Severus took the baby gently, as if she would break if held improperly. He smiled down at Minerva, only to be unnerved by how pale she had become in the last few minutes.
"Minerva, are you alright, love?" he asked.
"I will be." she said, smiling at him. He didn't quite believe her.
"You will look after Angelina, won't you, dearest? Make sure she studies well?" Minerva asked. Severus smiled.
"Of course I will. You know that."
"Good. Thank you, Severus, for the last few years." Severus was worried by her words. What was she saying?
"I love you and Angelina more than anything." she said, raising her hand to caress his cheek. He covered her hand in his. Minerva leaned to kiss Angelina's head.
"I love you to, Tabby. Always," he left off, waiting for her to finish.
"And forever, Darling." she whispered. She slowly closed her eyes.
"Minerva!" Severus exclaimed. She can't be...
"Poppy!" he called. The mediwitch promptly hurried into the room.
"What's wrong?" she asked. Severus motioned to Minerva's ghostly pale state. Angelina stirred in her sleep but didn't wake. Poppy gasped and quickly performed the usual tests. When she finished, there were tears in her eyes.
"What is it, Poppy?" Severus asked desperately.
"She's...she...Oh, Severus, I'm so sorry!" she sobbed.
Severus looked down at his beautiful Tabby. It couldn't be true. She couldn't be gone.
"Why? Why now? I need her, Poppy!" Severus cried. Poppy took Angelina from him and patted his arm.
"I don't know, but we'll get through this. You'd better go out ans tell them..." Severus nodded and stood. When he opened the door, Rolanda, Pomona and Albus stood waiting.
"How is she?" asked Pomona.
"Is she alright?" asked Albus.
When he didn't answer, Rolanda shook him.
"What's happened to my sister?" Severus took a deep breath.
"She's...dead." he said, forcing the word out. "The cancer complicated the birth..." he stopped. He just couldn't go on. He felt Rolanda push past him and heard her scream. Pomona hurried past him. Severus looked at Albus. The mad twinkle in the old man's eyes was gone.
"I am truly sorry, my boy." was all he said before going into the room.
Severus silently prayed for strength before following his mentor.
The sight the greeted him was harder that the first time.
Rolanda knelt by her sister's side, sobbing into the bed covers. Pomona stood on the other side, tears streaming down her cheeks. Poppy was in Albus's arms, with her face buried in his robes. And little Angelina lay in a cradle by the bed.
Severus strode to the cradle, trying hard not to look at the body on the bed. He looked down at his small daughter. She had all the signs of being drop-dead gorgeous when she grew up. She had a tuft of jet- black hair, and the reddest lips Severus had ever seen. He remembered that her eyes were just like her mother's sparkling emeralds. He held back tears at the times he would never have a gain.
He wasn't ready for this. He couldn't take care of something as fragile as a baby. Not alone.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. He didn't turn round.
"We'll help you, Severus, I promise." Pomona said. Severus looked into her teary brown eyes.
"Thank you," he managed. Pomona looked down at Angelina.
"Thank gods she doesn't have your nose Severus. That would be dread ful."
"You live to annoy me, lady, don't you?"
"The secret of Woman's creation, my friend." Pomona said before turning to leave.
He looked back down at Angelina.
I love you, Minerva. He thought. Always and forever.