A/N: Ummm… I got nothing.
Beta Love: Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard, and Hollowg1rl
Warning: M rated for a reason, folks.
Glad It Wasn't Me
Chapter 8: My Otter Half
The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
Viktor's grin was a mile wide as he embraced his beloved sister. "Sestrá, you finally convinced him with your ottery guile."
Hermione fffshed, giving him a lengthy series of ottery squeaks despite being in human form.
Viktor looked at Severus as he was being measured for his formal wedding robes, gaining great wicked satisfaction at someone else having to dress up for a royal wedding. Lucius, who had already been through the entire ordeal, stood talking with the Shark King, looking like they been friends for years rather than a few days.
Hermione chuckled, knowing that while Severus was not "enjoying" the entire formal dress, he was at least doing better than Lily, who had protested that they were trying to bind her chest to the point of not being able to breathe and her ankles so she would lose her feet. Harry was, unfortunately, thrice over the awkwardness multiplied by each year of his life— having never had to dress formally for anything so royal in his life. The Yule Ball had been the most he'd ever had to deal with, and that was nothing compared to the Bulgarian Royal expectations.
Padfoot, Regulus, and Prongs looked like they had been there and done that, but poor Remus looked utterly lost in a tuxedo robe. Draco, much like his father, barely bat an eyelash, only protesting when one over-eager seamstress stuck him instead of the cloth with a pin.
When the centaur arrived by side-along, the great Shark King personally showed them to a specially crafted outdoor abode in a well-tended arboretum and tarped shelters made in the old way. Magorian introduced his herd to the king, and he made sure to say each of their names and welcome them to his home. The foals looked about, eyes wide and filled with amazement. They made quick friends with Priestess Noctua and Aleksei, frolicking in the temple gardens with the three-headed dog and his beloved priestess.
Minerva looked strangely amused as she watched the goings on, preferring to do so in her silver tabby cat form and just out of reach of the hands of children. Amelia seemed to find the entire affair delightful, having taken tea with the queen and sharing stories.
Dr Maryann Reingold arrived with a pair of formal escorts, looking so very flustered all all the special treatment, but when the furry bundle of squeakiness landed in her arms, all of that went away, and she cuddled her favourite patient with gusto.
When the Weasleys arrived in various states of formality, the Shark King shook his head and clapped his hands, and a team of seamstresses and tailors practically sprouted out of the ground and dragged the entire family off to be sized for matching robes. Ronald's last protest rang out, "No! No! I don't want to be seen wearing THAT!"
"Wait until he gets the photos," Luna said with a wink, brandishing her Shark King approved camera. "And just wait until he sees who I hired to help me take photos," she said serenely, floating off while whistling an old Muggle tune.
"So, friend Harry," Viktor said as Harry tried to hold very very still as the scissors went by and clipped the cloth near his groin. "How did your tests go. Your wizard tests?"
"Oh, the N.E.W.T.s?" Harry said, trying very hard not to move.
"I managed to get exceeds expectations in Potions, Charms, History of Magic, and Astronomy. Outstanding on Defence Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, and Transfiguration. Auror Moody says my grades are iffy, but he thinks he can make me into something better."
"Auror, eh? Wery interesting job that. Tink you do well, if put mind to it."
Harry smiled. "Thanks, Viktor."
"Vat of your friend," Viktor said. "One you have me sign broom for?"
"Ron? He passed everything with Acceptable or better, but his sole Outstanding was in flying. I think Fred and George are letting him work for them until he tries out for a few Quidditch teams."
"Won't get on Bulgarian team with that," Viktor sniffed. "Coach believes if grades are not outstanding, you cannot play outstanding."
Harry's eyes widened. "I didn't realise that."
"That not so in Britain?"
Harry shook his head dumbly.
Viktor's eyes widened, but then he just shrugged. "Reason Bulgaria is the best," he said, utterly unabashed.
Hermione rolled her eyes at Viktor. "Such humility, brother," she said in perfectly fluent Bulgarian. She gave her brother an affectionate touch on the arm and then she seemed to float over to where Severus was standing in the shadow of a very large oak as he talked with Magorian.
She slipped her arm around his and leaned into him, and Harry couldn't suppress the shudder.
"Vat is it? Viktor asked.
"I'm pretty sure he hates me," Harry confessed. "And just about anyone else with a pulse."
Viktor tilted his head. "He wery respectable man," Viktor said. "Do you not respect him?"
"You no tink so?"
Harry flicked his eyes to the right and down, fidgeting. "He never once let up on us. So strict. I mean, my dad and mum are his friends, but you'd never know it."
"You prefer him make nice to you and let blow yourself up?" Viktor asked, clearly baffled.
"Well, yeah, I want him to be nice—" Harry stopped, then shook his head ruefully. "Wow, that sounded really bad."
Viktor shrugged. "In Durmstrang, all teachers seem to hate you until you can prove you aren't idiot." Viktor's face crinkled as he searched for the right English. "Many tings in life kill you. Their job to teach… you not kill self. Get trapped as animal, fall into Wenomous Tentacula, fly too soon, put in wrong ingredient and kill best friend. All dis things, teacher prevent. Vant him to be best mate or vant him to keep you alive?"
Harry hung his head, trying not to feel even more guilty for hating Hermione for doing exactly what Snape always did— keep him from blowing himself up. He knew he was invited because of his parents— not for his own virtue as Hermione's friend because he wasn't her friend.
He'd turned her into an otter back in his first year along with the very people that Viktor was talking about: dangers to life and limb. Yeah, they all certainly qualified for that embarrassingly accurate title. Oh, and then he'd gone and set her (and several other classmates) on fire with burning balm—
Okay, so he wasn't a very good example of a decent classmate, let alone a friend. Was it really any wonder that Hermione preferred Snape and his parents to— well, everyone her own age?
No, not really, he told himself.
Hermione was laughing nearby, and when he looked over to her, he saw Snape with his arms crossed over his chest as usual. Yet, the corners of his lips were turned upwards in an almost smile.. The centaur near him thumped him soundly on the back with a loud guffaw, and they all smiled at something he said. Suddenly, Hermione was an otter again, and she jumped into the centaur's arms. He whirled her around, touching noses, and then much to Harry's disbelief, set her on his back. The centaur bowed to Snape and the otter waved to him. Snape's hand lay on her head gently, ruffling her smooth fur. Hermione squeaked and pointed in another direction, and the centaur promptly trotted off— apparently going on the grand tour by otter.
"Hello, child," the elder priestess walked down from the center of the temple, the cerberus by her side woofed a greeting in triplicate.
Severus found himself looking up at the statue of Minerva— so amazingly lifelike that it seemed as if She could just walk right off the platform. The feeling of such a sacred place vibrated deep inside of him, seeping into the bottoms of his feet and traveling upward.
"Wow," he said, unable to say anything more poignant.
Noctua smiled at him, her hand on the three-headed dog's middle head. "She is quite impressive, is She not? Such faith in Her has not been this great since ancient times. And you, my child. I can feel Her touch upon your soul. She has worked Her magic within you."
Noctua lit a fragrant stick of incense and placed it in a stone bowl at the statue's feet. She bowed her head, pressing her hands together. "Great Minerva, Mother of all Knowledge, Warrior—one of Yours comes to look upon You. Child lost and found. Faith shaken but guided home. May Your grace bless him with peace and understanding."
The elder priestess seemed to glow, the scent of ancient paths travelled heavy upon her. Phantom wings flapped, and Noctua bowed, sweeping away, her exit as silent as a spectre, Aleksei following with an equally eerie silence.
Severus knelt at the feet of Minerva's statue. "Minerva—"
He closed his eyes, pressing his forehead to the ground. "I do not believe myself worthy of of the absolute joy she gives me, but I will strive to be as great as she believes me to be— to believe I am as worthy as she believes me to be. To honour the faith she has in me. You told me that I would have to make a choice, and I did not understand at the time. I do now. I choose to give her all of what I am, all the love I have— and through her to You. There can be no one else for me. I willingly yield myself to Your wisdom. I choose to submit myself to Your service."
An owl landed in front of, perched on the statues toes.
"Bring your head up, child, for none who seek wisdom will find it with their face plastered to the floor."
He pulled up and saw the owl was glowing a vibrant green and gold, the pulse of power flowing within and around the owl.
"When Hermione gave herself to Me," Minerva's voice whispered through the owl, "she knowingly sacrificed what she believed to be her life, her happiness, her chance for love to save the life of another. Even you, whom she loves more than any other living being of this world. I must ask you if you understand what it means to be devoted to Me, as it is not something that can be undone. You do not require such things to respect or honour me. You do not require such things to respect or honour her either."
The owl strutted, hopping over to the other stone foot. "I would not have regret within My house, Severus. There is faith; there is devotion. There is respect— but this is not small thing you swear yourself to. This is the lifetime of a God— of the Divine. Your service and life will be as long as gods exist, and that may exist long after this world has grown cold and barren."
Severus closed his eyes. "I submit to Your ultimate wisdom, great and most wise Minerva, for You have guided my path long before now, but now I choose to serve in whatever capacity You so desire."
The owl chuckled. "And what if I asked you to sacrifice all of what you have gained to be in my service?"
Severus lifted his head, meeting the glowing eyes of the owl before him. "Then I would trust that You would never ask something of me that I was not able and willing to give."
"Then if I were to ask you to marry someone of my choosing, you would not question my judgement?"
Severus flinched. "I might question, assuredly, but I would honour Your wisdom."
"So be it," Minerva's voice said. "Then I will have you marry. Here. Now. While the moon is full and the time of the owl is now. Here, when the waters of Poseidon are calm and the breezes peaceful.
A woman approached, covered from head to toe in white the colour of sea foam and distant clouds. Golden, enameled leaves crowned her head. Green and golden cords wrapped around each wrist and around the waist. Wisps of gold and silver hair hung from around her head, and Severus took in a sharp breath when he realised who it was he was to be married to.
There will come a time when you must choose.
Were his words nothing? His faith in Minerva just words?
"Forgive me, Hermione, my love," he whispered. "My love is nothing if my faith is nothing."
The elder priestess stood in front of him. "Close your eyes before our goddess."
Severus did, and he felt his arms being pulled as a cord was wrapped around his wrists and hands— light as spider's silk and just as strong. The touch of the goddess was as real as life— her fingers drawing the strands together and over his skin— tying his life, his soul, to this woman of Her choosing. He fought the despair, knowing that to honour his vow to marry to the goddess as well as to his wife, he would never be able love Hermione as he wished to— they would be forever close, tied by a familiar bond, but forced into a different intimacy.
It would be a sacrifice.
Was this what she felt like when she gave her life to save that of one little girl who hadn't known any better than to be in danger?
Could be blame the girl for having placed Hermione in such a position?
Hermione for being so bloody selfless?
No, he couldn't blame anyone, save perhaps Rita Skeeter— and that woman had paid her one one way fare to the hospitality of the Furies— the Erinyes, the punishers.
Hermione had put her faith in Minerva, and to love Hermione was to have faith in Minerva as well, even if her judgement saw something he could not. His only regret was that it would hurt her.
He felt the bindings being tightened around their joined hands, and he felt his heart still as his emotions threatened to destroy him.
He was glad his eyes were closed— glad he didn't have to look the woman in the eyes. "Bound before the light and the wisdom of our Goddess, Minerva, we bind this man to this woman in Your grace. Their lives and love shall stretch the threads of time as You bless it, forever in Your service, forever with Your blessings.
Hermione, his heart whispered. How had this happened?
"Mother Goddess, we are blind without Your light."
"Mother Goddess, we are but children in Your knowledge."
"Guide us through the path of life with Your compassion."
"Open your eyes," the voice of the Goddess commanded, "and kiss your bride eternal in your service to Me."
Severus opened his eyes, blinking back the tears as he prepared himself for the last test of his faith.
He found himself staring into Hermione's warm brown eyes, realising that she was dressed almost identically to the elder priestess, but under the robes was the traditional Bulgarian wedding dress— a merging of red, black, blues, greens, and yellows. Her face was painted in white, and coloured sequins decorated her skin, making her entire face look like a tiled mural.
He looked around him to see the royal family and their nearest friends all gathered around— somehow having silently gathered around him while his eyes had been firmly closed.
"Well, are you going to keep your goddess waiting?" Priestess Noctua asked, the glowing owl on her shoulder and Aleksei on the other.
He looked down around their hands and wrists, and two pearlescent spiders sat on their hands, having spent themselves wrapping them together as their goddess demanded.
Of course spiders.
They were the creatures of Athena as well— yet one more aspect of Minerva.
"I swear to you my life, my devotion neverending," Hermione said lovingly. "Before our Goddess. In Her grace and blessing. My life for as long as She wills it, to you, I will always remain in your keeping."
Severus could barely breathe. He gulped air as he forced the words to his command. "I swear to you my life, my devotion neverending," he repeated. "Before our Goddess. In Her grace and blessing. My life for as long as She wills it, to you, I will always remain in your keeping."
He lowered his mouth to hers, their kiss like an inhale, and when they finally parted, it was like a great exhale as a nova of blazing heat blew outward, tingling everyone it passed through. Severus hissed as his skin crawled as if alive, and his tattoos swirled and changed. On his left, he had the owl with the serpent poised to strike— the protective stance. On the right, he had the spider's web with sword and shield put together— the mark of the warrior, the protector.
Wings sprouted from their backs, flapping together as the scent of petrichor wafted outward, their feathers brushing against each other as they drew each other close in a winged embrace.
The cheers around them were loud and joyous, but Severus didn't hear them. Hermione was in his arms again, as she would be for as long as their Goddess willed it. His final test of faith— he had passed.
When he finally pulled away from her, he stared into her eyes. "Hermione, did you know?"
Hermione smiled. "Of course, my love. Who do you think gave us the tattoos to begin with?" Her expression was impish, daring him to deny it.
Severus' brain stalled. He had completely forgotten about the tattoos— the magical owls around their fingers. They had already been bonded, married by magic.
And magic was the domain of Minerva.
"I am a true dunderhead," he whispered.
Hermione pressed her lips to his. "You're my dunderhead, and I love you."
He tried to say something poignant in response, but he just worked his jaw silently.
"Praise to our Lady Goddess," Hermione said. "She who is both wisdom and warfare."
"Honour to the Lady of Magic, whose hands taught us weaving and commerce." Severus entwined his hands with Hermione's as their wings flapped together.
"Respect to our Lady of Medicine, whose poetry and music heals the heart as Her wisdom brings us healing and medicine," Noctua said, her wings spanning wide and around the two newlyweds, like the winged hug of the Goddess Herself.
"Praise to Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom," they said together.
"Praise to Minerva," the gathered chanted, and they all released owls into the night— their pale bodies silently winging away like ghosts.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife," Noctua said. "Priest and priestess to our Lady of Wisdom."
Severus and Hermione looked up to the full moon and felt their Goddess' gaze upon them, and they smiled, taking to the air in great wingbeats. They twisted and twirled together, wings tight, and then they flared their wings outward as a burst of green and gold magic flared outward into the shape of a great owl, wings spread wide across the moonlit sky.
Noctua smiled below as she placed the silk from the binding at the feet of Minerva's statue. It glowed brightly and then vanished. Aleksei tilted back his heads and howled in celebration as the temple itself seemed to glow. She watched in approval as the new couple flew— danced— amongst the very stars in celebration of both their beloved Goddess and their mates, their faith in Her rewarded. For Minerva may be the virgin goddess, but she blessed her faithful with unconditional love and did not discourage them from finding that both within and with each other.
After the ensuing great celebration, the temple grounds were eerily silent. Even Aleksei was passed out flat on his back, all three heads drooling as his paws twitched, his dream-self happily chasing three-headed rabbits through the brush.
An older man, his blond hair liberally peppered with white, walked between the pillars. There were people curled up under the stars, families, friends, human and non—
There were bloody centaurs here.
The man curled his lip in disgust and walked over to where the sacred wine was kept— knowing full well that it would be bottled up and sent back with all the guests to commemorate the joyous wedding— a wedding not only between the adopted sister of Viktor Krum but also the first wedding blessed by Athena, Minerva, or whatever you called her. If you chose to believe the sycophants, that is.
He did not.
He had worked hard to bring chaos and ruin to Albus Dumbledore by tampering with his students. He had worked his greatest magic in subtly influencing them into turning one of their own into a stupid animal—
But that stupid animal ended up being an even better student than most of those idiotic boys and girls.
He had tampered with the ingredients in the storeroom to try and set the whole damned class on fire, hoping that it would bring the wrath of the Ministry down upon the school, but no. No, that hadn't worked either.
He'd given the half-giant oaf an occamy egg in the hopes he would rain down destruction and perhaps even get a few children killed— but no, that hadn't worked either.
He'd even convinced Trelawney that the stupid animal was a Grim, having her hex her out the tower window to her death, but that Malfoy boy had gone and saved her.
He couldn't even erase his mistake off the face of the earth because those fool friends of Snape's had managed to give her wings!
He'd even spawned a cloud of little girl-attracting butterflies to get her to throw herself off a cliff, but then that Skeeter bint had gotten to her first, and the girl ended up crying on a cliff instead of dead. Then that damnable animal had to rescue the kid too.
Of course, everyone thought she was a miracle sent by Minerva, but that was just a bunch of hogwash. Anyone with half a brain would have seen that everyone was having some kind of group hallucination due to the stress of throwing themselves down into a freezing ocean to rescue an stupid animal.
So, he tried to throw all kinds of trash wizards and even a few witches into the forced "dating pool" until he found one he could Imperius to deflower her and make her just another shamed whore and bring dishonour and disgrace to her that way.
But the disgusting animal was also a sodding cave lion on top of it and had terrified one of them (even while under an Imperius curse) into running into a full cauldron of boiling hot soup and burning himself severely, another ran straight into a wall and knocked himself out, and—
Fuck if she didn't manage to make a sodding Portkey out of a fork, throw it at them like a damnable spear, and ported them directly to the Ring of Fire.
And then, she just walked right into the bowels of the Ministry and submitted her memories to justify her actions as self-defence. The Aurors were starting to suspect foul play— just about when that dark-robed idiot Snape came to his senses and ended up magically married to her.
So, he would just have to get his work done by making the lot of them succumb to a poison that had no cure. He'd developed it in case Dumbledore wouldn't give him his part of the Hollows, but then that hadn't worked the way he'd expected either. Nothing ever did.
But this would.
He poured the poison into the wine, satisfied that every single one of the idiots would get exactly what they deserved. The Bulgarian royal family, what was left of it, would be in ruins. The friends of the stupid animal would all be dead. The half-breeds would be dead too. Finally, he would have his revenge on Dumbledore— if through a rather roundabout way.
He turned to leave, walking away— but then he remembered the vial of poison that he'd left by the wine. He turned around to see two very fluffy pearlescent-furred spiders sitting on the edge of the wine bowl.
Happy wedding! the first one cried in a squeaking voice.
Yes! Very happy wedding! the other said.
A perfect tribute to Dionysus!
Gia Mas! (For our health!)
Na ziseis! (May you live!)
The spiders jumped into the wine, and there was a long slurping sound as the spiders swirled in a whirlpool as the wine and poison disappeared in an instant.
The spiders' abdomens were swollen and purple as they crawled out of the bowl, making sloshing sounds.
Hic! That was good wine.
With a kick! The other spider rubbed its abdomen appreciatively.
The man snarled, pulling out his wand and blasted the two arachnids and the bowl to bits, shrapnel flying in all directions, and the spiders tumbled to splat against the statue of Minerva.
They left a wine-coloured, spider-shaped splatter mark on the marble before sliding down her leg with a sorrowful squeaking sound, much like a squeegee.
"That wasn't very nice," a voice said. "Those are very rare Dionysian Wedding Spiders. They only arrive to bless the most legendary of weddings."
The man whirled to find a striking-looking woman standing in pristine white robes wrapped in green garlands, and wearing a forest green wrap that curled around her shoulder, waist, and then back again. Her golden hair fluttered as if in a light wind, yet there was none. On her left arm she wore an aegis bearing the face of Medusa. Her feet were bare, save for a slight wrap around her feet and ankles, and an ancient helm adorned her head.
She picked up the wedding spiders in one hand and blew on them, and they revived.
Hello, Lady Wisdom!
The woman smiled and placed them down on a table, allowing them to crawl off to their own adventure.
"Tell me, Gellert," the woman said with not even a shake in her voice. "How long did you expect your foul deeds to gather dust before I finally grew tired of my then soon-to-be-daughter having to deal with your childish little tests?"
"Tests? You are quite mistaken," Gellert snorted. "They were not tests."
"Oh, is that so? the woman said. "Well then, I suppose we should call them attempted murders.
Gellert fidgeted. He did not like being called out for exactly what he was doing. He was better than that— better than everyone.
"Oh, you see, revenge is such a fickle beast, Gellert," the woman said. "Usually lacking knowledge of key things, such as reality. You were so busy crafting your revenge, you did not see how strong you made my daughter, driving her into my fold as neatly as you did not wish. You see— Fate is an odd thing. One way or another, she would have found me. You just— hastened the epiphany. Through her, the world has come to know me again, regardless of your belief. You see, I do not require your faith to exist."
Gellert snarled. "You are not a god." He pointed his wand at her.
He cast his Darkest spell, hoping to strip and humiliate this witch, who was obviously not aware that he was the one to be feared. He had spent all his life perfecting how to demean and belittle, making great people feel stupid and inadequate.
Smooth, delicate hands wrapped around his wand as the light from his wand dissipated. "No, Gellert. I am a goddess." His wand turned to ash, blowing away in the wind as her hand wrapped around his wrist like a vice. "I condemn you to life in a box. Your sentence for as long as the box remains shut. There, you will live for as long as lid remains closed, and you will never be able to influence its opening. Only when it does, will you be released to Pluto to serve your final judgment in the underworld. Only then, will the visions of all you have destroyed cease."
"No one will be able to resist opening a forbidden box!" Gellert yelled as she shrank him down into a strangely plain, wooden box made of olive wood.
Minerva's face was like stone as she closed the lid, sealing the latch with her hand as a glow covered the box and faded. "Perhaps, if they were all like you, yes. "But some creatures of this world know when to follow directions."
Minerva waved her hand, and a new bowl of wine formed on the table, shimmering with moonlit magic. Her eyes glowed as she passed her hand over the grounds, blessing all that slept there under the stars— under her watch, her gaze, her protection. And when she found the two cave lions curled up together on the roof of her shrine, she leaned down and pressed a kiss to their foreheads and traced wings down their backs with one finger before she faded into the spiritual realm.
There, on their foreheads, glistened the crescent moon and the olive branch, shimmering in their fur— like magic— as owl-wings unfurled from their backs as they slept, curling around each other in a feathered, moonlit embrace.
Days later, Gringott's placed a plain, olive box, deep in the recesses of their vaults where it sat alone on a pedestal. Each brick and stone of the vault had a curse that had been discovered by their cursebreakers. On the wall behind it, was the image of Minerva in helmet, aegis, and spear. The words, carved by hand, read:
Upon this day, forever more
This box will sit beyond a door
Its lid closed and contents sealed,
No one to open what once was feared.
This is punishment of one divine
To one who dared desecrate Her shrine,
To any and all who seek to open the lid,
You shall replace within what once was hid.
Curiosity killed the cat,
And you shall know exactly that.
No one ever ever accused Hermione and Severus Snape of being stupid enough to leave a box that was never to be opened out where temptation could lure the weak and falliable. The goblins were all too happy to put their guile and protection on the divine box of Minerva, sealing a pack of trust between the Goddess of Wisdom and the Goblin Nation.
The goblins, after all, weren't lacking wisdom either.
The years passed, and the blessings upon those that attended the wedding of the Royal Mistress of the Squeak and her love were bountiful as they were plentiful. Those who visited the shrine of Minerva found themselves in far better health than when they arrived, and more and more marriages were being done in Minerva's shrine either in Bulgaria or at Hogwarts, bringing in no small amount of donations to keep the upkeep of both places well and truly covered for a long time to come.
An unheard of peace settled upon the much of magical Europe as prosperity reigned over fear, the tales of those who would be like Voldemort or Gellert Grindelwald were replaced by epic ballads of the return of the gods and those who would foolish enough to stand in the way of the divine.
The ducklings and goslings were all drifting along the peaceful lake, but Hermione was enjoying sitting in her favourite place under a massive oak tree. It had always been her favourite place since she was a young child— back when she had two parents who thought she was the perfect unmagical daughter. Truth be told, her parents had been fully supportive up until their daughter came home an otter— something they couldn't, would not accept. They would rather believe her dead than an otter, and so Hermione had learned her first lesson about the love of Muggle parents to magical children. Sometimes, love wasn't enough. Sometimes, there was a last straw.
Two pairs of tiny feline teeth were playfully gnawing on her ankles, and she very firmly shoved the cubs off her vulnerable, human skin with a soft growl of reprimand. The cubs mrowled, rolling on their backs in supplication and then Tadeas crawled into her lap and licked her hand, doing his level best to remove the top layers of her skin with his rough tongue, followed shortly by his twin sister, Febe.
Hermione sighed, looking at her progeny sternly, earning herself wide, innocent eyes and jaw licking. They flopped up against her, panting, even in the shade, their thick coats of disturbingly otter-like fur doing them no favours outside of the water. Tadeas and Febe wore a small, almost invisiible collar with a tiny silver bell that glamoured them to look like "normal" tabby kittens of the domestic variety.
The Animagus registry had "fun" trying to classify them, as they were technically Animagi, but they weren't exactly not Animagi either. They were not a "natural" animal in any way, and they were still children, two things that made official registration "complicated." Then again, with their mother on the list as multiple things, there were some people at the Ministry who believed it was in the blood of the Snapes to defy the natural order of things, goddess blessed or otherwise.
Tadeas batted at his mother's elbow, restless, while Febe maneuvered her fuzzy belly under her mum's hand for the best belly rub. Both cubs seemed utterly disinclined to leave their mum for long, choosing to stay beside her most of the time. Tadeas itched his wings, clearly annoyed by the molting season when all his glorious feathers fell out and then grew back in again. Ollivander was on cloud nine, however, being the proud recipient of a barrelful of feathers each season from cub, mother, and father.
Not even eleven, and they already had their Gringott's accounts full of enough galleons to pay for all of their books, school supplies and then some. Lucius had wasted no time teaching them money management, and the goblins weren't exactly letting the children of the chosen of Minerva to go uneducated in the ways of finance either— goblin style, of course.
Minerva figured the cubs would be so financially set by graduation that they could take any career they chose and train anywhere they so desired.
Hermione knew the cubs weren't exactly caring much about all that, despite how good they were at finance already. They just thought it was fun. A little here, a little there, a little for the shrine to the goddess, and good things just happened. Ice cream happened, and nothing was better than yummy ice cream all over their whiskers, except perhaps a good fly with mum and dad, a swim, and then ice cream.
They had already infested Hogwarts so well that they knew every hiding place, every cranny from which to pounce Mr Filch, and every window that had the best sunbeams to soak up the sun. They attended every evening patrol, happily chased curfew-breaking students out of "their" crannies, and made themselves absolutely insufferable by charming the staff every which way they could. They couldn't dock points, but oh Merlin could they yowl and get mum and dad's attention. Their just rewards came in the privilege of getting to raid Albus' lemon sherbet jar, which he always kept well stocked for the visiting cubs. Fawkes, of course, was an ever-attentive baby-cub sitter, and he would follow them around and make sure they didn't swim into or fly into trouble.
On a number of occasions the giant squid had snagged them and deposited them back on shore when they tried to go places they shouldn't, and the wet cubs sulked all the way back to the shrine, disappointed.
Albus figured by the time they had to attend classes, they would probably be utterly traumatised by the fact that they would no longer be able to go everywhere anymore with mum and dad, but Severus said that they had to learn that rules changed and they were no different from anyone else. Well, in that way, at least.
Trelawney was convinced she was being haunted when her crystal balls would unexpectedly show up on the green, neatly piled into a pyramid. Her teacups would be shaped into a fort, and all of her handkerchiefs were tied together as decorative flags— all with distinctive feline teething holes on the edges. Oddly, no one seemed to notice except Trelawney.
Sybill, determined to catch the miscreants in the act, set up a trap in her classroom, and ended up catching a highly perturbed Firenze who was trying to set up lesson plans. The witch's shrieks as she was chased across the green may or may not have been noticed by anyone who happened to be up that early in the morning.
She, of course, just had to try again, but then no one saw her for weeks until the Headmaster was growing tired of asking Firenze to substitute and went looking for her. She was plastered to the ceiling with a permanent sticking charm of her own making, having tripped her own trap. Her mouth was conveniently gagged by a single sock from each house, and Peeves was thoroughly enjoying himself by relentlessly teasing the woman as well as joyfully pelting her with gobstones.
No one else seemed inclined to complain about it because Peeves had left everyone else in the castle alone for his new "focused amusement."
Dumbledore shipped her off to Mungo's for "therapy" and care after having been missing for weeks, and the healers there recommended she be moved to a poltergeist-free environment.
Much to her dismay, Dumbledore let her go as any and all attempts to remove Peeves from Hogwarts were historically "doomed to failure." Firenze then took on her position full-time, and the entire school seemed to breath a collective sigh of relief.
The fact that Tadeas and Febe subsequently received a very large care package stuffed to the rim with tasty snacks, sweets, and cool new toys just made the entire thing all the better for them.
As for human forms, the cubs seemed to think it was far better to suffer in the heat as they were than to run around on two legs. No claws, no fangs, no wings? What fun was that?!
And since cave lion cubs were very fast growers, they had no end of fun chasing Padfoot and Prongs through the forest and the most fun of all was sitting on Moony.
Remus complained that it wasn't fair that half-grown cave lion cubs were already big enough to sit on him. No one, of course, ever suspected Lily Potter of having encouraged such mischievous behaviour— all of them thought it had to be Severus teaching them all about how to "keep Moony in line." Hermione had seen Lily slipping her children those highly-coveted biscuits of hers and just smirked but said nothing.
Harry and Draco were working very hard at competing to become an Animagus before the other. Harry because he was tired of being left out during full moons and Draco because he was determined to win the seafood fetching contest one of these days, by Merlin, so help him.
The cubs stared at Harry when he came in one day to greet his parents and had a tiny antelope head in place of his usual one. Lily burst out laughing hysterically, and James tried really hard to "be the man of the family" and be encouraging, but it was hard for him to hold it together when his son had a giant tubular schnoz on a really tiny antelope head.
Cave lion cubs, much to Harry's detriment, loved antelope. A lot. A lot, a lot. So much so that Remus was given a reprieve from being sat upon in favour of Harry being crawled on, pounced, and chased around— and stalked while in bed only to wake up to two sets of hungry leonine eyes staring at him as they licked their chops.
Harry's screams had went unanswered as the adults had breakfast together.
"Sausage, my love?" Hermione had asked, forking sausages and grilled tomato slices over to his plate.
"Yes, thank you, my darling," he had replied, not even a twitch of his facial muscles giving away a tell.
Lily had spent all of the next afternoon at a library in Muggle London looking up antelope and came home that night victorious. Her son was going to be a dik-dik.
Draco had happened to be visiting when Lily gleefully shared the news, and he had fallen out of his chair laughing hysterically as the cubs came over to cuddle with him. "AHhahahahHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!" he'd half laughed, half cried. "You're a dinky, tiny, adorable antelope with a wriggling nose… a tiny little dik-dik. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAH!" He was wheezing due to his laughing fit, the irony of Harry's species name having another meaning not lost on him. He was male, after all, and males tended to immediately compare sizes of their parts. Some more specifically than others.
"Fuck you, Malfoy!" Harry had hissed, made even more comical by the antelope head. His anger seemed to make his ears even bigger, and his nose twitch.
Draco had sniffed, tossing his hair much like his father did. "Alas, I don't bend that way; however, Blaise may accommodate you if you bring chocolate and wine."
The cubs had looked back and forth from Draco and Harry, having entirely missed the meaning of the conversation. Their furry eyebrows furrowed together in mutual confusion.
"And that's enough of that, Harry James Potter," Lily had said sternly, breaking up the fight and shooing the cubs off to the guest room.
Hermione smiled as her cubs allowed the ducklings and goslings to approach and settled around them, sharing their warmth. Draco, she recalled with amusement, had proven the better man, or at least in his case, better marine otter— albeit a startlingly platinum blond otter with storm grey eyes. And Hermione and he had celebrated his great accomplishment by bringing back a huge haul of fresh seafood akin to the banquet table of the gods. He might have been smaller than Hermione, but damn if he didn't make up for it in pure competitive force of will and Slytherin determination to come out on top.
Severus and Lucius had agreed it was the only possible outcome. Draco had been trying it out otter the otter for years.
Having watched the grudge match between one marine otter and a brassed-off (yet adorable) dik-dik, Hermione wasn't sure who really won that entire contest. She was guessing it was her cubs, who sneakily stole some fresh-baked biscuits right out of Minerva's shortbread tin.
Harry thought it was entirely unfair that Draco got the cuddles while he just got chased by hungry cave lion cubs. Remus just handed him a drink and snarked, "Welcome to the club."
Hermione had to admit that Harry had matured greatly during his apprenticeship with Alastor Moody, and his career as an Auror was taking off well. While they hadn't been fast friends when they were younger, they had become friends post-graduation and post-marriage. Harry's marriage to the former Luna Lovegood had taught him some things about responsibility.
And opening up to the world with new eyes—
And chilling out…
Hermione cracked her neck and stretched. She unfolded her wings and stretched them all the way out, flapping them to loosen up her muscles. She was thankful for the concealing charm that her goddess had bestowed— making them invisible to those who were not meant to see them. She didn't have to worry about them being revealed by accident or by something akin to the goblin's waterfall in Gringott's.
Her cubs, however, were not sworn to Minerva, so until or if such came to pass, and neither she nor Severus would ever fault them for wanting a different life for themselves, had to make do with the glamour collar. They had a lifetime to decide such things, and Hermione didn't see any hurry to make those decisions.
They would love their cubs despite what life choices they decided on.
She smiled. Life was all about choices, and she was glad her children would have many.
As the years progressed, Minerva convinced Albus that Hogwarts could be more accommodating to incoming first years by offering a sort of orientation program before the big move in and the sorting, and the chaos that came every year. The MWEA program was doing well with orientating Muggles with the magical world, but it did nothing to show the parents what Hogwarts was like, and Minerva wanted to fix that. While there was, she admitted, a sort of magic in that a first time on the first day, she said if they created a program, the parents could participate and learn about the school if they so chose (if they were magical) and mandatory (if they were not). The goal, she brought up to the Board of Governors, was that a child's first magical experience could be just as powerful and shared with the parents, so Muggleborns did not have to become such an alien thing to their own family.
And Minerva being Minerva, much like the goddess Herself, she liked to drag Hermione and Severus into the "fun" and she had them fly to the boats and bring the first years and their families in to Hogwarts.
Tables were set out with school supplies, showing all the new students what they would need for their classes from cauldrons to robes. They learned about their future houses and what the Sorting was, how the dorm system worked, who their prefects would be, curfew, and all the things that was normally shoved into their minds while they were still too stunned to listen after the excitement of Sorting.
Hermione had asked if the goblins would like to man a table and encourage learning about the Gringotts vault system and how money was exchanged between Muggle and magical worlds. They had accepted, gladly, most happy to be invited at all, and they did not disappoint. They were prepared to set up vault accounts, give out keys, and prepare them for what they would experience at Gringotts when they first stepped in "for real."
Gnarlshank, the elder goblin representative, thanked Minerva for inviting them to come, pleased that cooperation between them had gone as well as it did. They looked forward to many more years of partnership and collaboration.
Severus, after talking to the Marauders, invited Harry to man a booth at the orientation as well, talking about the DMLE, Aurors, laws (especially those pertaining to the Muggle world), and what made something an acceptable form of magic and what was considered Dark and unforgivable. Most importantly, he explained how to contact the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, whether by spell, if they were able, by contacting a teacher, or purchasing a magical owl for personal use.
Ollivander took a day off to visit and talk about wands, how how they choose the witch or the wizard as well as what to expect when they visited his shoppe to find the wand they would have the rest of their life.
Parents were given mini-classes as well, and they learned how to address mail to get to Hogwarts for their children, how to contact the school in case of emergency, and many other useful things that Minerva had realised that Muggles just didn't know about.
Eyelops Owl Emporium and the Magical Menagerie had booths as well, bringing quite an assortment of their owls and creatures for young students to learn about, touch, feed, and get a feel for the unique relationship between owl, magical beast, and magical folk. They gave tutorials on how to use a magical owl to send mail, and even taught the parents how to use the owls even without magic. Most importantly, they taught all comers that magical owls were not like the wild ones out in the world, and they should be respected as the magical creatures they were.
Mrs Figg was given a booth as well, and she brought a basket of half-Kneazle kittens and a few adults for the children to touch and explore. Some of them ended up going home with the children, much to both her and the child's delight— and perhaps the kitten as well, having found their partner for life.
Flourish & Blotts had an expansive table showing off the first year books, book carriers, bags, bookmarks, and parchments. They had a pile of their newly-scribed books : The Muggle Guide to the Magical World, which detailed many of the places in and out of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as well as the magical world as a whole, including the other magical schools outside of Britain. Much to their delight, they sold out.
Pretty much every place in Diagon had a booth during the orientation, but none was more happily visited than Fortesque's— whose ice cream lured in many a child and adult with their wide selection of delectable flavours.
Madam Malkin's and Twilfitt and Tattings, which normally tailored robes and formal wear, seemed to realise that they had a business opportunity that had yet to be tapped in these Muggle parents, and they offered up examples of "Muggle" style dress shirts and other clothing that had been charmed with anti-wrinkle, anti-shrink, and colourfast qualities. Some, for a few galleons more, were also fireproof, water repellent, and stain-proof. The two businesses had so many orders between them that they could barely keep up. One mother asked if she could bring in some clothes to be "enchanted" and the newest business craze descended upon the magical world: magical clothes designed for Muggles in magical families.
The orientation lasted for four days, with the families spending one day in each house, getting to know Hogwarts just as their children would. They met Mr Filch and the ever-underfoot Mrs Norris, where the heads of house were, the prefects' quarters, the Great Hall, library, infirmary, and all things in between. They had meals in the Great Hall as the children would throughout the year, experienced the morning mail call, and even learned what happened when a professor caught you roaming around after curfew.
The parents met the teachers, and the teachers got to know the parents, and most of the staff agreed that it was refreshing to get to know both sides of a child's life.
During the sunny day, all were encouraged to enjoy the lake, meet the squid, feed the ravenous birds, and avoid the Whomping Willow for obvious reasons.
Professor Grubbly-Plank introduced them all to the various beasts of Hogwarts, starting with the smaller and more easily accepted to the ones that were most definitely un-Muggle, like the hippogriff.
And perhaps, the teacher that caught the most wide-eyes and gasps was Firenze, who gave them mini-lessons on the stars and planets as the night sky lit up with its brilliance.
And all were encouraged to visit the Shrine of Minerva, and even if they did not believe, to enjoy the gardens and the stunning view over the lake— yet after all they had seen at Hogwarts, many of the parents seemed more likely to believe in the Goddess of Wisdom than ever before.
The great success of the orientation week cemented itself when the Board received countless owls from families both Muggle and magical, all praising the new program and thanking them profusely for considering how needed such a thing was.
Minerva was given her first raise in years, and Severus had saluted her with his tea just before his two cubs pounced and mock-mauled her "to death."
Things were looking up, and the only one who seemed unhappy was Sybill Trelawney, who was still writing Albus every single day, begging for her job back.
Albus, wisely, chose to feign amnesia.
Hermione sat on the end of the pier, letting her toes dip into the Black Lake's surface. The giant squid was playing with the children during their orientation week, and she was glad that the years had gone by without a hitch. Minerva's desire to take the mystery out of Hogwarts for Muggle families was paying off. There was far less stress during the move in, Sorting, and even less stress in making friends, for many of them had already made them during their orientation.
The students were happy regardless of house, and that, in Hermione's opinion, was golden. The stigma of being in the same house as "that Tom Riddle guy" was finally fading— and Lucius and Severus could have tea together in public without it causing a panic of the second coming of the Dark Lord.
"May I touch your wings?" a young boy asked as he came up to her. He had a bag of kettle corn for the birds, but he was very obviously attracted to the bird that sat upright and looked like a person.
"You may," she said, eyeing the child with curiosity.
The boy placed his hands on her feathers, a gasp of pure wonder escaping his throat. "So warm!" he said. "And they glow!"
Hermione tilted her head, amazed that one so young could not only see them but see the goddess' touch upon them as well.
"Are you enjoying learning about your new school?" Hermione asked.
The boy nodded wildly. "I can't wait to read everything in the library!"
Hermione chuckled, remembering many a day perched on her otter-podium, reading so many books under Madam Pince's critical eye.
"I've already read Hogwarts: A History twenty times. I can't wait to take charms and learn how to turn a desk into a pachyderm!"
Hermione sniggered, her laugh managing to come out more like the sound of a horse whickering. She remembered all too clear her having accidentally transfigured a pachyderm, which had then sat on Goyle's desk. Minerva had not been "pleased" with her, to put it mildly. The desk was probably far less than agreeable to her company after that as well.
"You sound like you already have your favourite class picked, hrm?" Hermione said.
The boy nodded. "Mum and dad are all emotional. They think I don't notice, but I do. They look around, see such magical things, and—" The boy looked down and he hugged a small stuffed owl that had been worn down to the bare fabric, much of the "fur" that made up its "feathers" had been loved off. Even with that— she saw the small notch on the one "ear" where she had once worried it to death with her teeth, having often stuffed it into her mouth to placate herself as a young child.
"And what is your name, young man?" she asked quietly, stilling her quickly-beating heart.
"Mamillius," the boy replied. "Mamillius Granger."
"Mamillius from a Winter's Tale."
"You heard of it?"
Hermione nodded. "Pleased to meet you, Mr Granger," she said with a tug of a smile.
"Are you a queen?" Mamillius asked.
Hermione tilted her head.
"You wear a crown, like a queen."
Hermione smiled. "I am not a queen. I am a princess and a priestess." She tilted her head to the side. "I will also be the one drilling potions into your head, so I do hope you are ready to put your thinking cap on and prepared to think outside of the box instead of just parroting what is in the book."
"Whoa," Mamillius said. "Wicked!" He bit his lip a little as he thought. "I can try, but what if the book is right?"
"There is nothing wrong with the book being right and you coming to your own conclusions, Mr Granger."
The boy furrowed his brows. "Okay," he said, not quite convinced but trying anyway.
"For now, Mr Granger, enjoy yourself. It is a hot day and there is a giant squid that desperately wants to play with everyone."
Mamillius breamed. "Okay, Professor—" he started, realising he didn't know her name.
"Squeak," Hermione said with considerable amusement.
"Pleased to meet you, Professor Squeak!" Mamillius said, scurrying off to have fun by the lake.
"So, you are the— medicine teachers?"
"We are Potions instructors," Severus said calmly, gesturing to the cauldron and various potion-making implements. "We teach our students how to safely make a variety of potions that can both help and harm, depending on how it is used."
"Much like how Muggle medication can both help and harm depending on the dose and what it is used for."
The two parents looked back and forth at each other. "And you— teach children how to make medicine."
"We teach them how to safely make a potion. The first year, they learn how to handle ingredients, mixing, cauldron safety, and what the properties are of each ingredient long before they ever make a potion. They will then work on the basics: cure for boils, the Forgetfulness Potion, the Wide-eye Potion, and the Herbicide Potion. We start with simple, basic brewing and increase the difficulty with the study material. Depending on the class, we will revisit some potions, exploring other ways to brew based on skill and the student's level of observation and comprehension. A certain proficiency is expected before moving on to the next level, much as is expected in the other classes."
The Muggle couple seemed to have something particular on their minds. "Can one of these— potions— turn someone into an animal?"
Severus narrowed his eyes. "Yes, it is possible, but we do not teach transformative potions until the most advanced levels. Accidents, however, can and do happen. We try to minimise the chance of such incidents occurring, but we cannot catch everything."
"When I was in my first year," Hermione offered, "there was a such potions accident. I was turned into an otter. There was no cure, though many of my teachers and healers tried. But nothing worked. I spent the majority of my education as an otter."
"But you are not an otter now," the couple said, frowning.
"When I was in my sixth year, I saved a young child from a fatal fall. I begged Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom, to save her, knowing that I did not have the power to. I begged her to teach her and give the loving embrace of her parents— that which I was denied. But Minerva was not content to let me die. She pulled me from the sea and carried me to shore— as a human witch for the first time in years."
"You—" the woman clutched the man's hand tightly.
An older woman ran up, huffing. "Hermione! Could you help us? One of the parents lost her purse in the lake, and she's almost frantic! She lost her, uh… Snail-cone?"
Hermione stood. "Please excuse me sir, madam." In a flash she was a sea otter, and she bounce-squeaked down towards the lake and disappeared in a flash under the water.
Minutes passed in stony silence with Severus staring fixedly at the couple.
Hermione surfaced, straps of leather in her mouth as she dragged herself back out and the purse along with her.
"Thank GOD!" the woman cried in relief. "Thank you! Thank you!" The furry otter squeaked and then bounced down the beach, entertaining the children with her antics.
Severus stood, his robes billowing as his arms crossed in front of him. His dark eyes seemed impossibly fathomless. "Mr and Mrs Granger. I will not bring attention to you here in front of all these people— people, I might say, who love your one-time daughter as a daughter, as a beloved friend, as their colleague, priestess, confidant. She has brought the greatest joy to the lives of those here from the very first time her body hit the floor on four legs and fur. Your heartless renouncement of her as your daughter, signing her off like yesterday's trash— after Headmaster Dumbledore himself explained exactly what happened— you disgust me. I have never, in my life, known a creature so full of compassion, forgiveness, and joy. I held her as her body lay dying under her bed as she hid herself away from everyone, refusing to eat or drink, pining miserably for the parents who chose to abandon her. She whimpered and cried, and faded away, day by day, crying, crying for her parents. Finally, I could take it no longer. I cradled her. I forced her to eat. I rocked her body. I sang to her. I told her stories of my messed up life— I and my colleague, Minerva McGonagall— we put her back together with string and hope. And by some miracle, she let us love her, care for her, teach her."
Severus scowled. "Then, one day, she threw herself off a cliff to save a little girl she did not even know well. That day, we saw a goddess true as life, and She gave us Her daughter back, bidding us take care of her as She had taken care of us. She was sleeping for days, and when she woke, she had lived a lifetime. Whether you believe it or not, I care not. She is the blessed of Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom. She is the crown princess of Bulgaria, sworn blood-sister of Prince Viktor Krum. She is a professor at this school. She is my wife, and you—"
Severus' lips curled in a snarl. "If I suspect, even for a moment, that you would push away your son as you pushed away Hermione—"
"We would never!" they cried together.
"Swear on the Erinyes, Mr and Mrs Granger. Here. Now. Swear that you will not abandon your son as you did you daughter— your kind, loving daughter, who did nothing to deserve your fear and your closed hearts. Swear it."
"I swear!" they said together.
"Swear upon the Erinyes."
"I swear upon the Erinyes as my witness, I will not abandon my son!" they both cried, their faces utterly panicked.
Perhaps, they wondered how the words came so easily or even how they knew them at all, but there they were. A golden green glow formed on their left wrist— three rings joined, one for each of the three goddesses of vengeance.
Suddenly, they could hear again, and they both looked around frantically, thinking everyone heard, but everyone around did not even seem to notice them. Even Snape was sitting at the table, chatting with an older with a dark green witch's hat on her head. The two parents exchanged glances, worriedly— and then guiltily as Mamillius ran up and hugged them, showing off his new friends that he had made. The other parents were all laughing and enjoying the new things— the miracle of magic that was real and tangible.
They turned to see the children trying hard to lift up the sea otter— a sea otter with a crown and a number of necklaces around her neck. They struggled and heaved, but the huge otter was no match for them, and she flomped on top of them and squeaked victoriously.
They all gathered around to pet her fur and her wings, ogling at her soft hair and feathers. Then, like a switch was flipped, she shook them off and bounced towards them, staring at the two ex-parents with a strangely human scowl that had been pulled off the Potion Master's Guide to Dour Expressions Against Humanity. Gone were the days she was small and could easily fit in small buckets. Now she stood on her rear legs and came up to the waist, looking as regal as human royalty. She stared them in the eyes, her brown eyes seemingly staring straight into their souls.
"Mummy!" two voices broke the stare as the children ran up. "Can we fly Scorpius over to the island? Please?"
The otter looked at her two children skeptically.
"Please, mummy!" they pleaded. "The best fish are out there. We promise to bring some back for dinner!"
The otter tapped her paw against her arms and sighed. She squeaked imperatively.
"Yes, mum!" the twins cried together, grabbing the young blond boy as they ran towards the lake at full tilt.
Two cavelion "cubs" launched into the air, their wings beating furiously as they took Scorpius by the robes and carried him over the lake together.
"Now there will be no living with him," Draco said with a sniff, much as his father was prone to do. "He'll be wanting to Animagus and turn himself into a kiwi bird."
The otter sniggered into her paw.
"Ah let them have their fun for now, Draco," Severus said. "Once term starts, they will have be grounded and learn what lowly witches and wizards must do in order to fly.
"Hey, brooms are a great way to flyOW!"
Ottermione had bit him on the leg. She chittered at him, crossing her arms.
Draco slumped. "Says the woman who has wings. Some of us have to use brooms."
Ottermione pointed her tail at him.
"Oh no, no NO!" Draco cried.
Draco found himself with a large pair of dove wings. "Really, Hermione? Of all the wings you'd pick—"
The otter grinned at him, flashing oh-so-white-and-pearly fangs.
"Might as well make use of them before they wear off," Draco said, flapping them and then taking off across the lake after his child.
The otter was snickering into her fur.
"If your Royal Squeakiness is quite through tampering with nature," Severus said, lifting up Ottermione and giving her a good cuddle.
She squeaked and rubbed against him, slapping one damp paw against his nose.
"Yes, yes, I love you too, miscreant. Are you ready to give the tour of the temple to the lowly earthbound masses?"
Ottermione gave him a decisive squeak and licked his cheek before flying off towards the Shrine to Minerva.
"Wait for us, Professor Squeak!" the children cried, rushing to follow her.
"Severus," Minerva said as she put a hand on his shoulder.
"Hn?" he replied.
"You're not going to let her get all the attention, are you?"
Severus sniffed. "As if I could ever compare to Her Royal Squeakiness."
"Oh, I wouldn't be too sad, Severus," Minerva said with a smile. "She only has eyes for you."
Severus snorted. "I suppose there is that."
"Come on, mummy, let's go to the temple!" Mamillius tugged on her sleeve, trying to drag her, but both parents seemed a little skeptical about making the trek to the "mini-Parthenon."
Severus turned his head. "Do you wish to go?"
Mamillius nodded excitedly.
"And do you have permission?"
Mamillius gave his parents the puppy dog eyes. "Please!"
Mrs Granger wrung her hands, but Mr Granger nodded. "He does."
"Come," Severus said, extending one hand. "Do not expect this opportunity again."
Mamillius' eyes widened as Severus let his broad wings unfold, the great span of perhaps the largest owl that ever was, he took Mamillius into a backwards embrace and shot up into the air with giant wingbeats, a trail of gold and green spiritual magic wisping behind in his wake.
Mamillius gave a yell of pure excitement, whooping as he was sped off toward the temple at full speed.
"Show off," Minerva tutted, shaking her head. The excitement had a line of people heading towards the goddess Minerva's shrine, attracted to the hubbub. The elder witch turned to Mr and Mrs Granger, her stern gaze much like the one she used in her classes when she watched errant students sneak in late— well, attempt to, anyway. It was the gaze that could quell the most hyper and chatty of students with just one twitch of her invisible whiskers.
"We do not expect everyone to be able to accept a vast, new world easily, especially when you are not magical and cannot partake of much of what makes our world as beautiful as it is to us, nor do we think that all people are perfect," Minerva said, her expression a half-scowl as her eyebrows knit together. "But Hermione was a beautiful child with a stunning mind and even greater heart. Brave, bossy, and the perfect otter. Many would say she was born to be one, and that her human shape was only a fleeting thing, like the caterpillar unto a butterfly. She grew into a fine young woman, whose heart remained huge despite her many hardships. And while the other children all went home to their parents and families, she had to make do with her teachers, who are now her family. And while this may even be forgivable to her, because she doesn't have the heart to dismiss you as she was once by you, I will be watching over young Mamillius very, very closely. And even if you do not believe in the goddess that watches over our school, she does not need your belief to exist— and I will guarantee she will be watching as well." Minerva's eyes flicked to their wrists where the three rings of the Erinyes glowed. "Though it seems you have already sworn yourself to a far greater power than yourselves. Hermione once told me that you, Mr Granger, once told her tales of the Roman and Greek gods when she was a tiny wee girl. Pray, do not forget who the Erinyes are and what they will do to those who swear a false oath."
Minerva turned and walked up the path toward the shrine, her robes fluttering behind her.
"Professor Squeak!" a young girl waved her hand spastically.
"Yes, Miss Moody," Hermione replied.
"Are the Erinyes real?" The girl pointed to the sculpture of the goddesses dragging a woman away.
"As real as you or I," Hermione replied.
"But what if you don't believe in them?" another boy asked.
"What if I don't believe in you?"
The boy frowned. "But I exist!"
"Do you? What if I chose not to believe in you?"
"But I still exist!"
Hermione smiled as comprehension slowly dawned.
"Oh." The boy looked rather sheepish.
"If you read the article that was so graciously preserved, you will see that they are quite real, and those you would have asked that had been there… they would tell you precisely the same. Whether you choose to believe in them or not does not lessen their place or their existence. Or their impact on our ordinary lives. To swear upon the Erinyes is to make a solemn vow, as strong as wizard or witch's oath, as strong as one bound to your magic— something you should never do lightly. But— to give such a vow is a very great thing and of great honour, for those that give such a gift to another, they know it cannot be broken lest the Erinyes come for them to exact divine vengeance."
"Yes, Mr Malfoy?"
Scorpius tapped the article that was preserved in marble and quartz. So highly polished that it was like glass. "Was Rita Skeeter a horrible person?"
Hermione's lips twitched. "She was a person, Mr Malfoy. Capable of great feats of good or evil, to be selfish or selfless. She chose, however, to follow a path of greed and power over truth and serving the community as a whole."
"And the goddess Minerva?" another child asked. "Is she real? How do we know?"
"The ways of gods and goddesses are many, Miss Penwick." Hermione looked upward. "To love a god or goddess is to have faith, and faith requires no proof that is not already around them. To those that believe, proof of their existence is in everything. That I believe should never be enough. That I exist to serve Her is immaterial. Faith, belief, that with within you. It's power is never greater than when it is from your own heart."
Another young boy waved his hand.
"Yes, Mr Goyle?"
"Is it true that Minerva is also Athena?"
"Yes, Mr Goyle, She is both. People often have different names for the same thing, yes? Yet, the rose is still a rose, and the goddess is still Herself."
Another hand waved.
"Yes, Miss Marchbanks?"
"Is it true that Athena created the spider?"
Hermione smiled. "There was once a very talented weaver named Arachne, and her work with wool was so fine and so skilled that many believed she had learned from Athena Herself. But while many a mortal and even the nymphs left their hidden places to gaze upon her work, she was vain and arrogant, believing herself working under no talent but her own, no gift but herself."
"So the goddess came disguised as a crone to give the woman a chance to heed her advice to compete with the mortals as was her right but leave the challenge to the goddess or any god to the side— to ask forgiveness to the goddess she had scorned, for she was not so unkind to not forgive such things."
Hermione straightened her shoulders, her wings flipping back. "But Arachne said 'Let Athena try her skill with mine, and should I be beaten, I will pay the penalty'."
"So Athena dropped her disguise, and Arachne did not cower, no. She stood by her resolve and she took an arrogant pride in her own skill. She held contest to Athena. And while Athena's tapestry showed the gods in their domains with the lifelike shimmer that could not be denied— it also showed four corners of the gods' displeasure at the arrogance of mortals."
"But Arachne would not be outdone, and hers was a combination of shames to the gods— namely Zeus— and his love for mortal women outside of Hera. She wove Leda in love with the swan, Danae with whom he showered with gold atop her father's guarded tower, Europa who was carried off by the bull to Crete— the lifelike portrayal as real to life that the waves seemed to move and the reeds danced."
"Had she picked a different choice in subject, perhaps Athena would not have reacted in anger, but to purposely insult the gods while a goddess was a amongst them, Athena could not bear the insult. She struck the web of Arachne's weaving with her weaving shuttle, then rent the work and the loom to pieces. She then touched Arachne's forehead and made her feel the guilt and shame she had been denying. Arachne, overwhelmed by her own emotions, fled and hung herself."
"But Athena was not wholly anger without sympathy, and when she saw Arachne hanging, she pitied her and bade her life, albeit with her shame that the memory of her great humbled lesson be preserved for all time. 'Live' she said, '...and you and all your kin shall do so unto the future forever.' And so Arachne became the very first spider, and she and all her descendants hung from their silken webs as a reminder to all of what it was to challenge the divine and be without shame." **(Adapted from Bulfinch's Mythology/Ovid's Metamorphoses)
The children and the adult whispered together, nodding and chattering about the mythical story that may or may not have been mere myth at all.
"So," Scorpius said. "Arachne was a talented weaver, but her great talent made her arrogant, and she believed herself to be better than the gods themselves. So when asked if her gift was a sign of the gods' blessings, she denied it, saying her talent was entirely her own. Athena or Minerva— she came down to give her a chance to see her error, but she did not, and they had a duel with weaving. But while both pieces were great, Arachne's was deliberately insulting, and Athena broke it to pieces for the insult and forced Arachne to feel the shame she should have had in challenging the divine. She couldn't live with it, so she ended herself. Yet, Athena had never wished her to die, and she saved her, but she also punished her for her arrogance, turning her into a spider to remind everyone that messing with the gods is a really bad idea."
Hermione chuckled. "Yes, Mr Malfoy. Messing with the gods is definitely a really bad idea."
"Neither is messing with mummy," the cubs chimed to Scorpius, and the trio nodded together in fervent agreement.
Hermione snorted, having heard them, but said nothing.
"Who's your mum?" Mamillius asked in a whisper.
The cubs pointed to Hermione and made a sliced throat gesture with their index fingers.
A swirl of black went by, and the cubs tumbled over themselves with an utterly undignified mew even in their human forms.
"Did you have something to add to the discussion, Mr and Miss Snape?" the tall man asked.
The cubs swallowed hard. "No, Sir!" they chimed together.
"Good, I would hate to think you were already— troublemakers," he drawled, extending the words with a roll of all-too-familiar disdain.
The trio became a quartet as Mamillius joined them in shivering together.
"He's so scary," Mamillius whinged.
"He's our dad," the cubs bemoaned.
Severus turned to Hermione, giving her a subtle wink, and she smiled back at him, shaking her head in amusement.
Hermione clapped her hands together. "Time for dinner everyone! Please meet in the Great Hall, and dinner will begin in a half hour. Thank you for visiting our temple to Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom. If you could please follow the silver tabby, she will be happy to guide you to the Great Hall."
Hermione smiled as Severus embraced her, tucking her against him as they left the shrine. "Shall we say our prayers to Her before we return?"
"Of course, my love," she said, taking his hand in hers. They bowed at the feet of the statue of Minerva, lighting a stick of incense as they fanned their wings out in reverence, saying their prayers to the goddess with their faith and gratitude.
"Hey, Scorpius!" Mamillius beckoned his friend over.
"Eh?" the blond skidded to a halt and gave his friend the odd eyebrow of curiosity.
"Look at this," Mamillius said, pointing to a plaque that stated "First otter to receive all Outstandings in her O.W.L.s : Hermione Jean Granger".
"Granger is my last name too," Mamillius said. "Do to you think that's Professor Squeak?"
"Dad says her name used to be much more complicated," Scorpius said. "Uh— Her Most Graceful Highness, Royal Majesty, erm— Princess Hermione Granger Krum the First." Scorpius rubbed his head. "Now Princess Hermione Snape the First… with all that other stuff."
Mamillius' jaw dropped to the ground. "So when I asked her if she was a queen and she said she was a princess and priestess, she wasn't joking?"
Scorpius thumped him one. "Why would you bloody joke about something like that?!"
"I have a sister?" Mamillius gasped.
"You have a sister?" the cubs asked. "Congratulations!"
"No, I had a sister."
"Oh, well, our condolences."
"No! I mean— bloody hell. Your mum is my sister!"
"Whoa, that makes you our Uncle Mal!"
The cubs got evil grins on their faces. "Hey Uncle!"
Flitwick got bowled over by two cubs flying away from a very flustered, broom-riding Mamillius and one Scorpius who just didn't want to be left behind.
"Five points from Slytherin for all four of you!" he squeaked, wincing as he picked himself up off the ground, having crashed headlong into a rosebush. "For trying to use your professor as a Bludger!"
When Flitwick got to the teachers' lounge, he flopped down on a cushion with a heavy sigh.
"The Slytherin quartet strike again?"
"With or without flying?"
Severus pinched his nose. He extended his hand to Hermione and the bounced it up and down together.
"Stone, cloak, wand."
Severus snarled lowly as he lost.
Hermione kissed him right on the mouth.
"Losing hardly seems like losing when you get that, eh Severus?" Flitwick teased.
The pale wizard blushed crimson. "Fine, I'll deal with them— this time."
"So, you're really my sister?" Mamillius asked.
"We share the same mother and father, yes," Hermione said, tilting her head. "That would tend to lead to you being my brother."
"But— why have they never mentioned you?"
"Because I am not their daughter anymore," Hermione said with a long in take of air. "They signed me away to Hogwarts when I was your age."
"But why?" Mamillius asked in a whine. "That's not fair! I want to have a sister!"
Hermione chuckled. "There is nothing saying that you cannot be my brother, Mamillius, but that will be something in private places and times like this, not during classes when you can and will be treated just like every other student. My own cubs can attest to that."
Mamillius was too happy to care as he hugged her waist tightly, saying nothing, but nothing really had to be said.
Hermione lay one hand on his curly head and closed her eyes. She had Viktor as her brother by choice, and she would have Mamillius as her brother by blood. She may never again have a relationship with her parents, not the one Mamillius did, but that was okay. She knew she had plenty of blessings to make up for all the bad things that had happened, and she would never make Mamillius pay for the sins of their parents. Her parents hadn't been able to accept that their daughter was an otter, and that was okay. She knew that her husband and even Minerva, who was as much her mam as anyone could be, held an awful grudge due to having nursed Hermione back to health after she had been near death out of pining for her parents. She didn't blame them either.
She might never trust them again— that was just reality— but she didn't hold a grudge. If anything she cared more that Mamillius did not suffer the same fate she did. That was something they could all agree on.
As she stroked her younger brother's hair as he clung tightly to her, she smiled. Her brother were her cubs' best mate. The world would explode when they graduated. She expected no less of the Quartet of Trouble.
At least they wasn't the triumvirate of terror that Harry and Luna's little scamp, James, Ronald and Parvati's son, Roger, and Moody's little girl, Isobel, had formed. Those three were probably going to blow up the school and each other long before they ever graduated. At least Febe and Tadeas were perfectly respectable cave lion cubs the majority of the time. Thank Minerva for that— both the goddess and the witch.
Severus padded over to his mate, shaking one wing and then the other as he yawned and flopped down next to her. Viktor was laying against her back as their children played together in the ocean, tumbling around in the waves. Viktor's wife, Nikolina, was making sure they didn't get into trouble with the undertows, but no one was truly worried. Between the ottery cave lions and the children of the shark-prince, their children were not likely to drown any time soon. Look like they were drowned, yes. Actually getting themselves drowned, no.
Draco was draped across Hermione's paws, giving a cheerful otter squeak-yawn, and Hermione had her head over him with a thump shortly after, his squeaky protests going unheeded.
Remus was teaching some of the children from the castle how to make sand animals and castles of epic proportions, and Viktor's children, Vasil and Yana were trying to outdo each other by building the biggest and most grand castle ever— at least they were until a rampaging dik-dik plowed into the castle and collapsed it.
The indignant children were chasing the poor little antelope up and down the beach.
"You sure do have a glorious sunset here, Viktor," Regulus said. "Thank you for inviting us to share it with you."
Viktor smiled. "It is always good to share such things," Viktor said with a grin. "Minerva's temple above turns gold and pink, sometimes purple and blue. It is always beautiful. Friends of my beloved sestrá always welcome."
Padfoot was laying on his back as the waves came in, wriggling around in the sand. He and his brother had finally come off duty from their hit wizard duties, and the pair were enjoying the time to destress in a place where they couldn't be easily tracked down by the British Ministry for random emergency missions.
Lily and Nikolina were chatting away like socialising hens in a henhouse, barely stopping to breathe.
Luna was wearing some sort of strange apparatus on her face and diving under the water to search for something utterly unpronounceable in either English or Bulgarian, and no one seemed to want to try to hard to find out. Luna was having a great time, and that was all that mattered.
Scorpius leapt out of the water and chased after Febe and Tadeas as a huge leopard seal, at least until he got to land, and then the two cave lions remembered they were bigger and chased Scorpius back into the ocean with twin roars.
Hermione purred loudly as Severus groomed her ears. They snuggled together as the sunset, content to let life whirl around them as they remained still.
One silver tabby padded over, leaving a trail of small feline prints in the damp sand. She hopped in between them nestling between their heads, giving a wide Cheshire yawn full of teeth.
Just as the twin cubs seemed to get the upper hand, a great golden musk ox charged down the beach, bleating, and the cubs and the leopard seal fled from the unnaturally curly-furred musk ox's mischief or wrath— no one was quite sure.
"Musk ox, heh," Draco chittered. "Who ever expected that one?"
Hermione gave a rumble and rolled into her mate, saying nothing.
The children had all started to gather to help each other make one large castle instead of many smaller ones to outdo each other, and the resulting construct was starting to look a lot like a Hungarian Horntail. Remus had a little fun at their expense by animating it, and the resulting sand dragon chased the children up and down the beach before allowing the children to climb all over it and ride it.
Hermione lifted her head, nudging her mate's, and they both looked over the water to see the sun dipping below the horizon as the moon seemed larger than life as it rose at the same time.
With whose wisdom we are blessed,
We thank you for this day,
And the setting sun in the west.
Your wisdom is our guide
Through our day and our life,
We thank you for that too,
With our peace instead of strife.
For blessed are our children,
Raised without hate,
Whose friendships span a lifetime
And shall not once abate.
Great and blessed Minerva,
Our praise does never wane.
You have been with us through joyous times,
And you have been with us in our pain.
Glory to your majesty,
Your compassion, and your grace.
Glory to your forgiveness,
And the love in your embrace.
We thank you for your blessings,
Each and every one.
We thank you for each other,
And the bonds that cannot be undone.
Hermione and Severus purred after having sent up their united prayer, and the cubs came bounding back to curl up next to their parents, digging themselves underneath their great wings to share in their warmth.
Way above, in the temple, Aleksei loosed a triple-howl, greeting the rising moon and bidding the sun goodbye. Nikolina joined Viktor at his side, nestling into the cave lions' soothing warmth, and the diffused warmth of their goddess, whose many blessings had followed them throughout their lives.
As a thoroughly knackered dik-dik collapsed in total exhaustion in Lily's lap, the witch laughed, giving her poor son a comforting pat. She gave James a loving gaze, shaking her head at how strange and wonderful their lives had become—
And all because of an arrogant Dark Lord who hadn't had the presence of mind to realise that two hundred to one were terrible odds, even for someone as allegedly "perfect" as himself.
Apparently, Tom Riddle hadn't believed in Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom.
But that was okay because Minerva didn't believe in Tom Riddle either.
Dne Eht | The End
(Tentacle rustling noises)
Cthulhu: I nod't eveileb ni Mot Elddir Rehtie.
Spiders: He's a jerk.
Octavius: An arrogant jerk!
Coffee: And you know what happens to arrogant jerks!
Pinky: They get turned into spiders?
Bucket: We are way cooler than those arrogant jerks!
Cthulhu laughs, tentacles writhing.
The spiders all flee into the darkness.
Spiders: Eeeee! Run away!
Cthulhu: Doog god.
One spider, with a silver bucket stuck on his head, ends up on the end of one of Cthulhu's tentacles. The Elder God gently plucks him off and sets him down on top of Fonn's head.
Bucket: Sigh. Thanks.
Cthulhu: Er'ouy emoclew.