Long time no see... for that I apologise.

Poor Draco was locked up and forgotten... what mood would that have put him in? Can he be trusted?

Enjoy and please review...

:D

Chapter 56– Worth It

Severus' jaw dropped open; horrified and furious and astounded at Minerva's forgetful gaffe. Whilst he understood, and was even in accordance with, the Headmistress's decision of initial mistrust of the boy, it was the fact that she'd left the child locked up for hours since discovering the truth without even giving him a thought that had him feeling incredulous and exasperated.

However, he knew he could hardly comment, he'd not given the boy any thought until now either… and he had Draco to thank for Phoebe's, and consequently his newborn daughter's, survival and safety. He threw his head back and huffed out a sigh.

"Oh no… I assumed he'd left. I'm sorry, Severus… I didn't even think to ask about him," Phoebe apologised, evidently feeling at least some regret and responsibility herself.

Severus lifted his head and found Minerva's gaze again. "I should see him…explain… see that he's alright. Albus entreated me to look out for the boy… he is my responsibility."

Professor McGonagall kept the gaze with Severus, seriously contemplating her ex-colleagues claim.

"Are you sure you can trust him, Severus? I mean, with this," she began, indicating to Phoebe and the suckling infant, "he's proven himself, obviously… but in the long run this is Lucius and Narcissa's son… and Bellatrix's nephew we're talking about; these connections alone are infinitely dangerous for you… for all of us, really."

Severus nodded, understanding entirely what she was suggesting.

"I rather think those connections might be more dangerous for him at the current time though," he offered instead, thinking of the presently strained, tenuous relationship between Draco and some of his family; and especially if they discovered this latest betrayal and defection. Therefore Severus decided that Draco deserved at least the opportunity to prove his dependability.

"Besides," he continued, "I owe him this chance, I suppose… I can hardly deny him that, can I?"

Minerva's expression, whilst at first doubtful and concerned, soon relaxed into one of resigned compassion. "Yes well, I suppose you're right given the circumstances," she agreed, smiling gently at the new mother and baby bonding during feeding in the chair beside the bed. "Let Poppy finally see to your leg and I'll go get him. Don't worry, he's housed in a classroom in the corridor over, but the house-elves would not have let him starve all this time."

.

Poppy arrived shortly to administer a range of potions, including a strong pain draught that effectively took almost all of his pain away. Severus could hardly express the relief of finally being free of the discomfort of varying degrees that had seemed to have become a constant companion to him for many days now.

The Matron cleaned all his wounds, applied various healing spells and salves before wrapping his injured leg in fresh bandages.

Phoebe finished feeding their infant daughter and left to deal with the very thick, wet sounding noise (which in Severus' opinion had no business coming from such a delicate, little, female body) that had erupted within Seraphoena's nappy.

"There," the Matron announced as she finished, patting her hand lightly upon his shin. "But take it easy, Severus… the wound is not yet fully mended and overdoing yourself will only delay the healing," Poppy warned, knowing immediately this man would take advantage of feeling better to escape the confines of the hospital wing.

Severus was nodding agreeably, though to Poppy he appeared a tad dismissive, whilst already shifting his legs over the edge of the bed.

"I mean it lad, it's important… you are lucky you did not lose your leg, not to mention your life!" Poppy continued to glare adamantly at him until he met her eyes and gave her instructions their due regard.

"How long before I'll be able to walk?" he asked, already considering how long he would be stuck in the uncomfortable hospital bed.

"A few weeks at least…"

He looked horrified, "Weeks!" he exclaimed, but Poppy quickly assuaged his concern, knowing he wasn't the type to like to sit idle for very long.

"… but I'll get you up on crutches perhaps today or tomorrow, and then we'll gradually weight-bare until you can use only a cane safely. After that, when you do venture out of bed, you'll use this at all times until I say otherwise," she insisted pompously. With that she plucked a stick, not unlike a wand, from her matronly apron and transfigured it into a sturdy, traditional, walking cane; holding it out to the dismayed man. Her intention of providing it early was motivational in nature; she knew it would be physically and mentally challenging for him in the coming days.

"How old do you perceive I look?" the dark man sniped, eyeing the aid scornfully.

"Well, stop griping like an old man and you won't be mistaken for one," Poppy threw back cheekily.

He was far from thrilled at being handed such an out dated relic; this cane was eons away from the sleek, sophisticated staff Lucius Malfoy had at one time been seen toting. Nevertheless, Severus took the walking aid knowing he'd likely come to rely heavily on the device despite its lack of style and trend. Besides, he could alter it later when Poppy wasn't looking, he deviously thought.

"Oh, and if you have need of something fresh to wear, or are looking for your wand, take a look in the drawer there," she added, pointing out the cabinet next to him.

He immediately reached to open the drawer she'd indicated and thanked the ghost of Merlin when he saw that a fresh set of his own attire, including a sleek pair of slippers that would be easier for him to slip on for now, filled the drawers, and not ancient, unfashionable robes as he had originally feared. His wand was laid across the top of them.

He looked to Madam Pomfrey and offered his gratitude; for despite the old biddy's frequent, annoying taunts and antiquated taste he appreciated her wisdom and skill. "Thank you," he said with a short nod and a quirk of his mouth.

She offered him a nod in return. "Do you want a hand to dress?" she asked, and despite feeling self-conscious Severus knew he couldn't achieve the task on his own just yet. He nodded.

SSOCSSOC

When Poppy emerged and hooked open the curtains surrounding the bed, Severus was all dressed and groomed (his wand safely and satisfyingly stowed up a black sleeve) sitting comfortably in the bed. Phoebe still hadn't returned and Severus wondered what was keeping her. Surely the job of changing Seraphoena's nappy couldn't have been that demanding… even for a Muggle.

He glanced around the room, appreciating the new view until his gaze landed on the Lovegood girl's bed across from his. Hers was uncurtained as well and even from here he could make out the ugly, raw scars that stretched across her face marring her once easily tolerable features.

'It is a shame', he thought, 'the girl would likely have married well if she'd not been scarred; she'd not been considered unattractive before this. And her eccentricity is not ineludibly appealing,' he decided, 'not if one actually took the time to consider her on occasion wild ideas critically.'

After all, Luna Lovegood's opinions and beliefs were very often based in sound magical theory, and as it turned out ninety per cent of the time could not necessarily be disproved.

Severus frowned slightly; contemplating how the girl often made him consider how much stock anyone should put in widely pre-established and embraced beliefs. 'We should all be prepared to think more outside the square from time to time,' he decided, and that thought made him in turn think about his recent and idiotic disagreement with Phoebe about his resurfacing old prejudices regarding Muggles. He was going to have to get his act together now that he had a family – a family not unlike the one he had grown up in; of blended blood. He could no longer fanny about sulking and wallowing in past hurts and ancient preconceptions. And he certainly didn't want to hand down the same legacy to his daughter as his father had to him. For really they behaved essentially the same, except Severus had once despised Muggles, whilst his father had resented Wizards; perspective only really separated them. His childhood had been harrowing and forged a lot of his bitterness; Severus wanted only happiness and security for Seraphoena's.

He nodded in acknowledgement to the young woman across from him as he caught her eyes and thought again that altogether Luna Lovegood really was an enchanting girl, and why should she have to suffer the rest of her life because of this? Severus immediately decided he would take some time to consider what, if anything, he could do to help her. As a Potions Master perhaps he might be able to suggest something the Mediwitch had yet to consider.

"You look as though you're feeling better, Sir. It's good to see," Luna said quietly, her voice weak and shaky. Severus only now realised that the girl must have seen him at his worst and how he'd coped with it all. He was slightly embarrassed at how he might have been perceived.

He met her gaze again and nodded; agreeing. "Much, Miss Lovegood, thank you," he responded to the badly scarred girl. He didn't think bringing up her marred appearance would be very tactful or constructive just now so left his comments at that.

"Seraphoena is beautiful… they let me see her," she said tiredly. "Congratulations, Sir."

Severus was stunned a little by the girl's generosity given her own circumstances and he swallowed down a lump that had formed in his throat. "Thank you… I am sure she has taken on all the attractiveness of her mother," he answered a little awkwardly.

"No… not all of her lovely features came from Phoebe," Luna responded immediately, before she turned her head and closed her eyes to rest.

Severus was quite overcome with the girl's very flattering frankness. Now she had closed her eyes he took the opportunity to peer a little more intently at her scars; wondering again if he might be able to do something of value to help her.

"I wish you a speedy recovery, Miss Lovegood," he offered softly to the resting girl.

Her lip curled up at one end a smidge. "Thank you, Sir," she said equally as quietly without opening her eyes.

After a few more moments gazing at the injured, young witch, Severus turned his attention in the direction of the Medi-witch's office, where he'd supposed Phoebe and his daughter had disappeared to. He felt a sudden frustration as he realised he couldn't even walk the several meters to check. It would have been much more convenient had he injured his arm instead of his leg, he decided with slight bitterness.

The sound of the main Infirmary doors opening distracted him and he turned to see Minerva returning with the Malfoy heir, who appeared quite well, although a little ruffled and dirty.

"Draco…" Severus began, but he found himself suddenly speechless.

"Sir," Draco responded, his tone hinted of surprise and wonder. "For a while I was afraid you must have died." The teenager came closer and sat on the chair next to the bed. Minerva stayed several meters away, evidently not wishing to intrude, but not willing to leave the young Death Eater alone with the vulnerable man just yet.

Severus shook his head. "No… not quite," he replied. He felt bad the boy had been waiting so long in worry, but admitting to him that he'd been forgotten was not the kindest explanation. "I was, however, in a bad way," he offered instead, and let Draco assume what he would from the statement.

Draco's eyes had skimmed down to his injured leg and he obviously noted the bulky bandages beneath his trousers.

"I'll recover, Draco," the dark man said.

"Yeah," the boy replied, nodding, "that's good."

The boy's demeanour was oddly subdued and Severus instantly wondered what other facts the boy wasn't aware of.

"I wanted to thank you… I cannot express how much it means to me what you did for me," Severus said earnestly.

Draco looked even more downcast. "I tried… but…" the boy's muttered statement dwindled off.

Severus gazed at him for a moment before correcting the boy. "You succeeded, Draco."

The blonde teenager snapped his eyes up to Severus' sharply. "What?"

Severus swallowed his own rising emotions. "They survived: Phoebe and my daughter. And I have you to thank for that."

Draco was clearly shocked by the news. "Really?" he questioned.

His former Head of House nodded. "Yes."

Draco huffed out an incredulous sigh. He took a few moments to process what he'd been told, then recaptured Severus' gaze. "A girl?" he asked, somewhat surprised.

Severus returned a small smirk and nodded again.

"Wow." Draco pushed suddenly to his feet and offered his outstretched hand to his former teacher. "Congratulations, Sir," he offered graciously, and Severus again marvelled at the pure-blood's manners; he'd been brought up impeccably when it came to the finer details of privileged life.

Before he could return his thanks Phoebe entered the ward from Madame Pomfrey's office with a swaddled bundle in her arms. She approached the bed and looked gratefully at the teenager shaking Severus' hand.

"Draco," Phoebe gushed. She passed the infant quickly off to her father and swooped suddenly on Draco before the startled boy had the chance to retreat. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and drew him into a thankful hug; kissing his reddening cheek for good measure. "Thank you so much. And I'm sorry and hope I didn't scar you for life by making you witness such a traumatic labour."

Phoebe released the boy and he fell back a step, looking a little scared right now. If Severus hadn't been so absorbed in the sight of his tiny daughter he might have chuckled at the look of the teen.

"Er… that's fine," Draco stammered, appearing quite wrong-footed.

Phoebe turned to Severus. "Well, let him see Seraphoena…" she turned back to the blonde teenager, "would to like to hold her?" she asked.

Severus felt slightly disappointed and annoyed at having the infant stripped from him again when Phoebe reached to scoop her up, but quickly he conceded to her intention. When things calmed down in a few days he hoped to have hours alone to dote on his tiny newborn.

Draco was shaking his head in the negative, but Phoebe didn't heed him, ushering him quite firmly back into his chair and handing him the swaddled child.

Once Draco had the baby securely in his arms Phoebe introduced her. "This is Seraphoena Eileen Snape. What do you think? She was worth it, wasn't she?" she asked, only now letting on that she was well aware of Draco's defection from the enemy camp for their benefit.

Seraphoena was squirming, having been passed around and not allowed to settle, and had managed to free one arm from her blanket which shot out and her tiny hand grazed Draco gently on his cheek.

He gasped lightly, then looked up to Phoebe and softly answered with a gentle nod, "Yes."

Draco then sought out Severus' gaze and after a few moments the dark man nodded to him. "I'm still looking out for you, Draco… no matter what."

Draco looked stricken and nodded back before gazing again at the infant in his arms. He lifted Seraphoena the short distance to his lips and kissed her lightly on her tiny forehead.