Worth Waiting For
Summary: A student new to Hogwarts will change Snape's and Harry's lives in ways they could never have imagined.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters (well, most of them anyway). If you're reading this, you likely know that.
More months passed, with the Snapes living in virtual solitude after nearly a year in Godric's Hollow and Harry and his friends making virtually no progress on their quest to find and destroy Voldemort's ties to life. They'd been told by Minerva that the trio was currently staying with Bill and Fleur, but they were the only three who knew Harry's whereabouts other than the other occupants of Shell Cottage.
Saffron was growing and changing daily, it seemed, and both her parents were delighted with her. At six months, she was making babbling noises and noticing much more of what went on around her. She laughed all the time and could nearly sit up by herself. She loved bath time and splashing in the water. She was still enthralled by the sound of her father's voice but preferred her mother when she was tired. Life would have been perfect if they'd been free to leave this place when they wanted. But until Voldemort and his followers had been taken care of, it was unsafe for Severus to set foot out in public – the price on his head was too high. Behind Harry Potter, Severus Snape was the man most wanted by Voldemort's army.
"Where's Saffron?" Severus asked. Tevis had been working in the garden all morning. Now that spring had finally started to turn to summer, Saffron could play in the magical playpen while her mother worked.
"She's still outside. I'm going right back out there."
"Do you think it's wise to leave her out there by herself?"
"I don't see any harm in it, not for a few minutes. She can't get out of the playpen. Who do you expect to come bursting through the gate? Voldemort himself?"
"No!" The word came out of Severus' throat in a strangled whisper, a look of horror on his face. He grabbed his wand and ran to the back door as the sound of someone apparating into the backyard could be heard. Throwing caution to the wind in his haste to get to his daughter, Severus burst out through the back door and was immediately felled by a stunning hex.
"Well, look who we have here," Fenrir Greyback snarled. "Traitor Snape. I owe you for that incarcerous you hit me with last time we were together, Snape." He pointed his wand at Severus, but before he could curse him again, Tevis jumped into the doorway and disarmed him. Unfortunately, he'd brought two of his friends with him.
Saffron was in the playpen, much closer to the back gate than the house. Please don't let them see her, Tevis prayed as she stood protectively over her unconscious husband.
But it was too late – they'd already noticed. "What have we here?" Greyback asked, approaching the playpen. "Snape spawn? Could it be?"
"Don't touch her!" Tevis cried, trying to keep her wand pointed at all three of them at once.
One of the others by the gate threw a curse at them Tevis didn't recognize, and while she was ducking and shielding Severus, Greyback reached into the playpen and picked up Saffron, who immediately began to whimper.
"Please!" Tevis wailed. "Put her down. You can take me instead."
Greyback eyed her appreciatively. "That's every tempting, but it's your husband the Dark Lord wants. I'll not fight you for him, though. I'll just take the little miss here, and I bet Traitor Snape will follow. Tell him we're in Hogsmeade, at the Shrieking Shack. Tell him he's got thirty minutes. If he's not there, the kid dies. Let's go," he told his companions.
Afraid to try and hex him for fear of hitting Saffron, whom Greyback was using as a shield, Tevis could only watch them go. Crying tears of frustration and fear, Tevis shook her husband's shoulders. "Severus!" she cried, tears streaming down her face. He seemed to be breathing, but he wasn't responding to her at all.
Her hands shaking, Tevis pointed her wand at him. "Ennervate," she said.
Severus' eyes blinked open, and he stared up at her. "Saffron?" he whispered, trying to sit up.
Tevis helped him to a sitting position. "They've taken her!" she cried. "We have to go! They're going to kill her if you're not there in thirty minutes!"
Severus' world was spinning him in many different directions at once, and he knew if he tried to stand now, he'd find himself back on the ground. "Give me a moment," he requested, taking large breaths to clear his head.
"What happened?!" Tevis asked, collapsing to the ground beside him. "How did they find us?"
"You said the name – the Dark Lord's name. It was jinxed so that if anyone said the name, he or she would be immediately located by the Death Eaters. It must have been incredibly strong magic to break the fidelius."
Tevis was horrified – this was her fault! "Oh my God! I didn't know!"
Severus nodded, the simple movement making him sway. "I didn't tell you. You never said it anyway, and I thought planting the idea in your head . . . I realize now I should have told you."
"They took her, Severus! They said to tell you they're in the Shrieking Shack. And that they'd . . . kill her if you weren't there in thirty minutes," Tevis sobbed.
"The Shrieking Shack? He's attacking Hogwarts!" Slowly, Snape rose to his feet. Tevis jumped up to help him stand, then steadied him when he swayed. "I must go," he told her. He realized in one small part of his brain that Saffron may already be dead. Death Eaters weren't known for keeping their word. But he had to go, he had to know. And if he could help defend Hogwarts . . .
"I will bring her back," he promised, turning to Tevis. "Or die trying."
"No!" Tevis choked out, then "I'm going with you."
"You'll do no such thing," Severus contradicted. "I want you here, safe."
"But it's not safe here any more," she argued. "Besides, this is my fault. I led them here. I left Saffy in the garden. Severus, they have my daughter!"
She was right. The protections surrounding this place had been breached, and he didn't have time to resurrect them. She'd have to go with him. "All right," he conceded. "I'll be ready to go in a moment." His head was still spinning, and he didn't want to disapparate quite yet. "Go put a note for Harry on the table, warning him to get out of here. If he should happen to stop in . . ."
Tevis didn't need him to finish that thought. When she returned to the garden, he was ready to go. They disapparated together to the forest outside of Hogsmeade. Severus turned to her and put his hands on her shoulders.
"Tevis, if . . . if he'll give me Saffron, I want you to take her and go."
"If he'll let the two of you go, I need to know you will take Saffron and go. It's me he wants, and if I can bargain my life for yours and Saffron's, I will do so willingly. Promise me. For her. She'll need her mother."
Tevis was crying again. "She'll need her father, too."
"Promise me, my love," he ordered softly, running a hand through her hair.
Tevis didn't want to agree, but she knew that Saffron's life must be preserved at all costs, and she nodded.
"Thank you," Severus said. He leaned down to kiss her. "I love you. And I love Saffron. Tell her for me."
"You tell her yourself," Tevis whispered fiercely.
Severus was certain Tevis wouldn't have to keep her promise to take the child and go – he knew Voldemort well after all. Mercy wasn't in his lexicon. It was more likely that the Dark Lord would kill both his child and his wife, in front of him, most likely after torturing them both, and he would then turn his considerable cruelty on the one who had betrayed him until Severus was begging to join his family. He really should not be letting Tevis accompany him into the shack, he knew – he was likely leading her to her death. But if their child was killed, and his spouse was taken from him, Severus knew that he himself would not want to go on living. He rather suspected that Tevis felt the same way. If one of them was going down, they would all go together. He reached over and took his wife's hand and gave it an encouraging squeeze. He could tell from the look in Tevis' eyes that she was well aware of what likely awaited them in the shack and had resigned herself to the same fate Severus had.
If there was one thing that Severus was grateful for at the moment it was that he did not currently know Harry's whereabouts. Their information from Minerva was at least two weeks old. Harry could be anywhere. He'd seen how gifted the Dark Lord was at torturing information out of people – what he didn't know, he couldn't reveal. As they approached the front door of the Shrieking Shack, Severus wondered how many more of the horcruxes Harry had been able to find and destroy and whether, were the opportunity to arise and Snape were to kill Voldemort, it would even matter.
Severus could feel that they were being watched as they approached the Shrieking Shack, but he knew that whatever Death Eaters were lurking around here would let them pass unmolested. When they reached the door, Severus stopped and turned to look at Tevis. "Are you ready?" he asked softly.
Tevis looked up, and he could read the truth of what was likely to happen here in her eyes. She knew the chances of any of them getting out of here alive were practically nonexistent, and like him, if her family were taken from her, she would have no will to continue living. If it was her fate to meet her death in this Godforsaken shack, she planned on taking some of the bad guys with her. "Yes, Severus," she said. "I'm ready."
What they couldn't know was that they had an ace in the hole (almost literally), for at this very moment, three people (two of them visible, one of them not) were making their way towards them through the tunnel that connected Hogwarts and the Shrieking Shack.
Severus pushed open the door of the shack and preceded Tevis inside. They squinted into the gloom of the interior, and Severus heard the voice he'd hoped never to hear again.
"Ah, Severus. You've come at last," Voldemort said from the shadows. He stepped closer, into the light being let in from the outside, until he was standing only feet away. "And this must be Mrs. Snape. How lovely she is, Severus. And so young! Had I known you had a taste for children, I would have arranged for you to spend some time with some. But that's no matter now. Aren't you going to introduce us, Severus? Where are your manners?"
"You have something that belongs to me," Severus said, ignoring his former master's sarcastically polite attempt at conversation.
"Ah, yes," Voldemort agreed. "The child. What is it you call her?"
Severus refused to answer, but Tevis stepped closer to the beast and said, "Saffron."
Voldemort turned his attention to Tevis now, and Severus had to stop himself from physically stepping between the two of them. "A beautiful name for a beautiful child." He slanted a look at Severus through his snake-like eyes. "Are you certain she is yours, my friend?" he asked. "If you don't mind my saying so, she's rather too lovely to be the progeny of someone such as yourself."
Again Severus did not speak. He was not going to discuss his child with this monster.
"Don't worry, Severus," Voldemort continued, his tone offering false comfort, "I can tell by her eyes that she in, in fact, a product of your seed. Or perhaps I should say 'was'. Perhaps I have already done away with the child, hmmm?"
"No! You wouldn't!" Tevis cried.
"Wouldn't I?" Voldemort taunted. "Tell your young bride what I'm capable of, Severus."
"Perhaps," Severus said, "if you have killed her, you could just produce the body and end this charade." He heard Tevis choke on a sob beside him and longed to comfort her, but he needed to keep Voldemort focused on him and talking. If he wasn't imaging things in his desperation, the crate in the corner had just been hovered off the floor. Perhaps reinforcements were on the way?
"Severus," Voldemort said in a tsking tone, "you sound as though you never cared for the child. Not that that surprises me – you never struck me as the paternal type. Though you came here after her, so you must feel something for her. Perhaps you're grooming her to take your young wife's place when she's no longer young and appealing, hmm? Is that it?"
Severus certainly wasn't going to dignify that heinous accusation with a response. He walked away from the crate, hoping to draw Voldemort's attention away from it, too, because it certainly had moved, enough to allow someone to pass behind it. Had Tevis noticed it, too? Had she seen a potential way out? He was afraid to look at her to see. He didn't want Voldemort's attention on anyone but himself.
"Why don't we just cut to the heart of the matter?" Severus suggested. "We both know what you want. I can give it to you. I can give him to you. In exchange for the lives of my wife and daughter." He was quite convinced that Saffron was still alive. Voldemort would want him to see her die.
"That's a very tempting offer," Voldemort said, obviously lying. "But I think I'll pass. I'm going to kill your wife and daughter, Severus, and then you will tell me where Potter is. And as a reward for your betrayal – yet another on your long, long list – I shall kill you."
Severus was certain now that Harry was with them, in this room. He could feel him – he could smell him.
"No, Severus!" Tevis cried. "Don't tell him anything!"
"It's all right," said a voice that didn't seem to belong to anyone in the room. Harry had waited until he was close enough to Tevis to protect her before revealing his presence. Now that he was, he pulled off the cloak and dropped it to the ground. "Hello again, Tom."
Voldemort tried but didn't quite manage to hide his surprise at seeing Harry Potter here. They all watched his wheels turn as he tried to figure out his next move. He'd ordered his Death Eaters to stay outside, knowing he could handle a likely distraught Severus Snape and his child bride himself. Now the odds were distinctly against him, and he was a little nervous. He'd figured out what the Potter irritation had been up to for the last several months, and he decided that Nagini was his first priority. He spoke to her in Parseltongue.
The great snake, which had been lying unnoticed coiled in a dark corner, slithered through what little light there was in the room toward the tunnel opening.
"Harry?" Severus questioned, wondering why the boy was making no attempt to destroy the snake. He'd guessed that Nagini might be one of the horcruxes, and the fact that Voldemort was sending her away confirmed his suspicions.
"It's all right, Severus," Harry assured him.
"'Harry'?" Voldemort repeated. "'Severus'? You two have gotten close."
"You wouldn't understand, Tom," Harry informed him. "You're incapable of caring for anyone other than yourself. She's coming your way, guys!" he called loudly. "You got 'em?"
"Yeah, we got 'em!" Ron's voice echoed out of the tunnel.
Seconds later, the sound of a struggle came from the tunnel. Hissing, that only Voldemort and Harry could understand, a small scream (from Hermione), muttered oaths (from Ron), thumping noises, as though a large tail was striking the wall over and over again. And then silence.
"That's all right, then," Ron said, his voice tinged with satisfaction and a touch of hysteria. "It's done, Harry!"
"Great job!" Harry called back, never taking his eyes off Voldemort. "Stay there for a minute, would you, please. Basilisk fangs," he explained, his voice softer and directed now at the Dark Lord. "They destroy horcruxes. So that's it, Tom. The last horcrux. It's just you and me now."
"No," Tevis corrected. "It's me and Severus and you, Harry." She stepped beside him and took his hand, then reached out for her husband with the other. While they'd been listening to the snake's dying struggle, she'd remembered something, something that filled her with hope, for her daughter and Harry, at least. Something she would have remembered earlier if she'd hadn't been so sick with worry for her daughter. Her visions. She'd seen Harry at forty, and she'd seen her daughter graduating from university. At this moment, she was filled with hope and love for these two men and her daughter, who was likely somewhere near by, and she was sure that none of them was going to die in the Shrieking Shack today. The emotion she was feeling radiated out of her and into the two people standing to either side of her. She threw back her head and laughed, a happy sound so out of place in this dismal place with its desperate occupants.
Voldemort had had enough, and he raised his wand, pointed it at Harry, and cast the killing curse. Though no one pointed a wand to counter it, Tevis' love, as Lily's had done so long ago, acted as a shield, and the curse stopped seemingly in mid-air. The green jet of light split into two separate beams. One turned back on its caster; the other continued on to its intended target. Voldemort, struck in the chest, and Harry, struck in the forehead, both fell to the floor.
Harry lay on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, aware of what was going on around him, but only vaguely. He heard and felt Tevis on the floor beside him, making noises of concern, and he heard Severus' voice somewhere close by. He should open his eyes, he knew, if only to figure out what had become of Voldemort, but he didn't feel quite capable of that yet. So he stayed where he was and he pondered what had happened after the green jet of light had hit him directly on his scar.
He'd gone to . . . King's Cross, he'd told Dumbledore. Yes, Dumbledore had been there, as well as a pitiful creature Harry came to understand was Voldemort, or what Voldemort would become if he died without showing some remorse for all of the evil things he'd done.
Dumbledore had assured Harry that he (Harry) wasn't dead, but that he had a choice about whether to go back or not. There had been no choice, really. The people he loved were all here – he had to go back.
He'd learned that he himself was the last horcrux, but that the part of his soul that Voldemort had unwittingly taken was his own again and that the part of Voldemort's soul that resided in him was dead as well. If Voldemort's physical body could be destroyed now, he had nothing holding him to this earth any longer. He'd be destroyed, once and finally. How could Harry not go back and ensure that?
But first they'd talked about the Deathly Hallows, about Dumbledore's weakness in his youth. Harry couldn't bring himself to think less of the Headmaster – he'd made some bad choices, but he'd certainly been punished enough for them. Just as Severus had.
And then he'd left Dumbledore for the return here. As he lay on the floor, Harry felt as though every bone and every muscle in his body hurt, like he'd been crucio'd repeatedly. Had he known he was coming back to this, he might have chosen differently. No – there was no real choice.
"Harry?" Tevis asked, placing a cool hand on his forehead.
Harry blinked his eyes several times before he could get them to stay open. "Tevis. What . . . what happened?"
"I don't know," she said, swimming in and out of his vision. "Voldemort tried to kill you. His spell split. Part of it hit you, and part of it hit him. You both fell unconscious."
"Is he . . . is he dead?" Harry didn't think so. If he'd returned here, then Voldemort had likely returned as well.
Tevis looked over at Voldemort – he still lay on the floor, and he was showing signs of stirring as well. "No. He's not dead. Weakened, like you are, I suspect."
"How long was I out?" Harry asked.
"Only a few seconds."
Huh. That didn't make sense. It felt as though he'd talked to Dumbledore for hours. Harry tried to sit up, and helpful hands on both sides assisted him. "Get his wand!" he instructed. "Kill him! The horcruxes are all gone. I was the last one! Kill him now!"
"Hush, Harry," said Severus' soothing voice. "That honor should be yours. Can you stand?"
"I think so," he said, though he wasn't sure. With Tevis supporting him on one side and Severus on the other, Harry gained his feet. Severus kept his wand trained on Voldemort, who, with no one to help him up, was still lying prone on the ground.
"Do you have his wand?" Harry asked.
Severus handed it to Harry. "He had Dumbledore's wand," he said, puzzled.
"He thought he had the elder wand," Harry corrected.
Now he looked astonished. "You can tell me that story later. I think you have something to finish," Severus said.
Harry looked down at Voldemort. "Stand up," he ordered. He would not kill a man on the ground.
Riddle had made it to his hands and knees and was panting heavily. Those around him eyed him warily. Though he had no wand, he was still a very powerful wizard and therefore was still extremely dangerous.
"I said, stand up," Harry repeated when Voldemort made no move to do so. "Imperio."
Weakened by his own killing curse, Voldemort was unable to resist the unforgiveable, and he stood, slowly and obviously painfully.
"Do you regret what you have done?" Harry asked, surprising everyone in the room with the question. "This is important. Think it over before you answer."
Voldemort sneered at him. "I regret only that I haven't yet had my revenge on you."
"I thought you might feel that way," Harry said. He hadn't expected Voldemort to suddenly develop a conscience. "There's nothing for it but to kill you then, I guess." He raised his wand and pointed it between the hated man's eyes, and they all waited for it to be over. And waited. Harry lowered his arm. "I can't do it." He'd been planning for this moment all his life it seemed. There had been times when he'd dreamed almost gleefully about finally destroying the man who had ruined his life. But now that the time was here, he couldn't do it. He'd never killed, and he found that now that he had the opportunity, he didn't have the heart.
Voldemort laughed, a watery chuckle. "Weak!" he spat. "Dumbledore has made you weak, with all his talk of love. You should have come to me, Harry. We could have been great together, you and I. We still could. Harry, it's not too late."
"It is for you," Harry assured him. "Severus?" he asked, almost pleading.
"I would certainly have no compunction about finishing this, Harry, but I wonder about the prophecy. 'Either must die at the hand of the other'. I wonder if it is only you that can finish this."
"'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord'," Harry countered. "He looks pretty vanquished to me. I, at least, did that part. Seems like anyone could take care of the rest, doesn't it? Maybe we could just turn him over to the Aurors? They'd send him off to Azkaban. Maybe that's what he really deserves."
"Do you really think leaving him alive is a good idea, Harry?" Severus asked, his voice soft and patient. "If you give the remaining Death Eaters something to rally around, this will never be over."
Harry knew this was true, but he still couldn't do it. This was too much like cold-blooded murder. The man didn't even have a wand to defend himself with! If he did this, was he any better than the evil people he'd given his life, literally, to eradicate? "I know, but this . . . this is just . . . He doesn't even have a wand! He's defenseless! It's wrong! Killing is wrong!"
"How many innocent people has he tortured and killed, Harry?" Severus reasoned. "He had no such thoughts of mercy and justice when meting out his punishment to those whose only crime was being born with impure or non-magical blood. I will do this if you cannot, but your feelings of mercy are wasted on him."
"I . . . I don't think I can do it, Severus. I'm sorry." Harry hung his head, clearly ashamed of himself. The man had menaced society for decades, and there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of witches and wizards who would be only too happy to cast the curse to end it, to end him. And here was Harry, with all the reason in the world to want to do it, and the opportunity to do it, and he could not. Voldemort was right – he was weak.
Tevis stood silently by, listening to the moral argument play out, her eyes on the man in front of them, who looked like he might collapse to the floor if he weren't still under the effect of Harry's imperius. She knew there was only one way this could end – Voldemort had to die. It became apparent quickly that Harry could not bring himself to do it. It was just as apparent to Tevis that her husband would have no problem performing the act himself. She thought about what she'd seen in the pensieve and how much Voldemort had stolen from Severus since the moment the young man had wrongheadedly thrown his lot in with evil. She thought about how much this man had taken from her best friend, a man she loved just as much as she loved her husband – his parents, his childhood, his chance at a normal life. She thought about how Voldemort had used an innocent child to lure a father to his death. She thought about all the innocent children and all the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and friends whose lives had been ended or altered by the evil that was this man.
"It's all right, Harry," Severus said, and he began to slowly raise his wand.
But Tevis couldn't let him do this. Voldemort had already taken such a large part of Severus' soul – she wouldn't let him have any more. She raised her own wand before Severus could get his all the way up and said, "Avada Kedavra," clear and firm.
There was no one to block or diffuse the spell for Tom Riddle, and the green light hit him square in the chest, throwing him back against the wall with such force that the building shook. He was dead on impact. Tevis' knees buckled, and she slumped to the floor.
Harry moved to her side while Severus checked to be sure Voldemort was really gone. "Dead," he said as Ron and Hermione crawled out of the tunnel.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked Tevis as he pulled her to her feet. "What are you two doing here?" He'd been wanting to ask that question since he'd heard them talking with Voldemort as he'd crept up the tunnel. There hadn't been a chance until now.
"Saffron!" Tevis said. "We have to find Saffron!"
"Saffron?" Harry echoed.
"I will check upstairs," Severus said, and he carefully made his way up the creaking stairs, wand drawn. He cautiously approached the open door to the room at the top of the stairs and was startled to find Draco Malfoy standing in the middle of the room, his wand, pointing at the floor and held loosely in his hand. When he saw Severus, he stooped and placed his wand on the floor at his feet, then held his hands up, palms facing Severus, placating.
"Step back," Severus ordered, and Malfoy did as he was told. "Where is my daughter?"
"On the bed," Malfoy said. "He told me to kill her if he gave the signal. He was going to do it himself, once he had you, but if something went wrong, I . . . I was to do it."
Severus crossed quickly to the bed and gazed down at his daughter's still form. In the moment it took for him to realize that her chest was moving up and down in the slow rhythm of sleep, he nearly came undone. When he realized she was still alive, tears of relief pricked behind his eyes.
"I couldn't do it, Professor," Malfoy said, and Severus realized that the boy was crying as well. "He sent me the signal, but I . . . she's just a baby."
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. I owe you a life debt. You may pick up your wand."
Severus put his wand away and scooped Saffron up in his arms. He lowered her head to his shoulder and tried not to hug her so tightly he'd injure her. He wanted to stand here forever, just holding onto her, knowing she was safe, but her mother was waiting frantically for news downstairs.
"Come, Draco. The Dark Lord is dead. Let's find your parents."
"She's fine," Severus assured Tevis as he came down the stairs. "She's sleeping. Draco has been caring for her."
Tevis would have hit the floor again if Harry hadn't been supporting her. And then Saffron was in her arms and Snape was holding both of them, and tears were falling. Tevis kissed her daughter's head so many times she finally woke Saffron. The dark eyes looked up at her mother, blissfully unaware of how close they'd all come to disaster, and Saffron said, "Mama" for the first time ever, which made Tevis cry harder.
"We should get to the castle," Severus said, his voice rough from the tears he hoped no one had noticed in the gloom. "We should probably go back through the tunnel. I suspect the Death Eaters gathered around this shack are growing nervous at their master's lack of communication."
"I don't think you need to worry about that, Professor," Ron said. "I went back up through the tunnel while you were offing Voldemort, to get reinforcements in case we needed them. Several members of the Order were going to come around through Hogsmeade. I suspect they've taken care of the Death Eaters by now."
"Mr. Weasley, why don't you and I go and make sure of that?" Severus suggested, and he and Ron approached the door to the shack. "Stay here until we ascertain that all is well."
After the two men left, Tevis approached Draco Malfoy, standing uncomfortably at the bottom of the stairs, aware that he had no business being in this group. "Thank you," she said, and with the arm that wasn't holding Saffron, she pulled him into a hug.
Surprised, Draco stood still for a moment, then allowed his arms to go around both mother and daughter. "You needn't thank me," he said stiffly. "I only did what anyone else would have done."
Tevis kissed his cheek, then pulled away. "But you did it. So thank you."
Draco smiled at her, a genuinely warm smile.
When Ron came back with the all-clear, they formed a procession back to the castle: Ron and Hermione; Severus, who was levitating Voldemort's lifeless body before him, with Tevis and Saffron; and Harry and Draco. Halfway to the castle, with Saffron getting heavy in her arms, Tevis transferred her to her Uncle Harry, though Tevis had a hard time keeping her eyes off her daughter as they continued their trek.
Severus put an arm around his wife. "Are you all right, my dear?"
"You've never killed."
"No. But I wouldn't let him take one more piece of your soul. He'd taken enough. I figured I had a bit to spare," she explained.
Severus kept his eyes on his former master – wouldn't it be a shame if he dropped the dead bastard on the ground? "Thank you," he said.
"I love you, Severus," Tevis said, as though the decision had been the easiest in the world. "I'd do anything to keep you safe."
To hell with Voldemort. Severus stopped, turned to his wife, and took her in his arms. He kissed her soundly, while the rest of the group ground to a halt and looked on in amusement. Voldemort's body thumped to the ground when Severus lost the focus of his spell, but no one spared it a glance.
When they were finished, Severus levitated Voldemort again, and they finished their walk to the castle.
They'd expected to hear sounds of battle as they got closer to the castle, but all was quiet. They saw no one until they reached the Entrance Courtyard. Groups of people, students, families, and teachers, stood talking, but all noise ceased when Harry came into view, now leading the group at Severus' request, followed by Voldemort's floating corpse. Those in the courtyard came silently to form a line on both sides of the conquering heroes as they made their way toward the Great Hall, where they were met by Minerva McGonagall, who was positively beaming.
"Harry!" she said with great affection. "Is it done?"
"Yes, ma'am," Harry said simply. "We expected to find fighting here as well."
"There was," Minerva said, "until thirty minutes ago, when the Death Eaters suddenly just . . . stopped. They seemed confused. I suspect I now know why. They sensed when their leader was no more," she said, nodding at Voldemort's body. "Most of them were stunned during their moment of confusion, although a handful managed to slip away. Are you all right, all of you?"
"Yes," Harry answered. "What of the others?" he asked, not really wanting an answer. "We know about Fred already."
"Fred Weasley?" Severus asked. "Is he . . .?"
"Yes," Minerva confirmed. "Remus Lupin and Tonks as well I'm sorry to say."
Harry felt as though his knees might buckle at this news. Not Remus and Tonks! They'd only just found each other, just become parents. Another child growing up without his mum and dad. It was just too horrible to contemplate, so Harry tucked it away for later.
"There are others as well," Minerva went on gently. "But that can wait."
Kingsley Shacklebolt appeared behind Minerva. "I heard . . . ah, yes," he said with satisfaction, noting the body of Voldemort which Snape had allowed to settle on the ground. "You, Harry?" he asked in his rich baritone.
"No. I . . ."
"It was me," Tevis said. She knew Harry felt that not being able to finish Voldemort was a weakness, but she didn't think it was at all, and she didn't want to hear him "confess" to his inability to kill.
Surprised eyes turned on Tevis as more and more people began to stream out of the castle as word spread. Molly and Arthur Weasley burst through the crowd and made a beeline for Ron and drew him into a fierce hug.
Shacklebolt looked Tevis up and down, as though doubting someone of her size could have destroyed the monster that was Voldemort. Hermione was now the recipient of a Weasley hug.
"He had Saffron," Harry explained. "He used her to draw Severus here." His explanation was cut short by Mrs. Weasley hugging him vehemently.
"Ah," Shacklebolt said with a nod of understanding. "I expect it wasn't difficult to summon the requisite hatred to cast the killing curse, then."
"Oh no," Tevis disagreed. "It wasn't hatred that killed Voldemort. Hatred cannot destroy evil. Only love can do that. It was love that killed Voldemort." Mrs. Weasley had reached Tevis and now hugged her and Saffron.
"Just as Dumbledore always knew it would," Harry noted.
Once Mrs. Weasley released her, Tevis began to realize just how many people had come into the courtyard, and she began to get increasingly anxious, her breath coming now in shallow gasps, her heart beating a furious tattoo in her chest. She began to back away from them, instinctively seeking to put herself out of the middle of the growing crowd. These people had never seen her in full-out panic mode, but they were about to.
"Tevis? What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Too . . . many . . . people," she panted, her eyes wide, seeking an exit as she clutched Saffron tightly in her arms. Too tightly, apparently, because the baby began to cry.
"I must get her away from here," Severus said.
"We'll need your statements," Shacklebolt called. "And we'll want the wand that did the . . . that cast the curse."
"You can call on us at the house," Severus informed him. "She's not giving up her wand until I've resecured our residence."
Shacklebolt knew he wasn't going to win an argument with Severus Snape right now, and he nodded.
"I have to see a man about a wand," Harry told Severus. "I'll be home as soon as I can. Be careful. There are still some Death Eaters on the loose."
"And you as well," Severus said. He put an arm around Tevis and began leading his family away. They'd disapparate as soon as they got back off the grounds. Home. They were going home. Severus was finally free.
It was quite late before Harry finally made it back to Godric's Hollow. Severus was sitting in the kitchen, sipping a cup of tea, waiting for him.
"Sorry," Harry said. "That took a little longer than I thought it would."
"No matter," Severus assured him. "Have you eaten?"
"Yes," Harry said, tiredly dropping into a chair. "What I need now is some sleep. I feel like I've been awake for three straight days." That wasn't much of an exaggeration.
"What news do you have about other . . . casualties?"
Harry sighed. "There are fifty or so of ours dead. Many of them students. Colin Creevey of all people. He must have snuck back in after the underaged kids were evacuated."
"There was time to evacuate students?"
Harry sighed. "There's so much you don't know." He ran a hand through his hair. "Where's Tevis?"
"She's getting Saffron ready for bed. She hasn't been able to put the child down since we got her back."
"What happened? How did he get his hands on her?"
"That was my fault," Severus admitted. "I never told Tevis about the jinx on saying the Dark Lord's name." Snape didn't know if the jinx was still in effect and was reluctant to use the name given that several Death Eaters remained at large. He'd resurrected the safeguards around this house, and he didn't want to tempt fate. "She'd left Saffron in the garden for a moment. She said the name, and Death Eaters were here instantly. I rather imprudently ran out of the house and was stunned immediately. Tevis kept them from killing me, but they . . . they took Saffron. They told Tevis where they were taking her. They knew I'd follow. You know the rest."
Harry nodded and yawned, a huge, jaw-cracking yawn.
Severus stood up abruptly. "Come. You need sleep. Your story can wait until tomorrow."
Harry followed Severus up the stairs and into the bedroom. Tevis was sitting in the rocking chair, holding Saffron as she slept.
"Harry!" she said, standing up to hug Harry. Harry kissed Tevis on the forehead and stroked Saffron's head. "You were brilliant today," he told Tevis.
"I feel as though I should feel bad, taking a life like that," Tevis admitted. "But I find myself unable to. You look beat. Come to bed."
"I don't really think I'm up to . . ."
Tevis silenced him with a finger to his lips. "To sleep, Harry."
"Oh." He felt himself blushing.
While they'd been talking, Severus had changed into his night clothes. "Tevis, if you need to, the child can sleep with us."
"Bed will be a little small, don't you think?" She'd been planning to sleep sitting up in the rocking chair, holding her daughter, unable to put her down after almost losing her earlier today.
Severus gave her a look that said, "I'm not a wizard for nothing," and with a wave of his wand, the bed widened by three feet. Tevis smile gratefully.
"I'll take her while you change," Severus offered, and Tevis reluctantly handed the child over to him.
While Tevis got into her pajamas, Harry stripped to his boxers and climbed into the middle of the bed. Severus settled on one side of him and Tevis on the other after spelling the side of the bed so Saffron could not roll off. And despite his fatigue and Severus' willingness to wait until tomorrow for the full story, Harry started talking. He told them about finding the Hufflepuff cup and losing the sword; about the ride on the dragon; about seeing Voldemort searching for his horcruxes and his growing anger as he found they'd been taken, one by one; about the early part of the battle; about seeking out Voldemort in the Shrieking Shack and being surprised to find the Snapes there; about what had happened when Voldemort's killing curse had struck him.
"Oh, and I fixed my wand. With the Elder Wand," he finished.
"The Elder Wand," Severus repeated. "How did Dumbledore come into possession of the Elder Wand? And how did . . . Riddle come to have it?"
So Harry told them about Grindlewald and about Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore's tomb, about the legend concerning how the wand changed allegiance and how Voldemort had misinterpreted it. When he finished, he snuggled down on his pillow and yawned.
"Harry," Severus said, then stopped.
"That was . . . well done, start to finish."
Harry swelled visibly under his praise, but because he was who he was, he couldn't leave it there. "Well, it wasn't without its mistakes along the way."
"No long-range strategic plan is. But you identified the horcruxes, and you destroyed them, one by one. Even the one that was yourself. I am very proud of you."
Harry couldn't speak for a moment, overwhelmed with pride at Severus' words. "I couldn't have done it without Ron and Hermione. Or without you two," he said, reaching out a hand to each of them. "And in the end, I couldn't do it. I was too . . ."
"If you say you were weak, I'm going to punch you," Tevis warned.
"Well, what would you call it?" Harry demanded.
"You are not weak," Severus said. "You are a typical Gryffindor." Normally this would have been an insult, but tonight it was anything but. "Now I suggest we all get some sleep. It has been an eventful day."
Severus spelled off the lights, and they all slid down under the covers. It seemed the most natural thing in the world for Harry to spoon himself up against Severus and then pull Tevis into the same position in front of him, leaving much of the magically-enlarged bed unused. And it was so easy to fall asleep sandwiched between the two people whom he loved like no others in this world.
Two Months Later . . .
The Burrow and the yard surrounding it were filled with people, talking, laughing and celebrating the demise of the Dark Lord. In the two months since his downfall, every last remaining Death Eater had been tracked down and apprehended (or killed if they resisted). The first two weeks after the Battle for Hogwarts had been filled with too many funerals, but since then, it had been one party after another, everyone free to celebrate the end of the tyrant who had darkened the world for far too long. Harry had attended all of the funerals he could get to, but he avoided as many of the parties as he could. There was too much adulation going on wherever he went, and it made him uncomfortable.
But he couldn't miss this party, not after Fred's death and the loss of George's ear in the final battle and all that this family had done for him over the years. The Weasleys needed to feel joy again, and they'd have been upset if Harry had skived off.
"Here you are," Harry said to Tevis. "I've been looking for you." She was standing on a small incline overlooking the Weasley orchard, and she smiled at him warmly.
"It was getting to be a bit much," she confessed. "Funny how even a handful of Weasleys can seem like a large crowd."
Harry smiled at the truth of that statement. "Did I see Minerva talking to you before? She looked really serious."
"She wanted to ask me about Severus. About how our relationship began. I think she wants to ask him to come back to teach, but she was uncomfortable and wanted to know if he'd done anything inappropriate. Other than having sex with me, I mean," she said with an impish grin.
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her how much of a proper gentleman he was and how I practically threw myself at him and how many times I bounced off because he'd have nothing to do with me. I told her what happened the night we had sex the first time, how he'd been under the effects of the curses and the potions and I was too grief-stricken to be sensible enough to walk away. I think she understood. And I think Severus would really like to go back to teaching potions. I know it's hard for you to believe, but I think he missed it."
A some point in his past, that would have been hard for Harry to believe, but not any more, now that he knew Severus better. "Where's Saffron?"
"Mrs. Weasley has her. I may never get her back. That woman needs a grandchild in a very bad way."
"I think Bill and Fleur may have an announcement to make in that regard," Harry intimated.
"Well, actually," Tevis said with a shy smile, "I've an announcement of my own to make."
Harry looked at her, surprised. "Are you . . . pregnant?"
Tevis nodded, unable to stop the huge smile that spread over her face. "Yes."
"Does Severus know?"
"Not yet. I just found out today. Maybe you should tell him. You told him about the first one, after all."
"Ah! There you are!" said the object of their discussion. "My two favorite grownup people in the whole world!" Severus flung an arm around each of their shoulders and pulled them into a clumsy embrace, causing both of them to look up at him.
"You're pissed!" Harry accused with a huge grin.
"Imposhible," Severus protested. "I only had one drink." He held up one hand, his thumb and finger about an centimeter apart, showing them how small his drink had been.
Harry laughed. "Was it the punch? In the blue bowl?"
Severus nodded and had to clutch them both tighter to keep from falling over. "Blue," he confirmed solemnly.
"George made that punch," Harry told Tevis. Nothing more needed to be said.
"Maybe you should sit down," Tevis suggested, amused.
Instead of sitting, Severus leaned toward his wife and kissed her heartily, noisily, with lots of tongue, for many seconds, one arm still around Harry's neck.
"What? I don't get one?" Harry asked in mock outrage after Severus finally pulled away from Tevis.
Needing no further prompting, Severus kissed Harry in the same way and for the same length of time he'd kissed Tevis. "Wow! You really are sloshed!" Harry said when Severus finally pulled away from him.
"I just love you," he pronounced.
"And we love you, too," Tevis assured him, sharing an amused look with Harry. "Now please sit before you fall down."
Severus dropped bonelessly to a sitting position, and Tevis sat beside him. He leaned into her for a moment, then stretched out in the grass, his head in her lap. And he began to sing, something that sounded much like a sea shanty involving a witch named Molly McBride and her philandering husband. Severus apparently had forgotten a good half of the words, and those he couldn't remember he mumbled or hummed over. What he lacked in ability, he was compensating for with volume.
Harry was laughing so hard he began to snort. Tevis, too, was chuckling at her husband's uncharacteristic behavior as she stroked his hair back away from his face.
And as much fun as it was to watch, Harry drew a vial from his pocket and handed it to Tevis. "Antidote," he explained when he could breathe properly. "George gave it to me earlier in case I was foolish enough to try the punch."
"Severus!" Tevis interrupted.
"So she hexed him right in the arse!" he finished, his bass wobbly.
"Wise woman, that Molly McBride," Tevis noted, looking down at Severus. "Open your mouth," she ordered.
Severus immediately clamped his lips shut. "Why?" he muttered out.
"I have something that will make you feeling better."
"I already feel damned good," he assured her through his mostly-closed lips.
"All right. Maybe you could sing me that song again. I really like it."
"Really? You did?" he asked, surprised and pleased. "My father always told me I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket."
Tevis stroked his head softly. "Your father was wrong." And an idiot. And a sadist. And a bully. "You sing beautifully. Sing for me, Severus."
And, of course, as soon as Severus opened his mouth to sing, Tevis poured the antidote in and clamped his jaw tight so he'd have no choice but to swallow it.
"Smooth," Harry noted with approval.
"Thank you," Tevis said, rather proud of herself.
Severus sputtered and coughed for a time but finally looked up at his wife. "Why am I on the ground?"
"You had a little too much to drink," she told him.
"Nonsense!" he said, sitting up quickly. Harry offered him a hand and pulled Severus to his feet. After Severus had brushed himself clean, he assisted Tevis to her feet. "I don't over-indulge in public," he assured them.
"You didn't count on George Weasley," Harry explained.
Severus began to look nervous. "What did I do?"
"Well, I don't know what you did over there," said Tevis, "but you sang Harry and me a song."
Snape looked so appalled, Harry couldn't help piling it on. "And you kissed me," he said. "Right out in public. Where everyone could see."
"I . . . kissed you?"
"Yup," Harry confirmed proudly. "Used your tongue and everything."
Severus looked green now, even though the antidote contained an anti-hangover potion. "I don't feel well."
"Maybe you're suffering from morning sickness," Harry suggested. "I've heard that some blokes feel sick when their wives are pregnant."
Severus snorted. "Morning sickness!" he said dismissively. "That's ridic–" He slanted a look at Tevis, who smiled at him. "You're pregnant?"
Tevis' mouth twitched, and she smiled at him again and nodded.
"Well, this is . . ." Severus seemed at a loss for words.
"This is what, Severus?" Tevis asked, a small amount of fear creeping into her gut at his reaction to this news. He could hardly be surprised – they'd been using no form of birth control. The only real surprise was that it had taken this long.
A smile spread slowly across Severus' face. "This is wonderful!" he said with a little bit of his previous drunken giddiness. And he pulled Tevis into his arms.
When he let go of her, she looked up and him and said, "I thought you might be less than happy about this."
"I believe I told you I would like a male heir, to carry on the name."
"And if this is another girl?"
"Then I shall love her every bit as much as I do her sister," Severus avowed. "And we will simply have to keep trying." This last he said with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows.
Tevis laughed, happiness welling up inside her.
"We should perhaps go and collect said oldest child, before Molly Weasley indulges her beyond all redemption," Severus suggested. He put an arm around his wife's shoulders and led her back toward the noise of the party.
Harry trailed along beside them. "If you're planning on perfecting your baby-making technique tonight, I could come back to the house with you," he offered hopefully.
Severus stopped walking, and his arm dropped from Tevis' shoulders. Husband and wife exchanged a look, and Tevis nodded and resumed walking toward the party. Harry watched her go, wondering what that had been about, and Severus turned to face him. He placed a hand on each of the younger man's shoulders. "I think you know how I feel about you," Severus said earnestly. "But now that this is over and you are finally free to live your life, you should begin to do just that. You deserve to find a woman, or a man, whom you do not have to share. It is time for you to live, for yourself. It is the very least you deserve for all you have done for the rest of us.
Harry had been spending several nights a week in the house at Godric's Hollow, most of those in the Snapes' bed with them. He was happy to continue this as long as they'd let him.
"You understand, I trust," Severus continued, "that we are not rejecting you. You will always be a welcome guest in whatever home we happen to occupy. And I will always be honored to call you friend."
The emotion that filled Harry at this normally reticent man's words threatened to spill out of his eyes. Who would have thought, one short year ago, that this man's opinion would mean so much to him? Harry looked up into the dark eyes of his formerly hated potions professor. "Thank you," he said. "That means more to me than I can ever express."
Severus nodded and dropped his hands. "Live your life, Harry. Live it full and live it well. I wish for you all the happiness that I have found. Although I do hope you find it sooner."
Harry spied Tevis approaching with Saffron in her arms. "Some things are worth waiting for."
Severus followed his gaze. "That they are," he agreed. "But you are not me. You are young and attractive and generous with your heart, and whoever ends up with you will be very lucky indeed. Don't shut yourself away, as I did. Do you even realize what a miracle it is that this . . ." he looked at Tevis, "incredible woman looked twice at me, let alone was foolish enough to commit herself to me? I had convinced myself for many reasons that I was unworthy of so many things. But you, Harry – you are the epitome of all that is good in this world. Let yourself experience all of the good that life has to offer. It won't always be easy, but it will always, always be worth it."
Tevis reached them now, and Severus reached for his child. He lifted her far over his head, making her squeal with delight. When he brought her back down, he settled her on his hip and they resumed walking back toward the party, their friends, their lives.
Twelve years later . . .
Harry walked into the two-story stone house without knocking, the rooms almost as familiar to him as his own in London. It was a Friday afternoon in late spring, and the smell of quidditch was in the air. The final match of the year, Ravenclaw versus Slytherin, would take place tomorrow, just before lunch, and Harry had come early to visit with his surrogate family.
The house was cool and quiet, which could only mean that everyone was outside. Harry dropped his things in the guest room (his room) before making his way to the backyard. He heard voices well before he got there, and he knew he was on the right track.
He walked through the back door and took in the scene before him. Saffron Snape, now twelve and a half years old and a first-year Ravenclaw, circled the back yard on her broom, her long brown hair flying out behind her. She was quite a young beauty and obviously a good flyer (she'd better be, after the number of hours Harry had spent with her). She likely would have made her house team if they hadn't already had the best seeker Ravenclaw had seen in over a hundred years.
Saffron's younger sister, Allegra Eileen, recently turned eleven, was the spitting image of her sister with her brown hair and eyes as dark as night. She had her mother's round face and easy laugh, and she, too, was certain to break a few hearts in the upcoming years. She was flying around the yard solo as well, though she wasn't as daring as her sister and stayed much closer to the ground.
Snape child number three had also been a girl, Meadow Jane. At age seven, MJ closely resembled her two older sisters, as though they'd all been formed from the same mold. MJ was seated on a broom in front of her mother. Tevis was letting MJ steer, but Tevis was doing the work of keeping them balanced and aloft. MJ, always trying to keep up with her older sisters, always had a harried air about her, as though she'd been running for a while, maybe her whole life, and only now had stopped to catch her breath.
Then had come little Susanne Hermione, the first Snape child to break the tradition of brown-haired, dark-eyed daughters. Unfortunately for Suzie, her dark eye color wasn't the only thing she'd inherited from her father. Her hair was black as a raven's, and her mother kept it short because it was impossibly stringy and lifeless if left to grow long. She also had her father's nose and his long, gangly limbs, promising better-than-average height when she was fully grown. Suzie was the first Snape child who would likely never be called pretty by anyone who didn't take the time to get to know her. As if sensing her physical shortcomings, Suzie was much more reserved than her sisters and tended to get lost in the noise and hubbub of the House of Snape. She was not shy and would speak her mind to anyone who asked, but she didn't offer opinions and she didn't engage in pointless chatter. She was, however, the sweetest child imaginable, and it was impossible to know her for five minutes without being blessed in some way by an act of kindness: a flower picked, a picture drawn, a kiss bestowed. Suzie would turn five next month, and Harry had already received her hand-drawn invitation to the party. She was currently nestled in her father's arms as he, too, mounted aboard a broomstick, soared the skies in the backyard. Though Severus loved all of his children, little Suzie held a special place in his heart, because he'd given her the ammunition which other children would use to torment her when she left the shelter of her home. He knew how cruel children could be – he knew what she was in for when she started school, and he did all he could to let her know that he loved her beyond reason.
It was Tevis who first spotted Harry, and she immediately pointed her broom in his direction. She touched down, and Harry gave MJ a hand off, then gave her a quick hug and slipped her the obligatory galleon he always brought for each of the children before she ran off into the house. Tevis dismounted, leaned her broom against the house, and hugged Harry hard.
"It's so good to see you!" she said.
"You just saw me two months ago," he replied, hugging her back.
"Feels more like two years. How have you been?" she asked as she pulled away.
"I've been good. Great actually. And you?" he asked, patting the baby bump which had become visible since he'd seen her last.
"It's a boy!" she told him joyfully. "Finally! I told Severus this is absolutely it! No more! We'd have to have Minerva make us a bigger house."
After Voldemort's death, Minerva McGongall had been appointed Headmistress of Hogwarts. Her first official duty, after assuring herself that the man hadn't done anything despicably amoral with Tevis Talmadge, was to beg Severus Snape to return to Hogwarts as potions instructor. She'd offered him a raise and a house on the grounds so that he wouldn't have to leave his family every day. It had taken the Snapes no longer than ten seconds to accept, and they'd been here ever since. Severus had also accepted the role of Deputy Headmaster, but had given up his duties as Head of Slytherin House. His teaching duties and his growing family kept him busy enough.
"I have news, too," Harry told her. "Lawrence asked me to marry him."
This warranted another enthusiastic hug. Harry had met Lawrence Abbott two years ago, and they'd been together since. Harry had been in and out of relationships since besting Voldemort, and he'd had his heart broken twice (once by a man, once by a woman). Both times, the Snapes had been a source of consolation that they were uniquely situated to provide. But Lawrence, he knew, was "the one" that Severus had promised was waiting for him out there, and he'd been incredibly happy since they'd become serious about one another.
"Why didn't he come with you?" Tevis asked.
"He had to work. He sent his love."
"Well, give him a kiss for me and tell him how happy I am for you both. When's the big day?"
"What big day?" Severus asked as he landed beside them.
Harry took Suzie from Severus, and her thin arms snaked around his neck, pulling him into a hug. Harry hugged her back.
"Harry and Lawrence are getting married!" Tevis announced.
"That's great!" Severus said, genuinely pleased. He offered Harry a hand, and they shook heartily. "And it's about time!"
"Yes, well, you know those potion types. Everything has to be just perfect." Lawrence was a professor at a college for witches and wizards studying medicine. He was ten years older than Harry, a fact he had been self-conscious about until he'd met Severus and Tevis, who made the difference in his and Harry's ages seem inconsequential. Lawrence was gentle and patient and loved Harry fiercely.
"How is his work going?" Severus asked.
Harry and Lawrence had met when Harry needed a potions expert to assist a client with his defense. Harry had gone to the wizarding equivalent of law school after sitting his NEWTs and now represented witches and wizards accused of committing crimes who couldn't afford to hire a private solicitor. He worked for the Ministry, so the pay wasn't great, but Harry found the work tremendously satisfying. Severus had never gotten over being a little miffed that Harry hadn't asked him for his assistance on that case, but considering how everything had turned out, Harry thought he'd made the right decision.
Harry settled Suzie on his hip, her arms still around his neck, her head resting on his shoulder. "It's going well. He's researching some new thing that he told me all about and I promptly forgot."
"Shocking," Severus deadpanned.
"I'm sure he'd love to tell you all about it. He worships the ground you walk on, you know," Harry said with an injured little sniff.
Severus smiled widely, something Harry had never gotten over the shock of seeing. "Well then isn't it lucky that I worship you, my young friend?" he said with a playful twinkle in his eyes.
Harry smiled back. "Your daddy's a big git," he whispered in Suzie's ear.
"No, he is not," she whispered back. No one insulted her daddy, not even her beloved Uncle Harry. "Are you coming to my party?"
"What party?" Harry teased. "Are you having a party? Why would you be having a party?"
"My birthday is coming up," she told him solemnly. Suzie never joked.
"Your birthday, that's right! I'd forgotten. I wouldn't miss that for the world," Harry assured her.
"Saffron! Allegra! Time to come down!" Tevis called.
The girls grumbled but came down to earth. Harry hugged both of them, bestowed his galleons on them (he gave two to Suzie), and they all went inside.
Severus awoke at his usual time the following morning to a strange aroma. It wasn't the smell of coffee by itself that was strange: it was the fact that someone other than himself was up at this time of day. He rolled over to find his wife still asleep beside him, as per usual. Curious, Severus gently pressed his lips to Tevis' forehead and slipped out of bed. After a pit stop in the loo, Severus made his way downstairs.
What he found in his dining room surprised him more than a little. Harry Potter – bone idle, never-a-morning-person Harry Potter – hard at work at five in the morning. Severus poured himself a cup of coffee, leaned against the kitchen door frame, and sipped as he finished waking and watched the industrious young man.
Severus had never told anyone this, but he thought of his heart as a circle (not that ridiculous heart shape that some fool had dreamed up which had nothing to do with actual biology). The circle was divided into six equal sections, one for each of his children, with the extra one for Harry. Tevis was the thin but incredibly strong membrane which held everything together. Now that Harry was here, Severus' heart was full.
Harry had his laptop computer set up on the table. There were things in his ears that connected to that laptop with a wire. Severus marveled once again at how things had changed in the wizarding world in the last few years. The number of witches and wizards coming from Muggle families had increased dramatically since the last war, as though nature herself were compensating for the deaths of all those who had died and would not create their own next generations. These Muggle-borns, accustomed as they were to their electronic gadgets and their ability to communicate with each other instantly, were unwilling to do without them just because most of their lives were to be spent around magic. And young people working together with purpose, led by Hermione Granger (who still hadn't learned how to take no for an answer), were an unstoppable force, and they'd found a way around the restrictions that magic posed to electronic gadgets. Students now had personal music listening devices, telephones they carried in their pockets, and computers in their dormitory rooms. Hogwarts had even instituted a computer class, for those purebloods whose families had never heard of electronics, a class which staff had been firmly requested to avail themselves of, and a class which Severus had to this point managed to avoid. So he couldn't have used the gadgets Harry had arrayed across the table, but he knew what they were.
Harry was clearly listening to something through his earphones, and he was taking notes furiously on a legal pad as he did so. Every now and then he whispered to himself, mostly words like "idiot" and "moron."
Severus finally grew tired of standing and sat himself down at the table. Startled, Harry jerked back, pulling the buds from his ears.
"Sorry," Severus said, rather insincerely, "didn't mean to startle you."
Harry reached over to pause the recording. "I didn't wake you, did I?"
"No. I'm always up at this time. I don't remember you ever being so industrious so early."
Harry reached his hands up over his head and stretched backward in the chair. "Price I pay for taking the weekend off."
"What exactly is it that you are doing?"
"I picked up a couple of new clients yesterday. Brothers. Both arrested for thievery on Diagon Alley. I'm listening to Brother Number Two's questioning by the Aurors. All interviews are required by law to be recorded now, so I have to listen to them to make sure that the accuseds are made aware of their rights, which they were, especially of their right to ask for counsel, which they both were and both declined. Most of these idiots think they're smart enough to talk their way out of trouble, and they think that if they ask for a solicitor, the Aurors will assume their guilt. So they try to play it cool and talk their way out of it on their own. The problem is, most of them are just not smart enough to pull it off. Take these latest two." Harry was clearly warming to his subject.
"They're brothers, thieves by trade. Think Mundungus Fletcher, only somehow dumber. They have this competition, see. They start on opposite sides of the street, and they work their way down either side, and at the end, they compare what they've been able to nab. Whoever has less has to buy lunch. The Aurors got both of them, separately, to confess all of that. And now they want their solicitor to get them off. Dumb, right?"
"Are they typical of the type of person you encounter?"
Harry thought about it. "I'd say the dumb criminal that's caught easily is probably half of what I see. Most of the rest of them are caught up in circumstances that spiral out of control because they're drinking or with people they probably shouldn't be. A small percentage of them are just desperate and feel compelled to do whatever it is that got them into trouble. An even smaller percentage of them are innocent and really need my help."
"But you like helping all of them," Severus guessed.
Harry smiled in acknowledgment. "I do."
"Are you happy, Harry?"
The question had a serious undertone to it that Harry couldn't fail to hear, and he stared at Severus a moment before answering. "I am. Happier than I ever thought I could be. And not just with the job."
"Good," Severus replied. "More coffee?"
"Um sure," Harry said.
Severus took Harry's cup and his own back to the kitchen, filled them, and returned to the table. He placed both cups on the table, knelt on one knee next to Harry's chair, and leaned in and kissed him, passionately and aggressively. Surprised by the move, but trusting implicitly in Severus and his intentions, Harry closed his eyes and returned the kiss with equal ardor. Both men kept their hands to themselves until the very end of the kiss when Severus raised one hand and caressed Harry's cheek.
"What was that for?" Harry asked in wonder.
"If I had known that the last time I kissed you would the last, I would have made the most of it. I didn't know, so I didn't, and now . . . I have." Severus returned to his chair and sat.
"Thank you," Harry said simply.
"Have you told Lawrence about your relationship with us?" Severus asked.
"No. I'm not hiding it from him, and if he ever asked me about it, I wouldn't lie. But he's kind of conservative, and I'm not sure he'd understand what it was you both did for me. Kinda makes me wish I'd known the last time was going to be the last time," Harry joked, somewhat wistfully.
"I have every confidence that in Lawrence, you have finally found your soul mate," Severus said, "but you must know that if you ever need Tevis and me again, we are here for you, in whatever way you need us." His meaning was clear: if Harry's relationship with Lawrence ever did fall apart, the Snapes would be there to catch him once again.
Harry smiled warmly. "I appreciate that, but I'm pretty sure I'm not going to need it. Remember how we talked about some things being worth waiting for? Well, I'm glad I waited."
Severus offered Harry his cup, and Harry touched his own to it, toasting to his future.
"So, Larry and Harry, eh?" Severus teased.
Harry snorted. Lawrence hated being called 'Larry', and Severus knew it. "Call us that again and I'll start referring to you as 'Sev and Tev'."
Their cozy little tete-a-tete was interrupted by the patter of small feet coming down the stairs. "Ah, Suzie, right on schedule." It was six a.m., Suzie's usual waking time. Severus got up before she even made it to the kitchen and poured a small amount of orange juice into a coffee cup identical to his own. He sat down again and waited for his youngest daughter to make her way to them.
"Good morning, princess," he said when she did.
"Good morning, daddy," she said and padded her way in her footed pajamas over to her father. She climbed into his lap, and together, the younger Snape clearly imitating the older Snape, they drank from their cups. When they'd set them down again, Suzie leaned upward and kissed her father on the cheek. Severus returned the favor.
"Hey, what am I, chopped liver? Don't I get any loving?" Harry complained.
"I think you'd better go over there and give Uncle Harry a hug before he cries," Severus suggested.
Harry put on the saddest face he could manage, and Suzie slid off her father's lap and came around to Harry's side of the table. Harry drew her into a tight hug and buried his nose in her neck, making her giggle. He kissed her neck, then blew a raspberry there, which he knew would send her into paroxysms of laughter. He wasn't disappointed. Harry couldn't help but smile as he held her until she calmed, then he set her back on her feet.
"I like it when you tickle me, Uncle Harry," she said very seriously.
"I know you do. I like it, too." Harry's heart always seemed to stretch a little when he talked with this earnest young thing, so homely on the outside and so beautiful on the inside. She had a kind of loveliness that was not apparent until you held her in your arms and felt her warm little body melt into your own. The unlikely angel returned to her father's lap, and she was content to just sit there and listen to the two men talk until she was forced to abandon her perch.
Some time later, Severus noted, "Almost seven. Mummy should be up soon. Unless your little brother woke her up early again."
Sure enough, five minutes later, Tevis made an appearance. "Morning all," she said as she went for the coffee pot.
"Should you be . . ." Harry started to ask, but he was stopped quickly by a raised hand from Severus and a frantic shake of his head.
Tevis turned and nearly snarled, "Should I be what?" She'd had the conversation with her husband about whether or not caffeine was good for the baby a hundred times. She had no intention of having it with Harry. At least not until she had some of said caffeine coursing through her.
"Should you be looking this beautiful this early in the morning?" Harry recovered nicely.
Tevis saw right through him, but she smiled sweetly and turned back to the coffee pot. Severus mouthed, "Nice save," at him.
"You're so sweet, Harry," she said. "Wish my own husband was half as attentive."
Severus tried to look hang dog and apologetic.
"Oh, give it up, husband of mine. You never could pull that look off." Tevis hadn't even turned around. She did now. "Good morning, Suzie Q. How would you like to go upstairs and wake your sisters up?"
"Can I?" she asked hopefully. Suzie always waited impatiently each morning for her sisters to wake up, knowing she would incur their wrath if she woke them up one minute before they had to be up.
"You can. They need to get up and eat and do their chores before we go to the game. Sorry, match. You have permission to jump on their beds if you need to."
"Goodie," Suzie said, still as serious as toast, jumping off her father's lap and heading up the stairs at a sedate pace. All three adults fondly watched her go.
"Harry, get your crap off my table," Tevis ordered, joining them in the dining room. "It's breakfast time."
Severus pulled Tevis into his lap and gave her a welcoming morning kiss. "You know I think you're beautiful. Why do I have to say it?"
Tevis snuggled into his embrace. "It's just nice to hear every once in a while."
"How often?" Severus asked. "I'll set myself an alarm. Every five minutes? Ten?"
"Shut up, you," Tevis said, hitting him playfully on the chest. Tevis finally realized what was all over the table. "Harry Potter, are you working while you're on vacation with us?"
"The price of being me," Harry said, starting to pack up. His phone rang, vibrating away on the table.
"Don't answer it," Severus and Tevis said together.
Harry picked it up. "It's Lawrence!" And of course he answered it. "Good morning, love. Oh, that's sweet. I miss you, too." Harry glanced up quickly at the couple across the table from him, his cheeks pinking slightly. Tevis made kissy faces at him, making Harry laugh. "No, it's just Tevis. She says hello." Harry spoke away from the phone. "Lawrence says hello to you both. What?" Back into the phone. "Oh, that's great." To the Snapes again: "He says he came make it to the match!" And back into the phone. "I can't wait to see you. You can stay the night, right? Of course it's all right with them," he said, looking up at Severus and Tevis again, who nodded. "Match is at eleven. Don't be late. Love you. I'll see you later." Harry hung up, smiling warmly. Yup, no one had ever made him feel like Lawrence did, just from hearing the sound of his voice.
Both of the Snapes, on the verge of making sarcastic comments to their friend, kept them to themselves when they saw Harry practically glowing with happiness. Suzie returned. "I woked them up," she announced.
"Good job, little helper," Tevis praised. "Want to help with the pancakes now?"
"Can we have sausage, too? Not the flat kind, but the round kind?"
"Just because you asked, we can. Go get me the flour, please."
One by one, the other children came down the stairs, in various stages of dress and consciousness. As the food was passed around the table, and the older children became more awake, the group got more boisterous. Harry was happy here and couldn't help but think how lucky he was. Severus and Tevis had been so important to him for so long, and they and their children gave Harry the big family that he'd always longed for.
"Can two boy wizards have a baby when they get married?" the child asked.
Harry looked at Severus for help, not because he didn't know the answer but because he didn't want to start down a road that could lead to lots of embarrassing questions about human reproduction. Severus only stared back, amusement showing on his face.
"Yes?" Harry answered hesitantly.
"Will you and Uncle Lawrence have a baby?" This from Saffron, who, her parents knew, understood the basic concept about what a man and a woman did to produce a baby. If any embarrassing questions were going to be asked about how two men could do that, they would come from her.
"I don't know, Saffron," Harry said. "We haven't really talked about it." They actually had, but he wasn't going to go into that now with children present.
"You could call him Joe," Meadow offered helpfully, which made Harry laugh.
"That's a stupid name!" Saffron scoffed.
"No, it's not," Meadow argued. "I like it! When I have a baby, I'm gonna name him Joe!"
"Girls," Tevis said, a warning note in her voice. "Could we not have this argument at the table?"
"Baby," Saffron whispered under her breath, the insult directed at her sister. Meadow stuck her tongue out in return.
"Ladies, enough," Severus ordered mildly, and their contrary behavior ceased at once, as it always did when their father spoke.
"Uncle Harry?" Suzie spoke up. She'd been watching and listening, as she always did.
"If you and Uncle Lawrence have a baby, will you still love us?"
Harry had to swallow hard to dislodge the ball of emotion that formed in his throat. "I'll not stop loving all of you until the day I die. Nothing could ever change that. Not a baby, not ten babies, not anything."
"Baby brother, too?" Suzie persisted. "'Cause he's not borned yet."
"Baby brother, too," Harry assured her.
"Good," Suzie said and bit into her sausage. All was right in her world.
Severus and Tevis smiled at him from their opposite ends of the table.
Harry cleared his throat, needing to lighten the mood before he burst into tears right here in front of everyone. "So, Saffron, what are the chances of Ravenclaw beating the damned . . . I mean, bloody Slytherins today?"