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 as he hoped.
Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard
Warning: Graphic violence contained within. Blood and gore included.
Eye of the Dragon, Hair of the Cat
Chapter Three: Uitkijken Wat Je Zegt
Crackity Crack Fic of Crack by Corvus Draconis
When we're growing up there are all sorts of people telling us what to do when really what we need is space to work out who to be.
Bellatrix was not amused that someone had moved into the lower level vaults that only old pureblood families deserved to be in. She couldn't help but notice the ancient, unfilled vault had suddenly become lit— and the stupid reptile would retreat to the back to lay beside it.
The goblins had warned her not to go further lest the dragon feel cornered and attack despite the rattles— she, of course, had told the un-human to watch his tongue. One should always be silent around one's betters.
As she used a spell to shove the goblin who was taking too long to get out of her way to the side, she stormed into her vault to deliver her special parcel to the back of the vault. She rewove the hexes to make sure her vault would bury anyone stupid enough to enter the Lestrange vault who wasn't a Lestrange, anyway.
When she came out, the goblin worked to close the vault door, favouring his side where she had slammed him into the wall with her magic.
She ignored him, moving closer to the new vault to get a look at it.
There was a little beast playing with the dragon, crawling all over it, batting and feinting. The dragon was oddly tolerant of her antics, pinning it down randomly and then letting go.
Bellatrix narrowed her eyes. The little beast had a collar with various charms on it, but one she could recognise quite easily— the crest of the Malfoy family.
What were Lucius or Cissy up to that required adopting a beast?
It was probably her sister getting all soft-hearted over warm eyes and a tender lick—just like those stupid Crups she had loved so much as a child. Well, she'd taken care of that right fast as she strangled every single pup and then set the mother-bitch on fire while practising her curses.
Father had praised her most excellent curse-work.
As well he should have.
Cissy should know better than to adopt stupid animals. Instead, she should "adopt" a slave and at least have the satisfaction of being able to curse and beat them senseless whenever they did something wrong.
People always made better sounds when they were being beaten. They tended to last longer before having to replace them, too.
The little beast jingled merrily as it bounced, little chimes on her collar tinkling soothingly. The dragon seemed eager to play, even to the point of ignoring Bellatrix in favour of its playmate.
Bellatrix smiled cruelly and aimed her wand at the disgustingly cute example of why furry things were only fit to be worn.
She gleefully cast Fiendfyre towards the ludicrous little beast and cackled as the creature let out a high-pitched shriek.
The dragon reared up on its hind legs, wings flapping, and its tail slammed against what had looked like a statuary but turned out to be a gong.
Even as the fire roared, shaped into the form of a snake with a dragon's head, the real dragon demonstrated precisely why they were still the preferred guardians of the lower vaults by blasting the Fiendfyre with its own fire and wing buffeting the flames back, back, back—
The goblin that was closing Bellatrix' vault door quickly dove out of the way, and the fire was driven into her half-open vault just as the portal door closed and locked.
The inside of the vault seemed to scream, the walls and ground shaking violently
"NO!" Bellatrix cried. "Get that door open now!" She grabbed the goblin by the neck and flung him at the door.
The goblin attempted to flee down the corridor, and Bellatrix pointed her wand at him.
The sound of flesh tearing and bones snapping hung in the air before Bellatrix looked down to see that her wand was missing—
And both her arms up to her elbows.
A crimson-faced manticore with a mane of fire-like fur shook the two arms (one still holding the wand) in his mouth and flung them away only to have the dragon behind him blast the detached limbs with white hot fire.
A glowing set of eyes materialised before her as the head of a protective mother fey-dragon became solid and terrifying as her great maw opened— so orange that it was blinding— and countless dagger-like teeth unfolded in rows of natural weapons.
The mother fey-dragon shook Bellatrix Lestrange's body viciously like a rag doll and flung her into the gong with loud, reverberating CLANG as vault security arrived to find themselves fashionably late to the party.
The furless, smoking cubling chirped with annoyance as her mother pinned and licked over her body and its now-exposed shining, protective dragon scales.
"So, she's Fiendfyre proof," Lucius said as he held an ancient Greek amphora.
Severus expression was pinched. "Can we go one day without some sort of drama?"
Roisinn chirped, having been released from the prison of her mum's talons and cleaning session.
Severus pointed one finger at her, frowning.
"I'm blaming you."
The chimaera cubling purred loudly as all her fur swiftly grew back in the fluffiest way possible.
Lucius and Severus exchanged glances.
"I'm not quite positive, Severus, but I'm pretty sure Hagrid is a mad genius when it comes to breeding."
Severus closed his eyes and shrugged. "Gods help us if he actually bred things without his sheer dumb luck—and I'd call him more of an idiot savant than a mad genius."
Roisinn chirred and pounced her dragon friend's muzzle again as they resumed their play and Bellatrix' charred limbs smouldered away until they were only oily black ash.
Lucius' eyebrows creased. "Either way— I wonder if what they say is true about Fiendfyre, given how it is supposed to destroy anything."
"Stories do tend to get overblown," Severus noted. "None moreso than the stories told of fantastical spells."
Lucius shrugged. "I guess we'll see when they open up the Lestrange vault."
"I doubt they will open the doors without a mass Protego," Severus commented.
"I believe they weave that into the doors by default," Lucius replied. "Goblin-magick, that is. While none of the pureblood families would admit this publicly, the goblins have the kind of strong earth and protective magic that makes their permanent enchantments very strong."
Severus hrmed, but said nothing. "Still doesn't help if they open the door."
Lucius grunted. "I suppose."
The cubling disappeared through the closed goblin door.
"The hell?" Severus started to run forward, but Lucius held him back.
"Trust that if she could go in, she can come out," his friend warned.
Severus looked extremely dubious.
The cubling popped back in from the other side and shook shook shook like a wet, muddy canine over a pristine white carpet. Droplets of molten gold and silver flew in all directions, coating the cobblestones with superheated but cooling metal. She then ran around in circles creating a molten metal mandala with her gold and silver pawprints. She screeched to a halt at Severus' feet and looked up at him hopefully.
Snape sighed, picking her up.
Lucius chuckled, screwing his face into a more serious expression as he folded his arms across his chest.
"Shut it," Snape said.
Lucius' lips twitched, but he said nothing.
Roisinn purred and purred and purred, burrowing her stinger deep into Snape's thick mane.
The heavy door on the Lestrange vault rolled open as a blast of gold and silver slag roared out of the vault along with smaller debris like half-melted candlesticks, statues, and unidentified molten globules of melted and charred objects blew out of the vault in a horizontal blast.
The blast coated the entire cobblestone walkway with gold and silver. The molten residue flowed into the cracks, moving around the stones and enveloping the entire path down between the vaults with metallic shimmer.
The inside of the Lestrange vault glowed red-orange even as it cooled, looking more like the maw of a great, mythological beast come to swallow victims and drag them to the Underworld.
The entire inside was seemingly empty— plated in a thick layer of gold and silver.
The goblins were gathering along with the guards and a handful of authorised Aurors.
"What the bloody HELL is going on down here?" an elder goblin roared.
The other goblins, desperate to avoid being blamed, pointed to a now-golden metallic spider with a shining gold and silver bucket on its head.
The arachnid sighed and scurried up Severus' leg, up his chest, and hid in Roisinn's mane.
Bellatrix Lestrange Apprehended, Arrested, and Azkabaned!
The wife of Rodolphus Lestrange was convicted of multiple acts of murder and use of Unforgivable curses as the Wizengamot closed last night. Her list of heinous crimes, which she did not even bother to deny, were so long that multiple scrolls had to be written and read before the trial could even begin.
She pleaded guilty proudly in front of shocked Wizengamot members, many of whom seemed physically ill due to the sheer depravity of her actions.
Bellatrix Lestrange was sentenced to life in Azkaban with no chance of parole, with her being subject to the Kiss if she shows any indication whatsoever of stepping out of line during her incarceration.
Neither Rodolphus Lestrange nor his younger brother, Rabastan, were present at the trial.
Roisinn sprawled in the middle of Moody's desk, batting at the ink blotter and making it rock back and forth. Her stinger waved back and forth, spearing random insects with instant death.
"Aren't you the little pest patrol?" Scrimgeour asked, picking the cubling up and rubbing her soft belly fur.
Roisinn purred and opened her jaws wide to feign attacks, stabbing his mane with her stinger in happy revelry.
Rufus pulled out a bright red-bellied fish and dangled it, and the cubling snatched it up with glee, chewing on it enthusiastically.
"Spoiled rotten," Moody chuckled.
"Hmph," Scrimgeour said, having earned himself a fish-breathed cuddle with Her Most Adorable Fluffiness.
Roisinn chirp-squawked, clawlessly thumping Rufus' face with her paw pads, looking utterly cute and charming.
"Such irresistible appeal should be illegal," Moody grunted, even as his hand reached over to rub the cubling's ears. "Not to forget that most if not all of the Auror ranks have sprouted manes."
"It does protect us from her parents," Rufus noted, wrinkling his nose. "They're the ones who keep taking arms off people."
"Isn't Severus the one who took off Pettigrew's arms?" Moody asked.
Scrimgeour shrugged. "Did we stop counting when armless Death Eaters started bleeding a trail across the Ministry gardens?"
Moody chugged down a large mug of tea. "Yes."
"To be fair, some of them were legless as well," Severus pointed out, finishing up the tall pile of paperwork, scrolls, and formally sealed parchments.
"Oh, huge difference there," Moody muttered.
Roisinn thumped as she hit the ground on all fours and went bee-lining towards a large skittering beetle. Her mane was poofed with her excitement, and she tore up the ground in her scramble to get after the tasty, crunchy snack on the go.
The beetle took flight, panicked to get out of range, but was hampered by the cubling's ability to fly. She tore after the fleeing insect, her teeth clacking so very close—
Roisinn gave a startled squeak and yelp as she ploughed headlong into someone's legs as they entered the Aurory. She disappeared in a poof of camouflage as the woman tripped forward and landed flat on her face.
As the woman pulled herself back up, the entire Aurory went silent as the already nasty expression on the witch's face seemed to twist into a truly hideous scowl.
"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded. "This is an Auror's Office not some equestrian course! What or whom did I trip over? I demand to know who put something invisible in the middle of the path!"
"Ms Umbridge," one of the younger Aurors objected, "No one left an invisible anything in the way. The hall and office are swept out thoroughly, multiple times a day!"
The woman's face seemed to flow and scrunch into remarkably toad-like proportions. She stepped right up into the Auror's face and snarled at him, "I don't believe you!"
A dazed beetle wriggled frantically, its multiple legs caught in Umbridge's mousy brown curls.
Umbridge's eyes grew comically wide as air was sucked deep into her lungs and she blew a gasket as a shrill screech of hysterical horror came spewing forth from her mouth. She flailed her arms, beating on herself to get the insect off. She then pointed a wand at herself—
Aurors went diving in all directions. Desks exploded. A wall collapsed. The water cooler blew up, showering everyone with water and shards of glass. Scrolls and random bits of parchment rained down from above as paper aeroplanes fell from the air, knocked wildly off course. Glass cracked and flew outwards as the panic-driven wave of force continued out into the street.
As the dust and debris cleared, the Aurors found themselves looking at a giant golden tortoise beetle body, pink wing coverlets and a short woman's upper body fused to it. At the shoulders, however, there were two necks and heads— one of a toad-faced woman and the other a woman with a distinctive head of tight blonde curls and red-rimmed glasses.
Both heads started screaming hysterically as one hand from one side tried to beat the ever-living piss out of the other side's head.
The mutant beetle-mutant flung itself out the open window and onto the London street, and Muggles went screaming off into the distance.
Severus, still sitting and having not moved, finally finished writing on one of his parchments. Then he dispelled the shield he had hastily erected around himself and his desk.
Scrimgeour coughed and brushed himself off. "McDonald, call in the Obliviator teams, pronto. Fitzgerald, get the healers."
"Got it, Boss."
"Moody, you fill out the report what just happened."
"What the fuck am I going to put on it?"
"Make something up," Rufus said, rolling his eyes. "I have to go report to the Minister, and I'm probably going to have to submit memories because there are no words to adequately describe this total sodding cockup."
Moody cringed. "Have fun, Boss."
Scrimgeour wrinkled the corner of his lip in a scowl and stormed out of the wide debris field as the Obliviator teams Apparated in to wrangle the resultant Muggle panic.
Severus pet the cubling in his lap. "You're so insufferable."
Roisinn just wrapped herself around his arm and purred.
You don't even want to know the possible reasons why the Department of Magical Law Enforcement ended up sending out the Obliviators to clean up after an incident in downtown London. Some report a giant bug with a woman's upper body. Some say a two headed ogre was fused to an insect. No two stories seem to match up, save in the bizarreness of it.
The official story is that Madam Umbridge of the Ministry of Magic was visited the DMLE at the exact time of one Ms Rita Skeeter, and they collided in a "perfect storm" of accidental magic."
Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but the Wizengamot seems to believe that the memories extracted from both victims due to their inability to do it themselves, prove that much more was going on in both witches lives than either were admitted previously.
Many people have been relieved that something other than the war was brewing up trouble in the Wizarding world, but some are worried that this incident was just one more indicator of the war's cold touch wrapping around us all.
"Are you sure it's safe to have Roisinn set loose upon a children's playground?" Severus asked as Kingsley sat on the schoolyard fence with him.
"She's perfectly civil with children. She keeps her claws in, doesn't breathe on the innocent, and is apt to simply cuff misbehaving sprogs as her parents do with her when she gets too excited." Kingsley smiled. "She keeps her stinger to herself too."
"Not around us," Snape said wryly.
"Well, we all have manes for a reason, my friend."
"Hn," Severus replied.
Roisinn was on her back and pumping her legs with excitement as the children rubbed her belly. Thanks to her glamours she looked sort of like a very fluffy long-haired Kneazle—quite a large one at that. She had been growing so fast in the last few months that she looked almost more like a large lynx or a small leopard. The kids didn't seem to care about that, though.
She even tolerated them trying to pick her up and carry her like a stuffed potato sack.
"Master seems to think that these children may be in danger. They are having a shut-in party tonight, and he doesn't want anything bad to happen to them," Severus said.
Kingsley grunted. "Master Morgan is hardly one to be an alarmist. If he believes they are in danger, then they are."
"I agree," Severus said. "I just wonder in what way."
"Well, it is a full moon tonight," Kingsley noted. "It could be as simple as not wanting Greyback to think these children are easy prey."
Severus twitched. "Why is I never think werewolf first? Even after—"
Kingsley sighed. "It's hardly something anyone would think first, Severus. The fact you were put in such a situation at the age you were, well, I'm glad you don't think werewolves are the first suspect, really. Not like Madam Umbridge or Lyall Lupin, who both seemed hell-bent on making all werewolves unemployable."
Severus wrinkled his nose. "I've found a lot of my old hang-ups somehow seem less important with Our Lady of the Wriggling Stinger in my life."
Kingsley smiled. "She is a true wonder, isn't she?"
Severus nodded. "I never imagined myself the kind of person who found that being a chimaeric beast was preferable to being a pureblood. As a boy, I dreamed of being powerful and belonging to a family that people feared."
"Your father inspire that?"
Severus nodded. "My father's true calling seems to be inspiring hate. To this day, I wonder why my mother ever— well, I suppose it doesn't matter now. To this day, she utterly refuses to leave Cokeworth."
"Cokeworth?" Kingsley whistled. "Wouldn't be my first choice of a place to raise a family, I'll be honest."
Snape sniffed. "Many there have no other choice. We could have moved, though, if Da hadn't drank all of our money up and sold everything of value in the house to get even more cheap alcohol."
"Sounds like a real prime example of a singularly horrible human being," Kingsley said with a shudder of distaste. "Perhaps it's a good thing that he didn't have a wand and magic to make it even worse."
Snape's eyebrows raised. "You bring up a very disturbing point." He tilted his head and caused his neck to crack as the bones realigned. He used one hand to rub his neck. "My master does not usually send me out on assignments blind."
"Perhaps Master Morgan believes this to be an appropriate test of your abilities."
Snape arched a brow. "Do you truly believe that?"
Kingsley shook his head. "I cannot claim to be able to read Master Morgan's mind, my friend. However, it is his job to both teach you and gauge your skill sufficient for you to be prepared for wherever he sends you. Do you not trust him?"
Severus jolted. "I— of course I do."
"Then, we must trust that he wouldn't send both of us out here with Her Furry Ladyship unless he knew we were ready for it." Kingsley nudged him with his elbow.
Severus' eyebrow twitched. "I suppose."
The black-haired wizard stared at Roisinn as she charmed the little troublemakers into behaving on the playground by petting her instead of beating each other silly to get the best toys. She wriggled free and bounded over to the lonely-looking child, making sure to flop on them. The children would be drawn to come back to her and accept that she wanted to be with the other child too, and so the lessons came and went— cubling style.
"She's an old soul," Kingsley said, smiling. "I have to wonder if there is a witch under all that fur and scales. Not just from that potion Hagrid used— but the true soul of someone whose purpose was cut short or incomplete and was given a new form to complete some greater task."
"Have you been hitting the weed, Kingsley?" Severus asked, eyebrows furrowing.
Shacklebolt snorted. "Do me a favour. You do realise I work for the DoM and the DMLE?"
Severus chuckled. "You work for the DoM. You appear to work for the DMLE."
Kingsley sighed. "Touché."
The sun was starting to dip lower, casting longer shadows from the playground.
"You ever been at a lock-in, Severus?"
Snape snorted. "In Cokeworth? That could be fatal."
Shacklebolt hrmed. "True. The children seem to look forward to it."
"Children look forward to being squashed together in sleeping bags on a hard floor and sneaking biscuits and crisps in the cover of darkness," Severus said. "It's amazing we ever survive childhood."
"Many magical folk believe that accidental magic in children exists to keep them from dying due to minor acts of stupidity, but I happen to think that magicals get themselves into even more trouble because of it."
Severus stared at him. "Speaking of magic, how is it that you manage to blend perfectly into every magical and Muggle setting?"
Kingsley laughed. "I like the differences and revel in them."
Snape, who was dressed in a neutral charcoal cardigan and black trousers, shook his head at Kingsley's earthen yet brightly-coloured clothing. He managed to make walking look good, and sitting was no exception.
The bell rang to bring the children in, and Roisinn wriggled free from the pets and rubs and herded the children indoors with head-bumps and clawless bats. The teachers chuckled from the door as the children reluctantly filed inside.
The teacher dressed in a pretty floral dress waved at the two wizards before going back into the building. Kingsley waved back, and Severus heaved a sigh, looking the other way, discomfited.
"You really don't like female attention, do you, Severus?" Kingsley said.
Snape frowned, silent.
Kingsley nudged him gently. "It's all good, Severus. The female is a mystery to us lowly mortal men, both exotic and utterly baffling."
Roisinn hopped into Severus' lap, kneading and purring madly, letting off a golden cloud of magic in a soft belch that smelled suspiciously like salmon.
Severus rubbed her ears and ran his hand down her back and up her tail.
She wagged her stinger in approval and flopped across his and Kingsley's laps with a long sprawl.
"You're getting much bigger, love," Kingsley said. "She could take on a leopard now."
Severus furrowed his brows. "I swear she just decides to grow. This morning she wasn't quite this size."
Roisinn yawned and squeaked, closing her eyes in an impromptu doze.
"If only we could all just roll over and take a nap when we were tired," Kingsley said with a touch of wistfulness.
"We are chimaeras," Severus said. "Who would really argue with us?"
Kingsley laughed. "There is that— but I don't really want to test out our nifty new glamours by being discovered by a bunch of curious children."
A clutter of spiders appeared bearing hot tea in Muggle-style paper cups with cardboard rings. They deposited their drinks on the wall along with a small picnic basket and disappeared.
"Damn useful, that lot," Kingsley said.
Severus grunted. "No sense of privacy either."
They sipped their tea together, silent save for the cubling's soft snores.
Night fell like a sudden ambush, the sun disappearing under the horizon with an unexpectedly fast crash.
"The seasons are rather moody around here," Severus observed dryly.
"Much like the man," Kingsley replied. "The Boss likes to say that Mother Nature is off her potions."
"I think I agree," Severus said.
The full moon was hidden behind a dark, ominous cloud, giving it a pretty silver halo.
Suddenly, Roisinn was awake and fully alert, her fur standing on end. Her fangs were bared in a fierce grimace.
Kingsley and Severus stood at once, quickly summoning Disillusionment around them. They grasped the pendants around their necks as a soft wind blew in, masking their scents.
Severus put his hand into Kingsley's, using his fingers to make the silent signs.
Kingsley moved his into Snape's and signed back. Snape placed a hand on Roisinn's back, concentrating on what he wanted her to do. The cubling stilled, ears still twitching, but she pressed into his legs in response.
"I smell 'em," a gravelly voice said.
"Ripe for the killin'?"
"Perfect for the biting," the other voice said sharply. "We want them to turn, we're not here to eat them."
Other voices grumbled in displeasure.
"There will be other nights for eatin'."
"The clouds are blocking our fun," another whinged.
"Not for long," the gravelly voice said with smug anticipation. "Soon, we'll get to have our fun. Those Ministry sheep will lose their precious little lambs, and some of them will turn into wolves. They think they can hide their children away in a Muggle village, pretend it's just some ordinary school, hah! This will send them a message they'll never forget. The moon is our message, but those who survive this night will join our number come the next full moon."
There were multiple cries of agony as the full moon finally slid out from between the concealing cloud cover, and both Severus and Kingsley grasped their pendants almost immediately, sending out a silent call for backup to the DoM.
The pained cries reached a fevered pitch, mixed with the distinctive tearing and shifting of tendons, bones breaking, twisting, and reshaping themselves. The human cries the began to turn to a cacophony of growls, whines, yelps, and howls.
Roisinn growled lowly, her stinger dripping an eerie glowing venom. Snape and Shacklebolt put a calming hand to her back, and she quivered but stilled. There was a werewolf jumping up onto the sill of an open window, crawling in.
Scrambling and scratching sounds hit the wall. Paws appeared at the lip of the wall, and then the wolfen shape quickly leapt up after, the shaggy silhouettes bathed in silvery moonlight.
A dark blur came towards Severus, and Roisinn was already in the air. She wrapped herself around the lupine's head and buried her stinger into the neck just under the skull.
The werewolf gave a yelp as its body twitched uncontrollably then went still.
Another leapt, but Snape and Kingsley were standing back to back. The unlucky werewolf went down hard in a blaze of fire and electricity as both wizards hit the werewolf at the same time. The scent of ozone and burnt fur filled the air.
Found us somehow, Snape signed into Kingsley's hand.
They dropped their disillusionment, and went full on offensive, throwing spells at every werewolf they could see.
A loud roar reverberated as one brassed-off manticore slammed full tilt into an attacking werewolf and snapped his jaws around the werewolf's head, ripping it clean off the beast's shoulders as his claws ripped down from neck to groin, spilling its internal organs all over the ground.
Zoë materialised and promptly attacked the werewolf attempting to jump through the window. Her dagger-like teeth severed the body into three pieces, and she shook her head violently, letting each bloody piece fly off in a different direction. She hiss-roared and disappeared under her camouflage once more.
The werewolves, maddened by the smell of fresh blood and humans, attacked even more viciously, seemingly paying no heed to their own danger.
Zoë and Gruffydd matched their blood rage with sheer protective ferocity— Zoë in stealth and Gruffydd in pure, savage fury.
In-between vicious slashes and the flames of spells, a furious Roisinn launched herself at any and all comers who dared get too close to "her" people, practicing her sting and release technique with her own version of a mighty roar, which might have been even more impressive had her parents not had their own to compare it to.
Gruffydd's ferocity, however, seemed to increase exponentially with each attack, and he buried his stinger so deeply into the leaping werewolf that it went completely through one side and out the other. His fangs ripped into the werewolf's neck shortly after, and then he shook the creature's body harshly until the werewolf went completely limp. To add insult to the injury, Gruffydd breathed disease into the werewolf's face— just in case the other mortal wounds weren't enough.
Severus stopped a pale, white werewolf from leaping on Gruffydd as the manticore hybrid spun and impaled the beast with his stinger. The stung and fire-burnt werewolf let out a pained yelp and fell hard to the ground before Gruffydd savaged his would-be attacker again— and again— and…
A grey and silver-haired beast that was even larger than the rest let out a baying howl before leaping toward both Kingsley and Severus, murder in his very soul as infection slaver dripped from every tooth. Behind him, more werewolves ran to assist, driven by their curse to attack, bite, and infect.
Roisinn was suddenly perched on their shoulders, and she took in a deep breath—
A bright chartreuse cloud of magic surrounded the werewolves as they leapt right into it even as Kingsley and Snape side-along Apparated only a stone's throw away.
Aurors Apparated in, wands brandished even as a group of Unspeakables arrived where Severus had first sent his Patronus. All of them put up magical barriers the moment they arrived, ready for anything—
The cloud of magic faded to expose a pile of tiny Crup puppies, so young that their eyes were still closed and they blindly searched for their nonexistent mother, eagerly seeking to nurse.
The Aurors and Unspeakables exchanged confused glances even as they started to focus on the not-so-little pieces of gore left by the combatants.
The door to the building opened to expose a group of serious-looking children wielding wands.
"The real children were evacuated to the Ministry," a child who looked no more than five reported. "Is the scene clear?"
The Unspeakables sent out a pulse of exploratory scouting magic as the Aurors did the same with their own traces.
"Site is officially clear, ma'am," one Auror said.
The Unspeakables seemed to hiss something, their voices twisted by their uniform headgear.
The children waved their wands, and transformed into adult versions of themselves— save for the scruffy-looking boy who turned into a smug-looking dragon-bat.
"Told you they could handle it, Amelia," Master Morgan said proudly.
Kingsley turned to Severus. "Told you he would never leave you high and dry, Severus."
Severus arched a brow. "Colour me corrected."
"As long as it's black?" Kingsley retorted, grinning widely.
Snape huffed. "Indeed."
Roisinn bopped one of the Crup puppies on the head with a clawless swat.
The ex-werewolf gave a squeaky puppy cry, sounding utterly helpless and piling on its impromptu littermates. The cubling hissed at the puppy, apparently unconvinced that the Crup puppies were well and truly harmless.
Severus picked her up and grunted. "I think you've grown even more," he complained as she headbonked his chin and purred, her stinger tail wrapping thoroughly around his glamoured mane as her stinger hooked into his thick undercoat. She groomed the blood off her snout before disappearing from sight.
A nearby Auror looked a little green around the gills, having noticed that the ground and the wall of the building were painted liberally in blood and entrails, pieces of werewolf, and half-chewed remains.
Gruffydd yawned, blood and pieces of flesh still stuck between his teeth, seemingly unconcerned. His stinger tail rolled into a tight ball and then released completely and then rolled up again as his ears twitched forward and to the side to catch the sounds around him.
"Y-you call this under control, Snape?!" the Auror stammered. "Your beasts are bloodthirsty homicidal creatures!"
Kingsley frowned at the man, noting the Auror was one of the few without a mane— something quite rare of late.
"Do you see them eating the corpses? I didn't see you advocating anything short of killing curses against werewolves the other day at the meeting, Ackersby."
The Auror flinched. "That's different. Humans are rational beings."
"Not always," Amelia pointed out, stepping in before the argument turned hostile and one of the beasts took offence. "We wouldn't be in the middle of a war if humans were all rational."
Ackersby turned very red, but wisely remained silent. "Yes, ma'am."
Something invisible landed on the young Auror next to Ackersby. Roisinn materialised, giving happy squeaks and a buried stinger into the now-giggling Auror's mane. She purred madly and rubbed her chin against his.
"Oof, hello there, Lady Hermione," the Auror said, chuckling as he used her formal nickname instead of of the much shorter "Roi."
She perked at the name and loved on him even more.
Ackersby looked on warily at the growing cubling, obviously caught somewhere between disgust and nervousness.
"You're getting a bit too huge for cuddles, pet," the younger Auror said, laughing. "Good thing you gifted me some extra strength with this fluffy mane."
Roisinn purred her sincere approval as if all was going to plan, affectionally burying her stinger into his mane.
"Carstairs," Amelia said. "Could you please go walk the grounds with Our Lady of the Super Effective Stinger and make sure we don't have any other survivors?"
"Yes, ma'am," the young Auror said with a smile and drew his wand before walking off, a playful Roisinn in tow.
Severus shook his head as Gruffydd padded along behind the Auror, keeping an eye on his cubling and her human guardian at the same time.
"Well, it's certain that no one is going to get the drop on Carstairs."
Amelia chuckled. "Indeed."
Manfred shuffled up, wing walking over to his Apprentice and Kingsley. "Good job, Severus," he said. "You've earned your weekend off."
"Thank you, Master," Severus said, bowing his head.
Ackersby paled at the sight of the great dragonbat in all of his glory, glamour-less and completely shameless.
The dragonbat bared his fangs and yawned, seemingly oblivious to Ackersby's extreme discomfort.
"You and Kingsley can go with Amelia for your debriefing once we finish cleaning up this mess. Be sure to put copies of your memories in for the Pensieve, and make the proper notes."
"Yes, Master," Severus said.
"You handled yourselves very well. The Wizengamot loves it when the evidence falls right into their laps, even if does so in the form of an unexpected litter of Crup puppies," Master Morgan said.
He itched one ear with his wing thumb. "All of the real children were safely evacuated via Floo, so there will be no complaints from their parents, even though had we not been here— they'd have been in far greater danger. Logic rarely falls in place whenever children are concerned, hrm?"
Severus sniffed and looked down. "Not hardly, no." His expression hardened as he recalled a carrot-haired woman surrounded in equally carrot-haired children walking through the Ministry simultaneously spoiling her children and then screeching at them when they didn't behave— a dichotomy that didn't quite make sense to him.
Then again, he figured, his childhood wasn't exactly a shining example of perfection, either.
"Alright, everyone," Amelia's voice rang out over the yard. "Let's get this place cleaned up so the kids have somewhere to play tomorrow. Remember to submit your memories to Master Morgan when you're finished with your quadrant. Alright? Excellent."
The group set to work in a flurry as Ackersby stood unmoving, seeming to ponder life's mysteries.
"Now, Auror Ackersby," Amelia said.
The Auror startled and hurriedly set off in his designated direction, though whether it was Amelia's nudge or Master Morgan's low growl that got him moving, well, that was anyone's guess.
"I don't trust that one," Manfred said, wrinkling his muzzle.
Amelia sighed. "His family comes from a long line of distinguished Aurors, but I have to admit his heart doesn't seem to be into it. Scrimgeour wants to give him a decent chance to find inspiration, but— maybe I'm just being too critical."
Morgan shook his head. "I do not think so. You can't help but notice he is one of the few Aurors that hasn't rated a mane from our lovely Roisinn. Even Crankshaft in Accounting managed to sprout a mane, and no one seems to like him but Roisinn."
Amelia arched a brow. "Well, Martha Meadowes from records once said he's a real softy under that crotchety exterior, but no one really believed her."
The Unspeakables came up first, handing Manfred their vials before bowing out and disappearing in an almost silent Disapparate.
Amelia shook her head. "Show offs, the lot of them," she muttered.
Morgan gave her an all-fangs grin. "You picked them, milady."
Carstairs returned with the required vial and the body of a stunned werewolf, who had somehow managed to not only be Crupped but also remain fully intact and alive. "Found this one in the well, boss," he said.
"The well?" Manfred asked, his muzzle wrinkling. "That's new."
He waved his wand to ensure the werewolf remained muzzled, bound, and unconscious. "I guess we'll see who he is in the morning."
"I'd imagine he survived because the well was pretty narrow— at least small enough to make the manticore and the dragon less likely to pursue." Carstairs scratched his head. "He's lucky he didn't drown. I purified the water, just in case."
"Good work, Carstairs. Go ahead and take him to the holding cells and make sure everyone knows to keep their hands out of the bars. The last thing we need is lycanthropy in the Aurory."
"Ma'am," Carstairs relied with a bow, setting his hand on the werewolf's back and disappearing with a crack.
As Kingsley and Severus returned next, levitating a net full of disembodied werewolf parts, they gave Amelia a silent look of resigned weary as they handed Manfred their vials.
"Drop those off at the Aurory, and get a good shower and sleep. We'll do the debriefing in the morning."
"Ma'am," Kingsley and Severus chimed together and disappeared with a dual crack.
Amelia shook her head. "Now we wait for the regular folk to finish now that our overachievers have all checked in."
Manfred let out a cackle that sounded more like a screech. He pulled a thermos out from under one wing. "Might as well have some tea."
Amelia stared at the thermos with curiosity. "Muggles have their own magic, don't they?"
Manfred grinned. "Best kind is the tea-preserving kind."
The pair perched together on the wall, waiting for their charges to finish as a certain, purring cubling kneaded their laps and sprawled out over them.
If either of them wondered where she had come from or why she wasn't still with Carstairs, neither of them asked.
Roisinn, smug as always, wasn't telling.
Roisinn yawned widely as she sprawled in the main water fountain in the middle of the Ministry Atrium. Banned from potentially interfering in Severus' practical testing, she had been prevented from entering the exam hall, and it had taken all of her self-control to not jab the irritating guard at the door with her stinger and bite his nose.
Especially his nose.
She preferred large noses. They felt better when her paw thumped against them. They were more solid— more real.
Small noses begged to be nipped.
Unless they were on children.
They belonged on children because children were small, just like their noses.
Was that a butterfly?
She chased the blue butterfly around the atrium, careful not to swat it out of the sky. It was much too pretty to eat. Butterflies were for admiring, after all, not eating. Spiders were for friends— well, certain ones, anyway. Beetles were pretty tasty, except for that one.
Staying away from giant beetles with human torsos and multiple heads sounded like a really good idea.
Roisinn figured that beetle-thing tasted utterly foul.
It had certainly smelled foul, that's for sure.
The butterfly flew up and away, and Roisinn ended her game despite her wings. Boundaries were to be respected, after all.
She waved her tail back and forth.
The butterfly alighted on her stinger, and she froze.
Aww, it came back!
She gazed upon it, content to watch it open and close its wings.
The butterfly burst into flames, crumping in the heat as its wings turned to ash and fell with its body to the ground.
Roisinn stared, uncomprehendingly— utterly stunned as her friend and playmate was no more.
"Stupefy. Incarcerous. Petrificus Totalus."
Roisinn fell over, stunned— too distracted by her beautiful friend turned to ash to even protect herself. Her eyes turned up to see a sharp-featured wizard with a cruel sneer on his face, yet the rest of him was strangely handsome— a strange balance she did not like at all. She didn't much like being pinned either.
"So, you're the one causing such a fuss and bother amongst what is mine," the wizard growled. "You don't seem so impressive to me, beast." The wizard sneered at her. "But I still had my connections here at the Ministry, and without you and the failing exams I have arranged for the boy to get, I will call all who defy me to heel just as a beast should."
Roisinn growled and spit, but was unable to move. Her stinger dripped with venom, but it too, could not move.
"I think we'll start by taking away your little toy," the wizard said, pointing his wand at her stinger. "Diffind—!"
A larger and more massive stinger tip emerged from the wizard's chest, dripping with blood and venom, just missing the heart, but leaving the man impaled below the ribs.
He stared down at the paralysed cubling, wondering how she had managed to move, only then realising it hadn't been the beast at all—
Not the right beast.
The atrium was suddenly full of beasts and people, all with manes like a lion. Their eyes were all glowing with magical fire. Some fell on all fours into beast shape— some stood as a man but remained bestial in form. The humanoid ones had their wands out, the beasts had primed, dripping stingers cocked and aimed.
Muzzles parted to expose lines of dagger-like teeth. Glowing orange inner mouths seemed like portals to hell itself.
The manticore that had impaled him nudged his cubling over and over, licking her frantically until she stood up shakily.
He growled and nudged her closer to the wizard, encouraging her.
Roisinn gained her feet slowly, unsure, but her stinger swung back and forth.
The larger head of the mother fey-dragon materialised, her snout nudging her offspring up to steadier legs. Both parents encouraged their cubling to stand for herself.
Roisinn found her footing after a minute and refound her her anger. She pulled on the hate emanating from the wizard and empowered herself. She launched at his head, stinger burrowing into the wizard's neck as her body latched onto his face. Her snout clamped onto his all-too-perfect nose as her magical breath shot straight up his nostrils and enveloped him in a bright glowing cloud of magic as his body slid off her father's powerful stinger tail.
Roisinn bounced off the wizard's face, hitting the ground a few times with protesting squeaks of annoyance before skidding to a halt at the feet of a pitch black chimaera with mane to spare. His tail wrapped around the cubling and moved her onto his back as he bared his fangs at the fallen wizard. A chocolate brown chimaera with a black mane rubbed up against the other as his stinger tail gently nudged the cubling to check her status.
She chewed on the tip of the stinger playfully, having already chosen to distract herself with her cherished ones over the trauma of having been captured and almost-maimed.
The wizard that had attacked her, however, was having other problems at the moment. His body was being encased in a multitude of thin filaments.
"You cannot defeat the Dark Lord Voldemort!" the wizard cried. "I am immortal! I am forever!"
The filaments surrounded him completely in an opaque crystalis, and it thrashed around wildly before going eerily still. Then, just as the audience of chimaeras were ready to move again, the cocoon split down the middle, and a plethora of exotic butterflies in varied colours and patterns came spilling out even as a lush green carpet of grass liberally speckled with beautiful wildflowers sprouted outward from the open cocoon and spread to cover the entire floor of the Ministry atrium.
From where the cocoon was, the ground trembled and sank as a small pond and waterfall formed, filled with a wide variety of colourful tropical fish darting to and fro. The cocoon itself shuddered and shattered into pieces, forming into a small mangrove habitat that stretched into a forming marine pool. A miniature coral reef emerged from the bottom of the pool as anemones unfolded and small clown fish played hide and seek amongst the stinging tentacles.
Chirping and squeaking heralded the arrival of a bevy of river otters who happily took up residence in the brand new freshwater and saltwater ecosystem.
Beautiful forests of gillyweed swayed in the water, shimmering with their own magic as they cleaned and oxygenated the water.
A school of sea-unicorns— sea horses with shining, pearlescent horns— darted in and out of the coral, sometimes bursting up from the water with a joyous whinny before diving back in, disappearing amongst the weeds.
The chimaeras all sat down and exchanged silent looks of disbelief.
A dirty-blond chimaera with a black eyepatch grunted. "Well, that takes care of that, yeah?"
Roisinn gleefully charged into the water and paddled her way around, sticking her head under the water to admire the fish.
Severus flicked an ear. "No one is going to believe this outside of the Aurory and the DoM."
Amelia scratched her ear idly. "I think we've all definitely earned our holiday bonuses at the end of the year, yes?"
If anyone disagreed, no one was saying.
Whose War Is It Anyway?
No one is quite sure if they believe that You-Know-Who has truly given up. The rash of attacks have simmered down both in our beloved Wizarding world and in the Muggle world.
Strange rumours have been spreading that You-Know-Who has met his end from everything as epic as a great battle fought single-handedly against a hundred wizards and witches at once to him choking to death on a chicken bone. No body has been found, so speculation and rumours continue to far outnumber any evidence proving any of the stories to be true or false.
Albus Dumbledore has cautioned the magical public to remain vigilant to the possibility of You-Know-Who's return even if he supposedly died; however, after the incident at Hogwarts with the gameskeeper, Rubeus Hagrid, illegally breeding creatures that were a danger to the students, many are less apt to take everything Albus Dumbledore says as gospel. Others question just how Mr Dumbledore would even know such things.
Dumbledore, who is still under observation by the ministry while holding his post at Hogwarts, has kept a low-profile until mention of YKW's possible forfeit of the war.
Incidents of magical violence to wizard, witch, and Muggle alike have still been reported, but sightings of YKW have been fraught with confusion and rumours over positive identification.
One thing is for certain, however. Incidents at the Ministry have gone down significantly, and the effectiveness of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has never been so high. Surveys from hundreds of individuals have said that satisfaction with the Auror response has been excellent, and over fifty percent of the wanted posters have been taken down due to apprehension.
Even if YKW is still out there, crime seems to have taken a plunge, and shops in places such as Diagon Alley have soared due to large infusions of people who feel they are safe enough to shop again.
As for places such as Knockturn Alley, this paper has been unable to report as to a rise or fall of crime.
Roisinn chirped and leapt up onto the counter, her stinger tail swinging back and forth like a pendulum. The bartender smiled, rubbing her under the chin as he slipped her a piece of corned beef. The cubling chirred in approval as she chewed her tasty prize, keeping a steady watchful eye on her human companions.
Lucius, who had sprouted a rather impressively regal platinum mane, was attracting lustful glances from nearby witches, much to Narcissa's growing consternation. Thankfully, Lucius' gaze wasn't the wandering kind, even with his talk of business around the tavern table.
A large spread of food and drink littered the surface of the table, and all of them were taking their time to pick through it as they spoke of the business at hand.
Roisinn thumped as she bounced back over to the table and purred-pounced into the booth.
Narcissa eyed the cubling rather warily, her hands going to cover her swollen abdomen.
Roi gave a disappointed chirp and sulked, slinking over to slither into Lucius' and Severus' laps instead. Her increased size made the appearance a bit comical until the charmed collar took over and shrank her down to a more publicly acceptable size.
"She won't hurt you, Narcissa," Lucius said, frowning as he rubbed the cubling's wings.
Narcissa shook her head. "Our baby could be coming any time now, Lucius. I don't want to risk anything harming it."
Severus' brows knit together, but he said nothing. His and Lucius' ears swivelled as a nasally voice ordered more sherry from the bartender.
"Don't you think you've had enough, Sybill?" the bartender said with a sigh. "I can send for the SASS (Safe Apparating Side-Along Service) to take you home."
"I ordered more sherry," the voice demanded truculently.
The bartender frowned but carried over another glass. "This is the last one, Sybill. I don't want to be responsible for you splinching yourself or falling into the river on the way home."
"Psh," the voice answered, and the sound of guzzling came shortly after.
"Do you think she's the one?" Severus asked quietly.
"Undoubtedly," Lucius replied, curling his lip.
"She sounds like a blithering idiot," Severus scoffed, his voice barely a whisper.
"Also undoubtedly," Lucius agreed.
Roisinn had her ears pinned tightly to her head, showing her obvious displeasure at the witch's voice.
"Lu-sheousss," an intoxicated voice drawled as a sherry-soused witch threw herself on his robes. "I knew you would see the error of your ways and come find me!"
Lucius' perfectly immaculate, silver-tipped, pointed ears flattened into his mane, even as his mane seemed to stand straight up. "Madam, kindly release my person at once ."
"Nonsense, Darling," the knackered witch replied. "I'm soooo glad you're here to tell your soon-to-be-ex-wife that we are truly meant for each other!"
A furious Narcissa started to go for her wand—
A cubling's stinger buried itself deep into the witch's underfed bum, and the inebriated woman went tumbling backwards onto the floor as dozens of tiny sherry bottles flew out of her pockets and spilt out over the walkways.
Roisinn promptly disappeared, cloaking herself completely.
Sybill sat straight up, her eyes very wide. She looked around the room, the heaviness of her insobriety now completely absent.
"What—" she stammered. She immediately lunged for a sherry bottle and quickly drank it down.
The floor was littered with sherry bottles, but Sybill was still stone-cold sober.
"No, no, no!" Sybill cried. "I need a firewhisky!" She stood and slammed coins on the bar.
The bartender eyed her rather strangely, then shrugged and poured her a shot.
Sybill drank it down and burst into tears. "Noooooo! Give me a wine. The whole bottle!"
"Sybill, you've already had—" the bartender started to say, confused by her lack of intoxication and desperation when only a few minutes previous she had been out of her mind drunk.
Sybill accioed a wine bottle from the shelf and opened it, guzzling it down so fast that the wine dribbled down her face.
She remained steady as a rock and completely untipsy. Then she suddenly made a dash for the loo, the sounds of her worshipping the porcelain god heralding her body's response to the sheer alcoholic overload.
Yet, when she came out, she was eerily steady on her feet and lacking any other sign of intoxication.
A elder wizard walked in to the tavern. "Ahh, I believe I'll have a strawberry cordial please," he ordered.
"Albus!" Trelawney cried, throwing herself on the wizard's robes. "You have to help me!"
Dumbledore's blue eyes grew very wide. "Sybill? I told you, I don't think you're a good match for our Divination position."
"You have to help me! The sherry doesn't work anymore! I can't stop those terrible visions!"
Dumbledore frowned as Sybill, who was liberally covered in fur shed by one highly-irritated cubling, created a dense cloud of long and short hairs with her frantic graspings at Albus' violet silk robes.
"Ah-ACHOOO!" Dumbledore sneezed with a magic-laced boom, and the entire tavern was tossed catty-wampus on one side. Wizards, witches, plates, napkins, drinks, chairs, and tables ended up plastered on the far wall.
"Ah-ah-AAAAAACHOOOOO!" Dumbledore sneezed again, blowing out the entire back wall of the Hog's Head Inn.
A herd of terrified goats were scattered about just outside the tavern, all wide-eyed and bleating in panic.
A white and grey bearded wizard stormed out of the backroom covered in uncooked chips, celery, whisky, and a scowl. "Brother, I believe we need to have some words."
Aberforth and Sybill went flying out the downed wall and into the night. There was a dull thud and terrified bleating shortly after.
Crashhhh-CRASH. Maaah! Crash.
The bartender pulled a wicker basket off Roisinn's head and plucked an apple off her stinger as Lucius and Severus exchanged concerned glances.
They hastily downed their drinks in one long gulp and slammed the empty glasses down on their (miraculously still intact) table.
A lantern fell to the ground behind them, bonking the poor cubling on the head.
Roisinn hissed and spat as her stinger pulverised the offending lantern until it was perforated with stinger-sized holes, turning it into a makeshift watering can.
Narcissa scooped the cubling up and cuddled her tenderly, stroking her ears, no longer worried about the safety issues inherent in having Roisinn around her future baby.
Roisinn slumped and purred softly, draping her furry self over Narcissa's swollen abdomen. Her eyes closed with contentment as Narcissa's fingers gently rubbed under her chin and around her ears.
Freak Allergy Blows Terrified Goats All Over Hogsmeade
Last night, part of Hogsmeade was blown apart and infested with terrified goats due to a freak situation involving a sudden, severe allergic reaction.
Sybill Trelawney had some sort of strong allergen attached to her clothing, and her attempt to beg aid from a visiting patron of the Hog's Head Inn, one Albus Dumbledore, resulting in him suffering from a magically enhanced sneezing attack that levelled more than a few walls in Hogsmeade.
The goats, which had been peacefully resting outside of the Hog's Head Tavern, ended up just about everywhere in the city from the fountain to the roof of Honeydukes.
Hogsmeade will be partially shut down for the next few days in order to fix the damage done and remove the contamination the goats caused while being blown about the city.
As for what exactly caused Mr Dumbledore's most astonishing allergy attack, St Mungo's is understandably reluctant to test it without a well-warded safe room, as no one wants the destructive event from Hogsmeade to reproduce itself inside St Mungo's.
If anyone had ever doubted Roisinn's keen protective instincts, the pile of savagely mauled Death Eater bodies in front of baby Draco's crib at St Mungo's seemed to prove that she was a highly devoted nanny-beast.
The poor midwives took to the scene quite badly at first, thinking Roisinn had murdered innocent guests— at least until their tattoo-Marked arms were revealed for all to see.
Those that hadn't been stung, mauled and breathed on by the enthusiastic cubling found themselves facing said cublings' guardians as well as her parents, none of which were allowing any shenanigans on their watch.
Narcissa, who had slept through twelve attempted assassinations and woken up more than once to multiple mauled corpses in front of her beloved infant son's bassinet, began to suspect that St Mungo's wasn't such an unsafe place to have a child, after all. At least while a certain very protective cubling was around.
Perhaps, Narcissa suspected, Lucius hasn't been so wrong in befriending a half-blood so openly after all.
It wasn't that Severus hadn't been a true friend—
No, it had been the unspoken stigma of his support of Severus and then have him totter off and not accept the Dark Lord's mantle during a time when taking the "right" side was all-important to the safety of your family.
Then again, she was starting to suspect it was they who had unfortunately chosen the wrong side.
Her sister, of all people, had met an armless fate in Azkaban, and she had been one of the Dark Lord's most fervent supporters. Narcissa knew that her sister, despite their shared childhood moments that weren't of the mad variety, would have undoubtedly been first in line to "punish" Lucius for not staunchly clinging to the banner of pureblood supremacy for her beloved Dark Lord, had she not thankfully been dealt with before such things came to light.
Not that it had saved their family from being targeted by straggling Death Eaters who hadn't realised their Dark Lord had been vanquished by being transformed into a nature preserve—
Everything he hadn't stood for: peace, beauty...
Even stranger, every Death Eater the cubling neutralised seemed to gift her with a growth spurt, and she was getting quite large indeed, somewhere between a manticore-Nundu-fey dragon-something mix.
The cubling's parents were starting to chill a bit more, allowing her to seek out her own adventures without them— so some extent. Despite her size, mum and dad were like most parents and weren't quite ready to let their baby grow up without them until they were sure, oh so very sure, that she could take out a dragon on her own in her sleep.
Narcissa could relate. Draco wasn't going to be unsupervised until he could do the same.
Or maybe go to Hogwarts.
Narcissa's eye twitched.
Draco seemed to be a pretty mellow baby once he realised he wasn't getting anywhere with Roisinn around. She was also a dutiful attendant, using those hands of hers to pin him down, change his nappies, keep him from rolling off surfaces, or whatever mischief babies could get into as they defied their age.
Babies were trouble.
Magical babies were extra trouble with a side of pure magical randomness.
The house-elves kept trying to pop in and check on Draco at the hospital, but Roisinn would growl at them and cock her stinger every time they tried.
Dobby had been so frightened he fell into a bed tray and knocked over her breakfast and tea.
That had irritated Roi even more, and she looked ready to take the elf by the ears and shake him senseless.
Dobby hadn't been back—
It was probably for the best. Dobby liked to drop things. His attempts to "do good" usually ended up with him covered in sauce or with a pail stuck over his head.
Or their great, great, great, great, great grandmother's favourite bone china teapot.
Truly, it was a bonafide miracle that Dobby survived having broken it once— fortunately magic had been able to fix it as good as new.
It might have been because Roisinn's clutter-squadron of uber-helpful arachnids bound the struggling elf in a silk cocoon and stuck him to the ceiling with his fingers bound together and unable to snap.
It had made Lucius less apt to destroy and defoliate their beloved garden— if anything because he had been laughing far too hard to manage it.
The spiders had eaten very well that night, feasting on a giant bowl of premium grade, fresh and juicy lacewing flies.
No, Narcissa hadn't even come close to suspecting that befriending Severus Snape would have led to so much happiness, warmth and security. A time of war was hardly a span in which to contemplate such positives, after all.
But when Roisinn was set loose in the manor, many ancient evils that had been far too powerful to dispose of without alerting the wrong kind of people simply gave up the ghost and "died" after Her Lady of the Potent Stinger impaled everything from cursed books to enchanted sculptures with her unforgiving tail. The beast was ridding the Malfoy family of many generations' worth of cursed and detrimental artefacts with just a few passes through the estate.
Some of them had even been her not-so-dear sister Bellatrix' "gifts" to the family: artefacts she had cursed specifically to spy on them. There had been no way to dispose of them without bringing down the wrath of her sister upon them all—
Well, that wasn't a problem anymore.
Things were going so well now that when she heard that "the Potter witch" was having "problems" in her last trimester, she was almost— almost— going to ask Severus if he wanted them to assist Lily with her pregnancy.
The Malfoys and the other elder magical families had been giving birth to generations of magical babies, and they were well aware of the unique quirks that could happen, and did happen in the last month or two before the baby came screaming out (sometimes with their magic full on in a temporary blast before going dormant.) Why it worked that way was still very much a mystery to paediatric healers.
It wasn't that Lily would cause actual harm to her own child in her ignorance, Narcissa believed, but instead that she would suffer needlessly as the baby's magic tried to decide whether it was going to coexist peacefully with mum or try to make its own mark on the world a bit too early.
Narcissa weighed pity together with concern.
From what she'd heard, Mrs Lily Potter had not been left alone and destitute. Lord and Lady Potter had said they would ensure their grandchild had a good start in life.
They, unlike Lily, had often come by for tea and dinners with herself and Lucius. The elder Potters and Severus had become quite close after he had saved their lives, and in becoming close to Severus they had mended some old bridges with the Malfoys.
Seeing as how they were one of the few families that had not suffered strange losses of life and limb in the war, the masses were starting to rethink their previous opinions regarding the Malfoy family. Narcissa's fears had been transformed thanks to Severus' befriending of one furred and scaled cubling and her commanding and growing family of protectors.
Af if her original nuclear family hadn't been enough—
Gruffyd was defying all manticore lore and legend by allowing little Draco to pull on his tail and yank on his mane. The only indicator of "stop it" was a flash of fangs, leonine style. Oddly, baby Draco seemed to have a good idea of what that meant, and he'd flop over and play with own his toes instead. Narcissa had to admit that as far as babysitters went, no one was getting anywhere near her baby son without being stamped onto the pre-approved list.
Who was managing the list, however, was anyone's guess.
She just wished Draco would stop trying to suck on the tip of the stinger end of his bestial guardians—
Madam Bones assured her that, at least in this case, the stingers were only as poisonous as the owner needed them to be thanks to the infusion of emotionally-responsive Nundu genes, whose notorious deadly breath was always powered by the emotion it faced.
Still, Narcissa figured, she hardly wanted Draco to piss off one of the beasts by accident and get a lesson in true pain— even if it was only from a mere "warning" swat, sting, or breath.
Sometimes she'd find Draco propped up against Roisinn as she lounged in the library, and there would be books open like she was reading them. When she picked them up and reshelved them, the cubling would give her such a look of annoyance that she wondered if the bond between her and Severus was a little too tight.
Stranger still, Draco always seemed to have his head cocked as if he were listening to her.
More than he ever seemed to listen to anyone else in the house.
Even more unnerving was the clutter of spiders that would dutifully attend, weave booties, change nappies, and even sing him to sleep. They were seemingly Roisinn's personal arachnid honour guard, and they never went far from her, disappearing into her thick mane at a moment's notice.
Try as she might, Narcissa could never find them, even when she combed through the cubling's mane. It was if her mane was a portal to some other place, at least for the disturbingly cute and fluffy arachnids.
Once, she could have sworn she saw "Adorable" written neatly in a spider web over Draco's crib.
Surely, she had imagined that.
Roisinn, however, seemed content to boggle Narcissa's mind. She was getting huge for a "cubling", even though she chased her arachnids around with the same gleeful abandon as one of Narcissa's runaway yarnballs. It was just so unnerving to see her carrying a tome between her jaws, cauldrons, Lucius' walking cane, and all manner of things. She'd even seen her sitting over a cauldron next to Severus seemingly making potions.
Making potions? Really? Surely not.
Severus had warned her that there was a good chance Hagrid's genetic tampering had included human blood from a magical family— at least, he'd said, he hoped it was just blood.
Hoped it was "just" blood?
What exactly did he mean by that? Surely he didn't think Hagrid had been crossbreeding with humans, right?
However— from what she remembered of Hagrid, he tended to get his everything from less-than-reputable sources. Who could say that he might not have gotten one of his breeders from someone who didn't care what the pedigree had been as long as they made a few galleons more on the sale.
Narcissa shuddered. It was a Merlin-blessed miracle, she realised, that Roisinn had imprinted on Severus (now that was an ironic thought) and so had become one well-adjusted furry lady.
She'd once thought that her sister and Rodolphus were to have a child. It was expected of a pureblood witch marrying into a family such as the Lestrange family, to produce a magical male heir in short order . But just as Narcissa had begun to notice the telltale swelling of the abdomen on Bellatrix' unnaturally thin frame—
All signs of that pregnancy had abruptly disappeared.
Everyone had assumed Bellatrix had suffered a miscarriage, and that was considered enough of a shame that most pureblood families wouldn't question such a thing or bring it up, lest the stress prevent another attempt, but everyone knew that once Bellatrix had been sworn into the Dark Lord's service she only had eyes for him.
Which had come first?
Marriage or the Dark Lord?
Everyone knew that Bella had put no one before her Lord—
But had that been before or after her "miscarriage"?
Suddenly she paled. The Dark Lord cared nothing about love. That was well known. All he cared about was loyalty to himself and by proxy, his vision.
Bella had been nothing but happy about having a child until—
Until she went completely mental and loyal to the Dark Lord's vision.
Narcissa bolted into the library, startling Roisinn and her baby as they lounged near an open tome of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. She traced a magical symbol on the back of one shelf, and it slid to the side. She threw books on the floor as she looked for the one that had set her mind racing.
Book after book went flying onto the floor until she found the tattered, black grimoire she was looking for. She used her wand to cut her finger and traced a symbol on the cover, and the book opened.
Sweating profusely, she flipped page after page until she found—
The book dropped to the floor as Narcissa sank to her knees.
Scrawled in the quill-writing of an ancient Black ancestor was:
A spell of supposed immortality— to transfer one's life essence into liquid form to be drunk by a younger, more suitable "host".
It was an old, ancient spell— created in a time when the loss of the knowledge of one's family magic was unforgivable, back when the lives of magicals were nearly as short as Muggles.
In time, it fell out of favour because it required a Muggle host, and none of the later purebloods wanted to taint their own essence by admitting they needed a Muggle for anything.
As far as Narcissa knew, no one had ever used the spell to extract the life essence of an unborn child into an elixir.
Until now, a voice whispered in her head. Until now.
Gods only knew what it would have done to the mother.
And if that elixir had been added to some potion, the creator thinking it was merely the blood of a magical person—
It would put the soul, the potential, the magic—into a new host.
Narcissa looked at Roisinn and her son nestled between her front legs as he tugged and played with her mane.
Vita Utrem was never meant to be given to a magical or a beast.
If Hagrid had used a potion to give his beasts the ability to become more capable of higher thinking, he had actually imbued them with human potential, intelligence, and possibly human magic.
Narcissa stared at Roisinn.
The cubling could be her— niece.
Her father standing in the doorway of the library, the handsome, charismatic younger wizard beside him.
The predatory look the man gave her sister—
It hadn't been lust, Narcissa realised. No, the Dark Lord had no passions of the flesh, despite what Bellatrix' crazed mind thought. The wizard had wanted her as his— so crazed that she served only him, so misunderstood that one he saw her worth, for in her was the power of the line of Blacks and the money and influence that also brought to the table.
Her marriage would keep the connections he wanted, but a child—
A child would have been unwanted, unneeded.
A child would take too long to mold into a soldier of war, and he wanted his followers to devote on him, not some squalling baby.
Narcissa's blood was running cold. Now, she realised why Lucius had always acted so cold in public, often making it seem like he didn't care about her or her pregnancy in front of others. He had been protecting her and Draco from the Dark Lord's scrutiny. As long as he was the perfect agent, Voldemort was willing to let Narcissa have her baby.
Bellatrix had been excited about the baby— prepping, getting rooms ready, cribs, clothes. She and Rodolphus had been ecstatic about their child together. Then, it had all stopped.
How had she not seen it before?
Blindness, she thought. I was utterly unable to admit what I saw. If I admitted it, I would have shown such fear in front of him— fear that would have told the Dark Lord everything Lucius was trying desperately to conceal.
Roisinn was looking at the open grimoire on the floor, and for a moment, Narcissa saw the cubling's eyes narrow. Her hand-paws stretched outward as her claws unsheathed in an eerie, almost-unnatural slowness. Her lips pulled back from her teeth—
She snatched Draco up by his nappy and carried him out of the library, a puff of dark purple magic trickling out of her mouth as her stinger dripped its venom.
The venom, like acid, burned through the hardwood floor as it dripped from the waving stinger.
With each step of her paws, she seemed to grow. Her bulk expanding so much that she barely fit through the library doorway. Her claws clicked across the marble floor outside the library. Her tail flicked, spasming, and a glob of venom landing in a line across the wooden tiles—
The Black family grimoire smoked and turned to goo, folding in on itself as the potent venom destroyed generations of family magic dating back to the Dark Ages.
Yet, Narcissa wasn't sure what horrified her more: that her family Grimoire of untold years was destroyed, that the venom was decidedly more acidic than anyone had ever seen it, that a beast had just removed her son from a possibly dangerous situation, or that the said beast was quite possible, more than likely, the soul and potential of her once-to-be niece.
"She's more than just a mere beast, Narcissa," Lucius said, sipping his tea.
"How do you know she isn't just a remarkably cunning animal, Lucius?" she replied.
Lucius' expression darkened. "We are all capable of being cunning animals, Narcissa," he said. "But when it comes right down to it, we are all— animals."
Memories of Severus surrounded in books for his studies and Roisinn being right there came back to her in a rush— how the cubling would, at least in her mind, imitate him so perfectly.
Could it be true that she wasn't imitating him at all? Was she in fact learning right alongside him?
The cubling was growing fast—
Her size alone had already surpassed that of her father, Gruffydd. She was still very curious, playful, and protective of "her people" even as they were even more protective of her. Her parents were already more relaxed about letting her decide her own adventures outside their line of sight, a sign that she was, at least to them, almost full grown.
How was that possible in just a few years?
Lucius said that Master Morgan thought she was right on track— but he, himself, was a dragon-bat— hardly a great example of normalcy in any case.
Master Morgan unnerved her greatly. His eyes seemed to bore into her soul.
Roisinn gifted the old dragon-bat with a lush mane to match his wife's, and the two were an impressive and intimidating pair to be sure. Roisinn loved on him like no tomorrow, getting away with cuddles and other social defiance that his other apprentices would never have been able to (or wanted to).
Then again, she had a hard time coming to terms with the words snuggle and dragon-bat in the same sentence.
It wasn't that she didn't trust him to watch over Severus or teach him right. It wasn't that she thought he was a mass-murderer, either. It was just—
Even knowing her own upbringing was biased and probably not the best example of fairness, it was hard to dismiss a lifetime of thinking. It was the main reason the pureblood families flocked to Voldemort's banner. They were afraid of change, and they were even more afraid to admit that their blood had nothing to do with the power of their magic.
Hence, why the Vita Utrem elixir fell out of favour once the idea of the Sacred Twenty-Eight came into play.
Who wanted to admit they used a mere Muggle to host their magic and preserve their pureblood lines? It would mean that Muggles were completely compatible and as capable of housing magic as "the grand old pureblood family lines." If one thing Narcissa remembered, it was that the elixir was always to be used on Muggle stock— remnants of a time when Muggles were nothing more than tools to be used, or exploited, and thought to be nothing but "empty vessels" to be filled at a whim.
It sounded quite despicable now she really thought about it.
Her father would have had her believe that rubbish, though. Nothing and no one could compare to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.
As Narcissa exited the library, her attempts to fix the floor were utterly foiled by magic-eating venom seeping through the floor. She grimaced at the damage to the wood even as she thanked Merlin it had only been the floor and not herself or Draco.
The cubling had been very deliberate in protecting Draco from the aftermath of her venom-dripping tail.
Just how aware was she? Narcissa wondered a bit nervously.
As she walked into the sitting room, she stumbled into a bestial pile up. Draco was babbling happily as he played with a Quidditch mobile dangling from Gruffyd's tail, surrounded by Lucius, Severus, Kingsley and Zoë. Roisinn was curled protectively around Draco as the others curled protectively around her.
As Narcissa contemplated just how sentient the cubling was, Draco babbled gleefully from his cradle of blissfully warm, maned bodies.
She didn't really know the answer, but like most things in her life, it was a wee bit complicated.
Lily frowned as she went browsing through the wee witches and wizards store looking for items to fill up her nursery for her unborn baby. The shower the Potters had thrown her had been very well attended, and she had gotten quite a bit to ensure her baby would not lack for clothing, crib items and mobiles, but she couldn't help but feel like her guests were subtly trying to insult her by repeatedly saying that she couldn't take care of the baby on her own.
One supposed old Potter family friend had attempted to gift her with a young female house elf— a daughter of one of their own family's elves—to help her out, but Lily absolutely refused to have it.
"It's slavery!" she had hissed at them in outrage, completely scandalised at the very idea.
Her parents, she knew, would be absolutely mortified at the thought that their daughter would need outside help to take care of one baby when they themselves had raised two daughters without as much as a babysitter.
"Do you think the food at Hogwarts just showed up by magic?" Marlene had hissed at her. "House elves are what cleaned our dorms, our clothes and prepared our food, and you never complained then!"
No! If, if that were true, surely she would have seen them. She would have known!
Lily browsed the aisles, happy to find some cute Muggle baby items that the Wizarding world just didn't seem to understand— like disposable nappies and baby bottles shaped like cartoon figures, dinosaur pyjamas with feet, even perfectly normal, everyday things like walkers, bouncers and breast pumps were practically unheard of!
Surely it wasn't so crazy to want to be able to feed your baby in public without having to expose a breast instead of hiding away somewhere?
She wanted to decorate the nursery in Winnie the Pooh and the Chronicles of Narnia that her parents used to read to her, not the adventures and life of Merlin or some plain, sterile room.
James had once said he wanted the nursery filled with Quidditch pitches and golden snitches, enchanted to move and entertain.
Well, a bloody lot of good he was rotting away in the bowels of the Goblin Nation.
Sure she got to visit him, but the goblins watched her like hawks. They searched her! The nerve!
"I think I'll go with this," a voice said from the counter as Narcissa Malfoy put a few bundles on the counter.
"Those are our best sleepsuits and rompers, ma'am," the lady at the register said. "You'll love them. And who is your little man?"
"This is Draco," Narcissa said.
"Well, hello, Draco," the woman said with a smile.
Draco sucked on his foot while he rocked in the bassinet, his grey eyes staring up at the other woman.
Lily froze. What was the Lady Malfoy doing at a Muggle establishment?
Narcissa paid for the items with a nod of thanks and accepted the plastic sack with a wry expression.
"Here are some coupons for your next visit," the saleswoman said with a friendly smile.
"Thank you," Narcissa said as she picked up Draco's travel bassinet and walked away from the counter.
Narcissa stopped in front of Lily. "Mrs Potter," Narcissa said, inclining her head slightly. She looked at Lily's heavily swollen belly appraisingly. "Due soon?"
Lily flushed. "The doctor says in late November or early December."
"Doctor?" Narcissa repeated, her blonde brows furrowing. "Have you not seen a magical healer this late in your pregnancy?"
"I've kept all my doctor appointments," Lily said proudly. "I'll be having a baby boy."
Narcissa frowned. "Please do not take this the wrong way, my dear, but this is the child of James Potter, yes?"
"Of course it is!" Lily said, utterly aghast at the implication.
Narcissa held up her hand. "Please, I mean no offence, truly. It is just that— babies from—" she carefully looked around. "Magical families tend to have special concerns and, erm, considerably earlier due dates than is typical for Muggles— rather, the magic gathers in the first month, often fooling the body into thinking it is pregnant later before— ah— the witch starts visibly showing."
Narcissa shifted a drowsy Draco to her other arm, gently rocking his bassinet. "The magical baby is influenced by the ambient magic around it while their own magic is gathering, and it can be rather difficult for a mother while her child is still in the womb. The baby often comes out with their magic fully active, even if only temporarily, especially if the delivery is a difficult one. A healer could help ease or negate this, lessening the chances that your baby blasts his way out of the womb if there are— complications."
Narcissa's voice was soft, yet her emphasis on the word "complications" was quite clear and strongly suggested that she knew of many things that she was not prepared to speak of in a Muggle shop.
"Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my pregnancy," Lily said, uneasily rubbing her swollen abdomen.
"Please, I'm not saying there is," Narcissa said gently. "I'm just saying that seeing a healer could help with—"
"There is nothing wrong with my Harry!" Lily hissed. Her hands clenched, and she crushed the package of pacifiers in her hand. Her magic crackled through her body, and made her long red hair writhe eerily. The shop window suddenly exploded, sending shards of glass flying in all directions, and the women shopping nearby screamed in terror as they hit the deck.
A policeman's whistle sounded off repeatedly down the street, getting closer and closer.
Lily groaned, clutching her belly, doubling over in sudden excruciating pain. She cried out as a powerful contraction took her off guard and the sensation of Harry's legs kicking her uterus with a series of powerful ninja kicks, and with it, the tree outside the shop cracked and fell over in pieces.
"It's the IRA!" someone screamed shrilly. "BOMBS! BOMBS!"
Lily tried to brace herself on a shelf as another contraction came. "Oh God. Oh God," she cried. "AHHHHH!"
A car burst into flames outside as people screamed and ran in a panic. Police were swarming about everywhere like a cloud of angry hornets.
Lily was on the ground, moaning in agony as search and rescue teams stormed in from seemingly everywhere, pulling terrified and injured people to safety from the rubble and the flames. Women were screaming all around the shop, terrified, even as a few yelled that "some woman was giving birth in aisle five."
A medical team ducked and ran in at same time, one of them asking if her back was injured while the other shined a torch into her eyes.
Lily moaned as she saw Narcissa and a few other women being herded out the broken shop window due to the door being covered in heaps of merchandise and shelving debris. Vaguely she remembered her mother-in-law telling her that she needed to see a proper healer too. She'd brushed it all off thinking that if a Muggle OBGYN was good enough for her mother, it was good enough for her as well.
The flyers advertising magical motherhood classes at St Mungo's—
She'd dismissed it all as being ridiculous, backwards, pseudo-Edwardian, old-fashioned poppycock.
She'd read every book on pregnancy from the London public library and in the OBGYN's office, and her mum had told her everything else. She'd been very well-prepared, damnit!
Another strong contraction hit, and the light fixtures violently exploded above them. The paramedics threw themselves over her body to shelter her from the falling debris even as they tried to avoid being hit by it at the same time.
The falling light fixtures made Lily scream even louder in fear, and another agonising contraction came along with it.
A double decker bus crashed into a line of automobiles, blocking the already jammed road with even more chaos.
Oh god. Wh-what if… Death Eaters were to come wading in, having quickly recognised the signs of a magical pregnancy?
Lily shrieked even louder. This time the convulsions came with a gush of fluid that caused one of the medics to slip and fall, almost cracking his skull on the shelf as he went down.
A honey-coloured chimaera Apparated in, towering over the broken shelves. A burst of magic blew out from her mouth in a cloud of magical vapour, filling the room.
Time screeched to a grinding halt as people were suddenly paralysed, all completely immobile.
As the cloud dispersed, Lily saw a woman with a wild mane of Medusa-like curls standing tall in the middle of the rubble. Her hands traced a series of complex runes in the air— silent as a graveyard— as great wings folded around her slender body like a cape. She flung out shield after shield as a number of other spells pushed things out of the way.
Dark figures in black robes and white-robed figures with horrific masks showed up in the smoke and chaos, even as every Muggle was frozen in place.
Wands waved. Fires dampened. Cars righted themselves. Dents seemed to fix themselves, and even the tree put itself to rights again.
Mass Obliviates struck in waves, one after another after another.
A fearsome black bipedal chimaera walked through the smoke, a great chimaera on one side of him as an even larger fey-dragon roared on his other side. A strawberry blonde bipedal chimaera and one with a scruffy-messy mane walked with them.
"Obliviators! Get this cock-bungled arse-end of a hag's fuckup erased off the face of Creation!" the dirty-blonde chimaera roared.
"Unspeakables, restore this area as of yesterday! Move it! Now!" the strawberry blonde chimaera yelled over the spray of a nearby fire hydrant.
The black chimaera seemed to melt into the figure of man in the blackest of black robes. He pulled a snarling golden lion-like mask off his face to expose the familiar pale countenance of Severus Snape.
His pupils were swallowing his irises in forbidding onyx, and his thin lips were flattened into a painfully familiar expression of utter disgust.
Lily started to hyperventilate even more than she already was.
The Muggles had been frozen in time, but she had not.
They were starting to move, albeit slower than slow.
"The time bubble is collapsing!" the strawberry-blonde chimaera yelled. "Move!"
Severus placed his hand on the curl-haired woman's shoulder, and then their eyes met. His expression turned to that of wonder, and the mysterious female's held a trust so deep it was tangible enough to be seen in an aura of colour.
They slammed their palms together.
Cords of magic bound between them.
They slammed their hands down on the floor.
A ring of magic formed under Lily and expanded outward.
Every single one of them Disapparated at once as the time bubble burst and the Muggles began to move again, shuffling about the area with no idea why they were there while others didn't notice anything amiss.
"I'll get this one," one woman said, placing an adorable set of footed pink hedgehog pyjamas on the counter.
"Excellent choice," the cashier cooed as time marched on once more.
"We'd really like to speak to her, Master Morgan," Moody said.
"She's in a regenerative cycle with Severus," Manfred said. "Talking to either of them is impossible."
"A cocoon of magic while they restore their magical reserves used to sort that royal cock-up in London," a wizard with a thin, hooked nose and beady eyes grunted as he tapped a quill to a clipboard of parchments. "Surely you don't think that kind of powerful magic just happens without serious consequences?"
Alastor glowered darkly at the other wizard. "I won't be long," Alastor said, pushing by them to walk past the closed doors. He came to a halt by a large tank of sorts filled with a shimmering blue liquid.
Severus and the mysterious woman seemed to float within it as tendrils of magic wove in and out of them both. Both seemed to shimmer in and out of chimaeric features— manes, tails, wings, fur, scales, and even humanity. They were caught in each other's embrace even as magic seemed to embrace them both simultaneously.
"What—" Alastor whispered in awe.
Manfred wing-walked into the room, clearly unfazed.
"To prevent a disaster, Roisinn tapped into her human heritage and the magic of an ancient magical lineage. She couldn't maintain it forever, but she did force herself to hold it open so the entire squad could Disapparate to get there in time, thanks to the assistance of Severus, with whom she shares a unique bond deep enough for them to literally share magic."
Manfred yawned hugely, all fangs.
"They both collapsed the moment they arrived at Mungos, and our Unspeakables brought them back home to recover. Master Egon set them into the leytanks, hoping they would be helpful, and it seems they are."
"But?" Alastor asked, sensing there was a bit more to it.
"Some other form of magic seems to be at work here as well," a thin, balding, beady-eyed wizard said as he shuffled in, pushing his glasses back up his nose. "Something incredibly old. Something unfathomable."
"Ancient magic," Egon said, rubbing his chin with his fingers. "The leys aren't just helping them recover. They are of the same primaeval magick. So, too, are you, at least in part. Not as much as those two."
Alastor frowned, rubbing the area beside his eye.
"You have a mane as well as the full transformation, as I recall," Master Egon clarified. "You are of her family, thus linked to her magic. What brought her to us is this very old magick, perhaps guided by a primordial power we have yet to name. Lady Malfoy said there was a very good chance she was meant to be born as her niece, but was prevented by family magic cast either by her sister, You-Know-Who, or her own father."
"I am familiar with the potion, but I was thinking that perhaps Hagrid had simply used blood from a magical person along the line."
"No, someone created the potion using what they thought was merely the blood of a magical, but it was in fact the distilled essence of a magical soul and potential. Had she been born, she would probably have gained past life skills and talents slowly and become quite talented in her own right— but she was put into play as a chimaera cubling instead."
"So, she's really a Black?"
"And you tested her?"
"Yes, but as to her previous knowledge, no one can really say."
"What about her?" he asked, his hand-paw slamming on the glass of the tank, causing it to slosh.
The ley lines that were gentle woven around the pair jostled and moved, rising up in anger as energy crackled ominously.
"Mr Moody!" Egon barked sternly. "Unless you wish to become caught in-between multiple crossed streams of raw ley energy and end up instantly vapourised, I'd highly recommend you not taking your frustrations out on the tank or its occupants!"
"So all this transformative mumbo-jumbo was just some kind of ruddy trick?" Moody growled.
"Why no," Master Egon said, tilting his head and staring down the cranky Auror.
"From the official reports, you yourself said that it was possible that she was at the very least partially human in nature. She was, and I say this with the utmost belief, fortunately able to recall a sense of identity in time to save Muggle London the trauma of believing the IRA was causing even more trouble as well as saving that Potter witch… uh, Lily I believe was the name. And her child, of course."
Moody shifted uneasily, visibly uncomfortable.
"You trusted her before, and she trusted you," Egon admonished sternly. "Why fall to pieces just because she happens to be able to look human some of the time now?"
"She was innocent—"
"She still is," Egon insisted.
Moody stared at his hand-paws even as he stroked his mane in a self-soothing gesture. He sighed heavily.
The leylines seemed to whisper as they were joined by tendrils of ethereal vapour. There was a low chattering sound, like soft voices in a library only the language wasn't quite discernable. The two energies seemed to reach an agreement, and they began weaving together like Celtic knots.
"Fascinating," Master Egon muttered, rapidly quilling down more notes.
"What?" Alastor asked, wrinkles forming between his eyes.
Master Morgan gave a startled squeak as the leys and ether picked him up and examined him, gave him a massage, and then set him back down. They snubbed Master Egon, moving right past him, much to his disappointment.
"Well, those aren't ley energies at all," Egon said, scribbling some more as he waved his wand around to take measurements. "Those are ether-strands from the Veil— you usually only see them in graveyards and such where the the Veil tends to be thinner between the here and now and that which lies beyond the mortal plane."
"Stop scowling, Alastor," Master Morgan said. His expression was sour, but there was a "baby" leyline trying to nestle into his mane, making it somewhat hard to take his fierce expression seriously.
Healer Paddington glided in from the other side of the room, and the leys and tendrils swirled around her, lifting her up to the top of the tank.
"Eee! Why thank you, dears," she said, laughing as she perched on the side of the tank. She waved her wand around, humming and clicking in satisfaction. The rest of the baby strands came over to visit, burrowing into her mane and giving her a Medusa-like appearance.
"You'll be happy to know, my love, that your Apprentices are just fine. Looks like their energy level is stabilising well. Might be a few more days in the tank, but they should come out with no ill effects."
"Excellent," Manfred answered his mate.
There was a sudden flash of energy from the tank, and all the ethereal strands gathered around one trembling strand. It made a strange gurgling sound.
Plunk, ting, ting, ting!
A gold ring with a strange black stone and a coat of arms etched upon its stone went zinging across the floor and bonked into Alastor's boot.
Another one coughed up an ether-drooled locket.
One of the larger strands sneezed out what looked like a delicate jewelled crown. Ether dripped off one of the leys, and it seemed to give the ether-strand a disgruntled stare. The strand hung its "head" in shame.
Another strand sneezed pages onto the shamed one before coughing up a leather binding to go with it.
The other strands stared at the page-sneezing one with curious regards.
The sneezy strand seemed to merely shrug in reply.
Suddenly, the amulets around their necks flared to life with a brilliant, blinding green.
Alastor had Patroni zinging out in all directions, making it look like he was conjuring his own ethereal strands.
Manfred's muzzle curled back in a snarl as he sniffed at the scattered pages.
"You-Know-Who's last will and testament, I believe. How very courteous of him to ensure they were all delivered."
A virtual horde of Unspeakables Apparated in as a containment bubble slammed down upon the room.
Master Egon pushed his glasses up his nose again, nonplussed. "Kindly don't touch anything on the shelves, if you please."
Gringott's Interdepartmental Memo:
Due to some body-chomping Christmas crabs having been mailed to Mr Potter from (presumably) Christmas Island, he will be unable to serve his normal duties this week until his skin heals and his bits grow back. None of us were there for the unboxing, but from the curse-breakers who were being housed in the same area, a Howler apparently arrived along with the package, which proceeded to read him the riot act about Potter and friends having shamefully used a young werewolf for their own ends and encouraging him to romp around the school grounds without a suitable chaperone.
The rest of the missive in question was apparently garbled by hysterical screaming before the Howler itself went up in flames.
It took a few minutes to get the locks off the door in order to rescue him.
Oddly enough, the crabs didn't bother anyone else.
We now have them inhabiting a large semi-aquatic terrarium in the bank lobby for our visitors to stare at.
Someone please send this Mr Lupin a large savings bond. I don't think Hobshank has laughed so hard in centuries. He might have even broken a rib or two.
Gringott's Work-Level Living Quarters Security Department
Owl to Headmaster Dumbledore
I had no idea just what kind of trouble a giant guinea pig could get into until an owl arrived with a box containing a number of self-replicating bright red and orange crabs, which then proceeded to attack, chasing a terrified Mr Black around the classroom.
There was no accompanying letter, Howler or otherwise, and the delivery owl left as soon as it dropped off the "parcel."
The crabs shaved (or rather plucked) the squealing guinea pig until it was completely hairless, and I've subsequently had to move him into a secure warded habitat within the Divination tower.
Afterwards, the crabs were adopted out to the children, which seem quite infatuated with their new young caregivers.
They seem perfectly loveable and remarkably docile— save for whenever they see the unfortunate Mr Black. The children have been warned to not take their crabs to Divination class any longer.
PS: That obnoxious, nasally woman was fawning all over the front gate again. That horrid Trelawney witch.
She was screeching her lungs out about Grims and Doomsday before she literally sneezed off the front gate, only for the gate to promptly snap back into place and punt her out over the forest canopy.
You really need to so something about that witch before the gate ends up killing her by accident.
Most people would have sufficient brains to take an unequivocal "no" for an answer.
I do realise the crabs may have been a bit overkill as an accompaniment to my message, now that I've had some time to think on it. But let me put this to you in a way that allows you to understand that I had something of a grand epiphany the other evening that made me realise that your "good will" to me almost resulted in me becoming a murder weapon. I could so easily have ended killing or infecting countless other people.
Sure, I may have been safe around you, but I'm betting that it was sheer dumb luck and the random enforcement of school rules that kept the other students from going out at night and stumbling upon me after you set me free to roam the grounds wholly unchecked on every full moon.
But, because I know you had a change of heart at least once that prevented Snape from being murdered by my wolf while my human mind was off on walkabout, I will at least give you something quite interesting to chew on as you serve out your time for having cast an Unforgivable curse at him.
Snape personally paid for my acceptance into the resident housing program over here, allowing me to continue my studies and conservation efforts even after I met the terms of my exile from Britain.
I truly wanted to stay, you see, but I was without a single knut to my name and possessed few connections outside the insular community of my fellow furry comrades in penance.
Want to catch the real snitch, mate?
He doesn't even know that I know.
In fact, his uniquely innovative potions are what allowed our conservation project to succeed well beyond our wildest dreams.
He asked for nothing in return.
Nothing at all, James.
Our remarkable success won us sufficient funding to build a small research and observation station and gave us enough to both live on and furnish some much-needed supplies without risking polluting the area. Now we can keep a watchful eye on Christmas Island well out of sight of the Muggles and without leaving any discernible evidence of our covert activities.
And before you try and claim he only did it to ensure that I would never return to Britain, I want you to know that I choose to stay here because, in this place, the wolf is not driven to bite and maim anyone. Wolves have never existed here, so the inner wolf remains dormant. I have no desire to return to the British isles only to once again succumb to the agonising transformations and the terrible, insatiable, bestial desires.
There are about twenty-some of us weres in residence, and, well… I've finally met someone. We plan to marry in this coming September. Her name is Geertje, and until I met her, I never thought I would ever find such a wonderfully loving witch who might actually wish to share a life with a stupid sod like me.
So, let my story help you to pull yourself out of the deep rut I am quite sure you are still wallowing in— in continuing to blame Severus Snape for the shameful downfall brought about by our own foolish choice to hate someone whose only crime was in daring to voice his wish to be a Slytherin and not a Gryffindor.
Rather ironic that he has repeatedly proven himself to be far more honourable than we from the oh-so-noble house of Gryffindor, don't you think?
So instead of pointing the fickle finger of judgment at another, why don't you think about ending the cycle of ever-escalating hatred and retribution that we started so many years ago when we were just a bunch of stupid young boys. Maybe back then we had nothing but our youth and innate prejudices to blame for foolishly idolising who we did, but we are all grown up now, James. The war is over. It is past time that we let the old hatreds die, once and for all
Voldemort was recently unmasked as Tom Riddle Junior— a half-blood wizard who aspired to seize power over all of Britain through the sowing of blood prejudice and countless heinous acts of terror and brutality.
With so many determinedly hiding their heads in the sand and steadfastly ignoring the dangers ahead, he would have soon succeeded, too.
But, do you know who really brought about an end to the war?
It definitely wasn't the so-called Order of the Phoenix or Albus Bloody Dumbledore.
It wasn't Team Gryffindor or Hogwarts either.
It was a wide group of disparate individuals who chose to work together, united under a single purpose, and it didn't matter to any of them who would be the one to land the final blow.
And therein lies the heart of the lesson, my friend.
Do remember and think on all this as you heal, and maybe the next time I see you, we can both say we have finally grown up and become far better and far wiser people than we were.
Severus suddenly found himself in a strange, quiet, misty realm. There was a dark figure sitting on a stone wall that was riddled with a thick green moss.
The figure stood, looking ever so much like a vision of the grim reaper if ever he had seen one. Where the figure's head was supposed to be was the skull of some unknown great beast.
A young woman with a wreath of lush curls rushed up. "Master!"
"Ah!" the figure said, opening his arms, engulfing her in a sea of black. "Your mission is complete, my Lady of the Claw and Stinger. How very creative you have been in dispensing justice to the unwary guilty."
He pressed a fond kiss to her forehead, and the woman beamed brightly back at him.
"Ah, Severus, I see you've finally decided to join us— consciously, at least."
The figure pulled his skull-mask off, exposing a gaunt, feral-looking face that didn't truly make him any easier to take in.
"Do you remember our covenant?"
Severus tilted his head in thought, his dark brows knitting together.
"You and she shall be as one throughout the ages, bound together in My service until it is time to come Home. But, as a gift for your willing covenant into my Get, I will allow you set right what was never intended to be corrupted and bring the one who defies the cycle with no conscience to my most eagerly dispensed justice."
Death smiled, an eerie and almost unnatural thing to see upon a face so utterly intimidating.
Severus felt a wave of distortion as he remembered "Granger" and her steadfast loyalty to the end, their bodies pressed back to back as they drew on Ancient Magick to bring the Dark Lord's minions low just enough to give Harry Potter the chance to take out the man who would have destroyed the world to remake it in his own image.
He remembered "Ballsbridge" the chimaera of Hagrid's making as it had impaled both him and her together— them too weak from their ordeal to take out the beast and survive.
The feel of her hand in his.
The feel of her magic entwined in his.
The rightness of it.
The love in her last squeeze of her fingers in his as they bled out together—
Just like it was with Roisinn— the very same— the startling pure loyalty.
Their blood and magic combined with that of Hagrid's unintentional murder weapon as death approached ever closer.
"I love you," she whispered, her eyes closing as her head sagged against his, their bodies mutually impaled.
Severus Snape's eyes closed, a wince of agony on his face not for the pain of his wounds but for the future he would never see with the one witch who never gave up on him. "Hermione—"
Their bodies went still together.
"I do remember, Master," Severus whispered.
Death nodded with a smile. "My Stone, Cloak, and Wand finally returned to me in the future past. The rise that was never meant to be foiled. The man who would defy Death and by proxy, Life has been transformed into something of beauty that both pleases me and horrifies the tattered remains of his soul— a soul so shattered and broken that it can never be made whole enough to pass on into the afterlife or ever be reincarnated again— save as a most peaceful habitat. What I asked of you has been done well, and for that great service, I will now give you a choice: leave the world you have improved to its own evolution and return Home with me or live in it, serving me in life amongst the living until I do call you Home."
Death leveled his eyes to Severus. "Would you be willing to share your life with the man you would have become, with she who was once his, but is also now your own?"
Severus frowned slightly, having never had to make such a decision before— having never had such a cryptically phrased question posed to him. Could he the one who had been saved from a tortured half-life serving two masters by Roisinn willingly merge with the man who had loved Hermione first?
They were both the same— she and he— bound souls from a different time.
They were both Severus.
Both— Roisinn. Hermione.
Her love had not changed, whether it be cubling or witch— devotion and protection, loyalty to the one she both lived and died with to the very end.
They had been teacher and student, master and apprentice, then— having never had the opportunity to grow beyond the boundaries of their formality. Had they survived, perhaps it would have been even more beautiful in its rareness.
"Severus," she said, her voice so very warm and familiar, like an embrace of both arms and the brush of fur and scales.
He knew what his answer would be.
He looked at Death, setting his shoulders. "I would live in Your service, my Lord," he said.
"And you, my cherished agent of mischief and justice?" Death asked, his fingers brushing the hair from her face.
"I would go with him, wherever he might go, if—" She looked at Severus with a sadness that was inexplicable. "If he would want me."
How could I not?! Severus' heart screamed at him.
He realised that there was no other he could wish for in his life, ever since the moment she had first walked into his lap and stole his fish.
He opened his arms to her even as he opened himself up to the man he could have been. As he pulled her into his arms, they became but a tangle of arms as his face pressed into her mane of curls. A shudder went through him as ethereal va pours danced around and dove through them both.
Whatever came, they would face it together.
All of him and the all of her—
The human and the beast.
"I accept," he whispered as the rush of ethereal tendrils slammed into them both and sang.
Death's bony hand closed upon their joined left hands, leaving upon their ring finger a shining ethereal white bone ring.
"Congratulations on your handfasting," he said warmly as the world faded away into mist. "And welcome to my Get."
Albus walked into the court of the Wizengamot and struggled to keep an impassive face as two great chimaeric beasts lounged, stretching lazily beside the acting Chief Warlock.
There were actually four of them.
Each of the beasts yawned, all fangs and bright orange tongues as their stinger tails swished back and forth.
As the doors closed behind him, he saw there was more than that.
Hagrid's original beasts rested on custom designed perch-shelves seemingly carved out of the very bedrock— the manticore-nundu and the fey-dragon whose body seemed to shift in and out of sight so easily that it was hard to tell precisely what might have gone into her making.
All around him, the Wizengamot was heavily peppered in— manes.
Standing in a wrought iron enchanted "cage" was Rubeus Hagrid. The half-giant cast a fearful look at him even as he grew more hopeful. Somehow the half-giant had been cured of his transformation, but judging by the tremor in the man's body, it was most likely temporary.
Before him, a Pensieve was projecting memories in a three dimensional playback above the pool itself.
"Albus Dumbledore," the Chief Warlock began sternly. "You have been brought before us today to answer to the charges of conspiracy to commit vigilantism, providing support and aid with regard to the illegal breeding of magical creatures by Rubeus Hagrid, tampering with and artefacts and portkey specifically designed to avoid detection by magical authorities, purposely introducing a woman infected with a dangerous strain of dragon pox to the very core of the Ministry while allowing her to run rampant in a wide array of public places, conspiracy to provoke the former Dark Lord Voldemort by attacking an apprentice of one of the Masters of the DoM in order to "retrieve" a pregnant Muggleborn witch who was deliberately kept ignorant of the true nature and severity of her affliction, passing along a custom-made artefact to Lord Lucius Malfoy after entrapping him via a Wizarding Oath with orders to turn it over to the Dark Lord, also known as Tom Marvolo Riddle, knowing that if the Dark Lord tampered with it, it would inflict a powerful paranoia and recklessness hex upon him without consulting or seeking permission from any agency of the Ministry, whether in secret or otherwise, encouraging minor students to wage a bullying crusade against another student en masse without retribution, purposely allowing a werewolf to school at Hogwarts in secret yet providing shoddy warding and defences that a group of children could so easily thwart it,—"
"Pardon me, Chief Warlock and Ladies and Gentlewizards of the Wizengamot, but after such a tediously long list of serious accusations against me, can you provide any significant proof whatsoever that such activities even took place?"
Out of the shadows, Molly Weasley strode in carrying a cage with two nearly-grown kittens with startlingly bright ginger and white fur, Lily Evans stepped out cradling a newborn baby in her arms, James Potter standing silently beside his wife with an unusually grim look on his face, Peter Pettigrew shambled in quietly (having grown back his arms only for them to look disturbingly rat-like), Lucius Malfoy glided in with a bucket-shaped "boulder" with something strange suspended inside it, and Remus Lupin (sporting a strange, glowing metal collar around his neck with petroglyphs etched into it) walked in wearing a tight-lipped, unforgiving expression. Healer Pearl Paddington stepped up with Madam Pomfrey, an impressive armload of scrolls shared between them. Master Manfred Morgan wing-walked out into the light, a distinct snarl plastered on his already alarming visage that spoke of things discovered that were most definitely not liked or appreciated. Minerva McGonagall walked in in her blatantly Scottish tartan regalia, her stiff, angular stance looking far more feline than witchly in character. Others he could not make out the face of filed in behind them.
Dumbledore stiffened at the sight, a soft yet fervent profanity escaping his lips.
Only he was standing on the projection tiles for speakers to the Wizengamot, and his muttered "Oh shite" roared throughout the chambers just as forcefully as if he'd used Sonorous.
He stood up a little straighter as the vivid flames engulfed him, and the shrill cry of a phoenix screamed as the two fireballs collided and rose up together—
The stunned phoenix and wizard slid down what had appeared to be the exit as the huge bulk of Zoë moved in close, her fey dragon camouflage having appeared like both the exit and multiple rows of seated Wizengamot wizards and witches.
Zoë's mouth clamped around them both—
"Lady Zoë!" Kingsley Shacklebolt ran up, waving his arms. "My lady, please— spit them out, please!"
The dragon and the chimaera simply stared at each other for a long, drawn-out moment, before…
Zoë abruptly spat out her drool-soaked victims.
"LONG LIVE THE DARK LORD VOLDEMOR—!" came a cry from amidst the Wizengamot as a wizard stood, summoning the Dark Mark in the middle of the chambers.
Gruffydd pounced, mauled, stung, breathed on, and devoured fully half of the Death Eater sympathizer before another spell could be launched or anyone around him could get over the shock enough to react.
The Chief Warlock straightened his robes and glared out fiercely across the courtroom.
"Would anyone else like to interrupt me today?"
The chimaeras at his side purred in a low, vibrating rumble as the Wizengamot then went back into session without any other word being said out of order.
Former Headmaster Albus Dumbledore Found Guilty of a Shocking Array of Charges
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was found guilty of so many charges that it took the court scribe well over an hour to get through the entire list, most of which were sealed away from the public and are not repeatable in this publication.
As for the ones that could be made public, Mr Dumbledore was found guilty of manipulating the climate of Hogwarts to suit his own personal agenda in an elaborate conspiracy to bring down the Dark Lord Voldemort, also known as Tom Marvolo Riddle.
The same wizard that Dumbledore himself brought over from a Muggle orphanage back in 1938.
Tom Riddle, the self-named Dark Lord Voldemort, succeeded in rising to power and prominence after courting the wealthiest British pureblood families by hitting them where they were most insecure, promising them a return to the Old Ways and to further augment and strengthen the wealth and power they had possessed for untold centuries by ending the alleged "threat" posed by those borne of Muggle heritage. As they eventually discovered, Riddle's solution to said threat amounted to systematic genocide
Unfortunately for those who had been caught up in Riddle's insidious web, by the time they suspected there may have been a darker side to Riddle's stated aims, their own sins had thoroughly obscured the path to redemption, and there was no way out— even for those who really did want out.
While many would rather have died than admit a Muggleborn wizard or witch was in any way comparable to a pureblood magical, that very prejudice is what fueled the rise of the Wizarding War.
Dumbledore stated in his own defence that everything he did was for the "Greater Good", or to stop the rise of Tom Riddle in his quest for ultimate power, but his supposed Greater Good has been peppered liberally with shady activities since the first uprising and defeat of Gellert Grindelwald.
The Wizengamot was apparently split between the previous good Mr Dumbledore had brought about by stopping Grindelwald and the sheer gravity of the charges against him, but after numerous witnesses came forward from family after family, many believed Mr Dumbledore had gone much too far without bothering to consult any official law enforcement or any specialised task force from the DoM.
While Dumbledore claims doing so would have quickly alerted the Dark Lord's many supporters amongst all levels of the Ministry, the testimonies given had the Wizengamot completely deadlocked for well over a month before any decision could finally be made with regard to Mr Dumbledore's many and varied criminal activities.
The final nail in the Wizengamot's case against him, however, was Dumbledore's attempt to escape the grounds which was foiled by one of the DoM's specialised guardian beasts that have been steadily weaving their way into the hearts of many Ministry workers since their initial introduction shortly before the end of the war.
Dumbledore has been sentenced to a specialised cell in Nurmengard, ironically the very prison that holds Gellert Grindelwald.
Rumours have it that certain other countries may be attempting to take on responsibility for Mr Dumbledore in attempt to spare him from "unlawful acts carried out during a time of war."
It is unknown at the time of this publication if these rumours have any truth to them or not.
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Baby Harry scrunched up his face and threw his rattle at Draco causing the other infant to scrunch up his face and kick his plush dragon away to bonk baby Harry square in the head.
Harry promptly began to bawl loudly, completely upset at anything, everything and everyone he could think of in that moment.
Two massive paws slammed down near Harry and Draco. Black paws landed next to Draco and golden ones thumped down next to Harry.
Both babies ceased their tantrums at once and proceeded to stick their feet in their mouths and gum their own toes to death.
Minerva eyed the two bassinets with a shake of her head. "Thank you so much for coming Narcissa, Lucius, Lily, and James," she said. "Severus and Roisinn, I know you've been quite busy of late, so I'm very glad you could make it as well."
The two chimaeras yawned, tongues lolling.
The two babies stared, wide-eyed into the bright orange mouths. Harry sucked on his foot, and Draco stuck the dragon-shaped teething ring into his mouth and chewed on it.
"I've been asking for the opinions of a number of families on what they would like to see changed here at Hogwarts in regards to child safety and stamping out bullying. At a magical school, the dangers are great enough without having the children attacking each other, and I believe it is past time for us to crack down on such things before we get another situation such as we had while Albus was Headmaster." Minerva poured the tea as she spoke. She poured the tea into large bowls next to the chimaera pair, amused as the babies stared at the bright orange tongues flicking in and out to lap up the tea, seemingly unconcerned about the temperature of the liquid.
"Well, as the voice of experience in this case," James said uncomfortably. "I don't want Harry to grow up thinking he can get away with the stuff I did as a kid. I don't even want him to think he wants to do the stuff I did— well, maybe except Quidditch. He's going to be a star Seeker, mark my words."
Lily glowered at James. "Quidditch is hardly safe."
"It's Quidditch! I don't see you complaining about that Muggle "ragbee" stuff you like."
"That's rugby, you berk!"
"Whatever. They deliberately try to slam into each other. At least in Quidditch we're trying to avoid collisions, yeah?"
Lily rolled her eyes and huffed, her nostrils flaring a little, but she said nothing.
James fanned his hands in appeasement, quickly shutting up.
Lucius and Narcissa exchanged amused looks while Severus and Roisinn groomed each other assiduously, utterly unimpressed by their antics.
Narcissa said, "I would like to see less importance placed on the Houses and instead on cooperation. Hogwarts was always known for it, yet in practice it was so rarely done outside the house you were sorted into."
"I would also like to see Sorting happen perhaps in the second year," Lucius said slowly, "perhaps even later. If you have ever raised Crups or Kneazles, you know that the pup or kit is hardly a testament to its adult qualities, so why Sort when a child is so young? At least allow them a year to sort out themselves and show their true natures before throwing them into a house. Perhaps, as my lady wife so said, this will assist in team work. If they were already working together before the Sorting, they will be more likely to do so after, regardless of House."
James looked instinctively appalled at the suggestion, but Lily was already nodding fervently. "I agree."
James looked at the black chimaera and swallowed hard, squaring his shoulders. "I— I know it's the right thing to do."
Lucius and Narcissa stared at Lily and James for a beat and then seemed to take it in. They nodded in once acknowledgment.
"Well," Minerva said, "you'll be happy to know that a few changes, such as Sorting in the second or third year, has already been pre-approved by the Board of Governors as so many parents have suggested similar. We are also working on a no-tolerance for bullying at the school as well, but we are still ironing out the rules on what we consider to be bullying as there is that nebulous, fine line between simple childhood teasing and true acts of bullying."
Minerva's meeting continued on well into the afternoon with her writing down suggestions as the parent couples made their opinions known. Lily, at one point, could take the stress no longer and blurted, "How am I going to teach when I'm pregnant again!" causing all eyes to focus on her with no small amount of curious staring.
Minerva, assured the stressed out young witch, convinced Lily that it was, indeed, possible to teach and be pregnant at the same time. Poppy had delivered quite a few babies in her time, and the house-elves were always nigh on ecstatic about them.
It wasn't until James and Lily flooed home that Lucius cracked his neck and seemed to relax a bit. "I believe congratulations are in order, Severus," he said, nibbling on a biscuit and somehow making it look like a fashion show.
Severus and Roisinn stood up as their forms became bipedal and then shifted from beast to human, causing Draco to clap his little hands and babble happily as he tried to get them to do it again.
"As to what, Lucius?" Severus asked, visibly amused.
"I hear you are having a cubling of your very own," Lucius said, amused as Hermione flushed slightly. "Narcissa, too, is expecting again. A girl this time. She couldn't wait to find out and practically had the poor healer at wandpoint to do the scan."
"Lucius!" Narcissa protested.
Lucius gave her a sly smile, clearly quite proud despite it all.
"How very wonderful for you," Minerva said with a grin. "You know, Hermione, there is a Transfiguration position open now that I have to assume the duties of Headmistress."
Hermione's eyes grew wide, and she pressed into Severus' robes in a silent need for reassurance.
"You would make a fine teacher," Severus said with a gentle brush of his fingers on her cheek. "Unlike myself. I loathe children unless they are our own or easily returnable like Draco."
Lucius sputtered as Narcissa laughed out loud. Hermione flushed a little more.
"We can take care of the shoppe with Severus," Lucius said with a grin. "We can even keep him in line for you."
Severus snorted, crossing his arms across his chest as he looked down his hooked nose at Lucius with a dour expression.
"You can even floo in for the mornings and out in the evenings. Unlike Mr and Mrs Potter, the two of you are not under any special restrictions for work and reporting in locations every day," Minerva said. "Though, I will say, after Albus' trial, James has been— quite a changed man. Motherhood has seemed to ground Lily a bit more as well— enough that I know she'd do well as a teacher if she truly puts her mind to it."
"We do have our other job, Minerva," Severus said meaningfully, wrapping his arm around Hermione to reassure her that he supported her choice above all things, even in the face of Minerva's shameless bribery.
"Well the offer is out there, my dear," Minerva said bracingly. "I've seen you in action, so I know you'd do well at it. Perhaps when Amelia finally tires of you—"
Lucius snorted. "Amelia would give birth to a litter of Crups before she'd ever tire of her favourite chimaeras," he said, smirking. "The have the children on their best behaviour just by being there."
"If only—" Minerva said wistfully.
"Thank you for having us, Minerva," Lucius said. "We must tend to the store. Manfred is manning it at the moment, and I'm quite sure he'll blow it up in spite if we don't bring him dinner."
Hermione giggled, looking up at Severus with true fondness.
Severus took her hand, a small smile playing on his lips.
"Hermione—" Minerva said. "I'm… curious."
Hermione turned back to look at the Headmistress with curiosity of her own.
"Whoever taught you your Transfiguration lessons?"
The couple stepped into the floo, and Severus threw down the powder as he said "Department of Mysteries, Ministry."
Hermione smiled as the flames took them away. "You did."
And then they were gone.
Minerva made a tiny noise that sounded almost identical to a young Scottish wildcat's meow.
Master Cthulhu: Eht Dne.
Spiders: *cheers with front legs up*
A/N: Phew! 12 hour shifts suck the life out of me! It's either work or sleep unless I get a couple days off to simulate a weekend (which is rarely ON a weekend, mind you!) Thank you all for your patience and understanding. Nothing is abandoned, I just need more time in my day that I'm not allowed to work or be pulled into something else! XD
Thank you all for your kind reviews. I may not reply to everything, but I read them all and appreciate every single one!