? I wondered and followed.

Gabriel led me directly to the lake, barking and "talking" to me anxiously.

It was then that I heard the sounds of something large splashing and a girl's voice shouting, "Help! Help! Somebody help me!"

"Lumos!" I lit up my wand, though the moon was plenty bright enough for me to see . . .a bed in the middle of the Black Lake, surrounded by ten sucker-strewn arms, as the giant squid angrily tried to rid itself of the unwanted object dumped into its territory. And on top of that bed was . . .Lily Evans.

"Lily!" I shouted.

She was all scrunched up in the middle of the bed, wearing a bright green nightshirt. "Sev? Oh, thank God! I woke up and found myself floating here. I don't have my wand, I left it on my nightstand." She made a face of extreme disgust. "I know, quit giving me that look, Severus! I should sleep with it under my pillow like you, but I never really expected them to do anything like . . .this to me!" She waved a hand at the giant squid, which had all ten arms wrapped about her fourposter.

"You know them by now, Lil. They've got a sick sense of humor and they hate the fact that you don't worship their glorious arses like all the rest of your House."

"I know last time I hexed them for ruining our potion in class, Sirius threatened to get me back, but I never thought he would go this far."

"Don't underestimate him, Lily. The kid's a nut job, like the rest of his Black cousins. Too much inbreeding. And the rest of them are allowed to run wild, and they'll dare anything they can get away with." I said. "Hang on. Let me Summon the Water Walking Draft."

I waved my wand. "Accio Water Walking Draft!"

The potion flew into my hand after two minutes, and I uncapped it and prepared to take a swallow.

"Sev! Let me try it first!" Lily called, for the potion was as yet untested.

I shook my head. "No, it's my invention, and if something isn't right, you shouldn't have to suffer for it." I said, and then I swallowed it. It hit my system like a jolt of pure adrenalized lightning. I gasped and doubled over.

"Severus!" Lily cried in horror.

Gabriel whined anxiously and licked my hand.

"I'm okay," I reassured them, straightening. My feet felt slick and sticky. Some kind of glowing slime was covering them. I wrinkled my nose. "I think it's working. Hold on! I'm coming!"

I took two steps onto the surface of the lake, discovering that my potion made me able to skim along the water like a water bug. I half-slid and half-ran out to the middle of the lake, right inbetween the squid's massive sucker arms, and held out my arms to Lily. "Jump!"

She didn't hesitate.

I caught her, staggered, and toppled over on my arse.

Which was not affected by the potion.

I got wet and started to sink.

"Whoops!" Lily said, starting to giggle nervously.

Somehow I managed to stand up, holding my precious flower in my arms.

It was then that the squid suddenly flung the bed through the air.

The bed landed with a sharp CRACK! on the shore, smashing a bunch of cattails and narrowly missing my barking collie.

Gabriel was going insane, his dog instinct screaming that humans were not meant to do such things.

Lily looked over my shoulder and yelped. "Uh, Sev? Start running."

"Why?" I asked warily.

"Just . . .do it!"

I tried, but if you've ever tried to run on a surface that's slippery or walked upon a water bed, you bounce about something awful and can't really move too fast.

I looked behind me and saw the giant squid coming for us.

Now, normally the squid is peaceful and doesn't hurt students, but it was quite angry at having a bed dumped into its home and being woken up from its rest by a girl screaming. Not to mention a shrilly barking dog and me too. I had no wish to end up as squid sushi, so I started jumping like a skipping stone over the water.

I had almost made it to shore when a tentacle latched about my left ankle and yanked me backwards.

We both screamed.

Gabriel charged into the lake, barking wildly.

I was sure we were squid food then.

But then Hagrid appeared, and tossed a large dead fish into the lake.

The squid, upon seeing and smelling the food, released me, and Lily, Gabe, and I swam to shore.

"You all righ', Severus? And Lily too?"

"We're fine, Hagrid." Lily replied.

"What are you two doin' out here?" He took a glance at the shattered bed. "What in the name o' Merlin is that?"

"My bed," Lily admitted.

"How did it get out here?" Hagrid looked puzzled.

"The Marauders got Lily and her bed out of the dorm room and into the lake," I related to him. "Stupid arseholes!" I was furious all over again. They had no right to antagonize Lily, she was a girl and from their own House besides. She could have gotten sick or even hurt badly by the squid. How dare they put Lily's life in jeopardy?

"The Marauders did this?"

"Yes," Lily supported me. "I'm sure of it. But if you want it confirmed, just come to breakfast in the hall tomorrow, Hagrid. They can never resist bragging about their little pranks and I'm sure they think they're doing it for the greater good and saving my reputation because I shouldn't be friends with a slimy Slytherin. I'm going to report this to the Headmaster."

I dried myself off with a Quick Dry charm. "Save your breath, Lily. We have no proof they did it, since you or I didn't see them do it. Therefore, Dumbledore won't punish them." Gabriel jumped up and licked my face. "Good dog, Gabe!" I praised when I could speak without a collie tongue washing me. I hugged him. "He's the one who woke me up and brought me to you," I told Lily.

"But how did he know I was in trouble?" she asked, kneeling down and petting him. He licked her all over too, making her laugh.

"Collies are very smart, Lily," said Hagrid. "They're one of the smartest dogs there is. He musta heard you shouting and all, dogs got really good hearing, better than ours."

"You're such a brilliant dog, Gaby! Like your master," Lily smiled. "I wish I could be sure the Marauders had a hand in what happened to me. Not that I doubt they did it, but, like you said, we need proof."

"Listen to what they say tomorrow at breakfast." I advised. I knew Potter and Black, the arrogant sods, wouldn't be able to resist telling Lupin and Pettigrew, unless they were in on it too, all about teaching Lily a lesson she'd never forget.

"Okay." She looked in dismay at her broken bed. "Damn! It's in pieces!"

She looked over at me. I started repairing the bed as best I could. Then I shrank it and Lily carried it back upstairs in her robe pocket. Outside the portrait hole, Gabe and I reluctantly bid her good night. Then I headed back to my room. Midnight rescues sure were fun, but also extremely tiring.

Sure enough, Black began bragging to his mates about how their prank had worked wonderfully next morning. "Hey, Evans, how did you sleep last night? Were you alone? Or did your snaky pal Snivellus keep you company? I heard you came back all wet! And the giant squid looked down your nightie and got an eyefull!"

Wormtail burst out laughing. "Hahaha! It's the Gryffindor Mermaid!"

"Good one, Peter!" praised James. "Maybe next time, Evans, you could wear a bathing suit and show me some of that, huh, babe?" He leered at her.

Half of the girls sighed in longing, plainly they wouldn't have minded Potter ogling them.

Lily glared at him. "Potter, you're disgusting! And your little joke wasn't funny! The squid nearly tried to eat me, you stupid git!"

"Aww, be a good sport, Evans!" drawled Sirius. "If you weren't stuck on Snape, we wouldn't have bothered."

Lily pounced. "You admit it then?"

"Admit what? That we pranked you?" Black smirked.

"Heard and witnessed!" Hagrid said, his face suddenly hard. "I hope you boys are ashamed o'yourselves! Pickin' on a girl thataway, just 'cause you don' like her friends. Never woulda thought it!"

With Hagrid to back us up, Dumbledore had to believe us and give the Marauders detention and take points, though he took the minimum allowed and only made them serve detention with Filch for two nights. Humph! Their stupid nickname for Lily—Gryffindor Mermaid stuck for a year, it was nearly as bad as Snivellus. And a few of the Marauder-shippers (those who worship Marauders) thought Lily deserved it. "Serves her right! Anyone who's friends with a Slytherin needs their head examined."

"Anyone who worships the ground a Marauder walks on needs a brain, period!" Lily had shot back, then she rose and took her lunch and deliberately walked over and sat next to me at the Slytherin table.

No one said anything, for a change, and I whispered, "That's telling them to shove off, Lil!"

It was then that I started looking at her as more than a friend.

And even though the Marauders really didn't get punished, at least I was able to test my Water Walking Draft out.

June 11, 1993:

I heard the Floo start up from my bedroom, and then my wife's voice greeting our son, who then yelled up the stairs, "Hey, Dad! Mum's home! Quit writing your memoirs or whatever and come down here!"

I set down my quill and rushed down the stairs. It had been too long since I'd seen my wife and I had missed her like I would miss the other half of my brain. Not very romantic, but then, we had been together for twelve years.

She was standing with her arm about my son, and she looked a bit more pale and drawn than usual, her auburn hair had been bleached to a platinum blond, and her eyes Glamoured to become sky blue, but even so, I would have recognized her blindfolded. "Hello, Sev." Her smile was still the same, sweet and sultry and so very welcome.

"Hello, bright hawk," I said, using my nickname for her, that I had coined during fifth year, when she had dazzled me with her brilliant intellect and her fierceness to stand up for what was right and to hell with everyone else. I moved across the room and into her arms. "I've missed you, Lily."

"Same here," she whispered and our mouths met in a searing kiss that ignited a fire in my blood.

It was always this way between us after a long separation. Lily's undercover work often took her away from us for months at a time and when she returned I was starved for her affection and her touch.

"Ugh! Will the two of you please stop the public displays of affection? It's making me sick!"

We ignored our thirteen-year-old for a few moments more, until his gagging started to intrude upon the moment, and Lily turned around and said, "Harry, stop it! It's perfectly natural for a husband and wife to display affection in their own home."

"But not in front of their son!" Harry cried. "That's just gross!"

"In Merlin's name, why? You never used to mind us kissing when you were little."

"That was different. I didn't know any better then. But now . . .now I know what comes after the kissing part."

"Are you sure?" she teased, laughing.

Harry went scarlet to the tips of his ears. "Yes! They teach us how babies get made in primary school, Mum! Plus Dad has all those anatomy books and he made me study them so I'd know how certain potions affect parts of the body. And you're my parents . . .and it's just . . .ugh!"

We both chuckled over that and he glared indignantly at us.

Lily reached out and ruffled his hair, which was in need of a trim. "Oh, Harry! Someday, when you meet the right girl. . . "

"Please, Mum! Don't even go there! I don't have a girlfriend and I'm not marrying Hermione, even if she is my best friend."

"Who ever said anything about marrying Hermione?" Lily looked at me questioningly.

"I think he's comparing their friendship to ours," I murmured. "He obviously doesn't take after James in that area."

Lily shook her head. "No. James was already getting notes from girls by third and dating by fourth year. But I'm glad. I'd rather have him this way." She whispered.

"What way?"

"Innocent." His mother replied.

"Mum! I'm not some bloody baby!"

"You don't understand what I mean by that yet," she said. "And watch your language, or must I fetch a bar of soap?"

"No, ma'am." He knew better than to push Lily. She detested foul language . . .at any age. She had once threatened to wash my mouth out.

She placed her hands on his shoulders. "Hmm . . .looks like you've grown taller since I last saw you. Which means your dad's been feeding you right."

"Thanks, Lil," I said sarcastically. "Like I would let him starve."

"I know you and your potions research, Severus. Once you get behind a cauldron sometimes . . .you forget the world exists."

I couldn't deny that. Potions was my passion, it always had been and always would be. Which was why I taught it at the Master level at the Academy of Potioneers. I could never have taught teenagers day after day. The rest of the time I spent researching and inventing and schooling my adopted son, Harry James Potter-Snape.

"Got that right." Harry said cheekily.

"Who asked you, brat?"

"Just saying."

I rolled my eyes at him. "Have you learned nothing from this morning?"

"Uh huh. To be careful what I wish for."

"What happened?" Lily asked, eying her son knowingly.

"He got cheeky and insolent and I punished him." I answered.

"He took away my broom for the weekend, Mum. And then he spanked me. I'm emotionally traumatized. I need a therapist."

"Why, you overdramatic little whelp—"

"I'll make an appointment," Lily interrupted, her eyes sparkling. "I think Dr. Graves would be able to fit you in next week. Of course, you'd end up missing Quidditch practice, but your emotional trauma is more important, so—"

"Forget it!" Harry said quickly. Faced with the prospect of missing Quidditch, my son quickly changed his tune. "I'll live."

"Now, tell me what you did to make your father mad enough to smack you, because it had to be pretty bad to push him into doing that." Lily demanded sternly.

My son hung his head, all of his insolence vanished. "Am I going to get in trouble twice?"

"No. Your father's punishment is more than sufficient. Talk, Harry." She sounded the way she must have when she was interrogating a suspect.

And like many suspects, Harry babbled when he met her steely emerald gaze, confessing all.

"I'm really sorry. I'll try my best to not backtalk him again."

"Good, because that's something neither of us will tolerate, Harry James." Lily said. Then she put her arm about him and hugged him, and so did I.

"You're forgiven, brat." I said, knowing that was the most important part of my job, forgiving my wayward son for his mistakes, which was something my own father had never been around to do.

"Thanks, Dad." Harry seemed very relieved. "Mum, did you catch that ring of magic stone thieves?"

Lily nodded. "Yes, Harry. I managed to get them all this time. Mission accomplished."

Harry beamed proudly. "Go, Mum! See, Dad. I told you she'd bring them all in. Nobody ever escapes Special Agent Evans."

"Harry, I'm not some kind of . . .super witch." Lily protested, as she always did whenever someone made a big deal over her chosen occupation. She had chosen to keep her maiden name through both her marriages.

"Sure you are, Mum." Harry insisted stoutly. "You've brought in more criminals than any Speck on the force. At least that's what Auror Captain Moody says." "Speck" was slang among Aurors for Special Agent, both a play on the word "special" and also because a good agent could blend into a crowd and vanish like a speck of dust, never seen unless they wanted to be. Lily was one of the best.

"Captain Moody was my sponsor at the Auror Academy, so he's biased," Lily said. All this time, she had had her back to the mantle and had not noticed the urn or the picture and candle. She glanced around. "Why, where's Gabriel, Sev? Is he asleep upstairs, the old duffer? Guess I'll have to go up and say hello to him, it's probably getting rough to navigate those stairs now."

Harry looked at me questioningly.

"That won't be necessary, Lil."

"Whyever not? Just because he's old is no reason for me to neglect him."

"That's not why. It's because . . .he's right there." I pointed to the urn.

"Right where?" She turned around, following my finger.

Her eyes focused upon the urn, the photo, the collar, and the candle. A hand went to her mouth. "Oh no, Sev! He's . . .gone? When?"

"A month ago. I didn't know how to tell you in a letter . . ."

"He didn't . . .suffer?"

"No. He died peacefully in his sleep." I came and hugged her.

"I'm so sorry . . .so sorry I never got to say goodbye . . .after all he did for us . . ." Tears were falling down her cheeks now, silently, one after another, like raindrops. "I knew he was old, but I hoped the potion would last a few years more . . ."

"So did I." I murmured.

Abruptly, she turned and put her head on my shoulder and then she cried like a baby for the dog that had made such a difference in all of our lives. Her grief brought mine and Harry's to the surface again as well, and for a while we all mourned our lost pet together.

Later, I showed her my journal and told her I was writing down Gabe's story. "It helps some, the memories."

"Yes. It's a wonderful tribute, Sev," she said, running her fingers through my dark hair. "I wish I could have been here to help you through it."

I leaned my head on her shoulder. "No sense in regretting what can't be helped. Grief is the same, then and now. I will never forget him and always miss him."

"So will I." She snuggled close to me and we found a way to forget our grief for awhile in the age old celebration of life and love.

What did you think of Sev's handling of Harry? I know you probably have more questions now that you've learned who Snape's son and wife are. Like why is Harry homeschooled and why did Lily end up with James in the first place? Be patient. All your questions will be answered, I hope, as the story unfolds. And if they aren't just PM me. Thanks for reading! :)

Oh and I'm officially strangling my computer, because for some reason it's taken to deleting sentences in the middle of my chapters when I post them-after I've proofread! Arghh!
 


Chapter 8: Stalwart Defender
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Snape's Journal

June15th, 1993:

Lily sleeps still in our bed, her breathing deep and even, but I am for some reason wide awake and unable to let sleep claim me. So I decidde to do as I normally do when I am unable to sleep, I write until I nod off over my parchment. I find that writing my thoughts down not only keeps them organized, but also lets my mind recall things that might be bothering me and hindering my rest. Harry says I just enjoy having a pen in my hand, whether it's correcting student essays or writing in my journal. "You're a professor, Dad. Your pen is your best friend," he joked once. Now, he may be right, since my most loyal and true friend and defender has crossed the rainbow bridge to the Other Side. That may seem strange, that I put a dog above my beloved wife, who was also my best friend, but in fifth year, Lily did something that I nearly could not forgive, and because of it I almost made the greatest mistake of my life.

I paused, my quill suspended in mid-air, as I recall the events of that dreadful afternoon. My desk is right in front of a window, which faces the street and I look down at it, all is still, for it is three AM. I briefly remember another day, I was here grading midterms, Harry was eight, playing on the lawn with Hermione, who lives down the road. They were playing badminton, and Harry hit it a little too hard with the racquet, the shuttlecock flew across the street, where some other boys were gathered.

One of them picked up the shuttlecock, and looked back at Harry, who went over to retrieve it. Harry told me afterwards he'd asked, "This yours, creep? Want it back?" When Harry said yes, he'd laughed and said, "Too bad. Finders keepers." Then he knocked my son down, just for spite. Next thing you know, there was an old-fashioned brawl, and poor Harry, who'd gotten his glasses knocked off, was getting the worst of it.

I hadn't noticed anything then, I was too busy correcting exams, but I looked up when I heard Hermione yelling, "Mr. Snape! Mr. Snape! Come quick! They're beating up Harry!"

I shot up from my desk so fast I slammed my hand on the edge of it. Then I heard Gabriel barking and something heavy hitting the front door.

"No, Gabe! Come back!" Hermione's voice echoed shrilly through the front hall.

I turned back to the window just in time to see a furry red-gold streak dart across the lawn and into the street.

Swearing under my breath, I bolted down the stairs. No way was I going to let my son get beaten and bullied the way I had been as a child. "Stay here, Hermione," I ordered as I passed her.

She looked stricken. "Hurry, Mr. Snape!"

I pushed the door open and ran out onto the lawn.

Across the street, the five boys who had been beating Harry suddenly scattered as Gabriel came among them. My sixpence runt of the litter dog was now a giant, eighty-five pounds of sinew and steel, and lightning quick on his feet. Now a collie won't attack a person unless he is defending his master from a threat, and most collies won't do more than bare their teeth and snarl. But Gabriel recognized that Harry was hurt and in pain and he wouldn't tolerate that. He started nipping their ankles and the backs of their calves, trying to herd them away from Harry.

I strode across the street, calling angrily, "Hey! What are you lot up to? Leave my son alone, you little sodding bastards!"

I was furious and not minded to watch my mouth.

Some of them, mostly the ones that Gabe was driving like sheep, looked about and saw me. They went pale and took off, not wanting to face me and Gabriel together. Of course, the stupid little sod who was pounding on Harry didn't look up and see me or my collie till it was too late. Gabriel nipped him right on the arse, as it was sticking out while he was bent over slamming my poor son's head into the ground.

He yelled and jerked up, "Oww! What the bloody hell?"

Then my hand closed on the back of his shirt and I picked him up and snarled in his face, "Listen, you rotten little bounder! Touch my son again and I'll break all your fingers. Got me?"

He started sniveling and whinging, but I shook him once and snapped, "I caught you in the act, now stop being a sniveling coward and get your arse home where it belongs! Matter of fact, I'll take you there myself, let your parents know what you've been up to." I longed, very much, to haul the brat over my knee and give him a good spanking. But I didn't want a lawsuit on my head for assaulting a minor and had to hope his parents would punish him appropriately.

Gabriel barked angrily, then started licking Harry's face. He was still lying on the ground, sniffling. He would never cry in front of strangers. At home, he might bawl on my shoulder, but never in public. He was a tough little scrap. "You all right?" I asked my son.

Harry climbed shakily to his feet, his hand resting on Gabriel's back. He looked like he'd been through the wars, all over blood and dirt and dog slobber, his lenses cracked. "Yeah, Dad."

"Go home. I'll be back in a few minutes after I settle with this little scoundrel," I told him quietly.

He started back across the street, escorted by our dog.

Then I took the bully and brought him to his home, where I angrily informed his mother what her little darling had been up to. The kid fought me the entire way, which told me that he would probably get the thrashing of his life from his dear old dad once he got home. I didn't care, however. Sure enough, she promised me that young Barty would get a good walloping and apologized for her son's behavior. They lived further down the street, closer to the railway.

I returned home, and fixed up Harry with some potions and asked him what happened. He told me all about the badminton game and the shuttle, then he asked, "Dad, why did they just . . .go after me like that? All I did was ask for my shuttle back."

"Sometimes, Harry , bullies are spoiling for a fight, and they like hurting those that are smaller or younger than them. It makes them feel good about themselves, they like to push people around." I told him. Little did he know I was speaking from experience. An experience that I had learned the hard way, at the hands of his father and friends.

"That's stupid!" Hermione put in. "But then, most boys are stupid. Err . . .except you, Harry." She leaned down to pet Gabriel. "You were such a good dog, Gabe! You saved Harry, didn't you, you beautiful thing!"

Gabriel, who was sitting at Harry's feet, promptly stood up and licked her.

"You're a real hero, old pal," I said, and then I conjured a huge juicy steak bone for him as a reward.

He gnawed on it happily.

"You acted very responsibly, Hermione, by calling me instead of trying to handle things yourself," I praised the Muggleborn witch who had just moved down the street from us a month ago. She was bright, inquisitive, a bit of a know-it-all, but overall a nice well-mannered child. We had met when Gabriel had wandered over to say hello, a habit I'd never been able to break him of.

"My mum always told me that if I saw somebody getting beaten up, and there were more than two attacking one, to call for a grown-up."

"Your mother was correct. Harry, next time anything like that happens, you try and walk away, or come to me. There's no shame in walking away from an unfair fight."

"Okay, Dad. I'll remember." He rubbed Gaby behind the ears. "You're a good dog, Gabe. A real rescue dog."

He was, though that hadn't been the first time Gabriel had defended his master from harm.

The other incident I'm referring to happened in Lily's and my fifth year . . .

June 20th, 1976:

Hogwarts School:

This year was our OWL year and Lily and I had been studying all year long for the exams, and I had spent last night reviewing and practically re-reading my Defense Against the Dark Arts text and practicing all the spells I knew over and over till my head felt like it was going to explode and my wand hand fall off. But I was determined to do well on my exams, since high OWL scores ensured you a choice of career, and I badly wanted to be an apothecary or one of the professors who taught at the Academy of Potioneers. But in order to get those jobs I had to be near perfect on my OWLS. My Potions OWLS was a piece of cake, nothing we had to brew on the syllabus even came close to the advanced potions I had been studying with Slughorn and Mum last year, and we had to brew one original draft and I used the Water Walking brew I'd invented last year. The proctor was so impressed he asked me for the formula and told me to skip the written portion of the exam that he could tell I already knew all the information it covered.

I then had an extra two hours to study for Charms. I was glad for I was not as good in that subject, that was Lily's area, and she was as brilliant at Charms as I was at Potions. We had two OWLS per day this whole week. Today OWL's had been Transfiguration, the written part, and Defense Against the Dark Arts, also the written portion. The practical parts would be given tomorrow. I had thought I did well on both exams, I had managed to recall all the answers to the questions and wrote legible essays for each. I finished the exam before time was called as well.

Even so, I wished to go over the answers again and took my copy of the test questions with me as I left. It was a beautiful sunny day out and I decided to remain outside in the sunshine for once and read over my answers in private. I knew certain students thought I was nothing but a skinny greasy bookworm who was pale as a vampire and loved dark dungeons, but that impression wasn't entirely true. I did love brewing and since the potions lab was in the dungeons, spent a large part of my free time there, but I would have spent at least part of it outside in the fresh air harvesting herbs if not for the constant persecution by the Marauders.

As Voldemort rose in power, ill feelings were cultivated towards Slytherin House, and the Marauders were at the forefront of the unrest. Their "the only good Slytherin is a hexed one" philosophy had been adopted by a lot of the Gryffindors and even Ravenclaw and Huffle puff started looking at us suspiciously. Lately they were picking on me something awful, though once I had heard Black claim that they always pranked me because I asked for it following them around, which was utter rubbish.

Why in Merlin's name would I want to follow the Marauders around? I tried to avoid them as much as possible, because I didn't want points taken off my House nor to get hexed to Kingdom come. Now they didn't duel me one on one anymore, now they attacked three on one, with Pettigrew the cowardly pillock hexing me from behind. Lupin usually didn't participate in the Beat Down Snape campaign, lucky for me. He just watched on occasion and I never could figure out if he felt sorry for me or hated me like the others did.

In any case, that day I went and found a cozy little spot halfway inbetween the lake and Hagrid's hut. I sat down with my back to a young oak tree and began reviewing my answers. It was peaceful and the sun felt good on my head. I loosened my tie and undid the top button on my shirt and opened my robe. The school uniform was definitely not made for the muggy June heat.

I had my wand resting near my hand, just in case, while I perused the test questions. I wondered where Lily was, she had promised to meet me after the exam was done, but I hadn't seen her as I exited and I hadn't lingered because the Marauders were nearby. I thought about whistling for my collie, but figured he might be in Hagrid's hut, dozing away the heat, as was his wont. I should have clipped him down so he wouldn't suffer so in the heat, but had been too busy studying to do more than pet and feed him this past week. I felt guilty for neglecting him, but I would make it up to him by playing with him and grooming him tomorrow.

My thoughts were focused on my exam and my dog and so I didn't see Black and Potter approach until James said, "All right, Snivellus?"

I sprang to my feet, wand in hand, knowing that to hesitate meant another beating. But I was a shade too slow.

Potter's Disarming Charm knocked my wand away and then Black hit me with an Impedimenta Curse, making me fall hard to the ground like a frozen block of wood. Shit! Shit, Snape! You stupid fool! You should have kept an eye out, instead of assuming you were safe.

Potter and Black were jeering at me now. "Look at Snivelly, James!" Black chortled. "Lying there all still, like a rotting log. And we all know what people do with rotting logs, right?"

"They cut them down," answered Potter.

"Or fart and pee on them," giggled Pettigrew, the sick little bollocks.

I was frozen and helpless and could do nothing except watch as Pettigrew, urged on by the other two, presented his arse to me and blew off in my face.

I gagged and choked, the stench was so bad.

Potter and Black hooted.

"That's it, Wormtail! Give the slimy snake a taste of his own medicine."

"How'd you do on the exam, Snivelly?" sneered Potter.

"I saw his nose touching the parchment, there will be great greaseballs all over it and the proctor won't be able to read it." Black sniggered. "Next time you wash your hair, Snivvy, use some shampoo."

"Filthy greasy bugger," Wormtail giggled. "You smell like a swamp." To my horror, I saw him lift his robe and unbutton his trousers.

No! Oh, no! He wouldn't dare, that little snotrag! He wouldn't . . .!

He would. Two seconds later I felt something wet and warm spatter my legs as the puny-arsed dick peed on me. I wanted to die. I wanted to hex the little shit's pecker off. I struggled with all my might against the jinx that held me powerless. I spat and used just about every foul swear word I had ever heard of from my father and from others at school.

"Wash out your mouth, Snape!" shouted Potter. "Scourgify!"

That was a Cleaning Charm, meant to wash dishes and floors, and as my mouth filled with pink soap bubbles I gasped and choked, nearly unable to breathe. The jinx wore off and I managed to crawl towards my wand and grab it. I fired off a hex I had learned from an older Slytherin, a Cutting Curse, and had the satisfaction of catching Potter right across his pretty face.

A neat bloody slash opened up across his cheek and he yelped like a mangy cur. There! How do you like it?

"You bloody waste of breath!" Black screamed and then he cast a spell that we had just learned in Defense, a silent one called Levicorpus!

Next thing I knew, I was dangling by my ankle upside down. Our professor had explained that while the spell wasn't harmful, it did take an opponent by surprise and humiliate him, it was useful in subduing criminals, since you could bind them while they were hanging in midair. My robes dropped over my head and I struggled to push them off so I could see to hex them and to perform the countercharm Libracorpus.

I was still spitting out soap and gagging, and my head was throbbing, I had hit the ground pretty hard with the Impedimenta Jinx, and was only now just realizing that fact.

I heard others start chanting and giggling and Potter call, "Snivellus, don't you wash your pants, you greasy git!"

God, oh, God! I have to get down! I pursed my lips and whistled loudly, trying to summon Gabriel.

"And look, he's wet himself!" Pettigrew howled.

More laughter followed and I felt myself redden. There would be no way to ever live this down. I would be the butt of every dirty joke from now till I finished school.

"Leave him ALONE!"

I knew that voice and at first my heart thrilled to hear it.

Lily had come.

A split second later I feel shame flood me, so great that it hurt. That she should see me like this, exposed and helpless was almost more than I could bear. Lately I had started developing feelings for her that were more than mere friendship, much more, and she knew it. We had kissed once, in a deserted corridor, last week. I had felt as if I'd died and gone to heaven. Now I wished I had. I fought furiously to free myself, but only ended up causing myself to revolve in midair.

"Leave him alone, Potter, you bloody bully!" Lily was snarling. "What's he ever done to you?"

"It's more the fact that he exists, you see," drawled the Gryffindor Chaser. "He's nothing but pondscum, Evans. Why don't you leave him and go out with me? I'm your Housemate and a damn sight better looking than him, the ugly git!"

"I'd rather date the squid than you, Potter, you arrogant bunghole!"

"Now Evans, is that nice?' chided Black. "What can Snivellus give you that James can't?"

"Fleas?" Peter answered and everyone laughed uproariously.

Except Lily. "Oh, that was so funny . . .I forgot to laugh! Why don't you grow up, you stupid berks?"

"We will if you'll quit hanging around the greasy potions prodigy," Potter said.

Lily drew her wand. "Cancel the spell, Potter!"

"Evans, don't make me hex you."

"Kiss my arse, Potter!"

"Love to, babe!" he leered.

"You're a riot, Potter. Let him down!"

"Go out with me, Lily. If you say yes, I swear I'll never lay a wand on Snivelly here again."

There was silence for several moments. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. Don't do it, Lily! Don't! I wanted to howl, but my tongue wouldn't work right.

"Do you promise?" Lily asked, very quietly.

"On my honor, Evans. Say you'll be my girl and I'll leave the grease spot alone. Just for you, Evans."

"No hexes, no sneak attacks, no nothing," she bargained.

I felt deathly ill. "Lily, stop!" I tried to yell, but my robes muffled my voice and what I said came out garbled.

"Agreed. Your turn."

I finally managed to get the robes off my face. "Lily, don't! Don't do it!"

She looked at me and I could see the dreadful agony in her eyes. Then she turned away.

"Okay, Potter. I'll go out with you. Now let him down."

"Your wish is my command, sweet one," Potter grinned at me triumphantly.

I was suddenly right side up again and set on the ground. "Lily, what have you done?"

"Dumped your sorry arse," Black smirked.

"I'm sorry, Sev," Lily mouthed to me, then she took Potter's arm and walked off towards the castle.

I made as if to go after her, I was sure I could persuade her to change her mind, I wasn't worth sacrificing her happiness for.

Instead I found myself yanked into the air again. "Hey!" I screamed. "You swore you wouldn't hex me!"

"James promised that one," Black sniggered. "I never promised you anything, Snivvy. "

It was true, he hadn't. On occasion, Black could be clever and sneaky, like his Slytherin relatives. I cursed him under my breath and concentrated.

"Who wants to see me take off Snivvy's pants?"

There were more cheers and hoots at that suggestion. I ignored them.

Libracorpus! Libracorpus! Damn it all, why isn't it working? I wondered frantically. I whistled again.

"Trying to imitate a bird, Snivellus?" chortled Pettigrew.

I really hated that little coward.

Then I heard a low snarl.

And some deep barking.

Gabriel had come at last to my whistle. And if I was hearing things right, he had brought Fang with him.

Several jeering kids scattered at the dogs' arrival and I heard Pettigrew yelp and screech, "Ahh-owww! He bit me on the arse! Help! Help! Sirius!"

I grinned to myself. Good boy, Gabe! Bite 'em good and hard! Then I refocused my mind. I knew what I had done wrong now. I had not pronounced the incantation correctly in my head. Liberacorpus!

In a flash I was upright on the ground again, and my wand was ready to hex the Marauders to the dark side of the moon.

It turned out that wasn't necessary.

Fang had Sirius pinned on the ground, and was drooling all over him.

Gabriel had chased Pettigrew halfway back to the castle, nipping and biting him on the bottom and the ankles, like a collie would do to reluctant sheep.

I didn't bother to hide my grin. Then I started to laugh. "Aww, Black! Looks like you're the dog's bollocks, eh? He really has a thing for you. Don't you feel special?"

Sirius was sputtering and gasping. "Snape . . ..get this big mutt off me! Can't breathe!"

"Good. The sooner you belt up, Black, the sooner I'll be happy. Kiss him, Fang!" I gave the big boarhound a hand signal and he started to slobber and lick Black all over. I walked away, laughing my head off. Hagrid would come by . . .eventually, and call Fang off. But in the meantime, Black was Fang's current object of affection and I had seen what he did to his favorite chew toys.

"Snape . . .don't leave me here! Sna-a-a-pe, get him off me!" Black was howling. "Moony, Prongs! Anybody . . .help!"

I kept walking. Black wasn't so brave now, when the shoe was on the other foot.

I found that Gabriel had treed Pettigrew, and torn the seat from his trousers while he was at it. The little rat was begging and crying when I saw him. "P-please, Snape . . .call him off! P-please!"

"Why?" I asked coldly. "Do you forget, you pathetic arsewipe, that you bloody peed on me?"

His eyes bulged. "I'm sorry! It was a joke! Please, call him off! I'm afraid of large dogs!" He started crying hard.

"Deal with it. Gabe, watch him!" I made him stay beneath the tree, ignoring the rat's sobbing. That would teach him to pee on me!

But the one I really needed to speak with was Lily. Lily, who had gone off with that git Potter.

It was evening when I finally found her, down by the lake, I had gone there after calling Gabe off finally and giving him some dinner. I was too sick at heart to eat anything. I had gone there because Gabe had insisted I come with him, dragging me part way by my sleeve.

He frisked up to Lily and licked her as she sat beside the lake, throwing stones into the water. "Hey, Gabe. I missed you," she stroked his elegant head and he sighed happily. That was something my dog and I had in common, we both loved Lily's touch.

I swallowed hard, trying to contain my anger and walked up to her. "Lily. I've been looking for you."

"Sev!" she said, and turned to stare at me. "I thought . . ..after what happened . . .you wouldn't want to speak with me."

"Well, I do. Why did you do that, Lily?" I demanded.

"What else could I do, Sev? I'm so sick of them always picking on us . . .you especially."

"So you agree to go out with that . . ..that swinging dick Potter to protect me?" I half-shouted. "Merlin's arse, Lily! Do I look like I'm five? You're not my mother!"

"No, I'm your friend!" she shouted back. "And I lo—care about you very much! I hate it when they start with you and I thought if I made Potter promise to leave you alone, they'd back off for awhile! I was trying to help you, can't you see that?"

"Sacrificing yourself isn't helping me, Lil!" I argued. "You never should have promised that! I'm not worth it."

"You are!"

"No! Do you know how this looks now? The whole school thinks I'm incapable of protecting myself! I look like a . . .pansy-arse!"

"Better that than getting hexed every other day! I did it for you, Severus Snape! Now just shut up and say thank you!" She dashed away tears.

"No." I shook my head. "I can't thank you for ruining your life. Tell Potter to go to hell and walk away."

"No. I meant what I said. I might not have a pureblood ancestry like you, Severus Tobias Snape, but I keep my promises. If I go back on my word, he'll go back on his."

"Lily, please . . ."

"Don't ask me again, Severus."

"Why do you have to be so stubborn, Evans?"

"Why do you have to be so ungrateful, Snape?"

"Ungrateful!" I exploded. "I never asked for you to interfere!"

"Oh, and was I supposed to stand there and watch them torment you?"

"That would have been better than what you did!"

"Why? Because you had your arse saved by a girl? Is that what's bothering you?"

"No!" That was some of what was irritating me, but I wasn't about to admit it. "What's bothering me is that you've chained yourself to that damn arsehole because of me!"

"What's done is done," she said wearily. "Just accept it, Severus."

But I couldn't. I couldn't stand the fact that she had agreed to allow Potter to . . .claim her because she wanted to help me. I couldn't bear the thought of Potter putting his smarmy hands and lips all over her.

"You should have left me there." I muttered.

She glared at me. "What sort of friend would I be then?"

"The free kind."

"Damn you, Sev!" she snapped, and then she slapped me across the face.

Gabriel barked in protest.

I said nothing, merely turned and walked away. Gabriel rose and followed, clearly upset and confused that the two people he loved were quarreling.

"Severus! I'm sorry!" Lily called. "Come back!"

I had to force myself to continue. I was sorry too. Sorry that she had given up so much for me, who didn't deserve it. I was sorry as well that our friendship had to end. And it was all because I didn't have the guts to learn how to defend myself properly. I had allowed myself to become a victim. Allowed myself to be the Marauders punching bag. But no longer. I knew what I had to do. That night I went to speak with certain older Slytherins who were known to be strong in certain types of magic.

Apparently they had been watching me for awhile and waiting for me to seek them out. They gave me a book to study and told me that I should learn all the spells in it, and that way I wouldn't shame myself and my House any longer by letting Gryffindors humiliate me. I took it and muttered a brief thank you. Lily had been right. I was sick and tired of being tormented. And sick and tired of being too weak to help myself, and causing the girl I loved to make a deal with preening Potter.

I clutched the Book of Night to my chest and hid it under my pillow. There would be time enough to learn its contents tomorrow. I curled up in my bed, Gabriel lying across the foot, and thought that this was possibly the worst day of my entire life.

So there you have it, the beginning of the reason why Lily chose James in this universe. I think it makes more sense this way than what she did in the books. Thanks everyone for reading!
 


Chapter 9: The Great Werewolf Caper
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Term ended and I went back home to Spinner's End. I avoided Lily on the train, sitting alone with Gabriel in his crate at my feet. It was the first time since coming to Hogwarts that I didn't share a compartment with Lily and knowing she was with that arrogant strutting dick Potter made me feel ill. I kept replaying the scene by the lake over and over in my mind, wondering what I could have done differently. But there was nothing else that I could have done to defend myself once Potter and Black had gotten the jump on me. I detested them for their unjust persecution of me, but I also learned a valuable lesson from them—always be prepared. I should have had my wand up my sleeve or in my hand, not lying beside me. I should have also found a better place to study, where no one could sneak up on me without me knowing. I knew better now. The book my fellow Slytherin Amos Mulciber gave me would help me teach those rotten Marauders a lesson. I hoped Potter had a scar on his pretty face from my curse, it would serve him right. Poor Lily! Maybe she would come to her senses over the summer holiday.

Once at home, I released Gabe from his crate and walked him, I found it was rather peaceful being back here again, and the neighbors were all glad to see me and Gabriel and said hello as we walked by. I swung by Lily's house, but was too much of a coward to knock on the door. I went back home, dragging Gabriel, who couldn't understand why we didn't go and visit like usual. He whined until I snapped, "Stop it, we're not going there. She doesn't want to be friends anymore, understand?"

That hurt more than anything, for Lily had been my best friend for years and just when I was starting to look at her as more than that—this had occurred. I was quiet and sullen at supper and told Mum I was tired when she asked what was the matter. I went to bed early and spent some of that time reading The Book of Night.

I knew after the third chapter that this was not a spellbook my mother would want me to read. It was full of "Gray Magic" spells that skirted the line between dark and light, at least what I had read so far. So I determined to keep it a secret from her. I knew deep inside that I shouldn't go down this road, that spells such as this only led to darker magics, but I was angry and hurt and searching for a way to outmaneuver the damn Marauders any way I could. I was too proud to ask for help from my fellow Slytherins, who had scorned me for my friendship with a Muggleborn witch, and yet the incident beside the lake had taught me that I needed stronger spells than I currently knew to make the Marauders keep their distance. I needed spells that would make them fear me, so they would leave me in peace. I also wanted to hurt them as they had hurt me, stealing away my best friend. Well, one of my best friends, I amended, looking at the collie sprawled on my rug.

Nothing and no one could ever take Gabe from me. Except old age and death. I bent down to scratch him behind the ears and he groaned in pleasure. Then I resumed reading.

Three days later, I decided to gather up my courage and go visit Lily. I had planned on persuading her to reconsider going out with Potter, only to discover that she had gone away to stay with her aunt in Liverpool for almost the entire summer. "Didn't she tell you that, Sev?" asked Mrs. Evans kindly. "She received a letter from my sister, who hasn't seen Lily since she was knee-high, and she's Lil's godmother besides. My sister travels constantly and is almost never in Britain. She spent seven years in America and three in Japan and was sorry she missed out on seeing my baby grow up. So she invited Lily for almost the whole summer holiday. I'm surprised she didn't mention it to you on the way home, I sent her the letter a week ago."

"Oh. Well, thanks for telling me. Goodbye."

I left, feeling utterly depressed, and as if Lily had truly cut me out of her life for good. She could have told me she was going away, so I could wish her bon voyage at least. Could Potter have turned her against me so quickly in the week before we left? Or was she trying to spare us both the pain of parting over and over? Whatever her reason, I was very upset and resolved even more to learn those spells in the Book of Night.

I spent the lazy days of July and August trying to master the few beginning spells in the book and couldn't wait to try them out on the Marauders. Some of the spells were designed to scare and intimidate, others to conceal, and the last one was designed to give the target painful leg cramps for three hours. That was one I was dying to try on bloody Pettigrew, and Black too.

I saw Lily at King's Cross Station and waved to her.

She gave me a small smile, but didn't come to say hello, instead she got on the train after Potter and the rest of the Marauders. I ground my teeth together.

The first two weeks of term I spent studying for my classes and using my newfound spells to hide from the Marauders. I still watched Lily from afar, Potter kept his promise, such as it was, and didn't attempt to hex me, but the others, mostly Black and Pettigrew, still stalked me when they could. But once when they tried to ambush me when I was returning from a late night session in the library, I got them good. I used the new curse I had learned and nailed them both.

Then I left them on the floor, crying and gritting their teeth. "Not so tough are you now, without your mate Potter, are you?" I sneered.

"What dark curse did you use, Snape?" demanded Black. "Ahhh! I think I'm crippled for life you bloody git!"

"I wish, you miserable arse. Have a nice night! Better hope Filch doesn't patrol the corridor and find you!" I turned away and as I passed Filch's office on my way to my common room, I left him an anonymous tip. They had done the same to me too many times to count.

Then the next morning, we had our first potions lab of the year, the first two weeks Slughorn had spent reviewing the syllabus and having us collect ingredients. It was then I found out that Lily would no longer be my partner. Slughorn had decided to pair us with different people this year, and he made Lily be Mary McDonald's partner and I got stuck with Lupin! I almost choked. Me, paired with a Marauder! Of course Lupin wasn't as bad as the other three, but still . . .

"If you start anything with me in here, Lupin, or try and sabotage our potion—" I began warningly.

"I won't Snape. It's my grade too, remember? Let's just brew, all right? I'll take the first four steps and you can have the last, they're more complicated and you're better at this than I am."

"Humph! Maybe if you concentrated instead of playing stupid pranks you'd learn something," I said acidly.

Lupin flushed. "I spent hours studying last year and it still wasn't enough. I don't have the skill to memorize hundreds of names and properties of herbs and ingredients and Slughorn figured I'd benefit from watching one of his gifted students at work. That's why he put me with you."

I was somewhat mollified when I heard that, I had never considered myself a role model before. And as long as I was with Lupin, his mates would try anything. Lupin wasn't a bad partner, he did what I told him and didn't make fun of me, but I still didn't enjoy brewing the way I usually did. Lately, nothing I did seemed to make me happy. I was moody and angry almost all the time, and at first I put it down to losing Lily. I never thought to consider another reason.

It was about two months after our first potions lab that I began to observe something off about Lupin. I noticed that he became extremely pale and ill-looking around the full moon, which normally lasted three days. He always missed class and yet the teachers seemed to expect it and never took points and always allowed him extra time to make up the work. I usually allowed him to borrow my notes from potions, since I wanted him to be up to snuff, because I couldn't stomach a lousy brewer. Annoyed me to no end.

Still . . .I couldn't figure out why Lupin got sick around the full moon. And Gabriel got snappish around him during that time and my dog never did that unless there was something amiss. Gabe didn't care for any of the Marauders, but he had never snarled at Potter or Black or Pettigrew unless they were attacking me. When I inquired about Lupin's mysterious absences to my Head, Slughorn told me that Lupin had a chronic illness and to not be a nosey-parker. That really got my curiosity going. What kind of illness did Lupin have that had to be kept secret?

The answer should have been obvious, now that I think back, but at the time, my judgment was clouded. I was instantly suspicious. I tried doing some research on my own, but no wizard disease listed in the library fit his symptoms. In November, the full moon came early, and I was all set to do some covert spying. Since the Cramping Curse, Black and Pettigrew had mostly avoided me, except for calling me rude names across the Quidditch pitch and throwing various rotten fruits at me during lunch and other stupid things. Sixteen years old and they acted like they were nine!

The full moon was only a day away, and I had plans to conceal myself beside the Gryffindor portrait hole and see where Lupin went during that time, or if he went anywhere, since he was sick he might just stay in bed. That was when an unfamiliar owl approached me with a note. I opened it, and found it was almost illegible because of several large water spots.

Sev,

Please forgive me. You were right. I can't stand being with Potter any longer. We need to talk. Please meet me by the Whomping Willow at eleven o'clock tomorrow night.

Always,

Lily

My heart leapt with joy and I clutched the letter to me as if it were a precious gem. Gabriel looked up from his spot on the foot of my bed and whined. I suppose he thought my reaction very strange , I was practically walking on air.

I knew she would come to her senses. Tomorrow night couldn't come quick enough.

June 15th, 1993:

I still can't sleep, despite the early hour, and it's probably because the memories I have bottled up inside me are not ones conducive to sleeping. For what followed was a very dark time in my life, and it all began with the Great Werewolf Prank, as I have come to call it.

November 20th, 1976:

The note was not, of course, from Lily at all. It was a decoy, written by Black and Potter, to lure me to the Whomping Willow and once I was there, they cast a Voice Mimic charm and made me think Lily was trapped beneath the willow and hurt.

I never even thought it could be a trap, all I knew was that Lily needed me and I had to help her. So, without thinking I rushed into the opening beneath the tree and down the tunnel leading to . . .the Shrieking Shack. Gabriel had accompanied me, and he went crazy when I went down there, barking fit to wake the dead. Before I could order him to stay, he had followed me down the tunnel.

I could still hear Lily's voice, more frantic now, yelling, "Help! Severus, are you there? Please help me!"

"I'm coming, Lily!" I called.

But then Gabriel grabbed the back of my robes and tugged backwards, nearly making me fall. He was growling urgently. "Gabriel! Let me go, you bloody dog!" I shouted. "I have to save her!"

I struggled with my eighty-five pound collie, and heard my robes tear as I did so. I swore angrily. "Goddammit, Gabriel!"

I was just about to tear free from my dog when I heard Potter's voice behind me. "Snape! Don't open that door!" He grabbed my arm.

"Get off, Potter!" I snarled. "What have you done with Lily? Is this some kind of sick joke?"

He hung onto me. "That's not Lily in there, Snape! That was all a prank to get you to come down here, but—"

"You blithering idiot! Just what in hell's name is in there if not Lily?" Between my collie and Potter I felt like a rope bone. One whose patience was slowly unraveling.

"I can't tell you that, Snape. But it's dangerous, now come away."

"You're lying, Potter! You just want to make a fool of me, like always! Well, not this time! Get . . .off . . .of . . .me!" I managed to pull free just as something heavy slammed into the wooden door inches from my hand.

The wood started to splinter, whatever was in there was bloody strong. Then I heard it . . .the chilling dreadful howl . . .it is a sound that once heard, can never be forgotten. Think of all the creepy stories you have heard about wolves howling and then multiply that a hundredfold. That is a werewolf's howl, it freezes the veins in your blood. And I was right next to the door when Lupin howled and so the full force of the howl slammed into me.

"Snape! Hurry! He's breaking free!" Potter screamed, trying to haul me backwards.

I was rigid with terror for a few moments. Gabriel suddenly released my robes and came to stand in front of me, his head down and snarling furiously.

Potter dragged me backwards down the tunnel just as the top of the door was smashed to pieces and a huge gray slavering monster emerged from the room, eyes burning red with the need to rend, tear, and kill.

And my collie was right in its path.

For some reason, the sight of my dog facing death on four legs removed the paralyzing fear from my limbs. "Gabriel! NO!"

But my dog refused to run, even though he probably knew the monster he faced could kill him. He faced the beast and snapped at its hairy paws, managing to bite it hard.

The werewolf howled and swatted my dog, claws slashing and knocked my valiant collie across the tunnel. He hit the ground hard and lay still.

Potter still had hold of me by the back of my robes and I screamed, "Arsehole, let me go! I have to get my dog!"

"You nutters, Snape? In case you haven't noticed, that's a werewolf down there!" Potter yelled, and kept trying to pull me away.

I dug in my heels. "I don't care! I'm not leaving my dog to die!"

"He's probably already dead, Snape!"

I ignored him and shrugged free of my robe, leaving him holding it, I raced down and cast a Featherlight Charm on my collie. Then I picked him up and ran like hell up the tunnel. Potter followed and did something to the tree that caused the tunnel to seal itself and the willow to start thumping its branches again.

I was panting and sick with terror. I had figured out Lupin's secret, I realized then. Now it made sense. Lupin was cursed, not ill. I cradled Gabriel to my chest, I could feel his heart still beating beneath my fingers. He was bleeding badly from four parallel lacerations across his shoulder and side. Could a dog become a werewolf? I knew that it was a werewolf's bite which passed on the curse, but what about the claws? I had to get to Hagrid, fast.

"Snape, you're insane—risking your life for a bloody dog that way—" Potter began.

I whirled on him, practically spitting my words. "Shut your bloody gob, Potter! What are you playing at? If my dog dies—" I shuddered even thinking about it. "I'm going to hunt you down and nail your arse to a wall—you and your little friends Black and Pettigrew—I know they're involved in this too, don't deny it!"

"Look, Snape, it was an accident . . ." Potter began.

"Fuck off, Potter!" I turned and walked away, I couldn't trust my temper right then.

"I saved your life, Snivellus, you greasy git!" he shouted after me.

"After you put me in danger first, you bloody prick! Thanks for nothing!" I called over my shoulder.

I started to run towards Hagrid's, and half broke down the door in my haste.

"Hagrid! Open the door, it's me, Severus!"

Fang started howling and soon the door was thrown open.

"Severus? What's wrong, lad?"

"Gabriel . . .he . . ." I couldn't finish, my throat closed up. "Please, help him!"

Hagrid led me into his home, and directed me to put my dog on Fang's big dog bed. Gabriel was still unconscious and his blood had soaked into my uniform. "What happened, Sev?"

"He . . .got clawed by a . . .werewolf . . ." I gasped.

"Werewolf . . .not Remus Lupin . . .!"

"You knew?" I cried.

"'Course I did. All the staff knows about him, Dumbledore told us first day of your first year. Had to. But how did you find out?" He knelt and applied a potion to stop the bleeding, then used a magically sharp razor to shave the fur away from the slashes, making them easier to treat.

I told him everything. Then I asked, dread in my tone, "Hagrid can . . .can dogs contract lycanthropy?" I didn't want to know the answer, but at the same time I couldn't bear not to know.

"Ahh . . .I don't think so, Severus. Least I never heard of it." Hagrid said.

"It's contracted through saliva, right? That's why they say if you're bitten by a werewolf you can get the curse, right?"

"Yeah, that's about right." Hagrid agreed.

"But Gabriel was clawed, so that should mean he won't get it. Claws aren't the same as fangs."

"Yeah. And he did bleed a fair bit too, so that should clean out the wounds some," Hagrid said. He felt over my collie's skull with expert gentle fingers. "Took a nasty knock on the head, though. Fetch me some Bone Mend on my shelf, Sev. He might have a cracked noggin."

Bone Mend was safe to give dogs, Skele-Gro was not. I quickly fetched it and we poured it slowly down the unconscious dog's throat, and then did the same with a Pain Reliever. I helped Hagrid swab out the scratches and put a Wound Cleansing Paste upon them. Then I wrapped a clean white bandage about him.

Then I sat by him, numb with shock and fear. I fell asleep there, not caring that I should go back to the castle. All that mattered was that my dog should live. Tomorrow was a Hogsmeade weekend, something I normally looked forward to, but not then.

Gabriel woke around the early morning, I gave him some water and took him outside, then when he came in, I took his temperature using magic, I had learned that spell from Madam Pomfrey, it was certainly more comfortable than the way a Muggle vet took a dog's temperature!

I found he was running a high fever and he just lay there on Fang's dog bed, all woozy and panting. Fang was snoring on the other side. I quickly found a bottle of a Fever Reducer made for animals and gave him two spoonfuls mixed with a beef paste so he would swallow it easily. Afterwards, he just slept, and I remained beside him, stroking his fur.

"Get well, Gabriel. Please get well!" I pleaded, I fell asleep there next to him.

When I woke I was in a large bed, and realized it was Hagrid's.

But Gabriel was very sick from the werewolf injuries. A werewolf's claws might not transmit the bite, but they were very dirty and full of germs, and Gabriel's shoulder became infected. It took Hagrid and I two days to bring down the fever and defeat the infection, I brewed nonstop and once I was satisfied my dog would live, I told Hagrid that I was reporting the Marauders to the Headmaster.

"But Severus, no one's supposed ta know about Remus!"

"Too late for that, Hagrid." I said with a sharp laugh. "The cat—or wolf—is out of the bag."

This time the Marauders had gone too far. Surely Dumbledore would realize this now and expel them?

I had almost died and worse, so had my dog.

But things didn't work out that way. The Headmaster seemed more concerned that I not blab Lupin's secret than the fact that a stupid prank had nearly cost me and Gabe our lives. He made me promise not to tell anyone what I knew.

McGonagall happened to come into the office during that time and to my everlasting shock she stood up for me. "Albus, you cannot let them off with a slap on the wrist! Not for this! This was no mere prank, this could have cost young Severus his life! Not to mention the life of that wonderful collie!"

"I understand, Minerva, but I cannot expel them, nor can I allow Severus to reveal what really happened that night. Besides, James did pull Severus away from the door. Clearly no harm was meant."

I gaped at him and thought he was seriously mental.

"No harm?" cried McGonagall, she was furious. "They lured a boy into a dangerous situation for no reason! That isn't what I would call no harm!" Her mouth firmed. "You indulge them too much. I want your permission, Albus, to give me leave to discipline them as I see fit. They are my House."

Dumbledore looked up at her, his eyes grave. "Very well, Minerva. You do have charge of them."

She gave him a nod. Then she turned to me. "You have my apologies, Mr. Snape. They did not behave like Gryffindors, they behaved like . . .like hoodlums. I do hope your dog shall be all right. He's in good hands though, with Hagrid. I've seen him nurse a half-dead Pegasus back to health. I shall stop by later to see how he's getting on. Right now, I have some miscreants to punish."

She sailed out of the room, looking like she was going to take strips from them. She had always had a soft spot for my dog, saying Gabriel reminded her of her Jock, and giving me treats for him.

Later, Minerva did stop by and see Gabriel, and while she knelt and stroked his head, she told me that I would be receiving four written apologies from the Marauders, including Remus, who felt terrible and wanted to write one as well. She also told me she had taken a cane to Potter, Black, and Pettigrew for their detestable behavior, giving them ten each, as had been done when she was a girl. "I felt they deserved more than just lines, or scrubbing toilets, and all the normal detentions seem to have no effect on them, so maybe this one might."

At first I felt happy that they had finally gotten what they deserved, but after a moment or two I found myself just wishing my dog would get better soon and not giving a damn about the Marauders. McGonagall had tea with Hagrid and me, and I thanked her for punishing the Marauders properly. She bent and petted my dog before leaving and Gabriel woke and licked her hand.

"There's a good dog!" she crooned. "I'll bring ye a nice bone tomorrow, shall I? Would you like that, you big beastie?"

Gabe wagged his tail and gave a sort of half bark.

My teacher smiled and said, "Mind you return to your dorm tonight, Severus Snape, else your Head will be forced to take points."

Hagrid said he would help me carry Gabe up to my room that evening. I was rather upset that Lily didn't even come and see how Gabe was doing, when all of a sudden there was a knock at the door and when Hagrid opened it, there was Lily. "Severus, I just met McGonagall coming back and she told me Gabe had been injured! Is he going to be all right?"

Her green eyes were full of compassion and she went and knelt on the floor and hugged my collie. "Poor Gabe! Poor brave dog!"

I was happy to see her, and for awhile I said nothing, content to just be in the same room with her.

"How . . .what happened? Did he get hurt fighting off a wild beast?" she asked.

"You could say that," I told her, wishing I could tell her the truth. But I was bound by my promise. "He got an infection in his shoulder and he nearly died."

"Oh, Sev! I'm so sorry . . ."

I touched her on the shoulder. "Lily, dump James the jerk and let's be friends again."

But she shook her head. "Severus, we've been through this. I can't go back on my word."

"Why not? He went back on his!" I snarled. "Or didn't you know that the Marauders were responsible for me nearly dying and Gabriel as well that night!"

"James said he tried to stop you from going into the Forest," Lily began.

"He got cold feet but don't let him fool you. He was in on it too." I said sharply.

"Severus, being with him is the only way I can protect you."

"I can take care of myself, Lily!"

"Can you?" She sighed. Then she rose to her feet. "I have to run. Take care, Sev. Bye, Gaby! Hope you feel better soon!"

Lily, what the hell happened to you? I wondered sadly as I petted my collie. I never ever asked you to do anything for me.

I couldn't understand how she could tolerate them, because except for Remus, I hated them all.

June 15th, 1993:

Behind me, I heard Lily stir.

"Sev? What are you doing up? Are you sick?"

"No. I just couldn't sleep so I was writing down some memories," I answered.

"Oh. Hope they were good ones. Come back to bed, love. I'm cold." She patted the bed invitingly.

I smiled and pretended reluctance, setting my quill down. "Is that all I'm good for? A bedwarmer?"

She chuckled, low and sultry. "Among other things."

I did as she asked and slipped back beneath the sheets, snuggling next to her. Before I knew it, we were kissing and that in turn led to other things, and I fell asleep afterward finally, content and happy, and slept until breakfast time. Oh, how I loved when Lily came home!

So, how did you like Minerva's interference? I know it probably wasn't enough for some of you but she did what she could.

Next: Severus reveals how but for a dog, he would have become ensnared by dark magic.
 


Chapter 10: But For A Dog
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June 18th, 1993:

The next few days were wonderful. Lily was home with us, and now our small family was complete. But for Gabriel. I had thought, though not very hard, about getting another dog. But writing my memoirs of Gabriel made me remember him even more, and that in turn made me adamant about never getting another one, because another dog, even a collie, couldn't replace Gabriel. When Lily was home, I made waffles and pancakes, instead of just eggs and bacon, or sausage and potato scrambles. She always said she couldn't wait to come home and eat a decent meal again, because when she was on assignment, she sometimes didn't eat more than a sandwich the whole day, depending on where she was. She also claimed my cooking was as good as professional chef's, but I laughed at her. I was no gourmet cook, I liked simple fare, though give me a recipe and I could make whatever it was. In that, cooking was the same as potions.

After breakfast, Lily said she had something to show me in the yard, and Harry said he was going to study in his room. I followed my wife outside across the backyard, she led me to the large oak tree where Gabriel used to lay on sunny evenings. Beneath the shaded branches was a memorial stone of white marble. Etched into it was a photo of my beloved dog, in color. It was not a wizard photo, so it did not move, but it was a beautiful picture. Underneath was the following inscription:

Tribute To A Best Friend

Sunlight streams through window pane
unto a spot on the floor...
then I remember,
it's where you used to lie,
but now you are no more.
Our feet walk down a hall of carpet,
and muted echoes sound...
then I remember,
It's where your paws would joyously abound.
A voice is heard along the road,
and up beyond the hill,
then I remember it can't be yours...
your golden voice is still.
But I'll take that vacant spot of floor
and empty muted hall
and lay them with the absent voice
and unused dish along the wall.
I'll wrap these treasured memorials
in a blanket of my love
and keep them for my best friend
until we meet above.


Beneath that was Gabriel's name and the dates of his birth and death. Around the stone were planted flowers, lilies, marigolds, tulips, all the flowers Gabe used to like to dig up in Lily's garden.

"I thought . . .I thought you might like to have a memorial here, so that when you come out by the herb garden to gather ingredients you could look at it and remember how he used to follow you . . ." Lily said, putting her arm about my waist, her eyes misty.

"Did you . . .write that?" I asked, my voice a bit hoarse.

She shook her head. "I'm no poet, Sev. I went to the library and found that in a book. I thought it described you and him perfectly. But I did charm the photograph on there and the poem as well. Do you like it?"

I nodded, swallowing hard. "Yes. It's very fitting." I pointed to the flowers. "He would have loved digging up those."

"I know. The wretch!" But she said it with a smile. "Oh, Sev. I'd plant an entire field and let him dig it up if only he could be here now. He was the one who brought us back together, if not for him I might have walked away that day and never had the courage to stay . . ."

"I know. He saved us both from our own stupidity," I said feelingly, then I wrapped my arm about her and held her close. "There are times when . . .I almost think he's watching over us . . .like the angel he was named for . . ." Then I snorted self-deprecatingly. "But whoever heard of a guardian angel dog?"

"Angels come in many forms, Sev."

"True. And I'm holding one right here," I whispered in her ear.

Now she snorted. "Right. I'm no angel, Sev, merely a mortal witch. Unless you mean the fallen kind, because I've made too many mistakes to be counted holy and blessed."

"You and I both. But for a dog, there by the grace of God go I, a dark wizard," I admitted.

Lily looked stricken. "I'm so sorry, Sev. If I hadn't agreed to Dumbledore's plan, if I had just spoken to you before assuming you really had turned dark instead of allowing James to sway me, things might have been different."

I put a finger to her lips. "What's done is done, Lily. No sense in crying over a spilled potion now. If you hadn't been with Potter, you would have never had Harry."

"He's what made it all worth it. I'll never regret that." She looked up at me then, her green eyes luminous with tears. "Sev, how did he save you from the dark? I've always wondered, but was afraid to ask."

I was silent for a few moments, gathering my thoughts, and then I told her.

March, 1978

Hogwarts:

It was one of the coldest Marches anyone could remember, and all of us students were bundled up in our warmest clothes beneath our robes and had Warming Charms cast on our hands and feet. There was still a slick of snow along the sides of the castle, and the path down to the greenhouse was icy. Everyone grumbled and complained about the cold snap, and the only ones who didn't seem to mind the frost lingering were my collie and Hagrid, who seemed immune to the cold.

As for me, I felt the cold keenly, both without and within. I had turned seventeen that January, and was officially an adult according to the wizarding world, free to cast spells without worrying about being monitored by the Ministry outside of class. Since the werewolf incident, I had not seen or spoken with Lily, not even over the summer, as her father had gotten a transfer and they had moved to Surrey, far away from Manchester. The first I knew of it was when the moving lorry had pulled up beside their house and I watched, stunned, like a bystander watches a fatal car crash, as the Evans loaded their belongings into it and then followed it slowly down the road. I was crushed. Lily had not even come to say goodbye.

I turned to stroke Gabriel, my heart torn up within me, and then I saw Cosmic winging his way towards me. In his beak was a letter. It was from Lily. She wrote that she was sorry she didn't get to tell me goodbye in person, but her father insisted they had to make it to the train, and there was no time. She also wrote that she regretted having to keep her distance from me at school, but there was a reason for it that someday she would explain. I was so angry that I crumpled the letter and threw it on the floor. What possible reason could she have for avoiding me except that she no longer wished to be seen with me? That she had gone over to Potter's side like so many others?

Lately I found myself always on edge, always angry and irritable. At first I put it down to losing Lily, for even when term started again, Lily did not come and explain anything to me, and I refused to go to her, allowing my foolish pride to keep me solitary. Nothing I did gave me any pleasure, not even brewing potions could put a smile on my face, I worked extra hours in the dungeons helping Slughorn, and once or twice he asked if there was something bothering me, but all I said was, "No, sir. I'm fine."

Truth was, there was something bothering me, but it was nothing I could discuss with a teacher. Since the incident by the lake after our OWLS, I had been studying the Book of Night. I had found that though the first part of the book dealt with Gray Magic spells, those that skirted the border between light and dark, the second part were spells of dark magic. Not as dark as the Unofrgivables, which I knew several of my Housemates had learned, but unpleasant nasty charms and hexes, things that might make Potter and his gang keep their distance. I studied them diligently, but oddly had never used them yet, since the Marauders had been keeping away from me, and we had only exchanged insults thus far.

A few members of my House expressed approval now that I was no longer hanging about that Mudblood chick, as they referred to any Muggleborn, and I said nothing and walked away. I didn't dare admit to them that I still had feelings for Lily, they would never understand. Even I didn't understand why I still loved her, when she had abandoned me for my old rival. There is no fathoming a heart in love. Now there was talk in the common room of You-Know-Who mounting an offensive against the Ministry, and how some of the Slytherins whose family was loyal to him were going to assist him. Tensions were running high now, and more and more dark supporters were coming out, and those who hadn't declared were keeping themselves low and quiet.

I might have done the same, except for the fact that I was openly studying the Book of Night and the Death Eater cadre knew it. Avery even asked me what new spells I had learned from it, and I told him a few. I hadn't cast any of them, but I didn't let him know that. Still, the mere reading of the book was slowly corrupting me, but I didn't know that at the time.

Now, of course, I know better. Dark magic is seductive, it whispers to the dark part of your mind, and encourages negative emotions like anger, bitterness, distrust, jealousy, and hate. It calls such emotions to the fore, but not all at once. The dark magic is sly and creeps up on you unaware. It poisons your spirit bit by bit, until it consumes you. And all it takes is a single decision to learn a spell, and then it's almost an addiction. Before you know it, you've memorized another and another, and with each one you fall deeper and deeper into darkness.

I grew cold and hard and didn't even realize what was happening to me. But I was changing, and not for the better. I was quicker to take offense, quicker to unleash my temper or tongue, and quicker to raise my wand. Things that I would have shrugged off before now irked the hell out of me. Fang, who used to bound up to me and lick me, now walked stiff-legged away from me, the way a dog will when he smells something that might be a threat.

Mrs. Norris, Filch the caretaker's tabby, hissed and lashed her tail when she saw me, then she ran away.

Gabriel whimpered and looked at me strangely now, and whenever I took out the Book of Night and started to read it, he snarled and tried to yank the book out of my hand. "Stop it!" I scolded, but he didn't look the least bit sorry. "You know better, damn it!"

He did, but he hated that book with a passion. Which should have told me something. But I had stopped listening to my conscience. And trusting my dog.

It was then that Mulciber came to me and asked if I would be willing to join him and some others and swear allegiance to the Dark Lord, as they called Voldemort. They promised that I would be an asset, that Voldemort would appreciate my skills with potions and I would never need fear any band of Marauders again. "You will have power beyond your wildest imaginings, Snape. And all you have to do is swear yourself to Voldemort and take the Mark," Mulciber told me.

Gabriel was lying in a corner and he woke up and snarled softly at the bigger Slytherin. My collie had taken to none of my new "friends", in fact he downright despised them.

Mulciber kicked at him. "Oh, and lose the bloody dog. Stupid mutt!"

"He's not," I said automatically.

"Get rid of him, Snape. A real follower of the Dark One doesn't need a dumb dog trailing him all over. Give me your answer in three days." After that, he left.

Gabriel had half-risen, all his fur abristle, growling angrily.

"Lay down!" I snapped. "Why'd you have to go and growl at him like that, huh? Sometimes you're more trouble than you're worth."

I didn't know what to do now. I didn't want to give up my dog. He was all I had left that I still cared about. I wasn't sure if I wanted to join the Death Eaters. I had only started studying the darker magics to defend myself, not for any real desire for power, like the rest of them. I didn't really hate Muggleborns or blood traitors. All I wanted was for the bloody Marauders to leave me the hell alone, and be able to kick anyone's arse that started with me.

I wished I knew of a spell to make Lily come back to me, but all the spells in the Book of Night were those which compelled a person to do your bidding, and I didn't want to mess with Lily's head that way. I just wanted her back, the way it was before, just the three of us.

I pulled the dark spellbook out from beneath my pillow and flipped to the page I'd been studying last night, which was a charm to make food turn sour in people's stomach and make them puke until they passed out. I would have loved to use that on Pettigrew.

Gabriel grabbed my sleeve and tugged hard, growling.

"Quit that and go lay down!" I frowned at him.

Gabriel ignored my command, and he never did that. Instead he remained, looking at me, his head resting on the mattress, brown eyes peering at me worriedly.

I ignored him, turning back to my book.

Until he heaved himself up on the bed and picked up the Book of Night in his mouth and jumped off the bed.

"Hey! Gabriel, no! Bad dog!" I shouted, rolling over and getting to my feet.

Gabriel backed away, my book still in his mouth, drooling and slobbering all over the pages.

I was furious. "Drop it! Right bloody now!" I started forward, intending to wrench the book from his mouth.

But as my hand drew nearer, my dog did something he had never done in all his life.

He growled at me.

Ears flat against his head, head lowered, he was threatening me.

"You mangy mutt! How dare you?" I yelled, in a towering rage. "You bloody ungrateful beast! Maybe I should get rid of you!"

My temper overwhelmed me and I did something to this day I regret.

I raised my hand and smacked my loyal collie hard on the rump, making him yelp.

But he didn't cringe or back away. He also didn't release the book.

We both froze.

I stared at my hand, which stung, and was half raised for another blow. What had I done? How could I have lashed out at my dog, my faithful friend, who had always been there for me? I slowly lowered it to my side. I felt shame and sickness in the pit of my stomach. I had struck my dog out of senseless anger, much as Tobias had struck me on occasion. I stared down at my feet, recalling how violent my father used to get, and how scared I used to be, and how one minute he would be teasing me and the next smacking me around because I got cheeky. I could still hear the echo of his hand slapping me . . .and then I heard the same sound repeating itself in my head, followed by Gabriel's yelp of pain.

I spun around, hugging myself, and came face to face with the mirror in the corner of my room.

The face looking back at me was sallow and bony, stringy hair falling over eyes black as coal, eyes that seemed to reflect all the anger and bitterness within me. I stared into the mirror and for the first time in a long time, I took a good look at what I had become.

"When the hell did I become my father?" I whispered in horror. "That's not me. It can't be me."

Yet it was.

When had I become this cold, hard, angry young man? One who read books of dark magic and invented dark curses and allowed people like Mulciber and Avery to call me friend? When had I started detesting everyone and not caring about anything except learning more dark spells? And when had I become the sort of person who could abuse a loyal animal, my familiar, my best friend?

I covered my face with my hands, unable to bear seeing myself.

I had become what I had feared the most.

A man like my father . . . .a wizard like the stereotypical Slytherin, dark and cold.

"No . . ." I groaned, feeling as if I had been stabbed in the stomach and was slowly bleeding to death. "No . . ."

My mother would be ashamed of what I had become, she would disown me, and I would deserve it. I didn't even want to know what Lily would think.

When had this happened? Why had this happened?

I heard a thump, but did not lift my head. I sank to the floor, curled up, my head still in my hands.

Then I felt a soft tongue licking me.

Licking my cheek.

I dropped my hands and stared directly into the eyes of my dog.

And I saw no resentment, no anger in the deep brown eyes, even though I had treated him terribly. There was only forgiveness.

"I'm sorry . . .!" I said thickly. "I didn't mean to, Gabe. I'm sorry . . .I don't know what the hell is wrong with me . . .I'm all screwed up . . .I don't even know what I'm doing anymore . . ."

He licked me again and suddenly I threw my arms about him and hugged him, burying my face in his ruff. Then I did something I hadn't done since I was about eleven. I cried.

I don't know how long I remained there, mumbling apologies and promising to never hit him again, but finally I felt my back getting stiff and I sat up, releasing my patient dog, who forgave me for being a total arsehole to him, because a dog's heart is bigger than a human's, and dogs don't hold grudges.

As I shifted position, my eyes fell upon the object that had started it all.

The Book of Night.

My hands itched to touch it, to run my fingers across the crackling pages, to read the spells within.

It called to me, whispering sweet promises in my ear.

I gritted my teeth and spat on the floor.

I turned and grabbed up a cloth from my desk and picked up the book. I almost hurled it into the fire, but I stopped myself. The book was not mine, I had borrowed it from Mulciber. Losing it would look suspicious, and if there was one thing I had learned while accompanying the Death Eater faction was drawing down suspicion was a dangerous thing. They didn't tolerate anyone who didn't believe what they believed, or who acted differently. They had barely tolerated me before, when I was friends with Lily. In fact, they had admitted to me that they had allowed the Marauders to beat me up in hopes that it would teach me a lesson about hanging around Mudbloods.

It had made me both hate and fear them.

Clutching the Book of Night in my hand, I went and dumped it in the very bottom of my trunk, and then covered it with some old robes I had outgrown this past month, as I had suddenly gotten a growth spurt and shot up like a weed. The temptation was still there, but I found myself resisting it. I shut the lid and locked the trunk, determined to free myself of this black compulsion. I would not become like my father, hated and feared and the sort of man who could kick a dog in a temper. I would not fulfill the Marauders expectations of me and become a dark wizard like so many others in my House. I would not betray my mother's teachings.

But most importantly of all, I would not betray the one creature who loved me unconditionally.

Nor would I ever give him up.

Not for anything.

I sat down on my bed, shaking and shivering, feeling as if I had a fever.

I had come so close . . .so very close . . .to traveling the road to ruin and destruction. And the worst thing was that I had barely noticed how I had begun to change. But for a dog, I might not have noticed until it was too late.

I patted the bed and Gabe jumped up and sat next to me. I leaned against him, my hands stroking his beautiful wise head. "Thank you, Gabriel. Thank you so very much. I don't deserve you. I really don't."

He nudged me with his nose and swiped me across the face again with his tongue. Don't be daft, Sev! Friendship isn't about deserving, it's about loyalty and love, and I will always love you.

If he could talk, I swear that's what he would have said.

I heaved a huge sigh. Now that I had pulled myself back from the edge of the abyss . . .or been dragged back by the skin of my teeth, I had to decide how to handle myself with the Death Eater faction. I couldn't just suddenly walk away and declare my allegiance to the other side. Then I would have enemies on both fronts, a fatal combination. No, I had to be sly and cunning, and that meant acting like I was still considering their offer.

Then there was Gabriel. For one instant I thought about sending him back home to Mum.

But my courage failed me. I needed him here.

"There has to be another way. But what?" I asked myself aloud. "I wish bloody Mulciber would forget he ever asked me anything."

Then I started to laugh softly. "Merlin, but I'm such an idiot! I can make him forget by casting a Memory Charm on him. Problem solved."

I had only a few more months left of school, and then I could go home and sign up for classes at the Academy of Potioneers, which was near Oxford University. Once I had completed those I would be a Master in my field and able to teach or brew in the apothecary that my mother now owned. Her boss had passed away recently, and had left the shop to her, because he had no children and he knew she loved it. She had renamed it E S's Solutions—an apothecary for all seasons. It was thriving, as my mother offered discounts her boss never had, especially to students and teachers.

And for the first time since the Book of Night came into my possession, I felt as if I had a future to look forward to.

One that did not contain blood, death, and tears.

All because of a dog.

June 18, 1993:

"So, now you know," I finished.

Lily hugged me. "Oh, Sev. If he were here now, I would give him the biggest bone ever and let him shed all over my best robes. He really was a remarkable dog."

"And a remarkable friend," I said.

"A much better one than I was to you back then," Lily said.

I sighed. "Lily, please. Let sleeping dogs lie and just enjoy the afternoon." For it was now early afternoon, it had taken the rest of the morning to tell Lily my story, but I knew she would never forget it. Anymore than I would.

But for a dog, my life would have taken a very dark road . . .and who knows what would have become of me? I would have most likely ended up dead, or in Azkaban, or a bitter lonely man. Strange, how one act of forgiveness, one animal's love, can mean the difference between darkness and light.


Next: After leaving Hogwarts, Severus goes to work in the family business, and he and Lily meet again, and he learns a startling fact. Plus more Sev, Harry, and Lily bonding.


 


Chapter 11: Eyes and Ears
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Snape's Journal

June 21, 1993:

That night we all went over my mother's flat to celebrate her birthday. She was fifty-three, middle-aged as Muggles measure time, but still young for a witch, who could sometimes live into the hundreds. She had me when she was twenty, but after that could bear no more children, a fact which I think relieved her and irritated my father, who wanted another son to replace me, since he thought I was a disappointment. I think Mum was relieved because we had barely enough money to support three, never mind four, and she didn't want another child exposed to the poverty and abuse like I had been. There were times that I wished I had a sibling to share things with, but other times when I was glad it had just been my mother and me.

Lily and I had made Mum a special dinner, her favorite chicken and dumplings over mashed potatoes and fresh bread with butter. Harry had baked his grandmother a special cake, gingerbread spice, with cream cheese icing. Lily helped with the icing, but Harry made the cake himself, two layers, and did the writing too.

Mum lived in the flat above her apothecary, so she never had far to go to open the shop. There were three levels to the building. The basement, which had her lab and storage for potions, the ground floor, which had the shop and exam rooms, since an apothecary was also a kind of Healer, though one who healed with potions and elixirs, not spells. Those who were not well off usually brought themselves and their children to an apothecary because apothecaries tended not to charge exorbitant fees like some private Healers did.

"Harry, you did a wonderful job on my cake." Mum praised her grandson. "Did you make it the Muggle or wizard way?"

"Muggle, because I don't know how to do it the other way," Harry answered, smiling. "Would you like to cut the first piece, Gran?"

While Eileen did the honors, I made coffee and tea, then we all sat down and ate a piece of cake and drank whatever beverage we preferred. She had already opened her gifts, a new aquamarine summer-weight cloak lined with green satin from me, a pretty Celtic horse brooch inlaid with beryls from Lily, and Harry had bought her a box of her favorite sweets and the book The Apothecary Bible with his own money. He received an allowance for doing chores and helping me mark papers and also did odd jobs around the neighborhood. That way he learned responsibility and how to save his money for something special.

We all praised Harry, the cake was delicious, and then my son asked if we could play the Eye-Mind Game. It was a memory game created by Specs to keep their memory sharp and honed, and able to look at a room and remember all the things in their exact place the first time, so in case some key evidence was moved, they would know of it. It also trained them to be keen observers of details, which was vital for a spy. It was played using seven items—a ball, a cup, a needle, a glove, a fake wand or stick, a comb, and a coin. The items were then scattered about the room by the Placer, while the participants closed their eyes and counted to one hundred. Then the players opened their eyes and looked about the room, locating all the items. They had five minutes to memorize all the items before they had to shut their eyes again and the Placer moved everything around. Then they could open their eyes and had to find all the items and say where they had been previously, and were timed. The first person who found all the items and where they had been before won.

Usually, when we played, Lily was the Placer, claiming it wasn't fair for her to play against me or Harry since she had been trained to be a superb observer. "I have an unfair advantage," she said. But on Mum's birthday we all played, even Lily, and for one round I was the Placer, and Lily, Eileen, and Harry competed with each other.

To Harry's shock, his grandmother won. "Wow, Gram! I didn't know you were that good at this game."

Lily chuckled. "Harry, didn't you know your grandmother was once a spy like me?"

Harry stared at Eileen, his eyes wide. "You were? I never knew that!"

"That was a long time ago, Harry. Before you were born, when Voldemort rose to power the first time, I was a member of the secret Eyes and Ears group . . .ordinary citizens who kept their eyes and ears open and passed on anything useful we overheard about Voldemort and his Death Eaters to the Aurors."

"Were you a member too, Mum?"

"No, for I was a Special Auror trainee. But your father was Eileen's Keeper."

"What's that?"

"It means that I was your gran's backup, in case anything happened to her, I had documents of all she had overheard or seen, kept safe and hidden away. There were always pairs in the Eyes and Ears, because you had two eyes and two ears and you never knew what could happen back then . . ."

August, 1979:

After I finished school, I got my certification as an Advanced Potioneer, or a Master of Potions. That was the easy part. I then apprenticed to my mother, as her assistant apothecary, and that was the hard part. My mother was a strict taskmistress, she was a perfectionist when it came to her potion making. I suppose she had to be, since a misbrewed potion could result in a patient or customer dying. What that meant for me was that I had to brew each draft correctly the first time, or else risk the lash of her tongue. Luckily I was very good at potions and rarely made stupid mistakes when brewing. I say rarely, because everyone makes stupid mistakes and I was not infallible.

But I loved potions and so made an effort to do my best every time I brewed something. It was a matter of both necessity and pride. And after Lily had moved away, potions were what I lived for. That and my mother and dog were what mattered most to me. We brewed twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, spent Friday shopping or gathering ingredients and the rest of the week seeing patients and dispensing potions or serving customers in the shop. My mother usually saw patients, though I would watch and she soon had me diagnosing minor ailments and fixing up lacerations and bruises. It was something I needed to be proficient at if I were going to be a good apothecary. The apothecary was closed on Sunday and only open half a day on Saturday.

Mum paid me a standard wage, such as any apprentice might expect, plus bonuses around holidays and commission if I sold some of the really rare potion ingredients, like basilisk teeth or dragon's blood. While I worked, Gabe could be found lying either behind the counter asleep, or sitting in front of it greeting people with a wag of his tail and a lick. He soon became a favorite with people, especially small children, who loved to pet him, pull his ears and hug him. Thank goodness Gabe tolerated the little tykes, he never moved, even when they hurt him. Not once did he ever growl or show his teeth.

Mum sometimes used him as a reward for good behavior with some of the little ones, who didn't want to take potions if they were sick or let her treat them if they were hurt. She would say, "Now Johnny, if you're good and take this PepperUp potions, you can play with Gaby for awhile afterwards and make him do tricks. Would you like that?"

Nine times out of ten, the answer was yes.

And Gabriel never minded doing tricks for treats. My happy-go-lucky collie was a sucker for a bit of fried liver or beef jerky, or bits of chicken.

Soon our apothecary, which was called ES's Solutions, became more commonly known as "The Collie Apothecary", at least among the local children and customers who frequented our shop. It's amazing what an animal will do for one's publicity. The other apothecaries in Diagon Alley besides ours, there were two, often gave out sweets to their customers, but my dog even beat them out. Many little ones left the shop bawling "I wanna pet Gaby!" instead of "I wanna lolly!"

Their crying distressed my collie, who would sometimes try and follow them, and either Mum or I would have to call him back.

Gaby's presence made our apothecary known as a friendly innocuous sort of place, a place where people felt comfortable gathering and therefore a prime place for gossip and rumors. That aided Mum and I immensely when we joined the Eyes and Ears as the war with Voldemort heated up. But in the beginning, I was just an apothecary.

One Wednesday in late August I had been up all night brewing several drafts of Pain Relievers and as a result was very tired the next morning, so much so that I was yawning over my counter, when Gabriel started whining to go out. I couldn't leave the shop unattended, and my mother was brewing in the lab, finishing up a special order. "Ah, hells, Gabe! Of all the times . . ." I groaned.

Eight-year-old Shelby Wynters happened to wander in just then, to pick up an Arthritis Elixir for her grandfather, who ran the stationary next door. "Hi, Gabe!" She hugged and stroked my red-gold dog's head. "Hi, Severus!"

"Here to pick up your order, Shelby?" I asked politely, getting it from the cubicle and wrapping it for her. It had been paid for in advance, as were all Mr. Wynter's purchases.

"Yes, please." Shelby was a little thing, dressed in jeans and a sun-yellow shirt with ruffled sleeves, she had gingery hair and loads of freckles and blue eyes. An ordinary little witch. She reminded me somewhat of Lily at that age, though Lily had outgrown her freckles and had never had hair that particular bright orange shade. She took the vial and tucked it in her pocket. Gabriel whined again. "What's the matter with Gaby?"

"He needs to go out, but I have to stay here in the shop," I sighed.

"I could take him for a walk, Severus. I don't mind. Grampa's out for lunch anyhow." Shelby offered.

I made a quick decision. "All right." I tossed her Gabriel's lead from behind the counter. "Just tell him "Heel" and he'll walk nicely."

She knelt and snapped the lead on him. Gabriel wagged his tail and licked her, knowing perfectly well what the lead meant. "C'mon, Gabriel!" she called gaily, and then started to walk towards the shop entrance. "Heel!" she ordered, and Gaby walked calmly beside her.

Just then the shop bell tinkled, and three girls about Shelby's age entered. One of them, a haughty little piece called Ekaterina Ellsby, looked down her nose at Shelby and said, "What's this, Wynters? You going to be a dog walker when you grow up? Guess you'll need lots of practice picking up dog doo." She laughed and so did her rotten friends. "I heard your grampa's shop was going to be mortgaged by Gringotts, so I guess you need the money."

Shelby flushed. "You heard wrong, Ekaterina. Come, Gaby." She moved to leave the shop, ignoring the tittering bubbleheads behind her.

I came around the counter and walked up to them, scowling. "Are you here for a purchase or a consultation? If so, state your business. If not, then get on home."

The two hangers on shrank backwards and then Ekaterina said, "You can't talk to me that way! My father's the Assistant Secretary to the Minister of Magic."

"Good for him. If you're not going to buy anything and all you're here for is to make trouble, I suggest you leave, girl." I gave her my best Tobias glower. Little stuck up snot!

She shrank away, then turned and screamed in her best I'm-gonna-tell voice, "I'm gonna tell my mother on you, Snape! You tried to put a curse on me!"

"What? You lying little brat! I don't even have a wand on me."

"You've got killing curse eyes! They're all black with no soul!" she cried dramatically and then ran out of the shop with her little friends yelling, "Curse eyes! Curse eyes! Eeeek!"

One of them knocked over a jar and it broke all over the floor.

I shook my head. Someone needed to take that smug brat over their knee. I cleaned up the mess with a wave of my wand, then returned to helping the man who had been perusing the crushed woundwort in the back of the shop.

I had just finished wrapping up his purchase when Shelby returned with Gabriel. She was smeared with dirt and had scrapes on both knees and hands and looked as if she had been crying. Gaby was panting and looking at her worriedly.

"Shelby! What happened?"

"Nothing," she muttered, looking down at the ground.

I came around the counter. "Hey. Nothing doesn't give you scraped knees and hands. Did you fall down? Or did Ekaterina and her little snots push you?" I was almost positive I knew what had happened.

"I can't tell you," she sniffed.

I put a hand on her shoulder. "You don't have to. I already know what happened. They ran into you on your way back here and started with you. Tripped you and knocked you down, right? And then Gabe scared them away by barking, made them run screaming down the street. Right?"

She stared at me, wide-eyed. "How'd you know? Can you read minds?"

"No," I rolled my eyes. "Come on, let me fix those scrapes."

She jerked back. "I-I can fix 'em."

"Hands are awkward to manage by yourself," I said calmly. "I'll try not to hurt you too much."

"Promise?"

"Promise." I led her into one of the exam cubicles, which were curtained off and had Silencing Charms over them so it was confidential. I summoned the necessary potions and bandages, water and a sponge. I gave her an exam wrap for her bottom half and then turned my back while she skinned out of her ripped jeans and put it on. It left her legs bare, which was what I wanted, so I could treat her scraped knees easily.

I helped her up on the little table and said, trying to sound like my mother, "Now, if you don't bite or kick me, you'll get to give Gaby a treat, Shelby."

She giggled. "I'd never do that, Severus."

"Good. Because I'd rather not have to tell my mum that I got beat up by a girl," I teased, and then I started to carefully wash out the cuts.

She whimpered but didn't pull away or holler when I cleaned the scrapes out, first with water and then an antibacterial solution.

"That's it. Almost done." I smeared a Quick Healing Salve on her cuts and bandaged them. "They'll be all healed by tonight."

I summoned a handkerchief so she could wipe her eyes, then she put her jeans back on and said, "Why do they pick on me so much? I don't do nothin' to them."

Her plaintive question made me have flashbacks to my own miserable schooldays, when I had wondered the same thing. "Because they're bored little brats who need a good hiding. Don't let them get you down."

"Thanks, Severus. I'll try." She gave me a brief grin and skipped out the door, waving once.

It was shortly after that incident occurred that my mother signed up to work for Magical Law Enforcement as an Eyes and Ears pair. She didn't really want me involved in it, but I said it would be much easier if we both kept our ears to the ground. And so we became a team, gathering information and rumors to help the resistance. It wasn't all that hard, considering that most of our customers liked to talk, and talk a lot, about everything.

We gathered plenty of rumors and several important bits of information that way. A few of our customers were associated with the Death Eaters, or friends with them, like Narcissa Malfoy, Trisha Goyle, and Marcus Rookwood. Narcissa, a former Housemate of mine, I made sure I remained upon friendly terms with, and often asked her casually how Lucius was. Sometimes she would reveal something like he had a meeting scheduled for later this afternoon or needed specific potions, some of which were on the shady side, and it was then I could figure out that there would be some kind of raid going on and so report it.

Trisha was like a fountain, she told my mother, whom she liked, since Mum helped her with her difficult pregnancy, things as if she'd been given a Babbling Beverage. Mum found out plans for raids and the fact that the Death Eaters were trying to creates some kind of magical contraption that would kill off the Minister and all of his staff only it kept blowing up. We didn't know what it was called, Trisha referred to it as The Experiment, but that didn't matter. The Ministry could send in their own spies to infiltrate them.

It's amazing what people will say if they think you're busy rearranging a shelf or dusting, I discovered many things just by being nearby when two of the Death Eater wives got together and chatted over the price of powdered asphodel. I became invisible, a part of the furniture, like their house elves.

The men who supported the dark side were more discreet, probably because Voldemort would curse them if they weren't, but even they slipped occasionally, and spoke of times and I could always tell what they were planning to brew by the potion ingredients they purchased alone. Or they would ask about a particular potion's effects, and how well it reacted with another one. Based on what they asked, I could surmise that they might be trying to torture someone or extract information out of someone using potions, since the Cruciatus was not a spell everyone could cast, it was a master level spell, and required a great deal of power to use and one just didn't fling it all over. (That bit I picked up when Lucius and Mulciber were talking one day over by the self-refilling cauldrons).

I learned how to read lips quickly, and to memorize a conversation upon hearing it once, because I couldn't just pull out a quill and parchment and start scribbling every time I heard something useful. The trick was to listen without seeming to listen at all. And on my forays into Diagon Alley, I watched who met with whom, and if they headed into Knockturn Alley to Borgin and Burkes, a dealer who dealt in shady items. Under cover of walking my dog, I saw much.

We sent the information we gathered in coded letters to our contact in the DML, who went by the name of Odin. My mother signed her letters Valkyrie, and I was Loki. The system we used was one invented by my mother, since the old code was broken by Voldemort's spies. It worked great.

June 21, 1993:

". . .and that was how your gran and I helped during the First Wizard War. " I concluded. There was more to the story, but it wasn't something I wished to go into on my mother's birthday, and not with Harry there.

Soon we headed back home and later on that night, I continued writing in my journal.

Snape's Journal

August 27, 1979:

One afternoon, the shop was doing a brisk business and I had spotted Avery and Lestrange in a corner, whispering. I was trying to slowly make my way nearer, to see what they were whispering about, since they had their faces turned from me and I could not read their lips, when I heard a familiar voice say loudly, "Why do you want to shop in here, Lily? You know who owns this shop, don't you?"

Potter! I felt a slow flush of anger. How dare he sneer at my mother's establishment, the bloody punter!

"That doesn't matter. I have nothing against Eileen, and she stocks better herbs and ingredients than Slug and Jiggers and brews better quality potions too."

Lily! I felt my heart skip a beat. I had not heard her voice in so long. I smirked inwardly at her assessment. Of course we brewed better potions! Arnold Jigger was going senile and could barely see, and his son was lazy berk who couldn't brew a simple Boil Cure to full potency.

"Lily, I don't like you shopping here. . ." began Potter, with that supercilious tone that set my teeth on edge.

"James, don't tell me what to do. Just let me shop for my ingredients and go buy that broom at the Quidditch store." Lily said exasperatedly. She pushed open the door to the shop and said, "Have fun, I'll see you later, dear."

I grimaced at the familiar address. But I stopped stacking vials of Headache Remedy and turned to see Lily enter. She looked much the same, still as beautiful as ever, and longing flooded me. How I wish things had been different.

Lily was wearing a sea green robe that brought out the vivid green of her eyes. I couldn't help but feel a sliver of satisfaction because the dream couple didn't seem to be getting along as well as they should. Potter was as overbearing as ever. I might have felt sorry for Lily if it wasn't for the fact that she had chosen to be with Potter, and she now must reap what she sowed.

But I watched as she made her way over to my bunches of dried lavender and marjoram and began placing them in a shopping basket. I forced myself to turn away. I wouldn't go over there. I wouldn't open old wounds. I turned and rang up a customer, then shot another glance at Lily. Why couldn't I let her go? She belonged to Potter now. She was lost to me.

But there was someone else in the shop that did not agree with that, and who still recalled the little girl who used to play with him. Gabriel had been dozing behind the counter, away from people who might trip or step on him. But he woke and sniffed the air soon after Lily came, and somehow he scented her, don't ask me how. My collie bounded to his feet and gave a soft woof of welcome.

"Gabriel!" I hissed, and made a grab for his collar.

He was too quick. He trotted out from behind the counter and wriggled his furry bulk through the aisles. His plumed tail wagging, he crept up beside Lily and nudged her beneath the arm.

"Oh!" She looked down. Then she knelt and hugged my dog. "Gaby!"

Gabriel licked her cheek, his mouth opening in a collie smile.

Unable to help myself, I drifted closer.

Lily buried her face in Gabe's ruff and I heard her say, "I missed you so much!"

I slipped behind a rack of jars and watched the reunion between my former best friend and my collie. Despite the resentment bubbling within me, I couldn't help but wax nostalgic for days gone by. I stood there, watching Lily's slender hands petting Gabriel's red-gold coat, not making a sound.

But somehow she knew I was there, for she looked up and saw me.

"Sev."

"Lily."

She stood up, her hand still on Gabe's elegant head. "I . . .It's good to see you again."

"Is it?" I asked, my eyes narrowing. "I'm surprised you're even speaking to me without asking Potter's approval."

Her eyes flashed. "I'm not answerable to James for everything, Severus."

"Only some things, right?" I drawled, my own eyes snapping black fire. "Like cutting all ties to your damned Slytherin friend."

"I didn't. You did."

"Me? When? It was you who did the leaving." I pointed out. "To go run off and play house with the glorious Gryffindor Potter!"

"You don't understand."

"Damn right I don't!"

She darted a glance at my arm. My left arm. "You were going dark, Severus."

Furious, I yanked up the sleeve of my robe. "Take a good look!"

The pale unblemished skin of the underside of my left forearm showed in stark contrast to my black sleeve.

Slowly, she raised her gaze and her eyes met mine. They were stricken. "I . . .all this time . . .I thought . . ."

"You thought wrong, Evans." I said coldly. "Or is it Potter now? I'd heard you were engaged."

She nodded. "Only just. Sev, I'm sorry—"

I turned away. "Don't. You made your choice. Now you can live with it."

She reached out and touched my shoulder. "Please, Sev. Don't be like this."

"Like what?" I muttered. "Angry? Upset? Betrayed?"

"I didn't know!"

"And you never bothered to find out. If it weren't for Gabriel, I might have been tempted down the dark road. But he saved me."

She shook her head. "You know, you're impossible to talk to when you're like this. "

I snorted. "What's done is done, Lily. Whatever might have been between us is over." I cringed inwardly as I said those words, but my heart was bitter and hurting.

"Why? Why does it have to be over?" she cried.

I spun on her. "Because you're going to be Potter's wife, that's why! Or are you saying you're going to throw over Potter for me?"

"No."

"Didn't think so."

"Severus, I think I'm pregnant," she whispered.

"Congratulations. Potter must be thrilled." I said through gritted teeth.

"He is."

"Do you . . .love him?" I don't know why I even asked that, except maybe to punish myself for being such a bugger to her.

She nodded.

I felt the last hope within me wither and die. "Well, then." I put on my stoic mask. "I hope you find everything you need. Good day." With that, I spun on my heel and made my way towards the corner where I had originally seen the Death Eaters.

But they were gone, and I cursed myself for a fool. I had missed a prime opportunity to listen in on what may have been an important conversation. It was something I would end up regretting deeply.

A week later, some shops mysteriously caught fire in Diagon Alley, and burned to the ground, some with their owners still inside them, since many lived above them. It was a horrible tragedy. No one had seen who set the fire, but those who lost their shops and lives in that blaze had all been known supporters of the Light.

One of those was Shelby Wynters. She had been staying over her grandfather's and had died of smoke inhalation. I can still see her little freckled face in my mind and I couldn't help but feel guilty. If I hadn't gone to talk to Lily, if I had continued to observe LeStrange and Avery, maybe I could have learned of their plans and no fire would have been set. But now was too late for regrets. Poor Shelby would never grow up and go off to Hogwarts, or even see her tenth birthday.

As I stood over her freshly turned grave I whispered, "Forgive me, Shelby. " I laid a bouquet of yellow roses upon the grave . "May angels sing you to your rest."

Then I turned away, guilt sitting heavy as a mountain upon my chest. Why did the innocent always die first?
 


Chapter 12: All Hallows Eve
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Snape's Journal

June 21st, 1993:

"Sev? Are you still writing in your journal? Come to bed," Lily called sleepily.

I glanced at the clock. Was it that late already? I hadn't realized I had been writing so long. I turned and gave her a slow smile, which she returned. Her smile always made me quiver with desire. "Just a minute, dear." I recapped my inkwell and placed my quill in its holder before shutting my book and slipping it into my secret drawer so my too curious son could not peek in it. I wasn't ready for anyone to read the story I was writing just yet.

I quickly shed my clothes, leaving only my boxers on, and slipped into bed beside my wife. Immediately her arms came about me and she drew me to her. "I woke up and you were gone," she murmured inbetween kisses. "I was cold and I missed you."

I snuggled closer, wrapping myself about her. "Are you warm now, love?"

She nodded. "Like a cauldron set aflame. You are one hot man!"

"Really?" I chuckled, running my hand down her shoulder.

"Mmm . . .you are the hottest thing ever, Sev!"

Then we kissed again, and soon the kissing turned to other things, very pleasant things, and I was reminded over again how much I had missed her the past three months. These remote assignments were hell on our relationship, but when Lily came home, I could spend a good portion of my night making up for lost time. . .

June 25, 1993:

Lily and Harry decided to spend some quality mother and son time together today, and I retreated to my desk to write some more. My thoughts spiraled back to that fateful weekend of All Hallows Eve, when You-Know-Who came knocking on the Potters' door. But first I had learned something of the utmost importance, something that had shocked me to my core, while I was sitting in the Leaky Cauldron, nursing a hot cider with a dash of rum after a long day at the apothecary . . .

September 30th, 1981:

I was sitting in my usual corner, far from the door, slumped with the mug of cider in my hands, pretending to be half-asleep, but in reality observing everyone through the curtain of my dark hair. I had cast a spell to enhance my hearing so I could catch any stray bits of important conversations while I was in the pub, it was a prime place for picking up information. Drunk patrons normally spill their guts without meaning to. The noise in the pub was beginning to give me a headache, but I endured it. I sipped my drink, it warmed me, for the afternoon was chilly. Then I concentrated on listening to the people around me.

At first I heard the usual—complaints about work, a stupid boss, how their wife was giving them grief over something, the price of powdered newt was going up, a spell that would keep intruders out of a shop. I let those conversations wash over me, like ocean waves against a lone rock. In a month it was Halloween, and while I didn't mind the holiday, as a boy I had loved it, for some reason I felt a stab of foreboding. I recalled previous Halloweens when I used to go trick-or-treating with Lily, and thinking of her always made my heart ache.

She was lost to me, I knew , but logic has never mastered passion, and so I still continued to hope for something that could never be. She had married Potter and borne him a child—a son called Harry. She had made her choice. And yet, I felt guilty for snapping at her the way I had last time we had met. I had spent most of the night after that abrupt conversation talking to my dog, asking Gabriel if I had done the right thing. "I was so angry, Gabe. I used to love her, a part of me still does, even though she chose Potter. I just wish I knew why. Why did she agree to marry him? She never liked him. I don't understand what changed. Maybe I'll never know."

Gabriel hadn't responded to me, except to put his big head in my lap and submit to my fingers scratching his head. He groaned with pleasure as I scratched behind his ears, always a favorite spot. His very presence had soothed my weary troubled spirit.

I wished he were here with me today, but I had left him back at the shop, to guard the merchandise. Suddenly, I heard a familiar voice. I quickly trained my focus on the measured even tones of Lucius Malfoy.

"Are you quite certain, Bella?"

"Of course I am, Luc!" snapped my former Housemate, Bellatrix Black, now LeStrange. "You know that while my Sight is often hard to decipher, I always See true, when I See at all."

Their voices were subdued, very quiet, had I not had my hearing enhanced, I never would have been able to listen in on this very private conversation. I smirked into my mug of cider. What, oh, what, have you Seen, mad Bella? I had not known Bellatrix possessed the Sight, but that would explain her sometimes flashes of intuition, and maybe even her crazy episodes as well. Some Seers were driven mad by what they Saw. Not that Bellatrix ever needed a reason for going off her rocker. She delighted in causing pain and suffering, a sadist if ever there was one.

"What did you See? Anything important?" Lucius asked finally. "Anything . . .useful?"

I darted a quick glance through my protective curtain of hair over to the table where Lucius and Bellatrix sat. I could just keep them in my line of vision without being observed.

Suddenly Bellatrix gasped. Her head began to twitch and jerk and her eyes rolled back in her head.

"No!" Lucius hissed in alarm. "Not here, dammit! Not here!"

But Bellatrix was beyond hearing him. She was deep into a Seer's trance. "Take heed- The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approachs. born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies , and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives . The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ."

Lucius had risen and pretended to be patting her on the back, pushing her head down, as if she were choking. But I could hear ever word she spoke.

As abruptly as she had gone into it, Bellatrix returned to this world with a terrific gasp and a shudder. "What happened?"

"You had a Vision," answered Lucius.

She tossed her hair back. "Was it . . .of his Bane?"

Lucius nodded.

"We must unravel the prophecy, Lucius." Bellatrix hissed. "It must not come to pass! We must find this child and destroy it!"

"Hush! I shall think on it. Have you told anyone else about this? Does the Master know?"

"Not yet. I . . .wasn't sure if I should tell him."

"Of course you should. In fact, the sooner the better. Come," He tossed down a handful of coins and they left the pub, not knowing that I now knew of the fateful prediction made by the dark sorceress.

I finished my cider and then paid up my tab and left. I had a message to send and a prophecy to try and decipher.

Somewhere a child was marked for death, and I could not help but think of Shelby. If I could find out who this was, I might be able to save this one, as I could not the other.

I sent a copy of the prophecy to my superiors in the Eyes and Ears and then I set to work myself trying to figure out who could be the one to vanquish the Dark Lord.

It took me and Mum three weeks to figure it out. We had made lists of all the possible families and out of those, who had babies born in July. Then we had to figure out who had thrice defied Voldemort. That was the hard part. Thank Merlin my mother still had her old Prince genealogy book, she had taken it just before she left her home for good, her mother had disowned her for marrying my father. She hardly spoke of it, though once she had said, "If my father had lived, he never would have allowed Mother to toss me out, and I could have gone back for visits and such, but he was dead of a heart condition by then, and my mother was always a cold haughty woman, who expected perfection of everyone around her, especially her daughter."

Finally, we narrowed it down to two possible candidates, the Longbottoms, Alice and Frank, had a son, Neville, born on July 30th. And the other . . .was Lily and James Potter. I was tempted to write Lily then and there and inform her of the danger she and her son were in. But I could not break my cover as an agent. So I wrote instead to Dumbledore, who had clearance, and knew about those of us in the program. I was sure he knew about the prophecy, he was highly trusted with top secret information, and so I informed him that we had discovered whom it referred to. It was my greatest fear that the other side had also discovered the same thing, but at least we could warn the Longbottoms and Potters to go into hiding.

The days both dragged and passed swiftly after that. The shop was busier than ever, as witches and wizards from all over prepared for Halloween, making special elixirs and potions. Then there were also the usual accidents to go along with the potion making frenzy, mostly burns and scalds and lacerations from being careless with sharp knives and fire. So we were kept busy dispensing Burn Paste and healing wounds as well.

And yet, despite the queue in the shop, I sometimes found my mind drifting back to the letters I had sent, and wondering if they had been acted upon. Was Lily safe? Her son? The Longbottoms? I could give a damn about Potter, but Lily . . .I feared terribly for her, so much so that it started causing me to make mistakes at work. Twice I had broken vials from not placing them on the shelf correctly and I mismeasured a dose of a powder and nearly gave it to a patient before catching my mistake.

Mum snapped at me. "Severus, quit being a woolhead and pay attention!"

I accepted the rebuke, though it stung, for I quite deserved it.

Still Lily was never far from my thoughts.

There was an oppressive air lingering over everything as Halloween approached, it permeated the spirits of those who came into Diagon Alley to shop, ruining the usual anticipation of the holiday. Now everyone spoke in whispers, and glanced about fearfully for You-Know-Who, or his masked followers. Death Eaters had shown up three times in the Alley, creating havoc and hurting and killing people. Luckily they had not come to our shop, perhaps due to the fact that some of their number patronized us.

There was something evil in the wind, and I did not need to be a Seer to feel it.

The day before Halloween arrived, and I was busy doing the usual morning chores in the shop, sweeping and dusting and rearranging the displays, making sure the exam rooms were stocked with towels and bandages and other medical necessities. A few people were browsing around, I watched them out of the corner of my eye in case they tried to nick something. Gabriel was lying in front of the counter. I had turned to dust a shelf with small lucky figurines when my collie growled.

It was a low growl, a warning that someone approached whom he did not like.

Since that was rarely the case, I looked between the shelves to see who it might be and saw to my disgust that Wormtail had entered the shop. I hadn't seen him since finishing school, and the years had not made him any better looking. He was still short and slimy, with stringy brown hair, a pointed nose, and crooked teeth. He was dressed in conservative robes of charcoal, and his skin looked jaundiced. I wished I could toss his arse out, but the retailer in me reminded me that a customer was a customer, no matter what.

Gabriel continued growling low in his throat, he had not forgotten Wormtail either.

"Nice doggie." Peter whimpered, then aimed a kick at my dog as he backed away, the snot-dribbling coward.

I quickly came around the shelf and said, "Gabe, stay!" thus averting the chance that my dog would attack the little bastard. Gabriel obediently stayed where he was and I interposed myself between him and Wormtail.

"What brings you here today, Pettigrew?" I said coldly. "You seem out of sorts." I peered at him.

He backed away. "Snape!"

"Who else? You look a bit jaundiced. Perhaps a liver cleanser is needed? No? Bowels giving you trouble? A good purging might help," I said loudly. Several other patrons turned and looked and snickered.

Wormtail flushed and squirmed. "I'm fine! I don't need any of that. I just want some . . .ginger and hyssop and ummm . . .indigo beetles."

I continued to toy with him, asking him what elixir he was making and in general making the scum very uncomfortable.

Until I was called away by a pregnant woman with a bad head cold needing some mild Congestion Reliever.

As soon as I could I slipped back around and saw him whispering to someone, but since my enhancements were gone on my hearing, I could only make out a few words. "Tomorrow night . . .the Dark Lord . . .Potters . . .Longbottoms . . .take care of them . . ."

My blood turned to ice in my veins. There was going to be action taken against the Potters and Longbottoms by Voldemort, if what I had overheard was right. I had no time to write a coded message and send it off to Odin. I had to warn them right away. Except I couldn't leave the shop full of customers just yet. For the first time ever, I wished the apothecary was not so busy. I wanted to dash into the back room and scribble away a note to Lily and to Alice Longbottom and send it off as quickly as possible, but the customers came first, and besides, it would look awfully strange. I couldn't risk any hint of odd behavior being noticed by the Death Eaters in the shop.

As I continued dispensing and ringing purchases, I realized that Pettigrew had betrayed his supposed best mates, Potter, Black, and Lupin. Not that I was truly surprised, I had long known that he was a coward and likely to flee at the first sign of danger to himself or turn his coat. A rat has no loyalty except to himself. And whomever holds the most power. So he had sold out to Voldemort. I barely concealed a sneer. I wondered what Black, Lupin, and Potter would say when they discovered what a viper they had nursed at their bosom.

Pettigrew and his unknown contact left separately, without purchasing anything.

As soon as I could, I rushed into the back room, and began penning a letter. I used a spell to copy it two times, and then simply wrote Dear Lily and Dear Alice at the top and signed my name below. I quickly wrote their names and what I thought were their current addresses on the outside, and summoned my mother's owl to deliver them as quick as possible.

Please let me have been in time.

October 31st, 1981:

All that day as I worked, I kept thinking about Lily and hoping that my message had reached her in time. The shop was quite busy, we had children running in and out of it, in costumes, begging for sweets. My mother kept a small cauldron filled with them, and whenever one of the little tykes ran in and yelled "Trick-or-treat" we allowed them to pick a sweet from the cauldron. There was a variety in there that satisfied even the most picky child or parent.

But for me the hours crawled by, and I prayed that Lily had the sense to get undercover and far away from wherever the Potters lived now. Both she and James were Aurors, so surely they had a secret place to hide, where no one knew of them. Arrogant though he was, even Potter couldn't have failed to provide a safe haven for his wife and son. I tried to console myself with that thought, and to concentrate upon my job. But I kept becoming distracted, until finally my mother sent me into the back of the shop to watch the potions she had brewing while she dealt with the customers. "Go back and check on the potions, Severus, if you can't keep your mind on the customers," she had said testily.

Flushing at being scolded like a scatterbrain in public, even though it was true at the moment, I hastily retreated to the back of the shop, out of sight of any sniggering customers, where I gave each of the cauldrons simmering there a quick stir and then sank into a chair, brooding and fretting myself to a sliver.

Gabriel padded in, perhaps he sensed my distress, for normally he did not like staying in the back room while brewing was going on, it was probably too hot for him with his thick coat. He came to me and nudged my hand, asking to be petted. I obliged happily, stroking his noble head and patting his broad shoulders. His wise eyes peered up into mine and his tail wagged gently.

"Ah, Gabriel. Do you think Lily and her son are all right? Do you think they were warned in time? Perhaps I shouldn't have sent a letter, but gone in person. Only I am not sure exactly where she is. I know that Potter owns property in Yorkshire and also at Godric's Hollow, which is somewhere near Exmoor. But if they knew they were in danger, might they go elsewhere? I know I would. I would go far away, into the wilderness, where no one could find me."

My collie whined and licked my hand, almost as if he were agreeing with me. I knelt and hugged him, suddenly feeling terrified, and needing the comfort of his stalwart presence. If anything should happen to Lily, I would not be able to bear it. I suddenly wished that my last words to her had not been spoken in anger. Damn my bloody temper! At the time, I had thought myself justified in speaking so harshly to her, but now . . .now I regretted every syllable that had emerged from my mouth. Heaven forbid she died and then I would never get the chance to tell her how much I still loved her. "She mustn't die, Gabe! She mustn't!"

Gabriel licked my face. He always seemed to understand my moods, and he hated when I was upset. He began to "talk" to me in that strange way he had, a half-croon, half-growl that he only used with me. Don't worry, Sev. It will be all right. You'll see. I buried my face in his fur. He was my best friend, he had stuck beside me through my darkest hour and prevented me from making the biggest mistake of my life. And here he was again, providing me with the comfort I so desperately needed.

I stayed that way for several long moments, before rising to check on the potions once again. Even my anxiety wouldn't allow me to neglect a potion. Gabriel stretched out beside my chair, panting slightly. I felt guilty and tried to get him to go and lie down in the cooler front of the shop, but he refused. "Loyal dog. What would I do without you?" I knelt and ruffled his ears.

Night drew nigh, and we closed the apothecary and Mum went home to Spinner's End. I told her I would come as soon as the last batch of Magic Replenishers was finished. They had about five hours left to steep. Gabriel stayed with me, of course. I set a timer over the cauldrons and took out the folding bed that I had put in the closet for those nights when one or the other of us had to brew all night long. I smoothed out the sheets and blankets, then sank down on the bed for a quick nap. Gabriel settled his bulk against my feet, making the springs creak. Soon I was asleep.

Sometime around ten o'clock I woke, a scream clawing its way out of my throat.

"Lily! Don't go in there! NO!"

Gabriel sat up and began barking in alarm.

I ignored him, trembling with terror. The dream—it had been so real!

In it I had seen Godric's Hollow, and a small cottage ablaze, flames licking up towards the sky. There was an odd greenish glow to the flames. I had gotten the sense of a terrible evil lurking there and death . . .death had claimed that place for its own. Then I saw Lily appear, her red hair flying, running into the burning house, screaming a single name. "Harry!" She had not emerged again.

I had woken up then, my heart pounding fit to burst from my ribcage. I knew without knowing how that something terrible had occurred and if I did not act soon, what I most feared would come to pass. I quickly leaped out of bed, not even bothering to put on my boots, and then I prepared to Apparate to Godric's Hollow, which I had recognized in my dream due to the landmark cemetery where many wizards and witches of prominent families were buried. My mother had given me a most thorough education in wizarding geography before I ever attended Hogwarts.

Gabriel crowded against my knees, whining urgently. "No, Gabe. I can't take you with me. Stay here. I'll be back." I promised.

I left him sitting forlornly beside my boots and Apparated away to the burning cottage I had seen in my dreams.

The cottage was still on fire when I arrived, the air was thick with choking smoke, and flames danced like fiends through the top floor windows. I drew my wand and chanted a Fire Dampener Charm, as an apothecary I knew how to put out fires. But this blaze was too strong for one spell, and so I cast another.

Then I shouted as loudly as I could, "Lily! Where are you? Lily! Lily, can you hear me?"

From a great distance, I heard a tiny voice answer, "Sev?"

"Lily, get out of there!" I howled.

The roar and crackle of the flames was terrible, and to my horror, I saw the top part of the roof start to cave in. "LILY!"

Suddenly, she was beside me, cradling a sobbing hysterical baby in her arms, gasping and choking for air. "Sev! Here . . .take Harry . . ." she thrust the baby at me.

I caught the bawling dark-haired mite awkwardly as Lily doubled over, coughing explosively. I stood there, at a loss, until Lily started to topple over, then I grabbed her to me and Apparated back to the apothecary, taking both Lily and Harry along with me.

Once we were back in the shop, I laid Lily out on the bed and set Harry next to her. She was out cold, but he curled up next to her, his face a mess of blood and tears. But at least he was quiet for now.

Gabe came and licked his face and he smiled and clung to Gabriel's ruff. Though it must have been painful, my collie made no attempt to get away, but simply settled down on the bed, which was now sagging in the middle due to the combined weight of a woman, child, and an eighty-five pound dog. "Good dog, Gabe." I praised. Then I bent over Lily, who I feared had inhaled too much smoke. "Lily, wake up. Please! Don't leave me!" I pleaded, putting my ear to her chest. She had stopped breathing.

Frantic, I leaned over and placed my mouth over hers. I knew that Muggle paramedics often did this when a person wasn't breathing. I blew into her mouth, giving her my breath. Live, Lily! My breath to yours. Live! I paused, counted three breaths, then breathed into her again.

Come on, Lily! Breathe! I urged silently, once again giving her my breath. Tears streaked my face and fell upon her cheeks, which were striped with soot. Don't die, Lily! Don't die! Again I breathed into her.

Suddenly I felt a flutter beneath my hands. Her chest moved. She took a breath, then another. Then she began to cough, harsh wracking coughs. I sat her up and conjured a large towel so she could cough out the smoke residue in her lungs. "That's it, Lily." I rubbed her back soothingly. "You're going to be all right now. You're safe with me."

She coughed and spit for a good ten minutes. Then she lifted her head and her green eyes were filled with tears. "Harry? Where's my baby?"

"Here next to you. He's all right too." I reassured her. I'm going to get you a Lung Clarifying Draft." I reluctantly left her to get the potion, relief sweeping through me in a great wave.

Later on, I would find out the whole story of what had happened that night, but for now I was just grateful Lily was alive and I was able to help her recover from her brush with death.

Snape's Journal

June 25th, 1993:

I set my quill down when I heard the sound of the front door being opened. Harry and Lily had come home. I hurried down the stairs to meet them in the kitchen. Harry was wearing a new Wimbourne Wasps jersey and carrying a pennant. His hair was sticking up like a haystack. "I see you had a good time at the Quidditch match, Harry," I greeted. Then I added, "You need to brush your hair, you look like a sheepdog that got electrocuted."

My son rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Dad. I nearly caught the Snitch, it flew over my head, Dad, and that's why I got this jersey." His green eyes were shining with joy. "Look, it's been signed by the Wimbourne Seeker, Josh Allen himself!" He turned about so I could see the signature on the back.

I dutifully admired it, even though Quidditch has never really interested me. "Very nice, Harry."

"Harry, go and wash up for supper." Lily ordered, coming and hugging me.

"Okay, Mum!" he called, and then ran upstairs.

Lily followed him with her eyes. "Sometimes he reminds me so of James. He's as Quidditch mad as his father ever was."

I nodded. "True. But in other ways, love, he's definitely his mother's son." I kissed her lightly. "So, how was your day out?"

"It was wonderful. I'm glad I got to spend time with Harry. He's growing up so fast, Sev. And I feel like I'm missing it, because I'm away so damn much. There are times when . . .I wish I had chosen another profession." She sighed heavily. "But now is too late for regrets. I'll just have to try harder to get assignments closer to home so I can be a part of his life—and yours—more often."

"You do your best, Lily. Harry and I understand."

"I know, but . . .this will be my last remote assignment, Sev. I want to see more of you and Harry than a few months out of the year, I want my son to remember his mother as someone who was there for him when he needed me. And I miss you dreadfully every time I go away."

"As do I." I framed her face with my hands. "Lily, you know I would never suggest you give up your career, but if you feel it's best . . ."

"I wouldn't be giving it up, Sev. I would still work as a Spec, just in a different capacity, one closer to home." She murmured. "Because there is nothing more important than my family." Then she sealed her statement with a very passionate kiss that left me longing to Apparate her up to our bedroom. She caught the gleam in my eyes and said naughtily, "Later, you insatiable wretch. I have a special supper planned."

"Oh? What is it?"

"You'll just have to wait and see," she said, then she sashayed over to the counter and began pulling groceries out of her carryall.

I leaned against the counter, smiling. I never got tired of looking at my wonderful wife, who took a piece of my heart with her wherever she went.

Harry galloped down the stairs. "Hey, Mum, what's for dinner?"

"You'll have to wait and see," I told him, smirking.

"What is this, a conspiracy?" he groaned.

"Of course," I replied.

Lily winked at me over her shoulder

I concealed an eager smile. Supper might be a surprise, but what awaited us alone after that was a foregone conclusion. And perhaps this time, it might lead to a new member of the Snape household. I certainly hoped so.

Finally got another chapter posted. I decided to have a reverse kind of prophecy, where it was the bad side that received the prediction. I thought it would be interesting to make crazy Bella into a Seer.

Hope you all enjoyed this part.

Next will have Lily telling what happened on that Halloween night as well as her side of the story.
 


Chapter 13: Lily's Tale
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Snape's Journal

July 15, 1993:

By eleven o'clock this morning, I had set up in my makeshift classroom two goblets of water and a beaker of wine, plus two lumps of sugar and two biscuits, each on their own plate. Today I was instructing Harry and his longtime friend Hermione on Transmutation, which was not like Transfiguration, though they sounded similar. Transfiguration was the ability to change an object into a totally different object, from inanimate to animate, from alive to unalive, and so forth. It also encompassed shapechanging. Transmutation, however, was the act of taking a substance with similar properties and altering them slightly. Such as changing a goblet of water into wine, or pumpkin juice, or changing sugar into salt, ect. It was the craft of the alchemists, who had long ago discovered how to turn lead into gold, but had kept the secret from Muggles, lest they be made to serve greedy Muggles as a kind of bank, and thus devalue the world's economy at the same time. For, as any economist will tell you, the value of a thing increases if it is scarce, like gold, but start minting gold coins nonstop and the gold value will decrease and become worthless.

Transmutation was a subtle magic, and not one that was studied at Hogwarts, but one that I considered a useful branch of study, much better than Divination. Hermione had attended Hogwarts for one year and then decided to return home. She had been dreadfully homesick, bored in all of her classes, as she had learned all the basic magical theory and some spells from me by the time she was eleven, and was constantly made fun of by her less studious Gryffindor Housemates. So now I tutored her as well as Harry three to four days a week, for nine weeks during the summer, with three weeks off for holiday, and the rest of the year it was for the whole month. The Grangers paid me a generous sum for doing so, saying that it was a Godsend that they had a professor of my caliber nearby who was willing to tutor their daughter. I had tried to refuse, but they had insisted, and I was grateful for the extra income, we didn't precisely need it, but I placed it in a savings account, because you never knew what might happen. Plus, I enjoyed teaching willing students who loved learning, and would therefore pay attention and listen while I taught. It was one reason I taught Advanced Potions and Theory at the Academy, because the students who attended there were serious about becoming Masters and Mistresses of Potions or apothecaries or Healers, and so never slacked off in my class.

Hermione soaked up knowledge like a sponge, always thirsty for more. She also provided a challenge for Harry, who tended to grow lazy if not pushed somewhat, and though she was his best friend, he didn't like it when she outperformed him, and therefore studied harder. With only two of them, it also cut down on homework assignments and tests I needed to grade as well. I could also tailor my classes to them individually, and focus my lessons on what they were having trouble with. All in all, it was a very satisfactory arrangement.

There came a knock at the door.

"Come in, Hermione!" Lily called cheerily and Hermione walked into the house. "Goodness, you've gotten taller since the last time I saw you, and look how lovely your hair is!"

"I hate it, Lily," Hermione told her. "It's all bushy and frizzy and it tangles no matter what I do. I wish I had straight hair like yours."

"Oh, no, you don't. My hair is awful to work with, it goes limp and sometimes I have to use volumizing potions to get it to fluff and I think you're lucky to have such curls."

"You do? But all the girls at school made fun of my hair. They called me Bushyhead and Furcap and asked if I were related to a werewolf."

"They were jealous, Hermione. And you should have told them you were related to a werewolf, it might have scared some of them away. Your hair is a gorgeous chestnut color with natural amber highlights, and any girl your age would kill for it. Trust me."

"Honest?"

"Witch's honor. I can give you some Sleek-EZ Hair Tonic which will tame down the curl and relax it so it doesn't frizz on you," Lily offered.

"Really?" Hermione looked delighted. She threw her arms about Lily and hugged her. "You're the best, Lily!"

I watched as my wife hugged the slender girl back, and I could see the longing in her eyes for a daughter of her own. She had had two miscarriages after Harry was born, once with James and the other with me. Both times the fetus had aborted in the first trimester. Lily was afraid she might never be able to have another child, Harry's birth had been difficult, and the women in her family were known to have trouble conceiving and carrying a fetus to full term. I prayed that this time she had caught, and our wish for another child would come true.

They broke off the hug when Harry entered the den, and greeted his friend. "Hey, Hermione. All set for today's class?"

"Yes. I can't wait to learn Transmutation. The great alchemist Nicholas Flamel created the Sorcerer's Stone Elixir using it," she informed my son eagerly. "I read about it in Great Witches and Wizards of the Nineteenth Century."

"Oh. Sounds cool. Did you do something different to your hair?"

"Why? Does it look terrible?"

"No. It looks . . .nice."

She beamed at him, "Thanks Harry."

Then she headed into the dining room, which was where we usually had lessons.

"Hello, Professor!" she greeted warmly.

"Good morning, Hermione. Please take your seat." I turned to my son. "Harry, quit slouching and sit up straight."

My son shifted and sat up, he had a tendency to slump in his chair, and I did not want him to get in the habit of doing so. Both of them had their notebooks out and quills poised to write notes.

I began by explaining the theory and Laws of Transmutation. " . . .Transumtation does not increase or decrease the mass of the base or target liquid or solid. The Law is that the mass remains the same, so if you start with a pound of sugar and transmute it into salt, then you shall have a pound of salt, no more or no less. That is called the Law of Equivalents. Watch as I demonstrate."

I waved my wand over the wine beaker and Transmuted its contents into water.

"See, the same amount of water is in the beaker as there was wine before. If you attempt to alter the amount, the spell will fail."

Halfway through my little lecture, I noticed Harry nodding off. I reached over the table and shook his shoulder. "Wake up, Mr. Potter!" I tended to use the more formal address while I taught, because it made Harry and Hermione treat me like a professor and not a family member.

"Huh?" He blinked blearily at me. "Sorry, sir. I guess I'm tired."

"Mmm . . .you need to go to bed early tonight and no reading Quidditch magazines under your covers."

He made a face at me. "How'd you know?"

I concealed a smirk and resorted to the time-honored parental response, "I'm your father. I know everything you do."

Hermione giggled. "You sound like my dad. He knows everything too."

"Merlin help us all!" Harry groaned, rubbing his eyes.

I cleared my throat. "All right, now it's your turn. Hermione, Transmute the goblet of water here into a drink of your choosing . . ."

The rest of the lesson progressed well, and soon both my students had mastered the simple Transmutation of altering liquids and small amounts of a solid. I assigned some homework, mostly reading Nicholas Flamel's Transmutation's Victory, which was often called "The Alchemist's Bible".

Then we moved on to History of Magic and then a double lesson in Herbology. But the Herbology lesson ended rather abruptly when Harry got stung by a bee while picking a patch of common dandelions. He was stung on the thigh, and had a immediate allergic reaction to the sting, resulting in his leg swelling up. I swiftly carried him inside, he was gritting his teeth and whimpering.

"Easy, son. You'll be fine once I get some potions into you and some Sting Balm on the bite."

" . . .hurts . . .feel like I can't breathe . . ."

"Will Harry be okay, professor?" asked Hermione.

"Yes," I said, though his words about shortness of breath concerned me greatly. This was the first time he had been stung and a bad allergic reaction like this was not a good sign.

I carried Harry inside, placing him on the couch, while Hermione told Lily what had happened. She came in to help keep Harry calm while I summoned potions and salve and a syringe. By then Harry was struggling for air, and Lily was telling him to relax and try and take short breaths, that everything was going to be fine. His green eyes were wide and scared. I could tell Lily was scared too, but she wasn't showing it. She had grace under pressure.

"Hermione, I need you to step into the kitchen for a bit, I have to remove Harry's jeans and underwear to treat him." I instructed.

She blushed and said, "No problem," and then retreated into the kitchen.

I quickly banished my son's clothing, the bite was on the back of his thigh. "Harry, I'm going to turn you over now so I can apply some salve and give you an injectable potion." By now he was wheezing and Lily helped me turn him. I rubbed the salve all over the nasty swollen area, then gave him two shots, one in his thigh, to counteract the poison from the sting, the other in his bottom so he could breathe. The ephedra-based Breath Ease Elixir worked in moments, enough so the first words he said were, "Ow! You know I hate needles, Dad!"

"That was the only way he could get the potion into you, son," Lily soothed. "Your throat was swelled shut and you couldn't swallow." She rubbed his back and encouraged him to take deep breaths.

He squirmed a little. "My leg hurts."

"Lie still. You need to give the Anti-Allergen Draft time to work and the balm as well."

It took five minutes before the swelling finally went down and the pain began to fade. I gently replaced Harry's underwear and summoned a pair of loose cotton shorts for him to wear instead of jeans, they were more comfortable. "There. You'll be all right now. Do you feel sick or dizzy?"

Harry turned over on his side and looked at me. "Not really. Just kind of stupid. Why am I allergic to a little sting?"

"You get that from James' side of the family," Lily told him, hugging him. "Your grandfather Charles Potter was allergic to bees very badly. He nearly died once from multiple stings when a hive fell on him while he was walking in the woods. Thank goodness your dad reacted so quickly. From now on you'll have to carry a dose of Anti-Allergen with you in a small syringe."

"What? You want me to . . .give myself a shot?" He looked horrified.

Lily patted his arm. "Yes. You can do it if you need to. If another bee stings you, you could die without that dose, son. I'll have you practice on an orange so you'll know how to give yourself a needle without hurting yourself."

"How do you know all this, Mum? They teach you this stuff in Auror school?"

"No, but my cousin Linda was diabetic and had to give herself insulin shots every day. So I learned it from her."

Harry shifted, winced a little, then sat up. "Ow!" He immediately stood. "I need a Cushioning Charm."

I cast one and he gingerly sat down. "Where's Hermione?"

"In the kitchen. I didn't think you'd want her seeing your bare behind."

"No way!" He blushed red then he called Hermione to come in.

She rushed in and cried, "Oh, Harry! How are you feeling? I was so worried!"

"I'm fine now. It doesn't even hurt anymore," he lied gallantly.

She hugged him then. "You must be highly allergic to insect stings," she declared then.

"Obviously," he replied, imitating me dead on.

We all shared a laugh then, in the wake of the emergency, it felt good to laugh again.

Harry had been lucky. This was not the first time he had been hurt however, he was an active boy and somehow seemed to be forever getting bruised and scraped, usually from doing something he was told not to. But I wouldn't trade him for anything.

Later that night, I rose to check on him, and found him sleeping peacefully on his stomach, one leg dragging nearly on the floor. I gently moved his leg back and fixed the covers about him, after taking a quick peek at the sting, which was now a small bump. It would be gone by tomorrow evening.

But when I returned to my room, I found that sleep eluded me and so I pulled out my journal again. Lily had stayed on at Spinner's End after her near death experience, not wanting to be alone, and my mother was perfectly content to watch Harry while Lily grieved and attended James' funeral and attempted to recover from the tragedy that had befallen her.

Snape's Journal

November 7, 1981:

After she had recovered mostly from the smoke inhalation, and was assured that my mother didn't mind taking care of a rather fussy Harry, Lily managed to tell me what had become of her life since she had moved from Spinner's End and left school. I knew, of course, that she had married James Potter, the engagement had been in all the wizarding papers and magazines, and even I, reclusive apothecary that I was, learned of it. The knowledge had been like a stone in my gut, a barrier that had put paid to any sort of relationship between us save an acquaintance. Until now. During the week she spent recovering from her injuries and grief, I had not attempted to speak of the past. Even now, I was hesitant. She had been the one to bring it up, saying abruptly one morning over breakfast, "I think we need to talk, Sev."

"About what?"

"You. Me. James."

"Now?"

"Yes, now. It's time you heard the whole story."

I wasn't sure if I wished to hear this confession, or whatever you wanted to call it, so I asked a rather blunt question of my own. "Did you love him?"

She sighed. "Yes. But . . .it's complicated. I loved him . . .but not perhaps in the way he wanted me to, and he didn't love me the way I wanted him to." She shook her head ruefully. "I'm not making a lick of sense, I know. Best to start at the beginning then. You know why I first started dating James, back in fifth year. But what you don't know is why I continued."

"I can guess. He was charming and handsome and acceptable. Everything I was not."

"To others. But not to me. Not at first. And he knew it. Oh, he tried to win me over, but I would have none of him. I knew him for what he was, a spoiled little boy who wanted me because I was the one girl who never swooned over him. But someone else also saw us together and assumed we were attracted to each other. The Headmaster. Not long after I agreed to date James, he summoned me to his office and told me how pleased he was that I was paying James some attention, and how he thought my influence on him was wonderful. He said that it was me who had caused James to change and stop being so . . .reckless and irresponsible. He asked me if I would continue mentoring James, set him a good example. Give him good advice. I . . .didn't know how to tell him no. I would look like an insensitive uncaring wretch if I refused. And then I thought, maybe Dumbledore was right. Maybe I could keep influencing him to behave and make him keep leaving people, like you, Sev, alone. What could it hurt?

"I was proud of myself, I'll admit it, and I became fond of him, sort of the way a teacher is fond of a rowdy student who becomes a good boy after all. He could be very charming and sweet when he chose to be. I liked the attention he paid to me, he used to bring me small presents and help me with my Transfiguration and I even made him promise to keep Pettigrew and Black in line and I thought pretty highly of myself. I'd civilized the Marauders." She snorted deprecatingly at herself. "I was a silly twit. They did nothing but mask their true natures from me. Especially Pettigrew, who ended up a traitor. And James . . .I think he wanted to change for me, but if I hadn't been there, he would have kept right on bullying you until one or the other of you snapped and killed the other."

"That is very likely."

"I should have explained this to you while we were at school, but . . .I just didn't, I kept putting it off until it was too late. And then I . . .saw you hanging around those other Slytherins and I got mad, because you had just proven James right and I let myself believe that you really had gone dark. That you had become like all the others and I turned my back on you. I was a fool, I should have known better. I should have gone and asked why you would ever do such a stupid thing, what had ever happened to you, but I allowed the opinions of James and the others in my House to sway me and I never asked. I regret that now, very much."

I nodded. I could see that she did, her emerald eyes were full of an old pain.

"I gave up my best friend over a few rumors and a charming smile. I betrayed you, Severus, and for that I am deeply sorry."

"Lily, I almost went dark, I was almost seduced by the Book of Night. Gabriel saved me. The love of a dog saved me."

"Almost doesn't count. I should have known that you could never . . .be like them . . .like Avery and Mulciber. But somehow, I . . .I let myself be led astray." She shook her head in disgust. "Well, I know you cannot forgive me for this, but . . .what's done is done. I married James knowing full well what he was. What I didn't know was how he perceived me, or how my life would change because of it. I had met his parents briefly while we were courting, and it was a short courtship, because James said why linger over it, since he already knew he was going to marry me."

"So he rushed you into marriage." I interjected.

"Well, not really."

I shot her a look of disbelief. But I said nothing. She knew how I felt about her deceased husband. I had no desire to make her feel any worse than she did already. So I kept my mouth shut.

"Anyhow, we were married, and for a time, we were happy with each other. I grew to love him, and he loved me, or the Lily he thought was me. I believe James saw me as an innocent girl, being taken advantage of by you, and needing his protection and guidance. It was how he had been brought up, his father was an oldschool gentleman, and his mother was the sort of woman who was content to let a man shelter her. Even though I was nothing like her, and James ought to have known that, I think he figured once I was Mrs. Potter, I would become that way. It's funny, how people see what they want to see, and blind themselves to what really is. Until I told him that I wished to join the Auror Academy as well, but not the regular force. I wanted to be a Spec—a Special Auror, one who infiltrates and spies upon the enemy. It's a separate branch within the MLE, a select branch, one that James would never be suited for. He was too open, he showed everything he felt, he could never be a Spec. But I felt that this was the one way I could fight against Voldemort. I could pretend very well, you know that, since we always pretended when we played together as children. And I've always been excellent at Charms. James, however, disagreed. He said there was no reason to involve myself directly in the war. That I should stay safe at home, in Potter Manor. We quarreled then. I was no hothouse flower, who needed to be protected and sheltered by a man. I told him I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself. He insisted that as my husband, it was his duty to see to my safety. He regarded me, you see, as a woman much like his mother, content to remain among her rose garden and go to benefits and raise a family. I had tried to live that life, in the beginning of my marriage, tried to become the genteel aristocrat that was expected of me, but I never quite managed to fit in. I was too outspoken, I had married up according to some, and what was more, after a few months of attending soirees and the like, I found that atmosphere stifling. So I gave up trying.

"I would never be like them, nor did I want to be. And I was quite furious that James would try and cast me back into that insipid role. So we quarreled, and I ended up not speaking to him for a week. Then he caved and said I could do what I wished, but he didn't like it. So I applied to the Spec program and was accepted. I was delighted. At last I could do something besides donate money to the department or charities. I could make a difference.

"I was immersed in learning my new career for three months at the Academy, before I discovered I was pregnant. Despite that, I wanted to continue my training, but James wouldn't have it. I might risk myself, he said, but not his child. Reluctantly I agreed to leave the Academy for a time, but as soon as I could, I was going to return and finish what I started. Plenty of women had babies and careers. I continued to study as much as I could while I stayed home, and aided the Order of the Phoenix, which was Dumbledore's group of rebels, covertly.

"That day I saw you in the apothecary, I had just surrendered my freedom, and seeing you brought back so many memories. Memories I had done my damndest to forget since I moved away, but now found I could not. I foolishly assumed that things might go back to the way they had been between us. I don't know what I was thinking. You had every right to be angry with me."

"But not to hurt you," I said quietly.

"Why not? As long as we're being honest here, I hurt you when I chose James, don't deny it. You hurting me is fair turnabout."

"No! I never wanted to hurt you, Lily. All I wanted—all I've ever wanted—" I halted.

"What, Sev?"

"Never mind. Go on with your story, please. I'll . . .tell you later."

She gave me a speculative look. "Very well. But you will tell me later," she said firmly. Then she continued.

"James was often away, helping the Order, and I was alone. Occasionally I saw Alice Longbottom, who was also in the family way, and we commiserated about our pregnancies and how good it would be when the babies were finally born. Sometimes Sirius Black and Pettigrew would drop by, to see how I was getting on, and bring news for me about James. I worried over him, that he would be too impulsive and get himself into a situation he couldn't get out of. He was brave, no one could ever say otherwise, but he was also reckless. Sirius promised he would watch his back, but Sirius could be equally reckless, neither of them had changed much since school in that regard. I was afraid James would die before his child ever saw the light of day. And there I was, unable to do anything useful except pray for his quick return.

"I nearly went mad, Sev. I'm not one to sit about and let others fight my battles. But I had no choice, for I was now so big I could barely see my feet. James was hoping for a boy, a son to carry on the family name. Me, I didn't care, boy or girl, I just wanted it to be safe and healthy. And get born as soon as possible." Her face took on a tender glow that I had never seen before, and such love and warmth shone in her eyes that I was struck dumb. Had my own mother ever regarded me so? Or was Lily unique in that regard?

"When he was born, and I first looked upon him, it was as though I looked upon a miracle. That such a perfect child had come from me . . .I was consumed with love. And I vowed that nothing would ever hurt him. Nothing. James was so proud. "I have a son! I have a son!" he shouted. Then he thanked me, and I told him that I loved him. I named him Harry, after my father, and James as well. James said that since I'd named our son, he would choose his godparents, and named Sirius and Alice. I would have preferred Frank instead, but James insisted Sirius was his choice.

"Six months later, the war had escalated, and James was again called back into the field. I stayed home with Harry, though I was taking a correspondence course by mail from the Academy. I never told James, for it was my decision to make. It was my war too, and I would do what I had to in order to make the world safe for my child.

"Then we received a warning from Dumbledore, there was a prophecy concerning my son and Alice's Neville. They were supposed to be the instruments of a prophecy to kill You-Know-Who. And he knew of it and them. I was horrified. It was madness, to think a baby capable of such a deed. But then, Riddle was always a madman. Dumbledore said we must hide Harry, and my first instinct was to leave the country. But he said we would be perfectly safe here, and may God forgive me, I believed him. He put us under the Fidelius Charm, and James would have chosen Sirius for his Secret Keeper, but at the last minute, Sirius changed his mind and convinced James that Peter would be the better choice, since no one would suspect him." Her face twisted in a grimace of hate. "I had my doubts about him, I have never liked that rat, but I was overruled. James never could see the evil in that man, the slyness, he always insisted Peter was just self-conscious and that deep down he had courage and we could trust him."

"He was delusional," I snorted. "Pettigrew always licked his arse though, so maybe he figured that was enough."

"Severus!" Lily rebuked. "That's rather harsh."

"The truth often is," I said simply. "So you made the rat Secret Keeper. And you went into hiding at Godric's Hollow."

"For a month. It was rough on the both of us. James was as ill at ease as I was being cooped up. We got on each other's nerves something fierce. The only thing that kept us both sane some days was Harry. He could always make me laugh. James adored him, and played with him every chance he got. He had never really spent much time at home, so Harry barely knew him. So, for Harry, this enforced confinement was a good thing. Would that it had remained so. But it was not to be. The same day that I received your warning note about Pettigrew's betrayal and Voldemort's agenda, James discovered my papers from the Auror Academy, which I had placed inside the desk. He had a royal fit, accusing me of going behind his back, of being a deceitful wife. We had a dreadful row, and then I showed him your letter and he refused to believe it was the truth. He claimed he didn't trust anything you said, that you had always hated him and his friends and would say anything to smear their reputations. We argued some more over that, and I said we couldn't afford to ignore the warning. I wanted to take Harry and leave, go to my sister's house in Surrey or somewhere Voldemort would never think to search. Petunia and I had never been close but I knew she would not turn me away. James refused to consider it. He said I was a fool for doubting Peter and Dumbledore and we were safer at the cottage than anywhere else.

"I almost took a swing at him, but at the last minute I controlled myself and decided to take a long walk about the village instead. I told James to at least call Sirius and have him come over as backup, just in case, then I left Harry asleep upstairs, after casting a strong protection charm over him, and went out. It was just after seven o'clock in the evening. I walked out my frustration in an hour and a half, and then I found myself at the cemetery. I was weary and heartsick, but I didn't want to return home just yet. I didn't want to go back to that house, and start yet another quarrel with my boneheaded husband. I ended up entering the cemetery and talking to the gravestones. I felt I was a failure, that everything I had ever tried to do had gone wrong. I had never become a Spec, or the wife that James wished for, or the friend I should have been to you. I didn't even think I was a good mother because the last place I wanted to be was at home, even if Harry was there.

"So I sat and thought for a bit, then rose and headed back towards the house. I saw Sirius' motorbike parked in the drive and decided I could wait a bit longer to enter the house. James was probably grousing to Sirius about me anyhow. I returned to the graveyard and sat upon a bench, and for some unknown reason I thought of you, Severus. You and Gabe and Eileen. I missed all of you dreadfully and I hoped you were safe. Before I knew it, my eyes shut and I had fallen asleep.

"It was then I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that Harry was in danger, terrible danger, that You-Know-Who was trying to kill him, that he was surrounded by fire. I woke to the smell of smoke, screaming Harry's name. When I looked down the street at our cottage, to my horror, I saw that it was burning. My nightmare had become real." She started to tremble then, and she closed her eyes, tears running down her face.

"Lily, don't. You don't have to speak of it."

She shook her head silently. "No . . .I do need to speak of it . . .I need to have someone know . . .I don't want to remember, but I need to . . ." She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes with the heel of hand. "The house was on fire and I knew . . .I knew James was dead . . .and I also knew that my baby was in there. I didn't stop to think I just ran . . .ran right into the house. James was lying at the foot of the stairs, dead. I nearly tripped over him. I glanced at him briefly, but my whole being was focused on Harry. Harry was upstairs . . .where the fire was. The whole house was filling with smoke. I could hardly breathe. I cast a Cooling Charm about me and raced up the stairs. In the hallway, I found Sirius. He was dead too, another victim of the Killing Curse. A few feet beyond I found Pettigrew, he had been killed by a Cutting Curse. I kicked him out of the way. I supposed Sirius and he must have dueled and the coward took Sirius from behind with his last breath. Or maybe Voldemort killed Sirius. I'll never know.

"By then I was choking and gasping, the fire was roaring overhead and I could hear Harry screaming. I burst into his room, where I found him sitting on the floor next to his overturned crib, howling. And next to him was yet another body. It was Voldemort. Harry's face was a mess of blood, but I didn't care about that. I just grabbed him and then I Apparated. You were there when I reappeared outside and you know the rest of the tale." Her green eyes were bleak, pools of sorrow and regret. "I should have been there!" she burst out suddenly. "I nearly let my baby die because of my temper. I should have been there!"

"No, Lily. My God, if you had been there, you would've died too!" I cried, aghast. "Then Harry would have lost both parents and who would have taken him in? Never wish that, Lily! You couldn't have changed what happened, all you could have done is die with them! Is that what you wanted?"

She shook her head, crying softly. "You don't understand! James died before I could patch things up with him . . .! I should have gone home!" She put her head in her hands and began to sob harder. "I failed everyone!"

I sat there, feeling terrible, as she wept from guilt at not being able to save her husband. I could have told her that Potter should have believed her, should have never discounted my warning, that I would have made sure my wife and child were safe far away from Godric's Hollow. But I knew that such words, honest though they were, would only hurt her more. I tentatively reached out to touch her hand, unsure if I should attempt to comfort her, if she would welcome my touch.

She gripped my hand like a lifeline and wept over it.

I did not know what to say, how to ease her pain. I knew only that I could not stand to see her suffering. I rose and put my arm about her gently. For one instant, she stiffened, then she turned to me and cried on my shoulder. I gathered her to me and just held her, murmuring, "Shhh . . .shhh . . .Lily. Don't blame yourself. You survived. Be glad, Lily! Be glad! I am. You have no idea how much."

I held her for a long time, reveling in the feel of her in my arms, and wishing that it were a different reason I had for holding her. I still loved her, even after all this time. She had married my rival, borne him a child, and yet my heart still leaped when she spoke my name, and the past hardly mattered right then. "I love you, Lily. That's what I wanted to tell you before. I love you."

She sniffled and looked up at me. "Even after all this time?"

"Always."

She smiled through her tears. "Oh, Sev. I really don't deserve you."

"Of course you do. Never doubt it." I took a handkerchief from my pocket and blotted her eyes. "You seem tired, perhaps you should lie down."

"I'm fine, Sev." She gently slipped from my lap. "I don't want to impose on you and Eileen. Harry and I . . .we still have Potter Manor. As James' widow, I inherited all his property and assets. And Sirius left Grimmauld Place and all his worldly goods to his godson."

The funerals and wills had been read during the week following the deaths of the three Marauders. Sirius and James had been hailed as heroes and given a hero's funeral. Statues of them had been erected in Godric's Hollow. Pettigrew, on the other hand, was reviled as a traitor and his body burnt and his ashes scattered to the four winds. As for Harry, people were now calling him The Boy Who Lived, and saying he had vanquished Voldemort somehow by surviving the Killing Curse.

"What are you saying?" I asked. "That you want to leave?"

"It's not that I'm not grateful, Sev. You saved my life and Harry's life, I owe you more than I could ever repay, but I don't want to be a burden." Lily began.

"Nonsense, Lily! You are always welcome in my home," Mum said, as she walked in carrying Harry. The little boy bore a lightning bolt scar from where the curse had struck him.

I could not help recalling the words of the prophecy—and the Dark Lord shall Mark him for his own. Had the prophecy been fulfilled? Or was there more yet to come?

"Eileen, are you certain?"

"Lily Evans Potter, what a question!" Mum shook her finger at my childhood friend. "You are in no fit state to go off by yourself. You need time, child. Time to grieve and time to heal. And you won't do either alone with only your son for company. You may stay here as long as you wish. No arguments."

"Thank you, Eileen."

Mum smiled. "You're very welcome, Lily."

Harry held out his arms for Lily. "Mama!"

Lily picked him up and held him. "There now, little one. Mama's here."

Harry snuggled up to her and put his thumb in his mouth.

My mother looked at them and smiled sadly. "This is a hard time for you both, I know." She looked suddenly uneasy. "I wish . . .I wish I didn't have to be the one to tell you, but . . .I noticed something today when I was holding Harry."

"Like what? Was he injured somewhere else?" Lily asked, alarm widening her eyes.

"No . . .not injured . . .but . . .I fear he . . .his magical core was severely damaged deflecting the Killing Curse," Mum began.

"What are you saying, Eileen?"

"I'm saying that . . .I fear your child has very little magic left within him."

"No! He . . .that's impossible! He was born with a strong talent, James and I both saw it within him."

"And it was that which kept him alive. That and your charm as well. Lily, I know this is hard for you to hear, especially coming so soon after your husband's death, but I figured it best that you know now. Look at him with your Magesight if you don't believe me."

Lily did so, summoning the innate power of all sorceresses and wizards, the ability to detect magic upon a person, place, or object. She gazed at her son, who had fallen asleep in her lap. "No . . .Merlin save me . . .but you're right. His magic is . . .almost gone. He's a Squib."

I called upon my Sight too and saw that my mother was correct. The dark-haired child with Lily's eyes now had no more magic within him than the Hogwarts caretaker, Argus Filch. He had defeated Voldemort, but no victory comes without cost. He had paid with his magic.

Snape's Journal

July 15th, 1993:

I redipped my pen, thinking how far we had all come from that day to this. As it turns out, Mother was not quite correct, but more on that later. Lily turned over and woke, she always seemed to know when I was absent from her side. "Sev? Where are you?"

"Here, love." I put away my journal and came to her.

"Couldn't sleep again?"

"No." I came and sat next to her. "So I decided to write a few things down."

She chuckled. "You seem to be as in love with your pen as you are with potions. But that's all right. I've always admired a man with brains."

"Good thing," I grinned back at her.

She leaned her head against my shoulder. "Sev, thank goodness you were trained in emergency medicine as an apothecary. I was so scared, Sev. We almost lost him today. If you hadn't . . ." she trailed off and clung to me.

"I know. I was scared too," I admitted.

"I never would have guessed. You sure didn't act like it."

"Neither did you," I pointed out.

"What good would it have done to go all hysterical? Someone had to remain calm, poor Harry was terrified. I had to be strong for him."

I nodded. "You're a true Gryffindor."

"No. I'm a true mother." Lily corrected. "Thank Merlin I had the good sense to marry you, Sev. And thank God Harry's going to be okay." She placed a hand over her stomach. "Because I would be heartbroken if he never saw his new little brother or sister."

For long moments I just stared at her, uncomprehending. Then my wits returned to me. "You're . . .pregnant? Finally?"

"Yes, finally!" she laughed. "Finally I am carrying another child. Are you happy, Sev?"

"I am. I-I don't even have the words to express just how happy I am." I caressed her cheek and then placed my own hand over hers tenderly.

"I just hope . . .that I can carry this one to term."

"You will. I'll call Mum and she can examine you tomorrow morning." I said. My mother, in addition to being an apothecary, had also trained as a midwife. "I can hardly wait to tell her she's going to be a grandmother again."

I leaned back against my pillows, Lily cradled against me, and I fell asleep with a smile on my face. It had been quite a day, and not one that I would soon forget. I only wished that Gabriel were here to share it with me.

Well, I know this chapter had a lot of surprises in it, and some of you might not be pleased with the way things worked out at Godric's Hollow, but as I said in the beginning, this is an AU and non-canon, so events happened differently. I have done many Sev adopts Harry stories with Sirius in them, and this time I decided to have a more tragic ending.
 


Chapter 14: Only A Boy
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Snape's Journal

July 16,1993:

We broke the good news to Harry over brunch, we had let him sleep in today because of the allergic reaction from the bee sting, figuring his body could use the rest. But Lily and I had been up quite early, because I wished Mum to examine her before anything else. Leaving Harry sound asleep, we Flooed over to her flat, arriving just as she had finished her second cup of tea. After her second cup, she was usually ready to start her day.

"Severus! Lily! What brings you here so early?" she greeted us, rising and hugging me, and then Lily.

I gave her a light kiss on the cheek, a silent apology for not having been to see her in a few weeks. "We have some good news that we'd like to share with you, Mum. You're going to be a grandmother again."

"Oh!" A hand went to her mouth and her dark eyes shimmered with joyful tears. "You mean, you're finally expecting, Lily?"

"Yes, Mum. I am." The joy upon Lily's face was almost tangible. She had longed for another child for so very long and had almost given up hope that she could ever become pregnant. "I wanted to ask if you wouldn't mind . . .checking me out?"

Mum smiled. "Of course I wouldn't mind, luv. I'm so happy for you! Didn't I tell you that know-it-all Healer Briggs was mistaken when he told you that you could never have children after your last miscarriage? Never say never."

"It's sort of like a miracle," I said, my tone hushed. Lily would bear my child. Mine, not James Potter's. I loved Harry like he was my own, but there was no getting around the fact that I was thrilled to finally have a biological child of my own at last. As long as, please the Creator, nothing went wrong. The mere thought of anything happening to the baby or Lily terrified me to death.

"It is. And you deserve it, Sev." My mother said sincerely. "What does Harry think?"

"We haven't told him yet," Lily answered. "I wanted you to examine me first, make sure everything was okay. Plus he's still sleeping off the aftereffects of the allergic reaction he had yesterday from a bee sting. Severus gave him some pretty strong potions to counteract it."

"Bee sting? Oh, the poor dear! Sev, what potions did you give him?"

I told her how I had treated Harry, and she approved my methods. Not that I needed her to tell me I had done things right, the results spoke for themselves, but it still felt good to have her approval. I respected and loved Eileen Prince Snape dearly, and a kind word from her meant more to me than a dozen compliments from strangers.

"All right then, Lily." Mum switched her attention from me to my wife. "Let me start by asking you the usual questions. How long since your last monthly cycle?"

"Well, I've never been what you'd call regular, sometimes I skip, but . . .around two months." Lily answered promptly, without a trace of embarrassment at discussing such a private thing in front of me.

If anything, I should have been embarrassed, but I'd been an apothecary too long to get squeamish over a little thing like that. I knew quite well how a woman's anatomy worked.

"Ah. Good. How have you been otherwise? Any morning sickness? Weariness? Headaches? Any tenderness in your breasts?" Mum fired off questions like the seasoned midwife she was.

Lily confessed she occasionally had bouts of nausea, but not as bad as when she had been pregnant with Harry. She felt a little tired, but otherwise was fine.

Mum felt Lily's stomach expertly, nodding to herself. Then she drew her wand and performed an obstetric diagnostic spell. I had never learned how to cast those, though I was willing to bet if I had been born a girl, Mum would have taught me them as part of my education. I could have asked, of course, but had never seen the need to know such things, since Mum had always been there to administer to the pregnant witches who sought us out.

Colored lights danced over Lily's abdomen, and Mum did some more muttering before she straightened and announced, "Congratulations, Lily and Sev. You've got a viable two month old fetus in there. Growing nicely from what my spells tell me."

Lily glowed. "You're sure, Mum? It's normal?"

My mother nodded. "Very normal. Now, in your earlier pregnancies, you miscarried in your first trimester, correct?"

"My first time, yes. The last . . .I was almost six months when I lost it. My Healer told me it was stress and over exhausting my magical reserves."

"Hmm. Possibly. Well, one thing you can do to prevent that is make sure you get lots of rest and take a desk job from now till the baby is born. And have regular check-ups with me. I think I'll put you on bed rest as you get closer to your due date, just in case. For now, though, eat healthy foods, drink lots of milk, and take the Pregnancy Supplimental Potion I'm going to give you. Severus, you can brew it for her, she needs it once a day. Try not to stress over anything and if you need to, brew some raspberry leaf tea for nausea. Take long walks and exercise as much as possible. As you get further along, you should try to use your magic as little as possible, for it's draining upon your system."

"I'll do whatever you say," Lily promised.

Mum patted her shoulder. "You'll be fine, Lily. This time is totally different from the others. You're older, true, but you're not in the middle of a war and you're healthy and strong. You'll carry this baby to term, or my name's not Eileen Prince." She told my wife confidently. "Severus, you make sure you help out as much as you can in the later months."

"Yes, ma'am," I said respectfully. I would do whatever was needed to make sure Lily was healthy and well. I wanted this baby as much as she did. "Can you tell what it is yet?"

My mother shook her head. "It's a bit early for that. All I know is that there's a life growing there. Wait until the fourth month. Then I can tell." She snapped her fingers. "Here's the supplement draft and the recipe to make more. Lily, come back and see me in a week."

"I'll mark it down on my calendar," Lily said, then she hugged her mother-in-law again. "I guess we better get on home."

"See you soon. I have to go and open the shop." Mum bid us goodbye and we Flooed back home.

By then it was late morning, and Lily opted to have brunch instead breakfast, and I agreed. We made waffles and bacon, eggs Benedict, crumpets, a large green salad, tuna sandwiches, and chocolate biscuits, because Harry loved them. There was tea and lemonade and pumpkin juice as well. Lily set the table while I went to wake my son.

Harry appeared at the table within fifteen minutes. He had assured me he felt much better than yesterday and was ravenous. I could swear he was getting a growth spurt with the way he devoured everything in front of him. While he was on his second helping of bacon and waffles, Lily announced the good news.

Harry dropped his fork with a clatter. "You're kidding, right?"

"No. Your grandmother confirmed it. If all goes well, you should have a baby brother or sister by . . ." Lily did some quick calculating. " . . .February."

"That'd be really weird," Harry said. He gazed at Lily with new insight. "You don't look like you're having a baby."

Lily laughed. "Not now, but just wait a month or so. Then you'll see."

"Okay. How did it happen? I mean . . .I know how . . ." he blushed furiously, but continued gamely, " . . .but I thought you . . .uh . . .couldn't have kids anymore, Mum."

"That's what I thought too. But apparently I was mistaken."

"I'm glad," Harry stated. "I've always wondered what it'd be like with a younger brother or sister. What do you want the baby to be?"

"Healthy," Lily answered immediately.

"A girl," I replied, for I had been longing for a daughter with Lily's hair and eyes.

"I think I want a brother," Harry said. "So I can teach him how to play Quidditch and stuff."

"You can teach a girl that too," I put in.

"Yeah, but girls like to play with dolls and junk like that. No way am I getting stuck doing dumb things like that."

Lily smirked. "You'd be surprised what you'll be willing to do for a little sister, Harry."

He looked at her askance. "I'll bet you never made Dad play stupid girl games with you, Mum."

Lily's smirk grew even more pronounced. "No? Sev and I used to play all kinds of games. Including house."

"Dad! You didn't!"

"Once or twice. When I had no other choice." Then I added softly, "And you had better never repeat that to anyone, Harry James Potter, or else you'll be very sorry."

"I won't!" he promised. "I'm gonna pray it's a boy. Thank Merlin Hermione never made me do anything like that. Mum, how could you?"

"Oh, Harry, we were seven or eight! He was the father and I was the mother, and we played in the backyard, not at the park or anywhere in public." Lily laughed at his stricken expression.

"Still." Harry grimaced.

I refused to elaborate on my odd childhood. Suffice to say that I had been willing to play whatever Lily suggested, I would have done anything to keep my best friend.

"We'll see who gets their wish in seven more months," Lily said, eating some more salad.

"What do you want to have, Lil?" I asked.

"I don't really have a preference. I just want the baby to be healthy and born on time."

I could understand that. And I really wouldn't mind another son. Unlike my first time as a new parent, I was better prepared and older and more accepting of the twists and turns life throws you. And there would be none of the problems I had accepting Harry in the beginning . . .

Snape's Journal

November 26th, 1981:

Despite my mother's offer, Lily and Harry moved out of Spinner's End within a few weeks, as soon as Lily was certain she was well again. As James Potter's widow, she was the inheritor of not just the Potter estate, but several other properties as well, including Godric's Hollow. She spoke to her solicitor, and agreed to sell off the cottage and several of the smaller properties. The manor was expensive to keep up, but it could not be sold, there was some kind of clause in the will that said it had to be given to a family member. It would eventually become Harry's when he was of age, as well as Grimmauld Place.

But for now, Lily opted to move back into Potter Manor, where she had lived at the beginning of her marriage,rather than continue being a burden on us Snapes. I had argued with her, of course, but she was stubborn and refused to listen to me. "Sev, you and Eileen have a business to run, and you can't do that with me or Harry underfoot. At the manor, there are house elves to mind Harry and besides, I need to go through James' things . . .decide which things I need to get rid of and what to save for Harry to have when he's older. It'll take me awhile to do that . . .as well as trying to finish my Special Auror training. You and your mum have been wonderful, but it's really time for me to move on . . ."

"Lily, there's no need to be hasty. It's not like we mind you being there . . ." I began. I longed to tell her a quick way to get rid of Potter's things—use them as kindling. But I held my tongue, because I didn't want to quarrel with her, and she still bore some feelings for her deceased husband. She didn't need me sniping at her. But it was a near thing. I wished her to erase James Potter from her life, let him rest in peace, and let her get on with her own life. A life that I fervently hoped would include me.

"Sev, no. I've made up my mind. I need to be on my own. For now."

I knew enough not to push. "All right. But will you write to me?" I asked, unable to keep the plaintive note from my voice.

"Sev, I'll come and visit as much as I can," she reassured me. "I'm sorry I ever lost touch with you in the first place. I missed you terribly and I . . .want to try to have a relationship again, just . . .not quite yet. I need time . . ."

"All right. I'll be here," I said obligingly. I loved her, heaven help me, but I too needed time to get over my resentment that she had chosen Potter and borne him a son. I forgave her for her assumption of me, but there was a part of me that refused to accept that she had once loved Potter. It was petty and childish perhaps, but it was there nevertheless.

"I know. Thank you for everything, Sev." She kissed me then, and I felt as if I had been set afire, such was the passion she kindled within me.

It had been two weeks since she had gone, and though I had seen her several times since, it was never enough. I craved her touch, her voice, her presence, like a plant craves sunlight. I wanted her beside me always. The longing in me envied her son, who was one of the reasons she had left, so Harry didn't grow too used to Spinner's End, she wanted him to get used to Potter Manor. The jealous resentful part of me wondered if things would have been different if she had never had a son. Would she have stayed with us then?

I immediately felt ashamed of that thought, Harry was a baby, and one who had been gravely injured by an insane wizard. He didn't deserve my resentment. It had been a miracle he had survived that night. The warning I had sent to the Longbottoms had been heeded, and Alice and Frank had sent Neville into hiding with his grandmother, Augusta, then departed their residence themselves. So when the Death Eaters came calling, they found the family gone, and Aurors waiting to arrest them. Bellatrix LeStrange, her husband, and young Barty Crouch, junior were apprehended and later convicted and sent to Azkaban for life.

Things could finally go back to normal. Voldemort was gone and so were most of his followers. The Eyes and Ears program had been disbanded, though our names were still on the records, and the Ministry had given us huge monetary rewards for our service, enough so Mum could expand her apothecary and I could finally apply to the Academy of Potioneers and gain my Mastery degree, as I had always longed to do.

The only thing I lacked now was a meaningful relationship with Lily. But in order to have one, I had to accept her son. James Potter's son. I saw my old rival every time I looked at the boy, despite the fact he bore Lily's eyes. He was a constant reminder that Potter had known my Lily-flower first, and that made me burn with jealousy. It should have been me. By Merlin's wand, it should have been me.

When they had lived with me at Spinner's End, I had not had much contact with Harry, who tended to be clingy and wanted Lily most of the time. Occasionally he gazed at me, as if uncertain who I was, and once or twice he had asked after James, but mostly he stayed beside Lily or my mother or Gabriel.

My collie had taken to the waif immediately, he had always loved babies and children, of whatever age. It was the herding instinct, that inbred desire to protect the weak and helpless, that made Gabriel so overprotective of Harry. My dog, who used to be my shadow, now suddenly deserted me to lie beside Harry's cot at night, and he followed the child about the house, no longer content to spend the hours lying in the shop.

It irked me, though, that I could be so easily supplanted in my dog's affections. Gabriel had always been my loyal friend, who had saved me from my own terrible stupidity. And now he was snubbing me, in a way, for James Potter's son.

Looking back on it, I suppose I was foolish and juvenile to resent a baby that way, I should have known that my dog was not replacing me, only adding on a new friend to the ones he already had. But I had never been very rational when it came to James Potter, who I still recalled as an arrogant bully that had taken Lily away from me. I could never get back those lost years and that knowledge was like a stone in my heart, bitter and aching.

If that were not enough, you could plainly see that Harry adored Gabe. "Doggie! Doggie!" he would shriek whenever Gaby chanced to walk into view. " 'Mere, doggie!" he would call and hold out his chubby arms. "Mere!" And my collie would willingly put himself within reach of Harry's small hands, even though they tended to pull and rip out large chunks of fur.

"Be nice to the dog, Harry," Lily would tell him, patiently untangling his fingers from poor Gaby's fur. "Pet Gaby nicely. Like this." She would run his hand over Gabe's back, while the collie sat there, calmly enduring the little imp's abuse in silence.

"Or better yet, don't pet him at all," I muttered under my breath.

My patient dog would then turn and lick the child's face and Harry would giggle and hug him.

"Good doggie! He lickit me, Mummy!"

"I see, Harry. Gaby's a good dog, and a better friend."

It would have been adorable, but I was consumed with jealousy and turned away.

When Lily and Harry moved back into Potter Manor, Gabriel moped for a bit, but then he fell back into his old routine with me, coming to work during the day and sleeping with me again at night. I forgave him his brief defection and resolved to think no more about it.

Until my mother brought up Christmas shopping. It would be the first time in several years that Lily and I would exchange gifts, and I wasn't sure what to get her. I would have loved to give her an engagement ring, but I knew it was too soon. Potter's specter still lingered between us. So I had to think of something else. I knew Lily still loved potions, and she had mentioned once that she needed to get new scales and a decent cauldron, Sirius had melted hers one night trying to brew pale amber beer. So I decided to get her a master-level potions kit. I was sure she'd appreciate it.

"That's a lovely idea, Sev!" Mum exclaimed. "Lily and you were always aces in potions. What were you planning on getting Harry?"

I stiffened, for in truth I hadn't thought about getting the brat anything. I shrugged. "I have no idea," was all I said.

Something of my resentment must have shown on my face or in my voice, because my mother put down the vial she was filling and gave me a frown. "Severus!"

"What? I don't know anything about babies." I said sullenly. "He's probably got loads of toys and whatnot, stashed in the manor. Just like his bloody father."

"Severus, you cannot compare Harry to James."

"Why not? He's James' son, looks just like him and will probably grow up like him too."

"Don't be ridiculous, Sev. Lily would never let her son become a bully. And Harry is too little to remember James, so he wouldn't be so quick to follow in his footsteps. Severus, he's only a boy. A little boy who's lost his magic and his father. Now why are you behaving like a resentful idiot?"

Her scolding stung and I snapped, "Because he's Potter's son and not mine!"

I remained frozen. I hadn't meant for that to come out, but my mother had a way of prying secrets out of me. My ears burned.

"Ah. So that's it. You resent James Potter and wish that Harry was yours by blood."

"No, that's not it. I look at the boy and all I see is his bloody father," I raged. "Bad enough he was a thorn in my side when he lived. I can't even escape him when he's dead."

She frowned hard at me. "Sev, Harry is a lovable child, he isn't a spoiled brat like you seem to think. You need to spend more time with him, get to know him better. Then maybe you'll quit seeing James and only see Harry. Harry loves you, Sev."

"No, he doesn't. He loves Gabriel."

"So do a great many people." My mother pointed out. "Don't be so blind, Sev. Harry looks for you every time you leave the room. I think you ought to follow your dog's example and keep an open mind. After all, Lily and Harry come together, and if you want to date Lily, you need to accept Harry as well."

I sighed. She was right. But I wished she wasn't. "I don't know if I can do that."

"Then your relationship with Lily will have ended before it really began," my mother told me bluntly. "Think about it this way. James Potter may have hurt you, but that baby is an innocent. How would you feel if Lily blamed you for everything your father did over the years? If she resented you for Tobias' mistakes and held you accountable? Harry is not his father. Forget who he resembles. I taught you better than to judge by appearances, Sev. That's what those fool Marauders did to you. Do you want to be like them?"

Her words hit me like a slap. I had always prided myself into seeing not only the face a person presented, but what motivated him as well. Yet now, when it came to one small baby, I was letting an old grudge cloud my thinking. I was acting like Black and Potter and Pettigrew, the very people I despised. What was wrong with me? "No, of course not."

"I didn't think so."

"But how can I just forget that he's Potter's son?"

"By forgetting about James Potter. I know he made your life a misery in school, Severus, but that's over. He's dead and gone, let the past die with him. You need to spend some more time with just Harry and learn to see him as only a boy, not the "son of a bullying toerag". I think once you do you'll love him as I do."

I was doubtful. My resentment of Potter had festered for years, could I overcome it in a few months? I knew that I was being unfair, and a part of me was ashamed. Lily would be furious if she knew how I resented her son. "I . . .all right. I'll try."

"Good. Now I'm going to invite Lily for a girl's day out. She needs to quit brooding and remember that she has a life that doesn't revolve around Harry. And you, Sev, are going to babysit Harry while we indulge ourselves."

And that was how I ended up watching Harry every Friday night. At first I felt awkward and uncomfortable, and I struggled to blot out the fact that this was James' son. Harry had a cowlick that stuck up and reminded me very much of how Potter's hair was always mussed when he came off his broom after Quidditch practice. But his eyes were all Lily's, and in the beginning it was those I focused on.

It also helped that Harry was so sweet-natured and displayed no hint of spoiled or arrogant behavior. He was content to sit on the floor and play with his toys, or run after Gaby in the backyard, and in fact it was on one of those occasions that he tripped and skinned his knee. He started to cry, and Gabriel came racing over to me, whining urgently, then he turned and went back to Harry and began licking him. He hated it when kids cried.

I turned and came over, reacting upon instinct. I had been trained to help sick and hurt people, and I didn't even stop to think about what I was doing. I knelt down, shoved my collie's nose out of the way, "Move, Gabe! I need to see how bad it is." And examined my patient. It was not as bad as I feared. A nasty scrape, nothing that required any kind of advanced spells to fix. Harry was sobbing as if he'd lost a limb. "Here now, it's all right. You're just scraped. Calm down." I said in my best soothing tone.

He held out his arms to me and I picked him up. "Shhh. Come on, let me fix you up." I carried him into the house, where I quickly cleaned and put magical salve on the cut, then bandaged it.

Once it stopped hurting, Harry stopped bawling and the next thing I knew he had flung his arms about my neck and clung to me like a little monkey.

I breathed in the scent of baby powder and soap, grass and milk, and I held him tight and began rubbing his back. "There, there. You'll live."

He hiccupped, then laid his head on my shoulder. He was worn out and I walked back into the den and sat down. "You need a nap," I told him. Gabe jumped up and lay down on the couch next to me, looking at me worriedly. "He'll be fine," I told my collie.

"Doggie," Harry mumbled sleepily.

"Gaby. His name's Gaby."

"Daby," Harry repeated. Then he did an astonishing thing. He turned his little face into my neck and said, "Ni' ni', Dad."

I remained with my mouth open. He had called me dad! I couldn't understand it. Lily and Mum had never referred to me as such around Harry. So why would he think of me like that? I stared down at the peacefully sleeping child and realized that I was slowly replacing the memory of James Potter in Harry's mind. Lily had told me that James was often away, and Harry had rarely seen him, except in the month before the attack, when James had been home all the time. But since then, the only man Harry saw was me, who was tall and dark-haired like his father. Who watched and cared for him, fed and changed him, and even fixed up his scrapes. Just like a father would.

We had spent the holidays together, and I had given Harry a stuffed replica of Gaby to sleep with at night. He loved it. Brought it everywhere with him. Lily came to see me every weekend, and it was now January. Almost three months had gone by since that Halloween night. Dumbledore had visited Lily at Potter Manor and expressed his condolences on her loss and his sympathy that Harry had lost his magic as a result. "He seemed upset that Harry wouldn't be attending Hogwarts, but really, what did he expect? I will not send my son to a wizard school when he has only enough magic to light a candle. Harry can go to a Muggle school when he's old enough, or I can teach him myself. At Hogwarts he would only be made to feel inferior. I don't care if he has magic, he's my son and I love him no matter what." Lily had told me a week after she had moved into the manor.

Now, holding him in my arms and listening to the soft hush of his breathing, and feeling the warmth and trust he had for me, I felt humbled. My mother had been right. Harry did love me.

And me? Gradually my resentment had begun to fade, as I came to like the child for himself. He was wry and funny and smart, and almost never cross, unless he wasn't feeling well. I had nursed him through a fever and an upset stomach. He trusted me and I had stopped seeing Potter's clone every time I looked at him. Now, when I looked at him, all I saw was a little boy. Lily's boy. Whom I had come to care about very much.

"Good night, Harry." I murmured, and settled down on the couch with the toddler , resting my head on Gabriel's shoulder.

He groaned, then turned his head and licked me. See? I still love you, you silly ass. And I love the boy too. I reached back and stroked his noble head. "Thank you, Gabriel. For reminding me of what I should have known all along. That a heart has room in it for more than just one person."

I yawned and felt my eyes start to shut. I guess I needed a nap too. And that was the way Lily and my mother found us some two hours later, sound asleep in a heap upon the couch. Lily thought we looked so cute that she took a picture. I have it still, in the family album.

Snape's Journal

July 16, 1993:

"Dad?" Harry broke into my thoughts. "What are you going to name the new baby?"

I looked at Lily. "Well, we haven't had time to decide on a name yet. Would you like to help us, Harry?"

Harry hesitated. "Uh . . .I guess. But I don't know too many good names."

"That's all right. We'll just write them all down and pick the ones we like best," I told him. "We can pick two names each, boy and girl."

"Why don't we start now?" Lily suggested. "I'll get the paper and a quill."
 
 
 


Chapter 15: Sickness
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Snape's Journal

July 18th, 1993:

I had just finished marking the last potion in my Advanced Solutions class when Mr. Abernathy, the Headmaster of the Academy, entered my lab. "Severus, I'm glad I caught you before you left. I have some bad news."

I froze, the quill poised above my grade log. "What do you mean, Hal?"

Hal Abernathy sighed. "Well, there was an announcement over the Wizarding Wireless about half-an-hour ago warning of an outbreak of acromalia virula in this area."

"The spider flu? But we haven't had an outbreak of that in years. Since before my son was born." I cried, aghast. Spider flu, as it was called, was so named because of the spider-shaped hives it left upon those who caught it. It was a quick-acting strain of wizard flu, which struck down the elderly and young alike. It could cause permanent damage to one's magical core if not treated soon enough, made one very ill, and was highly contagious. At its deadliest, it killed within forty-eight hours, draining away a victim's magic too quickly to be replenished.

"Well, there have been twenty cases so far in London alone, eight fatalities. The Ministry Board of Health is recommending all the academies and small shops be closed down as a precaution, it is hoped that might lessen the spread of the disease," Hal told me gravely.

"Are you closing the Academy, then?' I asked bluntly.

"I don't want to, but neither do I wish for a flu carrier to infect everyone with the virus." The Headmaster said heavily. "So I suppose I shall have to comply with the Ministry Health suggestion."

"How long will we be closed for?"

"I don't know. Until the epidemic is over, I guess. You'll still be paid, Severus."

"That wasn't what I was worried about, Hal. Lily is pregnant, I don't want to bring any kind of sickness home to her."

"Oh, I see. Well, you didn't notice any of your students sneezing or having runny eyes, did you?"

I thought hard. Sometimes potion fumes could cause sneezing and watery eyes, depending on what was being brewed, it was why I insisted upon cloth masks and goggles when making acrid or strong solutions. But this day they had been brewing some Sore Throat Elixir. "I don't believe so," I said.

"Then don't worry about it," Hal said. "Until we hear otherwise from any student who falls sick. Finish what you are grading and then go home, Severus. Tell your wife I said hello and I hope she has twins."

"Twins?" I cried. "Great Merlin, Hal!"

Hal laughed. "What? You need some more kids, Snape." He clapped me on the shoulder. "I'll see you around."

I went home. Lily immediately sensed something was wrong. "Sev, you're home early. Something happen at the Academy?"

I told her about the outbreak. "So far, we haven't had a case here in North Yorkshire that I know of. But the Academy's in London and so is Mum's shop in Diagon Alley. I need to Floo her and see if she's taking precautions."

After I had done so, and found that Mum, like Hal, was taking no chances, I settled down to study the list of names for the baby that Harry and Lily had come up with while I was in school. As I was perusing them, I recalled something. "Lily," I called. "What if you're having twins?"

She came to sit next to me on the couch. "Twins? What makes you say that?"

"Well, it's not unheard of. I mean, my mother was a twin, though her twin brother died at birth, had the cord wrapped about his neck."

"I never knew that."

"It's not something she really talks about. But I thought there might be a chance you could be carrying twins."

"But Eileen only heard one heartbeat."

"Sometimes twins hide one behind the other and their hearts beat in sync with each other."

Lily rubbed a hand over her belly wonderingly. "That would certainly be a surprise."

"Yes. Well, we'll find out, won't we?" I kissed her cheek lightly. "Look at this, Lil. Harry chose Gabriel for a boy's name." I indicated the name written in Harry's spiky writing.

"Gabriel. How very . . .appropriate."

It was, oddly enough. I had always liked that name, one reason I had named my collie it. Harry had also written Erik and for a girl he had chosen Emmalyn and Gwenivere, Bethany. Interesting choices. Lily had picked the traditional Eileen and Hallie, which were the names of my mother and hers. She had put down Severus for a boy and also Coriolanus, Augustus, and Jareth. Geraldine, Melanie, and Rhea. I added to this Micah, Valerius, Gavin, and Nicholas. For a girl I liked Diana, Kaylee, Isabeau, and Alyra.

Harry came in from his Quidditch practice, calling, "Hey, Mum, I'm home!"

"How was your practice today?" Lily asked from inside the kitchen.

"Okay. I got to play Seeker, and Coach Alexander said I was really good at it."

"I'm glad to hear it, son. Now go and wash up, you're all sweaty." Lily ordered, coming out into the hall to hug her son and muss his hair playfully.

He tried to duck, saying that he was too big to be hugged.

"You are never too big for a hug from your mother, young man," Lily said. "Now watch it, or else I'll hug and kiss you in public."

"Mum! You wouldn't!"

"Don't test me, Harry James. Now scoot!" She sent him on his way with a gentle swat.

He bounded up the stairs, sounding like a herd of erumphants.

Snape's Journal

July 20th, 1993:

Today I received a letter from Headmaster Abernathy. It was brief, only two lines.

Dear Professor Snape,

I regret to inform you that two of your students have contracted the spider flu.

If I were you, I would get to a Healer and let them check you over, you know how contagious this is.

Sincerely,

Hal Abernathy, Headmaster

Academy of Potioneers

I went into immediate panic mode. If some of my students had contracted this terrible plague, there was a better than even chance I could be infected too. I had to leave my home, before I spread the contagion to Lily and Harry, or Merlin forbid, my unborn child. The spider flu could kill the fetus in the womb, much like the Muggle disease Rubella (German measles).

I quickly cast every disinfectant and cleansing spell I knew over both me and the house. Then I wrote a note and left it for Lily on the kitchen table. She was over at my mother's having her weekly exam. Harry was over at Hermione's, they had been going to see a movie. I hated leaving this way, without a proper goodbye, but I could not bear it if I put my family in danger.

Gathering my resolve, I threw down a handful of Floo Powder and popped over to St. Mungos.

I informed the greeting witch at the desk that I suspected I had been exposed to carriers of the spider flu and she immediately ushered me into a quarantine room on the second floor of the hospital. "Please wait here, Mr. Snape, and fill out this form." She handed me a clipboard with a form and a Refilling Quill. "A doctor will be here to see you shortly."

It took me maybe five minutes to fill out the simple form and questionnaire regarding my exposure to this bloody disease. Then I waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally, I drifted off, recalling yet another time when I had nursed both Lily and Harry through a similar type of illness. Harry had been just a toddler, around two . . .

June 5th, 1983:

"Daddy, my tummy hurts," Harry told me right before he vomited all over the bathroom floor. That was the first warning sign I had. He had just gotten a bath and I was putting feet pajamas on him. Lily and I had recently tied the knot around two months ago, after a whole year of getting to know each other all over again, and Mum had given us Spinner's End and gone to live above the shop in the flat we used to use as a storage unit.

I stepped back quickly enough to avoid getting the mess on my slippers. Harry started to cry. "I sorry! Sorry, Daddy!"

"Hush, don't cry. It's okay." I soothed, picking him up. I carried him over to the toilet. "If you need to throw up again, do it in the toilet." I wet a cloth and wrung it out, wiping his face, which was flushed and his eyes were glassy.

He spat into the toilet. "Yucky."

Figuring he was referring to the nasty taste in his mouth, I got him a cup of water and made him rinse his mouth out. "Stay put," I told him, then Scourgified the mess away with a quick wave of my wand. That was the easy part.

I took a child-strength Stomach Soother from the medicine cabinet, after unlocking it with a quick spellword. All of our medicinal potions were locked up ever since Harry had drunk a Pain Reliever one day and we ended up rushing him to St. Mungos for treatment. Luckily, it wasn't that dangerous, and all they did was give him a Vomit Inducer and some green tea solution to flush it from his system. However, Harry remembered the potion making him sick, and now he gave us a hard time whenever we needed to dose him.

"Your tummy still hurt, little mite?" I asked. That was my pet name for him, because he was small for his age.

He shook his head. Then he looked up and saw me coming toward him with the vial and the spoon. "No! No yucky potions!"

"Now, Harry . . ." I began my usual litany. "This isn't a yucky potion, it'll make your tummy feel better."

He shook his head. "No! I isn't takin' it!"

I waved my wand and locked the door before he could try and dart out of it. Then I set the potion and the spoon on the counter and went to corral my scamp of a stepchild. He howled and kicked when I lifted him into my arms. "Harry, stop it!" I ordered. "You need this, now quit giving me a hard time."

It took me a few minutes before he calmed down enough to sit on my lap. But then he refused to open his mouth. I could feel him burning from a fever as well, clearly he had contracted some kind of bug. But he stubbornly refused all my entreaties, including the bribe of a sweet. I could have forced the potion down him, but had no desire to handle him so roughly. Finally I said, "Fine, will you take the potion for Mummy?"

He thought about it. "'Kay."

I took him and the potion to my bedroom, where Lily had been reading in bed. She wasn't there. "Lil? Harry's sick and won't take medicine from me, he wants you."

"I can't," I heard her moan from the bathroom. "I'm sick too."

"Great! Just great!" I groaned. "Do you need potions, Lily?"

"No. I have them." Then I heard her retching.

Looks like she had caught whatever Harry had.

Harry looked at me, his green eyes wide. "Mummy sick?"

"Yes. Come on, mite. Let's go and have some applesauce." I figured if I couldn't get him to take the potions directly, I could disguise them in the applesauce.

I had learned that little trick from my mother, who was used to dealing with reluctant patients. It worked on Harry, and then I put him to bed, placing a monitoring charm over him just in case he woke up and needed me.

Gabriel lay sleeping in the hallway, but when he heard my footstep, he woke and came to his feet, his tail wagging eagerly. I patted him. "No, Gabe. No playing now, I have to take care of Lily. Lily's sick and so is Harry."

I knew the dog didn't understand all the words I'd spoken, but he did understand my tone of voice—hushed, worried, and grave—and his ears drooped and he lost his playful air. Now he looked worried too, his brown eyes fixed on me, panting slightly. He followed as I went into my bedroom, where Lily, pale as a sheet, was now lying in bed. He went to her and thrust his cold nose into her arm.

"Hey, silly collie," she greeted him, and Gabe's tail began to wag. She fondled his ears, scratching them.

He put his broad head upon her lap and his eyes glazed over in pure bliss. I could understand that perfectly. Lily's hands had the same effect upon me.

"How are you?"

"Not too good, Sev. I think I picked up some kind of flu bug, I'm running a temperature, vomiting and feel absolutely awful." Lily told me. "If I were you, I wouldn't sleep here tonight."

I touched her forehead with the back of my hand. It was very hot. "Did you take a Fever Reducer?"

"Yes. And the Stomach Soother and a Pain Reliever."

I conjured a glass of ice water with a straw and helped her as she sipped it slowly. Then she lay back on the pillows and closed her eyes. Within moments, she too was sleeping.

Gaby whined and licked her hand. I had no doubt he knew she was ill, animals always seem to sense that. They must smell it on us or something.

"Come, boy. I'll let you out for the night, and then you and I get to play Healer." I patted my leg and he reluctantly came with me.

Once he had returned from the yard, he stuck to me like a burr. I actually made up a sort of camp bed in the hallway, inbetween both rooms, so I could hear either Lily or Harry if they needed me during the night. Gabe stayed with me for awhile, but soon he went into Harry's room and lay on the floor by his bed like a furry sentinel.

I was woken twice by Harry during the night, he needed to go potty and he was hot, his fever had returned. I gave him more potion-laced applesauce and wiped him down with a cool cloth before putting him back to bed. He fell asleep with Gaby licking his hand. "Stay with Harry, Gaby," I ordered, though I didn't need to. Nothing would have dragged him away, except maybe me.

By the next morning, both Lily and Harry began to display small reddish marks on their throats, which itched, and then wept a yellowish fluid. Their eyes swelled too and turned the same awful yellow color. It was then that I knew what they had. Scrofungulus, a contagious wizarding ailment. I had had it when I was a child, and so was immune to it.

It would be four days before either of them got better.

Scrofungulus attacked the skin and lungs as well, and soon I was busy brewing Breath Ease Elixir and some special herbal paste that my mother recommended, to be spread upon their chests. I made sure they drank plenty of liquids, even when hey complained their throats hurt. Harry I held on my lap and spooned broth into him. Sometimes he kept it down. Other times I ended up wearing it.

My poor bewildered collie traveled back and forth from Lily to Harry, trying as best he could to comfort them with his tongue and his presence. I was surprised there was not a trail of pawprints in the carpet by now.

On the third day, Lily took a turn for the worse, and her fever spiked so badly I feared I'd have to bring her to the hospital. None of my potions were having an effect and I called my mother, panicky and frightened. She came over and together we placed my delirious wife into an icy bath.

She opened her eyes then and called my name. "Sev! Sev!"

"I'm here, Lil. I'm right here." I told her over and over. Sometimes she called for Harry too, and my mother told me I should put them in the same room, it would be easier to nurse them that way.

Stupid! I should have thought of that.

So I put Harry next to Lily and they seemed to draw comfort from the other's presence. And Gaby now took up sentinel on the foot of the bed.

By day four, they were both sporting yellow and blue spots, but that meant the disease was nearly done, and the fever retreated and so did the sore throat and nausea. The few things that remained were a cough, the itchy spots, and low magical reserves. But that I could fix with potions and salves, and in a week Harry was better. Lily took a bit longer to recover, because she had her magical core damaged by the illness and it took a few more days and several vials of Magic Replenisher to get her back on her feet.

When both were finally okay again, I celebrated by making a chicken and mashed potato dinner with gravy and green beans. Gaby celebrated by racing about like a demon through the yard and barking his head off. But I didn't tell him to be quiet. I knew that he was simply happy that two of his people were no longer ill.

It made me laugh, the way he bounded about like he was on springs, his small paws propelling him across the yard and back again. He would gallop up to the back door then spin around and run across the lawn, his brown eyes gleaming with delight. His joy was infectious.

Harry ran outside to romp with him, and ended up getting knocked down and licked all over. Good thing he didn't mind dog slobber, and he just pulled himself up by grabbing Gabe's ruff. "Good dog!" he giggled. Gaby whuffed happily.

Snape's Journal

July 20, 1993:

"Mr. Snape, the Healer will see you now," a mediwitch's voice broke into my musing. She beckoned me through a door and I entered a sterile exam room.

The Healer, named Coates, ran a diagnostic on me, and then said, "You are showing early stages of the spider flu, Mr. Snape. I see you're a Professor at the Academy, probably picked it up from one of your students."

"Yes. Two of them came down with it earlier," I told him. He sniffed superciliously. I immediately bristled at his condescending manner. A Healer with an attitude. Just what I needed.

"You are aware, of course, that you must be quarantined until the flu has run its course? Otherwise you could spread it to your family and indeed anyone you come into contact with." He said, speaking to me as if I were an idiot or a small child.

"I know what a quarantine is, Healer. I'm not stupid. I used to be an apothecary before I was a professor," I informed him crisply.

"How nice," he drawled in the same arrogant tone, making me want to shake him. "Well then, let us get you a room and get a preliminary round of potions into you. Symptoms should start showing in a few hours."

He clapped his hands and house elf appeared. "Prim, show Mr. Snape to one of the quarantined rooms on the east wing."

The elf, who was wearing a sort of toga on her skinny frame, bowed and called to me to follow her.

I did, and then I undressed into one of those utterly idiotic hospital gowns, which I immediately lengthened. I put my wand next to me and crawled into bed, my head was spinning dizzily all of a sudden. I took the three potions upon the tray and then I fell into a deep sleep.

Snape's Journal

July 24th, 1993:

When I woke again, I discovered it was four days later. I was terribly weak and disorientated. My voice was hoarse, from my screaming in my delirium, I was later told by the friendly intern who came in to give me some juice and broth. "You kept moaning and thrashing about so, we almost had t' put restraints on you. You kept callin' for Lily and Harry, Eileen and Gabriel. Are those your wife and kids?"

I explained the relationships to her.

"Oh, so that's who sent you all these lovely gifts," she said, gesturing to the table where I saw fruit baskets, boxes of crackers and cheese, several handmade cards from my son, and a tureen of soup.

"That one's from my mother," I said knowingly.

She tugged the card off it. "Yes, you're right. It says it's her herbal infused chicken soup. And it smells delicious." She sniffed appreciatively. "Would you like some?"

I felt rather hungry. "Yes, but a little bit at a time."

She got me a small cup and ladled some of my mother's soup into it. "Here you go. You've been delirious with fever and spots since the day you came in here. We had to spell potions into you and Healer Coates claimed you're lucky to still be among us, you had one of the worst cases he's ever seen."

I still felt drugged and exhausted. It was an effort for me to eat, but I was hungry. I ate two cups of soup and some crackers, and drank two glasses of water with a fresh lemon before falling asleep again. As I was drifting off, I wished Gaby were here, I had been dreaming of him, I think.

The next time I woke it was twilight and I could hear Coates' familiar arrogant tone just outside my door and also my mother's. My lips twitched into a smile. Mum wouldn't put up with that one's condescending manner.

"Well, Healer Coates, for your information, I have already had the spider flu, and am therefore immune to it. So I shall not be spreading it to anyone. I am a certified Apothecary Mistress and have been for over twenty-five years. Now step aside and let me see my son."

"Madam, there are regulations—"sputtered Coates.

"Take it up with the Head of your Department. And wipe that sneer off your face, young man! I may not be a Healer, but I'll wager I know more about treating people than you do."

"You're only an apothecary—"

"And you're an arrogant jackanapes! Now move out of the way, or must I tie your fingers in knots and toss you across the corridor?" Mum demanded icily.

Coates backed off and the door opened and my mother came in.

"Bloody little idiot! Put their name on a fancy diploma and they think they know everything. Ha!" she snorted. She came over and expertly felt my forehead and noted the faint spots left on my arms and chest. "Hmm . . .you look better than you did a few days ago. I snuck in after hours and saw you. How are you feeling, Sev?"

"Tired."

"Ah, well you will be for awhile yet. The spider flu is a nasty disease, you were lucky you had strong magical reserves to call on. Those who don't . . .tend to not make it."

"How are Lily and Harry?" I asked then.

"Fine, but Lily was terribly worried about you. She came here every day and night and watched you through the observation screen." She indicated the large wall opposite me, which contained a one-way viewing panel. "And Harry too. He was the one who sent you the fruit and wrote all those cards. Some of those presents though are from your students. They were all very concerned over you, Sev."

Abruptly she broke off and hugged me. "Sev, I was . . .I thought I might . . .lose you and that arsehole Healer refused to let me stay with you, even after I had the Healers test me to show him I had already survived the bloody spider flu! He kept quoting regulations at me like a bloody recorder and didn't give damn that you were all alone, fighting for your life." She started to cry, very softly.

"Hey. I'm all right, Mum," I whispered, holding her. I patted her back.

"I know. Don't mind me. These are happy tears." She sniffled and wiped them away. "Did you eat the soup I sent you?"

"Of course," I said lightly.

"And how was it?" she inquired, drawing away from me to sit in a chair.

"Delicious as always," I answered.

"Good. You seem like you're recovering," she said, waving her wand over me. "As I thought. You'll probably be released tomorrow morning and after about four weeks of rest you'll be your old self again."

I gaped at her. "Four weeks of rest?"

"Yes. You don't think you can bounce right back after going through an ordeal like that, do you?"

"I . . .no . . .but . . .four weeks!"

"Don't look so horrified, Sev! You can finally catch up on your reading and spend some more time with Harry and Lily." Mum laughed, patting me on the cheek. "Remember, your magic needs time to readjust."

She sat with me for several hours, telling me about my family and filling me in on how the epidemic was still raging and the hospital was swamped with patients. Lily and Harry were practically housebound now, at Eileen's insistence.

"I'm sure Harry is driving Lily crazy," I remarked. "He's never done well with confinement."

Mum chuckled. "No, he hasn't. I think Lily threatened to Stick him to the floor. But maybe he'll settle down once you come home. He misses you very much."

Those words warmed me better than a cup of hot tea. I had always had a special bond with my stepson, but it felt good to know that Harry didn't always regard me as a strict pain-in-the-arse and actually missed me when I was gone. "I miss them too." I admitted softly.

The next morning, I was pronounced free of contagion by Healer Coates, and gathered up all of my get well gifts and Flooed back to my home.

There I was greeted by an ecstatic Lily, who hugged and kissed me and wept quietly for a moment against my shoulder. Harry hugged me too, and said it was good to have me home. I pretended not to see the tears shimmering in his eyes. Apparently I truly had been close to death if this was the reaction I got upon coming home. I recalled very little of my illness, except burning like a bonfire and then freezing and strange shadowy shapes marching through my dreams.

"It's good to be home. I love both of you," I told them.

I was told that I was to remain on bed rest for another few days and then to take it easy for the next few weeks. I was also on a Magic Replenisher regimen for a month. I was still not back to normal, being weak and tired almost all the time.

I managed to last through a welcome home lunch, eating some soup and bread and tea before my eyes started closing. I made my way to my room, Harry hovering in case I needed his shoulder to lean on. Then I undressed and fell asleep, thinking as I drifted off that there was only one thing missing at my welcome home party.

My faithful collie, who would have been licking and jumping all over me if he were still alive.

But he came to meet me in my dreams, and I was content.
 


Chapter 16: Chasing Harry
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Snape's Journal

October 25th, 1993:

"Go, Harry, go! Knock that cheating little arse off his broom!" Lily shouted, practically in my ear.

I winced, trying to keep in mind why I was here, at the Junior League Quidditch Final Game of the season, and not at home, relaxing peacefully in my lab. Quidditch has never been my cup of tea. Matter of fact, I detest the bloody sport and whoever invented it. It's dangerous and the only good things about it are that it teaches one how to be coordinated on a broom and work as a team. Since it's the only sport the wizarding world plays, its fans are too numerous to count and most of them are rabid obsessed things, willing to spend their last Knut cheering on their favorite arrogant Chaser or Seeker. It's utterly absurd. Yet here I was, on a perfectly good October afternoon, sitting in the stadium watching Harry play in the final match. Because he had begged me to come.

"Please, Dad? It's the last game of the season and we're playing the best team in the league, but we can beat them, I know it. Please come, just so you can see me fly? I have this really wicked move and I want you to see it."

"Your mother understands Quidditch better than I do, Harry."

"I know, but . . .it would mean a lot if you could come and see me play the last game."

Once he said that, I knew I couldn't refuse. My son rarely asked me to come to Quidditch games, he knew I disliked the sport intensely. But for him, I would endure the frenzied screaming and shouting and the crowds all jostling and pushing each other, like sharks in a feeding frenzy. I knew the basic rules of the sport, Lily had insisted I learn that much, so I could follow a game, but all I really cared about was watching my son fly after the Snitch.

Lily had told me that Harry was an excellent flyer, he had inherited James' talent on a broom. I supposed it could have been worse. He could have inherited Potter's arrogance. I would have preferred he inherited Potter's talent for Transfiguration, but he hadn't. Instead he was wicked fast and daring upon a broom.

Good thing too, because the other Seeker was playing for keeps, and even though it wasn't sportsmanlike to try and knock the opposing Seeker off his broom, that's exactly what he was trying to do with Harry. And had been for the entire game. Which was why Lily was yelling at Harry to do the same to the spiteful little snot.

Lily was now almost five months along, but that didn't stop her from attending this crazy match, despite the fact that we were packed like sardines in a tin, and she had once told me she could take Quidditch or leave it. I focused on the game, praying my son would catch the damn Snitch soon so we could all go home. "Come on, Harry! Catch the bloody thing!" I yelled encouragement to my son, who was scanning the sky for the elusive golden sphere.

"That's the spirit, Severus!" my wife said approvingly.

I just rolled my eyes. Merlin help me, I just wanted it to be over. I was chilled from the wind, and my hair was in snarls, and I was stiff as a board from sitting on this damn wooden bench. I could have cast a few charms to make myself more comfortable, but Lily hadn't done so, and neither had anyone else, that I could tell. Not wanting to seem like a namby pamby, I refrained from doing so.

Suddenly, Harry shot across the pitch, his eyes spotting the Snitch. He looped up and around the other players and everyone on our side of the stadium was on their feet screaming.

The other Seeker was also making a beeline for the tiny winged ball, and just as Harry reached out to grasp it, his opposite deliberately fouled him, tossing some kind of dust into his path.

Harry veered away, unable to see, and the smug little git caught the Snitch.

The referee blew the whistle and announced the match was over.

"Foul! Foul!" everyone on the side of the Flaming Phoenixes screamed, including Lily. "Doesn't count!"

"He cheated!" Lily cried, furious. "Open your eyes, you stupid bat!"

On the other side, the Dark Dragons were celebrating their victory, slapping each other on the back and making rude gestures at us.

The rest of the Phoenixes were having a fit too, but I was more worried about Harry, who was trying to land without his glasses. He had taken them off because they were covered in dust. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when he was on the ground again. I adjusted my omnoculars and saw that he was getting off his broom, he looked furious.

By now the stadium was in an uproar, and Lily got to her feet angrily. "I'm going to go lodge a complaint! That was a blatant foul, any idiot with eyes could see that! Unless he was being paid to look the other way!"

"What do you mean?"

"What I said! That's Lucius Malfoy's kid out there playing Seeker opposite Harry! Didn't you look at the roster?" she snapped.

"No. I'm only here to watch Harry."

"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Severus!" She shoved my crumpled programme at me. "Look! Dark Dragons—Seeker—Draco Malfoy! I've no doubt his daddy paid the ref to look the other way if something . . .unexpected occurred! Bloody rich cheating bastards!" Lily's eyes were blazing. "Well, they're not going to get away with it! That game was ours!"

She began to push past the knots of people, heading towards the stairs.

"Lily! Where are you going?" I shouted.

"I told you, Snape! I'm lodging a complaint."

"Wait! I'll come with you!" I called, but she had already vanished into the crowd. Mentally cursing impulsive Gryffindors, I struggled to follow, but it was difficult to move in the crowd, since many people also wanted to get downstairs and give the ref a piece of their mind as well. I was furious as well, not because of the game result, but at how that wretched boy might have harmed my son with his wicked trick. I wanted to give him or his father a piece of mymind.

It was fifteen minutes before I managed to make my way out of the packed crowd and down to the pitch.

I found Lily, along with some others, in a heated argument with the referee, whose name was Boyle. " . . .clearly a deliberate foul, Mr. Boyle! He threw dust in my son's face, obstructing his vision!" Lily was saying. "Not only did he cost Harry the game, but he could have seriously injured him as well!"

Boyle was looking at her condescendingly, his eyes upon her prominent belly. "Now, Mrs. Potter, does the lad look injured to you?" he indicated Harry, who was standing on the fringe of the crowd, looking like he wanted to tell off the referee.

"Evans," Lily corrected. "He wasn't hurt this time, but he could have crashed! That alone should be grounds for a disqualification, sir! Young Malfoy set out to sabotage my son because he couldn't beat Harry fairly."

"Malfoy caught the Snitch, therefore the game is over. Just 'cause your team lost, Evans, is no need t'cry foul play. I think you're overwrought. A lady in your condition—" began Boyle patronizingly.

Big mistake. Never ever tell a pregnant woman that her condition warps her ability to think.

Lily blew up. "My condition?" she said sweetly. I shuddered, knowing that tone meant she was going to tear you to shreds. "Oh, you mean because I'm pregnant?" She placed a hand over her stomach. Then she went from sweet as pie to a nasty virago in two seconds flat. "What are you saying, you pompous ass? That I can't think for myself because I'm pregnant? You dipstick, I'm not blind! Or stupid! Why don't you quit counting your Galleons and take a look at the facts?"

"Ma'am, you need to go take a Calming Draught and lie down, you're not fit to pass judgment on me—"

"How dare you? Malfoy cheated and we all know it, you arrogant sod! Disqualify that catch and let the game continue!"

"Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" the crowd screamed behind her.

I pushed my way to her side. "Sir, at least call a penalty for poor sportsmanship." I said, putting my arm about Lily's shoulders. "Even I know throwing dust into someone's face is illegal."

Boyle glowered at me. "This your wife?"

I narrowed my eyes at him. "What of it?"

He shook his head. "Woman like that gets a lot o' strange fancies, you ought to take her home and put her to bed—"

"Oh, so now I'm crazy and in need of a keeper?" Lily snarled, her temper sizzling.

"Ma'am, if you don't quit screaming like a . . .a hag, I'll have you thrown out," blustered Boyle.

"I'd like to see you try!" Lily spat. "Lay a finger on me and I'll hex you into next week. Who do you think you are, treating me like some kind of . . .of simpering weak little flower?"

"Anyone can see the strain is too much for you, my dear," drawled Lucius Malfoy, coming up to join us. "Snape, you really ought to take better care of your wife."

"And you ought to mind your own business, Malfoy!" I shot back. "Cheaters never prosper. Unless they pay off the referee."

Lucius looked down his nose at me, his eyes two chips of ice. "Are you accusing me, Snape?"

"I don't need to accuse you when the proof is all over my son's glasses. Harry, come here and let them see your lenses."

I turned to locate my son, only to find him involved in a brawl with Draco.

"You take that back, you bloody git!" Harry was shouting, red-faced. He was on top of the other boy, intent on pounding Draco's face into the mud.

"No! It's the truth and everyone knows it!" Draco spat out a tooth and swung a right hook that knocked Harry sideways.

Before the fight could escalate, I grabbed Harry by the back of his uniform and hauled him off the other boy. He struggled ferociously in my grip. "Let me go, Dad! I'm going to kick his arse! He cost me the game and he called Mum a . . . a whore!" he hissed the last part in my ear, blushing.

"He what?" I had been about to tell Harry to calm down, but once I heard that, I wanted to beat the little brat senseless. It was a good thing Lily was still arguing with the referee and hadn't heard what Malfoy's son had called her.

"He said that Mum didn't even wait a week out of respect for the dead before she shacked up with you and that she was probably cheating on James with you," Harry cried. "Nobody says that about my mother!"

I was livid. "You need to teach your son some manners, Malfoy!"

"If the shoe fits, Snape . . ." drawled Lucius.

I knew he was trying to bait me into losing my temper. I wasn't going to fall for it. I wasn't going to fall for it, I chanted over and over.

"I hear redheads always like variety."

The hell I wasn't. I drew back my fist and slammed him right in his aristocratic jaw.

"Shut your filthy mouth, Lucius!"

Several people cheered, whether because they disliked Lucius or just liked a good fight.

The elder Malfoy landed right on his ass, stunned that I had dared to raise a hand to his pureblooded rich self.

"You tell him, Dad!" Harry cried.

I blushed, regretting losing my temper and behaving like some ruffian. I was a professor, I was supposed to set an example. I turned back to the referee, after plucking Harry's glasses from his head. "Look at the dust on these. Clear evidence of a foul. I demand a rematch."

The crowd began chanting again, sounding like a flock of murderous magpies.

Boyle sputtered, looking from the crowd, to me, to Lucius and back again. He was torn between the naked truth and the lies he was being paid to speak. "I . . .err . . .I . . ."

"If you don't give us a rematch, Boyle, I'll go right to the Head of the Magical Games and Sports Division and put in a complaint against you for being dishonest and taking bribes," Lily threatened. "So if you ever want to work as a moderator again, I'd give a rematch."

Draco had regained his feet and now was lunging at Harry.

Lucius grabbed his son by the shoulder. "Stop it, Draco!" He glared at me, his speech a bit slurred. "I ought to have you arrested for assault, Snape!"

"Gentlemen, please! There's no need to get violent!" Boyle cried, terrified the whole crowd might riot. "We'll play the last quarter over again. Everyone, return to your seats!" He bellowed.

Lucius looked outraged.

The crowd cheered, or at least our side did.

"No fair! Father, it's no fair!" Draco wailed. "I caught the Snitch."

"Oh, shut up and get on your broom!" Lucius ordered.

I released Harry, after spelling his glasses clean and he hopped on his broom and was airborne.

We returned to our seats, or simply gathered about the edge of the pitch, watching as the players circled and dove and scored.

Within ten minutes, Harry had seen the Snitch. Only this time he played Slytherin and made believe he saw it in an opposite direction, sending Draco on a wild goose chase across the other end of the pitch. Then my son pulled up, dove and went towards the hovering globe, catching it easily.

"We won! We won!" Lily screamed. "Take that, Malfoy!"

The crowd went wild.

And so ended the final game of the Junior Quidditch League. Thank Merlin for small favors!

Later that evening, while Harry polished the shining cup engraved with his name on it for the twenty-fifth time and put it on the mantle, I relaxed on the couch, with Lily's head in my lap. I was rubbing her temples, trying to soothe away the headache she had gotten, probably from screaming so much today.

"Mmm. Don't stop, luv," she muttered. "That feels wonderful."

I continued my massage, glancing ruefully at my skinned knuckles. Then I looked over at Harry, who was sitting on the floor, happily admiring the shiny gold finish on his trophy. He had grown so much over the past year. It was hard to imagine that once he'd been a small boy, with a naughty grin and a penchant for trouble. "Remember when he tried to jump off the roof onto his broom?" I asked Lily.

"Yes. He ended up with a broken arm and you almost had a heart attack," she said. "Or how about the time he climbed out the window of his room and tried to cross the street all by himself when he was three? He nearly got run over by a car."

"I remember. Thank heaven we had Gabriel . . ."

Snape's Journal

October 12th, 1983:

At two, Harry was a sweet-natured curious child, content to play quietly indoors while I read or Lily brewed potions for the Auror Department. But by three he was like a lightning bolt, into everything. We couldn't turn our backs on him for a minute. He climbed, he touched everything, and it seemed like we were forever scolding him, putting him in time out or smacking his hand for touching something he wasn't supposed to. Yet in spite of this, he became Mr. Independent, and wanted to do everything himself. Comb his own hair, dress himself, feed himself, and go outside alone. We encouraged his independence in certain things, but drew the line at him venturing outdoors alone.

Harry loved going outside to play. He loved running in the grass, finding odd rocks and insects to show me or Lily, and especially playing with Gabriel. He and the collie would romp for hours and at times that was the only way we could tire out the little imp and make him take a nap. Harry usually fought going to sleep, I think he didn't want to miss something, but after an hour or two of playing explorer in the backyard, he was tired enough to sleep without much protest.

That day I had put him down for a nap and went to finish marking some essays, Gabriel was on the porch, dozing, and Lily had gone to the store to pick up something for lunch. I had made sure that Harry was sleeping soundly before beginning to read, since I taught adults, these essays were lengthy and dense with information and would take me several hours to finish. I knew I wouldn't finish them all by the time Harry woke, but I was determined to make a decent start.

An hour passed swiftly. I stretched, put down my quill, and went to check on my son. The door to his room was shut and he should have still been sleeping in his bed. But when I peeked inside, I saw the covers mussed and no Harry.

At first I didn't panic, thinking he was hiding, he'd done that to me before. So I called, "Harry, where are you?"

Usually he'd answer, "I here, Daddy."

But there was nothing. I checked under his bed and in the closet. No Harry. Now I started to grow worried. Then I saw the window, which had been slightly open to let the breeze inside. It was the kind of window that swung open, but I had latched it after opening it slightly. Now it was wide open. I thrust my head out, frantic. The window was on the ground floor, so it wasn't far to jump to get down, but still . . .I hadn't thought he could undo the latch and get out.

I looked up and down the yard. No Harry.

Then I panicked.

"Harry! Harry!" I screamed, my heart in my throat. What if he hadn't climbed out on his own? What if he had been kidnapped? Everyone knew about the Boy Who Lived. What if some maniac had decided to make a name for himself by snatching my son?

I conjured my Patronus and sent the white doe flying away to find Lily and tell her she needed to get home immediately. Then I ran outside, calling and calling. I had just reached the street and was starting to look across it when I heard Gabriel barking loudly.

"Gabriel!" I shouted, only then realizing the dog wasn't sleeping on the porch.

I looked towards the sound and saw about a hundred feet in the distance, my toddler stepping off the curb and into the street.

I froze. "Harry! NO!"

Luckily my dog didn't.

Gabriel grabbed the seat of Harry's trousers and started to pull him back towards the pavement. Harry was hollering "Bad Gaby! Let me go!"

Then a car rounded the corner and came to a screeching halt, just missing my small son and the big red-gold collie.

I never ran so fast in my life. I think I Apparated without knowing it.

I was down the block and grabbing up my now bawling son and hugging him to me, unmindful of the fact that I had picked him up so fast that I hadn't given Gabe time to release Harry's trousers and so had pulled him right out of them. "Are you all right?" I kept babbling. "Harry, are you hurt?"

The motorist had gotten out by then and rushed over. "Oh my God! Mr. Snape, I'm so sorry! I didn't see him, I only saw the collie!" It was Jenny Linquist, who had just gotten her license last week. She was crying. "Is he okay? Oh my God!"

Gabriel whined and licked her hand, dropping Harry's trousers. She immediately knelt down to look at my dog, murmuring, "Poor baby, I didn't hurt you, did I?" She felt him over gently.

Meanwhile, I was slowly checking over my son, who had gotten over his fright and was now demanding to get down. Once I was certain he was unharmed and my heart had restarted, I grew angry. "Harry James, don't you ever ever scare me like that again! Understand? You almost got run over by a car! You know you're not allowed outside alone!"

"I wanted to play outside!" he whined, squirming and avoiding my eyes.

"Then you ask me or Mummy. You don't ever leave the house without asking!" I cried. "Never ever do that again!" I punctuated my last sentence with three smacks to his bottom. I was still shaking with the aftermath of what had almost happened.

"Sorry! Sorry, Daddy!" Harry wailed, burying his face in my shoulder. This was the first time I had ever spanked him before. "I be good!"

I hugged him to me hard.

"Sev! Did you find him?" Lily shouted, running down the walk towards us. "Oh, thank God! Is he all right? Where was he?" Her bright red hair flying, she raced up and hugged the both of us.

"He . . .he almost ran in the street, Lily!" I told her.

Lily gasped, her eyes wide with horror.

"But your dog saved him, Mrs. Snape!" Jenny sobbed. "I almost didn't stop . . .but then I saw the dog and he . . .he pulled your baby out of the way! It was the bravest thing I ever saw!" She held up Harry's trousers, which had two holes from where Gabriel's teeth had punctured the fabric.

Lily looked as though she might faint, but all she did was whisper, "Thank God!" and hug us tighter.

Harry was still crying and saying he was sorry.

Lily took a step back and asked sternly, "What are you sorry for, young man?"

"I sorry for runnin' away without tellin' Daddy!" Harry sniffled, then he rubbed his bottom. "Oww! Daddy spanked me," he told Lily, giving her huge puppydog eyes.

"You were very naughty, running away like that!" she scolded. "You're lucky you're not getting two spankings. How many times must I tell you, no going outside by yourself? Only with Mummy or Daddy?" She took Harry and hugged him to her. "You almost died! If it wasn't for Gabriel—" She looked down at my dog, who was sitting calmly at my feet, wondering what all the fuss was. "Is he all right? Jenny, tell me you didn't . . .hit him?"

"No, Mrs. Snape. I just missed him." Jenny reassured her. Then she threw her arms around Gabriel and hugged him. "You're such a good dog, Gabriel! Such a brave dog!"

Gabriel licked her, then he looked up at me with long-suffering eyes that said Must she hug me so tight I can't breathe, Sev? Help me.

"Jenny, I think you're choking him," I said dryly.

Jenny immediately released his ruff and stood up. "Oh, I'm so glad everyone's all right. I never could have lived with myself if I'd . . ." she trailed off and brushed tears from her eyes.

Lily put a hand on her shoulder. "You've had a bad shock, hon. Why don't you go home and lie down? Maybe drink some tea?"

"I was supposed to go to the store for my mum."

"I'm sure she'd understand why you came back," Lily said, patting the sixteen-year-old on the back.

Jenny nodded and then got back in her car, it was a red Ford Anglia, and slowly and carefully pulled away and drove back around the corner.

Once she was gone, Lily knelt down and buried her face in Gabriel's fur. "You crazy wonderful dog! Thank you so very much for saving Harry!" Then she started to cry, which fired up Harry again.

I just stood there, watching them, and a part of me felt like crying, I was so relieved that Harry wasn't injured or . . .heaven forbid . . ..dead. It had all happened so quickly . . .

Finally, Lily got hold of herself and stood up, Harry on her hip, still in just his shirt and underwear. I put my arm about her and we walked back to the house. Gabriel followed, carrying Harry's forgotten trousers, his plumed tail wagging.

"Sev, how did he get outside?"

"I think he climbed out the window . . ." I said. I told her my theory.

Once we were back home, Lily mended Harry's trousers, dressed him, and went to lay on the couch with him. He was quiet now, worn out, and he soon fell asleep in Lily's arms. Meanwhile, I went around and cast Locking Charms on all the windows and doors and mentally kicking myself for not thinking of that before.

When I returned, Harry was fast asleep and Lily nearly so. "Oh, damn! I left a trolley full of groceries right in the middle of the aisle. Luckily I was alone in the frozen section when your Patronus came. And the car's in the parking lot of the supermarket."

"Don't worry. I'll go get them." I said, then I Apparated over to the supermarket. Miraculously, I found Lily's trolley was still there, no one had come to take it away, so I just paid for what was in it, then stopped at the butcher shop on the way home and bought the biggest meatiest ribeye steak and gave it to Gabriel as a reward that night for supper.

He deserved it and so much more.

Snape's Journal

October 25th , 1993:

"Did I really do that?" Harry asked after I had finished telling the story. "I don't remember doing that at all. Merlin, was I stupid!"

"Not stupid, Harry," Lily corrected. "Just too little to know better."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Which translates to stupid. Lucky Gabe was there to save my arse." He stared down at the trophy in his hands and was quiet for a long moment. "There will never be another dog like him."

"No." I said softly. "He was one of a kind."

Harry set the cup on the mantle, right next to the dog memorial. Then he stepped back and we all admired it. "That was some game, huh? Malfoy cheating, Mum almost getting thrown out by the ref, and you punched out Lucius Malfoy. I never thought I'd see the day you lost your cool in public, Dad."

I flushed. I never should have allowed him to bait me. But he'd had it coming.

"Really, Severus. I didn't know you were so . . .passionate about Quidditch," teased Lily.

"I'm not. I'm passionate about my family," I said simply. "Quidditch is a waste of time."

"It is not!" my son protested hotly. "Quidditch rules!"

I rolled my eyes. "Don't you have homework to do, Harry?"

He made a face at me. "Killjoy. You said it wasn't due till Tuesday. Today's Saturday. Besides I'm tired. It's hard work catching the Snitch."

"Not as hard as brewing twenty cauldrons of Anti-Venom," I returned.

"Whatever, Dad. Hey, Justin Finch-Fletchley and some of the other guys invited me over to a party tonight to celebrate our big win. Can I go?"

"You have homework to finish."

"Oh, lighten up, Sev!" Lily smacked my knee. "Let him have tonight off . . .to celebrate his win."

"Thanks, Mum!"

Then she added, smirking, "You can always work his backside off tomorrow studying and having Defense lessons with me."

"What a brilliant idea, Lily." I chuckled.

"Real nice, Mum. And here I thought you loved me." Harry pouted.

"I do. I love you enough to want you to be the best you can be, athletically and academically," Lily returned. "What time is this party and where is it?"

Harry told her the details. I listened with half an ear, and continued massaging Lily's temples. My mind was far down memory lane, recalling a brilliant red-gold collie trotting across the yard carrying a four-year-old Harry on his back as if he were a pony. Back then Harry had wanted a pony, but when we told him a pony was out of the question, he decided to make Gabriel his pony. The things that poor dog put up with from my stubborn son! I should have known Harry would be an excellent broom rider. Even then, he had superb balance and never fell off, not unless Gabe stopped abruptly.

"So, can I go, Dad?"

"Huh? To the party? Well . . ." I deliberately drew out my answer, making him squirm.

Lily smacked me again. "Severus!"

"You may go. But you better be back by curfew." I said.

"Okay. Thanks, Dad." Harry gave me a smile. Then he ran upstairs to shower and change before supper, and send a letter to Justin to let him know he'd be attending the victory bash, or whatever teenagers called it nowadays.

I settled back against a cushion and played with Lily's hair.

"I hope this one doesn't give me as many gray hairs as Harry did," my wife said, snuggling closer to me.

"With our luck, Lil, you'll have twins and they'll make us bald," I smirked.

"Severus, you're terrible! Always such a pessimist."

"Comes with being a Slytherin, dear. If you wanted an optimist all the time, you should have married that Hufflepuff, Marlon Davies."

"No, thank you! I want a husband, not a doormat." She sat up and wrapped her arms about me. "I love you, Severus, and only you. Now . . .why don't you tell me the real reason you punched Lucius out? Because I know there was more to it than the fact that he's an arrogant arse."

Damn! It looked like she had learned a thing or two from a certain Slytherin in the years we'd been married. "Lily . . .I don't think—"

"Spill it, Snape!" she ordered in her best interrogation tone.

"Fine. But don't say I didn't warn you."

I told her.

She was quiet for about five seconds.

Then she grinned. "I wish you had told me sooner."

"Why? That comment was untrue and nasty."

"So I could have hexed the bastard," she replied. Then she kissed me.

Hope you all liked this one!
 


Chapter 17: New Neighbor
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Snape's Journal

December 15th, 1993:

I had just uncapped a new jar of ink and trimmed a quill when I heard Lily calling for Harry. She sounded testy, as she often did now that she was in her seventh month and growing bigger every day. Since I hadn't seen her when she was pregnant with Harry, I couldn't tell if she was normal for seven months, but she swore she was huge, and her ankles had begun to swell, making it difficult for her to move about. She was due for her maternity leave soon, and crotchety because she hated to quit work, even if she did feel better at home with her feet up.

"Harry, where are you?" she called up the stairs. "You were supposed to come and help me decorate the tree half-an-hour ago."

"Aww, Mum, do I have to? I was sleeping," came Harry's response, sounding just as annoyed as any teenager would woken from a nap. "Decorating the tree is boring!"

"You used to love decorating the tree with me," she objected, sounding a bit hurt. "I'll make popcorn and we can eat some and make popcorn strings with cranberries for the tree too." She persuaded. "I need help, it's hard for me to reach the top of the tree now that I'm Mrs. Bowling Ball."

"I don't feel like it. Ask Dad."

"Your father helped me put the lights on and the fake snow. Now it's your turn."

Decorating the tree in our house was a family thing, and had been started by Lily years and years ago. Harry had never minded it before, but now he was reaching a difficult age, and seemed to be getting bored with the old family activities, and also whiny and uncooperative. I stuck my head out of my bedroom. My son was standing in the hallway, his hair tousled from sleep, a sulky look on his face.

"Harry, go and help your mother."

"But Dad, I'm tired!" he groused. "And decorating the tree is for babies."

I frowned. "Do your mother or I look like babies?"

"No, but . . .I just don't feel like it today." He grumbled.

"Come here," I crooked a finger at him.

He eyed me warily. "What for? I'm not sick, I don't need any potions."

"Just come here," I ordered irritably.

Dragging his feet, he came over by me.

Lowering my voice, I said, "Remember what I told you yesterday? That your mum was going to be cranky and out of sorts and we needed to do our best to be patient and help her?"

"Yeah."

"Well, this is what I meant. Now go humor her and help put the damn ornaments and popcorn on the tree. It'll only take you fifteen minutes if you use a spell."

"But I suck at levitating objects."

"The more you practice, the better you'll be." I said. "Now quit whining and just help her. I've done my part for now." I said, indicating my pullover, which still had bits of fake snow stuck on it.

"You have snow in your hair," Harry pointed out. "Makes you look old, like Father Christmas."

"I'll show you old, brat!" I mock-growled, playfully tussling with him. He had gotten taller and somewhat filled out, but I was still bigger and stronger than he was, so in the end I won. I got him in a headlock and said, "Do you surrender?"

He struggled a bit more before conceding defeat. "Okay. I surrender!"

"Smart boy. Now go and help your mother."

"Da-a-d!"

"Think of it this way. This is one of the few times you'll have to spend with your mother alone before the baby's born," I said, but he still looked unconvinced. "Why don't you invite Hermione over to help? Then you'll be done even faster."

"That's a brilliant idea! Thanks, old timer!"

"Cheeky brat!" I growled.

Laughing, he ducked the smack I aimed at his backside and then bolted downstairs. "Mum, I'm going to invite Hermione over to help us."

"That's a great idea, Harry," Lily exclaimed. "It'll be like old times then."

I allowed myself a smug grin. I could remember many a December when Hermione had come over to help bake or trim the tree as a child, she had always loved the holiday season, and Lily loved having a girl around to shop with and all that. I was very grateful for Hermione, because then I wouldn't have to be dragged to some godforsaken mall or Diagon Alley to stand on endless lines in the chill wind for hours to get Harry the latest toy, game, broom, or whatever.

I returned to my desk, and sat there for a moment, wondering what I had done before Hermione had moved in down the street. Been miserable, I supposed. I could clearly recall the day she had arrived, as I had been standing on the front lawn, watching Gabriel play with Harry when the moving lorry came down the street . . .

Snape's Journal

August 5th, 1986:

It had been a trying morning for all of us. Lily had gotten reassigned to go after a ring of international magical bank robbers, her mission was to infiltrate them and then get enough proof and their true identities to make an arrest. It would probably take her most of two months to track them down and then get them to allow her to join before she made the collar. But then, this was what she was trained to do as a Special, and I knew she was looking forward to her first "real" assignment.

I was both proud and upset by her promotion. I knew she was a very capable Auror, we had practiced dueling each other at the Auror Training Center while my mother watched Harry, and she was an excellent duelist once I had gotten her to quit being noble and put me (or any other opponent) down for the count. Aurors weren' t supposed to hex to kill, but a Special was given leeway, since they infiltrated and hunted the most deadly criminals. She had joked once that I would make a damn fine Auror. But I had just shook my head and told her I'd rather stick to being a Potions professor and apothecary.

Even so, I still worried about her. These were hardened criminals, and wouldn't hesitate to kill her if her cover were exposed. "Be careful," I told her the previous night, in the afterglow of our recent lovemaking. "I know I can't tell you not to go, nor would I attempt to tell you what you should do with your life, but just remember that you have a husband and a son waiting for you."

"I would never forget you, Sev. You and Harry will always be in my heart. But I need to do this. I need to make a difference, to make the world safe for ordinary people. It's my Gryffindor complex, as you would say."

"Bloody knights in shining armor," I half-growled.

"You love me for it."

"Too right I do. Fool that I am." I pulled her to me, all too aware that this would be the last night I would spend with her for a long time. "You cannot cage a wild falcon. She must be free to fly as she chooses." Potter had never understood that. But I did. I would let her go, even though it terrified me to do so.

She put a finger to my lips. "But she shall always return to you," she promised. "I may not be able to write you, but know that wherever I am, you are always in my thoughts. It's not forever, Sev. Only two months."

"I know. But it will seem like that long. Especially for Harry."

She sighed. "I wish I didn't have to be away for so long, but what can I do? Somehow, we'll have to make him understand."

That proved more difficult than either of us had anticipated. Harry had not spent time away from Lily since he was born, and had grown used to her always being there. So he took her leaving for an extended period of time very hard. Lily had tried to explain to him why she had to go away for so long, but he didn't want to hear it.

"Tell 'em to send somebody else, Mum! I need you here."

"I know, luv, but I have to go. It's my job, sweetling. This is what I do. Now give me a kiss and behave for your father." Lily had told him firmly. She had hugged and kissed him goodbye, and me as well, before Flooing away, and I saw the tears in her emerald eyes as she vanished.

Harry started howling then, and trying to follow her through the fireplace, I had to stand in front of it so he wouldn't try and throw himself into it. "Harry, stop it. She's coming back."

"Mummy! I want you to come back now!" he was shouting, tears falling down his face. "I don't want you to go!" He glared at me angrily. "Why'd you let her go? Why didn't you make her stay here?"

"Harry, she had to go. That's her job, catching dark wizards, like mine is teaching potions." I began, trying to explain once more to the distraught six-year-old.

"She should find a new job!" he sobbed.

"Harry, sometimes parents have to do things that you don't like—"

"I hate you!" he burst out suddenly. "I hate you and I hate her and . . .and everybody . . ." he cried raggedly, tears and mucus dribbling down his face. Only to get washed by along pink tongue. Gabriel had come down from his usual spot at the head of the stairs to see what Harry was so upset about. My son threw his arms about the great collie and cried, "I hate everybody . . .'cept Gaby!" Then he buried his face in Gabe's ruff and sobbed for a good ten minutes.

I just stood there, feeling useless, but I didn't think he'd want me to hold him, he was too upset, but neither did I dare leave him alone and risk him trying to Floo after Lily. I missed her too and yet at the same time I felt hurt, because Harry didn't seem to think I was good enough for him. This was going to be a long two months.

Finally his sobs died down to hiccups and he lifted his face from my collie's fur and looked at me. "Did she really have to go?"

"Yes, son. But she'll come back home."

"When?"

I sighed. "Come here and let me show you on the calendar." I held out my arms.

He came running, and I picked him up and held him. "First, let's wash your face and your glasses."

Once I'd done that, I showed him the big wall calendar with the pictures of various fantastic beasts on it that we had Stuck to the wall in the kitchen. "Now, remember how I taught you the days of the week and the months?"

"Uh huh. Today's Monday, and it's the first week of August." He sniffled.

I handed him a tissue. "Good. Blow your nose. Now look here. I'm going to put a big red X on today. Then—" I flipped the calendar pages. "—I'm going to put a big green X on the day Mum will be home again. I put a green X on the first week in October. "See? Now we can cross off each day until we get to the green X. If you count them, you'll see how long it will be before your mother comes home."

He started to count, he had learned how to read and do basic addition and subtraction. " . . .fifty-eight, fifty –nine . . .sixty. Sixty more days! Aww, that's so long!"

"It just seems that way now. Let's eat breakfast and after we'll take Gabe for a walk."

That day passed rather quickly, after breakfast and a walk, we had lessons, then dinner, and then Gaby and Harry played out in the yard while I graded papers for an hour. But when darkness fell, and it was time for bed, he ended up sleeping with me, with Gabriel lying atop both our feet.

The next morning, I was standing outside while Harry walked Gabriel on his lead when we saw the moving lorry go down the street and stop at a house three doors down from ours. A gray car pulled up soon after it and three people got out, a man with light brown hair dressed in navy slacks and a polo shirt , a woman in a yellow sundress, she had curly blond hair, and a little girl who looked around Harry's age, she was wearing a purple shirt, white shorts, and lavender sandals. She had long brown hair that was very wavy.

"Who're they, Dad?" Harry asked, staring at them.

Gabriel's tail started to wag as he caught sight of them.

"Looks like our new neighbors," I replied.

The moving men had already begun to cart boxes up to the house, and the man had unlocked the front door and opened the garage as well. The woman appeared to be directing the men, telling them where to put the boxes.

Gabriel barked, his plumed tail wagging, and he trotted to the end of his lead and stood at the edge of our property, looking wistfully at the new neighbors.

The little girl looked up and saw my dog, grinning happily. "Oh, look, Mum! Look at the beautiful collie! I want to go and pet him."

"Honey, you know you shouldn't pet strange dogs without permission," began her mother.

So her daughter ran halfway up the pavement and yelled to Harry, "Hey, can I pet your dog?"

"Sure! He doesn't bite," Harry called back.

She ran up to Gaby, her hand held out. He sniffed it gravely, then sat and offered her his paw. "Oh, what a clever dog! What's his name?"

"Gabriel." Harry answered. "Like the angel. I'm Harry. That's my dad over there. His name's Severus Snape."

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Hermione Granger." She pointed back towards where her parents were. "That's my mum, Anastasia, but Daddy just calls her Stacy, and Daddy's name is Andrew."

"Neat. My mum's name is Lily, but she's away right now on business," he told her, which was what I had told him to say if anyone asked where his mum was. "So it's just me and my dad home. He's a professor at a university."

"Wow! Mum and Daddy are dentists, they're gonna open up a new practice near here." Hermione said. She was still petting Gaby. "What a gorgeous collie!"

"Yeah, and he's smart too!" Harry bragged. "Dad taught him all sorts of tricks. Watch." He gave Gaby a hand signal, and the dog lay down.

He snapped his fingers and Gabriel sat up and barked.

Hermione watched in delight as Harry put the collie through his paces. "That was lovely! He's much cooler than Lassie."

"'Course he is!" Harry rumpled his ears. "You're the best dog, right, Gabe?" He turned to me and asked, "Dad, can Hermione come over and play?"

"Fine with me, but why don't we ask her mother?" I said, just as Stacy Granger came up to me.

Before I knew it, Hermione and Harry were playing in my yard and I was offering refreshments to Stacy in the kitchen. She declined politely, saying she had to oversee the movers, and then went back to her new house.

It wasn't long before Hermione was a familiar face at my house, and Harry was the same at the Grangers. Gabriel accompanied them back and forth, he was comfortable everywhere. By the time Lily returned home, her mission a success, Harry and Hermione were fast friends, much like another little girl and boy I could name.

Lily was delighted that Harry had found a friend, and often remarked on how cute the two of them looked together. I was just glad that Hermione wasn't your average squealing hyper child who touched everything. She was mannerly and polite, always greeting me or Lily before asking to go outside, play upstairs, watch TV, or whatever plans they had for the day, though she did tend to ask a lot of questions.

Her parents had enrolled her in the local primary school, she was rather surprised when I told her that I taught Harry at home. "I wish my mum and dad could teach me, but they work all day."

She had even more questions when she learned she was a witch, and we revealed to her family that we did more than just teach and work for law enforcement. Stacy and Andrew actually took the news rather well. It turned out that Stacy had a great aunt on her mother's side that lived in Russia who was also a witch, and that was probably where Hermione's talent had come from.

"I never had it, my mother never had it, or my sisters, though Kyra used to claim she had the Sight once in awhile." Stacy had told Lily one afternoon. "So when Hermione started doing odd things I thought maybe the magic had finally shown up again."

Hermione had had several incidences of accidental magic before moving to Spinner's End. She would be a strong witch. Little did the Grangers know that Harry was yet to have one, and Lily and I prayed every night for his magic to finally awaken. But it didn't, and so we had resigned ourselves to the possibility that our son was a Squib. But it could have been worse. The rebounded Killing Curse could have left him in a coma, or brain-damaged, or dead. He had been lucky.

He did notice, however, that Hermione could sometimes make things happen, like a chair move, or a fork fly through the air. "How come I can't do that yet, Dad?"

"Well, sometimes it takes longer for certain people's magic to awaken," I hedged. I didn't want to tell him his magic might never awaken, because nothing was certain, and doubt was often fatal for a wizard. You had to believe in yourself and your magic, or else your spells would go awry. "Someday it'll happen."

"Someday, someday. It's always someday!" he whined, kicking a chair across the kitchen. " I hate someday!"

"And I hate whiny brats who kick chairs for no reason," I snapped. "Go pick up that chair and put it back where it belongs."

"What for? I like it there."

"Now, young man. Stop this attitude or else you can spend the day in your room."

"You never let me do what I want!" he stormed. "It's not fair!"

"Life's not fair. Do as I told you."

He pouted. Then he marched over and dragged the chair back by the table, making an awful screeching noise.

Gabriel howled and ran into the den to get away.

"Harry! Pick it up!"

"Okay! Merlin, Dad!"

My eyes flashed. "Harry James, you are just asking to be turned over my knee and given a sound spanking," I threatened. "Keep it up and you're going to be very sorry, I promise you that."

He looked over at me, his expression a mixture of sulky defiance and surprise. I hardly ever lifted hand to him. But he saw something in my face that told him I meant business, and he picked up the chair and set it down next to the table. Then he said, his lower lip trembling, "I just wanna know how come Hermione gets her magic first and not me?"

"Son, that's just how it is. You're going to have to accept it and be patient."

"When did you get yours?"

"I was seven," I lied. I had actually shown incidences of magic when I was five, but I wasn't about to tell him that and make him feel bad. "Your mother was too." That was true.

"Then maybe next year I can make stuff fly?" he asked hopefully.

"Maybe. Don't worry about it, Harry. Your magic will come when it's ready." I hope. I said. If it didn't emerge by the time he was ten, I wasn't sure if it ever would, but there was no sense in borrowing trouble.

"Can I help you brew a potion?" he asked eagerly.

"Yes. But mind you do exactly as I say down in the lab. You pull a tantrum down there or break anything and you'll be over my knee quicker than you can say Quidditch. Clear?"

"Yes, sir."

Just then, the doorbell rang, and I rose to answer it, Gaby accompanying me. It was Hermione.

"Hi, Mr. Snape! Can I come and play?" she asked, giving me her best crooked smile.

"Hermione, we're gonna make a potion!" Harry sang.

"Cool! Can I help? What kind of potion is it?" she asked.

"It's a Hair Tonic. To make your hair sleek and straight," I said quickly.

"Can I have some when we're done, Mr. Snape? I hate my hair. It's always so snarly. And Mum hurts when she brushes the knots out."

"We'll see. Come, walk quietly down to the lab. No running."

They obeyed, and then stood where I told them to while I chopped up the necessary ingredients. I allowed them to each place an ingredient into the cauldron and then to stir it the required number of times. "Now you have to let it simmer."

"What's simmer mean?" Hermione asked.

"It means to bubble slowly at a low temperature."

"Like when you cook rice. You have to simmer it for twenty minutes." Harry put in.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"I helped Mum cook supper the other night. She let me stir the rice and put on the cover while it simmered."

"Ah. That's a good analogy, Harry."

"Huh?"

I explained what an analogy was, then I went on to explain how important it was to measure and chop things precisely, or else the potion wouldn't turn out right, or be at full potency. I also stressed that potions were never to be made alone, only with an adult witch or wizard present.

By then, the potion was done simmering and I carefully ladled it into some beakers and sealed them, leaving two vials for Harry and Hermione to drink.

When it was cool, they both took a vial, clinked them together, and said, "Cheers!"

"Bet I can drink mine faster," challenged my son.

"Can not!" Hermione disagreed, then she swallowed hers in one gulp. "Mmm! Tastes like a lemon fizzy drink."

"Cheater!" Harry stuck his tongue out at her, than he drank his. "Yuck, lemons!"

But then he pointed at Hermione. "Hey, your hair's changing. It's . . .getting straighter."

"It is?" She put up a hand to touch it. "I can't see!"

I held out a small hand mirror. "Look."

Her hair was indeed growing sleek and straight, just as the potion had promised. "Yippee! No more knots!" She bounced up and down. Then she looked at Harry's hair. "Harry, your hair's straight too! It doesn't stick up anymore. Now you really look like your dad."

It was true. With his dark hair straightened, he did look like me as a boy, save for the green eyes and glasses. Too bad it only lasted twenty-four hours. I gave the mirror to Harry and he laughed. Then he said wistfully, "Can we make another potion? Please?"

"Please, Mr. Snape?"

I hesitated. I hadn't planned on spending the day making elementary potions, but then again, far be it from me to discourage would-be potioneers. "Very well."

Lily came home from work to find me and my two young apprentices happily brewing, and all she said was, "Now who does this remind you of, Sev?"

I glanced up and said, "Us when we were eight, and my mother taught us how to brew a Color Change potion."

"Exactly," Lily smiled, and offered to stir the cauldron.

Snape's Journal

December 15th, 1993:

The sound of laughter echoed up the stairs and when I came down to snitch a gingerbread man off of the platter Lily had sitting on the counter, I found Hermione and Harry stringing popcorn and cranberries and draping them across the tree. They were laughing and joking about how crooked Harry's string was and Harry teased Hermione, saying she sewed better because it was a girl thing.

"That's a lame excuse, Harry! My string is straighter because I was paying attention and you were hurrying. Right, Lily?"

Lily, who was sitting on the divan with her feet up, chuckled. "You're right, Hermione. But the tree looks good anyhow."

"Ha! Take that, Miss Perfect."

"Harry, sometimes you are such an insufferable twit," Hermione smirked.

"Takes one to know one," he shot back, then he pulled out his wand and began making the ornaments levitate themselves onto the tree.

Hermione joined him and within ten minutes the tree was decorated.

"Well, Mum? How's it look?"

"Beautiful. Now come and have some gingerbread and cocoa. Or popcorn, since there's plenty left over."

"Don't mind if I do," I said, then stole a handful of popcorn from the bowl on her lap.

"Severus!" she swatted my hand away. "Get your ink-stained fingers out of my popcorn."

"My fingers are not ink-stained, Lily. They're perfectly clean," I argued, wiggling my hand in front of her. Then I saw a small ink blot on my thumb.

"You were saying?" she indicated my thumb.

"So I missed a spot. So what?" I passed my wand over my hand and the spot vanished.

Then I helped myself to her popcorn again. "How are you feeling?"

"Tired, as usual. I swear, Sev, I think I'm carrying an elephant around in there and not a baby." She patted her stomach.

"Maybe that's what we should call it. Elephant," Harry teased.

"I don't care what you call it, I just wish it was born already." Lily said, mopping a sheen of sweat from her brow.

"You're halfway there, Lil. Nothing to it."

"I know. But Merlin save you if you tell me that in the delivery room, Snape. I'll smack you so hard you'll be seeing the stars in another galaxy." She warned.

"Can I watch?" Harry asked impudently.

I would have smacked him on the back of the head for that comment, but he was too far away to reach.

So Hermione did it for me.

She really was the brightest witch of her generation.

Hope you all enjoyed this one! The next chapter will have a lot more of Gabriel in it, as well as some complications for Lily and Severus with the pregnancy. How soon would you like to see the next chapter?
 


Chapter 18: Gabriel's Kitten
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Snape's Journal

January 10th, 1994:

What with all the stress and work of the holidays, I really shouldn't have been surprised that Lily began to bleed heavily last night. Even though I had tried to shoulder the lion's share of the holiday dinner and everything that went along with it, my stubborn wife would insist upon doing some things herself, like shopping for Christmas and birthday presents, and making me a special birthday dinner last night. It was wonderful, Lily had learned to cook from her mother, who was a great cook, but I could have done without it had I known what would follow. But they say hindsight is always perfect.

Lily had cooked my favorite meal, teriyaki steak and stir fried vegetables with fried rice and egg rolls. Don't ask me where she found the recipes, but the food was excellent, and I'm not just saying that because she's my wife and might someday read this. It's honestly meant. Even Harry, who still hates vegetables, will eat Lily's stir fry without complaint. She uses all fresh ingredients and makes her own sauce and everything. The egg rolls she buys but everything else she makes with her own two hands. She's been making it for years and each year I swear it tastes better.

Harry made the cake, a ginger spice with cream cheese frosting. Though I hate to admit it, I do love cream cheese frosting, the homemade kind, whipped light and fluffy. It went perfectly with the spice cake. Harry somehow managed to get thirty-four candles on the cake without it collapsing, and Lily, my mother, Hermione, and Harry all sang "Happy Birthday" to me.

Then Harry said with a smirk, "Wow, Dad, you're over the hill."

"Harry!" Lily scolded, and swatted him.

He shot her an injured look and rubbed his bottom. "Merlin, Mum, it was just an observation. You're so touchy these days."

She scowled at him. "Hush your mouth and behave, Harry James, and don't ruin your father's birthday."

"I wasn't!" He objected.

Eileen put a hand on his shoulder and whispered something in his ear. He lost the sulky look and Summoned my gifts over to the table. "Here, Dad. Open your presents and then we can eat dessert."

"You didn't have to get me anything," I protested, my standard response to all the fuss made over me.

"Yes, we did. It's your birthday." They all said, which was their standard response.

I opened my gifts. From Harry I received a brand new leather journal. "Because I know you're gonna need one with the way you're writing." It was of sleek green snakeskin. I thanked him, knowing he had purchased it with his own money. From Hermione, I received a new set of quill pens with jeweled toned inks. It was a very fine gift and I told her she shouldn't have spent so much money.

She just laughed and said, "You deserve it, Mr. Snape, for teaching me all these years. I know I ask too many questions."

"Questions are how you learn," I said. "Thank you, Hermione."

"Trouble is, Hermione, you want to know everything," said Harry and we all chuckled, for it was the truth, I had never had a student who loved knowledge so much as Hermione Granger.

Eileen's gift was a romantic getaway for two to a Highland cottage. "I've booked it for four days during April," she told us. "I'll watch the kids for you and you just go and have a good time alone." She winked at Lily. "By then you'll be needing a break from the baby and Harry too."

"That was sweet of you, Mum," Lily said.

"We'll think of you when we're there," I added roguishly.

"Severus, for the love of God! I would hope you have better things to do than remember your old mum," she scolded, laughing.

From Lily I received new boots of black dragonhide. The boots were designed to be impervious to potion-related accidents, waterproof, fireproof, and had small pockets for carrying slender knives and tiny cordial-sized vials of potions. I had seen them one day in The Sorcerer's Stride, a shoe shop that specialized in unique and comfortable footwear for all kinds of professions.

"Lily!" I exclaimed. "I told you not to buy these! They're over fifty Galleons!"

"So? You're only thirty-four once, Sev. Besides, that's why I make hazardous duty pay. So I can splurge on birthday presents for my beloved husband. You deserve it, sweetheart." She kissed me lightly, then said, "Go ahead, try them on. Aaron Greymalkin said they're spelled to fit perfectly to your foot when you put them on."

I took off my old boots, which were cracked and showing their age despite the care I took in polishing them every few days, and slipped my feet into the new dragonhide ones. They fit like a dream, and I discovered that one boot held a slender blade for dicing up ingredients and the other held a small vial of a healing cordial. "Did they come with these?" I asked, holding up the cordial and the knife.

"Greymalkin said he included something extra," Lily said. She put her arm about me and Mum took our picture.

Then we ate cake and drank tea and coffee. Mum complimented Harry on his baking and afterwards she left, saying she had to go to bed early, she had to open at seven tomorrow. Hermione's father came and walked her back home, she had a chess tournament and needed to get a good night's rest. Harry cleaned up the kitchen, saying it was the rest of his gift to me.

Lily was looking rather wan, so I suggested she go and lie down. "Would you like some of my special Sleep Tonic?" I asked. Lately she had been suffering some lower back pain and couldn't get comfortable at night and fall asleep. I couldn't give her a real Sleeping Draught so near her time, so I made up an herbal tonic that relaxed and soothed.

"Please." She said, putting a hand to her back as she rose from the chair. "Ooh, but I cannot wait for this baby to be born! I feel like a two ton hippopotamus." She walked slowly to the stairs and stood on the third step, which I had enchanted to carry her up the rest of the way, so she didn't strain herself.

I came in with the tonic and a bottle of lavender oil, which I dabbed on her temples and massaged into the back of her neck. "That feels so good. Thanks."

"You're welcome. How are you feeling otherwise?"

"Just tired. And my feet ache, but when don't they these days? My feet, my back, my head. I feel bloated as a baby whale."She made a face. "Sorry I'm bitching and moaning like a baby. I'd forgotten how much of a pain in the arse it was being pregnant for the last two months."

"It's all right, Lil. You never complain, so you're entitled to bitch and moan now."

I sat down at the edge of the bed and took one of her slender feet in my lap and started to massage it.

"Oh God, Sev! That feels wonderful." She groaned in pleasure. "Don't stop. Yes . . .there . . .ahh . . .I knew there was a reason why I married you . . ."

I continued massaging first one foot and then the other till she was limp with pleasure and drowsing. Then I pulled the covers about her and kissed her on the forehead. "Sleep well, my wild hawk."

I gently placed a hand upon her bulging abdomen, sometimes I could feel my unborn child move. I felt something stir beneath my hand, and I whispered, "Go to sleep, baby, your mum needs her rest." I patted her belly and then I left them to their rest and went to challenge Harry to a game of chess.

After I had trounced my son for the second time in a row, I settled down in front of the fire to read a book. Harry read also, making predictions for the next Quidditch World Cup. He had a magazine of stats that he marked and circled. I swear, he was James' son as far as Quidditch went. Though to be fair, he also liked potions.

I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew, Harry was shaking my shoulder and yelling, "Dad, wake up! Mum needs you! Something really bad's happened."

I woke up instantly. "Harry? What's the matter?"

"I heard Mum calling you so I went to see what she wanted and . . .she was in the bathroom, crying, and the bed . . .I saw blood on the sheets when I went past . . ." Harry was pale as a ghost. "Is she dying, Dad?"

"No. Stay here. She'll be all right." I said quickly, then I rose and Apparated into the bedroom. I felt bad for my poor son, having to see that, but there was nothing to be done about it now. I glanced at the sheets and swore, they were soaked in blood. "Lily?"

"Sev! Severus!" her voice was shrill, on the verge of hysteria. "Help me! I woke up and I was . . .bleeding . . .oh God, Sev . . .I don't want to lose the baby . . ."

I entered the bathroom. Lily was crouched near the tub, holding a towel to her and crying softly. "Please . . .not again . . ."

"Lily, are you having contractions?" I asked, running my wand over her in a quick basic diagnostic.

"Just small ones. Sev, I'm scared. The baby . . ."

"Hush. You over did it, Lily-love. Don't panic." I tried to keep my tone even and reassuring, but inwardly I was screaming in terror. I knew that heavy bleeding like this was a bad sign. "I'm going to call my mother, all right?"

"Okay." She sniffled, clutching her stomach. Her face was ghost white and her green eyes seemed to glow like a cat's.

I sprinted from the bedroom and Apparated back downstairs to the den. Harry was still sitting on the couch, looking petrified. "Dad, will Mum be okay? Do you have to take her to a hospital?"

"I don't know yet, Harry. I need to firecall your grandmother." I tossed down a handful of Floo powder and stuck my head through. "Mum! It's Severus!" I shouted. "It's an emergency! Lily's hemorrhaging!"

"Severus?" I heard my mother's voice sound sleepily from her bedroom.

She appeared in the living room in her night robe and slippers. "What's wrong, son? Did I hear you say something about Lily?"

I repeated what I'd said and she immediately called up her midwife's bag and Flooed over.

"Now don't panic, Sev. I've seen this happen before, especially in women like Lily, who have trouble carrying to term. She overstressed herself today and yesterday, she was trying to do too much and well . . .this is what happens."

"I tried to help her, Gran!" Harry cried, stricken.

"Oh, Harry. You mustn't blame yourself. It's no one's fault." She patted my son's cheek as she went past him. "Sev, get the poor child some Restorative Elixir while I go and see what Lily's done to herself, the stubborn little fool."

I went to do as she said, sensing that my son needed me as much as Lily did. I summoned some of the Restorative Elixir, it was a potion that restored harmony and balance to one's inner spirit, and was often given after a wizard had suffered an extreme shock or grief. I mixed it into a glass of chocolate milk, for Harry still didn't like drinking potions, and I felt the milk might be easier for him to get down.

"Here. Drink this."

He obeyed, drinking until the glass was empty. Some color bloomed in his cheeks and he took a deep breath. "Dad? Mum's going to be okay, isn't she? And the baby too?"

"Yes. She's in good hands. Your gran will make sure they're both all right," I said, putting my arm about him and holding him.

For once he didn't tell me he was "too old" for hugs, and just leaned into me. His green eyes, the exact shade of his beloved mother's stared up at me fearfully. "Let's sit down on the couch," I suggested, steering him to the sofa.

I pushed him gently down and then sat next to him. I was frightened as well, knowing that my wife and baby could well be fighting for their lives. But I had to be strong for Harry. My eyes fell on Gabriel's memorial. I lit the candle with a wave of my hand. "It's too bad you aren't here now, old boy," I said, half to myself.

"Yeah. Gaby always made me feel better when I was scared or sick or upset." Harry said shakily. He had pulled his knees into his chest and had his arms wrapped about them.

I rubbed small circles on his back and tried to distract us both from thinking about what was going on upstairs. My mother was a top notch midwife, I trusted her. If anyone could help Lily, she could.

"Do you remember the time Gabe adopted a kitten?" I asked.

Harry nodded. "The kitten was one of Crookshanks and Lilah's, right?" Those were Hermione's two cats. Crookshanks was a half-kneazle, a big orange fellow, and Lilah, his mate, was a lavender-point Himalayan rescued from the local pound.

"Yes. You named her Lilac, because she was a sort of smoky lavender color." I recalled. It had been early spring, Harry was seven, and he had come rushing home to tell me about Hermione's cat having kittens. . .

Snape's Journal

April, 1988:

"Dad! Mum! Hermione's cat had kittens, six of 'em, and I got to see some of 'em get born!"

Harry burst into the house like a tempest, making the dishes rattle in the cupboard. His hair was sticking up every which way and his glasses were slightly crooked. Lily looked up from her second cup of coffee and I lowered the Daily Prophet and stared at my son. "You did what?"

"When I went over to Hermione's this morning, Lilah was having kittens," Harry said, panting from having run all the way back from the Granger house. "She had six and I watched two get born. It was sorta gross and sorta cool at the same time."

"Aww, that's wonderful, Harry!" Lily said, brushing her hand over his hair. "There's nothing greater than the miracle of life."

He wriggled away from her hand. "Mum, quit it! I like my hair the way it is."

"You need a trim," I observed. "It's almost in your eyes. You're starting to look like a shaggy dog."

Harry giggled. "Like Gabriel?"

"Yes."

"Where is Gabriel?" asked Lily.

"He's over Hermione's, smelling the kittens."

"Lilah let Gabriel see her kittens?" I asked. "Most new mothers never let a dog near their kittens, especially a first litter."

"Gabriel came in and sat there an' watched. Then, when all the kittens were nursing, he came and sniffed them. Lilah hissed at first, but then Gaby licked her and the kittens and she stopped. He was lying next to the basket when I left."

"That's amazing!" Lily said. "But then, Gabe is the calmest collie I've ever seen, so I'm not surprised. Still, you'd better fetch him home, Harry. I'm sure Stacy and Drew don't want a large hairy beast in their home along with eight cats."

"I tried, Mum. I whistled and called, but he wouldn't budge. Hermione says she thinks Gabriel wants to help Lilah take care of the kittens. Like a nanny."

"Collies are very protective of helpless animals," I remarked.

"Severus, you'd better go and get him," my wife ordered.

I rose. When my dog turned stubborn like this, only I had a hope in hell of getting him to obey.

I Summoned his lead and walked over to the Granger residence.

There, in a basket next to the fireplace, was the proud mama cat and her brood. Lying half-around the basket was my collie, his red-gold bulk curled protectively about the cats. He pricked his ears and half-barked when I entered the den, led by Hermione.

"See, Mr. Snape? He's been like that since Harry came over. Lilah wouldn't even let Crooks in here to see his kittens, but she let Gaby. How come?"

I shook my head, bewildered. Normally, mother cats were ferocious in defense of their newborns and drove everyone away, including the father. "I don't know, Hermione. It's very odd." Gabriel hadn't been best friends with Lilah, who normally ran when she saw him coming. Yet she allowed him to lay next to her kittens.

Gabriel's tail thumped when he saw me.

I knelt and showed him the lead. "Gabe. Want to go for a walk?"

Those words usually made him leap up and run to the door.

But not today. Today he whined and wagged his tail hard, but made no move to leave.

I reached out and rumpled his fur. "Gaby. It's time to go home. Come!" I tapped my knee for emphasis.

Gabriel looked at me and I knew he wanted to obey, but then he turned his head and whined, looking at Lilah.

The Himalayan queen purred and touched noses with him, as if telling him to go, she would be okay.

I walked over and examined the new family. The kittens were all sleeping in a heap, there were some gold and cream ones, and two light gray ones and one that was a smoky lavender shade with white paws. "You have a fine family there, Lilah," I said and Lilah purred loudly. I reached down to stroke her and she spat at me and went to claw my hand. "All right, old girl. I'll leave you be."

Just as I thought. She didn't want a stranger anywhere near her babies. Yet she permitted my beast of a collie to lick and nuzzle them. "Gabe, come."

I snapped the lead on his collar and he whined and reluctantly drew away. He kept his head turned to the side and I practically had to drag him out of the house and across the lawn. "Gabriel, for the love of Merlin! Anyone would think you sired those kittens, the way you're acting."

He "talked" to me in that odd up and down whine, letting me know he wasn't happy about leaving, but he would do it for me.

He ate and slept at the foot of my bed as usual once we returned home, but the next morning after breakfast, he trotted over to Hermione's house all by himself. He scratched at the door and when Hermione opened it, walked right in and made himself at home beside the basket again.

Harry found him there after searching the yard and rolled his eyes. "Honestly, Gabe! You act like that silly St. Bernard in Peter Pan! But at least that was girl! You're a boy!"

He tried to drag Gabriel home, but the collie would have none of it and dug in his paws until his collar slipped off and then refused to move, even when Harry tempted him with his favorite dog treats.

I came over and apologized to Stacy. "I can't believe he's making a nuisance of himself over kittens!"

Stacy didn't mind, she thought it was adorable. "Don't worry, Severus. I don't mind. And neither does Lilah. She clawed poor Crookshanks' nose to shreds when he tried to peek into the basket earlier, but not Gabriel. I guess she can tell he's a trustworthy guardian."

"Well, as long as you don't mind . . .he can stay. But if he starts becoming a nuisance, call me and I'll come over and bring him home." I told her.

I walked over to my dog and shook a finger at him. "You behave yourself. No drooling on Stacy's floor and no begging at the table, understand? You don't live here, so no one's obligated to feed you, you great pest. You get hungry, you come home."

My collie wagged his tail and barked in an affirmative. I knew he understood, in that uncanny way collies have.

Then I left Gabriel to his kitten minding and went back to helping Lily weed the garden, which had both magical and non-magical herbs in it.

From then on till the kittens were walking, Gabriel followed the same routine. He ate and slept at my home and spent most of the day at the Grangers, lying next to the cat basket. Lilah would leave for short periods of time, to eat and take care of herself, and Gabriel would sit "on guard" like a statue, according to what Hermione and her parents told me. If the kittens mewed, he would lick them till they quieted and wait for Lilah to return.

Once the kittens were able to hear, see, and walk, Gabriel's task became whole lot more interesting.

All of the kittens were eager to explore their new world, and my collie became a kitten herder. I suppose it was instinct. Collies will tend to herd anything they feel needs protection, whether it be sheep, cows, goats, ducks, children or kittens.

It was inevitable that Gabriel adopt a kitten. As soon as they were old enough, Stacy and Hermione posted an ad in the classified section of the Prophet and sold all the kittens save one. She was the small smoky lavender one, and Gabriel seemed to think she was his personal responsibility. By then the kittens were weaned and litter box trained, and Lilah was ready to regain her independence. So she didn't care when one day Gabriel picked up her last kitten and brought her back to my house.

I walked into the kitchen to see a chilling sight, Lily and Harry cooing and petting a tiny blue-eyed kitten and my traitor dog sitting and grinning like a proud father.

"No. Absolutely not." I began. "We are not having any more pets. Gabriel is enough." I said in my best authoritative tone.

Lily ignored me. Harry rolled his eyes. Gabriel sneezed. And the kitten tried to climb up my leg. So much for my authority.

I bent down to remove the cat from my trousers. "I am not a tree, you little furball." I told the kitten, who looked at me curiously and then meowed.

"Dad, can we keep her?" Harry asked, giving me a pleading stare.

"Harry, we don't need a cat."

"Gaby does." He said with typical aggravating seven-year-old logic.

"Now, Severus . . ." Lily said, using her "I can be reasonable so why can't you" tone. "I don't see why we can't have a cat. Harry's old enough to look after her and Gabriel seems to have adopted her. Where's the harm in it?"

"I don't really care for cats. They shed and shred things and stay up all night and they do whatever they damn well please. . ."

"Why, Sev, that sounds like a certain Slytherin I know," Lily teased.

"Lily Evans, I do not shed!"

"No? Then why is it that I find dark hairs on my pillow almost every morning?" my wife queried triumphantly.

I flushed. Damn the woman!

Harry looked from Lily to me. "You use each other's pillows? What for?"

"Never mind." I said quickly. I plucked the kitten from my shoulder. The little feline purred in my arms. I held it at arm's length. "I want you to know I'm letting you stay under duress. The first time you put a hole in my robe or use my closet as a litter box or my bed as a playground will be your last, cat." The kitten mewed. I glared at my conniving dog. "This is all your fault!"

Gabriel looked at me with his big brown eyes and barked. Then he jumped up on me and slurped his long sticky tongue across my cheek.

"Gabe, down! For the love of Merlin, you know better!" I coughed.

Harry laughed. "She can stay?"

"Yes. Here, take the little rat catcher." I handed him the kitten. Then I wondered how I let myself be overruled by a child, my wife, and a dog.

It was Harry who named the kitten Lilac, because she had a lilac colored coat. She also had blue eyes and white feet. Even I had to admit she was a pretty thing, and like all her kind, graceful and daring. She could scamper faster than lightning, especially if she had done the unforgivable, like spill a bottle of ink all over the papers I was about to grade and then walk through it, leaving kitten pawprints all over the carpet. She also liked to play with my quill pens, batting them and trying to chew them . . .while I was using them.

"You are nothing but a nuisance, kitten. Now get, before I decide I need some catgut in my potions," I would threaten, clapping my hands to scare her away.

Not only that, but she delighted in startling me. One of her favorite games was to hide beneath a chair or a bed or behind furniture, and when I came by she would attack my feet and ankles. Even in my bedroom. Lily thought it was hilarious. "Go ahead, laugh about it." I remarked sourly, after one embarrassing episode when the damn cat wrapped her bloody paws about my ankle and bit me, making me jump. "It's not you getting attacked by a fuzzy pincushion."

"Aww, Sev, she's playing with you. She likes you." Lily was sitting up in bed, her green eyes glittering with amusement.

"Likes me, my arse!" I grumbled, removing Lilac from my sore ankle. "Gabriel, keep the little ragrug occupied before I tell her to go play in the street." I set the kitten on the ground, and Gabriel came and picked her up in his mouth and took her out of the room.

Lilac adored Gabriel. She could often be found lying on him. Yes, on him, not beside him. Gabriel would be taking a snooze, his big head resting on his white forefeet, and Lilac would be curled up in the hollow of his shoulderblades, sleeping. The first time Lily saw that, she thought it was so cute she had to take a picture.

Lilac played with Gabriel too, attacking his tail, winding herself inbetween his feet, tripping him up as he came in for dinner. Sometimes she climbed up his ruff and sat on his back like she was a queen and he was her horse. The damn cat thought she was the boss around here. Strangely, my collie allowed the little fuzzball to degrade him without a whimper. He even let her drink from his water bowl. He probably would have let her eat his food too, but I made sure to feed them separately, in different rooms.

When Lilac first arrived, the dining room was off-limits to her, since Lily's good china and table linens were in there, and I told my dog, "No cats allowed!" while pointing to the entrance, which was just off the kitchen.

When Gabriel was around, which was almost always, Lilac never set two paws across the threshold. Every time the kitten made a move to go in there, a big red-gold body went inbetween her and the doorway. He would gently nudge and push her with his nose, or sometimes a paw, back into the kitchen. He did this countless times a day, possessed of a patience a saint would have envied. I sure as hell did. He must have herded that stubborn cat away from the dining room at least thirty times in one morning before the cat learned not to go in there.

Harry and Hermione thought it was great, they laughed and called Gabriel a "cat herder".

"Still think she's worth it?" I asked my dog after he'd shoved the kitten backwards for the fiftieth time one morning, and then came to lie by my feet.

He put his head on my foot and sighed. Then Lilac pounced on his tail.

Somehow the kitten endeared herself to the rest of the household. Harry slept with her, at least until Lilac decided midnight was a good time to run up and down the hallway and pounce at shadows. Whoever said cats are silent never met Lilac. She sounded like a herd of unicorns galloping down the hall. I was woken up at least twice a night by her antics and each time thought about ten different ways to skin a cat. Lily and Harry slept like rocks.

Harry was actually pretty good at taking care of her for a seven-year-old. He would remember to feed and change her water and do the litter once every three days. He made a toy for her out of some old string and a quill and would drag it about for her to chase. Gabriel liked it too, and sometimes you would see the tiny kitten jumping after my son and his pull toy and then along would come this red-gold beast, whose paws left skid marks on the floor because he couldn't turn quite as fast.

"Harry, quit running in the house!" I would scold. "This isn't a zoo!"

"We're playing, Dad."

"Play something else then."

"But we like this game."

"Harry . . ." I would warn.

The kitten train would stop for awhile. Until Harry forgot my orders and started it up again some fifteen minutes later.

Lilac liked laps. She often would lie for hours upon Lily, purring and kneading her with her paws. Lily never minded. She read and stroked the kitten, or wrote correspondences while Lilac slept. "She's such a soothing presence. She makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside."

I looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "Soothing presence, ha! Just wait till she knocks over your water glass because she wants a cat treat." I snorted.

"She does that because you ignore her, Sev. How else is she supposed to get your attention?"

"By sitting there and waiting till I feel like paying some to her."

"But that would take forever," my perceptive wife remarked.

"Exactly."

The cat even had the audacity some nights to come and sit in my lap, shedding all over my robes. What nerve! And she would purr while she did it too! As if by doing so I would change my mind and pet the pain in the arse. Humph! All right, every once in awhile I would stroke her, since she was soft as silk. Until she decided to dig her claws into my knee. Guess who got the chore of trimming her nails?

Things might have continued like that indefinitely, but then Lilac managed to discover the outdoors. And no matter how Gabriel tried, he couldn't keep the cat inside. She would manage to get out even though all the windows and doors were shut. Then poor Gabe went crazy trying to herd her back inside.

About four months after we had adopted her, Lilac escaped from the house and disappeared. Not even Gabriel could find her. We spent a whole week searching and putting up flyers. Harry cried himself to sleep every night. I slept like a baby. Gabriel paced and moped about the house, depressed and miserable. But there was still a thread of hope.

"She'll come back," I said. "Cats are resourceful and can find their way home."

Until the phone call.

Someone had found Lilac on the side of the road in Manchester. She had been struck by a car and lived half-an-hour after bringing her to the nearest veterinary clinic. I drove to pick up the body. I had left Lily to stay with Harry. The vet had wrapped a blanket about the kitten's corpse. It looked pathetic, the small still body, which had once been full of life and energy. I drove home slowly, trying to figure out how to break the news to my son. He would be heartbroken. And so would Gabriel.

Damn you, cat! You had to go and die now. I thought irritably. Then I felt guilty for my harshness.

As expected, Harry was devastated. He kept asking why we couldn't use magic to bring Lilac back to life. "Why can't you make a potion, Dad, to bring her back?"

His plaintive query made my heart ache. "Harry, even magic can't bring back the dead," I began, taking him on my knee.

"But . . .but you can make potions to stop death," he reminded me, sniffling. "Why can't you bring back Lilac?"

"Harry, honey, Lilac's in heaven now with all the good kitties," Lily said, coming to sit next to us. She glared at me over her son's head, daring me to refute that statement.

I wisely kept my mouth shut.

"I don't want her in heaven!" he sobbed. "She belongs here with us!" He turned to Lily. "Mum, can't you do something?"

Lily shook her head sadly, her eyes filled with tears. "I'm sorry, but no charm I know can bring back the dead. I know it's hard for you, Harry, but you have to accept the fact that Lilac is gone."

"No!" he bawled. "Magic is useless and I'm glad I don't have any!" A book fell off the shelf onto the floor. He wriggled free of my arms and ran into his bedroom.

"I guess I'd better dig a grave," I said heavily.

"I'll go and talk to him some more," Lily said, glancing at the small box with the shrouded body. "Poor little thing!"

She went in to comfort Harry, leaving me to my unpleasant task. Gabriel had been out in the yard and when I came out carrying the shoebox coffin, he went crazy, barking and whining and trying to stick his head into the box. "Gabriel! Sit!" I commanded, and waited till he had done so before I allowed him to smell Lilac.

"I'm sorry, but she's gone, old boy."

I needn't have said anything. He knew. He started to howl, his wretched misery making itself heard for miles. The awful sound nearly made me cry. If there is anything more gut wrenching than a grieving dog, I don't know of it. I Summoned a shovel and started to dig.

Some thirty minutes later I had a grave dug beneath the apple tree where Lilac used to climb. I sent my Patronus inside to tell Lily to bring Harry out so he could say goodbye to his cat. I figured he needed the closure.

He came, holding Lily's hand, and I let him hold and pet her one last time. "She was a good cat," I said, and oddly enough I actually meant what I said. I hadn't cared for her, but she had made Gabriel and Harry happy, and that was the best thing she could have done.

"Goodbye, Lilac. I hope you're happy in heaven." Harry cried.

Lily hugged him. "You know, Harry, that she'll be waiting for you there? All the animals you love wait for you to cross the rainbow bridge into heaven, and someday you'll all be together again."

"We will?"

"Yes. Right, Sev."

"Right," I agreed. I wasn't sure I believed in Lily's theory, but if it helped my son stop grieving, I would have agreed to steal the moon from the sky. I gently placed the shoebox into the hole and then used magic to replace the dirt over her.

Lily cast a spell that made flowers spring up over the grave and a small marker as well, with the kitten's name on it and the words Forever Friend.

Gaby whined and scratched at the grave.

"No, boy. Leave it alone!" I ordered.

My collie just looked at me, and in his eyes was a deep endless sorrow. Then he lay down next to the little grave, his head on his paws.

He remained like that for several days and nights, mourning the loss of his playmate. He even ate outside, Harry brought his food out to him.

Then my son stayed with him, petting him and crying over the lost kitten.

The pair of them were so woebegone that I seriously considered getting another cat. "Maybe that's what they need," I said to Lily one night after Harry had gone to sleep.

"I don't know, Sev. Lilac was special to them." Lily said.

I should have listened to her.

The next day, after lessons, I asked Harry if he wouldn't want to get another kitten.

"No! I never want another cat!" he shouted, jumping up from the table. "I only want Lilac! Why can't you understand?" Then he burst into tears and ran outside to join Gabriel by the grave.

Lily shot me an exasperated look. "You just had to ask, didn't you, Severus?"

"I thought it would be good for him," I began.

"Severus, this isn't like replacing a toy that broke. Lilac was a living breathing creature and he loved her very much. How would you feel if someone offered to replace Gabriel after he just died?"

"That's different."

"Not to Harry."

I sighed. Another brilliant idea shot to hell. Looks like I was in the doghouse.

I stared out the window at the boy and the dog, feeling like a complete bastard.

Lily came and touched me on the shoulder. "Why don't you go and apologize to Harry? That will show him that you do understand."

This time I listened to my wife.

We never did get another cat. Because there are some things in life that just can't be replaced.

Snape's Journal

January 10th, 1994:

"I remember now!" Harry had cried. "Gabriel's kitten. She was so cute and funny. I don't know how I could have forgotten her. I remember Hermione coming over after we buried her and crying over her grave. It was really sad. And Gabe was worse than I was." He recalled. "I haven't visited her grave in a long time now. Not since my magic woke up."

I patted him on the shoulder. "Life goes on, Harry. And grief doesn't last forever. Her grave is still there, if you need to visit it."

He nodded. He knew about obligation, Lily took him every year to visit the graves of his father and godfather, who had given their lives for him that long ago Halloween night. She had started doing that when he was five and old enough to understand what had gone on. "I know, Dad." He shifted in his seat, and then he asked, "Will Mum be all right, do you think?"

"I hope so."

Just then Eileen came down the stairs.

I sprang to my feet. "Mum, how's Lily? Is she all right? Is the baby all right?"

"Severus, calm down." She held up a hand. "Lily's resting. You can go up and see her in a minute. But first I need to talk to you and Harry. I've given Lily a Blood Replenisher and a Calming Draught and I've told her she must remain on bed rest until her due date. No exceptions. You need to make sure she follows my instructions and doesn't get up unless it's absolutely necessary, like using the bathroom or joining you for dinner. Under no circumstances is she to be stressed or agitated. I stopped her contractions with a spell, but if they start up again, call me immediately. She doesn't have to necessarily stay in bed, but she ought to stay somewhere she can put her feet up and relax."

"How about the baby?" I asked, my stomach in knots.

"The baby is, as far as I can tell, doing fine. You've got a fighter there, Severus."

I heaved a huge sigh of relief. "Thank you, Mum. I'm sorry I woke you up in the middle of the night."

"Nonsense, Severus! You can always wake me up if it's an emergency!" She came and hugged me. Then she hugged Harry too. "Go on, go and see you wife before you fret yourself into pieces."

I Apparated upstairs and found Lily propped up in bed amid clean sheets, drowsing. "Sev." She reached out and took my hand.

"How are you, love?"

"Better. I'm sorry I scared you."

"What are you apologizing for?"

"Because I was an idiot and I thought I knew better than Eileen. She warned me I was tiring myself out two days ago." She smiled at me ruefully. "I guess the apothecary really does know best."

"That's my mother. Thank goodness you're all right." I went and lay down on the other side of the bed and held her to me.

Harry came up and said goodnight and Lily asked him if he were okay.

"Now I am. But you really scared me before, Mum."

"Oh, Harry. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay. I'll live." He bent down and kissed her cheek. "Good night, Mum and Dad."

We told him good night and then I snuggled down next to my wife. "I love you, Lily," I murmured.

"I love you too, Sev." She fell asleep soon after, and I lay awake for a long time, listening to her breathe, her head on my shoulder, and my hand upon her stomach, where I felt the baby kick and stretch, also trying to get comfortable. But finally we all fell asleep and didn't wake till the next morning.

Now I sit at my desk, scribbling away, while Lily reads and Harry studies his Charms book. For now, everything is fine.

I know this chapter was sad, but I felt it also showed how a family deals with grief and loss. I hope you enjoyed it.
 


Chapter 19: Congratulations Mr. Snape
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Snape's Journal

February 13,1994:

Snow had fallen in a thick blanket over the lawn the past three nights, and Harry and Hermione had fun making snowmen and snow women as well as a snowy castle. Hermione used her magic to keep the castle walls from melting and caving in, so they could play in and out of the castle. Harry had fun flying on his broom and dive bombing Hermione with a bunch of snowballs.

Lily and I watched from the bay window in the living room at the two friends romping in the snow and smiled. "Do you remember when we were that age?" she asked, rubbing her belly, which was now so round and swollen she looked like an overripe watermelon.

Of course, I knew better than to say so. Lily was very touchy right now and I didn't want to end up with important bits of my anatomy hexed off. "Like fifty years ago?" I teased.

She smacked me lightly in the back of the head. "Look who's talking, old timer."

"Just who are you calling old? I'm only three weeks older than you." I reminded her.

"You're still older," she declared, smirking.

"You're lucky I love you, Evans. Otherwise I'd cast a Wrinkle Charm on you."

"Severus, don't you dare!" she gasped. "I already feel old having this baby and if you ever did such a thing I'd . . .I'd make your penis shrivel up."

I stared at her. "Then you'd be very sorry." I shot back.

"Hmm. Never thought of that." She looked at me and burst out laughing.

After a minute I joined her.

"Oh, Sev, it's a good thing the kids are outside. If they ever heard this conversation, they'd commit us to the crazy ward." Lily giggled, her eyes twinkling with mirth.

"Ah, we're halfway there already, what with all the pranks they pulled on us over the years."

"Uh huh. Remember the time Harry hitched poor Gabe to his sled and made him pull him all over the yard and down the block? And Hermione sold tickets?"

I nodded. That had been one of my son's worst ideas, and it all started because he'd read The Call of the Wild by Jack London. . .

Snape's Journal

January 20th, 1989:

Harry shut the book he'd been reading for two days and placed it on the table. "Okay, Dad, I'm finished."

"Now you have to write an essay for me on what you learned and then you'll have your project done," I told him.

"Right. The essay." He groaned. "Why do I have to write it? Can't I just tell you what I learned?"

"No. You need the practice writing with a quill and also an essay will help you with your grammar, spelling, and punctuation, all of which could use much improvement." I said firmly.

"Aww, Merlin! Writing essays suck!"

"Whining about it won't get it done faster. All it will get you is an extra assignment."

"Okay. Do I have to do it today? Can't I start tomorrow?"

"Harry . . ." I began. My son was the king of procrastinators, he firmly believed in the saying why do today what you can do tomorrow? I knew if I didn't make him do it now, while the story was still fresh in his mind, he would end up forgetting and turning in some sloppy paper that I'd end up making him do over. "You know you need to start it now."

"Can I do it in my room? It's easier for me to concentrate there."

"Fine, but I'll be coming up to check on you in fifteen minutes."

He hesitated in the doorway, the book still clutched under his arm. "Dad? Can we get another dog?"

"Another dog? What's wrong with Gabe?"

"Nothing, but I just think he could use a playmate. A husky would be a wonderful dog to play with him. They're really cool, Dad. I've been reading about sled dogs and—"

"Save it for your essay. You can tell me all about huskies and everything in it. Go!" I ordered and I watched him race upstairs.

I looked at Gabriel, who was lying beside my feet. "You wouldn't want another dog about the place, would you? Then you might end up getting ignored."

He panted and yawned.

I finished correcting the rest of my tests, my students at the Academy had a test on something every two weeks, or a quiz, to keep them sharp. After that, I decided to read a bit before going to check on Harry. I then fell asleep despite all my attempts to keep my eyes open.

I woke about an hour later, and I was chagrined and furious at myself for falling asleep when I was supposed to be minding Harry. Snape, you bloody imbecile! How could you have done such an asinine thing? My only excuse, and it wasn't much of one, was that I was tired. I Apparated upstairs, hoping that Harry was still working on his essay. Instead his room was empty and I called, but there was no answer.

I raced downstairs, and it was then I noticed Gabriel was gone also.

I checked the backyard, which was full of their footprints, but the two were nowhere to be seen. "Dammit, Harry!" I swore. "You know better than to leave the house without telling me where you're going."

I walked out into the front yard and looked up and down the block. It was then I saw a familiar red-gold dog trotting down the street. "Gabriel!" I called, and whistled sharply.

He barked and began to run, and it was then that I saw he was pulling my son and Hermione on a sled. Somehow Harry had rigged up a harness for my poor collie and he was laughing as Gabriel ran down the street, the sled bouncing and bobbing up and down behind them. Following them were a few children from the neighborhood, all wrapped in mittens and scarves, laughing and calling, "When's it my turn, Harry?"

"I wanna be next!"

"Hermione promised I was next!"

"No, Harry said I could go next."

"I wanna pet the dog!"

"I only have four pennies, not enough to get a ticket. Can I have a discount?"

"My mum gave me five pence, can I owe you one?"

Great Merlin's ghost! What are they doing? Working my poor dog like he's a draft horse? Scamming the kids in the neighborhood?

Gabriel raced up to me, panting, snow flying from his paws, looking rather pleased with himself. A makeshift harness of leather and rope was tied about his chest and shoulders and then to the sled handlebar. Harry and Hermione were still laughing like little fiends.

"Hi, Dad!" Harry waved at me, he had at least remembered to put on hat, coat, and mittens. "Hermione and Gaby and I are playing Call of the Wild. We're pretending Gaby's a sled dog and taking us to Alaska."

I put my hands on my hips. "Harry, I'm about to ship you off to Alaska if you don't tell me what the blazes is going on here."

"I just did. Why are you all mad?"

"Why am I mad? You tell me. What rule did you break today?"

"Uh . . .I . . .dunno . . ."

"How about the one where you don't leave the house without my permission?"

"Harry, I thought you said you told him!" Hermione cried.

"I was going to but . . .we had trouble with the harness and then I just forgot. Sorry, Dad."

"Sorry isn't enough." I scolded. "Not only did you leave the house without asking but you also made poor Gaby turn into a beast of burden. You could have injured him making him pull you and all those kids down the street. He's not a sled dog." I pointed to the house. "And whose bright idea was it to charge those kids over there to take a ride?"

"That was mine, Mr. Snape," Hermione said softly. "I thought it would be a good idea to sell tickets, like in Call of the Wild when people buy tickets for the dog fights, only we didn't want Gaby to have to fight another dog, so we decided to do a sled ride. I didn't know Gaby might've gotten hurt."

She looked very ashamed. I looked at my collie, who had planted his rump in the snow and looked terribly pleased with himself. "I want you to give back all the money you received, it's not right to charge people for something like this. Understand?"

"Yes, sir." She dug a small pouch out of her pocket.

I turned to Harry. "Get inside and put your nose in a corner. We're going to have a long talk about this, young man."

He looked as if he were about to argue, so I gave him one of my patented glares and he hustled his ass inside. By then some of the other kids had come over, wanting to know when it was their turn to ride on the sled. "The game's over for today," I said. "My dog is tired and you should all collect your money from Hermione and go on home."

"But the dog don't look tired," persisted one stubborn imp.

I glared at him. "He's my dog and I know when he's tired or not." I knelt to unfasten the harness and put the sled inside the garage. I waited until Hermione had returned all the money she had collected before going inside to deal with my son.

Gabriel followed at my heels, seemingly none the worse for wear. Thank Merlin!

Harry had his back to me, standing quietly in the corner of the den.

I sat on the couch and called him over.

"Why'd you have to go and ruin everything, Dad?" he complained, sulking. "We were having fun!"

"You were rooking people out of money, Harry James. There was no reason you had to actually take money from those children, you could have pretended to charge them. Not only that, but you could have made Gabriel pull a muscle or something dragging you all over, he's a collie, not a husky."

"See, that's why I asked you if we could get a husky," Harry said.

"I'm not getting another dog just so you can play Call of the Wild."

"That's why we were charging for tickets, so I could earn the money."

"Harry, do you know how much a dog costs?"

"Umm . . .no. But you said you got Gaby for sixpence and we had a lot more than that."

"Gabriel was different. The breeder was going to drown him so he gave him to me for hardly anything. That wouldn't be the case with a purebred husky. A dog like that would cost you a hundred pounds probably. Besides which, we don't need another dog."

"But huskies are so cool, Dad! Way cooler than silly old Gabriel."

"Now that's enough!" I snapped, incensed that he was willing to throw over my faithful beloved collie for a sled dog. "Gabriel was good enough to watch over you all these years and there's an end to it. You're already in trouble for leaving home, don't make it any worse. I'll bet a Galleon you didn't finish your essay either before going out to play."

He looked down at his feet, biting his lip. "I started it, but then I got bored."

"Too bad. Because now you're grounded for the weekend and can stay up in your room and finish it."

"You're so unfair, Dad! You never let me have any fun!" Harry yelled, stomping up the stairs. "I wish I lived in Alaska!"

Right then I wished he did too, if only to keep me from throttling him. I sighed and looked down at my dog. "Lily isn't going to be too pleased with either of us once she hears what happened today. And what were you thinking, letting them do that to you?"

Gabriel wagged his tail and licked my hand, as if to say, it's all right, Sev, I still love you.

"Silly beast!" I said affectionately and gave him a rub behind the ears. "You're worth more than any husky and don't you forget it."

Gabe put his head on my knee then, happy to just be near me. And I drew comfort from his presence.

I caught hell from Lily later when she found out I had taken an impromptu nap while I was alone with Harry, but she also agreed with my punishment of the boy, so I wasn't totally in disgrace. "Those kids!" she said when I told her what Harry and Hermione had done. "You never know what scheme they're going to try next."

Was that ever true!

Snape's Journal

February 13, 1994:

"Sev?" Lily called, breaking into my reverie. "Would you like some cocoa too?"

"What?" I blinked. "Oh. Yes. Why?"

"Because I figured by the time those two get done playing, they'll be chilled to the bone and need a hot drink."

"Very true. Do you want me to—"

"No, I can do it myself." Lily waved off my unspoken offer to help her and rose to go into the kitchen to make the cocoa. I let her because she had been resting all day, as per my mother's instructions.

Lily was now so big that she waddled like a duck when she walked. She was due any day now, and I had made sure she had a bag packed and ready when her contractions came so we could Floo directly to the room Mum had reserved for us in St. Mungos. She would be the midwife, but she wanted to be close to Healers just in case she needed advice or something went wrong.

Soon the intrepid snowball slingers came in to get warmed up, and Harry asked if he could go and see a movie with Hermione. Lily said yes, and Harry went upstairs to shower and change his clothes before dinner. The movie started at seven and wouldn't be over until ten o'clock. Stacy offered to drive them back and forth, since she knew I didn't like to leave Lily for very long this close to her due date.

Sometime around nine o'clock, Lily fell asleep upstairs. An hour later I went upstairs to check on her and found her rubbing her stomach and wincing. "Lil? What's the matter?"

"I've been having contractions for twenty minutes now."

"Are you sure? It's the real thing?" I asked because she'd gone into false labor once before this.

Slowly, she nodded. "Oh yes, it's the real thing." Grimacing, she got to her feet and began walking around.

"Should I call my mother?"

"Not yet, wait a bit. My water hasn't even broken yet. Oops!" She bent double, panting, and her nightshirt was suddenly wet with fluid. "Forget I said that." She gritted her teeth slightly. "Now you can call your mother, Sev."

Ten minutes later we were in the private hospital room Mum had picked out for Lily to give birth in. The room looked like a fancy spa, with a soothing lilac and cream wallpaper with small baby animals on it, playing and nursing from their mothers. It was fully furnished, and besides a cloud soft bed also contained a birthing chair and a cradle to put the baby in once he or she was born. Soothing music was playing in the background and the calming scents of valerian and lavender and honey perfumed the air.

Eileen was waiting for us when we arrived. "So my second grandchild has decided to make an entrance tonight."

Lily looked about at the room, her swollen feet sinking into the acres of soft carpet. "This is such a lovely room, Mum. It's too bad that I'll be too busy to enjoy it." She gasped as another contraction hit.

"Hopefully, you'll stay overnight and then you'll be able to enjoy it," Eileen said, running a diagnostic. She frowned. "How odd. I could swear I detected . . ." she re-cast the spell.

"What is it? Is something wrong ?" Lily got the question out before I did.

"No, not wrong, but . . .I now can hear two heartbeats."

"Two? You mean I'm having . . ."

"Twins," Mum announced calmly.

"Blessed Merlin!" Lily exclaimed.

I was in shock. "Twins? I can't believe it."

"That explains why you were so big, Lil." I said. "Are the babies all right?"

Eileen ran another diagnostic. "Yes, they are doing fine. Both are in position, one behind the other."

Lily looked suddenly uncertain and frightened. "Two of them? Oh, God. I don't know if I can do this, Sev."

I came and put my arm about her shoulders. "You can do anything you put your mind to, Lily Evans. You've captured hardened criminals that no one else could. You can give birth to these babies."

"I don't really have a choice, do I?" She began breathing deeply and we walked about the room. "I'm at the end stage of the brewing process now and the bloody cauldron's boiling over-OWWW!"

"That was a good one, Lily," Mum said encouragingly. "You're doing well, almost dilated ten centimeters now . . ."

I didn't see how my mother could say it was going well when my wife looked like she was in agony. Lily had grabbed my hand and practically crushed my fingers when the next contraction hit. But that was all right, I didn't really need my left hand to stir a cauldron. "I'm sorry," I felt compelled to apologize for putting her through so much pain.

Both women looked at me. "Sorry for what?" Mum asked.

But Lily knew what I meant. "Severus, don't you dare apologize!" she growled. "We both wanted this."

"I know, but—"

Sweat dribbled down her cheeks and I blotted it away. "Bit late to feel guilty now . . .Snape." She panted through another contraction. "This is why . . .it's called labor . . ."

I glared at my mother. "Why aren't you giving her something for the pain?"

"Because she needs to dilate some more, Sev. Then I can pain block her."

I ground my teeth together. I wanted to cast the bloody spell on her right now, I hated seeing her like this. But she was a fighter, she might have broken all the bones in my hand, but she never one cursed me out, or said she hated me. Instead, she rode out the cresting pains, with a lot of encouragement from my mother. I wondered if it had been this bad when Harry was born.

"Harry! Bloody hell! He'll be coming home from the movies and no one's home," I realized.

"Go and Floo him, Sev," Mum ordered briskly. "Let him know what's going on."

Lily released her grip on my hand. "Go, dammit!"

I bolted over to the fireplace.

After a brief conversation with my son, where I told him to go and stay with the Grangers, and that I would call him as soon as the babies were born, I returned to Lily's side. It took another hour before she was ready to try and push and by then my mother had performed a very strong pain block spell on her which eased the pain somewhat.

"All right then, Lil. Onto the chair you go."

I helped her onto the birthing chair, which I knew made it easier for a mother to deliver. "This will be over soon, Lil," I murmured. "Keep breathing, you can do this."

She bared her teeth at me. "You can do this too, Severus. You pass out on me and I'll hex you to the moon. . . ."

Half-an-hour later, my daughter was born. She had a full head of dark hair and bluish-green eyes that Mum said would probably turn totally green later on. Ten minutes later, her brother followed, he had reddish hair and dark blue eyes which would later turn brown. Their coloring was different but the shape of their faces was the same.

"Here, Sev. Hold your daughter while I clean up your son," my mother handed me my baby girl, wrapped in an ultra soft pink and white blanket. "Congratulations, Mr. Snape. You're the father of beautiful twins."

I was shocked to discover that the beautiful little one was quite solid and not at all as delicate as she appeared. "Hello, little one," I whispered, and she looked at me with her brilliant eyes and made a soft noise. Her tiny hand reached out and grasped my thumb. "You're going to be a strong little girl, just like your mummy. And I'm going to hex all the boys to keep them away from you, because you are going to be a heartstopper like her too." I walked with her back over to where Lily was now holding our son and cooing to him. "Say hello to your mum, Hallie Eileen."

"Oh, Sev. She has your hair. She's so gorgeous." Lily beamed up at me.

"But she'll have your eyes, I think. Are you feeling okay?"

"I'm exhausted, but I've never felt better." She kissed the top of my son's head. "Gabriel Augustus, take a look at your daddy."

I gently placed Hallie beside Lily and picked up Gabriel. My son gave a soft whimper as I cradled him to me. He was smaller than his twin and his hair was a light auburn. "Hey, little man. Are you going to drive me to drink like your older brother? Or will you be calm and sweet-tempered like your namesake?"

Gabriel blew bubbles at me and I tickled him under the chin. "You have your mum's hair, but I think you've got my eyes. Well, maybe not. I hope you don't mind being named after a dog."

"Why would he?" Lily asked from the bed. "That dog was the best dog ever. And he's also named after an archangel."

Mum finished cleaning up Lily while I sat next to her and held my newborn son. All too soon, Gabe began squalling and I gave him to Lily to nurse. As soon as Gabriel began to cry, Hallie did too. But they soon hushed and began to drink. I looked down at all of them and thought how beautiful they looked together. Only Harry was missing.

"Mum, do you think I should go and get Harry? Or should I wait for morning?"

My mother laughed. "Sev, look out the window. Morning's already here."

I hadn't even realized it. But sure enough, the sun was shining and it was going to be a perfect day. Speaking of days . . ."What day is it?" I had forgotten to check the date on my calendar.

"It's Februrary 14th. Valentines Day," Eileen answered promptly. "Very appropriate, because these two beautiful babies are the result of the greatest love ever." She came to hug and kiss me and Lily. "Thank you for naming my granddaughter after me."

"How could we not? It's tradition." I said. "I'm only sorry that Hallie couldn't be here to see her. And Gabriel."

"She does see them, Sev. Angels see everything in heaven and earth," Lily said. "Now go get Harry so he can meet the twins."

I bent down and kissed her. "I'll be back."

"I'll be here. Always." She answered, cradling the two miracles we had made close to her heart, the same way she had for nine months.

I Apparated away. I couldn't wait to see Harry's reaction to his new brother and sister.

Hope you all liked this!

Were you surprised about the twins? What do you think Harry's reaction will be?
 


Chapter 20: The Helpful Son
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Snape's Journal

February 14th, 1994:

Harry woke with a sleepy moan as I shook his shoulder. "Ughh . . .five more minutes, Dad." He blinked blearily at me out of sleepy green eyes.

"Harry, wake up. You don't have school with me. I want to share some good news with you, now wake up!" I knew I was grinning like a fool, but I didn't care. It was a beautiful morning and I was the father of brand new twins.

"I don't? What day is it? Saturday?" Harry was still muzzy from sleep and he rubbed his eyes and sat up.

I handed him his glasses. He put them on and looked about, his face slowly acquiring a puzzled expression as he realized this wasn't his room, but the Grangers' spare one.

"Where—great Merlin!" he exclaimed, recalling where he was and why. "Dad, did Mum have the baby? What is it? Is she all right?"

I chuckled. "Calm down, Harry. That's why I'm here, to take you over to the hospital to meet the newest addition to the family. Your mum's doing fine, came through with flying colors. Now, why don't you get dressed and tell the Grangers thank you for letting you stay over and we'll Floo over?"

"Okay!" He went to get out of bed and nearly fell on his face as the sheets tangled about his ankles.

"Harry . . .it might be a good idea for you to remove the sheet before you try and stand up?" I reminded, biting back a chuckle.

"Right. It's just . . . I'm excited, you know? I can't believe the baby's really here and I'm a . . .big brother. God, but that sounds so strange. And yet I kind of like it." He threw off the covers and stood up.

Then he used a Switching Charm to exchange his pajamas for his clothes and then Shrank the pajamas and put them in his jacket pocket. "Okay, I'm set."

"No, you're not. Go in the bathroom and brush your hair and teeth, you don't want to scare the baby, now do you?" I urged. Harry's hair looked like a haystack, as it so often did in the morning and I wanted to encourage my son to have good hygiene and take pride in his appearance.

He sighed but he obeyed, knowing it would only take a minute to follow my instructions.

He emerged from the bathroom down the hall a few moments later, his hair brushed and slicked down with water and after we went downstairs to tell the Grangers the good news, I Apparated us straight to St. Mungos, to Lily's private room.

When we arrived, Mum was holding her new grandson, looking at his shock of red hair and his deep blue eyes and giving him a warm welcoming smile. I could tell she had fallen in love with him already.

"Hi, Grandma!" Harry greeted her. "Is that . . .?"

"Harry, meet your new baby brother, Gabriel Augustus," Eileen introduced Harry to his brother, while I went to pick up his twin, who was asleep next to her mother, who was resting also.

"Wow! He's so little!"

Eileen laughed. "Not to your mum, he wasn't."

Harry reached out a finger to stroke his hair. "He's got fuzzy hair and it looks like Mum's. I can't believe you named him Gabriel."

"It's a fine name, a strong name." Eileen said.

"It is. But he's not the only surprise, Harry." I came over with my baby girl. "You not only have a new baby brother, but a sister as well. This is Hallie Eileen, Gabriel's twin."

Harry's jaw dropped to his shoes. "TWO of them . . .Mum had twins? Flaming hell! Oops, please excuse my language," he apologized, knowing how I and his Gran both felt about foul language. "That's amazing! Just amazing!"

He peered at Hallie in my arms and reached out to stroke her cheek. "How come we didn't know before?"

"Because they were positioned one behind the other in your mum's womb and their heartbeats were beating in sync with each other. It wasn't until your mum was close to delivering that one twin shifted and I could sense two heartbeats." Mum explained.

"Hallie's a pretty name. I like it." Harry said, and tickled the baby under the chin.

"It was your Grandma Evans' name," I explained.

"I always thought her name was Sara."

"Hallie was her middle name, and also the name she preferred to be called. Which is why your mum and I chose it."

"Oh. I don't really remember her." Harry frowned. "Or Grandpa Evans either."

"You were too little when Grandpa Evans died of a heart attack. That was back before Godric's Hollow. You were four when Hallie passed away."

"What did she die from?"

"Breast cancer. But she used to watch you sometimes when you were small. In fact, one time you gave her quite a scare."

"I did? Did I do something magical?"

"No, nothing like that. Let's put the twins in their bassinet and sit here on the bed." I patted the foot of the bed. "We'll take pictures and everything once your mother wakes up." I went and carefully settled Hallie in the soft bed and Harry placed Gabriel beside her. They fussed a little, but soon curled up next to each other and slept. They were tired too, getting born is not easy. I returned to my chair and Harry sat on the bed while I told him the old tale of Hallie and the game of Hide-and-Seek. "I had to go to a conference for new professors at the Academy, and your mum was working till the wee hours of the morning on a case, so we asked Hallie if she wouldn't mind watching you for the night. What I'm going to tell you is what she told me once I returned home.

"You were three and very active, you liked to play games and one of your favorites was Hide-and-Seek. Hallie was babysitting over at our house that night, since it was easier than bringing you all the way to her house, and Gabriel was there too to help mind you. Gabe was very protective of you, he used to lay beside your bed or chair and watch over you. And also catch any bits from your supper that landed on the floor. Anyhow, you had just eaten supper and Hallie was cleaning up the kitchen when you took it into your head to play a game. . . "

August, 1983:

Hallie didn't notice that Harry was missing until after she had dried and put away the last plate and swept the floor. Only then did she realize that it was way too quiet and no chattering imp was tugging on her sleeve asking her "What's that, Grammy?" or "I wanna help do that." She turned around and saw that her grandson had left the kitchen. The only other creature in it was Gabriel, the friendly collie.

Gabe thumped his tail and she smiled at him. She had fed him scraps from supper and he had taken the food from her hand like a gentleman. Hallie loved Gabriel, recalling him from the days when they lived on this street, in the house down the row, and Lily and Severus had played together as children. She had been shocked to discover that this collie was the same dog, until Lily told her about the Youth potion Gabriel had accidentally ingested at school. But then she was delighted. "I had always wondered, you see, what became of that beautiful collie. I'm so glad he's still with you."

But now she was starting to get worried over her grandson. "Harry, where are you?" she called. She went into the den. No Harry. She looked behind the sofa and in the hall closet, knowing from experience how little kids liked to hide in small spaces. Nothing. "Harry! Come out, come out where ever you are!" she called in a sing-song voice, trying her best not to panic. "Grammy has chocolate for you if you're a good little boy."

She waited to hear a little voice say, "Chocolate? Where's mine?"

But there was silence. She felt her heart begin to accelerate as a sinking feeling struck her in the gut. She began to climb the stairs up to the bedrooms. The house had since been enlarged by Severus once he had gotten married, and now included an extra bedroom and a playroom for Harry. Hallie began to search determinedly, thinking, Surely he couldn't have opened the door and gone outside? I didn't hear a door open. But where in heaven's name is he? "Harry, come here! Or else no sweets!" she tried a different tack, hoping that would coax him out from wherever he'd gone.

She looked in the master bedroom, including the bathroom, hoping the little imp was merely using the potty, but no such luck. Both rooms were empty. She looked in the playroom. It too was empty. So was the guest room and Harry's own room.

Now Hallie was really scared. Her grandson was nowhere to be found. He wasn't anywhere in the house. She tore down the steps and out into the yard, calling Harry's name over and over. It was dusk and the shadows loomed over the yard and she could not see Harry at all outside. "Harry! Harry!" she yelled, petrified that somehow Harry had gotten out of the yard and wandered away down the street.

She ran halfway down the block, searching and calling. No little dark-haired boy with tiny glasses was in sight.

Her heart sank and she began to cry. She had lost her grandson and was terrified he'd been kidnapped, she wished she thought to lock the doors, but she hadn't realized Harry could turn doorknobs. She headed back to the house. Harry had been missing for over half-an-hour by now. She was about to pick up the phone and call the police, she was a nervous wreck by now.

Until she spotted the collie, lying calmly upon the rug in the front entry. "Dogs have good noses. And Lily's always bragging about what a smart dog you are, Gaby. Maybe you can help me. Harry's lost and I need to find him." Hallie knelt down and took Gabe's big head in her hands. "Find Harry, Gabriel! Find him! Please , for the love of God, find my grandson!"

Gaby whined and licked the tears from her cheeks. He wagged his tail in understanding. He knew the words "find" and "Harry", knew also that the plump woman was scared and worried. Even though Gabriel was not a hunting dog, a collie was bred to round up stray sheep, and so had a good nose. He put that nose to good use now, standing up and sniffing the floor and the air.

Then he trotted out of the kitchen, Hallie following. He circled the den, smelling the strayed sheep-child. Then he trotted right to the stairs, barked once, and galloped up them.

Hallie grew excited and ran as quickly as she could after him. Gabriel halted in the middle of the hall, letting the gasping woman catch up before he trailed Harry into Harry's bedroom. He gave a happy bark and led her to the laundry hamper, pawing at it and whining.

Hallie put a hand over her mouth. Then she crept up and removed the cover of the large wicker hamper. There inside, crouched double and smirking like a Cheshire cat, was her missing grandson. "Hi, Grammy! You found me!" he sang out. "Now it's your turn to hide!"

"Harry! Oh, thank God!" she cried and grabbed him and hugged him hard. "Why didn't you answer when I called? You scared Grammy half to death!"

"B'cause you is 'post to be quiet," the intrepid toddler informed her. "I was hiding."

A wave of relief crashed over her. Harry was safe. It was swiftly followed by anger for making her frantic. "Harry James Potter, never ever do that again!"

"But why?"

"Because I thought you were lost, not hiding. When I call you, please answer me, even if you're playing Hide-and-Seek. Understand?"

He nodded. "Grammy was scared?"

"Yes, because I thought I'd lost you. That was very naughty of you to hide and not tell me. Now I think you'd better go to bed early." She looked over at Gabriel. "Thank you so much, Gaby! Lily was right, you are the smartest dog ever."

But Harry was all wound up and didn't want to sleep. He still wanted to play. So after Hallie tucked him in, he slipped out of bed and hid under it. When Hallie came in to check on him some three minutes later, after using the bathroom, she nearly screamed upon seeing the bed empty.

"Harry, where are you?" she called angrily. "Come out right this instant!"

"Can't. I is hiding," came a small voice from under the bed.

"Now, young lady!" Hallie snapped. Then she realized her mistake. "I mean, young man!"

"Grammy, I is not a girl!"

"I know that. It's time for bed, so you come out and stop playing games."

A giggle sounded from beneath the bed.

Hallie sighed in exasperation. Who would have thought her angelic looking grandson could be so naughty? "Must I count to three, Harry?"

The giggling stopped. But Harry remained under the bed. He wasn't tired and didn't want to go to sleep. Even though he knew counting to three meant getting put in time out, he still didn't want to quit playing. Besides, he had learned that Hallie couldn't get under the bed and get him.

Hallie started counting, but as soon as she reached three, she realized what her grandson had minutes before—she couldn't get under the bed to drag him out and punish him. Brilliant, just brilliant! I've been outsmarted by a three year old!

And Harry knew it. The little imp was chanting softly, "Ha ha, can't make me! I'm not comin' out till it morning!"

"We'll see about that," his grandmother said, thinking hard. She wished she knew some magic like her daughter and son-in-law, one of those charms to summon things. Then her eyes lit on Gabriel. "Gabe, go get Harry." She pointed to the bed.

Now the bed wasn't high enough for Hallie to fit under, but it was just big enough for an enterprising collie to shove his head under and grab the little boy's pajama bottoms.

Harry shrieked with laughter when Gaby's head was stuck under there and he felt the dog grab the back of his pants. It wasn't until he was partially out that Harry realized what the dog was doing and started to howl.

"No, Gaby! No take me out! NO!"

But the dog ignored him, having been given a command by the senior member of the household, and besides, this was better than fetching a dumb old ball. The collie happily dragged Harry out from beneath the bed.

No sooner had he done so, then the very annoyed grandmother pounced upon her misbehaving grandson and picked him up. "You are such a naughty boy, not going to sleep and then scaring me again!" scolded Hallie, and then she gave him a spank on the bottom and made him sit in the corner on the Naughty Stool for three minutes.

Harry was quite unhappy and bawled loudly until his punishment was over.

He then told Hallie he was sorry and she hugged and kissed him and held him till he was sleepy, then tucked him into bed. But he was mad at poor Gaby and when the collie came to lick him good night, he smacked the poor dog on the nose and told him to go away.

Snape's Journal

February 14th, 1994:

"Merlin, but I was a real brat, wasn't I?" my now older and wiser son said, laughing. "I'll bet Grammy never wanted to watch me ever again."

"No, she did. She loved watching you, Harry. It didn't matter if you behaved or not, she could handle it. Your mum and I learned a lot from her about being a good parent and having patience and setting rules."

"We grandmas have plenty of patience with our grandkids," Eileen said. "Because we know we'll get to give them back." She ruffled Harry's hair. "You'll help your father now won't you, Harry? Because he's going to need a lot of help with two babies to take care of."

Harry looked uncertain. "I'll try. But I don't know anything about taking care of a baby."

"Well, you'll learn then!" my mother smiled knowingly.

Lily stayed overnight at the hospital with the twins for another day before Eileen said she could go home. All the mediwitches and Healers cooed and admired the babies, for twins were not a common sight at St. Mungos.

All of our co-workers and friends sent flowers and balloons and stuffed animals, clothes, and baby essentials as gifts by owl post, congratulating us on our twins. One especially nice gift came from Molly and Arthur Weasley, who were the parents of twins themselves. Arthur worked in the Ministry for a different branch of the MLE and knew Lily from there. Molly had knitted two small sets of baby booties and a blanket each, one with blue yarn and small brooms on it, and the other was pink with little smoking cauldrons. She also included a note with lots of advice for us.

Dear Lily & Severus,

Just wanted to congratulate you on being the parents of twins. How lovely! Now you have one of each, but while they are very sweet, they can also be a lot of work. Here are a few tricks I learned with mine, I hope you don't mind me giving you tips.

1) Get them on a schedule fast. This is so important, because with two you have twice the work—feeding, changing, sleeping, ect. Trust me!

2) Make sure your husband helps you, it's impossible to do alone!

3) Once they're on a schedule, make sure you stick to it, twins like routine.

4) Have fun with your babies, they may do things at different times, though mine learned at almost the same pace. When George crawled, Fred followed a day or two later, and so forth. Sometimes you'll notice that one twin will feel the other's distress and cry even if there's nothing wrong. That's normal. When you fix whatever's bothering twin one, twin two will be happy again.

5) Lily, you should both nurse and give formula, it makes it easier on you, plus Severus can help with feedings that way.

6) Twins are very expensive. We almost went bankrupt the first year, but somehow we managed. The name of the game is economize!

7) Above all, love them, and count your blessings twice!

If you have any questions, just owl me, I'll be happy to help.

Sincerely,

Molly Weasley

PS: If you need someone to babysit, Fred and George can help. They're fifteen and good with little children.

"How very sweet of her!" Lily said, after she had read the note. "I'll have to write her a thank you note when I have time." She admired the blankets and the little booties, which fit perfectly. Then she went to feed Gabriel and Hallie.

February20th, 1994:

It was five days since the twins and Lily arrived home. So far we were still working on getting them to eat and sleep together at certain times. Sometimes Hallie would be cranky and refuse to nap, and require one of us to walk with her up and down till she grew tired. Other times Gabe was restless and stayed up while Hallie dropped right off. Though of the two, my little girl was the more dominant, and she was also the first born of the pair. Gabriel, I had noticed, tended to watch Hallie before he tried something.

Lily had taken Molly's advice and both nursed and bottle fed the twins. She usually nursed them in the early morning and late at night and once inbetween, the rest of the time they had special formula and I fed them. I learned rather quickly that a baby's priorities at this stage were sleeping, eating, and a clean nappy. Molly was right, it was exhausting! Making a schedule was a must.

When I wasn't feeding, burping, or changing a baby, I spent a lot of my time in my lab, brewing up batches of Rash Away salve and lotion, special herbal teas and healing potions for newborns with fevers, colds, stomach upsets, ect, ect. So far, the twins were healthy, but I felt it was always good to be prepared.

Harry helped me immensely with my brewing, he was good enough now to brew at a fourth year level, and most of these potions weren't hard to make, just time consuming.

He also helped with the laundry and making dinner, and we even got him to hold and feed Hallie on the third day after she came home. It had been late at night, around midnight, and Lily had just fed them about three or four hours ago, but apparently they were still hungry, because both of them woke up wet and starving.

Lily nudged me out of my peaceful sleep. "Severus, it's your turn."

I yawned. "All right, Lil." I forced my eyes open.

Both babies were crying in tandem and my ears were ringing. They slept in a double cradle beside our bed, so it took me about a minute to pick up both of them. Then I carried them through the connecting door to the nursery. I spelled the lights on, grateful I had learned wandless magic, and put Gabe on the changing table first and set Hallie in the little infant carrier to wait her turn.

Hallie had a scream like a banshee. I was sure everyone in the neighborhood could hear her.

Harry came into the nursery. "Why's Hallie crying?" he asked. We could all distinguish between each twin's cries now. Hallie definitely had a louder set of lungs.

"She's wet and hungry and I can only do one baby at a time." I answered as I changed my little son.

"Want me to help, Dad?"

"Please." I gestured to Hallie.

Harry picked her up. "Hey, little bug. You sure can yell. Bet they can hear you in China. In China!" he chuckled. Hallie wailed. "Okay, okay. Relax." He carefully placed Hallie on the second table and undid her nappy. He wrinkled his nose. "Yuck!" then he performed a quick Vanishing Charm to get rid of the smelly nappy. "Phew! That's better!"

I looked over at him. "Make sure you clean her good and put salve on her bottom."

He did as ordered, making all kinds of ridiculous faces at his baby sister. Hallie burbled and waved her fists and feet in the air. "Who's a pretty girl?" he asked, and blew a raspberry at her. "My baby sister, that's who!"

Hallie reached up and tried to yank off his glasses. Harry waved a finger at her. "Uh-uh! Don't touch. You want to make your brother blind?" He took a clean nappy from the stack. Then he stared at it. "Dad, how do I put one of these things on?"

"Like this," I showed him how my mother had shown me. "Or you can use a charm."

Once both twins were diapered and clean, they started to cry because they were hungry.

I taught my son how to use a small Warming Charm to heat up the bottles, then Harry and I settled down in the den, a baby in each arm, and fed the greedy little pigs. They guzzled down almost two ounces of formula before they needed to be burped.

Harry had never done that before, so I showed him with Gabriel. I had learned through trial and error when you needed to burp a baby. Harry hadn't.

When he took the bottle from Hallie, she screamed bloody murder. He winced. "Dad, she wants more."

"I know, but trust me, she needs to burp. Just let her cry, you're not being mean, she's just impatient and uncomfortable." I had Gabe on my shoulder and was patting and rubbing away. He was fussing, and I didn't know if it was because he was feeling what Hallie did or because he was hungry. "Come on, little man," I whispered. I patted harder and was rewarded with a loud belch.

"Dad, I can't get her to burp. She just keeps screaming." Harry winced. He had her on his knee and was bouncing her and patting her. "Come on, baby. Do I have to show you how it's done too? Because Mum won't like that much."

Two minutes later, Hallie burped . . .and spit up all over her brother.

"Gross! Ah, Dad!" Harry looked down at his pajamas in dismay. "She threw up on me!"

"Welcome to the club. Now we all have been christened," I said wryly.

"I never knew little girls were so . . .disgusting!" He made a face.

"Better get used to it, Harry. Because she'll be doing that for at least three months." Then I took pity on him and waved a hand and vanished the mess off him.

Harry gave her more of the bottle and groaned. "I never knew babies were so much work. Why do they wake up so early in the morning?"

I shrugged. "I suppose because they're not sleepy any more."

"They're your kids, all right. Night owls just like you." Harry said, and yawned. "I can't wait till they're bigger and can feed and dress themselves."

"Oh? Then you get to help potty train them," I said with an evil smirk.

"What? Oh, no! No way!" He blanched.

I laughed. "I thought you said when Gabriel came home that you were going to teach him everything."

"But not that! I meant flying a broom, stirring a cauldron, playing jokes, not that! That's your job!"

"Well, we can discuss that in a few years. Right now, let's get these two imps fed so we can get some sleep."

After they had eaten, the twins fell asleep. As I carried them back upstairs, I remembered to thank my son for helping me.

"Does this mean I can sleep in tomorrow morning and not have Transfiguration first thing?"

"Maybe an hour and then you get class as usual." I said gruffly.

Thankfully, the twins slept till five-thirty and then it was Lily's turn.

Snape's Journal

February 25, 1994:

Finally managed to get the twins on a schedule we can all live with. Thank you Merlin!

Though Harry still has adventures from time to time with changing them. Gabe peed on him once, not that he hasn't done that to me or Lily. The only difference is that Harry can't vanish away the results like we can. But such are the hazards of being a big brother.

It seems like we were forever running to the supermarket for something—nappies, formula, bibs, ordinary food. Today Lily wanted to get some kind of roast for dinner and we were running out of laundry detergent, since we can't always be using magic for everything.

Harry was doing his Charms assignment in the dining room while Hallie and Gabe played on the little baby mat, trying to grab the small hanging rings and toys.

I was sitting in my recliner, reading the paper and drinking a cup of double strength coffee, lately I needed lots of caffeine or a Stimulating Draft to keep going, when the doorbell rang.

The noise startled Hallie, who started to cry. I bent down to pick up my daughter, who didn't seem to care if the who world heard her howling. She had her mum's brass and her father's temper all right. Gabe remained quiet and just looked up at me. "I know. She just likes to hear herself yell," I told him.

I went to get the door.

I opened it, thinking to find some neighborhood kid selling something, or a delivery from a florist. Instead there was a tall man standing on my porch wearing neatly pressed gray trousers and a blue anorak. He looked to be around my mother's age, in his early fifties, with wavy blond hair and dark blue eyes. There was something . . .familiar about him. I thought I should know him from somewhere.

"Hello. Can I help you?"

He was staring at me as if he knew me. "Is this . . .the Snape residence? I'm looking for Eileen."

"Yes, but—"

Before I could tell him that Eileen had moved away and I was her son, he said, very softly, "Severus? Don't you know me?"

It was the voice that did it. Took me right back all those years to seven years old. My jaw dropped and I clutched the door frame and my baby girl for dear life. I thought for sure that I was dreaming.

"Dad?"

Tobias Snape had walked out of my life over twenty-five years ago. And now he was back.

Well, how did you like the twist at the end?

How do you think Severus will take Tobias being back? Or Eileen?
 


Chapter 21: The Lone Wolf Returns
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Snape's Journal

February 20th, 1994:

I remained still, shock holding me mute for a few moments. I almost couldn't believe my eyes. But the proof was right in front of me. My father, Tobias Snape, had returned after all these years to . . .what? Mend the bridges he'd burnt? Make amends to my mother? See the son he had abandoned as a little boy, who was now all grown up with a family of his own? I hadn't understood his reasons for leaving then and I sure as hell didn't understand his reasons for returning now. I mean, it wasn't as though I needed him in my life any longer.

Hallie made a soft whimpering noise and I automatically patted her back.

Tobias, who had been staring awkwardly at me, suddenly focused upon my baby daughter. "Is that . . .your little girl, Severus?" His voice had gone soft all of a sudden.

I nodded. "This is Hallie Eileen. She and her twin brother were born five days ago. Technically, you're her grandfather, if I ever permitted her to call you that."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"What I said. Surely you don't expect to just waltz back into my life like nothing ever happened?" I sneered.

"Sev, look, I know I made a lot of mistakes back then, but I left for a very good reason."

"Because you got sick and tired of taking care of your family, right? You couldn't hack it as a father so you just took yourself off to greener pastures. Please!"

"No. It wasn't like that. I know that's how it would seem to you, but if you'll let me explain—"

I cut him off. "The only explaining I want you to do is to explain what the hell you're doing here."

Before Tobias could respond, Harry called, "Dad? Who's at the door?"

I turned and called over my shoulder, "Harry, take Hallie inside, please. I need to have a talk with . . .a relative."

Harry appeared behind me. I handed him his little sister. "A relative? Who?"

I wasn't going to answer him, but Tobias had other ideas, the sly weasel.

"I'm your grandfather."

"Grandfather?" Harry looked confused. "But Dad, I thought your father was dead."

"You told him I was dead?" my father demanded, his blue eyes flashing.

"You were as good as!" I snapped. "Mum had you declared dead after seven years. What do you expect? You left in the middle of the night, no explanation, no note, nothing. We didn't know where you were and frankly we were better off that way."

"Maybe that was true once. God knows I wasn't very good father material back then—"

I laughed bitterly. "That's the understatement of the year, Dad."

Harry was looking from one to the other of us, riveted to the floor. Hallie was beginning to fuss and I could hear Gabe start up as well.

"Harry, go inside and play with the twins while I finish this conversation. It shouldn't take me too long. Go!" I gave him a gentle nudge.

He sighed, but then caught sight of my face, and didn't bother arguing. He left, shutting the door behind him, leaving me on the porch with my father.

"What, you're not going to invite me in for a cup of tea?" Tobias mocked softly.

"Go to hell and stay there, why don't you?" I growled.

"No thanks. Where's your mother, Sev?"

"Why do you want to know? Plan on paying her a visit too?"

"Yes, I am. You want to know why I came back? Well, here's the long and the short of it. I came back to see what I could salvage of my past. I've changed, Severus. I'm not the drunken bastard I used to be. That was why I left. Because I knew I could only hurt you and your mother if I stayed. I was a no good drunken bum, a slave to the bottle. When I was sober, I knew what I did was wrong. I needed help, but I was too cowardly to admit it. So I left. I didn't say goodbye because I always planned on coming back someday, when I was dry. But I never reckoned it would take me so long to sober up for good."

"Over twenty-five years, old man. Twenty-five years! And you expect us to just . . .welcome you back with open arms? After what you did?"

To my shock, Tobias Snape actually looked ashamed. "I know I was a nasty bastard to you, Sev. I hurt you for no reason and I have no excuse for that. Being drunk isn't an excuse. I hope that one day you can forgive me . . .but if not I'll understand."

"Sure you will." I sneered. "Tell me another one. You've got balls, coming here and trying to make all nice with me. You made my life hell until I was eight years old, and her life too! And you think a few words will fix it? It's too fucking late for you to try and make amends with us." My hands balled into fists as I fought to control my temper, which was erupting from some deep well of anguish, resentment, and hurt inside of me. "You should have stayed dead, damn you!"

He flinched at the naked aggression in my tone. "Go ahead and hit me if you want. God knows I deserve it."

"Don't tempt me," I said through clenched teeth. Much as I wanted to belt him one, I knew I couldn't trust myself. And I had vowed years before to never become what he was. My childhood nemesis. The one man I both feared and admired, loved and hated. "I'm not like you."

He shook his head. "You think not? You're wrong."

I stiffened. "You don't know a damn thing about me. Everything I am today I became because I didn't want to be like you—a drunken oaf who drowned his failures in gin and beat the crap out of his kid because he was mad at the world. Who belittled his wife every chance he got and begrudged her every penny she spent on food and not beer."

"I'm not perfect. But then, neither are you. We all walk through our own dark night, Severus."

I snorted. I didn't need him to preach at me about darkness. I knew all too well what was buried in my soul. But for a dog, I would have taken the dark road and lost everything. "You sound like some two bit shrink." I mocked.

"That's because I am one. I'm a counselor now for AA."

"What? Who the hell gave you that job? They must have been bloody insane."

Now I saw a flicker of anger. "Who better to counsel others than someone who's lived through it?" he answered. "You ought to be glad I left when I did. I take it you and your wife and kids live here now? Where's your mother?"

"Living quite happily without you."

"She's not . . .she didn't find someone else . . .?"

"Not that it's any of your business, but no, she never dated again."

He reached into a pocket of his jacket and took out a small white card. "I would like to see her again. If she's willing to meet with me, that is. Here's the address and room number of the hotel I'm staying at. Tell her to call me." He pressed the card into my hand.

My fist clenched on it and I longed to just throw it in the nearest bin. Or shred it. But I didn't, don't ask me why. Instead I watched as my father turned and went down the stairs, walked over to the bike parked in the drive, and started it up. I fought to keep from gaping, for Tobias rode a blue velvet Harley with a winged panther etched onto the side, and it was in mint condition. Not some junk pile like the old truck he used to drive. I wondered cynically who he had boosted that off of.

I watched him leave, then I shoved the card in my pocket. His sudden appearance had left me feeling conflicted and adrift, just when I had thought my life was going brilliantly. I didn't know what I should do, if I should warn my mother that he was back, or should I just toss the damn card and be done with it? Finally, I gathered myself and went back inside.

I found Harry amusing the twins by making ridiculous faces at them and conjuring harmless colored balls of light and juggling them. He was terrible at it, the balls kept falling on the ground, which made the twins squeal with laughter. I watched my children for a long moment, thinking about how different their childhood was from my own. I intended to keep it that way.

"You're a good big brother, Harry," I commented.

He turned around. "Hi. Was that man really my grandpa?"

"Unfortunately, yes he was." I answered. I picked up Gabe, wrinkling my nose. "Someone needs a new nappy."

"Aww, Merlin! I just changed Hallie." Harry groaned.

I Summoned the small baby bag and changed my son on the couch, then went to warm up bottles for both of them. Once the twins were fed and burped, they were content to be placed in their cradle for a nap.

It was then that Harry asked another question. "Dad, about my grandpa . . .was he really what you said? A drunken bum?"

I nodded. "Yes. He was a very bad alcoholic. Come, we'll talk in the den." I led him into the den and we sat together on the couch. I didn't want to discuss Tobias anymore, but I knew that Harry would keep asking questions till I gave him an answer.

"Your grandfather once worked at the old mill down the road from here. Until the workers went on strike and the mill shut down. I was only five when that happened, and after that he started to drink when he couldn't secure a job right away. But that only meant trouble, for us as well as him. When he was drinking, not only did he cost us his pay, but he also became very nasty tempered."

Harry's green eyes went wide. "Did he . . .hit you? Is that why you and Gran never talk about him?"

"Yes and yes. He left one night and I never saw him until just now."

"Why did he come to see you?"

"He didn't. He came looking for your grandmother. He didn't realize that she sold the house to me once I got married. He wants to . . .make peace with me. Or so he says. But I don't trust him."

"Is that why you didn't invite him inside?"

"Yes. Enough questions, Harry. Have you finished your homework?"

"Yes, sir. Can I go and see Hermione?"

"Yes. But be back by supper."

"Okay, Dad." He half-sprinted out the door.

"Oh, and don't talk to any strange men on blue Harleys." I called after him.

He laughed. "Whatever, Dad!"

Once he was gone, I went to the small bar in the dining room and poured myself a glass of wine. I normally did not indulge, but Tobias' sudden appearance had thrown me for a loop. I was still pondering whether or not to break the news to my mother when Lily returned from the store.

After I had helped her put away the groceries, she asked how my day had gone so far. "Did the twins behave for you while I was gone?"

"They were angels. So was Harry. But a devil came calling this afternoon."

"A devil? What do you mean?"

I told her about Tobias. "I'm still trying to comprehend the fact that it was really him. He didn't really look the way I remember him, but then again, I was only eight when he took off, so my memory might be a bit unreliable." I removed the card from my pocket and turned it over in my hands. "I don't know what I ought to do, Lil. My father ruined her life, what makes him think he won't do it a second time?"

Lily put her arm about my shoulders. "Oh, Sev. I wish I could resolve this for you. I'm sorry that you feel so confused, but just remember, I'm here if you need me. Always." She began to card my hair and rub the tenseness from my shoulders. "I think you ought to talk to Eileen, Severus. Let her make up her own mind."

"I doubt she'll want to see him again."

"Even so, you need to let her choose. That way she'll feel more in control."

"All right. I'll Floo over and tell her later. Damn him! Why did he have to show up now? He always seems to ruin everything." I swore.

"Not this time, Sev. We'll get through this." Lily said comfortingly. "I won't let him come between you and your family. He's not going to hurt you again. I'll hex him first before I'll let that happen. If he's smart he won't try and test me."

I turned and hugged her. "My fierce little hawk. Tobias will be one sorry son of a bitch if he crosses you."

"He bloody well will be. Because nobody hurts my husband."

I kissed her, long and hard. I couldn't ask for a more loyal and devoted wife. Tobias had had that once, but he had thrown it away.

Just then an owl hooted outside the window and I undid the latch and the owl flew in with a letter addressed to me.

"Who's that from?"

"Lupin," I said shortly. "He's reminding me that the full moon is this Saturday. He needs his Wolfsbane." There was also a bank note for the cost of the potion included in the envelope. I had been making him the Wolfsbane for years, ever since the potion had been invented. It was a master level brew, with many costly and rare ingredients as well as a long brewing time.

Before the Wolfsbane, Lupin had to endure being chained up like an animal with silver, because silver chains were the only kind a werewolf couldn't break. My mind spun down the years, back to when Harry was nine, and still not displaying any sign of accidental magic, and the last Marauder had dropped by my mother's shop to ask a favor . . .

Snape's Journal

September 16th, 1989:

It was a brisk autumn afternoon, and the wind was blowing passerby's hats and scarves right off their heads. It decided to make a mare's nest out of my hair, tangling it and sending strands into my face until I found a leather tie and tugged the whole mess into a tail out of my face. I would deal with it later. Right now I was on an errand, I needed to pick up some extra dragon scales and bubotuber pus as well as dandelion juice for several different potions I was demonstrating to my Academy classes. So naturally I headed to my mother's apothecary, with Gabriel accompanying me. The wind ruffled his thick fur, making it all wild and fluffy, but he didn't mind it. He loved the cold.

"Hello, Sev. What can I do for you?" my mother greeted as soon as I set foot in the shop, even before the chimes above the door had ceased ringing. "Hello, Gabriel. You're still as handsome as ever, even if you are going a bit gray around the muzzle."

Gabe walked over to her and licked her, offering her a paw. Mum took it and then fed him some beef jerky, something she always kept in a jar for my dog when he visited her shop. Gabe gulped the treat and then lay down in his usual spot alongside the counter. Lately, he was wont to snooze away the afternoon, a sign that he was beginning to feel his age. I stroked him and he closed his eyes.

"Hello, Mum. Don't worry about waiting on me, I know where everything is." I said.

"I rearranged a bit since you last worked here." She said.

"I'm sure I can figure out where the dragon scales migrated to," I told her, knowing there were probably a dozen people in the shop at the moment who really needed her help.

"All right then, Sev. If you're sure . . ."

"Mrs. Snape, I need some more salamander skin, do you have any in the back?" called a customer nearby.

"Let me check my stock, William," Eileen answered and hurried off to the back room.

I was gathering my own ingredients, carefully putting each jar or vial into my shopping basket, when the chimes rang above the door and a new customer walked in. My eyes automatically went to the doorway, to see who had come in. It was reflex, automatic after so much time, even though I no longer worked behind the counter.

Gabriel's head came up and his ears pricked. He too looked at the door, where a medium-sized man stood, dressed in a patched brown robe, his light brown hair falling forward across his forehead. He sported a small moustache, but despite that I still recognized him.

Remus Lupin, the last Marauder. I bristled. Gabriel's teeth showed and he growled softly. As a rule, most animals did not like werewolves. I think they sensed the danger they represented, the wildness that lurked just below the surface. Plus, Gabriel had nearly died from an attack by this same werewolf. My collie apparently had not forgotten that.

The last time I had seen Lupin had been at Potter and Black's memorial service. He had been pale and drawn with grief then. He looked hardly better now, still shabbily dressed and gaunt. I supposed it must be difficult to hold down a job with the new Ministry restrictions on werewolves that had just been passed.

Gabriel continued to growl until I hissed, "Quiet! Down, Gabe!"

The collie reluctantly obeyed, though as Remus joined the queue, his upper lip lifted in a soundless snarl.

"Can I help you, Remus?" Eileen asked when he approached the counter. "You're looking awful tired. Do you need a special energy tonic?"

He shook his head. "No, thank you, Mrs. Snape. I'm here to . . .ask a favor. You're a Potions Mistress of some renown around here and I was wondering if . . .well, I'm sure you know about the new Wolfsbane Potion?" He had lowered his voice until only my mother and I, who was right next to the counter, could hear him.

"I do."

"Can you . . .that is would you brew some for me? I'd do it myself, but potions have never been my strong suit. And I've heard it requires a master to brew."

That was for sure! None of the Marauders could brew to save their skins and the Wolfsbane was challenging enough for me, never mind a bumbler like Lupin, I thought scornfully.

Eileen looked thoughtful. "Well . . .the potion is very complicated, but more than that, it's time consuming. It takes almost a week to brew and it needs to be stirred several times a day. I'm afraid I don't have the time to brew that draft and run my shop at the same time."

"Oh. I see." Lupin looked crestfallen. Despair gleamed in his brown eyes. "Then I guess I'll have to write Damocles Belby and ask him to make it for me, even though he wants a ridiculous amount of Galleons to do so . . ." He turned to go.

"Wait!" my mother called. "There may be a way. I can ask my son, Severus. He works at the Academy of Potioneers and can use their lab and have one of his students or interns watch the cauldron for him on his days off."

"Really? It would be wonderful if he could do it. Would you mind asking him?"

"Not at all. As a matter of fact he's here now."

I stood frozen, horrified that my mother had just volunteered my services as a Potions Master to Lupin, of all people! She knew of our history together, knew that I had no reason to do him any favors, considering how he had passively tormented me during my schooldays by watching while his best friends hexed and beat me and did nothing to stop them. I wanted to turn and walk out of the shop, but it was too late for that.

Mum had spotted me and waved me over. "Severus, Remus Lupin would like to hire you to brew a complex potion for him. Let's go into a private room and discuss it."

I reluctantly followed her and Remus came after me.

"You wish to hire my services, Lupin?" I demanded coldly.

"Yes, Snape, I do. I know you might not want to help me after what went on at school, but I am begging you . . .please let bygones be bygones and brew the Wolfsbane for me. I will pay you the cost of the ingredients plus your time, say perhaps . . .50 Galleons?"

It was odd, but I actually began to feel sorry for the werewolf. And for once a Marauder would be in my debt. "That may not cover the cost of some of the ingredients. But I shall let you know if it doesn't."

"Thank you, Severus. You cannot know how grateful I am. The full moon is a week away and I was afraid I would never find someone willing to brew the draft unless I emptied my vault."

"The Wolfsbane is an extremely complicated potion. Not many wizards can brew it correctly."

"Have you ever done so?"

"No, but I am certain I can do so," I said swiftly.

"Thank you again," Lupin said, and held out his hand for me to shake.

No sooner had I clasped it, then a low snarl came from behind the werewolf.

Lupin whirled to find a snarling collie, head lowered, growling ferociously.

"Gabriel!" I commanded. "Down, boy! It's all right. He's not going to hurt me."

Gabriel did not cease his growling until I released Lupin's hand.

Lupin began to back away slowly, keeping his eyes on the ground. "Easy, boy. I won't hurt your master."

"Gabe, you insane mutt!" I scolded. "Forgive him, he's very overprotective of me, especially after . . .that incident at school."

Lupin blushed and looked away. "I can't say I blame him. If I had known what Sirius and James had been planning I would have stopped it. I have never deliberately hurt anyone. Had I been in my right mind, Snape . . .it never would have happened."

He was being sincere, I could hear it in his voice.

So could Gabriel, for he abruptly stopped glaring at Lupin with suspicion and sat down.

"Good dog," I praised, and my collie thumped his tail in acknowledgement.

"Well, I'd better go. I don't want to cause your dog to have a stroke." Lupin gave me a faint smile.

"I will owl you when the potion is ready. You can send me payment then." I said.

"Of course, Snape. Pleasure doing business with you." He gave me a short bow, then departed.

Gabriel relaxed and assumed his usual calm demeanor.

I scowled at my mother, who was looking inordinately pleased with herself. "Mother, how could you just . . .volunteer my services like that? Without consulting me? You know what Lupin did to me at school." I hissed.

"Yes, I know. But Sev, that was a long time ago, and you're all grown up now. That man needs your help, because of his problem he is made a pariah. You of all people should know what that's like. Will you turn him away because of the mistakes of the past? I thought I taught you better than that, Severus Snape."

Ah, my mother could pull a guilt trip with the best of them. I had to hand it to her, she knew me too well. I could always count on her to bring out my better half. Like my dog, she had positive influence upon me. Now feeling slightly ashamed of my uncharitable attitude, I sighed and said, "All right, Mum. You twisted my arm. I'll brew the potion."

"I'm proud of you, Sev. Holding a grudge only hurts you, not helps."

"Do you have a copy of the Wolfsbane formula? I might as well pick up those ingredients as well while I'm here."

"Yes, let me look on my desk. I think I put my copy of Most Potente Potions somewhere around there." She left to search for it while I returned to the front and helped some customers before they grew too impatient and started complaining.

After Eileen had shown me the potion recipe and I had purchased all the necessary ingredients from her, some of which were expensive because they were rare, I left to bring them to the lab at the Academy and ask some of my students who lived there if they wouldn't mind tending the potion once I had put it on to simmer. They agreed and I went home to tell Lily what was going on.

"Poor Remus! I always felt sort of sorry for him, having to live with that curse. I'm glad they've come up with a sort of cure for it and of course I won't mind taking a few days off for you to brew the Wolfsbane. I have al lot of leave accumulated and I've been meaning to spend some more time with Harry. He's been depressed lately because he hasn't shown any sign of magical ability."

"I wish there was a potion I could make that would jump start his magic, but there isn't. It has to happen on its own or not at all."

"I know, but it just breaks my heart to see him wishing so much for it and getting let down when nothing happens. Damn bloody Voldemort to hell and beyond! I hope his soul rots in perdition!" she spat angrily.

"Me too." I said feelingly. If Harry had been robbed of his magical birthright because of that scheming evil git I wished I could go to hell and kick his damn ass all over the place. "Well, let's eat dinner and then I'm going to go back to the Academy and make a start on that potion."

The next five days were hectic for me, but at last the Wolfsbane was brewed and I sent Remus an owl. He arrived at the Academy on the day of the full moon and took the potion. He grimaced and said it tasted awful but if it worked it was worth it. Then he reimbursed me for the cost of the ingredients and my time.

The full moon lasted for three days. On the morning after the third day, I received a note from Lupin thanking me again. It had worked wonderfully. He had changed into a full wolf instead of the beast-man and the transformation had been much less painful. He had kept his mind throughout it and fallen asleep in the basement of his home, waking only when the moon had waned.

He wished to thank Eileen as well, and I told him to meet me down at her shop, as it was a Thursday morning.

Once again, Gabriel invited himself along, and together we headed down the street to the apothecary. "Now you behave yourself when Lupin arrives, you hear?" I told him firmly. "I know he smells dangerous but he's a friend. Sort of. Even if he is a werewolf. So no growling and acting like you want to rip him to pieces, all right?"

Gabriel studied me for a moment, wisdom alight in his uncanny brown eyes. I knew he understood what I wanted. Then he walked calmly beside me until we reached the shop.

I could tell immediately that something was wrong. The door was askew and the large window was broken. Gabriel was barking in alarm. "Mum? Where are you?" I called. "Are you all right?"

"Sev, I'm in here. I'm fine, but the shop . . .Severus, I've been robbed!" she sounded slightly shaky and very upset and annoyed.

Gabriel and I entered and I saw that many of the shelves containing expensive items had been emptied and others had been overturned and broken. I swore softly. "Mum, why didn't the wards go off?"

"They did. Recently. But by the time I got down here, they were already gone. But they left this bloody mess behind!" She waved her wand and began trying to clean up.

Gabriel sniffed at a few glass shards and I quickly waved my wand and vanished them. No sense in having an injured dog added to the list of things already stolen.

I was furious that someone had dared to attack my mother this way, to me her apothecary was sacrosanct. I longed to try and find the criminal and hex him senseless.

"Mum, did you call the Aurors?"

"Yes, they're sending someone out here to investigate and talk to me," she said.

Just then there came a knock at the door and I heard Lupin's voice asking if he could come in. In all the excitement I had forgotten he was coming. My mother invited him inside and he came and asked what had happened. She told him what was missing and how she had found the shop.

Gabriel raised his head and a low rumble echoed through his chest.

"Looks like they worked you over pretty good. Do you know of anyone with a grudge against you, Eileen? A former employee, an unsatisfied customer?"

My mother shook her head. "No. Those employees I let go left on good terms and most of my customers are satisfied with what I sell."

"Shouldn't you be telling an Auror these things, Mum?" I asked pointedly.

"She is, Severus. I happen to work on the force and Moody sent me down to investigate. I'm happy to do so, since it may repay some of the debt I still feel I owe you." Lupin said. "Now, what time did you leave the shop last night? And when did you first become aware of the break-in?"

I wanted to kick myself. I felt like a total idiot. But I had never bothered to find out just what Lupin did for a living once he'd finished school. To tell the truth, I was surprised the Aurors had permitted Lupin to work on the force, given the rampant prejudice towards werewolves. Then again, maybe they figured a reputation like that might scare the snot out of criminals.

While Lupin was questioning my mother, I prowled about the shop assessing the damages and growing more and more angry by the minute. Gabriel sensed my mood and pressed close to me, whining and making his special "talking growl". Every so often he would sniff the ground. "It's too bad you're not a scent hound. Then you could help Lupin track down this vandal."

Abruptly, Gabriel halted and gave a low whine. He nudged a scrap of blue cloth and gave a strange sort of bark.

"What's the matter with you, boy?" I asked. "It's just a scrap of cloth."

When I bent to pick it up, Gabe snatched it in his jaws and danced away with it. I rolled my eyes. Now he wanted to play. "Later," I told him, only to find that he was carrying the strip of blue fabric over to my mother and Lupin.

Typical. If I wouldn't accept his invitation to play, then he would find someone else who would. Despite his advanced age, Gabe would never lose that bit of puppyish behavior. He still loved to romp with Harry and play fetch, though now he tired after ten minutes.

He trotted up to my mother and nudged her arm.

"Not now, Gabe!" she scolded. "I'm busy."

Undaunted, the red-gold sheepherder turned to Lupin. He barked through his teeth, the scrap flapping from his jaw like a pennant.

"What have you got there, boy?" Lupin asked, kneeling down.

To my utter shock, Gabriel dropped the scrap into his hand.

"Gabe, don't be a nuisance," my mother sighed.

Lupin straightened, his brown eyes suddenly a strange shade of amber. "Actually, Eileen, he may have just helped my case immensely." He put the bit of fabric to his nose and sniffed. "This piece of clothing has an unfamiliar scent upon it. One that stinks of apprehension and fear, suggesting that whoever was wearing this was not here on normal business."

"You mean, Gabriel found you a lead?" I asked.

"Yes. And a trail to follow. That's one smart dog you have here, Snape."

"He's one of a kind," I agreed, coming up to ruffle Gabriel's fur. "Is it enough for you to trace?"

"Yes. In fact, since I have heightened senses even as a human, I could probably track him right to his lair."

Gabriel, however, had other ideas. He ran out the open door and loped down the street.

"Gabriel!" I called. "Come back here! Where the hell are you going?"

But my collie seemed to have become deaf, since he didn't turn back and come to me as I had ordered. He just kept on going.

"Gabriel!" I shouted.

The collie loped along, cocking an ear back so I knew he heard me. He just was ignoring me.

"I think he's on the scent," Lupin cried eagerly. He sniffed the fabric again, nodded, and took off, following my dog.

I watched them and wondered when in hell Gabriel had become a bloodhound.

"Imagine that!" Eileen exclaimed. "That dog just gets more amazing every day. What will he do next?"

"Merlin only knows." I said.

I just hoped that Lupin didn't overtax my dog.

I needn't have worried. When he needed it, Gabriel could turn on the stamina.

Lupin returned an hour or two later, Gabriel in tow, and a huge grin on his face. "Snape, your dog led me right to the man that vandalized this shop. Gabriel even held him for me until I tied him up. Where did he learn those tricks?"

"I don't know. But he used to spend time with a retired police dog named Hunter, so maybe that's how he picked it up."

Gabriel pranced over to me, I ruffled his coat and told him he was the best dog in the world. He knew it too, for he ate up the attention like a greedy teen idol.

Mum conjured him a huge meaty steak bone and gave it to him to eat on the spot. "You crazy wonderful dog! Thank goodness that vandal was caught and thank you, Remus, for coming by and helping us."

"It was my pleasure, Mrs. Snape. I'll see you soon. Have to get back to the station to file reports."

And with that, he was gone.

The next day there was a front page article that read Apothecary Robbed, Auror and Hero Collie brought Thief to Justice. There was a large picture of Lupin getting licked by Gabriel, and I laughed and showed it to Lily and Harry.

Snape's Journal:

I came out of my reverie with a snap. "It's too bad Gabe wasn't here now to give Tobias the Must-Like –Dogs test. Then I could know for certain if he was trustworthy."

Alas! He was gone to his reward , to chase butterflies and bluejays in heaven.

"I suppose I'll just have to play it by ear and see how it goes."

"That sounds like a good idea to me. Try not to get too annoyed with your dad, Severus. He's not worth getting a heart attack over ."

I knew she was right. Tobias wasn't worth the extra effort it would take to kick his sorry arse. I just hoped that Mum would take the news well.

Eileen was well liked in the magical community and people tended to bend over backwards for her. I knew they would rally round her when they found out about her circumstances. As for Tobias, I hoped my mother would send him away with his tail tucked between his legs like a whiny brat.

Should Sev and Eileen give Tobias a second chance?

How will Eileen react to Sev's news?

Find out next chapter!
 


Chapter 22: A Magical Miracle
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Snape's Journal

February 21st, 1994:

It was a day before I found the time, or the nerve, to contact my mother and tell her of her husband's return. The card Tobias had given me lay between us on the table in her kitchen like a bared sword blade. "If you want my opinion, I'll tell you to just rip up the card and toss it, or call him and tell him you never want to see him again. But I doubt you'll consider either option, am I right?" I cocked an eyebrow at her, she was sitting across from me, her hands folded atop the table.

It was just after supper, we were sharing a pot of tea and discussing the crisis. Lily had stayed home with the twins and Harry for some mother and child quality time. When I had told Mum about the unexpected visit, she had looked utterly shocked, then angry, followed by alarmed, a little frightened and then I caught a brief flicker of hope in her eyes. It was that which frightened me the most.

"Severus, I understand where you're coming from. But—"

"He abandoned us, Mum." I interrupted swiftly. "Left you flat broke with a little one to take care of, forcing you to work long hours to support us—what kind of man does that?" I demanded scornfully.

"A desperate fool."

"A lazy no good drunken bum." I corrected. "You don't owe him a damn thing."

She sighed. "I know that, Sev. He hurt us both by leaving. But a part of me wonders how much worse it could have been if he had stayed?"

A lot worse. I knew that instinctively. In a way, his leaving had been a good thing, it had reversed our fortune, revived our struggling finances, and enabled us to recover from the abuse he had heaped on us.

At the same time though, he had robbed me of a father, something which every boy needed.

"Fine. He did a smart thing by getting the hell out of our lives. He should have kept doing it. I'll never forget what he did to me, Mum. Or you. And I don't know if I have it in me to forgive." I said honestly.

She looked at me sadly. "Sev, one of the things I regret most is not protecting you more from him. I did the best I could, but it wasn't enough."

"You never should have been put in that position, Mum. Don't blame yourself. Blame him. It's his fault, not yours. He chose to drink and chose to take his frustration out on us. You were the one who held the family together. Or tried to. All he ever did once he lost his job was tear us apart." I said bitterly. All the old ghosts of my childhood came swirling up from the depths of my mind, phantoms that had slept for years and now returned to haunt me.

"You have a right to be angry, Sev. I'm not saying you don't. Hell, I'm still angry over what he did to you. But there's more to his story than that. All you remember is a drunk who smacked you around. But I remember what he was like before the drink destroyed him. He was a good man once, Sev. Handsome and funny and he loved me to pieces. We met when I was seventeen, fresh out of school and supposedly just beginning to live my life. Only in my case, that wasn't so. My life was bound by tradition and obligation and a betrothal to a wizard twice my age. I had been promised as a child to settle an old family debt between his family and mine. But I loathed the man I was to marry. He was unpleasant and made no effort to get to know me, I was to be his third wife, and the youngest. So I sought refuge in the forbidden Muggle side of Yorkshire, the one place I knew he would not follow, for he believed, like most old bloods, that Muggles were an inferior species. He would never mingle with them willingly."

"What was his name, this awful wretch?"

"His name was Jervaise Hyde." Even now, she grimaced upon saying it. "Any way, I sneaked out into the park nearby and met Toby down by the pond, feeding crusts to the ducks on his lunch break. Back then he was an up and coming manager in the mill. And I was a mysterious stranger. We got to talking a little, started meeting by the pond every day, and before I knew it, I fell for him.

"I didn't dare reveal to Toby that I was a witch, not then. But he said he always knew I was a lady of quality. And he treated me accordingly. He was respectful and gentle, he never tried to force his attentions upon me, unlike the old fart I was promised to, who made no secret how hot he was for me. But Tobias made me feel cherished. Like I mattered as more than a means to fulfill a debt. And that made all the difference."

I struggled to reconcile the man she spoke of with the one I knew, but it was impossible. It was like night and day. In spite of myself, I was intrigued. Mum had never discussed this much of her past with me before. I had always assumed it was too painful, and mindful of opening old wounds, I had never asked. Until now. "What happened then?"

"Several things. I had been meeting in secret with your father for nearly six months, when my betrothed passed away unexpectedly in a potions accident. It was as though my prayers had been answered. Jervaise was gone and now I was free to choose whom I wished to marry. Or so I thought. My parents had other ideas. They were still determined to banish the debt and contracted another betrothal without my permission, this time to Jervaise's adult son, Guy. Guy was still several years older than me, but it wasn't that great a difference. I might have considered him, except there were rumors that he had . . . arranged the death of his father so he could inherit sooner and he was arrogant and full of himself. I didn't trust him."

"Did you tell your parents how you felt? Why would they make another contract without asking you?"

Eileen shrugged. "That's how it was done in an old blood family." Like some older generation witches and wizards, my mother preferred the term "old blood" to the newer, more vogue "pure blood." She continued after taking a sip of her tea. "Marriage wasn't made for love, it was made to seal contracts and settle debts. It was like a business contract. Much the way it had been for centuries in the Middle Ages with the nobility. So my parents were more concerned with fulfilling that contract than my happiness."

"That's abominable!"

"They thought they knew what was best for me. I would be getting an old blood husband with loads of Galleons and a huge mansion with extensive grounds as well as the prestige that went along with the Hyde name. I should have been satisfied with my lot, according to them. But I couldn't bear the thought of spending my life with that man, no matter how rich he was. He might have been a wizard, but I felt no bond with him whatsoever. My heart had already chosen, and it didn't care that Tobias Snape was a totally unsuitable Muggle with no knowledge of the magical world."

She went on to tell how she defied her rigid parents and refused to honor the betrothal agreement because she was in love with someone else. For that, her parents cast her out of their house and disowned her. She eventually told Tobias the truth, and he accepted her, for he became her family. I learned that my father lost his management position through no fault of his own, but because of the jealousy his boss's daughter felt towards my mother.

"She was always sweet on him, but he wanted nothing to do with her, told her to quit pestering him and find someone else. Made her mad, and when she got mad, she got nasty. She went to her father and told her daddy that Toby was making passes at her, she lied to salve her pride, and of course the boss believed his daughter and he broke Toby back down to a common mill worker. Which was what he was when you were born, Sev. But he wasn't always. Once he had prospects and dreams, but he forgot them as the years went by, and his boss' grudge continued, making sure he had no hope of advancement. I wanted him to quit, but he wouldn't. If I quit, then he's won, and I won't give him the satisfaction, he told me. But when the workers went on strike for better pay and more benefits and shorter hours, he was one of them. And he got laid off, same as the rest. Then he turned to the bottle, like many of his mates did, and that was the end of everything."

Hearing her side of the story made me feel a bit more understanding towards him, but not much. So many of my memories were dark bitter things, full of fear and pain. "So what will you do now? Will you talk to him? Because I'm not letting him within two feet of my children. I can't trust him."

"I understand, Severus. I would never force you to do something you felt was wrong or made you unhappy. But it's different for me."

"Surely you don't . . .you aren't going to let him move in with you?" I cried, aghast.

She laughed. "No, Sev. I don't trust him enough for that. Things will never be as they were before, even if he has managed to become sober for good. However, I will listen to what he has to say. In memory of the good man he used to be and the good times we shared. But I'll make him no promises and I'll tell him to stay away from you. After I knock his head off, that is."

I smirked. "Hit him a good one, Mum. He bloody well deserves it." I rose to my feet. "Let me know how it all works out. I have to be going now, Lily's probably running herself ragged."

"Goodbye, Sev. Give Harry and the twins a kiss from me." Eileen called as I Flooed away.

Back at home, I found my wife and Harry giving the twins a bath. Oddly enough, Harry was soaked and had almost as much soap on him as the babies. "What happened, Harry? Did you fall in?"

He turned and saw me. "No. But Gabe's a champion splasher."

Lily was singing as she washed Hallie's hair. "Old MacDonald had a farm . . .ee . . .i . . .ee . .i-oh . . .and on that farm there was a—"

"Snake!" Harry cried. Then he used his wand to conjure a snake made from water and made it hiss. The twins loved it. They splashed and giggled.

Lily and Harry's farm also had a dragon, a unicorn, and flying pigs. "Must have been a crazy farm," I remarked.

"It also had a cranky Slytherin," Harry drawled insolently, then before I knew what he was about, he had made the watery serpent "coil" around me, soaking me. "Now that's funny!" He began laughing. "See that, little brother? That's a great way to annoy your daddy."

I stood there, dripping water all over, and half-growled, "Harry James, you incorrigible brat!"

Lily turned to see what had gone on and as soon as she laid eyes on me, she too burst out laughing. "Sev, you look like a drowned mole! Oh, Merlin help me!" The front of her blouse was also wet, and looking at her thus was making me think about doing things with her that were quite deliciously wicked.

I quickly doused that line of thought and instead grabbed Harry by the back of his shirt and pulled him to me. "And this, Gabe, is what happens to wretched naughty boys that soak their father and ruin his clothes. They get a sound spanking." I bent Harry over my arm and pretended to spank him.

He pretended to cry, inbetween snickers. "Ow! I'll be good!"

After a few more pretend swats I released him. "Next time behave, young man!"

"Yes, sir." Then he looked me straight in the eye and grinned. "Didn't hurt! You must be losing your touch, Dad."

"Why, you little—"

Harry jumped and yelped as Lily calmly reached over and smacked his arse. "Mum!"

"Don't get cheeky with your father, Harry."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Never get Mum mad at you," he told Gabriel. "You'll regret it, one way or another." Then he tickled his baby brother, making Gabe squeal.

The twins had Floating Charms upon them so you didn't need to worry about bath rings and such, though they each had a giant sponge they were lying on, and were surrounded by soap bubbles and numerous bath toys.

"Care to help, Sev? Or were you just going to stand and watch?" asked my wife.

"I'm admiring the view," I drawled.

"Severus!" She promptly threw a sponge and hit me in the head.

I threw it back at her. "What? It was a compliment."

"You're as incorrigible as your son, Mr. Snape!" She waved a finger at me scoldingly. "Go get me some towels."

I dried myself with a pass of my wand before doing as I was told. Then I helped get the babies ready for bed. As I rocked Gabe in my arms, I thought about the playful domestic scene earlier and smiled. That was how a family should be. I had never been able to tease and joke around with my father like that. I shook my head. The past was done and over with, I reminded myself, inhaling the sweet scent of powder and squeaky clean baby. It would never repeat itself.

I rocked and hummed, recalling how my collie used to lie at my feet when I rocked a toddler Harry back to sleep after a nightmare. I remembered the water snake Harry had conjured and chuckled. "Do you know that once we thought your big brother was a Squib? That he'd never be able to use a wand or cast spells at all?" I whispered to a sleepy Gabriel. "But then a magical miracle occurred, and it all happened because of your namesake, my big beast of a collie . . ."

Snape's Journal

September 15, 1991:

Hermione had received her Hogwarts letter a month ago, and had immediately run over to my house to show it to us. She was very proud and kept asking Lily and me all sorts of questions about Hogwarts and the list of school supplies and so forth until Lily offered to take her, Drew, and Stacy to Diagon Alley and show her around the different shops. "Ooh, I can't wait!" Hermione squealed excitedly. "How about you, Harry? Have you gotten your letter yet?"

My son shook his head. "Not yet."

"Oh." Hermione's face fell. "Well, maybe you could come along anyway and get your supplies early," she suggested, trying to be kind. But my son was in no mood for her kindness, and he just glared at her.

"No thanks! Shopping's for girls. I'd rather go to sleep." And with that he rose from the table and stalked upstairs to his room, slamming his bedroom door pointedly.

Hermione looked from me to Lily. "Was it something I said?"

"No, hon," Lily sighed. "He's just touchy because his letter hasn't arrived yet, that's all. But don't you worry about Harry. He'll get over his snit soon enough. Come on, let's go and tell your parents so we can leave. It's quicker if we Floo, we can use my fireplace until we connect yours to the Floo network. Probably should have done that years ago." Then she looked at me. "Sev, maybe you ought to have a talk with Harry while we're gone."

I sighed. I knew that was code for "go and scold your son for his rudeness and then see what's bothering him." "All right. Have a good day out."

Lily bent and kissed me on the cheek. "I'll see you later. Come on, Hermione."

They departed and I stayed and finished my coffee before going to talk with Harry. I already knew what was bothering him—the same thing that was giving me and Lily sleepless nights. Harry's magic had not manifested itself. Now he was eleven, school age, and yet he had not received a letter from Hogwarts. I suspected Dumbledore had removed his name from the list after he found out Harry might be a Squib. I knew it was a great blow to him, even though he was able to fly a broom and stir a cauldron with me. So he did have some magic, but it wasn't enough to use a wand. Or to get a Hogwarts letter.

I rose to my feet and whistled Gabe to my side. The collie, who was wont to sleep now more than fetch, followed me up the stairs, his nails clicking.

I tapped on his door.

"Go away! Just leave me alone!" came his response.

I ignored him and walked in. He was curled up on his bed, facing the wall.

Gabe padded over and started licking the back of his neck.

"Ahh! Gabe, quit it, you dumb beast!"

"My dog is not dumb," I stated. "And you were behaving like a rude beast to Hermione."

"Because she wouldn't shut up about her letter! Like I wanted to hear about it when mine hasn't even got here." He said thickly, still refusing to look at me.

"Ah. So because you're unhappy, you want her to feel bad too, is that it? Misery loves company."

"It's not fair! How come everyone has magic and I don't?"

"Harry, our family and Hermione are the only ones who have magic on this entire street," I pointed out.

"But I'm supposed to have magic."

"You do, son."

"But not enough! You said I should have had my magic before eleven and I don't. You lied to me!"

"I did not. I made an educated guess. Harry, I've told you before, no one has ever survived the Killing Curse, and so we have no way of knowing if it damaged your magical core permanently."

He turned around. "Well, now you know! No letter means I'm a . . .a bloody Squib!" All at once he started to cry. "I wish I'd died that night!"

I crossed the room in two strides and shook him hard. "Never wish that! Never! Your life is a miracle, don't you ever forget that! People gave their lives for you that night, how dare you dishonor their sacrifice? I would rather have a magicless son than no son at all."

"I . . .I just want to be a wizard, Dad! Like you." He sniveled and cried harder.

I pulled him to my chest and let him cry on my shoulder. He was almost too big for my lap but I sat down and held him anyway. I felt awful for him, but there was nothing I could do to make his magic emerge. No potion I could brew that would restore his magical core, and none of the Healers we had spoken to could do anything either. All of them said the same thing. Either his magic would awaken or not, and trying to force it could kill him. Neither Lily or I were willing to take that risk.

So I gave him what poor comfort I could, and so did Gabriel, who kept licking Harry's hand, and looking at me with his big brown eyes, wondering why I couldn't fix things this time.

Now it was two and a half weeks into September, Hermione had gone off on the Hogwarts Express, and Harry stayed at home, moping and sullen, miserable as only an eleven-year-old can be who desires the impossible. I tried to interest him in new potions and continued to school him, but he turned in lackluster assignments and sometimes refused to do them at all, forcing me to scold him and give him detention.

"School sucks! I hate school. What's the point?"

I heard that refrain so often I threatened to wash out his mouth if he kept repeating it. His self-pitying attitude was really starting to get on my nerves, try though I did to be patient.

Lily and Mum did their best to try and cheer him up, making his favorite foods and offering to take him to Quidditch matches and so on, but nothing worked. Harry was determined to be miserable. Lily and I were at our wits end. We weren't sure whether to hug or smack him sometimes. My mother even offered him a part time job in the apothecary, figuring it was one way he could still be part of the magical community and feel useful, but he refused.

"No thanks, Gran. People will wonder why I'm not at school like everybody else."

"Harry, not all kids go to Hogwarts," Eileen told him gently. "There are other schools which wizard children attend locally and some are apprenticed to their parents and never go to a public school at all."

"Yeah, the reject kids!" he snapped. "Like me. Real nice, Gran!"

"Harry, I never said that!" Mum began, but her grandson wasn't listening any more.

He had shoved back his chair and stalked out of the house. "All of you suck!"

"Harry!" I called after him. "Come back here and apologize to your grandmother! I taught you better than that!"

When he didn't, I started to go after him. Mum touched my shoulder. "Severus, let him go. He's upset, let him cool down."

"Upset or not, he has no right to act like that. This attitude of his is going to stop. Gabriel," I called my collie, who had been snoozing in the hall. "Go and find Harry, Gabe. Bring him home!"

Gabriel stood and stretched. Once he would have bounded to his feet but no longer. My dog was starting to feel old age creeping up on him, and he was developing arthritis in his joints. He was twenty-three now, an unheard of age for an average collie. But he could still herd with the best of them.

He shook himself and trotted to the door, opening the latch with a quick paw smack. The screen door opened and he trotted outside, stood for a moment upon the porch, then he headed down the street at respectable trot , ears pricked, following my sulky son.

Lily came and put an arm about me. "That boy!" She shook her head in disgust. "Sometimes, Sev, I don't know whether to cuddle him or turn him over my knee!"

"Tell me about it," I said, watching Gabe's plumed tail vanish into the distance. "I feel for him, Lil, but he can't keep moping and brooding over it, it's not healthy. Plus, it's driving me insane!"

"I know. Come on, let's have a cup of tea and some lemon tarts while we wait for Gabriel to bring him home." Lily suggested. "Your mum made them specially for us."

We went back inside.

This next part of the story I heard secondhand from Harry, and will write it as it was told to me, since I didn't witness it firsthand.

Harry's POV:

When I stormed out of the house, all I could think of was how dumb and mean my parents and grandma were, telling me I should work at Gran's shop, and trying to feed me some bullshit story about some wizard kids not going to Hogwarts. Any wizard kid who was anyone went to Hogwarts. Everyone knew that! (Later on I learned I was wrong, plenty of witches and wizards, famous ones, had never set foot in Hogwarts) but right then I was blazing mad and I wanted to break something and at the same time bawl like a little baby. I wanted to have magic so bad I would have made a deal with the devil himself . . .only the devil wasn't offering.

I knew Gran and Mum and Dad meant well, but they just didn't get it. They didn't know what it was like to wake up every morning hoping for something magical to happen and to have your hopes smashed again and again. Or to wonder why you weren't like every other magical kid. Well, I knew why, it was because of that bastard dark wizard Voldemort that I didn't have normal magic, but that didn't make it any easier to accept. It just made me more angry and miserable and I knew I had behaved like a snot to my grandma, but right then I didn't care.

All I wanted was to get out, get away, to be alone. I knew I'd be in trouble with Mum and Dad once I did go home, but I shoved that thought to the back of my mind. That didn't matter right now. I headed away from my house and down Spinner's End, but not in the usual direction towards Hermione's house. Hermione was at Hogwarts, and I should have been with her, but instead I was stuck here, in dreary normal old Yorkshire. I had told her goodbye the night before she'd gone off to King's Cross, and I missed her, because now I had no one to share lessons with and she had been my best friend, the only friend who knew the truth about what I was. The other kids I sometimes hung around with were Muggles and forbidden to know about magic or wizards.

I headed down towards the old mill, which had shut down years before. It was towards the end of the block and it was what Mum would call an eyesore, all broken up and falling apart. Dad had always told me never to play around there, it was too dangerous, and if I ever disobeyed him he'd tan my hide. I'd gone to look at the place once or twice, but had never done more than look at it. It looked creepy and some of the kids in the neighborhood swore it was haunted.

I had just passed the old chain link fence with the rusty padlock that closed the mill gates when I heard a dog snarl, low and angry. I turned and saw a large black and white mutt come around the corner of the fence. He looked to be part mastiff, he was huge and he had scars all over him from fights with other dogs. He had no collar, and he was growling and drooling as he saw me.

I froze. "Hey, dog. Nice dog." I murmured, careful to keep my eyes down, and not look the mutt in the face. Dogs regard that as a challenge.

The mutt had a broken off tooth and strings of drool dripped down his chest and on the ground. He continued to growl threateningly, his ears pinned back.

Now I was beginning to get scared. Most dogs liked me and I liked them, but this dog clearly thought I was trespassing on his turf and he wanted me to get off it. I started to inch back slowly, but the mutt growled warningly and I stopped moving. I didn't want to get him mad and have him attack me. One bite of those jaws and I would be in the hospital.

"You must be new around here, otherwise I would know about you," I continued to talk to the dog, keeping my voice low. I started to sweat. I didn't like the look in the dog's eyes. There was no fear there, only aggression.

Keep still, Harry. Keep still.

Suddenly, I heard a familiar bark and I tore my eyes away from the mutt to see my collie coming down the street. "No. Oh, no. Dad must have sent you for me," I groaned. "Go home, Gabe! Go home!"

I should have known better. Gabriel only ever obeyed my dad unconditionally. Me, he'd only obey if Dad hadn't given him a command first. Plus, my shouting had made the big mutt really ticked off at me.

He began to bark, he had a deep nasty bark, and started to come at me.

Before I could scream or move, a red-gold shape jumped in front of me.

Now Gabe was no coward, but he was a collie, not a fighting dog, like the black and white mix. He was also getting old and slow, though his sight and hearing were still good. If he'd been a few years younger, he could have taken the big mutt. But he wasn't.

The mutt body slammed him, right in the chest, and knocked Gabe off his feet. Gabe did manage to get in one good bite to the mutt's leg before the other dog was on him, pinning him with his big paws and trying to rip out my dog's throat.

That's how dogs fight, they go for the legs and the throat, and sometimes the belly as well. The big mutt knew how to fight dirty, he was trying to get at Gabe's throat, shaking and worrying him with his big damn mouth, but all he was getting was mouthfuls of thick fur and loose skin. Gabe's thick ruff was protecting him better than a Shield Charm. The mutt's jaws couldn't get a good hold.

But neither could Gabriel defend himself. His head was pinned sideways and all he could do was try and heave the other dog off him. Except he wasn't strong enough. The mutt was about a hundred and fifty pounds, near as I could figure. Gabe, hero dog that he was, didn't have the muscle any more to free himself.

I stared at the two dogs, petrified and unable to move. All I could think of was that mutt was killing my dog. He was killing Gabriel. I began screaming as loud as I could. "Get off! Get off, you bloody damn beast!"

I ran up to the mutt and began kicking and pounding on him as hard as I could, but the dog just ignored me. He probably barely even felt the blows, he was too focused on killing the helpless collie beneath him.

I was yelling and trying to haul the huge dog off, pulling his tail and beating him about the head. "Let go! Let GO! Leave Gabriel ALONE!"

Over the dog's growls I could hear Gabriel gasping and choking. The mutt was slowly strangling him.

Then something happened.

I was desperate and scared to death that Gabriel would die right before my eyes, and it would be my fault, because I had come down here and gotten myself in trouble. I couldn't let that happen. Dad's words echoed in my head. People sacrificed their lives for you. My real father, James Potter, and his best friend, Auror Sirius Black. Both had died to protect me from Voldemort. I couldn't let it happen again . . .not like this. Not to my faithful dog. I had to save Gabriel. I had to.

I felt something stir within me then, something hot and wild and full of power. I felt it flash through me like liquid fire, setting my nerves tingling and my bones aching. I screamed in pure fury and agony, my head felt as if it were going to explode. I slammed both my hands down on the mutt and howled, "STOP! Stop hurting my dog!"

The pulsing searing fire exploded from my hands . . .

. . .and the mutt was frozen, his jaws half open.

My head spun and I leaned on the statue dog. The hot pulsing feeling was making my head throb and all of a sudden I puked all over.

After that I felt my headache start to go away and I felt a little better.

"Gabe? Gabe, are you okay, boy?" I managed to say. My mouth tasted gross and I spit on the ground.

Gabriel whined and his paws scrabbled on the ground. He wriggled himself out from under the mutt's paws, since the mutt was frozen, he couldn't stop Gabriel from doing so. Gabe managed to tear his ruff free as well, though he left a huge chunk of white and reddish gold fur in the mutt's teeth. There was blood and drool all over Gabe's neck, but he was alive!

I ran to him and threw myself in the dirt and hugged him. I got full of dog drool and blood but I could have cared less. "Gabe, you're okay!" I sobbed, and his warm wet tongue washed my face over and over. Up close I could see he was going silver about his muzzle and eyes, but he was only old in body, not in his heart. "Good dog! Brave dog!" I murmured and cried into his fur.

But only a little. After a bit, I stood up and looked the collie over. He had some cuts on his neck, but not too bad, the mastiff mix hadn't gotten too much skin when he bit down. It was only then that I realized what I had done.

I had done magic.

I whipped my head around to stare at the mutt, who was still frozen, teeth bared, like a statue.

I had done that.

Me, Harry Potter, who didn't get his Hogwarts letter because I was a Squib.

Only I wasn't. Not anymore. I closed my eyes and concentrated.

I felt a swirling of prickly heat somewhere deep inside, down near my belly. I pictured my magical core like a lake of liquid golden power, ready and waiting for me to draw on it.

It was like a miracle. My magic had finally come awake.

I let out a loud whoop and cried, "Come on, Gabe! Let's go home and tell Mum and Dad I'm a wizard." But I said that last part very softly, just in case. Gabe wagged his tail and I knew he heard me.

We made it home in eight minutes, I ran so fast I felt like my feet had wings.

Then I had to let Mum and Gran fuss and scold me when they caught sight of my bloodied shirt and jeans and Dad healed up Gabriel and questioned me afterwards. In addition to the cuts and torn fur, Gabriel was also badly bruised from getting slammed into the ground and his shoulder had a pulled muscle. But Dad told me he'd be okay in a few weeks. I was so happy.

I told him the whole story. Everyone was congratulating me on my new magical ability. I was on top of the world. Then I walked Dad back to where the ugly mutt was so he could reverse the spell I cast. It was a good thing the mill was deserted and nobody was around.

As soon as the freeze was off him, the mangy dog took off, yelping, and we never saw him around again.

Dad put his arm around me. "I'm proud of you, son. You saved Gabriel all on your own. And now you're a wizard, Harry."

"I . . .I still can't believe it. It's like a miracle!"

"Yes. You seem to attract them." He gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. Then he cleared his throat. "However, your behavior earlier left a lot to be desired, Mr. Potter."

I hung my head. "I know, sir. I'm sorry."

"You need to tell your grandmother that. You're grounded for the weekend, and if you ever speak to an adult in this family like that again, your bottom will regret it. Clear?"

"Yes, sir." He let me off this time 'cause I'd saved Gabriel. Lucky me.

Then he tousled my hair. "You're going to be a powerful wizard someday, Harry."

I beamed happily. Finally, I was a real wizard!

Snape's Journal

February 21st, 1994:

Once the miracle of Harry's magic had occurred, a thing which awed all of us, Lily and I then had to discuss what we were going to do about Harry's future. We had to decide whether or not he should go to Hogwarts, as we had done, or somewhere else, like Durmstrang, or just stay at home and apprentice himself to me and Lily. Apprenticeship was an old custom, practiced for centuries, and given my own school experiences, I much preferred Harry go that route. Then too, Dumbledore was still Headmaster of Hogwarts, and I was suspicious of his motives. He believed in that crazy prophecy Bellatrix had foretold, and might try and use Harry as a weapon if Voldemort returned. I couldn't allow that.

"Then you don't think he should go to Hogwarts?" Lily asked again.

"No. He can get just as good an education here or at another school. He doesn't need to be subjected to all that bloody House rivalry and Dumbledore's machinations."

"You don't trust him, do you?"

"No. More importantly, I don't trust him around Harry. I won't have him being used."

"Maybe we should ask Harry. He might want to go to school with Hermione," Lily suggested.

I considered it. "I don't know, Lily. My instinct is telling me to keep Harry far away from that meddlesome old coot. Let him think Harry is a Squib. That way he'll forget about that fool prophecy and leave Harry alone."

"You don't believe Bellatrix's vision?"

"Bah! She's mad as a March hare. Her prophecy said nothing specifically about Harry, only that a child born as the seventh month dies would defeat You-Know-Who. That could be anyone born at the end of July. I don't want the old coot getting his hooks into Harry. And you know he will, he's wily as a fox. I just want to keep him safe."

"Me too." She agreed. "But I still think we should ask Harry. After all, we had a choice when we got our letters, to accept them or not."

I sighed. I supposed she was right, but I would make it perfectly clear that I didn't think Harry ought to attend Hogwarts.

As it turned out, Harry wrote to Hermione and asked her how she was getting on at school. She replied that she was terribly homesick and wished she could leave. Based upon his friend's sterling recommendation and our own advice, he decided to wait and allow me to teach him. Although I think leaving home and Gabriel had a lot to do with his decision.

In any case, I was proud of my boy.

I looked at my now sleeping second son and knew I'd be just as proud of him someday. And my daughter too. I just had to be patient and wait for them to grow up. I halted the rocker and started to get up and put Gabe down in his cradle.

Lily walked in carrying a sound asleep Hallie and Harry followed her, holding a camera.

Too late I saw what my sneaky son was carrying. I have never liked being photographed, but Harry snapped my picture before I could prevent it.

"Gotcha, Dad!"

"You're lucky I've got a baby in my hands, you sly little snake."

Harry smirked and waved the camera. "Takes one to know one, Dad." Then he fled before I could grab him and make him pay for that little comment, even if it was true.

Oh, the joy of sons!

Hope you all liked this one!

What did you think of Eileen's story?

How did you like Harry's POV?

Coming up next, can you teach an old dog new tricks? Find out next chapter!
 


Chapter 23: Old Dog, New Trick
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Snape's Journal

December 14th, 1994:

Before I knew it, another holiday season had rolled around. The twins had just turned 10 months old, and were crawling everywhere like waterbugs and had even started to stand and pull themselves along by holding onto the edge of a table, chair, or the sofa. Lily, Harry, and I also encouraged them to walk by letting them hold onto our hands. They had very distinct personalities, which had been apparent at birth. Gabriel, despite his auburn hair, which had lightened, ironically, to a reddish blond, did not possess the typical fiery temper that usually went along with the hair. That had been given to his twin, the impetuous fiery Hallie. Gabriel was cheerful and quiet, he was the breeze to Hallie's tempest, and usually had a smile for everyone. He was inquisitive, but also more obedient than his twin. You told Gabe "No!" and he listened . . .most of the time.

Hallie, on the other hand, was my storm queen, she could be sweet one moment and cranky the next. She was more prone to mischief, liked to explore, and hated the word "No." With her huge green eyes, a replica of her mother's, and her black hair, she was stunningly adorable. One crooked smile could make me almost forget I was angry at her for getting into some mischief or other. She had Lily's courage, my temper, and was obstinate as hell. Her grandmother claimed I had been just like her at that age. I think Mum was losing her memory. It was "Hallie, no!" and "Hallie, don't touch!" and "Hallie, don't make me count to three!" all day long.

The twins were almost always together, where one went, the other followed. They were very close, as only twins can be, and often one knew the other was sick or unhappy before we did. If Hallie was being punished by being put in time out for a minute or confined to the playpen for five minutes, Gabriel would stand next to her and look pitiful, and sometimes he would cry as well. The same was true when Gabe was in trouble (which was rarely), Hallie would hug him and glare at us. She was very protective of her twin, and once, when Lily brought them to get their vaccinations, the Healer gave shots to Gabriel first and when he started crying, Hallie leaned over and bit Healer Lunesta on the arm! Hard.

Lily and I can laugh about it now, but when it happened, Lily was mortified.

Harry thought Hallie was awesome for doing that. "You go, baby girl! Don't you let them stick Gabe or you with needles and get away with it."

"Harry, for Merlin's sake, don't encourage her!" Lily had told him exasperatedly.

"Why not, Mum? I hate needles and I can't blame her for biting the Healer. I would have too."

"You did, once or twice. But then your dad was the one who got to be embarrassed."

Actually, when I recall those days, I don't remember so much being embarrassed as being resigned to dealing with a screaming and kicking little maniac. Until I came up with the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) of dosing Harry with a Calming Draught before bringing him to the Healer for his yearly check-up. Then he was drowsy and not inclined to fight like a demon. I told Lily maybe she ought to try that with Hallie next time.

Harry kept wanting to know when they were going to talk, they tend to babble in "babyspeak" to each other and sometimes to the rest of us. I told him that he talked when he was a year old and every baby is different. We would have to wait and see. Well, guess what? Now the twins are talking. At ten months old, Merlin help me! Hallie was first, and unlike most babies, whose first word is Mama or Dada, Hallie's first word was her brother's name—Hawwy. Then she said Mama and Dada. Gabe's first word was Hallie, and then he picked up others on his own. Even though Hallie was the first to talk, Gabe is the clearer speaker of the two, probably because Hallie is impatient and talks too fast to understand sometimes, and Gabe is more deliberate and takes his time.

They seem to pick up a few new words a day and now we all have to mind our mouths around them. The other day, I upended an ink bottle on a test I was marking, and without stopping to think I said, "Dammit it all!" Next thing I knew, I felt a pair of hands grip my knee, and little Gabriel pulled himself up, eyed me worriedly, and then said, "Dammit!" I tried to get him to stop saying it, but he just kept repeating it. Now I have to figure out how to make a baby unlearn a swear word before Lily comes back from her "Shop Till You Drop" weekend with my mother. Or else she's going to hex my lips shut.

Speaking of my mother . . .she did allow my father to pay her a visit at her flat and they had a very long and heated discussion about Tobias' departure and unexpected return, and my mother told him exactly how she felt about what he had done, both to her and to me, said discussion also involved my mother's hand slapping him a good one. She also told him that if he was serious about making amends, he had better obey her rules. And her number one rule was that he was to have no contact with me or my family unless I allowed it. The second was that he always called before he came to her flat and not just show up unannounced. To my surprise, he agreed and since then I have had two or three letters from him. The first one I tore up unread, but Lily persuaded me to read the other two, which contained regrets that he had caused me to think of him as a monster and asked what he could do to make amends to me. I nearly told him to go away and never return. But for my mother's sake, I would try and be civil, at least in writing.

I told him that there was little he could do to make me forget the scars of the past, and that I couldn't forgive him just yet for them either. But I did answer his questions about Lily and the children, and what my occupation was now. Then I asked him some rather pointed questions, such as whether or not he planned to stay here, and warned him that if he hurt my mother a second time, I would hunt him down and hex him into tiny pieces.

Hermione was often over the house, helping Harry to babysit on the rare occasion Lily and I decided to have a night out. She was a reliable sitter, always on time and I could count on her to put the twins to bed on time, unlike Harry, who always seemed to forget that their bedtime was seven o'clock sharp and let them stay up till nine. Then they were cranky and I had to re-establish their sleep schedule again. The last time that happened, I threatened to wake Harry up in the morning and have him deal with a cranky Hallie. He quickly promised that he would never forget their bedtime again.

I found it a constant source of amazement at how fast the twins grew. I had never gotten to see Harry grow from a tiny baby, so this was all new to me. I felt as if I had blinked and three months had passed. Did every parent think they'd gone through a time warp looking back and remembering when they first held their newborn baby in their arms? It seemed like yesterday that I brought them home from the hospital and gave them their first midnight bottle. Or nursed them through their first bout of colic. And teething!

That was the one time Gabriel fussed worse than Hallie, and Hallie kept reacting to her twin's pain and screeching at the top of her lungs. I had to conjure earplugs and was sure I was going to lose my hearing. No, make that I PRAYED to lose my hearing. Gabriel did nothing but fuss and cry and run a low-grade temperature for three whole days. Mum reassured me that sometimes babies had an awful time teething and it was normal.

"Normal?" I had practically shouted at her. "How can it be normal when he's in pain all the time, and nothing I've given him works? Not frozen teething rings, or firewhiskey, or a cold towel. I've even tried Muggle baby medicine. Mother, why has no one ever invented a damn potion to help infants teething?"

"I don't know, Sev. But you need to relax and keep calm, son. Getting upset won't help you any. Or Gabriel. Or Hallie either. Have you tried a mild Sleeping Draught? Or a Numbing Charm?"

I tried both those methods. Poor Gabriel whimpered and tossed restlessly even in his sleep, and woke up Hallie, who then started to wail, and took an hour to get back to sleep. Lily cast the Numbing Charm, and for an hour Gabe slept peacefully, until he woke and we tried to feed him, only to discover that the charm had numbed his jaw and he couldn't suck his bottle. Lily was horrified. "Merlin's pants, Sev! I can't believe I almost made my baby boy starve." She quickly reversed the charm and we were back to square one.

By then I was ready to tear my hair out or bash my head into the wall. Here I was, counted one of the most brilliant potion makers of my generation and I couldn't stop my baby from hurting. Unless . . .I bloody well invented a potion myself that would help. I told Lily that I was going over to the Academy to do some research in their library, and apologized for leaving her with two cranky children.

"Go, Severus. If anyone can invent a potion to help a teething baby, it's you. You can do it. I have faith in you. But please, for the sake of my sanity and your son's, hurry!"

Away I went to the Academy, which though it was technically closed for the night, would admit me as professor any time of the day or night, to use the library and the potions lab. I spent at least an hour in the library, doing research on infants and teething and pain receptors in the gums and mouth and how it was all interconnected. It appeared that I would need a potion that didn't just numb the surface of the gum, but also reduced the swelling and inflammation and blocked the pain receptors in the area for several hours. Then I began looking up several kinds of plants and other magical ingredients which I used in Pain Relieving Drafts and Anti-Inflammatory Drafts.

My only problem was that some of the ingredients were too strong for a five month old baby, and then I had to figure out a new dosage or some other ingredient that wouldn't react negatively with a baby's delicate physiology. It was a damn good thing I knew my reagents and infusions inside and out, for that I owed my mother, who had insisted I know each and every possible reaction and side effect of every ingredient and potion I brewed before I ever set foot in Hogwarts. A lot of ingredients, especially herbs and fungi, could be deadly if prepared improperly or if used in too high of a dosage. Good examples of this were dandelions and foxglove. Dandelion was good for digestive complaints, such as diarrhea, and was also good to eat, but only the flowers, stems and leaves could be safely ingested or steeped for a tea. Eat the root and you would poison yourself. Foxglove, when used in small doses, could prevent angina and heart attacks, but too much and it would kill. I spent a whole semester teaching correct proportions and dosages and what could be mixed in with what and how each ingredient reacted.

So it took me another hour or two to find the correct proportions and combinations, but eventually I got the draft correct, or so I hoped. I really couldn't take another sleepless night of whining, crying, and drooling. If it worked, I would have to throw a party and maybe even invite my father. I would also patent the draft.

It worked. I mixed it in with Gabe's formula and he drank it down. Almost instantly, he stopped crying and rubbing his mouth. Then he just dropped off to sleep, his mouth blessedly free of pain. The whole household slept peacefully that night. The next morning I informed my mother of my newest potion experiment and sent a copy of the formula off to the International Society of Potioneers for a review and a New Invention Patent. Then I had an informal little tea set up, though I didn't bother inviting Tobias. I was not ready to have the man invade my house yet.

He was now renting a small flat near Diagon Alley, so he could be close to my mother, but I had not set eyes on him since that day he had come knocking at my door. I preferred it that way. He sent along a note however, and it read,

Severus,

Should have known you'd come up with something like that, you always were too smart for your own good. No surprise you're a professor now, inventing stuff like a mad scientist. Tell me, do wizards have a potion for everything? Like cravings and addictions, such as alcoholism? If not, maybe you ought to put that genius brain to use again and make a potion for that.

Tobias

I snorted. My father, he never could compliment me without criticizing me in the same breath. A potion to cure alcoholism? I snorted. There were some things even magic couldn't do, and besides, there already was a cure—abstention.

I put down my quill and stretched, it was time to take the boxes and bags down from the attic and decorate the house for Christmas. I would save decorating the tree for last, because that was one thing all of us did together, as a family.

Right now was a good time to make a start on the rest though, since the twins were napping. I opened the attic door and spelled all the Christmas boxes to float down into the den. Then I went and found Harry, who was also snoozing, and shook him awake.

He groaned and turned over. "Aww, Dad. Go away, I'm tired."

"No rest for the wicked, boy. Besides, 'tis the season." I told him, which was what I said every year when it came time to do the decorating.

"I'm playing Scrooge this year," Harry muttered rebelliously. "Bah, humbug!"

"Oh?" I crossed my arms over my chest and glowered at him. "Then perhaps I ought to return a certain son's presents since he doesn't believe in celebrating Christmas anymore."

"What?" he squeaked, sitting up. "You can't do that! That's . . .cruel and unusual punishment . . .even for you!"

"If you're not in the den by the time I count to five . . .guess whose presents won't be under the tree Christmas morning." I threatened silkily, and then I strode from the room and back into the den to wait.

About two seconds later, I heard his feet thudding downstairs.

He arrived panting and his hair was disheveled, but he was there. "You're evil, Dad!"

"Quit being cheeky, Master Impudence," I warned. Then we began to sort through the boxes.

Half-an-hour later we had decorated the den and the hallway, and were starting to separate strings of different colored lights, which had been charmed by Lily long ago to dazzle the eye and make people stop and stare when they walked past our house, when Harry let out a soft cry.

"What's the matter?"

"Look at this, Dad." He had pulled out a magazine sealed in a plastic cover. He slid the periodical out, it was still glossy and the pages tight and crisp, despite it being two years old. It was a magazine called Top Dog, and on the cover was a photo of an adorable beagle puppy. In the lower right hand corner was a smaller photo of a much beloved collie. "Remember when I entered Gabe in that treat contest?"

"I do. You nearly bankrupted me buying treats to train him."

"But it was worth it." Harry defended, a far away look in his eyes.

I couldn't deny that, and continued staring down at the picture of Gaby, while I recalled the events that had led to him getting on the cover of a popular dog magazine.

Snape's Journal

May, 1992:

"Is there anything else that we need from the store?" Lily asked as she prepared to go to the supermarket.

I shook my head no, but Harry called from the other room, "Yeah, Mum. We need some more treats for Gaby. The Tastee Treat kind."

"Since when does Gabe have a preference?" I wondered. "He always ate everything."

"He likes these the best, Dad," Harry argued. "I know because he always eats them first and the other kinds we have, like the Beef Krunchies, second."

"Dog's getting picky in his old age, huh?" I muttered.

Lily smiled. "What does it matter, Sev? Gabriel has done so much for us, what's a certain brand of dog treat?"

She was right. "A small enough price to pay for his loyalty."

Lily nodded. "I'll see you in a bit. Harry, don't eat too much junk food, I'll be cooking dinner when I get back."

"What are we eating, Mum?" Harry asked.

"Liver and onions," Lily joked.

Harry made a gagging noise. "Gross! You've got to be kidding. If you're really making that, I'm eating over Hermione's."

"Well! If that's how you feel about my cooking . . ." she pretended to be insulted.

"You cook real good, Mum, but liver's disgusting and it makes me barf. And Dad hates it too, right, Dad?"

Nice one, Harry. Get me involved, I thought, rolling my eyes. "Liver is not one of my top ten choice of foods to eat for dinner." I said diplomatically. I was careful not to insult my beloved, or else I would have to cook, and while I was a decent cook, Lily was better.

"The only one who'll eat liver is Gabriel," Harry added. "You don't want me to starve, do you? I'm a growing boy."

"You're a wretched imp, is what you are, Harry James!" Lily tossed back. "Trying to guilt trip me into making shepherd's pie tonight."

"You're making shepherd's pie?" Harry cried, sounding relieved. "Yum! That's one of my favorites. Are you making it with steak or lamb?"

"Depends on what' s available," Lily answered. Then she hurried out the door, smirking.

Gabriel padded into the kitchen to get a drink from his bowl. He barked and shoved the bowl with his nose, telling me it was empty.

"All right. Here you go, old man," I pointed my wand and a stream of fresh cool water flowed out of it and into his bowl.

Gabriel enjoyed drinking as the jet of water fell into the bowl, though as soon as it filled up, I canceled the spell. He happily lapped up water.

"Dad, you have to teach me that spell," Harry said, coming into the kitchen as well.

"The incantation is Aguamenti," I told him. "Why don't you practice it while you water your mother's flowers and the potions garden?" I suggested slyly, that way he could both practice and complete a needed chore at the same time.

"Okay," he agreed. "Can you show me the wand movement again?"

I did, performing it slowly twice more. Harry pulled his wand and copied me.

I corrected his wrist movement, it was too jerky, and then nodded. "You have it. Now go practice."

He stuck his wand in the back pocket of his jeans and started to head outside when I grabbed him by the shoulder.

"Harry, how many times have I told you—never carry your wand in your back pocket?" I demanded sharply. "You could sit on it or accidentally cast a spell and hex your own ass. Would you like to be missing a significant chunk of your behind? Because that happened to a boy I went to school with."

Harry gulped. "No. I forgot."

I pulled his wand free and handed it to him. "Where's your wand holder?"

"Uh . . .in my room."

"Get it and put it on."

He Summoned it and strapped it on his belt, then put his wand in it. "Next year I want an arm sheath, like yours."

"When you remember to properly care for your wand, you shall have one," I told him. Lately he had been growing careless with his wand and that was not a good habit to get into. I had a quick release sheath on my upper arm, designed to release my wand with a single flex of my bicep.

"I take care of my wand!" he objected.

"What you just did is not taking care of your wand, boy, and you know it. Now get!" I hurried him on his way with a mild smack to his stubborn arse.

He whistled for Gabriel as he headed outside. Gabe walked out the door, stately and dignified, as only a collie can be, even one as old as Gaby.

Little did I know that Harry had an ulterior motive when he requested Lily buy Gaby special dog treats.

I learned about his little scheme the next afternoon, when he went outside again with Gabriel, supposedly to practice the water calling charm again. I happened to look out the window and instead of seeing Harry casting Aguamenti I saw him placing three kinds of dog treats in front of Gabriel, who was sitting alertly and watching the proceedings with all the gravity of a priest preparing Mass for communion.

I frowned, wondering just what in Merlin's name he was up to now.

Then I saw Harry cover the treats with three paper bowls and shuffle them about. Gabriel watched intently, waiting.

"All right, Gabe. Find the Tastee Treat. Find it!"

The collie stood, sniffed a few moments, then nudged the third bowl and barked.

Harry lifted the bowl with a quick "Wingardium Leviosa!" "You're a winner! Good boy."

Gabriel gobbled the treat in two seconds.

"Wanna try again?"

"I thought you said you were going to practice magic, not practice feeding my dog till he becomes a fat pig." I remarked, coming out to stand on the back porch.

Harry jumped at the sound of my voice and looked about guiltily. "Uh . . .well . . .you see . . .I was reading the latest issue of Top Dog that came in the mail yesterday and there was this contest in there . . . ."

"What contest?"

"A contest sponsored by the company that makes Tastee Treats. They say their treats are so good, dogs will search for them. So they want to have a contest for their next mascot and it's open to any dog of any breed and age. All I have to do is teach Gabe how to find the treats and write an essay on why my dog is special enough to feed Tastee Treats."

"Is that why you insisted your mother buy them?"

"Partly. But the other reason is because Gabe really likes them. Watch. It's true."

He repeated the trick with the bowls and treats again.

Once again, Gabriel unerringly located the right treat.

"See? He loves them."

"He loves food. Right, chow hound?" I asked, rumpling his fur affectionately. He wagged his tail and thrust his nose into my palm.

Harry placed a Beef Krunchie, a Tastee Treat, and a Milk Bone down and said, "Go ahead, Gaby. Eat 'em up!"

The collie didn't need to be told twice. He went and bolted down the treats, but I did notice that he chose the Tastee Treat first.

"He picked it first. Told you he loves them best."

"All right. You've got a point. What are the rules for this contest? Is there a deadline? A fee? Some kind of hidden clause that says we have to buy their product exclusively?"

"Uh . . .the essay is due by June 1st and . . .I don't know about that other stuff. Let me get the magazine."

It turned out that the fee of 20 pounds was waived if you bought twelve bags of treats and showed the receipts as proof, submitting them along with the entry form and the essay. The essay had to be at least five hundred words and no more than fifteen hundred words, typed or written in legible handwriting, and the contest was open to all dogs and children 8-12 years of age. A snapshot of the dog competing also had to be sent in. The contest was going to be held in the same place the Manchester dog show had been in my youth. It was on June 12th.

The contest was in two parts, the first part was to test which dog could find the most treats in five minutes when they were hidden all over and the second tested the dog on how quickly he could find Tastee Treats when they were hidden along with other leading brands of dog treats. There was no doubt that my dog could locate the treats, but he would be at a disadvantage against younger and faster dogs.

"Harry, are you positive you want enter this contest?"

"Sure I am. Gabe can do it. He'll make a great mascot for their dog treats." My son said stoutly. "Right, Gaby?"

Gabriel barked an affirmative.

"I hope you're right, Harry. You know what they say about old dogs."

"Gabriel can learn any trick ever invented."

"Oh, he's smart enough. But I'm afraid he'll be humiliated when the other dogs out run him. He is twenty-four years old, Harry." I reminded him.

"So? He can take them, Dad. May I enter?"

"You're not to neglect your homework and studies for this, am I clear?" I said sternly.

"Yes, sir. I'll do all my homework first and then train Gabriel."

"Then you may send in the entry form and the receipts and photo any time you're ready."

"I'll do it today. Would you hold Gabe for me while I hide the treats?"

I gently restrained my collie, gripping his collar while Harry hid various treats about the yard.

At Harry's shout, I released my dog. "Go find the treats, Gabe."

He performed wonderfully, at least in my eyes, finding all the Tastee Treats in under five minutes.

Then he got to eat them as a reward.

Harry practiced with Gabriel for two weeks, all the way to the deadline, which was June 5th.

On the big day, all of us, including my mother, drove to Manchester. Entering the civic center again brought on a rush of déjà vu, as well as memories of that long ago dog show. Only this time we were spectators. I went with Harry to check in and sign a permission form allowing him and Gabriel to compete.

Gabe had been brushed till his coat shone like copper and snow and was smooth as silk. Old as he was, his coat was still magnificent. And he still carried himself like the champion he was. Once Harry and Gabriel had registered, an official took them into a separate room for some preliminary testing. As it turned out, there were about seventy-five contestants who had been accepted to compete out of the many who had entered. This number was further winnowed down by the individual tests they gave each dog.

By the time they were done, the field had been narrowed by two thirds, as some of the dogs had failed to find the dog treat in the mock house set up which had been provided. Now only twenty-five dogs were going to compete in the public venue. One of them was my collie.

As I watched from the stands, as nervous as if I and not my son were down there on the floor, I carefully looked over the competition. There were several toy breeds—poodles, Pomeranians, pugs, and Malteses. There were also several hunting breeds and terriers, Scottish terriers, fox terriers, spaniels, two Labradors, and a young beagle. There was a German shepherd and blue heeler and Gabriel. Out of them all, I was most worried about the beagle, the two Labs, the Brittany spaniel, the heeler and the shepherd. The hunting breeds had the best noses and the heeler and shepherd were also very quick and intelligent and had stamina. Thank goodness there were no border collies or Shelties.

One by one, each dog came up and was put through two scenarios, one for finding the most treats under five minutes and again for how fast he or she found the treats that were hidden. One by one, dogs were eliminated based upon their scores, until it came down to the final five. The Pomeranian, the blue heeler, the beagle, the yellow Lab, and Gabriel. Once again they were timed on speed. The Pomeranian and the Lab faltered and were eliminated.

The blue heeler did very well.

Only the small beagle and Gabriel were left to compete.

I crossed my fingers and was tempted to cast a simple energy boost on my dog, who I knew must be tiring after all the excitement.

"Severus, don't you dare!" my mother hissed at me in warning.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said, pretending innocence. Damn, how did she know?

She gave me a Look. "Like hell you don't. They don't need your little pick me up, they can win on their own."

Abashed, I slid my wand back up my sleeve.

Lily gave me a resigned look and chanted, "Come on, Gaby. Show them how an old dog can learn a new trick. Come on!"

Harry led Gaby into the ring where the mock yard setting was, pausing once to glance up at us, his green eyes full of hope. He knelt and removed Gabriel's lead and gave him the command to "Search!"

Gabriel found all fifteen treats in two minutes and two seconds.

Which was two seconds faster than the blue heeler. The crowd went wild.

Lily was on her feet, clapping and cheering. "Hooray, Gabriel! Go, Harry!" She was grinning from ear to ear. Then she socked me in the shoulder. "Sev, what's the matter with you? Why are you just sitting there?"

"Because, dear heart, they haven't won yet. There's still one more dog left to compete."

"Who cares? Whoever thought he would make it this far, an old dog like him? Get up, Severus, and cheer for your dog and son." She grabbed my wrist and tugged.

"Yes, Severus, don't be such a stickler for protocol," Mum said and then she too began clapping loudly.

I stood and clapped too, though I felt we were celebrating our victory prematurely. The final results were not yet in and that little beagle was a powerhouse of energy, like a ticking bomb. Then again, Gabriel had performed extremely well, all things considered. So had Harry. He didn't act nervous at all out there with all these people staring down at him. I suspect there was a little of James Potter's natural showmanship there.

Eventually, the applause died down and the announcer waved Gabriel and Harry off to the side so the last dog could compete. I yanked Lily back into her seat. She elbowed me in the ribs.

"Now, let's see how well our final contestant can do. Please welcome Comet and Polly Preston!"

There were cheers for the ten year old and the little beagle.

She gave the command, "Comet, search!"

The tricolor beagle took off. He was a blur as he raced through the course, ears flopping. I couldn't help but admire the little bloke, for they say that nothing comes between a beagle and his quarry . . .or his food dish. They were right on both counts.

Comet completed the round in under two minutes.

When the scoreboard flashed the winning time, there was plenty of cheering and some groans too.

Lily worried her lip. "Poor Harry! He's going to be so disappointed, and Gabe too. But they gave it a good try."

"I expected this. It's too much to ask of the old boy, he's worn out. I warned Harry that a younger dog might beat him."

"Nonsense, Severus!" Mum disagreed. "Gabriel might have lost because he was outrun, but he was never outclassed. Anyone watching him can tell." She pointed to my son and my dog.

Harry was clapping and Gabriel was wagging his tail. The Master of Ceremonies called them forward, as well as the boy with the blue heeler, who was named Dodger. Harry walked over to Polly and shook her hand and then knelt to pet Comet, who bayed and licked his nose.

Gabriel, ever dignified, sat and offered the young lady a paw. Then he nuzzled Comet and a photographer snapped their picture.

It would appear in the Manchester Courier morning edition, with the caption Gracious Even in Defeat.

Except it wasn't really a defeat.

The CEO of the Tastee Treat company spoke to each of the final three andComet was chosen as the mascot, but Gabriel and Dodger received three months worth of products and twenty-five pounds. He was most impressed by the fact that Gabriel was actually fourteen years old, which was the age we had put down on the form, since we couldn't reveal his true age.

"It's absolutely amazing that a dog of this age was able to compete in a trial like this and do so well. Astonishing!"

"He's a purebred, and the best collie ever," Harry told him.

"So you said in your essay, which was extremely well written for a boy of your age. Would you mind if we ran a short piece in Top Dog about your remarkable collie, Mr. Potter?"

"No, sir."

"Capital! I'll mail you an issue when it comes out. It's a pleasure to meet you and Gabriel."

A week later we received the current issue of the magazine. On the cover was Comet, the new mascot of Tastee Treats, but Gabriel was also featured under the article titled Who Says You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Snape's Journal:

Lily returned home that night, exhausted but happy. She had enjoyed her weekend out with my mother immensely and was delighted to see we had begun decorating without her prompting. She said it looked very good and we could start on the tree tomorrow.

She helped me bathe and rock the twins to sleep and then bid Harry good night before retiring to our room.

I joined her there a few minutes later, two cups of cocoa steaming in the air behind me.

"Oh, is that for me?"

"Who else?" I floated the mug over to her.

"You spoil me, Sev." She sipped the cocoa. "Mmm! Heaven."

I seated myself crosslegged on the bed next to her and sipped mine. "Not bad."

"Perfectionist," she teased, tweaking my nose.

I gave her a wry smile. "My fatal flaw."

"I love you anyhow, Severus Snape."

"Thank heaven for that," I chuckled. I touched my mug to hers. "Here's to a good holiday season. I hope."

"Are you worried about your father?" she guessed.

"A little. I just hope he doesn't have the brass to show up on Christmas Day without warning."

"Severus, I know how you feel about him, but . . .it is Christmas. Do you think you could handle an hour in his company? Like during dessert? If I were there and so was your mum? It would seem rude to . . . exclude him from everything."

I scowled. I feared seeing him might sour my own holiday season. But my initial animosity had thawed in the past months. I would never forget and I didn't quite forgive, I would never trust him alone with my children, but I didn't want to look like a total bastard. "Was this my mother's idea?"

"Partly. And partly mine. She's promised to make sure your father behaves himself."

"Like I give a damn what he says," I snorted.

Lily flashed me a knowing look. No matter how much I denied it, there was a part of me that still longed for his approval, and probably always would.

I drank the rest of my cocoa. I could refuse, wanted to refuse, but then I would look like a coward. This was my house, and if Tobias got out of line, I could kick his sorry arse out. That would give me great pleasure, I thought wickedly. Besides, I couldn't run from the past forever. And who knew, maybe Tobias really was making an effort to change. "One hour, for dessert."

Lily hugged me. "Don't worry, love. I'll punch him out if he says one nasty comment about you."

"I'd pay twenty Galleons to see that," I smirked.

She caught sight of the magazine over my shoulder, which was on my nightstand. "Dear Gaby!" she whispered, tears coming to her eyes. "How I wish he were here now. He would have loved the twins."

"Yes. But at least in heaven he doesn't have to worry about getting his tail yanked out by Hallie or his fur eaten by Gabriel." I replied gruffly.

Lily laughed quietly. "True. I hope you like what I got you for Christmas."

"Why wouldn't I?" I lifted an eyebrow in amusement. "Have I ever complained about a gift you gave me?"

"You never wear that terry bathrobe I got you when we first got married."

"That's because it's yellow and black plaid. It makes me look like an oversized bumblebee."

"Why didn't you tell me that when you first opened it? I would have returned it."

"I didn't want you to get insulted."

"I can change the pattern on it."

"Don't worry about it, Lily. You know what I usually wear after a bath." I purred.

She gave me an arch look. "And it suits me just fine, my dark prince." Her hand caressed the back of my neck.

I responded to her silent invitation by locking the door and banishing all our clothing. We could celebrate the holiday early.

What do you think Lily bought Sev for Christmas?

How did you like the treat contest?

Though I love Gabe dearly, a beagle would definitely win that contest over him, I know because I have a beagle.
 


Chapter 24: A Peaceful Goodbye
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**Warning—Kleenex alert!**

Snape's Journal

December 24th, 1994:

Christmas Eve dawned and I woke feeling restless and out of sorts. Perhaps it was because I had been kept awake all night by a cranky Hallie, who refused to go to sleep unless I held her and rocked her. There were times when my daughter really tested my patience and last night was one of them. When I finally got to sleep it was around two in the morning and thus I was tired and out of sorts.

I knew that Lily wanted to get a lot of the cooking for Christmas Day dinner out of the way, and I had a steak pie I wished to make for dinner tonight, as well as a chocolate custard tart, which was one of the few desserts I could make well. But I did not go downstairs and begin getting ingredients. Instead, I went to my desk and took out my journal and quill, turned to the next blank page, and then prepared to write the final chapter of Gabriel's story.

My hand shook and I almost splattered ink all over.

I did not want to remember the last moments I had shared with my magnificent dog, who had been more than a mere pet, but my most steadfast and loyal friend, who had loved me without reservation, even through the darkest time in my life, who had endured my temper and my sarcasm without complaint. No, I did not want to remember, but in spite of myself, I did.

Snape's Journal

April 21st, 1993:

That morning began with a glorious burst of sunshine, I recall it well because I was nearly blinded when I drew open the drapes at my bedroom window and peered out across the lawn. Everything was in bloom, especially in my herb garden. It would be a good day to gather and harvest all my plants. I could get some much needed fresh air, I had been closeted in the house brewing and finishing my midterm essay marking. I would make Harry help too, it would be a good refresher course for both Herbology and potions, and Gabriel would enjoy the spring sunshine.

Lately, the old collie's arthritis had been acting up, and sometimes he could barely lift himself up in the morning. I had taken to rubbing a special liniment into his sore muscles at night, trying to relieve the stiffness. But I knew such measures were temporary. He was also having a hard time climbing the stairs and it took him ten minutes now where it used to take two, and once or twice I carried him because he was too tired to make it up on his own. The last time I had done so, he had looked at me guiltily, as if begging my pardon for having to do such things for him.

"It's all right." I told him. "We all get old, Gabe. One day I'll probably need a cane to help me walk."

Though I dreaded the day when he might not be able to rise at all and I might have to make a terrible choice—to prolong his life or to let him go peacefully into the night.

I looked at the foot of my bed. My collie snoozed, snoring loudly. Once he would have woken at the first sounds of my stirring and been at my side in a flash, ready for the next adventure. Now he was content to dream in front of the hearth, or upon my comfortable bed, and I had to shake him awake.

"Gabriel. Wake up! Let's go for a walk."

He yawned and shook himself. His brown eyes were still alert and wise, and despite the pain, he wagged his tail and barked softly. I waited until he had slipped from the bed and landed on the floor before walking quietly from my room and down the stairs.

Foot by foot, Gabriel followed. He placed each paw carefully now, since the day he had missed a step and tumbled down the whole flight to lie panting and whimpering at the bottom. Harry had found him there moments later and had yelled for me to come at once. Thank goodness he wasn't badly injured, just bruised and sore. I gave him some pain medication the vet had given me for his joints and he had slept the rest of the day.

I paused in the middle of the staircase, waiting for him to catch up. "Come on, old boy. You can do it. Nice and easy," I coaxed.

Finally we were down and I opened the door to the back yard and let him outside. I watched him move stiffly to a certain spot in the yard and then turned away to make some coffee. It was around six AM and I needed that first quick jolt of caffeine badly. By the time the coffee was done, Gabe was scratching at the door to come in.

As I sat and sipped my coffee, he drank some water and then stretched out by my feet. I made myself some ham, toast, and eggs. I gave the leftovers to my collie, as usual, but for some reason he merely picked at them. "Hey. You love ham and eggs." I said, thrusting the plate under his nose.

He sniffed, gave it a token lick, then turned away.

"What's wrong? Are you feeling sick?"

I looked at his eyes, examined his nose, and gently felt his stomach. Nothing seemed amiss.

I withdrew the plate. Lately he had been losing his appetite, but perhaps he would eat more later.

He lay down again, putting his head on his paws.

"I'm going to wake Harry. You just take a nap." I ordered him.

Harry made all the usual complaints about getting up, until I told him he could have the afternoon free to fly if he helped me this morning in the garden. Otherwise he'd spend the afternoon pickling rat spleens. He wisely chose to help me.

I made him a quick egg and bacon sandwich, noting with some alarm that my collie seemed uninterested in food. Normally he would be at my side, drooling and begging. Today he just watched me. Perhaps he had an upset stomach. I would give him a dose of ginger ale and bitters and see if that didn't perk him up.

After breakfast, all three of us trooped outside to the garden. Gabriel went and lay down beneath the oak tree, his favorite spot to observe the comings and goings of his human companions. As a puppy, I used to scold him for digging in the garden, but those days were long past. Harry went to the shed to collect the gathering baskets, gloves, and shears. Some wizards harvested their plants with magic, but I had never liked that method. For one thing, it made you use up magical energy that could have been spent elsewhere, and two, it left a residue upon the plant that might interfere with your potion. So I harvested the old fashioned way, by hand. It was simple and effective.

The morning sped by and before I knew it, it was lunchtime. I told Harry to go inside and make some sandwiches and he obeyed, for he was starving. I quickly returned the gardening tools to the shed and sent my cuttings, roots, bulbs, and so forth down to my lab. Then I went to sit next to my faithful collie, who had spent much of the time sleeping.

He moved and put his head in my lap. I scratched behind his ears, in the good place. He gave a sort of sigh and snuggled close to me. "Tired, aren't you, old fellow? Or maybe you're hungry now?Huh? Want a treat?" I quickly conjured a Tastee Treat, his favorite, and he politely chewed it. But it seemed to me that he only did it to please me. I felt a cold rush of fear. I knew that most animals stopped eating when they were close to death. But surely not. Gabriel didn't look sick at all.

I quickly cast a diagnostic on him. He wasn't running a fever and his pulse and heart rate were good. I breathed again. Harry called us in for lunch and I gave Gabriel a dose of ginger ale mixed with bitters. We ate, then Harry said he was going flying and I wanted to go and prepare some of my ingredients. Gabriel went to lie on the rug near the fire, which was burning gently over the applewood logs, making the room smell sweet.

I knelt and stroked his head. "I'll be back in a bit. Pleasant dreams."

Then I went down into the basement.

When I emerged from my cave, as Harry liked to call it, several hours later, I found my son asleep on the sofa, one hand dangling off, his glasses still on his head. I removed them and put them on a table, put his hand on top of his chest and covered him with a light blanket.

I glanced over at Gabriel, who was still in the same spot as before. Once again, a strange sense of foreboding struck me. I walked over to him.

He lifted his head and looked at me. Our eyes met and I saw something I had missed before. A luminosity, as though he gazed on something beyond this world. I felt the back of my neck prickle. No. Say it isn't so. His tail thumped lightly on the floor as I sat down and gathered him into my arms. I could feel his heartbeat still but it was slowing and his breathing was erratic, coming in soft shallow gasps.

He tilted his head up and once again I met his eyes.

They were filled with an odd sort of wisdom and knowing, peace and love.

"Must you go?" I whispered thickly.

He made a soft noise in his throat, "talking" in that odd way he had. I had never really comprehended it before, but I did then. Forgive me, Sev. But I am tired. So very tired.

My throat seized up. "Please," I hissed, feeling the shadows loom ever closer. Please don't go. Stay with me just a little longer. My fingers tightened upon his ruff, as if by gripping tight I could stave off the inevitable. I was being selfish, asking what I did, but I couldn't help myself. I was not ready to let him go, and for me he would stay.

He licked my cheek.

I buried my face in his fur and breathed in the familiar scent of him. My whole body was taut with fear and denial. This couldn't be happening. Not now. It was too soon. A moment later I realized how cruel and selfish I was being. I had prolonged his life far beyond the age of a normal dog, and like a child, had assumed he would live forever because of it. But the potion must be breaking down now, after all these years. I could use more magic, maybe give him another six months, but in the end the result would be the same. My collie's body was worn out, and no amount of potions or magic could restore it.

But how could I bear to lose him?

A choked sob escaped me.

Gabriel turned his head and licked me again, whining. Don't be sad. I shall always be with you, Sev. Love never dies. Only the body surrounding it. His breathing was shallower now. Can't you feel it?

Our eyes locked and for a single instant I could feel a sense of utter peace and light enfold me. It filled me with warmth and love and banished the grief and sorrow. For they could not exist inside such serenity and joy. Is this what awaits you?

He barked softly. Yes. And you as well, someday. It is what was promised.

A paradise without end. And all dogs go to heaven.

Of course. Whyever would you think otherwise? We will meet again, Sev.

Will you wait for me?

Always, brother.

I bowed my head. I always loved you. Even when I yelled at you.

Silly wizard. I have always known. He gave a great shuddering breath.

I kissed the top of his forehead. I knew then what I had to do. Go, Gaby.

Are you sure, Sev?

Mutely, I nodded. He would understand. He always did.

I felt more than saw his spirit leave his fading body in a burst of golden light. Squinting, I saw it run, paws flying, down a bridge of rainbows. On the other side he turned and faced me. Remember, I'll be waiting.

I felt the dog in my arms go still, the great head fall against my chest as the last breath left his body.

It took me several minutes to realize what had happened. My mind refused to comprehend it. He had been with me over half my life, how then would I go on without him? The joy I had felt moments before evaporated, like a popped soap bubble. He was gone. I would never have him by my side again. And neither love or magic would bring him back. Grief rose up and attacked me savagely.

Still holding the now limp red-gold body, I wept, tears flowing endlessly down my face into his fur. Because only then did I realize just how much I would miss him.

I don't remember how long I sat there, lost in a mire of sorrow , unable to see through the tears, my breath catching harshly in my throat.

Until I heard Harry call, "Dad? What's wrong? Why are you sitting there holding Gaby?"

When I didn't answer Harry came over and touched my shoulder. "Dad?"

I kept my eyes fixed on Gabriel.

Harry knelt then and bent to touch the collie. He whimpered in fear. "Dad, Gaby's not moving. He's not breathing. Dad! Do something!"

"I can't. He's gone, son." I made myself say it.

"No! Bring him back! He can't be dead. He was fine this morning. He was fine." His voice cracked upon that last word and then he was crying too.

I reached out and pulled him against my side and together we mourned the passing of our best friend, who had changed all of our lives for the better.

Our lives would never be the same.

An hour later I managed to pull myself together enough to bring the body to the vet for him to cremate, since we couldn't bury the body for health and sanitation laws didn't permit it. The vet was sympathetic and said it would be done in about a week. I just nodded dully. I was numb with grief, hollow with pain, despite the knowledge that Gabriel was with the angels now, across the rainbow bridge.

It was an ache that would take months to subside and over a year to assimilate.

But now, as I write this final tribute to an extraordinary dog, I feel at last a measure of peace, not unlike the last moments I shared with him. And I know in my heart that he is there, on the other side of heaven, waiting patiently for me to join him.

Snape's Journal

December 24th, 1994:

I brushed a tear away as I wrote the final sentence of Gabriel's story. Then I placed my quill inside my silver inkwell and blew on the page gently to make the ink dry. One day I might let Lily, Harry, and maybe the twins read it. But for now it was private. I carefully shut it and placed it in my desk drawer.

I could hear Hallie and Gabe whimpering and fussing from the nursery and I rose to greet them.

"Daddy! Daddy!" they cried when they saw me. They were standing up holding onto the bars of their crib.

"Good morning, Hallie and Gabe. How are you doing?" I smiled back at them.

"Wet." Hallie informed me.

"Hungwy," her twin added.

"All right. Let's get you cleaned up and then we can have breakfast." I picked up Hallie first and changed her, since Gabriel was more patient.

She wriggled a bit and I scolded softly, "Stay still, Hallie Eileen."

"All done?" she asked as I fastened the nappy.

"All done." I set her down and picked up Gabriel.

"Where's Mummy?" he asked.

"Sleeping."

"Shhh!" Hallie put a finger to her lips.

"Yes. You have to be quiet."

"Shhh!" Gabriel imitated.

Hallie tugged on my pant leg. "Hawwy?"

"He's sleeping too, the lazy bum."

"Shhh!" she said, then chanted, "Lazy bum! Lazy bum!"

Gabriel joined her, giggling.

I carried them downstairs to a chorus of "Lazy bum!"

What had I started?

They finally stopped talking when I gave them some pieces of buttered toast and dry cereal they could eat with their fingers, plus a cup of milk.

It took them ten minutes to eat and then I had to wash off their sticky faces and hands.

Then I was at a loss. I couldn't cook while they were wandering about, they would be sure to get into mischief. I didn't want them running all over playing loudly either. What could I do to keep them occupied? Finally I said, "Hallie, Gaby, why don't we sit down on the couch and read a story?"

The twins loved being read to.

"Yay!" Hallie clapped her hands. "A 'tory!"

"A 'tory for me!" crowed Gabriel.

"No, me!" Hallie asserted.

"Me!"

"No, me!" Hallie yelled and went to smack Gabriel.

I grabbed her hand. "No! No hitting!"

Hallie's face crumpled. "Daddy mad?"

"Only if you hit your brother."

She sniffled. Then she kissed her twin on the cheek.

"Very good. Now, let's go into the den and listen to the story. It's for both of you."

I Summoned the family photo album from the bookshelf and sat down with a twin on either side and showed them a picture of Gabriel.

"Doggie!" Gabriel pointed.

"Yes. This is Gaby, a very special dog," I began, telling them a little bit of his story as I showed them the pictures in the album.

They might have been too young to understand everything I said, but they were fascinated by the pictures of me, Lily, Harry, Eileen, and Gabriel. Each new photo was met with squeals of excitement as they named everyone in the picture.

"Mummy! Daddy! Hawwy! Gamma! Doggie!"

"Sev? What are you doing?" Lily asked sleepily as she entered the den. She was still in her nightshirt and slippers, a soft blue robe thrown about her slender frame, her hair tousled from sleep.

I looked up from the album and beckoned her over. "I'm introducing our children to an old friend."

Lily came and stood behind the couch, resting her arms on the back and leaning over my shoulder. She laughed when she saw a picture of Gabriel jumping in a pile of leaves after Harry, who had been ten at the time. "Oh, Sev. He was such a beautiful dog."

"Mummy, doggie!" Hallie told her, pointing.

"Gaby!" his namesake added.

"Yes, love. That was your daddy's special collie."

"Where he?" asked Hallie.

"Honey, Gaby is in heaven." Lily told her.

But I pointed to the box on the mantle. "Yes, but a part of him is right there, in that box." I held Hallie up so she could see it.

"That not doggie!" she shook her head.

"No, but . . .ah, never mind. You're too little to understand yet. I'll explain it when you're older." I turned to Lily. "I thought looking at the album would keep them quiet and out of mischief."

"It was a good idea, Sev. And now, I'm going to have a cup of coffee and get ready to start cooking."

"Let me know if you need help, Lil. I'll wake up our teenager and have him babysit for awhile."

She kissed me. "Happy Christmas, my love. You stay here and tell the imps about Gaby and I'll finish my beef Wellington."

"Tell me you're not putting liver in that."

"No. I'm putting mushrooms and prosciutto in it."

"Ah. My mother's recipe."

"Yes. With the Madeira mushroom sauce." Lily clarified.

"When are we eating it?"

"Tomorrow."

I sighed. Well, it gave me something to look forward to.

December 25th, 1994:

I leaned back in my recliner and watched Harry and the twins open their gifts. They each had seven, three practical, three they had chosen, and one surprise gift. The twins received mainly clothes, and some books and soft toys which lit up and their surprise gift was a Magic Unicorn Rocker, which was a soft child-sized stuffed unicorn attached to rockers, when the child sat on the unicorn's back, the unicorn "came alive" and behaved much like a real unicorn, making galloping sounds and whinnying and there were Illusion Charms cast on it that showed the rider several scenes as they "rode" such as a green meadow, tall forest, rolling hills, a moonlit plain, and so forth. The unicorn rocker was large enough for two of them to ride together or alone, and the twins loved it.

"That's really cool! Whose idea was it to get them that?" Harry asked.

"Your father's," his mother replied.

Harry received a new Quidditch jersey, a black cloak with a silver serpent clasp, and new sneakers for his practical gifts. There was also a large box of Honeydukes chocolate bars and some Zonkos joke products, and some Quidditch tickets for various games. His surprise gift was a new broom. "Whoa! The Phoenix Sunfire 2001! This is the best broom on the market, except for the Firebolt." He was admiring the broom, turning it this way and that.

Gabriel crawled over and pulled himself up. "What that?"

"It's a broom, baby brother. Someday when you're bigger, I'll fly on it with you." Harry said. "Thanks, Mum and Dad! Oh, and Father Christmas too," he added, even though he was too old to believe in the saint anymore.

"Fly! Me fly!"

"Okay." Harry picked up Gabe and "flew" him about in the air.

"Me fwy! Me fwy!" Hallie clamored.

She slid down off the unicorn and crawled rapidly over to Harry.

"Hold it! Let me put your brother down, I can't do both of you at once. Mum, here. Take your baby boy."

Lily picked up Gabriel and continued to fly him about while Harry lifted his little sister and "flew" her around too.

The twins soon tired of that and went to play with other toys, allowing Harry to give us the gifts he had bought. For Lily there was a very pretty necklace with a mother holding three children. Each had a small birthstone embedded in the little silver child. "Harry, it's beautiful. Thank you!"

He hugged her and helped her put it on. "You look good, Mum." Then he looked at me. "Dad, I can't give you your present yet, because Mum has to give you hers first."

I was puzzled. "What in Merlin's name have you gotten me?"

"You'll see," my wife smiled mysteriously.

"All right. Lily, Merry Christmas." I handed her a gold box.

She opened it to reveal a gold and emerald bracelet. It wrapped about her wrist snuggly, like a hug, and she gasped. "It's magical!"

"It's a Bracelet of Warmth and Protection. Since you're always off somewhere risking your neck, I figured you needed this."

"Sev, it's perfect." She came and kissed me. Then she gestured to Harry.

He hurried out of the room.

Lily looked at me, her eyes shining.

Harry returned with a large crate. He set it down in front of me. The crate was labeled Handle With Care—Potions Inside. "You bought me a crate of potions?" I frowned.

"No, you nutty professor," Lily chuckled. "Open it and see."

I carefully pried open the cover. The crate was filled with fake straw. I gently pushed it aside and suddenly a bundle of fluffy reddish gold and silver fur attacked me. "What the—"

I fell over on my backside and the puppy jumped out of the crate and into my arms with a happy yip.

"A collie puppy?" I gasped. "Lily, you got me a dog?"

My face was being washed industriously by the puppy.

"Do you like her, Sev?"

I picked up the puppy and held her in front of me. Like my former collie, she too had reddish-gold fur, but she also had silvery merle accents about her face and legs, a silvery lining like a cloud. She had bright amber eyes and a white stripe up her nose. I could tell she was from a high quality breeder, she had that air about her. "I do, Lily. I never thought about getting another dog."

"Mum and I figured it was time," my son said. "Not that she'll ever replace Gaby, but you needed another collie to love. And every family needs a dog."

"Where did you find her?"

"We asked around and someone told us that Mr. Tym's daughter was still breeding collies. This puppy came from a new Highland import. She is small, but you know that good things come in small packages, don't you, Severus?" Lily told me.

"Mum and I picked her out." Harry added. "I think we got the pick of the litter." He floated a second wrapped box into the room. "Merry Christmas, Dad."

Inside the wrapped box was a small pink collar, a lead, and dishes, food, and a brush as well as some Tastee Treats. "Thank you, Harry."

I set the little collie down. She ran over and sniffed Harry's shoes and Lily, who called her a sweet girl. She was full of energy and pranced over to Hallie and licked her face.

"Doggie!" she shrilled and immediately reached out to grab the puppy's ear.

The pup yelped and I went over and said, "Hallie, no! Pet the puppy gently." I removed her little hand and showed her how to pet the puppy, along her fuzzy back.

"See doggie!" Gabe yelled, and Harry brought him over to pet the small collie as well.

She enthusiastically licked Gabriel, who threw his arms about her and hugged her.

A moment later she wriggled free and came to me. I knelt and stroked her fur. She jumped up and licked me under the chin. "Good girl! You know who's alpha, don't you?" I picked her up and held her, recalling the last time I had held such a puppy in my arms. She smelled the same as Gabriel had.

"What are you going to call her, Sev?" Lily asked.

Just then a shaft of sunlight shone in through the window, falling on the puppy and making her coat glow silver and gold. Inspiration struck. "I think . . .I'll call her . . .Aurora. In Latin, it means the dawn rising. And this is the dawn of a new day, in more ways than one." I reached out and tickled the puppy's soft belly, she rolled over and allowed me to gently scratch her. "How do you like that, girl?"

The little collie looked me straight in the eye and barked happily.

"I'd say she likes it, Dad." Harry said, also petting her. "Right, Aurora?"

The twins scuttled over to us, and I quickly placed them in my lap before they crushed poor Aurora by mistake.

"Severus!" Lily called.

I looked up.

She snapped our picture.

I groaned. Damn the woman! She loved photographing me, despite the fact that I hated how I looked on camera. But I supposed it was inevitable, since it was both the twins' and Aurora's first Christmas at Spinner's End.

"Another winner for the family album," Lily declared.

She showed me the picture. I was sitting in the center, the twins on either knee and Harry next to me, petting Aurora, who was lying on her back taking full advantage of her new family's indulgence.

"Very nice, Lily." I kissed her. "Just wait till my mother sees it."

Eileen and Tobias arrived promptly for dessert, which was apple pie and a custard tart and Christmas gingerbread, plus coffee. To my surprise, Tobias brought a rose bouquet for Lily, and gave each of the children a ten pound note. For me there was a jar of rare phoenix tears.

"Your mother told me you sometimes use those in your potions," Tobias said gruffly.

"You didn't need to get me anything." I protested.

"If you don't want it, give it to your mum."

"No, I . . .could really use this . . ." I said awkwardly. I hadn't gotten him anything and now I felt guilty. "Thank you."

Tobias coughed. "Merry Christmas, Severus." Then he added, "Thank you for having me over. I haven't celebrated a holiday since I left here, so this is a great gift." He looked about at the children, who were playing fetch with Aurora beside the tree. "You have a fine family, son. I would like to get to know them."

I recognized an olive branch when I saw one. But I hesitated. Could I trust him? I looked into his dark sapphire eyes. He met my gaze squarely. "So long as you promise to never lay a hand on them and come here with Mum, I can allow that."

"Agreed. Severus, I'm not who I was."

"So you say," I said shortly. "Prove it."

"Merry Christmas, Severus," he said then, and smiled at me.

Before I could tell him to sit down at the table, Aurora frisked up to him.

She jumped on him, tail wagging, her eyes sparkling.

I froze. The Tobias Snape I knew would have kicked the puppy away and snarled at her to get the hell off.

My father looked down. "Hey, pup."

Aurora licked him, wagged her tail, and then piddled all over his boot.

"Aurora, no!" I cried in dismay, grabbing the puppy."I'm sorry." I waited for the explosion.

"Toby, the puppy didn't mean to—" Mum began, taking out her wand.

Tobias' eyes narrowed and he scowled down at the floor. His shoulders quivered with suppressed anger.

Or so I thought. Until he lifted his head.

And I saw he was struggling to control his laughter.

I relaxed.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you planned that, Severus Snape." He scolded. I opened my mouth to protest. Then he added slyly, "Because it would have been a fine revenge, now wouldn't it?"

I gaped. Who would have thought the old bastard had a sense of humor? Then I gave him a smirk. "It sure as hell would have."

"Severus!" my mother cried.

"It's the truth, Mum." I said, unrepentant.

"Men!" she snorted. "Figures you would settle things with a pissing contest," she muttered.

Lily and Harry burst out laughing. After a minute, we joined them.

"Eileen, can you—" my father began, just as my mother cast a Scourgify.

I handed Harry Aurora. "Take her outside, Harry, before she has another accident."

Harry snapped the lead on her collar and took her into the yard.

"Nice dog you got there, Sev," Tobias remarked, then he laughed softly. "Let's have some dessert, shall we?"

We all sat down and ate a bit of everything. It was delicious. And no one fought or complained about anything. It was a holiday of firsts. One that I would never forget. And I owed it all to a dog.

How did you like this one?

What part did you enjoy the most?
 


Chapter 25: Epilogue: The Next Generation
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Snape's Journal

Five years later:

I sat on the grass next to Lily and watched as our twins and Fred Weasley's twin girls ran about with Aurora at their heels. Aurora, typical collie that she was, kept trying to herd the children away from the duck pond. Aurora, or Rory, as the kids called her, was wary of water, ever since Hallie had fallen into the pond when she was three and almost drowned trying to grab a duckling. The silver and gold collie had jumped into the water and saved her, overcoming her dislike of getting wet. I suppose it is a collie's nature to be a hero, or a protector, or a guardian of the helpless.

Fred had married Angelina Johnson after they had finished school and they were the proud parents of twin girls, Roxanne and Julia, age three. They had played together with Gabe and Hallie since they could walk, and Hallie regarded them as sisters because of the nearly two year difference in their age. Fred's twin, George, had married Alicia Spinnet and they were expecting their first child. Fred and George had often babysat the twins for us, as had their younger siblings, Ron and Ginny, and so they had been invited to the Snape family picnic, which took place at the park where Lily and I used to play. Ginny and Ron couldn't make it, they were off with their Quidditch team on tour, but the Weasley twins and their spouses were playing a game of Quidditch using Don't See Me charms.

My mother and father were sitting on a picnic bench, sipping ice cold lemonade and watching as little Danielle Lily Potter pulled herself across the large blanket. My granddaughter was fourteen months, and she had Harry's green eyes and Hermione's curly hair. Despite his having sworn he would never follow in my footsteps and marry his best friend, Harry had changed his mind when he was seventeen, and realized that Hermione was not only his friend, but his other half. As for Hermione, she had always loved Harry, but had never said anything because she didn't want to spoil their friendship in case he didn't feel the same. But once they got to talking it over, they realized they truly did have feelings for each other, very strong ones, and the rest was a foregone conclusion.

Dani, as we called her, was extremely bright and inquisitive, and frequently had me and Lily in stitches with the things she said. She repeated everything and anything, often at the worst possible time. Hermione was a professor at Hogwarts, teaching Muggle Studies, and one of her colleagues happened to be Draco Malfoy, the Flying Instructor, replacing Madam Hooch. One day, Hermione had Dani with her when she went to question Draco about a detention he had given one of her students, causing the student to be late to her class and miss an important lecture.

Draco had been most indignant about Hermione taking him to task, and had said pompously, "Really, Potter, who do you think you are? I'll have you know that my family goes back generations—"

"What does that have to do with anything, Malfoy? Are you saying you're better than me because you're a pureblood? Because Harry always told me you were a bigot and—"

"A arsehole. Daddy said you're a sodding arsehole," Dani had announced, shocking both adults into dead silence.

Hermione said later that she didn't know whether to laugh or to be mortified, because what Dani had repeated was true. Harry had never liked Draco, ever since that ill-fated Quidditch match, and when he had heard that Draco was teaching at Hogwarts and making remarks about Hermione behind her back to some of the staff, he had promptly expressed his opinion about Malfoy to his wife. Dani had supposedly been napping on the couch during their discussion, but everyone knows little pitchers have big ears and blabber mouths.

Draco had nearly had apoplexy, much to Harry's amusement.

That little incident made me and Lily chuckle for days, as well as Eileen and Tobias.

"Got an answer for everything, just like her mum," was what Tobias had said when he learned about the incident.

Harry was Hogwarts' medi-wizard now, since Madam Pomfrey had retired last year and Headmistress McGonagall had picked him as her replacement out of all the applicants she had from St. Mungos. Dumbledore had been removed from the position of Headmaster after almost asphyxiating on a lemon drop and causing himself severe brain trauma due to lack of oxygen. He was now in St. Mungos as a permanent resident in the Memory Loss Ward, roommates with the fraudulent Gilderoy Lockhart, who had accidentally had himself Obliviated by a student during a demonstration. The two nutters deserved each other, in my opinion.

The long ago prophecy made by Bellatrix turned out to be a dud, since Voldemort had never returned from the dead, proving my theory that sometimes a Seer only Sees one possible future, and that can be changed by the choices we make. Thank Merlin! My children and grandchildren would grow up safe and happy, in a world free of war and darkness.

It was a glorious day, bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. I was enjoying the summer sunshine as well as the company of my family and friends. It had taken me the better part of five years to finally forgive Tobias for hurting me and my mother all those years ago. But finally the wounds that had reopened when he came back into my life had scabbed over and my past no longer haunted me. I would never fully trust the man, but at least I could allow him back in my life and he adored his grandchildren. Matter of fact, he spoiled them rotten.

I dreaded when they came back from a weekend at Granddad and Grammy's house, because Tobias let them get away with murder, and Hallie was a little terror until Lily and I laid down the law to her again, and even Gabriel acted out. One time, after Hallie had "borrowed" my razor and shaved poor Aurora's ruff off, I asked my unrepentant four-year-old why she had done such a thing to our dog and she had replied, "'Cause I'm a princess and I can do whatever I want. Granddad says so. So there!"

I had told her what she did was wrong and she ought to apologize to poor Aurora and she shook her head stubbornly and snapped, "No! And you can't make me."

Her insolence and disrespect had earned her a spanking from me, for that was one thing I never tolerated from any of my children, and afterwards she had sobbed that she was telling her grandfather on me. When Tobias visited later on that afternoon, she had told him all about how mean I was and the wretched traitor turned to me and said, "For Godsake, Severus, go easy on the kid, she's only four." That from a man who could have given a drill sergeant lessons in discipline! But he melted like butter when it came to his grandchildren and hated to see them unhappy, even if it was deserved. My mother was the same way, allowing her grandchildren liberties in her flat that she never had permitted me growing up.

It had shocked me speechless then, but now I understood better since Dani had come into my life. Your grandchild was a chance for you to have fun and to share your hard earned wisdom with, and you left the disciplining up to her parents, mostly.

Aurora had managed to successfully herd the children away from the pond, and now they were throwing a ball for her to fetch. Like her predecessor, Rory could perform various tricks on command, as well as being able to think independently when the situation arose. She was one of the few dogs I knew who never set foot across my property unless told to do so, and could accompany me for walks without a lead. She would stay and guard the house if told to do so, but was happiest by my side. On any given evening, she could be found curled close to me, her head on my foot, or in my lap, asking to be petted. Her only flaws were a tendency to beg at the table and the fact that she was terrified of thunder and lightning.

Some dogs have that phobia and there is nothing you can do save try and calm them down. Aurora howled and shook and hid under a chair when a storm was nigh, and I had to give her small doses of a Calming Draught to settle her down. She also hated getting wet and sometimes refused to go out in the rain. She also hated baths, but would tolerate me giving her one, though she glared at me as if I were torturing her the entire time.

I loved her dearly, and so did my family, and she in turn gave to us her own loyal and gentle heart. There were few people she disliked, Aurora could make friends with a stone, but two of them happened to be at the picnic. One was Lily's sister, Petunia, who was so uptight and fussy that she couldn't stand animals, calling them dirty nasty creatures. Aurora always made sure to come by and lick her hands and rub up against her expensive suits, shedding a carpet of red-gold hair on her. Gave Petunia fits and made Lily smile.

The other was Petunia's son, Dudley, who was spoiled and arrogant and liked to tease small children till they cried. He was a bully and I detested him. So did my dog. She barked and growled at him from the moment he walked into my house till the moment he left. He had gotten a good spanking from me once for kicking Aurora down the steps when she was a puppy, and he had never forgotten or forgiven me for it. Not that I cared. A child who abused an animal often grew up into a petty and abusive man, and the only reason I tolerated him at the picnic was to keep the peace in the family.

He was leaning against a tree, stuffing his face with watermelon and some of the chocolate and peanut butter sandwich cake that my mother had made, he looked like a rugby player gone to seed, and when he wasn't eating, he was passing remarks about everyone.

Usually, I kept a sharp eye on him, but I got distracted by Dani putting grass in her mouth. "No! Grass isn't for little girls," I said, picking her up and removing the grass from her mouth. She immediately began to wail until Lily handed me a sprinkled sugar cake to give her instead.

"Mmmm . . .good!" she declared, and stuffed half the treat into her mouth while sitting on my lap.

Two minutes later, Gabe came over crying. "Dad, Dudley says my name is stupid 'cause I was named after a dog! He called me dog breath and said I was pug-ugly!"

He was quickly followed by Hallie, who looked like she wanted to hex someone. "So I kicked him in the knee for being nasty, Dad, and he said he was going to knock me to the moon."

"He was gonna 'mack Hallie," put in Roxanne. "He's nasty!"

"And mean!" added her twin, they were both redheads, though not identical. "We no like him!"

"He what?" I hissed, furious.

"Severus, you'd better go over there," my father called, jerking his head towards Dudley, who was now being confronted by a sizzling mad Harry.

"Mum, take Dani." I handed her my granddaughter and rose to my feet.

Behind me I heard Lily say to Hallie, "Hallie, you know you're not supposed to kick people."

"But Mum, he was being mean to Gabe and I have to defend my brother. Granddad said so."

"You tell 'em, princess. Lily, you ought to tell that sister of yours to teach her kid some manners," Dad said disapprovingly.

Petunia had gone into the ladies room to fix up her makeup, it was running in the heat, or so she said. In any case, she wasn't there to curb her son.

I strode over to where my son and Dudley were faced off, Harry was glaring at his cousin fit to kill, and Dudley wore a sulky indignant expression on his face that was better suited to a five-year-old.

"You ever raise a hand to my little sister again, I'm going to break all your fingers," Harry growled.

Aurora crouched next to him, snarling and barking angrily.

"Shut up, mutt!" cried Dudley, looking as if he were going to try and kick Aurora. "Mangy bitch!"

"Kick my dog, Dursley, and I'll kick your arse to China and back again." Harry warned, clenching his fists.

"You and what army?" Dudley brayed, he outweighed Harry by at least forty pounds. He shook a fist in Harry's face mockingly. "I'm so scared!"

Aurora's growl deepened and I feared she was about to spring at the fat pig.

Not wanting to endure a lawsuit, I snapped my fingers and said, "Aurora, down!"

The dog obeyed, lying down instantly.

"Boys, what is going on here?" I demanded.

"Dad, he tried to hit Hallie, so I stopped him," Harry informed me hotly.

"Uncle Severus, the little brat kicked me for no reason!" Dudley whined.

"Liar," Harry refuted. "She kicked you after you called Gabe names and told him he needed to crawl around on all fours like a dog and made him cry."

"Kid's a little wuss," Dudley sneered. "But then, he would be, named after some stupid dog."

"That dog was probably smarter than you, Dudley, and more obedient," I snapped. "How old are you again?"

"Nineteen," came the sullen response.

"Really? You act more like a nine-year-old, teasing little boys that way. What's the matter with you?"

"It was a joke, Uncle Severus." He shrank back from me.

"Funny, isn't it, how you're the only one laughing?" I scowled ferociously. "Grow up, nephew, before I de-age you and stick you in a corner like the spoiled toddler you resemble."

He blanched, "You wouldn't! You wizards aren't allowed to use magic outside of school, Mum told me!"

Harry started to chuckle derisively. "That only applied to underage wizards, you dolt!"

Aurora barked in agreement.

"Shut it, mutt," Dudley shouted, very red-faced. "Before I kick your teeth in." He lifted his foot menacingly.

I stepped in front of Aurora and gave the dumb twit a death glare. "Mr. Dursley," I said, my tone colder than winter and harder than iron, the tone all my children knew meant they were in serious trouble. "I would have thought you'd learned your lesson after the last time you kicked my dog. Need I repeat it?"

"You can't, Uncle Sev!" Dudley bleated. "I'm too big to spank."

"Not if he de-ages you, Dud. Then your arse is grass, you can bet on that. Dad will wallop you like a stray dog." Harry smirked, clearly enjoying pulling one over on the rotten bugger. He knew as well as I did that there was no spell that could instantly de-age a person. But if there had been, I would have used it in a heartbeat to teach my nephew some manners.

Dudley's eyes were bugging out. "No! Please! I'm sorry . . .I'll never do it again!" he begged.

"Never do what again?" I prompted.

"Kick your dog."

"What else?"

"Make fun of your kid."

"See that you don't. Or else I'll send you crying to your mother." I warned, my eyes like obsidian ice.

"Yes, sir." He whimpered pathetically.

"Now go and tell Gabe you're sorry. Then perhaps you ought to leave, since it seems all you're here to do is make trouble and criticize your elders."

He took the hint. "Okay, Uncle Sev. I never wanted to come here anyway, but Mum made me. Why would I want to hang around you unnatural freaks? You're the definition of abnormal."

I suppressed the urge to slap him a good one.

"Who are you calling abnormal, you great pudding?" Harry bristled.

I laid a hand on his shoulder and shook my head twice. Let it go, I urged silently.

Harry subsided, controlling his temper as I had taught him. I had no wish to add a fist fight to the activities going on. "Where's Gabe?" he asked.

"Over there, with Dani, Mum, and Hermione." I pointed to where my son was being hugged and comforted by all three witches.

Harry walked towards them, followed by Dudley.

I watched as my nephew went and apologized to my son and received a reluctant apology in turn from my daughter at Lily's urging. Dudley glared at her ungraciously, then muttered something about being bored and needing to visit some friends from Smeltings. He hopped on his expensive motorcycle, a candy apple red Triumph, just barely squeezing his immense buttocks onto the seat. I was amazed the bike didn't collapse. The engine roared and Dudley sped off, his buttocks jiggling as he shifted his weight.

I suppose the sight must have been too much to resist, because the next thing I saw was Aurora springing to her feet and racing down the road, chasing Dudley. She was having the time of her life, jumping up and nipping his bottom and barking, trying to herd him away from us.

He yelped and yipped like a cowardly cur, finally gunning the engine and vanishing out of sight in a cloud of foul smoke.

I whistled sharply, and Aurora turned and came back to me.

"Yay, Rory!" cheered Hallie and Gabe. "Eat 'im up!"

Everyone laughed, except for Petunia. Her pinched face grew even tighter and she sniffed, "Well, I never! Making sport of my poor baby that way! You ought to be ashamed. Mangy cur! She needs to be beaten!"

"So does your son." Tobias drawled, his face dark with anger. He had never liked the Dursleys and didn't give damn if they and all the rest of the world knew about it. "He could use a good couple licks with a belt to knock that high and might attitude out of him."

Petunia gasped. "How dare you? My Dudley is a sensitive, gifted, brilliant boy—"

Tobias snorted. "Sure he is. And I'm the Easter bunny. Lady, that kid's a selfish spoiled beast and about as sensitive as a box of rocks."

"Tobias!" Mum elbowed him in the ribs.

"What? She's delusional. Everything I said was true and all of us know it."

"Like you can talk, Tobias Snape! You're nothing but a drunken derelict."

"Was," Dad corrected, unfazed by her insults. "And that's got nothing to do with your son's attitude. You ought to have taught him better when he was Gabe's age, like Sev did with Harry. "

Petunia turned an unbecoming shade of crimson. "I'll not stand here and be lectured by the likes of you, Tobias Snape, you pickle-brained tosspot."

"Fine. Then leave."

Petunia spun around. "Lily, I don't know how you stand this insufferable rude lout as your father-in-law. If he were mine, I'd shoot myself. I'm leaving, I'll not stay and see my Diddykins maligned by you lot of freaks and deadbeats!"

"Freaks and deadbeats?" Lily said frostily. "Here I thought you'd changed , Tuney. I guess I was wrong."

"If the shoe fits, little sister . . ." Petunia replied. "I warned you, Lily, what would happen if you married Snape. You'd be dragged down in the gutter just like-"

"Don't finish that sentence, Petunia." Lily cut her off, her green eyes blazing. "If you're going to go down that old road again, you might as well follow your son back home to Surrey. Goodbye, sister dearest."

Petunia put her nose in the air. "Good day, little sister." She snatched up her purse and stalked off across the grass towards the parking lot.

All of us breathed a sigh of relief. Good riddance!

"Arsehole!" Dani piped up.

"Out of the mouths of babes," My father said, laughing.

"Harry, I'm going to kill you," Hermione snapped. Then she looked at her daughter. "Young lady, you do NOT say that word! It's very bad."

"Why? Daddy says it." Dani pointed out with her toddler's logic.

"Daddy's going to get his mouth washed out with soap."

"Oooh, Harry's in trouble!" sang Hallie, thinking it funny that her older brother was threatened with the same punishment she was for using foul language.

"Uh oh," said Danielle, and stuck her thumb in her mouth.

"Sorry," Harry apologized, giving Hermione his best hangdog expression. He picked up Dani and spun her around. "Hey, little miss. Don't go saying everything you hear. You want to get me in trouble?"

Dani grinned at him, her smile pure mischief. And pure Snape. "Bad Daddy!"

"Who, me?" Harry feigned innocence.

She nodded. "Mummy says so."

"Guess we know who wears the pants in that house," George remarked, chuckling.

"Poor bloke!" said Fred, sympathetically. "He's surrounded by know-it-alls."

"Like you, Daddy!" his girls chorused.

"Lucky me," Fred grinned ruefully.

While Harry fell to tickling Dani, Aurora and I went to sit next to Gabriel, who still looked unhappy. Gabe threw his arms about the lovable collie and hugged her. "You're a good dog, Rory." Aurora industriously washed the last traces of tears from his cheeks. "Stop it! I don't need a bath, silly collie." He gently pushed her muzzle away. Then he looked at me. "Dad, how come I'm named after a dog? Was it 'cause I'm ugly?"

"Certainly not!" I answered firmly. "Come here, Gabe." I picked him up and set him in my lap. "Don't listen to anything your fool cousin says. He isn't winning any beauty contests himself. You have your mum's beautiful copper colored hair and my eyes , and are the handsomest five-year-old I know."

"I'm five and three-quarters, Dad."

"I stand corrected. There's not an ugly bone in your body, imp, and don't ever let anyone tell you different. You were named after the archangel Gabriel and a very special dog, my collie Gabriel, who brought peace and love and understanding to everyone around him. He was the most loyal dog I ever had, and he saved Harry's life once when your brother was a baby and ran into the street. He was a real hero and I loved him very much."

"Did he die?"

"Yes. Now he's in heaven with your other grandparents. An angel with a fur coat."

My son giggled. "You're silly, Dad."

I tweaked his nose. "I can show you pictures of Gaby when we get home. He was the best friend anyone could ask for and whenever I needed him, he was there. After he died, I built a kind of memorial for him, but then I realized that the best memorial was right in my head. And when you were born, I thought you needed a strong name, a name you could be proud of. So I named you Gabriel."

"Oh." He leaned back against me, his small chest heaving a sigh of relief.

"Stupid Dudley!" Hallie rolled her eyes. "Who was I named after, Dad?"

"You were named after your grandmothers. Hallie was Mum's mother and Eileen is Gram's name."

"Your dad and I picked those names because they were special and so were you," Lily chimed in, tousling Hallie's hair. "You should be proud of your name, both of you."

"Will you tell me more about Gaby?" my son asked.

"Yes. When we get home, I'll show you the album and read you a story I wrote," I promised. "In the meantime, why don't you go and play with Roxy and Julie and Aurora?"

Gabriel hesitated until Hallie said kindly, "Come on, Gabe. We can play school an' I 'll let you be the potions professor this time."

"Okay. And if you don't do your homework I'll take away a gazillion points, like Dad does."

"What's a gazillion?" asked Roxanne.

"It's a number so big that you'll be in school forever trying to get rid of it," Fred told her.

"Wow! Cool! I wanna go to school forever." Roxanne slipped from his arms and followed her pals a short distance away to play.

"Where'd she come from?" George wondered, scratching his head.

Fred shrugged. "That's Angie's influence, not mine."

"Naturally," his wife said, and we smiled.

Lily leaned her head against my shoulder. "What a beautiful day. I'm sorry Petunia and Dudley nearly spoiled it. I never should have invited them."

"It wasn't your fault, Mum," Harry said diplomatically. "They're the ones who chose to act like snobs and cause trouble."

"There's one in every family," Tobias remarked.

"Two in ours," said George ruefully.

"Percy and Percy's wife," Fred added. "Don't let it get you down, Lily. We don't. You have a great family and it's their loss for not wanting to be a part of it."

Lily smiled. "Thank you."

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Harry whisper something in his daughter's ear and set her down.

She crawled rapidly across the blanket and into Lily's lap. "Don' be sad, Gran." She threw her arms about Lily and kissed her. "All better!"

Lily cuddled her close. "You're the best medicine, baby girl."

Harry winked at me and I gave him a nod of approval. Then I Summoned a glass of lemonade and slowly drank it while watching Aurora fetch a stick over and over, the children had tired of school and now romped with the collie and played on the swings, laughing and giggling. I looked about at my extended family and thought about how lucky I was to be where I am today and how far I had come from the poor ragged boy from Spinner's End, whose best friends had been a red-haired girl and a collie. But for a dog, my story might have had a very different ending.

Thank you, Gabriel.

The End

Writing this story has allowed me to grieve the loss of a good friend, and at the same time realize how lucky I and my family were to have him in our lives. We will never forget him. I truly believe that the love of a pet-dog, cat, bird, or whatever-changes us for the better and teaches us love and compassion and to accept people as they are and not how we wish them to be. The love of an animal is an amazing thing, because it never dies. And if you know the love of an animal, then you are truly blessed. Here's to all the Gabriels out there and to those whose lives they have changed. And thanks to everyone who has read this, I hope you enjoyed Sev and Gabe's journey.
 


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