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Her Fading Light

Chapter Text

It was twenty past two in the morning when Severus Snape arrived at the graveyard on the edge of the Hogwarts grounds. 

Severus Snape had never considered that he may be regarded as a hero of the second wizarding war. He had been a spy, of course, but a rather unlikeable one. Even those that could appreciate his sacrifice had not given him the impression they cared so much as to place a wooden cross above where his body had fallen. All of that considered, he was certain that he was remembered for being the one who failed to save the golden girl of Hogwarts when the shrieking shack was set aflame. No, he had not expected to be buried with the heros at the memorial for the Battle of Hogwarts. 

But he was wrong.

Plain as the moon lit night above their heads, there was a large marble stone bearing his name. He knelt in the dewy grass and traced his fingers over the engravings as if they were smudges of caked on mud that he could smooth away. The monument, larger than nearly all others, was polished into a near mirror like state, not neglected or forgotten at all.

They had remembered him. Despite his cruelty they had regarded him as a hero. Some poor students had taken the time to sweep the ground where they two of them had fallen, place the ash inside an urn and bury it below a stone amongst the honorable wizards and witches that had been lost. Someone had cared about him enough to notice that he was gone.

He could see the girl’s stone off in the distance, a shoulder up bust of her young face a top of a several foot tall base where he suspected that they’d put the other half of the swept ash. To think that they had fallen in that shack in one another's arms but were placed so far apart in death was almost fitting. Dying together didn’t necessarily mean they belonged together. And he couldn't blame them. Everyone at Hogwarts had known his cruelty to the girl. The names he had spat at her intelligent answers and precocious demeanor were nothing short of unforgivable.

A hand rested every to lightly on his shoulder to catch his attention and he reached around to clamp down upon it. A nearly wordless question waited for him like a package on the front stoop of the witch’s mind and he let out of huff of exasperation. 

Ready? She asked, imagining the two of them walking hand in hand towards the forbidden forest. I’m tired.

“In just a moment, love.” Snape let go, grit his teeth and pushed up slowly from the wet ground. The slack weight strapped to his back, breathing softly into the side of his neck, had appeared to become heavier throughout the journey as he had grown weaker. “I am not the young man I used to be.” He rose slowly and steadied his feet, letting the dizziness wash over him and subside.

Hungry? The words were nearly thrown at him but he caught them the way he had grown used to over the years. Barely waiting for a response the witch reached into her bag with her one free hand and pulled out a sleeve of stale biscuits. 

“Thank you.” Severus accepted two of the man frowned at the silent girl as she reached to put them back in the leather messenger bag. “No, you must eat as well. There is still several hours of walking ahead of us.”

The figure shook her bushy curls and kept reaching to put the sweets back in her bag. I can’t, I feel sick.

“Damn you!” He snapped and took one from his own grip then hoisted it into hers. “You have to keep up your strength.”

Reluctantly, and with a slight tremor in her movements, Hermione nibbled on the fluted edge of the sweet and watched her companion do the same. Monroe?

Snape set his jaw and shook his head. “Asleep, dear. The draught I gave each of them will be strong enough to keep them quiet until daybreak.”

How is your pain? She wondered with a concerned doe eyed look towards his mangled, but long since healed, leg.

“After all we’ve seen, the pain is a welcome reminder.”

We’re alive.

“Yes, my dearest.”

Together they reached the forbidden forest and Snape remained acutely aware of his surroundings. They watched their steps, trying not to rustle leaves or snap twigs. Silence was their only reprieve. In the darkness they were hard to see and he knew well that one could not kill something one didn’t know was there. All Severus needed to do was find the right hollowed out tree and hope that no one had found what he had stored within it in the years they’d been gone. 

Shortly before the sun could creep up over the horizon and bring light to their movements, after checking nearly a dozen different hiding spots he had used over the years, Snape let out a sigh of sweet relief. His fingers warped around the pocket watch he had left and he pulled it from the tree, brushing it free of the soggy decay that coated it’s surface.

The one? Hermione imagined him flicking it open and finding it containing what her husband needed. In her girlish years of innocence she would have believed that they had come too far to fail. They had too much to lose. There was no possibility the world was cruel enough to let it end that way. But with time she had found the truth much more complicated. Not only was the world that intentionally cruel, but it could be worsened if any missteps were taken. One could make the mistake of hoping at all, giving fate the power to break their heart.

Snape nodded to her, smiling at the way she let out a sigh of relief when the girl’s vision rang true. The small green vile was the last step of their long journey. Carefully wedging the cork free, fearing that his potion would be ruined should it crumble, Snape brought the liquid to his dry cracked lips and took it down with one swallow. He felt a rush of something both long lost and all too familiar under his skin and knew with the age of the mixture that he only had seconds before the new magic left him. Pulling the girl to his chest, he remembered a place. There was a sliver of grass, towering red brick mills, a decaying waterwheel atop a dark dingy river and black painted shut windows with foggy warped glass. Dark leather and wood pieces of furniture were draped in white sheets and dishes lined the kitchen shelves with a thick layer of dust. Even in its state of grime and disrepair, it was the place he’d spent the last five years dreaming of. Their sanctuary. Safety, warmth and access to his potions laboratory, which he knew knew the girl tucked under his arms would not live another day without.

“Home,” He whispered and off they went. 

Chapter Text

Kit, former house elf of Severus Snape, was both a neighborhood treasure and oddity at the small wizard market just outside of Cokeworth. Each day she would make her way down the mostly abandoned muggle streets with a picnic basket in the crook of her elbow and a satchel of coins tied around her wrist. First she would go to the bakery, then to the butcher, make a brief stop at the sweet shop, finish buying her goods at the farmer’s stand and lastly stop to give a sweet or two to the few children left playing in the park.
Though that brisk winter morning, Kit set out in the same familiar way, she was on a slightly different mission. Walking into Susan Bones-Bridge’s Bakery only moments after the auburn haired woman turned the lock on her door, Kit bounced up the counter top and rang the bell.

“Morning, Kit.” Susan smiled at her and reached into the case for one sweet dinner roll and a slice of whole wheat bread, wrapping them both up in a piece of parchment. Off to the side, she’d measured out a quarter cup of rice and put it in a scrap of fabric, tied with a short length of twine. “That’ll be two sickles and twenty knuts, dear.” she said without even thinking about it. It was the same price she’d charged the elf each day for the last five years.

Kit fumbled with her satchel and reached out the coins, instead handing her ten sickles and nineteen knuts with a dazed smile. “So terribly sorry, Ms Bridge, but Kit needs… Kit needs more, Ms Bridge.”

Eyeing the money in her hand, Susan raised an eyebrow briefly before tucking into her apron. “Four rolls, four slices of bread and two cups of rice?” she asked, a bit taken aback by the change in the all too familiar routine.

Nodding slightly, Kit’s smile grew wider and more eager as she accepted the items and placed them into her worn out basket. “Thank you, Ms Bridge.”

“Having company over for dinner tonight, Kit?” Susan asked, disguising her curiosity as friendly conversation.

The elf shook her head almost rapidly and scoffed with a giggle. “Oh goodness no, Ms Bridge. It would be terribly impolite to host friends of Kit’s at master Snape’s home. She would never. Simply would not dream of it.” And before Susan could formulate another question for the grinning creature, the storefront bell rang and her shop was empty once more. So she brewed and sat back with a cup of tea and looked out the dark glass window while waiting for the sun to rise.
Skipping only one door over, Kit waited patiently as Johnathan Winkle unlocked his butcher’s shop and motioned her inside. Just as Susan Bones-Bridge had done only minutes earlier, he began readying Kit’s usual order. He wrapped the freshest chicken leg he had in butcher’s paper and did the same with two slices of thick cut bacon. Kit placed fifteen sickles and 28 knuts on the counter top and waited patiently for her order.
Winkle shrugged his shoulders at the unusual amount and put the money in his register. “Extra peckish today, Kit?” He wondered aloud as he packaged three more chicken legs and six more slices of bacon.
“No, Mr Winkle.” Kit accepted her packages and smiled broadly up at the man. “Kit’s appetite is much the same.”

“Oh,” He grumbled, took off his gloves and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “Should I not expect you tomorrow or the next then?”

A small scoff escaped Kit’s lips, and he saw the delighted disbelief in her eyes. “Mr Winkle is very funny. Of course he will see Kit tomorrow morn. Kit comes every day .” She turned away and whispered to herself. “Very silly shop keeps today. So very silly.”

Though her purchase included a bar of chocolate and a lollipop, while it was typically just a pound of hard candies, the candy maker’s son thought nothing else of Kit’s purchase. She was able to make it out without any questions and skipped merrily to the Longbottom Farm Stand.
That morning, Neville woke up early to take the first morning shift at the small outbuilding on the road that was frequently called the Longbottom Farm Stand. He washed fresh eggs from their chickens and ducks, bottled both cow and goat’s milk to stock the fridge and flipped the sign to open, just shy of five in the morning. His first customer nearly every day let herself in and padded bare dusty feet up to his counter. Most customers shopped for themselves but as he knew exactly what Kit wanted he, like all the other shopkeeps, had it in a bag ready to go.
“Greetings Mr Longbottom.” Kit looked up at the man, counting out her coins. “Kit has an extra special order today. A dozen eggs, a quart of cows milk, a pint of goat’s and, eight ounces of cheese, a head of lettuce, a half dozen apples and a pound of root vegetables, whatever Mr Longbottom has got.”

Neville raised his eyebrows. “Huh, that’ll be three galleons, two sickles and four knuts if I’m not mistaken. Think you can carry all that back with you, Kit? That’s a fairly heavy order.”

She stared at the ground for a moment and looked puzzled, then pulled out an extra sickle. “Would a tip get Kit some help bringing her purchases back to the house of Snape? Residents are awfully hungry… Kit would hate to disappoint them by taking too long.”

“What residents?” He questioned, not moving to put the order in her bag or taking the money off of the countertop. “Who is at the house with you, Kit?”

Kit’s cheeks pulled up into a smile once more and she began mumbling almost to herself. “Everyone said that Kit was crazy. But Kit knew. Kit was very sure that Master was just fine. Master Snape was not swept up and buried at the school. Kit went to see. Kit said that was soot and nothing else but no one believed Kit. Said Kit had lost what was left of her marbles. But Kit has a whole jar of marbles under the stairs. She knew exactly what she felt and now Master Snape is home with wife and children. Beautiful babes, they are, goat’s milk is for the wee one. New Mistress Snape needs to stop nursing. Her clothes hang from her flesh. Not good, Master says, and Kit sees it the same way. Yes she does.”

Neville Longbottom let out a deep sigh of sadness, and reached for his wand in his back pocket. The poor elf had finally gone made with delusion and he had to restrain her to get her to St Mungos. He considered only for a moment that he could ask his mother to befriend Kit. Maybe she would understand enough of what he said to help the creature feel at home.
“Mr Longbottom does not believe Kit.” She furrowed her brow and pursed her lips. “Well Mr Longbottom will take his tip and follow Kit to see Master Snape’s return for himself! Hold the beautiful babes, is what he should do. Can’t say they aren't real if he can touch them.”

For some reason that he couldn't quite put his finger on, Neville lowered his wand back into his pocket, filled the shopping bag with Kit’s order and followed her out the door. It was a short walk to the abandoned Snape home on Spinners End for a wizard with long strides, but a good half hour trek when he slowed down to the pace of an elderly house elf. When they reached the wrought iron gate, Kit muttered a spell to unlock it and Neville followed behind her to the front door. She muttered a second spell and it also let them inside.
“This way to the kitchen’s, Mr Longbottom.” Kit directed, turning to the right and tucking down a narrow hallway. “Must put the food away before it goes spoiled.” He set down the bag for her and the elf fluttered about the room tucking containers into the icebox, under the cabinets and onto the counter tops.

“Where is Snape, Kit? Is he here with us right now?” Neville questioned, almost certain he knew what her answer would be. Snape was simply a delusion that she had cooked up to cope with her loneliness. He was sure of that. 

Kit shook her head no. “Does Mr Longbottom see Master Snape here? Heavens no he does not. Master Snape is in his potions laboratory. Mistress is sick and requires the work of Master to become well. Follow along please.”

Trudging down a hall that sprouted suddenly from another direction, Neville once again followed the elf. He tucked through the tunnel but noted the surprising lack of cobwebs or dust. For a house elf gone mad, Kit had kept up the house rather well.

“Master!” Kit called out, causing Neville to cover his ears. “Master, Kit has brought Mr Longbottom the shop keep to show him that Master is back since he did not believe her. How silly? He carried the groceries but Kit will give him a tip from her own pocket money. That is promised.”

Waiting for a long moment, Neville only felt a small creep of sadness for Kit before he was interrupted by a long, deep and pained sigh that did not home from himself or the elf

“I am not prepared for guests, Kit!” A low hoarse voice snapped. “And if I was, then I would be the one to invite them.”

Chapter Text

“Harry, I’m going to tell you something and you’ve got to believe me. I thought Kit had gone mad as well, but I saw him.”  Neville urged Harry, who had just sat down with a cup of tea to begin going through case files. 

Kit… The name was familiar to Harry. Not anyone he’d met, but someone he had heard about a time or two several years ago. “Hold on, Neville. Who did you see?” Not Voldemort… No. It can’t be.

Neville shook his head and huffed a few times. “Harry, I saw Snape.”

“No, Severus Snape is dead.” Harry overly pronounced his words, “He is buried at Hogwarts with Remus, Tonks, Fred, Lavender, Herm… all of them.”

“No. He. Is. Not.” Neville spit every word at him with venom on his tongue. “He is at Snape Manor, in his study. His house elf, Kit, came into the farm stand needing all these groceries. Said she had to cook for her Master, Mistress and their children. So I followed her back to the house because I was sure she was crazy and I was going to have to have her committed to St Mungos. But there he was, in his potions lab. Very much not buried at Hogwarts. Very much right there in front of me and worse for the wear but very much alive.”

Harry gritted his teeth. “Are you sure? Could it not have just been someone impersonating Snape? Using polyjuice potion to break into his home without his house elf being alarmed, perhaps?”

“No,” The mild mannered man insisted, nearly banging his fists on the top of Harry’s desk. “Polyjuice potion would simply mimic the form he took when his hair was shed. Harry, I’ve never seen Snape like this before and I promise you haven’t as well. It had to be him. It has to be real.”

It was that conversation that lead Harry Potter to send a regretful owl canceling meeting his wife for lunch, transfigure his cloak and dress shoes into a raincoat and rubber boots, and trudge down the sludgy littered streets of Cokeworth. While the young auror knew the risks of apparating into the middle of a muggle town, he also knew that it had been all but abandoned before he was born. The few remaining residents on and around Spinners End were drunks, addicts, squibs and overly hopeful house elves waiting for witches and wizards that would never come home. Harry had fought with the ministry for almost a year to get the empty houses protected with fire proof wards so the near condemned buildings wouldn’t burn to the ground.

Only the last rust colored brick house at the end of the block had any lights on behind the curtains. Harry remembered being told that Snape had a house elf, and he was quite sure that none of them could see in the dark any better than he could. It didn’t mean a thing, he reminded himself as he climbed the stairs without grabbing onto the wrought iron railing. It had rotted away in more than one place from where it had been cemented into the ground and he didn’t quite care for the idea of a trip to St Mungos to clean flaked off rust out of a wound.

Welfare visits like this were an occupational hazard of being an auror. Though, the only hazard tended to be that they were painfully boring. He knocked on the door twice, counted to ten in his mind, announced himself as magical law enforcement and waited for another count of ten. When the door began to open, he looked towards the bottom third where he anticipated to see large eyes, floppy ears and a pointed chin. Instead, he was met with a curtain of black that he followed in disbelief to the face of a man he’d grieved the loss of. 

“Severus Snape.” Harry Potter swallowed hard, unable to bring any other words to his lips. Upon seeing the man he knew to be his deceased potions professor, his resolve to get to the bottom of a suspected impersonation or a house elf gone mad had dissolved into a patchwork of curse words and questions.

Stiffening his spine, the man across from him stood tall. “I knew that I would be seeing you soon, Potter, but I didn’t imagine that it would be before lunch. Would you like to come in?”

Though he was thinking in coherent sentences, his words were still trapped in his throat. Where have you been?! What is going on?! How are you alive?!

“If not, I must return to other matters that demand my attention.” Snape warned, and Harry swore he heard a soft cry and the creaking of floorboards

“Yes,” He stuttered, “I’d like to come in.”

With a sigh, Serverus Snape stepped aside and gestured for the young auror to step over the threshold. Being that he was on official business, and without a warrant, the invitation was quite necessary. As he entered the foyer, the cries and foot steps grew fuller and louder, and it seemed that Snape was reacting to them as well. “I’ll have Kit bring you a cup of tea. If you would excuse me for a moment.” With that, he rushed out of the room and Harry was able to take a moment to look around.

Snape’s house looked, from the outside, much like the photos he’d seen from his mother and aunt’s childhood. But the decor, furnishings and general dreariness inside reminded him of the inside of Malfoy Manor, without the violence and hoard of death eaters around every corner. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the man who greeted him and gentle cry out in the distance, Harry would be believed that the house was entirely empty.

“Give him to me.” A harsh whisper traveled from somewhere to his left. “No, if you so much as attempt wake her I will have you skinned. Just give him here, Kit.” The crying ceased and Harry envied the version of himself that didn't believe any of Neville Longbottom’s story. “I apologize, Mr Potter, for my insolent house elf making me appear a poor host.”

The bundle in Snape’s arm was both foriegn to Harry and all to familiar. The black eyes and hair upon its head resembled the man in front of him, but the freckles that spotted it’s cheeks reminded him of an old friend and he could only ignore the way the black hair twisted into a mop of curls on the child’s head for so long.  “Who is this?” Harry wondered, resisting the urge to reach out for the child. By the piercing gaze from the man across from him, he knew that if he had given into temptation he may have lost several fingers. “Ginny and I have been talking about having children soon.”

A glow of pride in the man’s cheeks, he bounced the child on his hip. “His name is Phoenix Tobias Snape, and he is my son.”

Though Harry knew that had to have been true, he still struggled to understand. “You have a son. You are alive, and you have a son.” He repeated to himself, attempting a soothing tone. They were statements, not questions. Harry had no reason to question what was right in front of him

Snape nodded for a second with his eyes closed. “To be clear, I have two sons. I also have a wife. She is upstairs resting, as she should be. It was a very long journey to return here and she hasn’t had a decent night's sleep in months.”

Kit handed Harry a cup of tea and he took it wordlessly, his eyes glued to the face of infant. There was something about the child he couldn't quite place. An awareness and curiosity reminded him of someone he’d known before. Someone that Harry tried not to think about. Remembering his old friend broke his heart, and speaking of her broke the hearts of those he held dear. His question danced on his tongue but he couldn’t muster the courage to ask it. Because if the answer was no, then it was so final. All hope would be lost. And if the answer was yes, he had no idea what the consequences were. Only two bodies were believed to have been turned to dust at the battle of Hogwarts, those of Hermione Granger, and Severus Snape who was sitting before him. 

Interrupting his stream of panic, the child reached out to him, begging to be held. Snape scoffed, and shifted the child a bit. “He wants a better look, I suppose. Strangers are very rarely so close.”

“Could I hold him, Professor?” Harry asked, kicking himself almost immediately. This was not Hogwarts and they were not in Snape’s classroom. He was an auror. For all legal purposes, he was in charge of this meeting.

“No, Potter, not how.” Snape shifted the child on his hip and gently pulled his dimpled hands down. His grip on the baby kept the last of his sanity intact. “But you can ask me the question you are doing such a poor job at disguising.”

His hands shaking, he splashed tea down his fingers and yet didn’t have the awareness to curse at the way it burned. “No, Severus. I can’t.”

“Very well then.” The man before him gazed down at his child, muttered an incantation of protection, set his jaw and looked back at Harry. “Yes, Hermione is his mother. She is also resting upstairs and is very weak so she needs her sleep. I will put myself between her and anyone looking to take even a moment of her peace, but you are certainly welcome to wait.”

Chapter Text

Ronald Weasley’s alarm didn’t not go off at six-thirty in the morning, as he had not been coherent enough to remember to wind it the night before. So when Crookshanks began poking at his eye for breakfast just past seven, he found himself to be much less annoyed than one might have assumed.

“Alright ya bloody beast,” He rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed. “I’m awake.” He scooped dry cat food into metal bowl near his kitchen, poured himself a glass of pumpkin juice that had become his typical breakfast and dragged himself into the shower.

He washed his now shoulder length hair with impressive speed but very little attention. In fact it was only a sliver more attention than his shaving razor had gotten the last few months as it rusted in the standing water of his clogged bathroom sink. He dried off with a towel, putting on only fresh undergarments before pulling the suit he’d worn the day before out of the hamper. He attempted for only a moment to smooth out the wrinkled fabric and scratch off a bit of crusted food from his jacket, before shrugging in mock defeat. Truth be told, it hadn’t mattered to Ron how he looked in some time.

The empty metal flask jangled in his pocket and he found himself browsing bottles at the makeshift bar on his bedside table. Most of the containers were empty, or on their way to it, and he cursed forgetting to stop by the store on the way home the day before. There were only a few wizarding shops that Harry hadn’t suggested stop selling to Ron or lose their licenses. Luckily for him, and unluckily for those around him, he did have half a bottle of fire whisky and that tended to do the trick if he could find the time to sneak it at the office. Despite his distaste for their Quidditch teams, he trusted the Irish with their coffee recipes.

“Shit.” He grumbled when bowling pin like arrangement of beer bottles he’d accumulated tipped over on his bare feet, landing with an echoing crash. He’d been trying to avoid talking to her. Well, talking he could have managed. It was the fighting that got on his nerves.

The lump that spent several nights a week laying in his bed groaned and turned over, revealing the face of a blonde haired woman. “What are you doing up? Come back to bed baby.”

Ronald rolled his eyes. “I’ve got work, you know that.”

The woman rolled her eyes back at him and let them settled into a glare. “Aren’t you on leave? Since the whole… incident.”

He capped his flask and tucked it into his jacket pocket. “I was on desk duty, I went to their damn meetings and I got back into the field last week. Do you even listen when I talk or are you only concerned with emptying my vault as quickly as possible?”

A pillow flew at his face and he deflected it, tossing it back at the woman. “Stop talking about me like I’m some sort of prostitute, Ronald!”

He froze for a moment, face reddening and fighting to remember how to breathe. Anger management seminars had taught him to try to count to ten in his head before opening his mouth. Today, he got all the way to four. It was a personal best. “Don’t you dare call me that! I’ve told you I hate it damn near a hundred times and you can’t manage to get it through your thick skull. And I don’t pay you to open your legs, I pay you to keep your damn mouth shut about it. The last thing I need is a bunch of bloody articles making me look bad at the Ministry because you girls wouldn’t know discretion if it bit you in the arse.” 

“Girls? What other girls?” She screamed back at him, and he heard the baby in the flat above him start to cry.

“Here we go again,” Ron grumbled and sat on his bed to put on fresh shoes and socks. “I’m not cheating on you, you daft woman.” We’ve never agreed to be exclusive. He added in his mind with a smile.

She sat up, still nude and covered in hickies he’d left in the heat of the drunken moment. “You’re never going to love me, are you?” The woman buttoned up a blouse that had spent the night on the floor and pulled up a pair of black leggings under it. “It’s always going to be about Her , isn’t it? When you’re shagging me, you’ll always be thinking of her?”

Ronald Weasley gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to snap back. “Maybe it will be, but you said you could handle that. I never lied and said I’d moved on.”

Her boots zipped on by themselves and she rushed to the coat rack for her cloak. “I believed I could at the time.”

When the young woman stormed out, he followed closely behind her and locked up carefully, adding wards that made his address hard to find. It was much easier to avoid journalists and interventions when no one could quite figure out exactly where he lived. On the way to the ministry he took a swig out of his flask, finger combed his tangled damp hair and chanted the affirmations he’d been given as homework after his last meeting. “I can keep my cool. I can calm myself down. I can be patient. I can succeed.” He repeated several times, then shook his head and instead took another swing from his flask. If anything would keep him calm, it would be warming his belly.

By the time he flushed himself down a toilet, took three different lifts and collected his badge from his desk drawer, Ron was numb enough not to notice Neville Longbottom stalking into Harry Potters office. The fit he threw didn’t phase him as he accepted his case assignments and prepared for an interrogation that afternoon. He also was unaware of the buzzing that started too low to hear and eventually consumed the ministry of magic. Rumors traveled only over bridges that he’d long since burned and he had no idea that anything had changed. Back at the flat he ordered Chinese takeaway and begrudgingly made up with Melody for likely the two-hundred-and-forty-fourth time. 

He would not know until someone slammed the Daily Profit on his desk the following morning that Severus Snape and Hermione Granger were alive. And that would only be minutes before a letter arrived that would sink his heart into his stomach.

Ronald,

I’d never imagined that you were capable of such horrible things. Either you are cruel or you are stupid and I’ve never known you to be quite that daft. 

Do not visit and do not write to me. I never want to see you again.

 

- Hermione

 

 

Chapter Text

“The two of you have another son? An older one?” Harry couldn't bring himself to say Hermione out loud. It was almost as if uttering her name could wake him from this dream and send him back into a world where she was still a pile of ash buried below the cemetery ground at Hogwarts.

Snape sipped his tea carefully, holding it far away from the curious child on his knee. “Yes, he’s just turned three. And Potter, I need you to ask all of your potentially distressing questions before my wife wakes up and sees you. While I have suffered, I promise you that she has been to hell and back every single day since we were taken. Despite her strength, she is worn down and fragile. You must give her patience and treat her gently.”

Trained as an auror, Harry knew this to be true. Those that had endured trauma often snapped after escaping, not during. Readjusting to the outside world could prove to be too much. And Hermione in any form of herself was far better than the shell she could become. “Of course, whatever she needs. Professor, you say that you were both taken. Taken where? By whom?” Who on earth could have held you?

“We were held on one of a small handful of islands in the pacific by Hampton and Lelia Locket. They were Death Eaters who decided to flee when the battle didn’t seem like it would end in their favor.” Snape shook his head. “They managed to disarm and stun us long enough to take us away. After they destroyed our wands, for the first year anyway, they kept us weak by spending hours each day putting either of us under the Cruciatus curse. We were kept too weak to do wandless magic. Then when Hermione, bless her soul, fell pregnant, there was much more at stake. The torture didn’t stop, but they grew bored. But I couldn’t simply rebel. What if they hurt our children? I had to wait until they trusted us. Eventually we became more like severants than captives. Preparing their meals, doing their wash, providing their sadistic and vile entertainment. We were only able to escape by spending nearly a year saving poisonous seeds.”

Dazed and disbelieving, but knowing it must be true, Harry swallowed the lump in his throat. “How could you have children in a place like that? Bringing them into a world of suffering… I can’t imagine.”

Snape flexed his arms that were wrapped around his child and looked down, ashamed. “Our eldest son, Monroe, was conceived while I was under the imperius curse. I suspect, though Hermione insists it is not true to spare my feelings, that Phoenix was as well. And, as you may not be able to understand, fighting to survive can be an unbreakable bond. For the last five years the only people we could trust were other and we had to work together to keep our children safe.”

“You’re right, professor. I don’t understand. You said that Hermione is weak and needs her rest. What happened to her?”

The child riggled in his grasp and again reached out toward Harry. This time, Snape silently offered to hand the child over but Harry shook his head, declining. Suddenly, Harry was unsure that he could handle holding the child concieved in the torture and rape of one of his dearest friends.

“The Cruciatus curse can drive a person mad,” Snape’s lips formed a hard line. “They simply lose their mind after a while. But, damn her strong will, Hermione didn’t let it take her mind. Still, hours and hours a day, week after week, month after month… it wears even the strongest witches and wizards down. Something had to give.”

“What gave way, Professor?” 

The withered man before him stopped, and if Harry hadn’t known better he would have insisted the pained look he gave was the result of only the cruelest hex. “Everything else.” 

He huffed and pursed his lips. If Severus Snape insisted on being ominous and vague, Harry would find out what was going on for himself. “I want to see her.” Harry choked out and grasped his wand firmly. If Snape did not let him go to her, then he would put up a fight.

By the look on Snape’s face, he knew the same to be true. “Fine, but do not disturb her.” 

Following the mourning man up the winding staircase and down a small hallway, Harry’s stomach turned as he laid eyes on what was left of his friend. As he suspected, her body showed signs of malnutrition, but he hadn’t imagined that any womanly curves or fat stores in her body had been reassigned to her chest, leaving a swollen breasted skeleton in his midst. The man besides him hissed and he moved his eyes along, not wanting to dwell on that feature for any longer on the woman he’d considered much like his sister. Her curly hair was voluminous and overgrown, broken off around her waist and washed out with large streaks of gray. He knew stress could do such a thing to someone but had never witnessed it himself until that moment. Her breaths were shallow between fits  of coughing restlessly in her sleep. Beside her lay a child with the same black curls, freckled skin and soft features as the babe he’d met. The boy looked nearly as if he hadn’t been touched by the trauma. There were no signs of starvation or pain. While nearly every inch of exposed skin on Hermione’s body was marred in one way or another, the child looked perfectly preserved.

“There’s nothing left of her.”

Severus pursed his lips and shook his head with regret. “She has done everything she could to keep our children healthy and strong. No children have ever been loved and sacrificed for more than Hermione has done for our boys. Not even Lily, for you.”

“You’re right.” Harry agreed without much of a fight. “Secerus, this is mad. How could you let this happen. It’s…”

“A fate worse than death.” Ashamed once more, Severus held his infant son a smidge tighter. “I couldn’t do anything for the poor girl without returning here. Nursing Monroe and Phoenix took almost all the nutrition she consumed but we managed. We kept her well for a long time with very few resources.”

Harry tried not to scrutinize the definition of well. “What’s changed?”

“My wife is pregnant again, Potter. Nearly fifteen weeks, and the demand on her body has been too great. She’s struggled to keep food down with her morning sickness on top of everything else.”

“How could you let this happen, Severus? Couldn’t stay off of her long enough to consider the implications…” The man before him, as intimidating as he had been and for the most part remained, flinched at his words. “She’s dying. You know that, right? Bloody hell I may as well be staring at a corpse. If I do not take her to St Mungos right straight away she won’t last the day. All of this will have been for nothing. Saving her and escaping will all be undone.”

Snape’s hands tightened into fists, and he was grateful that Kit arrived silently to take the baby boy for a bottle. He reached up and pulled at the roots of his hair, wishing that there was some torture he could submit himself to to make the unbarable truth a bit easier to deal with. “There is nothing for her at St Mungo’s, Potter.”

“Like hell she isn’t!” The auror raised his wand, pressing it to the throat of his former professor. “She needs help. St Mungo’s has the best curse breakers in the world, let them help her.”

The graying man let a single fear fall, not for his life but for his love. “Hermione is not under the influence of a single curse. She isn’t under the influence of any curses. What you see if the result of thousands of hexes and curses chipping away at her one at a time. They cause her to suffer in ways you would never imagine and yet none of them coarse through her body on this day. But they’ve done so much harm within her that cannot be healed. All I can do is manage her symptoms and give her as much time as possible.”

For the first time since the fall of Voldemort, Harry felt a twinge of pain in his scar. It was not that of dark magic, but reminded him of it all the same. With his wand pressed to a grieving man’s throat, how was he any better than the darkest wizard of all time?  If he could cause any more suffering to Severus Snape or Hermione Granger, and manage to live with himself, it would prove he never belonged to the light. A sob tore through his chest, reopening wounds he’d fought to close for the last four years. “You’re just giving up on her? After all she’s done for you, you’re just going to let her die!”

“Never.”

Fury boiled just under the surface and Harry pressed his wand deeper into the Snape’s flesh. Stop it! The memory of Hermione’s voice pierced straight through him. This isn’t you, Harry. But it was. He knew that every bit of anger he felt was entirely his. “Never what? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Harry’s wand moved under Severus’s throat as he swallowed. “I’m never going to stop fighting for her, Potter. I will spend every minute, of every day, of the rest of my life to keep her by my side.”

His hand shook, all sureness stolen from him, and Harry let the first of his own enraged tears drip down his cheek. “Promise me something, Severus. Promise me that you’ll never let her suffer ever again.”

With a nod, Snape nearly smiled. “Never.”

Chapter Text

Elbows deep in soapy water, Severus scrubbed a dusty pewter cauldron that he had dug out of the attic. It had been his in his school days and lacked the quality he preferred for personal use, but he needed all hands on deck. Well, all cauldrons over flame was a much more accurate description. Nine of them to be exact. 

Loining every table in his laboratory, spilling into the adjoining office and store room, were boiling cauldrons of nearly all colors. Some stunk of rotten eggs or burnt chocolate, a few glowed to various degrees and one periodically caught fire. Snape could not remember why it was doing that, and he sighed at that fact. Too many years away from his craft had taken his edge and he knew that this was not the time to be lacking in sureness. 

Next to each cauldron was an open book, mostly abandoned or damaged copies of Advanced Potions textbooks that had been left behind in his classroom over the years or his own journals. He dragged his lame leg behind him while attempting to speed about the room to tend to each recipe. Chopping, stirring, measuring, pouring and spell whispering to manage all nine potions as once was far too ambitious, but he had no choice. If he didn’t prepare each of these potions both perfectly and immediately, Hermione would die.

A lung clearing potion of his own devices, as strong as he’d ever brewed it before, gurgled and popped. Severus answered it’s call for three more vole ribs by grinding them into a powder to be stirred in and lowering the heat. He kept a pepper up potion brewing next to it, and only stopped to smell it and check the temperature with the tip of his little finger. When he jotted down on his pad of paper that it was ice cold, despite being over an open flame, he checked the clock. It only needed another twenty minutes before he could pull it off the heat to bottle. An oculus potion was next to that one and it didn’t require any more of his attention, he only needed to let it cool. Snape said a silent prayer for it to stop the shaking of Hermione’s eyes. Strengthening solution was something he’d decided to make a double batch of, knowing that he would need plenty of it to get her through the day. He figured it would probably take a whole vial every time she needed to walk to the bathroom. Three different nutrition potions were already bottled up and ready to be labeled, which he did with boldly written tags. If Kit had to give Hermione any of them, he needed to make sure she got it right and old elves weren’t known for their sight. A handful of others pots, from prenatal potion to instant hydration, gurgled and gulped around him and it took several more hours of work for Severus to find himself at a stopping point.
As much as he needed to work, he needed to see his wife more. As much as the potions soothed his soul, her touch would heal it.

* * *

Harry hadn’t slept at all that night, only apparating back to 12 Grimmauld Place to eat a rushed dinner with his wife, retrieve a stack of old letters from his study and tell Ginevera Potter that he was going to be working late on a case. Being the wife of an auror, she sighed with discontentment but told him to stay safe and owl her when he had the chance. So there he sat, in Severus Snape’s bedroom, with his eyes glued to Hermione’s chest. He felt dirty only for a moment, until learned to relax his strained eyes, blur his own vision and only notice the gentle rise and fall of her breaths. As long as she was breathing, there was hope. Also, Ginny had been right. He definitely needed new glasses.

“Excuse me, Mister,” The older of the two childred asked, approaching him sheepishly. “What's your name?”

He hadn’t the heart to look at the boy, who had been playing in the corner of the room with a pile of old books as if they were building blocks. The child was the personification of pain. Now that he was forced to, he couldn’t help but smile. There was a living, breathing piece of one of his best friends that he was sure he’d never see again. “My name is Harry Potter. Your father told me your name is Monroe.”

The boy put his hands behind his back, puffed out his chest a bit and attempted to exude confidence. “Monroe Severus Snape, sir. First born son of Severus and Hermione Snape.”

A smile spread across Harry’s face and he reached out a hand to the boy, which he accepted and shook. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Monroe.” He even found himself chuckling at the boy’s formality, though had he known the child existed, Harry wouldn’t have expected anything different. He had met his parents. “Your mummy and I are very dear friends.”

Monroe furrowed two black eyebrows over dark gray eyes. “Are not! My mummy doesn’t have friends.”

Harry sat back a few more inches and tried not to look hurt. “Of course she does. She has friends named Ginny, Neville, Luna, Ronald… your mummy has lots of friends. They’re just from before you were born, that’s all.”

“No, you're wrong!” He yelled at him, throwing a book that was in his small hands onto the ground by Harry’s feet. “Friends visit and you didn’t come see us and the bad wizard. You let the bad wizard hurt my mummy. That makes you the bad wizard!” 

Frozen for a moment, Harry knew he had to say something to the child who had burst into tears. Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring himself to tell him that he was wrong. Partly because he was sure it wouldn't help, and partly because he didn’t want to be a liar. “Monroe, I’m sorry I didn’t come get you, your mummy and daddy and baby brother away from the bad wizard. I didn’t know where he was and I didn’t know where to look. You say that you saw the bad wizard hurting your mummy. What do you remember?” His years of training as an auror meant he’d had to ask far too many children these types of questions. Despite being good at putting up a professional front, the pain never lessened when he heard their answers.

“No,” Monroe shook his head. “I didn't see him hurt my mummy, but father told me that’s why we had to go away. Father said that if we didn’t go away fast enough, the bad man’s hurt would make Mummy dead. We went very fast so my mummy isn’t dead. Father told me that she’s sleeping until she feels better.”

Without a notepad, Harry tried to remember what the boy said. Monroe went back to playing with his brother, opening the books to show him the pictures instead of building with them, but Harry stared at Hermione’s sleeping form on the bed again. Troubling thoughts of what the next morning would bring stirred around his mind until he fell into a tizzy. He would have to go back to the ministry to explain what had happened, and he knew what the consequences would be. 

When Severus returned to the room, he was followed by a house elf who brought tea for them and cups of warm milk for the boys. Harry sipped, moving to stand at the foot of Hermione’s bed. His foot simply would not stop tapping.

“I ask you to not wear the finish on the floors. They are original to the house.” Snape grumbled, seated by his wife’s head and holding her hand.

“We can’t ignore the boggart in the cupboard any longer, Professor.” Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out his ministry issues badge. “I am head auror.”

Snape rolled his eyes then turned to face the younger wizard. “Oh really? I simply had decided you enjoyed imperanting magical law enforcement.”

“Funny.” Harry tried not to be completely cold and settled for lukewarm. “This is going to lead to an arrest and investigation, at the least least, unless I can put something down on file that they will believe.”

Much to his surprise, Snape was not alarmed. Stoic, as always, and in no way had talk of an investigation alarmed him. “I see no reason to worry, Potter. The Lockett’s are dead and I can tell them exactly where their corpses lay rotting at their supper table. Anyone can take one look at Herminone and see that the death was well deserved.”

Harry had known they were killed by their victims and suppressed a groan of frustration. Many things had changed in the last five years. “You don’t understand. After the way so many death eaters had charges reduced or dropped entirely by claiming they’d been under the imperius curse. Laws had to be changed before the rest of the trails could continue. Someone present when the curse took hold had to give an unaltered pensive memory and appear in court to go through it in great detail for it to even be considered.”

Snape went a ghostly white for a moment before beginning to redden. “Are you meaning to tell me that they care not of the evil scum that did this to her? Instead, they’re going to put me on trial for raping my wife? And they’ll make her take the stand to speak to the entire Wizengamot about it? Of all the cruel and dehumanizing things to happen to her that competes for the top of the bloody list!”

Unspoken between them, while minutes of worried silence passed, was that if Snape was arrested and could not brew the potions Hermione needed, she would die. He would recieve the kiss of death for her rape and what they’d attribute to be the resulting death. Their children would be orphans, just like Harry.

At the foot of the bed, the Snape children paged through a book on dragons and giggled at the moving illustrations of them breathing fire and flying. Harry wished to himself that Hermione could see their sense of wonder discovering storybooks for the very first time. With that, Harry Potter made a decision. It was a decision with the potential to cost him his friends, his job and his reputation as a morally upright wizard. But he would do it, for those children to keep their mother. Snape would have given anything to be able to do the same for him. “There is a way, I think, to get the memories on ministry record without them starting a criminal investigation. No criminal investigation, no arrest warrants. Then when their own records have already managed the issue, doing it again would be a redundancy.”

“That’s not possible,” Severus grumbled, nearly tired enough to just accept their fate. “Rape is a crime wrotthy of the kiss. Has been for the last four hundred years. They’d never let you assign a fine to this as if I drunkenly pissed outside The Three Broomsticks. It would be absurd. You’d be right there in Azkaban along with me.”

Harry decided not to chide in with the extremely unhelpful and irrelevant information that public urination had been changed to a form of indecent exposure which was criminal. Only community service worthy, but handled in criminal court nonetheless. He just smiled a bit at the corners of his lips, enjoying knowing more than the man who had spent decades making students feel positively foolish for his own entertainment. “I’ll record the memories as part of paternity documentation to establish Monroe and Phoenix's lineage and officially register your marriage spell. If anyone gets too nosy, I'll tell them you need records so their names will appear on the list for Hogwarts letters.”

“That just might work,” Snape mused to himself. “Though you may not be as willing to help me when you see inside her mind. To hear of it and to witness with your own mind’s eye… those horrors can be seen in a much different light.”

Though he had denied what he said next - to himself - many times, Harry could not lie to Severus Snape. “I want to see what happened to Hermione, Professor.”

Snape’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “I beg your pardon?”

“No no, not like that.” He waved at the air as if to shoo the thought from the room while interanlly cursing. “I mean that I want to see what type of evil could have done this to her. If I don’t know what truly happened, I have no way of helping her. I’ll have no idea what to say to her.”

It took Snape a moment to stop imaging setting Harry on fire before he could form a response. “Alright, when she awakens and is feeling clear headed, you can get the memories from her yourself.” 

“It can’t wait that long, I’m afraid.” The youger wizard insisted. “I could have orders on my desk to treat you as a dangerous criminal as soon as the office opens in the morning.”

“Fine,” Severused snapped his words curtly. “I don’t enjoy meddling in my wife’s most vulnerable and intimate thoughts, but if you tell me what you need, I can bring them forth for you to extract. Just promise that you won’t let them travel around the ministry like a slideshow of a summer holiday. Once they are documented you must either seal them permanently or destroy them.”

“Of course,” He never would have put hermione through that. “For my eyes only.”

They extracted the horrible memories one by one while Hermione slept. In the brief moments Severus found the beginning and ends of her thoughts, the young sickly witch whimpered and writhed on the bed. It was a blessing that Kit swiftly put the children to sleep behind a curtain with a charm that played the dripping sound of rain in spring. Severus could have taken thousands of examples for Harry, but in the end the aurer had insisted that they only fill the dozen vials he’d brought with him. As far as he was concerned, it would have to be enough. He was quite uncertain that he could stomach even that many. 

“I’ll head to the ministry tonight to get everything started in the paternity case but I can take leave after lunch tomorrow. Is there anything I can get for you? For any of you? Ingredients for potions?”

For the first time in his life, Severus Snape appeared sheepish. His voice was little more than a whisper at his own feet.  “We could use a few changes of clothes for my sons until I can step away to my vault for money.” He glanced at his wife and Harry nodded with understanding. “She could use a set of winter night robes as well. Everything my mother left behinds will swim on her, and my clothes are even worse. I can’t keep her warm if her clothes won’t hold in the little heat her body’s managing to make. I don’t know what became of her belongings, but I’m sure something in her trunk could be charmed to fit.”

A stabbing pain hit Harry suddenly and he recognized it as the ache of empathetic humiliation in his chest. The man before him was admitting he didn’t have any clothes for his children, and asking for him to help. The boy that lived in the cupboard under the stairs with oversized hand me downs and taped up glasses was now a man that could help those like him. It was nearly surreal. “No problem, Professor. Hermione’s things are in the attic at the Weasley’s, next to trunks where Molly kept nearly every piece of clothing her children ever wore. It will be no trouble at all. Are you sure you’re fine on potions?”

The older wizard nodded, a bit more confidence this time. “I’m brewing what she needs now and I should have enough to get through the week before my stores need replenishing. While I hate to leave her, it is of great importance that I choose my own ingredients. They must be quite precise for many of my own recipes. I’m fairly certain that you’ll agree to watch her while I go, when the time comes.”

“Any time I’m needed.”

“Thank you, Mister Potter. I dare say I’m glad you barged into my home. You’ve been of great help and my eldest boy may actually grow to like you.”

“I’m honored,” Harry put his jacket on and opened the door. “But, to be entirely accurate in our record keeping, you did invite me in.” 

Chapter Text

Ronald Weasley could not stand being on desk duty at the auror’s office, going through memory vials in the pensive room. It was one of the least tolerable parts of his job, jotting down witness recollections and wiping off his damp face. Being inside others memories, even outside their minds, was a nasty business that he wanted absolutely no part of. 

Except that day.

With the exception of those vials.

“Harry, I have to know. I can’t bloody stand it.” Ron paced the deputy head auror’s office while pulling at the roots of his own overgrown orange hair.

Harry pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, tired of the arguments. “I promise you, Ron, you don’t want to see what I’m about the witness in there. I’d sooner give up my position than accept this task willingly but it’s either me or Neville that will have to watch and I don’t think he can take it.”

“I’m not Neville Longbottom!” Ronald snapped, slamming his wand on Harry’s desk. “I’ve spent the last five years believing I’d lost her for good. I didn’t sob at her funeral like an oaf. I didn’t kill Rita Skeeter after her ridiculous articles about Hermione switching sides. I’ve dedicated my life to keeping her memory alive. The least you can do is give me that.”

Harry moved a stack of paperwork over the old letters on his desk with a convincing huff. “I don’t see how drinking yourself near death and entertaining knockturn alley witches at all hours is honoring Hermione, but I’m sure you’ll spew some rubbish excuse about how that was all for her as well. Now if you would see yourself out of my office, I have work to do.”

“You think you’re so much better than me.” Ron spat each word across the desk, leaving it rather damp. “With your fancy job and your fancy clothes, but I know the truth. I’m sure you manage to get just as drunk on champagne as I do on fire whisky. The difference is, I’m not ashamed of it and don't have my sister trained like a dog to like about it. Now show me the bloody vials."

With a set jaw and his hand gripped around his own wand, Harry struggled to remain composed. “I don’t think you can handle this either, Mr Weasley.”

“But I fucking can!” Ron snapped and Harry hit the door with a silencing charm. There was no need for the entire department to hear this outburst.

He shook his head, watching the furious and trembling man before him. He needed to lie. Ronald Weasley was, in many ways, still his best friend. Yet Harry had a nagging feeling in his chest that he couldn't trust him anymore. He’d tried to let go after the incident but four more similar occurrences could not be ignored. “The ministry doesn’t believe that you can be subjective enough on this case and neither do I. What I saw in that first memory is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”

“So will she, Harry. ” Ron grabbed a fist full of the dozen vials and stared at them. “We were all friends once, weren’t we? If she lived through all of this, don’t we owe her our witness?”

“We are friends, Ron. You’re just a bit jumbled up right now, is all.” Harry leaned back in his leather chair and stared past the man before him. There was no way to look him in the eye and tell him what the love of his life had experienced. Watching Ronald Weasley break brought Harry absolutely no joy. In fact, even the thought of it was simply agonizing. “Give me those.” Harry snipped and held out his hands for the vials which Ron slammed back at him with unnecessary brute force. “I need to know that you’re prepared for this. Have you heard anything of Hermione’s condition?”

Ronald shook his head and swallowed hard. “Of course not. I only know what I’ve read in the papers. This is as close as I’ve been to seeing her in years. She even sent me a letter saying she didn’t want to see me.”

At the agony that crossed Ron Weasley’s face, Harry’s stomach sank. He’d known it would hurt, but it had seemed like the right thing to do at the time. “I’m sure she'll change her mind.” 

Ron shook his head, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. “Have you ever known her to do that? More stubborn than either of us and that’s saying something.”

“It will be fine, Ron.” He stared down at his paperwork, where he’d been summarizing the first of the twelve memories. “Do you know what this case is about?”

“Her kidnapping, of course. Her torture. Bringing those sadistic fucks to justice. We’re auror’s, they’re death eaters. It’s what we do.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Bloody hell it’s not!”

“The case, Ron,” Harry’s voice cut out for a moment. “It’s not about their torturers. Snape killed them. We confirmed it and their corpses will be retrieved as soon as we get aurors on the scene. There will be no trial for them.” 

For a moment Ron seemed pleased but as the second hand on Harry’s wall clock ticked forward he watched the satisfaction melt away and be replaced by confusion. “Then what are we doing all this for?”

“It is a case of legitimacy.” Even hearing himself say it, Harry was disgusted. He knew that it was a twisted euphemism for something much darker.

Ron knew it too. “Legitimacy of what, exactly? We don’t do that here. This isn’t the bloody records department.”

“Legitimacy of Snape’s paternal right to Hermione’s children. We are establishing parentage.”

“It can’t be.” Ronald’s voice faltered and struggled with his own memories. They’d be waiting until the war was over and they could be together. If Hermione had children then not a single one of them could be his. When he buried her, he was still a virgin. “She was waiting until the war was over and we could get married. You’re wrong. I don’t know how but you’re wrong.”

“No I’m not!” Harry clenched his fists. “But fine, if you don’t believe me then watch with me. Sit by while I have to sort through a dozen different memories of Snape raping Hermione while under the imperius curse. Hear her scream. If you really believe that you can live with that then prove it.”

“That didn’t happen! Stop lying to me.”

“I’m not lying! You can be there. You can see her give birth not once but twice to his sons. If it’s the only way that you’ll stop burying yourself in denial then we’ll do just that.” A twinge of guilt 

“Why are we establishing paternity and not sending the bastard away? He deserves to rot in Azkaban.” Ron was back to pacing the room with his wand in a white knuckled grip. “I’m a piece of shit. I know it, you know it, my bloody family knows it and Hermione sure as shit knows it. But even I would never take a woman against her will.”

This was Ron, below the drunk and womanizing wall he had built. A good man, who knew evil when he saw it. A good man who had seen the evil within himself, and would never forgive himself. Harry hadn’t been in the same room as him for some time. “Snape was under the influence of an unforgivable curse. There was no way he could stop any of it. But unfortunately the ministry agrees with you and intends to press charges unless I can get ahead of this. Getting on this on paper the way it needs to be told will make what happened before untouchable by the ministry. It's the only way I can protect their sons.”

At the last word, Ronald stopped. Before the children were faceless and without detail. But now he could imagine little ones with boyish features living with his darkness and her light. “Sons. Hermione gave birth to sons.”

Harry closed his eyes to his friend’s heart broken face. “Yes, Snape and Hermione had sons. Their first of them is three and his name is Monroe and the second is Phoenix who is only a year old. She’s also pregnant again. So hate me if you’d like but if you understood what was at stake here, if you’d seen the way they love their children, you’d understand why I must do this.”

His best friend softened as most of his fury had drained away leaving him a shell. “Because your mother loved you.”

“Yes,” Harry felt the burn before he would be sick rise up his throat and he swallowed in an attempt to mash it back down. “And if I don’t help them, Hermione is going to die.”

Chapter Text

Severus, dear? Her internal voice was groggy with too much space between her syllables. 

He turned to where Hermione lay in their bed and was relieved she’d woken up. “Yes, love, I’m right here with you.”

She reached a shaking hand out towards him and grabbed at the air. Why so far? I’m cold. Hermione was shivering under her blankets and her teeth chattered in her mouth. Immediately he felt a pang of guilt. Warm me?

Snape crossed the room and climbed into the bed beside her, wrapping her in blankets and then pulling his wife into his arms. “Is that better?”

Hmmm… why is it so cold in here? She wondered and snuggled closer, pressing her cheek into the crook of his neck.

He pursed his lips, not wanting to admit that he was a touch warm wearing his robes. The house was toasty like sitting in front of a fire in every room, but he couldn’t stand the idea of her realizing in that moment how far he had let things go. “Kit must not be adding enough kindling to the fires. You’ll be warm soon.”

His potions sat heavy in his pocket and even as the most accomplished potions master of his time, Severus didn’t know where to start. He’d been brewing nearly since their arrival and still had only developed a way to alleviate a handful of her symptoms. The cause, extensive damage from years of enduring malnutrition and the cruciatus curse, appeared to be impossible to reverse. Perhaps that's why it was unforgivable. He wondered why standing by while someone else was suffering wasn’t also considered unforgivable. Snape had long since accepted that he was beyond redemption. The evidence of that was in his arms and had given him his only sons. His poor family would be rid of him only when his damned soul was properly disposed of, as far away from their light as possible. 

Beside him, Hermione fought sleep. Her eyes snap open wide, only to become too heavy to bear once more. My boys? was all she would think to ask her husband. Without her children within reach, it was like appendages had been ripped away from her body leaving the raw wounds behind. If she couldn't place them in the universe, and allow them to hold her to it, how would she not just float away?

“The elf is getting them some breakfast.” Snape answered and caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. She had a slight fever and at that he nearly smiled. At least her body wasn’t giving up on fighting the infection in her chest. They were in this together. “Love, I need to examine you. Are you going to be alright with that?”

Unable to hide her innermost thoughts from a Legilimens, he could tell she was nervous the instant she felt it. Will it hurt?

“No, my dear. I’d never allow it.” He cooed in her ear, trying to soothe the pounding heartbeat he felt under his hands. “I’ll never let you be in pain again.” He reached a hand in his pocket and pulled out the potions he had brewed. There had been no rhyme or reason to his intentions, no plan of action, but the following of his instincts. That hadn’t failed him so far.

First, he popped the cork from the top of Draught Of Peace then held it to her lips, tipping back. “There you go.” His fingers caressed her neck a few times before applying a bit of pressure under the right side of her jaw at the base of her neck. Slowly, as the potion ingredients were anything but fresh, her heart beat slowed to a steady calm thrumming. Only the occasional sputter, perhaps happening only once or twice a minute, was a cause for concern. 

The next two potions, a lung clearing potion and a strengthening solution, he decided to tip back down her throat at the same time. They were both nasty as far as he was concerned, one like gum that had been chewed too long and the other like burnt popcorn, and he wanted to get it over with. “Can you drink something if I fetch it?” Severus asked and brushed the stray drenched hair from her forehead, feeling it intently again and trying to choose between high 37 or low 38 degrees. Severity mattered when Snape feared he was running out of time. 

She nodded and he snapped his fingers, muttering something about pumpkin juice to the elf that was only with them a moment. Why are you so sharp with her? Kit cares so much for you.

Severus knelt down beside the bed to press his face to Hermione’s. “I have no energy for anything but making you well. The feelings of an elf aren’t a concern of mine at the moment.” He watched her lips turn downward and he shushed her as sweetly as he could. “When you are well enough for me to take dancing, I will find a way to make it up to her.”

That seemed to appease her, and she reached a shaky hand out to stroke his cheek. If I were to ask for something, how much of a burden would it be to bring it to me?

“None at all.” He responded, noting the pumpkin juice that had appeared on his nightstand. Their nightstand.

I need a quill, ink and some parchment. I have to write to them before they hear it from anyone else.

Without giving it so much as a second thought, Snape nearly said no. She belonged to him. Besides the elf, Longbottom and Potter, everyone else believed she was gone. And as long as that was true, she was completely his to keep. He could imagine the flurry of news articles, visitors and reporters outside their home the second her presence was widely known. Sharing her with those vultures was hardly acceptable. He had fought for years to protect her and throwing her into the wild to be pecked away at by birds of prey put a lump in his stomach he couldn't dislodge.

“If you drink your juice, and go to sleep, I’ll let you write one letter when you wake up. So make it count. The rest can wait until you’re feeling better.”  Hermione reached out a hand to take her juice and Snape pushed it away. “Just let me, love.” He tipped back the potions just past her chapped lips, and washed it down with a few sips of the pumpkin juice.

Thank you. His wife looked up at him and smiled. Will you pull the curtains? The light hurts my eyes.

Severus brushed his hand through the air and the curtains fluttered into place, putting them both into darkness. He yawned, and pulled Hermione tighter under his arm. It had been months since he’d gotten more than a few hours of sleep at a time and his aching body would not let him forget it. Just for a while, he would rest with her. If he held onto her tight enough, Snape hoped that she could never leave him.

* * *

Can’t breathe. Severus’s dreams shook and trembled, peace suddenly disrupted with overwhelming sound. Help me. Hermione’s voice echoed off the walls, choking for air and hacking. Snape looked around him, searching for her, but only found the cobbled together stone halls of Hogwarts splitting from nearly every direction he turned. There were dozens of dark corridors, and the sound came from both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. His heart pounded nearly out of his chest and he pulled his wand from his frock coat, attempting to illuminate each hall and see her sweet face, but each one was empty. She was gone. His wand was gone. The art on the walls and every door back where he’d come from was gone. Warm thick lake muck started to rise from the floor below him, first to his ankles and rapidly rising to his knees. Snape snapped his head around, finding one final tapestry hanging from the ceiling and he began to climb. Still, the higher he climbed, the faster the hot thick sludge rose. In minutes, his head pressed against the ceiling, his mouth and nose were consumed. He died screaming the last breaths in his lungs into the mud, and he knew she was gone as well. Please.

“Master Snape, you must wake up, Mistress is bleeding!”

Chapter Text

Catching his breath and rubbing his eyes as he dove into the memory, Ronald looked for Harry for only a moment before the shrieking started. His neck snapped back around and he drew his wand. He would be ready.

“Put the bloody thing away,” Harry muttered, sitting on a tree stump, digging his elbows into his thighs and putting his head in his hands. “We can’t change the past, especially inside a memory.”

Again, shrieking echoed through the jungle while Ron snapped his head from side to side trying to locate the source. When his eyes locked in on her, he realized why he didn’t recognize her. The girl he knew to be Hermione Granger wore the tattered rags of the clothes she had on the last time he saw her alive. Her sweater unraveled at the ends and was either bleached by the sun or covered in dust. Her jeans hung loosely off of her hips and were ripped straight through at the knees. Her nose was swollen and crooked, and Ron knew from his time in law enforcement that it had been broken multiple times without the chance the heal. The same was true for her left cheek bone and perhaps even her jaw. 

“Stop this! Please have mercy on her! She’s barely more than a child.” Snape called out from the opposite end of the scene, bound to a tree by invisible ropes. “I’ll do whatever you want of me. Just let her be.”

The woman, wicked and willowy, smiled with overly thin lips in a way that reminded him distinctly of an animal baring its teeth. “Yes, you will. And, since you asked me so very nicely then I will grant your request. I won’t hurt her anymore tonight. But you will.”

“If you don’t heal her, the injuries will get infected. She will die.”

“Hmm… pity. I wanted to play with her some more.” 

His bindings fell the same moment the imperius curse wound under his skin. There was no chance to panic or protest. Harry and Ron saw the way his eyes begged for release from the invasion but a sneer appeared upon his face. It mirrored the teeth baring wicked witch controlling him.

“I’ve been wanting to see a show and you’re going to give it to me, Severus. I was saving her for my husband but it’s a bad idea having him fuck Mudblood. Poisoning the line is most unpleasant. But you certainly don’t mind.”

“No please!” Hermione begged, using her scraped and bruised elbow to push up on one side and stared at the woman, to Severus and back. “Not like this I can’t.”

“Oh but you will, Mudblood.”

Severus staggered towards her, dragging one food behind him at a sickly angle that indicated it was broken. He dropped to his knees on top of her, pulling at the scraps of fabric until he could take her nipple in his mouth. For a moment he sucked, eyes squinted shut to avoid facing the whimpering young witch in front of him. 

“Ahh!” Hermione pushed at his head, and he dragged her with him holding her by his teeth.

“Stay down, Mudblood.” Leila barked, and Snape’s hands wound round her wrists, pinning them above her head with only one of them as he continued his assault on her body. 

His other went slowly and shakily, flexing tendons and straining muscles, to the zipper of his pants. He pulled out his flaccid dick and began to stimulate himself to a half staff erection. 

“What the fuck, Harry!” Ron demanded loudly, and Harry shushed him. “Like hell I’ll be quiet.”

“No, no please Professor!” Hermione writhed beneath him and he pulled down what remained of her pants and knickers. “You can't do this. I can’t… I’m a virgin, Professor! Listen to me, I beg of you. I know you’re in there, please hear me. You’re a good man. I don’t want this. This isn’t you.”

He released her with his teeth, sitting himself up to position himself against her entrance and thrusting his hips forward until her body was flush with his.

The screaming started anew.

* * *

Ronald Weasley had spent many occasions over the last five years on his hands and knees at the worship of the porcelain throne. He barely remembered leaving the pensive, wiping himself off, and leaving the office with nothing more than his wand in hand. The streets of London had been their same busy bustling, but he may as well have been walking through the dessert for all the faces he remembered. There were only two faces that were burned behind his eyes as he wretched violently into the toilet.

First, the sneer of Severus Snape as he pushed himself dry into the body of the only woman Ron had ever loved. And second, the now silent screaming of Hermione as her innocence was robbed on the dirt jungle floor. 

“I can’t do this.” He rocked back and forth on his heels, waves of nausea still threatening to overtake him though his stomach was as empty as could be. “I can’t fucking do this!” Ron stood up with a start, seeing black spots in his vision and stumbling into the vanity. His hands missed the knob of the medicine cabinet twice before he managed to yank it open, which was fair since he found himself seeing at least three of everything. 

Unsteady eyes and fingers reached aimlessly at his potions shelf, knocking several over and spreading glass shards across his counter. He vaguely felt his skin pierced as he leaned forward, but it could not hold a candle to the pain in his chest. Only able to discern his potions by color, their writing either too faded or too blurred in his current condition to make out, he uncapped the first four and downed them in one swoop then went back for the next handful. He’d taken nearly everything in his medicine cabinet, save the pepper up potion he kept on hand for colds and hangovers, before he leaned back against the wall and allowed himself to slide back to the floor. 

The numbing creeped over him in seconds, and breathed out a sigh of relief. As the minutes ticked on, Ron almost couldn’t make out the face of Hermione Granger fighting their potions professor for her virtue in the mud. But he could recall the moment when she lost and it just wouldn’t leave his mind. So he did the only thing he could in his position, which was to lean forward to place his forehead on the edge of his countertop, and rummage through the stashes he kept hidden below the sink. They were mostly empty, as he often hid in the restroom when Melody brought her unbearable friends over, but a bottle of sugar plum sherry his cousin had gifted him two Christmases before was still almost full. 

Ronald pulled the cork on the bottle, wrinkling his nose at the stench of vinegar and holiday sweets, before pulling it to his lips and remembering how to breathe out his nose. If he could drown in that bottle, the memories would have to go away along with the rest of the world. If he could hold it down long enough to let it take him, he could be free of the nearly never ending pounding his head. Then he’d never have to face her, and she’d never see with her own eyes how far he’d fallen. He imagined never facing her disappointed sighs, and a smile pulled at his cheeks for the first time in a long while. 

“It’s over,” He let out a breath he’d been holding at the bottom of the sherry bottle. “Its bloody over. Thank Merlin.”

Those were Ronald Weasley’s last words. Unrecorded, without anyone to bear witness and fairly unremarkable. Not the parting he had planned for himself the many times he’d written copies of his suicide note. He had imagined leaving love for his parents and brothers, wishing only the best for his sister and her husband and thanking Dumbledore’s Army for never giving up as he had. But, plans often change and those were in fact Ronald Wealey’s last words before the darkness took over yet again. Fortunately, it would not be the last time. 

* * *

He awoke to small panicked arms reaching under his own and tossing his body forward several times until his head struck the bowl with an ear splitting crack. Ron’s eyelids were heavy, and he struggled to breathe when a hand was shoved down his throat.

“Of all the dimwitted things to do, Ronald!” His sister screeched in his ears and he moved his hands to cover them, stumbling forward to slam his head once again. “What the bloody hell did you take this time, you miserable git?” Her hand forced itself further back and quickly she pulled away as the potions came back up around it, repeating the action nearly a dozen times while showering him with insults of fury.

His lips numb and he smiled to himself, “Gez ya doo louv may.” Ron slurred, then tears began to fall down his face. “Juz let may die, mkay? Juz let may go.”

“Bit too late for that,” Ginny grumbled, going over his face with a wet rag and pulling chunks of vomit from his overgrown hair. “You promised me you’d never do this again. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

He nodded a bit, crying harder and leaning in to kiss his sister’s cheek before burying it in her shoulder to sob. Pressure of her hands on his chest moved him back again, the pang of rejection burning nearly as much as his raw throat. “On’t yew love may?”

Her pinched face softened at his heart broken gasp and she brushed back his hair. “More than my life.” She unbuttoned his soiled shirt, throwing it into the overflowing bin and put her own cloak over his shoulders, wiping down where stickiness she couldn’t identify had dripped down his chest before wrapping him up again and pulling him to rest on her shoulder.. “It’s gonna be alright. I’ve got you now. You’ll be just fine.”

Time passed differtnly on the floor of the bathroom. It could have been hours or days, the clock ticking by while Ginny rocked him slightly, shushing in his ear. “You’re gonna be a great mum, Gin.” Ron peeled opened his eyes, reaching his hand out to his sister’s face and missing, much like he had with the medicine cabinet knob, as she had several of them. “Promise I didn’t mean to do it, I swear. Just…” He kicked at the bottle by his feet, missing only once before it rolled away with an unsatisfactory clunk. “I needed it all to stop.”

“Me too.” She muttered under her breath, “You need water. I’m gonna help you up and take you to bed but you cannot fall asleep. Do you understand me, Ronald Weasley?”

“Mhmm,” The wizard nodded sheepishly, grabbing onto the towel bar and unceremoniously pulling it from the drywall. “Damn it all, can’t get anything right.”

Ginny grabbed his hand and placed it on the counter, knowing she couldn't bring him to his feet without his cooperation. “On three now. One… two… there we go.” They traveled a few steps before taking a break to lean against the door frame, and taking the last few to his bed. “Easy does it, just lean up against the head.”

His eyes fluttered shut and time skipped ahead to water being dribbled in his mouth which he took greedily to soothe his scalded insides. “How’d you know to come?”

While Ginevera Weasley never admit that she had warded his brother’s home with dozens of alarm spells, looking for everything from violent outbursts to potions overdoses, she hadn’t needed it this time. She’d simply known her brother too well not to come. “I get the profit same as everyone else. Harry could have told me beforehand though. Certainly it would have been nice to have some notice.”

For the first time Ron saw what his sister was wearing, a full face of makeup and clothes as if she was ready for a night on the town. “Sorry I ruined your night, Gin.”

She shook her head. “You know what? I hate that stuff anymore. All of it seems unimportant by comparison, don’t you think?” Ginny laughed a little and took the empty glass from her brother. “Guess Mel leaving wasn’t much help to the situation, was it?”

“Huh?”

Ginny huffed a small laugh. “You hadn’t even noticed, had you? She left a note and took her things. I’m sure she saw the article herself and figured that you’d be done with her anyway.”

“I was,” Ron reached for his wand that he’d thrown on the bed earlier while shedding his suit jacket and Ginny pulled it further away. “Just wanted more water, Gin. Promise I won’t do anything dumb.”

She pulled her own wand out, filling the glass and placing it back in his hands. “Any magic in this state would be dumb.”

His gulps slowed, barely making a dent in his thirst. “I saw things in the pensive. Things that happened to her. He raped her, Ginny. He did it hundreds of times and they aren’t going to do anything about it. No one is going to save her from it all.”

Her fingers pressed into his lips. “Stop it. I don’t want to hear any of this from you. It’s not your story to tell. Now stop making this about you.”

Shame flooded him as his wits slowly came back to him and he suffered through half a dozen pieces of dry toast, Ginny citing he needed something for his stomach to hold onto. Night fall was upon them and his body was shivering cold despite the fire his sister had built in the hearth every blanket his mother ever knitted him stacked over his body. “Don’t leave me tonight, please.” 

“Of course not.” Her even voice soothed and she began building a pillow barrier in the middle of his bed. 

“And don’t… don’t tell Harry. I’ll lose my job.”

A sinking feeling in her stomach agreed with him. “I’ll sleep over here, right next to you. We can deal with the rest of it in the morning. Okay?”

“Okay.” He shifted his side into the mattress, reaching a hand through the fort wall and feeling her fingers wind around his. “I’m sorry.”

She gave him a reassuring squeeze. “I know.”

When he drifted off to sleep, Ginny sent a patronus to her husband telling him that Ron would not be at work the next day. All that night, she fought to watch over the brother who had given everything but his soul to save the wizarding world. She wanted to believe that if Harry had died, as Hermione had, she could have lived with it and understood the need for his sacrifice. But harboring the anger that Ronald did was something they had in common. She had just been much more fortunate than he had.

Chapter Text

Severus Snape had never seen that much blood as long as he had lived. Alright, that wasn’t true. He had never seen that much blood at a time when the victim had lived. 

Streams of thick, hot, red blood poured from Hermione’s nose into the sheets and she soundlessly gasped for air, revealing a bloodied mouth and teeth. “Kit, you useless pest, bring me cold damp towels and ice!” He barked, pulling Hermione over his lap and pounding at her back. He had to stop the bleeding, it was why she was choking, but her airways needed to be cleared first. Snape had no way of measuring when his wife had last gotten a breath of air. 

Remembering back to his days of training alongside medi witches and wizards, an absolute basic principle of potions mastery, he could recall the lesson on treating choking patients like it was yesterday. He knew he needed to find the middle of her back between her shoulder blades and remain in control of his movements. Working on dummies and fellow students, under scrutinous supervision, he’d been extensively praised for his success. The techniques had even come in handy at Hogwarts when poor mannered children got too excited to chew their food during feasts. 

If only he could have found calm or control while his wife’s life force soaked through his clothes, dripped down his legs and puddled on the bedroom floor. 

His palm pounded on her back, first too hard and then not firmly enough. Beneath his working hands she was little more than bones and even those could lose their integrity after a while. Many texts he’d read over the years spoke of babes in the womb pulling what they needed to grow from the bones and organs of their mother. “Life does find a way,” he had remarked to Lily at the time, reading under a tree while she skipped rocks across the lake. Theories meant ruddy nothing when all he needed to do with get Hermione air. Diving into her mind, he tried to find coherent thoughts and all he felt was a profound sense of panic and floating that pulled her from him and into the darkness. 

“Dammit, cough as hard as you can. I know it hurts, but you must.” His urgent baritone snarled more than usual and even then he knew he would be kicking himself later for snapping at Hermione. It wasn’t as if she’d asked for any of it. Their third child had been entirely his fault.

Like a siren's song, her gasp was his relief and undoing. He pounded harder, and her wrenching started. Bloody bile spewed into the floor and the acid stung his nose even from the distance. Severus could only imagine what it was doing to hers. Her stomach emptied during the longest minutes of his life until it settled into dry heaves. Blood still steadily streamed from her face, but at least she could breathe.

“Kit brought it all, Master.” The elf tossed him a damp rag tied around pile of ice chips and Snape pressed it to the struggling witch’s nose, applying just enough pressure to bring back her gagging.

“Shh, my love. It’s alright. You’re alright.”

Her cheeks flushed deeper and her lower lip trembled. I’m so sorry I’ve made such a mess. That I’m such a bloody mess.

“I don’t want to hear it.” He let her reaching hand take over the bundle and began digging through his own pockets for a blood replenishing potion. At least in one way he had been prepared. “Lean your head back, love.” Snape guided her with his hands, pouring the potion down her throat and lifting up the bloodied rag only for a moment.

How bad is it?

Severus mustered a reassuring smile at the corners of his mouth, unable to lie with his tired eyes. “It’s nothing, I assure you. Just hold it there a few moments longer. Then we can get you a bath while Kit cleans this up.”

“Kit will run the bath, Master Snape.” The frazzled house elf declared, running from the room with a red footprint trail.

Years as a spy and then as a captive helped Snape keep his face devoid of all emotions. He undressed his wife with a similar blank expression to those he used while watching Death Eaters torture muggles or holding his tongue at Albus Dumbldore’s chess game he’d played with the lives of innocent students. His eyes worked their way up and down her body taking each horrific scar and protruding bone. Her frame was a field that a battle had been held upon and he was overwhelmed by her tenacity. She’d used the sight of war and carnage to bear and nourish his children. It occurred to him then that he could not recall a time when Hermione had ever complained. She had always managed to endure without complaint. A dutiful wife in all sense of the word.

“You’re brilliant, do you know that right?” He whispered in her ear, kissing down her neck and eliciting a giggle. His hands wrapped around her bare hips, caressing the smooth pale skin of her rump. “I miss you.” It escaped his lips before he even knew he’d thought it but it was true. Severus Snape had missed his knowing his wife as his wife.

I’ve missed you too. Hermione leaned her head back and breathed a sigh of relief. It’s been so long since we’ve had a moment together.

Severus heard the faucet turn off in the adjacent bathroom and he pulled away. “And the wait continues.” Snape lifted Hermione under her knees and at her shoulder blades, carrying her to be lowered into the bath.

It doesn’t have to, does it? She pouted at him and grazed her fingertips over the bubbles.

“I’m afraid it does. Come here, just a moment.” He knelt beside the tub fully clothed and dipped wash rag into the water. His hand cupped behind her head and he eased her forward, wiping the dried flakes of blood from her face, down her chin and where they had worked to her chest. “There you are. Don’t you feel better now?”

His wife nodded, leaning back in the tub and closing her eyes. This is lovely, Severus. I can’t imagine it getting any better than this.

As Snape was an intelligent man, well versed in the art of conversation, he knew that Hermione had been referring to her bath. On the other hand, he found himself fearing the exact same thing. If his wife did live, would it ever get any better than this? Could he live with himself if she was always waking up in the middle of the night choking on her own blood?

You’re thinking too much again. Her look was one of disapproval but understanding. 

“I only worry for you. That’s all.” His hands floated over her, looking for something to do, until he let them drop to his sides. “I’m not taking proper care of you. I spend too much time working on potions or chasing the children. You need more than I have to give you.”

Severus, I can’t imagine anyone else doing a  better job than you are. I have everything I need. Hermione reached out to him, holding his hand. Save one thing, I suppose.

Her hand in his was the key to his heart, which he’d gladly give if it was her desire. “Tell me. Anything you need and I will make it yours.”

Redness spread across her cheeks and she smiled like a shy school girl. Join me in the water.

And as a man of his word, Severus Snape rid himself of his clothes and climbed in behind his wife in the tub. Her body leaned against his, nothing between their flesh, and both of them let out the type of breath they must have been holding for years. As far as either of them was concerned, they could have stayed in that bath until the world ended. 

* * *

“You’re going to have to sack him, aren’t you?” Ginny asked, head in hands sitting on the side of the bed.

Harry paced the room, holding a bag of ice over his shiner. “Yeah probably,” He grumbled to himself. “Suspend him at the very least least. Or medical leave, if we can get him to see a mediwitch again.”

“He won’t. You know that.” She stared at her brother, sleeping off the little she hadn’t been able to get out of his system. “I don’t know why you’d let him in the pensive with you, Harry.”

“Not exactly thinking clearly lately. I’ve had a lot on my mind.” His pacing became more heavy footed. “And speaking of stubborn to seek medical attention, Snape has absolutely no intention of getting any help for Hermione. I’m giving them every hour I can but between my ministry work and manning the pensive, there are no hours in the day to sleep or eat. I shouldn’t complain since he’s only asking for a break to brew her potions. There just needs to be two of me, I suppose.”

Ginevera Potter hated to watch her husband work himself into such a pile of nerves. “I’ll go then. I’m willing to help in any way I can. I’m sure my mum would as well.”

“No,” Harry snapped, harder than he had intended. “I don’t mean to be some sort of patriarchal brute about this, Ginny, but she did this during a seizure. It's far too dangerous.” He uncovered his swollen eye for emphasis. 

She scoffed and he shot her a dirty look. “Oh please, if I can handle bludgers then I’m sure I’m up to the task. This is Hermione for Merlin’s sake. She’s not exactly someone I’d be rooting for in a fight.”

“Well she’s got a mean left hook.” He mumbled to himself. “But you can’t lift her Ginny. Not without hurting her or yourself.”

Ginny pursed her lips and looked to the snoring redheaded caveman originally known as her brother. “Then I’ll take Ronald with me. If he’s not working with you, someone’s got to keep an eye on him. Maybe it will do him some good to help her. Prove to himself he’d not just a drunken lump.”

Out of options, out of energy and damn near out of time to think of a solution, Harry conceded. “Fine, if you feel up to watching both of them then be my guest. We haven’t got a lot of options at the moment.”

She stood up, stopping him in his repeatative tracks and tucking herself into his arms and playfully pinching his sides. “Chosen due to lack of options, every girls dream.”

Chapter Text

Staying at the Potter house to sober up wasn’t Ron’s idea of a good time. He had done it twice before, but it was picking daisies compared do going through withdrawal with his mum and dad watching his every move. Ginny basically ignored him for a few days while he got sick and was sweating it all out but his mother had spent the same length of time dabbing cool cloths on his forehead and bringing him snacks he couldn’t keep down. Then, there was the disappointed look his father gave, watching from the door frame of whatever room he was in.

“You don’t have to do everything he says,” Ron grumbled, grabbing handfuls of unfolded clothes from his dresser and throwing them into his trunk. 

Ginny unscrewed his liquor bottles one by one, dumping them down the sink and bagging them for pick up. “I never have. This is something he and I both agree on. You’ll never do this on your own.”

He rolled his eyes, picking a few pairs of trainers to bring with and giving his overflowing wardrobe a few forceful kicks and shoves to stay shut. “Haven’t done it with your help either.” His sister shrugged, checking each cabinet, drawer, pantry and utility cupboard for anything he may have stashed. Resenting her would have been easy to give into but he didn’t. She only cared, just like he cared for her. “I know that’s rubbish by the way.”

She tied up the last clear bag of glass and set it next to the others, busying herself whacking at fruit flies that were coming out of the drain. “What do you mean it’s rubbish?”

“Don’t play dumb with me,” Ronald slammed the lid of the trunk and closed one buckle remembering at the least conveient moment that the other was broken. “Saying you don’t do everything Harry tells you do. It’s rubbish.”

“No it’s not. I can make decisions for myself.” Her voice was defensive, and she gave up killing the insects by hand, instead using a charm to vanish them and tidy up the rest of the kitchen.

“Sure.”

Ginny turned to him, wand still in hand and pointing it at each word for emphasis. “If you have something to say you can just say it, Ron. This passive aggressive nonsense is becoming tiring.”

His hands came up in surrender and he sat on his trunk, which in turn sat on his cedar chest, so legs dangled a few inches above the floor and he swung them. Ron’s eyes were glued to his own feet, looking much like an embarrassed and remorseful child instead of a twenty-three year old man. “I’m not trying to be. It’s just… I know he made you quit the The Holyhead Harpies. Didn’t know how to bring it up until is all.”

Her face reddened and she pretended to be sweeping even though she’d already vanished the mess on his floors. “That’s not what happened, alright. Just take my word for it.”

“I was there when he got that letter, Ginny, after you fell off your broom during practice. He spent the entire day we were in that waiting room ranting about how he’d told you it was too dangerous. Less than forty-eight hours later your resignation was on the cover of The Daily Profit and you’d stashed your broom in the attic. I may be a drunk but I’m not stupid.” Ron watched the way his sister avoided his gaze, noticed her shaking hands and found himself more worried than before. “Harry doesn’t hit you or anything, right? You feel safe with him and all?”

The look she gave him was compassionate, less flustered than he imagined she’d be. “Never. Not even once. Of course I feel safe with him. My husband is the bloody boy-who-lived. I’d challenge anyone to find a better wandsman to have by their side. Now can we please just drop it?”

“Why?” Ron furrowed his eyebrows and crossed his arms.

“Because I don’t want to talk about this with you, Ronald!” His sister vanished the broom and moved even further away from him, prompting Ron to corner her in the kitchen nook.

His hands wrapped around her upper arms gently, just trying to get Ginny to look at him. “Why?”

“Stop playing childish games.” Ginevra Potter rolled her shoulders back, attempting to remove them from his light fingered grip but he simply moved along with her. “Can you please let go of me? We’ve got work to do. This place is a disaster.”

“Not until you tell me the truth.” His heart pounded in his ears, and no amount of counting or chants would free him of his anger. “Look me in the eyes and tell me what happened. I’m your brother, aren’t I? I’m here to keep you safe. Even if I wasn’t, I owe you for the stunt I pulled last night.”

Ginny flinched, likely at the thought of what could have happened if she hadn’t arrived on time. “Alright fine!” She flashed him her palms in surrender. “It wasn’t Harry who made me quit. He was relieved that I did, I’m sure of it, but it wasn’t his idea.”

His jaw locked a bit jutted out. “Who then?” His thoughts were filled with photos of every influential person in his sister’s life and he doubted that any had more pull than her husband. Not enough pull to get her to give up Quidditch anyway.

A single tear dropped down her cheek. “It’s more complicated than just one person, Ron. It was probably a dozen different things at once, some I’m still trying to figure out.”

“Then list them.” His words spat at her like venom.

“Just step back, alright? I can’t breathe all backed into a corner over here.” She used one hand to pull him off of her and he dropped the other, awkwardly moving back to put distance between them. “I’m going to tell you but you cannot use this as an excuse to lash out. Not at yourself or anyone else. Can you promise me that?”

Ron nodded wordlessly, his face showing very little more than what his parent’s genetics look like combined for the sixth time.

Ginny shook her head. “It’s mental, really, everything that happened. You’d just had your… problem…. Andromeda had died too, do you remember that? Going to her funeral? It’s when Harry and I got custody of Teddy. I was on the road for weeks at a time and he’d lost his parents and his grandmother before his third birthday. It wasn’t consistent enough for him. Then he got dragon pox and Harry got it too, being the only one there to take care of him. So they were both laid up in bed, green and covered in bumps, and I wasn’t there. Mum had to bring them soup. Not me, her. To my husband and godson. So we had that midseason break and I thought about not going back at all but Harry told me I should go and see how I felt about it. That he’d support me if I decided I wanted to leave at the end of the season. So I went back and I was trying so hard to enjoy myself but I was so bloody tired of it all. I got nearly to the end, remember? Then I…”

Ron ran his fingers through his hair, sighing with impatience. “You flipped your broom during practice and fell, I do remember. You’d never done that before and seemed pretty shaken up at the hospital but not badly hurt or anything. Harry came out later and told me they were keeping you overnight for a possible concussion so I just went home and he stayed.” His sister’s hands were back to shaking and her bottom lip trembled. “I take it that’s not what happened, then?”

Ginny let out a huff and leaned against the counter as if trying to be casual, avoiding his eyes once more. “Not exactly.”

“What do I have wrong?” There were gaps in his memory sometimes. Blacking out drunk could do that to a person.

“I didn’t stay at the hospital for a concussion.”

Ron nodded slowly, taking it all in. “Did I know that? Before I mean.”

Ginny shook her head. “No.”

“What really happened?”

Once more, she let out a huff. “First of all, I’m fine. Harry is fine. There’s no reason for you to become some sad sap over this.”

“Stop stalling.”

“Fuck…” She mumbled under her breath. “I had a miscarriage, okay? I was pregnant and I got hurt when I hit the ground. Harry wanted me to to stay for it to… finnish up. He thought it would be safest.”

He cringed, trying to imagine what her last words meant before the sadness sunk in. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you just carry this around by yourself? Merlin… it's been three or four years now.”

“You’d just gotten sober, Ron.” His sister didn’t pull away when he moved to bear hug her. “I didn’t want to mess that up for you. We only thought you’d need to do it one time.”

Ronald Weasley had tried to get sober many times since then, all temporary attempts that had ended in miserable failure because he hadn’t cared. Hermione was dead, his best friend blamed him for it and his barely fulfilling job was dangling by a thread. A fairly strong thread, that had held up through more bar fights and drinking on the job than in the entire ministry’s history, but a thread nonetheless. It was then, holding his sister silently, that Ron promised himself that this would be the last time he had to do this to her. He would get sober, or let it kill him. Ginny deserved to be free.



Chapter Text

He had gone through every book on Spinner's End and still could not find it. Granted, he was the only one left that lived on Spinner's End, meaning there were no other houses full of books for him to rummage through, but that was not the point. The point was that he had taken the most careless risk of his entire life procuring a particular potion ingredient and had no idea how to use it. Snape didn’t remember what he was looking for, exactly. It could have been a whole book on the uses of this particular substance, a recipe in a large collection of volumes, a cut out comic from The Daily Profit tucked into an old cookbook or scribblings he’d done in the margins. Be that as it may, he needed to find it and it simply was not there.

There were only two other places he could have imagined being introduced to this particular concoction. The first was in the collection of books he’d left at Hogwarts in his office as headmaster - which had likely ended up in damp boxes in the dungeon a janitorial closet - and the second was the library at Malfoy Manor. He had kept a study there near the end of the war, which was nothing more than a nook in the library with a lamp, a few shelves and some filing crates full of things he could not have easily explained away were they found by children at the school. This was very likely one of those less excusable things. 

Well, probably.

Maybe.

He had at least a shred of hope. 

The floo network in his house had been closed since he left to start that final year, so it took him a while - but no more than an hour or two - to lower the wards upon it and procure some floo powder from an overwhelmed Kit.

“Master, the children are restless. Is it such a good idea for Master to be away from them with Mistress on bedrest? There is only one Kit, sir.” She bounced Phoenix on her hip, his bobbing head a bit troublesome.

Severus shook his head. “Nonsense, elf. I have full faith in you as it would disappoint me severely if you were to fail. I’ll only be a while.” He took the canister back to his study and pulled a handful out, squeezing his fingers together to prevent losing it all over the floor. His arm raised above his head, he spoke crisply and clearly and released the powder causing a flurry of green flames. “Lucius Malfoy’s Office.” 

Truth be told, in his frenzy, Snape hadn’t considered what he would do if Lucius had placed wards on his side of the floo network. He’d ignored the possibility because he knew that the elder Malfoy was always keen on a duel with an unexpected (read exhilarating ) opponent. His fingers wrapped around his mother's wand and he stepped through, pleased when he saw a long blonde haired man with near ghostly white sharp features sitting at his desk, chewing on the end of his quil.

“Hello, Old friend.” His own voice surprised him, calmer than he felt.

Lucius looked up once, down, then back up again. The man raised his wand slowly but steadily, Snape mirroring him, until they pointed to their own chests. “Where does your heart lie?”

Snape answered with uneven tones, worried he would end his own life by pure stupidity. “Godric’s Hollow and Spinner's End.”

They both closed their eyes, letting out a sigh of relief when neither weapon discharged. None of it was a lie, though Lucius had a curious and fleeting thought about what the change in his dear friend’s answer might mean. “Merlin’s beard, it has been some time, Severus. Would you do me the honor of letting me know how you’re alive?” Snape answered with a single nod, and pulled aside his Occlumency veil. Recognition passed Lucius’s face and he gave a half hearted smile. “You’re one lucky bastard. Foolish, and extremely lucky.”

“Indeed.” He responded, “As you can see, my wife has not shared my good fortune.”

Lucius Malfoy crossed the room and gave the only friend he had left in the world a swift one arm embrace. It was nothing that someone could misconstrued as immasuline, but held the type of tenderness that they could both accept. “What can I do?” He asked.

“I need to save her. We have children together.”

Knowing what he knew, the blonde haired man shook his head. “Why did you do that to yourself, Severus? Even without a wand I’m sure you could have found a way to take care of the situation. You must realize that you’re the one who has complicated this.”

Shame overtook him. “Yes, I am aware.”

“And if the girl can’t be saved?” Lucius asked, moving to the bar to pour them both scotch. “What will become of you this time?”

Snape accepted the drink, taking a small sip for the courage to ask so much of the man before him. “My love is much more complicated than it was before. I hold no frivolous romantic notions of happy endings and growing gray together. I’m fully aware of what sacrifices I may need to make to save her.”

“The complete devotion you felt for Lily and now this girl,” Lucius swirled his drink absentmindedly. “Can’t you find some way to turn it off? Does it truly have to come to this?”

“Yes it does. And no, I can’t stop it! I’ve felt for her much longer than you realize.”

“I do not wish to hear further of your proclivities. Although, I do find it terribly interesting that you still see yourself as superior to Horace Slughorn despite your much less public collection. Secrecy implies shame.” Lucius downed the rest of his in one swig and gave himself a refill. “I know what you plan to ask of me. Your things are as you left them as I could not imagine Severus Snape, betrayer of the Dark Lord, succumbing to something as common a house fire. I do, however, find myself hesitant to indulge to your second request with the odds stacked so heavily against you.”

His face fell. “You must.”

“You will cheat death by keeping her alive!” Lucius snapped, throwing his glass against the papered walls. “And now you expect me to pay that debt for you? All to save another mudblood that you’ve grown fond of?”

“To save my wife.” Snape was drowning in too much of his own guilt to be angry. “If you recall, I’ve made similar vows to the Malfoy household on more than one occasion.”

He rolled his eyes. “Oh, how could I forget your little promise to kill a madman when my son inevitably failed.”

“And the other.” Severus reminded him.

“It never became necessary for you to take my life.” Lucius huffed and angrily plopped into his fireside armchair. He would not admit it aloud but both men knew the reason Narcissa had survived her pregnancy with Draco was because of Snape’s potion mastery. “I do not think I could do the same for you.”

“Why not?” He seethed through his teeth.

The man before him looked down, a mirror of his own shame. “Because I have nothing to offer you for assistance. Not even all the money in the world would make a difference once fate as decided to take her and even if you were to succeed your meddling will not go unpunished. There will be consequences for all involved.”

Snape joined him in the adjacent chair, refusing to make eye contact. Both men just stared into the empty hearth. “Need I say again that I have no intention of surviving this battle?”

“The war has been over for quite a while, my friend.”

Snape pulled down his shields and showed him the worst of the torture he had endured. It was not the cruciatus, which felt like being ripped into a hundred different pieces. It was not broken bones, starvation, infection or dehydration. He showed him was Hermione Granger fighting the man above him, fighting him , for her innocence. He showed him her sweat drenched face after a three day labor giving birth in the dirt, still trying to nurse their first born for comfort by suppressing her own screams. He showed him the moment when the light died behind her eyes, two days before Snape took it upon himself to kill the Locketts. “As you can see, the war never ended for us.”

As much as he didn’t care for the girl’s tainted blood, Lucius could not help but feel for her. She was just a girl. While Severus had decided to see her as a woman, perhaps to find a way to live with himself, Malfoy knew that she was nothing more than a child. Of age, sure, but only in the formative years of her originally expected century and a half. Now, he wondered, if she could make it to see the next sunrise. “I still cannot unless I can figure out a way to turn the tables in your favor. It would be such a waste of brilliance.”

Snape made his way to his small nook of the library alone. The first half of his mission had been complicated by lack of resources, but the second part was most important. His fingers traced over the spines of old volumves he’d left, dark books he had originally read in earnest and then continued to care for as a matter of historical preservation. Most were handwritten grimoires, the only copies in existence, and if he had them then no one else would. He was a protector of their secrets.

In the filing crates stacked beside his shelf were his more shameful collections. He organized the collection as a whole by year and then by last name, but one crate stood alone. It was his masterpiece, meticulously organized, annotated and kept under stasis to prevent decay with time. The parchments would have lasted his own life if treated with care, but they were not just for him. Like the scrolls of alexandria, they would be a loss to the entire world if they were destroyed.

He knew the recipe he looked for was not in that collection, but it didn’t stop him from paging through memory lane. His fingers traced the back of papers she’d poured her heart into, from charms to transfiguration, and he felt the same as when he was with her. Her unmatched intelligence, which had encouraged him to add her to his collection of great minds. It had also fueled his disdain of her know-it-all tendencies and made her unbearable to be around, but her writing was a joy. He lifted a page from her final year to his nose and inhaled the scent of ink and peppermint. “Hermione.” He breathed out. 

This was not some type of perversion in the sense that Lucius so frequently implied. He did not want the young women he’d admired in his bed or on his arm. In fact the thought of it was revolting, tempting him to vomit right on the library carpets. The only interest he had in them were obtaining pieces of their minds. From experience, he knew that not all intelligent girls are allowed to grow up to do great things. Purebloods were married off to old husbands that didn’t allow them to read or write, let alone pursue increasing their magical ability. Half bloods tended to do okay most of the time, but low level or secretarial positions at the ministry of magic proved to be an ill use of their talents. And muggleborns… well, he would only make that mistake once. The fact that the only intelligence that Lily had left for the world was within her insufferable son would haunt him until the end of days. He hadn’t made that mistake with Hermione, and would have saved her diary if he could have gotten his hands on it. What Snape had not planned to do was fall in love with her mind years before he was forced to violate her body.

Chapter Text

Harry did wait until he was in the privacy of his head auror’s office before his chest started to shake. If he were a different wizard, and maybe a better man, he would have been able to cry. He hadn’t slept at all the night before. Instead, he had gone straight from writing his pensive report to the house on Spinner's End. Hermione had been awake, but awake meant gasping for breath. Severus had kept their children in the other room while Harry administered back to back lung clearing potions that couldn’t make a dent in her suffering. She had coughed into every handkerchief that he handed her, leaving it with red stains he was sure would never come out.

This was what dying was like. Harry knew that. He knew it when he saw her face, devoid of color other than the dark circles that had formed beneath her eyes. It was then confirmed when he left, switching her care shifts with Severus, and caught a glimpse of likely the most tortured man he’d ever seen. If Severus was ready to admit defeat, then Harry was sure this would be one of the last times he saw Hermione alive. It was only days before that he believed she had spent five years buried beneath the ground at Hogwarts, but it did not take away the pain of losing her again. The agony he knew would ripple through everyone he cared for when she took her final final breath. If he held a shred of hope, it was that this time he would be there to say goodbye.

His head had not yet hit his pillow as he climbed into bed that he received an owl from his wife. Ron had gone and done it again. Overdosed on potions, combined with his love of drinking, and swearing that it was an accident. Though Harry felt some guilt about leaving Ron to fend for himself after seeing what they had in the pensive, he couldn’t help but hold disdain for his actions. Suicide was the cowards way out of this as far as he was concerned, and he didn’t say that lightly. He knew that many did it when their suffering was unbearable and he could not fault them. But Ronald Weasley was doing it to escape the reality of his choices. To escape the fact that if he had listened to Hermione during the battle - and if he hadn’t insisted on fighting with her before - she would not have gone into the burning shrieking shack alone to rescue Snape. She wouldn’t have been believed to burned to ash in the fire and she wouldn’t have been taken for years of torture at the hands of dark wizards.

But despite the ache in his chest, the tears did not come. Harry Potter didn’t know how to cry anymore. He had shed one single tear when Ginny had lost their first child, and it was not until she whimpered in her sleep that he allowed himself that relief. Now, he would not cry. He could not cry. This wasn’t about him. Harry Potter would simply endure and learn to live with the things he’d seen.

* * *

“Miss Granger… Miss Granger!” Snape’s voice raised and he pulled himself out of the girl, coated in her blood and his essence. His hand raised to her cheek, tapping lightly to rouse her. She opened her eyes and looked at him with a confused expression before they rolled back into her head. “Dammit.” He grumbled.

Her skin was too pale and her mouth sat open at a disturbing angle that reminded Severus of the first stage of rigor mortis. A silent scream. His hands began patting down his pockets, and then hers, in a futile search for anything to help. The only hopeful item he found was that what remained of her knickers was fairly clean. Wadded up in his hand, he went between her legs and applied pressure to the tears he’d created. The hymen did not cause hemorrhaging merely from being torn, but the perinimum could have and that was the best possible answer. If it was internal, she was going to die in his arms.

The world was a blur while he carried her to their tent, whispering reassurances. She’d shown him the small satchel she carried, charmed to carry whatever they needed while searching for Horcruxes  and he recalled a small first aid pouch. Much to his annoyance it was mostly just gauze and medical tape, so he rinsed her incision with the cleanest water he could find and used the sewing kit to give her haphazard stitches. They were to the best of his abilities, but it had been nearly twenty years since his medical training.

Severus was happy she lived through the night and didn’t suffer a fever from infection. It would be a week before Leila Lockett forced him to rape the girl again. That meant that it was a week before he realized he’d made a rudimentary but unforgivable mistake.

* * *

“Have you found what you were looking for?” Lucius asked, startling Snape out of his memory. He’d gone through a small stack of leather bound books, only scanning them for keywords, and set aside the latin texts for translating by his wife’s bedside. “Well you certainly know how to make yourself at home.”

Severus rolled his eyes. His mess was not as severe as Maldfoy would like him to believe. “I’ll be leaving soon and this will be put back as it was, you have my word.”

“I believe you intend to.” Lucius sat down across from him at the desk. “Just as you intend to do the impossible.”

He closed his book, marking it with a ribbon. “If it means anything in regards to our previous conversation, I have thought of a way you may assist me. It does not even my poor chances of success, as you’ve so eloquently reminded me, but it is still of great importance.”

“Anything you need, it’s yours.”

Snape looked at his friend and gave a grateful nod. “Your family mediwitch - the surgeon - is discrete from what I’ve heard. Or haven’t heard, I should say.” He thought of Narcissa’s new nose. “Hermione needs a consultation and likely surgery of the intimate variety. I’d like no one to know.”

If at all possible, the man before him became more pale. His eyes bugged out of his head, losing their generally serene quality and he sputtered for his words. “Of course but… I can’t imagine she actually… How would that have… What did you do to the girl, Severus?”

“Unspeakable things.” Snape found a spot on the wall behind his friend to stare at, unable to make even polite eye contact. 

Malfoy pulled himself together, only to place his head in his hands and stare at the table. He couldn't look at Snape either. Malfoy was many things - and had killed many people - but made it clear to all who questioned his honor that he was disgusted by those that hurt children. And, as he had made very clear since Severus had arrived, he believed Hermione to be nothing more than a child with the ability to apparate and not attend her classes. Severus Snape had had children with his mutilated child bride. “That’s why you want me to make the vow, is it not? You wish to die for your sins.”

Severus nodded. “If I cannot do my duty by my wife,”

“We’re here because you’ve done your duty!”

“...I do not deserve to live after what I’ve done, even under compulsion. Even the dementors kiss would be less punishment than I deserve.”

Lucius groaned into his hands. “I cannot say I disagree, so I will make the bloody vow. A debt repaid, as it is. But mark my words, Snape, you will not fail at saving the girl if it means living a century under the cruciatus curse. You will take any help given to you. She must live.”

“She must.”

“And her life,” He muttered, a bit softer. “It will be good. It will be beautiful. You will not fail. I will not lose the only friend I have left in the world to my own wand and I will not allow another child suffer due to decisions outside of their reach or understanding. She’s put her trust in you. Become worthy of it.”

Chapter Text

What Severus had told his friend was true. The war had never ended for him, but to fight a war he knew that needed an army. It was not an army of strength or numbers, but of magical ability. He did not know what friends he had out in the world, but he sat beside his wife and children as they slept and wrote by the light of a single candle.

Headmaster McGonagall,

I find myself desperately in need of your wisdom in a time of great stress…

Professor Flitwick,

My wife, Hermione Jean Snape, has always thought fondly of you as well as your talent with charms. The time has come in which those talents are desperately essential to her survival…

Arthur & Molly Weasley,

A child that you cared for as if she were your own is in desperate need of your assistance...

Madame Pomfrey,

What you’ve read in the papers is true. Hermione is dying, and I need the help of an accomplished mediwitch to save her…

Professor Sprout,

I do pray this reaches you and your greenhouses well…

Draco Malfoy,

Kindly remove your favored appendage from the young witches of the Greek Isles and ask your wife to do the same...

Dozens of letters left his home by owl that night, calling upon every friend he or his wife had down to those residing remote corners of the world. He had not bottled fame, nor had he brewed glory and his search for a recipe to put a stopper in death had been fruitless. However, Severus Snape was going to fight. He’d made promises that he intended to keep. When Lucius said the girl must live, he had agreed ‘she must’. When Potter has asked him if he was giving up to let her die, he hand responded with ‘never’. Those were vows he did not take lightly.

He lined nearly a hundred potion vials on the dresser beside her sickbed - their marriage bed - and readied all the necessary tools. A hotel bucket full of ice charmed to never melt, dozens of freshly laundered flour sack towels, a bowl of peppermints his wife was quite fond of and her favorite book - Hogwarts: A History - with magically enlarged print that her eyes could focus on.

It occurred to him, a  moment after he’d written it all down, that he’d made a lesson plan for the first time in years. He was not a professor anymore, only adorning the title of master due to his advanced study and achievements. The best student he had ever had lay unconscious under a stasis charm beside him and he pushed the hair out of her face, then placed a tender kiss on her lips. 

“Master Snape,” Kit called out, announcing the arrival of each of his guests over the span of an hour. When it had been several minutes since the final arrival, he instructed his house elf to allow them into the bedroom.

The assembly before him would have been comical if he had the energy in him to laugh. Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, stood tall and dark beside his godson, Draco. Only he could avoid a tan despite spending six months out of the year on the beach. Molly Wealsey fussed over her adult sons overgrown hair while her daughter and husband shot her dirty looks. Harry Potter held that Weasley daughter’s hand in one of his own, as he had married her, and clenched his wand in the other. The Hogwarts professors gathered in a clump off to one side, and in the far back of the room near the exit stood Lucius and Narcissa. Most of the faces he saw had aged in one way or another and alternated between relieved and anxious. This was his team. However mismatched and contradictory, it was all he had.

Severus stared at the room expectantly and they slowly silenced themselves. “I have summoned you all here today becuase my wife is dying. There is no avoiding that fact and I do not intend to do so when recognizing the potential for tragedy is the first step in stopping it. And as I've been reminded,” He glared at both Lucius and Harry. “This is not something I can accomplish on my own. I cannot brew her potions, care for her day to day needs, raise our children and research how to stop her downward spiral without help. So today I will teach all of those willing to learn what must be done to ensure her well being. The rest can wait.”

“The key to her survival is, of course, her potions. Anyone in this room that scored at least exceeds expectations in my class or outstanding in Professor Slughorn’s should know how to identify and handle the substances my wife requires to survive. But let’s go over it, shall we?” His words were sharp, in his effort to intimidate them into providing their undivided attention. If it worked half as well for this crowd as it had for his students, they’d be prepared. His fingers traced down the shelf, listing the names and instructions for each potion. “For a nagging cough, three drops of numbing potion may be administered every hour and for a productive cough, a full vial of lung clearing solution. Morning, noon and night she requires a nutritional potions and they must be kept on a rotation to prevent ulcers from forming. Yellow, green, blue. If that cannot be remembered, they are in order from left to right.”

Madam Pomfry put up a hand, attempting a polite interruption and he took a pause. “If I may suggest her eating a small meal with each nutritional potion. It would prevent the wearing of her digesting linings. I’d be happy to provide such meals if-”

 “If you must know, my wife cannot eat without becoming quite sick. It is not worth the risk at this time. As I was saying, strengthening potion is to be given as needed, not exceeding more than six doses every twenty-four hours. Hydration potion should be given every four hours - a half vial diluted in a full glass of water and an immediate bathroom trip is recommended unless any of you find great enjoyment in laundering the sheets after every seizure.”

Molly Weasley gasped and was comforted by her husband while he thought Poppy was going to lose her own lunch lunch. It was Minerva that spoke, her voice both sympathetic and irritated. “Are you to tell me, Severus, that Miss Granger is experiencing frequent seizures without medical supervision? How is that taking proper care of her?”

“Madam Snape,” He corrected with pursed lips. “That is her name and I suggest that you all use it. I will not let carelessness upset her in her fragile condition. Besides, I am a potions master and therefore have studied magical medicine. I am fully capable of administering any care she requires in the comfort of our home. We have much else to cover, may I continue?”

Headmaster McGonagall was flustered and he took that as his chance to move forward. “Very well then. Now that it has been established that I am in charge of her care, I would like to remind everyone here why that is the case. We were married by our own magic, we have children together and she is my wife. We are bound. I may do with her whatever I please and if any witch or wizard in this room wishes to contest it I will accept that duel and make no mistake as her proper owner I will win. So I suggest all of you remember the next three words I say. She. Is. Mine.

Perhaps the anger behind his words was unwarranted, but he did not want any objections to what he said next. “As I was saying, my wife experiences frequent seizures. Some are barely noticeable, resulting in just the shaking of her eyes which is why we have the oculus potion to be given at nine in the morning and three in the afternoon. Others are nearly catastrophic. Muggles have their own ways of dealing with this but I find them inadequate when magic is much more advanced. In that case confirm her airways are clear and administer this syringe of seizure stopping potion into the muscles of her thigh. It should only take a minute to work. After she stops seizing, massage this into any rigid muscles.” He held up a bottle of potion muscle relaxing potion mixed with almond oil. “To prevent this from being a never ending problem, her preventative seizure potions have to be given every two hours. Not every hour and fifty-nine minutes and not every two hours and one minute. Two hours on the dot. Half a dropper in her mouth will do it. The rest of her potions, including pain relief and prenatal potion, will be administered only under my strict supervision at my discretion. I suggest you all use the log book by her bedside to keep track of everything she is given and when. Is this all understood?”

Dozens of bewildered eyes looked back at him and he sighed. “Go ahead.” Lucius gave him an encouraging nod of approval. 

Much to his surprise, it was Arthur that spoke up. “Harry told us that you don't have a cure for Hermione. He said that you planned on keeping her on a potions regimen that would make her comfortable but this can’t be it. There’s no quality of life for her, Professor Snape. Just laying there like a-”

“-like a corpse.” Harry interrupted, and Snape knew he’d discussed this with the others at length. This was not a gathering of those planning to assist, it was an ambush.. “If there is no improvement in sight, how do we justify keeping her like this?”

Severus gripped his wand in his cloak pocket, prepared to Avada Kedavra every single person in this room if it meant keeping them from harming Hermione. “Keeping her like what, Potter? Keeping her comfortable while I devise a better solution?”

“And how bloody long with that take?” Ronald Weasley interjected, nostrils flaring.

“Five months, if an approximate time frame is acceptable.” He watched some older witches and wizards in the room become calm at that answer, as they knew it was only a drop in the ocean compared to a lifetime, while the younger portion of his audience became more tense. “I’m sure this is less than ideal-”

“You’ve got that right!” Potter protested but Snape found the focus to ignore him.

“As I was saying,” He straightened himself out of a defensive crouch, not taking his hand off of his wand. “Keeping her comfortable our priority, second only to keeping her alive. She is still much the girl you all knew. Let her read, or read to her when she is unable. Allow the children to be with her when she is well enough to interact with them but ensure they are removed before anything that happens to upset them. I will not have them traumatized by any of it.

“The towels are self explanatory, and should be given to my house elf for laundering. The ice is both for chewing, applying to lower fevers and can be bundled with previous mentioned towels to assist in clotting blood along with pressure and patience. Blood replenishing potions are to be given with my approval..”

It took a while, but by the end of his first lesson he sensed most of the room was capable of providing his wife with the minimal care necessary. He had the men exit while he demonstrated to the women how to give her a sponge bath, and pulled her out of stasis so they could watch him administer her seizure stopping treatments. By the time they left, each of them had filled in a schedule of which shifts they could take or resources they could provide. Professor Sprout had brought the requested potion ingredients, the quality of which he trusted more than any apothecary supply store he knew of.

While he lay in bed next to her and his boys that night, he felt a small warmth growing in his chest. He had one last fleeting thought before falling asleep. Perhaps there is now hope.

Chapter Text

Hermione Snape had not expected visitors while her husband was locked away in his study. She’d coaxed her energetic children to stop pulling her hair and jumping on the bed, and directed their attention elsewhere. Monroe tucked himself up under her arm, listening to a story from The Tales Of Beetlebard , and Phoenix fought sleep while suckling at her breast. She knew she shouldn’t be doing this. Her husband would not approve of her straining her voice or continuing to nurse, but she reached a profound sense of peace holding her children in an actual bed. They’d never slept on a real bed before, and this was something Hermione relished in providing for them.

It had been a good day. She’d eaten a piece of dry toast for breakfast and kept down all of her potions, including nutritional supplements. The boys seemed to be adjusting well and Monroe had become less afraid and more delighted by the new things he encountered in the house. Severus was in a foul mood but that was not a new occurrence, so she tried to ignore his storming from room to room. At least he’d stopped scolding the children for playing too loudly and given up on employing Monroe to stir potions at the proper pace. He was too young for such focus, but it had been his fine motor skills instead of his will that had prevented him from being up for the task. She shook her head at the thought and drank her tea a bit cold. All mothers did.

“Mistress Snape…” Kit entered the room carefully. She was not afraid of Hermione, but the children. Their boisterous bouncing was unfamiliar to her and the fact that Monroe was her size made the lack of control intimidating. “I present to you, Ronald Weasley and Ginevra Potter.”

Hermione felt tears form and sniffled a bit, seeing her friends for the first time.

“Oh shit!” Ron gasped, covering his eyes with his arm while Hermione covered her breast. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to - The damn elf didn’t say you were…”

“Its fine,” She croaked just above a whisper and reached out to Ginny to pull her into an embrace. “It's wonderful actually.”

Ron stood a few feet from her, shifting on his feet with anxiety, and averting his eyes. Instead of finding a spot on the bed he could focus on, his gaze was met with that of a young and curious child. “Hey there.” He gave a tentative wave and got one in return.

Ginny fussed with Hermione’s hair, pushing it back out of her eyes. “Oh dear, you sound just terrible.”

Hermione smiled and shook her head. “No, it sounds much worse than it is. I’m fit as a fiddle. Severus is being dramatic”

Ron mimicked his sister, sitting at the edge of the oversized bed instead of by Hermione’s side and looked for anger on her face. The look she gave him reminded him more of pity than of anger. Still, she’d written him that letter and he was intentionally violating her wishes. “I didn’t come to bother you, I promise.”

She raised an eyebrow and Ginny waved her off. “I’m glad you’re here. Everything is perfect now except… where’s Harry?”

“Working,” Ginny quipped and Hermione gave her a similar skeptical look. “But that just means that we get a turn without having to share you. And we’re here to help so your wish is our command.” A curious pair of eyes followed Ron everywhere he went, adjusting to any shifts he made to sit more comfortably and mouthing praises of ‘wow’ and ‘ahh’. “I think you have a fan.”

Hermione brushed her son’s dark curls out of his face with her fingers. “Monroe, why don’t you ask Auror Weasley to show you how to play wizard chess? He is the best player I’ve ever known.”

“Ron. He can call me Ron.” He timidly corrected, refusing to look either of them in the eyes. “Are you sure he’s old enough?”

She nodded her head. “My boy is very smart. He can handle it.”

“Alright then. Show me the way, kid?” Ronald Weasley reached out a hand which the boy took and the women withheld their looks of surprise until both where gone.

Ginny started fussing over her blankets and fluffing the unused pillows. “Now that we’ve handled that, what do you want to do? Take a bath? Get some rest? Do you need to use the loo?”

“None of that,” Hermione sat herself up more, lucky not to wake up the child in her arms. “I just want to know what's going on. I’m missing so much being trapped in this room and half the people I talk to act like I’m dying. What is Severus telling people? He can be so melodramatic.”

The red haired witch rubbed her friend’s shoulder for a second. “I don’t think he’s trying to be. Not at all actually. He just chose to train us for the bad days, so the good ones will be a pleasant surprise. We did all see you have a seizure, Hermione.”

“Oh no,” She sunk back, flushed red. “I can’t believe he let everyone see that.”

“Stop it!” Her hands were pulled away from her face forcefully and the woman before her frowned. “It’s what we needed to know to help get you well. You’re a mom, for Merlin’s sake. Buck up! Now do you want to know what’s going on or not? If you can't handle it then I just won’t tell you.”

“Of course I can.”

Ginny rolled her eyes and settled in on her side next to her friend. “The Daily Profit is having a field day speculating how any of you survived, but their writers are no more competent than they were before. Pure power of will isn’t a good enough answer and instead they have suggested a resurrection stone, that you’re imposters using Polyjuice potion or abnormally opaque ghosts.”

Hermione giggled to herself. “That’s horrible.”

“It’s The Daily Profit.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Harry has been at the ministry working his tail off with the case just to ensure it is all recorded in a sensitive way. And Professor McGonagall is absolutely infuriated about something or other.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because she was right behind us when we flooed over, and she stormed into your husband’s office like she was ready to kill someone.”

* * *

“What do you know of this?” Minvera snapped, slamming a book down on his desk while he poured over latin tomes. “Out with it! Did you know?”

Severus rolled his eyes. “To what are you referring?”

Her finger poked into the handwritten parchment repeatedly, shaking the book. “This bloody prophecy that Albus recorded! Right after Potter’s, he wrote this . They were only weeks apart.”

Snape took the journal into his own hands, ignoring the notes written around the short text and instead focusing on the few lines being discussed. Unfortunately, he recognized them well. No, he had not seen them written out in almost twenty years, but they were familiar to him. They had spent plenty of time haunting his dreams, their meaning both vague and too direct.

Part prince of both the dark and light, will teach his match in wit and might.

Old and young a battle claims when rotten boards erupt in flames.

His marked body shall break her own and while within he’ll take her soul.

Blood, breath and home he’ll give in empty hope that she shall live

Only when their seventh weeps, will she be his fair prize to keep.

The only reprieve he had found was that he did not believe in such ridiculous things. Sybill Trelawney had given only two prophecies worthy of recording by the ministry and this was not one of them. In fact, it was dated only weeks after she was hired. “This is not a prophecy, Minerva. It happened during tea leaf reading Albus insisted I partake in for some ridiculous reason. I’d all but forgotten about it until…”

“Until?” McGonagall snatched the book from his hands and smacked him over the head with it. “Until when? When did you realize what was happening?”

His face flushed red and he pulled his own hair, groaning in near agony. “It wasn’t at first, I assure you. She wasn’t eleven when understood or I would have done something so it could be changed.”

She stiffened and shame crossed her face. Whatever she had assumed of Severus was not honorable. “Fine, but when did you see it?”

“Her third year,” Snape swallowed the lump that was growing in his throat. “When I encountered them in the shrieking shack, I knew it was the place. It could have been anywhere until then, but I could feel it. The walls wreaked of cruel destiny.”

“But what about her? When did you know the reading was about her?

This was not something he could lie about, and Severus Snape recognized that. Minerva wasn’t asking because she didn’t know. She was simply giving him an opportunity to tell the truth. An opportunity he did not deserve after so many other missed chances. And if he didn’t take it, he would be hexed out of his chair. “She was the only match I’d ever met, Minerva. By her twelfth birthday I was quite certain, but I chose not to believe it. It seemed impossible that that bucked tooth know-it-all would ever grow up to be my…”

“Your victim.” Minerva did not believe that euphemisms were appropriate any longer. “Tell me, Severus, did you ever engage in physical contact with the girl that may have been described as untoward when you were her professor? Any time at all before you were taken?”

“Never! And I heavily resent the implication that I would. Now get out of my office, out of my home and away from my wife!” Severus struggled to find his composure, having lost control like this only a handful of times before.

The woman before him wrinkled her nose and narrowed her eyes. “I know of your collection Master Snape. I’ve always been aware of your interest in young female minds but naively believed it to be harmless, even if off putting. Even when the file on Miss Granger became a collection of its own I did not believe you were capable of grooming the girl as your own. Now I am unsure I can trust my own judgements.”

“She is mine and I suggest that you remember that.” Severus found himself cold and guarded again, much to his relief. “And I did not groom her. I did not intend to ever bring harm to her. I didn’t know what the damn fortune meant or if it would ever come to pass. So I prepared her. I kept a watchful eye over her and I made sure she learned what she needed to in order to survive. She deserved much better than what was coming for her.”

Minverva managed to further narrow her eyes without shutting them which Snape was nearly impressed by. “Miss Granger deserved much more than the suffering she has been condemned to. My disappointment stems entirely from the fact that I believed you were better than this, Severus. I believed you were a good wizard, beneath your less than charming exterior. Now I know what you intend to put the poor girl through before this is over and I simply cannot allow it to continue.”

“What I intend to put her through? Have you gone mad? My only intention is to make her well again!”

“This is only the third! Do you truly believe she will survive four more?”

“The third what, Minerva? Four more of what? I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Four more children you fool! Only when their seventh weeps means only when your seventh child together gives their first cry will her survival be promised.”

“I...I…” Severus used one arm to brush everything from his desk and screamed in fury at the shattered glass. “This cannot be. I will not let this be. There has to be a way to stop this.”

“It's far too late for that. The deed has been done. You’ve started a series of events that cannot be stopped.” She slammed the book back on the table, open to the page covered in Albus Dumbledor’s notes. “He knew, even if you did not. This was always his interpretation. So while, in your words, he raised Mr Potter as a pig for slaughter he also molded the kind hearted Miss Granger into your broodmare. If that man was still alive when I found this book, I would be on my way to Azkaban.”

“As would I.” He traced over the indented words from Albus Dumbldore’s quill. They were real, not just a figment of his twisted imagination or part of a sick dream. “What am I to do, Minerva?”

Professor McGonagall sighed, exhausted by her own outburst. “There is nothing else to do. Miss Granger shall either live to bear your seventh child or die before it comes to be. Only time will tell.”

“Madam Snape,” Severus corrected, mumbling with his head in his hands. “Her name is Madam Snape.”

Chapter Text

Even though he had spent well over a decade residing at Hogwarts, Snape had only been in the Divination classroom a handful of times. It was probably his least favorite place, and that was including the Gryffindor common room and the manure shed near the greenhouses. He did not like the subject, he did not like the students infatuated with it and he certainly did not like the professor teaching such a subject. He could not stand Seers, and Sybill Trelawney was the most annoying Seer he had ever met. Still, he found himself spending a Saturday afternoon sitting in the front row of her empty classroom.

She fluttered about, muttering to herself and turning around the bracelets on her wrists. Suddenly, she stopped in place, pivoted towards him and smiled with cruel intent. “Would you like to meet a nice girl, Master Snape?”

“What on earth is she talking about?”

Minvera shot him a look with her dagger eyes “Now Severus, be kind. You could try talking to her instead of her.”

He sighed, turned in his chair towards the mad woman and spoke through flaking pursed lips. “No Sybill, I do not want to meet a nice girl. I am here because I want to save my wife.”

“But you do not want seven children with her?” She asked, her eyes bulging noticeably through too thick glasses. “Oh no no that simply won’t do. You must meet this girl. She is essential.”

“Nothing is essential about this ridiculous exercise.” Severus groaned and slammed his tea cup onto the table, shattering it. Minvera waved her wand to send the mess away and Sybill did not notice.

Instead, she smiled with her jagged teeth, the only set he knew of that he disliked more than his own. “Ohh no Severus my old friend… you think too much of that wife of yours without remembering why she needs saving. Answer me this… would you want to know a girl you could never meet? Would you want to meet a girl you’ll never save?”

 His innards boiled and the temperature of the room rose. “What does that mean, you loon?!”

Again, she was not hurt by his outburst and remained unnervingly friendly. “I prepared a vision of such a girl from my own mind. It is in the pensive, Master Snape. Visit her there and you will receive the answers you seek.”

* * *

At first, he had protested. He had shouted, thrown the room about and left himself in quite a rut with an angry Minerva McGonagall. But once the room had been righted, he stalked off towards Sybill Trelawney’s office and gave in to her ridiculous demands. He would put this nonsense to rest and then she would tell him how to save his wife. Or she would pay.

Blinking through the murky pensive, Snape found himself in pink painted bedroom. He would have assumed it belonged to a little girl, except the bed was far too large to belong to a child and lace undergarments hung out of the matching white chest of drawers. 

He found the girl sitting in a white silk dressing robe covered in pink roses. The robe reminded him of the one that had belonged to his mother, a memory he had not recalled until the moment. Her face was round and child like, a cherub on earth, and her head was adored with a ring of corn silk colored ringlets that could not have been more than half the length of his wand if pulled taut. Her eyes were dark gray, were a bit too big for her face and too far apart. They did, however, have a delightful shimmer that reminded him of the underwater windows in the Slytherin common room. Her lips full with two high peaks pointing towards her button nose and wore a relaxed but defined pout. He noted her figure was more plump than he typically admired. She sported a small pouch at her belly, fuller appendages and wider hips than the feminine or athletic builds that wizarding society preferred. Yet she was a witch. He could tell by the wand that sat on her vanity. Next to it were dozens of brushes. He recognized many of their bristles and handles as potion ingredients, including centaur hair which was quite difficult to acquire. Snape himself had only maintained a steady supply through less than legal dealings.

An artist? He wondered, watching as she lifted the brush and swirled it over the colors on her pallet. The creative had never been his type, preferring intelligent thought to paintings and story telling. Still, he kept an eye on her movements. She lifted the brush, which was covered in a fine powder, to her own face and began to move. She applied a darker color to her previously too light eyebrows, brushed layers of white, gray and black over her eyelids and left a fine dusting of pink down her cheekbones. While some wizards would see these as an aesthetic improvement, as was their prerogative, Severus simply wished the girl would smile. The girl pulled out a spiked wand, painting black liquid over her lashes and applied the same black liquid to the water lines of her eyes. The last thing she did was uncap a blood red stick and use it to trace the edges of her sharp pout before filling them in completely.

She lifted her want, cast a stasis charm on her face and allowed a single tear to fall down her cheek. Her eyes had not been at all unique unique, but instead filled with tears. Then she stood, pushed her sniffling nose in the air and shed the robe. Severus avoided looking at her exposed body, and she was fortunately wearing undergarments, but he did see an underground map in shades of peach and alabaster. He needed a closer look. Crossing the room, he reached a hand out to brush against the front of her thigh and her stomach, and felt the long healed raised welts under his fingers.

Merlin… what did this to her?

Her scars ranged from old, years by the look of it, to barely scabbed over. She ignored the pull of her flesh while she raised her arms above her head, stretching towards the ceiling, then the opposite as she reached towards her toes. Her body could not ignore the consequences of her actions, small pools of blood forming on the edges of the most recent wounds. She winced and turned her head towards him when she passed the floor length mirror. Though she believed herself to be alone, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and she dressed quickly, putting on a white button down shirt that gaped over her chest until she hit the seams with a sticking charm. She stepped into and zipped up her black skirt then pulled on knee high socks that girls favored during the warmer months until she checked the mirror and saw a narrow peak at her scars. With a flick of her wand she transfigured the socks into black tights, a bit translucent for his uniform approval but it served her purpose of disguising the marks. The last thing she did before leaving the room was pull a black robe from the back of her door with green accents. It covered the spots on her shirt that had absorbed her blood. The elves would fuss about its laundering.

The girl was a slytherin, and a prefect at that. She would not be difficult to find. Someone could save her from the years of torment she had been enduring and heal the marks that she’d been stupid enough not to address with magic. Then reprepamd her for such ridiculousness. Venom pooled on his own tongue, only held back because he knew how little it would do in the pensive. Just as she closed the door behind her, leaving him alone in an adolescent girl’s bedroom where he’d just watched her dress, he was hurled from the memory gasping for air.

Water from the pensive dripped from his nose and he coughed on it, stuttering out words as quickly as he could,“McGonagall! One of your prefects -” 

“- No no no, Master Snape. That is one of your prefects.” Trelawney assured him, rubbing a hand on his shoulder that he shrugged off.

He snapped his wand towards the insufferable seer and she struggled against the binds he placed over her mouth. “Shut up! As I was saying Minerva there is a prefect in Slytherin house that is being tortured by someone. Their parents most likely. She is covered in scars nearly everywhere but hands, neck and face. Someone has to help her. If you take me to their common room I will point out the girl. She’s got short nearly white hair-”

Minerva released Sybill and took his face in her hands, much like a mother would her son.“Severus, calm yourself! I can tell you right now I don’t have a student with that description in any house and certainly not a prefect.”

Trelawney reached out again, only grazing her fingertips over him for fear of being launched away. “Master Snape, if you wish to save your wife you must save this girl. And to save this girl, you must be the head of Slytherin house. This girl is essential. If you fail her, you will Hermione as well.”

But what could he do? How could he save a Hogwarts student that was not in attendance, McGonagall didn’t know of and was only the product of a vision from the insane Sybill Trelawney? Yet, he found the nagging ache in his stomach assuring him that he could not let her suffer. Real, a figment or simply from another time, he could not let any girl endure suffering because he was too weak to stop it. Not now. Not again.

Dry throat and damp faced, he set his jaw with determination. “Minerva, I’d like to resume my post as Potion Master and head of Slytherin at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Chapter Text

Moving Hermione to Hogwarts was, much to his surprise, met with little resistance. It seemed no matter who he believed trusted him, they all preferred the idea that she was not alone with the greasy-vampire-git-of-the-dungeons. Snape didn’t like himself all that much, and looked fondly towards the day of his own demise when he would pay for his crimes, but the lack of confidence couldn’t help but thing a bit in his still open wounds. He had done all he could to be a good husband and father in the circumstances he’d earned those titles, but it was not enough for any of them, as he reminded himself it should never be. Hermione was suffering, dying a slow and cruel death, because she had tried to save him. If it hadn’t been for Lucius Malfoy’s vow to kill him when her death did come to be, he could not have gotten out of bed in the morning.

Minerva McGonagall had not given him his old job back as potions master and had only reluctantly assigned him as the head of house for Slytherin. He did not have to be the potions master for Sybill Trelawney’s predictions to come true, and the bare minimum was all the headmistress gave. She cited many reasons - his young children, his lack of practice, the care Hermione required and the brewing he had to do to perform that care - but in the fist sized lump of coal that sat where his heart belonged Severus knew that they were all excuses. The truth of the matter was that Minerva no longer trusted him to be so involved in the lives of students after he had repeatedly raped and impregnated one.

The imperius curse was a funny bit of magic, as it once had been considered heinous to perform to an innocent and unwilling victim. Now, after so many Death Eaters had used one or two instances of the imperius as a defense for their actions, it was little more credible than a student claiming “my kneezle ate my essay” as an excuse for an undeserved extension. It seemed only he, Hermione and Harry Potter both knew and believed the truth of what had happened to him. So Severus Snape bore his scarlet letter with his chin up, donning the same familiar frock coat he’d been so fond of in his past life, and walked the halls of Hogwarts.

This is moving forward. He would remind himself, deducting points from students about after curfew and taking occasional meals in the great hall. And it’s only temporary.

His wife was fading, that he knew for sure. Every day her skin seemed a touch more translucent, her grip on his hand as she wretched into the basen a bit less firm, and the light in her eyes a touch dimmer. His sons slept in the large four postered bed with them, huddling around their mother for comfort and remaining uncharacteristically calm. Severus didn’t know children could be that receptive to change and he desperately searched for a way they would not have to be. He had lost his mother young as well and been raised by a shell of a father as a result. That was not something he would do to his children. If he could give them nothing else - not even the life of their mother until they were more capable of understanding - he would allow them the gift of sweet relief from his presence.

Then, there was the matter of his third child still in Hermione’s womb. The child that would never have the chance to live, but was just as unwilling to die. Poppy had nearly promised him that his wife would miscarry any day, but those days turned into weeks and the weeks became a month, her belly only growing larger. The child destined to die was somehow thriving, tenacious as their mother and cruel as their father. And that child was, as Severus saw it, his true love’s final wish.

Severus? Hermione had asked him in the night, their gently sleeping sons between them. This baby is going to be okay, right? Madam Pomfrey told me it’s growing like a weed but I’m afraid people are lying to me now. Just telling me things they believe I wish to hear.

He had assured her, kissing the hand he could reach and bring to his lips, that the baby was fine. Anyone who knew his wife well enough to consider her a friend should know she would never wish to be lied to. Then again, he had been threatening the lives of all those who dared to upset her. She did not deserve to shed a tear in this final chapter. And when the final hour came, Severus promised himself that she would be in his arms and she would be smiling. In the end, he would have given her a happy life, however short it may be.

Resigned to wait for the end, he was a shadow of a man. The girl he had seen in the pensive, the apparent key to saving his wife, was not a Hogwarts student. He had looked through every face in the great hall, combed through the year books and class photos and scanned the newspaper daily for photographs. Even if she stepped off of the Hogwarts Express at the start of the next fall term, Snape knew it would be too late. They were, in many ways, out of time. 

It was with great resignation that he, again, climbed the ladder to Sybill Trelawney’s divination classroom, sat at the tables in the first row and looked at the woman he was certain had gone mad for his last saving grace. 

“Sybill, I can’t find the girl. She isn’t a student at any wizarding school in Europe, she isn’t a past graduate and she isn’t here, but you said if I could save her I could save my wife.” His throat clenched along with his fists. This was surrender of rationality and resignation from self control. If not signs of the end, they were signs of a dark future. “What do I do? Please, tell me what is next.”

Trewlaney raised her eyebrows above her thick framed glasses and muttered to herself as if conversing with the voices in her own head. “Too soon… too late… so much left unsaid. Yes, you’re quite right. But how? ...Oh I suppose but the last time he said - ...dire circumstances they are I suppose. Fine. I’ll tell him.”  She gazed up at him with a pleased smirk that morphed into a sickly sweet smile. “I’ll tell you exactly what we’re going to do, Severus. The girl is here - that much we’ve both seen - but she is not now , which is why we don’t see her. Understood?”

He groaned and put his head in his hands, nodding along. “Yes, we’ve covered this.”

“Very good!” Her scarves, capes and cloaks trailed behind her reminding Snape much of the mad cat ladies that roamed Spinner’s End in wearing all of their wardrobe for fear it would be stolen. She pulled a collection of cigar boxes off their shelves, opening each metal clasp, rummaging through the contents, making a tisk sound with her tongue against her teeth and thrusting it back on the shelf only to start again. Several minutes had passed before she said much else. “AHA! Here it is. Just the thing you need for this wee little problem of yours. Well here you are, on your way you'll be.” She dropped a gold chain bearing a series of rings in his reluctantly outstretched hand and smiled.

He narrowed his glare from the necklace, to the mad woman, down and back up again. “What am I to do with this trinket from a damn chocolate frog box?” Severus recognized it of course, remembering it being a possession of Albus Dumbldore. The old oaf had adored anything that could be charmed to spin or twirl and shine only added to an object’s appeal.

Her crooked fingers were against his for a moment, lifting it back up and putting the piece in the window light, as if neither of them could see it well enough. “This is no trinket. This is a time turner. With this time turner you will go to the girl and you will save her. It’s charmed to work for five hours at a time, but as long as you know what hour you need to go to then you’ll have no problem at all.”

“I don’t know what bloody hour to go to!” Snape stood and snatched it back out of her hand. “I told you, the girl was never a student here! And even if I did know, how am I supposed to save her in five hours?” As a teacher he had done the process of helping children be removed from abusive homes and it took months even in the best of circumstances. There was nothing that could be done in five hours. 

“Pish posh, Master Snape. You’ll simply have to go back and forth until you succeed. Five hours at a time is nothing, but five hours after five hours after five hours could be an eternity.”

“When?” He demanded.

Sybill glanced at the clock above his head, tilted her own side to side in thought and shrugged. “Now would do quite nicely.”

He rolled his eyes. “When am I traveling to?”

Her smile was again crazed, though hinted at pity that frustrated him. Who was she to pity him? “Not when, Severus. But who. She’s waiting for you and you only need to go to her. You musn’t spin it as if going back but fly it forward trusting the spirits to stop it when it must be stopped. Will you trust the spirits, Master Snape?”

Hands clenched around the gold chain, face red and raw from the tears he’d cried watching his wife struggle to breathe as she slept, Snape gave in once more and nodded. “Yes.”

“Then go to her, and remember. To save your love, you must save the girl.”

Letting out a breath that felt much like a prayer to lift his sorrows, Severus Snape twisted his fingers over the timepiece and rolled it forward to let the spirits take control. Wherever it would take him had to be less hellish than his present.

Chapter Text

When the world ceased its incessant spinning, Severus Snape quickly recognized where he was. He was one of the first in the Great Hall, and the intoxicating smells wafting from the platters around him meant the elves had prepared their famous corned beef and potatoes. It was dinner time, he wore slytherin robes and a prefect badge was pressed into his green lapel. Dark hair brushed his shoulders, much like it had in his own time at Hogwarts, and his hands were not worn by the decades they spent preparing ingredients in the potions room. Severus was young again.

He sat himself at the end of the Slytherin table, and waited for the head of nearly white curly hair to join him, but instead was approached quite enthusiastically by another young man. The boy was older, likely a seventh year, had black hair slicked back into a ponytail that was looped into a bun at the back of his head. The back of his neck had been shaved and Severus cringed. He could not recall a time when students had worn their hair like that and was pleased about it. The boy looked ridiculous.

“‘Ey mate!” The bun wearing boy clapped a hand on his shoulder, then swung himself onto the bench beside him and started loading up a plate. Severus chose to mimic him, originally to blend in, but gave in to eating when the boy beside him dug in. It did smell scrumptious. “Hope you don’t mind but Beth is sitting with us today. McGonagall said she couldn’t keep missing dinners, which I say is bloody ridiculous. I can tell her the announcements later.”

Snape raised an eyebrow at the boy but continued eating, watching the door. The table was nearly full, and the great hall was buzzing with adolescent murmuring, by the time the girl entered. She turned her head back and forth several times as if searching for someone. Her expression was anxious and she gripped a white knuckled hand around a travel coffee cup, relaxing when her eyes met the boy next to him. She allowed her gaze to fall to the ground, watching her feet shuffle down the aisle instead of looking at her fellow students or up at the head table. She found a spot between two groups of friends, directly across from the two boys, and gave each Severus and the bun wearing boy a quick nod.

“Hello.” She grumbled, and unscrewed the top of her coffee cup. Steam and the smell of a french roast poured out and Severus was quite surprised. He didn’t know many in the magical world that drank coffee, and it was just as unpopular in Britain as a whole. “Nick, did Father send a package for me in the morning post? I’m fresh out and feeling like rubbish.”

“Yep and it was leaking everywhere. Barley must have hit a window frame on the way in.” The young man next to him, who he figured must be Nick, took a vial from the pocket of his robes and handed it to the girl. “Had the house elves put the parcel in my room but I snagged that one first. I’ll bring it by later on tonight.”

Beth thanked him, uncorked the vial and poured it into her coffee. Nick handed her a spoon casually, not even looking at her stir the mysterious liquid into her drink. It was clear and odorless, as far as Severus could tell from that distance, and she didn’t so much as wince when she took a large gulp of the steaming hot liquid. The potion must not have harmed it. “How many of these do you think I’m going to have to sit through before she gives up again?”

Nick rolled his eyes, wiped the corners of his mouth with a napkin and shrugged. “Not sure. Four, maybe?” 

“Could be worse.” She shrugged back at him and Severus was reminded of how much he hated that particular mannerism. In fact, he had spent a good portion of his young adulthood breaking himself of that very habit. It was careless and crude. “Think I’ll duck out early and go for a swim in the lake if I can count on the Weasley’s to create an adequate distraction. What’s she going to do, give me in room detention? What a punishment.”

Severus spit the pumpkin juice he’d been drinking across the table, hitting a red head that gave him a sour look. “That lake is freezing and full of merpeople! Why the hell would you swim in it? Do you have a bloody death wish?”

The boy next to him sent him dagger eyes and Severus kicked himself. Whoever he was knew that this girl took swims in the lake at Hogwarts, perhaps even frequently. He was failing at playing this particular role already, as gaining Beth’s trust was of the utmost importance.

She continued sipping her drink, shook her head at her brother and tisked a bit against her slightly oversized front teeth. “Stand down, Nick. Not worth it.”

Her words didn’t calm the boy, and his nostrils soon were flaring. “Why do you have to be such a dick about this, Mate? Can’t you just learn when to shut the fuck up and leave well enough alone? Merlin, I don’t think you have any damned filter before shit comes out of your mouth!”

“I suppose what I should have asked, is if she would like an escort?” Severus tried to keep calm and casual, taking a sip of his drink that he actually swallowed this time. “What do you say, Beth?” He tried the name out on his tongue and it fit the girl well.

She frowned at him, shook her head and recapped her beverage. “While I cannot stop you from choosing to break the same rules as myself tonight, I would certainly prefer to enjoy my swim in solitude. If you’d both excuse me, Gentlemen, I am going to do just that.” With no more than another look, Beth stood and stalked off, noticeably agitated.

Nick elbowed him in the ribs and let out a hearty laugh. “You’ve really stepped in it this time and I’m not going to help you out.”

* * *

He stood, disillusioned, outside the Slytherin prefects bedrooms and waited for the girl to return. It took several hours, but finally just before ten in the evening she made her appearance. While she had walked with a distinct purpose out of the great hall, her demeanor had changed considerably. Beth had returned to watching her own feet, and a hand hovered over the dungeon walls for support. She cursed a few times, stumbling onto her knees only feet from the door. Sure, Severus had been hit with plenty of nasty curses and hexes in his day, but he could not resist wincing at the crack! her joints made on the hard floors. The last few feet she crawled, unlocking the door with a skeleton key and pulling herself up by the handle.

Quickly, he swished his wand to make himself seen, stalked across the wide hallway to the girl and lifted her up by the crook of her arm until she was steadily on her feet. “Are you so entirely opposed to help that you’re going to crawl to bed?” He hissed, surprised by the anger in his own voice.  

“What do you want?” The girl asked, curt and visibly frustrated. She pushed one of her unruly platinum locks of hair behind her ear that did nothing to hold it and stared at him. “Well? Get out with it, Tobias.”

Tobias? He asked himself. No one ever called him by his middle name, even when attempting to identify him at the ministry. But too much time had passed without any answer so Severus stiffened and stared back at her. “Pardon me? Is that how you talk to a fellow prefect?”

The girl rolled her eyes. “Fine. What is your order, oh all powerful jackass?”

“My order?” He raised an eyebrow and the girl glanced beyond him into the hallway, checking both ways before wrapping her hand around his upper arm and dragging him into the room. “Ow!” She was strong, despite their six inch height difference and her generally doughy looking physique.

“Oh shut it.” The girl grumbled and shut the door, warding it behind them with murmured incantations and flicking wand movements. She then slumped into a chair that sat in front of an oversized ashtray that held one lit cigarette under a stasis charm. Plucking it up and sticking it back between her lips, she took a long drag and settled back, sitting sideways over the armchair and staring at the ceiling. “Tick tock, Toby. I haven’t got all night.”

This girl - this moody chaotic monster - was a prefect. Snape tried to force himself not to appear as taken aback as he felt but he knew some of it slipped through. And she wanted him to order her to do something… something one prefect would require of another. “I need you to patrol the halls with me tomorrow night.”

Her eyes widened and painted on eyebrows rose with them. “Oh you brought your Mister Serious pants tonight. Not here for contraband?”

“You’re confessing to having contraband?” Severus allowed his voice to lower, hiding some of his surprise. Whoever he was supposed to be knew this about the girl and would never ask such a thing.

She agreed, sat up, sneered at him and reached out a hand in introduction. “I’m sorry, I suppose we’ve never met in the five years we’ve gone to school together, despite the fact that you’ve stayed at my house half a dozen times. My name is Beth. I sell muggle bullshit that witches and wizards can’t seem to do without. Condoms, makeup, cigarettes, pornographic magazines and so on, and so forth; I do not plan to continue...” Her voice trailed with annoyance, as if he was a profound inconvenience to talk to. As if she was him and he was one of his students.

He sat, his hand in hers, stunned. This was not the victim he intended to meet. He had imagined the girl as meek from years of abuse, but she was in fact quite jadded. It was an unwelcome, yet slightly relieving, turn of events.

“Oh I have to keep up with both sides of this conversation? You wouldn’t stop talking earlier. Well alright.” Beth’s teeth snapped together and her crooked bottom row exposed that her tongue was pressed hard against them. “You’re Toby. You’re a royal pain in my arse that refuses to pay for his shit and instead threatens to expose me if I don’t go along with the arrangement. In fact, you got me in quite a bit of trouble with my brother last year which I am still managing the aftermath of, hence why you need to leave. So cut the crap and tell me exactly what the hell you want?”

Condoms? Cigarettes? Nude magazines? Severus tried not to shutter at the crudeness of it all. “Uhh three condoms please.”

“Got a slow weekend ahead of you?” She asked as she lit a second cigarette and flicked her wand at a bag slouched on the floor. A string of condoms wrapped in foil lifted from her bag and she pulled it across the room into her lap. She folded them on the line, pulled off three and tossed the last half back across the room. “Now get the fuck out of my room.” Beth gestured at him rudely, emphasizing her interest in his swift departure, and Severus felt himself turning red. Whether it was anger or embarrassment that flushed in his cheeks he was unsure.

“Wait -” He smoothed his hair and settled back, trying not to appear nervous. “Why are you so eager for me to leave? We’ve hung out before, haven’t we?”

“You’re being fucking weird tonight.” Beth groaned and tossed him the pack of cigarettes with a lighter. He gathered them together in his hands, unsure if he wanted to take it in that direction and instead stacked them carefully on her coffee table. “Nick is coming by, so I’ve got to clear the smoke and act like a proper lady. Did you take something?”

“Of course not!” Snape snapped and cursed himself. “No it's just… why do you sell condoms from the muggle world when you could just brew contraceptive potions right here in your room?”

Again her eyes widened and she sneered, then a peel of laughter escaped her lips. “You’ve gotta be joking, right? Well I could brew you one. I could brew you a hundred if you’d like. But enjoy explaining the dragon pox on your dingus in the hospital wing when the sores get infected.”

He had to keep himself in the room with the girl. The time turner had taken him here and there was something he had to accomplish though he didn’t know what. “Well why do you buy these condoms? Are they the best you have? What makes them any better than the others?”

Once more, much to his delight, she giggled. “I’m afraid my type doesn’t wear them much so I am the wrong girl to ask.”

“Your type? ” He grilled, instantly furious at the girl for leaving herself so exposed if disease was truly running that rampant through the Hogwarts student population. No wonder her life was in danger. The chit had no sense of self preservation. “What type is that Miss - Beth,”

She flicked ash into her tray. “The type without the correct equipment to wear them on. I apologize if you’ve found yourself to be the last to know.”

Beth is a lesbian? He pondered this for a moment. If she were being abused by her parents then that would actually make quite a bit of sense. The magical community had remained quite far behind the rest of the world in terms of their beliefs regarding homosexuality and he’d known more than one student to be disowned after being caught in his best mate’s bunk while visiting over the holidays. She did not remind him of the lesbians he had known back in his day as a young wizard that frequented the bar scene but that didn’t come as a surprise. Beth didn’t remind him of anyone he’d met in any part of life. She was one of a kind.

“Do you hate me?” He wondered aloud, looking at the frustrated girl. “I just can’t figure you out.”

“No Toby, I don’t. My shitty mood has nothing to do with you.” Beth snapped her fingers and another travel mug full of coffee appeared on the table between them. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just having a rough night. Could you please lock the door so Nick doesn’t just walk in with me like this? Then grab me the last green one? It's in the outer pocket of my bag.”

Snape stood, locked the door with a flick of his wand and summoned the bag. It clanked and clattered as it crossed the room and he soon realized why. The outer pocket held a dozen empty potion vials, along with a foul smelling lime green slime. “Here.” He thrust it to her already uncorked and she downed it quickly, not even puckering at its overly sour taste. 

“Thanks.” The girl groaned, arching her neck backwards at an unhealthy angle and then allowing her limbs to fall slack with relief. “Just give me a minute.” She closed her eyes, but he knew she hadn't dosed off. Likely, Beth was till in agony and rest would not come that easy. But he let her rest, kept an eye on the door for any indication of someone trying to enter and tried not to scream. He had done what Sybill told him. He had gone back to save the bloody girl. Yet, he had met just one more girl he could not save.