Servianus Velius Prince tapped his fingers impatiently on the edge of his knee as he waited for Miss Thistlewood's to return from her meeting with the boys.
He had thought that her intermnible recitation before the high council had been difficult to wait through: hearing the details of his grandchildren's miserable childhoods read out for the entire council to hear and gossip over was beyond the pale. He was not a criminal, nor had ever acted in a manner that brought shame on his house, yet here his crimes had been read out as if he were a commoner, with none too few knowing eyes watching, far too smugly.
By comparison, that meeting had been as a child waiting for trifles on yule. Waiting for the fluttery buerocrat to produce his grandchildren felt truly interminable - giving him a seeming eternity to debate what he was about to do.
He prayed, silently, that they were sufficiently well-mannered to hear his proposal in its entireity for his nerves were well-frayed, and his control of his temper always more tenuous when he was in such a state.
He would control himself, he chastised mentally, punctuating the thought with a firm tap of his cane onto the Healer Potter's carpeted office floor. It have been a more satisfying gesture if it had returned a satisfying crack of sound, but even out in the corridor the healer had deprived him of that small comfort with cushioning charms and sound suppressing charms on the alabastar tiles.
What in Merlin's name could be taking the woman so long?
Ignoring the healer's sympathetic gaze when he drew his eyes back from the door to the corridor, Servianus struck the tip of his cane into the carpet again, harrumphing in irritation with its continued lack of report.
'I do not fathom that it could take the woman any longer to produce the children if she were trussing them up as a goose to serve for yuletide feast." He complained brusquely, intent on prompting the healer to speed the woman along.
"Yes, it does seem to be taking some time, but please realize that while both boys are on the road to recovery, Servas has had a more difficult rehabilitation and is not able to move quickly, although he has been able to move about unassisted since yesterday afternoon." The healer commented missatributing and worsening Servianus's discomfort as he continued, inanely, "Severus has been quite patient with his brother's restricted pace, but both should be here soon."
As if on cue, the door to the to Healer Potter's office opened, and Thistlewood bustled through, almost pulling the clearly reluctant boys in beside her.
"Wow." Servas murmured softly, drawing Severus's attention from his grandfather, "You'll look just like him."
The certainty in his voice caught Severus by surprise. Even after Healer Potter had stopped asking questions, his 'twin' had chosen to speak very little, even to him, and even then, only when they were alone. Perhaps it was out of natural caution, fear, or lingering trauma from whatever he had suffered before Severus and Lily had discovered him. The few times he had spoken, it was almost always stammering, hesitant, and rife with uncertainty.
This time, Servas seemed completely certain and utterly comfortable with the comment, staring at the elderly man with the most curious, and... trusting... expression that Severus had seen him display to date, which made no sense at all.
Servas had to this point seemed distrustful of everyone, outside of Severus, himself, including Healer Potter and the Headmaster, whom his seeming distrust of still worried Severus tremendously. Why on earth should he trust a wizard, whom he had no way of knowing, simply on the basis of a similarity of appearance that, frankly, Severus couldn't see.
"What?!" He questioned, astonished.
"You will." Servas asserted again, "You'll look just like him, except he has white hair, and I haven't seen you with white hair, but your face will look just like his."
As his words sunk in, Servas veritibly shrunk under his gaze, and not his alone; all three of the adults were staring at him with curious and thoughtful expressions.
"Are you saying you have 'sight' boy?" His grandfather questioned, and Severus suppressed a quiet sigh as Servas' hesitance returned and the smaller boy slid a bit behind him, looking up to him for an answer.
"It is not a question I can answer for you," Severus coaxed in a neutral tone, having discovered that it was easier to coax an answer from Servas if he seemed disinterested.
When Servas still hesitated, he continued, "nor one with an incorrect answer" to assure his twin that there were no repercussions that could perceivably discount their claimed status. While there was no way for Servas to know it, the Prince family shared a blood line with the well-known Trelawny seers, and Severus -himself- had felt, more than once, that he might have a trace of the talent, receiving small inclinations and intuitions before something bad occured and was certain that the gift had kept him from being on the wrong side of some of James Potter's nastier little traps.
"So-me-tim-es," Servas stammered, "I think... I - I mi-ght... know about some-thing that might hap-pen."
Servas hadn't flinched, noticeably, but Severus could still see that he was nervous about their reaction to his agreement. Was this why he'd been abused and abandoned? Had Servas made a prediction that disturbed his... well, Severus couldn't call who ever Servas had been with before caregivers, but guardians didn't fit either. Abusers was the only word that fit, outright, but it still made Severus wonder what had happened to Servas's family and how they could share the viva maternalia spell without the ministry having a record of it.
"Hmmmph, well it's in our blood, to be certain," the elder Prince agreed, "but like parsletongue, I'd never thought to see another generation with the gift."
"Parsletongue?!" Servas asked in quiet alarm, glancing back and forth between Severus and his grandfather.
"Yes, we're descended from Salazar Slytherin, beget by his youngest daughter with Galahault Leopoldos Prince. Although it is a much maligned gift, those of us who were born with it, have been given little cause to regret it."
"It isn't as dark as people try to make it seem," Severus began, hedging his statement as he glanced at the healer and the ministry case-worker. Healer Potter merely looked curious, while Mis Thistlewood's expression was a mix between slightly dissapproving, conflicted, and slightly scandalized.
"Indeed not," the older man agreed, offering Severus and Servas a stiff smile. "I assure you: I have never used parsletongue to conjure any thing more insideous than a tepid cup of bitters, and in fact have found little use for it outside of garnering venoms for apothecaries, but my business methods are not for discussion outside of this office." The elderly man warned with a peircing gaze that Severus could tell clearly imparted a message with Thistlewood.
"B-ut... I ... I didn't think there was any... anyone else who could ... except...Vo-" Servas trailed off, but Severus had heard enough and thought that he was beginning to understand. It wasn't any secret that the Wizard who was calling himself Lord Voldemort spoke parsletongue. It ws almost legend in the Slytherin house that he was a descendent of Salazar Slytherin, and could prove it, speaking parsletongue - which was supposed to have died out a couple of generations ago- and intended to bring back the 'old ways'.
More than a handful of his housemates and their parents were followers of the Wizard, and to be honest, Severus had considered going to one of the rallies. Not that he'd ever admit it to Lily, but Severus didn't know if it was really right for muggles and wizards to mix. Look what had happened to his mother and himself because they had consorted with muggles. Lily's parent's might be nice, but by and large, in his experience of living in the muggle world they seemed to be a rare breed.
The healer had confirmed that Servas was a half-blood like himself, but for his 'twin' to know of Voldemort, suggested that he had been born into a predominately pureblood family, probably as one of a younger son's by blows, that the family - no doubt followers of Voldemort - had decided to keep hidden to avoid scandal. His mother must have been a muggle born witch like Lily, or the maternalia scar wouldn't have been there - magical just not a pureblood... or at least enough of a pureblood to satisfy their biases. It was the one thing that had kept him from ever attending despite the pressures on him to do so: the knowledge that many of them would have viewed a witch like Lily as a taint on their bloodlines, or hidden away a half-blood like himself out of shame.
"Yes, I have heard that there are others, descended from Salizar Slytherin by another branch, who have been more open about their gifts and their association, but I have found that it is wiser to be circumspect in revealing one's full abilities. It is an easy trap to judge another by the wrong standards, as I have well learned... but now, let us set aside this chatter and discuss why I have come, today."
"Ms. Thistlewood said you want us?" Servas asked disbelievingly, and Severus couldn't help but stare at him again. From his earlier reaction, and the almost immediate trust he'd seemed to give the man, Severus would have assumed that Servas would have jumped at the offer without questioning it, but when Severus caught his eyes, Servas's gaze was was filled with doubt.
"I will not lie to you, boys. I am not a jovial, trusting, nor particularly forgiving man. Throughout my life, I have been burdened with a quick temper and a more than inordinant share of pride, in myself, my family, and my heritage. Also, quite honestly, I do not approve of mixed marriages between muggles and wizards. These three factors conspired, prompting me to commit the worst and only decision of my life that I truly regret making: to renounce your mother, sending her directly into the arms of that... ... man. By the time my temper cooled and I came to grips with my rueful pride... the matter was irrevocable. Your mother was bound ... magically bound... by muggle marriage vows, sealed by their consummation, and irrevocable. She could not turn from ... that man... nor do anything other than "love, honor, and obey, foresaking all others... so long as they both should live..." his grandfather quoted bitterly, as a sob rose in Severus's throat.
He had never understood... never... and it had hurt so deeply believing that his mother had loved his father so much more than himself. He had never understood that it had not been her choice, that she had been magically bound for as long as she lived, but had chosen him over her own life to break her vows and foresake the husband that she must have still loved, even if it was on the force of magic...
His eyes blurred, and he could feel Servas's smaller hand closing around his arm and pulling him backward slightly, until the back of his knees hit a chair seat, and he allowed himself to be guided into it. Servas turned between him and the others, blocking their stares with his body, but said nothing. Severus could feel Servas's hands on his shoulders, a firm grounding grip, patient and non-judging as Severus struggled to regain his composure. When he had finally felt he had the grips of it, Severus nodded, and Servas stepped out of the way.
"I never understood that." Severus commented, somewhat awkwardly, into the silence, by way of explanation.
There seemed nothing more that they could say for several minutes... but finally Servas broke the silence.
Staring at the older man, Servas solemnly declared, "If you want us... truly want us, for us, not just because you feel forced to out of pride and reputation... then... I guess we... we want you, too. Don't we, Sev'rus?"
Severus - truth be told - didn't know what he wanted. When he'd gotten on the Hogwart's Express to return home for the holidays, he'd wished he could be on his own, out of the house and away from his parent's disfunctional marriage; he'd wanted an ally, whom he could talk to, in a way he'd never been able to with Lily; and for as long as he'd been in the Slytherin house, he'd wanted an inroad to the respect and privelege afforded to Ancient and Noble houses, like the Prince's - and now, all his wishes had come true ... in a bloody awful way, with his life had been turned upside down and everything that he'd always wanted to keep secret had been exposed.
One thing hadn't changed, though: being alone, in the wizarding world, meant unprotected, and unprotected was a very bad thing to be - especially if you were a halfblood or a muggleborn.
Really, it was the only answer he could give.
Servianus Velius Prince, despite that one awful decision, had never been a fool, nor prone to deluding himself regarding other's feelings toward himself, and it was obvious to him that he had not won their trust, with his admission, as humiliating as it had been to make the admission in front of the healer and the witch.
Still, whether if they were agreeing to his offer out of desperation or worse resignation, their agreement was all that he required.
He would neither pamper, nor coddle him, but despite Servas's naive demand for acceptance merely on the basis of their existance, Servianus could not flout the demands of his pride and would ensure that they were well accounted for - as should be any Prince heir.
For there was one thing he knew without question: a house without a line of succession was a target for all. For the Ancient and Noble house of Prince to survive, heirs were required - even if they were half-bloods.