A/N: Lots of stuff on my plate and needed fluff to go!
Summary: [HG/SS] Hagrid bred some of his 'armless animals together to "help" the Potters defend themselves from the Dark Lord. It does not end has he hoped.
Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard
Eye of the Dragon, Hair of the Cat
Crackity Crack Fic of Crack by Corvus Draconis
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could,
they didn't stop to think if they should."
Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
The fierce Scottish winter storm was pelting the castle and grounds with hail and sleet that decided half-way down to instantly freeze upon impact, covering Hagrid's hut and makeshift barn in a thick sheet of ice.
Rubeus shoved the barn door open with one brawny shoulder as he hauled a fresh deer carcass over the other shoulder. A blast of humid air from inside practically blew the icicles off Hagrid's face. When he pulled his head back, it froze again, coating his head with ice again.
He grunted and threw the carcass into the barn, and before he could even manage to close the door, the deer was torn to pieces by a shimmering, almost-invisible movement, broken up only by a snarling manticore standing protectively over his hidden mate and—
A tiny chirp-like noise came from the nest of lichen as a small tangle of manticore wings and scorpion-like tail unfolded from a distinctive leonine mane of fur. Yet, what should have been a human-like face was more like a draconic snout, and the leathery bat-wings were multi-coloured and shifting in hue like the skin of a chameleon.
Fuzzy kitten fur and bright honey-coloured eyes mixed together as the manticore licked its progeny over. A long tongue wrapped around the cub and righted it from the other direction as the body of a large faerie dragon tended her offsprings from the other side.
The fuzzbucket rolled around and batted at air.
"Ey nao, there's what we be wantin'," Hagrid clucked his gruff approval. "A right proper 'lil beast that'll 'elp in the war." He tried to reach down and pluck the little beast up, but the mother fae dragon laid open his hand from index to wrist with her teeth while the manticore shaved off his bushy beard with one swipe of his claws.
"Oi! Lay off, then! You know me, now, you do. I'll have none of that 'ere."
The bloodletting caused the young cub to hiss and spit in response. The parents then growled angrily and ganged up on Hagrid, pouncing him to the floor and snarl-swat-biting him all over in unison.
Meanwhile, the little cubling darted out the door between Hagrid's legs and into the icy white fury of the Scottish winter storm.
Severus was glad of the cold. The wintry cold was unforgiving in Scotland, and his Muggle upbringing gave him ample experience in making an igloo-cum-snow cave— the only place safe from the stupid Marauders.
Bloody. Stupid. Marauders.
N.E.W.T.s were done, and soon they would all be leaving to begin their careers, but Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew— they could all go rot in hell. Not a single day went by without their constant torments, and while they were all guilty of not letting things go, four to one was hardly fair in any book other than in the Sacred Book of Gryffindor Versus Slytherin.
It seemed like the only time he could escape them was when he was far from Hogwarts— Hogwarts proper, at least. It seemed like anytime he tried to hide within Hogwarts, they could find him.
They always knew when he was alone. Never, ever, did they target him when the other Slytherins were around to back him up.
Severus made sure the charms on the side of his snow cave were strong to prevent the light from showing from inside. Nothing ruined hiding like a fire. He sighed, rubbing his shoulders with his hands.
Lily was going to marry Potter.
Why did he even care? She'd made her feelings plain. She could forgive James but not him. Why is it those supposed "toerags" could get forgiveness after years of bullying, and he could not for a single word said in anger and humiliation?
"For once, it would be nice if someone actually trusted me," Severus muttered, poking the fire with a stick.
Severus' eyes widened as half of his smoked fish suddenly disappeared with a series of crunching noises.
Srk. Crk. Srk.
Severus picked up the fish on a stick and examined it.
Something heavy landed in his lap, and Severus froze as a bright orange tongue wrapped around the fish and pulled it off the stick.
Severus blinked as the fish completely disappeared, and something kneaded his lap, dangerous close to the family jewels. Then, as a warmth spread into his body from something— living—began to materialise. A small, draconic snout framed in a lion's mane, an amazingly prehensile scorpion-like tail that was warmly wrapped around his wrist, a soft fuzzy belly, tawny fur, and oversized paws that seemed too big for its body. Wings— like that of the larger, reptilian dragons— unfolded and flapped as the little beast flopped on its back and made itself right at home. Cognac eyes stared into his, and he could see hints of rainbows shimmering in—
He was falling.
Falling so deep and long into the very Abyss.
The little beast yawned and closed it— no her— eyes.
Warm. Warm. Sleep. Sleep. Happy. Happy.
Severus slowly drew his hand across the creature's oh so mixed up features— so terrifying yet remarkably soft and warm. He could feel a flood of contentment coming from the little beast, and he felt it fill in a void deep inside himself that he hadn't realised was there.
Before he could even stop it, he was asleep by the fire with the beast cuddled in his arms and close to his chest. The almost-invisible threads of magic were weaving around their souls.
Severus woke up with a problem. He was pretty sure it was a problem. He was in a tangle of wings and legs. There was a female chimaera of obvious mixed beast heritage, a cubling draped across his— snout?
Since when did have a snout?
Bloody hell, a scorpion-like tail.
The female chimaera was pouncing, bouncing, batting at his tail, making gleeful chirping noises.
Getcha. Gotcha. Getcha. GOTCHA!
The stream of thoughts from the cubling were strong, filled with instincts. She chewed on the stinger on his tail, fussing and lashing her tail with abandon.
Rap! Rap! Rap!
The cubling dove under his wing with a terrified squeak.
Severus felt his ears flatten back against his skull.
"Hello, Mr Snape. I am Amelia Bones. I am here with my friend, Alastor Moody. If we could please come in and talk to you?"
They were knocking on a snow cave… well, at least she was asking, Severus thought to himself.
"Come in," he said and promptly wondered how he was even able to talk with a snout instead of a human— anything.
A head of reddish-blonde hair entered first, on hands and knees. She came as a larger fellow— the infamous Auror Alastor Moody— draped in a heavy leather jacket that smelled of woodsmoke and the pub.
"Cozy," the older woman said with a warm smile. She seemed completely nonplussed. "Severus, I presume. Your name came up on a very special list. The kind of thing that happens once in a lifetime for certain special wizards and witches. I've see a few names pop on it, and all of them are very talented people that just happen to be blessed with serendipity."
The cubling poked her head out from under Severus' wing.
"Hello there, little lady," Amelia cooed.
The cubling looked up at her larger guardian and gained some bravery. She padded up to Amelia and sniffed her foot. Alastor moved his leg, and the scraping sound caused the cubling to spike up her fur and she disappeared in a shudder of colour as her natural camouflage ability set in.
"Aw, lassie, I'm sorry," the growly Auror apologised. "I didn't mean to scare you." He pulled out a savoury smelling bundle from his jacket and exposed a gunny sack with smoked jerky in it. He gingerly handed a piece to "thin air".
A long, orange tongue wrapped around the jerky and dragged it into an equally fluorescent mouth as the rest of the cubling suddenly reappeared. She made loud smacking noises as she worried on the tasty offering, growling and fussing in obvious pleasure.
She playfully pounced Alastor, knocking him down onto the snowy floor and sat triumphantly on his chest, rising and falling with his breathing.
The Auror grunted and slowly rubbed under her chin, earning him a soft purring squeak. "Well, aren't you quite the little charmer?" he chuckled.
She stuck her snout into his gunny sack, seeking more of the tasty meat, and her tongue came back with about five more pieces. She puffed a cloud of multi-coloured "something" into his face.
Alastor's hair grew into a thick lion mane and his pupils changed into slits.
She batted his face with her clawless paws, thumping her velvety paw pads into his cheeks.
She pounced into Amelia's lap and rubbed up against her, smacking her scorpion tail into her like a lash.
"Hello, little one," Amelia said, gently rubbing her ears.
The little beast worried Amelia's hand in her snout, her baby teeth pressing against her skin as her raspy tongue slid across her skin. She puffed a cloud into Amelia's face, and Amelia's hair grew out into a thick mane.
Amelia sighed running her (were those claws on her fingertips?) through her new mane.
"Thank you, my dear. You must have a bit of Nundu in you. Manticore. Fey dragon— perhaps a few other things, hrm? A true chimaera. Someone has been very, very naughty around here." She turned to Severus. "And I see she wasted no time in finding herself a lifemate."
Severus paled, his fur standing on end.
"Someone she trusts with her life and to guide her, protect her."
Severus seemed to relax even as he wallowed in startled confusion.
"It's quite an honour— they instinctively pick those who can protect them the best. They also tend to— bind themselves quickly, lest the would-be protector escape."
Severus cocked his head.
Amelia scratched her thick mane idly. "Apparently not limited to the mane and claws." She rubbed the cubling's fuzzy belly. "And what is your name, little lady?"
The little beast chirp-mrowled sweetly, wrapping her tail around Amelia's wrist.
"I'm here to offer you a job with us, Severus," Amelia said as the cubling crawled all over her and tried to bite her mane and her newly emerged pointed ears. "Come work with us at the Department of Mysteries, complete your mastery in potions— I hear you are quite the gifted young potioneer already—Let's see. The terms, hrm—" She dug for a scroll.
"Twelve hours a day, three days a week, with alternating weekends for work-related obligations. The rest of your time is free to fill with an apprenticeship, if you so choose, and perhaps a hand-signal training class for you both. We provide private quarters for all our employees and the standard oath of secrecy for job related knowledge. Any patents you create while under our employ must be offered to the DoM first for supplying our agents, but the compensation for such things is, as I understand, much more than merely competitive. There is paid vacation and benefits package, employee lotteries for vacations to different countries, discounts for most shops in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, custom tailoring from the Spider's Weft, and— well, I could go on all day."
She lay the open scroll down on the floor of the snow cave as Severus pressed his snout toward it to read it more clearly.
His eyes scanned the parchment quickly, widening as he progressed.
He might as well have been offered a bottomless bowl of Slytherin catnip, the very finest on the planet at that.
He pressed his paw onto the contract parchment, and magical ink spread under his mark of paw pads.
The exuberant cubling landed on the parchment, leaving a series of splatter prints.
Severus' mouth closed around her, and she went limp, allowing him to move her off the parchment as a lioness would move her cub.
Amelia was smiling at him with just the hint of fangs thanks to the wily chimaera cubling's mutagenic breath. She signed the parchment, and Alastor did as well as witness— his signature barely even recognisable as human language.
"How is it that I can speak?" Severus asked, plunking the cubling down. She immediately pounced Amelia's lap.
"I'd imagine she doesn't want to limit you," Amelia said.
"But, she's just a cubling."
"A very special cubling."
She looked up at Amelia and pounce tackled her new mane and growled, dangled, batted, and clung to it, spewing a thick cloud of magic as she did so.
Amelia and Alastor sneezed together and suddenly gained a stunning black and red striped scorpion tail.
Alastor shifted his weight so he didn't sit on his brand new tail in a painful manner. "Ach, if this keeps up, we're going to need Animagus lessons to remember how to look human."
Amelia chuckled, rubbing the cublings belly and pinning her down with a paw and then letting her up. The cubling squeak-mrowled happily, even happier than she had been.
"Is this… normal?" Severus asked.
"For her, most likely," Amelia said. "I have to say, I've never experienced it personally— until now."
"You seem to take it well," Severus noted.
Alastor grunted. "Never had the pleasure before now, but— I can completely see why those that have had it are such devoted people. You can't help but be dedicated when something trusts you so intimately."
Severus' wrinkled snout relaxed as his ears flicked. "I understand." He watched as the bundle of fur and stinger tackled Moody's mane and pulled him down, play stinging his neck where it bounced harmlessly off thanks to the thick mane.
She chirped at him, clambering up on his head and flopping there like a bear rug.
Alastor's eyes rolled up to stare at her.
"Has she give you a name yet?"
Severus frowned. "Nothing yet."
"Hrm, well, I'm sure she'll pick something," Amelia said with a smile. "On her own time."
The cubling purred loudly and fell into Alastor's lap with a squeak.
Alastor picked her up and set her down proper on all four legs, but she tripped over her wings and landed arse over teakettle onto her tail with a protesting squeak.
Severus grasped her firmly by the nape of the neck and dragged her back between his paws and gave her a good grooming over. He froze, realising he was doing something he wasn't exactly accustomed to doing— normally.
"Will this be permanent?"
"First order of business will be Animagus training. Rather, reverse Animagus training in your case. Same idea, only you become human as your form. It's included in your beginning training package."
Amelia smiled. "We may be sharing a class at this rate."
"At least I'm not a fluffy bunny with lop ears and a twitchy pink nose," Alastor said with a grunt.
"The horror," Severus said dryly.
"It'd be like you wearing sappy flowers and pastels."
Severus narrowed his eyes at the older wizard. "I happen to to like colour, just not like I was attacked by a Maypole festival."
Alastor snorted. "I suppose that's fair enough." He was quiet for a while. "I'll admit, I never thought you'd be the type to impress such a beast. I had you pinned as a ruddy Death Eater whose compassions ran only to Dark magic and evil hexes."
"Tell me, Mr Moody," Severus said between fangs. "How exactly would you know where my 'compassions' lay?"
Alastor's eyes furrowed, and he was silent for a moment. "Some trainees mentioned you a few times, stuff they heard from some friends of theirs."
"Black and Potter, perhaps?"
Moody's eyebrows raised at that. "Not directly."
Severus was silent, but the cubling immediately tensed and hissed, giving her best growl.
"I'll admit I was wrong to judge ye on the opinion of others. A person can lie," Moody replied, "but this kind of bond cannot."
"So you're saying you're actually a compassionate bloke under all that leather and scowl?" Severus replied dryly.
Amelia laughed. "He's got you there, Alastor."
"Shut it, you," Moody groused, reddening slightly.
The cubling ferociously mauled his footwear, sinking her baby teeth into his toe cap and the vamp of his boot. The sole made a strange squeaking sound, like someone was beating on a rubber duck.
The telltale sound of footfalls on the snow made the cubling freeze.
"I know he's here somewhere, Prongs," a voice said. "The map never lies."
"But he's not even on the map. The map doesn't extend this far."
"Well he disappeared around here, so we just find him. I bet I can find the greasy git with just my nose. His stupid never-washed greasy hair has a distinctive scent. Remember, he deserves to know his place."
There was a low thud as legs hit the ground with a chaser of vigorous panting and sniffing.
"We should check the map again," a nasally voice said.
"He's not showing up on it, Wormtail, or we wouldn't be out here searching the snows for his greasy git-ness."
The snuffling outside the cave got louder.
"What about the bloody map?"
"What do you mean it's gone, Peter?!"
The voice that may have been Peter's made a whingy sound. "It's not my fault!"
"Oi! Come 'ere ya wee beastie!" Hagrid's distinctive bellow broke through the pitiful whinging.
There was a loud thud as something landed on the ground. "I got the stupid beast!" the nasally voice cried. "Give me back my map, you stupid little vermin!"
There was a sudden sharp yelp followed by a gurgling, inhuman scream.
The inside of the snow cave was suddenly far too small as an outpouring of combined primal magic burst outward and three brassed-off chimaeras leapt from the snow, snarling.
The blackest chimaera snapped his jaws around the hands that were throttling the cubling in an attempt to get the parchment out from her jaws.
Peter screamed shrilly as both his hands were cut cleanly off at the wrist.
A black, scruffy-looking dog leapt upon the black chimaera, snarling and biting, ripping into the chimaera's nose and ears, attempting to rake his claws against the beast's vulnerable belly.
Or what he thought was vulnerable—
Instead, his claws scraped against slick, hardened scales.
Meanwhile, the cubling spit and hissed while she belched out a large cloud of sickly greenish-brown vapour right into the snarling dog's face.
The black chimaera flung the dog away while doing a half rear and rear kick that sent the dog careening into none other than James Potter.
The dog's body was convulsing as he whined, yelped, and cried out in pain. His body was jerking and twisting into the world's first giant guinea pig.
James' eyes filled with terror, desperation, and absolute hatred as his mind tried to pick a spell— any spell— that might help him.
Suddenly, he locked eyes with the black chimaera, and something clicked.
"Snivellus," he snarled. "Crucio!"
The beam hit the beast straight to the face, and it let out a horrible roar.
"Drop that wand, Potter," Moody barked, his craggy face practically a seething mask of bad news all wrapped up in a beast's mane.
"Under section five on the use of Unforgivable curses, you are under arrest, James Potter," Amelia said, her scorpion tail primed and ready.
James looked like he was contemplating rebellion just as two highly irate parental beasts: a fey dragon hybrid and a mostly-manticore landed on the wizard and began to tear him to pieces, scream by bloody scream.
Amelia and Alastor linked paws. "Immobulus!" they shouted together, freezing all the combatants in mid-mauling, including the giant guinea pig that was attempting to run away, and the crawling, crying Peter Pettigrew who seemed caught somewhere between man and giant rat— a rat with no front paws.
Amelia wrinkled her nose. "This is going to be a lot of paperwork. I hate paperwork."
"Tch," Alastor snorted. "You're not the one who has to explain to ruddy Scrimgeour why two of our supposedly best incoming trainees are going to have to stand in front of the Wizengamot."
He scratched behind his ear with his hind leg, his scorpion tail lashing in annoyance before sending multiple spells using his venom barb as a wand— one to bind the three that had been on a mission to find Snape, some to staunch the bleeding, one to summon assistance, and one that summoned a flask from somewhere, which he proceeded to guzzle into his snout.
The harsh, distinctive scent of strong espresso coffee wafted from the flask.
The cubling, her mouth full of soggy, drooly parchment, pounced on his fully transformed snout and dangled from it, legs and tail and wings all aflutter. The cubling's parents gave the three chimaeras a good sniff over and thorough examination, not so unlike two parents interviewing a potential new babysitter. They seemed satisfied and quickly calmed down from their earlier rage.
The cubling licked eagerly at the end of the coffee flask, making odd faces at the strange taste and smell. Her body, which had shifted partially into her background, returned to fully visible, her trauma of having been caught fading with her distraction.
Amelia picked up the parchment with her paws, her eyebrows rising as she saw the names swirling (slightly hampered by cubling drool) on the map of Hogwarts. While their current position was considered off the map, just outside the borders, it was clear that everyone else was shown in intricate detail. Her eyes narrowed.
"Well, suddenly things are becoming much clearer about how the odd reports of being stalked at Hogwarts came about." Amelia's expression was especially dour, made even more so with her new snout and fangs.
The cubling pounced Amelia's tail to amuse herself, and the fey dragon wrapped her up in her mouth and carried her a few feet over to groom her over. The protesting cubling surrendered to her mother's attention with a sad chirp.
"The chances of having both a hybrid fey dragon and an almost-manticore coming together to create our little mistress of adorable charm are pretty slim in the wild. The potions that allow for that are— not exactly easy to come by. Some are even crafted via Dark magic, depending on the individual potioneer. The Darkest ones have human blood in them, usually taken under duress from a powerfully magical family— or from a family that desperately needs the money and doesn't want anyone to know it."
The cubling chirred, wriggling her front paws to bat at her mum's snout.
"Does that mean she may be part human too?" Alastor asked, brows furrowing.
"Most likely," Amelia sighed. "It will make her very special indeed. Had she not bound herself to Severus as early as she did, she could have easily gone feral— but with nothing human to anchor her natural predatory instincts. Between the three of us, we should be able to contain her more vicious elements and temper it with her intelligence. Manticores are highly intelligent predators with no qualms about killing and eating humans— it is only our bond with his progeny that protects us as members of the family unit. It is kind of like members of a lion pride or a wolf pack that all tend the children of the breeding pair. The more eyes the young have to watch over them, the more likely they will survive to adulthood."
"Seems like she did most of the choosing," Severus said, scratching his ear with one hind foot.
"That tends to be the way of things with highly magical creatures." Amelia tilted her head. "We'll have to make room for them at the DoM. They won't respond well to being parted from their cubling so early on— though, I do wonder where they were hiding before this."
The male almost-manticore head-thumped into Severus, knocking him over and laying down beside him, seemingly quite content.
"So, what about the breeder?"
Alastor shook his head. "Doesn't seem to be a true part of this mutant crew. If they had, she or he would be here the moment the little lass started screaming her head off in distress."
Suddenly, Hagrid came crashing through the brush. "Oi! There you are ye wee troublemaker!" He threw down a potion bottle, and a glowing green gas filled the clearing. "Going to train you up to keep those boys safe for DUmbledore, I am.
All of the four-legged creatures choked and sputtered, growling and snarling as they attempted to leap to the attack, but the potion was strong— strong enough to take them all out of the running.
As the cubling went still, her paws no longer twitching as her body collapsed into total limpness, the four adult beasts went even more berzerk, but their bodies wouldn't respond to their impotent rage.
As Hagrid reached down to take the cubling into his hands, he secured a metal collar around her neck.
Crack. Crack-crack! CRACK!
The roar of a great beast broke the silence as four people dressed from head-to-toe in robes the colour of the full moon.
The great reptilian beast roared again, beating his wings to fan away the cloud of potion fog.
One of the figures patted the beast, and it rubbed up against their hand like a cat.
"Halt," another said in a hissing, barely human voice.
When Hagrid showed no sign of listening, having already taken off back towards Hogwarts.
"I said HALT!" the figure repeated loudly, and the winged beast promptly took off after Hagrid's fleeing back.
The beast zoomed after the errant half-giant at top speed, great talons already outstretched. It screeched, claws sinking into Hagrid's thick coat as he reached the wall around Hogwarts. Hagrid grabbed the gate and pulled himself through, and the beast roared as the wards kept it from pursuing— Hagrid having freed himself from his coat to get to the other side.
He cried out in relief as he made it to "safety". "There you go, ye little tyke. We'll get back home. Train you up for Perfesser Dumbledore's special protective detail, yea-OW!?"
Blood trickled down Hagrid's hand and he got a facefull of steamy pink breath as the woozy cubling fell to the ground— and instantly vanished from sight.
"NO!" Hagrid cried as his hands groped in vain for the invisible cubling.
There was a soft pop as something invisible squeezed through the bars of Hogwarts' front gate.
Five pairs of glowing beast-eyes stared through the gates as the cubling dangled from her dad's mouth, tucked safely behind his incisors. Their bodies radiated a tangible wave of hatred.
Hagrid blinked, staggered, and made an odd sound in the back of his throat as jellyfish-like tentacles grew out of his back to sting his own arse, his arms and legs turned into flippers, and his head turned into that of a newt.
The heavily-robed people at the gate scratched their heads under their hoods and exchanged strange looks. Amelia and Alastor licked their snouts simultaneously.
"Can we give the paperwork to one of the trainees?" Alastor muttered. "I don't want it."
Amelia eyed Severus.
Severus growled, fur standing on end.
"Not that trainee," Alastor swiftly added.
Severus narrowed his eyes, his stinger tail relaxing slightly.
The great white-winged beast eyed one of the robed figures, and everyone stared at the pointedly singled-out victim.
"Aw, man," the figure whinged. "Why is it always me?"
Wizengamot Boggles Over Randomly Transfigured Defendants
The Wizengamot has been scratching their heads after an exceedingly strange incident that took place outside Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry involved four students, two illegally bred hybrid beasts, a chimaera cub, a half-giant—
Gamekeeper Rubeus Hagrid is being charged with illegally breeding dangerous beasts in an alleged attempt to create a creature to protect the lives of some of Albus Dumbledore's most favoured former students— specifically: James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew.
While Remus Lupin was not present during the incident in question, Messrs Potter, Black, and Pettigrew were caught in the act of tracking a fellow student via an illegal enchanted map that, we are told, displayed the current location and activities of all persons within the castle proper, staff and students alike.
Unforgivable spells, unregistered Animagus status, animal abuse, malicious bullying and stalking with criminal intent are all on the docket, and that isn't even including multiple counts of illegal breeding without a permit from the Department of Regulation of Magical Creatures are among the number of charges that have been brought against the parties involved.
The infamous Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is being called in to explain why his gameskeeper was breeding creatures illegally for his use, but so far the Headmaster of Hogwarts vehemently denies having ever given Mr Hagrid permission to do so.
Regardless of Mr Dumbledore's involvement, the DRMC is investigating Hogwarts castle and grounds for any other hidden creatures that may be involved in the creation of the two beasts that attacked the boys when they were out stalking a fellow student.
The boys were all grievously injured when Peter Pettigrew attempted to grab something from a captured cubling's mouth, triggering the cub's panic and causing her to frantically cry out for her parents. The three humans who formed a bond with the cubling, underwent a sympathetic transformation and instinctively attacked the boys even as the infuriated parents descended upon them and began to tear them to pieces.
Due to a cloud of transfigurative vapour the frightened young cubling expelled, Mr Black was transformed into a giant guinea pig, and Rubeus Hagrid was transformed into something too bizarre to be described, Mr Potter was severely mauled by two adult chimaeras and Peter Pettigrew was relieved of both hands by an angry chimaera guardian.
A number of memories have been submitted to the Wizengamot, and Wizengamot member Amelia Bones has recused herself from the vote due to having personally witnessed the event.
The status of Mr Potter and Mr Black, who in line to be trainees with the Aurors, remains uncertain as even if they are found not-guilty of crimes that would harm their job prospects, Mr Black is currently a guinea pig, and Mr Potter is attempting to regrow multiple limbs and bones while undergoing intensive antivenin therapy for manticore envenomation.
The next Wizengamot session on this matter will be held on Friday.
For the first time since he could remember, Severus woke up to a warm bed next to a warm body, and without the gut twisting feeling of dread. The sleepy bundle of stinger, wing, and fur stirred against him lazily, laying against his belly with her paws extended to knead his chest.
The mother fey-dragon hybrid, which Alastor had named Zoë, stuck her head over the mattress, plucked up the sleepy cubling, and carried her off to perform the morning cleansing ritual. The father-manticore, dubbed Gruffydd, let out an impressive leonine yawn, showing off all of his pointed teeth from his favourite sprawling point: a gnarly-looking ancient yew tree that had been expertly arbormanced to become the central pillar of the room.
It was quite odd, he figured, to be so comfortable sharing a forest "lair" with multiple dangerous beasts, but when he saw the great tree, the waterfall bath and shower, a small spring for the cubling to lurk and play in, and even a winding creek that offered colourful fish to chase and bat at— he had to feel on top of the world compared to his shared dorm at Hogwarts and the pitiful little room back at Spinner's End.
Exceptions were made with regard to his quarters due to his unique cohabitation needs—both Gruffydd and Zoë were not going to sleep out of earshot of their cubling, and the cubling was definitely not going to sleep without her Severus.
She'd made that abundantly clear on the very first night.
She was quite content to share custody with Amelia and Alastor during the day, but sleep time was always Severus-time, no exceptions.
It was so very surreal to have someone— the furry little lady of the wing and breath— that found him trustworthy.
Even his one-time best friend couldn't give him that.
Lily's face during that last Wizengamot session—
Merlin, she'd been so pale.
Weeks and weeks of trial and evidence and records and memories—
She had rested her shaking hand on her abdomen during the reading of the verdict, and it didn't take much to put two and two together and come up with pregnancy, even without her toying with the invisible band on her left ring finger.
Married and pregnant.
Married to a wizard convicted of casting Unforgivables in front of three witnesses, two of whom were utterly beyond reproach, even if no one wanted to believe Severus Snape.
After the Wizengamot, they were far more inclined to believe him, thought. He may have been a right git to most people. He may have even asked for some of what he got by attempting to find reasons to get the Marauders in trouble, but he had hardly asked for constant hounding four to one.
Lupin had at least tried to make amends after the Shrieking Shack by not tagging along with his mates when they went Snape hunting.
Lupin had been brought in to have memories extracted about the small matter of the infamous "Marauder's Map" created by "Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, & Prongs."
No one, not even the great Albus Dumbledore could find a loophole to get them out of trouble for creating a highly illegal tracking map. Being unregistered Animagi only made it worse. As for Lupin, since their main defence on creating the map was to avoid detection as they went out on full moon nights as Animagi to keep their werewolf friend company, he was being dragged in as an accomplice, a werewolf, a danger to others, and a host of other things he didn't quite deserve.
The Wizengamot ended up sending Lupin to a werewolf-run sanctuary located on Christmas Island learning how to co-exist with the wolf and preserve the swarms of crabs from the invasive yellow crazy ants— something only magic could do when Muggle methods had all met with bad outcomes. Lupin, having no choice, agreed, but there was hope that if he did manage to make peace with his wolf and finish the conservation project, he could return to Britain.
As for Potter, Black, and Pettigrew—well, none of them were going to become Aurors anytime soon, if ever. Potter had used an Unforgivable curse, so once he healed up, he was looking at a minimum of ten years in Azkaban just for that alone. That was before the unregistered Animagus shenanigans was sorted out as they counted incidents when said Animagus forms were used to get away with malicious mischief, thievery, and other purely selfish pursuits. His unborn son or daughter wouldn't be seeing him until they were well into their own Hogwarts career.
Severus saw the look of shock and panic in her green eyes—hopes dashed, dreams sundered, ideals shattered into tiny bits. The ugly truth had finally sunk in, too. Severus hadn't lied to her, and she had accused him of being the kind of person who could never be "of the light" as if surviving in Slytherin was somehow automatically condemning to one's soul.
Lily hadn't really noticed him since the incident— physically that is. She'd been trying to contact him, but Severus had a pretty good feeling that she wasn't ready to have lunch with a chimaera, cubling chimaera, almost-manticore, and hybrid faedragon.
She hadn't been able to handle him, after all, and that was the purely human aspect.
The Homomagus lessons had been going pretty well, so far, but for the moment, all he'd managed to do is become bipedal and develop somewhat hand-like paws instead of pure paws. Alastor had a pristine human arse with a scorpion tail, and Amelia had a sphinxlike human head framed by a mane on her quadruped body.
Oh well, he figured. Pobody's nerfect.
He almost felt sorry for Lily— almost.
She had made a huge show of sullying his name for being around "the likes of Mulciber and Avery" and making sure everyone in the school know he could never, ever be forgiven. She could forgive Potter and marry him— have his child.
Not him, though.
Well, if she couldn't forgive him as a human, he wasn't holding his breath waiting for her to come apologising to a beast— and even if she did, how sincere could it possibly be after she had shown her true "forgiving" nature with Potter?
Oh, how the mighty had fallen from grace— her perfect man who had ascended from toerag to love of her life and then suddenly descended into a prisoner of Azkaban for upwards of two decades.
A frisky cubling interrupted his train of thought by applying herself directly to his forehead.
He pried her off and scowled, but she opened her snout in a wide grin as she playfully batted at his chin.
He softened. She looked up at him with such trust— such faith. He couldn't let her down.
For Severus, being trusted was a far more powerful thing than any drug. It wasn't like people were lining up to trust someone who was undoubtedly destined to go bad, as many a Gryffindor believed.
Perhaps they would've been proven right, had it not been for a certain cubling that had more faith in him than the whole of Hogwarts combined. He had been, up until the point of meeting her, been ready to go drown his sorrows at the Salty Hag in Knockturn and contemplate taking up the offer Lucius had given him to meet someone who could supposedly get him the apprenticeship he had so desperately wanted.
Only now— he didn't need Lucius Malfoy's string-laden favour pulling.
What a relief that was. He didn't need more favours owed.
The cubling used his snout as a springboard to pounce her father's face, clinging to it like a four-legged arachnid or a gecko. It was so hard to tell with her.
"Roisinn," Severus said, furrowing his dark brows.
The cub simply purred and exhaled a cloud of purple mist. Her father's fur abruptly turned dark purple. The manticore seemed tolerantly resigned to her antics as he thumped his progeny down between his paws and groomed her over thoroughly.
Severus padded over to his dresser and attempted to brush out his mane into order. Someone had been drooling in it. Maybe, he thought, he should just attempt a shower—
But damn if his hair wasn't perfectly glossy— and silky to the touch, not greasy at all.
He poked it with one finger and then tugged on it. His mane fell into place flawlessly as if a team of expert barbers had descended upon it and soaked every strand in concentrated Sleekeazy's.
"Roisinn," he called, beckoning the cubling.
She wriggled free of her father's huge paws and bounded towards him.
"Slobber into this vial for me, will you?" he asked.
She stared at him, and he felt a tingle in his mind as she poked around his head looking for what he really wanted. Satisfied, she wrapped her mouth around the vial and salivated into it copiously.
The faint scent of apples and spice wafted towards him.
Severus picked her up and caught the vial. "How does one who stuffs her face into a pile of dead rabbits smell so strongly of warm apple pie?"
Roisinn chirred, tail wagging back and forth in a lazy figure eight.
"If you pish apple cider, I don't want to know," Severus muttered.
At the word pish, Roisinn hopped down, bounded over to the industrial-sized litter box, and proceeded to empty her bladder forthwith.
No, Severus decided. Her pish distinctly smelled of black raspberry jam. What a furry little enigma she was.
Severus corked the vial and pocketed it.
He now had the perfect idea for his mastery project.
Rufus Scrimgeour had a problem.
Roisinn had his favourite quill in her mouth, and she was holding it hostage for belly rubs.
Sighing with feigned annoyance, he rubbed her fuzzy belly and regained his quill and then promptly relieved him of the bacon from his sarnie.
The entire Aurory had broken out in manes— literally. The furry mischief maker had breathed love upon anyone who she believed "worthy" of protecting her, blessing them with immunity to her stinger, a thick mane to pounce and maul at will, and the undeniable compulsion to protect her at all costs.
Scrimgeour didn't mind, really. If anything, he was starting to realise that Aurors with manes were by far verifiably trustworthy and very effective intimidators. There were certain unseen benefits too: more strength, stamina, hardiness, resistance to being cursed or hexed. There wasn't complete immunity, but any resistance was good when a spell should be fatal but turned out to be just a pain in the wherever-it-hit-you.
She was a real charmer, the little beast. She was an unnervingly good judge of character, and she could tell an undercover agent who was pretending to be a criminal versus the real thing— curling up in the lap of a guy that looked like the Darkest Wizard in Europe and hissing and spitting ferociously at the immaculately groomed visitor to the Auror's office.
At first, Scrimgeour had thought her mad, utterly barking mad. He'd rushed out with apologies and a medical team to treat the bites and scratches only to find out the wizard had two wands. One for public consumption and one tucked up the sleeve Roisinn had bitten and stabbed with her stinger tail— a wand dripping with so much Dark magic residue that it was amazing no one had sensed it before, at least until they found the hidden sheath heavily inscribed with concealing runes.
Well— it had been.
The chimaera's attack on it had broken down the enchantments as her anger-fueled saliva mixed with venom from her stinger melted it down.
Lord "Evil" was now in Azkaban enjoying Her Majesty's pleasure and— ahem— hospitality.
Plus, erm, a fine set of pink bunny ears and a swine tail as well.
Alastor and Amelia already had her training to be a sort of sniffer-beast— the kind of beast that could sniff out even Dark magic that was under concealment. She had a talent for it when she wasn't stealing his quills and bacon and an indeterminate amount of belly rubs.
She was a brilliant little beast, that was for sure. He had the sneaky suspicion she was mimicking everything she saw, and that included their intensive Homomagi exercise sessions.
Roisinn could easily get out of places that required the use of hands.
Hell, she could get out of places that lacked doors, so who was he fooling?
Bloody furry Houdini.
He had no doubt at all that if she truly wanted to get somewhere, she'd simply will herself there, much to her beast-parents' consternation. The challenge for her was to do it "like a normal beast with paws."
Savage and Proudfoot took turns reading her various books from the library— everything from Dark Magic's Withering Curse (which detailed the horrid after effects of using it too often) to Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. She really loved Shakespeare, and the Aurors had started calling her Lady Hermione after the queen found in the pages of A Winter's Tale.
Regardless of the name, and she responded to many, she gave every indication of truly loving the written word. Sometimes, Rufus would catch her staring intently into a book almost as if she was reading it herself.
At times, he felt certain she was reading it.
Kingsley gave her the oddest books to stare at: Arithmancy and You, Debunking the Prophecies: Real or Imagined, Conspicuous Consumption: Are We Really Chimpanzees? I'm Nundu, Are You? and other bizarre titles.
He was a strange wizard, that Kingsley, sharp as a tack but rather quirky.
Roisinn sat in Kingsley's lap, peering over the side of the desk with her paws on the edge. There was a witch on the other side of the desk, filing a report.
"Some crazy witch Imperiused my husband!"
"Some crazy witch," Kingsley repeated slowly. "Can we perhaps be a bit more specific, please?"
Rufus chuckled to himself. There were, after all, a surplus of crazy witches of late. Some were decidedly more mental than others.
"Please describe what happened," Kingsley directed, as Roisinn stared at the witch from her comfy perch.
The witch was a little distracted by Kingsley's lush mane.
Rufus had to admit, with perhaps just a touch of jealousy, that Kingsley wore the look really well.
"Some witch with loads of wild dark hair shoved me down in Diagon Alley, whispered something in my husband's ear, then his eyes went all glassy and he just followed her into Knockturn Alley. I was too afraid to follow him."
"Sandra, love, could you please work with Mrs Greenbrow here and come up with a rendering of our crazy mystery witch?"
"Sure, Kings," a young Auror said, getting out her art tools. "If you'd come with me, ma'am?"
Mrs Greenbrow seemed to be ignoring her in favour of staring at Kingsley.
Roisinn bared her teeth, taking the scents on the witch into the back of her mouth. She chirped up to Kingsley as her claws made long shreds of his desk calendar.
"May we have your cloak from where the witch shoved you?"
"Oh, um, yes, of course." She quickly sloughed off her cloak and placed it neatly on the desk before going off with Sandra to get the artist's sketch completed.
Kingsley placed a swift preservation charm over the coat to protect both its condition and the scents upon it.
Roisinn wrinkled her nose, sneezing violently.
"She's right, that thing stinks," Proudfoot said doubtfully. "Not sure you'll get anything useful on that."
Kings sighed. "Better than nothing, mate. Lady Hermione here has a really great nose."
Roisinn chirped sweetly and rolled over on King's much-abused desktop calendar.
He placed a hand-paw over her, using it to roll her around like a log of biscuit dough. She purred in approval, opening her snout in play as her colours shifted and she blended into the objects on his desk.
"Oh no!" Kings said in mock horror. "Where did she go?"
The cubling reappeared, batting at him as if to say, "Here I am, silly!"
"There you are!" Kings smiled, snuffling her with his face. She grabbed onto his mane and stung his neck playfully, his mane doing its job and protecting him from the overzealous stinger.
Kings wrapped his paw-hand around her scruff, and she settled instinctively, calmly awaiting transport.
He picked her up and carried her under his arm towards the arboretum where the little lady could frolic to her heart's content before work demanded its due.
Scrimgeour chuckled and shook his head. Who ever said being an Auror was boring?
"Please, may I come in?"
Severus said nothing, his black eyes unfathomable and his expression set like stone.
"Please, Sev. People are watching."
He narrowed his eyes. "I seem to recall you rather enjoyed letting me stand in the hallways letting the hecklers think everything you wanted them to."
The redhead winced. "I suppose I deserved that. Please, Sev." Lily rubbed her abdomen, perhaps unconsciously, staring down at the floor.
The public door to his living quarters emptied out into what were the DoM's "official" residential flats— the kind of thing you wanted people to see on the outside when someone asked where you lived. The truth was rather more exotic, and Severus knew that most people, even magical people, didn't exactly want to know that dangerous creatures lived so close to them.
Even if said dangerous creatures were perfectly civil, thank you very much.
Well, except for Her Lady of the Fickle Breath and the Overactive Stinger. She was a downright menace to civility by skipping it over and going directly to casual, blatant affection or whatever emotion she felt at the time. Lucius would have been appalled by her directness.
Lily had always been direct, too, yet somehow the cubling would always defuse a situation. Lily, however—
The neighbours were staring— unknownst to Lily, they were all Unspeakables— and they regarded her with the kind of suspicion anyone knew what happened in the Wizengamot would, but knowing the entire situation with Roisinn made his relationship with the fluffball public knowledge amongst the DoM. His trustworthiness had, ironically, gone from likely Death Eater to utterly beyond reproach.
The irony wasn't lost on him.
"Come in then," Severus said, opening the door. She stared at the ground the entire time, not even taking notice that his physical appearance had undergone a few overhauls.
Had she ever really noticed him, he wondered.
He tapped the gem on his hidden collar to activate the glamour. He hadn't expected anyone but the DoM at his door, least of all Lily Potter. Oh how his life had changed where he didn't look over his shoulder every minute of every day for someone to come and attack him to the back, front, or whatever side was facing.
He hadn't quite gotten the Homomagus thing down, yet, and showing up as a bipedal chimaera wasn't a great way to browse the grocery for spotted dick or haddock for fish and chips— or great your ex-best friend who couldn't handle the thought of Dark magic let alone a few "interesting mutations."
"Tea?" he asked, deciding that he was still a red-blooded British bloke where tea lubricated every awkward social situation.
"Please," Lily said, looking up at him for the first time, if but for a few seconds.
It was lunch time, and he realised he was quite hungry, which meant His Lady of the Bottomless Stomach would desire food too. Growing cublings were voracious. He also realised that Zoë had disappeared completely from her perch, having decided camouflage was the better part of valor. Gruffydd, thank the gods, was sleeping in the cradle of the huge centerpiece tree, content to sleep since Roisinn wasn't pouncing his tail again.
Those two he could feed later, after Lily left. Last thing Lily needed to see was two hybrid beasts tearing apart a carcass and then regurgitating the meal for their cubling. Instincts and all that— even when she was perfectly capable of tearing apart food herself since day one.
He was glad that he could suppress that particular instinct and just hand her a turkey leg or whatever-you're-eating-I'm-eating-too-right-now-thank-you-very-much.
Roisinn was perched on the counter, the tea container in her maw. She was way too smart for her own good. Little know-it-all.
He placed his hand on her head and ruffled her, and she peered up at him, perhaps boggling at his glamour. She probably thought he looked mighty strange without all of his normal mane, tail, and everything else. Then again, maybe she was seeing through it and wondering why he had two faces at once. One never knew with her— she was far too intelligent for her own good.
He took the tea tin from Roisinn and set it aside, putting the water over the hearth to heat up as he set the kettle aside.
Roisinn watched the fire, every so often she'd bat at it. Thankfully, her dragon heritage made her fire-proof, or at least so resistant that nothing burned her. Even better, nothing set her on fire, so she couldn't just wander off, covered in flames, to go and set the curtains on fire.
Thank Merlin for that large favour. Flaming cublings and burning down the flats would just— yeah no.
Deciding that lunch was probably a good plan against cubling teeth on his ankle, he pulled the haddock out from the charmed ice-box. "You up for fish and chips?" he asked, not really caring if she wanted any.
The sound of Lily's stomach growling was loud enough to startle the cubling. She jumped at the sound and growled and hissed but was completely unsure which direction to face.
"Yes, please," Lily said in almost a whisper, trying to keep the desperate tone from her voice.
"There now, you fearsome beast," Severus tutted, lifting her up and putting her over his shoulder. She flopped there like a sack of grain and just about as heavy. She purred and chirped, content to be a window dressing and ride his shoulder around. He dreaded when she got bigger and tried to do the same.
Severus mixed up the batter, dipped the fish, and set it into the fry oil. Roisinn peered in from his shoulder, making chirring sounds as the colour went from white to golden brown. She batted his ear to make him look at the cooking chips, and he rubbed her chin as he took the first round of chips out of the oil. He passed a bit of the fish to his cling-on gargoyle, and carried the plate over to Lily.
Lily, again, didn't want to make eye contact, but thankfully the glamour covered his paw-hands. He could just hear the screaming— as if being a Death Eater reject and all that hadn't caused her to shun him the first time wasn't bad enough.
Bitter? Me? he chided himself.
Lily tore into the food that was still piping hot, drinking the tea like her mouth was immune to heat like Roisinn and his was…
They were freaks, exceptions to the natural order. What was her excuse?
He narrowed his eyes. He walked over to the cabinet and pulled out a vial, returning to the place she was sitting and placing it down by her plate. "Drink this."
She stared at it with a panic. "W-what is it?"
Severus narrowed his eyes. "Forgotten basic potions already?"
He couldn't help the bitterness. How many times had he helped her with potions? Sure, she was better at charms and at silly stuff like making sodding fish out of lily petals, but potions knowledge was like self defence. One should always know what one was putting into their body. The fact Lily didn't seem to know that troubled him.
Lily had set her jaw, and to her credit, did not respond to his ribbing with her typical overly emotional explosion. "I can't tell, Sev."
Knowing she wasn't going to pick it up and sniff it as he would, he finally relented. "Prenatal vitamins," he said. "And a nutrient booster with some extra protein, calcium, and calories."
Roisinn sent him a mental image of Zoë visibly laden with another cub.
"Yes, love, just like your mum with a cub," he answered.
The beast chirred with approval, sending him an imagine of another baby chimaera playing with her.
"No, love. Human babies are much more fragile."
Roisinn let out an unhappy chirp, sulking a bit.
Lily looked up, but she frowned, seeing nothing. Roisinn had camouflaged herself again.
Great, he thought wryly. Now she thinks I'm talking to myself. As if I need even more foibles in her eyes.
Lily looked at the potion as if it were a viper primed to strike.
Severus closed his eyes and sighed. "You still don't trust me. Fine. Don't drink it. Maybe prayer will prevent your baby from suffering from various malnutrition-related birth defects."
He turned from her and went back to cooking his lunch.
Severus heard rather than saw her taking the potion, his improved hearing could not confirm when people were talking about him behind his back. He could imagine her face turning redder than her hair as her green eyes practically burned holes into his back.
With a gesture, he had the tea pouring itself and floating off toward Lily and distributing itself around the table. He said nothing as he sat opposite her.
He gave Roisinn a large plank of fish as he dug into his lunch. The hungry cubling made it disappear quickly.
"Did you just throw a piece of fish over your shoulder?" Lily asked.
"Whyever would I do that?"
"Well, it looked like—"
Severus gave her a highly arched eyebrow, and, flushing, she went back to her food.
"Hey, what happened to my fish?"
"You ate it?"
"No, I didn't."
"What exactly are you saying?"
"I'm saying something nicked my ruddy fish!"
Severus tried to avoid smirking as he heard the sounds of frantic chewing coming from under the nearby cabinet.
Cheeky little minx.
Severus moved one of his fish planks over to her plate. "Perhaps that one will not float off into the ether whilst unattended."
Lily flushed, scowling, but she tore into it hungrily enough that Severus recognised it for what it was: genuine hunger.
Merlin knew he was all too familiar with that in his own life.
He allowed her to eat and drink the tea— all of the tea. He tried not to stare as she did so. He'd done much the same when he had his first meal in his new residence, savouring every morsel like he hadn't eaten in years. It wasn't that Hogwarts hadn't fed him well, but it had been his first meal in his new home. His home, not his father's or mother's. Not a dorm shared with others, no. There was something very cathartic about finally having his own place, even while sharing it with three Hagrid refugees.
Were they roommates, coworkers maybe? Bah.
He half expected Alastor to come bursting through one door and Amelia from the other, ready to smother the little miscreant with all the love one cubling could possibly handle. That would just blow Lily right off the couch.
"So," he said after she had practically licked the plate clean. "What did you need?"
To her credit, Severus realised, she wasn't denying that she had a need. That insult would have closed the door on her request super fast.
"Since the trials, I've been living with my in-laws," she said quietly. "But something's really wrong with them, Sev. They're wandering around the house in total confusion. The house-elves are beating themselves silly with pots and pans— they can't do anything without being told by the masters of the house. They won't make any food— they won't even let me try to make food. They're not eating anything— the stress of the trials just really took it all out of them."
She wrung her hands in her lap. "I'm so scared, Sev. This isn't how it was supposed to turn out."
Severus' posture stiffened at that. "And how was it supposed to turn out, Lily?"
"I was so much in love, Sev. Really in love. He was so sweet and kind. We had a future ahead of us. He was devoted to me. I knew there was no way he could have done such horrible things like they said. There was no way. He could be so cruel."
Severus stiffened, having still not separated himself from the past between himself and Potter's gang of bullies. How many times had he supported Lily while she complained about "that toerag, Potter" only to have her repudiate him for the boy-who-made-his-life-a-living-hell. He couldn't even call him man, no matter if he managed to get it up and get Lily pregnant.
Getting a witch pregnant was hardly a judge of maturity. Anyone who said otherwise was a complete fool to be filed away with witches (or wizards) who believed douching after coitus somehow prevented pregnancy. Severus found it astounding how many idiotic ways people came up with to prevent pregnancy only to realise that didn't work in real life.
Lick. Lick. Lick.
Roisinn was licking his hand-paw, and he could feel his blood pressure lowering. Lily had dug her grave, and she had to lie in it. His life no longer relied on orbiting her— not anymore. He had someone who truly relied on him, now, and had gifted him the most genuine proof of that belief in him.
Perhaps beasts truly were the key to less stress. But what if you were the beast?
He realised Lily was still babbling on while he was busy introspecting. He was trying to tune out the Potter this and Potter that. Love him so much. Can't believe it. Still don't believe it. It can't be true. Blah, blah, blah.
Why was she here, anyway? If she believed coming to him to get Potter out of Azkaban was ever going to happen, she had a long icy path to Niflheim before that was going to happen. She could just stick her hand right into the Suneater's mouth, while she was at it. See how that fared for her.
Snape frowned again. Still the bitterness.
Yet, the image of Roisinn sauntering up to said Suneater and convincing him to cuddle amused him. If anyone could take on the world wolf with pure brave guile, it would be Roisinn.
Lily sneezed, and for a moment, her skin seemed to shift into a pattern of horrifyingly familiar purple spots.
Oh, hell no.
No, no, and more no.
Severus stood up with a cry, hastily banishing himself to the other side of the room.
"Stay right where you are, Lily," Severus said. He had a Patronus going out far faster than he'd ever summoned one before. It seemed so easy, now, after having met Roisinn. The feeling of genuine trust— her belief in him.
He blinked as the shape of a certain chimaera zinged off to warn Amelia. If his suspicion of what Lily had just exposed him to was correct…
Crack. Crack. Crack. CRACK!
Healers dressed in deep green robes and personal protective gear Apparated in along with Amelia herself. Wands were out, waving quickly.
"SEV?!" Lily cried, completely unravelling. She tried to stand up and come closer.
"Do not move," Severus said quickly.
Roisinn sneezed, breaking out in purple spots.
"Fuck." Severus swore succinctly as he felt her forehead, and it was already burning up.
"We're already infected too, Amelia," Severus said. "Lily's in-laws have the dragon pox, she caught it from them."
"Shite," Amelia hissed. "Healer Robinson. I want this place quarantined as of now. No one in or out, not even a house-elf. Any supplies must be brought in via floo. None of us can leave until we are cleared or have taken the potions and are cleared."
The healers scurried about like a swarm of bees.
"Are you well enough to brew the necessary potions by yourself? I don't want to bring anyone else and expose them to this if I don't have to."
"Yes, but I'll need a mask to keep from sneezing into the cauldron."
One of the healers promptly threw a mask at him, and it wrapped itself around his face like an octopus.
"WHAT IS GOING ON?!" Lily screeched.
"Sit down, Mrs Potter," Amelia said severely. "You've just exposed an entire room to highly contagious dragon pox. I will need a list of everywhere you have been since you were exposed to it or anyone you even think may have been exposed to it."
"Don't be silly, it's just a cold—"
"It's most definitely dragon pox, madam," Robinson stated firmly. "For most humans it can incubate for up to a week or more— but for anyone with draconic blood, the effects of the disease manifest almost instantaneously."
Zoë's loud, flaming sneeze came from her perch on in the tree.
Gods, he hoped the manticore didn't have dragon blood in him somewhere.
The tree was on fire.
"Fireproof everything," Amelia barked the orders as the floo activated and a crate of ingredients came in along with a box of premade emergency potions.
"Thank the gods," Amelia said, distributing them to everyone. "Drink up. Severus, if you would please give Roisinn and her parents their doses?"
"You first though," she cautioned.
Severus sneezed under his mask, sighing heavily after. He chugged one of the potions, and closed his eyes as he waited for the urge to sneeze napalm subsided.
"Gruffydd," he called, putting out the tree. "Come down here and take your medicine before you set the Ministry on fire."
The manticore sneezed again and landed down beside him. His nostrils were dripping with flaming mucous.
"Lovely," Severus said, waving the bottle. "Open wide. It's for your own good."
The manticore looked dubious, but obediently opened his mouth to allow Snape to pour the potion in. He wrinkled his muzzle at the unpleasant taste, but the flaming boogies dried up, the purple pox faded, and Gruffydd hacked up large ball of noxious purple mucous that spontaneously caught fire and disappeared.
"Well, at least I didn't have to clean that up," Severus muttered.
The manticore went back into the tree, and Zoë promptly fell out of the tree, kicked out by her now-well mate to go get herself dosed.
Love was real, Severus decided with no little amusement.
Zoë sniffled miserably, dripping flaming napalm snot, and she practically licked the entire bottle clean with her tongue in her enthusiasm to be rid of her mysterious and annoying ailment.
She, too, coughed up a huge ball of purple yuck, and it, too, neatly disposed of itself.
Snape had to admit that potion was pretty damned effective.
Roisinn sneezed, setting his hair on fire, and he scowled at her.
The cubling sniffled pathetically, dripping and flaming unhappily.
At least it wasn't from both ends, he decided. Thank the gods.
He got out a dropper and pulled up a partial dose for Her Ladyship, and looked her in the eyes.
"You really need this, love, so please don't be a pain in the arse about it, hrm?"
Roisinn looked utterly miserable, but she opened her mouth and waited patiently.
He put the dropper into her mouth and shot the potion into her cheek. She wrinkled her snout in distaste and swallowed. Her pox made strange fizzling sounds as they dried up and scabbed off, and then she, too, evicted all the purple nastiness from her body.
How the bloody hell did that much mucus come from a body so small, he wondered. Nasty.
Roisinn seemed greatly relieved to be free of her funk, and she crawled up onto his shoulder with her rear end on his front shoulder and the rest of her draped over his shoulder and back. She was snoring peacefully within seconds.
He took her over to her private nesting bowl bed and gently lay her inside, tucking her in under a layer of warm shed wool from Gruffydd and gathered moss and soft fibres from Zoë.
"Mrs Potter, I am afraid that you will not be able to leave here until we are absolutely certain that the disease has fully cleared your system," Healer Robinson said firmly. "Full humans have a longer recovery time because the disease takes longer both to set in and get out, as they say."
"Why can't I take the same potion as you?" Lily asked.
"It is the same potion," Healer Robinson explained patiently.
"Then why aren't you staying here too?"
Amelia was tapping her fingers rather loudly on the windowsill. "Because, Mrs Potter, no one here in this room is fully human, save for you."
"W-whut?" Lily stammered, her green eyes going very wide.
"I fear nothing more can be said without you taking a Wizarding Oath, and even then, all that you learn here must be sworn to absolute secrecy. The only reason we are making an exception to this for you is because you must cohabitate with us here for an undetermined amount of time."
"More Oaths? I'm sick of all this secrecy!" Lily exclaimed, exasperated.
"Then you leave us with no other options," Amelia said icily. "We will have the Obliviators come once you are well enough to be transferred to St Mungo's, and then you will be returned there."
"Oblivia— no!" Lily cried. "I'm pregnant!"
Amelia raised a brow. "And? The Obliviator teams are highly precise. Your foetus will not be harmed in any way, shape, or form."
"You can't possibly know that for sure!" Lily said, clutching her abdomen.
"It is a very simple matter, Mrs Potter," Amelia said. "Lives here depend on absolute secrecy. You brought a highly contagious, often fatal disease into our living quarters, touching and possibly infecting gods only knows how many people on your way here, and you can either voluntarily take the Oath to preserve our secrets, or we will remove what you cannot be allowed to remember upon leaving this place. Before that, however, we must insist that you detail everywhere you've been for the last week to determine how many other areas may have been infected."
"Healer Robinson," Severus said, removing the face mask once the potion took effect. He promptly hacked up a lung, or so it seemed, as a purple mess was evicted from his bronchial passages and promptly disintegrated.
"I do hope that is the last of that," he muttered.
"Yes, one or two purges is usually the norm, Severus," the healer reassured him. "Now that you've had it in your system, you'll still feel like crud for a few days while your body develops the immunities, but the potion will keep you from the worst of it, thankfully, since you got the dosing quick enough— and you aren't human, which actually helps in this case."
Severus nodded grimly. It wasn't how he wanted Lily to find out, but he'd honestly expected it back at the trial since he had been there— fully beast— watching the entire fiasco unfold.
Denial, he realised, was far, far more powerful. He should have known considering he'd denied that there wasn't something more to keep their childhood friendship from going to pot over one hateful word. That Lily still denied that Potter could do such "horrible things" told him how deep she had been—
Or else simply deluding herself.
The lines were a bit blurry, he had to admit.
If it hadn't been for Roisinn and the DoM, he'd never known what someone having your back felt like. He'd never have known what true— contentment was.
"I'll prepare the guest room," Severus said. "Standard protocol?"
"Aye," Amelia answered him from across the room. "You can give me a list of any extra supplies you will need or use, and I'll make sure you're reimbursed for all your trouble. That and what time you needed to brew the potions."
"Yes, ma'am," he responded with a nod.
Gruffydd thumped a huge paw against Amelia's head, saying a lazy hello, manticore style. He was extremely mellow for a man-eating beast, but Severus figured it was because it was because Roisinn liked humans— well, most humans— and she didn't appreciate daddy eating the guardian pool.
Then again, the beast was getting regular food, comfortable lodging, and free cubling sitting, so maybe he knew a good thing when he had it. Hagrid's accommodations were admittedly— questionable.
It was clear that both the manticore and fey dragon appreciated comfortable lodging over being stuffed into a barn, and from the photos in the DRMC record, it was amazing the two even fit. Fey dragons, at least, had the ability to be as large or small as they wished, but manticores were not very subtle. Gruffydd wasn't just a manticore, either—Hagrid had been very naughty, indeed.
Merlin could only guess the exact combination that had went into Roisinn, and there had been multiple tests on her, him, Alastor, Amelia, and even Zoë and Gruffydd.
"You're a chimaera, Mr Snape," the analyst had finally said.
"Obviously," Snape had replied with a curled lip.
Idiot, he'd added mentally.
Severus pressed his palm against the ornate tapestry of a lounging family of Nundus hanging on the far wall, and it shimmered into a door even as a room full of potion ingredients seemed to "budge over" to expose a spare bedroom. He swiftly moved his wand in a few economical movements, and fresh linens, pillows, and a plump quilt flew in to neatly make up the bed.
Severus looked at the pristine grey sheets and instantly knew Lily would not approve. Still, if she wanted to contaminate his living space with her— nauseating taste in colour, she could bloody well do it with her own wand.
"This will be your room until your pox clears up, Mrs Potter," he said stiffly. "I would ask that you do not touch anything in the potions room or even go inside it. There are ingredients and potions there that could adversely affect your pregnancy."
"I didn't forget everything about potions, Sev," Lily snapped.
"Well then, madam, please forgive me for caring," Severus said, his face going from neutral to cool in a blink. To Amelia, he said calmly, "I'll be in the lab starting the next batch of dragon pox cure."
He disappeared behind the tapestry and the wall seemed to solidify completely behind him.
Roisinn had awoken, and she leapt down out of her sleeping bowl. She bounded over to the wall and growled, her stinger lashing back and forth. She scrunched up her snout and glared, concentrating fiercely, and her paws turned into small hands— human hands.
She traced something on the side of the stone, and the door formed in the stone. Quick as a whistle, her paws were back, and she darted into to the next room, the door closing and disappearing behind her.
"What the hell was that?" Lily squeaked.
Amelia's lips turned upward in a rueful smile. "Proof that Mr Hagrid was a very, very naughty boy."
"Does that mean what I think it does?" Healer Robinson asked, frowning.
"Mmmhmm," Amelia confirmed. "Hagrid used a very shady, very illegal potion for his own equally illegal custom breeding program, which resulted in… her."
"The magic in the blood potion? That's ancient family magic. Dark blood magic!"
"Human blood, aye," Amelia said. "Highly magical blood to be precise. It was once used in magical adoptions before the modern spells did it without the bloodletting, back when pureblood families wanted their adoptees to literally be a part of the family. Using it for beasts is a strange use— perhaps in order to bind the parents' inherent magic together to create our lovely Roisinn. I don't think he realised exactly what went into making such a potion. If he did— well, let's just say I wonder which magical family's bloodline was in that potion."
"Wasn't there a really big scandal awhile back at Mungos, where some berk was going around stealing the blood of certain high-profile patients and selling it for profit? Highly magical blood. All cream of the crop, as they say."
"Given Her Ladyship's mixed pedigree, she could be a mixed bag or simply luck of the draw. We will have to do a trace, but maybe it's better if we don't. Finding out will not change her bond with those she has chosen, and she will not appreciate being displaced. Better have her make that choice herself when she's ready for it, and I have no doubt she will tell us when that is, just like she does with everything else."
"She's going to be so spoiled," the healer chuckled.
Amelia waved him off. "She deserves a little love. Out there she would be exploited. Here she can grow on her own schedule, and she will be probably be brewing master-level potions with Severus."
"The little b east brews?"
"But she's— she's only— She's not even a year old!"
"What is going on?!" Lily cried, frustrated and not following the conversation at all. The stress, however, caused her disease to take advantage, and the pox began to spread all over her skin.
"Mrs Potter," one of the other healers said. "We need you to calm down. Can we move you to the room? Any stress you—"
"Calm down? I'll bloody well calm down when you start explaining!"
"If you continue to overstress yourself, the pox could spread to your baby before your antibodies can get to the foetus," the healer cried out in alarm. "Please, Mrs Potter!"
Lily paled at the mention of her unborn baby, and immediately followed the healer to the room Severus had set up for her.
The elder healer, Healer Pearl Paddington, walked in after, shooing the visibly nervous younger one off to tend to his duties on the other side of the bed. They helped her into it and brought up the blankets to keep her warm.
"Now, as Healer Robinson so kindly explained, humans are a bit more vulnerable to dragon pox. Dragons just get a rather nasty cold with flaming mucus, lots of sneezing, and itchy spots. Humans, however— well, they incubate it for a week or more, meanwhile it's highly contagious and spreading— they get very feverish with malaise and respiratory problems, as you can easily imagine, flaming sneezes are not good for a human with normal healing. Now, we have a sedative that can help you relax and it won't pass to the foetus. It will help you rest and let your body make the antibodies you need to fight the disease off. We have other potions for you too, when your body is ready, to help buffer your immune system, but that has to wait for the initial potion to work its way through."
The healer patted her head with a cool cloth.
"Now, my name is Pearl. Pearl Paddington. Like the bear. You just call for me if you need something, my dear, and I'll work on getting you some food. Your job here is simply to rest in this case. Normally we want people to keep moving around and all that, but we want the least amount of stress on you as possible. Dragon pox is quite tenacious, I'm afraid."
"But, how could I possibly have a dragon disease," Lily said, sniffling.
"You might as well ask how you get the flu, dear," Pearl said. "Even influenza doesn't originate in people, often animals like birds and swine. Diseases jump species quite often, so it's not at all unusual. Magic just makes things— complicated. So does age. Dragon pox can be fatal in our elderly."
"But, I've been around the Potter family, and they aren't breaking out in spots—"
Pearl stopped her. "You live with a larger family?"
"Well, not really. Just my in-laws."
"Are they older than a hundred?"
"I don't see what that has to do with—"
Pearl gave Lily a look.
"Yes, they are older than a hundred."
Healer Paddington gestured to another healer in the other room. "Rose, I need you to send a request to send an emergency high risk pox-team to the Potter estate."
"Ma'am," the other healer replied, with a curt nod.
Lily pulled on her arms in a shiver. "Why can't I ever have a normal, happy life?"
"Severus, thank you very much for coming," the elder healer said as she welcomed him into her office. "I'm Healer Paddington."
Roisinn stood on Snape's shoulder, looking down her snout at the healer as if evaluating her for a great prize.
"And hello there, little one," she added. "This must be Roisinn."
Roisinn's nose was working overtime, and she snuffled the healer's hand.
The cubling was in the healer's arms and rubbing against her with a deep, thrumming purr.
"Apologies," Severus said. "She's insufferable."
"Insufferably adorable," the healer said with a laugh. She was instantly compelled to succumb to the lure of the fuzzy cubling belly.
"I wanted to thank you for helping with those potions and ask if you needed anything for your quarantined house-guest."
Snape shook his head. "Unless you mean a greater variety of food and better entertainment options for a witch than dreary potion making and even more study outside of Hogwarts."
"Oh, dear. I suppose she has the pregnancy has her craving all sorts of odd things."
"Odd doesn't even begin to cover it," Severus said.
Roisinn sneezed, startling herself. She looked around with wide eyes, as if hoping she wasn't going to have to drink a potion for sneezing again.
"She wants anchovy and black olive pizza from this specific hole-in-the-wall Muggle place in East Anglia. She wants Walker's prawn cocktail crisps— with ranch dressing, sweet pickles, and a bowl of rainbow sherbet with crushed chocolate digestives… for breakfast. Pickled eggs, chips with curry sauce, cottage cheese with ginger marmalade, and Turkish Delight for dinner. Can I be honest that I'm going to be quite happy when she's out of my flat and able to take care of herself?"
Healer Paddington just chuckled. "Oh, Severus. Pregnancy is a mixed bag. Sometimes we crave the oddest things and yet sometimes we are terribly nauseated and everything makes us want to lose our lunch. At least we are out of quarantine, even if she is not. Never been so happy to be considered non-human, hrm?"
Severus sighed, petting Roisinn's ears. "I have noted the benefits, yes. I can't say that I'd recommend purposely mutating yourself to obtain such benefits, but I certainly won't argue with the happenstance positives."
Pearl chuckled. "Yes, well, I wouldn't exactly recommend being a dragon bear either. Master Morgan would probably argue that being a dragon bat is infinitely better than anything. Good old Manfred. He'd have you think our children will take over the world. Roisinn might give them a run for their money, I think."
The cubling was chewing on one of Pearl's writing quills and rolling a tea cup between her paws like a barrel.
"I cannot decide if it's pure brilliance or wily charm," Severus confessed.
"Can't it be a bit of both?" she replied with a mischievous smile.
"Dangerous combination," Severus said wryly.
"Well, I'll have Amelia given the authorisation for emergency pay on your part, and I'll send the notes to Master Morgan to formally clear you of any thoughts of skiving off just to avoid study." Pearl smiled and winked.
Severus grunted. "He wants me to keep to myself until Lily is cleared, just to be sure I won't be spreading to any of his younger charges. He'll be glad to know I'm not twiddling my thumbs."
"As if my husband would ever let you, even under quarantine, hrm?" Pearl teased with a grin.
Severus snorted. "Homework via Floo and Patronus."
"Well, it looks like Mrs Potter is improving, if a bit slowly. Being pregnant isn't helping her situation. Perhaps a few more weeks, and it will be clear of her system."
Roisinn hissed, tearing into a cloth napkin and rendering it to shreds.
Pearl frowned, placing her hand on the ornery little cubling. "Do you not get on, pet?"
The chimaera playfully bat at her and mock-mauled her hand. She bounced up and placed her paws against Pearl's face and let loose a golden cloud of vapour. As it cleared, Pearl sported a thick mane of silver.
"Oh dear," Pearl said, running her hand through her new mane. "Manfred will be very pleased."
Severus flushed at that, his pale skin turning a bit pink.
"Have you been keeping Her Ladyship from Mrs Potter?"
Snape nodded. "Yes. They don't quite get on. Roisinn seems to see her presence as an unlawful encroachment on her territory. She can't get into Lily's room, and that makes her rather— cranky."
"Yes, well, despite what our little darling thinks," Pearl said, "she can't go everywhere. She probably wouldn't respond well to Mrs Potter's emotional fluxes during pregnancy either— but we can't be sure. She is very perceptive, but also a bit quick to judge. She relies on her first impressions, and she may not always meet people in a safe and stable emotional environment."
"Pregnancy being among the most unstable, unpredictable emotional well of insanity," Snape muttered.
Roisinn sneezed in agreement, her stinger tail burying into the healer's mane as she did her best to imitate an writhing anaconda.
"Is anyone immune to your charms?" Pearl asked the cubling.
Shirk? Roisinn chirred.
"Lily," Severus said with a heavy sigh. "She'd be utterly hysterical if she had to wear a mane."
"Does she know about your glamour?"
"Know and accept are apparently two very different things," Snape answered, eyebrows furrowing.
"Not everyone can accept what we are— it is why we live with like minds here in the DoM and not out there where a war is brewing over something as immaterial as blood status."
Snape nodded grimly. "I'm very glad such a place exists for us."
"And we're glad to have you, Severus." Pearl smiled genuinely. "Go grab yourself some lunch at the cafe on me before you go home. Consider it a thank you for bringing me those potions early. Be sure to feed the little darling too."
Snape snorted. "Thank you, ma'am."
"Now shoo," she said cheerily. "Thanks again."
Severus nodded and swept from the room, Roisinn bounding along right behind him with excited leaps and pounces.
Severus glowered at the chip-stealing cubling. "Oi, miss. You have your own plate."
Roisinn chirred, wagging her tail back and forth as she clearly enjoyed whatever was on his plate too.
"Here you go, lad," the motherly witch said as she sat down a tray. "Today's special is chicken curry with potato samosas and garlic naan. And here's a nice steak and kidney pie for our little lady. Oh, and our favourite sticky toffee pudding when you're ready for it."
Severus' eyes widened at the growing list of tasty foods that he'd never even imagined outside of Hogwarts. Always before, Spinner's End was the bottom of the barrel when it came to food.
Roisinn chirped her thanks from the booster chair she was sitting on. She and her asbestos mouth dove right into the hot pie, getting the gravy all over her snout.
The elder witch laughed. "What a little charmer."
"Table manners could be a bit better."
She smiled at him. "I've seen much worse from humans, believe you me." She nodded and walked back to her counter.
Severus eyed the enthusiastic cubling's gravy-soaked snout. "I can't even imagine a person eating worse than a baby beast— at least you're very young and have an excuse."
Roisinn looked up at him, swiftly licking the gravy off her snout with her long orange tongue.
"And you're pretty adorable too."
The cubling chirped and went back to her food in a slightly more ladylike, less starving manner.
"What is that?" Lily asked from inside her warded room. She had moved into a chair and made herself busy reading, but save for occasional trips to the restroom, she was pretty much resting as directed by her healers.
Beside her was a pile of Daily Prophet newspapers, all detailing the virulent outbreak of dragon pox that had swept the nation. There had been a distressing number of fatalities due to individuals not taking the disease seriously until it was too late— some choosing home remedies to solve their problems over seeking out a good healer's care.
St Mungo's was swamped to the point where an entire ward was filled with dragon pox patients, all under quarantine due their highly contagious status. Master Healer Paddington was working almost day and night between the DoM, Ministry, and St Mungo's, and Severus had never had less time and more money than he had at that moment.
Pearl Paddington had sponsored his work in combination with her husband Manfred Morgan in developing a vaccine, Muggle style, from none other than those beasts that had been afflicted. That had healer traffic coming in and out of Snape's quarters at all hours to perfect, draw blood, brew, test, modify, and rinse, lather, and repeat.
The end of almost a month of work had accumulated into the first dragon pox vaccine for the highly virulent strain that Lily had unknowingly carried. While the vaccine would only work against that particular strain, they had perfected the first magical vaccine that could be administered via magic and potion for those for the magical world— a society that shunned Muggle methods as being worse than the plague.
Severus' reputation as a budding potioneer of the highest caliber was spreading far and wide amongst those that knew their potions, even while the normal populace was slower on the uptake of such news.
The elder Potters had been, thankfully, rushed to St Mungo's and treated before it became fatal; however Abraxas Malfoy had not been quite so fortunate. He had refused treatment, making a scene and bellowing that his superior pureblood genes would protect him. He would not, he had made quite clear, take a treatment devised by the impure and tainted.
Severus had idly wondered how well Lucius had been taking it and if his fellow Slytherin felt the same as his father.
Snape turned his head to look at Lily, his thoughts running off to gambol with cublings. "What do you mean?"
"That… creature. What is it?" Lily asked, pointing at Roisinn.
The chimaera cubling froze in the midst of playing with Severus' bootlaces, instantly sensing that she was being stared at.
"This is Roisinn." Severus picked her up and cuddled her. The cubling happily drove her stinger into his mane of thick fur and clung to his head as she did so, chirring happily.
"But what is it?"
"What is she?" Lily asked, frustrated.
"She's a refugee from Rubeus Hagrid's unauthorised breeding experiments," Snape answered.
"She's from Hagrid?"
"No, she's because of Hagrid." Severus eyed Lily with a grim furrow of his dark brows. "He used a potion to breed her, intending to give her to P— to your husband and his cron— ah, friends— to protect them from the Dark Lord. He, however, didn't seem to realise that when you breed a highly intelligent magical hybrid, you cannot predict who they will choose to trust, if they even do so at all."
"She was meant for us?" Lily asked, eyes widening. "She's going to protect my family?"
Severus realised his one-time friend was entirely missing the point.
"No," Snape said. "She made her own choice to leave Hagrid and decided she and her parents should have a different family."
Lily frowned. "But she was supposed to go to us. To protect us."
Severus watched Lily rub her abdomen more frantically.
"No one is going to find or attack you here," Severus said calmly.
Lily rubbed faster. "You can't know that, Sev."
"No one is going to find or attack you here unless you've broken protocol and told someone you are here," Severus corrected.
Lily rubbed her abdomen even more quickly.
Severus' eyes seemed to darken. "Who did you tell, Lily?"
Severus stood, and for a moment, his emotion surged. His glamour flickered, unable to withstand the flux of emotionally charged magic. For a moment, his hair rose, writhing as energy crackled around him.
"It was just Marlene! She wanted to make sure I was safe!"
Severus ground his teeth together.
"And the Order too, so they wouldn't worry!"
"Who, exactly, is in this… Order?" Severus asked, quietly seething.
Severus glowered at her.
"I can't say!" Lily blurted.
"Can't or won't?"
"Can't!" she cried.
"Did they give you anything?"
"Lily shook her head."
"Are you lying to me?"
Severus closed his eyes, his shoulders slumping. "I see."
He turned his back to her. "You never really did trust me, did you, Lily?" he asked, his voice but a whisper.
"The magic called to you. Seductive. Irresistible. Yet even as you were drawn to it like a moth to flame, you could never understand why I was drawn to any magic, including that which was deemed unacceptable to you and your Gryffindor ideals. You, of all people, should have understood that magic is not something you can bottle in a jar and put a label light or darkness upon it, lest your sister Petunia be right and you just one more "freak" in the world. Yet, you will forgive her. You will forgive someone who made it his personal mission to torment me ever since the Hogwarts Express, but you will not trust that I never wished any harm to you."
Severus rolled his head in a full circle, realigning his spine with a slight popping noise. "I realise now that my best friend was a mere childhood dream— my wish for a better life idealised with you as a centerpiece." His jaw tightened. "I was a fool."
"How long do I have before they come bursting through and put their wands to my throat?"
"How long, Mrs Potter? How long before the cavalry comes busting in?"
"Right about now," a voice said as a wand tip was thrust hard up against his carotid artery. "Just give me a reason," the voice hissed. "Any reason."
"I'm betting you don't need a reason," Severus sighed. "I wouldn't touch that if I were you, Fabian. You shouldn't touch anything that isn't yours."
There was a click as a hidden switch was triggered, and the protective wards surrounding Lily's room came down.
"Your funeral," Severus said calmly, not moving.
"Shut it, Snape," the wizard who had his wand to Snape's neck ordered. "We know all about you and your unholy infatuation with Lily. She told us how you wouldn't leave her alone. How you wouldn't take no for an answer. How she was afraid to confront you and needed Dumbledore to make sure she had a safe way back in case something happened. Gideon, get Lily out of that room. We're leaving."
"I wouldn't," Snape said, his eyes flicking to the nearer door.
"What are you hiding?"
"Nothing you want to meet."
The wand pressed deep into his neck. "Open it. Now."
"I don't have the key. So sorry."
He jerked Snape by the collar and slammed him face first into the door. "Open it."
"Open the fucking door, Snape!"
"I do not have the key."
"I am not."
The door flung open wide as Snape fell flat on his face, prostrate, as Gideon, Fabian, and Lily went staggering in together, landing in a tangled heap in Amelia Bones' and Alastor Moody's shared tea room.
Both witch and wizard had their wands pointed directly at the trio's heads.
The cubling sneezed on the pile up, and a cloud of purple and pink sparkles engulfed them. She wrinkled her nose, pawing at it with her paws as if to rid herself of some foul stench. She bounded back over to Snape and headbonked him, making concerned sounds.
His arm reached around her and pulled her close.
"Fabian and Gideon Prewett," Alastor growled. "You stupid sods are both under arrest for breaking an official disease quarantine, assaulting an apprentice of the Ministry, breaking and entering, attempting kidnapping, conspiracy, and I'm reserving the right to tack on even more charges as I think of them."
"Mrs Potter," Amelia bit out, her expression grim. "We will have a warrant to search your person and belongings for homing magic beacons and unauthorised Portkeys. The three of you will be moved to Mungo's, where you will detained and treated in a sealed isolation ward for the remainder of your recovery."
"Oh," Gideon said.
"Shite," Fabien said at the same time, as the cloud of bright colour engulfed them both.
Amelia pressed a button on the nearby desk.
"Yes, ma'am," a voice crackled from elsewhere.
"Send the Alpha Obliviation Team and the SR-71 Unspeakables Unit B to my location at once."
"Right away, ma'am," the voice confirmed, as the static disappeared.
Crack. Crack. Crack. Crack.
Unspeakables dressed in their full regalia— white robes and full face masks— apparated in one after the other.
One cubling attached herself to one Unspeakable in particular, rubbing against them.
They stroked her fur and wings as she did her very best to bury her stinger into their neck— in the most loving way possible.
"You, gentleman, have chosen the wrong door to break down," Amelia said, her eyes flashing with dangerous fire. She turned to the Unspeakables.
"Stun them, Obliviate them, and get them to Mungo's in whichever order makes you happiest."
The pink and purple cloud finally dissipated, exposing two tiny ginger and white kittens perched on top of Lily Potter's head.
"Mew!" they cried together.
The Unspeakables all stared and then looked at Amelia.
Amelia shook her head. "I'm wondering how Mrs Potter didn't get dosed with that magic."
Lily opened up her mouth, making every effort to lose her cool with the most dramatic scream possible—
Only it came out as the soothing sound of wind chimes in a gentle summer breeze.
Alastor rubbed at his hair. "Well, that answers that. I reckon."
"Mew!" the twin kittens protested.
Crack. Crack. Crack.
The Obliviation team arrived and looked mighty confused by what they found.
Amelia and Alastor exchanged glances. They extended their hands and shook them together.
Amelia looked utterly victorious as Alastor grunted.
"Fine, I'll do the paperwork on this one, but the next oddball calamity is all yours."
Some time later…
Two ginger kittens found themselves being nearly cuddled to death by two ginger-haired and freckled twins.
"Fred, stop chewing on that poor kitten's ear!"
"George! Stop beating that kitten against the sofa!"
"I swear to Merlin, Gideon and Fabian, if you ever change back into human beings, I'm going to curse you into the next century!" Molly screeched.
An older Weasley child had a serious look of contemplation on his face as wandless accidental magic stunned the twin toddlers. William Weasley picked up the exhausted kittens and carried them off to his room for a bit of peace and quiet.
Forgotten on the side-table, an official-looking parchment from the Ministry collected dust:
Mr and Mrs Arthur and Molly Weasley,
Due to a raid on one of the Ministry residences, your brothers Gideon and Fabian were exposed to transformative Wild Magick and have unfortunately been turned into domestic shorthaired cats.
Due to the crimes for which they have been convicted, a special collar has been fitted for both, and they will be required to be brought in twice a year to confirm the enchantments are stable. Failure to bring them in will have then brought in to a holding facility, where they will live out their sentence of ten years.
Under the terms of their modified sentence, they must remain in your home at St Ottery Catchpole. Should they escape, they will be caught and transferred to a formal holding facility.
Roisinn was on her back, happily soaking in the belly rubs of her visiting Unspeakables. Each one was, by default, intimidating in their concealing robes and masks, their uniforms so distinctive that anyone who saw them tended to give them a wide berth. Many believed them to be Death Eaters, not wanting to look at them too closely. Others believed that the Dark Lord had stolen inspiration from them in creating his Knights of Walpurgis and their skull-like masks and black robes.
Unspeakables, however, always wore white robes, their eyes covered with a blindfold, or so it seemed. Their mouths were sealed away with half-masks— the reason the job carried the name Unspeakable. Muggles had long since integrated them into their lore in various places, the most notable being the lady Justice that appeared throughout the judicial system, harkening to a time when the weighing of the heart or soul was a common belief and concern to those approaching death.
To those that didn't know them, they were the most mysterious people in the Wizarding World.
Roisinn, however, didn't care about such things. She made friends everywhere she went, distributing manes to her favoured like one would bring wine to a dinner event. To those that knew her, it was a blessing, for her typical, happy greeting was to wrap herself around her loved one's face and bury her stinger into their neck region.
It was love, at least for her.
No one with a mane was complaining— at least in the DoM and the Aurors' various offices.
"So, what will happen to her?" Severus asked, seemingly weary of everything. His eyes seemed to carry more weight, the dark circles around his eyes attesting to the stresses he was carrying.
Roisinn placed her paws in special places on the Unspeakables hood, and the uniform's mask fell away as the hood lowered, exposing a surprised face underneath.
"You little devil," he laughed.
"You can't hide from her, Kingsley, and you know it."
"At least in private. She seems to know better in public." He snuggled the cubling, and she purred and wriggled and patted his face with her paws.
"It would be hard for people to come to terms with genial Auror versus mysterious Unspeakable, hrm?" Severus asked.
"Undoubtedly," Kingsley answered. "As for Lily Potter—" the wizard frowned. "She unwittingly exposed a nation to the most virulent and dangerous disease, and then she brought in a summoning beacon to the bowels of the Ministry just in case things went bad. Maybe that wouldn't be so hard to understand, at least in today's war looming, but—"
Kingsley sighed heavily. "I don't know, Severus. Maybe it's the pregnancy talking. My mum said she did some really odd things when she carried me. Stormed right out out into the wild and wrestled a lion."
Kingsley laughed. "She won, too."
"Why would one go and try to wrestle a lion of all things?"
Kingsley shrugged. "Pregnancy does odd things to the brain, my friend. Most people get away lucky with just strange food cravings, back pain, and having to sleep on their side, hrm?"
Severus grunted. "I had her on such a pedestal, Kings."
"We tend to. Our first loves are powerful things. They don't have to be the person we end up with. It doesn't make it less significant." Kingsley sighed. "My first love was hot and obsessive. Oh, I thought she was the ground and sky. I orbited around her like she was my sun. And then she told me she was getting married to some fancy wizard from the Netherlands. She disappeared from my life after I helped her pack— I was so pathetic."
Severus frowned. "I'm sorry."
Kingsley had slumped a little, but Roisinn started playing in his lap and making a right nuisance of herself. She squeaked and fell limp, exhausted, her hyper energy spent.
"How is it this little creature can make me feel better when years of introspection wouldn't?"
"It's her talent," Severus said, playing with her stinger tail with his fingers.
The tail slithered around his wrist and she clung upside down like a bat from his arm, swinging back and forth as she yawned and wrapped herself with her wings.
"Her parents seem utterly chill about you having her all the time," Kingsley said.
"Her chosen are extended family, all which are 'allowed' to take care of her. If it were strangers, they'd be busting through the walls," Severus replied, smirking in amusement.
"So, why didn't they attack when you had unexpected guests?" Kingsley asked.
"Roisinn was calm. They were watching. If she'd been in true distress, they'd have mauled them to death, most likely."
"I'm happy they picked up on my not trying to fight back," Snape admitted. "I really didn't' want to christen my first place in the blood of idiots."
Kingsley laughed heartily. "Severus, you're something else."
A large manticore head landed in Kingsley's lap, very unsubtly requesting ear rubs.
Kingsley laughed and obliged, gaining a rumbling purr from the beast.
"Some man-eater," Kingsley observed.
"Probably more so if you were some idiot trying to break in while I or one of us, at least, wasn't here."
"How is your Homomagus meditations coming along?"
"Still using the glamour," Severus said. "I practice every day, but it's surprisingly hard to remember what being human was like when it was associated with the worst times of my life."
"More like you don't want to remember, eh?" Kings said.
"Hn," Severus said. "My memories are clear but— associated with nastiness."
"Well, I wouldn't give up. It will serve you well to not need the glamour, even if you do have it on you for Muggle areas just in case."
Severus nodded. "I think Roisinn has been paying a bit too much attention to my meditations," he said. "Have you noticed that she can transform parts of herself like— paws into hands?"
"You're serious?" Kingsley sputtered.
"She did it right in front of Amelia."
Kingsley seemed thoughtful. "There is something uniquely powerful about her— almost too intelligent as if she was born into this life knowing exactly what she wants."
"Well, that's unlikely, because why would she have chosen me first?" Snape said. "Of all the people in Hogwarts—OW!"
The cubling dug her stinger into his bicep, unimpressed.
"Good thing you're immune," Kingsley said as the cubling jumped over to his lap and flopped down on it, snubbing Snape in a very feline manner.
"Still hurts like hell," Severus said.
"She's part feline, part super-flexible scorpion, part Nundu—and all ornery. Aren't you, little love?" Kingsley asked, snuggling the cubling.
Roisinn purred, wrapping her tail around his neck and dangling from his mane. She flapped her wings against Kingsley's face.
"Fickle beast," Severus said, rubbing his arm.
A pair of large jaws materialised and pried the cubling off Kingsley.
Roisinn instantly went limp, allowing her mum to carry her off, her only protest being a soft, disappointed meow-chirp.
"There is something about her. Like the memory of a dream," Snape said. "She feels like— someone I should have known, but I can guarantee I have never known a chimaera cubling in my life."
"Previous life, perhaps," Kingsley said thoughtfully. He looked sombre. "Sometimes you are just meant for someone, and we don't always get it right. Something happens. Someone throws in a monkey wrench. Wars. Born into the wrong family. It's almost as if the universe shakes us up, wondering if we'll still meet up if the conditions aren't perfect. But, if there's one thing I believe in," Kingsley continued, "it's that things that are supposed to be will be, one way or another."
"I'm not sure if that is uplifting or depressing, Kingsley."
Kingsley laughed. "Uplifting, most assuredly. Face it, of all the people she could have run into, she made a beeline to the bloke hiding out in an ice-shelter, bonding to him so it alerted our head boss of us, who brought herself and Alastor there within minutes— insuring that both she and you, and well, us, are all taken care of beneath the wings of the DoM. Your most painful tormentors were exposed and sent to Azkaban. To me, Severus, that was kharma come to collect. You may have done your share of trying to get back at them, but after having seen the memories, it's clear it was you against the world and—" Kingsley sighed.
"Yes," Kingsley said. "I wouldn't have believed it until I saw the memories. The fact you couldn't even say anything about it until Her Ladyship's bond bumped that compulsion out—"
"I—" Severus looked down, thoughtful. "I never gave the beasts the credit I should have. Every class I had with Kettleburn just told me they were the reasons you'd lose fingers and limbs. This thing with Hagrid only makes me glad he hadn't bred up a dragon and had it imprint on him."
"Makes you wonder, hrm?" Kingsley said. "She's obviously attached to her parents, but she is able to bond with more than just them. The chance that such an ability would pass to her from her very random parents. Maybe kharma isn't something so far-fetched, but perhaps something even greater is at work here."
"Greater than kharma?" Severus asked.
"The great equaliser," Kingsley said.
Severus seemed thoughtful, and then his eyes widened. "Death."
"Have you ever read the Tale of Three Brothers, Severus?" Kingsley asked.
"No." Severus tilted his head.
"Death was tricked by three wizard brothers, and He was forced to give them three gifts: the most powerful wand that ever was, a stone that could bring back the dead, and a cloak of invisibility," Kingsley summarised. "They returned to the lands of men proud and confident in their arrogance, but all but one died shortly after. Only the coward, the brother with the cloak of invisibility, lived in hiding all his life only to pass the cloak on to his son before he died. It is said, not in the story book, that a great imbalance in the world came into being when the brothers tricked Death— not that they tricked Him, but that they forced Him to give them items from His domain— things that never belonged in the mortal realm. Death, they say, is seeking to eventually right that injustice— not for the dishonour or the shame of being tricked but for the balance of the world and the chaos caused by His Hallows being loosed upon the world."
"Things that should never have left Death's domain." Severus' eyebrows furrowed. "But how might that explain Roisinn?"
Kingsley shrugged. "If you wanted to ensure that the appropriate people had the necessary tools to set things right, why not gift them with the world's most enigmatic cubling?"
"Shouldn't she have come complete with a game plan?" Severus muttered.
Kingsley chuckled. "What fun would that be?"
"The kind of fun that results in a successful outcome," Severus said.
"Killjoy," Kingsley said with a cheeky grin.
"That's me," Severus confirmed.
Gruffydd took that precise moment to snatch Severus up by the nape of the mane and drag him off to bed.
"It seems I'm being told it's bedtime," Severus said dryly. "Night, Kingsley." His black dragonhide bootheels scraped on the floor as he was unceremoniously prey-dragged to bed.
Kingsley laughed uproariously at the highly amusing sight of the younger wizard being hauled off like an errant cub.
"Goodnight, Severus," Kingsley finally managed after catching his breath.
One cloaked fey-dragon grabbed Kingsley up by the legs and and carried him off to the communal nesting bowl.
"GAH!" Kings cried.
As Zoë tucked Kings into the nesting bowl, Roisinn snuggled up in between him and Severus as her parents wrapped their bodies around them both.
"Justice," Severus said with a smirk, closing his eyes.
Kingsley sighed deeply as he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
End of Chapter One
Spiders whisper in background.
"Hey, where are the spiders?"
"Maybe they were frozen in the Arctic Freeze of Doom."
"Coldest kind of doom, for sure."
"Well, maybe they'll thaw out in time for the next chapter."
Shifty eyed whispering commences.
"Hey, if Roisinn adopts us, will we get manes and a stinger too?"
"That would be cool!"
Spiders scurry off to make friends with the chimaera cubling.