Tallis moved quickly into the small examination room, his mind already leaving his last patient and focusing on the next one. A young boy, it would seem looking from the paperwork he had just been handed. Only two years old, and suffering from burns of some sort. This should be an easy healing session, and then he could take a short rest in the lounge with the other healers.
He paused for a moment, shocked by the appearance of the oldest Creevy boy, standing behind the small child, comforting him. Had that much time passed, that Colin Creevy had not only graduated but had time to father a child? A quick glance through the years confirmed that over four years had passed since the death of Voldemort. Merlin, how time had flown. Tallis was still surprised by how quickly the wizarding world insisted upon growing up though, in spite of the fact that they typically lived nearly twice as long as muggles. You'd think they would want to slow things down, take their time. But instead, most of his classmates had married immediately out of Hogwarts, and had started having children almost immediately.
At the last moment he remembered to look down at his chart, feigning the need to look up Colin's name. "Mr. Creevy. So good to see you again." He looked over at Colin, shocked to realize that he actually had to look up to meet the previously-tiny Colin's eyes. Merlin, it looked like he really was fated to remain the smallest Gryffindor, even if no one else really knew it.
"You as well, Healer Snape," Colin said with a smile, a hint of his prior adoration showing through, although now it was heavily tempered by age and maturity, as well as the fact that he was near the famous Healer Snape, and not the famous Harry Potter.
As a healer, Tallis had gained fame almost immediately, as details of how he awakened his father from a "coma" spread further and further into the healing community. This one time feat was followed by other remarkable healings during his mastery training. By the time Tallis was finished with the program, hospitals throughout the world were vying for his attention. In a move that surprised no one who knew him, he settled down in St. Mungo's Hospital, unwilling to leave his father and lover to move elsewhere. Since money held no lure for him, and fame would never appeal, he had no incentive to move to one of the more famous, well-funded hospitals in other areas of the world.
Tallis smiled. "It looks like young Nate has suffered some minor burns." He ran his hands gently over the affected areas, not yet channeling any magic through his hands. "I assume this is from your lab?" he asked, knowing that Colin was now employed as one of the primary photographers for the Daily Prophet. Although he didn't bother to subscribe to the paper, his friends kept him updated on his old classmates.
"Yes. Curious boy pulled the cauldron over to see what was inside. It was just some processing solutions – nothing too harmful, I think."
Tallis studied the boy in silence for a moment, making certain he had identified all of the magical and reactive ingredients in the potion that had caused the burns. Luckily, most of the damage had been due to the heat of the potion, rather than the ingredients, just as Colin had thought. He stepped back and reached his hand out to the child, holding it about two feet away, channeling his healing magic toward the boy.
Nate started to move toward the small healer, reaching up for his hand, but Colin grabbed him in time to prevent them from touching. By the time he had the child settled on the table again, Tallis had finished his work. "Sorry about that, sir," Colin said apologetically. "Nate's never been to a healer like you before."
Tallis smiled and nodded easily. "Not many have." He got that reaction a lot, and luckily the nurses had started to warn his patients not to touch him while he was healing. It had prevented many accidents, once the patients knew what to expect. Since all of the other healers at St. Mungo's needed to be touching their patients to be able to heal, the citizens of the magical community had no idea what to expect at first. Of course, there were other healers in the world who likewise could not touch their patients, but none of them were quite as extreme as Tallis – most of them held their hands about an inch or two away from the patient's skin. "How have you been doing since graduation? Still at the Prophet?"
Colin grinned, thrilled that Tallis knew where he worked. "Yes. They've given me another promotion. I'm in charge of the entire sporting department – both magical and muggle sports. Just did a game for the Chudly Cannons last week."
Tallis smiled. "Ron will be thrilled to hear it. He doesn't get to their games as much as he'd like, but he's there more than most."
"And how have you been, since the end of the war?" Colin asked hesitantly, uncertain if he should be asking the Healer such a question.
Tallis grinned. "Great. Bill and I have built a small home on the Snape grounds, and we're just a five minute walk from my father. It's nice to have the privacy though. Bill's still with Gringott's – he claims that they have the most interesting curses to work through, and for now he won't consider moving elsewhere for a more exciting job. And I love it, here at the hospital."
"You deserve it," Colin said. "You've done a lot for us. We can never repay you," he finished softly.
Tallis stared at him blankly. Could he know? Or was he just talking about how Tallis had healed Dennis' broken arm during his training, and this small healing session today? Surely he didn't know who Tallis used to be. Surely.
"If there's ever anything we can do, you know Gryffindor House will stand behind you, and help with whatever we can," Colin said.
The Gryffindors…. That could only mean one thing. Tallis nodded stiffly, still in shock. They knew? The Gryffindors knew?
"Come on, Nate, back to work," Colin said, turning back to his son, and effectively ending the eerie mood that had swept over the small room. "Well, see you around, Tallis. It was good running into you again."
Colin and his son disappeared down the hall, and Tallis shook his head to clear the surreal scene from his mind. All this time, and they had all known. He wondered for a moment who else knew, and if they would continue to keep his secret. He wondered what had given him away, and then immediately decided it didn't really matter. A smile found its way onto his face. They were Gryffindors. Of course they would continue to protect their own.
Skin DeepSkin DeepSkin DeepSkin Deep
Bill moved silently through the dusk, spotting his destination within only a few minutes of searching. He moved more quickly now, nervous, and eager to just get it out. He set the bottle of bourbon on the small table, making Severus look up from his book in shock.
"Out in the gardens without Tallis?" Severus asked in surprise. Although it was not unheard of for Bill to visit him alone, it was certainly rare.
"He's working the night shift, which is convenient because I needed to talk to you," Bill said, sinking into the seat at the other side of the wrought iron table.
Severus cocked an eyebrow in question, but did not say anything. Instead he focused on opening the fine bourbon and pouring two glasses.
"I've been with Tallis for seven years, now," Bill started, stumbling over his words in his nervousness.
Severus nodded, sensing with a sinking heart where this was leading.
"Now that Voldemort is dead, the muggles are dealt with, the Headmaster is safely locked into Benthams, and Tallis' identity seems to be safe, it seems time for us to make the next step. I would like to ask Tallis to marry me."
Severus sat in silence, turning over the words slowly. Although it was not completely unexpected, it did not mean that he was prepared for it. No father is ever prepared for their child to grow up and marry. Oh, he had tried to prepare himself for it last year when the boys built their own cottage on the Snape grounds, but he was seriously deluding himself if he thought that he was ready for…this.
Bill sat in silence, trying not to count the seconds and then the minutes as they passed.
"Tallis is my only child," Severus said slowly, stating the obvious in a manner that was usually repugnant to him. Bill simply nodded. "He is the sole heir to many powerful bloodlines. Both the Evans and the Snapes would die with him, as well as the Prince line, through my mother. It is unlikely in the extreme that I would ever have another child."
"You are yet young. You have many years yet to father a second child."
Severus narrowed his eyes in exasperation, his meaning quite clear. Bill nodded in acknowledgement of the intent – whether he was capable of fathering children was not the question. Severus Snape was a man who liked his solitude and who was unlikely to venture into society long enough to meet a second lover. The death of Narcissa Malfoy years earlier had cinched the deal. Severus was content with his life, and saw little reason to change it.
Severus continued. "There will be no more Snape heirs from me. Tallis is…everything," he said, the simple word carrying so many meanings that Bill needed to blink. As always though, Severus had managed to say precisely the right thing, with a certain economy of words that few others could match. "The Weasley clan was blessed with seven children," Severus continued, his hesitation to say the wrong words clear. "Seven chances to carry on the line."
Bill nodded, and poured both of them a second drink. He had been prepared for this, in spite of his token denial earlier. "I am the eldest son, but I am not needed in the way that Tallis is," he acknowledged. "My father's cousin bears the title in our family, and after him it will go to his son and then his granddaughter. It is very unlikely for the title to descend to our branch of the family." He paused for a long moment, choosing his words carefully. "And even were that day to come, Charlie would make a fine lord, if he chose to accept the title."
Severus looked up slowly, hesitantly meeting the eyes of the man he had long thought of as his son in law in practice, if not in actual fact. "You would give this up?"
"Without a second thought," Bill said adamantly. "If you were willing to accept me as a Snape, I would gladly become William Snape."
A hesitant smile found its way onto Severus' face. "The name becomes you." Bill grinned. "What will your parents say of this? It goes against all traditions – you are the elder, and the more dominant in the relationship. By rights, he should take your name."
"He is the more powerful of us, and his family has a more prestigious title. I think it was pretty evenly split, which way it should have gone. I know that typically age and dominance decides who takes the other's name, but it is not unheard of to allow something else to determine it. And I'm sure my family has been predicting this for many years now, although I have not discussed it with them yet. I wanted to get your permission, first."
"When will you ask him?"
Bill shrugged, at ease now that the largest stumbling block had been passed by. "I'm not sure. I want to wait until the time is right."
Severus nodded, trying to decide whether he should tell Bill what he had been working on for the past two years or if he should keep it to himself a little longer. The bright stars and heavily scented flowers seemed to encourage him to open up. "You know that there are potions to assist in planting a man's seed into a woman he has never been with, don't you? Muggles call it in vitro fertilization, I believe." Bill nodded. "I have been working on adapting the potion to blend the essences of two wizards, in a willing witch or muggle woman to carry the child."
"The child would have three parents?" Bill clarified, wanting to make certain that this potion wouldn't eliminate the need for a mother's genetic contribution entirely. That sounded too close to Dark magic, to toy with genetics in a way that would eradicate an entire bloodline from a child.
"In effect, yes. There is simply no way to do this without the woman's contribution."
"Hermione has offered to carry a child for one of us, when the time comes. Perhaps now the child can be from both of us." Bill smiled at the thought, although he knew it would likely be a few years before any of them were ready for it.
Severus nodded, and then raised his hand slightly to call for silence. In a moment Bill too heard the rustle of someone walking along the paths in the garden, and within moments Tallis appeared.
"Off already, love?" Bill asked, surprised to see him so early. He was glad he had not delayed going to Severus to talk, as he had wanted to do.
"It's a slow night. They told me to go home and they would floo me if they needed my assistance. It's a beautiful night," he said, sinking into the third chair, between his father and his lover. Severus poured him a small drink and set it near his hand, although he knew it was unlikely for his son to drink at all on a night when he was on call.
The three men sat in silence, enjoying the night calm.
"Minerva will be retiring at the end of the school year," Severus announced, breaking the still. "She wrote me today. Still seems to think I might want the position."
Tallis and Bill laughed quietly. She would never change. "That woman certainly had her delusions," Tallis said fondly. "At least she was able to get the school back into order, after the mess with the prior headmaster," Tallis said, having calmed down greatly in the intervening years. Although he had felt betrayed by her actions during the first year of his apprenticeship, he now understood better that she was just trying to make ends meet during a truly terrifying time. And she had done an admirable job getting the students straightened out, calmed down, and learning again remarkably quickly after the scandal with Dumbledore.
"I saw a posting today for a Healing Potions and Advanced Treatments conference in August. Do you want to go?" Tallis asked his father, changing the subject before they all descended into dark thoughts about the war. "Last year they had some interesting lectures." The hospital liked to send Tallis to these conferences because he could typically learn the new treatment just during the first demonstration, and would require no additional training like most of the other healers present. He could then return to the hospital and train some of the other healers in the new techniques.
"Where is this one?" Severus asked, hesitant to accept. Although he was in no way a recluse, he still only rarely left the grounds, and even then it was usually to go to one of a handful of locations, all of which were well known to him.
"It's in Sweden. I think you'd really like it."
"Are you presenting anything?"
Tallis shook his head. "I hate doing that. I'm just going to learn."
Severus nodded his head. As long as he could have Tallis with him the whole time, he wouldn't mind it too badly. The last conference he had attended had been one that Tallis had presented at, and the other attendees had been constantly pulling Tallis away from him to question about his theories. It had been aggravating in the extreme, for both of them. "I suppose I could manage that."
"Mum's asked all of us over for Sunday dinner," Bill said, informing them of the invitation for the first time. "I think the twins might have an announcement to make. She sounded excited."
"I shall await the announcement with bated breath," Severus said dryly.
"D'you think they're opening another store?" Tallis asked sleepily, spinning the glass between his hands. "Or is Fred finally ready to announce an engagement with that young woman he's been dating?"
Bill shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. I haven't talked to either of the twins in the last two weeks. Guess we'll see Sunday."
"The whole clan will be there?" Severus asked, his voice pained at the very thought of the chaos that would ensue with the burgeoning Weasley family.
Bill grinned, knowing that most of the irritation was put on. Severus loved the Weasleys in small doses. He loved feeling like part of a large family, and he loved that he was always included on any invite that Bill and his son received to any of the Weasley events. He would just never admit it. "Every single one. Even Charlie's coming in."
"I haven't seen Charlie since Christmas!" Tallis said, pleased to see his old friend. "It must be big news."
"We'll need to floo Draco and invite him. I haven't had time to write him a letter," Bill said. "I hope he hasn't made plans yet." Draco had been added as an honorary Weasley about three years ago, when his mother died and he started spending more and more time with his godfather and family. Like Severus, Draco complained every step of the way into the Weasley home, but unlike Severus, he was unable to hide his simple joy at finally finding a big, happy family to fit in with.
"As if Dray would ever skip a Weasley dinner," Tallis scoffed, and then yawned.
"Has he started dating anyone yet?" Bill asked, knowing that Tallis probably saw the young Malfoy lord more than anyone.
Tallis shook his head. "No. He seems content to be alone."
"There is nothing wrong with solitude," Severus said.
"Of course not," Tallis said easily. "I think he just needs a bit of time to himself, before he will be ready to be with someone else. He's kind of been eyeing up Hermione recently, if you noticed that at the last dinner."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I had not, although they would make a fine couple."
"He even went to visit her at University. His first time at a muggle school. I'm sure it was enlightening," Tallis said with a snicker. From what Hermione had told him, Draco had a rather violent run in with an elevator (which still wasn't working properly after the curses he had used on it) and had nearly been run over by a car. Not too bad, for his first solo foray into a muggle area.
"I had been so sure Ron and Hermione would wind up together," Bill said, his confusion with the situation evident.
Tallis and Severus laughed. "Those two were doomed from the start, and they both knew it. Besides, Ron's much better matched with Cathy," Tallis said, speaking of the muggle woman he had met while visiting Hermione at Oxford during her first year. Hermione had chosen to pursue a muggle college degree after finishing at Hogwarts, and she was still uncertain what she would do when she graduated at the end of the month. Her roommate, Cathy, had turned out to be just what Ron needed in a spouse, and they had clicked immediately, to everyone's satisfaction. The poor woman was almost constantly harassed by Mr. Weasley though, in his unending quest for information about the muggle world.
Tallis sighed in content and leaned over to rest his head on Bill's sholder. "I'm beat. Want to go to bed?" he asked sleepily.
Bill glanced over to Severus to make sure they were finished with their discussion. "Go on, you two. I'll straighten up here," Severus said.
"Good night," Severus called out as Bill led his son away. He watched them disappear through the trees, his heart aching just a little bit. His little boy would be getting married.