Chapter 58 : The End
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On the bright side, I've graduated. I have my teacher's certification and I'm officially Professor Cerridwyn Howard. How cool is that? It takes great restraint not to make everyone call me that.
I wore the red gown originally intended for the Valentine's ball to the graduation ceremony and the ball that followed. Remus was my escort --- of course --- and took me by his mother's to show me off. It was the first time that I've seen Royal and his family since they moved there and everyone looks very happy with the arrangement, including Sophia who seems to be treating the kids like the grandchildren Remus insists she'll never have.
And of course, Sophia is over the moon over Remus's new job.
I was in a very good mood myself, completely wound up with excitement and unable to keep still for a moment.
"Are you nervous about the speech?" Remus asked, watching me with some amusement.
"Oh no. I've done this kind of thing before. I was valedictorian at Hogwarts too and I've been practicing this speech a lot lately." That was true. Tonks had taken to jumping up and apparating from the room whenever I tried to corner her to be my practice audience.
No, I wasn't worried about the speech, but there was something else bothering me.
Hagrid attended the ceremony, of course. He was pretty hard to miss. There wasn't a seat big enough for him so he stood against the wall in the very back of the auditorium. What made him especially conspicuous was that he bawled through the entire ceremony, blowing his nose loudly into his tablecloth sized handkerchief. I felt sorry for the people in the back row.
Dumbledore, being Dumbledore and fully restored to all of his former privileges had a spot in the second row, right in the center, directly behind the Merlin staff. He wasn't there just to see me, of course, but for the dozens of other former Hogwarts students who were graduating with me. But I did wonder uncomfortably if he was there partly to keep Severus in line in case things turned ugly.
Professor Comes was sitting in front of Professor Dumbledore, looking strange in her formal attire which was paired with a very informal grin. I wondered if the people she'd made bets with had paid up yet. Every so often she'd smirk down the row at Professor Gardener whose face was carefully and characteristically sour.
When Tonks's name was called she flitted across the stage, her upswept hair blonde, and the hem of her pink dress peeping out from beneath her graduation gown. Typically, her heel snagged on the carpet and she stumbled the last few steps to the headmaster who was presenting the diplomas, just barely saving herself from sprawling by grabbing onto his shoulder. Completely undeterred, she raised both arms in triumph as she left the stage.
Franklin McNair, handsome and arrogant, claimed his diploma with no such mishap. It was hard for me to look at him without wanting to strangle him. Amazing how such truly evil people can just walk around with everyone else as though they're perfectly normal.
Aline Gardener graduated too. I wouldn't class her as "evil" just as a complete jerk. And not a bright one either apparently since I've heard that she only just barely managed to graduate. Personally I wonder how much her father had to do with pulling her through.
I never did actually see Severus, although I was watching for him while I was up at the podium. I knew that I couldn't possibly be so lucky that he'd changed his mind about attending and supposed that he was probably lurking in some dark corner somewhere, just waiting to strike. Sometimes I think he's more vampiric than Ryann is. She's a creampuff next to him.
He didn't show up until after the ceremony was over. The hall was emptying and I was being swept out with the rest of the tide. Remus was waiting on the lawn underneath the spreading branches of a great big oak. I sidled between slower moving people and went to meet him for a congratulatory embrace, diploma still firmly in hand.
He said something -- I answered. That part has gotten a bit fuzzy. What I do remember is Severus doing one of those sudden appearances out of nowhere that he's so good at doing. It was like that time when Quirrel and I were kids and he caught us holed up alone together for a private dance lesson. Despite the certificate in my hand I instantly felt fourteen again. And guilty.
He advanced until he was standing practically on top of me. "If you think I will tolerate my sister being a - a - " he seemed to be at a loss for a strong enough insult. " ---werewolf bitch," he finally came up with "You are very mistaken. You will not humiliate me like this."
I stared at him in complete shock. I'm sure Remus did too. It wasn't the stupid insult that shocked me as much as the fact that he'd been so furious that he'd slipped and called me "sister" in front of someone.
Suddenly, mercifully, Dumbledore was there. Probably he'd been expecting such trouble and had been watching for it to start. He said something to Severus, low and urgent in his ear. Abruptly, Severus stalked away and Dumbledore followed after a quick, apologetic smile.
Slowly I looked back at Remus who looked completely stunned. "Kerri...is Severus Snape your brother?" he asked, sounding appalled. He spoke quietly although I don't think anyone would have heard from all the boisterous noise that the crowd around us was making.
I nodded, alarmed by his expression. He looked more shocked by the revelation that Severus is my brother than he had looked when I'd told him Voldemort was my father. I knew he was quickly putting all of the relationships together in his mind even as we stood there staring at each other.
"Kerri, I don't want to be a source of contention between you." he said in concern. "He and I never got along well and it seems that he hasn't moved past that."
"Are you going to leave me?" I asked, point blank.
"No. I wouldn't do that to you. I just remember that you've said that you and your brother were estranged and only just starting to build a relationship. I don't want to hinder that."
"I knew he would disapprove and I made my choice. I still can't believe the big mouth just came out and said it like that though...."
Tonks came running up...well, half running, since she'd broken the heel on one of her shoes so that one foot was bare as she hobbled across the grass in our direction. Remus and I immediately smoothed out our features.
"There you two are!" sang Tonks, throwing her arms around me.
Her poor date, a blue eyed man I'd never seen before, hurried to catch up.
"Drat ! Reparo !" said Tonks, pointing her wand at the broken shoe clutched in her other hand. "That's better. I'm glad it was my shoe I broke and not my ankle. That would have been wonderful right before the ball. Come on -- let's go. Time to party."
Fancy balls are not my idea of a party but I had no doubt whatsoever that Tonks would make it into one. It would be worth it for that alone.
The graduation ball was much like the Valentine one of two years previous, except more crowded. I put Severus out of my mind, determined not to let him ruin my graduation day. I also urged Remus to steer more toward the center of the dance floor to avoid Professor Comes who seemed to be trying to catch my attention. "She looks even more hyper than Tonks." I told him.
Oddly enough, it was almost more private there in the center of things than out on the perimeter. We were hemmed in by people on all sides but it was sort of like being a quiet little island in the midst of the sea, completely wrapped up in each other. The noise of other conversations around us washed by with the quiet monotony of waves on a shore.
It was still fairly early when there was a disturbance in the form of a naked man running through the ball room. I only saw him from behind but I was pretty sure I recognized the brown, curly hair.
"I'd recognize that butt anywhere!" I heard Tonks exclaim from somewhere out of my immediate view.
"What is Streak doing here?" I asked Remus.
"I have no idea, but maybe we'd better find out."
We left the ball, stepping out onto the brick pathway that ran around the outside of the circular ballroom. Lounging on the grass beyond was Basil and three of the boys -- all of whom were clothed.
"Streak wanted to congratulate you but he's running from the guards right now." Mel laughed.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Kidnapping you." Basil explained. "You're coming with us."
I looked at Remus and shrugged. Balls weren't really my thing anyway and I didn't mind moving on to something else.
"It's your special night." said Remus. "We can do whatever you like."
"Lets go then."
It turned out that somehow the entire werewolf commune had managed to organize a graduation party for me without my hearing about it. My saving Ana must have made a pretty serious impression on them. I couldn't help remembering back to my early days in the band when I was thought of as an outsider, a novelty that surely wouldn't last. Now I seem to be completely accepted.
Tonks really ought to have come with us because this party would have been much more her style. It had a carnival atmosphere similar to that at the Howl Off with lots of loud music, drinking and unhealthy food. I ate a fried pastry of some sort that was filled with some mystery meat I never did quite identify, but it was pretty good. Anything fried is usually good, right?
The boys had a makeshift stage set up for them to play on, but instead of joining them I danced with Remus instead. With my graduation, my exit from the band is now official. I'll still attend concerts whenever I can and help Remus with the management. He'll need help now that he's going to have a demanding job to keep him busy too.
The only thing that marred the evening was Sheila showing up. Fortunately she didn't get further than three strides into the gate before she was wrestled out again, kicking and scratching like a rabid cat. Remus sealed the entrance with a temporary magical barrier to keep her out. "I'll be glad when you're safe at Hogwarts." he told me for the hundredth time.
I didn't let even Sheila spoil my night. With Remus in a mood to humor me I talked him into slipping away after a couple of hours and going for a long drive. We'd made arrangements to have someone deliver our papers for us so we had all night if we wanted. I drove, admittedly faster than the limit allowed, in keeping with my joyful mood. Having finally finished school at last, I truly felt that I'd arrived and that for the moment, there wasn't anything lacking in my life. I blew past the city limits and out onto a country highway, feeling that I was leaving an old life behind me and entering into a new one.
I parked on a grassy cliff that overlooked the ocean. Remus and I got out and sat together on the hood of the car, looking out into a black expanse of sea and sky. Something nagged at my conscience -- Severus, I realized. I fingered the pearls around my neck that had once belonged to his mother that he had given me one year for Christmas, and firmly pushed him out of my mind again. So he didn't want me to be with Remus did he? How dare he try to tell me what to do? I'd show him.
I leaned over and kissed Remus on the jaw. "Exactly how far does this 'giving me whatever I want' thing go?"
"As far as propriety allows."
I rolled my eyes but kissed him again, deciding to take whatever I could get.
I slept in the next day and called my mother to announce that I had officially graduated. After that I retrieved Megan and Melissa to take Leo to Hogwarts, grasping at straws to find ways to delay the inevitable meeting with Severus.
Apparating with a full sized unicorn takes some creativity, but I managed by holding onto his tail. Well, it was better than putting him on the Knight Bus. They don't appreciate me bringing werewolves on there and if I showed up with a huge unicorn they'd probably boot me off.
We took Leo to the lake. Leo had never seen such a huge body of water before and didn't seem to know what to make of it. I waded in up to my knees and he followed, looking down at all of the water in some confusion. I couldn't help laughing but I still felt tears spring into my eyes because I knew I was going to miss him. Megan and Melissa were absolutely no help at all because they were both bawling.
Leo took a drink and while he did, I calmly began strolling away, bringing the girls with me. I led them to a long, winding flight of stone stairs that led up a hill to the castle. Unicorns can't climb stairs so I knew that he wouldn't be able to get to us even if he tried. We paused on a landing halfway up and looked back.
Leo's head came up as he finished drinking and he waded out of the water, looking around at the empty field. He stood there for a while, looking desolate, and then thoughtfully nibbled some clover.
"He's all alone." Melissa sobbed.
Leo's head shot up again. At first I thought he'd heard Melissa, but then I noticed that he was looking toward a clump of trees in the distance. My eyes picked out a flicker of white as a unicorn ran through them. I pointed so the girls would see.
Leo sniffed at the air and then took off in that direction, running with the power and grace that I had always imagined he would if he ever got out in the open. He launched himself into the stand of trees and was gone.
"A hot unicorn babe?" Megan asked, reciting Mary Ann's words.
"Probably. Unicorns of the same gender don't generally get along. We should get out of here now in case he comes back. It's better if he doesn't see us."
It was hard to just walk away and leave him there, but I knew it was for the best and that he'd be fine. He had hot unicorn babes to console him, after all. I'll always have a lot of fond memories of Leo, but the one I think that will always stand out will be the one of him thundering across the field the way he was meant to. It's hard to believe that he was once that gawky little animal that I carried home with me two years ago.
Once I'd taken the girls home I had no more excuses for avoiding the confrontation that I knew was brewing with Severus. It had to be done and putting it off would only make things worse. Full of dread I went back to the school, knowing that whatever was going to happen would not be good.
My visit was not unexpected. I knew that when I spotted one of the former Hogwarts headmistresses lingering in a pastoral scene hanging not far from the dungeon entrance. What caught my eye was that she looked very out of place in her elaborate silk dress and ornate curls. When she saw me she carefully stepped around a mud puddle and disappeared through the frame. Knowing that the portrait selves of the headmasters and headmistresses answer to Dumbledore alone did make me feel a little bit better. If Severus tried to kill me I might be able to hold him off until Dumbledore came to the rescue.
I slowed my step to give him time to start out. I wasn't in much of a hurry anyway. Though I kept trying to think of things to say I knew that none of them would help. Severus was not going to be in the mood for listening although I was sure that he'd expect me to listen to him.
The first solid indication I had of Severus's wrath came at his office door. It was locked, which was not unexpected. It was after I had gone to the trouble of pricking my finger and putting a drop of blood on the door that I discovered that the blood seal had been removed. The door no longer recognized me. Evidently the open invitation had been officially withdrawn.
I was immediately angry. From not knowing what to say to him I suddenly had plenty. How dare he just write me off like that? "Severus Snape --- you get out here and talk to me!" I shouted.
There was no answer.
"Fine -- I'm going to burn the door down then." I announced, pulling out my wand. "Incend ---"
The door was wrenched open before I could complete the spell. There stood Severus, livid with fury, angrier than I think I've ever seen him. Perhaps delaying the interview had been a bad idea. It had given him time to sit and stew and become more and more furious.
"Where have you been?" he demanded, grasping me by the arm and pulling me into the room.
"Don't ever do that again." I snapped, pulling myself free.
"I am trying very hard to stay calm." he said slowly and deliberately. "I am going to ask you this one time. What were you doing with That Werewolf? Explain."
"He escorted me to my graduation. We met last year and started seeing each other. I didn't tell you because I knew you'd have a problem with him being a werewolf."
"Certainly I have a problem with it -- anyone in their right mind would. Besides that, I know him personally. I don't suppose he told you that?"
"He told me that you didn't get along very well." I answered.
"He was part of a gang of bullies who lived to terrorize me."
"That was a long time ago. Even if he was then, he's not the type of person to do that now."
"I don't care." said Severus irritably. "He's a werewolf....even worse, he's That Werewolf. You must be out of your mind."
"Possibly. Insanity does run in the family."
"Don't be stupid. He is a werewolf!" Severus repeated again in growing incredulousness.
"I know it. I knew it from the day I met him. I don't care."
"How can you --- Did you spend last night with him?"
"What ?" I gasped, infuriated by such a personal question. It was none of his business if I decided to spend the night with every werewolf I knew -- and I know a lot of them.
"You heard me. Did you spend the night with That Werewolf?"
"If I did, it's none of your business."
"You disgust me." snarled Severus, advancing on me. It took all my self control not to flinch or retreat. He was looking furious enough to hit me. "You --- you have no respect for yourself. You were with him last night, weren't you?"
"Yes, I was. But not in the way you think." I snapped back. It wasn't any of his business but I didn't want him thinking I was some kind of slut. And I didn't want his worst suspicions about Remus confirmed.
"Oh of course not." he answered, his voice dripping sarcasm. "Well I'll tell you this now before you get any ideas. I am not going to baby-sit the cubs."
"You are so incredibly stupid."
"I? I am stupid? I am not the one doing who-knows-what with a werewolf!"
"Yes, but when was the last time you had the chance to do who-knows-what with anyone?" I facetiously asked.
"You little bitch" he said, taking a step in my direction. His hand was fingering his wand so I beat him to the draw by pulling mine out first. "Now really. Who do you think you are kidding?" he asked with an ugly laugh as he slowly removed his own wand. " We've spent more than enough time drilling throughout this year for you to know that I am the much better dueler. I have no desire to fight you as I do not consider you worth the effort, but if you do not put that wand away right now I will force you to."
He was right of course, and I didn't especially want to fight him either. But I was hurt by how easy it was for him to turn on me, to decide I was beneath him just because I was seeing Remus. How stupid. But then prejudice isn't exactly rational.
We were staring each other down, wands at the ready when Dumbledore unceremoniously walked in the room. Finally.
My eyes were on Severus but I could sense Dumbledore looking from one to the other of us in that slow, calm way of his. "Severus and Kerri, shame on you both. If you do not desist immediately I shall be forced to separate you."
'If you don't behave, I'll split you up.' It sounded like something a parent would say to a child.
Severus immediately lowered his wand out of deference to Dumbledore. I did too, but more reluctantly and only because I didn't want to end up on the business end of Albus Dumbledore's wand.
"Shame on both of you." repeated Dumbledore, still sounding as though he was scolding a pair of five year olds. "Shouting and threatening each other will bring you no closer to a resolution. Calm down and talk about it like adults."
"I will never forgive you if you keep seeing him." Severus hissed at me.
"Why is it any of your business? How does it hurt you? Hardly anyone even knows we're related."
Severus's face suddenly went purple. "How much does he know?"
I was very glad Dumbledore there. He could keep Severus from killing me if he totally snapped. "It's your fault." I told him flatly.
"My fault what?" asked Snape angrily. "How much does he know?"
"I told him my secret a while back. I didn't tell yours. It's your fault that you came along with your big mouth and made a scene yesterday. Now he knows you're my half brother and he's figured out that it's through our father."
Snape took a step toward me and I instinctively ducked out of his way.
"Severus!" said Dumbledore sharply, sounding definitely angry now.
"If that damn werewolf says one word...." Severus ominously threatened.
"Remus will not betray your secret." answered Dumbledore wearily. "You underestimate him entirely."
"He's not stupid enough to hold idiotic childhood grudges." I pointed out.
"Werewolves are not trustworthy." Snape spat at me. "How could you trust him with that kind of information about yourself?"
"You don't care what he knows about me -- it's you you're worried about -- probably mostly because of what your old Death Eater buddies will think. And I love him."
"No you don't!"
"I think Kerri is old enough to know her own heart." said Dumbledore quietly. "She is certainly old enough to make her own decisions."
"And mistakes." Snape ominously added.
"And mistakes." Dumbledore agreed. "As I recall, you have made a few yourself. You learned from them and moved on with your life. Everyone has the right to make mistakes and learn from them...including your sister."
Snape was looking slightly mutinous, as if he wished Dumbledore would butt out or at least quit puking out annoying platitudes. I knew that only his great respect for the headmaster kept him from saying so. With an obvious effort to control his temper he said quietly, "Am I to take that to mean that you agree that my sister is making a mistake?"
"I meant no such thing." Dumbledore corrected. "I merely meant to point out that people have the right to live their own lives no matter how much we may think we know what is best for them."
"It isn't me you care about -- it's your own pride." I told Severus more calmly.
"Clearly I grossly underestimated your intelligence, Cerridwyn." he answered coldly. Then, more reluctantly added, "No I didn't, and that's why it's such a shame to watch you wasting it. Do not expect support or friendship from me until you clean up your life. I will not stand by and pretend that I approve of what you are doing."
"I don't need you in my life." I said, frantically grasping after my anger to keep myself from falling apart. It was no use. "I want you in my life." I clarified, bursting into tears. "Don't do this to me."
"I am not doing anything to you. You are doing it to yourself by consorting with a werewolf."
"Severus, please be reasonable." said Dumbledore. In my distress I'd almost forgotten he was there.
"I am reasonable. Cerridwyn, until you choose to become respectable again, forget that you ever had a brother."
"It's just that easy is it?" I choked. My throat was constricted painfully tight and I found that I was physically incapable of saying anything more. I turned and fled the dungeons, fled Hogwarts, with my eyes blurred with tears.
That was yesterday afternoon. I haven't been in a very sociable mood today as I packed up the last of my things to leave tomorrow. Remus was over, concerned about how things had gone with Snape. I didn't give him details because I knew it would make him feel guilty and because it hurt too much.
How can Severus just abandon me after everything we've been through in the last two years? Doesn't he really care about me at all? I thought he did, but he must not if it's this easy for him to just walk away. I should have known better than to trust the Potions Monster.
It was a mistake for me to let myself care. I wish it was as easy for me to just up and walk away, turn my back on him too. It's going to be horrible living at Hogwarts with him next year and having to adjust to the idea that he hates me now. I've gotten used to his presence in my life and become too fond of him. I should have known better to have put any faith in him, but he probably thinks the same thing about me.
I know better than to expect the situation to mend. Bitterness and stubbornness come too easily for him. Sometimes I think that he uses the hatefulness that he's known for to shield himself from others, to keep people on the outside. I was allowed in briefly, but now I've been pushed away too. Well -- he's making himself miserable. I have Remus, but he has no one. I made up my mind a long time ago that my relationship with Remus was not going to be sacrificed to my brother's prejudices. I know that he's worth it but it still makes me sad to know that as far as my relationship with Severus goes, this seems to be the end.
Author's Note : Thanks to all of you who have given reviews, especially those who have stuck with this series for the two years that I've been writing it now. Hopefully you'll all follow me over into the sequel which I plan to start posting next week under the title "Running with Wolves : The Journals and Correspondences of Cerridwyn Lupin (Year 3)."
Chapter 1 : Letters to and from Remus. Kerri's brooding over the rift with her brother is interrupted by her mother's trip to the hospital.
Stupid jerk. This thing over Remus is the worst falling out we've ever had. I haven't heard from him and don't expect to either. And I'm not going to break down and write to him first. If I send him anything now it will be a howler and I don't think that will be useful in mending our relationship.
Maybe in August I'll go see him. Surely we'll both have cooled down a bit by then. He told me once that there is always an open invitation to me at his house. Well, I guess I'll find out.
Last August we spent the whole month together. I lived in his house and he taught me curses, drilled me in basic defensive magic, and took me on a trip to Little Hangleton. Who'd have thought I'd look back now on that trip in a fond way? I guess it's the difference in knowing that it might have been our last trip anywhere together.
Can he really keep this up forever? Can I?
If he forces me to. And I'm completely insulted by his attitude. He acts like I'm doing something horrible or something. It's not like I've committed murder but I bet he can't say the same thing. At least I was never a Death Eater. I think I'll point that out to him the next time he starts on me.