Author’s Note: I wanted to thank you all for the lovely responses to my new story. Special thanks go to my wonderful beta Dreamy_Dragon! Illy is a brand of coffee.
The next day, Snape tried to blink away the slight fuzziness in his head that his overindulgence had brought on and went about his usual morning business. Only over a second cup of coffee – Illy of course, being near Trieste – did it dawn on him that he might have done something overzealous the previous night.
He fired up his laptop; there it was. The blinking icon of his e-mails reminded him of an eleven-year-old, jumping up and down in her seat with her hand high up in the air.
Subject: Re: Being Muggleborn
Dear Mr Princip,
I appreciate it very much that you took the time to write to me. I know that none of us should have been anywhere near the war, and from a vantage point of fifteen years, I do not blame my nineteen-year-old self. Only sometimes, I wish I would have done something.
Though Headmaster Snape would be the first to point out that life is hardly fair, it goes against my sense of right and wrong that he should not have had a chance at a life not dictated by the demands of others.
Thank you again for your kindness.
Granger had sent the mail at 5:30 GMT.
Snape rubbed his tired face and checked what he had written. At least, he hadn’t given away too much. Neither had he lied outright either, even if he’d left out some crucial facts.
He had come to know Severus Snape quite well.
After the pre-ingested anti-venin had worked, and he had awoken on the dusty floor of the Shrieking Shack, he had closed his wound with Phoenix tears, listened briefly to the cries of victory and then had used his emergency Portkey to a coven on the Outer Hebrides that had no contact with the rest of the Wizarding World. Its founder was a third cousin of the Prince line whom he’d met after his mother’s death during his fifth year at Hogwarts.
Two years after his mother's funeral, Sian Prince had written a letter with an enclosed Portkey. She had told him of her plans for the coven – a safe haven for witches and those in need.
Snape had spent three months there getting his strength back; he really had been near death due to his blood loss when the Portkey had dumped him in the coven at Sian’s feet.
His physical healing had progressed satisfactorily, but his magic had remained weak for nearly a year. Snape had travelled to the US by plane, where he had moved around and spent a lot of time in Muggle libraries, reading and learning his way around modern Muggle technology, computers namely. He had known that he would have to deal with his emotional and psychological issues eventually and finally had found a therapist he hadn't wanted to hex on sight (if he could have done any hexing, that is) in Vienna.
Though a Muggle, she knew enough about spiritual healing to listen to his story without prejudice. Snape had reasoned that – as he lived as a Muggle and his magic was still near Squib levels – he needn’t bother with the Statute of Secrecy. His therapist, a small, round woman near seventy with a kind face and an owlish blink, had taken everything in stride and made him tackle his issues unconnected with magic – his upbringing, the bullying, his devotion to Lily Potter and his guilt about hers and Dumbledore’s death.
It hadn't been an easy time, but after eight months of at least twice weekly sessions, Severus began to feel a change. His nightmares lessened; his thoughts did not return to the war for a whole day. He started to appreciate the simple things around him: the bustle and the smells of a market, good food, the smile of a woman.
And the level of his magic picked up again, finally. During this time, he had travelled by train to Trieste frequently at the weekends to refurbish his cottage and to prepare for eventually living there. He had bought it very cheaply in the late Eighties and spent part of his holidays there. Now, he got to know his neighbours, the village of Opicina and started on the layout of his garden.
Snape was never sure what his therapist really thought about him, but the look on her face when he had decided to show her some basic spells and transfigurations after regaining his magic fully was priceless.
She hadn't closed her mouth for a while and then hugged him, quickly withdrawing again. “I am sorry, that was unprofessional of me. While I am still convinced that it doesn’t really matter for the things we worked on, I am glad that the magicians you talked about are real.”
“Wizards – we are called wizards or witches.”
They had agreed to continue twice a month. Snape was now Apparating into her cloakroom, the distance being less than the one between Hogwarts and London.
While still in the US, Severus had begun using a special shampoo that lightened the colour of his hair to chestnut, and he had exposed his skin to the sun. His posture was now more relaxed, his walk had lost its stalking appearance, and after a haircut, he was quite sure that no one would recognise him at first sight. He might not be able to fool some of his former colleagues or the elder Malfoys, but he would be safe from pupils who had never seen him without his teaching-persona and garb.
After acquiring a new wand in Vienna – there was a shop behind a violin-maker’s shop in the Musikverein building – he consulted a Healer about his nose. It had been broken more times than he cared to remember and often enough not been set properly. The magical surgery left him without a trace of these old injuries, and while his nose was still larger than average, one could call it aquiline now (if one squinted).
Trieste had only a small magical community, but his cottage was remote enough that Xerxes, his new owl, attracted no unwanted attention. Severus had not lied in his mail to Ms Granger, he did grow herbs and prepared ingredients, but his main source of income was his Potions business. He had started to build Zelko Princip’s reputation as a brewer after Voldemort’s return and now lived comfortably, selling complicated, rare or customized brews.
Sometimes, he thought about informing the Malfoys about his survival. He missed his talks with Lucius, Narcissa’s gentle caring, and he really wanted to know more about the man Draco had become. More than the society pages of the odd Daily Prophet – if he could get his hands on one – would tell him. He decided against giving in to the temptation, but it became harder every time the urge hit him.
Snape had found acquaintances and even a friend in a wizard who ran an apothecary in Venice. He also had had a few lovers during the last decade, mostly experienced and mature women who did not look for more in a relationship than he did – stimulating conversation over a pleasant dinner, unhurried sex afterwards, sometimes breakfast together the next morning in one of the cafés of Trieste.
Life went on, and Severus was busy harvesting the last of his herbs when another e-mail from Ms Granger arrived.