He didn’t respond and Narcissa pointed to the spot set for Bellatrix, “Please Severus, you can have Bella’s place.”
He swept across the room and slipped into Bellatrix’s seat, he looked down to her. “What brings you to England Ms. Alcott? Family?”
“Why yes, you could say that,” Madeline answered.
“It would appear that you’ve been wounded,” he added scathingly.
“So it would seem,” she agreed.
He glanced at her again and suddenly went rigid, then added angrily, “You are a foolish girl.”
“Severus!” Narcissa growled.
“I’m sorry?” Madeline stared at him.
“Only a weak minded female would think it appropriate to bring a child into these very dangerous times.”
Narcissa paled and it looked as though she went weak in the knees at Severus and Bellatrix’s treatment of her guest. Even Draco was sitting perfectly still in shock.
Madeline shot to her feet where she tossed her napkin over her plate. “I’ll remind all of you, for the first and last time, these are not dark times for me! I’m not part of your ridiculous war!” And with that she spun on her heels and swept out of the room.
“Severus, she could prove to be very useful to us in the war. Now look what you’ve done!” Narcissa scolded him. “Go! Amend what you’ve done. If you don’t mind I’ll remind you of something, you are also a guest in my house and I won’t have you treat my friends that way.”
Smoothly Severus rose from his chair and eyed Narcissa without a word, but left the room none the less.
Severus hurried across the huge house, he knew where Narcissa put up all her ‘special’ guests; the south wing. She was never petty and, as such, she always went all out when she acted as a hostess.
He pushed the first door open without knocking. The room was enormous, with high ceilings and huge windows of which the curtains were drawn tight at the moment. A small lamp on the bedside was lit. The flame was low casting a dim orange glow on the giant bed. A heavy black comforter was pulled tight with a small lump, dwarfed by the huge bed, in the middle.
Severus quickly went to the bedside, he knew exactly what lie underneath those sheets immediately. He hesitated before gathering the covers. A tiny tuft of raven black hair was the only piece of the sleeping person visible under the blanket. Carefully, Severus reached out and drew the blanket back. Deep in sleep, Sereth didn’t even budge. Gently Severus reached out and brushed the hair from Sereth’s eyes. Momentarily his hand ran over the bruised lump. His softened expression when instantly sullen and then irate as he noticed the arm in a cast tucked under his head.
“That was nicely played,” a soft feminine voice spoke quietly to him.
Severus stood quickly and turned to see Madeline standing just inside the light of the lamp.
“Likewise,” he added going to her.
He stepped very close to her. Her protruding belly touched his thin abdomen and a warm vibe of safety echoed through her as their breath filled the same space just before their mouths touched. Her soft lips only brushed his before she stepped back and he was left reaching for her.
“Madeline?” He questioned bending over and touching baby she was carrying. “This happened over the holiday?” His voice was so soft she almost didn’t hear him.
“Merry Christmas to me,” she said gently.
He reached up to her cheek, but without touching it he asked, “What’s happened to you?”
“It’s nothing,” she drew back.
“It’s clearly something, how did this happen?”
“It’s nothing,” she said again, “to concern yourself with.”
“No Severus,” she said suddenly sharp. “You owe me answers. It’s been eight months and I come here to find that you’ve killed someone.” She lowered her voice again as if she were saying something that was indecent. “Someone who meant a lot to me.”
Severus’s face contorted in a nasty looking grimace, his nostrils flared, and she thought for a moment (if she didn’t know better) that he was going to strike her. She raised her chin. “Go ahead, do it,” she challenged harshly, “then I’ll know the truth about this whole thing.”
He let loose a huge breath and turned away from her, “What are you doing here?”
“Did you not hear me? Have you seen me? Eight months Severus!”
“It’s dangerous, I couldn’t…”
“But you’ve not denied that you did something terrible.”
Severus dropped his face into his hands and mumbled something indistinguishable.
“Severus?” She reached out to him, but Sereth brought both of their attention around. He was writhing under the covers and moaning desperately. They exchanged worried looks and both rushed to his bedside.
Madeline was pulling a tiny pouch from the side of her belt as she tugged the covers off from him. He was sweating and shaking, as he kicked and thrashed. She took a pinch of powder from the bag and sprinkled it over his face. Almost instantly he went still and heavy back into a deep sleep.
“It’s a sedative to help him rest,” she said.
A concerned look went from Sereth to Madeline, “What’s happened to him?”
Madeline licked her lips nervously, “He’s been emotionally scarred. His response to the event has been night terrors.”
A wave of anger passed over Severus again, “And who is responsible for this injustice?”
Madeline sucked in a long, deep breath, “I’m afraid to say that I have to carry that burden.”
“You?” Severus looked horrified.
“You will get no more from me until you explain yourself!” She growled. “I have a mind to take Sereth and leave right now as it is.”
“Madeline, this is a delicate situation that is extensively complex.”
He closed his eyes to give himself a moment. His voice came wrathful into her mind, he would not speak a word aloud. “So be it! Yes, I killed Albus Dumbledore. However,” Severus raised a hand, despite his tight lips, “I know how you take to misunderstanding me, so you will listen – Albus asked for my help in his demise. He was going to die as it was, he had ingested a fatal poison. To prove my allegiances to the Dark Lord Dumbledore requested I fulfill an unbreakable vow I had made with Narcissa. He gave me the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts with the foreknowledge that I would only serve a single term in the position.” His voice lowered in her mind, “His intention was to have me bring down the Dark Lord from the inside. As he was already mortally wounded it made my loyalties look all that much more convicted. And my loyalties appear solid; as he wanted it. Trust me when I say I never wanted to heed his wishes.”
This time he spoke with his voice, “Now it’s your turn, what have you done to my son?”
She stood and crossed the room, “Your abbreviated tale leaves something to be desired. There are many whys left there.”
He was on his feet and angrily rushed to her in a matter of seconds, “You must trust me and my word – I meant none of this.”
She looked up to him. There was a pause and pain, “I do – I made that promise when I married you.”
“Now what have you done to my son?” He demanded.
“It has a lot to do with what I’m doing here,” she said instantly nervous. She fiddled with the top button her high necked velvet robe. “It’s terrible. I lied when I said I wasn’t concerned with war, things have managed to go awry at the Academy as well. It started in January, just after I returned. War broke out between the vampires and the Changelings. Because we use the Changeling freeholds, you know heavily glamorous locations, for our magical communities we had to side with them, where many of the werewolves took up the vampire’s fight.” She ran hand along her head as she paced the length of the room. Her voice shook as she turned back, “The new prince, he’s mean. Not to say that Skinner wasn’t, but this guy…he’s vicious and brutal in the medieval sense. That is to say, he’d rather torture than kill…”
Madeline was just exiting the Academy as she pulled a pair of sunglasses down over her eyes shielding them from the bright sunlight. She was looking forward to seeing Sereth and to sit down and write to her husband. Mrs. Alcott had taken Sereth for the day to the local springs where he could play in the park and feed the fish.
Madeline arrived at the nearly vacant park about an hour later. She was early, she knew as much. No doubt her mother was entertaining Sereth in one of the many playgrounds. Madeline stopped for a moment, to let the January sunshine wash over her. If it were anytime but the middle of the afternoon she’d closely watching her back; all sorts of nasty creatures crawled the local parks after dark. She heard the sound of grass crunch behind her but she was too slow as a strong arm wrapped around her pinning her arms to her sides with the force to almost crush her ribcage. The other hand went over her mouth.
“Mmmmm,” she mumbled as she wiggled, but all that got her was a more painful squeeze. The arms around her were inhumanly strong and the pasty white pale fingers mashing her nose into her face would suggest vampire in nature – but it was daylight.
“Ah Madeline,” he said again.
Then she recognized his voice, the vampire prince who had taken over for Zachariah Skinner. Her mind was racing, that was impossible; if there was one advantage she had it was daylight.
“No skeletons here except, perhaps, a few once beloved pets. Oh my, what a dilemma, what will you do now? Wonder how I’m standing here, in the glorious sunlight I haven’t seen in more the 800 years?”
His voice was grating on her as he hoisted her off the ground and slipped unnoticed into a nearby cove of trees while a family mingled by. She felt him take a long inhaled breath. “You smell divine. What is that aroma you’re carrying? Fresh…” he was saying to himself aloud. Madeline was fighting a vicious series of tremors that were trying to overtake her; she was alone without a wand or spell components and he clearly had the upper hand. Her only chance was if her mother happened to find them, but even then Madeline though she had little chance against this beast.
He gave a sudden laugh that was jarring, “I recognize it now…how delightful…you will be delicious…too bad you’re not more ripe.” His pausing between thoughts was making her even more uneasy. “You’re just full of fresh blood. So fresh, in fact, I bet you don’t even know it yet. It will satisfy my sweet tooth, ah yes – it makes you a teeny weeny bit warmer you know; being pregnant.”
Madeline went sort of limp in his grasp.
“You didn’t know then, did you?” And at that he didn’t wait, she felt his canines sink into her neck. She felt the warm and viscous nature of her blood run down her neck and onto her sweater, which quickly reddened. She thrashed, however it did nothing but tire her out quickly as it drained her faster. He didn’t stop at her neck, when she had been bled past weakness he tore at her arms and chest with his nails until it pooled where he could sip it from her skin. Then, just before unconsciousness, he leaned over her, “Thank you for that wonderful desert, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. The one everyone told me to be afraid of. You don’t seem very dangerous to me, lying there.” He shrugged it off, “If you survive this, and oh I hope you do, prove to me that you’re strong, I’ll be looking forward to a repeat performance when you are ripe.” He reached over and gave her gut a quick pat, “Ta-ta.” And with that he swooped out of there and vanished in the distance.
She could see it; running red into pools in the grass just outside of the thicket he’d taken her into. She couldn’t move her head or her limbs, though she wished she could, at least to wipe her face which was becoming exceedingly sticky. Then she saw what she had hoped she wouldn’t, Sereth’s tiny feet just outside the wooded area. He would see her soon. She could hear him calling out for her, apparently it had reached 3:30. She saw his foot come down into one of the pools, which he noticed immediately. “Oh God, please no,” she thought. “No Ser, look the other way baby.” She vaguely heard screaming and then nothing.
“I woke up in bed at home. My body was healed, except this.” She pulled down the top of the high necked robes, where a gauze patch was slightly pink in the middle. She peeled back the white fabric to reveal two perfect puncture wounds in her neck that immediately began to bleed. She quickly replaced the gauze and straightened her collar, smoothing it tight against her neck.
“Madeline,” Severus was on his feet and heading to her.
But she went on, “He could have made me one of them that day, but he didn’t. He wanted me to suffer and for Sereth to suffer. I still have no explanation as to how he was out in the daylight, but I’m almost certain he has a powerful magic item. And clearly they’ve learned a few tricks about getting us permanently. They’re like sharks, they can smell blood. He was right, I didn’t know. She’s strong,” Madeline circled her stomach. “I never thought she’d pull through, but she did – and so did I.”
“She?” Severus asked.
“Yes, a girl. Your mother told me, ‘Severus always wanted a girl’ she said.” Madeline looked up to him.
“You saw my mother?” Then a draining feeling came over him and he glared at her, “He didn’t do that to you.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Madeline sniffed.
“Madeline! Don’t protect him. I now know how to explain the Muggle remedies for your wounds.”
“Sev,” Madeline went to him, “it’s over. I choose my fights, and that wasn’t one I wanted.”
“They can’t make it stop?” Changing the subject Severus’s hand grazed her neck.
“No. Not yet anyway. The clerics have slowed the bleeding immensely. Brent is working on an antidote everyday. It’s a new weapon they're using against us in this war. It’s got to be something magical, but none of ours have figured it out yet. It’s like that potion poison Kantela thought up, they can’t fight that either.”
“He must have thought you were dead,” Severus said looking painfully back to Sereth.
“Yes, that’s exactly why he’s suffering now,” Madeline waved a hand. “It’s the reason I’ve come. This event made me realize something…we’re going to die Sev. Maybe soon, maybe not; but we will die. I couldn’t go without seeing you one last time before I go into my war wholeheartedly. You know, in the tenure of our relationship, in our marriage, you’ve never once told me that you loved me. I stand here before you now to do just that. Severus Snape, I love you – with all the life in me. Not a single day goes by that I don’t live for you, to see you again, to touch you, to feel you, to hear you and to love you. You must know these things, if you know nothing else in the world, know that I love you and I am yours.”
He stared at her. He didn’t move, he didn’t breath…had he really never expressed in words what she meant to him. She had to know, she had to. Or did she? Slowly he went to her, “Madeline Snape…” where to being? “I love you.” And he left it at that.
A/N: Chapter title borrowed from the song of the same title.
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