Written for Reversathon 2007.

Home is the Sailor
by Beth H.
(c) July 13, 2007


It was a singularly beautiful day in late June when Luna - still too young by almost half a year to have an Apparition license - asked her father to take her back to Hogwarts. Mr Lovegood did ask his daughter why she wanted to leave their summer cottage, so soon after the tragic events that had marked the end of her fifth year, but Luna just gazed at him in that other-worldly way she had - so like her mother, he thought with a sigh - and said, "It's not about wanting to go exactly, Father. I think I need to go."

Mr. Lovegood had learned to trust his daughter's intuition above all things, and so he left the Quibbler in the hands of his assistant for the day, and instead spent the morning window-shopping in Hogsmeade with his old housemate Rosmerta, taking his elevenses in Madam Puddifoot's (all frills and bows gone now that school was no longer in session), and finally paying a visit to Interim Headmistress McGonagall, whose tenure at Hogwarts had dated from his own first year as a student.

Luna spent the day by herself.

She walked by the lakeside, smiling as the Squid's long tentacles unfurled in greeting, one after another. She collected Lady's-smock, enough to weave a pink and white crown, then strolled along the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where golden unicorn foals gamboled under the watchful eyes of their dams. Spotting some vibrant purple Honesty at the edge of the forest, Luna picked one blossom and added it to her head-dress before setting off once again, wandering through the school grounds until she found herself standing in front of the headmaster's white tomb.

Luna took the floral crown off her head and set it gently on the stone, then sat down beside the tomb and sighed.

"Thank you for the lovely gift, my dear."

The voice was unmistakable.

Luna looked up, her grey eyes wide, although perhaps not with surprise, exactly. There, no more than three feet away, stood a purple-robed man who looked very like Albus Dumbledore.

"Headmaster?" When he nodded, her face broke into a smile. "Isn't it a beautiful day, sir?"

"It is indeed. Thank you for coming, Miss Lovegood."

She nodded. "I thought it might have been you calling to me, but I wasn't quite certain. It actually sounded quite like the call of a Lesser Crested Werestritch."

"Did it?" the late headmaster asked, a quizzical expression on his face. "I had thought that Werestritches couldn't vocalize at all."

"Ordinarily they can't, sir," she said. "Not unless they really, truly need to."

"Ah." He nodded. "Isn't that often the way of things?"

Luna patted the grass next to where she was sitting, and her former headmaster hitched his robes just above his knobbly knees and sat down beside her.

"Thank you," he said. "I wish I had something to offer you, but the after-life appears to have little in the way of amenities, at least thus far. It makes entertaining visitors quite difficult."

"Have you had many?" she asked. "Visitors, that is."

"Not for the past few weeks," he said, "and none with whom I've been able to converse. I suspect that the care with which some of my former associates warded this lovely tomb in an attempt to protect my body from harm has, quite unfortunately, made it impossible for me to communicate with anyone for the time being. Well, anyone but you, my dear."

"How strange," she said, frowning a bit. "I wonder why that is?"

Smiling, he shook his head. "It's a mystery."

"Yes," said Luna slowly. "And maybe it should stay a mystery? Maybe it shouldn't be shared with everyone?"

"Precisely what I was going to suggest," he said, before turning towards Luna and looking at her with a very serious expression indeed. "Miss Lovegood, how are you at keeping secrets?"


week one, day one

If Bellatrix hadn't been watching Severus like a hawk, waiting to see his reaction to the news she'd brought that first week of September, he quite possibly would have followed Draco's lead and burst into tears. It was true that Hogwarts had been the scene of much that Severus no longer wished to remember, but from the year he turned eleven, that damned school had been the only real home he had ever known, and to learn that it was now little more than a pile of rubble was almost more than he could bear.

Severus, however, had long ago learned to bear the unbearable.

"Pull yourself together, boy!" Severus snapped at the still-snivelling Draco, earning himself a red-rimmed glare in reply. "Congratulations, Bella. I'm sure our Master is pleased."

"Not so very pleased." Wormtail giggled unpleasantly, a foolhardy Gryffindor act of bravado given Bellatrix's less than perfect control over her temper. "The castle took its own sweet time collapsing. In fact, it waited until every last witch, wizard, cat, owl, and rat had escaped."

"You know nothing," Bellatrix spat. "A fool such as you could not possibly understand the symbolic significance of the castle's destruction at my hand. That a few blood traitors survived to tell the tale is neither here nor there."

Severus poured himself a large scotch and let the two continue their senseless squabbling. He, at least, understood all too well the significance of what she had done. The witches and wizards of the British Isles, young and old, most of whom were still mourning Albus Dumbledore's death, would now find themselves reeling once again from this latest blow. Not all who had attended Hogwarts shared a love for its late headmaster, but almost all of them - as Draco's tears could attest - held within themselves a deep affection for the place that was their home as they came of age.

For Severus personally, the destruction of the castle could only be seen as an unmitigated disaster, and not just due to reasons of nostalgia. If Albus had left any evidence of the plans he and Severus had made together, that evidence now lay buried beneath thousands of tonnes of stone. No parchment or pensieve could have survived such a catastrophic collapse. Severus took a drink, silently cursing Albus' decision to allow only a single magical portrait of himself to be painted and for that one portrait to stay at Hogwarts. It was true that portraits take quite some time to awaken on occasion, but if the headmaster had granted Rufus Scrimgeour's admittedly insincere request to have a duplicate portrait hanging at the Ministry of Magic, there might still be a chance, no matter how slight, that one day, the truth about the role Severus had played would be revealed. As things now stood, the only way Severus would have even a remote chance of someday leading a relatively free life was if the Dark Lord somehow emerged victorious from the coming battle, and even Severus, self-serving as he could be at times, could not truly hope for such a foul outcome.

Perhaps, he thought as he poured another drink, it was time to start looking for yet another place to which he could flee, should such a thing become necessary. Spinner's End was clearly unsafe, for far too many people on both sides knew of its existence. The wing at Hogwarts containing the teaching staff's employment records had probably been destroyed along with the rest of the castle, so his address wouldn't be that easy to find, but it was only a matter of time before Minerva remembered that Severus actually came from somewhere, and as soon as that happened, a pursuit squad would be sent. While there was always the possibility that the Order members tasked with capturing him would be willing to listen to what he had to say, Severus wasn't willing to risk his life on such a fragile possibility. The difficulty lay in coming up with a place to go that wasn't already known to every wizard in creation. If only he knew more about the Muggle world, he might consider going there but...

...no, he did know of somewhere to go. Or rather, he thought he did. It was an odd memory. He couldn't have been more than five years old at the time - certainly there had been no family trips later in Severus' life - but he could suddenly remember, as clear as day, riding a donkey round and round in a circle, then later, sitting on a pier, a piece of blackcurrant rock in his hand, watching the sunset with his mum and dad. All Severus could remember of the following day was his father threatening one of the locals with a beating because an air show had been cancelled due to inclement weather, but the memory of that one afternoon when his family had actually been happy together was so clear in his mind that it had to be a sign.

Weston-super-Mare it would be.


week one, day two

The town was almost nothing like he remembered.

There were still sweet shops along the sea front, and in one of the ubiquitous gambling arcades, Severus could see the glass box containing a strange mechanical Gypsy whose fortune had frightened Severus' mum. Even the Punch and Judy show remained (although Severus didn't remember Punch's face looking quite so much like the face he saw in the mirror each morning).

However, none of the little hotels seemed at all familiar, the old pier was all but gone, and...had there really been so damned many Muggles when he and his parents visited the town years before?

He walked further and further down the coast, hoping to come across something that seemed even a little recognizable, but nothing did, until finally Severus arrived at a dead end. He had almost made up his mind to turn around and head back to the centre of town, but something told him to keep going, just a little longer, just a few more steps around that next promontory until...yes, there was precisely the sort of place he'd been looking for.

The house was quite small, barely larger than a cottage, but the sign in the front garden must be an advertisement that this was a Bed and Breakfast, and if so, it would suit his needs perfectly. Who would possibly think to look for Severus Snape in a tiny little guest house in the most Muggle part of Somerset?

Severus went up the gravel walk and knocked at the door, but nobody answered. He tried once more, but yet again, there was nothing but silence, and in the end, having noticed that many of these little B&B's were owned by old folks whose hearing was none too good, he tried the door handle, just in case.

The door swung open, but once Severus took a step into the front room, it was clear that nobody was home and quite likely hadn't been in some time. Even the electricity had been shut off, or so it appeared when Severus tried to turn on the overhead lights. He stepped back into the garden, looking first to the left and then to the right, but there wasn't another house to be seen. Nor, in fact, were there any shops or roads or cars or telephone lines leading to the house. Severus could hear the distant drone of a low-flying plane, which was reassuring in an odd 'well, at least I haven't inadvertently been sent back in time' kind of way, but there nothing to indicate he was within walking distance of Weston, which was, after all, a quite sizable town.

For the first time in weeks, Severus smiled. If, as it appeared to be, this house was long abandoned by its owners, there was nothing stopping Severus from - what was the term? - squatting, at least on a somewhat irregular basis. Glad to have found the right place at last, Severus walked around the side of the house to the back, where he saw an herb garden that seemed to be doing just fine without its Muggle gardener, a pair of rather ostentatious bird baths, and...

...Luna Lovegood.

Severus had always been deservedly proud of the speed with which he was able to react to the unexpected, but the sight of this young woman - little more than a child, in fact - sitting unarmed on a stone bench beneath an old yew tree not only slowed his reaction time, but seemed to make it disappear entirely. The Lovegood girl had turned around and greeted him with a small wave and a smile by the time he'd even considered reaching for his wand.

"Good morning, Professor Snape," she said, as if she were still one of his students, and this unlikely spot was the temporary site of his Defense class.

"I'm no longer your teacher," he snapped, then immediately felt like a fool for having wasted his breath making such an obvious statement. "What are you doing here?"

"Well," she said, "I had to travel back to our house in Devon unexpectedly - Hogwarts being closed, of course - and this was almost on the way back home. At least...it's almost on the way if one likes to ride on Muggle trains. Have you ever been on a train other than the Hogwarts Express?"

He frowned. Alone and defenseless with an accused murderer, and all the girl could think to ask was whether he'd ever taken Muggle transportation.

"Your story is quite unbelievable," he said. "Surely your father wouldn't expect you to travel alone through Muggle England."

She sighed. "I suppose he might not have done if he was home, but as soon as term started, he left for Brazil. The Quibbler is doing a feature on hidden creatures of the Amazon rainforest, and he couldn't resist going along."

"And nobody from the school contacted him?"

"Oh, I shouldn't have thought so," she said. "Even at the best of times, Hogwarts does seem to leave it up to the students whether we want to share school news with our families."

His first instinct was to tell her she was being utterly ridiculous, but then Severus thought back to all the times over the years that one or another of the students had been harmed - sometimes in life-threatening ways - and it struck him that except in those rare instances when a student took it upon him or herself to write to a parent, as Draco had done when he'd been injured by Hagrid's hippogriff in his third year, it was almost unheard of for parents to be sent information about their children from any official school source. By and large, parents had to depend on The Daily Prophet for news and rumours, just like the rest of the wizarding world.

"Well, Miss Lovegood," Severus said. "While this has been a delightful reunion, I'm afraid our time together is coming to an end, which means there is only one matter of business left to take care of. Obliviate!"

Luna cocked her head to one side. "What matter of business is that, sir?"

Severus eyes widened. Surely there should have been some response to the spell.

"Oh, I know!" she said. "You're disturbed about the difficulty you just had with the Obliviation, aren't you? I'm afraid that sort of magic hasn't ever worked on me. It's a very peculiar thing, isn't it?"

Severus narrowed his eyes; what she was saying couldn't be possible. There must be some simple explanation for the failure of the spell, and he was going to find out what it was this instant.


Nothing. It was like trying to break into Gringotts with a bloody teaspoon.

Luna shook her head and sighed softly. "Sorry. That doesn't work either."

To have such natural shielding talents at her disposal and yet to have given her hand away without even a bit of provocation? What sort of a fool was this girl?

"Do you not understand," growled Severus, "that I would have let you go if I had believed the memory spell to have been effective?"

"Don't worry," she said placidly. "I'll be perfectly fine here at the cottage, at least for the time being."

All this imperturbability was getting on Severus' nerves. "Doesn't anything disturb you? Why don't you care that you're likely to be held here against your will for a very long time?"

For a moment, Luna didn't answer, but when she spoke, her tone was absolutely matter-of-fact.

"Where else do I have to go?"


week two

The whole absurd mess was utterly characteristic of Severus' life.

He had wanted only to find a place that was private and out of the way...and which would possibly provide at least an occasional respite from his unwelcome house-guests at Spinner's End. Instead, Severus found himself with even less privacy and having to take on the responsibility for yet another young charge.

However, regardless of the unexpected nature of this turn of events, Severus knew he had to begin immediately making arrangements so that nothing else would go wrong. If anything, he would have to be even more thorough than he usually was, and that was quite thorough indeed. Severus had never been one to leave anything to chance if he could help it.

The first thing he did, of course, was to take the Lovegood girl's wand and put it away for safe-keeping, far out of the range of any summoning spell, just in case she should prove to be even moderately proficient at wandless magic. He then constructed a rather complicated series of interwoven spells around the cottage, combining his own variant of the Notice-Me-Not Charm with a variety of wards which would serve not only to keep unwelcome visitors out, but also to keep one blonde troublemaker safely ensconced within the cottage.

Finally, after making sure the house was stocked with food and drink and all other likely necessities, Severus applied some safeguards, the most important one being that after five days without his presence, the wards surrounding the house would simply evaporate, allowing the girl her freedom. If she was even half as sensible as a sorting into Ravenclaw usually indicated, once Lovegood was freed, she would go immediately to the Ministry to tell her story to an Auror. However, Severus knew that if his wards did fail, the likeliest explanations would be that he was either dead or incarcerated in Azkaban, and in either case, it would no longer matter a damn what Luna Lovegood said to anyone.


week five, day three

One of the things that Severus found most unexpected about this new arrangement was how restful it was to be at the cottage, regardless of the fact that he could never be truly alone - or that the person with whom he was sharing quarters was someone whose propensity to talk would put Granger to shame. Proud though Severus had always been of his House, it had to be said that Slytherins were, by and large, not restful people with whom to spend time. Even with those few whom one might count as friends, there was always a strand of gamesmanship (some sense that it would never be quite safe enough to lower one's guard) running through their interactions. Slytherins - and Severus most certainly included himself in this category- were rarely able to just be.

Then again, he thought, the same was true of Gryffindors and yes, if he were honest, even most Ravenclaws (he might have included Hufflepuffs in with all the others, but it was a rare occasion when Severus even remembered there was a fourth house at Hogwarts). The confusing thing was that if the difference between the atmosphere at Spinner's End and the atmosphere at the cottage really had nothing to do with House affiliation, then he'd have to entertain the notion that it was Luna, specifically, which made all the difference.

That notion became increasingly difficult to deny over time. Even on those nights when Severus arrived late enough that the cottage was already dark and silent, simply knowing she was there made him feel less alone, somehow (...and yes, each time this thought crossed his mind, Severus cringed anew at how appallingly soppy and sentimental he'd become, but for some reason, telling himself that Luna was nothing but an irritant and that all he wanted was to be left alone - the sort of thing he'd been telling himself for decades, as a matter of fact - didn't sound terribly convincing to his ears.)

While Severus had begun to draw some odd comfort from the girl's presence, it was quite possible that Luna, too, was feeling something similar, given how often Severus entered the cottage to find Luna asleep on the sofa, like she was tonight, instead of tucked away in her bedroom. It was almost as if she wanted to see with her own eyes that he had come home safe, strange as that thought was to contemplate.

If Luna had been awake that night, she would have seen that Severus was, in fact, quite fine, if a bit tired. Ordinarily, he would have gone straight to bed, but looking at her lying there on the sofa made him want to linger, just the slightest bit longer. He cast a silent Nox, then sat down on the floor beside the sleeping girl and listened to her quiet breathing in the dark cottage.

"Did your mother ever take you to the zoo?"

The question seemed to come from nowhere, but Severus found himself answering nonetheless.

"The closest zoo to my family's house didn't open until 1972. I was already at Hogwarts by then. I kept some pigeons when I was a boy. I don't think that's quite the same thing, though."

He could almost hear Luna smiling behind him.

"My mother said she was going to take me after reading about zoos in a Muggle magazine somebody sent Father. We never ended up going, in the end. I think she and my father went to an aquarium once, though. They loved spending time with each other."

"More than can be said for my parents," Severus muttered, then winced. What was it about this girl that made him act so sickeningly like a Gryffindor. Bleating about his parents? What next...was he going to start crying that his Da hadn't loved him?

"It seems that way sometimes, doesn't it?" she said. "Even my parents would fight sometimes and it was...not nice, actually."

This time he was able to keep from saying anything humiliating, but privately, he couldn't help but agree with the girl. No, his parents fighting hadn't been nice at all.

"I miss her, though, my mum," Luna said. "She died when I was just nine."

"My mum as well." Oh, for god's sake, Severus thought. He was going to have to seal his mouth shut with Spellotape if he couldn't hold his tongue. He wasn't ordinarily this loquacious about personal matters even under the influence of Veritaserum.

"You must have been very sad to lose her at such a young age," Luna said quietly.

And that was that. The fact that Severus didn't reply to Luna that time was due less to a newfound ability to refrain from talking and more to the sudden lump in his throat that made it impossible for him to say anything at all. Before Luna could say another word, Severus stood up and left the room.


week seven

He wasn't sure why he had purchased the 12th century bestiary. In point of fact, he'd been looking for a copy of Amira's Herbal in a small bookshop in Avignon, when the book of beasts caught his eye. It wasn't an especially rare copy, not within the magical world, at least, but the illustrations were quite good, and if it might also serve to keep Luna occupied enough to refrain from annoying him every once in while, that was just an added bonus. In any case, Severus certainly hadn't purchased the book with her in mind.

Of course, it was impossible to convince the girl that it wasn't a gift once she had the book in her grasping hands. He tried to dismiss her thanks, but all that served to do was make the deluded chit think he was trying to be self-effacing. Ridiculous. He had never been self-effacing in his life. However, if she wanted to believe such a daft notion, that was her business. He turned his attention back to his own book, and let her get on with her perusal of the bestiary.

She turned the page and immediately began to laugh out loud.

Severus had long since learned that encouraging Luna Lovegood in whatever flights of fancy she decided to embark on...well, that way lay madness. However, somehow he still found himself asking her what was so bloody amusing.

Luna turned the book towards him so that he could take a look at the illustration at which she was pointing. There, between a Sphinx and a particularly-inebriated looking dragon, was a giraffe.

"It couldn't possibly be real, could it?" she asked. "Just look at the length of its neck!"

A giraffe. A simple, everyday giraffe. Not even a particularly odd-looking specimen. The girl was utterly astounding.

"You believe in Nargles, for whose existence there is absolutely no supporting evidence, yet a creature like a giraffe, for which documentation actually exists, is beyond your powers of imagination? Surely you're joking."

Luna tilted her head to one side, then started to giggle.

"Actually, I am," she said.

Severus couldn't imagine why he didn't just hex her where she sat. It certainly would have been a more reasonable response to her idiocy than imagining what it would be like to wander through a Muggle zoo with Luna some day.


week eight

While there was a great deal about Luna Lovegood that was unusual, one of the most unusual things, from Severus' perspective, was that unlike most of the dunderheads with whom she had attended school, she had no difficulty in finding ways to entertain herself. He couldn't even begin to imagine how most of his former students would have coped if they'd had to spend so long a time without Quidditch or the Wizarding Wireless Network or even their textbooks (although from the woefully limited skills they demonstrated in his classroom, Severus suspected that the majority of Hogwarts' students had never picked up a textbook in their lives).

He never knew what he would find her doing from one day to the next. One day, he'd come in to the cottage and Luna might be experimenting with mimicking voices (Severus never would have admitted it to the girl, but his breath had caught in his throat the first time he heard what sounded like a conversation between Minerva and Filius), and the next, she might be drawing - or at least practicing signatures, no two of which ever resembled each other in the slightest.

Severus was so used to thinking of Luna as entirely self-sufficient, in fact, that when she invited him to participate in an activity with her one day, he was so surprised by the uncharacteristic invitation that instead of merely giving her a withering glare and a harsh refusal as he would ordinarily have done, Severus found himself actually agreeing to play a game of Exploding Snap.

Exploding Bloody Snap.

The game he had refused to play even when he was a first year because he'd thought it was beneath his dignity (Sirius Black had been a stinking liar when he told everybody that 'Snivellus' was afraid he'd get hurt when the cards exploded).

The absolute worst part of the game was that Luna made Severus sit on the floor to play, his long legs curled underneath him. It was damned uncomfortable, and he really should have refused to do it, just as he should have refused her invitation to play the game at all. Why he had failed to do either of these things was beyond him.

He did have to admit, however, to a certain degree of satisfaction when Luna, slapping her hand on the deck and somehow causing all her cards to burst into flames, was forced to concede defeat in their very first game. The smell of victory - no matter how one achieved it - was sweet indeed.


week ten

It was early in November when Severus arrived at the cottage to find Luna sitting cross-legged on the floor, sticking multi-coloured candles into a cake. She looked up and smiled when she saw him, but for the first time in many weeks, Severus didn't smile back.

"What's that?"

"Birthday cake," she said, continuing to arrange the candles in a semi-circle. "It's my birthday today."

Severus recognized that by this point, the two of them were at least close enough that he could have paid her the courtesy of wishing her a happy birthday, but he wasn't feeling terribly courteous.

"And where, precisely, did you get that cake?" he asked. "I suppose it just fell from the sky?"

"Oh, I'm of age now," she said matter-of-factly. She placed the cake upon the coffee table, then stood up and pulled an unfamiliar wand out from behind her ear. "The Ministry won't show up if I perform magic anymore, you know. I'm - what is it the Muggles say? - I'm off their radar."

"I held you captive for two months...."

"Oh, Severus," Luna said with a smile. "You talk about this cottage as if it were Azkaban and you were a Dementor."

"Stop interrupting me," he said angrily. "And stop addressing me by my first name. Are you telling me you allowed yourself to remain a captive for over two months because you were worried about the bloody Ministry showing up and giving you a slap on the wrists for performing underage magic? Are you mad?"

She smiled placidly and shook her head. "No, I wasn't at all concerned about the Ministry punishing me for the use of magic. I was worried about the Ministry showing up and finding you here."

"You...what in the name of God are you talking about?"

"Well," she said, "I am your Secret Keeper, after all."

"That's impossible," he scoffed. "No one told me anything about a Secret Keeper."

She frowned. "No, I don't suppose anyone did. Although...what sort of secret would it be if people knew about it?"

Severus took a deep breath, then turned away, afraid that if he looked at her smug little face for a single moment longer he would, at the very least, say something unforgivable.

"And you came up with this ludicrous idea all by yourself?"

"No, actually" she said wistfully. "I didn't."

Suddenly, it all came clear to Severus.

"Albus Bloody Dumbledore."

"According to his Chocolate Frog card, his middle name...."

"Don't be willfully obtuse!" Severus barked. ""When the hell did you speak to him?"

"This past summer, actually."

Severus spat on the floor in disgust. Thank God that none of the Dark Lord's loyal followers were as clever as this one mad sixteen...seventeen year old girl. If any of them had been, Severus thought, he would quite likely have been manipulated into revealing every last one of the Order's secrets years ago.

"And was it just coincidence that we met here, or shouldn't I ask?"

Luna shook her head and had the grace to look a bit ashamed of herself. "It's my family's cottage, to be honest. We don't spend a great deal of time here, Father and me, but we do keep a few things about the place. Some clothes, some books, an...."

"An extra wand," he said.

"Yes. And...while I'm sharing secrets, I suppose it's only fair to tell you that those weren't actually your memories," she said, her head bowed and her eyes firmly fixed on the floor. "The childhood ones. They were mine, or at least, some of them were. Professor Dumbledore said...."

Severus waved off the rest of her explanation. She didn't have to continue for Severus to understand that even dead, Albus Dumbledore wielded enough power to cobble together a completely coherent and believable childhood memory out of the bits and pieces from Severus' and Luna's pasts, and somehow make Severus think that he and his own family had actually gone on holiday together, impossible as that notion should have been for him to believe.

"He taught me how to put this house under a Fidelius Charm," she said quietly. "To protect you."

"I don't suppose either one of you ever thought to ask whether I wanted protection? No, of course neither of you did. Albus never bothered to ask during his life, and now here he is, interfering from beyond the grave using a lovely young puppet. It's...." Severus shook his head and left his sentence unfinished. "Well, it appears I shall have to trust in your discretion however much it goes against the grain. However, I can't imagine I'll be spending any time here in the near future. Good day, Miss Lovegood. I shan't bother you again."

Without giving Luna another look, he swept out the kitchen door, preparing to Apparate from the back garden, but when the door slammed behind him, he found himself, somehow, in the front room. Luna looked up at him as he stalked through the kitchen, but he just glared at her, then turned around and strode out the front door, only to find himself back in the kitchen once again.

Four more useless attempts on his part and Severus was enraged enough to want to blast the entire house apart. He glared at Luna, and she slipped off the kitchen chair.

"I think maybe I'll go out to the garden and do a bit of weeding," she said.

Luna walked out the back door and when, much to Severus' disgust, she did not re-appear in the front room, he tucked his robes up and climbed through the open window in pursuit of the girl. Instead of making it outside, however, he ended up back in the front room, this time in front of the window that was just between the sofa and the bookcase.

"Bloody fucking hell!" he yelled.

Luna popped her head in the window. "Are you all right?"

"Of course I'm all right, dammit! Or I will be as soon as you tell me how I get out of this madhouse."

She leaned upon the window frame and looked at him worriedly. "Are you quite sure it's wise for you to leave this way?" she asked. "I'm supposed to be keeping you safe, after all, and in the kind of mood you're in, anything could happen."

In many ways, Severus possessed a great deal of control, but not once in his life, not even when he was a child, had he been able to simply take a step back and calm himself down once he was as irate as he was now. She had lied to him, just as he'd been lied to time and again in his life. For two months, she had lied to him, and now she expected him to just forget about it because...what? Because she was worried about his safety? What a load of balls! If she were worried, she'd...

...if she were worried, Luna would probably have the exact expression that she had on her face right at this moment.

Severus took one deep breath, then another.

She had allowed herself to be treated as a prisoner for two months because she was worried about him, because she wanted to make sure he had somewhere safe to go if he was in trouble. Perhaps he hadn't treated her very much like a prisoner, but he hadn't let her go free, and in the end, that's all that mattered. The fact that Luna could quite possibly have walked out of the damned cottage any time she wanted to was neither here nor there.

He took another deep breath.

Luna didn't move.

Ah well, Severus thought. There was always a first time for everything.

"I'll be fine," he said, feeling more calm with every breath he took. "You can end the Loop spell on the house."

"You'll come back?" she asked, the furrow in her brow deepening.

"I'll come back."


week eighteen

By the start of the new year, enough of Hogwarts had been restored so that the students - those whose parents were willing to let their children return to school, at least - could go back to pursue their education. Not all of Hogwarts could be replaced, of course. Severus learned from Narcissa that the great towers would likely never be rebuilt, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Given the circumstances that had led to his own precipitate departure from the castle, Severus had no wish to ever be reminded that there had ever been any bloody towers at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry

Despite some initial misgivings, Severus spent quite a lot of time at the cottage even after Luna returned to school, but it felt cold and un-welcoming to him during most of those visits. He was sure most people would assign the blame for the chill to the fact that winter had finally settled in (or possibly to the fact that there were still Dementors on the loose), but when Severus was feeling particularly maudlin, he suspected the true reason for the cottage's uncomfortable atmosphere was Luna's absence.

Luna visited when she could (not that Severus ever actually admitted to missing her when she wasn't there, of course), and she left regular messages for him when she couldn't be there personally. For his part, Severus had started to pass on as much information about the Dark Lord's activities as ever he'd passed to Albus. Under constant pressure from Luna, Severus had finally accepted the fact that any witch who possessed such strong mental shields and who was as talented as she was in disguising her voice and handwriting would be invaluable as...well, as a spy.
The second week in January, Severus arrived at the house, expecting to find the minutes of the latest Order meeting waiting for him. The report became visible to him as soon as he entered the front room, but when he tried to pick it up, it flew up to the ceiling and fluttered just out of reach, darting first to the left and then to the right, and finally flying into the kitchen.

Severus rolled his eyes, but followed the report into the other room, where he found it resting calmly on the kitchen table beside a folded note.

Dear Severus (...yes, I know: "Don't address me by my first name!")

I'm sorry I can't be with you on your birthday, but it's your fault for having been born during term time! However, if you say the magic word, something quite nice should appear.

Keep safe!


Automatically glancing around the room to make sure nobody could possibly hear him say the 'magic word," Severus wondered - and not for the first time - how Albus had come to decide that he and Luna should...well, the old bastard had been right, of course, but how in the name of God had he known?

"Giraffe," said Severus with a long-suffering sigh.

Instantly, there appeared before him on the table a five course meal, starting with pate and toast, and finishing with profiteroles covered in chocolate sauce, all protected by a perfectly cast stasis charm.

If Luna had even the slightest hint of cruelty in her, which she had not, Severus might have suspected that she'd been laughing at him a bit when she prepared his birthday meal. He knew when it came to food, he'd never been terribly sophisticated - Luna, as young as she was, had far more exotic taste - but this sort of meal still felt special to him.

Severus sat down to eat his birthday feast. He only wished that Luna were there to share the meal.


some time in the not so distant future

Luna paced back and forth across the floor, the stink of battle still on her clothes and in her hair.

They'd been so very lucky, relatively speaking. She knew that. They had lost so few in the last fight, but as for Severus, well...everybody she spoke to had been so very certain that he was dead. No chance that they'd been mistaken, Harry had said. But Luna could still feel the bond of the Fidelius Charm, and she was absolutely sure that wouldn't be possible if Severus had truly been killed in the battle.

He had to be alive. He just had to.

She was still repeating those words to herself seven hours later when she finally drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

When she awoke, the lights which had burning brightly when she'd decided to rest on the sofa - 'just for a moment' - were extinguished.

Sitting at the kitchen table, illuminated only by the light of the gibbous moon, sat the shadowy form of a man. He appeared to be holding a very, very large scotch.

Luna sat up on the sofa.


"When I finally knew the Dark Lord was no more and the Order of the Phoenix had won," Severus said in a flat, exhausted voice, "my first impulse was to run. Not to Apparate, not to fly away, but to run as I'd done when I was a small child and my thuggish Muggle cousins were coming after me for one reason or another."

The floor was cold, Luna thought as she walked barefoot into the kitchen.

"Funny, isn't it," he said bitterly, "how in all my years on this damned earth, the only people I've ever wanted to run from were the ones who were supposed to be on my side? Nothing ever changes."

Luna sat down beside Severus at the table, then took his hand in her own. He shook his head and made a half-hearted attempt to pull his hand away, but Luna held on tightly, and Severus finally capitulated.

As the two of them sat silently in the dark kitchen, Luna thought that even though it might take some time for Severus to finally understand, things had changed. Voldemort was dead, those who remained of his loyal followers were awaiting trial, and if Severus was still running, whether he was conscious of it or not, it looked like he had finally found someone to run to this time around, a state of affairs which suited Luna just fine.

After all, she was still his Secret Keeper - and Luna wasn't at all ready to let Severus go.

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