Epilogue, Claudia-Éléonore Séléné Lupin
Throughout my childhood, I was certain that Mère knew everything in the world that there was to be learned and, what little she didn't know, Dad knew. They were geniuses, my parents; heroes even. Nobody else in Hogwarts had professors for their parents or had lived in the castle until they were eight, when "The Boys" were born and Mère decided that our family had finally outgrown our dungeon rooms.
I loved Dover House, with its huge yard and barn where Mère let Octavia keep all of the strays she was constantly finding or, as Paracelsus liked to say, had found the notes he left at Hogwarts so they'd know where to find us. For as long as I could remember, I was always exploring the cliffs and the forests; I always took Paracelsus with me, ostensibly to keep an eye on me, which soothed Mère's nerves a little. She always worried about us, though she hated to let us see it.
But still, my childhood was filled with other children, be it at Hogwarts or at Dover House. I can hardly remember a time when my 'pseudocousins' weren't around, or their parents, or any of Mère's friends from work. I remember a time – I had to be eighteen, because I Henri-Auguste had turned seventeen and I'd caught him not a week before kissing Lillian Black, our just-turned-fourteen-step-aunt, behind the boathouse on my way back from a late night walk, and had only promised not to tell Dad or Grandpa Sirius – when we, as a group, went to the zoo.
Now, if I was eighteen and Henri-Auguste seventeen, that made Teddy Lupin seventeen too, and "The Girls" - Julia-Athéne and Octavia-Margot – and Victorie Weasley about-sixteen, John Lupin and Lillian's brother, James, fifteen; Dominique Weasley and Lillian fourteen, Andrea Lupin and Frank Longbottom thirteen; Louis Weasley, Alice Longbottom, Neville Junior and "The Boys" - Alexandre-Frédéric and Grégoire-Matthieu – eleven, and the rest – Rose and Hugo Weasley and Stéphane and Michèle Caudwell about six or eight. Which meant, yes, our collective parents had dragged over ten teenagers to the zoo along with our young pseudocousins, actual cousins, and step-niece and –nephew (depending on who you were talking too). Octavia of course was over the moon about it and had run off to do one of those Zookeeper-for-a-Day things with the lemurs. Victorie and Teddy had just started dating, so they were useless to be around, as were Henri-Auguste and Lillian (not that I'd want to be around either of them anyway), and it's not like I wanted to pal around with the younger ones, so I was prepared for a day of utter boredom. Even Paracelsus was abandoning me to go to the reptile house with Mac and Xandr. But Mère, the all-knowing, took me aside while Dad was paying for us all.
"I know going to the Zoo with your family is not something most eighteen-year-olds would want to do," she told me. Being only sixteen years older then me, Mère was only in her thirties and blessed enough to look younger, though it did have the odd effect that, when I turned thirteen, she sat down and had "the talk" with me and made sure I knew both where she kept her contraceptive potions (in her vanity behind the toothpaste) and the condoms (in Dad's nightstand, shudder) from that day on. I loved Mère, I loved her quirky sense of humour, I loved how both she and Dad had a hundred galleons apiece in the what-house-will-Claudia-get-into pot when I was sorted and had laughed when they both lost; I loved the way that, if you asked her about anything, she'd tell you the honest truth, unless it was about birthday presents. I hated her "talks" and the fact that she still took the yearly Sex Ed class for Third to Seventh Year girls by the time I was a student.
I said something about how I'd just sit by Regent's Canal or something until they were done. Think about my future, you know? I'd just graduated at this point and was a) looking for a flat and b) for something to do with the rest of my life, and hadn't gotten very far with either. I'd a notebook with me, like always, and might manage to do some writing.
"You have your cell phone with you?" she asked, like she had before we left the house, as we pilled out of the three magically expanded cars it took to get us here, and as we'd gotten into the queue. She wouldn't let any of us kids go anywhere in the Muggle world without one; we'd lost a good number of decent cells left in purses or pockets when we went to Quidditch or Diagon.
"Any Muggle money?" I shook my head at that. She passed me a couple of twenty-pound notes, turned to look back at the group of children she was marshalling, then back to me. "Well, we should be ready to go by four. If you apparate back before then, text me to let me know." This in itself didn't surprise me – Mère had always given me a lot of trust, and, for the most part, I'd earned it. I thought. It was what she said next that shook me a little. "Why don't you take Jonathan with you?"
"Teddy and Henri-Auguste have both left him alone too, you know. If you're going to both be alone, you might as well be alone together."
So, at Mère's urging, I went over to John. He'd been a Ravenclaw with me and I'd spent most my life the group of them, but I didn't know him too well. He was quiet, like me, like Uncle Remus, and read a lot, also like the both of us. He wasn't a metamorphmagus like Aunt Tonks or Teddy. He was just John Lupin, Teddy and Andrea's brother. "Hey," I said.
"Hey," he said back.
"Er, want to get out of here?"
He looked around, slipped his hands into his pockets, "Sure."
I felt nervous for some reason – I always did when talking to people that weren't family; hell, I still had a hard time talking to Oliver without sputtering, and he was Mère's stepbrother and one of the nicest people in the world – and so asked him which direction he wanted to amble around in until we could head home.
"Camden Lock's not far."
It wasn't, though it seemed a little farther then it should because neither of us could think of anything to say to the other. To be honest, despite my multiplicity of choices, the only member of my bizarrely extended family I was close to was… well, none really. I was usually off in my own little world, telling myself stories and dreaming impossible dreams. We found ourselves in a bookshop before long, having made it out of the immense crowd, and it was only there, when I was perusing the Sci-Fi Fantasy section and he appeared from seemingly nowhere did any sort of conversation occur.
"I wouldn't read that if I were you."
I stared at the seemingly innocuous but still, if my current luck held, probably poorly written book in my hands. "Why not?"
"Yes, zombies. I made a promise to myself to put down any book that had to resort to zombies. That one is one of them. Quite horrible, really – Alfred realizes he can't spend all his life running from Elizabeth and true love just because he might hurt her, and just as Elizabeth is about to get a dose of self-empowerment, Alfred comes back, fights off the horde of zombies who want to eat her brains because she's like the great-great-great-granddaughter of their creator, and sweeps her off her feet to live a blissful and child-filled ever-after."
"Ugh – I hate happy endings. They're so unrealistic."
"Not for our parents," he said, flopping down beside me so we were blocking the aisle. He took the book from my hands, placed it back on the shelf, and continued onwards. "They had their war and got their happy endings. Your parents with the teaching thing, Mum with being Head Auror now, and Dad with The Foundation. I suppose after war and stuff people want to forget about it all and overcompensate by trying to be too normal. Have you read Dune?"
"All of them, even his son's stuff."
"Both the Bean and Ender books; and his Homecoming Quintet. Hated the Alvin books, before you ask."
"Me too." It continued this way for several minutes – okay, an hour – and ended with me having to break my "two hardcovers or three paperbacks" rule in order to get all the books I wanted. I knew getting six books in one sitting was a little much, but it wasn't my fault I'd already found three books I wanted before John managed to talk me into trying Interview with the Vampire. I'd managed to talk him into getting Revelation Space and Cyteen, so I considered it a fair trade.
From there things opened up quickly between us, and I found myself talking to John like I'd not talked to anyone, really, but the adults I knew. I'd always felt closer to them. And here I was, talking with a boy three years younger then me that I'd grown up with but knew barely anything about. I guess we'd been too busy in our own little universes to see anything around us. But it was fun. We wondered into the Lock Lounge and talked for hours, about books at first but before long I'd one Long Island Iced Tea and he whatever was on tap and we were talking about ourselves too. I even told him what I'd only told my mother, about the book I was writing, Mangonel, which was about too many things too be clearly explained when imbibed, and how I wanted to get it published, but it wasn't like one could make a living as a writer and I'd have to find something to do with most my time, so Mère and Dad would probably end up giving me a pity job at The Foundation. I loved Mère, but it was hard, you know, growing up in the shadow of a hero when you aren't like Octavia or Julia or Henri-Auguste and know what you wanted to do with your life. Octavia would be a magizoologist, and Julia had managed to make it onto the Slytherin House team as Seeker her First Year and had talked about joining the Harpies since she was five, and Henri-Auguste was a potioner, like Dad, and would probably spend his years doing research that he could only afford because the family was loaded, thanks to French wine and North African land investments and whatever else no one but Aunt Fleur was really clear on.
"Life's a tapestry," he said after this, after we'd just told the bartender to work his way, alphabetically, through the drinks he knew until we passed out (and he'd said we were insane, asked for our car keys, and put a pair of Alabama Slammers in front of us), getting philosophical. "There's no right way to weave one. No matter how you weave it, no one pattern's better then the others. Some patters are more common then others, but that doesn't mean anything. Sooner or later the pattern in yours'll become clear."
"Oh my God – you've read Of Human Bondage too?"
And, at some point after this (I'm not sure when, but we'd gotten down to "C") I found myself kissing John Lupin, and John Lupin kissing me right back. Then I broke into hiccups, and couldn't stop for fifteen minutes straight.
Needless to say, though, Dad wasn't pleased when I came home smelling of booze and bar, and, instead of mercifully grounding me, denied me anti-hangover potion (which, though Mère had told me she kept a bottle of it next to the prophylactic potions, I felt too disgusted with myself for tonguing a Fifth Year I didn't even sneak any). Mum came into my room the next morning and asked how John and I had gotten along with such a knowing look on her face it made me wonder if she hadn't planned the whole thing.
But that was a long time ago now.
But that's how life went. Henri-Auguste went into his research, Julia to the Harpies, Octavia to the Institute of for the Research and Protection of Magical Fauna; Xandr to a primary school until '33, when Flitwick became Head and he took his place; and Mac – well, no one really knew what he and Michèle did in Paris, only that it involved a lot of parties.
Between John and Mère's support I finished Mangonel in 2017 and got it published three years later. I won't say it was a drop dead success, but it had its fans and I'd my cult of followers, which made me happy. John and I got married that February, and Nicolas-Alighieri was born that winter, and I finished the sequel, Ravelin… And Mère said to me, "See, Claudia," stroking my brow as I watched my son sleep, "everything turned out all right in the end. It always does, even if it's not what you're expecting." Dad said she'd been reading too many Portuguese psychological novels, to which Mère responded, "Time-turner yourself back thirty years and tell me if you believed yourself." Dad always got silent after that and indrawn. Mère was fond of telling us Daddy's story, about how was a true hero, because he'd worked real hard to be good and hadn't always been good because it was just what people did. She was her normal open self about his past, what of it she knew. It took a lot of pressing, though, to get her to say anything about her part in The Second War. She hated to be reminded of how she'd been Minister of Magic those two years between Scrimgouer's murder and Kingsley Shacklebolt's election the first year after reconstruction. She hated the awards that Aunt Andi and Grandpa Sirius insisted on putting up in Grimauld Place and conspired with Aunt Tonks to hide them or transfigure them into hilarious things. The Christmas I was nine, I remember they were miniature pigs with wings. When she talked about Unforgivables in her Fourth Year classes, she'd always get real quiet and even Paracelsus would calm down, and say they were the last resort of the barbarous; someone would always point out to her that the history books said she'd killed Voldemort's snake with an Unforgivable. "Even a wolf can dress in sheep's clothing," she'd say. I never saw the wolf she claimed she was, she was just Mère to me.
Ravenclaw that I was, I'd taken NEWT HoM, and the second half of Seventh Year, where they covered the fall of Grindelwald and the First and Second Wars, might as well have been about the family. I'd blushed ten degrees of scarlet when our history book – our history book – mentioned my parents' marriage and, later, my birth. Hell, I blushed whenever it mentioned my parents or pseudoaunts and –uncles. Still, I'd never enjoyed HoM half so much as when it was about the modern day things, so what if it said Mère had killed Lucius Malfoy or Bellatrix Lestrange or a dozen other people? They were just names to me, baddies who should were evil and deserved to die. And if some of the books thought Mère too biased a judge during the Carmarthen Death Eater Trials, or, perhaps, the death of Voldemort a particularly violent victory for the Light, she was still Mère. Just Mère.
I think my fascination with magical warfare is what led me to write Mangonel, Ravelin, and Réduit. It was my certainty that Mère was just Mère that brought me the idea that I would write a book about the Second War. Another series, even – Mère was so larger then life sometimes that I could tell her whole Hogwarts story.
Mère hated the idea. "Don't write books about me. I don't deserve them."
"But you're so literary, Mère," I'd argued back.
"So? Your father reads as much as I."
"You know what I mean. I couldn't create a better character then you. Bold, brave, passionate – bitterly sarcastic – you name it, you've got it."
"My story's not an interesting one. Write about Sirius – he spent twelve years in Azkaban and broke out to save my life when he thought it was in danger. Write about your father – the life of a double agent has to make for good reading. Or write about Dumbledore. Someone needs to tell his story properly. I've still got his Pensive too… He spent all his adult life trying to be a good man."
"But they all did those things for you, Mère. Grandpa broke out for you-"
"To understand just one life," she told me, "you have to swallow the world."
"Midnight's Children. Salman Rushdie."
The idea still tickled at me, through the birth of seven more children and two more books – until I'd twelve nieces and eleven nephews; Octavia's son Gordon only two months older then my first grandchild, my son, Nicolas-Alighieri, and Julia's oldest, Alexandria-Marie's, daughter, Alexandria-Athéne. During the "Dynast Years" (as Mère called them laughingly, or the score of years that coincided with the end of the Muggle's Second Gulf War in 2020 and the start of the Chandra Missions to the moon in 2040) the world just was, for us. There wasn't the fear that settled over even the Wizarding world that came later, during the Cold War-esque build up between the spacefaring countries, or the neo-Death Eater groups that came to the fore in the '40s. Mère left Hogwarts in '25 to start a law firm with Grandma Ari, then ran for Head of DMLE (for "real" this time) seven years later and won, becoming MoM when the Brocken Knights assassinated Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt, who'd been Minister since the end of the Second War, in '36. Dad became Headmaster of Hogwarts the year before that. Julia and Octavia, who were as different as twins could be (though both were red-haired like Grandma Lily and dark-eyed like Dad) and marrying Professor Longbottom's sons, Frank and Neville Junior, had three different periods when they'd not talk to each other and passed notes via their children when they'd something they had to say – one of these occurring during Christmas of '28 and resulting in Mère locking them in a room together overnight without their wands.
I wrote other books. John and I went on holiday to Las Vegas that the kids teased us about mercilessly for years after. The kids grew up, moved out of the house, and married. They gave me grandchildren, went into the Ministry (the two metamorphs, Claudia-Joséphine and Christophe-Vergilius, became Aurors like their grandma; Gabriel-Aurélies followed after my mother) or the Foundation or (as Eléonore-Isabeau, the only other parselmouth besides Nicolas-Alighieri of my kids) opened a reptile shop on Diagon. Mère retired as MoM, for the second time, in '60, and joined the Wizengammot. Then Nicolas-Alighieri Alexandria-Marie's youngest, Joséphine-Thérèse, killed herself on her seventeenth birthday.
That was a long time ago, now, but my granddaughter's coffin was the first to join Grandpa James and Grandma Lily's. Uncle Remus would join her in 2080… We didn't want to put her with Dad's parents at St. Edmund's – that seemed too cruel, even if none of us, not even her twin, knew exactly why she did it. We hadn't thought she'd been depressed, or sick, or whatever other reasons people have for killing themselves. I'd never seen Mère cry so hard in my life – not during Moulin Rouge or Twelve Nights, or Minister Shacklebolt's funeral, not anything. It was the first time she didn't have an answer to give me, no more then I'd an answer to give my children, now in their late thirties and forties, why their daughter and niece might've done this. And they had no answers to give their children, and even Alexandria-Athéne's news that she and her husband, Damien Acton, were pregnant could do little to change the mood…
But now there's a nice little plot of graves around my grandparents' graves, like headstones were some new sort of crop. Grandpa Sirius was to the left, next to Granddad, with Grandma Ari on his other side. Uncle Remus and Aunt Tonks have the plots in front. Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron aren't here – they're with the rest of the Weasleys in Summerset – but their weight might well be. My granddaughter's plot, now heavy with thin, hair-like grass, is several spaces down, along the stone fence that surrounds the section my parents bought for this purpose. There's space for me and John, for Henri-Auguste and Lillian, Julia and Frank, Octavia and Neville Junior, Xandr and Rose, Mac and Michèle; space for our kids and probably most of our grandkids as well. Mère wanted us all in one place, or close enough to count. Mac moving to France was terrible for her.
Today is terrible for me. I can't bring myself to dwell on the reality of the moment; instead, I keep travelling back in time with my memories. I remember how, after Joséphine-Thérèse killed herself, we were disconsolate. So many of us… and none of us noticed her sorrow. Mère went back to Hogwarts after that, teaching DADA like, I think, she really was happiest doing, despite what people said about the wonders she did in both her terms as Minister of Magic, despite her fondness for the law and the logic she saw in it. She loved children because she never was one. She loved with all her heart all those she came across. I think she even loved Voldemort, or the boy he had been before he became a monster. Every murder she ever did was out of love for those her victims would have killed. If that made her a wolf, I don't know, but I remember her as the young woman who was my mother and my teacher and the supercentenarian who was too shocked to even cry when Dad died, whose hand I held the whole time, though, Merlin, I was nearly a hundred myself then and my grandchildren had infant grandchildren of their own.
I can't help but remember that day now. Dad died two days after his hundred thirty-fourth birthday, breathing when he went to bed that night and dead when Mère woke beside him the next morning. She just kept on trying to wake him up, looking so sad and small there as she shook his shoulders. If Paracelsus hadn't managed to floo Alcantara – my house in the Scottish highlands – and relate to me what had happened, I think she would have been there until a member of the staff came looking for them on Monday.
I flooed to Hogwarts as quick as I could, leaving John to call my brothers and sisters before following me. "Mère!" I'd called when I arrived, alarmed when the portraits of the past Headmasters and Headmistresses were silent as I entered – I don't think that had ever happened before. "Mère! It's Claudia! Paracelsus flooed me. Where are you?"
The Runespoor was almost six feet long, easily four inches thick, and as vibrant orange as ever, but still I almost missed him when he hissed, "She isss."
"In the nest."
"With Père," from the shadowed door. No, my eyes were too stuck on the new portrait that had appeared, quietly hunched in a chair sleeping, a book open in his lap and a cauldron boiling away on the table beside him. It was Dad – maybe eighty or ninety years younger, but it was still Dad, there in the frame by McGonagall and Flitwick.
I made my way slowly to the bedroom then, knowing what I would find but still not prepared for Mère, so stalwart and strong and everything a girl imagines her parents to be, trying so desperately to wake Dad up. "Please," she kept on saying to him. "Please, please, please, Sev'rus, wake up. Wake up, love. You can't leave me. Don't leave me alone."
"Mère… Mère, please," I tried, however futilely it might have seemed, to calm her. "It's too late. Daddy's gone…" As soon as I was there, she went with me willingly, following my guiding hand into the sitting room and saying nothing as Xandr, then Julia, Octavia and Mac arrived.
She barely ate in the days before the funeral. The only words I heard her speak were in her classes, which she was still taking though she was now, by Dad's death, as she seemed to be everything, Headmistress of Hogwarts. She showed her strong face to the world, but was broken at every mention of the funeral plans.
And now Dad is buried one spot to the right of Grandma Lily. To his right, I suppose whoever dies among us first – Henri-Auguste, Julia, Octavia, Xandr, Mac, or I – will get that spot. In the space to his left, we're burying Mère today.
The last twenty years were hard on her, without Dad. I think she needed him more then she'd ever care to admit. He was the earth and moon and stars to her and, if asked, she probably would have told you that he moved the heavens too. She went on, was a brilliant Headmistress by anyone's standards, but a day didn't go by when she didn't think of him. She'd jokingly say that he'd managed twenty years without her, it was only fitting that she'd to do the same or, "He promised to let me die first; neither of us were expecting me to come back, though," and try to pass if off lightly. Those of us who knew her, though, knew better then to believe this.
She started to talk about The Second War in those years. I guess it was easier to talk about when she had to say, "A century ago…," but, Merlin, I could ask her about anything and she'd remember it. She told me the story of how she and Dad first came to be in love (and how it all started because of a growth spurt and a hot classroom) and their first kiss (after she'd staked out his rooms for three days) and their wedding (before anyone but Dad knew she was pregnant with me, and where they'd renewed their wedding vows twice), and, entwined within it, was the story of Voldemort's return to power, his reign of terror, and his downfall.
She's been right all along, as usual. The story I wanted to tell wasn't just the story of Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Black Potter Snape, Baronne de Calais and Countess Dover. It was the love story of Severus Snape and Éléonore Potter. It was Grandpa Sirius's story of false imprisonment and escape. It was the story of the Deathly Hollows, which she'd told to all of us, but she'd given me the Cloak and I'd given it to Nicolas-Alighieri, and he to Alexandria-Athéne, and she to her daughter, Alexandria Acton, and she to hers, Alexandria Banks. When she has kids, she'll give it to one of them, and it will go on like this, presumably until the end of the earth. I don't know if the story of the three brothers is real, but she told me the Cloak was the one Ignotus Perevell won from Death, and, of all the things she's ever lied to me about, Santa Claus is the biggest that comes to mind. I'd told the same to Nicolas-Alighieri and he'd asked if Mère had the other two Hollows, then, or if it was just her way of making the Cloak seem less like a tool for rule breaking. I've always believed the latter, but it's still their story too. It's the tale of Dad's redemption, and Grandma and Grandpa's sacrifice, and of Dumbledore's struggles, and Grindelwald…
To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world.
I'd written twenty-five books by this point. In the days after Dad died, I started to swallow the world. I read every book on the subject, talked to Mère and Paracelsus and Aunt Tonks and Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron while they were still alive, and scraped together every memory and document and fragment the family had.
I wrote The Sorcerer's Stone, resolving the mystery Mère had discovered.
I wrote The Chamber of Secrets, beginning the story of Tom Riddle and the War.
I wrote The Prisoner of Azkaban, highlighting Grandma Lily's sacrifice and Grandpa Sirius's torment.
I wrote The Goblet of Fire, resurrecting the monster as Dad and Mère fell in love.
I wrote The Order of the Phoenix, fighting the good fight as everything went Dark.
I wrote The Half-Blood Prince, joining my parents' marriage and my birth to the horrors outside Hogwarts' walls.
I wrote The Gift of Love, bringing, somehow, all the strings together with the end of the War.
I wrote them, and I locked them in my desk drawer. Now that Mère is gone, I suppose I shall send them to my publisher. There's nothing stopping me now… I know how embarrassed she'd be if I'd published any of them while she was alive.
But at least it was peaceful, in her sleep, like Dad. I think she was expecting it, because Paracelsus showed me the note in the nightstand:
Bury me with both wands.
tied about a strange wand I'd never seen before with a red, cracked stone set into its handle. Paracelsus is disconsolate, nonetheless, and I worry about him. I think he'll stay a couple days with me at Alcantara, but he'll invariably return to Hogwarts. He loves it there. It's his home, as it was Dad's, and Mère's, and Dumbledore's. Xandr will take care of him and, when Xandr passes, Miranda, one of his granddaughters, will probably be his next "keeper"…
He's singing out his sorrows now; the service will probably start soon…
There is such a crowd here, it's overwhelming. All the "Dynasts" are here, as Mère would call them – even Nicholas Banks, my great-granddaughter Alexandria Acton's son. I worry about him; he's twenty-two and been almost untraceable for the last five years, having travelled all over the world "surveying" magic. He looks pale and dark, which I find an odd look for a metamorphmagus, but I suppose all of them can't enjoy neon orange hair, like Aunt Tonks. He's also glaring at his sister, one of the dozen or so Alexandria's in the group, which I find odder, considering they used to be so close. I must just be seeing things. It is a funeral, after all, and if Nicholas wants to look pale, I don't blame him, - and friends and further relatives and well-wishers and delegates from the ICW and the Ministers of Magic for every country I can find on a map…
I can't understand how she's gone. I just keep staring at the tombstone already at the head of the pit and thinking: Mère, you've come back to us before. Come back again. Come back again. Come back again.
Severus Eteocles Snape
9.1.1960 – 11.1.2094
Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Potter
31.7.1980 – 2.8.2114
Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors.
But today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.