Severus was tired. Bone-aching, eye-lid-pulling, falling-off-your-shoes tired. He'd been awake for 38 years, or so it seemed. He'd at least been suffering from a lack of sleep for the past seven years.
And now it was over.
The fatigue hit him like the Hogwarts express as soon as it happened. As soon as Voldemort's spell rebounded. As soon as Elizabeth defeated the Dark-magic-infused shell of a wizard. Again. For the last time.
His thoughts were fractured. It was possible that he'd held his breath during the duel. Or perhaps he hadn't been sleeping or breathing for seven years.
Severus shook his head, trying to clear the humming sound that was filling his ears. Suddenly, he wasn't entirely sure where he was or why he was there.
Severus felt a hand on his arm and looked in that direction.
Elizabeth looked tired. Older than she was a year ago. Older than she'd looked half an hour before. But there was a lightness to her eyes. Severus vaguely wondered if that look was reflected in his own. He certainly felt as if he'd gotten rid of something. A heavy wool blanket on a hundred-degree night.
"You should sit," Elizabeth's voice was soft. In that moment, she sounded so much like Lily that Severus' already confused mind reeled. He felt another set of hands on his other arm, but couldn't find the energy to see who was holding him.
Elizabeth and the unidentified hands led him to a chair. He sat, because his body knew what to do with a chair, not because he really understood what he was doing.
"Dad," Elizabeth was kneeling at his feet, looking up at him. Her voice dropped nearly out of his auditory range. "Fred… Where's Madam Pomfrey?"
"I'm alright," Severus managed, taking a breath and pushing the bees out of his head. "I don't need a doctor." He focused on Elizabeth eyes. "We need… so much to do."
"Not right now," Elizabeth shook her head. "You need to rest."
Severus shook his head and raised his eyes to survey the rest of the room. "We need to bury our dead."
"We will," Elizabeth assured him. "But right now everyone is working with the wounded in the Hospital Wing. If you want to be useful to anyone, you need to sleep." She turned to Fred. "Stay with him while I get Remus?"
"No," Severus shook his head, "Nymphadora—
"We know," Elizabeth interrupted. "I'll be right back."
She disappeared, and Severus shook his head again. "This may be what an aneurism feels like."
He heard Fred snort beside him. "As if your blood vessels would dare pull that nonsense."
Severus tried to stand, but the Weasley kid's hand kept him down with little effort. "I need to assess the damage."
"Elizabeth wants me to keep you here. And she's relatively terrifying, if you haven't noticed."
Severus closed his eyes and pushed the last of the fog from him mind. He was tired. But the paralyzing shock seemed to be passing. He was a bit annoyed by his vulnerability, actually. It was one thing to completely lose control of his faculties in front of Elizabeth; it was another to be so dotty with the redheaded boyfriend around. Perhaps if he kept his eyes closed, the rest of the world would disappear.
Elizabeth returned, with Remus in tow. "Sev?" Remus sat beside his friend. "I'm going to get Teddy and go home for a few hours. Why don't you come with me?"
Severus shook his head, and reached out a hand to his daughter. "We need to put this place back together," he said, pulling Elizabeth to sit on his lap. "But you should go. Get Teddy. Take Elizabeth with you."
Elizabeth shook her head. "We're staying, at least for a little while." Severus saw her looking at Fred, whose eyes had drifted to the lines of bodies. "George… he's in the corridor. We need to go get him and make sure all of this is taken care of."
"If any of us need to sleep—
Elizabeth shook her head again, interrupting him. "I'm fine, Dad. But if you go downstairs for a few hours, I'll go home with Remus. Okay?"
Severus wondered, vaguely, when his daughter had started talking like this. Negotiating with him. Finally he nodded, and let himself be led out the Great Hall and toward the dungeons.
"Fred," Elizabeth stood behind him as he sat alone in the Great Hall. She sat on the table and put her arms around his neck. "You've got to sleep."
"Can't leave him alone," Fred said, his voice coming from somewhere deep inside his chest, through a layer of tears and anger and anguish. He stared across the room to where the dead had been laid until they could be buried. Elizabeth had found George's body where she'd left it, relatively unharmed beyond the fatal blow he'd received.
Elizabeth kissed his face. "It's not him," she said gently, running one hand over his hair. "He's moved on."
"I wish I knew for sure."
"I do," Elizabeth pulled him tighter. "He came to me. Through the resurrection stone. He came with my mum and James. Sirius and Tonks. Right before I let Voldemort kill me. George told me it wouldn't hurt."
Fred was quiet for a long time.
"I'm sorry," Elizabeth said, breaking the silence. "I shouldn't have told you that."
"No," Fred shook his head. He paused again. "Do you think James and Sirius will let him be a Marauder?"
Elizabeth laughed. "They can't prank all of Heaven with just the two of them."
Fred nodded, then turned in his seat to face her. "Come here," he said quietly.
Elizabeth slid from the tabletop into his lap.
"You let him kill you," Fred said, running his hands from the top of her head down her shoulders. "Merlin, Betsy."
Elizabeth looked at him. "They told me you were dead," she said quietly. "It was easy then."
"Idiots didn't know which Weasley they killed," Fred growled. "Where was the Stone?"
"In the Snitch." Elizabeth kissed his face. "I should have known you were alive. You would have come for me, had you been dead."
"With bells on," Fred nodded. "You were amazing today. Tonight. This morning?"
"Sleep," Elizabeth said, snuggling against his chest. "And a shower. Your choice which comes first."
"Where's everybody else?"
"Outside. They were giving you some time."
Elizabeth laughed. "You stared down Voldemort as much as I did today, love. Your dad took your mum to lie down, Charlie and Percy took Ginny home, and…" she grinned and kissed him. "I can only guess where Ron and Hermione are right now."
"And everyone else was afraid to come in here." Fred sighed and stood. "Do you want to go home?"
"Where's home?" Elizabeth asked, suddenly realizing she didn't know the answer to the question.
"Well, is your Dad downstairs?"
"Maybe. Before he went to get Teddy, Remus took him down there. I have no idea whether or not he stayed. He's not great a following directions."
"Must run in the family," Fred said. "I thought you told your dad that you would go with Remus."
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "I told Remus that we were going to stay a little bit."
"Let's go to the shop."
"Are you sure?" Elizabeth held both of her hands in hers.
"Yeah," Fred nodded. "Someone needs to make sure everything's okay… and that's me now."
"Angelina said she was going home to her parents', but she wants you to call her when you're ready." Elizabeth dropped one hand and turned. "We might as well get clean and rested so we can start putting this back together."
"How did Mum look?" Fred asked, as they went out onto the grounds.
"Bad," Elizabeth said. "She wouldn't let go of Percy." She looked at the plot where the early deaths were being buried. "Krum?"
Fred nodded. "I guess he took your bond seriously."
"Or he took Hermione being in danger seriously." Elizabeth bowed her head briefly to the grave before they Disapparated.
Elizabeth woke several hours later, her hair still wet from the shower she'd taken before going to sleep. Fred was sitting up against the headboard, staring at nothing in particular.
"What are you thinking about?" Elizabeth propped herself up on one elbow.
"I thought you were going to die still mad at me," Fred said, inspecting his fingers, not looking at her.
"I wasn't mad at you," Elizabeth said, sitting up to lean against him. "Not then."
"I'm sorry, Betsy. I promise, I'll never do something so stupid again."
"That seems like a broad promise," Elizabeth teased, putting her arms around him. "It was a bad time, love. Where did you go?"
"Bill's," Fred said guiltily.
"I wrote to Bill, and he said he hadn't seen you," Elizabeth frowned. "I'm going to poke him with something pointy."
"If it makes you feel better, he was definitely not on my side," Fred sighed. "He was completely unsympathetic as I moped around for awhile and then he kicked me out."
"Well good for him," Elizabeth muttered. "I'm still going to poke him."
"That's quite a threat," Fred smirked. "Of course, you are the girl that took down the most powerful wizard in history with Expelliarmus."
"I'd used two Unforgiveables," Elizabeth shrugged. "I wasn't going to use the last one, especially when I didn't have to. That wand was mine."
"What are you going to do with it?" Ron asked, staring at the Wand in Elizabeth's hand.
"You should lock it up," Hermione said logically. "It's too dangerous."
"I think we've learned that there isn't a safe hiding place," Elizabeth shook her head. "We can't risk it falling into the wrong hands. Or even our hands, really." She looked at the wand, turning it in her fingers. "It's too powerful."
With that, knowing that if she thought too much about it, she'd change her mind, Elizabeth snapped the wand in three pieces and hurled them into the lake.
"Well…" Fred said slowly. "That's it for that."
Elizabeth looked at him, not sure what she saw in his face. She started to say something, but Ron interrupted.
"Hermione and I are going to Australia," he said, turning his back on the lake. "To find her Mum and Dad, you know. Got to fix their minds from when she messed with them."
"For their own protection!" Hermione protested indignantly.
"We know," Ron said, spinning her around like they were dancing. "It was just so devious, Hermione. I didn't know you had it in you."
"And who brewed Polyjuice potion in the girls' bathroom?" Hermione said, rolling her eyes at him.
"We all did that," Ron said, shrugging. "Aside from Fred, of course. Anyway," he looked at the other couple. "That point was to ask if you wanted to come along. You know, make a holiday of it."
Fred shook his head. "I can't leave this soon, you know that."
Ron grimaced. "You know I'd like to stay—
Fred waved him off. "The world has to move on," he said, looking out over the lake. "Go with Hermione. I'll handle Mum."
Ron looked at Elizabeth, who shook her head slightly, looking meaningfully at Fred.
"Right," Ron said, putting an arm around Hermione's waist. "We'll be back soon as we can."
Elizabeth watched the two of them walk away, then stood behind Fred, putting her arms around his stomach and laying her cheek on his back. "It wouldn't have brought him back," she said softly, listening to the air flow in and out of his lungs.
"I know," his voice rumbled through his shirt and into her ear. "I know that." He gripped her hands in his. "I think… I need to get some air."
"Breathe," she said quietly. "Do you need…" She trailed off as he shook his head.
"I'm okay," he said, squeezing her hand.
Elizabeth nodded, aware of the two vials of calming draught she had in her robe pocket. It had been a week since the funeral, and in that time Fred had suffered from nearly-crippling panic attacks. While they seemed to mostly strike at night, Elizabeth had taken to being ready, just in case.
Severus hadn't asked where she'd been spending the night. Elizabeth imagined that he found it unnecessary to ask questions he knew the answers to.
The couple spent plenty of time at Spinner's End during the day. Elizabeth, concerning herself with Teddy Lupin's well-being as well as the rest of the men in her life. The month-old metamorphmagus did almost nothing besides sleep, eat, and change his hair color, yet Remus seemed frazzled.
"It's really okay if he cries," Severus told his friend a few days after the battle. "That's what babies do." He picked up the infant. "Of course, they can smell fear, so you're in trouble."
"Don't let him bully you, Remus," Lily chirped from the portrait on the living room wall. "He was scared too."
"I'm going to break him," Remus said quietly, stroking the baby's fuchsia hair.
"You are not," Severus rolled his eyes.
"Here," Fred reached out and took Teddy from Snape. "Hey, buddy," he rocked the metamorphmagus in one long arm, while wiggling the fingers of his other hand in front of the little nose, much to the baby's delight.
"You're good with him," Remus said, a little irritated.
"Mum has been watching babies since I can remember," Fred shrugged. "It just takes practice. And tickling," he said to Teddy, demonstrating on the infant's stomach.
"I have never been more attracted to you than I am right now," Elizabeth said as the couple went out into the back garden later.
"Ah," Fred gave her a lopsided grin. "I wasted all that time with flowers and death-defying acts, when all I really needed to do was tap into your biological need to find a good father for your children?"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "This from a man that completely ignored his OWLs."
"Exams aren't something that interest me," Fred said serenely.
Fred woke one night, not in a cold sweat from a nightmare like he'd been doing for the past few weeks, but because there was the distinct sound of shuffling papers coming from the other side of the bed.
"What are you doing?" he asked, sitting up and pointing his wand at the bedside lamp. Light flooded the room, drowning the weak glow of the tip of Elizabeth's wand.
"Dealing with Sirius' estate." Elizabeth tossed a sheet of parchment onto one of the piles in front of her on the bed.
"At…" Fred looked at the clock. "2 o'clock?"
"Couldn't sleep," Elizabeth shrugged. "Besides… there's fourteen properties here. Keeping them up would be a full time job."
"Are you planning on selling?" Fred propped himself up on one elbow.
Elizabeth grimaced. "I'm not… comfortable with that right now. Merlin knows what Black family 'treasures' are in those houses."
"Or buried in the land," Fred said, looking at the insurance photographs. "Some of these are just fields."
"I know," Elizabeth nodded. "Probably originally intended for heirs to build new manors." She pointed at one near a lake. "This one is in Whitechapel."
Fred looked at the land, raising an eyebrow at the wildlife. "I'm not sensing Dark magic."
"That's because it's a new acquisition," Elizabeth said, leaning back against the headboard. "According to the paperwork, Sirius bought the land two years ago. As a wedding present. For us."
"We weren't engaged two years ago," Fred said, looking at the photograph again.
"Sirius must have thought that if he didn't buy it then, he might not have had the chance." Elizabeth closed her eyes. "I guess he was right."
"Do you want to build a house here?" Fred indicated the picture.
"I think we should go look at it," Elizabeth nodded. "But… I think we should wait. For a little while, anyway. Until things calm down."
Fred put one arm around her. "Whatever you want. What about the rest of it?"
Elizabeth held up a picture of the original London headquarters. "I'm giving this one to Angelina."
Fred raised an eyebrow. "For what?"
"Apparently, she and George had talked about modifying their illegal school after the war. They wanted to open a kind of training school for Muggle-borns who have shown incidents of accidental magic. To make the transition to Hogwarts easier."
Fred was quiet for a long moment.
"Fred?" Elizabeth piled the parchment and put it in her bedside table drawer. "I'm sorry. We don't have to talk about this now."
Fred shook his head. "No, it's okay." He slid back down against the pillows and opened his arms. "George and I talked about what we wanted if one of us didn't make it. He wanted Angelina taken care of. Whatever she wants, I'll make sure she has it."
"So George was in charge of taking care of me?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow.
"You can take of yourself," Fred hedged. "But… yeah." There was a long silence until Fred kissed her head and closed his eyes. "Enough morbid talk. We can talk about it when the sun comes up."