The Sugar Quill
Author: Adison  Story: The Healing Properties of Roots  Chapter: Two
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

The Healing Properties of Roots (The Grand Finale)

The Healing Properties of Roots (The Grand Finale)

 

 

Change of plans. The two remaining chapters worked best if mixed together into one, which you are now reading. Ah, well. Less mouse-clicking for you, anyway.

Again, many thanks to Lady Narcissa who put up with my computerlessness, my laziness and my overuse of adverbs.

 

+

 

Harry shut the door behind him. He walked down the hall and stepped silently down the stairs. He sat down in the stairwell and rested his head in his hands. His breath was getting heavy.  Calm, he thought to himself. Just be calm.

 

A sudden burst of raised voices intruded his thoughts.

 

"Now, really, Severus, personal attacks are a little low, aren't they?" Arthur Weasley's voice traveled up the stairs.

"It was not an attack, Arthur," Snape said, sounding bored. "Merely a comment."

 

"Actually, it was a question," Tonks quipped.

 

A door opened, and Harry heard footsteps in the hall downstairs, nearing him.

 

"Remus, don't you pay him any mind."

 

"I'm not, Molly. I'm just getting something to eat."

 

"Using food as a distraction, Lupin? You should watch that habit. You may find yourself growing portly in your old age."

 

"Severus!"

 

"Despite my lycanthropy, Severus," came Lupin's cool voice, "I have maintained a healthy body and a positive mindset. I will not allow myself to become a galling, loveless, crusty man." He paused. "Like you."

 

"Oh, honestly!" Mrs. Weasley boomed.

 

"Really, you're both acting like children," Tonks snapped.

 

"I have no interest in theatrics," Snape said shortly. "I'll be on my way."

 

Harry crept down the stairs until he was at the landing. Everyone was in the hall, shooting death stares at one another.

 

"Very well, Severus," Mr. Weasley was apparently attempting to make peace. "Have a safe journey."

 

"I shall. Though I will be plagued by the mystery of Lupin's absent answer to my inquiry."

 

Lupin mumbled something from the kitchen.

 

"What was that?" Snape looked surprised.

 

"I said I don't even remember what you said, Severus."

 

Harry stepped into the hall. Tonks noticed him immediately and smiled, looking a bit strained. "Harry, do you want something?"

 

"Just going to the kitchen…"

 

"I simply asked, Lupin," Snape said sharply, his arms folded and his eyes narrowed, "if you believed you had the skill now to concoct your own potions, instead of running to me every month. I have other things to do with my time."

 

"I'm sure I can do it, thank you, Severus. Your sacrifice has been great indeed."

"I agree. I'll have you know my lesson plans have been compromised over the last several months in order to find the time to brew the Wolfsbane, and I fear my class would suffer for it were they not already failing miserably." He glanced at Harry.

 

Lupin appeared at the kitchen door, weary. "Is that all?"

 

"Actually," Snape's lip began to curl into one of his poison smiles, "I was wondering how that job interview went. At St. Mungo's?"

 

Harry looked at Lupin, who stared blankly ahead.

 

"I… why, Severus?"

 

"Just a question, between old friends."

 

Tonks snorted. Mrs. Weasley gently slapped her arm.

 

"It was fine, Severus, thank you for asking. I probably won't get it, because I am, after all, a threat to society, as I'm sure you were waiting to point out. So if that's what you're waiting to hear, be done with it. You're a relatively normal physical being, you have a decent job, and you're about to leave this house."

 

A pause followed. Mr. Weasley was starting to look ill, and Harry had the distinct impression he was uncomfortable with this confrontation.

 

"Envy me, Lupin?" Snape said quietly. "I suppose even in its most mediocre state, normalcy is something you strive for, only to find it always out of reach."

 

Harry felt a familiar surge of rage rise in him. Tonks raised her hand to Harry's shoulder, an attempt to keep him from attacking Snape. He looked at Lupin, whose eyes had just hardened.

 

"Do I envy you?" Lupin said in a harsh tone Harry had never heard him use before.

 

Snape raised his left eyebrow slightly, as if mildly interested in what Lupin had to say.

 

"Why, yes, Severus, I do envy you. Do you want to know why?"

 

Snape didn't move.

 

"Because," Lupin continued in that same rough voice, "you have shrouded yourself in this ridiculous pain since you were a child. You are immune to it. Because you don't know what it feels like to stand by helplessly while those you love fall around you. Because some among whom you once considered friends are in Azkaban for horrendous deeds, and you know their guilt for certain." And, for the first time since Harry had met him, Lupin's voice broke.

 

Snape's left eyebrow raised higher and a ghost of a sneer appeared on his mouth. "Do you really expect me to stand here and be insulted, Lupin? Or," he added in his soft, dangerous voice, "do you expect me to apologize for your pain?"

 

"I don't expect you to do anything of the sort." Lupin sounded a bit more stable now. "I don't want you to be insulted, nor do I want your sympathy. I want you to be aware, Severus, of your good fortune. And for God's sake to appreciate it."

 

"My good fortune?" Snape's eyes glinted maliciously and he moved slowly closer to Lupin. "What do you know of my good fortune? My past choices will continue to haunt me, Lupin, until the day I die. Not what was thrust on me, not what I was given to contend with, but what I chose."

 

"A life of bitterness and self-loathing seems only too apt, Severus," Lupin said dryly.

 

Snape's hand twitched. "Carrying on Black's legacy, are we? Very well. It only proves how expendable he truly was - his friends can copy him so completely, it was rather redundant to have the real thing around."

 

Tonks' grip on Harry's shoulder suddenly tightened and out of the corner of his eye he could see her face grow pale. His own heart started thumping loudly, and he fought to stop the shaking coursing through his body.

 

"You disliked Sirius," Lupin said quietly, "and I know you don't grieve him, but please don't denounce him in the presence of people who loved him just because I said something childish to vex you." He paused. "There's no point in speaking ill of him. Especially not in front of Harry."

 

Harry looked at Lupin. It was the first time since Harry had entered the room that Lupin had acknowledged him.

 

"I didn't realize Potter was so delicate. My mistake."

 

"Harry's as delicate as every other human being," Lupin straightened himself. "Including yourself." He turned and walked steadily out of the hall and up the stairs.

 

Snape stared silently after him.

 

+

 

Harry knocked softly on the paint-chipped door to Lupin's room. He heard some shuffling and footsteps scraping toward the door, and the slow creak of rusty hinges. Lupin's eyebrows rose in apparent surprise, and he looked unusually timid. "Harry," he said, opening the door all the way.

 

"Can we talk, Professor?"

 

"Certainly." Lupin stepped aside and Harry walked slowly in the room, looking around. It was dark and gray, with musty curtains around a dirty window and an old bed with a dingy mattress sitting in the corner. A small mirror hung on the wall next to a worn-down dresser. "Cheerful place."

 

Lupin smiled. "Yes, I should clean it up. Maybe I'll do that this week."

 

Harry sighed and sat on the mattress, ignoring the loud squeaking of the bed. "Professor, are you all right?"

 

"I will be if you start calling me Remus and stop calling me 'Professor'."

 

Harry tried a small smile. "I mean really."

 

"I'm as well as can be expected." Lupin strode over and took a seat next to Harry. "Actually, Harry, I meant to talk to you tonight."

 

"If it's about Kreacher, I already know."

Lupin's forehead furrowed.

 

"Ron," Harry said.

 

"Ah," Lupin's expression cleared. "Of course. Well, that's not that important, anyway. Actually," he rose and went over to the battered dresser, opened a drawer and withdrew an envelope, "I wanted to give you this." He walked back to the bed and held out the paper. Harry took it cautiously, a sense of dread rising in his throat. "What is it?"

 

"Well, I'm not sure." Lupin paused for a moment, looking out the grimy window. "It's from Sirius," he said in a clear voice, slightly louder than usual. "I found it on my bed, next to a letter he wrote to me. He must have slipped in here before we headed to… well, anyway, in my letter he asked that I give this to you personally, which is why I didn't send it over the summer."

 

The envelope shook in Harry's hands. Please, he thought, please tell me something good.

 

"I don't know what to make of it. He must have… known… something would happen. I don't know." Harry glanced up and saw Lupin's eyes gleaming. "You better go read it."

 

Harry nodded, got up from the bed and sauntered wordlessly out the door.

 

Harry,                                                                                        June 5th, '96

 

Well, if you're reading this, something bad must have happened. So first off, sorry about that. I can't just stay here while Moony and Mad-eye and even Albus go out and risk their hides for you all. (Bloody dumb children, but we love you anyway.) So if, God forbid, you are reading this letter, it's only because I thought I could be useful and, well, failed. Perhaps I died a hero's death? That would be brilliant. If I kick it because I ate some bad fish, now, that would just be embarrassing. Anyway, the point is, there's a chance (even if it's small) that something awful may happen tonight and if it does, I want you to know that I went to the Ministry by my choice. Moony and Tonks and all those other ninnies tried to talk me out of it, but, being stubborn as I am, I refused, and insisted on accompanying them. It's what your dad would have done, and that's the legacy I try to live up to, both to honor his memory, and because he was usually right anyway. (Anyway, who wants to be alone in a house with Kreacher?)

 

So I know this letter may seem pointless, but I wanted you to know that though it seems like I'm gone, but I'm not, really. If you need to talk, just let me know, and I'll be there. Maybe you won't be able to see me, but I hope you can feel me. Or, if you're more into actually conversing with someone, give Remus a try. You probably know that he excels in patience, but he's also understanding and good-natured. He's a bit guarded at times, but he's loved you since you were born. Before you were born, if you're being nitpicky about details. If it weren't for the laws against part-humans, Lily and James would have named him co-godfather (yes, that is an actual term.)

 

Can I give you some advice? I'm much older and wiser and all that, so listen here: That Weasley girl? Ginny? Yeah. You're not going to ever do better than her. Tonks just adores her (and Hermione) and we've been hearing about her non-stop. She seems very bright and brave and like a shorter version of your mother, though that analogy may annoy you. And, if I may add, she's quite the looker. (Not that I thought of her like that. I'm old enough to be her father. Or at least her favorite, handsome uncle.) So if you should ever learn that she still fancies you, jump on the opportunity.

 

Did I ever mention you have Lily's nose? It's almost eerie.

 

One more thing. A request. Take care of Remus, will you? Just, when you grow up and become all successful and happy and whatnot, check up on him once in a while, just for a chat. I don't want him to ever feel alone again.

 

So I guess this is the parting. I very well may leave the world tonight, and if I do, it's because I knew what I was risking and took the chance anyway. If you're not willing to sacrifice your life for something, it's a life not worth living.

 

I reckon it's not too corny to say this, then, eh? Alright. I love you. Very much. I'll see you again someday. I promise.

 

Sincerely, love, cordially, yours, etc. etc.,

 

Sirius

 

Harry reread the letter four times before he looked up. He touched his face and felt a warm wetness under his fingertips. A complete silence settled in the room, so still Harry could hear his heart beating. His skin was warm and there was a lightness in his chest that he hasn't felt for a long time. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. A thousand thoughts rapidly flowed through his mind, but only one was perfectly clear; he could almost hear Sirius' voice in a gentle but firm tone: "It's all right to keep living. Nobody blames you but yourself."

He opened his eyes.

 

Soft, clear moonlight was pouring through the open window over Ron's bed and Harry could hear branches swaying in the breeze outside. Tonks had just let out a shriek followed by boisterous laughter in the kitchen downstairs. A cricket was chirping on the windowsill. The door creaked and Ginny stuck her head in. "Harry?"

 

He turned his head toward her. "Hmm?"

 

"Mum says tea's ready, if you want any. She said she doubts anyone's really going to sleep tonight, what with you just arriving and all. There are scones from this morning."

 

"Thanks."

 

Ginny paused in the doorway. Harry stared at her. The cricket continued to chirp.

 

"Is there something you want to say?" Ginny asked.

 

"Um." Harry scratched his head. "Sorry I yelled. I was out of line."

 

Ginny's shoulders relaxed. "That's all right. You were upset."

 

"Everyone's upset. I'm being selfish."

 

"Well. Yes, you are. But that's all right."

 

"I'll stop."

 

"Okay."

 

Chirp. Chirp.

 

"Tea?"

 

"Yes." He stood, placed the letter under his blankets and walked toward the door. Ginny took a step back so he could pass. He paused, examining her face briefly.

 

"What?" she asked blankly.

 

"Nothing. You have your mother's nose, that's all."

 

He trotted down the stairs, hands in his pockets, whistling brightly. Ginny stood at the doorway of the small bedroom, watching him disappear down the long, narrow stairway. Good lord, she thought. That boy runs hot and cold.

 

She walked toward the stairs and found herself fighting a smile.

 

 

 

Fin.

//
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