Severus Snape was also deeply unhappy, although for most people it was hard to tell that there was any change in his mental state. As soon as Niall O’Malley had left, he had pursued Professor Dumbledore to his office to try and warn him of the problems this new development could cause. He had left believing his cautionary words had fallen on deaf ears because Dumbledore had merely given him some noncommittal reassurances.
Dumbledore, however, was already well aware of the potential harm Maeve may have done by revealing herself to her father. He did not trust Niall O’Malley, whom he had always found to be a selfish and unreliable man. What Dumbledore did not have was Severus’ level of knowledge after many years spent working for the Dark Lord.
Harry on the other hand was very happy; Maeve’s father had gone, leaving Maeve still very much entrenched at Hogwarts, and although she had been very vague about the reasons for his visit, he got the impression that it had gone quite well. With his fears for her sudden departure temporarily eased, he felt he could look forward to the Halloween feast with enthusiasm, despite the fact Dumbledore had decreed that this year it was to be a fancy dress event.
He had deliberated with Ron for weeks over their costumes. Harry finally decided to go as Sir Gravallax Whippingham, a famed dragon slayer from the sixteenth century. Sir Gravallax was well known for his shining solid-silver armour so Harry had persuaded one of the suits of armour that lined the castle walls to let him borrow it for the party. Ron had decided to go as one of his favourite players from the Chudley Cannons Quidditch team. It meant he could just wear his team’s strip and not have to worry too much about buying a costume, which some of the other students were doing.
The Great Hall was festooned with decorations. Silvery cobwebs were draped from the high, wooden beams, and enormous pumpkins leered cheerfully at the students, with flickering lights illuminating their carved faces. The tables groaned under the weight of a vast amount of food, which included some rare treats especially concocted for Halloween. Ron was particularly fascinated with the Gummy Mummies, which were little cakes covered in edible bandages that oozed a sweet red substance when you bit into them. He soon discovered he had to be very quick eating them or the red goo would set his teeth fast together.
Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown waltzed in wearing flowing white robes, their skin dusted with a shimmering white powder. The horns they each wore, which were very pretty, although they did wobble alarmingly whenever the girls moved too quickly, gave away the fact they were unicorns. Neville wore a big shaggy brown coat that had something long and moth-eaten trailing behind it; no one had the courage to ask him exactly what he was meant to be. There were several nurse’s uniforms; some people came in clothes that their parents had dug out of musty attics, insisting they were ‘classics of their time’. Some wore Muggle outfits that included policemen and the odd cricketer. There were fairies and elves, kings and queens, and one particularly brave girl came as a cat in a sleek black catsuit with two black pointy ears stuck to her head. Unsurprisingly, she was particularly popular with the boys.
The teachers entered into the spirit of things with Professor Dumbledore dressed as Merlin, although most people couldn’t really see the difference between Merlin and Dumbledore. Professor McGonagall also dressed as a cat, albeit a rather more bedraggled one than the catsuited girl. Professor Sprout came as a sprout. Professor Grubbly-Plank was a very convincing mermaid, although she kept tripping up over her tail. Madam Pomfrey came as Florence Nightingale, although she spent most of the evening explaining to people who Florence Nightingale was. Professor Snape turned up as Professor Snape and snarled at anyone foolish enough to comment on his lack of costume. It was bad enough he felt obliged to be here to keep an eye on Maeve, without making a fool of himself in some ridiculous costume.
Maeve was one of the last to enter, and she glided between the students to take her place at the head table. This was her first opportunity to be frivolous with her appearance so she had really pushed the proverbial boat out. She wore a dress of pure white silk that was covered in enchanted icicles, which tinkled sweetly whenever she moved, but didn’t melt. She had changed the colour of her hair to jet back. It tumbled down her back with tiny snowflakes clinging to it, and around her head was a wreath of ivy flecked with sparkling diamonds. Wrapped around her neck she wore a scarf of soft silver chiffon that wound around and down her back. There were murmurs of appreciation from Professor Flitwick, who for some reason had come as a lobster, as she passed him to take her place.
One of the last to enter the hall was Draco Malfoy, who caused a few open mouths as he walked in wearing a long black cloak and carrying a scythe. Crabbe and Goyle were in their usual places at either side of him wearing similar black cloaks and stupid expressions on their faces. Maeve glanced at Severus and could see his lips forming a small smile; when he caught her looking, his smile grew even wider.
“Effective, isn’t it?” he sneered.
“Effective if you want to spread a little dread and fear,” she retorted. “Although in that respect it’s not nearly as effective as your costume.”
“I don’t indulge myself in this sort of nonsense,” he said calmly, ignoring the challenge in her eyes.
The feast went very well and there were several over-stuffed students by the time Dumbledore stood up to clear his throat.
“I hope you enjoyed your repast,” he said with a small belch. “You all look splendid and I thank you for entering into the spirit of things. If you would care to step away from your tables then we can clear them and make way for the entertainment, which this year will be provided by The Dark Deeds.”
There was a general shuffling of feet as the students stepped away from their tables. They watched, entranced, as benches dissolved into thin air to be replaced by a stage. A band of dark-haired musicians materialised and immediately began to play a lively song that had everyone dancing, including Death.
The teachers looked vaguely embarrassed at this point; aware they should be taking part, but not wanting to make themselves look foolish. Professor Sprout immediately latched on to Dumbledore, who seemed to find dancing with a small, green vegetable very enjoyable. Professor McGonagall demurred when Professor Flitwick offered a claw, so he turned to Maeve. She was resigning herself to spending the evening in the company of a lobster when she felt her hand taken by something definitely un-claw like. She barely had time to register the self-sacrificing look on Severus’ face, as he stepped between her and Flitwick, before she was on the dance floor.
Students and teachers alike moved to the heady beat of the band. The dimmed lights added an intimacy that was not normally to be found within the school. Death was dancing with cat girl, much to the dismay of Pansy Parkinson, whose Cleopatra outfit obviously wasn’t cutting it with Draco. Vincent Crabbe had made several attempts to grab her asp, but Pansy wasn’t having any of it.
Maeve was confused by Severus’ sudden decision to take to the dance floor; it seemed completely at odds with his recent attitude to her. His dancing left a lot to be desired as he moved stiffly to the music. She tried to move in sequence with him, but his movement was so stilted it was difficult for her to find any rhythm. The intense look in his eyes was unsettling her even more than the uneven dancing. As one song came to an end, another started, so he took the opportunity to steer her away from the dance floor and the pressing crowd of people.
“Have you thought about what happened yesterday?” he asked, manoeuvring her through the large doors of the Great Hall and into the quieter space beyond it.
“If you mean my father then yes, I have,” she said, following him outside. The air was crisp and clear, immediately reviving her flagging spirits; the atmosphere in the Great Hall had become warm and oppressive.
“And do you think you made the wisest choice?”
“I do confess that perhaps handing him the house without question may have been a little rash.” She gave a shrug. “But really, I don’t think it matters too much. I don’t care for the house. He could burn it down for all the difference it would make to me.”
Severus frowned, looking out across the lake towards the distant mountains.
“I wasn’t thinking about the house,” he said quietly. “I was more concerned that you had revealed your whereabouts to him.”
Maeve looked surprised; she hadn’t even given that a second thought. She couldn’t imagine what problems telling her father where she was could cause, so she didn’t understand why Severus was worrying about it.
“Dad may be an absolute pig, but I think my secret is safe with him. What makes you think otherwise?” She looked at him questioningly, frustrated by his refusal to talk directly to her.
“You trust people too easily,” he said. Severus continued to look out at the water, not noticing the fact she was shivering.
“He’s my father,” she said, as if this placed him above suspicion. “Surely, no matter how he behaves towards me, he would do nothing to cause me harm.”
“Sometimes things are not what they seem,” Severus said cryptically. He turned his attention directly back to her and in his cavernous, black eyes she could register something lurking, something that he was about to reveal.
What it was though she didn’t find out because at that moment a piercing scream came from the direction of Hagrid’s hut. The night air was abruptly filled with fright.
“It’s that bloody giant again!” Severus spat. He turned, rushing off in the direction of the hut that sat at the edge of the forest.
“I don’t think so,” Maeve said as she hurried to match his long stride across the grass. “Professor Grubbly-Plank has moved him back into the forest.”
“And you don’t think the beast can escape?” he queried, although from the tone of his voice she knew he thought it was entirely possible.
A flash of light from the edge of the forest made them look up. At first Maeve thought it was the beginnings of a firework display. Green sparks soared skywards and began to flare brightly as they formed themselves into an image that branded the inky blackness with a sight that made Severus stop dead in his tracks. Maeve looked on in horror at the giant serpent’s tongue that protruded from the mouth of the huge skull, which was now illuminating the night with a sickly, greenish light.
Neither of them needed to comment on it for they both knew well enough what it was.
“We need to get you back to the castle now,” Severus said steadily. Nothing about him betrayed the swift dread he felt.
“There was a scream,” she protested. “Someone is in trouble.”
“You are more important than anything else at the moment,” he said, taking her bare arm and attempting to turn her direction.
“No, no I’m not. There is a student in trouble, Severus. We can’t run and hide.” She flung his arm away. In the darkness she did not see the imprints his fingers had left upon her flesh. Maeve picked up her skirts and began to run towards the hut, leaving Severus unsure of what to do.
“You don’t even know if it was a real student,” he shouted after her. “It could be a ruse.”
He knew he had no option but to follow the running figure, despite the imminent danger he felt they both faced. He caught up to her quickly enough by breaking into a light jog, his breath coming in exasperated bursts. They both had their wands out as they approached the entrance to Hagrid’s hut. The door had been put back on its hinges and was now standing open. Slumped on the steps was a very distressed-looking girl whose pretty fairy costume was now grubby. Her wings had come undone and were lying broken at her feet.
“Verity!” Maeve said, recognising one of the third-year Ravenclaw students. “What happened?”
Verity Harris was too petrified to answer her, however she did raise a limp arm and pointed in the direction of the forest.
“Really, girl! Is that the best you can do?” Severus asked sharply.
The frightened girl raised her eyes to meet those of the Potions master. He knew what she had seen. There was a look there that only those who had faced a Death Eater have.
“Whom did they take?” he asked, displaying an understanding that momentarily surprised Maeve.
“Simon,” she said in such a low moan that they had to ask her to repeat it. “Simon Hirst,” she said. Her voice grew stronger. “They didn’t take him, though, he went with them. I fell over and asked Simon to wait for me. I wanted to go with them, Professor Lupin.”
Maeve looked at her in astonishment.
“You wanted to go with them?” she repeated. “Verity, surely you realised who they were.”
Verity nodded mutely before beginning to cry into her hands.
“Imperius Curse,” Severus said softly in Maeve’s ear. “It had to happen. They can’t enter the grounds, but they can act through others. This is a warning.”
Maeve helped the trembling girl up as the sounds of several pairs of feet could be heard approaching. Both Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall appeared with serious expressions on their faces. Minerva immediately took the young Ravenclaw student from Maeve, her arms supporting the girl as she staggered in the darkness. The Dark Mark still glittered ominously above them as Verity was led away. Professor Dumbledore turned to Maeve and Severus for their story of the events leading up to the Dark Mark’s appearance. His face grew very sombre as he was told about Simon Hirst, and his gaze drifted reluctantly to the Forbidden Forest.
“We will need to find him and quickly,” he said, as the trees rustled in the soft breeze. From somewhere came the sound of a twig breaking and they were all instantly alert. An owl hooted as the pale moon disappeared behind a bank of clouds. Maeve felt her skin grow clammy with fear. The hoot came again, followed by a loud whine from the forest.
“We have to go in,” she said to Dumbledore with reluctance in her voice.
“We cannot!” Severus’ voice was rough.
“Severus?” Professor Dumbledore knew his Potions master had many faults, but cowardice had never been amongst them.
“We have no idea what the Dark Lord knows,” he said, looking at Maeve. “We have no idea to what lengths he will go.”
“We have always known the lengths Voldemort will stretch to, Severus.” Dumbledore looked puzzled. He fixed Severus with such a stare that Maeve knew he was trying to peel back the layers of the other man’s mind. From the corner of her eyes she caught a flash of light and when she turned she was sure she had seen Simon’s face, thrown into sharp relief by the sudden reappearance of the moon. Without wavering she dashed into the forest in pursuit of the phantom she had glimpsed. Dumbledore and Severus gave cries of alarm before following her.
She tripped and stumbled over her dress as she tried to negotiate the undergrowth. Ahead of her she could hear the crashing sounds of something being pursued, which seemed to indicate she was going in the right direction. Severus was calling out to her to wait, but she pressed on regardless. The dark, dank smell of the forest was in her nostrils, filling her lungs with decay. The trees stood by in resolute silence as she caught her flesh on their branches. The fabric of her skirt tore on their rough bark, silk strips clinging to the woody surface. She stopped short when she reached a clearing that was empty save for a bonfire burning brightly in the centre of it. Orange flames licked hungrily upwards, sending sparks flying off in all directions. A thick, acrid smoke filled the forest, swirling around the naked branches and penetrating the undergrowth with its noxious fingers.
As she stepped further into the clearing she could hear low laughter. Whirling around quickly she tried to detect its source. This was not the warm laughter that had spilled into her room that night; it was a coarse wail of a laugh that filled her ears with horror. Her eyes caught the sudden movement from the other side of the fire, her mind not fast enough to react. She watched as Simon’s frightened figure was thrust into the clearing. A green flash of light erupted at the same time as a huge thundering sound came from the trees beside her. In the confusion she didn’t know what it was that finally knocked her over, the green streak that flew across the fire or the white wall that came from nowhere.
Maeve drowsed and was only vaguely aware of movement around her. Occasionally she heard a voice, but it seemed to come from far away and was entirely disconnected from her. Her mind played games with light and shade as it tried to make sense of what had happened to it. It could not connect the disembodiment it felt to anything sentient, so she remained floating somewhere between this world and the next.
Severus had stayed on the ward for three weeks, refusing to leave, much to Madam Pomfrey’s chagrin. He had been the one to pull her body from beneath the unicorn. He had brought her back to the castle and he had been reluctant to let go ever since, despite repeated pleas from Professor Dumbledore that the students needed him. He had watched her closely. There had been no movement, no flicker of life beyond the steady yet almost imperceptible pulse that beat just beneath her temple.
The time alone had given him the time, and the mental space, to examine his feelings for her. He had tried to come up with many, logical, reasons for his refusal to leave her side and he had failed. Things that happen in the past are often sent to extract a heavy payment and he felt that this was the debt collector’s moment to call. He allowed himself the luxury of travelling back down the roads that had already been heavily worn with the wheels of their lives. It did not make him happy to take this journey; indeed it was painful in the extreme. He could see her youth-drenched figure laughing gaily in the shadows of his mind and he wanted to bottle that carefree spirit and release it into the present gloom. He did not want the unbearable pressure of the missing years; he wanted everything to be as it had been before, before what?
Before she had even entered his life? No, life without ever having met her would be too bland, too sterile. Before her father had removed her from school? Probably. Without that first separation, life could have been as normal as it was possible to be. He was almost certain he would not have joined the Dark Lord’s army of followers. Before the day that he had betrayed the Dark Lord by saving her life? No, the uncertainty and loss had been on a par with what it was now. The fact was he couldn’t return to anywhere; he had to deal with what was and what would be. Severus Snape wasn’t sure he was man enough to battle for her all over again.
He had returned time and time again to the events in the forest that had led to this situation. Neither he nor Dumbledore knew where the unicorn had come from. They had reached the clearing just as the hooded figure beyond the fire had shouted Avada Kedavra. With a sickening lurch, both of them had known it was too late to do anything to prevent the green light from hitting its target. The swift white flash that broken through the trees had surprised them all. It had thrown itself between Maeve and the curse, but some of the Dark magic had penetrated through the body of the unicorn and into Maeve. Both of them had fallen in an entwined heap on the forest floor. It was a distraught Dumbledore who had lifted the heavy carcass of the dead unicorn to free the body of Maeve O’Malley.
Almost a month on and the school still went on around her. It was as if she had become the sun around which bewildered planets orbit. Her lessons had been taken over by the surprising presence of Remus Lupin. Reassuring the parents had been a miraculous piece of diplomacy by Professor Dumbledore, helped by the fact that Remus was supposed to be the stricken teacher’s brother. Harry had tried to visit her, but Severus had prevented him, and this made the antagonism between them even worse. His moods had sunk into deep melancholy. Neither Hermione nor Ron could rouse him to anything other than the occasional, reluctant Quidditch practice. As November moved into December the first snows fell. The mood in the school was still sombre; no one was looking forward to Christmas, no one except for Simon Hirst, who really shouldn’t have been alive to see it. He had been left in the clearing in a befuddled state. Maeve’s deathlike presence was permeating every fibre of the school, leaving a thick, unrelenting frost over every surface.
Severus was spending another night sleeping in the bed adjacent to Maeve’s. The intensity of his vigil was undiminished by time, his guilt still sharp and fresh. It was just past midnight when he stirred from his sleep. Light had slowly begun to fill the ward, heralding a new dawn. He glanced at the clock, sure that he had not been asleep for very long, and discovered it was only a little before one o’clock in the morning. He was immediately out of bed, looking around for the source of the light, aware that something was amiss. The doors at the end of the ward opened slowly. Without a sound the tall, radiant figure of a man entered, and Severus Snape knew exactly who he was and why he was here. He felt immensely relieved and not a little anxious.
“You knew, didn’t you?” the newcomer asked with a sad smile.
“Yes, I knew,” Severus replied, unable to take his eyes from the glorious countenance of Maeve O’Malley’s true father.
“And yet you never told her, or others.”
“No, it would not have been in her best interests,” Severus said, adamant that he had made the right choice.
“You were right, she should never have known,” he said sorrowfully. “She was too impulsive. She had so much love to give and yet she spent so much time alone.”
“You speak of her as if she is dead.” Severus was dismayed that the one person he had thought could save her was admitting defeat. “She is not dead.”
“She is dead, Severus.” The words were like a mortal blow to his body, and Severus’ shoulders slumped.
The golden man moved past the disbelieving Severus to stand at the head of his daughter’s bed. The expression he wore was a mixture of sorrow and pride as he took in her shallow breathing and pale face. Vexation crossed his face as he looked at her dull hair and unfamiliar form. Passing a hand across her body, he transformed her from Selene Lupin back to Maeve O’Malley, smiling softly at the result.
“She is beautiful,” he stated, the simple words spoken with love. Severus nodded mutely. He knew if this man said she was dead, then she was dead and grief threatened to punish him once more. He had done so much to ensure her survival, risked his own life to keep her alive, and here they were, at the brink of failure.
“You loved her?” her father asked.
“I do love her.” Severus was firm in his reply. The strangeness of the situation made the admission seem easier for him to make.
“It is a rare thing, love. Love that knows no bounds. Love that places no limit on sacrifice. Love that endures darkness in pursuit of the light.” He turned back to Severus. “Love that reaches beyond the bounds of death and into the next world. Would your love for my daughter take you into the next world, Mr Snape?”
“It would.” Severus sank onto his bed in sorrow. Was this Immortal asking for the ultimate sacrifice in return for his daughter’s life? “If I need to die to save her, then so be it.”
Severus glanced up, seeing satisfaction in the other man’s eyes. It was as if he had confirmed something important and necessary. Severus had kept his secret well. Lugh Lamfada was a force beyond his experience and knowledge. As Lugh surveyed him with something bordering on respect, Severus felt a sense of achievement that he never felt under Voldemort’s command. Lugh once again smiled, the warmth that radiated from his presence filling Severus with a longing he had always felt, although he had done his best not to recognise it. It was the longing for love and acceptance that had only once been fulfilled.
“Leave us,” Lugh asked suddenly and in such a compassionate voice that Severus stood immediately. He was prepared to obey the order, but before he left he had one last thing to do.
“May I have one moment with her?” he asked.
“You may. However, I will not leave.” Lugh smiled.
Severus approached Maeve’s powerless figure. He reached out a hand that shook only slightly to touch her cheek. Her skin felt cold and his heart was a lead coffin inside his chest, their love lying inside it on soft cushions of sorrow. He bent close to her and placed a soft kiss on her mouth. Moving his lips to her ear he whispered a gentle goodbye before straightening up and looking the other man in the eye.
“It was a privilege to know your daughter,” he said. “She saved me from a fate that I would not have wished on my worst enemy, and she did so with the purity of her heart.”
Lugh nodded, as if this was the most understandable thing he had heard in a long time.
With one last look at Maeve’s still form, Severus turned and left her to her father. He had no idea what Lugh Lamfada would do with his daughter, but he was fairly sure her body would not be there in the morning. He knew enough to realise that the immortal God of the Sun would take his daughter back with him to Ireland and to wherever it was he existed. Severus couldn’t help envy her this fate. In many ways he wished he was going with her. As he closed the door behind him he felt his vision blur with moisture and he made his way blindly to his rooms.
Lugh Lamfada stood and watched his daughter’s lifeless and anchorless body. He had been slightly dishonest with Severus Snape and he was already feeling somewhat guilty about that. He knew his daughter had loved the man since the first time they had met, and that that feeling had been reciprocated. It was a meeting of minds that had vexed his fellow Gods and one that they had tried to sever on occasion. Lugh knew, however, that whilst their paths would diverge frequently, they would always find their way home. Despite this he had still found the need to test Severus by offering him the chance to take his daughter’s place beyond the veil, and Severus had passed the test.
Lugh once again passed a hand over his daughter’s face, gold-hued fingers not quite touching the delicate complexion. A quiver travelled down her body and a small sigh escaped her lips as her eyes slowly opened to the light. She watched the face of the stranger slowly come into focus and struggled to sit up. She had no memory of the past and no concept of the future as she gazed into the golden eyes of the man who was slowly drawing her away from the veil.
“Hello, Child,” he said as he watched her struggling to make sense of herself. “You have been on a peaceful journey and you have found your destination.”
She shook her head to clear the mist from her mind. She found that in doing so, shafts of knowledge began to pierce her perplexed brain.
“Who are you?” she asked softly.
“I am your father, Maeve, your true father.”
“That cannot be,” she said, disbelieving.
“It can and it is.” He paused before launching into a simple explanation. “I was charged with the duty of producing three daughters in order to fight the darkness that was to come. Who better to fight the dark than the light?” He allowed himself a small laugh.
“Three daughters?” She swung her unsteady legs off the bed.
“You were the first and most important. You are the power behind the prophecy, thanks to your mother.”
“My mother? How?” The fact that this creature might be her father was only just beginning to sink in and it was threatening to overwhelm her. If he was her father, who exactly was he and what did that make her?
“I am Lugh Lamfada,” he said, as if reading her mind. He watched as this information touched her. He did not need to explain to her his significance. She was well versed in the history of Ireland and his importance to its people. He was immortal. He was of the race above men and he had powers beyond their knowledge. What he should not have done was interfere in his daughter’s battle with life and death. He had no idea what the consequences of this would be, but he knew she had to be saved.
She paused for a moment as the shuddering knowledge of who she was travelled the length of her being and then she spoke again.
“Who are the others? You said there were three daughters.”
“There were. Lily Evans was the daughter charged with producing the one to defeat the darkness, and Alice McKinnon was the one charged with producing the one to guard him.”
Maeve’s head began to spin. Lily had been her sister. Lily had been her best friend. Lily had produced Harry. Harry was her nephew!
“No,” Lugh smiled at her thoughts. “You are related, but not in a way humans would understand. You are all my children, but not in a physical sense. All three of you are, were, my children in a realm beyond the human world. I flow through your soul, not your blood.”
“And my father?” she asked hesitantly.
“Is not your father. There is none of his blood flowing through your veins. He betrayed you to the darkness and caused the attack that killed you. The darkness can never understand immortality, although it repeatedly tries to by stealing it, manipulating it and bargaining for it.” Lugh rolled his eyes and the sight of an exasperated God mocking the fallibilities of those that strove to achieve a Godlike status momentarily amused Maeve.
“Harry does not know, neither does Neville,” she said. It was a statement rather than a question. Alice McKinnon had also been at school at the same time she had, although she hadn’t known her very well. She had married Frank Longbottom at around the same time as Lily had married James.
“No, neither of them knows. They should not be told. It is a shame that you know. Severus Snape did a marvellous job keeping that knowledge to himself. Knowledge that he gained through the darkness.”
“Severus knew?” She stared at her father in astonishment and had to bite back the bitterness that threatened her. How could Severus keep that from her? He had allowed her to be indebted to a man she need never have tolerated.
“Yes, he knew. Do not blame him for the secrets he kept. Trust none but him Maeve, for he alone will sacrifice his life for yours.” He spoke with such conviction that she swallowed her indignation at the fact Severus knew her parentage whilst she did not.
“How did he know?” she asked in a very small voice.
“He knew many things from his time with Tom Riddle, many things heard and then unheard. That is what a spy does, is it not?”
“He could have told me,” she said, although the fire was gone from her anger and the words drifted to the floor to take their place among the dust.
“I have to go, child,” he said softly. “I should not even be here, but without my intervention you would have died tonight. There will be consequences because of my actions, although I hope that the benefits will outweigh any harm it may have done.”
She faced her father, their eyes reflecting each other. Fire burned within each of them and she felt such relief that the man she had called father all her life was of no connection to her. She felt anger that he had betrayed her. Above all else, though, she felt love for the man that stood before her with warmth radiating from every aspect.
“It was you, wasn’t it, that day in my room?” she asked suddenly. “You laughed. You also appeared to Harry in a dream.”
“I couldn’t hold back my joy,” he said apologetically. “You and Harry resolved your differences and it gave fate an easier time. Be a friend to that boy and, more importantly, be an ally. He needs it now, for his future is very uncertain. All of your futures are very uncertain.”
“I understand. Can I contact you again?” She knew the connection was about to be lost and was eager to prolong it.
“No, you cannot, but I am always with you, always. I cannot intervene in your life again, so you must be careful. Do not lose that heart which beats so strongly. Mind Severus and mind Harry, for they are more important to you than life itself and, above all, never hide yourself away again. You are a daughter of the light and must never let the darkness overcome you. Goodbye, my child.”
He spread his arms wide and for a wonderful moment he felt the rare pleasure of enveloping his daughter in his arms. Maeve experienced a warmth the like of which she had never felt before. He broke away and reached for her face with a fading hand.
“Never again hide your true self, Maeve. Cast off this lie and be yourself.”
There was a flare of light that filled the ward and then he was gone. His brightness was replaced with the dull ache of moonlight and an emptiness that threatened to overwhelm her.