Fight and Fortune
“The pulse is regular. A sudden feeling of faintness perhaps,” suggested Madam Pomfrey briskly and added with an icy look of reproach, “I’m not surprised in Scott’s very state and with that extra work —”
“Are you sure it’s not bad?” said Severus quietly, lips pressed firmly together forming a thin sallow line. Leonor’s face was colourless, her skin cool and translucent, dark curls framing chin and eyes. She looked like Snow White and Severus couldn’t explain why that muggle tale pierced his mind since he lifted Leonor from the floor to the bed.
Madam Pomfrey shrugged disapprovingly, “Give some time for recovery. I suggest contacting St. Mungo’ if Ms Scott doesn’t wake up in one hour or two or if you want proof about the unborn life. If you don’t mind, brew a strong tea or coffee and use a reanimation spell. I return to the hospital wing now; injured students wait for my attention too.”
The headmasters’ jaw twitched by the mention of the students; he knew that especially the youngest got their fair share from the Carrows daily.
The matron turned with a glower spotting the most unusual picture of Severus Snape, embracing and comforting a baby. His lips rested against the soft hair of the little head; two arms enveloped around the small girl. Poppy heard only the rumours about the healer’s daughter. Strangely enough she recalled that the baby quietened surprisingly fast after she arrived in Snape’s study as if that harsh and cruel man were no stranger. For a tiny moment she thought that Snape looked equally miserable as Scott, though standing upright and conscious. Then she put that idea quickly aside. He looked already ill as a boy, a person that chose the darkness to exist. Snape murdered Dumbledore ruthlessly and lifted no finger to stop the Carrows. Everything appeared fishy. What if Snape used Scott to spy on the Hogwarts staff and students? Poppy rushed confused away and thrust some Floo Powder into the flames and disappeared. It was awkward in between Dumbledore’s old stuff; the times changed meanwhile so profoundly.
Severus kissed Leonor’s temple. He whispered ‘wake up’ against her ear, caressing the earlobe gently. A mug of her favourite tea — Elderberries with a mix of Oriental herbs — waited on the nightstand. A light rosy colour tinted Leonor’s cheek again and it gave hope. The smelling bottle with lavender and rosemary oil helped nothing to pump more life to the fragile soul. He waited.
“Wake up,” repeated Severus louder, distraught, annoyed, impatient, still kneeling before Dumbledore’s four-poster bed. A feeling of madness clenched his stomach.
“I promised to keep you safe and I do not fail,” he shouted now, squeezing Leonor’s slim hands desperately. When she didn’t move, he drew his wand, hesitating to use it, and then he heard a faint whisper.
“Why are you shouting to my ear? I’m not deaf.”
Severus only gazed at the moving witch like seeing a ghost. He forgot to say something, just watched when Leonor opened the dark eyes and sat carefully upright.
“Did I fall asleep in your office?” asked Leonor, still befuddled and recognizing the surroundings slowly, the darkness outside and Eileen who slept again happily after a fruit purée from Hattie.
“How do you feel?” asked Severus, deep lines edged his forehead.
Leonor hesitated as if she didn’t know an enough answer to a simple question. Then she suggested, “Powerless. I’m thirsty.”
Severus took the mug from the bedside table. “Drink that.”
After taking a large swig of tea, she said, “You look ghastly, Severus. What have I missed?”
“You fainted; Poppy found nothing serious. You’ve been passed out for more than two hours. Though, you look better now than when I found you.” Severus caressed Leonor’s cheeks gently. “Can you please check if the baby is alright too? Poppy was a bit edgy about that.”
“It seems so.” Leonor put her hands to the belly and pressed it in several places. The abdominal wall was soft. “The baby moved when I arrived here, and it kicked me so hard after the meeting that it was painful. A strong football player,” smiled Leonor.
“Do you know that it’s a boy?” Severus’ voice was stern but also a bit curious, not convinced that everything was alright.
“I forbade Caryn to tell me, like last time.” Leonor shrugged, a small smile around her lips. “I just wanted to say that Eileen appeared a bit more even-tempered. The little one here wakes me every night at about two o’clock and participates in everything I do. It is very present, loads of energy to move.”
“I couldn’t find Goddess Brigid,” scolded Severus softly.
“Probably forgotten in the apothecary when Hattie burst in and ushered me to follow quickly. But what happened, I cannot remember climbing to bed?”
“I lifted you up. You fainted on the floor. I upset you,” whispered Severus with a low shaking voice.
Leonor chewed on the latest memory and reflected, “You told me that the Dark Lord knows everything about me and Eileen.”
“Yes, sort of it. Listen, he’s not after you. He’s just informed as always. Everything turned out much better than I expected it initially and even if you don’t want to hear it, we are good prepared to last out a while, still.” Severus put his left hand to the baby bump too, caressing it lightly. He looked Leonor in the eyes and stroked her cheek again with the other hand.
“You frightened me today. It only counts that you and the babies are healthy. I want you to see Caryn. Can you call her tonight?”
“Severus,” Leonor swallowed.
Severus raised a brow noting the gesture.
“You know she’s not delighted. She helps but has a fair point in telling the risks. I don’t like to bother her too much. I’m sure we are alright.”
“Do you want to stay? Are you hungry?”
Leonor nodded, and then she took Severus hand and said, “I’m scared Severus. I thought I could handle it, but it’s getting more difficult with the months of desperate waiting.”
“I know.” Severus pressed a kiss to Leonor’s forehead. “You are brave.”
“I’m faltering, Amycus threatens with Greyback, the Dark Lord knows everything, you are so distant and cold at work, I only ate lunch and came here hungry and then I probably stood too long without moving. I suppose that blood pressure and circulation dropped.”
“That’s the medical explanation?” Severus frowned with a disbelieving look.
“Simple, isn’t it?”
Severus just grunted, still worry lines on his forehead. Then he waved his wand ordering sandwiches. They appeared in an instant on his desk as if the elves had smelled the wish before. When he picked them up, the headmasters gave him nosy looks, some whispered. Dumbledore finally spoke, “Is Leonor Scott alright?”
“Likely.” The brusque answer contained more hope than convincing evidence. Severus shook slightly by the very thought that everything could have turned out worse.
“Do you let her teach next week?” said Dumbledore with the usual penetrating stare when he expected a favour from Severus.
“Do you want to interfere?” Severus raised his voice slightly, a limp sneer on his face.
“I just want the best for all of us.”
“And what does that mean?”
“You promised to keep the students safe.”
“— and I do my best to achieve that.”
“Leonor is a chance. If Tom Riddle agrees to replace Amycus or Alecto —”
“— or Horace, or Minerva. But do you think I risk her life?” spluttered Severus. “I’ve been through that once and it is the only reason why I still listen to you.”
“Is that still the only reason?” Disappointment echoed in the words.
“Does the reason why I am here matter — does it indeed? You didn’t mind that reason seventeen years ago.”
“I thought you understand now.”
Monstrous anger pressed Severus lips together. Of course, he understood, and it was galling that Albus still questioned his motives. He swallowed a painful retort and after thorough consideration he spoke low and aggrieved, “— and I hoped that I am enough for once. If Leonor teaches is her decision, and hers alone.”
Severus walked with the sandwiches to the bedroom and closed the door. The muttering in the study continued but Severus wasted no additional minute to think about the old man. He was glad that Leonor stayed and would do everything that she slept as long and relaxed as possible.
18th April 1998
The last day of the Easter break ended soon. All students returned tomorrow with the Hogwarts Express and whereas in past years many remained behind to prepare for exams it had only been a few Slytherins this year who preferred the company of the Carrows. Also, most of the teachers took some days off escaping the hostile castle. Meals in the gloomy Great Hall were still a subtle affair despite the temporary void in the corridors. Slytherins outnumbered the present and the Carrows provoked the staff with growing pleasure having free rein and the snickering of the students as applause. Pomona Sprout run once from breakfast followed by a thin-lipped and fuming Minerva McGonagall. As much as Severus liked the silence of the term breaks, he hated it now and waited for the castle to fill with the subdued whispers of the children. It wasn’t the Hogwarts he knew but better than the malevolent silence.
Severus paced like every evening with a grim expression in front of the fireplace. He found no rest to brew or read more than one page without digressing to Potter and the Sword of Gryffindor and what the boy would do with it. The nagging question appeared like a revolving headache and Dumbledore refused to tell him as if it stopped Severus to pore over it. No book in the library or the headmaster’s office explained the necessity of that sword; Dumbledore used it to damage the ring and the curse within took his life. A desperate illusion that the boy indeed set out for saving the world nested in Severus’ head.
Severus watched the orange flames, the heat hot and dry on the sunken skin. A year ago, he walked with Dumbledore through the grounds hoping to learn something, but even a year later Severus wasn’t a bit wiser. The Order of the Phoenix went completely underground, and the wizarding world ached under the regime, everybody waited for a miracle, a wonder — while the dark might rose to power. A day before yesterday the Dark Lord visited Hogwarts. He searched something and Dumbledore divulged that he had a ‘good guess’ and ‘everything went like planned’ without providing more detail. Severus admitted the evil master to the grounds and the castle. Thankfully no poor soul was in his way when the Dark Lord glided silently along the path and the marble staircases with an almost dreamy glitter in the snake-like eyes. It was as if the unreal form of a man felt home; a strange wicked fondness in every move before giving instructions to Snape and gloating at Dumbledore’s portrait with the satisfaction of the winner.
“No rendezvous tonight?” croaked Phineas Nigellus suddenly.
“Later,” replied Severus without moving an inch from the pleasant warmth of the fire.
Phineas was meanwhile often wide awake when Leonor entered the office, and he reminded Severus daily to go for a visit. As if Severus forgot that! He felt bad that he needed her so much without giving anything back. Easter brought at least the advantage for leaving the castle in the afternoon to play with Eileen. In the evenings his daughter slept already soundly, and he missed carrying her around or to do some little magic tricks that she giggled in delight. He’d been surprised about himself to remember what his mother showed him when his father was out of reach.
“How’s the spring this year?” muttered a squeaky voice of an old headmistress.
Severus grunted, “The green grass sprouts extraordinary fast in the mild rain; all too wet for my taste.”
The portraits made it a habit to interrupt the restless pacing and envelop Severus in trivial small talk until he stopped side-tracked by the interruptions.
“Bring Leonor some daffodils, she’ll like that.”
“Sure, Albus,” said Severus slightly irritated because Dumbledore never provided advice on the relationship contrary to some other portraits.
“Indeed, I should go for a walk with Leonor tomorrow before everybody returns,” thought Severus aloud.
The yellow fields of daffodils on the shore of the Black Lake were beautiful, and they both needed fresh air. He just required the gracious help of the April weather to stop the permanent drizzle. Anyway, Albus finally managed to pull Severus from the fire leaving the senseless brooding behind. He wrapped the thick cloak around his shoulders and placed the two wands carefully in his robes.
“Leonor returns next week,” intoned Phineas, and he glanced mischievously at Dumbledore.
Severus frowned at them.
“She’s tired and frazzled, Severus. It’s not going to improve after the holidays,” added Dumbledore.
“I knew it was just a temporary solution,” shot Severus at them, knowing that Leonor continued if she managed.
“Ask her to stop,” chorused Albus and Phineas.
Severus shook his head about the rare agreement and left for an early and final round tonight. He strolled through the main corridors down to the entrance hall, checked the security measures. Nobody was in the staff room and the Carrows followed a dinner invitation of Yaxley together with some other Death Eaters which Severus turned down to ‘control Hogwarts’.
Leonor looked indeed overworked and it became worse last week. Severus knew that it was hard for her to refuse help when somebody called urgently. She still apparated at odd times and mostly it ended in nausea. Luckily the workload dropped further because of the political situation. Nobody came to Hogsmeade for consultation with exception to Andromeda Tonks who turned up on Easter Sunday asking for a favour. Severus played with Eileen, and he heard them talking in the surgery. Andromeda asked Leonor to help Nymphadora Tonks who suffered under premature labour pains and was equally far advanced in pregnancy. Andromeda was clearly scared and persuaded Leonor finally to apparate to their safe place, blindfolded to keep everything a secret. The astonishment about Lupin becoming a father and an expecting Leonor was mutual. Worse than that, Severus had been infuriated but unable to restrain Leonor without starting a commotion in the upper floor. Leonor smiled at him and said ‘you would want that somebody helps me too, they’ve no chance to see a healer or midwife while in hiding’ and ‘I know you enjoy some undisturbed time with Eileen’ and then she kissed her family and was gone returning two hours later pale and shaken from the pull of apparition. Just the very thought made his blood boil again.
Severus passed the Room of Requirement and heard a rustling but didn’t pay attention. The wind blew still dry brown leaves through the edges of the school. Leonor needed a lot of persuading after her return to calm Severus’ down and it took time until Severus’ dozed off spooning her in one of the rare evenings when Hattie didn’t come to call him back to Hogwarts. Severus noticed that Leonor often pulled a wry face, clutching her belly with both hands. Whenever she caught Severus’ apprehensive look, she took his hand, and he felt indeed the strong kicks of the baby. Leonor supposed that the baby turned somersaults.
Still in thoughts, Severus climbed the spiral staircase and tapped the bracelet announcing his soon arrival in the apothecary. Then he flicked the wand calling Hattie to hold the position and informing him in case of issues at the school. When he came close to the door, he heard irritating voices from inside as if the portraits discussed heatedly. Severus stepped briskly into the room and Phineas called at once ‘He’s coming’. Severus saw the reason of the excitement immediately; Flint had broken through one of the windows in the circular room and claimed the seat on Fawkes old perch stretching the broad wings. The bird grew impressively lately, the shining feathers a feast of scarlet colours. He screeched eyeing Severus and flew towards the man; meanwhile too tall to sit on Severus’ shoulder.
“Calm down!” said Severus holding out his arm to give the bird a place to sit but Flint didn’t take the seat nor stopped the ear-splitting ruckus.
Pauline and Hugo squeezed through the broken window too, circling and hooting that Severus wanted to hold his ears under the strident noise.
A terrible inkling dawned in him, “There’s something wrong with Leonor? With Eileen?”
The birds fell silent, settling to the furniture at last.
“You are here on your own account or is there a message?” claimed Severus. Hugo and Pauline tilted their heads, hooting softly. Flint lamented.
Severus rushed already to the fireplace when Hattie appeared with a plop and he shouted the usual request at the elf, then spun in the green flames of the Floow network and roared ‘the apothecary in Hogsmeade’.
The sales room was dark; several candles illuminated the potion kitchen and the surgery. That was unusual, Leonor used mostly a hexed work lamp. A small cauldron simmered emanating a strong smell of cumin and black coffee beans. The strange looking device next to the doctor’s couch made noises of a feeble mechanical fan.
Leonor and the baby had not been attacked thought Severus relieved though there was no doubt that something was seriously wrong. He listened to urgent steps from upstairs and an intuition told him that it was Caryn, and she was about three weeks too early. It should have been May! He felt suddenly cold.
Severus stripped the heavy cloak and the tight black frog coat from his shoulders. He looked less like a Death Eater with the white shirt underneath the formal apparel. He braced up, putting the wand carefully away and brushing his hands through his hair. Then he called cautiously, “Leonor, Caryn?” holding to the bannister when he went to the upper floor.
He just got a glimpse of Leonor sitting stooped down near the fireplace, rocking a bit back and forth before bending lower in evident pain. Eileen’s baby cot stood not on the usual place but before Severus found it Caryn whisked him away and back down the stairs again. She was again feisty but silent and spoke only in a hushed voice when she dragged Severus to the surgery.
“Did she call you finally?” pressed Caryn through gritted teeth.
Severus only shook his head and breathed, “The birds came to Hogwarts.”
“The baby is coming soon, likely before midnight.” Caryn stood now upright and composed, just the deep lines on the seasoned face betrayed the gravity.
“It’s too early,” muttered Severus.
“That is the smallest of the problems. This muggle machine tells,” Caryn pointed to the still running ultrasound, “that the baby is trapped. The umbilical cord is wrapped around the small body.”
Severus frowned having no answer to that. He looked intently to Caryn’s watery blue eyes without gaining a better insight to the situation.
She hissed quietly shaking off the intruder, “I’m not a liar.”
“I want to talk to Leonor,” replied Severus stiffly.
“You are the father if I’m not mistaken —” and it sounded like a guilty verdict.
“Yes,” stammered Severus.
“Are you willing to help?” asked the midwife under her breath.
“Anything.” stammered Severus and held his breath. The woman got under his skin with pure presence.
“Listen, it’s too late for transport to St. Mungo’s. I will do my best and you pray for luck.”
Severus nodded and felt how all colour left his face.
“First bring your daughter away and get back here before the full hour. That is when the cauldron is ready for the next step. Stir that potion until it becomes clear and fill it in the mugs. Bring them upstairs. Fill the baby bathtub with water and heat it slowly, hand-hot only.”
Severus swallowed and the midwife gazed at him.
“The matron of Hogwarts could help too, if you cannot. Or you convince somebody from St. Mungo’s to come. I’d prefer the matron over you,” she snapped.
“Madam Pomfrey left yesterday; I suppose she does not return tonight.”
“Alright then. Go upstairs, five minutes only and then begin what I told you.”
Severus run upstairs. Eileen sat in the baby cot looking befuddled and puckering. She wailed a moment when Severus didn’t lift her up but stopped pouting.
Leonor sat now on the bed in the same hunched position as before but gestured Severus to sit next to her.
“It’s time,” she forced a smile to her face.
“Is that because you apparated —” and a temper flared in Severus.
“No, it’s just time,” said Leonor with the lips pressed firmly together. “Listen, it’s nobody’s fault. The baby has a normal position for birth it’s just trapped but even the muggles solve that. I’ve no fear that everything will be good. I suppose the baby tried to free himself with the frantic kicks. It didn’t work out.”
Severus couldn’t say that Caryn sounded less convinced. He just put an arm around Leonor, and she leaned against his chest.
“The bracelet tickled, I’ve been waiting,” she whispered. “Eileen and the new baby need you. I need you too.”
“I’m here,” muttered Severus, lifting Leonor’s chin to kiss her gently.
“Take Eileen with you and we’ll send an owl if the baby is born.”
Severus just nodded. There was no point in going into more detail. Kissing was better and Leonor had a weak smile around her lips when Caryn interrupted them with a staged cheerful call from the stairs, “The five minutes are up. I bring the first round of tea, yarrow and blackberry leaves for you.”
Severus grabbed Eileen who happily lifted her arms getting finally some attention from her father. He said with a tender voice, “Come, we go for a trip,” and kissed his daughter’s forehead before they went downstairs. He was worried and it was strangely soothing to have little Eileen in his arms and wrapping her in the thick black cloak.
When the green flames swallowed father and daughter, Severus heard Caryn saying, ’my dear, it will be severe’.
Hattie took Eileen away from Severus, carefully enveloping the baby with her arms, the bulb-like eyes protruding with care. Winky, Barthy Crouch’s elf, watched. The decision to leave now was difficult. It felt like leaving another piece of Leonor in the hands of somebody else. Being in the dark and out of control in the next hours ripped his heart in two.
Hattie noticed the inner battle and cheered, “Hattie is very proud to help little Ms Eileen. Master does not need to worry. We call also Madam Pomfrey if she returns.”
The other elf nodded eagerly and stepped forward taking Eileen’s hand who grasped after one of the colourful hats knitted by Ms Granger but couldn’t reach it. Winky wore Dobby’s funny hats since he disappeared, and nobody knew where Potter’s elfish friend was.
Snape puffed sharply, “Can I rely on you?” He glowered at the elves that Winky shrunk a little though she was a free elf and not bound to take orders. But she had been the only one tending to toddlers before.
“And you promise to send word if there’s anything?” When the elves nodded again, Snape sighed, “Alright, then. I will return as soon as possible but it might not be before the students arrive tomorrow.”
The tower clock chimed to the full hour and Severus returned to Hogsmeade, with weak knees and choked up. At least he had something to do, stirring the potion kept his hands busy while the mind prowled through the days with Leonor. He remembered each detail of her gown and hair when they first met in Lupin’s office. The attraction between them had been almost immediate. That was more than four years ago, and it couldn’t be over now.
Severus balanced the tray with the full mugs of clear potion upstairs. A conjured divider separated the room, and nothing was to see or hear, perfect silence. He swallowed and announced himself. Caryn whirled from behind that curtain, mumbled something of ‘due time’ and disappeared again before any word left Severus’ lips. Neither a whiff of air nor a hex rippled the white fabric; not even edges allowed to peer through it. The old witch knew well how to lock unwanted guests out.
Severus prolonged the heating of the bathtub and walked again and again upstairs watching the non-transparent curtain. He was locked out and when he couldn’t stand it anymore, he started pacing the sales room, nursed the fire well and put the ‘Closed’ sign on the entrance door. Waiting for Potter was unnerving but waiting here was worse. Inaction and concern tortured him. Hugo and Pauline perched on the mantlepiece and Flint sat on the backrest of the armchair. The birds watched like grave figureheads of a sinking ship. Flint lamented from time to time. It was incredibly sad and becalming at once. Severus sense of time vanished.
Pauline hooted when a noise came from upstairs at last; in between the running footsteps on the wooden staircase was a tiny weeping, frail and heart-warming.
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