Disclaimer: Everything recognizable from the Harry Potter universe belongs to J K Rowling, no infringement is intended to any copyright holder
Beloved on this Earth
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth
Snape crept silently into the darkened room, his years of lurking in the shadows avoiding prying eyes allowing him to carry out his task almost without sound.
His eyes slowly adjusted to the gloomy interior after the brightness of the lantern filled hallway outside, but not quickly enough. He was aware of a slight movement out of the corner of his eye, a mere millisecond before a solid mass crashed into him at speed, only his lightening quick reflexes saving him from sprawling to the ground. He made a huffing sound of surprise and bent quickly to grab the offending attacker.
With a swift tug he had the tiny body hoisted to eye level and said with a mock growl, 'And what do you think you are doing out of bed, young man?'
The raven-haired toddler gave a delighted giggle reaching out an arm to pat his father's face lovingly. ''Lo, Daddy,' he chortled, bending forward to place a sticky kiss where his hand had been seconds before.
'Don't think you can bribe your way out of this with kisses,' Snape said sternly, but the child knew his father's gruff demeanour well enough not to be fooled by his tone and only giggled harder.
'William Niall Snape, get back to bed this instant!'
At the sound of her voice, Severus looked up to see his wife hurry into the room, pulling her wand to light the lamps with a flick of her wrist as she did. Her golden hair was escaping from the long plaits on either side of her head and she had a tired expression on her face, which instantly turned to one of pleasure at the sight of her husband holding their son in his arms. He felt his heart immediately speed up in his chest. Even bare of make up and with a smudge of what looked like jam on her cheek, he had never seen anyone more beautiful in his life.
'When did you get back? I thought you wouldn't be here till tomorrow?' Lois asked, moving to his side and reaching up for a kiss. He transferred the still giggling toddler to his left side, and with his free arm hugged his wife's small form to him for a more pleasurable greeting.
'Couldn't sleep,' he said simply when he finally pulled away. This was the first time since their marriage that they had spent the night apart – he had even slept on an adjoining bed in the Infirmary the night she had given birth. After so many years of sleeping alone prior to their meeting, he had been slightly surprised to discover that he simply could not sleep without her beside him now.
'Me either,' she said softly, snuggling into his embrace.
'And what has my son and heir been up to in my absence?' he asked, jostling the wriggling body into a more comfortable position and dropping a kiss on top of his silky soft hair.
'Not going to bed when he's supposed to, that's for sure,' Lois grumbled, but her tone was as loving as her touch when she reached over to tickle her son's tummy. 'He found my wand and somehow managed to open the cabinet I'd locked the Chocolate Frogs in Harry brought when he visited last week. He's in the middle of a sugar high,' she said with a tired sigh.
That explained the sticky kisses, Snape realised, not even flinching at the mention of Potter's name. His attitude to the boy – man now – had undergone something of a sea change over the years. Despite his very best efforts, he was simply too happy and contented to hang on to most of his former bitterness or grudges. While the last few years had been in no way easy with the war against Voldemort raging, they had at least always been filled with love. Now that Voldemort had been defeated, courtesy of Potter the Wonder Boy (maybe there was the tiniest amount of residual annoyance), life was nigh on perfect.
'Mummy?' came a questioning cry from the hallway behind them. Lois sighed, straightening from her position of slumped contentment against him.
'Where there's one there's always the other,' she said with weary amusement at the sound of William's eighteen-month old twin sister, Niahm, calling more loudly now for her mother from the bedroom.
'I'll go,' Severus said, guiding his wife across the room.
'But you've only just got back,' Lois murmured guiltily
'All the more reason.' Balancing William with familiar ease, Snape used his free hand to push Lois firmly down onto the large sofa that sat in the middle of their cosy sitting room. 'In any case,' he continued, his dark eyes gleaming with passion. 'I want you well rested – once the children are asleep I believe you owe me a proper welcome home without interruptions.'
Daddy!' Niahm beamed, her pudgy arms lifting towards him the second he opened the bedroom door. 'Where 'bin?' she demanded with the imperiousness only a child could make sound charming. He set William down, who immediately headed for the brightly painted bookcase across the room. Flopping to the floor he began happily sorting through the miniature library to choose what Snape knew would be their second bedtime story of the evening.
By now Niahm was balanced on her knees, bouncing up and down excitedly as she waited for her father to reach her. A story was definitely a good idea – neither of his children were looking particularly ready for sleep right then.
Snape sank down onto the edge of the small bed, half lifting and half catching Niahm as she leapt into his lap. She curled herself against him and immediately reached to pull out the pocket watch that had fascinated her since she'd been old enough to focus on the gleaming old gold. It had long since been protected against damage caused by exploring fingers and the sogginess of teething woes, but Snape still flinched when the first thing she did was drop it to the floor with a thud.
Niahm raised rounded eyes to his, her hands held out in front of her in the universal gesture of 'where's it gone?' Snape gave a huff of laughter and bent to kiss her, thankfully, button nose. When he scooped the watch up off the floor, he handed it back without too much regret.
'I've been on a fact finding mission to another magical school across the sea,' he finally replied, answering her question as he always did as though both children were capable of understanding every word. He had no intention of raising children as imbecilic as the ones he had to teach every day. 'The school itself had some interesting teaching methods, but the students still somehow managed to be just as useless as the ones here. In fact, the only redeeming quality was that the majority of them couldn't speak English.' He paused thoughtfully. 'And that there was no Gryffindor House, of course,'
Niahm looked up from her attempts to prise open the back of the case. 'Bad Grif'dors!' she declared, her tiny nose scrunching in disapproval.
'Now, Niahm,' Severus scolded gently, shooting a quick look behind him to make sure Lois wasn't within hearing range. 'Don't let your mother hear you say that,' he said without much hope. He really needed to keep his voice down around the pair of them. Apparently even his muttered comments while marking homework weren't quiet enough to escape the Snape household's littlest ears.
'This one!' William announced. He dropped a book onto his sister's bed and scrambled up after it, settling himself comfortably and watching his father with happily expectant eyes.
A tender expression appeared on Snape's face – one that only Lois and his children ever saw – and promptly mutated into lip curling disgust as he spotted the dog-eared book's title: Harry Potter and the Flobberworm Fandango.
Niahm clapped her hands together delightedly. 'Unc'l Harry!' she said, dropping the watch again, untroubled this time by its loss.
Snape gingerly picked the book up between finger and thumb tip, holding it aloft as though it were some particularly unpleasant potion ingredient. The colourful cover showed two, highly unrealistic, bejewelled flobberworms in crowns twirling dizzily around a woodland glade. The only picture of Potter was a still drawing in the bottom right hand corner – he'd apparently refused point blank to be photographed for the series of children's stories his name now graced. According to Lois he'd only agreed to the books at all because the proceeds were going towards a charity for orphans of the war. Snape rolled his eyes. Such a martyr. He turned to the twins. 'Are you sure?' he asked, trying to keep the hint of pleading out of his tone. 'Wouldn't you rather hear the story about the space monkey race?'
Two pairs of bright blue eyes stared beseechingly up at him. Snape smiled and nodded, the torment he was about to endure almost, almost, worth it when the twins beamed happily back. He stood up, Niahm in his arms, and settled both her and William in their beds. When they were securely tucked in he pulled up the old overstuffed chair to the gap between them and sank down into it. Unable to delay any further, he reached with great reluctance for the offending book and began to read.
'Harry Potter was woken from sleep one bright morn, by the toot of the King of the Flobberworm's horn.'
Snape hid his sigh behind a rustling page turn. He loved his children dearly, but their taste in literature left a lot to be desired.
Snape headed back into the lounge to find his wife fast asleep on the sofa. Reining in his disappointment, he made his way silently towards her, sitting down on the low coffee table in front of the sofa to study her while she slept.
Her hair had now come completely free of the restraining plaits, surrounding her with a halo of light, and at some point she seemed to have removed the smear of jam from her cheek. She looked beautiful and incredibly peaceful, but on closer inspection he noticed deep purple shadows under her eyes and a definite tinge of pallor to her skin. Concerned, he edged forward, and swore softly as his booted foot connected with something on the floor that fell with a clanking noise. Luckily, Lois didn't stir and he bent quickly to retrieve the object, examining the jar of beetroot and an empty plate carefully before placing them on the table beside him. Straightening, he turned his attention back to her, a pensive frown on his face. As though his intense gaze had disturbed her where the noise had not, her eyelids fluttered and then opened fully to blink owlishly up at him.
'Severus? Oh, I'm sorry; I must have drifted off for a second,' Lois said through a yawn. She sat slowly up and then reached over to grasp his hands in hers, trying to pull him onto the sofa next to her. 'Are the children asleep yet?' she asked with a sleepily wicked grin, 'because if I remember correctly you were making some wild claims about a proper hello when you got in.'
'They are,' he agreed, obeying the tug of her small hands and moving to sit beside her. She sighed with contentment and snuggled against his side. 'Did you eat in our chambers tonight?' he asked, gesturing towards the plates and glasses stacked on the table in front of them.
'Yeah, I couldn't face dragging the twins up to the Great Hall on my own, and you know what they're like when they scent weakness. The house-elves brought us something here.'
'Sensible idea. Who had the beetroot?'
'Er, me, I think.'
'And what did you eat it with?'
'I meant,' he said calmly, knowing full well she had known what he meant, 'what accompaniment did you have with it.'
'Um. I think… oh, yes, I remember now – a Pickled Onion Monster Munch sandwich,' she admitted, turning in his arms to lay her head on his lap and stretching out on the large sofa. She sighed happily as she found the perfect spot.
'I see.' His hand slid caressingly over her hair and onwards to begin a soothing stroking motion from shoulder to hip. 'And is there any news you have to tell me?'
'No, I don't think so. Oh, Remus asked me to remind you that he's travelling over the summer so you'll need to brew him enough Wolfsbane potion to take with him.'
'Yes, I remember.' She gave a satisfied nod against his thighs. 'Anything else?' he pressed, his arm sliding lower to rest on her stomach for a second before squeezing gently.
'No-o, I don't think so,' Lois said thoughtfully, a smile clear in her voice. 'Everything's been pretty normal really. Oh wait,' she said, rolling over so that she was now lying staring up at him, 'do you mean about me being pregnant again?' She beamed, happiness shining in her eyes.
Snape felt the matching joy rising up inside him battle with the sensation of feeling vaguely left out. 'How long have you know?' he asked, a little disappointed that she hadn't told him before he went away. Even though in fairness he knew she would have realised that the news would have resulted in him postponing his long-delayed trip yet again.
'Only yesterday,' she rushed to assure him. 'I mean, it's not like we were exactly planning this, but when I fainted in the staff room… Severus!' she squawked as he stood abruptly, the suddenness of his movement causing her head to land on the sofa cushions with a thump. She didn't have time to complain further because he was already bending to scoop her into his arms, striding towards the bedroom like a man with a mission. 'Severus, what are you doing?'
'Why was I not informed,' he demanded tightly, annoyance plain on his face, but his touch was gentle as he lowered her to their bed, piling pillows efficiently behind her. Once everything was arranged to his satisfaction, he settled her back to recline comfortably against the headboard, and sat down next to her.
'Because I only fainted,' Lois answered as if there hadn't been a pause in the conversation. 'I'd just got up too quickly – you know my blood pressure is low anyway and with the pregnancy and the heat lately… I'd already come round by the time I got up to Poppy–'
'Has she set up a Cushioning Charm?' he interrupted. 'If this pregnancy runs anything like the last one you'll be at risk until at least the fourth month.'
'Honestly, Severus, sometimes I feel like I've got more protection spells on me than Hogwarts!' Severus made a growling noise low in his throat, and Lois threw up her hands in defeat. 'Everything's fine, I promise – I'm a safe as houses, which is rather fitting seeing as that's what I'll resemble in a few months time,' she said with a small smile of remembrance.
Her enormous size by her seventh month of carrying the twins had resulted in Hogwarts temporarily being brought into the twenty first century with the installation of a lift that went from the dungeons to the Astronomy Tower, and, for that matter, anywhere else within the castle she desired to go. She'd laughingly referred to it one day in the staff room as a Wonkavator, but only Dumbledore had recognised the reference, leaving her to assume that was where he'd got the idea from in the first place.
'So the charm is already in place?' Snape asked, his lips pursed thoughtfully. 'I'd better check it myself. No disrespect to Poppy's skills as a mediwitch but her non-medical charms often leave a lot to be desired.'
'Ah, yes, well I wouldn't bother actually. I'm sure it's fine,' Lois said with a shake of her head, her evasive tone immediately gaining Snape's suspicion. He pinned her with a searching look, raising his right eyebrow when she didn't elaborate further.
'Fine!' she huffed, knowing he wouldn't give up until the question had been answered to his satisfaction, but also that the cat would be out of the bag anyway the second he checked the spell's integrity. 'Sirius did the charm, so I know it will be okay.
'Black,' Severus snarled. 'What was he doing here?'
'Visiting Remus. He was waiting in the staff room for him when it happened.'
'Why didn't you have Flitwick perform the spell instead?' Severus demanded, his brows lowered in a forbidding scowl.
'Because Sirius was there and Filius wasn't! Look can't you just give the man a break for once – there were only the two of us in the staff room at the time. If it wasn't for him who knows how long I'd have been lying there before someone found me!'
Snape paled at her words and Lois cursed herself silently. The last thing she wanted to do was worry him more. 'Look, Severus, everything's fine. Poppy's checked me out and given me a clean bill of health, so all we have to do now is sit back and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of having only two children while we can.'
'Poppy examined you thoroughly?' Snape demanded. 'You look tired,' he added, his head tilted critically.
Lois punched him on the arm. 'I don't know how I got so lucky – all these years of marriage and you're as romantic and complimentary as ever.'
Snape scowled his displeasure at her flippant response and Lois rolled her eyes. 'Severus, I look tired because I am tired – it's been a long weekBut there's a big difference between tired and ill.'
'Then you can spend all day tomorrow resting in bed and I will take care of the children. I'll tell Poppy not to expect you in the Infirmary.'
'I wasn't going in tomorrow anyway, but an early night will be fine.' Taking him by surprise she wriggle around to sit behind him and began working at the tense muscles she found in his shoulder. He made as if to protest, but Lois refused to release him. Within seconds his head flopped down against his chest and he let out a low groan of pleasure.
Lois paused in her movements and shifted forward to rest her cheek against his, her right arm wrapping around him to rest on the spare flesh of his waist. 'A break would be nice though,' she murmured.
'A holiday?' Snape said vaguely. 'Not a bad idea. Have you anywhere in mind?'
Lois moved her head to nibble gently on his earlobe. When he shuddered heavily, she raised lips to whisper against his ear, 'Harry's invited us to spend a couple of weeks in the holidays with him and Sirius at the beach house.'
'Sounds fine–' Snape lurched upright and spun round on the bed to face Lois. She grinned hopefully up at him. 'No,' he said firmly. 'Absolutely no way.'
Lois unfolded herself from her kneeling position and settled cross-legged in front of him. 'But, Severus, the children will love it and you admitted it would do us all good to get away.'
Snape shook his head and Lois reached out to rest her hands on his upper thighs. 'And it'll probably be the last time for a while that I'll be able to laze on the beach without hoards of people trying to roll me back into the sea thinking I'm a beached whale!'
'Firstly, there is no way you are wearing a bathing costume around Black, and secondly why is Potter even inviting us? He should spend his holidays with his family and allow us to do the same.'
'We are a part of his family, Severus, no matter how much you grumble about it, and I most definitely am wearing a swimming costume. What was your plan – me sunbathing in a woolly jumper and jeans? Forget it. Anyway, I'm sure Sirius wouldn't be interested in an old married woman like me, and, even if he was, I haven't got eyes for anyone but you,' she assured him, leaning forward to place a loving kiss on his tightly pursed lips that softened under her touch. Lois pulled away as Severus leaned further into the kiss, his arms wrapping around her to urge her closer. 'Now if Bill Weasley manages to make it that's a whole different story,' she whispered teasingly, and felt her husband stiffen. He slowly pulled away to stare down at her suspiciously.
'Bill Weasley? Just exactly how many people has Potter invited on this holiday from hell, Lois?'
'Well, the Weasleys, of course; Molly's really looking forward to it apparently. And then Hermione and Hagrid, Sirius, naturally, and Remus is hoping to be able to get down for a few days at least.'
'Oh, this just gets better and better,' Severus muttered sarcastically. Lois gazed back at him unblinkingly. Snape heaved a sigh and pushed her gently back to lie on the bed and stretched out next to her on his side, his black eyes gleaming as he took in her tousled appearance.
'So are you saying we can't go?' Lois asked. 'Because obviously if that's your final decision, Severus, I suppose I'll just have to accept it,' she continued in a tragic little voice, her eyes downcast.
'What…?' Snape exclaimed, surprised clear in his tone at her unusual docility.
'Unless there's something I could do to change your mind?' Lois questioned, lifting bright blue eyes to meet his, mischief gleaming in their depths.
'It's not entirely impossible, I suppose,' Severus allowed, struggling to hide his smile. He rolled onto his back and turned his head to watch her closely from under hooded eyes.
'Well it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.' Lois grinned down at him, and hefted herself up from the bed to drape her smaller body over his, wriggling to get comfortable.
'Achelois!' Snape gasped when she twisted enticingly against him. 'I suggest, wife, that you desist from that immediately unless you wish to be severely disappointed in a shockingly short amount of time.'
'You've never disappointed me yet,' Lois murmured, making her way down his neck with soft biting kisses.
With great difficulty, Snape held himself still under her touch. Within seconds she stopped to raise curious eyes to his. 'Haven't I?' he asked.
She caught his mood instantly and her face softened. 'Not once,' she said solemnly, and then she tilted her head reflectively. 'You've made me angry, and happy and even blessed once or twice and you've scared me to death more times than I care to remember during that whole horrible war,' she added with a sharp pinch to the tender flesh of his upper arm, 'but you've never, ever disappointed me.'
The hand Snape had been edging towards his sore arm travelled up to cup her face in his hand instead. Lois turned her cheek into his touch and then looked down at him through eyes darkened by emotion. 'What about you, Severus, are you ever disappointed in our life together?'
He sat up, taking her with him, and then moved to kiss her fiercely. 'Of course not!' he said, looking slightly stunned. 'How on earth could I be?'
'You've had to make a lot of sacrifices.'
He raised questioning eyebrows. 'Such as?'
'Well, I suppose the biggest thing is that you wouldn't have stayed at Hogwarts after the war, would you? You're only here because it means we can both be around more easily for the twins and before that so that I could finish my training.'
He nodded thoughtfully. 'True enough, but it's not a matter of where I am or what I'm doing. Without you and our children,' he reached out a hand to rest it tenderly against her stomach, 'and our children still to come, my life would be grim and joyless whether I spent it here or on the other side of the world.' He lifted his hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. 'This is the life I always wanted, Lois – I just didn't know it till I met you.'
Lois blinked, her eyes suspiciously shiny. Snape was relieved when the threatening tears didn't fall. Instead she sighed happily and fell against him to press her lips to his. The kiss quickly raged out of control, and it took a few moments before either of them became aware of the querulous cries echoing from down the hall.
Snape pulled away to flop backwards onto the bed, his arm falling across his face and struggling to regain his breath.
'William,' Lois murmured, her own breathing still ragged. 'Which means any minute now–'
'Mum-my!' came a second, equally high-pitched cry.
Snape sighed heavily and rolled to his feet. 'I'll go. It's my fault anyway for giving in and reading them horror stories before bed.'
Lois smiled and shook her head. 'It's okay,' she said, getting up more slowly and making her way around the bed towards him. 'We'll go together.' And, hand in hand, they headed for the door and their children waiting beyond.
A/N That's it, folks – all done! To everyone who has ever reviewed the story or sent an email – thank you so much. It really and truly meant a lot to me (better than any payment!) and in all honesty is probably the only reason the story was finished at all.
Before I go I should mention that the title, and inspiration, for the story and this chapter were both taken from the poem quoted at the beginning of the chapter. (Although I did stupidly misquote it slightly when I began the story using 'this' instead of 'the' – damn my poor memory!) Raymond Carver, the American poet and short story writer, wrote the poem for his wife after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour aged fifty. Carver and his wife had met only ten years earlier when he'd been a divorced alcoholic unable to write. He credited her with giving him a second act on life, which, as the poem shows, was obviously a very happy, if short one.
I started the story because I liked Snape right from the first book. Because I could see things ending very badly for him there, I wanted to give him his second chance at a future and a family who loved him, whether he deserved it or not. So, in this little fanfiction bubble out of time at least, he gets to be beloved on the earth. May we all be as lucky.