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Someone To Run To (22/32)


Chapter Twenty-Two, In Which I Have Revelations


I woke up to shouting, blearily trying to make sense of where I was and what was going on around me.

"What do you mean she's pregnant?" That was Sirius, I was fairly sure. But what was Sirius doing at Hogwarts? I was fairly certain I was at Hogwarts. But maybe I wasn't. Maybe I had died and not Bellatrix, and this was Hell – I was fairly certain, if there was a destination we were sent after death, it would be that one. But, again, if this was Hell, why was Sirius in it? Had he died too? I hoped not. He didn't deserve Hell. He'd been so good to me… Plus he had twelve years of incarceration-while-innocent to his name, which was bound to earn him some wiggle-room with the to-eternally-torment-or-not decision makers. "How is that possible?"

Severus, in the same tone he used for telling students how stupid their answers were (no, just because I married the guy didn't mean I was going to ignore his faults. I mean, if gene therapy was even possible for the Prince nose…), he explained rather snidely, "Occasionally, as the result of several incontrollable factors, an oocyte will-"

Both men, I could see, had the look of wizards recently healed, which is to say dirtied and bloodied, but without any visible injuries. I envied them that. No, not me. Me, all because I happen to be pregnant, have to suffer through the whole Muggle way of healing. As a wedding present, I'll have to ask Severus to work out a Skle-grow for us less fortunate ones. "You know what I mean, you literal ponce. What I want to know is how you had the nerve to touch my daughter – your student-"

"Black," he said, his voice more fuelled with anger than I'd ever heard and seeming to draw closer, until he stood by my bed, "I want to make it perfectly clear to you that, at this moment, the only reason you're not a jumble of curses is my respect for the love Éléonore has for you. If it assuages you at all, I proposed to her before I knew she was pregnant, and that, regardless, it was Éléonore's wish-"

I could see, from my position on the bed – which, of course, no one had noticed I was awake, being too busy fighting over my honour or something stupid like that, when they should be fighting our enemies. Voldemort was the villain here, not Severus. "She is sixteen-god-damn-years-old girl, not some pureblood baby machine!"

Rather than raise fists, he lowered them onto my bed and searched, for a moment, for my hand before clasping it. I squeezed it back and hoped he took strength in it as I used it to pull myself upright. "It was my choice," I coughed, figuring that at least two of my ribs were broken from the pain of it, "to keep the baby. And everything leading up to it. So, how badly hurt am I?"

"You'll have to wear the comfrey plasters again – only two ribs this time," he said, turning to look at me, pulling up a chair with his foot and sinking to my eye level with one fluid motion. "You have a twisted ankle as well. Poppy says your cuts and contusions should be fully healed by morning."

I gave a tight smile and let myself lay back down. Sitting hurt too much to honestly consider it at the moment. "Where's everybody?"

"Back in their dorms, I believe, and Headquarters where appropriate. No one else was so hurt as to require overnight care."

Absently, staring at the ceiling of the hospital wing, of which I'd counted every ceiling tile and intimately knew every crack in the paint and plaster, "That's good."

My husband – another thrill, however immature it was, coursed through me at this thought – rubbed his thumb along the tender skin of my hand, and told me sarcastically, "Winding up in the infirmary on our honeymoon, Éléonore, is only going to further damage to my reputation."

Snorting at that only hurt, while it caused Sirius, who'd been watching our exchange rather impatiently, to burst, "You're pregnant."

"I know." I thought I heard Severus trying not to laugh, but I couldn't be sure. I'm sure it sounded amusing to him. "Where's Paracelsus?"

"Last I saw, with Miss Granger."

Sirius wouldn't drop it so easily – of course, having just discovered the teenage orphan daughter of his best friend, whose wedding he'd attended against his will not even half-a-day earlier, was pregnant and, thusly, as he'd adopted said teenage bride, making him shortly a grandfather of sorts – and continued in his fury, "How long?"

My head wasn't in the spot to figure out to figure out if he meant, "How long have you known you were pregnant and failed to tell me, your adoptive father who only wants the best for you and broke out of Azkaban, went into hiding from the British government for two-and-a-half years, and spent the annual gross domestic product several smaller third world countries retaining a law firm to prove myself innocent all so that I could take you in from your beastly aunt and uncle and give you the home I'm not sure now you deserve?" or "How long until this child – which I've yet to decide to love for your sake and that of your parents or hate because it is partly Snivillus's and that is something, however much you claim to love him, I won't ever be able to look past – forces itself into the world?" or even "How long until you are healed enough that I can throttle you, because it is something I'd very much like to do before I hand you over to the judges of common sense, because, in case you've forgotten, you're just a sixteen-year-old girl no matter what words Dumbledore said and what papers you might have signed, because you still have a year-and-a-half of school left and marriage is one thing, which I don't care for in the least but have let you go through with because there was no way I could stop you and it made you happy, but a baby is completely other – how on earth are you going to finish school, stop Voldemort, and take care of a baby? Were you even thinking…?" so I just said, "I'm due March 27," and braced myself for whatever would come. Where was Madam Pomprey with the dreaded comfrey plasters? Everything hurt, and I really didn't like all this fighting. If fighting had to happen, it should be in a nice courtroom where we're all wearing Armani suits and arguing like nice, civilized people. That was my personal preference, at least.

I'm really going to honestly have to think about my future now. I mean, Merlin, I'm Mrs. Snape now. God, that was strange. I mean, it's one thing to think to dream about marrying the love of your life and living happily ever after with him, but the whole "happily ever after" part is like so much harder. I mean, how do you live happily? I think a key part of that, I think, is what makes me happy? Well, Severus makes me happy, but there are only so many hours in a day one can spend basking in Severus's presence, and, plus, his whole potions obsession-thing was a little boring. Not to say I don't enjoy the merits of a good potion – hello, that whole protective tattoo ink, my creation. Lots of research, lots of wonderful nights with duty old books when I'd rather be reading, I don't know, Dostoevsky or Vonnegut or Irving, I don't know, Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss would have been soooo much easier than Lord Lucas Emery-Gershman or Lecquetus the Monk, who, frankly, spoke entirely too much about the monetary garden for a book supposedly on the rehabilitation of the mentally ill. Maybe I should become a tattoo artist. I can practically guarantee Severus would be the only Potions Master in Britain married to one of those.

I laughed at this thought then stopped abruptly, both because, firstly, it really hurt to laugh and, secondly, because my timing was impeccably inappropriate as Sirius and Severus were in the middle of another argument, having something, from what little I overheard, to do with how Sirius couldn't understand any emotion other than what madness might bring and Severus was a Death Eater with limited morality and a penchant for ephebophilia. "Er, sorry," I told them, and went back to my thoughts.

I wasn't a very good artist though, and most people probably weren't willing to go on faith that the potion would turn up something they could live with. I mean, what if their guardian spirit was a toad or something? Who'd want a tattoo of a toad? Or a bison? Sure, I'm sure bison have wonderful qualities worthy of using to protect people, but a tattoo of bison for the rest of your life?

I do like law though. And teaching. Teaching was nice. Maybe now I'm the wife of the DADA professor I might have the pull to start the DA again. Legally. I've missed it. And, plus, if I'm not going to be having Quidditch practice to occupy me soon. Well, I suppose there's the whole training part of Quidditch practise I can still oversee, but still, now that all this stress of the wedding and hiding the wedding and hiding the pregnancy and whatnot, I can see my life becoming very boring in the future while I grow bigger and bigger.

That's not something I've honestly taken a good hard thought about. My future, I mean. I know I'm going to get bigger. That tends to happen when one is pregnant, so I hear. That part of things doesn't really bug me. It's the future. I mean, hello, what kind of world arm I bringing this child into – I'm a murderer. Trice over. Granted, no one can fault me for it. No one, possibly not even her husband, is going to cry over Bellatrix Lestrange. Voldemort might be very angry, but he wouldn't cry or anything. I might be the only one sorry Trixie dearest was dead, and that was only because I had to do the killing myself.

Sirius would probably want to throw a party. I'd have to arrange to floo over that day and cook for him, 'cause Merlin knew that if we let him cook half the Order would be down for the count with food poisoning, and if Tonks was ever going to get Remus to sleep with her (a moment of gross at that, however much Tonks was my friend and I wanted them both to be happy, Remus had still been my professor)… and then, of course, I remembered Remus was like two months younger than Severus and proceeded to try to forget the whole thing. So I listened into the conversation, heard an, "…allow this to happen," and a, "Quite simply…" that didn't interest me in the least.

Where was Madam Pomprey when you needed her?

Oh well, I had baby names to think of. I mean, babies needed names, or so I'd heard, and I'd no idea if it was going to be a he or a she or if I wanted to still with the family history of French names as I was, apparently, French to some degree, or if I wanted something English. Or something else. I mean, there're so many names. There's Ambrose and Bryon and Carolas and Christophe and Claude and, Merlin, there were a lot of "C" names.

Sea… I'd never been to the sea. Any of them. As soon as this whole Voldemort thing was over, I'd have to have Severus take the baby and I to the sea. Assuming we all didn't die before then. I really hope we don't die.

I think I hit my head. Things are making so little sense. I mean, there's a panther in y head that doesn't say a word to me, weird dreams of Severus and someone who quite possibly might be our son, and random thoughts of French names that, to be truthful, I didn't even like. Claudia Séléné I liked. Maybe even Claudia-Éléonore Séléné.

Focus. Got to focus. I tried foolishly to sit up again and saw Madam Pomprey come through the curtains. And I passed out, gratefully, from the pain.

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"…You won't see the Once-ler," Hermione read. "Don't knock at his door. He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store."

I heard Paracelsus confusedly hiss, "What?" as I struggled to remember where I was and why I felt such a heavy, sticky weight on my chest.

"Isss a?" Oh, yes, broken ribs. But how had I gotten those?

"'Lerkim'?" Lestrange. I'd killed Trixie last night. Some honeymoon. I felt icky all over.

Hermione, of course, couldn't understand my Runespoor, but she probably understood the general gist or the direction the heads were looking, for she shortly said, "It's a made up word, but it means it's the place where the Once-ler hides from the world." I was sort of at a loss for why my best friend might be reading Dr. Seuss to a three-headed snake at my beside, but was relatively sure that, if she was trying to teach it to read (Merlin forbid!) she'd have started with Green Eggs and Ham, not The Lorax, which brings up the whole other question of where she'd found a Muggle children's book to read to my talking and oft-singing snake in the first place. It hurt my head to think too hard on, "He lurks in his Lerkim, cold under the roof, where he makes his own clothes out of miff-muffered moof. And on special dank midnights in August, he peeks out of the shutters and sometimes he speaks and tells how the Lorax was lifted away. He'll tell you, perhaps… if you're willing to pay."

I opened my eyes, blearily, to the sound of turning pages. The book closes and is placed on my beside table. I see a folded newspaper there, the headline

Bellatrix Lestrange Dead!

doing very little to make me feel any better.

"I don't know how any one person can get into so much trouble on their own, Éléonore," she said, moving from her chair to the edge of my bed

"What can I say?" I, using my arms and not my unforgiving stomach muscles, ask, "It's a talent, at least," as I try to sit up. I manage, with some difficultly, and look straight at her. "Did they tell you?"

She nodded embarrassedly. "March, huh?"

"I'll be a mum."

She turned a little pink at the thought, offering only a, "Weird," before looking away awkwardly.

I felt a blush tinge my cheeks too. "A little. Look, I-" I began, uncertain of what it was exactly I wanted – or needed – to say. I breathed as deeply as I cared with these blasted things on and tried again. "I-" Well, that was a bad start. It was best to be honest, I thought. Truth counts, Truth does count, Forrester had said in A Room with a View – the one Forrester book I'd actually liked, or finished. So I told her the truth, as much as I knew it. That I'd fallen in love with our snarky Potions Master during the Triwizard Tournament and kissed him at its end. That he'd fought me off until he no longer could, and how, McGonagall had know but hadn't said we couldn't, and how I found out I was pregnant and told in the same breath he proposed to me. I shared all of it, how I was afraid that, if we told, we'd be stopped or, worse, the papers would do what they did and Voldemort's wrath would have fallen before or during and that, maybe, it would be me or my little baby, who I didn't know was a boy or a girl or if I even wanted to know, lying blank-faced, dead on the ground outside the inn and not Bellatrix. "…and I've been so scared and wanted to tell you so much and just talk but there's not been time, what with Fleur monopolizing every free second until now trying to get everything ready that I really didn't even think had to be done for weddings and the rest of the time trying to fend of Sirius, who I've tried to explain everything to but just doesn't understand even though I can see why he wouldn't, or Ari, who I know I hired to be my lawyer but, God, I think she missed her calling as a manager or a PA, and who wants to put 'spin control' on everything and had paid Colin to follow me around all day Saturday, or, I dunno, everyone. And I know I'm sounding crazy and maybe I am, 'cause this whole ribs-that-can't-be-healed-the-normal,-fun-Skle-Grow-way thing hurts, and I just want to get out of my bed and back to my normal life and, I've really, really missed you hanging around and, Merlin, what time is it?"

"Almost time for first period," she said rather more solemnly then I might have wished. This, naturally, lead me to panic. Usually after my outbursts, people shouted. That was the reaction I was kind of looking for here. Or at least a mild scolding, and then a, "Oh,-Éléonore,-I-forgive-you," moment, followed by a, "I-forgive-you-too,-Hermione;-will-you-be-my-baby's-godmother?" I was getting tired of serious talks. My head hurt, and it seems that the wine from dinner (I think I had wine at dinner) plus the being knocked about by Trixie (God, was that only last night?) and the potions they'd surly given me to aide in the de-knocking-about.

"Who died?" Hermione wriggled uncomfortably, which worried me deeply, as it was not something Hermione usually did, as I asked this with all seriousness I could given my current distaste for anything lacking in miff-muffered moof. "I mean it, really, what's wrong?"

She shifted uncomfortably. "Well," she tried, "it's just… aren't things moving too fast?"

Blankly, "So no one's dead?" I was very curious as to why she was like this if no one was dead. I mean, death, injury, etc… those are bad things. Very few other things, baring apocalypse or Voldemort's latest plan to kill (which I think falls under death) or capture (which probably falls under injury) me.

"It's just…" my favourite bookworm continued as if I'd not said anything, "Aren't things going a little… fast? I mean, you're only sixteen, Éléonore. I mean, one moment Dumbledore disappears and suddenly the DA becomes your own personal fighting squad and-" I tried to interrupt, "No! I've been quiet long enough, Éléonore! I mean, really now, first you're living with a professor and sabotaging Umbridge's classes – well that wasn't too bad, but still – and then, suddenly, I find out from the papers that you're marrying the guy, and, whatever your reasons for not telling me," she was deeply frazzled now, wringing her hands like an old fishwife, "or anyone, it's still something I should have heard from you, not a paper notorious for printing lies and half-truths about your life, to a man who, to be perfectly honest, I'd sooner have cut out my own tongue then thought anyone would ever marry, let alone you. And now this. And now a baby? How are you going to take care of one? I mean, it's a baby, Éléonore," like I didn't know that. "Merlin, Éléonore, we're still in school? Are you just going to drop out? Or are you going to try to stay in school and take care of it? And, beyond that, you're only sixteen! People don't get married at sixteen, not without a reason. Not without some bloody big reason – but you said that Professor Snape asked you simultaneously, or before, or whatever, so that's not the reason – but the fact remains that you are married to him, and love may be one thing and it may be something that I can't see that made you fall in love with him – goodness knows I don't know why I like Ron, and I can get over the fact that you love Snape, I really can, if you give me time – and even the whole baby thing, that I can handle too, by March at least. But what I can't understand is, God, what's the rush. You don't marry for love at sixteen, and if it's not for that – that – thing inside you then what? Why?"

I blinked a few times at her, amazed at her outburst, and angered. Without thinking, I jumped to my feet, the sheets pulled around me as I searched for my clothes. My own things, not the robe and camisole from the night before, were there – a uniform that still fit, with a shirt that I could button on, not have to pull over my wounds. Severus. Where was he? As I pulled on my uniform, I tried not to yell at her for her stupidity – I tried to be reasonable. I'm not going to shout. I'm not going to shout. "Where's Severus?" I asked as politely as I could.

"Didn't you just hear what I said?" her voice was the same shrill mine got when I was angry.

I'm not going to shout, I mantra-ed in my head, I'm not going to shout, I tried again. "Yes, I did," my voice was tight. Bad sign. And the shoe's he'd brought – not school shoes. I swear, shoes tell more about a situation then anything else. Wrong shoes. Wrong foot. Wrong, I dunno, time of day in the wrong time of week in a wrong kind of place for this wrong kind of conversation. I probably had radical ideas on the meaning of footwear, but it remained true, "and I'm doing my utmost best to ignore it so that I don't break anything else and have to wear these bloody plasters for a moment longer than necessary. I'm going to go, from where the light's coming in, that it's morning. Or early afternoon. Is he teaching?" I search for my watch and, in searching, remember I don't have one. I need a watch. And some saltines. Or maybe pudding – anything but that tapioca – or possibly some raspberries with cream.

"You can't just will this away, Harry!"

I spun on her, "The name is Éléonore. Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Black Potter Snape." I hated the name sometimes, but it was my name, and I spat it at her like, not like it was poison, but like it was something you spat. So much for not yelling. "And I will will it the bloody hell away from me if I want to! It's my bloody life and my bloody choice if I want to rush through it or not!"

Hermione, now standing and looking more worried then angry, which really bothered me to tell you the truth and I was about willing to forgo the nice Armani three-piece suits. "Something is just plain wrong here, Harry, Éléonore, whatever-"

I pointed my wand at her, and felt my insides tremble with anger. "The only thing wrong here is you're supposed to be my friend – all of you, you're supposed to be my friends, and happy because I'm happy. But, no, you just say that and then, suddenly, we're worse off then we started with this. You don't have to forgive me for not telling you but, Herne and Hecate, it was my decision. Mine. To keep my baby safe. 'Cause that's all that bloody matters right now. Not you, not me, not even sodding Voldemort. I am going to give this kid the life I was denied, and that is damn-well going to include a happy family. So get your head out of your bloody arse and start coming around, because you are my oldest friend and my kid is going to need a Godmother." I turned on my good leg – the one that wasn't fighting to introduce me to its friend, the decidedly boring tile floor of the hospital wing – and spelled the door to open for me.

I spelled it closed a second later, after a mob of owls deluged through the door, dropping fan mail, curse envelopes, and every newspaper in the English language and about half of those printed in French and Sino-Japanese. I picked up one, tossed it aside because I couldn't understand a word on it, then found one proclaiming both my wedding to Severus and murder of Trixie. A quick glance of the pile showed some that stressed one or the other to some degree, and the packages, one of which I opened, contained things like solid silver tea sets and crystal vases. Creepy, random people sending me glassware. "I so need a PA," I moaned, shrinking the mess and stuffing it in my pocket. The owls hooted, though a handful of Knuts calmed them, and I let myself sink where I was standing, collapsing on the floor as my leg gave way. "No. I just need all these… people to leave me alone. You too," I said as Hermione approached, her angry-concern turning swiftly into concerned-concern. It annoyed me. "Why can't you leave me alone?" She came closer, and something snapped in me. My wand was lost somewhere, in my pockets or by my hand or wherever, but it didn't matter. I just lifted my hands and turned, tears streaming down my face from who knows where, feeling empty and angry and just wanting to be left alone. A wave of bale blue energy shot from my hands and pushed her – and the owls and the letters that flapped on their own and a cat hiding under one of the beds that I called Boots because I wasn't sure what its name was or who it belonged to – out the door. A twist of the wrist locked it and snapped the shutters. And I lay there, tears falling without sobs, Paracelsus singing some really bloody annoying pop song that had Acel trying to hum the harmonica parts, lying prone and motionless on the floor, a pale and shimmering blue light limning the room.

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I was alone. I had always been utterly and completely alone. I was a fool to think I could be happy.

The only one who loved me, the only one who understood, he'd be on his way soon. The rest of them, they didn't understand. If they loved me, they would want me to be happy. If they loved me, they would see how bloody happy I was with Severus – well, not at the moment. Now I was pretty rightly retched, but that was only minimally his fault – and wouldn't be so bloody angry about me loving him and marrying him and all that. But everyone who loved me had died for me.

That was it, I saw with sudden clarity. Love was Death. Whether it was dying or killing or dying when they died on you, loving someone was dying and anyone that truly loved someone else would inevitably die for or because of them. My parents had died for their love of me. Susan Bone's aunt and uncle and cousins all those years ago and her aunt over the summer and probably her parents last night if the Order hadn't gotten to them in time had died, if not for love of me, than for love of freedom from Voldemort which was my destiny. I could go on, but it depressed me.

How was I supposed to defeat Voldemort if he'd killed so many and defeated even Dumbledore? Sure, the Headmaster had this probably pointless idea that learning about Tommy-boy's childhood would show me a way to destroy the bastard, but, really, knowledge only got you so far. You still needed wits to make something of it, or power to use it, or strength to survive it. And, sure, I was smart enough to create or summon or whatever Niynhi, the black jaguar tattooed on my thigh; sure I was strong enough to get out of a tough scrape or powerful enough to blast myself out of it, but I didn't have any uncommon skills or powers to kill a wizard like Voldemort.

I remembered what Dumbledore had said, during the wedding:

"…If there is anything in this world that cannot be understood by those who have never experienced, it is love. If anything in this world exists that is stronger and less breakable then magic, it is love. And, if any one thing in this world can keep what is Dark and cruel and breakable at bay, it is love. It is a power understood by so few…"

Love was my uncommon power, or so Dumbledore claimed. Because love got other people to die for you until you were strong enough to kill or die for them…

I would not let Severus die. Or Hermione or Sirius or Remus or Ron or Ginny. Or little unborn Claudia-Éléonore Séléné or, I dunno, Alexander-Sévères something-or-other.

I stood and went to see Dumbledore.

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"You think he succeeded then, sir?" I asked, trembling in my seat. I felt cold as he explained it to me – as he showed me Slughorn's falsified memory. "You think that's what he did, why he didn't die when he attacked me? You think he had a Horcrux hidden somewhere? A bit of his soul safe somewhere." Bastard, I thought, rubbing my hands on my arms. I could tell from the look in his eyes I was still shimmering with a faint, electric-blue light. I couldn't get it to stop, no more than I could stop from feeling cold and scared and trembling. I didn't like feeling so weak. But I'd always been as weak as I was now. The showing of it was new. I didn't like it. Not at all.

"A bit… or more. I can't know the details – Horace, I think, is ashamed of what he remembers and tampered with his memory, tried to rework it to show himself in a better light, obliterating those parts which he does not wish me to see. It is, as you will have noticed, very crudely done, and that is all to the good, for it shows that the true memory is still there beneath the alterations – but Riddle always was too smart to show his hand if it wasn't necessary. For Tom to know that such a thing as Horcruces existed most likely entails that he already knew how to create one, or the basics thereof. But for him to risk asking someone who he could never be certain where his loyalties lay, or anyone at all… that is the rub, isn't it, Mrs. Snape?"

I held myself tighter. I still wasn't used to the idea of being Mrs. Snape, even after all this time. Mrs. Snape. How odd. How unbelievably odd. "So he'd only ask if it was something he couldn't find in books or papers," I thought out loud; the blue blanket of light tightened until it was like plastic cellophane around me. It warmed like a Zephyr Charm and tingled like a faint electrical shock. I thought it hummed. "Something new. Something different. Something that no one's ever tried before. Or something so old it predated the word." I was clutching my knees now and shaking. Or maybe I'd been this whole time. I stopped and turned towards him, lowering my feet from the chair to the floor. "You said – you said Riddle's diary was your proof, that Voldemort had split his soul. But he was still incorporeal then. He didn't come back until two years after the Chamber." My eyes found his twinkling ones. "The diary, it was… remarkably blasé of him. I mean, it held a piece of his soul. A half of it, if it was the first he made. He should have hidden it away. If he wanted to be immortal – if any one wanted to be immortal – they would hide the bit of their soul away where no one could find it, where no one would look for it. Don't the legends have it that Méléagre put a bit of his soul into a log and gave it to his mother Althaea to hide with her spinning things? And what about Rasputin? His was in a crucifix in the Peter and Paul Cathedral until Prince Felix destroyed it '36. But, rather than hide it away where it couldn't be found, or put it where it wouldn't be destroyed, Voldemort put it in the position where someone might destroy it, like me, without ever knowing what it was." I lowered my arms now, as words came back to me from that awful night, "I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality." "And he wasn't destroyed. Meaning…" further than anybody, "he has to have more then one, doesn't he? You think he has more than one Horcrux."

"Without Slughorn's un-tampered memory, my dear Harry, and much else besides, I cannot be certain, but, yes. Most likely. At least two, possibly a great many more, some inconspicuous – though I doubt that-"

The blue light faded into my skin now, though I felt I still glowed at the fingertips and about the eyelashes, and looked towards the table where the Gaunt ring lay. Voldemort had already been wearing it in Slughorn's altered memory. He was already a patricide – a murderer, like me. "He takes prizes. The rest, however many there are, are bound to be valuable. In plain sight, like Rasputin's, or places no one would think to look, like Méléagre's."

"Yes," Dumbledore said solemnly. "Most likely, yes."

I was biting my lip by this point. "But… how do you destroy them? It took Basilisk venom to break the spell on the diary. Even I know how rare and dangerous a thing that is. It would take something stronger than even an artafyrus… Fiendfyre, maybe… phoenix fire, even, if Fawkes would consent… I could get Sus to give me some of his venom, but…" I swallowed, "You said the power, the one I'm supposed to destroy Voldemort with, is love. None of those things are love; they're just some thinking and research. And it still doesn't solve the problem of Tommy himself. Even without his Horcruces, he's a powerful wizard. And I'm only… I'm just Éléonore."

He made it a point for his baby blues to meet my eyes. "Harry- Éléonore," he corrected, "I said it yesterday, and it's just as true now as it was then: love is a power no one, not even the most sagely, ever fully understands. Especially not Voldemort. Just take a look at your life, Éléonore. Parents murdered before you at such a young age, facing trial after trial here at Hogwarts – despite, I must add, much effort to keep you safe on my part – and the renewal of the war: it is amazing that you can love at all. Yet, here you are, with a school full of classmates who love you, not out of fear or a desire for power, but out of admiration; with true friends, who have stuck by you through much that would stretch any friendship; and, dare I say it, with Severus, who has been made as if reborn from your union – the antithesis of everything Voldemort believes. In spite of all the temptation you have endured, all the suffering, you remain purse of heart, just as pure as you were at the age of eleven, when you stared into a mirror that reflected your heart's desire, and it showed you only the way to thwart Lord Voldemort, and not immortality or riches. Éléonore, have you any idea how few wizards could have seen what you saw in that mirror? Voldemort should have known then what he was dealing with, but he did not!"

I struggled to get to my feet, and failed. Collapsing back, I shouted words that came out only as whispers and pained gasps.

"There it is again! What. Not who – but what. Like I'm only a weapon."

"Éléonore-"

"No. No. No. No. No! No matter which way you spin it you're still saying that my purpose – my only reason in life – is to destroy Voldemort! That's always what it's been. I've never been a person as far as you or anyone else has ever been concerned. You say my secret power, the one Voldemort doesn't understand, is love – but the only people who ever truly loved me are all in the ground! All of them, except for Severus!"

"Éléonore-"

"No! I won't stop it! I've a right to be angry, to be upset. You've seen them, hell, you saw them yesterday. The way they talk to me. The way they look at me," I made it to my feet and turned towards the table with the Gaunt ring. I picked it up and held it in my shaking hands, with the Peverell coat of arms split down the middle. It had held, what, a fourth of Tom Riddle's soul? If he made the diary first, and split his soul in half, that left him with half, and if the ring was second and he put half of what he had then into it then he'd a fourth left, then an eighth… and though they were lesser bits, they grew stronger as he grew stronger. It looked like something from a Beedle the Bard, but what did I know of Wizarding history? I closed the ring in my fist. "I'm only my parents' daughter to them, the bloody Girl-Who-Lived. I'm not a really bloody person, and the only one who has ever seen me as human the rest hate me for. Sure, I may love them, but they bloody well don't love me, sir. How's that for a secret weapon. I'll just walk up to Voldemort and tell him how much I love him, and won't he please just be my grandfather for ever and ever and give me dollies and puppies and bleeding picture books?" I threw the ring to the ground in cold fury. The stone popped out of the setting, showing that stone was still whole, only cracked halfway through. I didn't like it. It felt wrong. Anything that had a fourth of Voldemort's soul in it for long had to feel foul. This calmed me, somehow. I could handle evil. Love I couldn't understand. "This was a Horcrux." Was, as in no longer. I could sense it. In the way that any one could sense the presence – or the absence – of ultimate evil. "You destroyed the bit of soul in it without love, or a Basilisk fang. How?"

"Éléonore-"

"Oh, just forget it already," I picked up the stone and the gold band and placed it back on the table, and sat back down, clutching my sides and my back. "I'm over it. Me, weapon with a destiny. Just teach me how to destroy it…" I sunk as best as my ribs would let me. Ow. The uncomfortable bloating feeling of being three months going on four and slumped in a chair. Ow. And people said that the second trimester was the easiest of pregnancy. Or so I'd read. I'd not really discussed it with anyone, nor was Severus exactly knowing of these particular details of life, the universe, and everything.

I hated his twinkle. He was like a grandfather to me, he really was, and I looked up to him in all the ways a person could look up to another. I loved him, but, Merlin, he bugged me sometimes. He stood and walked around his desk – but didn't, as I thought he might, go to the table with the broken Gaunt ring, but to one of the many bookshelves in the office and removed a small blue book from it. "Have you ever read Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra?" Handing me the book, he returned to his desk. "A Muggle playwright, one of my favourites his play trilogy Mourning Becomes Electra is a retelling of Aeschylus's The Oresteia. The final play in the series, The Haunted, Lavinia Mannon is trying to break the curse on the Mannon family – the House of Atreus – and cries to her fiancé, 'Nothing matters but love, does it? That must come first! No price is too great, is it?'" Sighing, "You embody that idea, Éléonore. You may hate your family and friends at the same time you can still love them with all of your heart. No holds barred. In all my hundred and fifteen years, I've seen people who love and seen people who hate, I've seen one turned to the other and I've seen both fizzle into indifference, but I have rarely, if ever truly, seen one person do both so completely – without going mad."

I snorted at him, placing the book back down, "You forgot the rest of what Lavinia says, sir. 'Or for peace! One must have peace – one is too weak to forget – no one has the right to keep anyone from peace!' Is that what you want from me? For me to give my life to defeat this most recent of evils? Or, if I don't die, to live long enough to tell the next 'only hope' that they must be prepared to give his life in his battle against his evil? I tell you what, sir, I've read O'Neill. I've read Beckett. I've read The Brothers Karamazov. I don't care much for the big fight, I just want to live."

His eyes twinkled less then; his smile was grim and determined. "That is my wish for you too, Mrs. Snape… And so, for the first time, I am giving you homework – though I do think we can spare the few days it will take for your ribs to heal completely before you undertake it," his smiled grew warmer then, "and remind me, later, to congratulate Severus quite publicly. You must persuade Professor Slughorn to divulge the real memory, which will undoubtedly show us if our reckonings are true, and Riddle made not one, but at least two Horcruces before leaving this school, and that he may have desired to make still more from trophies dear to him until he succeeded in making himself something barely recognizable as human. Horace would not give it to me."

But he would to me. I was a favourite of his. Like Riddle…

I left the room in silence, not questioning this last logic, but, as I was heading down the stair, I heard Phineas Nigellus ask the Headmaster, "I don't know how you expect the girl to do any better than you, despite the heavy aura she was showing. She's only a child."

"I don't believe it was an aura, Phineas, but a new magic – or, rather, a very old one, if I'm not mistaken. There is more to Mrs. Snape then you would understand."

Yet, I still had Potions to go to after that wonderful talk and hardly any of my questions answered, including the most important one. But cutting classes after storming out of the hospital wing would earn me no friends and, besides, I was sure more people wanted to question my sanity over my marriage/murder/pregnancy. Couldn't disappoint them, now could I?

Chapter Twenty-Three.