A/N: I'm quite sure I'm not alive at this point
Beta Love: The Perpetually-Sleepy Dragon and the Rose, the Abused-and-Tired-Dutchgirl01, and the Dominator-of-Assassin's-Creed-Commander Shepard, and one Hollowg1rl who lost her way out of Feudal Japan and ended up in Britain (whut?)
Spiders: No money being made disclaimer here!
Learning to Fly
Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make
for our children.
Harry Potter and Dudley Dursley didn't really remember much about how they had first come to the DoM, only that they lived there and had lived there for quite some time. Harry did wonder why his parents couldn't seem to stop making him brothers and sisters. The twins, Joey and Daisy. had arrived not long after him, then Riley, Cicely, Henry, and Ivy.
With Ivy, it seemed the baby train finally came to a stop.
His parents really didn't have much time for him with all of his younger ones they had to deal with, but it was okay because he had Dudley and Master Morgan and Master Shacklebolt. It was enough—especially when Master Cthulhu allowed for tea and cake on Sundays along with lessons in philosophy and baking. The Elder God made stellar pasties and cakes, and both Harry and Dudley were determined to master them and—taste test the products of hard work.
Molly Weasley came to visit the family often, his mum specifically. She seemed to have her own large brood, almost as if she and his mum were trying to outdo each other with how many children they both wanted. Dudley and Harry began to think that children happened after you specifically didn't touch your wife or husband for upwards of a week to a month and then some random touch would trigger them to disappear for a day or more and have a new brother or sister growing in mum's stomach.
When he asked about it, his mum would turn bright red and tell him to go do his homework and go pester Master Morgan or Master Shacklebolt for a change.
Auntie Hermione and Uncle Severus, however, were the people to go to for real answers. Even the embarrassing answers. Answers that made his mum blush even harder and demand that Hermione and Severus stop… what was it? Oh, right. "Corrupting my pure children."
Whatever that meant.
So, Harry and Dudley learned that children did not form after long periods of not touching, that babies did not form in the stomach after eating food, and they did not get shite out like you did on the toilet. There were no storks involved, and if anything, his parents were entirely to blame for the last few brothers and sisters he had due to something called "lack of self control."
Dudley said that had to do with not eating too much at dinner.
Maybe… it made sense.
Harry's mum liked to become very loud and screech a bit, resembling a cherry-red screech owl—none so much when she caught Harry enjoying a "brain massage" from Master Cthulhu. It felt good. He tried to tell her to give it a try, but she just burst into tears saying her son was going to be a brainless zombie.
That didn't seem right.
Auntie Hermione and Uncle Severus had brain massages all the time, and they were both just fine.
Uncle Severus said it was because Harry's mum grew up with certain expectations—kind of like how he had to finish his homework before being able to go out and play with the other kids. She expected Harry to act a certain way, like his other brothers and sisters.
Why would she want him to cry and poop his pants again?
He'd have to think on that one some more too.
Dudley and Harry moved in with Master Shacklebolt and Master Morgan when they were seven. Dudley thought he heard Harry's dad say that they couldn't very well have the new baby sleeping in the living room, so it was time Dudley and Harry took on their formal apprenticeship.
They were already apprentices, so it really didn't make any sense to Harry or Dudley.
Back to Auntie Hermione and Uncle Severus, who explained that their parents had major self-control problems (again with the inability to not eat dessert before supper) and that they couldn't expand their living quarters without being compelled to fill it. Auntie Hermione said the typical age for formal apprenticeship started around eight, so they weren't all that far away.
Dudley and Harry wondered if normal families hoarded brothers and sisters like collectable toys.
Moving in with the masters wasn't so bad, they decided. They got to share a room with each other and not have their baby sisters and brothers coming in and stealing their stuff. No one pulled on their ears and cranked their wings back trying to climb over them anymore. It was a relief.
Occasionally, Masters Morgan and Shacklebolt would let them go out flying with Auntie Hermione and Uncle Severus, learning how to fly "without slamming into trees like an imbecile" as Severus put it. Hermione called it, erm, what was the word? Finguess? Furkess? Finesse?
Whatever it was, it was always fun to spend time with them. They seemed to understand the two of them so well—like how they just wanted to cuddle under their wings and be close. The masters seemed to understand that sort of thing, even if mum took it to extremes and tried to cuddle him too tightly and dad said they were getting too old for cuddles.
Parents were seriously confusing.
They obviously cuddled each other.
"Does cuddling create children?" Dudley asked Severus.
One finely chiseled eyebrow arched sharply into his hair. "Not specifically, no."
"Oh." Dudley scratched his head.
"So, what does create babies?" Harry blurted. Whatever it was, it had to be really easy. He had so many brothers and sisters. What if he turned on the faucet and a baby came out?
Severus scowled, and Harry realised he'd asked one of "those" questions that involved writing lines and feeling really stupid for hours. Hrm, maybe he could find another way to ask it later.
"Babies come from the womb after a mummy and daddy come together with love in their hearts," Hedwig said, dropping her book on the picnic blanket. She yawned owlishly, her black barred, white wings fanned and stretched before she grabbed a Fuji apple from the picnic hamper and bit into it with relish.
"Obviously," Salvius said, his lips puckered as he itched his wings with his foot in a dramatic show of dexterity.
Hedwig and Salvius always made Harry feel more than a little bit stupid. It was like they knew things adults knew but didn't realise it. He even had to ask them what certain words meant. Like womb. What the heck was that? Was it a wound? Did they injure each other's hearts and that somehow created a baby? How did it move from the heart into the belly? It was all so confusing.
Obviously there were some things he needed to do a little thinking on before he could get it.
Hedwig pounced her mum and clung to her back, using her wings to stroke her mum's wings in affection. Hermione looked up at her female spawn and smiled lovingly, passing her a piece of watermelon. Hedwig squealed with delight and sat on her mum's shoulders as she ate the watermelon. Salvius, also interested, slowly crept closer to his mum. Less apt to pounce and make a scene, he slowly moved under his mum's wings and rubbed up against her, wrapping one of his wings around her back.
Hermione smiled at him, passing him some of the treasured fruit, and he snuggled into her, enjoying his tasty prize.
A shadow passed over the sun, and Harry's eyes widened.
Severus' wing stretched out and curled around Hermione, Hedwig, and Salvius. Dudley sat next to them, munching on his cheese and pickle sandwich.
Harry, unable to resist, snuggled up next to Severus' warm wing too, stretching out his wing to gently stroke the elder's feathers.
He wasn't sure what "normal" was, but he was happy.
The first view of Hogwarts was a bit breathtaking—the spires standing tall out on the horizon with the lake sparkling beneath them. They flew in, taking the time to drag their hands in the cool water as they dipped low before the thermals carried them up again. Hermione twirled as she flew up, enjoying the feel of the wind through her feathers. It had been a long time since they had been able to truly fly together, just as they once had as children and even longer since they had had time to themselves between children and duties.
As they landed by what they guessed was the entrance gate, a huge, hairy man stood facing in the other direction, seemingly waiting for them. A large keyring dangled from his sausage-like fingers.
"Woof." The boarhound beside the man barked.
The bushy bearded man startled, turning around. HIs beard looked like it was trying to devour his face, and Severus wondered if something was living inside it. Even Hermione's wild hair, back in the day, hadn't harboured small animals—
Hermione gave a startled eep as the man thrust his hand out to shake it, and she doubled backwards, slamming her shields down to avoid touching his mind along with his handshake.
The man didn't seem to even notice, enthusiastically pumping her hand in greeting.
"Well, hallo there! I'm Hagrid. Rubeus Hagrid," he bellowed.
Severus stiffened, his wings twitching as he wrapped one protectively around his mate with a scowl.
"You must be Severus. Your mum talks about you often. Said you'd be comin'."
Severus relaxed a little at the mention of his mother. She'd written on a number of occasions, saying she was trying to get her life back on track after his father's final betrayal, but she had also begged him not to think too much on it. She'd needed the isolation to keep from remembering Tobias and then wanting to return "home". Whatever the nature of the compulsion was, it had been incredibly strong, even well after Tobias had become quite permanently indisposed.
Had Severus not had Hermione and their masters back in the day, he would have surely not been able to let such a thing go, but he realised his mother had recognised Severus as being far healthier living with Hermione and their masters in the DoM than he would ever have been "back home" with either a drunken, abusive father or a broken mother.
'If you love them, let them go' as the saying went. Perhaps, he thought, there was some truth to it.
Hermione tucked herself into his side, wrapping one wing around his back for comfort. New places always made her nervous, and he was always her protector. As a healer, she was easily distracted by the Weave—what she called life. Pain, suffering, and an insistent need to do something about it was never far from her mind, and it took intense shielding—exhaustive even—to separate herself off from it in order to function like a "normal" person. Even when directly shielding to avoid picking up pieces of another's life, she could accidentally glean due to her touch, which cut her off from the the more natural flow of magic. Times like that went about as well as the few times she had cut herself off from him—it had not been a pleasant experience.
Their bond had always been there—the comfort of feeling each other's presence had been the key to their early survival and their subsequent growth as partners. They shared the bond with the Gwyllgi, with Tiamat, and—even more oddly—Cthulhu. Even though their relationship with Cthulhu wasn't quite the same, there was no doubt the Elder God was a rather comforting presence in their life.
That irony was… simultaneously both frightening and amusing.
"Hey don't forget about us!" a spider reminded him, bouncing up and down excitedly from his shoulder.
Severus snorted, reaching one hand up to rub the spider's abdomen.
The rune spider purred—such an odd sound to come from a spider when it seemed far more feline than arachnid—and looked around, checking out the new place. Usually, they made themselves busy at home, taking care of the residence. Happily enough, they enjoyed housekeeping, were even happier to rid the DoM of any insects that might have snuck in. Of course, they enjoyed gardening too, and child-sitting, which was even stranger but very welcome to the growing DoM families.
Lily, of course, was terrified of spiders in general, and rune spiders were no exception at all. Harry absolutely loved them, and they loved him back—but that surprised no one, considering he was often babysat by Master Cthulhu. That Lily was okay with Cthulhu babysitting her son and yet was still terrified of rune spiders was one of those chuckle-worthy oddities passed around the DoM.
"This place is huge," the rune spider said, looking around with interest. "I'd be making webs for days."
Severus chuckled as Hermione gave the spider a tickle under the head, and the spider purred happily.
"This way then," the wall of a man said as he turned to walk up the path towards the school.
Children were gathering, utterly failing any attempt to be stealthy as they blatantly oogled at the visitors. They clustered together in strange colour groups. Red with red, yellow with yellow, blue with blue, and green with green.
Hermione tensed beside him, clearly unnerved by the presence of so many unknown people—all of them potential interlopers into her comfort zone. While Hermione was hardly a recluse, she had every reason to be leery. Healing was hard enough… getting a mind full of random strangers (children and teenagers at that) was probably terrifying.
He rubbed her back with his wing, and she leaned into him, taking it for the comfort it was intended to be. He straightened his back and put the appropriate sneer on his face, his lips twisting into an almost snarl, as he arched his wings just enough to tip the scales towards intimidation, allowing his robes to billow just so. Hermione, he knew, found it comforting—but as the gaggle of children stumbled to back up and out of the way as they passed, he knew the gestures had done the right thing.
They hadn't bothered to hide their wings— but he knew that was not going to happen the moment when Hermione had needed his comfort from this… Hagrid person. Severus suspected the man was part-giant— possibly hill, judging by the smell from his beard. Severus shuddered.
As children they had learned to be very conscientious of their hygiene— anything less made wing care horrid to the extreme. As they grew up, Severus learned to brew potions as well as experiment with hair tonics and soaps that Hermione would like and he would tolerate for her sake— even if it did make him smell like pears the rest of the day. At least she didn't like those sappy, sickly sweet flower scents that made his nose rebel and spite him by running like a ruddy faucet for a whole week afterwards.
Ironically, the same oils and waxes that made his wings happy made his hair look like it had been doused in oil, but Hermione liked it— really, that wasn't anything he cared about. She said it was silken.
Silken… oily. Oh well.
Her hair, on the other hand, defied all science and logic by becoming almost sentient. It smelled absolutely fantastic, however, and he would often find himself pressing his face into it just because, inhaling her enticing scent like he was taking a drag. That also tended to lead to certain other things that were thankfully on the approved list when you were happily married. Yes please. Thank you.
Still, better that these children didn't know that. Even if they had still been children themselves, he knew what cruelty lurked in the hearts of most "normal" of any sect of humans acted like when exposed to the less than ordinary. One look at Master Morgan would prove that.
Hermione's sister, Lily, was a stunning example of how the distinctly different was perceived in certain close-minded heads. Severus was quite well aware of what Lily thought of him. Tall, ugly, decidedly less-than-attractive. He didn't say it, nor did he have to, that he didn't trust Lily in the slightest. He tolerated her for Hermione's sake alone— if anything, for Harry's sake.
It was Harry who had forged peace between Hermione and Lily, and thus himself and Lily— but the past was not just the past for him, nor was it for Hermione. Petunia as well, ranked low on the respect and consideration department as well, but at least Petunia was currently enjoying a long-term timeout with a psych ward somewhere other than in the DoM.
As for Vernon— no one really knew for sure. (Or cared, for that matter.)
When they stopped in front of a gargoyle, Severus was treated to the oaf, er, Rubeus Hagrid, trying to remember some sort of password. He rattled off various types of candies, biscuits, something about gryphon doors (maybe they had a thing with doors shaped like gryphons), and a few other chains of things.
A few of the Gwyllgi popped in and tail wagged at the gargoyle. The gargoyle touched noses with them, and they seemed to get into an avid conversation without vocalising anything. Then, with an audible pop, the gargoyle let them pass.
"Password accepted," it said, going still as stone once more.
Hermione pet the Gwyllgi fondly, having never once thought them anything less than spectacular beings.
The bumbling man was still rattling off biscuit names as they walked past him and upwards.
An older witch sat at an ornate oak desk that looked like it had been carved back in the Dark Ages. The legs of the desk were formed into some sort of creature legs, but exactly what the creature was supposed to be was anyone's guess. The finish was disgustingly polished, probably by elves, and it seemed like the desk was a fixture of the office, having been passed down from headmaster to headmaster throughout the ages.
"Ah, Masters Snape," the elder witch said, standing up. "Welcome to Hogwarts. Did you have any trouble getting here?"
"We were escorted by a— Mr Rubeus Hagrid, I believe?" Hermione said with a nod.
"Ah, Hagrid. Yes. He's our Keeper of the Keys, Gamemaster, and teacher for Care of Magical Creatures," the woman said. "I am Minerva McGonagall, Headmistress after Albus Dumbledore fell under some unfortunate sort of spell. I found him one morning babbling quite incoherently— I couldn't make any sense of it."
"I am Severus," Severus said carefully, paying very close attention to her movements and her facial tics.
"I am Hermione," Hermione said. She sounded more cheerful, but she keep her wing wrapped around his back for reassurance.
Severus felt a smile tug at his lips as she did so— it comforted him.
Minerva smiled, but it was a sad one. "My apologies for our meeting not being entirely social," she said. "Eileen spoke very highly of you, Severus, and I know she was planning to ask you here before her strange affliction."
Severus nodded. "She had sent her apologies on missing our wedding," he said carefully, watching Minerva closely.
"Oh, that dreadful mess," Minerva said, closing her eyes on recalling the incident in question. "We had a rather substantial clean up here at Hogwarts around that time. Earlier that year, we had a strange explosion in the seventh floor corridor. Something called our Come and Go Room, well, came and went, taking out the floors above and below with Fiendfyre. We had everyone working to rebuild it for the students to return. When I told everyone to not make any other plans, I had no idea she was going to miss your wedding. I can only offer you my most sincere apologies for the miscommunication. I fear that since she was new here, she believed any infraction against my wishes would terminate her contract."
Minerva sighed. "I fear I have a bit of a… reputation here."
"Like our Master Morgan, I wonder," Hermione said with considerable amusement.
"Manfred?" Minerva asked.
"Yes, do you—"
"Oh, that old dragon-bat is still stirring the pot, aye? He always was such a rabble rouser. Heart of gold. Unfortunately, we parted ways when I was offered a job here at Hogwarts. No one after ever came close. I blame the wings and that snaggletooth he has on the right side when he's thinking really hard."
"Pick your jaw up off the ground, laddie," Minerva said with a chuckle. "We were all young once."
Severus and Hermione exchanged glances that shared the overwhelming mental image of baby dragon-bats infesting the DoM.
"It's funny— looking back I have no idea why I really left. The job, the career, they had never been a thing for me until that moment in time." Minerva frowned.
"It must have been a really good reason for you to leave the DoM behind," Hermione mused. "It's such a closely knit family."
Minerva shook her head. "And yet I don't know why. It's so very odd that I never even thought about it until—" She stopped.
Severus and Hermione waited patiently for her to finish, and Minerva had an odd, strangely glazed look in her eyes.
Severus' head snapped up and his wing curled around himself and Hermione as a strange, fine mist was emitted from one of the portraits. He snarled, immediately throwing up his combat shields, and Hermione was instantly on high alert— exquisitely attuned to his very soul.
She pulsed her cleansing shields out, moving them out gradually, but he did not hold back at all. He threw his magic into an impenetrable barrier and shoved it out with no bother to wait or withhold. His hand curved into Hermione's and his shielding feathers— some of them charred from the effort to resist the magic— healed themselves.
Their eyes flashed— one green and one black.
"What's going on in here?!" they heard from the portraits. Some of them were yelling, others hastily diving for cover.
The floor turned molten as Tiamat rose from her chaos, lips pulled back from dripping teeth as her wings sliced through the air, both soft and sharp. Her claws extended, seemingly of liquid, but then they were not. She roared, and leapt, diving into one of the portraits.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHH!" cried one of the portraits as a figure ran from one frame into another.
"No! Don't bring that thing over here!"
"What the … IS THAT THING?!"
The Gwyllgi growled, teeth bared.
Severus extended both hands, palms up at his sides, and Hermione laid her down on top of his, palms down. Their eyes glowed.
"Find its source," Severus instructed them, his face set like stone.
"And destroy it," Hermione said, her eyes blazing.
The hellhounds snarled in response and readied themselves to jump into the portraits as well.
"MINERVA!" a voice cried out from another portrait. "Stop this at once!"
Minerva, however, was still glassy-eyed and unresponsive— only now she was under the shields created by both Hermione and Severus.
Severus saw the painted figure of a elderly wizard with a long beard— like so many other elderly wizards with beards and narrowed his eyes. "That one," he said. "Is the Origin."
"Minerva!" the painted wizard screamed. "MINERVA!"
The Gwyllgi leapt into the portraits, tearing across each and every frame, leaving flaming footprints of paint as they went.
As the Gwyllgi closed in, the painted fugitive found his retreat blocked by the snarling maw of Tiamat. The painted wizard cast some sort of spell— fire taking shape into a beast that swirled.
"No! Albus! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" the other portraits screamed.
The Gwyllgi simply appeared outside the frames again, sinking into the ground and disappearing. Tiamat slashed one of the portraits, and there was a roaring sound as fire consumed the frame only to be drowned in water, only for that water to turn to ice.
Inside the frame, hung one frozen in space elder wizard, painted face twisted in terror.
"My frame! My beautiful frame!" a painted figure wailed from another frame— sharing it with another wizard who was not happy at all about it.
The moment the ice solidified, Minerva shook her head and came out of her trance. "What…?"
She saw the two masters, frozen in combat position, their magic still swirling as a shield around the three of them.
"What is going on?"Minerva cried. She clutched her head in pain. "AH!" She crumpled over, shrieking. She tore at her hair as her ears twisted and jerked into funnels. Her hands twisted, fingers elongating as membrane grew between each digit— stretching, pulling with a tearing sound. Her bones twisted, popped, and reformed as fur and scales sprouted down her back and belly. As her hands fell away from her head, her face pushed out into a snarling, frothy muzzle.
SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! She screamed.
Her body expanded, far bigger than the design of the room had ever intended to hold. Her wings bashed into the walls of the office, knocking books, globes, and portraits off the side walls.
"SCREEEEEE!" she screamed again, her body twitching, convulsing, continuing to grow and reform as her magic pulsed, warped, and then released, bursting from her like a butterfly from a cocoon.
As objects from the top shelf came clattering down. Hermione and Severus came face to face with a silvery-peach dragon-bat with glistening iridescent scales that flowed down her back and mixed into the membrane of her wings.
Hermione broke the silence. "Wicked."
Severus blinked. "I concur."
The spider on Severus' shoulder bounced up and down. "Do it again! That was so AWESOME!"
The newly rediscovered dragon-bat gave a small, wheezy meow sound.
Severus and Hermione crossed their wand arms together and sent a joint Patronus zinging out towards the DoM.
"I knew you had not abandoned us," Manfred crooned, wrapping his wings around Minerva as she trembled against him.
"How did I forget— how could I forget this?" Minerva cried against him, her wings locking around Manfred much as Hermione often did against Severus.
Manfred pressed his muzzle tenderly against hers. "You left to train with a master of transfiguration— you had hoped to learn a way to retain a human form longer. To teach the children. You'd thought it might help them have more freedom— to choose to leave the DoM if they wanted to. To go to school wherever they wished to."
"Albus," Minerva hissed furiously, the sound coming out somewhere between feline and bat, with a twister of dragon.
"He came to my wedding!" Minerva snarled. "He was the one who introduced me to Elphinstone Urquhart! And— And— he died to a venomous tentacula! All the while I was pining away for someone I thought was just a Muggle farm boy!"
Manfred scratched an ear with his wing thumb. "To be fair, I had been a Muggle farm boy before— well, all this happened."
Minerva looked up at him, and he smiled at her, all fangs.
"Manfred," she said, her voice trembling with emotion.
"Oh love, I did not wait for you this long to not forgive you," he said as his wing gently brushed her cheek. "I knew you wouldn't have abandoned me of your own free will."
Minerva frowned. "You waited for me all this time?"
"Of course I did," he replied lovingly. "Perhaps you do not recall what a grand and glorious prize you are."
Minerva flushed, her fair skin turning a dusky pink under her fur. "How could I not have remembered this— you?"
"Suoidisni cigam," the familiar rumble of deep, slithering speech said. The dark form of Cthulhu rose up from the carpet.
Minerva screeched, terrified, her body exploding with magic crafted by her instinctive terror, like a child whose magic had never known control. She fumbled, as if for a wand, but her wings and twisted wing "thumb" did not quite agree with her decision. She stumbled backwards, a twist of wings and awkward noises— something between the yowl of a cat and the groan of an injured person.
Hermione and Severus quickly stood in front of the Elder God.
"Peace," Hermione said. "He sings in the great deep dark, but he is not our enemy."
Severus flared his wings, glowering, somehow managing to look more intimidating than the slithering darkness behind him.
Minerva, trembling, shook her head violently in denial of this new truth.
"They speak the truth, love," Manfred said. "There are many new truths for you to learn that we have discovered in your absence."
"Spahrep, a tfig si eud, ot evorp eht eulav fo taht hcihw seil dnoyeb sdrow," Cthulhu said, his body shifting as his bulk seemed almost too large for the Headmistress' office.
"Llet em, namuh," he said, his voice a growl. "Mohw od uoy etah?"
Minerva shuddered, holding on to herself with her wings.
"He wishes to know who has placed such hatred in your heart," Hermione explained.
Minerva stared at her, lips trembling over her fangs.
Severus, one eye black as coal as the other glowed emerald green, turned to regard Minerva. A Gwyllgi rubbed its head affectionately against his hand.
"Dertah si doof," Cthulhu said.
"Hatred is food," Severus translated.
"Rof esoht dlo hguone ot rebmemer eht krad taht emac erofeb."
"For those old enough to remember the dark that came before," Hermione said, her voice detached as she translated.
"Before light," Severus said.
"Before hope," Hermione said.
"Dertah emac htiw evol."
"Hatred came with love," Severus said, his head turning slightly.
"Ereht tonnac eb eno tuohtiw eht rehto."
"There cannot be one without the other."
"Rof ruoy tsetaerg evol—"
"For your greatest love—"
"Ereht tsum eb a etah lauqe ot ti."
"There must be a hate equal to it."
"Evig ti ot em, dna I lliw evig uoy a tfig ni nruter."
"Give it to me, and I will give you a gift in return."
"Ot llif eht eloh erehw ti ecno dellewd," Cthulhu rumbled, extending his tentacles.
Minerva cringed away, intimidated and fearful.
"To fill the hole where it once dwelled," Hermione said as Cthulhu's head tentacles dropped down to caress her head. She closed her eyes, trustingly— perhaps as an example. She wobbled slightly as his darkness surrounded her, twirling around her like curious cats before it and his tentacles withdrew.
Cthulhu used his larger "arm" to gently nudge her towards Severus.
Minerva's eyes widened and she swallowed hard.
"Albus," she whispered. "He stole my memories. Who I was. What I was. My life. My—" She stared at Manfred, her face turned into a snarl of pain. She buried her face into his fur. "That twinkle-eyed bastard. Even now he can hurt me. He stole my time. He stole my youth. He stole me from my love. He stole the children I had yet to have."
The tip of one tentacle lightly touched Minerva's temple and glowed, a cloud of dark particles emerging from her mind, screaming of the injustice— the rage, the spite for the one she had thought she could trust, the one that had ultimately betrayed her the greatest.
Minerva whimpered, wilting, sobbing.
Cthulhu drew them together with his trunklike arms. "Emos evil ot gnol elihw srehto ega oot noos, tub sdog- Ew nac ekat tahw sah neeb nelots dna evig ti kcab eerht dlof dna eht pit eht selacs ot eht ecnalab srehto tegrof."
Severus closed his eyes. "Master Cthulhu says that some people live longer than they should. Others live shorter lives because of them. But He— He can give back what has been taken." His gaze darkened. "For He does not require belief to exist."
Cthulhu rose up as his tentacles surrounded Manfred and Minerva as a dark swirl of lightless Void surrounded them. A scream of an elder man ran out in the vastness of the pocket of eternity as the vision of tentacles sprouting from the ground and twisting around an elderly wizard and a not so elderly wizard, sucking the very essence of life from the fleshy shells that encased it.
In that singular moment, none were more fearsome than He— the slick-skinned being that stood like a man but was so much more.
"Peels," Cthulhu said quietly. He cradled the two dragon-bats in his dark embrace even as the screams of two alternate factions heralded the touch of the Elder God's unique brand of justice.
"Dnet ot ruoy rehtom, dlihc," he said to Hermione and Severus. "I llahs dnet eseht owt." He touched their temples with the tip of his tentacles.
"Yes, Master," they said, bowing respectfully before exiting the room, knowing that if anyone was stupid enough to intrude on the Elder God that nothing they could do would come close to helping or hindering once Cthulhu had made up his mind.
The pair left the Headmistress' office, the Gwyllgi and Tiamat trailing after them.
Sybill Trelawney whispered her spells over Eileen, determined to send her rival packing. She had not stayed away after the first time when the stupid bint had come to Hogwarts with her supposedly "genuine" Seer gift and Sybill had dealt with her in short order. She'd thought that she'd woven a perfect infatuation with that Muggle, spiking the Muggle with a custom lust and fertility potion while Eileen had been out drinking with Sybill to garner her "advice" on how best to utilise her inborn talents.
As if she'd ever share.
She'd spiked the Muggle's drink, knowing that Eileen was attracted to the "tall, dark, and stormy" type and then let nature seal her into a shameful loveless pregnancy and subsequent marriage with a few drops into her drink as well— just enough to make it so by the time she came to, there would be no going back. It was her own damn fault, after all. Fancying Muggles. Feh.
Sybill knew the insufferable girl would be shamed by her family the moment she discovered her pregnancy. Her arranged marriage would be nullified. Her shame would be all over the papers— unless she made herself scarce.
It had been so perfect.
How dare Eileen Prince come back.
And that damned Minerva. She welcomed the bloody bint back with open arms— she and that pompous supposed master in Divination.
SHE was the master of Divination!
Well, now that Master Boddington had left, Sybill was free to roam Hogwarts again, and the first thing she did was hit the stupid woman with a stunner and pour a vial from her Knockturn Alley potions stash down her throat. Now, all she had left to do was whisper what she wanted this pitiful pretender to be into her ear and it would be done.
She was always very good at not being noticed… and underestimated. She used to hate how her mother always said she had to work hard to be like her great-grandmother. She had to nurture and cultivate her gift. She had to work hard.
Sybill had felt like she was drowning, back then. Her gift had come as a curse, crippling her with the strength of her vision and making her spew prophecies over breakfast, in the middle of kindergarten, and when she'd been surrounded by pitying Muggles who thought she was having an epileptic seizure.
So when she'd run from them, crying so hard that she didn't watch where she was running, she'd found herself smack in the way of a passing trolley. Some passerby had shoved her away, saving her life at the expense of his own. Her peers had been screaming. Her teachers had been wailing.
And Sybill had just wished she could be free of the stupid "gift" as the darkness had swiftly closed in. She thought, in that moment, maybe she was dying and she'd finally be free of the curse of the Seer. She had never wanted to be like her great-grandmother, grandmother, and even her mother had been.
But it didn't matter. She was still great. She was still powerful. She just needed to get rid of these no-name posers who thought they had the gift. She had just gotten the great Albus Dumbledore to think she was the real thing and guarantee herself a plum position at the highly touted school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She wasn't going to give it up, and if that old cat tried to throw her out, she'd spike her biscuits and tea too.
Why did Dumbledore have to go bloody lawn tennis on everyone?
Unlike Albus Dumbledore, that irritating feline Animagus wanted, nay, demanded a proven, reproduce-able curriculum. She wanted something that could be taught year after year and be duplicated for all students who took the class, not just the few with "the gift."
Well, what the hell was Divination but the use of the ruddy GIFT?!
Sybill smiled as her memory charm worked its magic on her hated target. She didn't care one bit what the interloper had for talent. Supposed talent.
The pretentious little faker.
She should have stayed shamed and pregnant with that stupid drunken Muggle.
Sybill smiled wickedly. "That'll teach you to try and take what is rightfully mine," she hissed. "I will be the only Seer here. People will fear and tremble at the sound of my words. And you— you will just think yourself an old, bitter, unloved librarian whose only shred of understanding comes from unfeeling books."
She watched with cruel satisfaction as the witch's face quickly grew older and more wrinkled like a crone's. Her smile was anything but kind. "Yes, yes, all that prettiness turned to wrinkles. No one will ever believe such an ugly thing could be you. Just as they wouldn't believe you if you told them it wasn't your fault you got pregnant by a dirty, drunken Muggle."
A blazingly hot wind blew through the infirmary, and Sybill cried out as she was frozen in place.
She heard nothing.
How could a spell affect her when she heard nothing?!
Dark tendrils of magic seeped up from the flagstones even as rippling purple tendrils rose from the cracks like weeds breaking through the ground to outdo the garden.
Cold, bony fingers wrapped tightly around her throat. Eyes the color of the Abyss stared back at her as the fingers around her neck jerked and twisted as he held her. Fangs filled his— its? —mouth, bulging outwards in an inhuman snarl.
"What. Did. You. Do?"
The voice was deep, rumbling like the very Earth quaking. Green flames filled one eye, baleful like faerie fire. Those eyes left her but for a moment as they stared at the woman lying on the infirmary bed. At first, Sybill thought herself safer. The transformation was complete. Nothing would tie her to the change, but then the crone's face wrinkled more, the change not finished as the witch let out a pained shriek as her body shriveled around her.
There was a witch beside this man-thing— a gloved hand upon his shoulder that caused the twisted, gnarled fingers to loosen just enough so she could breathe.
She was saved!
The woman's bushy hair fluttered as if it was fire, but her face was unmoving until her eyes flicked over to hers.
The man growled, and it was not a human sound. It spoke of damnation and retribution. It—
It was Eileen's whelp— grown into a beast, a terrifying, primordial beast. Yet even as he— it— stared at her, her traitorous body was simultaneously terrified and aroused. Her heart beat thumped inside her chest like a wild thing. She both pissed herself and grew wet for other reasons, and she could do nothing to stop the onslaught of contradictory feelings.
The woman gently pressed her face to his cheek, rubbing against him as a cat would scent mark a table leg, and his umbral gaze switched from Sybill to the other woman. The woman brushed her hair back from her ear with one finger as she took her right index finger between her teeth and pulled off the glove.
"We can do this the hard way or the easy way," the woman said, her eyes seeming to shift from emerald to black. The purple-black tendrils swirled from her irises, devouring the whites of her eyes and filling them with chaos.
"You could tell us what you did to this witch, or—" She smiled at Trelawney, but it was not kind, "or by right of Ministry Act 32-15-X-22, witnessed by two agents—"
"And one spider!" a large spider added, glowering at Sybill from the man's shoulder.
"And one spider," the woman corrected, "I will find the answer by tearing down every single wall in your mind to find out if what you did was intended to be fatal."
Sybill, very certain that Legilimens were just a myth used to frighten misbehaving children, simply raised her chin defiantly. "I'm not afraid of you."
The woman reached her hand out and splayed her fingers across Sybill's face. "You needn't fear me, Sybill Trelawney," the woman said, causing Sybill to startle.
How had she known her name?
"Fear what I must become if he—" She flicked her eyes to the dark-eyed man. "If he decides you are better off dead."
Her fingers spread across Sybill's face like a spider and clamped across it. The woman's blackened eyes shifted to a brilliant emerald green as a wicked smile tugged at her lips. "This may… hurt a little."
Sybill screamed as the feeling of molten lava seemed to fill up her mind and spread through every nerve like wildfire.
Sybill saw the ground fall out from underneath her feet, and she was falling… falling… into the molten depths of the Earth. The gaping wound of the Earth seemed like open jaws— jagged rows of teeth formed and closed in on her, and she screamed—
Sybill was running, running—
The hounds of hell were chasing after her, their hot, stinking breath like sulfur, their bodies molten lava.
They bayed for her blood, and she continued to run.
She could never stop running.
She could never stop fleeing for her very life.
Sybill opened a closet door to see swirling black and purple vapour billow out as it formed into shining, unnaturally white teeth. Slime dripped from each fang as massive wings unfurled. Paw-hands reached for her, even as its eyes seemed to both pull in and push away. Talons of a bird rose up from the ground, reaching out to disembowel her. Feathers, scales, smooth, and rough, beast and bird, soft and hard.
"Sybill," it roared. "Give me a kiss, lover-girl!"
Sybill screamed in terror.
Eileen opened her eyes, groggy. "Severus? Is that you?"
Severus smiled at her slightly, a small tug about his lips. "Mum."
She reached for him, touching his face. "Oh my darling boy. You're all grown up."
She looked around. "I had such an awful dream. I was trapped inside a library, and no one knew who I was. Everyone hated me."
"Mum," Severus said, his gaze unreadable. "What really happened when you married Tobias?"
Eileen flinched, realising that her son never considered the horrible man she had married his father. And how could he? Tobias had been a stain and chain upon her for so long…
"I had these powerful visions when I was young, and I was told to seek the advice of the family of Trelawney— Sybill being more my age. I needed to know if there was a place for my gift or if it was a curse. But one night, when we were having dinner together— I just had a drink or two, but the next thing I know, I'm waking up to Tobias on top of me and—"
"I was pregnant, Severus," she said. "I couldn't go back to my family in shame. The publicity would have killed my mother— my gran. So, I fled the Wizarding world and had you with Tobias. He was actually a good father at first, until—"
Severus narrowed his eyes.
"You couldn't help it! You were a baby! You just made your rattle float to you! He changed. He—"
Eileen winced in remembered pain. "He had accepted his responsibility for having you with me," she said, "until he realised his son would never be ' normal' and that I'd never given him a choice. He suspected me of ensorcelling him, and he was right to think so. Our trust was broken, and he never trusted me again. And you— you became a constant reminder that you'd never be one to sit and watch rugby or share a pint with him and the boys."
"He became a monster, Severus, and I know you never loved him, but he was a monster of my own making. It was my fault."
Severus' lips flattened into a thin line. "No, it was not."
"Severus, I know you think—"
"No, mum," Severus said. His wings flapped once before he folded them again. "I'm saying Sybill did all this to you to keep you from outshining her and getting a real job with a real gift. She laced your drinks with lust and fertility potions, and she orchestrated your shame so you would rather die than return to the Wizarding world as a witch pregnant out of wedlock."
Hermione swept in next to them. "My apologies for the interruption," she said, unconsciously touching wings with him. She rubbed the side of her chin against his like a cat. "Ms Trelawney is finally stable after forcing the reversal of the magic she used against you, Madam Snape," she said quietly. "I have overridden Madam Pomfrey's normal care when we found you being attacked right here in the infirmary, but she will be the one caring for you now, as it is her charge and responsibility to do so."
"Severus?" Eileen asked, her eyes widening.
"My apologies, Madam Snape," Hermione said. "I am—" She looked at Severus, and he nodded.
"I am Master Healer Snape," she said, watching the woman's eyes bug out of her head. She fanned her wings out slightly, tucking one under Severus' with habitual tenderness. "You may call me Hermione, if you so wish."
As Hermione expected, Eileen's brain skipped right over master and healer and dove right into 'Snape'.
"You— you're a Snape?"
Hermione arched a brow, suppressing her mate's typical response of
"Last I checked," Hermione replied with an amused smile.
"We're Snape's too!" the spiders on Severus' shoulder said, bouncing. "Oh and all the hellhounds."
Tiamat growled from under the bed where she was resting.
"Oh, and Tiamat too!"
Eileen blinked and looked under her bed and then shot back up in the bed, going rigid. "What is that?!"
"Tiamat," the spider replied.
"Ob-viously," the other spider said.
"Woof," one of the Gwyllgi said, tail wagging.
Eileen suppressed a shriek. "And that?"
The hellhound cocked its head at her.
"Hell puppy," the spider said. "He likes cherry tarts."
"And belly rubs."
"Why doesn't it look like— like—"
Nisha and Kyra, who had been sleeping on the nearby bed, lifted their heads. They still looked more like large-eared dobermans rather than their supernatural counterparts. Somehow she had forgotten that they were, in reality, hellhounds.
"Hello, my lovelies," Hermione said, giving the hounds affectionate rubs. They licked under her chin and began to glow, drooling magma.
"Barowl!" they greeted her, panting happily and tail wagging with enthusiasm.
"I've missed you too, loves," she said, tolerating their frantic licks and happy wriggling. "Oh, look how you've grown, you big menace," she laughed as Kyra had "grown" to her normal size to playfully "gnaw" on Hermione's head. "There now, calm down, you don't want to scare the children. And it wasn't your fault you didn't see that horrible woman drug her drink."
The Gwyllgi looked sad to have to, but they reverted to their more doberman-like forms.
The other Gwyllgi looked puzzled as they snuffled over the concealed hounds.
"I…" Eileen stammered. "Bloody useless Seer I am. I can't even see that someone is going to drug me… a second time."
Hermione touched Severus' shoulder before turning to leave. "Do not blame yourself for not detecting another's malevolence. Such things are often hidden under much stronger traits that are far less easy to ignore. An air of bumbling innocence, for example.."
Hermione rubbed up against Severus before leaving, her robes swirling behind her wake.
Severus watched her leave, not bothering to turn back until she had fully disappeared around the corner to speak with the school's resident mediwitch.
"Severus?" Eileen whispered.
"You're… married now?"
Eileen realised some things didn't change— her son's lack of desire to offer up more than a word or two were certainly proof of that.
"Do you— have children?"
Severus gave her an arched eyebrow worthy of a ski slope. "Indeed."
"Severus Tobias Snape!"Eileen hissed.
"That is what you named me, yes," Severus confirmed, fighting back a smirk.
Eileen, frustrated, flung her water pitcher at him, which he dodged, a tug heralding the arrival of a full-blown smirk on his lips.
"Wow, temper," the spider remarked, clinging to his hair. "So that's where you get it from."
Severus squooshed the cheeky spider in his hand, shoving him back under his hair.
"LOVE HURTS!" the spider cried, muffled somewhat behind his hair.
"Master Snape, I need to ask you to leave my patient alone to heal!" an elder witch said, storming over with her own personal cyclone following in her wake.
"As you wish," Severus said, turning away from his mother without a word, sweeping the room with a billowing of his robes that seemed like the wings of a giant bat.
Poppy Pomfrey stared as the glowing eyed Gwyllgi raised their massive heads up from the floor and growled at her.
"Master Snape!" she cried.
Her shrillness caused the bed to bump as Tiamat pulled herself out from under the bed and materialised at her full height, her massive head above Poppy's.
"Emoc," Hermione said as she stood in the doorway. For a moment, Poppy thought she saw a horrifying shadow standing right behind her— writhing, tentacled, and massive. "Good day, Madam Pomfrey."
As she left, Tiamat and the Gwyllgi trailed behind her, playfully leaping and pouncing each other in play as they dipped into the floor and sprang back up.
Trembling, Poppy sat down on the bed next to Eileen.
"Is this, well, normal for you dear?" Poppy asked in a whisper.
Eileen rubbed her head. "Not for me, no. For my son— apparently so."
"What is he a master of again?"
Eileen frowned. "I'm afraid I didn't think to ask." She looked at her lap. "Poppy, what exactly happened to Sybill?"
The mediwitch frowned. "Normally, I would say patient privacy is my utmost concern next to their health, but seeing as you were directly affected by her magic—"
Eileen turned to her. "What did she do to me?"
"She laced a memory charm in with a Dark aging spell— to steal your life force and make you believe you were someone else," Poppy said with a shudder. "It was vile and and selfish. Evil."
"And what did the other one— Hermione— what did she do?"
Poppy frowned. "She rerouted the curses, channelling the life energy she had stolen from you and—"
Poppy flinched. "She used, and I'm only just now realising her connection to it, Chaos Magick to to restore you."
It was Eileen's turn to frown. "What does that mean?"
"It means that in order to gain the effect of healing you, some other— apparently quite random— effect took its price out of Sybill in recompense."
"I want to see her," Eileen said suddenly.
"I really don't think—"
"I have to," Eileen protested. "I need to know."
"She won't be able to hurt you anymore," Poppy assured her. "You don't need to see—"
"I do need to see it, Poppy. Please." Eileen gave her a haunted look. "She destroyed my life. She gave my son a father who never asked for him, me, or a son— she turned Tobias into an alcoholic monster in order to cope with exposure to magic that he never had himself and could never understand. She shamed me into fleeing from my own family."
Poppy sighed and stood. "Alright."
The mediwitch lead her into a solitary isolation room, one with a door that was heavily warded to the point that no-one and nothing could pass through the room unaccompanied by Pomfrey herself.
Sybill threw herself violently against the warded barrier, her eyes bulging and huge— very inhuman. Her fingers were twisted, gnarled sticks that were grossly swollen at the joints. Her face was heavily wrinkled like someone well over a hundred. Her hair was tangled and half-torn away from her scalp, dark blood oozing from where she had ripped it out.
"The Dark Lord comes! AHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAH!" Sybill cried out, cackling insanely. Then, like a switch had been flipped, she flopped down onto the floor, sucking her thumb, humming nursery rhymes, wrapping her arms about her knees and rocking back and forth.
A crown of vapourous bats swirled around her head and dove into her ears and emerged out the other way, transforming into canaries, then circling around to dive in again, returning the original bat shape. Then, suddenly, they massed on her head in the form of a squid, the feeder tentacles burrowing deep into her ear canals.
Sybill cackled and attempted to use her magic, but it surged out of her as a shower of multi coloured confetti, covering the room in glitter and sending sparkling rainbow unicorns prancing around the room and farting rainbow clouds.
Eileen turned away slowly and walked away. "Thank Merlin," she whispered, walking back to her bed and tucking herself in, patting the bed so Nisha and Kyra leapt up to join her and then she closed her eyes to blissful, dreamless Oblivion.
Poppy Pomfrey sighed as she tried to wrestle with the treatment for Eileen, which tread the line between saving the patient and standing strong on medical ethics. On one side, had someone not done something, Eileen would be brainwashed, aged, and disfigured all for one woman's selfish desires. On the other hand, Chaos Magick was by its very nature, unpredictable and dangerous. There was no way that this healer— master or not— could have predicted the effects on Sybill Trelawney.
So what was right?
If not doing what she did had condemned Eileen to a shriveled, broken existence even after having already lived a verifiably miserable life, how was that any better than letting Sybill harm her in the first place?
Truth be told, had Master Healer Hermione Snape not pulled rank on her, Poppy would never have allowed her to treat Eileen— and Eileen would now be a shriveled, pitiful shell of a woman.
What did that make her?
Poppy scratched her head frantically. She didn't know, and she had the sinking feeling she would not know how she truly felt about it for quite some time.
Her mind focused on the baleful eyes of those, those— creatures.
What was a healer doing with fearsome beasts like that? Yet, a part of her couldn't help but notice that the beasts hadn't done anything more than growl a warning to her before prancing off after their mistress like a pack of playful hounds, having not disturbed anyone in the infirmary while going on their way.
Where did the line of karma turn to retribution, and if Master Healer Hermione Snape did walk that line, was it even possible that what happened to Sybill Trelawney was, in fact, exactly what she deserved for her vile actions?
Poppy sat down and drank her tea down to the leaves at the bottom. She stared at it and shoved it away with a shudder.
There, in the bottom of her cup, were the many tentacles of an octopus, splayed out in the form of a chaos star.
Former Hogwarts Headmaster Found Guilty of Forcible Transfiguration and Mind Manipulation
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was found guilty of multiple accounts of mind and memory charms and forcible transfiguration of Minerva McGonagall, his one-time apprentice, colleague, and Deputy Headmistress.
Alas, when authorities attempted to collect him for memory collection, Mr Dumbledore was found barely clinging to life.
Headmistress McGonagall was reunited with her one-time fiancé, who had waited the past fifty-plus years for her return, having never believed her subsequent career at Hogwarts to be anything more than indentured service.
When the healers attempted to stabilise Mr. Dumbledore, his body shook violently as what the healers thought to be the very last dregs of his magic seemed to abruptly leave his body, and he aged and shriveled before their very eyes. Clutched in his gnarled hands was a signed confession, written in his own blood.
It wasn't until Headmistress McGonagall and Master Manfred Morgan of the Ministry stood in front of the Wizengamot and were bowled over by a blast of two separate magical essences that the connection was made as to what Mr Dumbledore had released at the moment of his death.
Both McGonagall and Morgan had been deaged to approximately their mid-twenties right before the assembled Wizengamot.
As for the second blast, no one is quite sure where it came from, only that the results of it have seemingly given back the time lost to both Deputy Headmistress McGonagall and Master Morgan.
Mr Dumbledore will remain housed in St Mungo's until which time as he can be relied upon to survive in Azkaban to serve out his sentence.
Harry wasn't quite sure what to think of the addition of one Minerva McGonagall to their "family dynamic" but Master Morgan seemed much happier. Harry was still getting his undivided attention during his lessons—
It was in those moments, with his stomach tied in knots, that he realised he was rather jealous. Always before, he and Dudley had their master's undivided attention and did not have to share him with anyone else. His own parents couldn't even give them that— so a part of him believed if there was a woman involved, all that attention would go away.
"You're such an idiot," Salvius said with a sniff, jerking Harry's head down as if to rub his nose into his own stench. "Mum and Dad love each other and us, and you never think they love you any less."
Harry flushed, reddening. Salvius, as always, spoke in candor, and he always made Harry feel like a true— dunderhead.
Hedwig whapped her brother over the head with one snowy white wing. "Leave Harry alone. He can't help being somewhat clingy."
Harry slumped, again. Hedwig, meaning well enough, was just as blunt as her brother. They were both ahead of their age, just like their parents, and Harry always felt like trying to strive to leave their shadow would be futile.
Dudley stuffed a shortbread biscuit into Harry's mouth. "Stop thinking so loudly, Harry," he said. "You know you adore those little batlings as much as anyone could."
Harry jerked his head up in surprise. How was it that everyone knew him so well and he was always well and truly confused?
A young batling clung to his chest, rubbing their face into his chest and neck.
Batlings clung to each one of them, overly excited and as affectionate as always.
Harry felt his heart melt all over again, and he put aside his insecurities to groom the young batling.
It had been five years since Minerva McGonagall had "joined the family" and the batlings had come shortly after, staggered only by a little time in between. Even with his insecurity when he was alone to his thoughts, it all went away when he had one of the little blighters clinging to his body.
Selena was the oldest, and she loved on her "uncle" since almost the first day— when the dragon-bat pup had been passed around to all the "relatives". While all the batlings seemed to be in awe of the elders, some with a little fearful respect, they bonded tightly to Harry, Dudley, Salvius, and Hedwig. They hadn't really shown as much interest to Harry's other family, though, or the Weasleys.
Molly Weasley kept trying to shove her youngest son to hang out with Harry, and he didn't really like the other boy, close in age or no. Ronald went to Hogwarts, and that was never even an option for Harry, at least in his own mind. Everything he loved and cared for was at the DoM, and he wouldn't give up his apprenticeship and partnership with Dudley for anything.
Ron, on the other hand, kept trying to convince Harry of the merits of Quidditch, trading cards, and the buffet table during the Sunday brunches in the Ministry atrium gatherings.
Harry wasn't sure what to think, really. Ronald seemed like an okay enough bloke, but he wasn't interested in looking after the batlings or studying in the atrium with him, Dudley, or the Snape twins. If anything, he seemed more than a little jealous of them— or rather, their cool wings.
"Oi! Leggo!" the ginger-haired boy yelled, trying to wrestle his pumpkin pasty away from a hungry batling.
The young batling snarled playfully, sinking his teeth into the tasty food, using his wings to pry himself out of Ron's grip.
"Bruce," Harry warned.
The young dragon-bat pouted. He let go of the still-warm wedge of pumpkin goodness and let it smack Ron soundly in the face with the recoil. He flung himself into the air, did a loop-de-loop and then landed on Harry's back. "Hi Uncle!"
"Hello, Bruce," Harry said with a chuckle.
"You have a zit on your nose, uncle," the batling helpfully informed him as his brother, Robert, flew over to join them. Dudley snickered with their sister, Selene, and the female dragon-bat let out a fang-toothed yawn and placed her head on top of Dudley's mop of hair.
"Si ereht a melborp ni ereh?" Cthulhu's voice rumbled over the chuckling and sniggering.
Ronald's eyes went the size of twin galleons, and he promptly passed out cold with a terrified wheeze.
Harry grinned. "You're the bestest, Master Cthulhu," he crowed with delight as the batlings launched themselves onto the Elder God for hugs and tentacle snuggles.
Cthulhu seemed to blush, his tentacles taking on a distinctly rosy hue.
Severus swept in from somewhere, as he always did, silent and unnerving like he'd cast a silencing charm on his boots. He wasn't quite sure how he did it, and he'd even checked the boots for charms— with no luck. Severus stared down at the unconscious Ronald Weasley. "Someone may wish to clean… that—" The word "thing" was silent. "Up."
Minerva, who was walking beside him curled one lip with a creased brow added to the mix. "Whatever is wrong with that boy?"
Harry and Dudley shook their heads together as the batlings mirrored them identically.
"Selene, Bruce, Robert," Minerva said, clapping her hands. "Time for lunch. Don't keep your Aunt Hermione waiting."
"Yay!" the batlings cheered, flying off in a blur of wingbeats.
Harry and Dudley took out their wands and pointed them at Ronald, levitating him and dragging him along behind without touching him. "Come along then, idiot," Dudley muttered.
"This is excellent, Aunt Hermione!" the batlings cheered as they raced to use their chopsticks with the bowls of sticky rice and the serving platters of teriyaki octopus and barbecued squid.
Hermione chuckled as Severus used chopsticks to feed his mate some salmon sashimi, and she smiled at him in appreciation.
"You can thank Auror Moody for the lunch, my lovelies," she said. "He knows a man who knows a man… "
The children grinned together, happily indulging in the food. Ron had come to only to immediately bolt from the room, making a beeline for the loo, looking quite green.
"Such an odd child," Minerva said, contentedly sipping a fragrant cup of jasmine tea. "Not like his older siblings at all."
"Heyyyyyyyyyyy," the Weasley twins poked their ginger heads around the corner. "We smelled lunch."
"You two," Minerva tutted. "You always think with your stomachs."
"Well, yeah," Fred and George answered. "They're always empty."
"Because we're starving."
"All the time!"
Hermione waved one hand indulgently. "Sit, sit, there's plenty for you two as well," she said, rolling her eyes in amusement.
"Can't help it, Auntie," the twins chimed.
"Mum was making mashed neeps and boiled sprouts again."
The batlings wrinkled their noses, ears twitching in distaste.
Hedwig eyed the direction of the loo, shaking her head. "Why are we friends with that one again?"
Salvius shrugged. "Social graces."
"I'd rather be antisocial."
"Awww," the batlings pouted.
"Present company excluded."
"Yay!" the spider said, bouncing up and down.
"Woof," the Gwyllgi agreed.
Tiamat yawned toothily, lolling her tongue, as a tendril of chaos snagged a piece of tuna sashimi and drew it to her mouth.
"That's hardly fair," one spider said.
"Sheesh," another said.
Hermione set a piece down for the spiders, and they swarmed it, clearly enjoying the seafood feast.
"You spoil them," Severus noted.
"We both do," Hermione said with a smile.
"Hn," he replied.
"Ack, I brought the smoked trout," Alastor said as he shambled in. "And this sorry arse," he continued, shoving Kingsley in by the collar. "He was driving me nuts in the DMLE, making all my Aurors look like a bunch of ruddy idiots."
Kingsley wore his very best halo, tarnished as it was. He waved two bottles of Ogden's best non-alcoholic pear cider that he'd brought to share with the family.
"Happy Anniversary, you two," Alastor said, sitting himself down.
"You remembered," Hermione gushed, smiling.
"Psh, of course I did," he said, laughing. "I'm sure you'll have a fantastic shindig later tonight with all the official folk, but I'll be off arresting Dark wizards and feeding their brains to Master Cthulhu here."
"Ytsat," Cthulhu said with approval, sipping his tea.
"No brain-eating at the luncheon table, if you please," Minerva tutted, wiping her youngest's face off with a napkin. Robert sputtered, making a wrinkled face at his mum.
Bruce and Selene giggled at him, decidedly unsympathetic.
Dudley eyed the last piece of octopus sashimi and snatched it with his chopsticks just before Harry could. Hedwig and Salvius shook their heads together.
"How do you feel being two years free of Hogwarts, Minerva?" Alastor asked. "The war memorial festival is happening in a few weeks. I saw your name on the list to be honoured."
Minerva shrugged. "I am glad to be with my real family again, Alastor. I don't think that even begins to describe it. I know that I cared for the children, even liked my job there, but—"
"I know, lass," Alastor said. "But you got your second chance with the old-now-young dragon-bat, eh?"
Manfred gave his wife a fond kiss on the cheek. "Mmhmm."
Harry and Dudley rolled their eyes together. "Ugh, Master."
Manfred laughed. "You'll understand, one day, boys."
"I hope not," the two partners swore together. "Girls are evil."
Hedwig smacked them both over the head with one well-placed wing swat.
"See!" Harry bemoaned, holding his nose.
Salvius drank his tea. "You are a dunderhead."
Harry wilted. "One day, I will win one of these arguments!"
Dudley punched his shoulder. "Doubtful."
"Whose side are you on?"
"Reality, cousin," Dudley said with a cheeky smile.
Harry sulked. "I hate reality."
The masters all exchanged amused looks.
Manfred and Kings shook their heads together. "You will find that it has a habit of sneaking up on you, regardless of how prepared you think you are."
Harry shook his head adamantly. "No way.
There was a soft knock on the door.
Hedwig bolted up. "Mum, Felicity is here to study with me. May I be excused?"
"Of course, dear," Hermione said, her wings ruffling.
Hedwig practically flung her dishes in a wash of cleaning magic and set them to rights in the rack before opening the door.
A golden-furred cat-girl with glowing green eyes and tufted ears peeked into the room. "Hedwig?"
"Who else, silly, psh," Hedwig said, dragging the girl in by the paw. "Time to study. Master Garibaldi is testing us on signing tomorrow."
"Okay, but are we studying here or the atriiiaaaAHHHHHHHHHHm?" she cried out as Hedwig spread her wings and shot out the door at top speed, taking the frantic feline-girl with her.
Harry stared at the place where Felicity had been, his eyes very wide and swimming with invisible fish.
Kingsley shook his head slowly. "It begins."
Dudley groaned, screwing up his face in disapproval.
Severus dipped into the hot springs and cuddled in behind his beloved wife, pouring the citrus-scented shampoo she loved into his palms and then began rubbing it into her damp hair. She purred at his touch, making soft sounds of appreciation. Dipping her head into the water to rinse, he snorted as the spiders lathered themselves up and took turns diving into the springs too, the Gwyllgi laying around watching with curious amusement.
Finally, many years later, their children had fledged, moving on to become their own masters. Salvius had found himself magical Britain's top up-and-coming Master of Potions, and Hedwig was perhaps the brightest young Arithmancer the DoM had seen in ages. Both were doing themselves proud, even taking apprentices of their own both in and out of the DoM.
Harry and Dudley had become a fine pair of Aurors, having been whipped into shape by Alastor Moody into the kind of team that made the old Scotsman swear that Kingsley had sent them to him just to rattle his cage and make everyone else look the fool.
Minerva's post-Hogwarts work with object-based glamours allowed for many of the children to choose their places of education, yet much to her surprise, very few chose Hogwarts or any other magical school over the apprentice system in place in the DoM. Still, it did help the adults later when it came to "blending in" to Muggle and magical areas when they weren't always good at casting such spells themselves.
Kingsley and Manfred had new apprentices again, and many thought that they were incapable of not being busy— as if peace and quiet just never happened. Minerva found it terribly amusing, never doubting the friendship between the two wizards or feeling jealous. Manfred always made time for Minerva, just as he did for his batlings.
Bruce had moved to the States to work with their crack team of night Aurors who specialised in tracking and tracing Dark Wizards using combinations of magic, cyber-magic, and what Minerva called "kung-fu fighting." Minerva said it was like being a hit wizard and then some.
It was hard to say exactly what Selene was. She was a social climber, but she had this strange drive to "rob the rich" and funnel the rewards to the poor and downtrodden. No one could ever track her down with proof, but her family noted that every where in the world she travelled, the news would have tabloids of so and so having some financial tragedy while someone else who had been on hard times suddenly gained miraculous windfalls.
As for Robert, he had become a world-famous cursebreaker, archaeologist, and the author of several popular books detailing his many great adventures. He was currently heading a team from Gringotts charged with the excavation and exploration of a newly-discovered Mayan temple hidden deep within the dense rainforest jungles of Belize.
Severus grabbed the inlaid hairbrush in his hands— the heirloom that had never once been abused— and brushed Hermione's hair. He smiled as she almost purred in response to his attentions. He was happy that the children had fledged and become successful in their own right, but he was even happier that he and his wife could now focus fully on enjoying their own lives together at last.
No apprentices, no children, and no more drama.
Their night flights together had once had some chiropterologist thinking the second coming of the megabat had hit Europe one night, and it was Eileen and her crack team of Seer-Obliviators that both foresaw and kept that from becoming a serious problem. Her team had sharply reduced the number of Muggle-magical incidents throughout Britain.
Strangely, no one ever reported their pastries and pasties being stolen by enormous, molten hounds or a chaos beast playing fetch in the museums.
As Severus spread the oily-waxen feather conditioner over her feathers, Hermione sighed with relief, and after a few minutes of pleasurable fluttering of her wings, she returned the favour, washing his hair, brushing it, and then grooming his wings. It was just as it had always been since the very first day they had found themselves living together in the forest.
Long gone were the days when they had huddled together in the shower, too scared to let anyone separate them, even for a wash. Longer still was the fear and loathing they had shared of their respective family situations. The Dark Lord had risen and fallen, screaming in the deep, dark chasm where Chaos and Elder Magick met— yet utterly silent to those who had not known of it personally.
The Wizarding and Muggle worlds went on as ever, oblivious to the acts both small and vast— whether it be a Dark Lord or a Master of Manipulation. Had they known, perhaps, they would have fled screaming from the tentacled shadow of an Elder God who just happened to give spectacular head massages when he wasn't devouring the brains of the deserving.
No one dared ask how he determined "deserving" either.
While Hermione's relationship to her parents and her sister Lily had at least become something salvageable, Petunia and Vernon had never quite recovered. Insanity was now the only thing they shared— well, that and a padded room after having escaped from their respective accommodations and gone on the "loose" in downtown London, beating bewildered people about the head with random objects while screaming about alien brain-eaters at the top of their lungs.
Well, you couldn't win them all, he supposed.
As they dried off and headed to their comfy nesting bowl, Hermione performed her evening routine of digging the pillows and duvet around until it was just right for sleeping, not satisfied until it was perfect.
Severus never knew what signalled "perfection" to her because to him, it looked like quite a mess. It was comfy like a cloud to sleep on though, he'd give her that.
As he pulled her to him, spooning against her back as he pressed his face into her fragrant curls, his wings wrapped around her body, she pulled the duvet over them with a contented sigh, even as the spiders scurried around to fill in the small spaces, the Gwyllgi the larger spaces, and Tiamat taking up the edge of the bowl after having turned in place three times in one direction and then another.
Sometimes, when he closed his eyes, he could still smell the earthen loam of the forest of long ago and hear the distant rush of water.
"I love you," Hermione murmured, and it never once failed to cause a shiver to go down his spine— a pleasure so fine that it sent shocks through every nerve.
He rumbled, holding her snugly. "I love you," he replied, feeling that mutual contentment resonate between them as they welcomed sleep together— a well-earned sleep of two grown Wishkin that had found each other and their place in life.
Through hardship and peace, they had always had each other, and they always would.
On the old cherry dresser, the worn, inlaid hairbrush lay on top, shimmering with satisfied magic— there to witness the lives of the two who shared their life and love together. If one listened closely, they could almost hear the soft laughter of winged children and the low woofs of the Gwyllgi as the light shimmered across the inlaid mother of pearl.
Somewhere, Ronald Weasley, keeper for the Chudley Cannons, wakes up screaming from a nightmare where he was chased by giant spiders on brooms, all sporting a crown of octopus tentacles on their heads— Master Cthulhu looking on as he sips his favourite green tea latte with a wicked, alien smile.
A/N: I just… can't help myself. Even when Ron isn't in the same timeline, he still ends up getting it in the teeth. Sorry (not sorry!).
Thanks to my lovely betas who slave over my inability to write coherent sentences at any time of day or night. Hope you enjoyed the story. Please let me know what you thought of it. (It keeps my betas from turning feral and sprouting fangs and claws and chasing me!)