Very short, only 15 chapters, sorry, so much was going on elsewhere!
Silvina Brewer had written an impassioned plea to Severus at the end of the Summer term, begging him to forgive her for her bad behaviour and swearing that now she understood a little more about what elves had been through; that her home tutor had arranged for her to experience the Imperius Curse sanctioned by the aurors' office so she got some idea, and that she didn't want to grow up ignorant like her brothers and parents because although her tutor kept her up with school work she wanted to be back at school. She declared herself ready to beg his pardon, and that of Vya the elf she had bullied, and Flo Visick whom she had nearly killed.
Severus was surprised by the letter; Silvina had never joined anything and never seemed to take any delight in the company of others. He wondered if it were partly that she missed the facilities of a well provided school rather than comrades; and as Silvina was never prepared to admit she was in the wrong he wondered that she should be so ready to apologise.
He also had a letter from Olive MacMillan, the girl's tutor.
Olive told him calmly that Silvina had the most awful parents and siblings – especially the younger sister who was enacting cruel and vicious pranks on her sister for losing the chance of her own education at a centre of academic excellence. Olive wrote too that Silvina had learned much from Prince Peak but only the absence from its calm environs had made the child realise how much she had learned. She was herself prepared to escort the girl back to school if Professor Snape would have her; as it seemed likely that her parents would likely not agree; and though she realised that would mean the child would not be paid for, she felt that if the Professor could find enough for a scholarship the protection of a stable background would stop Silvina from growing up into a nasty little deatheater type, embittered and loveless.
Severus snorted and wrote back to Madam MacMillan that he disliked having his strings jerked by cunning females who knew how to play him and that he would think about it.
And he asked Vya if she would be prepared to go in person to receive an apology and take his acceptance of Silvina should she manage it.
"Please Professor, I'm not sure I ever want to see her again" said Vya "She's nasty!"
Severus passed the little girl the human child's letter.
"Read that and think if you will about how you felt towards your previous owners, feeling pushed about and not understanding all the rules when foreigners visited" he said "Suppose yourself to have been suddenly the focus of attention of that nasty creature we took you off; wondering how to stop him hurting you too much. It's not the same; Silvina was never in any physical danger from me, but I swear she had as little idea how to interact with civilised folk as many an elf has of how to be free."
Vya grunted a rather sceptical grunt.
"Would Jade want me to?" she asked.
"Jade is a great believer in giving people second chances" said Severus.
"Well, I'll go and see her; if she's all right to me I'll pass your message. If she isn't, I shan't" she said.
"That seems a fair test" said Severus serenely. It was all in Silvina's hands.
Silvina jumped when the diminutive figure of the teenage elf appeared in her bedroom.
"Professor Snape said you wanted to apologise Brewer" said Vya uncompromisingly. She thought Silvina looked ill.
"Oh!" said Silvina "Well I do!" she added "I – I guess I didn't understand an awful lot…. I certainly didn't mean to nearly kill Flo. I – I lost my temper. I'm sorry I didn't know about the imperious curse type thing; I thought it was natural for elves to do what they were told because it was all they could do."
"Then I guess you better learn to control your temper" said Vya "Or you'll end up in Azhkaban if you lose it when you're grown up. I gather you know now that we aren't naturally here for your convenience."
"I don't know how to control my temper" she said. "I don't know anything much how to behave; only that now I've seen other people, my parents kind of make me angry when they're rude about Professor Snape….he explained a lot to me but I was feeling too upset and contrary to let myself hear it. I guess I was sore because my brothers only ever do the work they feel like at Hellibore's; but I saw their text books and dad expected me to work from them and it was BABY stuff!"
"So you do want to do the work really?" said Vya sceptically "The amount you whined about how you couldn't I'm not sure I believe that!"
"Well this time I know to ask for help if I get behind!" said Silvina angrily "Now that Madam MacMillan has said like Professor Snape said that teachers don't set irrelevant work and if it doesn't seem so that it will be later I understand that. That's why I skimped work; the stuff that seemed meaningless."
"You poor sap!" said Vya, having picked up a number of English colloquialisms from Jade "I should think it was obvious they wouldn't set it if it wasn't relevant!"
"Well, when I complained about holiday assignments being hard, my dad told me not to bother to do them because they couldn't make me!" said Silvina.
"That was rather irresponsible of him" said Vya. "I think your father has let you down somewhat. Why did he send you to Prince Peak if he did not expect you to be stretched? He could have sent you some place like Beauxbatons!"
"Because my mother went there when it was Cackle's Academy and Miss Cackle would let you off if you found things hard; the only tough teacher was Madam Hardbroom" said Silvina. "And she's gone to Hogwarts now."
"You know she's Professor Snape's aunt, don't you?" she said "Well, approximately? And she's reckoned a soft touch to the Hogwarts people; I know because half of the Professor's children are at Hogwarts, and young Lilith is going there a couple of years early and they were teasing her that Great Auntie Connie is a soft touch compared to their dad."
"Two years EARLY? Why?"
"Because she already talks to NEWT level people on a par with them and needs to have a proper education I guess. Lilith makes my eyes glaze over when she gets onto academic subjects. Look here, Brewer!" she added "If Professor Snape lets you back you've got to be civil to people; and I should think you ought to join in more with out of school activities so you know how people behave; it's how I've been learning how free people ought to be you know; because I don't know how it works any more than you do but I watch and copy!"
"Is that how to do it? How do I control my temper though?"
"Well when I was a slave it made me angry that we could be hurt and I had to control that because if I didn't I would have to bang my head on the ground until I knocked myself unconscious or put my hands in the fire or something like that" said Vya dryly "So I had a rather good incentive not to be angry. I used to divert my angry thoughts by thinking about beautiful things; the lovely things the masters owned that I liked to look at, like the paintings and the ornate furniture; or the beautiful scenery near the castle; and the wonderful tune on the musical box the master had. I should think if you asked Professor Snape he'd help you come up with a chant or piece of music to use deliberately to calm you; and if you CAN'T control yourself then he'll have to tie it to a compulsion that one of us can hum or whistle to make you be calm until it gets to be habit. And a sight better compulsion than driving needles into your hands I can tell you!"
"Vya have you had to do that?"
"Yes" said Vya quietly.
"My sister enchanted my pincusion to attack me" said Silvina "And she's only a kid so it didn't do it very well, but it was bad enough. And she says if I retaliate or complain she'll remind our parents that Professor Snape called me a bully and say I'm bullying her. I – I guess I feel a bit helpless a bit like you. Especially as Mr Moody put the Imperious Curse on me so I could see what it was like."
"Is he allowed to?" asked Vya.
"Apparently if I consent as he's an auror" said Silvina "I didn't like it one bit. He – he told me to think of Professor Snape and for everything I resented I was to slap myself. It – it was a fairly graphic demonstration."
"Yeah; I guess it must have been" said Vya. "That's what it's like being an elf – unless you've had the curse broken. Even for free elves, 'cept in England now because there are people who did a big ritual – and Professor Snape and all his family were part of it – to break the curse. Trouble is" she gave a lopsided grin "It doesn't work against poisonous little sisters."
Silvina managed half a grin back.
"If I can go back to school Celestina wouldn't be sore at me any more."
"It ain't that easy" said Vya "Look, you KNOW don't you, that even if Professor Snape tells your parents he'd have you back they're too miffed at him to send you?"
"Oh! But Madam MacMillan said if I wrote and told him how I understood more now…."
"Oh he'll have you back; but only if you're prepared to run away and ask his protection – like you're entitled – and you'd have to be a free student on charity like me" said Vya.
Silvina stared; flushing.
"That's blunt" she said in a small voice. "I – I don't think I can bear it at home much longer; Madam Mac Millan makes it almost bearable but… with the long holidays…" she burst into tears.
Vya rolled her eyes. Professor Snape had trusted her to sort it out; really this poor sap was as much a slave to her parents' stupidity as many an elf of only ordinarily crass owners!
"All right Silvina; you'd better pack" she said "And I'll take you back with me. I suppose it's kidnap; you'd better leave some form of note to say you've run away."
"Can you really?" asked Silvina eagerly.
"Elf apportation is really very powerful" she said. "It's why the spells were tied to us; so as to stop us being more powerful than the masters. Which I guess a school trained elf could well be; except that we have strengths and weaknesses like anyone. I'm never going to be a great potioneer and I don't really play quidditch and I have trouble with chanting because I have a squeaky little voice. And potioneering is the subtlest of the arts and without chanting you can't really progress beyond NEWT with any success. If I was you I'd be frank about your little sister's nastiness and I'll tell you why. If your parents call anyone in to find you, they've almost got to show them any note you write and if it shows a good reason to run, there'll be more sympathy for you asking asylum and what's more it'll alert those in authority to her being a little monster so they look out for it if she gets sent to Hogwarts. 'Cos if she's so nasty, I bet Professor Snape won't have her."
"If I write everything she's done this last couple of days that ought to be a good start" she said.
She got out paper and a quill. Vya read unabashed over her shoulder, whistling over such pettiness as putting Silvina's sleeping hand in cold water to make her wet the bed; putting drawing pins through her shoes; putting some stinging cream in her underwear and hanging Silvina in effigy for the older girl to find when she went to bed.
"She is a nasty piece and no mistake" said Vya.
"When I started my monthlies she hid all the sanitary things" said Silvina bitterly "But I borrowed mum's wand without her noticing to use accio and Celestina didn't see me do it – she'd have told – so I got them back. She sneaks too."
"Professor Snape found a book that turned a little boy at Hogwarts into a monster" said Vya "I think your sister's just a spiteful little tick, but how about you wonder if she's been cursed in your letter? That might get someone crawling all over her brain with legilimensy that might too help grownups to put her right when she DOES go to school. She's the same age as Lilith Snape; and Lilith would just DESPISE anyone who did that bullying stuff. I mean, she makes apple pie beds but I guess that's sort of normal because seniors just sigh and laugh and decide to pretend not to notice. The worst thing Lilith has ever done was to change an equation for the NEWT students – after the exam just set for them to ponder – to make it the equation for flushing the loo in some place called Gringotts. I don't understand that much Arithmancy; but I guess it was harmless."
"What did she do it for?"
"'Cos the expression on the faces of the seniors was pretty funny while they tried to puzzle it out" giggled Vya.
"Well why isn't that bullying? Is it because she's Professor Snape's daughter?"
"No, you idiot! It's because they were a bit discommoded but not harmed! If it was while they were revising for the exam it might have been bullying, but it wasn't! If – if your sister had cast a tickling enchantment on your slippers not put pins in your shoes, that would have been teasing, not bullying. It's all in the degree; and if it's going to make your victim laugh too. If it upsets the person you tease, it's tipped into being bullying; even if you didn't mean it to. Like you took offence when I said 'what did your last slave die of' which means 'say please and I might do more or less what you ask. Or at least help.' You need to grow a sense of humour, Brewer. I don't go much for japes – I reckon they waste time I could be studying – but I don't mind seeing them happen if it's not too often and is well thought out. Have you written that? Because if so I'll help you pack and then we can be away quickly."
"They've taken Celestina to some concert; Amos Leroy the boy soprano is singing."
"HE'S at Hogwarts; and they call him the Caterwauling Crow there so I shouldn't think she's having much of a time!"
Silvina looked terrified.
"Then a better reason to leave as soon as possible; if she hated it she'll take it out on me!" she said "My uniform got dumped in my trunk un-unpacked in the loft."
"Well all we need is some extra undies then" said Vya "And we're ready."
Severus had not expected Vya to return with Silvina in tow; but the little elf quickly explained about Celestina.
Severus turned his grim visage on Silvina and she quailed.
"I'm very sorry I caused trouble, Professor" she said in a small voice "I – I want to learn how to behave properly. Er, please."
He gave an austere smile.
"It sounds as though you're making a good start. Do you place yourself in my custody then for your own protection?"
"Then I think for a while I shall ask you to stay in a relatively small part of the castle; and I'll set up the fidelius charm to hide you until I have this sorted" he said. "Just for a few days."
Silvina nodded willingly; she did not want to be found!
Silvina was greeted with more caution than enthusiasm by the permanent residents of the castle and surrounds who had already met her; but Lilith stared into her eyes and turned to the assorted elves, goblins and cured werewolves and said,
"Hey, give the girl a chance people; some people get brainwashed y'know that can be as strong as any compulsion and harder for them to break 'cos it's like chanting and built up in many layers like a many headed monster insidious and mutable like the dark arts and it's the sort of curse even muggles can manage to put on their kids that's stronger than any spell."
"We hear and obey, o best beloved of resource and sagacity" giggled Yrdl.
"Do you like Kipling?" said Lilith.
"Oh yes, I Kipple regularly" said Yrdl.
"Well let's introduce her to the 'Just so Stories' and 'Kim' and 'Jungle Book'" suggested Lilith. "And Anett will talk to you, Brewer, 'cos she's escaped from Durmstrang and has had to overcome lots of stereotype ideas she had her head filled with, 'cept at least she's got a sensible father and not a Hopeless Hellibore Headcase."
"Taaaaact" said Yrdl.
"She's nine; she doesn't have any" said Anett "Silvina, I shall be Madam Breuer in term time; a name of similar origin to your own. I am teaching herbology for the next year as Madam Devlin loathes teaching it, so she gets the chance to teach Comparative Magic; but in the holidays you may call me Anett if you can remember to be formal once term restarts. I was a star pupil of the teacher of Dark Arts – no defence against component at Durmstrang – who was training me up for Odessa. His death and the replacement of him by an unsubtle, cruel, bully of a woman opened my eyes somewhat; and Jade Snape and a part goblin contender from Hogwarts, Mortimer Bane, opened my eyes yet more. I walked about looking for the first time; and went to poke my nose into places most witches and wizards never go. I learned a lot. Do I find elves who walk tall and who speak in the first person not the third and answer as equals offensive? To my shame, yes, I do a little. I admit the fault. I have been learning here that Mimi Snape who is entering the fourth year at Hogwarts in September is a far better arithmancer than me; she's a full blood elf, adopted by Severus and daughter of his mistress Sirri. I find it easier, I confess, with those like Sirri and her brother Beloc, who have adopted forms where their heads and bodies are in better proportion; I think the proportions appeal to us as small children who ought not to be given responsibility which is one reason we find it harder, until we are used to it, to see elves as equals. And some elves are horribly subservient. And some elves suffer defects caused by the unthinking casting of jinxes on their mothers during pregnancy or cruel punishment at an early age. A baby has no self control; but a baby elf still has a compulsion to self punish when feeling scared and upset because his mother is being hurt, say. Professor Snape is a great man and has cured many such problems."
"That – but that is horrible!" she said "Though – yes, I DO resent elves looking at me straight!"
Anett smiled at her.
"You're a decent kid at bottom I'd say" she said "With some wrong ideas on top; but now you see, you have begun to think of elves as people and elf babies as babies and so you do care. You, like I, will learn to deal with the idea of all people being people. I don't even see goblins as goblins any more; but just as people. And I had to work on that too."
"You never showed it" said Yrdl, slipping her hand into Anett's.
"Good" said Anett. "I think it ill bred to show any distaste for any type of person save of their behaviour. And I have learned to feel no distaste at all but merely acceptance." She squeezed Yrdl's hand affectionately. She loved the little girl dearly!
"I will try" said Silvina.
"We'll help I guess" said Vya "And I'll take you to see Flo too after I've written to her to warn her; and then you can get the apologies out of the way and not have to do it in front of people when term starts."
"Thank you" said Silvina, only a little stiffly. It WOULD make it easier!
Odessa were quiescent; the double attack on Prince Peak and Hogwarts during the Triwizard had lost the organisation many resources; and had dented the confidence of its supporters. The Snapes retired to London to their home in Orme Court ready to attend the weddings of the year at Malfoy Manor; Lynx Black-Weasley to her Hawke Malfoy and Romulus Snape to Senagra gan Konal. Weddings at Malfoy Manor were big affairs; anyone who was anyone was seen at them, and even those who were heartily shocked by what they saw as the miscegenation of humans and goblins marrying swallowed their distaste to be seen at such events. Lucius Malfoy after all had three mistresses as well as his pure bred wife, a muggle, a goblin and some kind of blue-skinned elf; and he called them his wives. Most declared Lucius a canny politician showing support for the liberal policies of the Harry Potter government with political marriages; those who knew Lucius were aware that the blood status of his women was a matter of complete indifference to him because he loved them all dearly.
And, judging by the number of his offspring, often.
With the adopted step children and those adopted Malfoys of dubious origins, Lucius could field four quidditch teams and more with those he counted his children.
Severus, who had as many children as Lucius, counting those adopted and his wards, did not bother to mention it. Krait, growing up an orphan, yearned for children of her own; Sirri wanted babies born free; and Dione was content to stop at three, his two and the baby girl she had conceived in rape while she was no more than a child that Severus and Krait had adopted. Those he counted his children were just three quidditch teams; but so many distressed children had needed a father figure he had ended up fostering many. One of whom would be starting at Prince Peak this September; Lucy Ingate following her two older brothers. The Ingate children were hard workers; and Severus was fond of them; but it felt more like nieces and nephews. Neither Jem nor George had felt any urge to Maraud; and so were not joined to him by the Bloodpact. Severus wondered whether Lucy would be different; she was certainly the one of the family who was most drawn to potioneering, his own best love subject. Jem had worked hard to take an 'E' in Potions at NEWT this year; and was set to apply to work in the Quaestorium, not being a sufficiently high flyer to aim for five NEWTs, required for an Auror, though he had taken DADA at 'O' and two others at 'E'. Erwin, half brother of Severus' oldest adopted son Erich, had also taken four NEWTs and he and Jem planned to stick together for quaestor training. Erwin with a pass at Arithmancy and a good 'E' in ancient runes as well as his own 'O' for DADA planned to specialise in forensic curse breaking; Jem planned to go in for poison analysis as he had taken Herbology to NEWT. And at that their results were good; until one compared them to the Prowling Marauders, Senagra Lynx and Fabian each with six NEWTs, mostly at 'O'; and Jade with eight NEWTs at 'O' grade. But then, Jade was like that; and had probably done it as much to go one better than Hermione Granger as because she really could not bear to give up any subject she found interesting!
Jade had no plans to be an auror; her career path probably boiled down to 'kill dark wizards, make the world safe for everybody and rear babies to do the same thing'. And she was setting out on that career by entering Durmstrang under a pseudonym, being a year ahead of her chronological age, leaving her new baby son in the care of her husband Wolf Luytens. The deep joining was necessary to protect her, that Wolf have a permanent telepathic link to her; it was unfortunate that it inevitably led to babies who ignored potions to discourage their conception.
But baby Ralph Erich would have loving surrogates in the Blood Group; and could feel his mother's love for him through the link. At least he would not suffer even if it tore at Jade to be apart from her husband and baby.
Working against Dark Wizards demanded sacrifice; Severus had made his share in his time.
And he would worry about his daughter Jade; and about the eldest child of his body, Lilith, as she went to Hogwarts. As he should not; Lilith could stand on her own feet and on the feet of anyone who tried to push her about too, metaphorically and, no doubt, literally.
It was nice that Lucius had his annual 'weevil fest' where prospective first years might meet each other, fight, play quidditch, and form friendships before the train for Hogwarts even left. Lilith was somewhere in the thick of a pile of children and judging by the giggles, some of Lucius' less pleasant relatives were likely to find themselves as the focus of various illegal and underage jinxes.
And the various toys of the ingenious Garjala Weasley, goblin wife of Fred and George. Garjala was obviously expecting; and telling anyone who was stupid enough to ask that the father was Fred – or George. Garjala was a skilled enough reader of Scarpin's revellaspell; and Severus had no doubt SHE knew which had sired her baby and respected her for refusing to tell anyone else.
Severus was so pleased for Romulus that he had found happiness with Senagra; how different was this confident young man from the scared little boy he had adopted! Romulus loved being 'Professor Snape' as he was by right, teaching potions in the free school; though the four New Marauders had originally declared their intentions to be aurors, somehow Severus saw them teaching permanently; they had caught the allure of setting young minds afire with the desire for knowledge. It had taken him awhile to catch that allure himself though sometimes brighter pupils had stopped him despairing while he established himself and waited for Harry Potter to start school; and then there had been Krait. And then these younger marauders had grown up with an alert, eager House head or mentor that they had seen too how to draw people on. Thanks to his beloved Krait. And the Headmaster at the free school, Neville Longbottom, whom he had frightened so badly at first in frustration, now one of his dearest friends and kindred too.
The sacrifices brought their own rewards in the end.
By the time Severus escorted Lilith to Diagon Alley to buy her kit he was wondering whether he would most miss her or heave a sigh of relief at relative silence!
He had got as far as getting her cauldron when he noticed the new books outside Smith's bookshop and secondhand books; and could not resist inspecting them. They were his new text book for chanting classes; 'one hundred simple chants and rhythms and their meanings' that led the pupils through crafting simple chants after practising on those he had made up or used from sources he had found to give some idea. The use of chants written by others would not of course bring any degree of virtuosity in chanting but there had to be some kind of starting point. Severus had taught himself from a number of rather obscure works – some of which would form the seminal works for NEWT level chanting – but had been feeling his way as he went, using his native wit to fill in the many things not specified in the more advanced works; since some magic was but hinted at as 'having once been known'; a frustrating phrase! Severus was working on another book – and Tony Queach was using a duplicate draft of it at Hogwarts in the coming year – called 'Intermediate Chanting' that covered the crafting of a chant and simple arithmantic formulae to aid the choice of poetry form and length of a chant. Lydia had given him much input to that work since she had taught a number of pupils at Hogwarts; and he planned to have it published as by Severus and Lydia Snape to credit her.
Advanced chanting really required personal application; though the books he had used would guide. If by OWL chanting did not come naturally, then, like the bagpipes, it were better not to come at all.
Lilith had headed off to Hubble and Sterr's while he got sidetracked; and Severus resolved to give her time to buy illicit potioneering supplies. Far better than having her steal them from the potion dungeon that he could NOT condone, even if she paid for them. Safety in the stores was paramount!
When she turned him out of the depths of the secondhand section later with the tale of a boy called Sextus Scarpin who reminded her of him in stories and declared that she at least was wiser than Lily Evans, Severus had to blink; but at that she was possibly right. Beyond warning her not to draw too many parallels that were not really there and suggesting bringing him home regularly he decided to leave her to it.
His self contained and snaky little daughter probably knew what she was doing; it was a bad habit she got from her mother, he thought lovingly.
He could always rely on his cousin Willow's ability to match a wand to anyone to track Lilith by the wand that was waiting for her if he lost her.
Lilith after all was scarcely as helpless as most of the weevils two years her senior.
Willow duly tracked Lilith down; and Severus finished getting her Hogwarts kit, her uniform at least easy now that Madam Malkin was stocking clothes in goblin and elf sizes. Lilith was tiny; she took after her mother in that as well, and Krait did not reach five feet tall. That such was partly down to malnutrition from frequent punishments and a lack of a loving background in the orphanage did not prevent part of it being also much from her petite and delicate Malfoy frame. And Lilith was built in the same way, her effulgent mop of hair making her seem larger but in reality she was hardly any larger than a goblin child her own age, let alone an eleven year old one! Not that his diminutive little daughter was likely to be intimidated that everyone in her year except the half elf Michelle Makepeace was going to be bigger than her!
Any more than it had deterred Mimi, his full blood elf daughter.
And Severus left Lilith in the care of Mimi and Lydia to take to the train; for he must return to Prince Peak to welcome HIS new pupils.
He wondered how long it would be before Lilith started Marauding and what tricks they would pull; and decided that such speculation was beyond the geriatric imagination of anyone over about fourteen.
No doubt Albus would tell him all about it.
He hoped Albus and Hogwarts were ready for Lilith!
Lilith was certainly ready for Hogwarts!