Chapter 10 : Past Regrets
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"And Alby!" Frankie shouted, skipping past her dad to get to the blanket. "Hiya, Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny." The little girl threw her arms about Harry and hugged him, then did the same to Ginny.
"How are you doing, Frankie? Long time no see, eh?" Ginny chuckled.
Frankie shook her head. "You just saw me last week, Aunt Ginny," she reminded the red-haired witch.
"That's right. I thought it was longer because you've grown almost a whole inch since last time," Ginny teased.
Frankie giggled, for she always wanted to be tall like her dad. "Where's Alby?"
"He's playing hide-and-seek with Severus over there," Ginny pointed to where the two boys were playing.
Frankie's eyes widened, and she asked nervously. "Is he a new kid? I've never seen him around before."
"Ah . . . well . . .he's our new . . .son." Ginny fumbled to try and explain how Severus came to be there. "Harry and I are his guardians because he's an orphan."
"Like 'cause he's got no mum and dad?" asked the girl. "Like Uncle Harry?"
"Yes, like that. So your uncle and I agreed to let Severus live with us and now he's like Alby's big brother. Why don't you go and say hello, dear?"
Frankie looked doubtful, she was always a little shy meeting new people. "Umm . . ."
But then Alby looked up and spotted her. Next to his cousin Rose and Scorpius, Frankie was one of his favorite playmates. "Frankie! Come and meet my big brudder!" He waved at her, smiling sweetly.
Severus looked up from where he was hiding his eyes, expecting to see another little boy. Instead he saw the most adorable little girl staring uncertainly back at him. His forehead wrinkled, as he tried to determine which of his former students could have produced such a sweet child.
Frankie took two steps toward him and held out her hand. "Hi. I'm Frances Longbottom, but everybody calls me Frankie."
Severus took her hand, amazed that clumsy Long bottom had produced such a petite child. "Hello. My name is Severus Snape. Pleased to meet you."
"Sev'rus, this is Frankie," Alby said, coming up and hugging the little girl. "Frankie's one of my best friends, 'sides Rosie an' Cory. She loves horses and flowers."
Frankie nodded. "I like to help my daddy and mummy plant flowers, but I like roses best. I want to get a pony someday, but my daddy says I have to wait till I'm six or seven. I'm five now. How old are you, Severus?"
"I'm . . ." Thirty-eight, he almost blurted, catching himself in time. " . . . five also."
"Yay!" she clapped happily. "Finally someone the same age as me. I was born April 6th. How about you?"
"January 9th," replied Severus absently. He was gazing over at Neville and Luna, who were sitting on the blanket talking to Harry and Ginny and giving him surreptitious glances every so often. It made him uncomfortable. He wondered just what explanation Harry and Ginny were giving the Longbottoms.
"That's my mum and dad," Frankie announced, waving her hand over at Neville and Luna.
Severus nodded, recalling a stocky boy who was continually blew up cauldrons in his classroom and a skinny blond girl who saw magical beings almost no one else did and usually had her head in the clouds. But oddly enough, she had been one of his best potions students. What irony that she had married Longbottom, who had been one of his worst brewers. He wondered if Frankie had inherited her mother's gift for brewing or was she more inclined towards Herbology?
Alby, growing bored, grabbed Frankie's hand and dragged her off to where he had put his toy broom. "Frankie, wanna fly with me? Sev'rus, can she borrow your broom?"
"Yes." Severus called back, rooted to the spot. He suddenly recalled all the times he had snapped at and sneered at Longbottom and wondered if the adult Longbottom remembered those times. If he did, would he want to get revenge upon his former teacher, now that Severus was defenseless? Snape had felt justified at the time treating Longbottom so harshly, he had been trying to push the kid into working harder and grow a backbone, but now he regretted his sharpness. Might he have been wrong? He crept closer to the four adults upon the blanket, who had their heads together, whispering. They did not see him standing a few feet away.
" . . . sure that's really Professor Snape?" Neville murmured, astonishment in his brown eyes. He had lost some weight since the war ended, and his face was thinner now and he resembled his father Frank a good deal. He was also a bit broader in the shoulder than he had been and taller as well.
"It's him, all right," Ginny answered. "He might look like a cute kid, but he still has the snarky attitude and sharp tongue. That's two things that haven't changed."
"How'd it happen, for Merlin's sake?" asked Luna.
Harry shrugged and told them how he had gone to visit his godfather's and Severus' graves and the spinning vortexes had appeared and out of them had tumbled the de-aged Sirius Black and Severus Snape.
"That's just . . . amazing!" Luna said. "I've never heard of the Veil turning inward like that. And so they're going to just . . . remain as children now?"
"Yes. Ginny and I agreed to take Severus and Remus has Sirius. I feel bad for him . . . almost. " Harry said. "Then again, maybe this is karma for Lupin allowing Sirius to get away with murder the first time."
"Could be," Luna murmured. Then she added, "If Sirius and Severus still have all their previous memories, why not just Age them back with a potion?"
Before Harry or Ginny could respond, Severus spoke. "That wouldn't work."
All of the adults stared at him.
"Why not, Severus?" Harry queried, one eyebrow raised.
Severus huffed and sighed. Seven years of potions and he still doesn't remember the basic laws! Merlin's bloody cauldron, but was I talking to myself all those years ago? "An Aging Potion is only temporary. It's effects will wear off in a few hours and cannot be made permanent. It's been tried before and the result has always ended in death for the imbiber. The cells grow at too rapid a rate and burn themselves out and die. Do you not remember the examples I gave you in class, Potter?" he demanded, sounding very much like the snarky professor he'd once been.
"Yup, same old Snape," Neville remarked, smirking.
Harry scowled at the little boy. "Sorry we're not all potions prodigies like you, Mr. Snape. Now mind your tone!"
Neville and Luna gaped at the stern tone coming out of Harry's mouth.
Severus flushed and muttered an apology. "But that's not the only reason why Black and I can't use magic to . . . become our former ages again. We were brought back here so we could . . . have a second chance to live our lives over, and hopefully not repeat the mistakes we made in our former lives. If we simply aged ourselves back to what we were, it would totally defeat the purpose of a rebirth, for we would be back the way we were before we died. Therefore, it's not allowed."
"How can you be sure?" asked Luna.
"I just know," was all the boy replied, sounding exasperated. "I can't explain it any better than that."
"That explanation sounds good enough for me," said Neville. "I was never any good at magical theory and potions anyway, no matter how much you pushed me, professor."
Severus gazed at Longbottom with a somewhat sour expression, for he now realized that he had underestimated Neville. Longbottom had proved far more reliable and resilient than he had given the boy credit for. "I . . . believe that I owe you an apology, Longbottom. I was rather harsh on you and I may have not needed to be so."
Neville's eyes went wide upon hearing what had just come out of the child's mouth. The world really had stopped spinning. "Uh . . . that's okay, Professor. I understand better now that you were trying to . . . make me work harder by being so strict. I could have seriously injured someone the way I kept blowing up cauldrons. In a way, you made me better able to handle myself when I had to deal with the really sadistic nasty teachers we had in seventh year."
"The Carrows," Severus said darkly. "There wasn't much I could do to stop them . . . not and still maintain my cover. It is something . . . I regret deeply. I wanted nothing more than to hex them into grease spots upon the dungeon floor, or to rip out their intestines and roast them over a fire. Instead I was forced to watch . . ." He shook his head abruptly. There was a terrible aching pain in his eyes, and he whispered, "You need to get me that Pensieve tomorrow, Harry." He closed his eyes, sending the awful memories back behind his Occlumency shields.
"I will," Harry said, and gently patted Severus on the shoulder.
The boy stiffened, but did not pull away.
Neville, too, looked pained. "You tried your best, Severus. That's all any of us could do. But now it's over and done with and we can move on. We survived and that's all that matters. That, and the fact that our kids will grow up in a world free of war."
Harry and Ginny nodded. "That's the important thing," said Ginny. "And this time around, so will you, Severus." She gave him a smile.
"That is one thing that I am grateful for . . . Ginny." He gave her a small smile in return.
Just then they heard Alby yelling, "Hey, Sev'us, c'mere and show Frankie how to cast the light spell. Please! Then we can play some more hide n'seek."
The adults concealed grins behind their hands when Severus heaved a huge sigh that seemed to come from the tips of his toes and muttered, "Little brothers!"
Then he turned and rejoined his namesake and Frankie, picking up his toy wand from the spot where he'd left it in the grass. He was rather glad that Alby had called him right then, for things had started to get a bit too emotional for his liking and this was as good an excuse as any not continue the conversation. He did feel relieved, however, that Neville didn't hold a grudge.
"Wow! Who taught you how to cast spells like that?" asked Frankie, looking at her new friend in awe.
"My mother," answered Severus quietly.
"Before she died, right? I heard Aunt Ginny say you were an orphan and that's why you lived with them. I'm sorry about your mummy. You must miss her an awful lot." Frankie said kindly.
"I do," answered Severus, and blinked away tears.
The little girl gazed at him knowingly, then said uncannily, "You can cry if you want, Severus. I'd cry forever n' ever if my mum died."
"Me too," Alby agreed.
Severus sniffled, then dashed his hand over his eyes. He didn't dare give in to his emotions, even though it was tempting. He had shed enough tears in the past two days than he ever had in his life and he was not going to be labeled a cry baby. "No. I've cried enough now. It won't bring her back."
"No, but maybe you'll feel better," Frankie suggested. "Mummy says it's okay to cry if you're sad, because tears help the sadness go away."
Severus shook his head stubbornly. "Not for me." There was a lifetime of sorrow buried within him and he knew if he surrendered to it, he would drown in a deluge of tears. "Now watch the way I move my wand for this next spell," he told them, abruptly changing the subject. He began to show them a Color Change charm.
As the kids watched their "elder" eagerly, the Potters were joined by yet another group of old friends, Draco, Astoria, and little Cory.
"Fancy meeting you here, Potter," Draco drawled, giving Harry a lazily insolent grin.
"It was Ginny's idea to have a picnic," Harry pointed out, ruffling Cory's hair.
"Great minds think alike," laughed Astoria, she was tall and slender, wearing a dark blue dress and her silky platinum hair was pulled back in a chignon. "Mind if we steal some of your food, Ginny? I didn't really have time to cook today, I was helping my sister pick out baby clothes, she's expecting in five months and wants to get the nursery ready." She helped herself to a sandwich, some potato salad, and a drink.
"That's wonderful! Tell Daphne I'm so happy for her. I know how much she and Dennis always wanted a baby." Luna cried, grinning from ear to ear. She had been good friends with Daphne Greengrass and Dennis Creevy, who was now Daphne's husband, during school.
"I remember those days," Ginny said reminiscently.
"It's not something you ever really forget," Luna said, wincing. "Men have it easy."
While the women talked about their trials and tribulations of being pregnant, Cory tugged on his father's sleeve. "Daddy, can I go and play with Alby and Frankie and Severus?"
"Yes, you may, Cory." Draco said gravely, then as he watched the little boy run off, he remarked ruefully, "God, but I sound more like my old man every day."
"Speaking of Lucius, I'm glad that he and Arthur actually managed to have a civil conversation last night," Harry said, smirking.
"You and me both. I thought for sure I was going to have to separate them if Dad didn't watch his mouth," Draco sniggered. "I'm glad, however, that they managed to put the past in perspective at last. It was past time to bury the hatchet."
"Somewhere besides their own backs," Harry agreed sagely. "At least now we won't need to worry about blood being spilled every time they're in the same room. We might not forget what happened, but it's time to forgive the mistakes of the past."
"Yes." Draco said quietly, his gaze suddenly shifting to the slight dark-haired boy now demonstrating another wand motion to his son, Alby, and Frankie. He had seen Severus last night at the Burrow, but had been too shocked upon seeing his mentor's return from the Veil and too much of a coward to speak to him right off, and then Severus had gotten into that awful brawl with that brat Sirius Black, and Draco hadn't felt like dredging up the past after that.
He watched the former professor for quite awhile, a wistful smile creeping over his face. He rubbed his chin and murmured to Harry, "I still can't believe he's back. I always felt terrible that I never got a chance to . . . say goodbye or tell him how much I . . . appreciated what he did for me. He saved my life with his Unbreakable Vow. I always meant to tell him . . . but somehow there was never the right moment . . ."
"Maybe you should tell him now," Harry suggested softly.
Draco hesitated. The past was painful for him, but he knew Harry was right. He'd been carrying his guilt over Severus' sacrifice like a millstone about his neck for far too long. It was time to lay old regrets to rest.
The kids, including Severus, looked up as Draco approached them.
"It's not time to go yet, is it, Daddy?" asked Cory worriedly.
"No, son. You can play with Alby and Frankie some more." Draco replied. "Severus, would you mind if I talked to you a bit in private?"
Severus eyed his former student warily. Today seemed to be a day for reliving past regrets, he mused, seeing the guilty expression in Draco's gray-blue eyes. "All right, Draco," he agreed calmly. He turned to Alby and Frankie. "I'll be back soon. Keep practicing."
"Okay, Sev'us," Alby said proudly, waving his wand a quarter turn to the right and saying "Lumos!"
He was rewarded with colored sparks shooting from his wand tip.
Frankie squealed and clapped. Cory clapped too. Then he turned back and ran over to his mother, asking to rent a wand and a broom too.
Draco smirked. "He's a smart one, he is. Almost as bright as Cory. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up in Ravenclaw or Slytherin." He headed over to a wooden bench beneath the shade of a large oak tree.
"He has his grandmother's eyes and brains," remarked Severus, climbing up on the bench to sit next to Draco. "What's wrong, Draco?" he began without preamble.
The new Potions Master sighed and did not answer for several minutes. "When I saw you for the first time last night . . . I thought maybe it was some kind of stupid prank, but then I saw Harry's face when he told us about what happened in the cemetery, and jokes aren't really Potter's style . . . so I had to believe it as the truth. Then I saw you with my father, and I realized it couldn't be anyone else, because Father would never lose control like that, especially in front of old Arthur, unless it involved you. He's said many times to me that he wished he had never sent you back to Voldemort that night . . . he feels responsible for your death . . . as do I."
Severus shook his head. "You shouldn't. I chose to go, Draco. Lucius couldn't have stopped me. I knew the risks, but someone had to distract the Dark Lord long enough for Harry to figure out how to defeat him. Better me than him. Or you. You had families, the rest of your lives ahead of you."
"And you had no one," Draco whispered sadly.
"I was the logical choice," Severus said, with a trace of bitterness. "As Dumbledore said long ago when I tried to arrest the curse that was killing him . . .my soul was already tainted, making the Unbreakable Vow for you and taking your place was an act of mercy . . .for you and for him."
"That doesn't make it right!" Draco protested. "I was so stupid . . . I should have listened to you back in fifth year, when you warned me about Father . . . and following him down the dark path. But I thought I knew it all, thought that I knew how to handle everything he could throw at me. I didn't realize the cost until it was too late . . . and the Mark was branded into me . . ." Draco lowered his head, rubbing unconsciously at the spot on his left wrist where the Mark had been. "I was such a fool . . . and you paid for it. Severus, you should have let me kill the old bastard. You never should have taken that burden upon yourself. It was my responsibility. I should have been the one with the black mark on my soul, I should have been the one everybody hated for killing the bloody greatest wizard who ever lived. You didn't deserve any of it." Sudden tears gathered in the gray-blue eyes.
"You were a foolish boy, influenced by your father and a clever-tongued megalomaniac," Severus soothed, laying a hand upon Draco's arm. "Like me, you were tempted into darkness. Do you think I didn't know how scared you were, how you were too scared to go on and yet too scared to turn back? You were a boy, Draco, trying to please your family, and I knew what awaited you at the end of the path. I could not let you kill Dumbledore, couldn't let you be corrupted as I had been by using an Unforgivable. This was my chance to save a soul . . . as I could not all those years ago with other young boys and girls. What I did, I did willingly. I have no regrets, Draco."
"How can you not? If it weren't for me, you'd never have had to become a murderer," Draco objected. "The old man would have had to find another to do his dirty work . . . or done it himself! If he knew he was bloody dying, why in hell didn't he just overdose on Dreamless Sleep or something and saved all of us the trouble of killing him?"
"Albus believed he knew what he was doing."
Draco snorted. "Yeah, well he didn't know everything, the old fart! He might have thought your soul tainted by falling into the Dark Lord's snare, but he never understood you. Your soul always remained your own, because you came back to the Light of your own free will, and redeemed yourself. And a redeemed soul is purer than one who has never looked into the teeth of darkness, because that soul has been tempered in fire and tested by adversity, and made a conscious choice between good and evil. A soul that always walked the straight and narrow is more vulnerable and sometimes when tested would give way because it did not know how to bend or to see shades of gray in the choices before it. Lucius told me that, after the war. Dumbledore was always going on about choices determining who you were, but when push came to shove he chose to sacrifice you instead of himself, the selfish bastard. He knew you'd never let me become an assassin. For all I know, he might have encouraged Mother to come to you and ask you to make the Unbreakable Vow."
"Draco, there's no point in reliving what is past. The war forced us all to make some hard choices."
"Yeah, well, nobody made harder choices than you, Severus. I'm just sorry I got you involved in my problems." Draco said, his eyes shimmering with tears.
"I would have gotten involved regardless, Dragon. You were like my child . . ." Severus whispered, very softly. Obsidian eyes met gray-blue ones.
"Then you forgive me?" Draco asked, his voice rough.
"Always. You made the same mistake I did, and I would be a hypocrite if I didn't," Severus said earnestly. "And my sacrifice was worth it, for look at what you have become . . . a Potions Master of renown, and a loving husband and father, living a life free of shame and darkness. That was all I had ever wished for."
Draco abruptly reached out and swept the small boy into a long hug. "I'm so damn glad you came back," he said, then he wept softly for several minutes, purging his soul of the guilt that had festered inside it for so long.
And Severus, who normally hated to be touched by an adult male, wrapped his arms about Draco's neck and held on tight. "Me too. We both deserve a second chance. This time, I'll get it right."
Neither of them noticed that a pair of emerald eyes was observing them from the picnic blanket. Harry looked over just in time to see Draco hug Severus . . . and Severus hug the blond man back. He felt a sudden surge of relief that Draco had resolved his differences with his former professor . . . followed hard by pangs of jealousy. Severus never allowed Harry to hug him that way! Much less return the hug! What made Draco so special? He wasn't Severus' guardian, Harry was. Harry struggled with his temper, reminding himself that in his former life Severus had been much closer to Draco, had probably known and loved the Slytherin scion from infancy . . . so it was only natural that he feel more comfortable with Malfoy. Eventually, Severus would come around and trust Harry as well. At least Harry hoped so . . .
A/N: How did you like this one? What did you think about Frankie? Draco and Severus' talk?
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