Joy To The World
"Then Hotspur comes in right after Mum tells us she's expecting and he says Lina is too," Harry related the good news to Augustus.
"Well, well." Augustus chuckled. "At long last, their marriage has borne fruit."
"How'd it happen, Grandpa? I thought Lina and Hotspur were too old to have a baby." Harry asked, sitting crosslegged in the big leather desk chair.
The portrait looked thoughtful. "Henry, there are many things that are unexplainable in this world. It is a known fact that house elves do not conceive easily. None of the Fair Folk do. I believe it has something to do with their long lifespans. A race that lives centuries does not need to produce offspring as often as, say, we humans do. Because of that, however, they cherish their children, and regard each birth as a wonderful celebration. In Lina and Hotspur's case . . .I think I know what happened to cause her to "quicken" as the elves put it."
"The sacrifice I made when fighting Voldemort," answered the old sorcerer. "I used all of my magic in my Final Strike, and once it did what it was meant to, there was a residue that drifted down over the land, and the leftover Elemental magic infused itself within the air and the earth, the water and the fire. You've heard of residual magic before, haven't you, Henry?"
"Umm . . .yes, I think so. That's the magic that a place has absorbed after years of magic being done there, like in a temple or a graveyard."
"Right. And this land has been the abode of magic users for centuries. When I faced Voldemort, I called upon all the magic within it to aid me, and then with my sacrifice, the magic returned to the land. Because I used the magic for a good purpose, it infused the land with life. Lina and Hotspur are magically attuned to the land because of their nature, and Lina absorbed the magic into her being, and it enabled her to conceive. At least, that is my theory."
"It makes sense though," his great-grandson said. "I'm happy for them. They've always wanted a child of their own."
"As am I. It makes me glad, that I could give them that, for all the centuries of service they have done for me and for this family." Augustus said, smiling. "I wish them joy. In six months, you'll have a little elfkin running about here."
"Six months? But I thought it took nine months to have a baby."
"A human baby, yes. But elves are a bit different. Half a year, no more."
"Wow! I wonder what Mum will have?"
"I don't know. Do you have a preference, Henry?"
"Not really. Though I wouldn't mind a little brother."
"You'll see in nine months."
"Grandpa, can you move from your portrait into another one, like they do at school?"
Augustus nodded. "I could, were there an empty portrait scene for me to do so. But I never had one set up, so currently I'm stuck in here."
"Oh. Would you like to be able to go other places in the manor?"
"I would. Tell your father to have two or three empty sceneries painted and that way I can travel from the study to the drawing room and the hallway and wherever else he would like me to go."
"I'll tell him. It must get awfully boring, just being in the study all the time."
"It has its ups and downs."
Harry cocked his head. "Mum's calling me, I think it's time for lunch. See you later, Grandpa."
"Goodbye, Henry. Don't run on the stairs," the portrait called as Harry raced from the room.
Later on, Severus left Harry to Floo-call Neville and Blaise to discuss his former identity as Harry Potter and Sandra napping and went up to the study to re-evaluate his newly drawn up will. As soon as he entered, the portrait awoke and beamed at him.
"I hear congratulations are in order, my Lord Prince."
Severus smiled, he was thrilled at the coming new baby. "Yes, I . . .I wasn't expecting this to happen so soon, but . . .I think it's better sooner than later."
"It usually is, especially from the woman's perspective."
"I'm just hoping this pregnancy goes well for her and so does the delivery." The Potions Master said. "And I must confess, I'm hoping for a girl this time. I'd like to see if raising a girl is easier than raising my hellion Harry."
Augustus burst out laughing, making the frame shake.
"What's so funny, Grandfather?"
"Oh, Severus, my boy! Girl or boy, there's no easy way to raise either of them. A girl's a whole different cauldron of potions than a boy. Girls see the world differently than boys, and they react differently too. You might find it easier to understand Harry than you would a daughter. There were times, especially when my girls were teenagers, that they totally baffled me. It's a good thing their mother was around to help me out."
"Sandra will be here and it's a good thing you'll be around to help me too." Severus reminded him. "But I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it. Speaking of Grandmother, why did she never have a portrait made?"
"She did commission one, and was having it painted, but then she died suddenly in her sleep before it was finished. She never had the chance to put her memories or her magic into it and so that's why there are only photographs of her in the family albums. It's a shame, for there were many times that I longed to speak with her over the years and to hear her voice. But no matter. I know we are reunited again in the Garden."
"The Garden of Paradise Regained," answered the portrait.
"I see. The Garden Harry dreamed of."
"Yes." The portrait peered down at his grandson. "What are you writing, Severus?"
"An amendment to the new will I just drew up. In the original draft I have Harry as my sole heir, since I didn't know Sandra was pregnant when I wrote it. But once the baby is born, I think it best if he or she inherits part of the hall, since the baby ought to have his or her own property and a title. Harry has his own property from the Potter inheritance in Godric's Hollow, as well as more lands and a title and his inheritance from the Potters and I shall give him a half share of the rest of the monies and half of Prince Labs as well. That way it's fair for both of them. I don't think he would mind."
"Are you planning on asking the lad then?"
"I do wish to discuss it with him." Severus said. "So that when the time comes, he won't be bitter or angry or feel cheated."
"That would be wise." Augustus conceded. "And of course, Henry would always be welcome to live at Foxfire Hall if he so wished."
"Yes. But the title and the part estate would pass to my younger son or daughter. I know that's not the way it's usually done, usually the eldest child inherits all of it, but I feel it wouldn't be fair to leave my youngest without a roof over his or her head and Harry doesn't need two whole houses or two titles."
"That is your decision as the lord of Foxfire Hall," said Augustus calmly.
"You don't agree with it?" asked Severus in some consternation.
"That is not for me to say," replied the portrait. "You can distribute your inheritance as you see fit. Just as I did."
The bulk of the inheritance had, of course, gone to Severus, with several bequests made to the Retired Auror Fund and St. Mungos and also Hogwarts Library and potions lab. Some money had also gone to Angel Haven orphanage. Small bequests had gone to Augusta and Annamaria Zabini and Moody had gotten Augustus' ancient Staff of Evil Detection, which he had admired long ago as a student. But most of the rare magical items had remained within the Prince family.
"I'll speak to Harry after dinner, before I make anything final," Severus decided. He rubbed his temples. "I never knew being the lord of Foxfire Hall was so demanding and time consuming."
The portrait gave a low chuckle. "See, you learn something new every day, Severus."
Meanwhile, Harry was sitting on the porch steps with Neville and Blaise on either side of him, explaining why his family had decided to keep his true identity a secret for all these years. "It was done to protect me, you see, and that's why I couldn't tell you. We never expected Lucius Malfoy to regain his memories and blab it to Voldemort and then to the press. I . . .hope you can understand why I couldn't tell you before. I'm sorry I sort of lied to you."
"Sort of?" asked Blaise.
"Because I'm really Harry Snape since Severus blood-adopted me, and I grew up Harry Snape too. I only found out I was a Potter this past Christmas."
"Oh. Well, I am a little miffed that you didn't trust your best friends," Blaise said quietly, his hazel eyes sparking a bit. Then he sighed. "But I'll forgive you. I know what it's like to try and go against a family decision."
"So do I," agreed Neville. "And it really doesn't matter to me that you're famous or whatever. You were my friend long before that and you always will be."
Harry heaved a sigh of relief. "Thanks, guys, for understanding. I thought maybe you might not like me once you found out."
"Harry, don't be stupid," Blaise snorted. "Nev's right. Whether your last name's Potter, Snape, or Rockadoodle, you're still my friend. Always."
"Rockadoodle?" Harry nearly fell over laughing.
"What? It's a perfectly good name."
"If you're a rooster!" Neville crowed, collapsing in laughter.
Blaise took his shoe off and threw it at him.
Neville ducked and the shoe hit Harry in the shoulder.
"Hey, watch it!" Harry cried, tossing the footwear back to its owner. "Put 'em back on, Blaise. I don't want to die of poison gas."
"Are you saying my feet stink, Snape?"
Harry pretended to faint.
"Don't everyone's?" asked Neville, puzzled.
"Not like his," Harry pointed out, snickering.
"Aw, shut up, Harry." Blaise rolled his eyes and tugged his shoe back on.
"Ah, sweet air!" Harry smirked. "Guess what else I have to tell you?"
"You're also related to the Queen of England?" guessed Neville.
"No, but I'm going to have a new addition to my family in about nine months."
"You mean, Sandra's expecting?" Blaise asked knowingly.
"She's gonna have a baby?" Neville clarified.
"Poor you! You know what that means, don't you?" asked Blaise sympathetically.
"It means now you have to the responsible older brother and look after your baby brother or sister," Blaise made his voice go high and sound rather like his mother's. "And set a good example and everything."
"Is it hard?" asked Harry.
"Sometimes. It's a big pain in the arse. You gotta watch everything you say and do, 'cause the little bambino copies you. And then they tell on you too. You better hope it's a boy, Harry. They're easier to deal with than little sisters, trust me."
"Jo doesn't seem that bad."
"That's 'cause you don't have to live with her."
"I'm kind of glad that my mum's having a baby," Harry admitted. "I always wanted a little brother or sister."
Blaise coughed loudly. "You say that now. Just wait till the baby gets here, Snape. And you end up having to babysit and play with the brat while your parents go out. You won't be going to any Quidditch matches like you used to with a new baby in the house."
Harry shrugged. He was sure Blaise was exaggerating. "And there's more. Lina's expecting too."
"Your house elf?" Neville gasped.
Blaise goggled. "Merlin, but that's really rare, for a wizard to see a house elf get born. They usually don't have elfkins very often."
"I know. Grandpa's portrait told me he thinks it happened because of all the Elemental magic that was released upon his death. That it affected Lina and Hotspur in a good way and let them have what they always wanted, a child of their own."
"Two babies!" Blaise whistled. "Harry, you're going to be up to your ears in nappies and bottles."
"I've never seen a house elf baby before," said Neville. "I wonder what they look like?"
"I hope it's not ugly. When my little sister was born, she was all scrunched and red like a devil that got punched in the kisser. I thought she was ugly as sin. But Mama thought she was beautiful. Mothers!"
"I think all mothers think their baby is beautiful," Harry mused. He was sure his unborn sibling would be adorable, given who its parents were. He couldn't wait for it to get born, no matter what Blaise said. Or Lina's child either.
"Come on, let's go flying," he said, jumping to his feet. "Last one to the pond is a dungbeetle!"
He raced off the porch and around the side of the manor, and was quickly followed by the two other boys, and a yapping Trouble and silent Magnus.
"Harry, come into the study for a moment," Severus requested after supper. "I need to talk to you."
"Sure, Papa." He followed his father down the hallway and into the familiar oak paneled room. He seated himself in one of the tastefully upholstered chairs in front of the desk while Severus seated himself behind his desk.
"It's about your inheritance," his father began, his hands folded upon the desk top.
"My inheritance?" Harry repeated, puzzled. "You mean, like what I get when you die?"
"Why . . .why are we talking about this now? You're not dying."
"I know that. But we need to discuss it. Since your mum and I are having a baby, I've had to . . .rearrange things regarding your inheritance. Because now you have to share it with the new baby."
Harry shrugged. He wasn't ready to think about what this meant for him. It was in the far distant future. "So? What's that mean for me?"
"It means that I've been thinking about who should receive Foxfire Hall and inherit the title when I die," Severus said bluntly. "You have your own property as a Potter and inheritance from them. And you would also be Head of the Potter line, as you are the last of them. Would you . . .mind terribly if I deeded part of the manor and the title to the child that is to be born? I originally had you as my sole heir, but now I thought it would hardly be fair if you were to get the Prince holdings and your brother or sister have only part of a vault or half a share in Prince Labs. You are still a Prince, Harry, and still entitled to get a share in the investments and money and Prince Labs, you are still my son, I'm not . . .disinheriting you or disowning you. Foxfire Hall will always be your home, no one can dispute that, or . . .throw you out of it if you wish to stay here. I just . . ."
"I understand, sir. You want us both to have a house and . . .property. And since I already have some and the baby doesn't . . it's only right that he or she inherits the manor. I don't need it. I don't want to be the Lord of Foxfire Hall."
"You don't resent me then? Or the baby? I am trying to be fair, it has nothing to do with the fact that the baby is my blood child." Severus pressed.
Harry shook his head. "Papa, I'll always love you and Foxfire Hall. But I don't plan on living here for the rest of my life. If I get married, I'd like a place of my own, and if I rebuild the Godric's Hollow house , I could live there or in Potter Manor. As for the title, Papa, I don't like them. I'm fine just being plain old Henry Snape. I really don't want to be Lord Prince. Let my sister or brother have that responsibility."
"Yes, sir. I really don't want to be a lord. I like being just Harry and I always will. I hope I don't have to be Lord Potter when I grow up either."
"Very well. I shall make a codicil to my existing will." Severus said. "Thank you, Harry, for being so generous."
"Papa, I don't want to even think about what happens when you die." Harry said sincerely. "Can we please stop talking about it?"
"All right. How about a game of chess then? We'll see if you can attempt to keep half your pieces on the board this time."
"Okay, you're on." Harry agreed.
Severus cleared off his desk and Summoned the chessboard, and they began to play, with Augustus giving advice to Harry to help him beat Severus, and Severus scolding him for cheating.
As promised, Sirius was waiting for Harry and Severus outside Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. "Hiya, Harry," he greeted, smiling at his godson. "Lord Prince," he gave Severus a cool nod.
"Hello, Sirius," Harry said, grinning. Now that he was certain there weren't going to be any major fights between his godfather and his father, he felt much more at ease with the other wizard.
"Mr. Black, good afternoon," Severus said politely. "Shall we go inside, or do you wish to eat your ice cream standing in the street?"
""No, that would be bad for your image, huh, Snape? Never let the people see you eat in public. Isn't that some kind of rule with you lords?"
Severus snorted. "Maybe in the Black family it is." He walked into the ice cream shop. "Speaking of which, are you not the Head of that family now?"
Sirius coughed uncomfortably. "Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that. I'm still not . . .used to being in charge of something like that."
"Welcome to the adult world," Severus said, faintly sarcastic.
Sirius curled his lip at him. "Save the sarcasm, Snape." Then he looked at Harry. "Have you picked out your ice cream, Harry?"
Harry had been studying the menu while his father and godfather were sparring. "Uh, yeah. I want a triple scoop sundae with everything on it. Chocolate, strawberry, and butter pecan ice cream."
"Ah, takes after me at that age," Sirius grinned and clapped the boy on the back.
"Merlin forbid!" muttered Severus fervently. He ordered a small butter pecan sundae.
Sirius ordered a banana split.
They chose a corner table out of the way from most of the customers. The place wasn't packed, but there were several teenagers in there laughing and teasing each other, though none that Harry recognized from school. While they ate, Harry listened to Sirius and his father discuss the current local news of the day—namely, the sentencing of Lucius Malfoy.
"So now it's official, and he'll be joining his fellow Death Eaters in Azkaban," Severus said, sounding pleased. "It's about time he paid the penalty for his crimes."
"Yes. For once his money and connections can't save him," Sirius agreed. He slowly licked a banana off his spoon. "Only thing is, that makes me responsible for his son."
Severus' eyebrows went up. "You, in charge of Draco? How did that happen?"
"Because, like you said before, I'm the Head of the Black family, and Narcissa was a Black and her son is through her. With Lucius in the clink, the Ministry has declared me as a kind of . . .role model or guardian for Draco. Guess they think I'm better for the kid than his old man."
"You sound so thrilled, Black."
"I'm jumping for joy, can't you tell?" Sirius replied. "I don't have a damn clue how to . . .to be a role model, Snape."
"And yet you wished Harry to come live with you."
"That was different. Harry's not like Draco. He's not some spoiled selfish brat."
"I'm not 'cause Papa taught me better," Harry said. "And my grandpa too."
"Funny, but you were almost the same as Draco when you were that age. You too were born with a silver spoon," Severus reminded.
"Yes, I know. That's what I'm afraid of." Sirius sighed.
"You don't think you can handle one smart mouthed boy? You were an Auror, Black."
"What difference does that make?"
"When you went into the Academy, how did your instructors handle you?"
Sirius grimaced. "They knocked me on my arse and made me run laps and do crunches till I learned to keep my smartass comments to myself. You think I ought to do that to Draco?"
"If you think you need to make a point. Black, you need to remember two things when disciplining. One, always mean what you say and two, be consistent. Harry knows that when I say no flying in the house or else you're grounded, I mean it. Right, son?"
Harry nodded, scooping up the last of his sundae.
"But won't his mother be doing most of that? I mean, it's not like I'm going to be living there."
"Narcissa, I'm sure, would appreciate your help. Have you spoken to them since the verdict?"
"Briefly. Draco looked sort of shellshocked."
"Well, it is a shock, discovering that your father, whom everyone believed to be an upstanding member of the community, is a criminal," Severus stated.
It was probably worse than having a dead father, Harry reflected. Because at least if your parent died, everyone felt sympathy for you. But this . . .would it make Draco an outcast at school? Harry could almost feel sorry for him.
"Yes." Sirius said. "Well, we'll muddle through somehow." Then he changed the subject. "How about we go to a Quidditch game next week? You can invite whoever you want to come with you, Harry. My treat." Then he looked sidelong at Severus. "If that's all right with you?"
Severus nodded. "Just let me know when you'll be going and how late you'll be coming home."
"I'll invite Blaise and Ron and maybe Susannah Smithers too," Harry said. "Nev will be away in Cornwall next week seeing his cousins and Hermione doesn't really like Quidditch." He had written to them and they had both seemed fine with his previous identity. Then he recalled the other good news he had to share with his godfather. "Sirius, I'm going to be a big brother soon."
"You're going to . . .oh!" Sirius exclaimed. "Congratulations, both of you. And to Lady Sandra, of course." He lifted his ice cream spoon in a salute, not really caring if he looked ridiculous.
Severus felt a smile twitch at the corner of his mouth. "Thank you."
"And our house elf's pregnant too," Harry added.
Sirius nearly choked on the water he was sipping. "Must be a happening house, Foxfire Hall." He shot a wicked glance at Severus. "Though I don't envy you, Snape, with two pregnant women in the same house. They tend to get cranky, especially during the third trimester."
"And you would know this how?"
"I had a little brother and I still remember how my mother drove my father nuts, making him go out and get her lox and cream cheese in the middle of the night, or peach sorbet, or pickles and sardines."
"Ugh! That's just gross!" Harry made a face.
"Not to a pregnant woman. They want the weirdest things, swear to Merlin." Sirius said. "Just wait. You'll see."
Harry wasn't sure if he quite believed everything Sirius said. He couldn't see his sensible mum craving anything so . . .disgusting. He looked down at his empty dessert bowl with a sigh of longing.
Sirius recognized that look and said, "Want another one, Harry? When I was your age, I could eat two of those."
"No, one is enough—" began Severus.
"Let the kid live a little, Snape." Sirius argued. "Same kind as before?" He snapped his fingers and a second sundae appeared in front of Harry along with a new spoon.
"Black, for Merlin's sake . . .!"
"Now don't get your pants in a twist, Snape. I'm his godfather, I'm supposed to spoil him. That's how it works. Don't you know that?"
"You're impossible, Black."
"And proud of it," grinned the other, and then he ordered himself a second banana split.
December 24th, 1992:
Harry couldn't believe how fast the year had gone by. It seemed as if he blinked and July had become December. Sandra had been nearly three months pregnant when he had returned to school in September, and looking very healthy and happy. Both she and Lina seemed to be taking their pregnancies quite well, in fact. Sandra had only suffered mild bouts of morning sickness and that had been alleviated by raspberry tea and crackers and Severus' potions in the morning. Lina, being a house elf, did not suffer ill effects when carrying, instead she just grew rosy cheeked and round as an orange.
Harry was happy to go to school, and leave both new fathers-to-be home to fuss over their wives like clucking hens. The new Hogwarts Headmistress was Professor McGonagall, and Harry was glad to have the stern but fair matriarch in charge of the school. Of course, that meant a new Head of Gryffindor, and Harry had wondered why Ron was smirking when they mentioned that fact on the train ride, until they got to school and McGonagall introduced their new Muggle Studies Professor and Head of House, Arthur Weasley.
"Dad decided he'd really do better off as a teacher than a lowly paid Ministry worker." Ron had told his friends after the Sorting. "He said he had always wanted to be a teacher, but when he finished school, there were no teaching positions available at Hogwarts and so he went to work for the Ministry and somehow just never went anywhere else. Until now."
Blaise whistled. "Merlin, Weasley, but you aren't going to be able to get away with anything now that your dad's here."
"Dad's not as bad as Mum," Ron laughed. "He won't mind a few pranks, so long as nobody gets hurt."
The new Transfiguration professor was a man named Remus Lupin, and Harry knew of him from Sirius' stories. He had been best friends with Sirius and James and evil Pettigrew in school. He was also a werewolf, though Harry was sworn to secrecy on that score. Only Harry knew that Severus sent Remus a special potion each month before the full moon, so he could transform and be safe once he took the Wolfsbane potion.
There was also a new Defense professor as well, Master Auror Moody, he had agreed to teach for two years and then McGonagall would have to find a new professor, since after that he was retiring. Harry was glad to see the old Auror, whom he remembered fondly from many visits he had had at Foxfire Hall, talking with Augustus.
This time around, Harry was Seeker for Slytherin, and he also was able to prioritize his time better, so he could both play and get good grades. But now that he was home, he could relax.
Or he thought he could.
He found upon arriving home that the house was in a state of excitement and disarray, for Lina was due to deliver any day now, and was round as a pumpkin. She had turned over all of her cooking and household duties to her husband and spent most of her time resting upon the divan in the drawing room.
As a result, the holiday decorations about the manor were a bit haphazard this year and Harry had to straighten out the holly and ivy boughs along the banister and the upper hall landing, fingering the bright red berries in amusement and wondering how he could have been so stupid as to eat some when he was two. He hoped his small sibling wasn't that stupid . . .or that curious.
Augustus was now able to move from the portrait in the study, to the drawing room, and to the foyer in front of the door, since Severus had commissioned several backgrounds for him and hung them in their respective places about the hall. Now he could be with the family and join in the festivities on Christmas morning or not as he wished.
Severus had caused the twinkling foxfire lights about the outside of the hall to change into red, green, and white motes and this year he finally allowed Harry to help hang the silver bells on the roof. "But if I catch you doing any sort of monkey business up there, Harry Snape, I'll do what your grandfather did to you when you were five, clear?"
Harry just said, "Yes, sir," and obeyed, knowing his father's patience was stretched thin with worry over Sandra and Lina.
The second half of Sandra's pregnancy wasn't going quite as well as she had hoped. Her ankles had swelled and she was exhausted and developed migraines and spent a good deal of her time on the opposite couch next to Lina, with her feet elevated and drinking rounds of Headache Remedies and tea. The Healers had told her she would be fine with rest and prescribed a low calorie nutritious diet for her to follow.
Hotspur had engaged a midwife elf for his beloved Lina, and she also lived at the hall for right now, so there would be no need to summon one when the time came. The midwife's name was Clara.
Harry asked how the little elf was doing as soon as he set foot in the house.
Lina replied, "I am about ready to burst like a melon, young master, and cannot wait for this elfkin to be born."
"I know exactly how you feel, and I'm only six months," groaned Sandra good-naturedly. She was wearing a comfortable soft blue dressing gown and had fluffy socks on her too swollen feet, which were propped up on several pillows. Her stomach was a round moon beneath her soft robe.
Lina was wearing a very soft smock shirt in light pink and had pink slippers on.
"Oh, well, that's okay," Harry said awkwardly, amazed at how much larger they had gotten since he'd been away at school. He couldn't see how tiny Lina managed to haul around all that extra weight. "Umm . . .can I get you anything?"
"No, but we'd like you to sit with us and tell us what's been going on at school, Harry," said Sandra, and he sat down on the chair across from them near the fire and began talking to them.
After dinner, Harry and Severus returned to the drawing room to read and in Harry's case, finish up his summer assignments while Sandra dozed in front of the fire.
Lina had gotten up to walk about near the kitchen, complaining of back pains.
Soon after Hotspur rushed in, looking pale and terrified. "Oh, my Lord Prince!" he cried. "Lina has . . .it's started . . .our elfkin is getting born!"
Severus grabbed the expectant father before he could pass out cold and gave him a tiny glass of butterbeer and sat him on the couch next to Sandra. "Here, Hotspur. Take a deep breath. It won't be long before you'll be holding your baby in your arms."
"Have you picked out a name for the baby?" Harry asked, trying to distract him.
Hotspur shook his head. "The privilege of naming an elfkin belongs to the mother, so my people believe. But Lina has promised she will give our miracle a special name." Hotspur swigged the butterbeer down. "Oh, my!" he said, his big eyes whirling around and around as he gazed at the ceiling.
The clock ticked by endlessly, until they all heard a small cry coming from the elves' room off the kitchen.
Hotspur was still buzzed from the butterbeer, but he shook off the effects when he heard that beautiful sound and rushed from the room.
He returned several moments later with a tiny bundle swaddled in a blue sock.
"Behold, milord Prince, milady Sandra, and Master Harry. This is my new son." He held the tiny elf out for them to see.
The baby elf had skin as pale as an eggshell and was as bald as one too. He had large eyes of a greenish-blue color and huge ears that were folded at the tips. They would unfold in about a week and he would start growing peach fuzz as well on his head. He was funny and cute and the Snapes all admired him.
"What's his name, Hotspur?" asked Harry.
"Lina has named him . . .Augustus, after the late Lord Prince," Hotspur said proudly, cradling his son close. He looked up at the portrait of his former master.
Augustus was smiling down at the elfkin. "Ah, what a cute little tyke, Hotspur. Looks like his mother."
"Yes," agreed the proud father. "I hope you don't mind that our son bears your name."
"Not at all. In fact, I'm honored," replied the portrait.
The little elfkin began to squall, he had a voice like a teakettle, shrill and insistent. Hotspur regretfully brought him back to his mother so he could nurse.
"Well, that's one down," Severus said and smiled at Sandra. "Your turn's coming soon, love."
"I know. I can't wait." She patted her stomach fondly.
"Neither can I," Severus said, and reached out to take her hand in his, smiling in that way that all lovers have.
Harry took that as his cue to go upstairs and go to bed, and he quickly bid his parents good night and went upstairs.
Harry was awakened about two hours later by a loud thud followed by his father crying out his wife's name in horror.
Harry was on his feet instantly and bolting out of his room.
He saw his father standing horror stricken in front of the stairs, and below them was the still form of Sandra, blood spreading in a pool about her.
"Papa, what happened?"
"She was following me up the stairs and I think she missed a step and then she . . .fell." Severus related dazedly. "She just fell."
"Severus, call a Healer!" Augustus ordered crisply.
Severus nodded, then he sent out his Patronus, since he didn't want to leave Sandra.
He knelt by her and cradled her head in his lap, murmuring, "By all that's holy, my dearest, please stay with me. Don't leave me, Sandra, please!"
Harry just stood frozen at the top of the stairs, wondering with a kind of detached terror if this Christmas would end in tragedy instead of joy.
Christmas day found the new Lord Prince and his son sitting beside the bed of the slowly recovering Sandra. She had gone into labor due to the fall and they had to do an emergency C-section with magic because the Healers had said the placenta had come unattached as a result. Sandra was still heavily sedated and no one could tell if the tiny baby girl would live.
She was very small, less than a pound, and though she was fully formed and breathing, she was very fragile. "We can't tell you for sure if she'll make it, Mr. Snape," said one Healer kindly. "We've never dealt with a baby so tiny before. But we'll do our best."
Now Severus sat in a hard chair beside his wife's bed, hoping she would wake up so he could tell her their daughter had been born. Harry sat beside him, tense and miserable. This was not how he had envisioned spending Christmas this year.
"Papa? Do you think she'll make it?" Harry asked wistfully.
Severus turned to him. The elder wizard was pale and had huge circles under his eyes and a kind of terror surging in them as well. "I don't know, Harry. I just don't know."
For the first time Harry saw his father afraid and he leaned against the man's shoulder, shivering and praying for yet another miracle. Grandpa, how I wish you were here now, he thought, despairing, for the Elemental Master had always seemed to be able to set things right, no matter how awful they were.
When Sandra woke, she asked immediately about the baby. Severus broke the news to her as gently as he could. "They don't know if she'll . . .make it. She's very small, she can breathe on her own, but they don't know about her eating yet, right now they're keeping her warm in a sort of bubble, like an incubator . . ."
"I want to see her," Sandra said, pushing herself to a sitting position.
"The Healer doesn't want you to get up, you've just had some major surgery, and even with spells . . ." he flinched at the look she was giving him.
"Healer be damned, Severus! You can pick me up and carry me there, but I want to see my little girl. I won't . . .I won't let her go never having looked at her mama's face . . .unnamed . . .Do you understand?" Silent tears were trickling down her cheeks, but her voice was like steel.
Without saying anything else, Severus picked her up and carried her to the hospital nursery, so she could see the precious scrap of life that was her premature daughter. The baby was encased in a protective bubble, so Sandra could not hold her, but she could run her hand along it and the baby's eyes met hers.
"So small . . ." Sandra whispered, for the baby could fit in the palm of her hand, and her arms and legs were like matchsticks. " . . .but you're here with me . . .I think I'll call you Talia . . .Talia Augusta Snape . . .for you will grow up to be a strong woman . . ." She looked up at Severus, whose black eyes glinted with unshed tears. "Make them write her name there, on her chart," she pointed to the chart affixed to the side of the small bassinet.
They remained there, watching the baby breathing, until a nurse shoed them back to Sandra's room, where Harry slept in a chair beside the bed.
He woke sleepily to hear low voices arguing, the Healer and his mum, he thought muzzily, and managed to catch a bit of their conversation. The Healer was saying that his baby sister might not make it, because she had been born too soon, but his mum was saying that they shouldn't give up on her, that she was a fighter. The Healer sounded skeptical, but said they would do everything they could to help the baby.
A week later, the Healers were cautiously optimistic about the Snape baby's chances. Every day, little Talia seemed to grow stronger, despite her miniscule size. Sandra and Severus rarely left the hospital, and Harry came back and forth with Sirius to visit his tiny sister, who looked more and more like a normal baby and less like a stick figure every time he saw her.
She was a fighter, determined and stubborn, she clung fiercely to life, despite the Healers' predictions that she wouldn't. When Sirius asked him how she was doing, he answered, "She's getting stronger each day, I think."
"Good. I'm glad to hear it." The former Auror said sincerely. He meant it. This past week, as he shuttled a worried Harry back and forth from Foxfire Hall to St. Mungos, he had come to view his former rival in a much different light. He had seen the sort of love and devotion the Potions Master bore for his wife and his tiny daughter and for his adopted son as well. He saw it reflected in their eyes, and in a dozen little ways as they spoke and gestured and held each other. It was both inspiring and humbling, and it was then that Sirius finally saw the true Severus Snape and not the skinny bookworm he'd mocked so long ago.
For the first time ever, he saw true, and he recalled the letter that Sandra had written him months before, and what had started out as a grudging tolerance had now metamorphasized into an honest respect for the wizard who had raised his godson.
He squeezed Harry's shoulder and said gently, "I'm sure your little sister will be fine."
And she was. Within two months, Talia had grown enough to be sent home from the hospital, and she thrived upon the loving family circle at Foxfire Hall. Most often she could be found nestled in either of her parents' or the two elves arms, she slept and played with Augustus, her "elf twin", and giggled at Augustus' portrait, who made silly faces at her.
Severus made sure Harry had pictures of his sister to look at while he was away at school, and Sandra wrote weekly letters to him telling him of her progress and everything else that was going at the hall. His friends all enjoyed hearing the letters and seeing the pictures as well.
Even so, when Harry came home for the summer in June, he discovered his baby sister had grown from a tiny thing to a round roly poly baby, still slightly small for her age, but now Harry could hold her and see that she had the dark curling hair of both her parents and hazel eyes. "Hey, baby sister," he grinned at her as he held her up to his face. "You've gotten so big I hardly recognize you. Remember me? I'm your big brother, Harry."
Talia looked at him with her huge wondering eyes. Then she smiled.
And ripped off his glasses.
Harry laughed, and gently removed them from her grasp, giving her his hand to hold instead. "You've got a good grip on you for a little bit of a thing. Perfect for holding onto the Snitch. When you're bigger I'll teach you how to fly, and I promise not to show you how to fly off the roof backwards or else Papa will skin me . . .well, maybe I'll teach you, but you have to promise to never tell where you learned that trick, okay?" He tickled her, and the baby laughed, her laugh was like the chiming of bells and it echoed in the warm spring air, as he carried Talia out to the pond where Augustus' memorial stood.
Then he sat down next to it, amid the flowers, and played with the baby. The Healers at St. Mungos called his sister a miracle baby, for never had one so small survived before born three months early. "Funny, how the two of us were famous even before we could talk, huh? Me, for surviving Voldemort and you for surviving period. It's too bad that you'll never know Grandpa like I knew him, you'll just remember a portrait. But someday, when you're old enough, I'll tell you all about him, and how I came to live here at Foxfire Hall after Papa found me in a manger. Would you like that, Talia?"
The baby gazed up at him and then she giggled, waving her arms at him, and he held her above his head and blew raspberries at her to make her laugh, he loved how she giggled, high and sweet and full of joy, like he imagined an angel would laugh.
"Ah, so this is where you two have gone," came Severus' voice from behind them.
Harry turned as Talia squealed and held out her hands for her father.
Severus "flew" the baby over to him with a simple wandless charm and hugged her as he joined his son on the grass, marveling at how Harry had started to shoot up this year, finally getting his growth spurt. Talia burbled and played with the buttons on his robe while Severus eyed his beanpole twelve-year-old and said, "I can remember when you fit in my arms like your sister, and drooled all over me too."
"Papa, please! Why do parents always remember the most embarrassing things?"
Severus chuckled wickedly. "I remember far more embarrassing things than that, Harry." He ruffled his son's hair, which needed another trim, and smiled nostalgically, recalling that long ago Christmas Eve when he had found a child away in a manger, and how it had changed his life forever, in ways he never would have imagined.
"Don't tell anyone," his son said, giving him his most pleading look from beneath his lashes. "I'm already famous enough as it is." He leaned his head on his father's knee, then winced when Talia yanked on his hair. But he didn't move, he was too comfortable right then.
It was a perfect day, peaceful and serene, and he was grateful for it. He smiled up at his sister and thought about how lucky he was that Severus had found him that night, and had given him the greatest gift of the Magi-which was not gold, or frankincense, or myrrh, but the love of a family and a place to call home.
All right, this tale has finally come to an end.
Thank you all for reading and coming along for the ride!
I chose Severus' daughter's name because Talia means "born on Christmas" and is an alternate form of Natalia. It seemed appropriate considering she was born on Dec 25th.
Would you like to see a sequel, maybe with an older Harry, like 15, perhaps gaining his long awaited Elemental Wind powers? And trying to deal with a mischievous little sister and some new enemies?
Oh and for those of you who might think its impossible for a baby to survive being born that early . . .I know for a fact that it IS possible, because I was born 3 months premature and weighed less than a pound at birth.