Chapter 32 : All Debts Paid
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Titania’s words echoed in Harry’s head as he waited to see if the High Queen could save the shimmerling, his wise counselor, who had the courage of a hundred wizards packed into a three inch body. Please, oh, please, let her live! I don’t want to have another death on my conscience. I already have Lily’s and James’. I am so sick of people dying for me. I’m not worth it, dammit all. Smidgen, please live. PLEASE! He did not know if the gallant shimmerling could hear him in her gravely injured state, but if she could, he wanted her to know that he wished her to live. More than anything, he wished it, with everything he was.
He felt a hand touch his shoulder, and he started.
“Easy, Harry. It’s only me.”
Harry did not speak, for Titania had closed her hands gently about the stricken shimmerling, forming a sort of ball and had begun whispering something in the liquid tongue of the fae. Her cupped hands began to pulse with gold and violet light.
“What . . .what is she saying?”
“She calls upon the four elements and the Great Mother, whom we worship, to help her save her faithful friend and messenger.”
“Is it . . .working?” He cast stricken green eyes up at her.
“I don’t know,” Sarai said honestly. “I am no great mage, Harry. What spells I know are simple ones, spells of small charms and bindings and spells of war. I am no Healer. Titania is very much my elder in both years and Power.”
“Do you think . . .she can save Smidgen?” he whispered.
“Child, she shall do her best. However, you must understand, the Queen is very powerful, the strongest mage I know, but even she is not a goddess. It may be that Smidgen is beyond even her Art. If the Mother calls her to the Blessed Realm, Titania will have naught to say about it.”
He swallowed hard. “I . . .understand . . .but . . .”
Sarai squeezed his shoulder comfortingly. “It is hard. Hard to see one companion sacrifice herself so that you may live while she does not. But such was her choice, Harry. She kept her bargain, as a true fae, and you must respect that.” The Captain of the Royal Guard darted her eyes sideways towards her monarch. Titania’s head was bowed, and her hands still glowed with healing light. “But I don’t want her to die for me, Sarai!” Harry hissed, fresh tears stinging his eyes. “Too many people have done that. I want no more deaths on my conscience. It’s not fair. It hurts too much. Who am I that she should give her life for me?”
Sarai put her arm about his shoulders. “Oh, child. Only a friend determines if you are worthy for that ultimate sacrifice. And if . . .it should come to pass, you shouldn’t blame yourself, but honor the gift she gave to you.” She met his eyes, and in her gaze was sorrow and understanding.
“Have you ever . . .had a friend die for you?”
“Many times. I am a warrior, I have seen many friends fall in battle, defending me and defending my queen. And, no, it doesn’t get easier. But you learn, eventually, to grieve and to honor the sacrifice made and to never forget the debt owed to those who have gone before.” She indicated her sword, hanging in her scabbard. “Do you see the hilt of my sword? Each small jewel there represents a friend lost, a friend who gave his or her life for me. In this way I honor their memory, and they accompany me into battle always.”
Harry counted ten jewels of all kinds. “So many.”
“Yes. And like you, I too hope that this will not be another.”
Together, the Captain and the boy who would one day become her adopted son watched and waited as the fae Queen struggled with death.
There was a stirring behind them, as Lucius attempted to spring at Titania, whether to murder her or merely break her concentration, was never known.
For Philip ran him through with consummate deadly grace, and thus died the Head of the Malfoy family, making his son Draco the last Malfoy.
The vampire withdrew his sword and wiped it casually upon a tussock of grass. “Treacherous idiot,” was all he said. Then he too focused upon the High Queen.
Titania remained lost in her spellcraft for a few minutes more, though to those watching, the minutes seemed like hours. Time had slowed to a crawl.
At last the light vanished and she opened her hands.
Smidgen stood upon her palm, alive, one wing crooked, for it had been too damaged to be fully restored, but her violet eyes were sparkling and she shook herself and bowed to her monarch. :I thank you, Gracious Queen, for the gift of my life, though I regret that my . . .disability has rendered me unfit for your service.:
Titania smiled joyfully. “Worry not, for you have spent nearly all your life in service to the throne and have earned a retirement of sorts, Inularian. From now on, you are no longer my messenger, but my personal dreamweaver, if you consent to advise me when I have need. As such you need no longer dwell at court, but may live where you choose. And you shall be known forever in the annals of our people as Inularian the Valiant, Best and Brightest, Wizardfriend.”
Smidgen bowed with her front paws extended. : Your Majesty is most generous.: Then she stared directly at Harry and asked softly, :Harry, do you think there is room for me at Prince Manor?:
“Always,” he said hoarsely, then he held out a hand and the fae cat sprang from her monarch’s hand to his own, purring loudly. “Smidgen, I . . .I’m so glad . . .” he could not finish, he was too overwhelmed by relief and choked up. . . .so glad you survived, but for the love of Merlin, don’t ever do that again! You scared me to death!
:You exaggerate, my friend. But the debt is settled between us, and the only obligation I have now is one I shall fulfill happily, that of being your friend. If you would do me the honor, Harry Albus Snape?:
You need to ask? Of course. If you will do the same for me?
:Done.: Smidgen sent, then licked his cheek. :For you and yours, heir to Prince Manor, I am ever your friend.: Then she walked proudly up Harry’s arm to sit upon his shoulder, while Harry fought to keep from crying with joy.
“Welcome back, old friend,” Sarai said, and smiled down upon them.
“How very touching,” sneered a cold voice, as Voldemort sat up, his face void of pity. “All hail the mighty Queen, who can bring a friend back from the brink of death.” He applauded mockingly. “You show mercy to a mere animal, but none to a fellow magus?”
Titania whirled upon him, her compassion vanishing from her face in an instant, to be replaced by a terrible cold rage. “You are not deserving of mercy, not in any shape or form!” There was an inhuman coldness about her now and Harry shivered upon seeing it.
He recalled Severus saying once that the fae were not like humans, they never forgot an insult and very rarely forgave the one who had wronged them. You cross a fae at your own peril, they are not like us, their emotions run hot and cold and they can be utterly merciless, especially to those who break their word. Their justice is harsh and final, and if ever you make a bargain with a fae, mind you keep it. They can make the very best friends but also the very worst enemies.
Now Harry understood exactly what Severus had been talking about.
Titania had gone rigid and her slender frame trembled with an icy terrible rage and he could feel his skin prickle with the surging magic pulsing from her, she fixed Voldemort with her cat-like eyes, and when she spoke again, her voice held the promise of violence quadrupled. “I have not forgotten, Thomas Marvolo Riddle, how you repaid my hospitality so long ago. I have a long memory, and you harmed not one, but two members of my family, one of them my own daughter!” Her eyes glowed with both anger and pain. “What is it you humans say? Revenge is a dish best served cold? I have waited for this day for twenty years, and finally it has come.” She bared her teeth in a smile that was terrifying for its utter fierceness. She reminded Harry of a dragon baring its teeth before it pounced upon you and ate you.
Voldemort tried to get to his feet, but he was too weak to stand, and fell back upon the ground in a heap, cursing. “Fine! Get it over with! Kill me!”
“Kill you? Oh, no, wizard. That would be too easy. I know of your propensity to revive yourself from death’s kingdom, dark sorcerer. When you came to me so long ago, do you recall what you wished me to teach you? You wished to learn the secrets of immortality.”
“And you spurned me, Your Grace!” spat Voldemort. “You refused my request!”
Titania was unruffled. “Because such is not within my power to grant. Immortality is not a thing you may achieve, mortal. It is forbidden, and well that is so, for you would do terrible things with such a gift, Tom Riddle.”
“As you have not, Titania? How many mortals have you slain in your life?”
“Those who have received death at my hands earned it. I do not shed blood of innocents, unlike you. Have you anything more to say before I pass sentence upon you?”
“You are not my ruler, you have no right to pass judgment upon me!”
“Do I not? I claim the right of a debt owed and also, as you humans say, to the victor go the spoils. Your army of dark sorcerers is defeated and you kneel at my feet. You have lost. Defiance and threats shall not save you. You have evaded the justice of my hand for years, Tom Riddle, but now your hour is upon you.” She drew herself up to her full height of six feet and a proud terrible majesty rode her features. “This much I shall grant you, the knowledge that your line does not perish with you. But that is all. You once told me you would give up everything to become immortal. Very well then, so you shall keep that promise.”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand . . .”
“You will.” She stepped forward then, and her foot crunched down upon his wand, snapping it in two.
Voldemort let out a howl of agony as his magic was stripped from him.
Titania’s lip curled in an inhuman smile. “As you stripped my daughter of her dignity and later her life as well, thus do I strip you of your magic.”
She pointed her hand and whispered a few words in the ancient tongue. A bplt of white power shot from her palm and cascaded down over Voldemort.
He gasped, then he began to writhe in pain. He opened his mouth to scream. But all that emerged was the lonely howl of the wind. There was a tremendous flash and his material body was torn asunder, until all that was left were scraps of a black robe, fluttering in a gust of wind.
The fae Queen opened a small flask, one of platinum such as hunters carried upon their belt pouch and chanted. The wind flowed into the bottle and she capped it, then turned to those watching and said, “Wish granted, Tom Marvolo Riddle. You shall live out eternity atop my Lonely Tower, bound to it by a magic as old as time, and your name shall be a curse, never to be forgotten. You are forever immortal, for the wind never dies. Debt paid.”
The terrible aura surrounding her winked out as abruptly as it had come, and suddenly the fae Queen smiled. “Now then, let us all rejoice that the minions of the dark are once again defeated.” She drew Harry up with one long manicured hand. “Rise, little cousin. I have you to thank for allowing me the chance not only to aid you, but to settle a debt long owed. For that, I am grateful.” She smiled down at him, and her smile was warm and gentle as sunlight.
Harry blushed. “You’re welcome, Your Majesty.”
“You must come to my court for a revel anon.” Titania said then. “You and all your family. I shall send a messenger when it is time.” She looked at Sarai then and something passed between them.
Severus spoke then, coming forward and kneeling upon the ground. “Your Grace, is V-Voldemort truly defeated? He will not be returning?”
“No, Lord Prince,” Titania said, raising him also. “The enchantment I cast upon him was just and final. He will not be back to haunt you or yours, except perhaps in dreams. And for nightmares, you have the best remedy ever, in your dreamweaver friend. You are safe, he will not be returning to gnaw at your family tree. I give you my vow, as Queen and your relative.”
Severus bowed to her. “Thank you, Your Grace. Now, at last, we can know peace.”
“For now, Severus Snape. Alas, peace is as fleeting as the dawn, most times.” She surveyed her warriors. “Any who are injured, please use the portal and return to court. I shall follow you anon. I have a few more accounts to settle. Captain Valinek, bring five of your warriors and attend me.”
“As you will, Your Grace,” Sarai saluted her monarch with a fist to her heart, then turned and called out the names of five of her warriors. Two men and three women came to stand beside her. At an unspoken signal, they surrounded Titania.
The Queen turned to Severus. “Lord Prince, will you escort me to your Hogwarts school? I have urgent business with your Headmaster.”
“It would be my pleasure,” Severus said, a small smile of satisfaction curling up his mouth. Old man, be prepared to be brought down a peg or two!
The rest of Titania’s warriors departed through the portal, which closed itself as soon as they had done so. Then the queen raised her hand and brought it down and all of them vanished from the graveyard to reappear just inside the gates of the school.
Harry rubbed his eyes. “Dad, did we just . . .Apparate? Because you always told me the wards wouldn’t allow it.”
“The wards aren’t strong enough, it would seem, to keep out the High Queen of the Seelie Court,” Severus said with a smirk. “She’s like a force of nature. Are you all right?”
“Yes. I mean, I’m bruised and scratched up a bit but I’m okay.”
“Thank God!” Severus drew Harry into a brief embrace, hugging him so hard he almost couldn’t breathe.
But Harry didn’t mind for once. He hugged Severus right back, fighting to keep from weeping like a nitwit.
“You’re still going to the Hospital Wing after this is over, there’s no telling what infection you might develop from being cut by undead claws and whatnot,” Severus said, and Harry’s tears vanished in a wave of embarrassment.
“Dad, I’m fine!” Harry protested. Merlin, do you have to go all mother hen on me in front of them? Bloody hell, Dad! A slow flush crept up his cheekbones.
“Fine by whose lights? Not mine. Quit arguing with me.”
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but slowly closed it when he caught the amused smirks of the fae folk and Philip.
“There is naught so powerful and overprotective as a loving father, young Snape,” said Titania, her eyes sparkling with amusement. “Treasure it.”
Blushing hotly, Harry stepped free of his father’s embrace. Grown-ups were all mad, no matter if they were human or immortal. One minute they were treating you like an adult, sort of, and the next they were fussing at you as if you were four instead of fourteen! And smirking when you got annoyed over it!
:Ai, Harry, don’t get your fur ruffled. To the fae, family is the most important thing, and all children are cherished, and a father’s love for his child is most precious. ‘Tis nothing to be ashamed of: Smidgen sent. :Most of the warriors are parents also and they would be much the same with their offspring.:
Harry flushed even more. I’m not, it’s just . . .never mind.
Smirking, Severus led the way up the path into the castle. He hoped Dumbledore was prepared to get some unexpected visitors. As they walked, Philip filled him in on the false Moody and what had happened to him before the third task.
“ . . .and so you see, it was all part of my lord’s plan. He wished to strike at the heart of Hogwarts, and I wished to get revenge upon my father, the weakling, and to see if I could recruit Igor Karkaroff back to our side. I was successful with the latter and almost succeeding in killing my father. If it hadn’t been for that cursed dog and the Snape brats, I would have succeeded. Of course, Ftaher wouldn’t remember, because I had to Obliviate him. I would have finished the deed but the bastard vampire interfered with my plans.”
“Vampire? I don’t understand.” Dumbledore frowned. “There are no vampires at Hogwarts.”
Crouch senior looked as if he wished to either vomit, cry, or throttle the false Moody. “Faithless son! How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child!”
Barty Junior laughed. “And what do I have to thank you for, Father? For keeping me under lock and key for years? For making me a prisoner in my own home, by using the Imperius Curse upon me? What would Mother say to see how low you have sunk?”
“Shut your filthy mouth!” spat the elder Crouch. “She died to preserve your unworthy life! What I did, I did for her, as her last request! I would have left you in Azkaban!”
“Yes, I know!” hissed the other, struggling against his bonds. “Unnatural father! Do not quote Shakespeare at me, old man! For you are a tyrant. And I pray daily that you die!”
Dumbledore cut into the family spat. “Barty, did the vampire say how he got here? Who he was?”
“Yes. He told me that he was here to protect Severus Snape’s boys. He called himself—”
“Philip Anthony Snape,” Phil announced as he entered the room, followed by Severus, Harry, Sarai, Titania, and two of her guard. The other guards she bid to remain outside, to make sure there was no eavesdropping.
The expression upon Dumbledore’s face was priceless. Severus suddenly wished he had a camera, for the amount of times Dumbledore had ever been shocked speechless and utterly flummoxed was so rare that Severus only recalled one other time—when Sybill Trelawney had made her cracked prophecy.
Philip came to stand directly in front of the Headmaster, and he was not at all pleased. He eyed the old wizard like a schoolmaster would have a boy who did not learn his assignment. He bared his fangs and said, coldly, “I am and Severus’ distant ancestor, and I came here to watch over my family, as it became known to me that they were in danger from a dark wizard who should have been destroyed years ago, before young Harry was even born. Voldemort was your student, Albus Dumbledore, and therefore you must bear some responsibility for not stopping him when he betrayed your teachings. I have heard, since I have been here, of how you are a great practitioner of white magic, how you were the only wizard Voldemort ever feared. How then, if your reputation is to be believed, did you not destroy him when you had the chance? How was it that you failed and it took a mere baby to defeat him the first time?”
Dumbledore blinked, startled by the accusatory tone and also the fact that Philip was practically in his face. “I was not aware that you studied the history of wizards, Mr. Snape.”
“Actually, it’s Lord Snape to you,” Philip drawled.
“Forgive me. I did confront Tom once about his dark ways, but he refused to listen to me. I’m afraid I underestimated his ambition and ability to draw people to his cause. By the time I realized what he had done and become, he had amassed an army. I would have confronted him had I been able to catch him, but he fled and I could not locate him. Then I learned of a prophecy that spoke of a savior, and that one was not me, Lord Snape, but Harry there.” Dumbledore quickly rattled off the prophecy Trelawney had spoken.
Philip snarled. “And you would put the fate of your world and your people in the hands of an infant? What kind of fool are you? Or are you insane?”
“Neither. Merely a believer in the prophecy spoken. There is a hero chosen for every age, my lord.” Dumbledore said quickly. He did not flinch, but he did draw back slightly from the angry vampire.
Philip snorted. “Prophecy was spouted by would-be oracles of every stripe when I was a boy. Armageddon was what they preached back then. Do you know what happened? All of them were proven false. If it were me, I would have made damn sure I had a backup plan in place. I would not have relied upon a mere boy to slay a necromancer. Even if the prophecy was true . . .you didn’t seem very concerned with protecting Harry that I could see. His life was threatened multiple times this year and had it not been for my vigilance, your precious savior would be six feet under! If this is how you protect your most valuable student, I would hate to be the one you never noticed! But perhaps it wouldn’t matter, since you never noticed Severus’ plight as a victim of the Marauders until he almost died. The end result is the same—death. Pitiful! Your negligence is appalling, sir!”
Dumbledore’s eyes flashed. “I have always tried to help Harry to the best of my ability. In order to fulfill the prophecy—”
“—he must be kept alive, not thrown into danger year after year! He should have been with his father, not left at the mercy of relatives who despised him and harmed him! You promised him he would be safe at school, and yet you allowed teachers to be hired who had tried to kill him year after year. Like that one!” He stabbed a finger at Barty Crouch Junior, who had now resumed his original appearance. Barty shrank away.
“I regret that I cannot be everywhere at once, but I have not your supernatural powers, Lord Snape.” Dumbledore said stiffly.
“Ha! The most supernatural power I possess is my brain, Headmaster. I watch and listen and I put the welfare of my students first. Where was your vaunted Order when Severus and I fought your great enemy tonight? Or were you just going to trust in Fate to bring your hero and your professor safely home again?” His sarcasm was so sharp it could have drawn blood. “You are lucky I am in a good mood, Albus Dumbledore. Or else . . .” For an instant his eyes glinted bloodred.
Dumbledore pale and gulped audibly. “I apologize for endangering your family. If circumstances had permitted---”
“Save the excuses.” Philip said coldly. “What’s done is done.”
“You fought He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Philip?” exclaimed Moody. “Where is he?”
“Lost to this world forever.”
“As good as,” the vampire replied.
“Albus, tell these . . .armor-bound idiots to let me pass!” cried Minerva from outside the office. “I’ve summoned all the Order and now we just need to be told where to go! What is going on in there?”
Titania looked at Smidgen, and the fae cat sent a silent message to allow McGonagall to enter.
The witch burst through the door, and then stopped when she saw who was gathered there. “Great Merlin! Severus! Harry! You managed to escape from You-Know-Who?” Then her gaze fell upon Philip. “A vampire! What is a Nightwalker doing in the castle? And who are the rest of these people?”
“Allow me to introduce you, Minerva,” said Severus. He introduced all of them, ending with Titania, of whom he declared, “ . . .has given Voldemort the comeuppance he so richly deserves, a justice long delayed, now finally administered. Voldemort is no more, or rather, he is only hot air.”
“What do you mean, Severus? Either he is dead or he is not.”
“He has been transmuted to wind, good witch,” Titania spoke up. “By my spell and my power, he shall remain so for all eternity.”
“You are certain, Your Majesty?” Minerva queried, giving the queen a graceful curtsy.
Titania’s lips twitched in a half-smile. “I am not certain whether to be amused or offended, Minerva McGonagall. I am no novice spellcrafter, I am over five hundred of your years old and have put paid to many a dark wizard, mortal and immortal alike. There was blood between us, lady, for he cost me the life of my youngest daughter long ago, and it has taken me years to settle the debt, but now it is paid in full. He asked me to grant him immortality as a youth, and now I have done so . . .. .though not precisely as he would have wished. Still, such is the risk you take when you make a bargain and then break it with me.” Once more, her jade-green eyes gleamed with that inhuman cold light and the room crackled with ambient magical energy and the temperature dropped a few degrees, or so it seemed.
Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He shrank back instinctively, and felt Severus drape an arm across his shoulder. It was then he found that he wasn’t too proud after all to lean against Severus’ tall form. Even though he knew Titania wouldn’t hurt him, she was still terrifying and imposing. Even Dumbledore scooted back in his chair a bit. Barty Junior looked like he wished he had followed his lord to hell and stared at the Queen of the Seelie in morbid fascination, like a hypnotized mouse watching a cat creeping towards it.
“Your Grace, we are in your debt for having defeated our worst enemy,” Dumbledore said smoothly, his blue eyes twinkling. He inclined his head to Titania. “What has become of the other Death Eaters?”
“They are all dead as well, Headmaster,” Severus told him. “All those at the graveyard, that is. I am sure there are others hiding. But the only one left of his inner circle is that piece of excrement over there. One which I have a score to settle with.” His eyes narrowed.
“Aye, as do I,” Alastor said grimly. “Shall we rip the bugger in half then, Snape? Which do you want, top or bottom?”
“Whatever you prefer, Alastor. You have been the most wronged by him,” Severus said. “However, before you rip out his guts with an Entrail Removal Curse, allow me to do this.”
Before anyone could move, Severus slammed Barty Junior hard in the face with an upthrust palm.
The Death Eater gave a muffled howl as his nose crunched and broke and another as Snape slammed him hard in the stomach. “That was for my sons, you craven bastard. Quit sniveling, boy! You won’t need to worry about your broken nose or ruptured spleen for long, since the Ministry will be sending a Dementor to Kiss you shortly. Which is a far quicker death than you deserve. Unless Philip or Moody gets to you first.”
“Step aside, Severus,” Moody said, pointing his wand.
“Gentlemen, before you punish your traitor, let me conclude my business, if you would?” Titania said. She looked directly at Dumbledore. “The Captain of my Royal Guard told me that you have in your possession an ancient artifact of my people—used by you in your TriWizard Tournament for centuries. But now it is time for it to return to its rightful owners. You say you are in my debt for the defeat of Tom Riddle. The debt may be paid if you return the Goblet of Fire to me.”
“You can’t do that, Dumbledore!” Crouch senior protested. “The Goblet is Ministry property!”
Titania spun on him. “The Cup belongs to no mortal agency! It is a fae object, made and used by us for uncounted centuries, and lost through treachery. With it I may yet bring peace to my war-torn kingdom. Return it to us, Dumbledore. It never belonged to you in the first place. In doing so you shall have my eternal gratitude. Do not and you will have an unpaid debt to me—and as anyone will tell you, it is unwise to leave a debt unpaid. Especially to me.”
Crouch senior sputtered but made no more protests, clearly he had learned that when dealing with monarchs discretion was the better part of valor.
Titania gazed at Albus with hard eyes. “Well?”
A sudden ripple of power raced about the room, toppling books off shelves and shredding papers and shattering vials of potions and the window. Glass glinted upon the carpet, and Fawkes squeaked and dived beneath his perch.
Albus quickly opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a large velvet encased box. Inside was the Cup. “In that case, you may have it back, Your Majesty. Far be it for me to start a war with your people.”
Titania took the Cup in her slender hands. “Indeed. Especially a war in which you are not assured of victory. A wise decision.” She slipped the Cup into a pouch at her waist. “All debts are paid in full, wizard. Now we shall take our leave, as there are pressing matters to attend to at home. Farewell, wizards of Hogwarts. Farewell, little cousin,” she turned to Harry and smiled at him. “We thank you for a much-needed excuse to leave our tax rolls and fulfill an old debt. Do come and see us again sometime.”
“Goodbye, Your Majesty,” Harry said. “It would be my pleasure.”
She inclined her head to him. Then she vanished, as did all of her guard, including Sarai, who shot a regretful look toward’s her fiancée before she faded. Only Smidgen remained, quietly grooming herself upon Harry’s shoulder.
Everyone save the Snapes exchanged sighs of relief when the fae were gone.
Crouch Senior rounded on Albus. “I cannot believe you just handed over the Goblet as though it were a Quidditch trophy, Albus! The Minister—”
“—will soon see the wisdom of my actions. Bartemius, the fae make very dangerous enemies and Titania spoke the truth. We have been keeping an artifact that we had no right to and it was time it was returned to them.”
“At least you have some sense,” Philip remarked caustically. “And now, to other business.” He stared hungrily at the imposter Moody. “Is there truly a Dementor coming, Severus? Because if not, I can happily dispatch this one.”
“That will not be necessary, Lord Snape.” Dumbledore coughed. “Arrangements have been made.”
“Forgive me, Albus, but I must inform the Order that they are no longer needed now that He—Voldemort is dead. Dead. Finally. I . . .find it hard to believe . . .”
“Here is more proof,” Severus declared and rolled up his sleeve. His left arm was no longer branded with the Dark mark, the skin was smooth and unblemished. “Only true death would have removed the magic in this. It is over at last, Minerva.”
The Deputy Headmistress smiled and hugged a startled Severus. “And you are alive to see it, old friend, Merlin be praised.” Then she drew away and sailed out of the office.
No sooner had she departed, then a cold chill seeped into the room and Harry felt the first ripple of unease and fear as a Dementor approached. He began to shiver violently despite himself. Severus frowned down at him worriedly, then said abruptly, “Harry needs to go to the Hospital Wing to be checked out by Madam Pomfrey. He sustained scratches and bites from the undead that need attention.”
“Of course. Harry, I shall see you later along with the other champions to discuss the end of the tournament,” Dumbledore said. “Though I fear most people have already conceded the victory to Cedric, as he appeared first with the cup outside the maze.”
Harry turned. “Let him have the victory, sir. We were going to share it, but it rightfully belongs to him. I was never supposed to compete. Give it to Hufflepuff. They deserve it.”
“Are you sure? Cedric told me that you assisted him there at the end, with the Runespoor.”
“I’m sure.” Harry said firmly. “How is Fleur? And just so you know, Krum cheated, he attacked Fleur and Cedric in the maze.”
“Little skulking bastard!” Moody swore.
“Karkaroff told him to,” Harry said then.
“So? If someone told you to jump off the Astronomy Tower, lad, would you do it?” the old Auror asked.
“No, sir. But then, I’m a Snape, and we hardly ever do what we’re told.”
“You’ve got that right,” said his father. “Come along, Harry. Don’t make me drag you by the ear.”
Harry pretended to go reluctantly but he was actually glad to not have to be near the Dementor.
Philip appeared at Severus’ side and said, “I shall join you shortly.”
The two Snapes left the office just as the Dementor flowed up the stairs and through the door.
Harry’s teeth chattered and Severus gave him a bar of chocolate. “Here. Eat that, and tell me about the last task.”
“Okay, but I . . .uh . . .sort of promised the giant Runespoor that it could come home with me, Dad . . .”
Severus stopped dead. “You did what? Harry Albus Snape, I am not running a home for magical misfits—”
“Dad, I had to make a bargain with it in order to get through the last part of the labyrinth. Besides, it wouldn’t live in the house or anything, just on the grounds. There’s plenty of woods and I’ll make sure it understands it can’t eat any family members or anything. It needed a home, and I’m the only Parselmouth around.”
“Since when does being a Parselmouth entitle you to rescue eighteen foot long Runespoors with bad attitudes?”
“Hey, a bargain is a bargain, Dad. And a Snape always keeps his word. Besides, you’re Head of Slytherin and it’ll really boost your reputation if you share your home with a giant Runespoor that just might eat cheeky students . . .”
“Humph! We’ll see. Now quit dawdling and move your behind, Mr. Snape, or must I pick you up and carry you?” he inquired silkily.
Harry blanched. “Merlin, but you’re evil!”
Severus smirked as Harry practically ran down the corridor to the Hospital Wing. Giant snakes had nothing on implied humiliation.
Hope you all enjoyed this chapter. I couldn't bear to kill Smidgen after all, so she lives!
Next chapter: End of term, some fond farewells, and the Snapes return home to Prince Manor for the summer and some more adventures as the heir learns the secrets of the ancient house.
Thanks everyone for your votes and interest in Smidgen, it really makes me happy to see how much everyone loves her.
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