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    ***~~~*** "Double, d-double, t-t-toil and tr-trouble...fire bur-burn and cauldron, bubble..." "Well done Sarraiah! You'll be reading like an old pro in no time, my girl!" Stalinus Snape complimented his young daughter. Though he was not smiling, she could tell he was pleased with her. "I've been practicing, Father!" The little girl exclaimed, grinning. "That is clear, child." Stalinus picked up a large, tattered book and showed it to his little girl. "Can you read these words, Sarraiah?" "The Stan-Standard Book of Spel-Spells, Grade One." The six year old beamed up at her father. "The Standard Book of Spells, Grade One!" "This is what we're starting on today, Sarraiah. I will be teaching you a few simple spells—" "Stalinus!" An attractive young woman, approximately eight months pregnant, entered the room, a pale blond boy in her arms. "Our daughter is far to young to learn any of those spells!" "Ebony, if I wanted your opinion, I would have asked for it," Stalinus informed her coldly. "I can do it Mummy!" The little girl insisted, hands on hips. "She should be outside, playing, Stalinus. Riding her broom or de-gnoming the gardens," Ebony argued as she set down the squirming boy. "I ride broom Auntie!" He burst out. "Not now, Lucius." "Sarraiah needs to practice if she is going to be as clever a witch as her mother, Ebony. And with any luck, she'll be even better. She needs to get an early start. Malfoy's already teaching simple spells to Lucius, and he's barely two years old!" "I two! I ride broom! I de-gnome! Auntie?" The little boy, though somewhat whiny, was actually rather cute with his nearly white-blond bowl cut hair and large green-gray eyes. He was quite the contrast to the Snape's little Sarraiah, with her shoulder-length jet black curls, deep brown eyes and skin more pale than any of the Malfoys. "I said not now, Lucius!" sighed Ebony, exasperated. "Ebony, take the boy outside, will you?" Demanded Stalinus. "Before he explodes." Lucius was still dancing around, full of excitement. "Me go fly-ing, me goin' fly-ing," he sang merrily. "That boy is far too chipper to be a Malfoy," Stalinus observed, staring at the boy with a look of extreme dislike. "What do you reckon Dése's been having a fling—" "Nonsense, Stalinus! Dése would never defy her husband like that! And besides, Lucius looks just like his father." "Perhaps. But he acts nothing like Folter. I tell you, Ebony, there is something wrong with that boy." Meanwhile, the little Malfoy was still singing to himself in the singsong voice. "Lucius go out-si-ide, Lucius fly a broo-oom, Lucius play with gn-omes..." "We're staying in, Lucius," Ebony told him. "Ebony," Stalinus raised his voice. "You take that boy outside before I throw you both in the yard! I am sick of being argued against all the time! Just continue, Ebony, just keep it up and I'll show you why it is the man is meant to be in charge," he took a breath and again addressed their child. "Sarraiah, let's turn to page eleven." Feeling she was finally beaten (and, coincidentally, feeling that she would rather not be beaten) Ebony conceded. "Alright, Stalinus. Come, Lucius. Let's go out in the yard." She snapped her fingers twice, and a house elf appeared to her left. "Go and fetch Sarraiah's old broom for Lucius. Meet us outside in a moment. Go." "Yes Mrs. Snape, ma'am." The house elf scurried off and Ebony put on Lucius' jacket. With a wave of her wand, the coat buttoned, snapped and zipped itself. Lucius continued to hum his little tune. "Lucius go hmm-hmm-hmm," he sang out. "Hmm-hmm-hmm-hmm Hmm-si-ide..." "Come on, you," she ordered, and they exited through the rear doors. ***~~~*** About a half hour later, Ebony was tired and ready to go back in the house. Lucius, on the other hand, was still a bundle of energy. "If my son is as active as that boy, I don't know what I'll do," she said aloud, patting her huge tummy. "I flyin' I flyin'!" Lucius called as he swooped by her on the broom for about the hundredth time. "Yes, I know," said Ebony, rolling her eyes. "Haar Wirbelnd," she whispered, pointing her wand at her head. On command, her hair twisted itself into a tight bun, fastened at the nape of her neck by a shimmery silver cord. It was a spell her grandmother had taught her when she was just a little girl, and it came in handy rather often. The memory of her grandmother made her smile. How long had it been since her death? Twelve years? Twelve long years since she lost the woman who raised her. "Oh, Großmutter Mitleidsvoll. How I wish I could talk to you now," she whispered in German. "My husband is...changing, and my daughter is growing to disobey me a bit more each day I think, thanks to her father and the way he treats me, no, undermines me, in front of her. I worry that this baby will be the same. What will my son be like, Großmutter? I wish you were here. I wish you could hear me." A burst of crying broke Ebony of her little daydream. She tore her eyes away from the clouds above and to the ground, where Lucius was lying next to the broom. "I fall off!" He explained. "I fall off broom! Bad broom! Mean--Mean old broom!" "Oh, come here, baby," She whispered soothingly, picking him up and cradling him. "Put him down," she heard a deep voice command from the doorway. Folter. "He—He fell off his broom. He's crying," Ebony explained. She wasn't sure why she felt so frightened. It was just Folter, her old friend. Her husband's old friend. But it was the way he was looking at her. She didn't like it. "Lucius. Toughen up. I will not have my son raised to be weak. Stand up boy. Up!" When Lucius failed to do as his father ordered, Folter pulled out his wand and muttered something Ebony could not hear. Lucius' legs went straight and ridged. He stood up. "And quit crying, boy, or I'll give you something to cry about!" He raised his wand again. "Folter, please!" Dése pleaded, pulling her husbands robes. Ebony could see her husband standing behind his friend. She was surprised to see the slight smile on his lips. Sarraiah must still be in the house, she realized with relief. What was Folter going to do to the child? "Crucio!" He said, pointing his wand at the toddler. "No!" Cried Ebony. She moved forward to block the curse, which hit her full force. She passed out. Everything went black. ***~~~*** "Mrs. Snape? Mrs. Snape, can you hear me?" Ebony awoke to see two men, strangers, standing over her. She immediately attempted to sit up. "No, please Mrs. Snape. It's all right. You're at St. Mungo's. You're going to be fine." "Oh. Oh..." She tried to control her breathing, but her heart was beating so fast... Instinctively, she laid a hand on her stomach... "My baby! Where's my baby?" She panicked, realizing that she was considerably thinner than she had been that afternoon. "It's okay, Mrs. Snape. You went into premature labor. Your husband brought you in. He's in the nursery with the baby right now," one of the healers, the shorter, stockier man to her right, assured her. "You had a boy," added the thin one with the mustache, "And he's doing just fine. But he needs a name. Shall I send in your husband and children?" "Wha—Uh, yes. Send them in. Please." Ebony was rather confused. Premature labor? St. Mungo's? What about little Lucius? The healers exited, and a few moments later, Sarraiah and Stalinus entered. In his arms he held a very tiny bundle. Without a word, he handed her the baby. (She was pleased to see that Stalinus wore one of his rare smiles). "Oh! Just look at him..." Ebony felt tears welling up in her oak-brown eyes. "Stalinus...Lucius, is he...?" "He's fine," her husband assured her. "A tad shaken, but very excited about the baby. He and Dése are in the waiting room. It was a very stupid thing you did, Ebony." "Folter, is he...is he here?" "He returned to work at the Ministry. He will visit tomorrow. He is not angry with you. I explained that pregnancy makes women over-emotional. He understood." Stalinus glared at his wife, who shifted her gaze to the face of her newborn son. "Alright then..." She sais with a sigh. Just then the baby squirmed. For a moment she thought he was going to awaken, but alas he remained asleep. "Awww," cooed big sister Sarraiah. The baby was much tinier than Sarraiah had been. The elder Snape child had been eight pounds, three ounces; Ebony would venture to guess that the new baby only weighed about six. He was so teeny-tiny! He was pale, as were all the Snapes, but his cheeks still had that red, raw, rosy, "I was just born!" look to them. His eyes were closed in sleep, but she figured they were probably deep brown like his sister's. He had a little tuft of jet-black hair that stood straight up, and the smallest fingers. "He's perfect," she whispered, smiling at her husband and daughter. "He's our son," replied Stalinus, losing the harsh, cold look he had donned only moments before. "We should name him. After my father, perhaps?" "After his father, I'd think." "Nonsense, Ebony. I've always hated my name," said Stalinus. "and I am not vain nor shallow enough to believe that my son should be cursed with a horrible name simply because it is mine." "So we will name him after your father." She thought a moment. "Perhaps his middle name could be that of my grandfather...?" "Severus Geheimnis Snape," said Stalinus proudly. Ebony smiled. "I like it." ***~~~*** A/N: A few minor details: Saraiah, his sister, is pronounced Suh-rye-uh. Folter, Lucius Malfoy's father, comes from De Foltering, Dutch for torture, and Lucius' mother's name is Dése, from the French Désespoir, meaning despair. She's in despair because Malfoy tortures her, get it? Stalinus you can probably figure out on your own...Mitleidsvoll, Ebony's grandmother, is German for compassionate (and it's a pretty looking word) and her grandfather's name is Geheimnis, meaning mystery. So they're not real names. But that's okay...Right?

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