Toby sighed before he rolled over once again in his four-poster bed. For the life of him, he could not fall asleep. Celes had decided to spend the night in her dormitory much to his disappointment. Oh, how he wished he could sneak in there and talk to her. They needed to talk. He had his pick of topics after all; what was going on with her, how she was feeling, what she needed from him in order to heal, why she was shutting him out now and so on. He even tried his sneaky Slytherin approach and used how she had won their little bet awhile back in the Potions classroom to get her to talk, but instead she brushed him off and he let her, not wanting to upset her. He sighed again and flopped over once more.
What would he say to her this time, though? That particular question had daunted him for hours now. He couldn't come right out and say "I think you're pregnant." She'd castrate him.
A sudden knock at his door made him glance towards it. He frowned, wondering who it could be. He grabbed his wand, casting a quick Tempus. Five in the morning. Lovely. He threw the covers off and got out of bed. Who could be knocking at this time of morning? He opened his door and narrowed his eyes instantly on the young Hufflepuff girl standing in front of him.
"What?" he gruffly said.
"Um, well, uh—"
"Spit it out," he snapped, watching her take a step back from him instantly.
"She-she won't stop screaming," stuttered the young girl, nearly in tears.
"Celes. We've tried everything. She's just—she won't stop. Please. Come quick!"
Snatching his school robes that earlier he had tossed haphazardly onto the floor, he threw them on over his boxers. He wasn't usually one to dress in just robes and boxers, but he did do so, even when he was Severus Snape and had his long teaching robes on, whenever he didn't have time to dress properly. Like today for example. He shoved his feet into his slippers, forgoing his trainers. They'd take too long to put on, and he frankly just didn't have time.
He quickly took off then towards the Hufflepuff common room. He barely slowed when he came to the portrait guarding the entrance in the basement. Briefly—like only spending a second to think 'interesting'—he noticed the portrait swing open and let him in without a password. No doubt, the castle was still regarding him as its headmaster like the others in the Headmaster's office had stated would happen. He heard the soft mumbling from the other Hufflepuffs gathered in the common room, but he rushed past them. He needed to get to Celes. His insides knotted as he heard her terrible screams. It would be last May all over again.
"Get out of the way, you silly girl," he snapped, pushing one of her housemates away from Celes's bedside. He half-knelt on her bed, quickly grabbing her hand and knitting their fingers together. Closing his eyes, he focused and breathed in deeply, doing his best to block out her fearful cries. He soon found himself in her night terror, seeing everything she was imagining currently in her mind—a replay of the events of May 2, he noted dryly a moment later.
Aurora's tower shook violently from the blasts. She scrambled to her trapdoor and climbing down the ladder in order to reach safety. Swirling black robes suddenly were behind her. She was on her guard now, her wand in her hand. The long pale hand covered her mouth as an arm wrapped around her before the two Disapparated.
When they reappeared in the middle of a familiar sitting room—the cottage's to be exact, her supposed attacker released her before the figure took a step back from her to reveal himself. It really was a wonder how they were still married.
"Severus?!" Aurora hissed, growling a moment later before hitting the black-clad man's shoulder. "You bloody damn arse. I could have killed you! What the hell were you thinking?"
His older self, however, said nothing.
"I was thinking about how I could keep my family safe, Aurora," Toby replied quietly, still inside her mind and memory. His frown deepened when he saw Celes standing beside him, looking on silently. "I likely should have told you that it was me at the time."
"Might have helped," retorted Celes, stone-faced.
"Answer me, Severus. What were you thinking?"
"Remain here" was the quiet reply before he Disapparated soon after.
"Oh! You son of a bitch! Like hell I'll remain here, you bloody bat."
"I should've stayed," Celes whispered.
"As should I have," Toby stated.
"It was my fault."
As the memory skipped ahead, their surroundings blurred for a moment before the Headmaster's office came into clear view. Jets of light flew every which way as three figures, Aurora being one of them, dueled. Knickknacks on the desk burst when they were hit by a curse or a hex. Loud explosions rocked the room every now and then. Blood spattered the walls once or twice. However, the three continued. A proper duel to the death it seemed.
"No, love. It was all theirs." His dark eyes looked on in forced impassivity. It was the first time he had seen the memory of how she had lost their child. A part of him wanted to pull her out of this right then, but she needed to confront it. Pomfrey had taught him that.
One of the two Death Eaters suddenly slashed the air with his wand, a red jet of light zooming towards her. She cried out, unable to get out of the curse's way in time. It struck her left shoulder and sent her flying back against the mirrored cabinet where the Pensieve usually was. Little shards of glass tinkled as it fell against the floor. She lay motionless for a moment, propped up against the cabinet.
"Stupid bitch," snarled the other Death Eater.
His companion walked towards her, wand still in hand. The Death Eater spat on her a moment later before snickering when she moaned and moved her head slowly. "She ain't so tough now, is she?" He grabbed a hold of her dark curls and yanked her up by it, forcing her to stand. "Huh. So you're Snape's little Pureblood whore."
Toby tensed instantly. If those two weren't already dead, he'd do it himself. With his bare hands. And slowly so they'd beg for their deaths. He clenched his jaw.
"I'm his wife, you moron," she hissed, sounding deadly herself. "And when the Dark Lord hears that you just—" The Death Eater holding her backhanded her instantly.
"Listen here, sweetheart," he sneered. "You don't get to make demands anymore. You see, you ain't off-limits." He chuckled darkly. "In fact, let me tell you what's going down right now, hmm? Your precious husband is getting his just desserts. He's lost his value, you see? So, the Dark Lord's tying up the loose end all pretty. Bye-bye, Snape. Won't miss ya."
Toby found himself suddenly thrown out of her mind, quickly returning to his own with a gasp. He blinked to reorient himself and frowned. What just happened? The memory wasn't finished. He noticed, then, that Celes was staring at him in identical confusion. So, she hadn't ended it either.
"Celes? Are you all right?" one of her housemates said in clear relief.
"What?" She blinked again. Another voice answered her question.
"You gave us a right scare there for awhile, Miss Martins," Pomfrey stated. "Feel better now?"
"Uh, yeah. Thanks."
"No need, dear," the matron replied, waving it off. "Mister Brooks, will you help me move her to the fireplace? She'll need to be up in the hospital wing for a bit while I examine her."
He nodded curtly, still feeling slightly dazed. He slid a hand behind Celes's back and helped her stand. Slowly, they walked to the fireplace, reaching it several minutes later. His brows furrowed when Pomfrey flicked her wand at the flames to freeze them before motioning to him and Celes to step inside the expanded fireplace. He watched the matron toss down the Floo Powder and felt them shoot off.
When they reappeared in the hospital wing, Pomfrey immediately stepped aside to allow Toby to pull Celes along in order to step completely out of the fireplace. As soon as they were clear of it and a toilet magically appeared—thank Merlin for Pomfrey's quick thinking, he helped Celes kneel down in front of it, grimacing as she promptly started to sick up into it. He rubbed gentle circles against her back, frowning. If she was pregnant, her morning sickness was ten times worse than it was last time.
"All right. Shh. It's okay, Celes," he whispered. "It's okay." He closed his eyes tightly at the sounds of her violent dry heaves, knowing they were likely hurting her like hell.
"You're going to feel a funny tingle in a moment," Pomfrey announced above them. "It's just me spelling a potion into your stomach, dear."
He could tell the exact moment the potion was spelled in. Celes slumped against him, gasping and moaning softly. Her eyes were fluttering closed as her whole body shook. Stomach Soother mixed with Dreamless Sleep. It was a damn good choice. She needed to rest. To sleep it off without having to worry about her nightmares again. He'd just wait, watching over her as Pomfrey examined.
Sometime later, Celes had been moved into one of the private rooms so Toby could continue looking over her. He liked it much better that way. He resituated himself in his chair for what seemed to be the hundredth time. No matter what he did, he just could not get comfortable.
At the sound of the door squeaking open behind him, he briefly glanced at it and inclined his head to Madam Pomfrey. The matron had come in and out of the room throughout the past hour checking on the young witch. She never said a word, though, which unsettled him. He sighed inwardly and finally decided he'd make the first move then.
"How is she, Madam?"
"Much better than she was. As is the fetus thankfully."
He closed his eyes and hung his head. So, she was pregnant again. Oh, Merlin above, how would they deal with this now? He shook his head. Together. That'd deal with it together.
"I don't believe she knew, though. If that's what you're wondering," Pomfrey stated quietly before sighing herself as she glanced at the numbers floating about her patient.
"What do you mean?"
"That she was pregnant. I don't believe it crossed her mind. Her morning sickness is, after all, rather worse than it was last time." Pomfrey huffed, then. "Partly because she's battling an infection on top of it currently. I've cleared that little issue up with a good regimen of antibiotic potions, though. So, that might help ease it somewhat." She glanced towards him. "But she seems to have been spotting somewhat, which occurs sometimes in pregnancies. Frankly, though, she'd have needed to pay close attention to herself. And judging by the fact that she hasn't slept fully in months not to mention eaten properly, I'd bet she hadn't paid that close attention."
"The baby's fine, though?"
"Getting there slowly. She's not as at risk for a miscarriage anymore like she was an hour ago."
"It was that bad? I mean, she's been sleeping fine beside me."
"This week she has," Pomfrey corrected gently.
"We went to bed together every night."
"And would she stay there all night beside you, asleep?"
"I think so." His eyes narrowed before he frowned. "I'd have to get up early and finish some things. I just assumed she remained asleep."
"Well, you were neglecting your sleep as well. Something we talked about if you remember. She likely pretended to sleep while you were with her and stayed awake after you'd leave." She gave him a faint smile, squeezing his shoulder gently. "Don't blame yourself solely for it, Severus. You're not to blame. It's my job to keep track of all of you. I should've recognized the signs earlier. Though, I'd imagine her glamour charms masked it well."
"Will you tell me all the health issues with them?"
"If you'd like." He inclined his head slowly. "She was badly dehydrated. Suffering from malnutrition. A few of her organs were starting to shut down. Positively exhausted from trying not to sleep and dream. And as I said before, she was spotting, likely a result of all that stress. She seems to have developed a bacterial infection in her throat. I'd imagine she picked it up from one of the students at Oxford. It thankfully hasn't spread to the fetus."
He nodded and glanced back at the sleeping young witch. They would definitely have their work cut out for them this time. His eyes gradually moved to her belly before he sighed. Their child was in there. Growing.
"And the baby?" he asked softly.
"Her magic's been protecting the fetus so far. However, it's drastically underweight. I'm trying to correct that, but it's going to take some time. Once again, she's taking the brunt of everything."
"They'll be fine, though?"
"Yes. She's going to need to stay here for awhile, of course." Madam Pomfrey then sighed heavily, a somber look on her face.
He frowned, glancing at her. "What's wrong?"
"As I stated to you earlier, this will bring about a whole set of new issues we'll have to speak about, and with her current level of participation—well, I'm certain you understand."
Oh, boy, did he ever understand. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the chair. Somehow they'd have to find a way to reach her, but he was all out of ideas. He groaned and leaned forward a moment later, rubbing at his tired eyes.
This was a disaster from the start. Positively a disaster. Only Pomfrey was supposed to know about them de-aging, instead Luna, Harry, Hogwarts' ghosts and portraits, and Orin knew now as well. While he wasn't worried about his father-in-law, the portraits and ghosts, or Luna knowing, Potter knowing, however, sent waves of anxiety through him. Experience had taught him long ago that the young man had a knack for not having a good poker face when it came to secrets. Half of Hogwarts likely already knew, jeopardizing her experiment entirely. How were they supposed to test— He frowned instantly. After all this time, he still didn't know what the hell it was they were testing exactly.
"Merlin's bloody damn balls," he growled suddenly.
"Severus!" She glared back when he gave her a sharp look.
"Her experiment is ruined, Pomfrey."
"While her original idea may not be salvageable now, she has something new to research that I'd imagine her professor would find just as fascinating as that. In fact," she stood a little taller, "I've taken the liberty of speaking to her professor already."
"You did what?"
"I know perfectly well your hearing is excellent, young man." She then rolled her eyes. "I spoke with Professor Sheridan. I needed to ask her about Aurora and her behavior in class over the past few months anyway."
"To get a full mental background on her. Other than you and Minerva, the only other person she spoke to regularly was Professor Sheridan."
"And what did you find?" He couldn't help but realize how many secrets was still a part of his marriage. Would he and Aurora ever be truly honest and open with one another?
"She stated that at first Aurora was completely withdrawn and frequently either missed or was late to classes, but that her work was always completed and turned in on time. In fact, Aurora's theoretical essays and other such research papers were the only reason she was allowed to remain enrolled in Sheridan's class. She said that she asked Aurora to remain behind after class during the first part of the second week. She asked her flat out just who she thought she was for skipping a week's worth of classes and told her that there were others who deserved to be in her class more than she did. Others who would kill for a spot. Aurora said nothing. Then, Sheridan told her that she either made an effort and proved that she deserved to be there or that she just left and wasted someone else's time. She said she saw an immediate improvement in Aurora. There were still a few days where she was in her old ways, but the rest of the time she was engaged, herself in other words."
"She reached her, then."
"On some level, yes. Aurora's always gravitated towards strong women, listening to them and following their orders. She's a little . . . belligerent sometimes with men, however. As I'm sure you know firsthand."
"You didn't inform her about . . .?"
"No. Of course not. However, Sheridan did mention that once she found out that Aurora was a member of our staff, she realized that Aurora was likely going through a rough time. She doesn't know the details other than what the papers have reported, though."
"So, then for months now she's pretended with all of us that she was fine, while she suffered in silence again."
"That would seem to be the case, yes. But you already knew that."
He frowned, sighing. Pomfrey was right. He did know that already. He had pointed it out earlier.
"So, what do you recommend?"
"Well, based on what I've learned thus far, Aurora throwing herself into her studies is partly a way to distract herself from her pain, but also a way to feel that she's accomplished something. That she's in control of her life now not the other way around. And perhaps to show herself that life goes on. I'm not entirely certain about the last one, though."
He nodded slowly and waited.
"While her original idea for her project is a lost cause now unfortunately, she can alter it and explain something that one rarely experiences. We're all hurting this year. Most of us are searching blindly for something good to grasp onto in order to feel whole again. To reclaim what we lost. The students," she sighed. "Some of them come in here so lost, so confused about what happened last year. Just today I had to speak with a young woman who lost her little brother in the battle. She wondered if he was happy now wherever he was. Another boy came in, full of guilt. His girlfriend wanted to stay at Hogwarts and fight, but he didn't want to lose her so he went off with her to Hogsmeade. So they'd be together and safe. A part of a wall fell on top of her, shattered her pelvis. Then, there's Mister Potter. I doubt I need to tell you how he's feeling." She closed her eyes. "So much grief is here. So much loss and destruction. And yet there are peeks of sunshine every now and then. Hope."
"But I don't see how she can turn everything we're all feeling into a project, though. How she can make it fit into the boundaries of her class."
"Well, her class is centered on adolescent behaviors, Toby. Death, pain, heartbreak, and grief are all things our students are feeling and exhibiting currently." She exhaled shortly. "You gave her that journal so she'd write down her recollections of the day, of what she'd encounter. According to you, her first entry was about losing her daughter. About the grief and guilt she feels with that."
"Correct." He nodded slowly. That wasn't really adolescent-like in his opinion.
"And you yourself are writing in a journal as well, cataloging your experiences."
"Well, I'd imagine you'll both put in there about this pregnancy. You'll likely both add about how some of the staff will take the news of two students expecting a child. Not to mention, you'll include the students' reactions and the daily happenings of Hogwarts post-war. There will be a long list of behaviors observed in your journals to give researchers a field day to go over. To my knowledge, no one ever studied the effects of the First Wizarding War on the students. Or if they did, I've never seen it. And from what I've learned of Muggle psychology, they tend to study their soldiers to learn the effects after each conflict. Post-traumatic being the number one injury seen, of course."
"I don't understand." He frowned.
"Far be it from me to hypothesize, but I would imagine that at the end of this year things will be looking up for all of us. You would have documented proof of this and of research—because you are both scientists in nature—that would show precisely when things started to change for us. Whether that be six months from now or less. Show what works and what doesn't in terms of healing a school after dealing with a tragedy that we are coming back from slowly." She shrugged. "Just an idea she seemed to be going along the lines of originally but pulled back from in the end."
He nodded. She likely was worried about the what if only showing darkness. He watched Madam Pomfrey leave the room again and leaned forward to take Celes's hand. He'd suggest it after she woke.