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Chapter 34 : Home Sweet Home
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Return to Prince Manor
Home Sweet Home
The last three days of classes flew by, filled with rumors and celebrations now that Voldemort was gone. Harry and Severus were interviewed multiple times by Rita Skeeter and her fellow reporter, Amos Jigger, who always offered those he interviewed a jigger of firewhiskey, or in Harry's case, butterbeer. Severus refused, politely, but Harry enjoyed sharing his drink with the lively reporter. The Minister himself came to Hogwarts to congratulate Harry and Severus and proclaimed the Snape family the heroes of the century for finishing off Voldemort. He had commissioned a new statue—titled Voldemort's Defeat, Snapes' Victory—to be placed in the Ministry Court of the Fountains. He no longer doubted the veracity of either Snape's or Dumbledore's claim that Voldemort had returned, due to the Veritaserum testimony of Barty Crouch Junior.
The day after the big battle, Cedric came to see Harry in the Great Hall during breakfast. "Snape, mind if I have a word with you? Privately?"
"Sure, Diggory." Harry followed Cedric to the small room just off the hall where the champions had waited to hear the rules of the tournament. "What's this about?"
Cedric cleared his throat and said, sounding a little ashamed, "Well, I . . .just wanted to say how sorry I am that I didn't stand up right away and say that it was you who helped me get through the final task, Harry. But when I showed up, all I wanted to do right then was get help from Professor Snape. But everyone saw me return with the Cup, so they just . . .assumed I'd won the tournament. My House was so happy, and my dad . . .he was just about flying off the ground. . . still I should have told them. It was wrong of me to let them assume that I won. I can go to Dumbledore and tell him what really happened, I don't feel right taking the prize money—"
"Cedric, no." Harry held up a hand. "Don't worry about the tournament, or the prize money. I said before that I didn't really belong in the tournament, I only got in because of Barty Junior's manipulating the Goblet of Fire . . .or as the fae call it, the Cup of Wonders. If not for that, I'd have been watching from the sidelines and rooting for you. Keep the Cup and the money. I don't need it or want it."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. It'll be our little secret." Harry reassured him.
Cedric looked torn.
"But you got us past the runespoor."
"You could have gotten past it as well by putting it to sleep. Don't sweat it, Cedric. Let it be. It's time a House other than Gryffindor had its day. And time someone else got hounded by reporters besides me." Harry grinned at him.
"All right, Snape." Cedric held out his hand and Harry clasped it. "Friends?"
They opened the door and nearly banged into Hermione, who was holding glass jar in her hand. Cedric peered at it. "You collecting bugs now, Granger?"
Hermione nodded. "This is a rare species. Only one I've ever seen."
"Nice." Diggory said. "You ought to show it to Professor Sprout. She enjoys seeing new species of bugs—as long as they're not in her green house or garden." He waved at them and continued into the hall.
Harry cocked an eyebrow at Hermione. "What kind of beetle is it?" The beetle was large, a vibrant green, with odd spectacle-like markings about its eyes. "It's not one I recognize."
"It's one of a kind. A Skeeter beetle." Hermione whispered, yanking him into the little room and shutting the door.
Harry felt his head start to spin. "I don't understand. What are you going on about, Hermione?"
His friend lowered her voice. "Remember when we tried to figure out how Skeeter was getting all the dirt on people she wrote about? How she knew things about people that no one else could? Well, I was watching as you exited the hall with Cedric this morning, and I saw Skeeter slip away from the table and follow you. So I followed her. And when I got here, I didn't see her. I only saw a green beetle upon the door. And then I knew."
"Knew that she was an Animagus. Her form's a beetle. See how the beetle's coloring matches her suit? And how her spectacles appear as bands about her eyes? Like McGonagall's do when she changes into a cat."
Harry peered at the captured beetle and saw that it was as Hermione had said. "I know the spell to change her into her true form," he said, and began to point his wand.
The beetle began shaking its head frantically.
"See, Harry. You are Rita, aren't you?" Hermione demanded.
The beetle shook her head.
Hermione scowled. "Don't lie. Harry, cast the spell—"
The beetle began nodding and shaking her head.
Harry narrowed his eyes. "Did you hear everything Cedric and discussed?"
A quick shake no.
"But you did hear most of it?"
A nod yes.
"Were you planning to write an article about it?"
A jerky nod.
Harry's jaw clenched. "You breathe a word about what we spoke of and I'll reveal you as an Animagus, Skeeter. Because I'll bet my arse you're unregistered."
"She is. I memorized all the registered Animagi in Britain. There aren't many." Hermione said. She scowled at the beetle. "You are the sneakiest, most devious, underhanded piece of trash I've ever known. Prying into people's private lives and using that information to plump up your own career! It's just disgusting. Harry, we really ought to report her!"
"Mmm . . ." Harry's lips tightened. Then he slowly shook his head. "We can't, 'Mione. We can't risk it. She knows too much about this last thing, which has to be kept secret."
"All right, but I'm going to make you promise you'll swear to never reveal what you just heard between Harry and Cedric, or else . . .Deal?"
The beetle nodded frantically.
"Good." Then she released the beetle, which jumped away and fled.
Hermione gave him a high five. "Come on, Harry. Let's go and eat, I'm starved."
Once again, Harry entered the hall and sat down at the table. He thanked God that the house elves had kept his breakfast hot. Well, that's one mystery solved, he thought as he chewed a piece of bacon. Hermione made a good detective.
"Where were you?" asked Ron, only then realizing Harry was not in his usual spot.
"Off catching bugs with Hermione," Harry said glibly.
"Huh? What bugs?"
"Tell you later. Just eat," Harry ordered and then started eating.
"You gotta be kidding!" Ron spit crumbs all over when he heard Harry tell him about Rita's secret. "I never would have guessed she was a—"
"Shhh, Ron!" Harry hissed. "Nobody but us can know."
"Oh, right." Ron swallowed. "Sorry."
"Gryffindors!" Draco snorted. "Can't keep a secret to save their souls."
"Harry and I can," Hermione said indignantly.
"And so can I," said Katie.
"That's 'cause you two are girls with brains and Harry's a Snape," Draco stated. "Speaking of Snapes, when are you going to show me the runespoor, Harry?"
"Now," Harry said, pushing back his plate. "I'm finished."
"What runespoor?" asked Ron. "They're really rare, I've never seen one before."
"Follow me then."
Draco, Ron, Katie, and Hermione all rose and gathered up their things, they had no classes right then and no real homework either.
Harry led the way to the Quidditch pitch, where the labyrinth was. It still stood, and Harry cautiously led the way inside. He passed through the small space where the Cup had stood upon the pedestal and through the oaken door. He glanced about, and spotted a large nest of dried leaves and sticks. He hissed a low greeting to the runespoor.
A head poked its way up from the nest sleepily.
"Who calls?" Azella hissed.
"It's me, Harry Snape," Harry said in Parseltongue. "Remember how I promised you I would come back and take you to a place where you could live in peace and raise your little snakelings?"
"Ah, yes-s-s! Young wizard, you have kept your promise!" Azeal said, sounding satisfied.
"For once, a human has done as he promised!" declared Ashterith, then he gave Harry a pointed glare. "But mus-s-t you wake us-s-s at the crack of dawn, S-s-peaker? We like to s-s-sleep till noon, then we can s-s-sunbathe."
All three heads were peering from the nest now, and then the runespoor moved, undulating up out of the nest so it was facing Harry, curled and looped about itself like a scaly ball of string. The three heads nodded and swiveled about, tasting the air with their forked tongues.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to make sure you were all right." Harry said. "And my friends and brother wished to meet you."
"Oh?" all three heads thrummed. They all looked towards the door, where Draco, Hermione, Katie and Ron were standing, slack-jawed.
"Bloody hell!" exclaimed Ron, bug-eyed. "You never told me it was giant runespoor!"
"Oh my goodness! It's almost as tall as you, Harry." Hermione observed. "I wonder how it grew that big?"
"S-s-silly girl!" laughed Azeal. "A s-s-snake never s-s-stops growing. We grow as big as nature allows-s-s us-s!"
Harry translated Azeal's words to the others.
"How old is he?" asked Draco. "Or is it she?"
Harry turned and asked the runespoor Draco's questions, even though he was almost positive the snake understood human speech. He didn't mind translating, it gave him a chance to use his language skills.
"We are about a century old, as-s-s you two-legs measure time. And s-s-ince we are two males and one female, you may refer to us-s-s as he."
"Oh. Okay. What's your name . .. err . . .names?" Draco asked.
That one Harry didn't need to translate. "The right head is named Azeal, the middle is Azella, and the third is Ashterith."
"We're pleased to meet you, Azeal, Azella, and Ashterith," said Katie, and she bowed to the snake.
The runespoor preened. "Ahh . . .how nice it is to be appreciated!"
"That's my . . .err. . .soon to be mate," Harry told the snake, there was no word for "girlfriend" in Parseltongue.
"A good choice!" said Ashterith.
"S-s-he s-shall bear you many young," Azella said frankly.
"Uh . . .yeah . . ." Harry trailed off, blushing. He had forgotten how blunt snakes were when it came to discussing acts of reproduction.
"And s-s-he is res-s-spectful to us-s." Azeal said approvingly.
"What are they saying, Harry?" asked Katie.
"That they like you and thanks." Harry translated briefly.
"What a lovely color he has!" Hermione said admiringly. "The orange scales are like flame and the black are like night. Very handsome!"
The runespoor preened. "We s-s-how even better in the s-s-sun!"
The snake twisted and turned so they could all admire the way the sun lit its scales.
"But Harry, how are we going to take a snake this size along with us?" Draco pointed out. "Dad can't Apparate something that size along with us. And we can't fly."
Harry was at a loss. He had never considered how they were going to transport the runespoor. "Umm . . ."
Ashterith cocked his head. "Hmmm . . .S-s-speaker . . .that should not be a problem. We can reduce our s-s-ize."
"You can? You have magic?"
"A bit," said Azella. "Watch!"
The runespoor began to glow and then it started to shrink, becoming smaller and smaller until it was the size of a king snake. "There! I can fit in your pocket," hissed Azeal, and Harry knelt and the runespoor slithered up his arm and arranged itself about Harry's neck, beneath his collar.
Harry and his friends headed back inside. "Would you mind staying in my quarters for the rest of the day? People aren't too comfortable around snakes."
Azeal sighed. "As-s-s you wish."
"People fear us-s-s as a symbol of evil. I don't understand it," Azella said mournfully. "We eat the vermin that bring disease and would eat your food."
"People are s-s-stupid!" Ashterith spat.
The runespoor curled up on Harry's pillow and Harry smiled before heading to class.
The morning of the last day of term arrived and Harry woke early and took the runespoor out with him on his morning walk, letting the snake hunt its breakfast in the grass. The runespoor was still in its small shape, and it could eat mice or small birds. It had told Harry it rarely became its larger form, because it was difficult to find food in that form, though Harry assured it there were plenty of deer and wild boar on the estate.
While the runespoor hunted, Harry walked along the path to Hagrid's cottage and then around to the Black Lake. He was a few feet away from the ebony water when he saw a most astonishing sight. Luna Lovegood, standing with her bare feet in the grass, wearing a rather misty gown of green and gold, rather like a sundress, her long hair blowing every which way, embracing a tall dark man.
He was all in black down to his polished boots. Harry knew him, of course. It was Duncan Wavestrider, the kelpie who had aided him in translating an ancient scroll and who had also escorted Luna to the Yule Ball. Harry had thought the two made the perfect couple, despite Duncan's attraction to Katie initially. And now he had been proven right, as the two embraced and shared a farewell kiss.
Luna had to stand on tiptoes to kiss him, but Duncan didn't seem to mind. He simply lifted her in his arms, never ceasing.
Harry blushed and turned away. But he was glad Luna had finally found someone who appreciated her. He wondered if Duncan could see wrackspurts and whatever else Luna seemed to see. One thing he did know. The kelpie would remain faithful to Luna, it was how he was. Some fae could be flighty, but most were constant once they had given their word, if they were honorable, like Sarai and Duncan.
Then he turned and continued his morning stroll, returning to the Great Hall an hour later. The banners in the hall were all black and yellow, Hufflepuff colors to honor Cedric and his victory. Harry ate a sausage and egg sandwich only and a glass of pumpkin juice, for he preferred to eat light when Apparating, since that mode of travel still tended to make him queasy on occasion.
He bid farewell to his friends after Dumbledore's final speech had comcluded, promising to write and Katie promised to invite him and Draco and Severus to her house in a week or two.
"Here."Harry whistled for Frost and the young snowy flew immediately to his shoulder. "Take Frost, so you won't forget to write. She knows the way to and from Prince Manor, she was born there."
Katie's cheeks went pink. "You're giving her to me? To keep?"
"Yeah. I love her, but . . .you need her more than I do, since your Blue Streak is getting on in years."
"Streak belonged to Mum before me," Katie murmured. "He really should be retired from duty. Sometimes he gets lost and letters take days to get delivered."
"Well, Frost's a great owl. And I don't use her as much as I should, 'cause I don't want to neglect Hedwig." Harry said.
"Thank you, Harry! I love her!" she stroked Frost's chest and the snowy rubbed her head against her new mistress and trilled.
Katie leaned over and kissed her boyfriend on the cheek. "You're so sweet, Snape! And I'm lucky that I have you."
Harry ducked his head, blushing, for he still hadn't learned how to take a compliment gracefully. "You're welcome!"
Draco smirked knowingly. "He got that from me," he whispered to Hermione. "I taught him everything he knows about romance. Except this," then he leaned over and kissed her. "That he had to figure out himself."
Hermione turned the shade of a blushing tea rose and said, "Malfoy, you are too much!" Then she kissed him back.
Ron received a perfumed note from Zara, his French date for the ball, promising that she would write to him over the summer and never forget him. He blushed red as a strawberry when Draco twitted him about his French amour. But he sniffed the note, grinned, and then tucked it away. Harry just hoped the twins never found it, they would make Ron's life hell.
They all rose and went to fetch trunks and boxes and duffels from their rooms. Harry met Severus and Draco in the Entrance Hall, his trunk floating along behind him. Hedwig's cage on his arm and the runespoor safely in his pocket.
"Are you all set?" asked Severus. Smidgen was perched calmly upon his shoulder, serene as always, her crooked wing folded flat against her side.
"Yes, Dad," said his sons.
"Good. Shrink your belongings then and put them in your pockets and we shall be on our way." He held Cafall's lead in his hand, the misthound sitting calmly at his feet.
They obeyed, and together they walked past the gates of Hogwarts and Severus took both their arms and Apparated to the Lonely Moor.
The moor was the same as Harry remembered it—bleak, cold, and without a tree or shelter in sight. The mist curled and shifted about his feet.
Then it grew thicker and thicker and Harry shivered at the unnatural chill it exuded. Draco was watching as Severus walked a few paces, holding his Staff of the Magi, and then the black-clad sorcerer halted and looked over at Harry.
"Harry, now is as good a time as any for you to practice parting the Endless Mist. Come over here."
Harry looked uneasy, but went over to where Snape stood, the misty tendrils climbing up his legs like ivy. "What do I do?"
"Hold your medallion in your left hand and concentrate upon it. Feel the connection it bears to Prince Manor. Focus your mind on how it makes you feel and picture it in your mind." Severus instructed. "The mist is linked to the manor and it will feel that you belong."
Harry obeyed, slipping the medallion free and holding it and then concentrating upon his home, which he had missed terribly. He pictured the manor house and the orchard and the fish pond, he pictured the orchard where he and Draco had once raced their brooms and where he went and picked purple heart-shaped merlinnas at dawn.
Home. Home. I want to go home.
He felt the connection flare deep within him.
The mist suddenly wreathed him.
"Good, now lift your hands up, as if you were conducting an orchestra." Snape instructed. "That's it. Now speak the words Part for Me in Latin and then bring your arms down quickly."
Harry copied the other's swift sure movement and felt the mist stir.
It seemed reluctant to obey him and he said, "Dad, it's not working."
"It is, but it's slow because your will isn't focused enough, Harry. Do it over."
Harry did it over three times before the mist finally decided to part for him, revealing the wrought iron gate with its depression for an amulet to rest, one that only he and Severus possessed.
Harry glanced at his father. "Do you want to do the honors?"
"My pleasure," Severus said and then he pressed his own amulet to the gate and liquid silver slowly flowed across the wrought iron gate and made the bars glow.
The gates swung open.
Harry could feel the siren call of the manor even before he stepped through the mist and on to his land. He could not resist, and so he bounded ahead of his father and brother, feeling the land welcome him back with each step. The Heir has returned! The Heir has returned!
Harry was grinning broadly. "Yeah, I sure have. Hey, I wondered if I might see Sev Prince around here?"
The flowers giggled and hushed him.
"He's still here, somewhere," whispered the wind.
Since the ghost was bound to the land, he couldn't leave , but he could make himself unseen and scare people when he chose.
Harry felt the latent magical power in the earth rise up and enter him and he almost burst with joy. He could feel the land and all the things that grew and lived upon it. He wanted to run around in circles like a crazy idiot, or a mad dog, he wanted to roll about on the ground and laugh till he was breathless.
He was home at last and it felt wonderful.
"Draco and I are going into the house to unpack. Why don't you stay out here for a bit and see if you can't find Azeal, Azella, Ashterith a new home?"
"I was just going to do that. Are you reading my mind now?"
"Hardly. It's a logical assumption." He ruffled Harry's hair playfully. "Meet you back at the house, son. Then we can have a bite to eat and you can start on your summer assignments."
"Dad! No!" they cried in horror.
Severus smirked. "Only kidding."
Harry headed towards the orchard, which was heady with the scent of peaches, pears, apples and oranges. He knew there would be merlinnas come the next dawn.
He walked through the orchard, picking a peach and eating it, letting the sweet juice erupt in his mouth and dribble down his chin. Everything here tasted so good, it was part of the fae magic, which kept everything young and in bloom and tasty.
He walked right up to the woods and removed the runespoor from his pocket. "Here's your new home. Just be careful, because there are some dangerous animals in here. Fae and not. I'm sure you'll like it."
The runespoor looked about, eagerly surveying its new domain. It began to shimmer and then it was nearly the same size as python. Slowly it began to make its way deeper into the wood, after hissing a farewell and a thank you.
"We s-s-shall s-s-see you s-s-soon!" called Azeal.
"Once we find a proper nest!" added Azella.
"And s-s-some game to eat," reminded Ashterith. "Farewell for now, S-Speaker S-Snape!"
Harry watched it go, wondering when he would see it again, then he turned and made his way back to the manor.
One large submarine sandwich later and a glass of merlinna juice, Harry was stuffed and longing to take a nap. Since Severus didn't have a list of chores or a summer chore schedule up yet, Harry knew he could do just that, and he headed to his bedroom. He halted just before it and called, "Uh, Dad? Are Draco and I still sharing a room?"
"No. You are off that punishment and can now have your own rooms back." Severus replied, still nursing a cup of chamomile.
Draco and Harry yipped in glee and then they retreated to their rooms to unpack, or in Harry's case, sleep.
Smidgen joined him a moment later and curled up next to him upon his pillow.
Draco shook him awake in time for supper, which was simple, soup and a bacon and tomato grilled cheese, since Draco cooked it.
Smidgen had a tiny saucer of milk with honey, a bit of bacon and bread and cheese.
After supper, Harry washed the dishes and then they settled about the couch to read or discuss what had gone on with the tournament.
Finally, Harry felt his eyes growing heavy and he yawned. "Good night all. I need to get some sleep."
"Good night, son."
:Sleep well, Harry. The manor welcomes you home:
Harry made his way to the bathroom and after he'd finished his toilet, went to bed. He snuggled beneath the cool sheets and thought happily—Home sweet home at last!
He slept deeply and in his dreams he met Sev Prince, his half-fae ancestor again, who was also the Guardian spirit of Prince Manor.
Harry found himself sitting beneath a merlinna tree in the orchard and before him stood a tall man with his long dark hair pulled back in a tail, wearing clothing from the medieval period, black trews, a long silver tunic with a bright blue shirt beneath, and eyes as green as Harry's own. "Well met again, young Snape. You have finally returned to Prince Manor. Are you done with your wandering for now?"
"Sev!" Harry leaped up and into the elder Prince's arms. "Yes, I am, and it feels so good to be back."
Severus Prince smiled, his pointed ears poking delicately from his hair. "I know exactly how you feel. No matter what wondrous sights I saw or what new things I encountered in my travels, there was no place to compare with my home. Not even the palace of the fae Queen herself." He hugged his chosen heir tightly. "Welcome back, Harry. It is good to have both the Heir and Heir Apparent here at the same time. The land rejoices." He bent and gave the boy a light kiss on the forehead. "Go now, child, and sleep well."
Harry half-woke, saw it was still night, and fell back to sleep. All was quiet and no rumbling snores disturbed his rest. He slept deeply and peacefully and woke when the dawn just touched the tops of the trees.
He leaped out of bed, hopped upon his broom, and flew out to the orchard with a small carry sack. He began picking merlinnas until he had a sack full and then he went back inside. Draco was still snoozing, so he wouldn't have to fight him for first dibs on the shower. Sometimes it paid to be an early riser.
Now that they're home for the summer, the fun will start!
Next: After a week of doing summer assignments-yes, Sev insisted they get them done and over with-the boys are more than ready to take the Floo to Devon and visit Katie and her family for the weekend. Whta new adventures await them aboard Katie's clipper? Plus a surprise guest is there! Who do you think it is?
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