Horace the Horrible, although he did not care to be called that (although, truly, if you called him that in a sweet, sing-song tone, he would preen), was a well-proportioned, olive-skinned fairy who loved nothing more than floating proudly in a line of other beautiful fairies above Sarah Granger-Snape's bed. Her father didn't care for Horace the Horrible's presence in his daughter's room, primarily because he was, to Severus' way of thinking, a bit better proportioned than merely "well," and too damned proud of that pointed fact.
"She's only seven! It's not right, Hermione."
"I don't want Sarah developing any hang ups about nudity. The fairies stay. She just thinks they're pretty."
Severus frowned. "They are."
"Oh?" asked Hermione, with mock tartness.
"He's too emphatically male! I don't like it. The other male fairies aren't nearly so—"
"So what, Daddy?" Sarah asked, running into the room and up onto Severus' lap.
"Were you eavesdropping?" he asked, as Sarah clapped her palms against her face.
He noticed her wince, but whatever had caused it didn't stop her from speaking.
"I don't do the 'dropping!"
Hermione laughed. "Come kiss Mummy goodbye. I'm off to the home show with Granny Molly."
"Will there be fairies there? And why doesn't Daddy like Horace? Horace likes him."
Hermione laughed again because that was quite true.
"Another reason," Severus said, "that I'd rather not have him hanging about on our daughter's ceiling!"
"Mwah!" Sarah kissed, against Hermione's cheek. "Will there be?"
"Perhaps," Hermione told her, "but you've enough fairies to ring your entire ceiling. You don't need any more. Besides, they're a glitter. One can't add just any old strange fairy to an existing glitter of them, you know."
Seeming to forget her father's dislike of Horace and just what was so "so" about him, Sarah ran back to her bedroom. After kissing Hermione goodbye, himself, Severus followed Sarah, snorting at the fairy ring in her room.
Only my wife would make sure that the fairies were representative of every glitter, he thought, seeing the licorice-, caramel-, olive-, candyfloss-, saffron- and cream-coloured fairies floating above him. "Stop that!" he snapped, as Horace noticed him.
Horace once more proudly thrust himself forward before crossing his arms and giving Severus his back, or rather, his backside, with an unrepentant waggle.
Severus shook his head, and then addressed Sarah. "Why are you pulling on your tooth? Does it hurt?"
"No, Daddy, but it's loose."
"Well, don't pull at it. When it's ready to come out, I'll—"
"Spell it out?"
"That's right. You've discussed this with your mother, I see."
Setting dollies up in the little chairs that went with her child-sized table, Sarah replied, "Mummy says that I shouldn't pull my tooth 'cause—"
"'Because'," Severus interrupted.
"Because loose teeth attract the tooth fairy, and the tooth fai—"
"The dentem come—"
"—airy, or dentem comedenti," continued Sarah, "might want to try to eat all my other teeth and not just the loose, out one, and that would be bad!"
"It would be," Severus replied, pleased that Hermione had found a way to explain about the "tooth fairy" and resolving not to interrupt his daughter quite so much anymore. I don't want her developing a habit of speaking in run-on sentences, now do I?
Hermione wouldn't want that, either.
"Am I to receive an invitation to this party?"
"Daddy, you're not a dolly." Sarah giggled, holding up an imaginary platter. "And you don't like seed cake."
"Lies! Falsehoods! Fictions!" shouted Severus, giving chase as Sarah began to run, screaming happily, around the table.
Imaginary seed cake scattered everywhere, and the dolls started without them.
Garrick's Guarden Gnomes protect your patch and perimeter!
Hermione groaned as one of the dumpy little rag-covered bodies rose up and charged her.
"No," she told the guard gnome, absentmindedly flicking a Stunner at it with her finger.
The gnome fell over and rolled away towards its fellows like an under-baked potato.
"You here on tooth fairy business?" a familiar voice asked.
Hermione turned. "Oh, George! How are you?"
"Horrified by both the pun," he replied, indicating Garrick's sign with a nod of his head, "and the idea that a figment of my childish imagination could turn out to be so terrifyingly real."
"You mean 'childhood'," corrected Hermione. "A figment of your childhood imagination."
George grinned. "Nope. I mean childish. I still look for coin when I lose teeth."
Rolling her eyes, Hermione told him, "Then stop drinking in strange pubs."
"Strange pubs are my second home!"
"George. Where is this meeting?"
"We're it, apparently. I don't think it's catching on, the idea that a figment of—"
"You mean to tell me that no one is coming? That no one is taking this seriously? The Ministry—"
"Are a bunch of fools, Hermione," interrupted George. "Harry's in the shop all the time with news of another 'incident', and my kids' parents are all worried. When they report anything, they're told that it must be 'bad dreams'."
Hermione's eyes widened. "That's outrageous!"
"That's what comes of your leaving the DRCMC, is what it is."
Crossing her arms, Hermione said, "the work I'm doing in the DMLE is quite important, George."
"Yes, but if you were still responsible for dealing with the regulation and control of magical creatures, we might be seeing some progress."
"That's true," Molly agreed, appearing between Hermione and George. "No one came?"
"No, Mum. Just like Dad said. No one's taking this seriously—but don't worry! That's where the gnomes come in."
"George," Hermione said, "never tell me you're Garrick."
George nodded. "In business and home defence, diversification is key."
"I'm not. Neither is George. He says it works to distract them."
"His teeth certainly are distracting, but what happens when the dentem comedenti attacks the creature?"
Hermione sighed. "Well, er, he runs away."
"Hermione, this is ridicu—"
"Sarah!" Hermione shouted, running for her bedroom with Severus right behind her.
"Mummy! Daddy! Horace is killing it. He's killing it!" Sarah shrieked from atop her bed, clearly horrified, but nevertheless holding one of her miniature cauldrons above her head as if preparing to throw it.
A white, grasping, wraith of a creature writhed under a shower of glitter on the floor by Sarah's headboard. Chalk-white slime in the shape of four-fingered handprints oozed down the wooden bed frame, one print precariously close to where Sarah's head must have been, moments earlier. Horace, almost purple in the face with rage, hovered over the "tooth fairy," regurgitating caustic glitter all over it. The dentem comedenti's mouth was open, but it did not scream. Its lipless mouth merely opened and closed, opened and closed, as it fruitlessly struggled not to dissolve and die.
"Accio Sarah!" said Severus, pulling his daughter from the air as she rushed to him. "It's all right," he soothed, holding her on his hip with one arm while pointing his wand at the spreading mess of glittering death at his feet.
"Oh, the smell. Take her out. Out!" Hermione ordered, as the rest of the fairies joined Horace in dispatching the intruder.
On his way out the door, Severus caught sight of the guard gnome; he looked green and terrified.
And ridiculous with those massive teeth, Severus thought, as it climbed up onto the sofa where he'd settled Sarah.
"That tickles," she told him, as he checked her for injuries.
"You're all right, you're all—"
"It was disgusting, Daddy! Horace growled and then—"
"You're very brave, but I need you to stay here and comfort this gnome while I help your mother."
"And Horace!" Sarah called after him.
"Well, that's, that's not good. Oh, God. Severus," said Hermione, turning her face into his chest.
He held her tightly, burying his face in her hair. It all happened so fast. "How the hell did that thing get in here?"
Severus felt a tiny hand tug at his earlobe, and then Horace appeared just above his head. The fairy turned to the others, who'd returned to the ceiling, and waved his arms at them. They moved as one to circle Severus and Hermione, and then dived underneath Sarah's bed.
"Oh! A mouse hole!" cried Hermione, kneeling down to look. "Yes, Severus, it is. It must have got in that way."
"Are you all right?" he asked her, giving her a hand up.
"You've no colour at all. Are you?"
"No," said Severus, suddenly feeling almost ill. "That thing . . . it got in. It might have—"
"Yes, but it didn't," said Hermione firmly. "It didn't." She turned to Horace. "Thank you," she told the fairy. "Thank all of you. You're just the most helpful and beautiful fairies in the world!"
"Hermione," Severus began, but the pleased chittering of the fairies as they retook their positions made him fall silent.
"Er, Severus?" Hermione said, nodding at Horace, who was still hovering by Severus' head. "I believe you owe Horace a thank you. I'm going to check on Sarah."
Severus raised an eyebrow as Horace half-turned his hindquarters towards him, no doubt with the intention of waggling.
"None of that, you . . . you . . . very handsome fairy, you," said Severus, quite aware of what he owed Horace. "Hermione's right. You were very helpful, and we're, I'm grateful."
Horace's aspect became quite a bit more pointedly cheerful, and he circled before Severus a few times in a shower of sparkling glitter. Everywhere it fell on the remains, Severus noticed, it dissolved them a bit more.
"I don't suppose you could completely take care of that?" asked Severus.
With a huge grin and an even bigger waggle, Horace flew down to hover over the remains and, Severus was dismayed to see, squat in mid-air.
"Disgusting" wasn't quite the correct word, what with all the rainbow shimmering, but it was the best that Severus could come up with as he fled the room.
"The little buggers bite, so I don't mind," he told Sarah, one evening after coming by to see how they fared.
"Not if you're nice to them," she replied, pulling him off to see where "Toothy," her very own gnome friend, slept. "Oh, and you'll really like Horace. He's the chief of my fairies!"
"So, whatever did you do with Sarah's tooth?" asked Hermione, as she chopped veg for salad.
Pulling the roast out of the oven, Severus replied, "We're currently waiting to see how long it will take to dissolve in fizzy drink."
"I don't approve of fizzy drink."
"I know, but she's not drinking it."
"Oh, I didn't need to see that!" cried George.
Sarah's laughter could be heard from the bedroom. "Horace, you stop waggling!"
Severus snickered. "Glad it's not just me."
"Glad that fairy 'bum glitter' dissolves those nasty tooth fairies."
"I thought," said Severus, pulling Hermione to him, "that you didn't want us to call them that."
"Well, it's always best to be precise, but I'm in a relaxed mood."
Severus rolled his hips. "How relaxed?"
"Go on and get Sarah and George! It's almost time to eat. We can 'relax' later. Oh, and take the glitter their dinner."
"Very well," said Severus, picking up the pitcher of herbaceous sugar water that the fairies ate but stopping at the kitchen door. "Wife?"
"Husband?" she asked, her attention on the salad.
Severus drew his wand and sent a tiny spray of glitter in her direction.
"No! Not in the foo—oh, Severus!" Hermione exclaimed, before bursting into laughter.
Giving Hermione another waggle, Severus took himself off to feed Horace the Terrific and his excellent glitter.