Title: Falling Stars
Rating: PG, Angst
Summary: The war's finished, the good guys won, and it's time to live. Wouldn’t it be lovely if that were true?
from Falling Stars, Part 11
“Harry, I can assure you from the memories that I was privy to in
earlier occulmency sessions that you are in no way a child, whom
I would consider burdensome. Regardless of your ridiculously gryffindorish morality,
I perceive no inherent difficulty or unpleasantry attendant with raising you.
Nor does my wife, Juliette. We have discussed the situation thoroughly,
in fact, and are in complete agreement in that we each fully intend to raise you –
with our daughter- as brother and sister.”
Falling Stars, Part 12
Severus stared at the children curiously- wondering to himself what he had been expecting. To be certain, de-aging potions could be chancy to brew and dangerous to use, but he had carefully studied the potion, Longbottom’s brewing set up, and the modified formula before he allowed Potter and his daughter to take it.
Much to his surprise, though he shouldn’t have been nearly so surprised when he had, himself, endorsed Longbottom to succeed him as the Hogwart’s potions instructor, Severus found that not only had the younger professor anticipated and addressed all of the potential adverse reactions but also had used several uncommon catalyzing agents to make the most benefit of these reactions. The annoying boy had actually improved the potion in a number of ways that Severus had long suspected could be done- though never without the resentment that he could not, on his own, test the improvements himself due to his unwillingness and inability to incessantly simper and coo around the fairies inhabiting the fairy lace. Not even to speak of his frustrating inability to foster the overly sensitive hestia’s lace plant.
Yet, despite his irritation with the fates that it would be none other than the very student - whom he had for so long considered not only his worst student, but also hopelessly inept – who would be the first potion brewer to test his theories in a manner that would have a direct and chief impact on his future… Severus had been relieved to see the improvements that would make the children’s transition smoother, quicker, and less painful. So, perhaps, he should not have been entirely surprised to note that, barely two hours after they had ingested the potion, its recipients had almost completely transformed in their charmed sleep without showing even a single trace of pain.
While he remained deeply concerned about the boy’s more challenging circumstances and their affect on his transformation, Severus couldn’t yet pull his eyes away from his daughter’s face. As he studied the peacefully sleeping child, his were drawn first to the halo of polished black locks. He was rather stunned as his eyes traveled to recognize several of his own sharp features graced by her innocent expression and cherubic features. Her tiny round face softened the sharpness of his aquiline nose and thin lips. His ebony black eyebrows seemed delicate mirrored by her long lashes. Her porcelain skin highlighted the barely present brush of color in her cheeks that she had inherited from him instead of her mother’s rose dappled cheeks. The overall effect had far more appeal than he had believed any combination of his features could create.
Sparing a glance for his wife, who was watching him with wry amusement, Severus murmured, “She is stunning.”
Juliette’s wry smile broke into a smug grin as she answered, “Yes, Love, this time she seems to be more favored by your features than mine and all the better for it.”
“This time?” Severus asked, startled. “The potion should have returned her to her normal appearance at this age. Minus her recently received scars to be certain, but in all other ways as she appeared then.”
“Perhaps, but I suspect that wish magics may have created some interesting effects…”
Even as she spoke, Severus was sharing a skeptical glance with Longbottom – both men wondering if she truly remembered her daughter’s appearance from almost fifteen years earlier – until she finished her comment.
“…for both children.”
“Both children?” the men asked simultaneously as their heads snapped up in surprise.
A brief grin curled her lips as she nodded, watching in amusement as they turned to study Potter’s countenance.
“Yes, our …son seems to look a great deal more like his father than I would have expected him to – given the circumstances.”
Unlike his daughter, Severus’s son had almost gaunt features that further accentuated the addition of Severus’s easily recognizable lips and nose – right down to the thick bump of cartilage at the ridge of his nose. The tell-tale bump, in itself, was proof of his wife’s theory. Rather than adopting the natural structure of his new father’s nose, as his daughter had, the boy had apparently wished his restructured nose to include the thick bump that Severus’s uncle had put there when he broke the then fourteen year-old’s nose and refused to heal it.
But, as unsual as that detail was, two other of Severus’s features were somewhat more startling. In place of Harry’s shaggy, almost untamable, short curls and waves, a gloss of long, straight, black tresses fanned around the child’s head drawing a stark contrast to the child’s pale-unblemished forehead – which gave Severus an actual physical start when he noticed it.
“H-is sc-ar…” Longbottom stuttered as he noticed: “It’s- it’s- it’s gone.”
“Indeed,” Juliette smirked before turning back to her husband seriously.
“If I had maintained any doubt of the child’s intention of become a member of your family, I believe this would have remedied it; although, I find it strangely disturbing that the child could so easily wish his self-image, his self identity, away.”
Solemnly considering his wife’s comment, Severus had to agree: “Yes, the boy does seem to have a penchant for such sacrifices. It is, very definitely, a tendency we will need to address.”
“How about starting by calling him something other than child and boy?” Longbottom spoke up tensely. “Particularly ‘boy’. For years, that’s the only thing his uncle called him. If you start out calling him that, it will only make things harder.”
Barely stifling an overly frank response, Severus nodded abruptly as he took a moment to consider numerous severe gaps in the knowledge that he had of the boy’s childhood and youth. Even the time that the boy spent at Hogwarts was blurred by Severus’s memory of extraneous events.
“You make a valid point. We cannot, of course, continue to call him Harry. De-aging potions, though illegal, are not unknown, and his ‘arrival’ is almost suspiciously timed in it’s proximity to his presumed death. The minister may very well be an idiot, but he is a paranoid, overly suspicious one, who is pre-disposed to view any matter related to me with hostility. As too, for the same reason, it would be safer for Celeste to take up a new identity. Have you any thoughts on the matter?”
“Only one,” his student answered hesitantly.
“And that would be?”
“You should return to Hogwarts. Take up your position again. At least, until the other death eaters and their supporters have been brought to justice. Headmistress McGonagall would welcome you back.”
Severus, for the first time in many years, was struck dumb by his student’s casual generosity. He well understood what giving up the potions instructor’s position would mean for the young professor, who – though the sole heir to his family’s wealth – would have had to rely on its salary to support both the potions and healer’s masteries. Severus, in his youth, though from family of greater wealth and status had not been given that opportunity when he was younger, and as a result, had been left with only Spinner’s End until his later employment had enabled him to rebuild a small but comfortable portion of his former estate. For Longbottom, the pursuit would likely cost him his entire estate up to and including the small manor they were currently in. Whether the offer was made from simple benevolence, out of love for Potter, or in relation so other ulterior motives including the need to ensure their silence on his plans to perform a similar treatment on his own parents, the offer was too much and Severus found that he could not accept it.
“Mr. Longbottom, thank you, but no. While your offer is obviously tendered with typically Gryffindorish, unrealistic generosity, I believe I will have to refuse. If I were once again on my own and so inclined to subject myself to the drama of students who will undoubtedly expect me to relax my standards now that the war is over, regardless of the fact that they could as easily burn, poison, or gas themselves into oblivion during peace time as easily as they could in war… if not more so due to the naturally fading moments of sobriety that seem destined to accompany the diminishing thoughts of war…. If that were the case, then perhaps, I would be more inclined to consider your offer – as impractical as it may be for you to offer it; however, as that is not the case, after twenty plus years of service to both the war effort and the education of several generations of Weasleys (a task equally hazardous), I can now honestly claim myself to be free of those cumbersome duties and ready to consider other pursuits. While I do realize that your offer was quite sincerely motivated, I believe that, at least for the present, I will decline your offer in order to focus my attentions on a considerably smaller number of children, while occasionally indulging in private research and intellectual conversation with Juliet, who –I assure you- was gifted with both a sharp wit and tongue as well as the subtlety to use them to her best advantage. Thank you, however for making it, Neville, your consideration is … notable.”
Glancing between his wife’s sardonic smile and Longbottom’s exasperated expression, Severus enjoyed several quiet moments of anticipating who would react first.
“You old softy,” his wife smirked, just barely beating Longbottom to the punch with an amused comment to the younger professor: “I believe that my husband, in his own ever-the-Slytherin way, was trying to say that he feels it would be inequitable to finally take on the roles of husband and father only to turn around and take up a position that would require him to dedicate his full attentions to the children of half the wizarding families in Great Britain while ignoring his own, but thank you for the offer.”
As the boy glanced between them, Severus nearly broke into chuckling at the young professor’s discomfiture. Longbottom’s expression alone, when Juliette had called him a softy, was comical and to see the boy so neatly undone by his wife’s succinct interpretation only added to his humor and Longbottom’s exasperation, which burst out in a gusty bark of amusement.
“I never noticed before, but you talk just like you write. When I was reading your endorsement, I really wasn’t certain whether you were trying to compliment, threaten, warn, frighten, or encourage me. Don’t you ever just simply say things?” his student complained with a half chuckle.
Catching Juliette’s eye, Severus quirked his lips into an ironic smile at the memory of a similar complaint that she had once made as he answered, quite simply, “No.”, and smiled broadly as a spark in her slate irises.
“Neville, my husband has never felt even the slightest compunction to confine his words to a single purpose and was very likely intending each purpose you suggested.”
“Indeed,” Severus mocked lightly before continuing, “Your general suggestion of Hogwarts does have merit, however, though as my wife has pointed out recently, even Hogwarts has not been an entirely safe. It will be considered nevertheless.”
Envying the masks of serenity that Professor Snape and his wife were wearing as they watched for the de-aging potion to complete its transformation, Neville nodded quietly and returned to his work table, resting his forehead in his palms. Even though his mentor had offered to call him when Harry woke, Neville could not reconcile leaving his love before his was certain that there was nothing more he could do.
Poor Neville! In order to save the life of his friend and lover he had to effectively kill the person who was his friend and lover. He has lost his love in a way that will prohibit him from properly mourning him... though Hermione can and most likely will be able to share in some of his anguish.
I do see a possible future for the two of them, however. There are many stories, that I love, where Harry falls for Severus so it is possible that he will also fall for Neville and with the wizards longer life span it is a believable possibility.
But with a new childhood to offset the responsibilities and abuse from his previous one... Harry will no longer be Harry so the point is most likely moot anyway.
Great chapter, I look forward to reading more!