VVC: Getting Letters in Public
by Iulia Linnea
Fandom: Harry Potter
Category: Angst, Drama, Romance.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: 4th story in the Verges and Variations Cycle, an interlude between the third and fifth stories, in which Harry's final letters arrive and are distributed at the same time to all of the interested parties.
"--but she didn't kill him. It was never her intention to do that!" Blaise yelled, thrusting a note in Shacklebolt's hands.
The two men were standing in the antechamber to the infirmary with Professors Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, the Weasleys, and Hermione. They were waiting for Madame Pomfrey, who had shooed them out of the Infirmary proper because she had needed the peace to work--and to try and persuade Severus to leave Ree's side. Even Sirius and Remus had been persuaded to get some rest, but in seven days, the Potions master had refused to leave the infirmary.
"Nevertheless, we did find a body--what was left of it. And by your own admission, Potter went after him," Shacklebolt said.
Professor Dumbledore had called them all together because he wanted to discuss what was known about Harry's plan. So far, no one knew what spell she had used, though they knew it was a binding one.
There was also the question of Neville to be answered.
After the spell had broken down, Neville had released Snape and run toward the blackened remains of Voldemort, above whom a swirling vortex had appeared. According to Blaise, who had been the closest person to him, Neville had gashed his arm with a knife, screamed an incantation, and vanished into the portal with the remains of broken magic and incinerated bodies--but the portal that Neville and Ree had opened had not closed. It continued to enlarge until Hermione, who had been studying the scene as if hypnotized, ordered those who were able to hex the spell-soaked people with breathlessness. The effect of this was to purge the swirling motes of magic from their bodies, and, once this detritus had been swallowed by the portal, it had closed. Everyone had recovered. Everyone except Ree. She remained in a coma.
"She went after him to capture the bastard! Read the damn note!"
"If I speak to Rosmerta, she'll verify that Potter left this with her?"
"Yes. But you already know that, don't you?"
Shaklebolt ignored the other man, and read Harry's note again.
"It's time. I'll be ready to see the lady of the house tomorrow at tea time. Make sure she'll see me. The Aurors' present will be wrapped up the day after next, also about tea time. Make sure they know to pick it up. I'll send our present "home" with Hedwig upon leaving the lady, and return to Hogwarts after spending a night at the previously discussed wizard inn. Expect my return on 22 December."
"That seems fairly straightforward. I'll have to run some tests on it to be sure that it's hers, though."
"You do that," Blaise said in disgust. How many times will we discuss this, you suspicious imbecile?
"Thank you," Dumbledore said with a wary look at young Zabini, who, of late, had begun to remind him of Severus when he was near the boy's age. It wasn't comforting. "Perhaps you could excuse us for a moment?"
Shaklebolt's eyes swept the room. "Of course, Sir. Minister," he said, acknowledging Arthur Weasley before he left.
"Professor Dumbledore?" a hesitant voice squeaked.
"Dobby has letters, and he thinks he should give them out now. All of you is here, Sir."
A hush fell over the room. "Of course, Dobby," the headmaster said.
As Dobby handed out the last of his letters, he looked wistfully at the recipients.
But of course Harry Potter is too important--too busy--to write Dobby a letter.
Just then, Hedwig began tapping on the window across the room. Ginny Weasley opened it, and the owl flew toward the house elf, hooting at him and dropping a parcel into his hands.
"Oh, Harry Potter did not forget Dobby!" the house elf exclaimed. He tore open his package. "Socks! And a letter! Without preamble, he began to read:
"Not everyone does it, but some people like to wear matching socks. Here are three pairs of my favorite ones in different colors. Mix them if you like.
"I know that I've been cross with you in the past, especially when you did things like dump treacle all over Aunt Petunia and hex my broom. I'm still not happy about the broom incident, but Aunt P. did look better covered in tart.
"Please take care of all the little future Weasleys for me, and look out for Professor Snape. He never eats enough when he's on his own. Consider it my final wish that you pester him about his health incessantly (well, at least until he takes care of himself).
"With thanks and friendship,
A gleam lit Dobby's eye. "Yes, yes, Dobby will look after Professor Snappy," he said before disappearing.
"Well," said Albus, as the light chuckling subsided. "Perhaps it is a good thing that Severus did not hear that."
"He'll figure it out soon enough," Hermione observed. "We'll need to warn him."
"Agreed. Do you think that there might be something in Ree's letters to help us help her?" he asked, looking to the Minister of Magic. "Would you care to read yours, Arthur?"
"Dear Minister Weasley,
"Whereas I intend shortly to undertake an action for the good of our world, and believe I shall die in the commission of said act, please respect my wishes that I be privately interred, should there be anything left of my body, and do not permit any public spectacle to be made of my death. I don't wish to overshadow the many worthy people who have fought against Voldemort for years. Save the statues and parades for them, and allow me to rest in peace.
"Congratulations on achieving your post, Sir. It makes me proud to know that our government will be in your most capable and honorable hands.
"Oh, Arthur," Poppy said, coming out of the Infirmary. "That was, that was--"
"Most politic of the young lady," finished Albus.
"Yeah, it was meant to be, Dad. I know that Ree was worried about you, all the flap you've been taking," said Charlie.
He had not yet opened his letter.
Arthur looked startled. "There's something more. It's a folded sheet. Here, I'll read it:
"Dear Mr. Weasley,
"I thought that my formal letter might serve to be read aloud at some small ceremony, and spare you the trouble of doing anything else, no matter what people might want. I realize there will be pressure, but I just can't stand the thought of being the focus of victory in death. Too many people to name worked toward ending this war, and I don't suppose it's ever really going to be over while there are those who feel as they do about power and Muggles and the rest of it. Good luck to you, sir. I expect you'll need it. Please remember me to everyone. I haven't any more time to write, but that doesn't mean that I don't love you all.
Quiet murmurs issued from the Weasley clan as they and Hermione huddled together.
"Charlie, dear, would you like to read yours?" asked his mother.
The young man already was. "It's hard to explain. I think that she meant it as an apology for something she said."
"We don't mean to intrude, Charlie," said Arthur.
He shrugged. "It's okay, Dad. I think this is as much of a memorial as Ree would want."
"She. Is. Not. Yet. Dead."
"Severus," Albus warned gently. . . . "It's good to see you."
Charlie looked at the Potions master, who was standing at the door to the infirmary, neither inside nor outside the room.
"You're right, of course, Professor."
"Yes," Poppy agreed, "but I think that if we might glean some clue from what she's written to help treat her . . . ."
"Quite right," Professor McGonagall said.
"Well, there isn't a clue here, but . . . .
"There were times when you did save me.
"You don't have to explain that, Charlie," Hermione said, crossing the room to give him a hug. The young man buried his stoic face in her hair.
My letter is fairly straightforward," Albus said, hoping to distract the others and give the young man a bit of privacy, "though I will not read the name of one party."
Severus stood a little straighter. The vampire, he thought.
"Dear Professor Dumbledore,
"Prophesies are wretched, unyielding things, and even though I know you wish that there was another way, I think we both realize that there isn't one.
"You sent me to [my master] to help me guard against Voldemort's attempts to possess me by forcing his power into me, and it helped. But I don't believe that even you could withstand the mystical onslaught that would be the result of Riddle's harnessing the magic of the Ley Lines. And I couldn't live with myself if he used me as a tool to hurt those whom I love, so my course is clear."
Albus stopped reading for a moment as everyone pondered Ree's words. Once he had collected himself, he continued.
"I know that I'm prepared to do what must be done, and I hope you won't feel too sad about it. My life, the life you helped me to have, has been a good one.
"With deepest gratitude and respect,
No one spoke for many long moments, though Molly Weasley remained quiet only because of the steady press of her husband's protective arms around her. And then Hagrid began quietly reading his letter aloud without preamble.
"You have always been my hero because you took me away from the things that made me unhappy, and brought me to the things that did. You've looked out for me, you've never doubted me, and you've accepted me even when things got pretty strange. You have the best heart, Hagrid. Thank you for sharing it with me.
"I hope you won't mind if I ask you to share it with Hedwig now that I can't take care of her anymore. She likes you a lot, and she doesn't bite--well, she only bites if she's mad, but I can't imagine her being angry with you, and I know you've had worse!
"That's our Harry--lookin' on doom an' bein' cheerful," the giant said, wiping away tears. "Come 'ere, Hedwig."
The owl flew from her perch by the window and landed on Hagrid's shoulder, hooting softly and nipping at his ear.
A choked sob issued from Hermione. "Oh, she wrote these--she wrote this before--"
Unable to speak, she handed her letter to Charlie. He stumbled over the letter's salutation, but then was able to read clearly.
"Dear . . . Ron and Hermione,
"If Neville and I don't make any mistakes, the two of you will be able to get married, shag endlessly, and produce a lot of bushy haired, red-headed babies in relative peace. Thinking about that gives me courage, just like your friendship has always done. I love you both. I'm sorry to leave you. I hope you can forgive me.
"I miss you already,
"P.S.: The second envelope has to do with the money I've left for my nieces and nephews. Don't be stupid and think about not using it when the time comes, Ron. It's the only way I'll ever get to be 'Aunt Harry'. Have fun explaining me to a four-year-old! No, you'd best do the explaining, Hermione," Charlie concluded, looking at his brother's girlfriend with an expression of hope on his face.
"Congratulations, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said.
The stricken young woman looked toward Mrs. Weasley. "I'm sorry, Molly."
"Oh, is it true? Are you? Oh, Hermione!" Ron's mother exclaimed, rushing to her side. "Oh, this is wonderful."
Subdued, but honest, congratulations were offered, and Ginny made Hermione sit in a chair, which made the other witch laugh, especially when Poppy began to fuss over her, as well, pressing a potion into her hand that she whispered would be "good for the baby."
While this went on, Molly read her letter. "Oh--oh, Arthur, listen:
"I don't remember my Mum, and Aunt Petunia never treated me the way a mother should. Until you took me into your family and loved me as your own child, I didn't understand what a mother was. Now when I picture myself as a mother--something that, frankly, is still a little strange for me--I know that I'm actually seeing a reflection of you.
"You should live to see your grandchildren grow up in peace to spoil you the way I know you'll spoil them. I'm sorry I won't be around to see that, but this is what I was meant for. I can't think of a greater thing to do than to protect the people I care about the most. I've learned to do this in a thousand different ways by watching you, Molly. Unfortunately, I only have the one.
"I hope that you'll forgive me for it.
The witch brushed tears out of her eyes, and said, "Oh, of course I do, my dear. Of course I do."
Professor McGonagall read her letter next.
"Dear Professor McGonagall,
"I know that I would have made a lot more--and worse--mistakes if it had not have been for your guidance. Please believe me when I tell you that I've never taken your advice lightly, or your regard for granted.
"With greatest affection,
And though the lady's eyes were bright, she did not cry.
Blaise, who had opened his letter, tried to slip unobtrusively from the room.
"Mr. Zabini," Severus said to the Auror, moving to intercept Blaise at the door. "Mr. Zabini, would you care to read your letter?" he asked.
It was not a request.
Blaise looked at Charlie. "I don't think that would be appropriate."
Fred and George turned their decidedly unfriendly eyes on Zabini. "Why not?" they asked as one.
Their father, noting the direction of the looks all around, said quickly, "Now, now, if Blaise would rather keep his letter private--"
"All right!" Blaise said, wrenching his arm away from Severus' grasp. "I'll read it." He looked around at the assembled company without meeting anyone's eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered before beginning to read.
"You are the most beautiful man I've ever seen, Blaise Zabini, and while many people will appreciate you for the fineness of your skin--"
There were gasps from most of the Weasleys as the Auror-in-training read, but he continued in spite of them.
"--the luxury of your hair, the richness of your scent, and the subtlety of your mind, still rarer, I think, is the person who will recognize the essence of your heart as the gift I know it to be.
"This person I speak of is not myself, as I have long loved another."
At these words, Hermione pressed Charlie's hand.
"Nor is it Draco Malfoy, as he loves no one. You know that I would have saved him if I could have done. You don't know that you deserve better. But I do, and that you find a person who will love you for yourself alone, rather than for how you may be of service to him or to her, is my greatest wish for you.
Everyone's eyes moved between Blaise and Charlie.
"Are you happy with yourself now, Severus?" Sirius demanded.
"No," Severus answered, glaring at Blaise until Remus purposely stepped between the two of them.
"Let it go, Severus. It doesn't concern you."
Stiffly, Severus turned and crossed to the windows, which put him as far away from Zabini as possible.
"It's all right, everyone. Truly. Ree thought of Blaise as a part of Draco, and . . . Draco was never any of my business," Charlie said, turning to walk closer to the window, as well.
"Let's read ours, then," Remus said to Sirius, relieved that no one had yet tried to kill anyone else, though, when counting himself, he suspected the murderous rage quotient in the room was high.
"Dear Sirius and Remus,
"I keep putting off writing this letter to you. It's hard to fit twenty feet of parchment onto eight inches of the stuff, but this is what I think most needs to be said: Thank you for trying to make things normal for me, even though you knew that they never would be. Mum and Dad, if they had lived, could not have done a better job.
"Well, that's not too bad for a former deviant! (Here is where Mione would be telling me I'm using humor to 'mitigate strong emotion', but what I think I'm doing is just trying to show you that I'm okay.)
"I really do know what I'm doing. Eventually, I think you'll understand. I hope so.
"The second envelope has all the legal stuff in it: Hedwig goes to Hagrid, I've left money for Ron and Hermione's children, and everything else goes to my family, which would be you two. Don't argue with me. You won't win.
"That was lovely, dears," Molly said.
"Well," said Albus, "I expect that we should adjourn to--"
"I reckon' that Professor Snape will want to be readin' his, seein' as he's so keen on hearin' everyone else's letter," Hagrid said, not unkindly, but with an unexpected firmness as he interrupted Professor Dumbledore.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Hagrid had been wondering since they had begun reading what Harry might have to say to Professor Snape. He had seen the girl's behavior toward that man change from fearful to angry to friendly over the years without ever remarking on it, but lately it seemed to have changed again. Hagrid wanted to know why. Filch had reported that, in recent weeks, Harry had not visited Snape. It was not like her to avoid the man, nor he, her; usually, when Harry could not come to Hogwarts, Filch said that Snape went to the novitiate.
And it's odd that the two of them would stay separate, like, is what it is, the half-giant thought.
"As you wish, Hagrid, though I do not believe it will help."
"We'd like to hear it, Severus," Sirius said. "It's all we may have left."
The Potions master inclined his head. He no longer had any wish to hurt Black, nor to upset Remus, but his was the final letter.
"Dear Professor Snape,
"I'm sorry that I'll miss the fight I know we would have had if I had lived after destroying Voldemort. I think you know how very much I've come to enjoy arguing with you. I hope you do.
"As I'm having the last word--for once--I'd like to say that I'm grateful to you for everything you've ever done for me, especially the things about which I know nothing. I have always trusted you to protect me, even though I know you believe this indicates an 'appalling lack of care' on my part. I can't help it; I have to judge people by their actions.
"If I'd judged you in any other way, I'd still think of you as a snarky, unreasonable git. Suffice is to say that, though I haven't always understood your methods, I know that you had a strong hand in preparing me to face the task that Fate has set for me (now there is a phrase worthy of you in one of your more dramatic moments; I'm going to miss those).
"I'm going to miss teasing you. I'm going to miss knowing that when you look at me, you see me, and not some idea or ideal. I'm going to miss coming home to a warm fire and newly steeped tea and good company. I'm going to miss you, Severus, because you are who I miss when I miss home.
"I am proud to have been able to call you my friend,
"Harry James 'Ree' Potter"
When he finished reading, Severus kept his eyes fixed firmly on the parchment in his hand.
"Hogwarts has always been very important to Harry," he said after many stunned moments had passed.
With visible effort, Sirius strode toward Snape and put his hand on the other man's arm.
"You have always been very important to Harry."
"I would not go that far, Black."
Remus said nothing and wondered, How far did you go?
Well now, so that's how it was, thought Hagrid, smiling slightly. Harry never did go in for the easy way, poor mite.
Poppy smiled sadly at Severus. "You know, dear, Ree waited up every night for you to come look in on her when the medi-wizards were doing their preliminary tests."
"No," Severus said. "She was always--"
"Pretending to be asleep," Poppy finished.
"Ree thought very highly of you, Professor Snape," Hermione said. "She told me once that if you could . . . handle what 'Fate' had asked of you, then she could certainly do the same."
Snape snorted at that. "That does not sound like a compliment."
"Oh, it was," Charlie said. "Ree never compared herself to anyone else. You were always her example."
"Yes," spat Remus with some force. "You were."
With that, he stormed out of the room, a confused Sirius following him.
Just then, Dobby and a small, round, heavily laden table appeared in the room. "Dobby thinks that people might be hungry," he said, favoring Snape with a significant look.
People laughed. Snape looked around in irritated confusion.
"Thank you, Dobby," Minerva said. "Would you care to--"
"Professor McGonagall is very nice to Dobby, but Dobby will go away now and preserve his letter. But," the house elf said a little more loudly, "Dobby will be by to see Professor Snape later."
Severus looked at Albus.
"Ree has asked Dobby to take care of you."
"No," Severus replied, horror plain in his tone.
Everyone laughed again.
Poppy clasped one of Severus' hands as he bridled.
"They aren't laughing at you, dear. It's all right."
Severus squeezed her hand gently, and then slipped out of the room into the long corridor of the infirmary. Since carrying Harry here a week ago, he had spent his nights in the teacher's section of the hospital, checking up on the girl when Remus, Sirius, Albus, or whoever was waiting with her--for no one wanted to speak in grimmer terms than that about her condition--fell asleep or stepped out. He had not felt as though he had any right to be near her.
Seeing that she wore her customary disturbed expression as she slept, he felt almost as though he was locked into a box too small to move, for such is how he imagined it must feel to be trapped in one's mind.
To be forced in a nightmare with no respite . . . .
It was too horrible to contemplate, so he reached for something to anchor him and found the ghost of an old anger.
"Well, Potter, only you would think to torture me with a house elf before you went off to glorious death in battle. Of course, you did not get that right, did you? You should be thankful that you are in a coma. Do not think that we will not . . . discuss this at a later date. I told you once, did I not, that I do not require a nurse-maid?"
He stood guard over Harry's bed until his thoughts overwhelmed his sense of time. It felt like hours later that Poppy handed him a handkerchief for the tears that were already drying on his face. Remus dozed in a chair next to the bed, and a large, black dog snored at the end of it.
"Why don't you let me watch over her for a little while, Professor?" a steady voice asked from behind him.
Charlie. I have no right to be here.
Severus turned to leave, but the younger man stopped him.
"Yes, Mr. Weasley?"
"Please come back after you've gotten some rest. I know that Ree would appreciate your presence."
"As . . . as you wish."
Charlie watched the Potions master sweep down the corridor and thought that he had never seen a sadder figure in all his life. The young man settled into another chair near the bed and rubbed one of Harry's hands as he saw Snape turn sharply out the door.
I wonder how long he's loved her?
Completed November 13, 2003.
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