Harry's birthday, a month after the final confrontation with Voldemort, was celebrated in Hagrid's hut. All of Harry's friends were present.
Hagrid was overjoyed; always with Olympe beside him, he kept telling everyone over and over how the amazing Olympe had managed to convince the giants' wives to force their husbands not to join the war. "It was ruddy marvellous. Wouldn'ta worked if Olympe hadn' bin there. I'll tell yeh this, she's a clever woman."
Harry nodded once again and turned to Ron, who was nudging him.
"Blimey, Harry, can't you let go of that snake?" Ron complained. "If you want to marry Snape, I reckon I can live with that, but will you become a Slytherin too?"
Harry had had a long talk with Ron and Hermione a few days after Voldemort's defeat, and had told them everything about Severus and him. They, and especially Ron, hadn't looked very enthusiastic (to put it mildly) at the prospect of a marriage between Severus and Harry, but friendship had prevailed and there they were, together again.
"Ceci missed Severus and me. It wasn't easy to say goodbye to her when we left for St Mellyan, but Severus thought she'd be better with Hagrid. We haven't seen her for almost two months, and in a month Severus and I will marry and leave for a honeymoon in Wales. So I'm trying to make up for our long absence."
Ceci, now more than three metres long, was wrapped around Harry's neck and fondly licked his face.
"She an' Buckbeak are gettin' on like two ol' friends," said Hagrid.
In the midst of the happy hubbub, Harry glimpsed Severus nursing Remus, and elbowed his way towards them. Remus was still recovering from the injuries he had suffered in the struggle against Greyback. They had had to treat him at home, in St Mellyan, because the Ministry couldn't know that, in solidarity with Louis Auger, Remus hadn't delivered Greyback to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
"Severus, would you please leave me alone?" Remus complained.
"You shouldn't be out of bed. Your injuries were severe and you are not completely healed."
"You can give me a potion later."
Severus snorted, and Sirius came from behind and pinched Severus's buttocks, making Severus jump aside.
"Sirius!" Harry shouted, pretending to be jealous.
Severus scowled. "Black, you sex maniac, get away from me."
Sirius pouted. "I thought we were already on first name terms, Sevvie!"
"Go and find something useful to do, you good-for-nothing. The excuse that you were dead has worn out. Everyone knows you are alive, and the Ministry acknowledged your innocence." Severus stressed the word sardonically. "So you have been rehabilitated, and should be contributing to our society again."
"I've already told you, Severus: I'm going to write the story of our adventures."
"You must be joking."
"Hmph. Wait and see. If you continue to treat me like that, I'll show you for the greasy bastard that you are."
Severus wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders, and Ceci wrapped herself around the pair of them. "I hoped I would get rid of your canine friends when we returned to Hogwarts, but I have just heard from McGonagall that she has decided to hire Lupin for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post."
Harry beamed. "Wicked! Er, you didn't want the post, did you?"
Severus glared at him. "Of course not. This post is cursed."
"Really? Oh, you're joking."
"The curse is broken, now that Riddle is dead. Albus told me Riddle cursed the post when Albus didn't want to hire him, many years ago."
"Right... Well, it's a shame you won't be able to teach me Potions."
Severus had handed his resignation to McGonagall, because Harry and Severus had decided to get married. Severus believed he would be able to earn his living by selling potions. But the Headmistress hadn't accepted his resignation. After many conversations, they had arrived at an agreement: Severus would teach all classes, except the seventh-year ones. This way Harry wouldn't be his student any more. Harry and Severus were happy with the agreement. They would marry in a simple ceremony in St Mellyan, in the presence of just their closest friends. They knew, however, that people would talk and accuse them of being together before Harry was of age. It wouldn't be easy, but they were willing to face the difficulties, as they had always done.
"You are a terrible liar. I know very well that you hate me as a teacher."
"Now it'd be different."
"I wouldn't treat you differently. This way it will work better: we will not mix work and pleasure. Speaking of pleasure... would you care for a walk in the gardens?" Severus whispered in Harry's ear. Then he turned to Sirius. "Black, take care of Ceci."
Sirius grimaced at Severus, but smiled at Ceci and stretched his arms to her. "C'mere, Ceci. Let's see what Buckbeak's up to."
Severus led Harry through the back door to the pumpkin patch. It was a pleasant summer night. A mild wind was blowing from the Forbidden Forest.
A unicorn appeared, right at the edge of the forest. Severus and Harry approached it. The unicorn didn't move away.
"Why don't you ride it, Severus?" asked Harry, knowing that was an old dream of Severus.
The unicorn knelt beside them. Severus looked at Harry, hesitantly. Then he gently touched the animal's back and straddled it. Severus's eyes were shining. Harry climbed on behind him. The unicorn galloped into the forest and stopped in the same glade where Severus and Harry had kissed for the first time. Severus dismounted and helped Harry off.
"It was here that everything started. Do you remember?" asked Harry.
"You know I do. Would you do everything again?"
Harry nodded. "But... next time... don't erase my memory. It won't work, anyway. I can read yours!"
The seven brightest stars of the Ursa Major were shining in the background when Severus took Harry in his arms and kissed him. Once again, their magic blended in a splendid symphony of sounds and colours.
New story, set in the same universe: Theft of the Hallow
Ptyx, March 2006