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.
thanks to Lady Narcissa who put up with my computerlessness, my laziness and my overuse of adverbs.
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.
burst of raised voices intruded his thoughts.
really, Severus, personal attacks are a little low, aren't they?" Arthur Weasley's voice traveled up the
was not an attack, Arthur," Snape said, sounding
bored. "Merely a comment."
it was a question," Tonks quipped.
opened, and Harry heard footsteps in the hall downstairs, nearing him.
don't you pay him any mind."
not, Molly. I'm just getting something to eat."
food as a distraction, Lupin? You should watch that
habit. You may find yourself growing portly in your old age."
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.
you're both acting like children," Tonks
have no interest in theatrics," Snape said
shortly. "I'll be on my way."
crept down the stairs until he was at the landing. Everyone was in the hall,
shooting death stares at one another.
well, Severus," Mr. Weasley was apparently
attempting to make peace. "Have a safe journey."
shall. Though I will be plagued by the mystery of Lupin's absent answer to my inquiry."
Lupin mumbled something from the kitchen.
was that?" Snape looked surprised.
said I don't even remember what you said, Severus."
stepped into the hall. Tonks noticed him immediately
and smiled, looking a bit strained. "Harry, do you want something?"
going to the kitchen…"
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."
sure I can do it, thank you, Severus. Your sacrifice
has been great indeed."
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?"
Snape's lip began to curl into one of his poison
smiles, "I was wondering how that job interview went. At
looked at Lupin, who stared blankly ahead.
"I… why, Severus?"
"Just a question, between old friends."
Tonks snorted. Mrs. Weasley gently slapped her arm.
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."
followed. Mr. Weasley was starting to look ill, and Harry had the distinct
impression he was uncomfortable with this confrontation.
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."
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.
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.
yes, Severus, I do envy you. Do you want to know
Snape didn't move.
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
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?"
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
"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."
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
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.
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."
looked at Lupin. It was the first time since Harry
had entered the room that Lupin had acknowledged him.
didn't realize Potter was so delicate. My mistake."
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.
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.
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
sighed and sat on the mattress, ignoring the loud squeaking of the bed.
"Professor, are you all right?"
will be if you start calling me Remus and stop
calling me 'Professor'."
tried a small smile. "I mean really."
as well as can be expected." Lupin strode over
and took a seat next to Harry. "Actually, Harry, I meant to talk to you
it's about Kreacher, I already know."
Lupin's forehead furrowed.
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?"
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."
envelope shook in Harry's hands. Please, he thought, please tell me
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."
nodded, got up from the bed and sauntered wordlessly out the door.
Harry, June 5th, '96
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?)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
reckon it's not too corny to say this, then, eh? Alright.
I love you. Very much. I'll see you again someday. I
love, cordially, yours, etc. etc.,
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."
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?"
his head toward her. "Hmm?"
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
paused in the doorway. Harry stared at her. The cricket continued to chirp.
there something you want to say?" Ginny asked.
"Um." Harry scratched his head. "Sorry I yelled. I was out
shoulders relaxed. "That's all right. You were upset."
upset. I'm being selfish."
Yes, you are. But that's all right."
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.
she asked blankly.
"Nothing. You have your mother's nose, that's all."
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.