Eileen Prince had always regretted that her only child had not been a daughter.

Maiden. Mother. Crone.

The three faces of a witch. Three stages of womanhood. No accident either that they were traditionally shown with a smoking cauldron. Even Dumbledore, as knowledgable as he was about potions, never truly understood what Severus told him about the distaff brewers of ancient history. The hags. The crones. The wild women of the moors.

Eileen gave up the potential her first pregnancy had offered her. She had allowed her husband's prejudice to make that choice for her, and in later years, the shadow of bitter resentment had never left her eyes. The chance had been lost forever. Once innoculated to the prescence of a child, the magic never again reacted with such desperate and all consuming curiosity.

Regardless, his mother taught him what she knew of potions. That which she had learned from her mother, who had learned from her mother before her. The skills which Severus would pass to his own daughter, when she was born. A long tradition stretching back far beyond the years when Merlin tupped his sister to see her power grow, then betrayed her when he feared the consequenses.

Legilimency had always seemed a much better answer.

There had been times when he had resented Lily nearly as much as he had admired her. Just by being female, she owned something he could never possess. No matter how hard he worked. No matter how much he loved the brewing of magic. He had thought at least, she might share that mystery with him.

But Potter thought the traditions were old-fashioned.

And by then, Lily was no longer his friend.

Muggleborn that she was, she had not even realized what she stood to gain, and it had all come out wrong when he tried to tell her. She had accused him of trying to trick her into mimicing her so-called betters and making a fool of herself. Not to mention sabotaging her magic for nine months. She hadn't believed him, when he'd said he would protect her.

She had angered him almost onto hatred then, to so casually give up a gift he could never possess. And somewhere, deep inside, a part of him would always be a sixteen-year-old Legilimens who truly thought his mother might forgive him if he could share what he might have learned.

"Shall I tell you a secret, Ms Granger?"

There was silence. Then a soft shuffle as she slipped out of the shadowed doorway and into the library. That she did so willingly, when she had never entered this room while he was present, did not escape him. Brown eyes, always so irritatingly vulnerable in his memory, pierced him with a cold stare that should have appeared out of place on a woman swelling with child. Somehow, it seemed fitting. This woman. This child.

The boy lying in a hex-induced coma upstairs.

She had deliberately placed his body between herself and Lucius today. Instinct, he was certain, more than trust. A witch's pragmatism; a mother's ruthlessness. Yet, she had not relinquished her guardianship over Potter. Her mind and her instincts were in agreement on that front. She would have sacrificed Severus without hesitation.

He had to make certain she understood the potential cost.

"The curse you have been trying to identify in Potter is called Mother's Lament," he said shortly.

He smiled mirthlessly as her eyes suddenly widened. "I see you understand." He gestured toward her belly and she moved one hand protectively in reflex.

It was not a well-known curse. The cure was said to have been discovered as a witch wept for her cursed children. There might even have been a grain of truth to the story. Only it was blood, not tears.

Lily's blood would suffice to brew the antidote. There was no other substitute. Severus had faked Potter's death for one reason only. To buy time to finish his research. Predictably, the Dark Lord had been murderously livid when he discovered what had happened and no one to tell him who had cursed the boy. Severus had no intention of admitting that the non-verbal curse that dropped the boy had been his own.

It had been the only way to get what he wanted.

Dumbledore, for all his Muggle-loving ways, had been very uncomfortable with certain types of genetic research. It came too close to raising the dead in the old wizard's mind. Severus suspected Dumbledore had not believed him the night Severus told him they needed Lily's blood as a weapon. There had been too many times Severus had looked up and caught a fleeting and poorly hidden look of disgust in the Headmaster's eyes.

The result of Dumbledore's suspician had been unfortunate. He had refused to allow the necessary research and experimentation. Research the Dark Lord - and Lucious - had generously funded after Potter fell. As it stood now, once the boy was revived, the Dark Lord would take possession of his body as had always been intended. If Potter survived, the Dark Lord would once again possess a human body - and Potter's unbroken soul.

The cycle of Horcrux creation would begin all over again.

"The Dark Lord requires only her blood,"he told the witch bluntly." Something he could acquire at this very moment if her survival was not an issue. I am still valuable to him, however, and the Dark Lord does not throw away the lives of loyal servants unnecessarily. For the moment, the contract protects you."

He felt no need to tell her that the Dark Lord would also want to be certain the potion worked, before he risked his Potion Master's life. Severus had been careful to balance confidence in his research and caution. For once, the Dark Lord seemed to understand caution. Then again, he no longer possessed the Horcruxes of the past. Potter was the last.

The Dark Lord needed a healthy Lily as much as Severus.

The house seemed to take a deep breath around him. Severus froze and eyed the walls with some trepidation. The last time the house had done this, roots had burst forth from the first floor baseboards and driven themselves through the stone flooring and deep into the earth beneath. The broken stone had shifted and smoothed itself flat, neatly accommodating the new addition.

When nothing further seemed to happen, Severus allowed himself to relax. Slightly. He turned his attention back to the witch looking at him with contempt.

"Parlor tricks,Miss Granger,"he said disdainfully."They will not stop the Dark Lord if he comes for you."

Although, truthfully, no one had tried impaling him on a tree before.

It could work.

More likely, however, the Dark Lord would burn the house to the ground and all within it. No...his original plan was best. Allowing her to experience a traditional first pregnancy had been an indulgence. A gift to himself. For once, the action held no hidden secrets. When all was said and done, he just wanted to see it happen. He wanted someone to be able to sense the gentle bloom of magic as she stirred and listened to it whisper.

He had already willed her the family journals. If the Light survived and he did not, someone might live to recall his mother's legacy. He could trust now that she would take care of Lily. Love her. Teach her. Miss Granger's knowledge of potions was a poor substitute for his own, but she would teach his daughter what she could. And she would understand and protect her when it came time for Lily to have a child of her own.

He had made certain of it.