Sorry for the wait!
Chapter 47. Father
It was Christmas at Hogwarts, but there were no decorations, no students, and the staff refused to come out for Dinner. Severus sat, alone, at the head of the table, staring at the candles dancing before him. The Carrows had gone to the Malfoy Manor for some celebrations with the Dark Lord that Severus had managed to get himself out of. His head was filled with images of Hermione, the idea of what their daughter might look like, and the Christmas they ought to be having. With every dream, his heart cracked just a bit more. Had I just told her, this would have never happened, he reasoned, though he knew that it was not true.
He picked at the turkey in front of him, leftovers from the Christmas feast, and shivered. The castle was freezing, especially at night, and he refused to produce a warming charm to ease his suffering. He had determined he deserved it. Nothing he had managed to do so far helped Hermione in any way, the students perhaps, at least some of them, the Dark Lord definitely. Draco had been roaming the halls triumphantly, a charade that masked the misery beneath. His friends only tolerated him because his father was a Death Eater. They would have discarded him the moment the rumour of his offspring started, had it not been for their loyalties to their parents and the Dark Lord.
The looming darkness of the Great Hall had depressed him enough that he stood, retreating to his chambers. He collapsed into the Headmaster's chair, not daring to glance at Dumbledore, who was surely eyeing him.
"You know Severus," Dumbledore taunted. "I think you ought to figure out a way to get them the sword sooner rather than later." Severus groaned, his gaze flicking to the hat on top of the cabinet, the glimmer of silver catching his eye.
He had made three unsuccessful attempts to deliver the sword since he last saw Hermione, but the two always seemed to be jumping around. By the time he cast the Patronus, leading one of them to its location, they were gone. Godric's Hollow, the forest behind the village, he was always one step behind them. "The moment I try, they'll run into another idea and leave again," his throat constricted.
"I hear they have gone to the Forest of Dean," Dumbledore offered. Severus grumbled, forcing himself from his seat and reaching for the Sword once more. He apparated, twisting away and landing with a crack next to some trees. He had been here once before with his mother as a child. She had whisked him away from his father to a place he would not look for them. He remembered the bruises on her cheek as she wiped away his tears and pulled him into an embrace.
Banishing the memory, he closed his eyes to sense Hermione's wards. He followed the sensation until he could see the shimmering barrier that one would only know was there had they been looking. Tucked behind a tree, he tested the ward with a finger, hoping not to set off an alarm. When nothing happened, he stepped through, the light of a fire catching his attention immediately. He watched as Harry strode towards Hermione, stretching out his arms with a yawn and jarring her awake.
Severus longed to walk over, simply place the sword in Potter's hands before apparating away with Hermione, but he resisted. He waited until Hermione had retreated into the tent, and Harry was readying himself to stand guard before disappearing back into the forest. He searched nearby for a place to hide the sword when a bit of ice cracked beneath his foot. A small pond stretched out in front of him, thinly frozen over and dusted with snow. He smirked at the idea of Potter jumping into the freezing water to retrieve the sword and decided to place it at the bottom. In a whisper, he released his Patronus, a doe, to find Harry.
He hung back, as he always did, waiting to see if this time it would finally work. It was silent until there was a telltale snap of frozen twigs breaking underfoot. Severus narrowed his gaze, watching as Harry's figure stumbled over the forest floor, following the doe. The Patronus faded into a shapeless figure before dipping into the pond. The light came on in Potter's head when he finally caught the glimmer of the Sword under the water.
Satisfied that Harry would successfully retrieve the Sword, Severus retreated into the forest as silently as possible before finding a place to apparate back to the castle.
"And?" Dumbledore's voice greeted him as he landed in his office. Severus groaned as he huffed towards his chair.
"Potter should be successful in retrieving the sword this time," Severus relayed, collapsing into his seat. Dumbledore began droning on, but Severus tuned him out, his gaze unfixed in the general direction of the dancing fireplace.
He felt Hermione's hair run through his fingers, he saw her smile as she looked up at him with her deep brown eyes. His lips tingled with the sensation of her mouth against his as he longed to pull her closer into him. He imagined feeling her nine-month pregnant bump under his hand, as she laughed about how wonderful of a father he would be. He pictured whisking her away to St. Mungo's in a panic. He pined to have her nails dig into his hand, hear her wails as she gave birth to their daughter. Most of all, he wished to hold their daughter in his arms, feel her soft skin and tufts of hair. He wanted to proudly write his name next to hers as her father, claiming her as his own for all the ministry to know.
His mind wandered, flashing to the encounter in the forest. He remembered Hermione's body, how stunning it was knowing it has carried and delivered his child. Severus desperately tried to recall the scent that had pulled him to her in the first place, to hold onto as he endured the life he had willingly stepped into.
"You have been of great service to the wizarding world, Severus, even if those around you don't understand it yet," Dumbledore's voice forced itself into Severus' reality. Yet. The word that resonated through his head. No one would know what he had done until it was too late. Until he was already the most hated wizard next to the Dark Lord. Yet. But if they did find out, eventually, then perhaps his daughter would know it too. Perhaps then Hermione could tell the world that Severus was the father of their child and he had been of great service to the wizarding world. Perhaps, in his death, his daughter could be proud of her father for what he had sacrificed to save her mother and her friends.
The months dragged, pulling Severus with them no matter how hard he resisted. With every child he witnessed being abused, he thought of his daughter. Where she might be, what milestones she was accomplishing. Could she talk? Who was she calling mama? Who was taking care of her while Hermione was away? Hermione, he thought, her name pulling at the last strings of his sanity. How was she? Had she been able to see their daughter at all since she left her? How must she be handling the time away from their baby girl? He recalled their discussion on names, but maybe Hermione hated him enough in the moment to name her something else. He had been calling his daughter Annabelle all this time, but maybe she was named after Hermione's mother, or maybe even Draco's family. He was desperate to learn anything of his daughter but all he managed to get from Dumbledore and his army of spies was that she was safe and well taken care of.
There wasn't a moment Severus wasn't sat in the headmaster's chair, thinking of his daughter and her mother. He only left his chambers if absolutely necessary or if either one of his masters had something for him to do. Voldemort barely called on him, something that would have shocked him had he not been placed as headmaster. Perhaps the Dark Lord was simply respecting his new busy schedule, not that it was something he had ever done before.
The last he had seen any of the Death Eaters that weren't stationed at the school was over Easter holidays when there had been a mass attack on muggles in London. The Dark Lord gleefully claimed responsibility for the attack and even hosted a party to celebrate. Severus, ever the lost soul, was not in the mood for it and ended up ducking out early.
He had barely spoken to Draco, knowing that he too was likely distraught over Hermione's fate. Severus was not in the mood to be wallowing in pity with anyone other than his own thoughts. He tried to imagine that Draco was handling things well enough, that he was going through his school days as if he were still the boy from first-year. Entitled and arrogant. Deep down, however, Severus knew that he was weak. Draco would not easily hold up a facade and would likely cave into his fears nightly. Severus, unlike his godson, was able to mask his emotions, though he felt each one of them as deeply and as painfully.
It was now May, and Severus was beginning to hope that the children might make it to the end of the semester before Harry Potter would be found and the battle would begin. He knew, however, that hope was something he could never be afforded. He could never hope for the children's safety, the return of Hermione and his child unharmed. He couldn't hope that somehow he would make it out of all this alive. Hope, he reckoned, was exactly what would get him killed.
His door slammed against the wall and Alecto stormed into his office, Amycus stumbling in behind her. The two panted as though they had just run through the castle. Finally, Alecto caught her breath and stood, gleaming with pride, "Harry Potter has been spotted in Hogsmeade."
It was a relief seeing the hate in Minerva's face as she stood her grown. Severus knew that the hours to come would finally end his years of suffering. He felt this battle coming to an end as he deflected curse upon hex from his one friend at Hogwarts. There was no surprise when Flitwick, Sprout, and Slughorn joined her, bombarding him with too much magic for him to counter. Once he felt his co-workers had vented enough of their anger towards him, he fled. Disappearing in a black mist, shattering the windows in his path. In his haste, he had managed to stun the Carrow twins. He hoped that in the chaos of it all, that no one would know it was he who had done it.
Though he tried, he had not caught a glimpse of Hermione prior to his departure, though he knew she was there. Perhaps it was better that he hadn't. Perhaps she was better off without him. He wondered, briefly, if she had seen him before his exit, though he did not allow himself that vanity. The regret ate at him as he made his way to the Malfoy Manor in a haze of smoke. Upon his arrival, Narcissa greeted him, a twinge of sadness on her face as she guided him to the sitting room where they were waiting for instructions.
The end of April brought enough rain to ensure the overgrowth of the Malfoy Manor's garden, though it was a healthy green. The sun shone down, the light flickering on the dew of the plants in the morning. Lucius sat beside him, lounging in his chair. The older wizard was dishevelled as best. His hair was a mess on his face and his eyes were sunk back in his skull. Narcissa was pacing the halls, waiting for some command that would allow her to retrieve her son from the castle. When she had received word from Draco that he, and the other Slytherins, were forced back into the dungeons, she had thrown a fit. She demanded Severus allow her access to the school so that she could get the children out, to safety. He had loathed admitting to her that one he had been banished from the school, it was unlikely that he would be allowed back through the wards.
The Dark Lord was tucked away as he waited for his army to gather, waiting for his time to strike. The giants had gathered, the dementors were waiting for a command, and the Death Eaters were scattered amongst the wizarding world. Severus leaned against the velvet curtain watching for Bellatrix to return to the front gates. A crack signalled her return, which was followed by a thunk as she dumped the weight of the twins onto the courtyard. Straightening her dress, she strode to the front doors and joined them.
"It is time, my Lord," she announced solemnly. The Dark Lord emerged from the dining room, catching Severus by surprise. Narcissa flinched at his arrival, situating herself at her husband's side and clinging desperately to the cushioning of the chair. It seems there would not be time for her to retrieve her son from the fray before the battle was to begin.
"Excellent," he hissed, followed by a cackle. Bellatrix was quick to join in, but the Malfoy's offered nothing but a short and unenthused chuckle. Severus remained quiet, as always, as he watched the pair. "And what of Alecto? Amycus?"
"Stunned. No good to us, but perhaps they'll come on along later when they're up to it," Bellatrix sneered. Severus glanced down at the two bodies heaped on the ground, barely moving.
"Disappointing," the dark wizard insulted. They were never his favourite Death Eaters, and Severus was not shocked that they were so easily dismissed from the ranks. "Then let us send word," Voldemort announced, pulling up Bellatrix's sleeve. He ran his face along her flesh, sniffing it then giving it a lick to Bellatrix's delight and Severus' disgust. Narcissa stiffened, staring off in the same direction as her husband who was fixated at the corner of the room where dust was settling. Snape's forearm burned as Voldemort issued the call to arms.
All five apparated separately to the cliff overlooking the castle. Night had fallen over grounds. There was a bite in the air Severus had not expected for the beginning of May. He surveyed the school, noting as lights turned off in various windows as if that would help them remain safe. A crowd had gathered just outside the front entrance, sending up spells and enchantments to protect them. If he could have made out who it was, he would have been searching for Hermione. But alas, they were as small as ants from where he stood.
He looked around, recognizing the rock he stood on, a memory flashing behind his eyes. This was where he had begged Dumbledore to save the lives of Lily and her family. This was where he had sacrificed the rest of his life for the safety that was not even afforded to them. He had given up his entire future for nothing. Lily was dead. Dumbledore did nothing to stop it.
Severus then thought of Hermione, and how helpless he was to save her. There was nothing he could do now that could keep her being killed. He wondered about killing Voldemort, right there, postponing the inevitable just a bit longer. He knew there were still Horcruxes left to find and destroy. Last he had heard Hermione, Potter and Weasley had not yet found enough of the Horcruxes to be finished by then. Severus knew that killing him would not stop the war that was to ensue. The Death Eaters would rise and kill and avenge their leader's death. If anything, Severus would only secure his own demise by killing Voldemort right then.
Severus gripped his wand in his pocket, eyeing the back of Voldemort's head and exhaled a steadying breath. Before he could pull his wand, the Dark Lord spun and sent a killing curse at a fellow Death Eater that knocked him back so far that he plunged off the cliff. Bellatrix's cackle pulled his attention, then he focused on the sound of thundering as the Dark Lord's army ran at the castle from below. He could hear Voldemort howling with pride as Severus watched Vampires and Werewolves evaporate as they collided with the enchantments, halting the rest of the crew. It all went quiet then. They all stayed there, watching, waiting for the ward to fall.
The time slowed to the point where the only thoughts going through Severus' head were trying to convince himself to do it. Every second willing Severus to muster the courage and send a simple curse flying from his wand. It wouldn't even be the first time he uttered the words. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Avada Kedavra. Kill him, he repeated in his mind.
Just as another wave of courage filled him, the Dark Lord let out a deafening cry, crumbling to the floor beneath him. Bellatrix moved to help him up, but he pushed her aside. He stood, looking around him, his eyes brimming with paranoia. In a flash, he roared, jabbing his wand before him. From the end came a burst of light that shattered the wards protecting the school. Severus's heart fell in his chest as the pieces fell like ashes around the castle. There was a pause, a moment of silence before the battle cries started and the army once more hurtled forward. The dementors descended on the school, the giants fumbled their way forward. The Death Eaters shot off one by one, leaving just the Dark Lord and Severus behind.
Severus wondered where Lucius had gone off to. He hated to think poorly of his friend, but Lucius had never been the battling kind. He had refrained from nearly all attacks on muggles, though he vocally supported them, and had frequently used his wife as an excuse to avoid violent situations. Narcissa, on the other hand, would fight tooth and nail for her son, so Severus could easily picture her tearing her way through the turmoil in search of her boy. Realistically, though, Severus believed they went somewhere to wait out the war until they could rescue Draco. Like he wanted to rescue his own child.
It was loud, chaotic. He could hear the screams and zaps of hexes. He witnesses the devastation begin before his eyes. He thought if he waited, just long enough, everything would stop, the world would fade away. Instead, he stood there, next to the wizard who had taken everything from him, in silence. Voldemort did not look at Severus, and Severus dared not try to get his attention. He hoped, perhaps, that Voldemort had forgotten about him the thrill of it all, but he was wrong.
"Come with me Severus," the Dark Lord hissed, before apparating away with Nagini at his side. Severus watched for a second longer as destruction fell upon the place he once called home. Smoke and flames accentuated the flashes of green and blue and red. Closing his eyes, he prayed for a swift end to the war.
"I love you, Hermione," he whispered into the dead air before he too apparated with a crack.
Grass broke under his feet, the heat of the summer having killed the green and replaced it with a withering brown crop. The trail that led up to the abandoned shack seemed to stretch out, but not nearly far enough as he made his way to his meeting with Voldemort. Part of him screamed to turn back, to disapparate. Forget the mission and the war, let them all sort it out for themselves. He had the right to be selfish after all these years of sacrifice. He was owed the time with Hermione and his daughter. And yet, he continued on. One foot in front of the other towards the decaying wood.
Once he arrived, he heard the beckoning call of the Dark Lord from the upper level. He took the stairs quickly, arriving at the room. Voldemort sat in a chair overlooking the view. In the distance, you could see the flames and sparks of curses flying through the air. Otherwise, the outside world seemed calm. There was not a breath of wind, clouds filled early morning the sky but the moonlight was peeking through. The world stretched on for miles beyond the Shrieking Shack, off into the horizon where the sun had long since set.
"I have summoned you here, Severus, because I will fight the Potter boy tonight," the Dark Lord started as he stood from his seat. There was a grace to his movements, though his skin was white and withered. He was mostly bone and flesh, and his eyes were dark as he looked off beyond Severus. Nagini slithered around his feet, wrapping her tail around chair legs as she passed them. "And I must ensure that when the time comes, this wand will not fail me." Severus stared at him, waiting for some sort of further explanation.
When the Dark Lord simply stared at him, as though he were waiting for Severus to fill the gaps in his own knowledge, Severus filled the silence. "The elder wand is loyal to you sir, and to you only. I assure you it will not fail you," Severus offered. The air seemed to get heavier, resting on his chest and making it harder to breathe. There was something in Voldemort's eyes, his tone, that left Severus uneasy. He seemed disappointed in that answer, shaking his head and began pacing the length of the room.
"That is where you are wrong, Severus," Voldemort said, pausing after to turn and face his servant with an almost apologetic look. Severus knew better, however, and could see the delight twinkling behind his eyes. "You have been of great use, Severus, however, the wand is loyal to the wizard who killed its last owner." I am going to die. "And that person, Severus, was you."
Severus lurched forward, ready to beg for his life as he had many times before but a curse sent him flying backwards, slamming into the wall with a crash. His head hit the wood panelling with such force his vision went black and a ringing filled his ears. The air seemed to escape his lungs on impact, burning his chest as he struggled. Disoriented, he managed to catch one word uttered from his master's mouth: "Kill." Then his world went black.
Images of Hermione's face flashed before his eyes, he felt her hand on his wounds, pressing in and pleading for his life. He cried, knowing that he was merely dreaming as he died. His tears pulling memories from his mind. He forced the words from his lips, though his stinging throat resisted. "Take them," he croaked, barely able to keep his eyes open. But no one would hear him. He was dying, alone and cold. Once more he tried to imagine what his daughter looked like and clung to that image, clung to the idea he had clung to for months. He was a father, he was her father. He would always be her father. Always.
Thank you all for your patience! I've been busy with studying, but I took a break to finish this chapter! I was trying to write one chapter ahead, but writing war isn't my strong suit and this chapter took forward to get out out my head. Hope Canadians have a lovely Thanksgiving and everyone else has a lovely day!