Disclaimer:- I neither earn nor own anything from this story except my plot. Harry Potter and his world are the intellectual property of JK Rowling and her associates.
A/N:- Thank you to LadyWinterlight for her beta work on this chapter, and thank you all for your comments and kudos. I appreciate everyone.
Chapter Nine – The Beginning of Justice
Severus and Hermione were woken by an owl frantically flapping at their bedroom window at seven o'clock the next morning. Severus grunted and reluctantly rolled out of bed and allowed it entry before it woke Alice.
Hermione sat up a little and rubbed her eyes. "Who's it from?" she asked, her voice still heavily drugged with sleep.
Severus plucked the note attached to the owl's leg, and read then turned back to Hermione. "St. Mungo's wants me to consult on a case that came in last night."
This was not the first time that St. Mungos had summoned Severus while Hermione had been resident in his home, but she was just opening her mouth to tell him to go when she gasped. "Oh no! Severus, I'm so sorry, I went to sleep on you last night. You should have woken me."
"No," Severus replied. "You are still recovering, and if you went to sleep you needed to." He covered the distance to be at her side as he spoke. Leaning down, he captured her lips with his, giving her a good morning kiss. "We will celebrate tonight," but then he glanced at the note in his hand once more and added, "This seems rather urgent; would you be all right if I…"
Hermione nodded, before he'd finished his sentence. "Of course, love," she told him. "We'll be fine, if it's urgent then you had better get there."
"I best dress first," he chuckled, looking down at his state of undress. "And I'll be a quick as I can be."
Hermione snickered. "I agree," she said getting out of bed and entwining her hand in his hair to bring his head closer for another kiss. "I'll have your breakfast waiting for you when you return."
"Thank you," he replied, gazing into her lovely eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was leave them, but he knew he was needed or Ramrod wouldn't have summoned him so early. He sighed as he added, "I may be required to go straight to my lab."
She kissed him and smiled. "Then send your patronus and I'll bring your food to you."
He gave her another kiss and took a step away. He turned and checked on the still sleeping Alice, before a wave of his wand had him clothed and blinking out of sight as he apparated away.
Severus knocked on the office door of Healer Morton Ramrod, and was admitted immediately.
"Thank you for coming at such short notice, Severus," the healer said in greeting.
"What can I do for you, Morton?"
"We require a restorative that is beyond the skill of our brewers."
"I see. What do you require?"
"We have a young woman—an Auror, actually—she was attacked last night in Hogsmeade. She has a petrified uterus."
It took all of Severus' calm cool demeanour not to react to this piece of information. "Yes, I will agree that is a rather specialised potion," he stated thoughtfully, but pursed his lips. "Is there any idea of how it happened?" he asked calmly.
"We believe that the young woman is afflicted with the in lapidemcurse. It was a particularly brutal attack, and I would say that she gave as good as she got, but in the end she appears to have succumbed to her attacker."
"Interesting," Severus stated smoothly. "Have you tested for prior exposure to mandrake?"
"Yes, she is clear."
Severus nodded, but was silent for a time. Finally he asked, "Is it possible that the witch is with child?"
Morton's eyes opened wide, giving the answer away. "Yes," he agreed. "Why?"
"If she is in early pregnancy she will miscarry once the cure is administered," Severus replied.
"Because of her affliction, it is impossible to tell exactly how far along she is, but she is obviously pregnant."
"I see," Severus intoned thoughtfully. "Then we shall have to see."
Morton acknowledged Severus' comment with a nod, but then he sighed. "I never get used to man's inhumanity to man. Who would do something this heinous to another person?"
"The lapidem curse has been known to be used by dark witches as retribution on the lover of a wayward spouse," Severus replied evenly, but he shook his head.
He watched the healer take in what he'd said, noting his companion's disgusted expression. Severus continued speaking when Morton did not say anything further. "I shall have to visit Pomona Sprout to obtain the specific variety of Mandrake; she is the only herbologist skilled enough to grow it."
"Yes, understood," Morton replied, and he tutted. "This is a very nasty business."
"It will be a blessing if the patient remains unconscious for the time being."
"Yes, I would have to agree with that, but we are expecting her to regain consciousness."
"Then I should be a quick as possible, and I would advise the use of a sleeping spell if she does start to wake. I must procure my ingredients. Good morning, Morton."
"Severus," the healer replied.
Morton was just turning to open the door for his guest when Severus said, "By the way, where did the attack happen in Hogsmeade?"
He turned back to face Severus. "I believe that the Aurors told me it was in the alleyway beside The Three Broomsticks."
"Very well," and Severus was striding away.
As he walked back to the apparition point, Severus reflected on what he'd just learnt. He had no doubt that Harry and Ginevra Potter had been responsible for the attack. The similarities between what had happened to this poor witch and what had happened to Hermione were just too striking; but how was he going to prove it without involving Hermione? "Draco," he muttered. "Draco can find out."
He apparated to Hogsmeade and sent his Patronus to his godson. "Meet me near the little bridge on the road to Hogwarts as soon as possible, please," he told his silvery raven, and he watched the bird flapping off into the distance, before he walked out the far end of Hogsmeade's main straight, after glancing towards the alleyway beside The Three Broomsticks. It was still swarming with Aurors. Then he remembered that it had been one of their own who had been injured, and he considered that they would probably be there for some time yet looking for the smallest clue, and he turned towards the road that led up to the school.
Severus had only just made it to the little bridge when Draco apparated in. "Severus. What's the problem?" he asked, holding his son in his arms.
"There was an attack last night, just like the one Hermione endured. Can you visit the Aurory today and find out if the witch concerned was in any way connected with Harry Potter?"
Draco smirked evilly. "Consider it done. I will not be going in to work until eleven. I'm awaiting the arrival of Nanny Hildegard."
"Your old governess?"
"Yes, she's agreed to move in and look after Scorpius, but she doesn't arrive until ten thirty."
Severus sighed. "I suppose that was one of the things that you were going to tell me last night, wasn't it?"
Draco smiled and, pulling his tie out of Scorpius' grip because he was trying to eat it, he nodded. "Yes, but I was more than happy with how last night progressed. I'll find out the information you require, and I'll drop by after work."
"Thank you, Draco. Perhaps then we can speak about things then," Severus replied, and inclining his head in thanks.
"Shall do," Draco replied, and he was gone again.
Severus turned towards the school and continued to walk; he'd decided against apparating to the gates, or simply inside them. He wanted time to think as he made the journey. Many things had changed in the last few months, and he really had not had time on his own to think about them.
Having Hermione and Alice in his home had been rather like having a delicious secret that one wanted to tell the world, but then didn't, because that wouldn't make it a secret any more. Despite the way that they had been manipulated into marriage by the unscrupulous castle, and he suddenly chuckled. "And it calls me its master. It's more likely the other way around," he muttered as he walked.
Although, I would have married Hermione in time anyway. I love her and Alice dearly, and that was when he realised that there was no bitterness left inside him. It had finally completely faded away, and what had replaced it was the sure and secure knowledge that he was loved and cherished.
Bloody castle, he scoffed to himself, maybe it does know best after all. It did promise to look after me, but at first I didn't believe it, and I suppose that is why I've fought it so much… I needed time away from here. However, it did deliver me the family I've always wanted.
By this time he'd reached the great gates of Hogwarts, and he paused with his hand on the gate. He felt the steady pulse of the protective wards, and he reached into them seeking communion with the castle for the first time voluntarily.
Thank you, he thought. I may not have always agreed with your methods but you have provided for me.
There was no verbal answer, but the wards themselves purred under his hand, and he knew that they were finally in accord with one another. He still wasn't ready to take control of the school, but he knew that they had an agreement finally.
He opened the gates and walked through as he turned his thoughts to the witch who was fronting the school to allow him this time away. Of course, she deserved her chance to be headmistress, having been deputy to the despot Dumbledore for so many years, but it must have been a hollow victory for her when she discovered that the castle didn't accept her with open arms.
Then, to find out that his Hermione was the child of this very same witch. That had been a surprise, and this made Hermione a half-blood witch. They hadn't had time to discuss that subject at length together yet either. Not that it really changed anything for anyone, the only thing that had changed was that his wife… He paused in his progress up the drive and he smiled to himself. My wife. I have a wife and a beautiful little daughter, he said to himself. And really nothing has changed, except that Hermione has found her birth mother, and that's very important, especially since she's lost her adoptive parents, and it was with this thought that he spotted the witch he was looking for.
Pomona Sprout was only too happy to accommodate Severus' request.
"Certainly, Severus," she said, her eyes twinkling.
This person's eyes twinkling did not affect Severus the same way as Albus Dumbledore's eyes had. He knew that the kindly little Hufflepuff did not have a devious bone in her body. In fact, Severus had always gotten on quite well with this happy little witch, and he suddenly felt a little guilty for not having included her in their celebrations last night, but he couldn't worry about that now.
"You're in luck, they're just mature enough to harvest," she continued as she led him to the greenhouse. "This one, I think," she said, handing Severus a pot.
As he'd demonstrated after Christmas, Severus had rather a gift with plants, and something of an affinity that would have made him a brilliant herbologist, but he preferred to keep his gift to himself. He'd had no issue sharing it with Hermione and Alice soon after they'd arrived on his property, but it was not something for general knowledge.
Of course, Pomona knew, and she'd always encouraged him. He took his wand from its holster and prepared himself. Luckily, he did not need to take the plant from its pot, but he conjured some ear protection regardless, and after glancing at Pomona to ascertain that she was ready as well, he positioned his wand on the stem of the plant.
Using it precisely, he drew sufficient fluid directly from the xylem of the plant for his potion, and then muttered a transfer spell, knowing that the liquid would now be trickling into a clean flask in his lab, and he turned to thank Pomona.
She was watching him with an uncertain expression. "There is something different about you this morning," she told him. "You look somehow settled in a way that I've never noticed before."
"Do I indeed," he replied, knowing very well the reason. He studied the older witch for a moment, and then decided that Minerva was likely to blab now it was all settled, and he chuckled. "Marriage does that for a wizard."
"Marriage!" she crowed excitedly. "Oh, Severus, well done. Who have you married?" and she seemed every bit as animated as a teenager being told something thrilling.
Severus' lip twitched. "Madam Snape was Miss Hermione Granger before her marriage."
"Oh, Severus that's grand. Simply grand. I could see you two getting along, you both love books and academia," Pomona declared still obviously excited, but then inclined her head closer to him and said, "You know, it was rumoured that Hermione Granger was living here at Hogwarts, helping Irma with her library, but I never saw her."
"Indeed," Severus intoned calmly.
Then his companion seamlessly switched subjects. "Will you take breakfast with us? I was just on my way to the Great Hall when you caught me."
"No, I left Hermione to attend a commitment at St. Mungos, and she is expecting me home for breakfast, as will be our little daughter," he took great pleasure in telling her.
"Oh, Severus, there'll be a new generation of Snapes to set more records here at Hogwarts, how wonderful."
"Yes, it is, isn't it," and a rare smile tilted his lips for a moment. "Well, I best get started on this potion," and he took his leave, knowing that their conversation would be all over Hogwarts by the end of the day.
He decided to Floo home from Minerva's office, as it would be rude not to greet Minerva; she was aware enough of what was happening in the wards to have felt him enter them.
As he walked into the castle, Severus wondered that Pomona never questioned when he'd married. In fact, he found that very odd, and he wondered why. Of course, it didn't take long for him the come to the conclusion that part of the magic that had surrounded the three of them the night before had been what was commonly called placeholder magic. It also dawned on him, the castle was capable of great feats of magic; this had been proven many times, and suddenly he wanted to get to the head's office to connect with the keystones and find out exactly what the castle had facilitated on their behalf.
Today however, he apparated to the base of the headmaster's stairwell instead of bursting in like he had the day before. The gargoyles bowed him through, and he mounted the staircase stopping as he reached the top.
He raised his hand to knock, but the door opened as he was about to.
"Severus!" a surprised Minerva gasped. "What are you doing here?"
"Long story," he stated. "Were you on your way to breakfast?"
"Yes, why aren't you at home with Hermione and Alice?"
"As I said, it's a long story. Rest assured that there is nothing wrong… well, not in my house anyway. I was hoping to use your Floo."
"Oh," and she waved him through the door. "You'll excuse me if I keep going."
Severus shut the door after Minerva, flicking the lock into place so he would not be disturbed easily, and he started around to the pillar behind the huge oak desk. As a Legilimens he could access the castle on a level that most could not. What he'd said to it at the front gate was nothing to how he was capable of communicating with it. Reaching out, he placed his hands on the coolness of the stone column and opened his mind to the ancient building.
Now was the perfect time to infiltrate the castle, as every occupant of the building was taking its attention, from the teachers, to the students, to the lowest of the house elves, and it would be occupied with their needs. He skimmed through the peripheral functions searching for the surge of magic that he knew would be there within the last twenty-four hours.
Then there it was; he saw his own wedding ceremony from an outside point of view, and he watched as he was willingly bound to his witches. Afterwards, he sensed what he had suspected: those who had been in the room were not affected, but everyone else who knew them had been touched by the magic. He saw the reason why Pomona Sprout had not questioned him on when he'd married, and it was because she now believed that it was not something to be mentioned.
The castle had arranged it so that no one would ever question whether Alice had arrived before they'd been married or not. It was just to be universally accepted that he was married to Hermione and that Alice was their daughter. Nobody would ever question it, and this made him very happy.
He was just about to pull out of his link when something stopped him. A scene materialised and two people he recognised were walking out of the alleyway that currently contained so many Aurors trying to fathom a seemingly senseless attack on a colleague. He watched as the couple stopped in mid argument, and magic surrounded them. He saw clearly that the witch had been about to obliviate their victim, but the pulse of magic had hit them before her spell had worked. The victim would remember her attack, and who had been responsible. He needed to speak to Hermione, and with Hermione's consent they needed to inform Kingsley Shacklebolt of prior circumstances.
Severus arrived in the doorway of their kitchen to a sight he knew he would never tire of; Hermione singing to Alice as she fed her breakfast.
"Hello, my witches," he said, as he entered the room.
"Daddy!" Alice cried excitedly, holding her arms up to him.
He glanced at Hermione and she smiled and nodded. "She's pretty much finished," she said. She watched him lean down and gather Alice into his arms, and she stepped up to him as well. "Hello, my darling," she murmured, and accepted the tender kiss he bestowed on her. "I'll get your breakfast. What did St. Mungo's want?" she asked as she turned towards the stove.
Severus sat down and balanced Alice on his knee. "I have much to tell you, but there is something you should know first," and he picked up her hand as she placed his mug of coffee and the toast he preferred in front of him.
Hermione's lip slipped between her teeth. "What?" she whispered, terribly afraid that something awful had happened to someone they cared for.
"Sit next to me here," Severus said. He watched her sit, looking very apprehensive. "Another witch has fallen victim as you did, love."
It took a moment for Hermione to fathom what Severus was telling her, but then it hit her. "Oh no!" she gasped. "Is she all right? No wait… t-that was a stupid question, of course she isn't. Oh Severus," but her voice had choked up before she'd finished saying it.
It all crashed over Hermione, the pain at how stupid she'd been to trust Harry, and the betrayal she'd felt. She felt herself being pulled into Severus' embrace, but it was the uncertain voice of Alice that made her swallow her pain.
"Mummy, sad?" Alice asked, as she pulled her mother closer while being securely held by Severus.
Hermione pulled Alice into her arms and snuggled up to Severus' chest as he adjusted them both and secured her in his arms.
"Mummy is sad for another lady who has been hurt, Baby," she told Alice, kissing her daughter's raven curls.
"Daddy, make Lady better," Alice demanded, turning her dark eyes on Severus.
"We will, Alice," Severus assured her. "Would you like to join us on a walk in the garden, Alice? Shotsie can come to play with you while we watch."
"Yes!" Alice cried enthusiastically, and she turned and called the elf. "Shotsie, you and me is to play in the garden, Daddy says."
The elf—who popped in from another place in the house—glanced to Severus for his approval, and watched him nod before she smiled at Alice. "Then we better get you ready, Miss Alice," and the little elf held out her hand for Alice to take.
Severus pulled Hermione more securely against him as he watched the little girl and the elf walking from the room, and he kissed her head. "I'm sorry, I should not have told you like that."
Hermione sighed, breathing in his scent. "I must admit I hadn't thought that hearing of someone else suffering what I did would have affected me so." She pulled back slightly to look him in the eye. "How can you be certain that it was Harry?"
"I am still waiting for the definitive proof, but the witch in question is lying in St Mungos with a petrified mid-section, and Hogwarts told me what it knew."
He sighed. "Yes, because I'm a legilimens I can communicate with Hogwarts on a fairly fundamental level, and let me tell you that building has done us an enormous favour, but that's only slightly related to this issue. However, I believe that this witch will remember who attacked her and why."
Hermione jumped up off his lap, a panicked look on her face. "Then we must do something. She deserves justice," she declared.
"You do too," Severus reminded her.
See blinked at him. "But hasn't that been taken out of my hands now… I mean I could never have that come up in public, if only for Alice's sake," and her hands went to her cheeks.
Severus stood and closed the distance between them. "With your permission. I would like to involve Kingsley. Draco is coming over after work; he is going to do some digging for me today, we could invite Kingsley too."
"Hold an independent inquiry, so to speak."
"Yes, because the general wizarding public would never believe what we suspect… well, what we know has happened before."
"And all mention of Alice will be kept out of it?"
"That will be a stipulation." He pulled her close. "You and Alice must come first in all of this," and he kissed her softly, but then glanced at the clock, and grabbed the toast that Hermione had placed down in front of him with his coffee, he said, " I'd best start on the potion I need to brew."
Hermione laughed as they heard Alice returning. "Then you better disappear before Alice remembers that it was you who thought of the walk in the garden in the first place."
Severus grimaced. "Sorry," he said. "I'll owl Kingsley before I start work," and grabbing his mug of coffee he kissed her quickly and disapparated before Alice saw him.
"Where's Daddy?" was the first thing Alice asked when she entered the kitchen.
"Daddy will join us later," Hermione said in a voice that brokered no argument, but Alice glared at her mother.
"I wants Daddy!" she stated, her scowl growing.
Hermione looked at her; she'd never defied her before, and suddenly the Gryffindor witch saw her husband's scowl in her daughter's expression and a grin broke over her face. She scooped Alice up and said happily, "You really are Daddy's little girl today, aren't you, Baby?" and she hugged her tightly.
Her actions short-circuited any further argument, as the girl hugged back. When Hermione set Alice on the floor again, she took her mother's hand and pulled Shotsie along with her other one as they moved towards the kitchen door.