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*warning-some sexual content*

Amicus and Sirocco spent two days getting to know their long lost daughter again, before they had to return to their herd in the Forbidden Forest. Rhiannon also returned to her herd, which was somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, in a glen deep within the mountains. Hermione was sad to see them go, but she knew she would see them again when she returned to school. For now, though, she would remain here with Severus and Harry, though Amicus assured her that anytime she wished she could come and visit her unicorn family. Moon Fire could show her the hidden track through the forest to their grove. Severus had fashioned a small pouch for Imara to keep the unicorn pendant in while she was in her hooved form, it had charms on it that would place the pendant into the pouch and tie it about Imara's neck. When she wished to change back, she had only to call the pendant forth and place her horn through it.

Hermione was delighted with it and thanked her guardian profusely until he told her not to mention it again. Once Amicus and Sirocco had left, Severus took Hermione to the Ministry to finalize the guardianship and take care of financial affairs regarding Hermione's inheritance and transfer of her monies to her vault in Gringotts. All went smoothly until some budding Ministry official with a big mouth leaked the fact that Severus Snape, the Sorcerer Who Slayed Voldemort, was there to the press.

Immediately, Severus was bombarded by eager reporters desperate to make their mark by getting an exclusive interview. Now there was nothing Snape hated more than publicity. He had never liked being in the public eye, and even less sharing personal information with anyone he did not trust implicitly. He had always been closemouthed and secretive, his legacy as a spy, and that had not changed simply because he had defeated the worst dark wizard in Britain. But he was aware that the press would keep hounding him until he gave them what they wanted—namely one interview.

So, when the vultures gathered about him, he ordered them into a spare boardroom, and snapped, "All of you, quit trying to snap my bloody photo, thrust quills at me, and stop babbling like a flock of chickens! Sit down and shut up!" He pointed to several chairs about a low table. All the reporters, there were about fifteen of them, sat down like chastened school children. Snape surveyed them with a glower which Hermione was very familiar with. She hid a smile. It seemed the professor's reputation cowed even the vampire press. "Now then, I shall pick one of you to speak with in private. So don't even attempt to eavesdrop with magic. What I tell that reporter can be shared among you . . .so that all of you can report accurately the information I shall divulge. Any attempt to romanticize or embellish my personal life will result in my banning interviews for the rest of my lifetime . . .and I plan on living a long time." He gave them a wicked smirk. "Stick to the facts, ladies and gentlemen."

His gaze fixed upon one very junior reporter, a young witch whom he had taught three years ago, a Hufflepuff who worked for Witch Weekly. "You—Dana Jones, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir. You had me fifth period potions, Professor." The witch, who had curly blond hair and a winning smile said eagerly.

"I remember. You were good with Clarifying Drafts, less so with antidotes," Severus said. "In any case, you may come with me and ask me questions for thirty minutes."

Dana jumped to her feet eagerly, scattering her quill and parchment pad all over. "Thank you, Professor! It's such an honor . . .oops! I'm such a dunce! Sorry!"

Blushing, she waved her wand and her items soared into her arms.

Severus groaned under his breath and rolled his eyes. Some things never changed. "Miss Jones, take a breath. And focus, for Merlin's sake." She had always been rather excitable and flighty, though when calm she could brew decently.

"Yes, Professor Snape." She obeyed and then followed him and Hermione from the room.

Severus took her into yet another empty office, there were a lot of them upon this floor, and cast a Muffliato Charm upon them, as well as Anti-Eavesdropping Charms upon the door. "Watch the door, won't you, Hermione?"

"Of course, Severus," she said and went to do so.

Dana gaped at her. "You let students call you by your first name now?"

"Only when said student is also my ward, and home on break," Snape informed her briskly.

With that juicy tidbit to start, Dana Jones conducted a very concise and intelligent interview, portraying the new hero of the wizarding world as not only a brilliant potion maker, but also a strict yet caring family man, one who was willing to take in not one, but two orphans. Severus refused to reveal where he lived, though he did tell Dana that it was a large house somewhere in Britain. He explained that he had grown up in North Yorkshire, had been best friends with Harry's mother, and attended Hogwarts during the 1970's. He was more forthcoming about his activities during the war, telling about how Dumbledore had recruited him as a spy, his position at Hogwarts as Potions Master and Head of Slytherin, and his membership in the Order of the Phoenix. He even told Dana that he was a Selenian, though nothing else about him becoming the next Endymion. That was private. Dana was very pleased with his answers, especially when he told her that Voldemort had been defeated by quick reactions and timing and a special spell that turned the dreaded necromancer to dust.

"How wonderful, professor! I'll bet that old skull was shaking in his boots when you hexed him, right?"

"Actually, he was praying to his dark god, Set, to strike me down," Severus replied. "I came in right after he had killed Albus Dumbledore."

"Oooh! So old Voldy worshipped Set?"

Severus nodded gravely. "He did indeed. He killed the Headmaster with a spell known only to that dark brotherhood."

Dana was writing rapidly. Then she concluded her interview by asking Severus what he planned to do now.

He responded by telling her that he intended to return to teaching at Hogwarts so long as his children were in school, and afterwards would retire and research and invent new potions. "I have always been a better researcher than instructor, but I need to keep an eye upon my wards, otherwise they tend to find trouble."

"You mean Harry does," Hermione put in, she had been within range when Snape cast the Muffliato spell and so was not affected by it.

He slanted a sharp glance at her. "Don't play innocent with me, miss. I seem to recall catching the pair of you out of bed before term ended. And then giving the both of you detention."

"Yes, but . . .Harry gets in more trouble than I ever have." Hermione defended herself.

"Now that I cannot argue with," Severus conceded. He turned back to Dana. "Have I satisfied your curiosity enough, Miss Jones?"

"Oh yes, Professor! Thank you so very much!" Dana beamed at him. "Umm . . . would you mind if I took a picture or two? And . . .could you sign one for me? I'd like to hang it upon my photo op wall." She asked shyly.

"Very well." The reluctant hero agreed, and endured three pictures, one of which he signed with a flourish, and one with Hermione. He told Dana he would take one of Harry with him as well and send it to her. Then he swept out of the conference room and Apparated back to the farm with his daughter.

HPSSHPSSHP

While Hermione and Severus were at the Ministry, Harry was penning a letter to Ron, explaining about what had gone on over the summer so far, except he left out Hermione's past, because he knew Hermione wished to tell Ron herself. He told his friend about Severus taking him home and then punishing the Dursleys for their cruel treatment of him, and how he had agreed to spend the summer as Snape's ward. He told Ron about Selene and his initiation and being able to become the black unicorn. He even told Ron about the final battle with Voldemort.

Then he asked the other boy how his summer had gone and how Bill was doing since being bitten. He finished and sent the letter off with Hedwig, then shifted into Nightblaze and ran across the pasture for a while. When he was tired, he changed back and went to take a nap on the couch.

He woke when Hermione and Severus came home, they ate lunch, and Hermione decided to go and help Severus brew some counteragents for next term's classes while Harry resumed his nap on the couch.

This time he was awakened by a tapping on the window. Two owls were waiting to be let in and deliver the mail. Harry quickly opened the window.

The first owl was Hedwig, she carried a reply from Ron in her beak. The other was a strange owl, her letter was addressed to Severus. But the return address was Grimmauld Place. Harry wondered why Sirius or Remus, who lived there, would be writing to Severus. The post owl for Severus flew inside to look for the recipient, and Harry took Hedwig's letter, fed her several treats and yelled down the stairs for Severus that he had a letter.

Then Harry sat down to read Ron's letter.

Harry,

I had a rather ordinary summer, except recently, when Mum, Dad, Charlie, and Bill raced off to help kill Voldy. They left Percy in charge of me and Ginny, and you can guess what fun we had! I'd have sooner pickled rat spleens! Bill says he'll be okay, so long as he takes the Wolfsbane every other month. He's got a scar across his cheek but it makes him look dashing (according to Mum). He's seeing Fleur Delacour now, can you believe it?

I'll tell you, when I learned from Mum and Dad that Snape was the one who defeated old Moldy-Shorts and that you'd been living with him I almost passed out cold. I thought I was having a nightmare. I mean this was SNAPE! The greasy git who made our lives a misery for four years and now he was the HERO of the wizarding world? And your guardian! I thought maybe you'd been slipped a Confunding draft.

I would have asked you before, at Dumbledore's funeral (still can't believe the Lemondrop Geezer is dead), but when I looked for you, you were gone.

Then I got your letter and . . .I read it six times.

Then I compared your handwriting with one of your other ones just to be sure this wasn't some kind of imposter or a joke.

Snape saved you.

The bat of the dungeons saved you.

SEVERUS SNAPE saved you.

See, I still can't believe it.

Why didn't you tell me what was going on with your bloody relatives? Aren't I your best mate? Why tell the Greasy Git and not me? Why not tell him to go bugger himself and come and live at the Burrow? What, we're not good enough for you?

And Hermione's his ward too!

Are you both CRACKED?

What sort of life can you have with HIM? Except one full of rules and homework? Does he even let you ride your broom? Play Quidditch? Do anything resembling fun? Sorry, but I just can't . . .see you being happy with him. Not unless you've lost your mind.

Now I've probably made you want to slug me one.

But write back and explain, won't you?

Your mate,

Ron

Harry groaned and put his head in his hands. He had feared Ron would flip out once he knew the truth. And he didn't even know the whole truth. Harry wondered how he would take Hermione's revelation. Sighing, he picked up his quill again. He had to set Ron straight on a few things.

Dear Ron,

It wasn't my idea to have Severus—that's what I call him now—come with me to Privet Drive. Dumbledore insisted. And frankly, I was kind of glad he did. I wasn't looking forward to going back there. At all. So Severus came, and he . . .well, he found out about the things the Dursleys did to me. It made him furious. Anyhow, he saw the way my aunt and uncle treated me and my fat cousin. Made him mad as a Hungarian Horntail with a bitten off tail. He cast the old magic of the seven plagues on them for what they did to me. And then he made my uncle sign over custody to him and took me away from that hellhole.

Ron, nobody ever did anything like that before for me. You and your family have been good to me, but I would never have been able to tell you what they did to me, or ask you to risk your lives for me. It wouldn't have been fair. But Severus . . .he understands me. He's been there, and . . .his wards are second to none. I felt safe with him, protected with him.

He's not like the greasy dungeon bat we knew at school. That wasn't him at all. Trust me. I would never stay with anyone who would abuse me again. Never. Severus is all right. He's a pain in the arse with his rules, I can't deny it, and I'll probably always get into trouble with him over it, but hey . . .you do the same with YOUR mum and dad. I've come to know and respect him and maybe even . . .see him as a father figure. And no, I'm not under the influence of anything.

I've changed, Ron. Grown up some, learned some things that I never knew before. About myself and Severus and about Selene. Hermione too, though she has her own story to tell you.

Sorry if you feel slighted, but there's no reason to. I still like your family and you, even if I'm now Severus' ward. I hope you can accept that fact. Not all Slytherins follow Voldemort. Severus never did. Just ask your parents. They worship Selene the same as he does. I don't want to quarrel over this. But I will if you make me.

Your friend,

Harry

He then sent the letter off with Hedwig, telling her she didn't have to wait for a reply, that Ron could send him one with Pig, if he wanted. He hoped Ron could understand. But if he couldn't . . .Harry decided he wasn't going to put up with any of Ron's sulking and attitude, like he had during third year and the tournament. His life had changed . . .for the better. And he wasn't going to let anyone ruin it. Not even his best friend.

HPSSHPSSHP

Severus read over the note from Sirius and then sent him a reply. He shook his head slightly, faintly annoyed.

"Bad news, sir?" Hermione queried. "Sorry, I don't mean to stick my nose in . . ."

He gave her a wry smile. "But of course you do. You are more curious than ten cats. It's not bad news, merely something I did not expect. A request from Black to come across my land and enter Sherwood to . . .ah . . .visit the dryad Danae. I gave him leave to do so. But a part of me wonders if I will have cause to regret it."

Hermione cocked her head. Then she made a sudden leap of intuition. "Because Sirius is Harry's godfather?"

Severus looked at her, startled. He had forgotten how perceptive a unicorn could be, even one wearing human shape. "I don't trust him. There is bad blood between us and I . . ." he shook his head.

"You think he'll be a bad influence on Harry," Hermione finished with that uncanny intuition she now possessed.

"When did you get to be so wise?"

Hermione shrugged. "I don't know. Ever since I learned what I really am, I can . . . know things, feel things . . .sometimes it scares me . . ." she admitted softly.

"Don't be frightened. It's a gift . . .a unicorn's perception is part of who you are." Severus reassured her, gently squeezing her shoulder. "Though it can be discommoding at times, especially for one like me, who is accustomed to keeping secrets."

She lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to pry . . ."

"I shall teach you control. But for now . . .you are correct. Black has had a reputation in the past for being reckless and impulsive, traits that Harry already has and does not need encouragement in using. But I shall speak with Black later about that."

She touched his shoulder lightly, her brown eyes filled with an eldritch knowing, partly her birthright and partly her Gift from Selene. "Don't be afraid, Severus. Harry won't leave you. If I know anything, I know that."

He smiled down at her, this marvelous intuitive child, and felt oddly comforted by her words. "This once, Imara, the student becomes the teacher." Then he cleared his throat. "Enough speculation. Let us return to what we were doing. I believe we were on step five . . .?"

She moved away from him, and began brewing again, picking up smoothly where they had left off, and Severus felt a surge of pride at her precision and dedication. He had not known another student as apt as Hermione since Lily had walked the halls of Hogwarts over twenty years ago.

HPSSHPSSHP

Sherwood Forest

Danae's Oak:

Sirius Black had never known such passion existed, especially not for one who was not even of his own race. But from the moment he had laid eyes upon Danae, he had felt a tug upon his heart and desire sweeping through him. He hardly knew her and yet somehow he had known her forever. He couldn't explain it, but no other woman he had ever dated or took to his bed ever affected him the way Danae did.

He had spent several days trying to ignore the urging in his body and his heart. But every rustle of the leaves in the trees outside the window speared him with longing, the longing of a man for a woman who is his heart's desire. He could not sleep, but he dreamed of her, the way the sunlight fell upon her hair, which was the rich hue of amber and fire and oak leaves in autumn, and danced in her tilted leaf green eyes, that sparkled with mischief and desire. He longed to taste her perfect lips, tinted rose like the dawn, and run his hands over her small curvaceous body, built to arouse a man to forget everything save pleasure.

He woke sweating and aching, his body burning, and knowing that only one thing could cool his ardor. He must see her again, hear her voice, touch her, hold her . . . he needed her the way he had never needed anyone in his life. He had always been a casual lover, his partners varied, he had walked away from them with a minimum of regret.

But not Danae.

Danae was for him, and he could not even imagine leaving her.

So he wrote to Snape, asking the other's permission, though it galled him to do so, to come to his house and enter the forest. Snape, who had saved his life, whom he owed. He still found it unbelievable that he owed his existence to the boy he had once tormented and thought a sneaky scummy bastard, destined to come to a bad end.

But the bond he now felt could not lie. Snape had given him back his life, called him back from the Gray Road, and he felt both grateful and annoyed. He did not want to owe Snape. But it was a moot point. He wanted to cling to his preconceived notions of the man, but they were shattered. He wanted to resent the other in the worst way, because Harry had chosen Snape as his guardian. But Selene Herself had appeared to him, and Severus was Her Chosen. So Sirius was forced to admit that Snape was a good guardian for his godson and had seen for himself that the man cared for Harry. Had saved Harry, even as he had saved Sirius. So while Sirius wished to continue condemning the Slytherin, his conscience, which had not been awakened back when he was an irresponsible schoolboy, refused to allow it.

And Remus, who had tried to be the conscience for all of them back in the good old days, had told him quite bluntly that he ought not to resent Snape for doing what he could for Harry, because someone had to do it, and if Harry felt comfortable with Severus, than Sirius needed to shut his trap and accept it. He also reminded Sirius that Severus had been Lily's best friend, and had sworn a sacred vow to love and protect her son. "Harry's happy where he is, and that's the important thing, Sirius. Harry. Not the fact that you don't think the greasy Slytherin's good enough for James' son. Now leave it be, for Selene's sake. Just leave it. Don't be a selfish bastard, think about your godson."

For once, Sirius had listened to Remus, to his conscience, and only asked Snape for permission to cross his land to see Danae, though he also wanted to visit with his godson. Now here he was, beneath the spreading branches of the magnificent oak tree, waiting for the elusive dryad to show herself. The leaves rustled seductively. Sirius stared at the gnarled trunk before him, uncertain how to summon the dryad, he immediately knew summon was not the word he sought, for she was not his subject, like Kreacher, but a free entity. Last time, she had come to him, and been ready and willing to claim him as hers. Now . . .he bit his lip. Should he call out to her?

Suddenly he felt something tickling at his ear. He whirled, to find a a very slender branch with a few small oak leaves hanging next to him. The branch quivered, and Sirius had the distinct feeling he was being laughed at. "Uh . . .you're Danae's tree, right?" he began, feeling like a simpleton for talking to a tree. "Err . . .could you please tell her that I . . .Sirius Black, the one she chose . . .is here waiting for her . . .?"

To his shock, the tree wrapped the vine-like tendril about his shoulders, as if cuddling with him. Sirius froze, wondering if all trees that had dryads within them were this . . .touchy-feely. Did the tree need to approve of him too before he was accepted as Danae's mate?

The leaves caressed his face, and he felt a bolt of unadulterated lust shoot through him. Bloody hell! I'm being aroused by a tree! But that's . . .that's . . .

A giggle, musical and utterly unforgettable, floated through the air. "Impossible? Not if the dryad you seek is within her oak, silly wizard."

Danae suddenly appeared within the oak tree's trunk, standing framed within the wood, as if in a painting. Then she stepped free and the hole where she had been sealed itself effortlessly. She waved a hand, and the caressing branch slipped away, though not before giving the astonished magus a pat on the backside.

He blushed, the first time he could recall being embarrassed by a female's attention ever. "You did that on purpose!"

"But of course! Sirius, my tree is a part of me. It is like an extension of my soul, the heart of who I am. In order to accept me as your mate, you must also accept my tree." She leaned a hand casually upon the trunk, and Sirius saw it glimmer with magic for a brief instant. Danae's golden skin suddenly took on a darker cast, then she stepped away, and it faded.

She came to him, small and lithe, but when she wrapped her arms about him and drew his mouth down to hers for a kiss, he discovered that her frailty was but illusion. She was strong, as strong and sturdy as the oak she lived within, and her kisses ignited a fire inside him that threatened to burn out of control.

She smelled like fresh breezes and spring and it tantalized him. He buried his face in her hair and inhaled, intoxicated. "So beautiful . . .Merlin, Danae! I've never . . . felt anything like this before . . .never . . ."

She pulled away from him to look into his eyes. "I should hope not. I am no mere mortal with barely a century of experience . . .I have lived over three centuries as you reckon time . . .though that is a mere sprig for my kind. We live as long as our tree does, and my tree is young yet."

"Does your tree have a name?"

"Yes, but you would never be able to pronounce it."

"Try me. I'm good with languages. One in particular," he purred, leaving no doubt as to what he was referring.

She smiled. "Oh, indeed? We shall see, won't we?" She gave his bottom a pinch, making him jump a little. "Trust me when I say your mortal tongue cannot reproduce the tone and sounds."

"Is there a translation?"

She shook her head. "Trees do not speak with mortals. Do not worry, I shall translate your words to my tree if there is need. Come," she drew him closer beneath the branches, and two branches dropped down and created a wooden swing for them to sit upon, with vines twining round the back. Danae hopped upon it, her bare feet swinging to and fro, and patted the space next to her.

Sirius looked dubious. "Will it hold my weight?"

"Of course. Come and sit."

He did, and found the swing was not at all flimsy, it was smooth and took his weight without any creaking or groaning. Danae immediately snuggled next to him and he held her close. "I missed you."

"How much?" she teased, running her hands over him. Next thing he knew, his shirt had vanished.

"You walked my dreams, awake and asleep."

"Good. Then the bond is a strong one." She nipped his ear playfully. "Not that I doubted it. What the Lady promises comes to pass."

Slowly Sirius nodded. "Have you had many . . .men as mates then?"

She chuckled. "You are my only mate, Sirius Orion Black. As was promised. A dryad chooses one mate for the duration of her beloved's lifetime. Before you I had dalliances, but nothing permanent. Was it that way for you as well?"

"Uh . . .yeah. I've had flings but nothing that made me feel the way I do with you." He admitted.

"And how do I make you feel?"

"Like I've died and awakened in Selene's paradise." He said honestly.

"Very good. For that is how I feel with you also." Her fingers were massaging his shoulders, moving erotically up and down his spinal cord. "I have been waiting ever so many centuries for you, my wizard."

Sirius gasped. "Danae! Holy Merlin!"

His dryad gave a slow smile of utter wicked delight. "And in that time, I learned a few things about love. Shall I show you them?"

"Please!"

The swing started to rise, pulling them up into the oak tree's canopy.

Before Sirius quite knew what was going on, the swing had transformed into a woodsy bower, with vine shrouded walls and a curious pallet made of down and the fluff of cattails, bound by soft leaves.

"Because you mortals prefer something soft to cushion you," the dryad smirked, then she whirled about him in a dance that nearly caused him to drool in longing.

When it ended, she was clothed in nothing save her hair, and her green-eyed gaze beckoned to him irresistibly. "Come, my lord Black. Our wedding night awaits."

"Wedding night? When did we get married?" he stammered.

"When you accepted my offer. That was your vow to me and mine to you. This is a marriage in the Old Ways, and all it requires is the consent of two adults and a single act of consummation." She put her hands on her hips. "Come, you are not modest, quit pretending so. Or is it your intention to play the reluctant groom?"

"Hell, no!" He quickly banished his clothes, then he fell atop the mattress with her, showing her quite plainly that there was nothing reluctant about him at all.

He lost track of time then, lost track of everything save Danae and the wondrous things she made him feel. He had never found a woman that could match him in the bedroom. Until this one. In fact, she exhausted him, much to his astonishment. He found her gentle as a kitten and fierce as a wildcat by turns. Yet she seemed to sense instinctively when he had enough, and then she halted their games, lying contentedly in his embrace.

"My husband. I love you," she whispered, her breath sweet and smelling delightfully of honey and cinnamon.

"How can you love me? You barely know me."

"It is the dryad way. To love at first sight the mate she is meant to have." Her fingers traced his jaw. "Besides, you and I have met before, long and long ago. Can you not feel the connection between us?"

"Yes . . .I do . . .I don't understand how or why . . ." But there was something within him that recognized her and even if he didn't understand it, he felt it.

"You and I loved before, in another time, another life. And such as we shall always find each other again. That is Selene's promise to those who love without reservation, with all they are and will be."

"You're talking about reincarnation?"

"I am talking about a love so powerful it transcends time and space."

"Were you a dryad then?"

She shrugged. "I do not know. That life is over. All that remains is my love for you. Can you not feel it?" She kissed him again.

What he felt was extraordinary, a meeting of bodies and souls like nothing he had ever experienced before. He drowned in the sensation, and never wanted it to end. But of course it did, and when he lay panting beside her, he said, "Will it be like this every time?"

She grinned. "I would say so."

He returned her smile with a roguish one of his own. "What did I ever do to deserve you?"

She propped herself up on his shoulder and said seriously, "You let go of an old grudge and opened your heart. You allowed Vengeance to fade and listened to Selene's advice."

"That's it?"

"That is everything. Had you not, we could not be together. There is no room in my heart for one who is Vengeance's Warrior. Revenge is not in my makeup. A tree knows only silence and stubbornness, how to bend against the wind, and to dig deep and draw strength from the earth. A tree craves warmth and light and water, it knows nothing of hatred and revenge. Those are human emotions."

"Yet you know love."

"As do all living creatures. It may not be love as you understand it, but nevertheless . . ."

He shifted, turning so he faced her. "For so long I had nothing but revenge to sustain me, there in my stone prison . . ." Quietly, he told her about his unjust imprisonment and how he had feared it had destroyed everything good and decent within him.

"No." She put a finger to his lips. "Dwell not on what was past. You are no longer imprisoned. You are free, and none shall ever hold you against your will again, not even me."

"Danae, can you leave your tree?"

"If there is need, I can remain away for at least a week. But no longer."

"Then how can we make this work? How can we be together when you need your tree and I . . . well . . .I suppose I could build a hut in the forest . . .but . . ."

"You can make home close by and I shall come to you there, or you can come here to me. We can thus part without parting. Really, Sirius, it's naught to worry about."

"Maybe not for you, my sweet nymph."

"If need be, you are always welcome in my tree."

For some reason that made him burst out laughing. "Hahaha . . .me, the last male descendant of the Noble House of Black, living like a wild man of the forest . . .! Mother would . . .would have a frothing bloody fit . . ." He collapsed on top of her, unable to contain his mirth.

"Is your mother's opinion important to you?" she asked, puzzled.

He shook his head, dashing tears from his eyes. "Danae, my mother is dead and gone and even if she weren't . . .I wouldn't give a bloody damn . . ." He kissed the tip of her pert nose. "All right, so I have to ask Snape about any available property around here. I can sell Grimmauld Place, that'll give me plenty of ready cash . . ." he smirked again, imagining Walburga Black spinning in her grave at the mere idea of selling his ancestral home. "Never liked it there anyway." He eyed the dryad's slim figure. "Err . . .if we have kids . . .what will they be? Human or half-human?"

"Already you think of our children?"

"Well . . .I was just wondering . . ."

"Any daughters we have shall be like me, a dryad to the bone. Usually a dryad only bears daughters. But on very rare occasions . . .she may carry a boy child to term, this has happened maybe a handful of times in millennia, and then he will be very longlived, with an affinity for plants and earth magic, but still mortal . . ."

"Oh. Looks like I'll have a bevy of daughters then. That's . . .ironic, considering what a rake I used to be."

"Were you wild in your youth?"

"You could say that. I was also reckless and unforgiving and cruel at times. Especially to . . .the wizard who saved my life."

"Ah. Children often are."

He shook his head, shame sinking its fangs into him. "I was . . .I nearly killed him. All over a stupid rivalry back when we were boys. I didn't regret it then, but now I do. Now I do." He repeated emphatically.

"You owe him a lifedebt?"

"Yes. I misjudged him badly. I need to make amends, but I don't know how."

She looked at him gravely, her childlike face set in stern lines. "That is easy. You must apologize for your wrongdoing."

"That's the hard part."

"Mortals!" she snorted. "It is two little words. Why do you find them so difficult?"

"What if he refuses to accept my apology?"

"Worry about that if it happens. Who do you owe this apology to?"

"Severus Snape."

She sat bolt upright. "The Bright One's Chosen? Her next Endymion?"

"Say what?" Sirius was utterly bewildered. He understood the Chosen part, but what in bloody hell was an Endymion?

"Not what—who. He is Her Chosen consort for this turning." Danae said simply.

Sirius would have fallen over had he been standing. "You mean—Snape and the Lady—oh bloody damn hell . . ."

Danae cocked an eyebrow at him. "You should apologize swiftly, beloved. Selene is not normally moved to vengeance, but harm done to Her consort may very well anger Her . . ."

"Right. I was going to head over to his place anyhow . . .but I'll do it later. Right now all I want is you, Danae . . ."

Snape could wait. Right then all he wanted was to enjoy his new wife. It was, after all, his wedding night.

HPSSHPSSHP

That same night

Just after midnight:

Severus woke with moonlight streaming in his window. It shone directly upon him, a brilliant full moon, and he felt the magic in his blood stir within him. He had always been midnight's creature, even as a small child, he had never feared the dark. Since becoming Selene's avatar, he discovered his connection to the night was even more profound. He sat upon, feeling a slow irresistible pull deep inside him. Quickly he threw on some clothes, not bothering with his boots, instead shoving his feet into calfskin slippers. He even left his cloak behind. He knew somehow he would not need it.

On ghost feet he glided from the house, leaving his wards sleeping, noiseless he walked across the grass. The moon shone high and pure above him, casting its bright radiance over the yard. He basked in the silvery light, turning his face upwards. He felt extraordinarily at peace, at one with the land, drinking in the serenity of the moonlight.

Yet at the same time he felt energized, his blood quickening with an unfamiliar sensation, similar to when he shifted to stallion form and ran through the trees, an eagerness and longing that he could not quite define. Selene, I am here. What would you have of me?

Moonlight sparkled and glittered, before his eyes a shaft fell to earth, then transformed into his bright goddess, who was at once savior and mother and beloved. As in his dreams, she came to him wearing a long violet gown studded with sparkling motes of moonfire, trimmed with midnight velvet. Her hair, the color of spun moonbeams, fell to her feet, like a cloak it shrouded her. She held out a hand to him, her smile pure mystery and magic, her violet eyes gleaming with love.

"Severus. My Endymion."

"You called to me." He stated simply, meeting her gaze with his own. Now the feeling of excitement had trebled and at last he recognized it for what it was—desire, untamed, unadulterated desire for the woman before him.

"I did. I promised you when your task was done, I would come to you, and you would at last know what you have long denied yourself, Severus Snape. The love of one who loves you always in return." She approached, and laid her cool hands upon his face.

At her touch he trembled, ecstasy shooting through him. "Lady, I—"

"Selene. For this night and all the others I come to, I am not goddess, but lover and wife. And you are My Consort Royal, whom I have chosen out of all others to partner Me. In this, we are equals, Endymion, and the only way you need worship Me is in the ancient way of a man and woman in love."

Tentatively, he put up a hand and caressed her face. "With this body I thee worship . . ."

She leaned into his hand, her skin petal-soft, her hair tickling his arm. "Yes. That is the way of it. I make the Great Marriage with thee, Severus. The Marriage of sky and earth, mortal and immortal. It is one I have made before, with a shepherd lad, and a warrior king, and a forest elemental. And now with thee, my proud sorcerer."

He felt Her love and desire then, surging through his blood with every beat of his heart. In his dreams he had made love to Her, in his dreams he was Hers and his broken heart was healed by Her touch. But the reality eclipsed his dreams. "I am honored, that You should choose me over all Your other worshippers . . ."

"You are more than worthy, my Severus." She traced a finger down his jaw, it left a trail of fire in its wake. "Mortals have ever been careless with your heart, beloved. I shall not be. For me, there is only you, and ever shall be, till the end of your mortal existence."

"And then? Shall you set me upon a mountaintop to dream forever more of you?" he dared.

She laughed. "No. I was young then, and impulsive. I thought it was the only way to keep a mortal near, but I erred. For a sleeping consort was not what I wanted or needed. Nor a martial one, though the land that was needed the offspring of our union. As it did with Jack o'the Greenwood."

"He gave you Robin Hood," Severus said, allowing Her to draw him out of the pasture and into the forest.

"Yes. A champion the land sorely needed."

"And who was the warrior king?"

"He was called Ban of Benwick, and I came him to as the fae Lady of the Lake, for he was not then pledged to me. I bore him a son, Gwydion, who later became known in legend as Lancelot du Lac, Arthur's right hand."

"Lancelot was Your son? But he betrayed his king with Gwenhwyfar!"

To his shock, Selene laughed again, shaking her head. "That he did not! That is part of the story mortals got wrong. There was no betrayal, Lancelot served Arthur faithfully, he loved the queen as a sister, the rest were foul rumors put about by their enemies to discredit them, and they lingered long after both were dust and the true story was forgotten. Lancelot married Elayne, one of My priestesses, and founded a line of sorceresses. From them came many of your kind's Muggleborns, since not all of them married magical families, and so their Gift was scattered down through the ages, appearing fitfully in various mortal lines. And Lance's son, Galahad, became the First Knight Mage, and rescued My Cup of Restoring from the Underworld, where my brother Set had hidden it."

"You mean the Grail Quest?"

"Christians term it that. But whatever name you give it, or however you tell it, the end result is the same. Galahad brought it back, and restored the Balance between Light and Dark for that turning. As you did by defeating Tom Riddle. My avatar, my beloved, the heart that was broken can be mended. Your Lily was never really yours, hers was a heart divided, and as such, she never loved you as you wished. But that is past, and her choice gave you a son you would not otherwise have had. Count your blessings, Severus."

"As you will, Lady," he said automatically.

"Selene. Say My name."

"Selene," he repeated. By now they were deep into the forest, and he discovered their path had taken them to the clearing where the ruined temple was.

Only the temple had been restored to its former glory, all shining marble columns and mosaic tiles depicting the phases of the moon and the glories of Selene. The altar was filled with flowers and offerings of food and grain and precious jewels and small enchanted objects.

Selene gestured to the structure, which shone alabaster and pristine beneath the full moon. "Thus it was long ago, when my Roman worshippers first came to these shores. For tonight, it shall be as it was then, a fitting bower to consummate our marriage."

He allowed her to lead him inside the temple, which was filled with the sweet scent of myriad flowers and freshly baked bread and roasted goose and lavender incense. There was even the soft strains of a lyre and a flute playing, the joyful melody swirling about them as they processed to a private room at the back of the temple, which was all ready for the divine bride and her mortal consort.

The floor was carpeted with plush Turkish carpets and the bed was curtained with gauzy Egyptian cotton, fit for royalty. The bed itself was large enough to hold three people, with silk sheets and fluffy pillows and bolsters. Incense burned in all the corners of the room and oil lamp sconces burned gently along the walls. It was a room clearly meant for one thing and one thing only.

But here Severus balked. "Selene, are you certain you wish . . .I mean, I am no king or lord, only a half-blood Potions Master, I grew up a pauper with no prospects save what I earned by my own hands and brains . . .How can I be a fit consort for a goddess . . .?"

Selene turned again to face him. "Sev, listen to me. That is precisely why you are meant for me. That is the part of the story the old tales got right. That matches can be made between princesses and servant boys, between princes and milkmaids, shepherd lasses and noble lords, goddesses and half-blood mortal wizards. For it is not what station you are born into that matters, but the heart within." She placed a hand upon his chest. "It is the spirit and character that matter in a relationship, not whether or not you were born to silk sheets and silver spoons or in a pauper's hut. They say love is blind, meaning love sees what is within, not what is without. Yes, I know you are flawed, as are all mortals, but that is precisely why you are perfect for me. You are my opposite and my equal, you remind me that even a goddess has a heart and can love, that mortal and immortal are bound to each other, in a necessary symbiosis." She tilted her head up and kissed him. "You belong to me, Severus Tobias Snape, I give you my heart."

Overwhelmed, he kissed her back, murmuring, "I will cherish it always. And give you mine in return."

The violet eyes blazed with longing. "Come then, Sev. I have not chosen an Endymion in a thousand years. That is a long time to go without a lover, for I am not promiscuous like some of my kin. In fact, a few of my sister goddesses claim I am too choosy. But if that is so, then I only choose the best."

He flushed lightly, her regard astounded him, he who had only considered himself the best in potions and everything else was merely second best. He drew her close, hearing the beating of her heart, smelling the sweet scent of moonflowers and jasmine, she was cool and yet she made him burn with a fire so hot he almost combusted. I want her. By the moon's holy light, I want her so bad.

Take me then. Love me, Sev. Don't be afraid. I won't break, she sent to him, speaking mind to mind in her uncanny way.

Then she was touching him, her fingers caressing and stroking down his back, his shoulders, he discovered his shirt and trousers had disappeared, and he was almost naked before her. He flinched in shame, for he had scars in unseemly places, but she ignored them.

They are naught to me. Naught. You are beautiful in my eyes. Trust me.

He could feel the truth in her words, joined mind-to-mind, she could not lie to him. He had always assumed he was unattractive, with his long nose and saturnine features, so unlike his former rival's handsome visage. Greasy, grungy, long-haired Snape.

No. The gawky adolescent has become a swan. See. Then she showed him what she saw, his spirit, shining and glowing, that transformed his body into something that was undeniably sexy, his dark coloring mirrored the night and made him the forbidden fantasy of almost every girl he taught. That is what they see. And I see. You are the fantasy lover, and you haunt their dreams. And my own.

Faced with her inescapable truth, he had no choice but to accept it, and in so doing he set himself free of the role he had made for himself—that of the snarky bat of the dungeons. Now he was only Severus, consort of a goddess. Her beloved consort.

She loved him, he knew it with every fiber of his being. Loved him and only him, as a wife loves her husband. It was what he had longed for at fifteen with Lily, what he had dreamed of alone and hurting in his bed at Spinner's End. For someone to love him and to want his love in return. His mother had loved him, but it wasn't enough to save him from his abusive father. Lily had loved him, but as a friend and not her other half. But Selene . . .she loved him for himself alone, and desired him above all others. You belong to me, her heart whispered to him.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes! His heart sang. I love you.

And I love you, her heart replied, speaking a language without words, the oldest language of all.

Her love filled him until he overflowed, and suddenly he could not contain himself any longer. He, who prided himself on his emotional discipline, surrendered at last to passion and allowed himself to be consumed by its sweet fire. "Selene, I can't stop . . ."

"Then don't." She told him, drawing him to her. He was inexperienced, but she was a fine tutor.

She brought him to the heights of ecstasy, showed him how to use those fine fingered hands to give her pleasure. She was like a hurricane, lifting him up and tossing him about, then drawing him to her in fierce embrace. She was at turns gentle as summer rain and fierce as a desert sandstorm. She made him feel joy and pleasure and delight so great he feared he would die of it.

Yet he did not. With this body, I thee worship. And so he did, and she did in turn, until they both lay panting and exhausted upon the silken sheets, sated for the moment.

She lay curled in his arms, her glorious hair spread out over them, her violet eyes glowing with appreciation, a satisfied smirk stealing over her lips. She reminded him of a sated cat finishing off a bowl of cream. His hand stole down her shoulder, a featherlight touch that aroused her for a brief moment. But she stilled the impulse, knowing her immortal flesh could outlast her consort's, and she didn't wish to harm him. So instead she kissed his cheek gently and pillowed her head upon his shoulder, which was well-muscled from his lifting cauldrons and stirring mixtures for hours.

"Are you happy now, my magnificent love?" she asked, contentment seeping slowly through her as she drowsed beside him.

"I . . .I seem to have forgotten any words in the English language that could describe what I'm feeling," he said candidly, turning to face her. "Am I happy? Does a tree crave sunlight? Does a fish need water? What we did . . .that wasn't just sex, was it?"

She shook her head. "No. That was the Great Marriage, it is to mere sex what the ocean is to a puddle of water. We are joined forever now, your spirit to mine, and even death shall not part us. You also should know, that out of those I chosen as my consort, you are the one who has pleased me best."

"Me? But this was . . .I didn't know half of what I was doing . . ." he sputtered.

"But you learned very quickly." Her hand stroked his ebony hair. "Dark to light, you are my heart's match. Even as was the first Endymion."

His heart thrilled to hear those words and he smiled down at her tenderly. "Have I made you happy, Selene?"

She made a sort of growling purr deep in her throat. "I would have thought that were obvious. However, if you need reassurance . . ." Her lips found his and he discovered he wasn't as tired as he'd thought.

The second time was more leisurely, but no less satisfying. The afterglow lingered, and Severus wondered how much time had passed since they had come here. Somehow he sensed that this place did not follow the natural laws of time, and the night could last as long as they both wished. "Will you come to me again?"

"As often as my duty can spare me, I shall," she promised. "Unfortunately, I cannot be with you every day, as most wives would with their husbands. But I shall not neglect you, Sev. This was not . . .a one night stand, as you mortals say. This was the beginning of many nights I shall share with you. In dreams or in reality."

He sighed in relief. He had hoped that was the case, but had not dared to hope.

She snickered. "I fear I have created an insatiable monster."

"You have. One who is insatiably in love with you."

"Good." She twined herself about him. "I am not like my fickle immortal kin, who take mortals in brief bursts of passion, get a child upon them, or with them, and then vanish, never to be seen again. To them, a mortal is to be enjoyed for a night or two and then discarded. Such is not the case between you and I, Severus. I do not use my consorts for merely my own pleasure. For me, it is personal and meaningful. Most of my immortal brethren call me eccentric and foolish for showing such honor to a mere human, but they are selfish and arrogant. They forget, that we need mortals as much as immortals need us. For what happens to a forgotten god? They languish in the Beyond, weak and helpless, because no worshippers are there to give them purpose and energy."

He stared at her, alarmed. "Could that ever happen to you?"

She shrugged. "Perhaps. If I were I to no longer be worshipped by anyone. But it is highly unlikely. I am worshipped by millions still. And my blood offspring walk the earth, so I shall never be forgotten."

He cleared his throat. "Speaking of offspring . . .if you and I have a child . . .?"

"The baby shall be yours to raise, Severus. It is not that I would shun my child, but a goddess cannot devote all of her time to a child, the way a human mother would. And I would not have the baby grow up knowing only brief visits here and there from both parents. So, were I to conceive, I would allow you to take our child to love, once the baby is able to eat solid food and I would visit as often as I could. My influence would otherwise be too strong, and throw the Balance out of kilter. It is not what I would wish . . .but then even immortals don't always get what they want." Her violet eyes darkened. "I visited Gwydion as often as I could when he was a child, teaching him of the magic that was his inheritance from me. Robin, Jack and I fostered to a noble couple, though we always watched over him, and made sure he knew of his heritage and our love when he was old enough. It was the same with my daughters. I loved them, but I could not stay, not and risk affecting their lives too deeply. Every child deserves the chance to choose his or her own destiny. And any child of ours will never lack for love."

"No. I would make sure of it." Severus vowed. Any child to come of this union was sure to be special, but he would love it no matter what, even if it was a Squib with no magic whatsoever.

"I know," she said. The agony he had known in his childhood would never be visited upon his children, she knew it for irrevocable truth. She almost pitied any fool who dared harm any child of Severus Snape's. The man had an overprotective streak several kilometers wide. Which was not necessarily a bad thing, from a parent's perspective. From a teenager's . . .she began to laugh, picturing the arguments that would be fought between father and child.

"What's so funny?"

"You. Or rather what you might become should we have a child," she replied, then explained at his blank look.

"Oh. I suppose I might be that way."

"Might be?" She raised an eyebrow. "Severus, if we ever have a daughter, you'll probably lock her in a tower with anti-teenage boy wards until she's seventeen. There's no might be about it."

"Selene, I'm not some tyrant—"

"We'll see."

"Do you See something? Am I going to turn into a raving lunatic or something if we have a girl?"

"No. It's merely an educated guess." She patted his shoulder. "Fear not, Sev. Any daughter would be lucky to call you their father."

"I hope so," he muttered fervently.

"You doubt yourself? Ask Hermione."

"Truly?"

"Indeed." She shifted suddenly, straddling him, her ardor kindling again at his touch. "Enough talk of children who are yet to be born. The night is young still and I have much more to show you, my insatiable sorcerer . . ." She gave him a playful challenging look. "If you think you are ready for me to begin again?"

"I am ready when you are," he replied, then he kissed her hard.

The night was long, stretching into eternity.

Or so it seemed.

But by the time the moon had waned, both goddess and consort were sleeping contentedly in each other's arms, their passion slaked for the moment, but this night would never be forgotten by either of them—the reaffirmation of a goddess' love for her consort and her consort's awakening to the meaning of true love, in every sense of the word.

Well, this is one of my very long chapters, hope you all liked it!

As promised, there were some steamy moments, hopefully the content was not too explicit.

Who enjoyed Ron's reaction to Harry's letter? And how do you think he will react to Hermione's news?

Should Sirius and Danae have children? If so-should they be sons or daughters? How about Sev and Selene? Do you agree with Selene's assessment of overprotective Sev?

Next: Ron learns about Hermione, and Sirius goes to apologize to Severus and talk to Harry. What will happen then? Who should be the new Headmaster or Mistress of Hogwarts?

Thanks as always to all my faithful readers and reveiwers, I would not be posting without your continued support of my fics. My hand is slowly healing. I wish I had magic potions though! Sev, where are you when I need you?

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