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Chapter 52 : May 2nd
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Dudley made sure he took his investments that he'd made during the years of his and Monica's marriage and placed them under his name and his sole control. Monica had never been what you'd call business savvy, and she had let him handle that side of the marriage. She had a few bonds and stocks in her name, mostly from her father, but by and large, the bulk of the investments were Dudley's, who had learned from a friend how to save for a rainy day. Now that day had come, and Dudley was quick enough to realize it. He had his lawyer on the phone that night and started divorce proceedings as soon as possible.
He explained that Monica was unstable and he wished to take Celia from her for fear she would get hurt. Harry had agreed to back him in this, and if necessary would persuade Petunia and Vernon to do the same. Harry had told Dudley that he wasn't above a bit of magical blackmail if it was for the good of his niece, and he told Dudley that when he talked to the Dursleys to mention that if necessary. "Don't let them railroad you, Dud. I will never let a child go through what I did growing up, and if I have to, I'll Obliviate them into the next century to make sure Celia grows up in a loving home. You'll always have my support and help with her and I'll do whatever I have to in order to ensure the courts award you custody."
Dudley was profoundly touched by Harry's offer, and said so. "I . . . I can't thank you enough, not considering what I . . . did to you growing up. Can you forgive me? I was a stupid jealous prat."
"Yes, because I can see that you regret what happened now. And because you understand that what you and your parents did was wrong. I can forgive, but I won't forget. And I'm doing this not just for you, but for your daughter. I want her to have a good childhood, the one I should have had."
Dudley had blushed bright pink and said Harry was better than he deserved.
With some of Harry's persuasion, the Dursleys agreed to stand witness to Monica's cruel and unusual behavior towards Celia. That clinched the case in Dudley's favor, and also so did the fact that Monica wanted nothing to do with her child. She couldn't wait to get rid of Celia fast enough. Dudley gave her the house, her car, and most of the assets (that she knew of). In six months the settlement would go through and Celia need never see Monica again. The little girl was somewhat excited and somewhat sad, for she grieved the loss of her parent and a mother who would love her. But she was very excited about living with Dudley and Harry had managed to secure them a home not far from his own, by pulling a few strings. Dudley had even promised his daughter a kitten so she wouldn't be lonely.
A few weeks later, Celia and Dudley moved into their new home, and the Potters were five once more. But their problems weren't over. In all of the uproar with Dudley and the Dursleys, neither Ginny or Harry had chanced to note that May 2nd was coming up. When it finally arrived, Harry was busy helping Dudley with the house closing and Ginny was tending to her herb garden and helping her mum and Beth plan Beth and George's wedding, to be held that summer at the Burrow. Alby was spending the night at Neville's house playing with Frankie. Everyone was busy except for Severus, who had taken note immediately of the date and become gloomy and depressed.
Though Severus had been reincarnated through the Veil, he still had his memories of his previous life, and one of the worst ones had been the memory of his lonely death. He had not dwelled upon the actual memory until now, but now, the anniversary of his death, the memory haunted him, waking and sleeping.
He recalled the feeling of cold fear as the great snake slid toward him, her fangs bared. He had known that Nagini was dangerous, and had prepared a potion to counterattack her venom, but had been unable to reach it in time, as Voldemort had summoned him too soon. There had been no time for him to do anything before the evil sorcerer had cut him in an effort to regain the Elder Wand from the man he thought had disarmed and killed Dumbledore. And then Nagini had struck, biting Severus right in the throat, in less time than it had taken him to blink.
He remember the burning terrible pain that started from the moment her fangs sank into his flesh, and the way the blood had bubbled up and he had gagged from it and the stench of the poison now running in his veins. Even as he had done so, his ultra logical brain had calculated the minutes until the poison took him down into death's cold embrace. He had not been surprised at Voldemort's betrayal, for he had expected the cruel man to harm him when Voldemort no longer needed his top agent. What had surprised him was the stark realization that he would die alone, with no one to see or mourn his passing.
Then Harry had come . . . too late to help, but not too late to receive Severus' memories and some sort of explanation for his behavior and his life. It had been too little too late, but at least he had died with the remainder of Lily's green eyes before him. It had been the last bit of mercy Severus could recall ever having in his sad existence.
When he had begun recalling that time, at first Severus had sought solace with his fox familiar, Shadow. But even the sweet vixen couldn't keep the little boy free from those damning memories, and eventually Severus left her in her pen to see where the rest of the family had gotten to after breakfast. It was then he had found Harry had gone with Dudley to oversee the closing of the house and Ginny was preparing to drop off Alby at Neville's. She had asked Severus if he wanted to stay there too, but Severus had refused, because he was moody and didn't want to endure Alby's chatter and Frankie's enthusiasm. All he wanted was to curl up in a hole and just die, he was so depressed.
Instead, as soon as Ginny got back from Flooing Alby over to the Longbottom's, Severus found himself dragged over to the Burrow along with Indigo and forced to endure hours of women giggling and fussing over boring bridal gowns, flowers, cake, and music. Severus wasn't up to participating in anything because he was so miserable, the memories running over and over through his mind. And Ginny was too busy with Molly and Beth to even notice how suddenly quiet and uncommunicative he was.
He had a small potions kit there at the Burrow that he normally played with, or went out into the garden to find ingredients to use in his latest experiment. But not that day. That day all he wanted was to be alone . . . and yet, a part of him didn't want that at all. Only nobody noticed in all the hustle and bustle. Molly didn't even bother asking what they all wanted to eat for lunch, she just made some sandwiches and a bowl of tangy pasta and potato salad and left it on the kitchen table for people to eat. No one even saw that Severus didn't eat anything and just went off by himself in a corner of the den, to sit and brood until it was time to leave.
Ginny hurried home with Severus and Indigo, and was in a hurry to prepare something for dinner before Harry came home. She was in such a rush that she barely noticed Severus had disappeared until Harry came home and asked where everyone was. "Alby's staying over Frankie's and Indigo is sleeping upstairs in the nursery."
"What about Sev?"
"He's . . . I'm not sure where he is at the moment. Probably outside with that fox of his," Ginny said absently, cutting up some onions to go with the beef stew she was making.
"I'll go and see," Harry said, in the mood to play with one of his children.
But Severus wasn't in Shadow's pen, he found the little fox asleep in her den, and no Severus in sight. Finding this a little unusual, Harry checked the herb garden and the small orchard, both places Severus usually hung around. Again, there was no sign of the boy.
Puzzled, Harry headed inside, figuring Severus was in his room reading or concocting a potion. But when he reached the boys' room, he found it was empty. "Sevvy? Where are you, buddy?"
Severus heard Harry's voice with one part of his brain. That part urged him to respond, but the other part was full of bitterness and wanted nothing to do with anyone. He didn't really blame Harry for what had happened, he had always known he'd die a lonely death, unmourned and unloved, but at the same time he was angry that Harry, the supposed savior, had not come in time to do anything to help, but instead had watched while Severus died. Some savior! And now, here it was, the anniversary of his death, and he was alone again, tucked into a corner of Indigo's nursery.
He curled in upon himself, aching with the pain of the past, as he had not recalled having those particular memories, being overwhelmed with others of his Death Eater past and his abusive father. Only now did he recall how it had felt to die at Nagini's fangs, and hear Voldemort's mocking laughter as he did so. It consumed him, so much so that he paid no attention to Harry calling him.
Harry's frantic tone brought Ginny running over after she had shoved the stew onto the stove to heat. "Harry? What's wrong? Can't you find Sevvy?"
"No. I . . . I've looked everywhere. Are you sure he didn't leave the house? Or the property?"
"I . . . told you I lost track of him after we got home and I began cooking," Ginny began, seeming upset. "You know that we've both talked to him before about wandering away. Surely he wouldn't do that again." Then her mouth tightened. "But if he has gone off somewhere, when we find him I'll warm his bum for him."
"Gin, we don't even know if he's gone anywhere," Harry began. He hated the idea of laying a hand upon the young boy, even if he did deserve it for scaring them. There was something vulnerable about Severus at this age, and Harry didn't want to ruin the trust that Severus had displayed toward him by being too harsh of a disciplinarian. "Let's look in Indi's room."
"Why would he be in there?"
"I don't know. But I haven't been in here yet, so . . ."
He peered inside his daughter's room. The shadows were lengthening and he could hardly see anything until he lit up his wand. He walked inside softly, and started looking around. Celia's small bed had been removed a week ago and sent with Dudley to their new home. The room looked bare without it.
It was then that Harry spotted Severus, curled up in a corner. "Sevvy! There you are!" Harry gasped. "Are you asleep? Is that why you didn't come when I called?"
As Harry approached, Severus fought against the pain and misery and lifted his head. In his dark eyes was a sudden accusation. "Go away. I don't want to talk with anyone," he said, his voice flat and hard.
"What do you mean, you don't want to talk with anyone?" Ginny exclaimed, coming in behind Harry in time to hear Severus' words. "You scared us half to death, young man, looking for you, and now you have the nerve to make demands?" She glared at Severus.
"Gin, stop. It looks like he's upset," Harry said, trying to figure out why Severus was behaving like that.
"Well, he should be!" she snapped. "Here we are, worrying, and he was up here all the time. What were you doing up here, Severus? Didn't you hear Harry calling you?"
Slowly, Severus shrugged. "I wanted to be alone." He didn't want to explain why. All he wanted then was to be alone with his misery and he wished Ginny and Harry would leave.
"You wanted to be alone? What kind of answer is that?"
Severus refused to answer. They would never understand. No one could, because they'd never experienced what he had.
"Severus, answer me!"
"Gin, leave him alone," Harry said suddenly. "Something's not right here."
"I'll say. He acts like a high and mighty brat and you make excuses!" his wife flared, her temper overriding her good sense. "Severus Snape, why were you hiding up here?"
"Because," Severus replied sullenly. He didn't want to discuss anything about this day.
"Because why, Sev?" Harry asked softly.
But Severus couldn't stand Harry's tone, it was getting under his skin, and making him long to throw himself at Harry and cry. No, he was not going to make himself vulnerable. He had died today, and Ginny and Harry didn't even seem to remember that. How could they forget? "I just want to be alone!" he half-growled, sounding a lot like his old crabby self. "Can't you understand that?"
Harry was hurt by Severus' tone and also by the boy's refusal to share what was bothering him. He knew there was something wrong, but if Severus refused to share it, Harry didn't know what it was or how to fix it. "Yes, and when you finish sulking, you can come and find me," Harry said, trying to keep the hurt from his voice. "Ginny, let's eat." He called over his shoulder, heading to the kitchen where the stew simmered.
Ginny was furious. "Severus Snape, how could you treat Harry like that?" she demanded. "You better get your little bum up and apologize to him this instant before I wallop it black and blue for your nasty tone and disrespect."
Severus knew he had been wrong to speak to Harry that way, but he was too unhappy to care right then that he had hurt Harry's feelings. His own feelings were hurt and he didn't seem to care about anyone else's. Even Ginny's threat to spank him made little dent in his depressed state.
"Severus, did you hear me? Don't ignore me!" Ginny cried, reaching out to shake the boy. She was still furious and it was all she could do not to smack him silly. Why was he being so impossible today? Did he think she was kidding? Did he think he was above getting punished when he was bad?
Severus looked up at her, bitterness welling in his throat. "Go away, Weasley! You don't even remember what today is."
Ginny drew her hand back, primed to smack the boy, when Indigo's sudden wail halted her from making a big mistake. She froze, then cried, "Now look at what you've done, you little brat! You've woken the baby."
She turned to pick up Indigo, who was screaming lustily because she was wet and hungry, and as she did so, Severus slipped past her and retreated to his room to brood.
Ginny carried Indigo over to change her and then brought her into the kitchen to feed her. The redhaired witch was still angry over Severus's attitude, but right then had a baby who took precedence.
"What's wrong with my princess?" Harry cooed to a red-faced Indigo as she howled.
"She was wet and hungry," Ginny answered. "Let me warm up a bottle." After she had popped the nipple into a starving Indigo's mouth, she snapped, "That boy! Why did you let him talk to you that way, Harry? You should have taken him over your knee, not left the room."
"No. Gin . . . there's something wrong. Severus isn't usually like this."
"Like what? Testing his boundaries? Harry, he's getting older and ever since Shadow came he's been getting more and more defiant." Ginny cried, rocking Indi.
"Not that I've noticed."
"Maybe not to you. Except now. Why didn't you get after him, Harry? You were never a pushover." Ginny looked at him accusingly.
"No, but there's more to this than just . . . childish misbehavior, Gin. I know it."
"You're letting him get away with murder."
"No, I'm not. I'm trying to understand why he's like this."
"He's six years old and he's a moody little brat. What more do you want?"
"To figure out what's going on inside his head. Remember, Gin, he's not just a moody six-year-old. He's also our old potions professor and there must be a reason why he's like this. Did he say anything to you?"
Ginny sighed. "All he said was he wanted to be left alone and . . . and that I didn't even know what day it was. Harry, he's starting to think he runs this place, and he doesn't! You and I are the parents, he's just a child, no matter what he was before—"
"Wait." Harry held up a hand to stem Ginny's tirade. Sometimes his wife let her temper run off with her, especially when she thought he had been hurt by some careless remark. Like now. It was true—he had been hurt by Severus' remark, but he had also seen something Ginny hadn't in the boy's face before he left the room. Severus hadn't been spouting off out of some childish need to assert himself, he had seemed like he was in pain. "He said we didn't remember the date? What is it?"
"Harry, what does it matter? He was being cheeky and as soon as I'm done with Indi, I'm going to set him straight. I don't let Alby speak to you that way, I won't let Severus either. Now why don't you eat some dinner?"
"No. I won't let you punish him when you're mad, Gin. Remember our rule?" Harry reminded her, standing up and going over to the calendar on the wall.
"I won't beat him, Harry," she cried. "I'm just going to spank him. It's what he deserves. Don't you trust me?"
"Not when you're like this, I don't," he said regretfully.
"What are you talking about?" she cried, hurt.
"You're not thinking straight. If you were you'd have seen something in there."
"That Sevvy's not just angry, he's hurt. And he's hiding. That's why I'm not angry with him. Because he's hurting."
"From what? It wasn't like he fell down or got in trouble or something."
"Not like that. This is something else." He peered at the calendar. "Hmm . . . today's . . . May 2nd . . ."
"What's special about May 2nd? Except Victory Day?"
Harry snapped his fingers. "That's it! Voldemort died today. But so did a lot of other people, remember. And one of those people was Severus." Now it all made sense. The child wasn't deliberately defying them. He was depressed. How had Harry missed that? This was the day he had come back from the dead—been UnVeiled, so to speak. "Stay here with Indi," he ordered Ginny.
"Harry!" she protested. Now she realized it too, and felt horrible for the way she had treated Severus. "I need to—"
"No! Let me talk to him first," her husband argued. He didn't bother pointing out that Ginny's temper had made Severus more reluctant to speak. He didn't need to. He knew she understood. "Stay here!"
Then he raced back to the nursery.
Only to find that Severus was no longer there.
Harry swore under his breath. Then he regained his composure and jerked open the door to Severus' room. Surely the boy wouldn't have . . . run away? Where could he go?
He drew in a sigh of relief when he saw the boy curled up on the bed, facing the wall. Harry knew Severs heard him enter the room, but the boy continued looking at the wall. Harry approached the bed, one hand clasping the stiff shoulder. "Sev. Ignoring me's not going to make it better." He sat on the bed. "Let's talk, all right? I know you're upset because we forgot about today, but it happens. Sometimes things just . . . slip our minds."
"I'm not a thing, Potter! And I died today!" Severus cried, anguished.
"So did Sirius," Harry murmured.
"Right, you remember the mutt's anniversary, and not mine! Why couldn't you just leave things alone!"
"Because I shouldn't have forgotten. I used to visit both your graves until you came back," Harry said, ashamed. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I didn't remember, except that Dudley needed my help and all . . . are you all right, Sev?"
"I'm fine and dandy, can't you tell?" he said sarcastically.
"Hey! Watch the mouth!" Harry reprimanded automatically. Then he sighed. "All right, that was a dumb question, and I deserved that. But remember, I am your legal guardian and you are only six now."
"I don't care! Go ahead and beat me. What does it matter?" Severus said dispiritedly. "You let me die!"
"No, Sev." Harry protested. "Is that why you're angry with me?" Severus didn't answer. "Sev, don't do this. Look at me."
Severus winced. How ironic, that harry would say those words—his last words on earth—to him now. In spite of himself, he turned over and raised his head. "Why?"
"So you can see that I'm not lying when I tell you this was an honest mistake. By both of us. It's not that we don't care about you, Sev. I know what day this is—the anniversary of your death. But why are you so upset with me? I didn't forget on purpose."
"Wouldn't you be?" Severus demanded stiffly. "You died too and yet you don't seem to be so upset. Why is that? Is it because your death was mourned, while mine wasn't?"
Harry's eyes went wide. "Sev, that's not true! Everyone mourned your death after I brought your body back. Hermione cried rivers and so did McGonagall, said she'd never forgive herself for doubting you . . ."
"But not at first . . ."
"No, because she didn't have your memories. But I did. And I . . . I knew the truth."
"And when did you cry for me . . . before or after?" Severus cried.
"Before. Because even after what I thought you'd done, no one deserves to die like that."
"Not even your old potions professor?" Severus demanded bitterly.
"Especially not him," Harry murmured, then he caught Severus up in his embrace. "Shh. Sevvy, you might have done bad things, but I knew even then that you shouldn't die without someone who cared beside you. And I did care, Severus Snape. I did. And I still do." Harry cried passionately, and he hugged the little boy tight, feeling his own throat clogging with tears. They streaked his face, but he didn't bother to wipe them away. "Why do you think I came all those years to visit your grave?"
"Obligation," Severus said stubbornly. "Duty."
"No. That was only part of it. Look at me, please."
Severus reluctantly did so. There was a tight feeling in his chest. It increased when he saw the tears on Harry's face. He knew that like himself, it took a great deal to make Potter—no, he was Harry now—cry. "Do you mean it?" he asked, his voice catching slightly.
"Always, Sev," Harry said steadily, looking right at him. "Listen. At first I came because of that, but there was always more to it than duty and obligation. And guilt. Because I couldn't save you, like you saved me. I meant what I said. I cared about you. Then and now. And I needed to do something to show that. Not for anyone else. Just for me. There were a lot of times I regretted behaving the way I did in class for you . . . a lot of things I felt I should have seen or known . . . and I didn't."
"How could you? I was a spy. And you saw what I wanted you to see."
"Yes. You were damn good at what you did, Severus. So good that you fooled Voldemort. And me. But that didn't stop me from feeling bad when you died. You loved my mum, Sev. I'm her son. And I couldn't help but feel for you. I know what it's like to long for something and never get what you want."
"You do?" Severus gasped.
"Oh, yeah. Every kid who's ever been neglected and unloved knows that. I always wanted one thing, and I never had it until I created it myself. Want to know what it was?"
Severus hesitated. "Your parents back?"
"Nope. A home and a family. I never could mourn my parents right . . . I had no memories of them. But I did of all my friends . . . and you. And I mourned what could have been. If only you had lived."
"Then . . . you do understand."
"No. But I tried to." He stroked the child's silky black hair. "Don't shut me out, Sev. You trusted me once. Won't you again?"
"Yes," Severus cried, and then he told Harry of his memories and they both hugged each other and wept for what had been.
That was how Ginny found them a moment later, as she carried a sleeping Indigo back to her cot. "Sevvy, I'm so sorry-!" she began, coming over to them. "I forgot and I . . . let my temper run away with me and I didn't bother to ask why . . ."
"I know. But it's all right. You saw what I wanted you to see," Severus said simply. Then he added, "Unless you're expecting again?"
"Wretch! I am not!" Ginny cried. She pretended to swat him one. Then she teared up. "I'm just a stupid impulsive redhead with a temper."
"But we love you anyway, dear," Harry said, then he hugged Ginny to them as well. "And we'll always remember."
Then they all cried some more, but these were not tears of remorse or regret, they were tears that soothed and healed, as they recalled the cost of all they had done and the price they had paid to be free from darkness once and for all. It was a different kind of Victory Day this year, but no less poignant for it's absentmindedness.
A/N: Yes, i know I've been updating this story a lot, but it's how the Muse is flowing. I'll try and update Common Interests next. Also, I haven't forgotten Sirius here, but his reaction and death were somewhat different from Sev's, so I chose to detail that later on.
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