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Someone To Run To (30/32)


Chapter Thirty, In Which I Become the Ghost of Easters Future


 

I forced myself out of bed a few hours after I woke to the pain that seemed to have become my existence. That was melodramatic, I know, but when you wake in bed after who knew how long, force the pain aside long enough to start cataloguing your injuries, and realize that every injury you relived in inexplicable memory-dreams had been inflicted, also inexplicably, upon your now severely beaten and bruised body, I dare you not to be melodramatic.

The noises of the house – HQ – had seemed strangely amplified in the silence of my room, even though they were few. I was alone when I woke, though the presence of armchairs near the bed and the scent heady scent of mint betrayed visitors that were not here now. The light filtering from behind the curtains was bright and lemony, and I guessed that it was early afternoon… Everyone had places to be that would be with me now, but I didn't mind. I wanted to figure out what had just happened before telling anyone else.

What had just happened? I'd never known of a demitimens with such scope, or one that had remained attached to an inanimate object – and Vladislas Tepes had made an exhaustive study of such things, if you could make it through his fascination with bloodshed to read it. A potion? Severus might know, he might have figured it out himself and saved me. I liked the idea of being saved by him. Saving myself was something I was too weak to do.

But had I? My mind had shown me over and over the death of my parents so that, intimately, I knew every second of it. My father, who'd fought for his family. My mother, who sacrificed her husband to save her daughter. The slightly warn edge of my father's sweater. The well-worn coffee table upon which two half-empty drinks glasses rested, a couple of old magazines, and tattered playing cards. The murderer as he entered my nursery, humanoid but not human – cold, not even malicious, just desirous of one end. I might have thought it was but a dream, no truth to it at all, but the lack of anger or any sort of passion in the man's snake eyes was enough to convince me of the truth of it. I don't know why. So what if I could not name the cause of the curse that had kept me in dreams for, what… the morning of the fourteenth to the evening of the eighteenth? how long was that? four days? The fact was there was something on the now Riddle-free Diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw that had trapped me in my bizarre state of hypnagogia…

Or had it? Maybe I'd just snapped. The stress had gotten too much for me and I'd broke. This was some kind of psychosis I didn't know the name for – but that was okay. I wasn't interested in medicine anyway. It was understandable that I didn't know what madness I might have. I couldn't be expected to know everything.

But I was. I had to know everything, or evil would win. How annoying.

Oh, did I honestly just think that? I was supposed to be trying to figure out how I had lived in memories for four days, suffered seemingly every injury I remembered (and I was oft injured in my life, and my mind had lingered on the worst memories besides) as if I had just received them? Could it be that my mind, my magic, was that powerful? I had thought it some tripwire of Voldemort's, like the potion in the cave, but it could have just been me. I'd snapped at the conflicting emotions of absolute joy and abject sorrow raging through me, and my mind had taken it out on my body. Simple as that. I hoped.

Sometime during this thought process I'd dragged my aching body into the attached bathroom and was now staring at the porcelain tub as if it were rather a Persian rug and could offer me the secrets of life. Maybe it did. My vague recollections of oneirology from Divs said how water was supposed to be cleansing and revitalizing, signifying a change of life or circumstance. I didn't know what dreaming of your parents' murders meant other then that you were crazy.

I decided, after several long minutes, that staring at an empty tub was not going to, a) help my claim of sanity or, b) get rid of the warm, sweaty feeling of being too long in bed. So I filled the tub and continued my thoughts as I unwound the bandages that covered my frame. I could only assume that, as I'd been pregnant until very recently (if I'd given birth on the evening of the eighteenth to Henri-Auguste, what day was it now, and where was my son, or had that pregnancy all been a dream too, or…?) Madam Pomprey had had to stick with Muggle methods of healing. Or maybe not. I remembered having dreamt of my wedding night and my murder of Trixie, yet my ribs didn't feel broken now. Sore, yes, but not broken. My whole body felt like I'd been through a meat grinder, and I didn't even look at the mirror, but it was unusual to say the least to unwind gaze and say to myself, that's the cut where Wormtail took my blood, that's the one I Dudley gave me when I was five; the pains I feel on my back must be from that time when I was eight…

The Basilisk wound on my right arm was weeping quite openly, not bandaged at all, the reason for which I discovered a moment later when I tried to dab it with a washcloth and fabric dissolved interestingly. It didn't seem to be doing anything to my skin where it pooled and, distracted by this new oddity, I didn't notice until there was water lapping at my feet that the tub had overrun.

"Idiot," I cursed myself and shut the water off, paying no heed to the overflow as I climbed in. The tiles were charmed to absorb water, though why no one had thought to charm the tub to keep water from escaping, I don't know.

I shouldn't be thinking about that anyway, not when I was trying to figure out what had happened to me. It's important, Éléonore. Focus! The water was so nice though, and it felt so good to finally have given birth and rid of that pain… and somewhat back to my original size. It was hard to remember what it was to be one size, having either been pregnant or recovering from pregnancy since my sixteenth birthday. And here I was, closer to eighteen then seventeen, with Claudia almost a year old and the baby… Henri-Auguste… who was who knew how many days old.

I could see one of those giant family portraits that people hung in dining rooms and over fireplaces in my mind now, only in some sort of museum with a little bronze placard beneath reading: Severus Eteocles Snape, Earl Dover, and wife, Alexandrie-Margaux Éléonore Henriette Black Potter, Baronne de Calais, with children Claudia-Éléonore Séléné and Henri-Auguste Sévères, and all the people who saw it would ask themselves how in their right minds someone saddled with a name like mine had found it in her heart to give such names to such small children. Severus was probably less then pleased that I'd chosen to name our son (I had a son!) after him, but Claudia was Claudia-Éléonore after me and it'd not hurt anybody, and, besides, Sévères was a French patronymic of his name, not Severus at all, so there.

Oh God, I was sounding like a petulant two year old. Hopefully Claudia wouldn't inherit my temper… or Henri-Auguste. That was probably too much to hope for though. If she was a Parslemouth, she'd probably go just as mad as I was… and Runespoors lived for centuries according to some of the books I'd read when trying to figure out what they ate (and, while I'd seen Paracelsus eat prophecies and beetles for fun, I'd never actually seen him eat eat anything), and so Paracelsus'd probably be around to pester her long after I was gone…

Henri-Auguste was probably hungry. If I were a newborn, I'd probably be hungry. I'd been alone in the room, so Henri-Aug- oh, that was going to get long to think, let alone say. For short I shall call him… well, not Henri – that sounds too close to Harry and no one, so help me God, was going to use that awful computer-mess-up of a name around me in any form; besides, the thought of him going by Harry Snape was just too much, and I began laughing uncontrollably at the thought. I don't know why, but it just sounded so funny, and after all my tense thoughts and mental battles and probable psychoses, it was nice to have something to laugh at. Now that he was out of me and my belly not the most painful thing about my existence, I found it all rather hilarious, what that labour was about the least painful thing my body had inflicted upon itself, and the whole I-just-now-realized-how-bloody-long-my-children's-names-are-and-that-I-must-now-invent-nicknames thing. I sure as hell wasn't going to call Claudia Cloudy, so her name could stay as it was- and what on earth does 'sure as hell' mean?

As you might imagine, the water was lukewarm when I managed to control my laughing. I felt guilty for that, and pulled myself out. Maybe I was cyclothymic. That was a fun word… psych-lo-thigh-mic

Oh this isn't helping anything! I'm the bloody Minister of Magic, damn the proxy. I'm the best DADA professor since Remus. I'm the Girl-Who-Lived. I am the wife of Severus Snape and mother of Claudia and… Auguste. I am Éléonore Snape, née Potter. I survived the Killing Curse. I have seen so in my own memories. Blood protection or no, when that bastard's wand turned on me, I survived and he had not. I was powerful. I was strong. And I knew it now. Regardless of what had happened while I was asleep, I'd not woken until I'd destroyed the Horcrux in my mind, and even if it was my own madness that had driven me to dream, I'd succeeded in releasing myself from it with that strange and maddeningly confusing Kubrick-esque sequence, where I could have sworn…

It didn't matter, though, what it was. I knew I was going to win now. True, I was still a few Horcruces short of the end (the real locket, the cup, the something else…), but I knew I could do it now.

First things first: must find Claudia and Auguste. As they weren't here, they must be somewhere else. Probably with Mrs. Weasley or one of their godparents (note to self, figure out godparents for Auguste: Tonks… Ron… and… maybe Professor Flit- I mean, Filius. He was nice to me, the new Deputy Headmaster, he and his family…). To find them, I obviously had to leave my rooms, which was problematic, as the only clothes that seemed to be present were those I'd worn since Valentine's Day. Careful scrounging through dresser drawers found me the better part of an ill-fitting outfit, and though I supposed I could conjure something, I wasn't secure enough in the longevity of my conjurings to risk their sudden disappearance. So, dressed in leftover summer things, I grabbed a blanket and strapped it around me like a toga before, slowly, making the trek downstairs.

It was silent, the hall, further suggesting it was mid-afternoon and everyone was elsewhere, doing what needed to be done at St. Mungo's or Hogwarts or getting foodstuffs in Muggle markets or battling evil. It was amazing how, given enough time, even that battle had become somewhat trivial. Wake, counter-attack, eat, sleep. The delightful banality of it. The rush to get everything done, the anger and sorrow when we failed, the delight when we succeeded – how different was it, really, from the rush to finish homework, the anger and sorrow of a failed test, the delight of an academic success? My KoRT, for all their living in shadows and tents on Hogwarts grounds, for all the injuries and battles and, yes, deaths, was still living. Life went on. Fleur was still the Fleur of madding shopping trips (though these days they were mostly plans for raids on Manolo Blahnik and Galeries Lafayette rather then actual trips), Remus still had his werewolf worries (especially now that Tonks was pregnant, and how, in every known instance of a werewolf and a non-werewolf conceiving, the werewolf had been the witch; he worried constantly about her, but he would have worried about Tonks regardless of war); and I was still me, with classes to attend and teach, papers to grade, and even the search through the histories for something that might have been made by Riddle into a Horcrux seemed routine.

I may have lived in a closet for ten years, but I'd read books and seen some movies. Wasn't war supposed to be bitter and bleak and Merlin-knew what else? Wasn't it wrong for it to be so trifling, something that only happens in the background of daily living? Maybe that's what war really was, a general feeling giving a certain patina to an age, and the peace that followed but a different light over the endless repetition of the evolutionary onus of birth and life and death, and that what we were fighting for never really meant anything because, regardless of the outcome, it would still be birth and life and death that went on in the world and always would be that cycle with its insignificant but oh-so-important worries about money and lovers and fashions and politics and art.

But I cannot believe that. It was important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated, and leave people free to worry about money and lovers and fashions like they should. As trite and awful as it seemed, they should be allowed to do that, if that was their will, because the will was sovereign and there was no right in the world for anyone, be it God or Merlin or a Dark bastard like Voldemort to make slaves of anyone. If people wanted to be cold and cruel and petty idiots, it was their right…

I felt the weight of it all pressing down on me again and tired to shrug it off. I was strong. I would win. Or so I kept telling myself as I made my agonizing way down the stairs, having forgotten all the injuries my body had been inflicted with over the years. It seemed so silly, little seventeen-year-old-me being tasked with all of this. Look at me. Just look at me. Or not, I can't be so pretty looking right now.

I went in the kitchen, to use the floo. Perhaps it was just because I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts, but I didn't hear the faint sound of cabinets being opened and closed until I was in the room.

"Er, hi," I said, pulling the blanket more tightly around me though there was no real reason for me to do so, addressing the man and woman in the room. "What are you doing in my kitchen?"

They turned around. The man was fifty, give or take a half-decade. A pair of wire glasses was perched on his nose, his hair coffee-brown once but now more then peppered with grey. The woman was younger, though not by much, and brilliantly blonde. Their teeth were both impeccably straight and white as they smiled abashedly at me. I felt I should recognize them.

"They are your old nest-mate'sss," Par hissed from his place in front of the silent fireplaces.

"Egg-layersss. Death Eatersss attacked their nest."

"In Speldhurst two daysss ago. Gran-père and."

"The-one-who-wantsss-to-be-hisss-nest-mate," that was a new nickname. I wonder who Acel meant, "brought."

"Them from St. Mungo'sss thisss morning. But they are sieging."

"The hospital again and Gran-père had to go back right away."

"And there wasss some crisis in Strathmashie that Wantsss-to-be-Gran-père'sss-nest-mate."

"Had to leave to take care of. They've been opening cabinetsss for."

"The last half-hour."

"It isss very annoying."

"Make them stop."

"Oh," I gasped, the sadness hitting me like an iaceo, "Drs. Granger! Sorry, I didn't recognize you! I'm so glad to see you're both okay. Does Hermione know you're here?"

"Éléonore?" Mrs. Granger asked. I struggled for a moment to remember her name before it came to me: Miranda. She was Miranda, he was Grant. So lost am I in remembering their names I fail to notice the surprise with which they spoke mine. It seems that the symptom of being lost in my own mind has not gone away with my waking. I obviously needed psychological help. Or something. If only Dumbledore was here to ask-

No. I couldn't do that again. He'd told me about the Hollows. He'd told me the Basilisk venom in the Sword could destroy the Horcruces as I'd thought. He was dead. The dead should be allowed to rest in peace (There's peace in the green fields of Eden, they say! You got to die to find out!) and not bothered by the living. Not Dumbledore. Not Dumbledore then… It'd be wonderful to speak to my parents, though, after seeing how they died for me and tell them- but no. They'd be ashamed of me, and I couldn't live with that knowledge… The dead must remain dead, for the living to live on…

Oh, here I am, distracted again, and Grant and Miranda Granger were worrying over me, asking me why I was up and about when what skin my blanket didn't cover showed every sort of injury imaginable. For a moment, I'd even forgotten the pain again; now that it had returned, I did everything possible to forget it again.

Too glibly, "I've known worse tortures," and, indeed, I had, at my mind's own hand. But still, not the sort of conversation you have with your friend's parents. "I suppose you're looking for something to eat. Sorry the kitchen isn't too Muggle-friendly – you'll need a wand to turn the oven on – and, do forgive me if I sound rude, but I doubt you know how to use one like that. Where'sss Winky? Doesss she have Claudia and Auguste?"

"Isss that what you're calling the boy-child?"

"Don't be mean, Susss, I like the name."

"You like the Spice Girlsss and Vanilla Ice," the third head accused.

"So?"

Par huffed, then answered my question, "No. Your nestlingsss were with the shape-shifter and the quarter-Veela at Hogwartsss, last we heard."

"Well, that'sss good, at least. Winky?" I called into thin air, and the Grangers continued to look at me oddly until the house elf appeared and they looked at her oddly instead.

"Oh, Mistress Éléonore Potter ma'am, we was so worried, we were! What is you doing out of bed? You is sick-"

"I'm just going back to Hogwarts, Winky," I cut in before I could be forced back upstairs. "If I'm confined to bed, I want to at least be in mine. Do you mind taking care of the Drs. Granger here while we're all gone?"

Before she could answer, I was through the floo, Paracelsus resting like furs on my shoulder.

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

Several hours later, "Let me get this perfectly straight, Éléonore, because this is a mad scheme even for you: you want to go to the Siege of St. Mungo's," Remus paused, seeming to want my confirmation on this point. I nodded, feeing determined. I'd stood up and taken action with the diadem. I was more then willing to do so again now. I was feeling slightly confused still, as if I'd been up drinking the night before, but no where near as blurry as I'd felt earlier…

"Alexandrie-Margaux!" Fleur had cried, "je suis si heureux que vous soyez éveillés, mon chère," as I tumbled out of the fireplace. She'd been holding a bundle wrapped in a pale blue blanket as she stood, moving from the table where a large map and several unidentifiable books were spread out. There'd been the faint hum of something orchestral – Holst's "The Planets Suite" maybe – in the background, though I didn't see the radio anywhere. I figured the house elves must be listening too it, and shrugged it off, not really caring enough, at the moment, to look for it.

"Éléonore!" Tonks had called, as equally as excited as she pulled herself and her seven-month belly to her feet, (resplendent in a shirt that blinked between

WARNING!

sex in a hot tub does

not prevent pregnancy

and

neither does toothpaste

in electric blue).

"I'm so glad you're awake!"

"That's exactly what I said, idiote."

"We excusez-moi," she said pretentiously, "I don't speak French."

They'd continued to banter back and forth, but I paid no attention to them as Claudia, who'd been sitting on the floor beside Tonks, half-crawled and (yes, though I didn't believe it myself) half-walked towards me, babbling, "Mummy! Mummy home!"

I'd laughed again, normally this time, and fell to my knees to pick her up. It hurt like hell and something worse, but I was so happy to be able to take my daughter in my arms and hold her, watch her walk and call for me. "Claudia!" I'd swung her up and forced myself onto my feet. "Mummy missed you. Have Auntie Fleur and Auntie Tonks been taking good care of you?" She giggled, and I kissed the crown of her head. My baby girl…

…Forcing myself back into reality, "Yes."

"And you don't just want to go and help, which would be bad enough considering half of everything I can see of you is bandaged, but want to go and taunt the enemy?"

"Well, it's more of a message then a taunt, but, essentially, yes. And now that I've given birth, most of the injuries will be healed by tomorrow morning thanks to the wonders of modern potioneering…"

…Fleur had handed me the blue blanket that contained my son. My son. I pulled back the blanket and stared at the miracle that I had managed not to destroy. He wasn't asleep, not then, and was looking up and me unwaveringly with brilliant emerald eyes that I knew so well, though their shape was more like Severus's then my own, more amygdaloidal then round. Pale features – what else could have been expected given my husband's dungeon-dweller and my own part-albino nature? – and that same unfortunate nose. Beautiful whips of red hair that I remembered so clearly from my memories of my parents' death. A beautiful, vivid ginger – my mother's ginger. I'd been so prepared to hate him, but seeing him I couldn't. I couldn't hate this baby boy with my mother's hair and my husband's nose that I resented myself for conceiving. I was in love the moment I laid eyes on him, just as I'd been with Claudia. There was some hormone that did that, I don't know what it was called, but I didn't care. He was my son, and I loved him. I could barely tear myself away to ask what day it was, unknowing of how long I'd been "dreaming."

"Vendredi," Fleur answered distractedly, looking me up and down, curious as to my well-being and, quite possibly, choice of clothing. "Vendredi après-midi."

Tonks snorted, "Speak English, gabacha," she muttered good-naturedly, changing her nose to a pig snout for my daughter's pleasure. Or maybe just to annoy Fleur – it was hard to tell sometimes.

"Well excuse me, chicard, if I am too worried about my friend to 'ave a moment to remember what language I 'ave to address my concerns in!"

"I don't know what you just said, but I take offence to it."

…Remus pinched the bridge of his nose. "And," he asked for one last clarification, "you want me to distract Padfoot long enough for you to do this."

I smiled wryly at the werewolf, who was, for all intents and purposes, the man in charge as St. Mungo's. "Yes – unless Ari's back."

…I'd asked, as soon as I could pull myself away from the contemplation of my children, what was going on in Strathmashie that they'd left to Muggles alone in a magical and still rather Dark house.

"There was a Dementor attack there two nights ago. Muggle authorities are trying to attribute their victims to some kind of supervirus. Ari went to take care of things a little while ago, though."

This caused me pause. If it was Ari who went to Strathmashie… I'd turned on the Runespoor. "Ari isss 'Wantsss-to-be-Gran-père'sss-nest-mate'?"

"Yesss."

"Obviously."

"Of course. Do you know anyone else who'd want to be Gran-père'sss nest-mate?"

"I dunno," it seemed like my plans, which I'd hardly followed through on at all, were coming to fruition. Curious, "Does Siriusss want to share a nest with her?"

"Obviously."

"Évidemment."

"Show off," Sus'd snapped…

Tonks, who was sitting next to her husband, snorted. Even Fleur, across from her, had to struggle to conceal an amused smile. Remus too rolled his eyes at this.

Severus, however, was not pleased. Anything involving my adoptive father made him less then pleased. I refused to get into their arguments, and Merlin knew they'd had them, and anytime one started to tell me about the other, I walked out. Sirius was my father, in every way a person could have a father at seventeen. And Severus was still a right nark at times, but I loved him. They could hate each other; I just didn't want to be involved. Nonetheless, Severus responded to thought of his high school nemesis being sexually involved with anyone, even in rumour, with much the same result as Sirius would have: inwardly, he was slightly ill at the thought; outwardly, he didn't give a pair of pixies' wings and didn't want to hear another word about it. Well, how Sirius would have reacted if the one Severus was sexually involved with wasn't me…

Then again, Severus just mightn't have been pleased because, entering HQ that evening after I'd explained what little I knew and what I wanted to do, we'd found 'my' friends gathered around the dining room table, planning as always. He was more sociable then he'd been when I'd first, er, propositioned him, but this was Severus we were talking about, and my friends would only ever be my friends.

Or he mightn't have been pleased because, after settling Claudia in the playpen that remained in one corner of the kitchen and securing Auguste in a sling, that I'd batted aside all help and proceeded to toss things together for a quick-rising bread and a stew even if, as Remus claimed, I was bandaged severely. They all urged me to rest, that one of them would do it, but after a few choice words on how a certain someone's potions were healing cuts and scrapes as we spoke and a few more about how I'd spent the last week – for I'd been informed by this point that it was currently the twenty-first, a week after I'd fallen into my bizarre coma – lazing about doing nothing, they finally decided to let me. Mostly because they were hungry.

Or maybe it was just because I could not julienne, brunoise, or batonnet for the life of me, and Severus despised seeing any ingredient for whatever purpose treated in such a way…

…The strangest thoughts had been passing through my head on my way from the kitchens to the dungeons. Not strange, wrong, but strange, unusual. It was strange to think that I had once been a baby like the ones I carried in my arms, so dependant on my parents for my every need. Paracelsus was still mildly appalled at how little Claudia could do on her own, and, admittedly, it was rather ridiculous, not that I begrudged her that. But still. There was something so amazingly ridiculous in the thought that she – or I – or he – depended so upon others to care for her when, in years that were not really long at all, she'd be more then able to do them herself, fully competent and, through gift of magic, be able to bend reality to her – or my – or his – will. I could see why Voldemort had so adamantly tried to find whatever hidden power I had that allowed me, as a baby, to defeat him.

Dumbledore had always told me, when he told me anything at all, that it was Mum's sacrifice that had protected me. If it was, I'd transferred it to my children last summer; if not, I'd wasted a lot of mental agony for nothing. I couldn't have been the only child in all of the sickly history of that curse whose parents had died for them, begging to be taken instead. My survival and Voldemort's pseudo-demise couldn't be some… singular event, some unique occurrence unrepeatable and irrational. I didn't want to believe that I was special, that I was… exceptional. But I was. I am Éléonore Snape, née Potter. I survived the Killing Curse and my own mind. I am strong…

Voldemort had been a baby once. Little Tommy Riddle, alone in the world, with a father who didn't want him and a dead mother, in St. Giles' Orphanage. He must hate the thought that he'd been so dependant on someone else. The Philosopher's Stone would only have been a step on his way to immortality – he'd not have consented to being dependant on even that. But wasn't he dependant on his Horcruces – all of them – to keep him from being killed? Surely he had to remember that Méléagre had been killed after his mother burnt his Horcrux, as had Rasputin when Prince Felix found his.

I'd tried to reconcile the idea of such a small, innocent thing as the baby boy in my arms (forgetting instantly all the anger I'd ever had for him while he was in my womb, which now seemed both moments and millennia ago) becoming something such as Voldemort, or that Voldemort had ever been one such as he. Even thinking that, I could scarcely recognize myself as that baby in my dreams, with the house falling down around me, or that small child in my memories of life at Azkaban South. I barely could acknowledge my memories of myself a year ago with myself now. And yet I felt I had not changed. Maybe I hadn't, inside, and it had been but my wrapping that was different… But there'd been something in me even then that had led me to this… My parents were good people. And yet I… I… I couldn't bring myself to think what I'd done to this world; I'd remembered well enough over this past week for a lifetime's worth of torture.

And yet, despite it all, there was still something human in Voldemort, even if I didn't want to believe it. Humans had predictable responses. Deny us water, we grow thirsty. Poke us, we jump back. Make us afraid for what we loved, and we'd rush to protect it. There I'd been, worried about my family, and even though I was covered in partially healed wounds with aching ribs and a weeping Basilisk fang wound, and I'd rushed to find my family.

The only thing Voldemort cared about himself, however, was himself. But the Horcruces were part of him. They shared bits of his soul. They were him in a way his body no longer was only; they secured him to this plane of existence. Threaten them, and he'd rush to them. It wouldn't help me to figure out where Slytherin's locket was, but it would help me figure out where he'd hidden the cup and the other thing.

I hoped…

…Or it might just be that I'd gotten injured, again, and he'd not been able to stop it. He took that sort of thing rather badly…

…After flooing into the kitchens and liberating my children from Fleur and Tonks, I'd headed down to the dungeons to find Severus, desperate to have him figure out what had just happened to me, because God knew I couldn't figure it out for myself right now. I felt like I'd taken 'Shrooms or something, I was on such a trip. Not that I've ever taken 'Shrooms, but you don't go through seven years of boarding school without learning some interesting things.

All I was really certain of was that, a) Severus was a brilliant potioner and had potions that could make these God-awful wounds hurt less (and, no, I didn't even think of going to the infirmary or, heaven forbid, staying in bed until someone came for me), b) I wanted to make certain that Severus was alive and hadn't killed anyone in what was sure to be his worry for me, and, c) if anyone could make any sense (or use) out of Basilisk venom seeping from my elbow, it would be Severus.

"Where'sss a God-damned minging phoenix when you need one!"

"Albuquerque," Acel told me, sliding down my arm a little and prodding my venom-leaking wound with his tail. To my surprise, it seemed to do him no harm.

"Why," Sus asked with the patience of one who suffers fools not at all, "would a fire-bird be in Albuquerque?" I was more curious as to how I was supposed to go around for the rest of my life with Basilisk venom, or something like it, seeping from my right elbow.

Evenly, "Why not? Besidesss, Bugsss Bunny alwaysss getsss lost there; I figured that it'sss sorta like the place to go for all creaturesss in need of a vacation from crazy scale-lessss onesss."

"Have you ever felt the need to go to Albuquerque?"

With what must have been a slightly worrisome look on my face, I manoeuvred the arguing Runespoor around my elbow like a tourniquet. "Well…. No…"

"My point exactly."

I rolled my eyes at them. "Paracelsusss, did you go-"

"Ebenau!" Par'd suddenly shouted, loud enough to scare Auguste, who was unlike Claudia unused to his brothers' unending enthusiasm.

"Gesundheit," I'd cursed, trying to calm my son down, which wouldn't have been so hard if Paracelsus hadn't begun fighting amongst himself again. "Only you," I told my children (God, how long was it going to take to get used to that plural?), "are lucky enough that, whatever idiocies you may get into when you're older, your brothers will have done worse." Whatever the Runespoor meant by Ebenau, I didn't care, though I was somewhat surprised when he slithered down my arm and onto the floor, saying he was going to ask one of the school owls for a ride and that he'd be back later. No idea what he meant, only that I was certain none of the school owls would be taking a three foot, three-headed snake anywhere of their own volitions.

I continued on, trapped too trapped in my thoughts to pay them much attention. But I could feel myself growing saner as I walked, the vague feeling that something wasn't all there with me anymore falling away with each step. I destroyed the diadem. That was one less Horcrux. A smoke had poured out of it, one that reminded me of the echo that came out of the diary, but I'd AK-ed that. I almost one hundred percent certain I had. Then, not right away, but soon after, I'd fallen into malignant memory. I'd no idea why, but I had. I'd fallen out of it, perhaps because of the physical strain of childbirth, or some potion they'd given me, or because I'd destroyed the diadem in my dream. These thoughts carried me to his classroom where, because there was no God or, if there was one, he enjoyed torturing me in new and inventive ways, I discovered my friends had been lying and it wasn't Friday afternoon. Darn close, yes, but still morning enough for lunch not to have been served and, therefore, all my Potions NEWT classmates were still frantically stirring whatever torture Severus had set for them today.

He didn't look up, though some of my classmates did and blinked as if they'd seen a Madonna. Well, it isn't every day you see someone toting a baby around Hogwarts, let alone two. I'd been sorely tempted to snap at them, "If I throw a stick, will you leave?" but knew it was stupid even as I thought it. They had to stay, and probably feared my husband's wrath more then mine. Cowards. At least they knew better to whisper to themselves in his class. That would have lead to something really embarrassing like, I dunno, Severus noticing me and being all happy and showing it. That wouldtotally ruin his persona of most-evil-non-Dark-Lord out there, and he'd never forgive me, even if I was his wife.

I was almost to his desk when I finally spoke, having taken a moment to catalogue all the changes that he'd undergone in a week. He'd looked tired and somewhat broken – not that anyone probably could tell but me; hell, I might be making these things up and not know any better when it came to Severus and his emotions sometimes, though the way he held himself as he sat there made me doubt that was the case. He looked like he'd spent every moment of the past week trying to help me. I don't know what I did to deserve someone like him, but didn't care. He loved me, I loved him, and that was all I really needed. Besides world peace and a way to keep Paracelsus from finding all the Muggle pop stations that we shouldn't get reception for at Hogwarts. Dimly, I wondered what the Runespoor had wanted a ride for, but shook it out of my head quickly. "I think you need a permit to be so morose, Sev'rus," I tried – and failed – to make light. I've still got the seal-maker upstairs, somewhere; if you want, I can run and get it for you."

With monumental self-control, he stood and, with only a hint of surprise, spoke my name. Then with a look that said, "If you don't tell me right this instant why you are not resting, in bed, healing all these injuries I've no idea how you got sleeping and preparing to tell me why exactly your Runespoor interrupted my class last week to lead me back to our rooms so I could find you in a coma or why there was a sword stuck in the bathroom tiles…" he gestured towards his office door.

I returned his with a look of, "Don't expect any answers out of me, I'm far from having any."

"So you just felt like slipping into a coma for a week?" he quipped back with his eyes.

"Beat the hell out of having to be conscious and giving birth. I swear, if you even think about knocking me up again before the new millennium," my eyebrows somehow managed to get across, "I will garrotte you to within an inch of your life with the pinkest pair of shoelaces I can find." I trailed after him to his office nonetheless. Almost immediately I crashed onto the lovely old couch, placing Claudia at the far end of it and snuggling Auguste to me as I curled up.

I near fell asleep in the three seconds it took me to do that, and was startled into waking when Severus, in a mood I was too tired to read, said, "Do you want to tell me what happened to you? Starting with the part where you decided to destroy a Horcrux," (this he hissed in such a way that it sounded more like the Parseltongue for, "Ever just asss sure," and forced me to contain a giggle I was sure he'd not appreciate me loosing), "without telling anyone."

Blinking stupidly for a moment at him, I tried to figure out where to begin. "So you're not angry?"

"Angry? What in Merlin's name would I be angry about? You've spent a week in a coma; I've not had time for anger – though next time you choose to stupidly endanger yourself, please don't drag our children into it."

Well, Severus, I'm sorry, but you knew how insane I was when you married me, I thought to myself. I can't keep my temper in check half the time and apparently don't know how to work contraceptive potions properly and what little sanity I have is slowly being driven out by a Runespoor with an addition to radio and human sexuality. "It's hard to be rational," I tried, surprised to find myself yawning. How could I be so tired after sleeping for a week? God, I hoped I didn't fall back into that hell of dreaming… "when you feel your life is spinning out of control."

Sadly – defiantly sadly – "Why didn't you tell me?"

I was hormonal and peeved at you and hadn't planned on doing anything until I decided that destroying a piece of Lord Voldemort's soul in our bathroom was a grand old idea. "It's not like I planned it or anything." I yawned again. "I blame the hormones."

And then I'd fallen asleep, which I think pissed him off the most about this whole thing…

I dunno. But by the time I awoke again he'd calmed down and prepared more potions for me. In fact, he was probably just displeased because he'd learned what I'd dreamt this week. It was sweet and stupidly annoying. He'd tried to talk me out of my idea, but what can I say, I was an idiot and wanted this battled to end.

No, let me revise that. I am totally and completely an idiot. This is a fact of life. As I've said before, I apparently don't know how to work basic prophylactic potions. Or something. So it's pretty much a sure thing that I'd do something idiotic again. Like go after Quirrel-mort alone. Like go into the Chamber. Like trying to go after my parents' betrayer with a thirteen-year-old witch and wizard. Like not running the instant I saw Wormtail that night. Like going to the DoM. Like not being able to save Dumbledore. Like calling up his memory again and destroying a Horcrux in the bathroom…

Like telling Voldemort's minions that their master needed to keep a better eye on his belongings… Which was what I planned to do, tomorrow.

I think I'll take Sirius's motorbike. There's probably a leather jacket of his I can borrow in the attic. Maybe I can even clean a little and calm myself down, talk myself out of my idiotic plans. They worried I'd over-exhaust myself, but I didn't care. I needed to think, and thinking wasn't coming too clearly. Yes, cleaning was the answer. And then baking some pies. And then, maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to realize that everything in my world was going right for once and I didn't need to fight, or fear. Yes, cleaning. I'd find myself a leather jacket to wear while riding to my "appointment" at St. Mungo's siege, and I'd clean the attic in the process. There were a tonne of Dark stuff up there. Maybe even something on Basilisks and antidotes for the poison it looks like is going to be flowing out of me like some sick, never ending elbow-period…

Oh, God, I'm going mad.

) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) (

There were, in fact, three leather jackets in the attic. One had a furry Padfoot sewn on the back and looked, if I do say so myself, utterly stupid. Another was dark green dragon hide. I took that one, even though it was a little large. I was totally going to be the coolest teacher at Hogwarts now. I took a minute to process this thought in my head and consider my co-workers. Not much competition there, at least with the current staff. In fact, I think I might just be the coolest because the girls made me blush during that stupid Sex Ed class. I shutter at the memory. Still, I shrugged it on and started opening boxes and trunks, more out of habit then actual cleaning…

There was also a locket, emblazoned with an emerald "S" that reeked the Darkest cold I wished I could say I'd never felt before. Being the idiot I am, I shouted for Severus then, turning my arm so that the still-weeping Basilisk Venom could drip onto it, not thinking further then, "This is so gross," and, "Either I'm hallucinating or…"

I really hoped I didn't end up in another coma.

Chapter Thirty-One.