Some of life’s moments are cathartic: they make you feel like a different person, cleanse you of your past, and prepare you for a new life. They remove your pain and soothe your soul. And for Saturnine Eileen Snape, nothing had ever felt more cathartic than watching the shabby house at the end of Spinner’s End burn to cinders. That she had been the one to light the flames was the icing on the metaphorical cake.
Turning to look at the man standing by her side, she was surprised by the smile on her brother’s face. It was a smile she hadn’t seen in years: a little boy’s smile that reached his sparkling dark eyes. The past was over for them both, buried now—reduced to ashes like the house beside them. Today was the beginning of a new life—one they had chosen for themselves. And it came with a new home that was everything the house on Spinner’s End had never been.
Cove Cottage wasn’t in a drab northern mining town; it was on the coast in the southwest. It wasn’t at the end of a spindly little street; it stood in a vast expanse of fertile land by the ocean. It wasn’t composed of cramped rooms with even smaller windows; it was roomy and brightly lit. It wasn’t a place of fear and sadness but a place of love and hope.
It was home.
“I never gave you my reply,” Saturnine said, sounding almost matter of fact. A dark eyebrow rose quizzically. “That afternoon, in the infirmary. You asked me to stay,” she elaborated.
Severus said nothing, but she saw him swallow thickly, a clear sign that he remembered the event in question. She hadn’t forgotten, either. It had never been the right time for her to give Severus her answer—not that it was a complicated question. But the tone in which her brother had asked—begged—her to stay had cut deep within her. And she wanted to do it right.
Up to that point, she was unaware that Severus was still afraid that she would leave again. In hindsight, she should have seen it coming. She’d heard the words Voldemort’s shade had thrown at him—and she had left him once already.
She reached for her brother’s hand, slipping her fingers through his before stepping between him and their past’s burning cinders. Turning her back on what remained of their old home, she looked up into his vibrant dark eyes.
“I don’t have many regrets in life, Severus, but I’ve never regretted anything more than what I told you that day.” She sighed, then gave him the god-honest truth. “I don’t regret leaving. I needed to see the world a bit—to get away from it all and figure out who I was. But I regret how I went about it and that it took me this long to return.”
Severus nodded, then said in a voice that was barely more than a whisper, “We both had a lot to figure out.”
“Yes, we did.” She gave him a soft smile. “And I think we have.”
He nodded again.
“I heard what it said to you, the Dark Lord’s shade. And I want you to know that you don’t have to remain alone for me. I’m sure there’s an amazing wife for you out there—if that’s what you want. Merlin knows, I’ll even help you search for her if you decide to follow that path.”
“What if I don’t?” he asked, his expression open and vulnerable. “What if I’m happy with how things are now?”
Saturnine shrugged. “Then we simply keep things how they are.”
“Just like that?”
She nodded. “Just like that.”
“Is this what you want?” Severus asked, sounding cautious. “You could do better.”
“So could you,” she replied, holding his gaze to make her point.
Her brother scoffed before looking away.
Saturnine waited until his gaze returned to hers to continue. “Severus, you could have the life everyone else has if you wanted to. We both could.”
“I don’t want to,” he admitted. “I could never trust anyone enough to…”
Severus didn’t need to finish his sentence; Saturnine understood the meaning clearly. “I couldn’t either,” she said. “I tried to while I was away, but I guess I was too…” Saturnine let her words hang, unsure how to finish that sentence. What was she—too broken, too tarnished, too scared? Glancing back over her shoulder, she found that the fire had died. It had finally run out of material to consume.
Too lonely was what she had been back then, even when she sought the company of gentlemen for a night or more. They were entertaining for a short while, but she never let herself be completely honest with them. The lies were never big, but they were numerous. She lied about her name or the reason why she was wherever she was at the time. She lied about having no family, about being a typical witch. The only person who knew the truth—well, most of it—was Remus. And he was a friend more than anything else.
All the time Saturnine had been away, she had felt incomplete—as if she had left part of herself behind in Britain. She wasn’t sure if it was a piece of her heart or a slice of her very soul, but she was sure that she would never leave without it again. It hurt too much to be without it.
“I want things to remain as they are,” Saturnine said, willing her face to reflect the sincerity of her words. “I don’t need anything more to be happy.” At Severus’ answering smile, she leaned in for a hug. “We won’t always agree on everything, and there’ll be ups and downs, but I hear life’s like that for everyone,” she whispered into his ear. She kissed his cheek before hugging him a little more tightly. “I’ll make do with your shortcomings, as you will with mine. And we’ll enjoy the rest of it all like the second chance it’s supposed to be.”
And as the last remains of the empty, decrepit house at the end of Spinner’s End were blown away in the winds—impossible winds that seemed to blow only on their street—the Snape children held onto each other as if nothing else in the world mattered but themselves. Their long-awaited hug felt like then and now, young and old: a hug that felt like home, love, and safety. At long last, they were no longer alone.
Never alone again.
Returning to Cove Cottage after their bout of arson, Severus and Saturnine found Harry and Draco where they had left them, quills scratching parchment while hushed words passed between them. Had this been any other year, Severus would have thought they were doing their homework. As it was, he knew that wasn’t the case. They were up to something, and Severus had no idea what it was. But he was sure that he would find out soon enough. And knowing the boys, it would probably be something as unexpected as it was thoughtful.
Moving to the bedroom he shared with Saturnine, he unpacked what little he had taken from the house on Spinner’s End before he’d asked his sister if she would be so kind as to torch the place. Merciful Merlin, but it had felt good to watch it twist and turn and crack and disintegrate to nothingness. That it was magic that had done it in, magic that had rid the earth of the last vestige of Tobias Snape’s malevolent influence—well, that had been the icing on his metaphorical cake.
Knowing that his sister would stay, that she would be by his side come September 1st—and every other day after that—there wasn’t a word or a metaphor strong enough to aptly describe how he felt other than happy. Very happy, indeed.
Feeling that he was ready for attempt number fourteen, Severus took his notes on the Werewolf Cub Potion and moved to the lab. He had made no progress during the summer, and he was still failing when the time came to add the infected blood. Yet Severus knew there was no way around it; it had to be added to the potion. Only he was unable to protect the cells long enough to integrate them safely into the boiling mix. The closest he had been was when he’d coated them in a membrane of dragon intestine. It had protected the cells, but the addition of the foreign flesh to the mix had rendered the final potion unusable. Severus needed something more neutral, but nothing in the world was ever neutral. Everything was something: fundamental elements—an assortment of molecules comprised of a complicated mix of atoms.
Spreading the parchments that had all his research on the table, he leaned over them and scratched the back of his head. Something in him told him that the solution was there, and he couldn’t see it. He’d never been prone to feeling frustrated. Yet Severus could feel it seeping in at this stage. Not because the task was complicated, and he’d failed to achieve his goal no less than thirteen times—no, that was part of the process. So much could be learned from one’s mistakes. He was frustrated with himself, with his instincts, which screamed at him that the solution was there while his mind obtusely refused to see it. He called out for his sister.
Saturnine poked her head inside the lab a moment later. “You called, m’lord?” she asked with a mocking bow.
“Yes,” he said, waving a nervous hand over the papers. “Think with me, will you?”
If she was surprised by his words, she didn’t show it. Pulling out a stool from underneath the table, she sat down, and with a sibling’s patience, said, “Walk me through it from the beginning.”
And he did. They went over everything from top to bottom. Saturnine listened while he talked, asked a few pointed questions along the way that made him doubt himself and the validity of his choices. Once answered, they allowed him to be sure that he’d chosen the correct path.
“So, it is still the delivery method,” Saturnine said once they circled back to the crux of the problem.
“I cannot add anything to the mix—but I must,” Severus said with a nod. “A most impossible conundrum.”
“You need to work with what’s already in there,” she offered. “Adding more of what the potion already contains wouldn’t upset the ingredients.”
He sighed. “There’s nothing I can use to insulate the blood, ’Nine.” He’d already thought about it and concluded that no powders and extracts could be used to that end. “And everything I add, everything, ruins the damn potion. It’s so unstable that even a breath of air would make it sour.”
The potion wasn’t the only one at risk of turning sour, Severus felt. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he took a deep breath to calm himself.
“Would it, though?” Saturnine questioned.
“What?” Severus asked without looking up from his papers.
“Air,” she repeated. “Would it disrupt the potion?”
He shook his head. “Of course not—that was a hyperbole.”
“Then I believe, brother-mine,” his sister said, sitting up, “that you have just found your solution.”
Failing to understand her words, Severus looked up to her. The nagging smile tucked at the corners of her lips told him she knew something that he didn’t. Typical annoying Ravenclaw attitude, he thought.
Stepping closer, Saturnine snatched one of his hands and brought it up between them, palm up. Bending down slightly, she blew air on his hand. He felt it touch his skin, pass through his parted fingers and slide along his knuckles before returning to the top of his upturned palm. Though he couldn’t see it, he felt the gust of air spiral on his skin, turning faster and faster until he could see it—a small ball of air floating an inch above his skin. And Severus understood.
Saturnine could create a temporary barrier that would protect the blood cells long enough to dip them safely inside the boiling mix—a shield that would let the warmth seep in slowly enough that the werewolf stain wouldn’t be damaged. She was the only witch Severus knew who could create protection from one of the most fundamental elements known to humankind—air itself.
It worked. Together, they created a potion only they could have made. Severus’ mastery of his craft and her unique abilities, entwined together, merged to make something new—something that would change people’s lives. The cure would allow children around the globe to grow up normally, to have a life of happiness and joy, of hope and possibilities. Not the life Remus had had—not the one that two miserable urchins from Cokeworth had had either.
Severus let himself fall atop his bed with little grace and a groan, the result of an entire afternoon spent brewing less than two days after having almost bled to death on an Apothecary floor. Saturnine shuddered at the thought; she could still see the blood when she closed her eyes. It would be a while until that particular memory would let her sleep in peace again.
Tired her brother might be, he smiled; he hadn’t stopped for a moment since they’d left the lab with a dozen phials filled to the brim with his potion. The first bottle she had set aside, and it would end up under the Lupin family Christmas tree, and they would send the others to Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt in the morning.
Stopping by the dark lump on the bed that happened to be vaguely wizard-shaped, she said, “That’s quite the potion you invented, brother-mine.”
Severus closed his eyes, letting out a contented sigh. Not wanting to reply, he merely shrugged a shoulder.
“I’m very proud of you,” she added, and that made him open one eye.
“Wouldn’t have made it without your help,” he said.
“Still, the idea was all yours. I merely put the finishing touches. It was your talent, Sev—your resilience that made it possible.”
The eye closed, and her brother’s cheeks reddened. He turned away.
Crouching down by his bed, Saturnine rested her chin atop the mattress and blew air towards the back of his neck until he was exasperated enough to turn over. When his eyes opened to fix her with an annoyed but fond gaze, she said, “Really. Truly. Very proud of you. And not just for today.”
Severus was saved from replying by the arrival of two teenagers, one brown-haired and one platinum-blond. Forcing himself back up, he moved up the bed to lean against the headboard. Saturnine sat herself down where her head had been instants ago.
“If you’ll pardon the interruption,” Draco said in a tone that made it clear he was not sorry, and the two were about to spring something unexpected on them. Saturnine wondered if they were finally going to tell them what they’d been working on for days on end.
“Kinda have something for you,” Harry said. He sure didn’t have his brother’s poise and manners, but he was as earnest as they come. And everything—from the smile at the corner of his lips to the twinkling emerald eyes behind his round glasses—told her she was in for another of their surprise gifts that were so thoughtful they made you cry.
Next to her, Severus sat up a little straighter, having no doubt realised what was happening. He said nothing, and she remained equally silent, waiting to be amazed.
And when both boys pulled out twin parchments from behind their backs, she was surprised. And neither was a quick poem; each parchment was at least thirty inches. The boys glanced at each other nervously, appearing to decide who should go first. It was settled when Draco gently but firmly shoved his sibling forward—ah, brotherly love at its best, Saturnine thought fondly.
Harry’s cheeks reddened, and he tried to steel himself before holding out the rolled parchment. “Professor Snape,” he said, primarily looking at the floor. “I would like to apply formally for an apprenticeship in your field. Should you decide to take on an apprentice next term, I hope you will consider me.” Then looking up, cheeks flaming red, he held out the parchment to his Potions professor, who seemed as flabbergasted as Saturnine was. In all the years he had taught at Hogwarts, no one had ever gone to Severus to request an apprenticeship, and this came as a great surprise.
“I know you’ve never taken an apprentice, Professor,” Harry continued, “and I understand that it will be difficult and that you will be as demanding as you’ve ever been—more, possibly. But I really want to do this.” He paused, glanced at the parchment, then added, “I mean, it’s all in there, but I just really wanted to say—I’d be honoured to, and I wouldn’t let you down, sir.”
Clearing his throat, Draco took a step forward, holding out his application. “Should there be an opening in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Professor Snape, I would very much like to submit my candidacy. As I’ve outlined in this proposal, I am intrigued by the field and feel confident that I would greatly benefit from your most exceptional teaching.”
Saturnine took the parchment from his fingers with a raised eyebrow. “A little bit wordy, even from you, son,” she said. “Should I ever acquiesce to your request, I shall hope for less flourished verbiage.”
“My lady,” he said with a mock, little bow.
“I hope you know what you’re asking for,” Severus said in a tone close to the one he used in class. “You won’t be getting any preferential treatment because we’re your parents—quite the opposite, actually. We know you and what you are capable of. We will demand the very best and settle for nothing less.”
“We know,” Harry said with a small smile. “And we expect nothing less from you guys. But please read our candidatures and then give us your decisions.”
With that, they left, retreating from their parents’ bedroom and leaving behind a pair of befuddled professors. Neither had considered that option, and truth be told, Saturnine hadn’t even known that it was an option. Yet it sounded like utter perfection.
“How long do they last?” she asked her brother. “These apprenticeship things?”
“At least three years,” he replied. “More if the candidate is struggling.”
Three years. Three more years with their boys? The years she thought she’d never have. Not only that, but she and Severus would be teaching them in earnest, their relationships not merely that of professor and student but also of mentor and apprentice. It wouldn’t only be the kind of knowledge they tried to impart to the students; it would be everything else—their love and understanding of their craft and their passion for the art. They could try to pass on all of that to their children—their legacies.
Knowing the boys as she did, she did not doubt the applications they held in their hands were worthy of praise. And she knew they would try their best, as they had promised.
“Wait a minute,” she said, a thought striking her. “I’m teaching half the Potions classes. Does that mean I get Harry half of the time, too?”
“I should think so,” Severus answered with a stoic face that betrayed nothing of how he felt. Except for his eyes—his eyes told her all she needed to know. Severus could see the possibilities as clearly as she could.
She saw a family home in the Hogwarts dungeon. It had a double bedroom for the boys and another for the adults. A future of family meals and evenings spent by the fire, filled with board games and squabbles, fallings-out and making-ups. Times of teaching and learning, of growing up and growing old.
Pulling out her necklace, Saturnine glanced at the crest dangling at the end of the silver chain. Familia Ante Omnia, indeed—they couldn’t have got it more right.