Disclaimer: It's JK's world, I'm just playing in the sandpit. This is also a riff on Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kastner (and therefore also the films The Parent Trap and its remake which are both owned by Disney). The characters of Cecily and Imogen are mine, but that's about it.
This was originally written for the SSHG Promptfest (Summer 2013 - I am way behind on my posting).
The original prompt was:
Severus's kid(s) and Hermione's play matchmaker and get their parents together. Would prefer humour and maybe some mishaps along the way. Try to be as canon-compliant as possible (except for the Snape dying part). Prefer an HEA if at all possible. (SS/HG)
After reading the prompt, only one thing came to mind - HP meets The Parent Trap.
This was originally posted on LJ but had to be split into two separate parts due to the length - here it is in all its glory, as it was originally conceived.
"Hey, did you see the new girl?"
"Didn't she transfer from Beauxbatons?"
"I heard she got kicked out. No wonder she's in Slytherin."
"Did you see her face?"
"Did you hear her name?"
The whispers had followed her all day. Everyone was curious about the girl who had started halfway through the term. Rumours were rife before she'd even been Sorted. The Hogwarts grapevine was legendary. Once one person had found out that Imogen Snape was going to be attending Hogwarts, the whole school had gone into overdrive. If it hadn't been for Scorpius, she wouldn't have had any peace.
Speaking of the devil: the tall blonde Slytherin appeared next to her as she headed for the library. Imogen smiled up at him, grateful for his quiet unswerving support. He had already started building a power base - Uncle Lucius was so proud - and thanks to that she hadn't heard a mutter from a single Slytherin first year. "How're you coping?"
"I'm fine." He raised an eyebrow. "No, really. I expected gossip. Dad warned me about it; he said Hogwarts never accepts students after September. I think he wanted me to stay in Beauxbatons."
"Well, I'm glad you're here." Scorpius patted her shoulder. Imogen smiled. She had fought long and hard to get here and she was determined to do well. The stares of the other children didn't faze her at all. She had inherited her father's stern glare, and it took one patented Snape stare to send the first years scurrying. All, that is, except two. One was a small boy with messy black hair and piercing green eyes; the other a tall red-haired girl.
"Al," greeted Scorpius. Imogen knew, without asking, who this boy was; he was the very image of his father, the Boy-Who-Lived.
"Hi Scorpius. How's it going?"
"Well enough." Scorpius fell silent and Imogen could feel the amusement rolling off him. She started to count under her breath and reached six before the girl spoke.
"You the new girl?" she asked Imogen directly. There was no malice in her voice, just curiosity. Imogen studied her; red hair, freckles, blue eyes and a mischievous smile. Had to be a Weasley, really, especially if she was friends with Albus Potter.
"I am," Imogen confirmed. Another three seconds and then Albus rolled his eyes.
"She's worse than you, Scorp." He stepped forward, hand extended and an unsure smile on his face. "I'm Al Potter, this is Rose Weasley. We're in Gryffindor. You must be Imogen Snape?" There was an odd charm about the boy that compelled Imogen to accept his hand, offering a smile in return. Rose didn't offer her hand; instead she draped an arm around Imogen's shoulders. Imogen stiffened from the unexpected contact.
"We'll keep the Gryffindors out of your hair," Rose offered, squeezing Imogen's shoulders. "It's hard enough being new here. We were lucky; Al's brother James and our cousin Roxanne are here so we got a helping hand." Rose let her arm drop, sensing Imogen's discomfort. "At least you don't need to speak French here, right?"
"Rose, you're scaring her." Al tugged Rose away. "Do you know Scorpius already?"
"Imogen and I practically grew up together." Scorpius stepped in, rescuing her from yet another interrogation. At least this was well-intentioned. She knew that Al and Scorpius were friends, having been pen pals for several years at their fathers' insistence. Rose was unfamiliar, but enough of a Gryffindor that Imogen knew how to handle her. And… it was nice to think about making friends, instead of intentionally keeping everyone at a distance. Besides, her father would have a stroke if he knew she was friends with a Potter and a Weasley, which was the best reason of all right now. Maybe she'd feel different once she was talking to him again, but for now…
"It's lovely to meet you," she said. Scorpius looked at her, surprised.
A girl's voice echoed down the corridor, the girl herself hot on its heels. She almost fell into Rose as she skidded to a halt, clutching at Rose's robes to stop them both from collapsing.
"I've been looking everywhere for you! We were supposed to meet to finish our Charms essays, remember?" She straightened up, looked around, smiled at Scorpius, and then let out a gasp as she met Imogen's eyes. Imogen felt her mouth fall open as she looked into a mirror. Apart from the Gryffindor robes and the inkstains on the fingers, the newcomer was identical to her. Al and Rose studied both girls, then, slowly, their faces adopted the same look of shock.
"Interesting," was all Scorpius said. Imogen stepped forward at the same time the newcomer did. They both examined the long black hair (slightly frizzy, impossible in the rain), the warm brown eyes, the slightly upturned nose and the pale skin; the few freckles across the nose that faded as the winter came. They were the same height, the same shape-
"What magic is this?" Imogen asked quietly, the first to recover her voice. The girl opposite her blinked, and the spell was broken.
"I could ask you the same thing," she said. "I'm Cecily Granger. Who are you, and why do you look like me?"
"Snape?" Cecily frowned. "As in, Severus Snape, the spy? I didn't know he had a kid."
"I didn't know Hermione Granger had one. I assume, given your choice of friends, that Hermione Granger is your mother?" Cecily nodded. "And your father?" This led to a faint blush which looked awkward on the pale skin.
"None of your business," she huffed, stepping back to stand between Al and Rose. Imogen bit her lip as she thought, and then noticed that Cecily was doing the same. It was uncanny.
"You know," said Rose faintly, "I didn't see it at first, Imogen, but you are the spitting image of Ceely. You could be her twin."
"Twin?" Both Imogen and Cecily snorted at the same time, and then glared at each other. Al and Rose laughed. Imogen turned to Scorpius, her eyes silently pleading for help. Scorpius, however, was wearing the same expression as Al and Rose, which didn't bode well.
"You could be twins," he said. Imogen rolled her eyes.
"Not you, too!" she said, exasperated. Scorpius held up a hand to silence her.
"Hear me out. You both look alike. You don't know who your mother was and Cecily doesn't know who her father is. Yes, Uncle Severus said your mother was dead - but he's never taken you to her grave, or shown you photos, or anything. Your birthday is March the sixteenth and so, if I remember rightly, is Cecily's." The Gryffindors nodded in unison. "Uncle Severus really didn't want you to come to Hogwarts, did he? When you started acting up at Beauxbatons he was going to send you to Durmstrang. He did everything he could to stop you coming here. Why?" Imogen was silent. Cecily watched her carefully.
"I asked Mum about Beauxbatons once," Cecily said quietly. "When I was eight, and I thought France was romantic. I wanted to go there, but Mum told me there was no way. I didn't think twice about it then…"
"I told Dad that if I couldn't come to Hogwarts I was going to stop eating," Imogen said. "I never wanted to go to Beauxbatons - Hogwarts is the greatest school of Witchcraft and Wizardry there is! When he sent me there anyway, I refused to do the work. I didn't go to class, I wouldn't speak to the teachers. In the end Madame Maxime sent me home. When Dad gave in and said I could come here, he warned me to stay away from you guys." Well, Potter and Weasley mainly. "I thought he was just being a git."
"Maybe he wanted to keep you away from Cecily." Al finally chipped in.
"Late to the party as always, Al," Rose said, ruffling her cousin's hair affectionately. "Scorpius is right, though. The big question is, why?" She looked from Cecily to Imogen. "If you two are twins - why wouldn't you know about it?"
"And when was my dad with your mum?"
"Why do you two have different surnames?"
Cecily looked at Imogen, then Scorpius, then finally pointed a finger back the way she had come. Her finger was shaking and she was even paler than usual.
"To the library?" It was more of a question than her usual exclamation. She then pointed at Al and Rose. "And you can finish your essays. I'm not giving you the last inch again." Al and Rose groaned in unison, and the small group headed for the library, the two black-haired girls giving each other suspicious glances the whole way.
Cecily and Imogen sat opposite each other in the quietest corner of the library they could find, watching. Each scrutiny revealed more similarities between the two, right down to the way they glared, the way they smirked when someone else was being an idiot, and the way they crossed their legs. Al, Rose and Scorpius had left them to it, hunting for back issues of the Daily Prophet and Quibbler in the stacks. Cecily had reasoned, logically enough, that any relationship between Severus Snape and Hermione Granger would be front page news, and left them to it.
"So," Imogen said at last. "Are Gryffindors any good at research?"
"Depends which one," Cecily answered with a shrug. "Rose doesn't like doing work but when she gets down to it, she's very efficient. Her mother's a Ravenclaw, though, so I suppose that influences things. Al is a bit of a dreamer, he'll be reading something and get distracted very easily. It's quite hard to pin them down to do work." She paused and then looked at her hands. "I tend to get obsessed with whatever I'm reading, right down to looking up the slightest mention of anything obscure."
"I get very involved in studying, too," offered Imogen, surprised that she was being so open. "I'm glad to find someone else who finds everything interesting."
"My mum said that when she was at Hogwarts, she wanted to read every book in the library," Cecily said with a grin. "She didn't manage it, but she still swears that if she'd had a proper seventh year she would have." They both laughed at this; the Hogwarts library contained more books than anyone could read in one lifetime.
"Your mum is something of a legend here," said Imogen. "Everyone knows what she did."
"Not everything she did. Did you know she brewed Polyjuice Potion when she was a second year? In Moaning Myrtle's bathroom!" Imogen looked confused at the mention of the ghost. "Oh, right, you're new. Moaning Myrtle is a really creepy ghost who hangs out in the girl's bathroom. She's really touchy. She was killed by a basilisk when she was a student. My Uncle Harry killed the basilisk in his second year."
"My dad would have a fit if he heard about anyone brewing in a bathroom," said Imogen gloomily. "He's such a perfectionist. He won't even let me in his lab, can you believe it? He's got so many rare ingredients and I can't even look at them. I went in there once when he was out, but I triggered his wards and he came home. I was grounded for a month and he confiscated my books." Cecily gasped; she couldn't imagine a worse nightmare than being stuck with nothing to read.
"Didn't your dad say why he didn't want you to come to Hogwarts?" asked Cecily, leaning forward. Imogen shrugged.
"Not really. He said that he's wanted me to go to Beauxbatons ever since I was a baby. He wouldn't tell me any more than that. I knew I wanted to come to Hogwarts, though. I mean, it's where he came, and where my Uncle Draco and Uncle Lucius came! The Headmistress used to visit regularly when I was younger and she was so impressive, really scary and clever, she could actually win arguments with my dad. I wanted to come here more than anything. We had an argument when he told me I was registered with Beauxbatons." Imogen drew her knees up to her chin. "I told him he didn't love me if he was sending me to a school I didn't want to go to, that he must want me to fail. I think I really upset him. When I got to Beauxbatons, I knew I couldn't stay there, so I decided he was going to have to send me to Hogwarts. I didn't go to class, I didn't go to detention, I didn't do anything. I didn't even write to him. In the end Madame Maxime asked me what was wrong. When I told her what I wanted she called my dad. I don't know enough French to know what she called him but he was really angry. He brought me home and told me that he was going to transfer me to Durmstrang." Imogen must have looked miserable, because Cecily had slipped from her chair and come over, putting an arm around her. It wasn't as odd now that she was growing used to how touchy-feely the Gryffindors were.
"How did you change his mind?" Cecily asked.
"By some rather Gryffindor-ish dramatics, I'm ashamed to say. I said that if he sent me to any school other than Hogwarts he would be killing me." Imogen gave a small laugh. "I think it was a bit over the top but he got the point. He spoke to the Headmistress straight away. I heard him say something… not very nice about me and I haven't spoken to him since."
"I can't imagine not speaking to my mum," Cecily commented, trying to keep her tone light despite the conversation. "She's my best friend. I thought we didn't have any secrets from each other." They shared a look and the silence was thankfully broken by the return of the researchers, bearing a pile of papers. Rose motioned to Cecily, who vacated the chair to allow her friend to sit. Imogen shifted over silently as Cecily perched on the arm of the chair.
"You won't believe this," Al said, spreading the Prophets out. "Look." Imogen met Scorpius' eyes; he nodded and she reached out for the paper with trembling hands. The headline leapt off the page at them.
War Heroes Find Love!
There, beneath the headline, was a picture of a younger Hermione Granger, arm in arm with Severus Snape, who was looking down at her and was evidently completely oblivious to the camera. They were quite evidently head over heels in love. The next copy of the Prophet showed them at the wedding of Ron Weasley and Susan Bones, dancing and once again lost in their own private world. It was the first time that both girls could say they had seen their parents happy. Imogen knew her father to be a stern man, fond of discipline and incapable of dealing with a girl who was fast approaching her teens. Cecily's mother was fun and friendly but always sad. The happy smiles and adoring looks brought tears to Cecily's eyes. Imogen pushed the paper away.
"Enough," she said hoarsely. It was a point of hers not to cry.
"One more," said Rose, sensing how much the girls had been affected. She slid another across to them. This one was dated two years later and held a smaller article, no picture, that confirmed the birth of twins to Hermione Granger and Severus Snape. No names were mentioned. Cecily broke down into tears then, and even Imogen felt a wave of sadness wash over her. The sadness was quickly followed by anger, then confusion, and then hurt.
"Did you find anything about them splitting up?" asked Cecily. Rose shook her head.
"Nothing, but after this one with you there's nothing at all about you. I know Dad said something to Mum before about Aunt Hermione having an understanding with Rita Skeeter, so maybe that's why?"
"Aunt Hermione doesn't like Rita Skeeter," Al explained for the benefit of Imogen and Scorpius. Cecily picked up the Prophet again, tracing the outlines of their parents in the picture.
"Why didn't they tell us?" Imogen asked, closing her eyes to better control herself.
"I'm writing to Mum," Cecily said decisively. Al was crouching next to her, holding her hand. Scorpius moved to support Imogen. "I'm writing to her right now."
"No." Imogen reached out to stop Cecily, who was searching for some clean parchment. "You can't."
"Why not?" Cecily fumed. "Imogen, we are twins. All my life you have been there and I never knew! Mum never said! I have to confront her about it, I have to find out the truth."
"We will, Cecily. We'll face them together. They can't lie to us anymore. Just hear me out for now." Imogen glanced around to check nobody was eavesdropping, and then motioned for Rose and Al to move closer. "I," she said, dropping her voice to a whisper, "have a plan."
The Hogwarts Express emptied onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters with the usual noise of children eagerly awaiting Christmas. One group of five left an end carriage and quickly scanned the platform, taking advantage of the bustle to spot their parents.
"There." Al pointed across to where Harry and Ginny Potter were greeting James, Al's older brother. Next to them stood Ron, Susan… and Hermione. Both twins felt their stomach lurch as they set eyes on her; Cecily because she knew now how much she had been lied to, and Imogen because this was the first time she had set eyes on her mother. Cecily reached down and squeezed Imogen's hand, who, for once, was grateful for the contact.
"There's no sign of Uncle Severus, though," Scorpius said grimly. "Dad is over there. You must be coming home with us, Imogen." This time, Cecily's stomach sank.
"Remember the plan," Rose said, linking arms with Al and Imogen. "We'll see you over the holidays, Scorpius. Make sure Imogen comes with you." Rose bestowed a brilliant smile on him; Scorpius shuffled his feet awkwardly and dashed off with a blurted 'bye', unable to handle the full force of Rose's personality. Imogen smirked.
"When are you going to tell him?" she asked.
"Oh, I'll wait. He's going to marry me one day; best not to mention it too early or he might panic. Don't worry, 'Ceely', he'll come to me in the end." Rose winked. "I'm too much like Aunt Ginny that way."
"What way?" That voice was older and familiar, the warm tones of Ginny Potter.
"Mum!" Al flew forward, ignoring James' laughter as Al embraced his mother. Ginny caught him in a hug, ruffling his hair. Harry reached around to clasp his son affectionately on the shoulder. Rose was welcomed warmly by her parents and Hugo. Imogen met her mother's eyes and forced herself not to give anything away.
"Hi Mum," she said. Hermione gave her a quick hug.
"We're all going back to the Burrow first, is that okay? Nanny Molly wants to welcome you all home properly. Everyone will be there. Even Uncle Percy," Hermione added, feigning shock. Imogen grinned but didn't answer; Uncle Ron was ushering them off the platform, claiming that he was going to die of starvation if they didn't get moving. The car ride was brief, taking them to the Leaky Cauldron; a Floo later and they were in the Burrow, each being hugged by an enthusiastic Molly Weasley. Imogen watched the manic press of children with a small smile.
"Hermione." Ginny pulled Hermione aside. "I think Lily's been feeling a bit jealous of James and Al. Can I borrow Cecily to talk to her? You know how much she looks up to Ceely."
"Of course, Gin. Give Lily a hug for me - is she hiding again?"
"She's making friends with the gnomes. Honestly, Hermione, I don't know what to do with her. Mum hates having them in the garden but she can't bring herself to do a de-gnoming if Lily might find out about it."
"See if Ceely can talk some sense into her." Ginny nodded and came over to Imogen, placing a hand on her shoulder. Even though Imogen had half-heard the conversation she still jumped at the contact.
"Sorry, Aunt Ginny!" she chirped, beaming at her aunt. "James is trying to round up some Quidditch teams, I was trying to decide which one to play on."
"Well, Roxanne and Fred are already outside. So is Louis; if you go and play, they'll have odd numbers. Can I borrow you for a second, miss? I need you to talk to Lily, she's been feeling a bit lonely since Al went to Howarts as well." Ginny steered her from the room and out into the front garden, chattering all the while. Once they were a safe distance from the house Ginny turned Imogen to face her. She studied her closely, and then sighed.
"Where. Is. Cecily. It's a simple question, Imogen. Has your sister gone home with her father?" The young face went through several different expressions before settling on resigned.
"How did you know?" asked Imogen quietly. Ginny smiled, satisfied.
"I had twin brothers. They were much better than you at swapping places. Even now, your Uncle George can imitate Fred's manners perfectly. You and Cecily have only had a few months together, am I right?" Imogen nodded. "I thought so. You need more practice to be able to fool everyone."
"I fooled my mother."
"She wasn't looking closely." Ginny's smile was sad. "If she looks at Cecily too closely she is reminded of the daughter she can't see."
"You mean won't see."
"I mean can't, young lady, and don't think you can cheek me just because you've swapped with your sister. I've put her over my knee in the past and I won't hesitate to do the same to you." Aunt Ginny's voice was firm and wonderful. Imogen found herself filled with the same hero worship that Cecily described having for her favourite aunt. Imogen stared at her with wide eyes which were both so like and so unlike her sister's that Ginny couldn't help herself. She reached out and pulled Imogen into a warm hug, squeezing her tightly.
"Pass it on to Cecily as well," she whispered into Imogen's ear. Imogen, secure in the knowledge that Cecily would be hugging back, took the opportunity to squeeze her aunt tightly. When they separated, Ginny's eyes were shining brightly with unshed tears.
"I understand why you've done this, Imogen. I didn't expect it, because your father swore you would never set foot in Hogwarts, but I understand. You're probably too much like your mother when it comes to getting your own way. When she decided she wanted your father, he never stood a chance." Imogen's heart hurt, yearning for more information about her mysterious mother. Ginny went on. "Don't hate them too much, Imogen."
"That's an odd thing to say."
"I have good reason. Sometimes there are forces beyond our control. Just know that your mother loves you very much, and wishes every day she could have you back with her. I expect your father feels the same about Cecily."
"Did they love each other, Mrs Potter?"
"Aunt Ginny. Did my mum and dad really, truly love each other?" The words was different but the voice was Hermione's, young and desperate to know. Ginny very nearly lost control and started crying.
"They did, Imogen. Too much. Look, I'll send Uncle Harry to talk to you later, okay? He knows more about what happened than I do, and your mum will get suspicious if we're out here too long, and my Lily really does need some company. Lily adores Cecily, so it shouldn't be too hard to cheer her up. Lily's probably going to be a Hufflepuff, just to give you some idea." Imogen nodded. Ginny tucked an errant strand of hair back behind Cecily's ear. "You are so different to Cecily, you know; but when I set eyes on you I was reminded of my brother, Fred. Be careful, Imogen, and be strong. Now, go and play. Lily's out in Nanny's vegetable garden." Ginny watched as Imogen set off across the garden, dried her eyes, and set off in search of her husband.
Scorpius kept a close eye on Cecily as they made their way through the Manor gardens. She was wide-eyed, taking everything in, and he had to nudge her.
"You've seen all this before, remember?" he said in an undertone. Cecily blushed, bit her lip, took a deep breath to calm down and rid herself of her red cheeks, and nodded. Scorpius rolled his eyes.
"Uncle Severus is going to find out," he muttered, making a decision. "We need some help." Cecily looked up, managing to pull off a convincing Imogen-expression. "Come on," he added, breaking into a run. Cecily followed and they sprinted around the front of the manor. When they skidded to a halt outside a side door, Scorpius looked impressed.
"You're fitter than Imogen is," he said. "She would never have run like that."
"She doesn't play Quidditch. I didn't have a choice - grow up with Potters and Weasleys and you may as well be born with a broom in your hand." Scorpius held the door open for Cecily to slip past him.
"You like Quidditch?" he asked as they ascended a narrow, spiralling staircase. Cecily shrugged.
"It's okay, I guess. I mostly play Chaser to make up the numbers. Rose and James are the real Quidditch fans. James is a brilliant Seeker, nowhere near as good as Uncle Harry but Mum says to just give him time and practice. Rose is a Beater and she is brutal. I warned Imogen to never, ever, ever be on a different team to Rose."
"She's that good?" Scorpius sounded impressed. They had reached a long hallway and he led the way. Cecily followed, curious as to where they were going.
"Uncle George took her under his wing when she was five. He bought her a toy broom and a My First Bludger. By the time she was eight he said he'd run out of things to teach her. Uncle George and his twin Fred were Gryffindor Beaters when they were at Hogwarts. Rose is lethal - my Uncle Ron said it's because she has the Weasley Quidditch genes combined with Aunt Susan's brains." Scorpius looked intrigued by this and Cecily made a mental note to owl Rose later.
They had stopped outside a rather grand set of doors. Scorpius looked Cecily over, trying to find words of advice, and failed.
"Just… be yourself," he said at last, rather mysteriously. He pushed open the doors and Cecily followed him into what looked like a library. Her jaw dropped; outside of the Hogwarts library, she had never seen so many books. She followed Scorpius, only half aware of when he turned, eyes fixed on the books.
"Grandfather!" Scorpius' shout drew her from her awe and Cecily placed on her Imogen face, letting her hair fall to shelter her face a little. She could tell from the look on Scorpius' face that he was impressed, and she suppressed a small smirk. Just because being Imogen was so different didn't mean that she couldn't do it. Cecily Granger never failed.
"Scorpius, you are early." The smooth silky voice from the shadows gave Cecily a fright. A figure emerged, book in hand, and took them both in. He was tall and aristocratic, with reading glasses perched on the end of his nose and platinum blonde hair which was scattered with a handful of grey hairs. He was the epitome of growing old gracefully. This, Cecily knew, was Imogen's Uncle Lucius. He studied her carefully, and then snapped the book he was holding shut.
"Does your mother know you are here, young lady?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. Cecily blushed. He had seen right through her.
"Grandfather, we need help," Scorpius said, stepping up to his grandfather's side. "Imogen and Cecily have traded places for the holidays, but Uncle Severus is going to see straight through Cecily."
"I see. Sit down, young lady." Cecily looked in the direction he had gestured and was surprised to see chairs there that hadn't been there before. She hadn't even seen him draw his wand. Obediently she sat down, taking the opportunity to push her hair back from her face. Scorpius took the chair next to her, which left Lucius sitting down across from them. He leaned forward, appraising her.
"You are, regrettably, a Gryffindor, Miss Granger," he sighed at last.
"Cecily," she said boldly. Imogen had been full of praise for her godfather. "Since you're technically my Uncle Lucius too, and I hardly think you call Immy Miss Snape." Lucius raised his other eyebrow, and then smirked.
"That was a delightful amount of vitriol, my dear. As it happens you are correct; I was named godfather to both yourself and your dear sister. It is godmothers you have in abundance; my wife, Narcissa, and Luna Scamander being yours. Ginny Potter and Minerva McGonagall are your sister's godmothers. Regrettably, this is what comes from a ridiculous agreement featuring the words well, if we have a girl, I choose. Poor Severus has never truly learnt to understand what women mean."
"And you have, Uncle Lucius?"
"There isn't a man alive who has, Cecily. Please, indulge my curiosity. What is your full name?" Cecily blinked and looked over at Scorpius, who seemed equally confused.
"Cecily Granger. What else would it be?"
"No middle name?"
"No. My mother says she couldn't think of one."
"Ah. Then your mother has lied to you once more, my dear. Come with me." Lucius rose and stalked off into the shadows. Cecily, her mind swimming with so many thoughts that she felt as though she was drowning, ran after him. A middle name? Godmothers? She didn't even know that her Aunt Luna was her godmother, although logically if she had known that she had a godmother, Cecily knew she would have insisted on knowing who her godfather was. She could understand why her mother had lied but the sense of betrayal she felt as each lie was uncovered knew no bounds. Was anything her mother had told her true?
"Here." Lucius pointed to a photo on the wall. Cecily stood on tip-toes to see it better. The photo showed her mother next to Severus Snape, both overjoyed, each holding a small wrapped bundle with thin black hair. Lucius stood behind the two; an equally aristocratic woman to his left who was evidently Narcissa - her Aunt Narcissa! - and her Aunt Luna was on the other side of Narcissa. To the right of Lucius was her Aunt Ginny and, on the end of the row, an unmistakably proud Headmistress McGonagall.
"That photo was taken two weeks after you were born," Lucius said quietly. "To celebrate the birth of Imogen Jean Snape and Cecily Eileen Snape. Jean being your Muggle grandmother's name, I understand, as well as your mother's middle name; Eileen is of course for Severus' mother. He was reluctant to name you for his mother, but he had agreed to let your mother choose the names for girls in exchange for the pleasure of naming the child if it was a boy. Severus sulked for a week when Hermione refused to change her choices." Severus Snape, the surly spy, sulking? That mental image made Cecily laugh. Scorpius, who was more than familiar with the many moods of Severus Snape, simply smirked.
"Snape? I'm a Snape… I never thought of that. I mean, I know Imogen is, but it never occurred to me that I am, too." Cecily's voice was low and confused. "Eileen… Cecily Snape. Cecily Eileen Snape." Learning her real name, who her godparents were - this was too much, they should never have swapped places like this. If Imogen was here with her everything would be okay, and oh, for a hug from her mother!
"I want my mum," she whispered, wiping away her tears. "I want her, but I don't want her. Why, Uncle Lucius? Why did she lie to me? Why did they take Imogen away?" She was openly crying now, much to the evident discomfort of both Scorpius and Lucius. "Why did they take away my daddy?" Lucius and Scorpius shared looks, having a silent conversation. Scorpius left quietly and Lucius guided Cecily back to a seat.
"The story is a cruel one, Cecily. Your mother and father have fierce tempers. They loved each other passionately, but they fought like demons. After you were born things grew worse. Severus was afraid of fatherhood, having had an unpleasant experience with his own father, and Hermione struggled to balance her work with her home life. She was used to immersing herself in research and had difficulty adjusting to children pulling her from it. They loved you, of course they did, but the changes to their lifestyle meant that your parents argued more and more." Scorpius had returned, but he was not alone. Delicate arms pulled Cecily into a loving embrace. She inhaled a delicious floral scent and guessed that this was Narcissa, her aunt, and cried all the more.
"Your parents were forced to learn a difficult lesson, Cecily," Lucius continued reluctantly. He disliked making things so clear but there was no escaping the fact that Cecily was a Gryffindor and therefore needed the blunt truth "They learnt what happens when two powerful people argue with their wands out. Instead of cursing your father she found herself in the middle of Diagon Alley, with you in her arms, and a powerful force preventing her from returning to Imogen. Their argument created a vow, you see, and the magic had decided that Severus would be willing to give up a child if it meant giving up your mother." Lucius stood and turned his back to Cecily, allowing her some privacy to cry.
"Of course," Narcissa continued, allowing her husband time to compose himself, "Severus immediately regretted it, but his pride wouldn't let him apologise. Your mother and father suffer from a similar affliction, which is the inability to admit that they are wrong. They haven't seen each other since that day." Cecily nodded, not caring that she was rumpling her aunt's fine robes. That was what magic was for, after all. She drew back from Narcissa and looked up at her cool, beautiful aunt.
"Why did he take Imogen?" she asked in a small voice. "Did he hate me that much?"
"He doesn't hate you, Cecily," Narcissa said reassuringly. Lucius turned around with such force that he sent papers flying from his desk.
"My dear Cecily, Severus confides in me as he does no one else, and I can assure you that he loves you and misses you," Lucius said swiftly. "He ordered your Uncle Harry to find a loophole, a way out which meant he could have you back, as did your mother. I assisted Mr Potter in his search, however there was nothing to be done. The vow was created between your parents - I assume this means that only they could break it, and as at the time they refused to speak to each other to co-ordinate their efforts, nothing was ever done.
"Every day he misses you, Cecily. Every day he is aware that somewhere out there is a daughter he cannot see, cannot touch. I don't know what it will mean now that you and Imogen have swapped places, but I hope you can bring an end to this ugly situation. The only time your father has ever been truly happy was when he was with your mother. When he had two beautiful daughters to be proud of. I will help you, Cecily Snape, because I want my friend's happiness back."
"So you see, Imogen, it was and it wasn't their fault." Harry and Imogen were sitting out in the paddock, watching the others play Quidditch. "They didn't mean for it to happen this way, but if they hadn't been arguing and had been better able to talk things through…"
"You're absorbing things a little too well, Imogen. Do you need some sweet tea?"
"I'm not in shock, Uncle Harry. I'm very, very angry." Imogen was staring out across the grass, not really seeing anything. Harry recognised the look in her eyes. It was the fiercely proud temper of Severus Snape, combined with the determination of Hermione. Cecily had the same temper in her. He almost felt sorry for Hermione when Imogen would inevitably get hold of her.
"You have every right to be. Just try and remember that they love you, okay? You won't recognise the changes in your mother, but it's plain to see for those of us who have known her for years. She is so sad and lonely now. After she separated from your father, Hermione lost a lot of her love for life. Her heart broke and she has never been able to fix it." Harry watched as James dived for the Snitch, closely followed by Louis, and smiled up at his son. He couldn't imagine life without any of his three. From the way Ron was watching Rose and Roxanne - Double Trouble, as the others called them (at least, when they held the bats in their hands) - he knew his friend felt the same. Living without one of her daughters had broken Hermione, but it was more than that.
"Imogen, I'm going to let you in on a little secret," Harry said quietly. Imogen looked up curiously at her newfound uncle. "It's very important that you know that Hermione- that your mother, I mean - is still in love with your father."
"She- she is?"
"Yes. She would never admit it, but she's stubborn like that. She cries herself to sleep at night and it isn't just your name she says. Aunt Ginny told me."
Imogen looked away from him, up to the Quidditch game. James had missed the Snitch thanks to an excellent swing by Roxanne, and a heated argument was breaking out. Teddy and Victoire had flown up to referee. The noise and atmosphere was unlike anything she had ever felt before. This was what family felt like. This was what her family felt like. It wasn't surprising that Cecily was so open with her affection, given an environment like this. It hurt Imogen so much to see what she had missed out on. As much as she loved her father and his friends, this was so different, so fun. Imogen knew she shouldn't be so angry at her father, but she was glad she hadn't been at home when she'd found this out.
"If they love each other, why don't they just say sorry?" she wondered aloud. "When I have a fight with Scorpius we have to say sorry."
"Things are a bit more complicated when you're a grown-up," Harry confided in her. "You have to say sorry yourself - there's no one to make you. I don't know about your dad, he doesn't talk to me if he can help it, but I know your mum is scared. At first she was angry and stubborn, she said that your father had to say sorry first. Then she was afraid that if she tried to speak to him, he would take Cecily away from her. Love makes people do silly things, Imogen."
"I love my dad," Imogen said softly. "I told him that I hated him the other day. I think I hate him now, but I still love him. Is it like that?"
"Yes," Harry confirmed, offering her a tissue. "It is exactly like that."
"We had a plan," Imogen said, grateful that Uncle Harry was avoiding looking at her tears. "Scorpius is going to owl Al and invite us over on Christmas afternoon. Cecily is supposed to be there and we were going to confront them. I don't know if we should any more."
"Why not?" Harry asked, surprising her. She had expected him to be a bit more careful. Harry grinned. "Your mother is always telling me to think things through before I act, but things have worked out okay so far." Harry ran his hand through his hair, trying to find the right words. "Listen, Imogen. Your mother and father have let it go on too long. They won't talk to each other so if you two want to be friends without having to keep it secret, if you want to stay together and be sisters properly, you will have to take matters into your own hands. I'm not saying that they'll get back together. Ten years is a long time to nurse a hurt. What I am saying is that if you don't talk to them, they will never know how you feel." Harry stood up and waved up at the players, signalling for Al to come down. "I'll talk to Uncle Ron tonight. He'll be the most difficult one about going to a Malfoy's. Even your mother is over- well, that's for her to tell you." Al was flying down now; he took in Imogen's tear-stained face and his father's knowing look and landed somewhat nervously.
"Don't worry, Imogen," Harry said, smiling at her. "Al and I will make sure you get to Malfoy Manor. After that, it's up to you." He went inside with Al and Imogen returned to watching the game, her mind in a turmoil.
Cecily was sitting on her hands, hair covering her face, waiting for her father to arrive. They were dining at Malfoy Manor. Lucius had briefed her on Imogen's mannerisms from an outsider's perspective and his small nod as she glanced up let her know she was more successful this time. Scorpius kept patting her hand to reassure her. Narcissa flitted about nervously. Draco and Astoria, however, were blissfully ignorant and kept a gentle conversation going about school, lessons, Quidditch, business, and shopping. Imogen and Cecily shared a distaste for shopping which made it easy for her to tune out.
When the fireplace flared green Cecily thought her heart would stop. She remembered Lucius' words and Imogen's caution before they left the train: remember, I'm really mad at Dad right now. Anger came easily to Cecily - all she had to do was think about ten years without a sister. What was harder was suppressing the yearning she felt to set eyes on the father she never knew she had. She kept her head down, pretending to study a book, whilst her eyes flitted up to the fireplace.
First she noticed the robes, a wall of black towering over most of the room's occupants. Only Lucius was taller, and it was a close call then. Then she noticed the stark features; pale skin and black hair, eyes like onyx. His hair was the same colour as hers. Cecily gripped her book a little more tightly. Then she finally took in the rest; the scowl, the stiffness of posture, the confident stride. He practically radiated power and anger as he stalked to take a place beside Lucius. She noticed him glance in her direction, but lowered her eyes again. Her heart felt like it would beat right out of her chest. Her father was right there. She had a twin, and a father, and he was sitting almost opposite her, muttering under his breath in a silken voice about the ignorance of the Ministry.
"Easy," Scorpius murmured, his lips barely moving. Cecily managed to breathe and then rose.
"May I be excused?" she asked, mimicking Imogen's speech patterns - a soft lilt, a sullen undertone, a clipped end to the question.
"Imogen," her father started. She lifted her chin and studied a point on the wall behind his head. She heard him sigh.
"Thank you." She turned stiffly and walked from the room, counting her steps to try and keep from running. At this point she wasn't sure what direction she would run in. After twenty-six steps the door closed behind her. Cecily leaned against it and felt her breaths come in short gasps.
"Scorpius, would you please escort Imogen to her room and ensure she eats?" That was Uncle Lucius, her unexpected saviour. Scorpius spoke quietly and then she felt him emerge next to her, closing the door before he patted her shoulder. Cecily turned into him and started to cry quietly.
"I don't know what to do with her, Lucius," her father was saying behind the doors. "She's as impossible as her mother."
"Is Imogen speaking to you yet, Severus?"
"Not a word, not even an owl. Minerva has been my only contact with the school; she has been keeping me appraised of her progress. Of course, I'm relieved that she's a Slytherin, and her grades are adequate considering she missed half the term, but I wish she would tell me herself. She won. She is at that accursed school. Why will she not be magnanimous in victory?"
"Would you be, Severus?" That was Aunt Narcissa.
"Of course, I-"
"No lying at the dinner table, Uncle." That was Uncle Draco.
"Are all women this impossible?" Her father was despairing. The other occupants were laughing at his plaintive tone.
"I'm afraid it won't get any easier. I remember the spectacular arguments that Andromeda and my mother used to get in to. She's nearly a teenager, Severus, and that is the worst of all." Cecily stifled a giggle at Narcissa's words, glad that she had stayed so close to the doors - this insight into her father's troubles was enlightening.
"What is really troubling you, Professor?" That, Cecily recognised, was the soft but clear voice of her Aunt Astoria. There was a sigh which could only have come from her father.
"You know what."
"Has Minerva mentioned them meeting?"
"No. Would you trust a Gryffindor, Lucius?"
"Of all those present, you are the only one with a track record of trusting Gryffindors, my friend." There was silence and the clinking of cutlery on plates. Cecily and Scorpius looked at each other, each determined to owl Imogen about the conversation. They were about to move away when they heard Narcissa clear her throat delicately.
"Don't you think it's about time you stopped this nonsense, Severus? If I recall, you have a duty to both your daughters, not just the one living with you." Cecily bit her lip, listening closely for her father's answer, but Scorpius put his hand on her arm. He led her away, waiting until they were on the next floor before speaking.
"Before you explode, Cecily, listen to me. There were two reasons I moved you away. One, because Grandfather knew you would have been listening - there is some Slytherin in you, it seems - and he had put up Silencing charms. Two, because after losing his temper Uncle Severus usually storms out, and it would be very bad if he caught us by the doors." Cecily swallowed the outrage that had been building and sighed.
"You're right. I know you're right. But this is the first time I've ever seen him, Scorpius. It's so hard to keep being Imogen when all I want to do is hug him, or hit him. I want to get to know my father." She heard a door slam downstairs and stifled a giggle, then sobered. Scorpius knew her father better than she did.
"You'd best go to your room. He might come looking for you once he's calmed down," Scorpius advised. Cecily didn't trust herself to speak so she just nodded and wandered away to Imogen's room at the Manor. It was much like Cecily's room in their cottage at Godric's Hollow: books everywhere, not as tidy as it could be, clothes and robes scattered, and a few keepsakes. Where she had a broom, Imogen had a chess set. Cecily sat down at that now, idly toying with the pieces. They had an easy life. Chess pieces didn't have to worry about families. Hopefully Imogen wouldn't play chess with Uncle Ron over the holidays if she was good at it. Cecily was much like her mother; strategically bad at the game and more concerned about the pieces. At least Imogen had a Muggle set, none of this barbaric killing of pieces.
Cecily stiffened. The deep voice from the doorway could only belong to one person, the person she wanted to see most in the world right now. She couldn't speak, her mouth was too dry.
"May I come in?"
Cecily nodded. She heard the door close gently and footsteps move over towards a chair. There was silence until he spoke again.
"How was school?"
Cecily focused on moving the chess pieces aimlessly across the board.
"The Headmistress tells me your grades are acceptable."
Oh, how she wanted to tell him the truth! How she wanted to beg to brew potions with him. Potions was her favourite subject and her father was one of the most renowned Potions masters in the world, but she couldn't breathe a word of who she was to him.
"Imogen, you are behaving in an extremely childish manner. Turn around and face me." Cecily set down the white knight she was holding and finally turned to meet her father's eyes. He looked extremely odd sitting in a child's bedroom, his hands folded neatly on his lap and his face schooled into a calm, emotionless expression. She scrutinised him, noticing the tension. Here, she realised, was a man who didn't know the first thing about women, no matter what age they were. It was no wonder that Imogen ran rings around him. If Cecily had tried not talking to her mother, she would have truly regretted it. Cecily folded her arms and raised an eyebrow at him, indicating that she was paying attention without giving in and speaking.
"I… apologise for our somewhat heated arguments," he said awkwardly. He wasn't really watching her, but instead was focused on his hands. "I have only ever wanted what was best for you."
Like taking half my family away? That was what she wanted to say.
"I am aware of this," she said stiffly. It was easier to talk to him than she had expected: all the hurt and anger she was feeling matched Imogen's current attitude towards their father.
"I still maintain that Beauxbatons would provide you with a healthier learning environment."
"You are an extremely stubborn child, Imogen."
"You don't listen to me, Dad." The words poured out as she repeated what Imogen had told her, crying into the night over the way he had behaved. "You treat me like I'm a baby, or an idiot. You don't respect my opinion. You treat Scorpius better than me - your own daughter! I shouldn't have had to resort to these methods, Dad. We should be able to have a conversation, or even a debate. Your idea of what is best for me differs from my own and I do not appreciate being told that my opinions are worthless, or that I am hysterical, or that I'm ignorant to the world. You can't wrap me up in cotton wool forever. I have to be able to live my own life." Her father flinched under her onslaught.
"Imogen, I am sorry." His sincerity was clear. "I realise that you wish to fend for yourself. You have always been extremely independent."
"So why the big fuss over Hogwarts, Dad?" This wasn't something they had rehearsed but Cecily was angry, angry at his ability to so neatly ignore the fact that she existed. She wanted to scream, to say don't I matter, too? Don't you love me? But she couldn't, she had promised. "It is the best school for witches and wizards in the world. You have always encouraged me to do my best, and yet you want to send me to a second-rate school?"
"I was of the opinion that it would be a different experience for you. The chance to study abroad and absorb a different culture would be enlightening."
"I can do that when I'm older. I didn't like feeling like you had sent me away." Cecily paused, then drove the knife home. "I felt like you didn't want me here."
Severus Snape's usually grim face had twisted now, and Cecily was sure she could see tears in his eyes. He looked sad, hopeless. She wondered how hard it had truly been for him to lose her, to lose her mother. On impulse she went over, sat on his lap, and wrapped her arms around him.
"You haven't done this in years," he commented, drawing her closer. Cecily pressed her cheek against his chest, inhaling his scent. He was potions ingredients and Cleansing charms.
"You looked like you needed it," she muttered, trying to sound as defensive as Imogen did when she hugged someone. "Did you brew Veritaserum today?" she asked absently, toying with a button on his robes. He chuckled, a deep rumbling in his chest.
"Since when did you know enough about Potions to recognise that?" he asked, stroking her hair fondly. Cecily thought quickly.
"It was mentioned in class and I looked it up," she said off-handedly. That was something both she and Imogen had confessed to doing and it passed muster here, too. He laughed again and Cecily relaxed, her eyes drifting closed as he gently stroked her hair. It was the same thing her mother did when she was ill, or upset. Her anger was still there but fading into the background as stronger emotions, like the need to know her father and the desire to spend as much time as possible with him before term started, took over. There would be plenty of time to be mad at him later, she thought to herself.
Some time later Cecily awoke, hearing the door creak open. She stared at the wall, lying on the bed now instead of where she had fallen asleep.
"Did you speak to her?" Aunt Narcissa's hushed voice drifted over to her. Cecily kept her breathing steady to maintain the illusion of sleep.
"I believe we have negotiated a ceasefire." Her father's voice was dry and amused.
"You do her a disservice in not telling her, Severus. She needs to know."
"There will be time enough for that in the future, Narcissa. Let me enjoy having my daughter back for a while, because when she finds out, I may lose her forever."
"You won't lose her, Severus."
"I won't take that chance. Is Lucius in his study?" There was silence and then quick footsteps moving away from the room. Cecily jumped when a cold hand rested on her forehead.
"Your Uncle Draco used to pretend to sleep like that, too," whispered Narcissa. "It's better if you learn to snore convincingly. It's how my sisters and I managed to fool our parents when we were younger." Cecily turned over and smiled.
"I'll try harder," she promised. Narcissa touched her cheek gently.
"It will all work out in the end. Try and get some sleep." Narcissa kissed her forehead and then left, shutting the door behind her. Cecily buried her face in her pillows and cried herself to sleep.
Christmas with the Potter-Weasley-Granger tribe was unlike anything Imogen had ever experienced. She awoke at six in the morning to find Lily Luna jumping on her bed, still in her pyjamas and clutching a stocking, singing "Santa Claus is here again!" Imogen was shocked to see a stocking hanging at the foot of her own bed, and it took mere seconds for her to revert to the same state as Lily. It was the first time she had ever had a Christmas stocking. This side of her family celebrated Christmas in a completely different way. Last night there had been Muggle songs, games, a fireworks display by Uncle George, and Christmas stories by the fire until sleep had overtaken them and they were hustled off to bed to wait for Santa to arrive. Imogen was getting used to her mother. She was distant but affectionate, always there but never fully present. After speaking to Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny, Imogen understood why and was trying to make life as easy as possible for her mother without giving the game away.
"Morning!" Rose burst into her room, her own stocking in hand. "Al, she's decent, come on! Budge up, Lils." Rose threw herself onto the end of the bed and Al, looking half-asleep, trudged in behind her.
"Aren't we a bit old for stockings?" Imogen asked Rose quietly as Lily threw herself at Al. Rose shrugged.
"When are you ever too old for extra pressies?"
"Good point." Imogen tipped hers up and was pleased to see a chocolate frog, some Bertie Botts, an apple, a book that had been shrunk to fit, and a hand-knitted Snitch. She fingered the contents, a small smile on her lips.
"Are you okay Cecily?" asked Lily, very serious as she studied her. Imogen smiled back. It was impossible not to like Lily; she had an infectious smile. No wonder Cecily doted on her.
"I'm very sleepy, Lily," she answered, just as serious. "I spent all night listening for Santa." Actually she had spent all night wondering how today would play out, until her mother had opened the door and hit her with a sleeping spell. Imogen assumed this was standard preparation for Christmas. Lily, however, beamed at Imogen's answer and began to chatter on how she was sure she had heard his reindeer on the roof. Imogen sat back, opening her chocolate frog. The card fell out and she almost burst into tears as she saw Severus Snape. There he was, her father, glaring at her before sidling out of the frame.
"It's alright, Immy," Al whispered as Rose started to tickle Lily. "You'll see him in a couple of hours."
"I will," agreed Imogen, "and he will have a lot of questions to answer."
"Alright, children!" That was Aunt Ginny downstairs. "If I don't see you dressed and lined up in ten minutes I'm coming up to get you!" Lily turned white and scarpered, closely followed by Al. Rose took the opportunity to give Imogen a hug.
"We're all behind you," she promised as she left. Imogen dressed silently. It seemed like another world here, especially with how touchy-feely everyone was. She couldn't remember the last time she had hugged her father, or anyone at all, and now hugs were around every corner. It was… nice.
Her clothes had been chosen with care today. Cecily had provided her with a spare Weasley jumper, a fetching shade of blue that Nanny Molly had used twice by mistake. Dark jeans, hair back, wand in her back pocket, and she was ready. She got downstairs just as Aunt Ginny was counting down. James, Al and Lily were already ready, standing by Uncle Harry. Hugo was tucked under Aunt Susan's arm and Ron was talking quietly to Hermione. Rose barrelled down the stairs at the last minute.
"Sorry Aunt Ginny, I wanted to borrow a book from Ceely and I had to wait for her to get dressed." Rose scooted over to her father as Ginny raised her eyebrow.
"The only reason we meet here is because Cecily normally takes the longest, Rose. I don't like you proving me wrong," Ginny mock chided. Hermione laughed.
"Ceely does like her sleep," she said, walking over to stand by Imogen. She planted a kiss in her hair and whispered to her, "Merry Christmas, sweetheart." Imogen hugged her. She couldn't get enough of hugging her.
"Merry Christmas, mum." They stood quietly, arms around each other, as Harry started to hand out Floo powder. He gave some to Hermione and then, when Hermione led the way to the fireplace, pressed a small amount into Imogen's hands.
"Just in case you need to make a quick exit from Malfoy Manor," he winked. Imogen grinned and ran to catch her mother's hand. The fire flared green, and they were on their way to the Burrow for the day. Imogen's heart was beating faster with every second that passed, bringing ever closer her reunion with Cecily and the chance to see her parents together.
Christmas at Malfoy Manor was a decidedly boring affair. Cecily had woken at six to find no stocking, no decorations, nothing in her room. She missed the noise of Lily's footsteps pounding up the stairs. She missed her mother's laughter drifting up. She missed Aunt Ginny's countdown. Here, there was absolutely nothing. She got up and made her way to the library; it was empty. So was Uncle Lucius' study, the drawing room, the dining room, the gardens. Everyone was still in bed.
"This is so boring," she sighed, eventually claiming a seat in the conservatory and picking up the nearest book. How Imogen did this every year without going insane was beyond her. Where was the noise, the fun?
A pop from behind her had her drawing her wand and spinning. It was only a house-elf, who looked at her disapprovingly before beginning to summon decorations into place. Cecily watched in amazement as tinsel and baubles appeared, flying through the air to decorate the airy room.
"Why didn't you do this yesterday?" she asked at last. The house-elf, who she thought was called Loppy, sniffed at her haughtily.
"Master does not want his house cluttered with Muggle bitses," the house-elf replied. "Master pretties it for young Master's sake, Missy-Not-Immy. Young Master likes the pretties."
"What did you call me?" Cecily dropped her book. The house-elf levitated it back to her.
"Missy-Not-Immy. Master says Loppy is not to say to Master Professor." Loppy looked her over and then returned to decorating, occasionally muttering under her breath about filthy Muggle trinkets. Cecily looked down at the book but didn't read it. Her heart had been racing - Imogen had never mentioned the house-elves. What if they had given her away? Thank Merlin for Uncle Lucius!
"There you are!" Scorpius, bleary-eyed, was winding his way over to her. "I've been looking for you. Al owled me last night to say you might be up early this morning." Stifling a yawn he sank into a chair, accepting the cup that Loppy placed into his hands. "Are you okay today?"
"You're being very obvious for a Slytherin, Scorpius."
"You, Al and Rose are bad influences." He gave in and yawned. "Why're you up so early?"
"Lily wakes me up at six every Christmas morning. She has for years. We all meet at our house and then Floo to the Burrow for the day. Nanny Molly does a big dinner, we have lots of presents, eat until we're sick and then Uncle George puts on the entertainment. Last year Roxanne wrote a play. Grandpa Arthur makes us sing Muggle Christmas songs, and then we go home. It's wonderful." Cecily smiled, sad that she was missing it but excited at the same time. "I guess it's Immy's turn this year."
"Oh dear." Scorpius tried to sound sympathetic but failed miserably. "Imogen is not a morning person." Cecily couldn't hold back the surprisingly evil chuckle at the thought of what her twin might be enduring.
"It'll only be for a few hours. After dinner, all bets are off." Cecily watched as Loppy transformed the conservatory into a winter wonderland. "I hope Mum forgives me for this."
"She will. She loves you, Cecily. She's your mother." Cecily offered a smile of thanks, and the two sat in companionable silence - one reading, one dozing - until the breakfast summons rang.
That afternoon found Scorpius and Cecily playing Exploding Snap by the fireplace, keeping their distance from the adults so that they wouldn't notice that Cecily's face was paler than usual, or that her hands were shaking. Narcissa was deflecting attention from them by trying to convince Draco that he needed more children, which had lead to some heated debates over the merits of having a second Malfoy heir. Cecily was barely listening, concentrating only on the whoosh and crackle of the fireplace. It felt like days passed by in the time that passed before Lucius called them over.
"Someone is attempting to Floo in," he said casually. "Scorpius, you should be ready to greet your guests." Scorpius took his place by the fireside. Cecily sat at the table, eyes riveted to the fire as the flames turned green.
"Guests?" her father asked, only half paying attention.
"Friends from school," Draco clarified. Cecily saw her father turn to meet her eyes. She met his, her own eyes challenging, and then she rose. A horde of Potters and Weasleys started to tumble through the fire, followed by a confused Hermione Granger and, at last-
"Immy!" Cecily flew across the room.
"Ceely!" Imogen took to her feet and met her twin halfway. She pulled her hair out of the ponytail, Cecily shed her robes, and the twins were reunited at last, identical right down to the Weasley jumper. Gasps sounded, not just from their parents but also from those who didn't know - Draco and Astoria were staring wide-eyed at the twins. Ron and Susan shared a look and were now glaring at Harry and Ginny. James' jaw dropped and Lily began to cry. Hugo, overwhelmed by everything, hid behind his father.
Two furious voices rang out. The twins separated and, holding hands, turned to face their parents. Hermione was standing by the fire, no anger evident in her face - just shock, longing, love, confusion, hurt. Severus was bearing down on them, anger mixing with love on his face.
"Mum," Cecily said casually.
"Dad," Imogen snapped, her tone causing him to halt immediately.
"You swapped places?" That was from Ron.
"Aunt Ginny figured it out," Imogen said smugly.
"Aunt Ginny knows everything," Cecily said.
This quiet voice was from Hermione. She crossed over to them, shaking from head to toe, and knelt down before them. Her eyes flickered from face to face and then, voice filled with wonder,
"Imogen? Is it really you?"
"It's me, Mum," Imogen answered awkwardly, not as confident now that she was facing her mother as herself and not disguised as Cecily. "It's been me since term ended."
"That's how you knew it was Veritaserum," Severus said abruptly to Cecily. "I should have known. Why did you lie to me?"
"Why do you think?" This came from neither twin, but from Hermione. She rose now in anger, all of it directed at the imposing man opposite her. "Why do you think they lied to us, Severus? Because they evidently discovered that we have been lying to them all their lives! Cecily has been begging me for years to know about you, and I'm ashamed to say I couldn't bring myself to tell her the truth. Did you tell Imogen, Severus, or did you bury your head in the sand as usual?"
"I see you still haven't managed to engage your brain before speaking," Severus snapped back, his black eyes flashing dangerously. "You can hardly accuse me of burying my head when you confessed to doing the same!"
"At least I'm willing to face up to my mistakes!"
"You should be. You have more than enough experience at it!" Severus and Hermione were standing almost nose to nose, glaring hatred at each other. The tension around them was incredible. Neither of them noticed Ginny and Susan usher their children into another room, followed by Draco and Astoria. Neither noticed Cecily and Imogen clutch at each other, terrified of the hot fury rolling off their parents in waves.
"Oh, because you're perfect, are you?"
"More than you could ever be, you foolish, pathetic Gryffindor!"
"Typical. Still resorting to house rivalries when you can't come up with something original. That is why we didn't work out, because you couldn't see past your prejudices. You couldn't treat me as an equal, could you? Just couldn't admit a Gryffindor could be worth something to you!"
"I am amazed with how often it is my fault in these situations. I have known better Gryffindors than you could ever hope to be, Hermione!"
"If you mention Lily bloody Potter one more time I really will cast a Castration Hex! Every time we argued, every time you thought I'd failed at something, she was there! There were three people in our relationship and the dead one was always more important to you, wasn't she? I could never match up to perfect, precious Lily!"
"I owed her everything!"
"You owed her nothing, you stupid sod. You saved Harry's life! Several times over!"
"You know nothing, foolish girl!"
"I wasn't a girl when you knocked me up!"
"Maybe not but you were foolish then and you are foolish now. The only one who ever drew a comparison to Lily was you. However, as you excel at putting words in other people's mouths, you made out that it was me!"
"How could I not compare myself to her? You still had pictures of her all around the house, but you didn't have any of me! I'm terribly sorry you had to settle for me, Sev. Maybe you should have tried one of the other Muggleborn Gryffindors, I'm sure there's a red-head out there somewhere for you." A hex sizzled past her and hit the wall.
"Ungrateful wretch! After everything I gave you!"
"Gave me? You gave me two beautiful girls, and then you tore one away from me. Why exactly should I be grateful for that?"
"That accursed vow was not my fault!"
"Who exactly was it who said, and I quote, I would give anything to get you out of my life? It certainly wasn't me! This is entirely your fault, with your temper and your stubborn pride and your allergy to apologies and your stupid obsession with her! Nearly ten years, Sev, ten years of knowing Imogen was out there, knowing that you created this curse which meant I couldn't see her, couldn't hold her, couldn't be there for her. Every time I looked at Cecily I wondered how she was, where she was. I didn't even know if she was still alive. I hoped that one day you would be able to apologise, but you never did." Hermione deflated a little. "I wonder if you ever even loved them," she whispered, closing her eyes. "If you ever loved me."
"Please don't say anything." Hermione had no anger left; ten years had flooded out of her and left her drained. She couldn't bring herself to look at the man who had caused her so much hurt over the years. "I don't know why the vow hasn't activated, Sev, but I want to make the most of it. I just want to spend some time with both my daughters, while I can."
"That may be difficult." Lucius' voice was sharp and smooth as he stepped in between them. Hermione's head was turned away, her eyes closed and tears forming at their corners. She looked tired; her hair was lifeless, her skin pale, her body drooping with weariness. The excitement and happiness that had once been hers had been stolen from her by time. Severus, too, looked tired and older than his years. He stood with his hand half extended to Hermione, his eyes plainly showing how conflicted he felt. Lucius, immaculate as ever, made them both look out of place.
"Whilst you were arguing," Lucius continued once he was sure that he had their attention, "your beloved daughters left the room. I have no doubt they blame themselves for your egos and are now hiding from you."
"Can you find them, Lucius?" asked Severus, quiet and calm. "Hermione and I have much to discuss with them." Hermione nodded in agreement and looked around the room. Lucius was as haughty as ever, impeccably dressed in charcoal grey robes. Narcissa, resplendent in icy blue, showed far more emotion, sadness playing across her face as she watched the scene unfold. Ron and Harry had their wands drawn, but who they were going to restrain wasn't quite clear.
"I can, and I will once I have said my piece." Lucius folded his arms and arched an elegant eyebrow at them. "I knew it was Cecily, Severus, as did Narcissa. It is a plan the children conceived once they met. They decided to visit the parent they didn't know so that if you both decided they would never see each other again, they would at least have the memories of this Christmas."
"We knew it was Imogen," Harry added quietly, flinching under the force of Hermione's anger. "Ginny worked it out and told me."
"I didn't know anything," Ron supplied. Harry rolled his eyes. Lucius quieted them both with a look before turning to his friend.
"Severus, Cecily is a charming, if boisterous, young lady. She excels at Potions and wishes to become the youngest accredited Potions Mistress ever. She had a Potions kit for her seventh birthday and proceeded to use it to make butterscotch and to blow up the house, not on the same occasions. She enjoys Quidditch, is a passable Chaser, and loses herself in a good book frequently." Severus hung his head. Lucius turned to Hermione.
"Miss Granger, Imogen is quiet and poised. She can perform Arithmantic calculations to OWL standard already. She is fond of Charms and wants to become an Animagus. She can't sit upright on a broom for more than two seconds without falling over and once tried to free my house-elves using hats pulled from Christmas crackers." Harry and Ron both started snickering at this; even Narcissa placed a hand over her mouth to hide her smile. Lucius allowed them time to compose themselves before turning his anger once more onto Hermione and Severus.
"You have two wonderful children who have suffered long enough for your faults. If you cannot come to an arrangement that will allow them to be together, then I will happily use my status as their godfather to sue the Wizengamot for custody. You are their parents and you cannot continue to allow your children to continue down this path." Hermione was openly crying now. Severus had flinched under Lucius' words. Meeting his friend's grey eyes, he allowed his sorrow to show through. Lucius seemed satisfied with what he saw there, for he clapped his hands and a house-elf appeared.
"Dilly, you and the other house-elves are to search the Manor and its grounds for Miss Imogen and Miss Cecily. You are to report to me immediately once they are found."
"Yes Master," the house-elf squeaked, disappearing. Lucius took one last look at Severus and Hermione, then left the room. Narcissa, Ron and Harry followed quickly, the latter two whispering between themselves. Only Hermione's sobs punctuated the silence.
"Hermione…" Severus looked over at her, not sure of what to say to make her feel better. "Hermione, they will forgive us, once we explain," he tried.
"Forgive us for what, Sev? For putting ourselves before them? That's what it comes down to. We are horrible, horrible parents and they will never want to see us again." Severus put an arm around her shoulders and drew her over to sit down. He rubbed small circles on her back until the cries started to ease.
"We were both foolish," he said softly. Hermione lifted her head from her hands and gave him a watery smile. Even with red, puffy eyes and a tear-stained face she was beautiful.
"I guess we were," she sniffed. "I wanted to owl you so badly."
"Why didn't you?"
"I tried, for a few months. The letters would be okay until the owl took off and then they would burst into flames. Harry stopped me from using Hedwig Two after she came home with scorched tail feathers. He said it was the vow, that because you had wanted me out of your life, it wouldn't let me contact you. After that I gave up." Hermione leaned back into the settee, closing her eyes. "I gave up completely. You took everything from me, Sev."
"You sealed the vow, Hermione," he reminded her without malice. "You said go on then, and the magic sealed."
"We were idiots."
"I thought you would find someone else." This confession led Hermione to open her eyes again and she looked at Severus curiously. He took a deep breath before continuing. "You were young, beautiful, clever. You would have no trouble finding another. Imogen would have come to live with you, and everything would have been made right."
"Oh, Severus." Hermione hesitated and then put her hand on his. "You are blind when it comes to women, aren't you?" When he looked at her, confused, she smiled. "It's only ever been you, Sev. How could I give my heart to another, when it was already in your hands?" Severus was taken aback at this; his eyes widened, a deer in the headlights of her smile. She drew his hand closer and clasped it between her own. "I don't know why the magic of the vow has faded and given us this chance to talk, but if the least we accomplish is clearing the air between us, then I for one will be glad." Severus looked down at their hands, entwined on her lap.
"I as well," he said softly. "You are only the second person I have ever allowed to call me Sev," he added. Hermione giggled.
"You think I'd let anyone else call me Mimi?" He smiled at that, a hopeful smile, and looked up to meet her eyes.
"We will speak to Cecily and Imogen," he said, his voice low, "and then we will find time to speak to each other. Too much time has passed for us to regain what we have lost, but I would very much like to earn your friendship once more."
"I think I would like that, too." Hermione's smile was shy now and she tilted her head to let her hair fall, the same habit that Imogen had picked up. "Let's go and find the girls." Severus rose, pulling her gently to her feet, and they started towards the door. They were halfway there when it flew open and a furious Lucius stalked in, dragging a squealing house-elf by the ear. Behind him came Harry, Ginny and Ron.
"Tell them!" Lucius ordered, throwing the house-elf to the floor. "Now!"
"Tell us what?" asked Hermione, not noticing Severus' face fill with worry.
"Miss! Dilly is sorry, miss! House-elves cannot find Missy Immy and Missy-Not-Immy! Young missies is not here!"
"What? But they- they were here! How could two children get out of your house without you noticing?" Hermione cried, hands flying to her mouth.
"The Floo activated a short while ago. It would seem they had Floo powder in their possession, a subject which I insist you discuss with Mister Potter sometime." Lucius sneered at Harry and kicked the house-elf. "Dilly! Go and punish yourself." The house-elf popped out of existence and Lucius held up a hand to stall Hermione's outrage. "You can lecture me another time, Miss Granger. Right now it is not important." Hermione's anger transferred from Lucius to Harry, who was trying to hide behind Ginny.
"Harry." Her voice was cold and even, a sure sign that he was in trouble. "Did you give one of the girls Floo powder?"
"Well," he squirmed. Severus strode forward and grabbed him by his collar, lifting him off the ground.
"Do not toy with me, Potter! What happened?"
"Look, I gave Imogen some Floo powder. I knew you guys would have an argument and I thought she might want to take Cecily back home. That's all." Harry held his hands up defensively, making eye contact with Severus. "Use it, Snape," he said quietly. "You'll know it's the truth."
"If anything happens to my daughters," Severus hissed, "if so much as a hair on their heads is out of place, I will kill you."
"Sev, nothing will happen to them." Hermione came up and put her hand on Severus' shoulder. He slowly lowered Harry to the floor. "We'll go and find them. Harry, you'd better go and check your place. Ron, can you check yours?"
"Draco's gone to check Spinner's End," said Ginny as Harry and Ron made for the fireplace. "I'll check the Burrow. Send me a Patronus if you haven't found them and I'll get everyone out looking."
"What shall I do?" asked Hermione, pulling at her hair frantically.
"Stay here with Snape," Ginny advised. "If we find them we'll let you know. If we don't…"
"If we don't, I will personally mobilise the Ministry," Lucius said from behind them. "Shacklebolt and I have an understanding. If they are not at home, the Aurors will find them." Ginny Floo'd away. Narcissa entered with two steaming cups of tea and set it on a table.
"Susan and Astoria are looking after the other children. Severus, Hermione, I'm sure one of your friends will be bringing them back at any second. Have some tea." Hermione could smell the added Calming Draught but still picked up the cup, curling her hands around its warmth. She sat as Severus began to pace, both of them casting glances at the fireplace every other second. The silence reigned for an unbearable ten minutes, and then a silver light shot into the room and coalesced into a horse.
"Everyone's checked in and they aren't here," said Ginny's voice, worried. "Their trunks are missing. We're all heading out to look for them. Hold tight, Hermione. We'll find them." The horse dispersed. Severus swore, his fist hitting the wall. Hermione came over to stand beside him, leaning her head against his shoulder.
"They can't have gone far," she whispered. He looked away but she felt him lean into her, ever so slightly. They were disturbed again by another light; this time a silvery stag raced into the room. Harry's voice was low and urgent.
"They've taken the Cloak, Hermione." It disappeared and Hermione swore loudly.
"What cloak, Miss Granger?" asked Lucius carefully. Hermione met his gaze and he cowered under the fury in her eyes.
"The Invisibility Cloak. The third of the Deathly Hallows. It's Harry's, and the girls have taken it."
Some way north of Godric's Hollow a broomstick was wobbling low to the ground.
"Hold it steady, Immy!"
"Just hurry up!" The broomstick was slowly disappearing as Cecily carefully tied the cloak around them. The broom steadied as Cecily regained control of it and they rose until they were hovering just over the trees.
"Ohh, I think I'm going to be sick."
"Don't be sick on the Cloak. Uncle Harry's going to go berserk when he realises it's gone." They flew on, the only sound being Imogen's quiet Point Me spells.
"Are we doing the right thing, Immy?"
"Did you want to stay there and watch them fight? Lumos." The glow of Imogen's wand lit both their pale, worried faces. "What if they said we couldn't see each other again? We had to leave, Ceely. Don't you see? Hogwarts is the only place that you and I can be sisters. We have to go back there and speak to the Headmistress. She'll understand, I know she will."
"Did you know that the Headmistress is your godmother?" Cecily adjusted the broom to follow Imogen's wand. They weren't sure where Hogwarts was exactly, only that if they headed north they were bound to find it. Imogen turned to look at Cecily.
"Yes, and Aunt Ginny is. Aunt Narcissa and Aunt Luna are mine. You haven't met Aunt Luna, have you? She's brilliant. She knows everything about magical creatures. She got me a Flusterwort-repelling kit last year for Christmas."
"What's a Flusterwort?"
"I have no idea. Did you know you have a middle name?"
"I didn't know I had one. Uncle Lucius showed me a photo from when we were little. It made me wonder what else we didn't know about ourselves. Immy, I don't want to go back to Mum and Dad. They hadn't even set eyes on each other before they were fighting! Let's just get back to school and maybe in the summer, we can stay with someone else. I don't want to be an only child any more."
"Me either. Point me." The wand wavered before rotating a little to the left. "This broom is really fast, Ceely."
"Uncle Harry's going to kill me."
"It's his Firebolt."
The lights were still on at Malfoy Manor. Narcissa had offered her home to all of them for the night, but Lily and Hugo had objected and that was that; they were off to stay with Nanny Molly. James had gone with them but Al and Rose were still at the Manor, trying to avoid the eyes of the grown-ups. Scorpius sat with them, as poised as ever, his hand hidden under the folds of his robes to hold Rose's. Of the adults, most were out searching for the twins. Susan had gone to help Molly settle the young ones and to keep her updated with news as Ron let her know in turn. Lucius was scouring the manor himself, insisting that his house-elves were incompetent and that they would turn up asleep in some alcove. Narcissa kept Hermione and Severus supplied with tea and biscuits as necessary, but mostly kept out of their way. A cloud of misery hung over the two.
"So, when was the last time you saw the girls?" Kingsley had arrived ten minutes ago, interrupting Lucius' search for long enough to get an idea of what had happened. He had already deployed Auror search parties to scour the areas around Godric's Hollow and Spinner's End, and now he was trying to glean what information he could from Severus and Hermione.
"When we got here," Hermione answered. Severus was deep in thought; she didn't even know if he had heard the question. "They were together. Severus and I had an argument… they disappeared during that. I don't know where they could be."
"I see." Kingsley sat on the table, ignoring Narcissa's glare. "We will find them, Hermione, but I need to know if there's anywhere you could think of that they might go to. Anywhere at all, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem."
"Well, there's all the family's houses - but we've checked them. Cecily likes Flourish and Blotts, I think she'd live there if she could. Severus, do you know where Imogen might go?" She touched his knee, a move which Kingsley kindly turned a blind eye to. He looked at her, and then at Kingsley.
"They'll go to Hogwarts," he said hoarsely.
"Hogwarts, from Godric's Hollow? That's impossible!" gasped Hermione. "Even on a broom- they're only children, they won't make it on their own. They could be anywhere from here to Scotland!"
"What makes you so sure they'll go back to school?" asked Kingsley.
"To any student with a difficult home life, Hogwarts is home," he said quietly. "Ask Potter. The Dark Lord was the same. It's a safe place where they can be together. I guarantee you, Shacklebolt, the girls are trying to get to Hogwarts."
"That makes it a bit easier to narrow down," Kingsley said, summoning his lynx Patronus. "I'll move most of the search parties to the north of Godric's Hollow and alert the Headmistress. Everyone knows they may be invisible so we're using other techniques to search." He passed his instructions on to his Patronus which slunk from the room. "I'll keep you updated. It's best you stay here in case they return."
"Thank you, Kings." Hermione watched him go and then sank back against Severus' shoulder. "Oh, Sev. What have we done to our poor girls?"
"We'll bring them home, Mimi. Once they understand that they won't be kept apart, things will be different." He was stiff but allowed her contact and Hermione tentatively put her hand into his.
"I'm glad the vow has been broken."
"As am I. Lucius and I discussed the matter briefly earlier. He and Potter have formulated a theory as to why the magic has weakened enough that we could meet." Severus leaned back and pulled Hermione into a hug, trying to draw what comfort he could from her. "They believe that at some point over the past few years, both of us repented at the same time. They believe that if we both wished the vow broken at the exact same time then the magic would take it as our rescinding the vow. It has happened previously, though instances are few and far between."
"So we could have sorted things out years ago?" asked Hermione. Severus pulled a face.
"Possibly. It depends on when the vow dissolved. However… I do not feel it would have been wise for us to face each other. In truth, I was not ready to see you again. Had we met previously, I may have overreacted."
"Overreacted?" Hermione burst into helpless giggles. "Sev, the first thing we did when we set eyes on each other was start screaming. You tried to hex me. I was starting the wand movements for a Castration Curse. We could have waited until we were in our nineties and we'd still have fought. There was too much hurt left over." She drew her knees up. "My mother always told me never to go to sleep on an argument. I wonder what she'd think if she knew I waited this long to try and sort it out?" Severus chuckled. He found it much easier to laugh when Hermione was around. It was one of the many little things that had caught his attention and made him hold on.
"We were so good together," Hermione sighed, toying with an errant curl of hair. "Most of the time. Then you'd say something, or I'd do something, and the wands would come out. You are the only person who could ever get me that angry."
"More annoying than Potter? That is not something I wish to have publicly known." Severus studied her and then the corners of his lips twitched in the half-smile she had once loved so dearly. "Clearly he has to try harder."
"I think he may have surpassed you tonight. It's a good thing he hasn't shown up. It's a very good thing that he and Ginny don't want any more kids. Honestly, what sort of idiot leaves the Invisibility Cloak lying around? And to top it all off, Ceely took his Firebolt! He doesn't use it much any more because it's a bit old-fashioned, but it's fast enough for the kids to play on. I think I'm going to strangle him if I see him." Hermione massaged her temples. Somewhere out there, her two daughters were alone and unprepared for the cold night, and it was all because she couldn't keep a civil tongue in her head. All because she had lied.
"Please hold me." Severus looked down at her for what felt like an age before he pulled her towards him, lying down so that she was across his chest.
"This is just for tonight," he warned. "We can't get tangled up again." Hermione sighed, breathing in his familiar scent - it was her Amortentia still, but he didn't need to know that - and nodded.
"Only until the girls get home safe and sound," she agreed. Satisfied, Severus began to stroke her hair, staring at the ceiling and praying the Aurors would find them soon. Hermione closed her eyes, her mind fixed on Cecily and Imogen, distracted from the tiny voice that was warning her about getting too close to Severus Snape again.
The broom was wobbling now, crossing a bleak English moor. Imogen was no longer talking; Cecily had taken over doing the Point Me spell. Imogen was dozing lightly against her, cuddling up to her for warmth. Cecily was trying to keep her eyes open, but it was proving difficult. She was so cold that all she wanted to do was curl up and sleep; she couldn't do that and steer a broom.
"Imogen," Cecily whispered. "Immy, my hands are cold."
"I'm getting cold, Immy. Do you know a Warming Charm?"
"No, the good ones are fourth year and I can't get the wand movements right."
"Oh." Cecily flew forward a little further. "I think it's going to snow, Immy. The clouds are just right for it. What should we do?"
"We could call the Knight Bus."
"If we call the Bus they'll take us back. Mum and Dad have probably noticed we've gone by now. I want to get to Hogwarts." Cecily steadied the broom before lifting her hands to her mouth, huffing on them and rubbing them together to try and warm them. "This Cloak doesn't keep you very warm does it?"
"It's not designed for warmth, it's supposed to keep you invisible. If the story is right then it's from the cloak of Death, Ceely, and Death doesn't care about being warm or cold." Imogen shivered. "Maybe we should stop for the night. You brought those blankets, right?"
"Yeah. You think we should just stop here?"
"Maybe. Just for a bit, just until we're ready to carry on. It can't be that far to Hogwarts from here, right?" Cecily guided the broom down towards a hedge and they almost fell from the Firebolt as it touched down. Cecily stuffed the Invisibility Cloak in her bag and drew out a thick blanket. She threw it over herself and Imogen and they huddled together, eyes only half open.
"I think it is a long way to Hogwarts." Imogen's voice was punctuated by yawns. "I think it might be longer than we thought." She rested her head against Cecily's shoulder. "Maybe we should have brought a faster broom."
"I don't think we should have come at all," Cecily whispered. "We should have tried to talk to Mum and Dad."
"They wouldn't have listened to us," Imogen said. "Tomorrow we'll go back. We'll sleep now and then we'll go back home."
"Wherever they are," Imogen said sleepily. "Home is wherever they are, stupid."
"Right." Cecily closed her eyes. A few seconds later she felt Imogen relax into her and start snoring. It wasn't the best place to stop, not really, but she was so tired and the blanket was warm, slowly starting to bring some feeling back into her fingers and toes. Five minutes later the first flakes of snow began to fall, but Cecily was already fast asleep.
The clock was striking midnight when the fireplace blazed green and Kingsley strode into the room. Severus and Hermione were on their feet in an instant. Kingsley raised his hand and smiled to try and alleviate their worry.
"We found them," he said. Hermione sank back down with a relieved cry and Severus, much to the shock of Kingsley, came over to shake the head Auror's hand.
"Thank you," Severus said formally. Kingsley nodded and gestured for them both to sit down. Severus joined Hermione on the settee.
"They were crossing the Yorkshire Moors, of all places. I have no idea how they managed to get that far away, or that far off course. Perhaps it will be something you ask them tomorrow?" Kingsley raised an eyebrow at them. Hermione nodded fervently.
"I can't believe they made it that far. Are they okay, Kings?"
"They were asleep and half-buried in the snow when we found them. We'd been following their trail for a while; they'd been using Point Me and it led us right to them. At some point I think they had gotten off-course and not realised it. They would have hit water had they kept going much longer. They were extremely cold, we were worried about frostbite but the field scans were good. Harry and Ron caught us up and have taken them back to Godric's Hollow. They are now tucked up asleep in your cottage, Hermione."
"Oh, thank you! Thank you, Kingsley, so much!" Hermione flew at the imposing Auror and almost knocked him off his feet with the force of her gratitude. "How can I ever repay you?"
"Just keep a better eye on them," he said, vaguely embarrassed by her reaction. "I think they'll be worse than you ever were." Hermione laughed, tears of relief and happiness flowing freely down her face. "Get them to a Healer tomorrow to check them over," he said, "and everything should be fine."
"We will. I'll owl you tomorrow. Oh Kingsley, thank you for bringing our girls home."
"It's nothing, Hermione. You and Severus had better get home yourselves. Harry has recovered his broom and Cloak and assures me they're locked in the most heavily warded cupboard he has. Ginny tells me she is going to give him what-for." Kingsley straightened his robes. "I'd best speak to Malfoy. Best of luck, both of you, and tell the twins to be more careful next time they run away."
"There won't be a next time," Severus said sternly. "Lucius is in the tea room with Narcissa. If you can't find your way, call an elf, assuming he hasn't killed them all after tonight." Kingsley raised an eyebrow but said nothing. By the time he had left the room, both Hermione and Severus had Floo'd away back to the cottage at Godric's Hollow.
When they emerged in Hermione's small dining room the first thing Hermione did was sprint upstairs. Ron was on guard outside the bedroom and he smiled as Hermione came up the stairs. He even had a smile for Severus.
"Only place they've gone is the land of nod," he said. "We sealed their windows and warded the doors so they won't be going anywhere without you knowing."
"Anytime, Hermione. I know you'd do the same if it was Rose or Hugo." Ron hugged Hermione, nodded respectfully at Severus and beat a hasty retreat; he was looking exhausted. Hermione opened the door a crack and gestured for Severus to look into the bedroom. There, in Cecily's undeniably Gryffindor bedroom, lay the two girls, their long black hair mingling together on the pillows so that it was hard to tell who it belonged to. Their faces were paler than usual but apart from that there was no sign at all that anything had ever been wrong.
"I can't even tell which one is which," Hermione marvelled, a small smile on her face. "I've dreamed of this day for so long." Severus said nothing but he stared unblinking at the scene until Hermione sighed and closed the door. "Severus…"
"I can make up a spare bedroom for you if you'd like to stay here for the night," Hermione offered hesitantly. "That way we can speak to Cecily and Imogen as soon as they wake."
"Indeed." Hermione shivered. Severus had fixed her with the same look he always used to wear, a look filled with such desire that it made her heart stutter. She leaned against the door, determined to keep her composure.
"Then," she said, her voice a little higher-pitched than it had been, "we can work out a living arrangement for them."
"Mimi." Severus' voice was like silk caressing her ears. "I know you are not stupid."
"We can't do this again, Sev," she protested weakly.
"We won't. I was wrong, Mimi. I should have fought tooth and nail to keep you with me. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. You say that I held your heart and yes, that may be true, but I gave you mine in return. I have missed you every day since you left and now that I have you here with me again, I find I cannot bear to let you go." He closed in on her but she barely noticed; she couldn't look away from his heated eyes. "Please say you won't go."
"I can't go back to how things were," Hermione said, determined to make her case before her willpower gave out completely. "Constant arguments, always feeling like I was second best. I love you, Sev. I always have and I always will, there will never be any doubt about that. I just don't know if I can live with you."
"We are older now, wiser. I know I would rather hex myself than have a cross word with you again. I would give anything to keep you in my life, Hermione Granger. I would do anything to make us a family again. I have fought so long for atonement for my past misdeeds. You are my redemption; you and our beautiful daughters, and I will do anything to keep you."
"Be careful," Hermione whispered. Her knees were weak; Severus' arms were on either side of her and he was so close, so close she wanted to kiss him. "Don't make any more vows." He leaned in until his lips were almost touching hers.
"I can think of some vows I would willingly make with you," he said softly. Hermione's resolve snapped as soon as she felt his breath on her lips. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulled him close and pressed her lips to his. He responded willingly, his arms around her back to support her and hold her flush against his body. One hand slid upwards to tangle in her hair and he tilted her head back, his lips moving to plant gentle kisses along her jaw before returning to ravage her mouth. When his tongue demanded entrance she couldn't refuse; her lips parted and she yielded to him utterly. It was only when she felt him growing hard that some sense returned. Slowly, reluctantly, Hermione pulled away.
"Sev, we should stop," she said, turning her face away so that she wouldn't be so distracted by the unmistakable want on his face. "It's been too long- we need to take it slowly this time around. I don't want to give the girls false hope." She looked back, pulling herself further out of his arms. "I… I don't want false hope."
"It isn't false," he promised. Hermione caressed his cheek with a smile.
"I would very much like to believe that. I know you wouldn't say it if you don't mean it, but- it's been nine years. I can hardly believe you're here with me, now. I'm scared that I'll wake up and it will all have been a very lovely dream. I want you back in my life, Sev. I want you more than anything and right now I think if you asked again I wouldn't be able to say no. We need to talk about this rationally, when we're not tired and scared and exhilarated and unbelievably aroused." He smirked and placed a gentle kiss on her hand before taking a few steps back.
"If I cannot be with you, then I will be as close as reasonably possible. Your guest bedroom will be sufficient. You are right… I will not lose you again and if I must exercise restraint then so be it." Hermione reached out to clasp his hand, a grateful look on her face.
"Thank you," she whispered, leading him down the passage to the small guest bedroom at the back of the house.
In the bedroom, two pairs of brown eyes met. The girls fell asleep with smiles on their faces.
Epilogue - Two Years Later
Malfoy Manor was dressed in its finest for the wedding of the renowned war hero Hermione Granger to the master spy, Severus Snape. Reporters were trying everything to enter the grounds, up to and including trying to bribe the house-elves to take pictures of the blushing bride and her groom. Everyone who was anyone wanted to be seen at the wedding.
It was rather unfortunate, then, that Hermione and Severus had decided on a low-key wedding, although even with close friends and family only the gardens were bursting at the seams. One side was a sea of Weasley red, interspersed with the black hair of the Potters and the blonde hair of Luna Scamander and her sons. The other side contained the Malfoys, a teary Headmistress, and Hagrid (who had given up entirely and was sobbing into a large spotted handkerchief).
Hermione had opted for plain white dress robes. The glow of happiness about her was more than enough to make her a radiant bride. Even Severus was visibly happy, smiling down at her as he slipped the ring onto her finger; but none could be happier than the two black-haired bridesmaids. Cecily and Imogen clutched each other, their flowers forgotten, and watched, enraptured, as their parents were finally pronounced man and wife. Severus dipped Hermione into a passionate kiss, which was eventually broken by Cecily.
"Ew, Dad, watch it with the public display."
"You're grounded," Severus said calmly, parting from Hermione with a look that promised much, much more later. Hermione turned a brilliant scarlet and had to be steadied by Severus as the fireworks began to go off and the tribe - now a very large tribe - surged forward with their congratulations. Cecily and Imogen stayed where they were, taking the opportunity to shed a few tears. Getting their parents together again had been harder work than either twin had expected; Hermione had been afraid to commit, and Severus tip-toed around her. Eventually with their combined cunning and wit they had locked their parents in a room, telling them not to come out again until they were a couple.
"I'm finally a Snape again," Cecily said happily, watching as their father grew more and more uncomfortable by the amount of redheads around him. "It feels good, Immy."
"No, this time you're a Granger-Snape," Imogen corrected. "It does feel good."
"Do you think they would notice-"
"-if we took off?" Imogen finished Cecily's sentence with a grin. "We'd better not, Ceely. It's taken long enough to get them here. They need supervising until they can handle things on their own. Parents can't be trusted with these things."
"Oh really?" That was the voice of their mother. As one the twins turned and fell into her open arms. "I think your father and I can take it from here, darlings."
"We'd better stick around, just in case," Cecily answered with a haughty sniff. Hermione ruffled her hair, dislodging the flowers.
"It's a good thing we're going to keep you, then, isn't it?" she laughed. Cecily beamed up at her mother.
"I don't think anything-"
"-could make us happier than we are right now," Imogen finished again, taking over smoothly as Cecily started sneezing from the pollen. A large hand plucked the flowers from Cecily's hair and dropped them to floor. Imogen leaned up and gave her father a kiss, laughing at how affronted he looked.
"Who was it telling us off for displays of affection?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Cecily," Imogen grinned. Severus looked over at Cecily and then sighed.
"So, nothing could make you happier?" asked Hermione thoughtfully. Imogen and Cecily looked at each other, linked arms, and then shook their heads emphatically.
Hermione looked up at Severus and smiled before placing a hand over her stomach.
"Not even a baby brother?"