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Chapter Seventeen: Sabine ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The remainder of the term passed nearly uneventfully, with the exception of the month in which Severus and the Dynamic Duo alternated stays in the hospital wing. After his detention with his Head of House, the boy felt it strangely comforting to be with Melison, and it was a rare occurrence to find him not in the professor's office, devouring the tomes which lined the room. Melison seldom questioned Severus about his home life, though the boy knew he would listen if it was asked of him. The room soon became his new refuge from the torment of the Gryffindors, and the distance of his own dormmates. It was here that he sat, on the last evening before term, when Melison broached the subject that was foremost on Severus' mind. "Looking forward to your holidays, son?" he asked, setting aside the book he'd been reading. "No," the boy answered, not looking up from the book on Medieval draughts utilizing dragon's blood he wanted to finish. "I would rather the summer was already over, actually." "You'll have a new sibling by month's end," the professor pointed out. "Hooray," Severus remarked dryly. "Still not overly thrilled, are you?" "I'd like to finish this book, Professor," Severus retorted, not wishing to discuss the matter. "A birth should be seen as nothing short of a blessing, son," Melison instructed quietly. Severus shut the book with a bang. Obviously, he was not going to be permitted to finish it. "Not in my family, Professor," he said sharply, returning the book to the man's desk. "Have a good summer." Without waiting for the older man to reply, he strode from the room to finish his packing.
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His stomach sank further as the train pulled into King's Cross. Lily had not attempted to bring him out of his silence - perhaps she realized what was on his mind. Lucius and the other Slytherins had steered clear of the pair's compartment, though Severus was almost certain it was out of respect for his own wishes. As such, the trip passed quietly, with ample time to reflect on the imminent problem. He looked up as he got off the train, seeing his uncle and Steven immediately. "I'll just go and find Mum and Dad," Lily said quietly as she brushed past him. "Lily -" She stopped and turned, waiting. "Thanks," he said finally, not thinking of anything further to say. She smiled warmly at him, making the knot in his stomach ease slightly. She understood. "See you at home," she said with a slight wave. He reciprocated as he made his way to where his uncle stood. "Severus, you are looking well, boy," Sebastian said with a welcome smile. "It's good -" he stopped in mid-sentence, staring at something over Severus' shoulder. The boy turned around to see Braeden and Lucius standing directly behind him. They both eyed Sebastian with a cold contempt before turning to Severus "Severus," Braeden began, his eyes shining with something akin to glee, "I enjoyed the time you spent with us at the Manor over the Christmas Holidays." "Thank you, sir," he responded. "I enjoyed attending." "We must see about having you out to stay for a time. There is much you need to learn - many important people you should be acquainted with. The right people. Your father's not been in a position to arrange these associations for you. It is time you become familiar with the proper families. Lucius will write you, of course." Severus couldn't believe his ears. Lucius had been a tad distant since the beginning of term, and the boy had been afraid he'd lost his friend. Now he was being invited to stay at his house. He opened his mouth to accept immediately. "Thank you for that generous offer, Braeden," Sebastian said coolly. "Though I am sure Severus will be far too busy this summer to accept." Braeden's eyes remained on Severus as the boy began to bristle with anger. "Lucius will write," he repeated. "Perhaps your engagements will change." "Have a good summer, Severus," Lucius said as they walked past. The trio of Snapes watched them go. Once they had disappeared through the barrier, Sebastian turned to his nephew. "It distresses me that you feel the desire to accept his invitation," he said coldly. "Lucius is my friend, Uncle Sebastian. Why shouldn't I want to visit him?" His uncle said nothing, but led the boys out of the station and towards home.
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When they arrived at the house, there was no sign of his parents. When Severus inquired about their whereabouts, he was met with a terse reply from his uncle. "They should return any minute." It was clear, however, that he had expected them to have been at the house. "These things take time, boy." "These things?" Severus intoned, confused for a split second. "You don't mean -" "They've been at St. Mungo's since early last evening," Sebastian affirmed. "I'm sure they'll be here for dinner."
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Dinner came and went, and still there was no news of Rebekah and Silias. Sebastian's assurance that they were fine and would be home shortly sounded as doubtful as Severus felt. He and Steven trudged up the stairs to bed, each absorbed in their own musings. It wasn't until he was on his cot and staring at the ceiling that Severus realized his younger brother hadn't spoken since he'd gotten off the train. Now more worried than before, he rose from his room and walked to his brother's door. It was slightly ajar, and the older boy did not bother knocking before peering inside. "Steven?" His voice was soft, but in the silence of the house, it sounded like thunder. "I'm awake," came the small boy's reply, muffled from beneath the blankets. Severus strode to his bed, pulling back the covers under which he'd hidden. Steven's face, tear-stained and fearful, looked up at him innocently. "You were crying?" Severus was dumbfounded. "What for?" "I can't be like you," Steven sulked defensively. "I'm scared." Severus was even more perplexed. "Of what? The baby?" The child shook his head. "Of Father." "Oh," Severus sighed. "Well, that's nothing new, is it?" Suddenly, Steven was sitting upright, his arms encircling his knees. "I'm not like you, Severus. I can't protect the baby from him. What's going to happen when you go back to school?" The boy was nearly in tears, and Severus was at a loss. He hadn't the faintest idea how to comfort him, especially when he himself had been having similar doubts. "You don't want to be like me," he finally said. "Look how badly I failed you." Steven's face turned to him, disbelief plain on his features. "You haven't-" "What happens, happens," he said brusquely. "There's nothing either of us can do about it, so stop worrying. Maybe it's even a good thing." Even as the words sprang from his lips, he knew he didn't believe them any more than Steven did. The boy's lower lip was trembling, his eyes threatening to spill over once again. "Go to sleep," Severus instructed as he stood. "They'll probably be home in the morning." Without a backwards glance, he stepped through the doorway and into the hall, closing the door behind him. What had gotten into him? He'd gone in to check on his brother, and succeeded only in frightening the boy even further. "That was a bit harsh," came a quiet voice from the staircase. Severus started in surprise as he made out the form of his uncle on the top tread. "It's true," the boy responded softly, turning to go back to his own room. "Wizard's Chess?" Sebastian inquired nonchalantly. Severus shrugged indifferently. After all, he was probably not going to get much sleep as it was. He followed Sebastian wordlessly into the living room, where the board had already been set up. The pair set into the game, neither one speaking. Within minutes, Severus had won. "You aren't even trying," he observed. "My mind is elsewhere, boy. Forgive me," Sebastian said listlessly. "She'll be fine," the boy responded quietly, his eyes on the pieces he was replacing onto the board. "She's survived him, hasn't she?" He could feel his uncle's piercing gaze studying his bowed head, causing Severus to concentrate even more on arranging the pieces. "Of course she will," Sebastian affirmed, though Severus was sure his worry had not ceased. To his credit, he put forth a considerably better effort for their next game, so that it took Severus a good hour before the older man admitted defeat. It was nearly two in the morning when they heard the insistent tapping at the window. Sebastian sprang from his seat and crossed the room, throwing open the window to admit a large snowy owl. Severus didn't recognize it, but his uncle seemed to as he stroked the bird absently while reading the correspondence. The boy read the note over his uncle's shoulder:
She's doing fine. It's a girl. ~MK~
"A girl?" Severus exclaimed in disbelief as the lines on Sebastian's face crept away. "She had a girl?" But Sebastian did not reply. He merely clapped the boy on the back, re-reading the parchment in the meager candlelight by the chessboard. "She's fine," he breathed with relief. He turned to Severus, as if just noticing he was there. "Congratulations, Severus. You have a baby sister! Now, why don't you get some sleep? I'm sure you'll be anxious to welcome them home in the morning." He turned back to the note, finally folding it and putting it into his pocket. As he did so, the boy noticed the light reflecting off of another object in his vest. It was the pocket watch Rebekah had given him for Christmas. Without a word, he turned and made his way back to his bedroom. There was now no doubt in his mind of his uncle's feelings towards his mother. Those thoughts were pushed aside, however, as he thought of his new sister. He shook his head as he climbed into bed and stared again at the ceiling. A girl made things even worse!
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He lay awake for most of the night, his twelve-year-old mind turning over the problem at hand. So it was that when he heard his parents Apparate below him, he did not leap from the bed as he heard his brother do. Moments later, Sebastian appeared at his door, a beaming smile on his face. "Aren't you coming down,?" he inquired, leaning against the doorway. "For what?" Severus questioned, his voice even. Sebastian's smile faded slightly. "She's done nothing to you, boy. Come and meet Sabine." "Who?" "Your sister," the man snapped impatiently. "They're waiting for you in the lounge." With an exaggerated sigh and a fixed scowl, Severus rose from the bed. His uncle put out a hand to stop him from going through the door, and the boy looked up in question. "Did you not sleep?" he asked quietly, indicating the rumpled clothes Severus still wore. Not feeling up to any 'discussions', he ducked under the outstretched appendage and continued down the stairs. Rebekah sat on the couch, cradling a bundle in her arms. Were it not for the presence of his brother next to her, Severus would have felt he were reliving the day Steven was born. His mother looked up as he descended the stairs, a smile on her face for the first time in, well, since Severus could remember. The sight of her happiness eased his apprehension somewhat, though it was obvious as he stared down into the tiny face of his sister what brought it on. Her delicate facial features were identical to those of her mother, and it was glaringly apparent that she would share in the beauty Rebekah had once known. Severus sniffed. At least she wasn't another version of Silias. A smirk graced his features as he imagined another Snape look-a-like, this time clad in pink robes and bows. From the corner armchair, his father sniffed derisively. "Well?" Rebekah asked, her eyes searching his. "She's asleep," he pointed out. To his surprise, she laughed. "Babies sleep all the time," she explained. "Lazy, the whole lot of them," came the reply from where his father sat. Without another word, Silias rose from the seat and Disapparated. "Do you want to hold her?" Rebekah asked her son, evidently not phased by her husband's abrupt departure. A tendril of fear crept down the boy's spine as he backed away. "No," he said quickly, but it was too late. His mother had already placed the bundle of white blankets in his arms. He held her out from his body awkwardly, not sure what to do. "Support her head, now," his mother instructed, positioning his arm beneath the infant's neck. As she released his hand, Sabine's tiny face screwed up in an enormous yawn, before she blinked up at her eldest brother. "Her eyes-" Severus said immediately, looking at his mother. She stared back, her almond-shaped blue eyes focused on him. "They- they're brown." "Hazel, actually," Rebekah corrected. "Just like your grandmother had." Severus turned to stare at his uncle, who was leaning against the doorframe unobtrusively. "And Uncle Sebastian," he muttered inaudibly.
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A/N: Thanks to everyone who's reviewed! You all felt the rats were a bit grotesque, which was, of course, my intent. Got to have Severus weaned into nasty things early, haven't we? Anyhoo - thanks a lot again to those who have been following this..I'm still not as far ahead of myself chapter wise as I'd like, but I'm working on getting it back up to 5 chappies ahead, so that my posting doesn't fall behind!

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