Chapter 43 : Midnight's Child
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With a wave, Jack had disappeared back into Sherwood, vanishing into the trees in a twinkling. Harry reverently took the jar and tucked it in his pocket. He was very touched that the Green Man would bring him a gift, and such a useful one at that. He was sure it would come in handy, given the amount of injuries he tended to pick up while at school.
Some of his other gifts included Zonkos products from Ron, Fred and George, a beautiful black mohair jumper with a unicorn's silver outline upon it from Molly, Hermione gave him a silver torc with two unicorn heads upon each end, the ancient Celts used to wear them as a status symbol, if they were warriors or chieftains, or members of a noble house. "I figured since you are Selene's descendant, you should have something like this, to remind you of both the past and the future."
He had thanked her and allowed her to place the ornate silver ring about his neck, with the unicorns facing forward.
Sirius and Remus gave him some chocolates from Honeydukes, a set of professional Chudley Cannon Quidditch robes, and a new cage for Hedwig.
Later, once all the guests had gone home, Harry found more presents waiting to be opened.
There was a small envelope from Draco, who was now vacationing in France with Narcissa for the rest of the summer. Harry opened it to find a rather elegant birthday note.
I wanted to get you something for your birthday, and finally decided that these tickets to the Chudley Cannons vs Wimbourne Wasps game was a good idea. Perhaps we can go together during break? See you at school.
Happy birthday and best wishes,
Harry was surprised that Draco had even remembered his birthday, much less gave him a gift. There were three tickets in the envelope. So perhaps he could have both Ron and Draco come with him. Right, and then you could spend the entire game trying to keep the peace between them. He reminded himself. Maybe it would be more prudent to take Draco and Hermione instead. He could always go with Ron alone another time.
From Severus there was a fine black snakeskin daybook with an etching of a horse galloping upon the cover. It came complete with a special silver gyrfalcon quill, which was enchanted to write in expensive invisible ink. "Writing my thoughts down often helps me put things in perspective and organize my thoughts. With the invisible ink, you can write whatever you wish and never worry about anyone reading it unless you wanted them to. The pen will never run out, it's a magically refillable one."
"Thanks, Severus! It's a great gift."
"Use it well, Harry." Then Severus reached into a pocket and withdrew a gorgeous silver ring, it was triple strands of silver entwined with a silver crescent atop it. It was sized for a woman's hand, however. "This belonged to your mother, Harry. When she passed away, she bequeathed this to me, for remembrance. I think you should have it now. When you are ready to become engaged, you could use this as a betrothal ring."
Harry stared at the silver ring cradled in his palm. It lay there, winking softly in the sunlight streaming through the kitchen window, the only tangible link he had to a mother he hardly remembered, who had also been Selene's avatar. He suddenly felt a pang of intense regret that he would never know Lily the way Severus had, or James the way Sirius did. He shut his hand over the ring and said softly, "Thanks, Severus. I'll make sure the girl I give it to is worthy of her legacy."
Severus squeezed his shoulder gently. "You do that, Harry. Lily would have wanted it that way."
The green eyes met his and were filled with a silent longing for what might have been. Abruptly, Severus drew the fifteen-year-old into a quick embrace, giving him the comfort he craved but would have never dared to ask for. Harry leaned his head upon Severus' shoulder, needing his guardian's solid presence. No words were spoken. They needed none. Severus understood.
After a few long moments, Harry drew away, having regained control over his wayward emotions. "It was a good birthday, Severus. The best I've ever had."
Severus smiled, a rare open smile, and gently ruffled Harry's hair. "That's as it should be. Try not to stay up all night watching TV with Hermione, all right?"
Since it was his birthday, Harry was allowed to stay up as late as he wished. "I won't."
Then Severus left the two teens to finish celebrating Harry's fifteenth birthday and retreated to his bedroom. He wished to read before going to sleep.
After getting into his sleepwear, Severus stretched out upon his bed and relaxed, he was pleasantly weary and found the novel Pillars of the Earth engaging enough to keep him reading for a few hours. When he felt his eyelids starting to droop, he quickly found a small ribbon scrap to mark his place, and then laid the book on his nightstand and fell asleep.
He slept deeply without dreams, until the moon was high, and then he woke, hearing a familiar voice calling his name.
Severus! Wake, beloved!
He sat up, the moonlight streaming in the window caressing his body in a gentle embrace. "Selene?" he murmured. "Where are you?"
"I am here."
And She was, standing in front of the window, Her tall form glowing with lambent magical energy. She was wearing robes of pale lavender with crescent moons and stars that glittered iridescent splendor when the moonlight hit them. Her pale hair fell like a cloak down her back, Her violet eyes gazed upon Her consort in loving benediction.
Severus would have risen from the bed and come to Her, but She held up a hand. "No, my love. There is no need for you to get out of bed. What I have to say can be said with you there as anywhere. In fact, maybe it's best if you're already lying down."
Severus felt uneasy, and fear squirmed within his soul. "Selene, what is it? Has something happened? Are you . . .do you wish to . . .break off our liaison?" The words came out of his mouth reluctantly, but he had to ask.
"Ah, Sev, no! Never that! You are my Consort, forever mine, have I not said so?" She smiled at him and he felt a wave of love wash over him and suddenly he no longer doubted that he was Her beloved. "I bring tidings of great joy, husband." She cupped a hand about her belly, which was still flat. "The Great Marriage has borne fruit and I am with child."
"With chi—you're having a baby?" he blurted, her words making his head spin. "You're carrying my child?" he repeated, trying to make sense of it all. He felt muddled and unable to think straight, his mind awash with strange new feelings. Feelings of tenderness, protectiveness, and a vast all-consuming love both for his goddess-wife and the new life within her. And yet at the same moment he was beset with fear—fear that he was now responsible for yet another life, and fear that he would be inadequate to raise the child of an immortal. What do I know about being a father? I've only been a guardian for a few months. What do I know about caring for a tiny baby?
Panicked, he gazed at Selene with wide obsidian eyes.
She came to him then, sitting upon the bed and drawing him into Her arms. "Calm, Sev. Breathe, beloved. Just keep calm and breathe. This was what I had hoped for. That together we would have a child to celebrate our love, to be our legacy of magic. Don't be afraid. You'll do fine."
"I . . .But Selene . . .I barely know how to handle two teenagers . . .much less a baby . . .I don't know if I'm ready . . ."
She drew his head down and carded her fingers through his hair. "Of course you are, love. Don't doubt yourself. You are a wonderful father to Hermione and Harry and you will be the same to this babe. Believe it."
He gazed into Her violet eyes and saw the inescapable conviction in them. He relaxed and his breathing slowed. When he was calm again, Selene took his hand and guided it to her middle, splaying his long fingers across her stomach.
"Feel that, Severus? That is our baby, the blessed child of the marriage of land and sky, mortal and immortal. Listen, and you shall hear its little heart beating." She placed Her hand atop his and whispered a small amplifying spell.
Immediately, Severus heard the ka-thump, ka-thump of a heartbeat and his jaw grew slack with awe. All of his uncertainty vanished in that instant, as the baby within became more than just a nameless, faceless thing. Now it became a human being. Severus Snape listened to his baby's heartbeat and felt a warm glow suffuse him.
He wrapped his arms about Her protectively. That's my baby inside there. My child. My beautiful miracle. The room echoed to the sound of the embryo's heartbeat, and Severus felt his mouth stretch into an unaccustomed grin. "I'm going to be a father."
"Yes. Are you happy, Sev?"
He nodded. "Yes. So much that I . . .there aren't words to express just how happy I am . . ." He blinked back sudden tears. "Do you know if it's a boy or girl?"
Selene smiled. "I could find out quite easily, but I wish to be surprised."
"I see. That's fine then. When are you due?"
She chuckled. "Were I an ordinary mortal, I would be due sometime around April. However, I am not subject to mortal time or a mortal body, and time runs differently in the Realms Above than it does here. Going by that, the baby should be due sometime in December. When next you see me, our baby shall be born, and ready to meet his or her father."
She shrugged. "It is the way of the immortals."
"Is there anything I need to do for you while you're pregnant?" he asked solicitously.
She laughed, not unkindly. "No, love. I do not suffer physical ailments the way pregnant mortals do. A pregnant goddess blossoms like the desert after a drenching rain. The only thing that plagued me when last I carried a child was the occasional bout of irritability and melancholy. But it passed swiftly. I cannot afford to indulge myself in that fashion, not with the powers I wield. You'll see."
"How, if you're not going to come to me until the baby is born?"
"I shall not come physically, but I can be with you in dreams."
He lifted his head and their mouths met in a scorching kiss. "Selene, I've missed you. I know it hasn't been that long since we were together, but it feels like an eternity." He told her afterwards.
"For me as well. I am sorry I cannot be together with you all the time. But duty takes precedence over pleasure, even for a goddess. Perhaps especially for a goddess. But my heart belongs to you alone, Severus Snape. Always remember that. When you look up at the moon, know that somewhere I am looking back at you." She kissed him fervently. "And wishing that I could make time stand still again, just for you."
Suddenly he found himself flat on his back upon the bed, with an armful of a very amorous goddess. "Selene, are you sure we should . . .? What about the baby?"
"The baby is fine, Sev. Trust me." Selene laughed throatily. "Tonight belongs to us."
They made love over and over again till the night waned, and then Selene kissed Severus farewell and left him, sleepy and sated. Until we meet again, Sev. As quickly as she had come, she vanished, returning to the Realm of Immortals as the first rosy hint of dawn tinted the sky.
Over breakfast the next morning, Severus shared his good news with Harry and Hermione. Both of them were shocked speechless. But Hermione recovered first and asked Severus all the usual questions—when was the baby due, did he know what the baby was, and what were they going to name the baby?
Now there was something Severus hadn't discussed with Selene. Names. He answered Hermione's other questions before saying at last, "We haven't exactly discussed names yet, though generally that's a mother's prerogative, or at least traditionally in the wizarding world it used to be. Would you like to offer some suggestions?"
Both of them said yes eagerly.
"I can't promise we'll use them, but at least I'll have some variety."
"Variety is the spice of life," Harry quoted impishly. "Who's going to stand as the baby's godparents?"
That was another question Severus didn't have an answer to. "I haven't decided who I'll choose. The father usually chooses the godfather and the mother the godmother. But I have time to worry over that later. Right now I want to concentrate upon getting a nursery set up for this child and getting you two school supplies."
"Let's go to Diagon Alley today. Please, Severus?" Hermione begged shamelessly. "You and Harry can shop for school, and I'll shop for the baby and the nursery."
Severus looked at her askance. "What would you know about shopping for a baby?"
"Loads. I used to babysit for a woman down the street when I lived with my parents. She was always giving me pointers and stuff. Don't worry, professor. I'll get everything sorted out."
"Very well. But mind you don't empty my vault, Hermione Jeanne."
Once at Diagon Alley, they split up, Harry and Severus going to Flourish and Blotts for textbooks, and Hermione heading down the next row of shops, after Severus had given her a bank check and told her to tell the merchants to put it on his tab and he would pay the balance later.
Hermione rushed off eagerly.
Two hours later they all met at The Leaky Cauldron for the midday meal, Hermione's pockets were filled to the brim and so were her arms.
Harry took one look at her and snickered. "Way to go, 'Mione! You just bought out the store." He rolled his eyes heavenward. "Girls and shopping, it's like a disease."
"Oh, be quiet, Harry. This is going to be a special baby, so it needs a special room. I'm so excited! Now I get to be a big sister!"
Harry was excited too, and also a bit apprehensive, for he had never had a baby around the house, but he wanted to be a good older brother, even though he had never had a good example to follow growing up with the Dursleys.
Together, they decorated the nursery, which Severus had created using a space warp spell. Hermione had chosen shades of lavender and pale green vines for the bedding set and used the same motif on the walls.
The rest of August flew by, and before they knew it, Harry and Hermione were on the Express, heading off for fifth year at Hogwarts. Severus went on ahead using Apparition.
On the train, Harry informed Ron about the baby, and Ron told him some big brother horror stories, then said, "You'd better pray it's a boy, Harry, 'cause a girl's nothing but trouble!"
Term started out well enough, McGonagall kept to the same familiar schedule as always, and Harry resolved to keep up his grades. He saw Draco at Quidditch practice and in Hogsmeade, they kept their friendship a rather open secret. The biggest gossip of the day was that Flitwick was going to become Headmaster eventually, Lupin was now teaching Defense, and Severus, once the greasy dungeon bat who favored Slytherins, was now a hero who favored no House any longer.
Ron approached Minerva and requested he be considered for the Advanced Animagus class. She told him gravely that if he studied and received top marks in Transfiguration that year, she would allow him to take the advanced course sixth year.
As promised, Selene did appear to Severus in dreams, showing him how radiant She was, how the bulge in her middle was now quite pronounced, and let him feel the baby kick beneath his hand. He was so amazed that he almost woke himself up.
Soon, beloved. Soon you shall hold your child in your arms. Sleep well.
The rest of the term seemed to fly by and before Severus knew it, finals were upon them and then the holidays. He had been keeping careful watch upon Harry for the term, and as a result Harry's grades were very good, much better than the previous years. "Now you see what you can do when you apply yourself, Harry," Severus told his son. "Make a habit of it."
"Yes, sir. Have you heard from Selene yet?"
"No. Babies come in their own time, son."
They spent a quiet Christmas together, celebrating the holiday serenely. Still Selene did not come.
Severus grew nervous, fearing something was wrong. He became irritable and snappish, and spent long hours brooding in his room. He felt certain that he would know if anything happened to Selene, but the next minute he worried that he might not know. When you see me again, our child will have been born. Those words should have reassured him, after all Selene was His Goddess, and knew the shape of things to come. Still he fretted and worried, imagining Her writhing in pain, struggling to bring forth their child, alone, while he was a world away in space and time. He tried to meditate, to find peace in the sound of running water and moonlight, but peace eluded him. He feared for Her, illogical as that was, and in that he was like many another expectant father.
Finally, upon December 28th, when the moon was but a sliver in the night sky, Selene brought a blanket shrouded bundle to him. "Come and see your child, love." She gently drew back the covering to reveal a round rosy-cheeked baby with a tuft of dark hair and huge violet eyes that gazed about curiously. "Say hello to your father, little one."
The baby waved a fist and gurgled, the sound reminding him of water falling into a still pool.
Severus gently took the baby and with Selene's help, cradled the child close. "She's so beautiful. Looks like her mother."
Selene shook her head. "No. She has your hair and your hands, my eyes and face. She is a blend of us both. A perfect combination."
His daughter stared up at him with wide violet eyes, and he felt his heart overflow to bursting with love for the tiny scrap. "But what of her personality?"
"She's an independent little thing, even now. Curious as well. I have no doubt her intelligence will put us both to shame. She also has inherited my magic, but don't worry, I've made sure the immortal powers sleep within her until she is sixteen. Once they awaken, I shall tutor her so she isn't overwhelmed. I shall visit as often as possible."
She gazed down at their daughter with love and said, "Severus, meet Sarissa."
"Sarissa." He repeated. "Sarissa Snape. It's a good name."
"It means a princess, and also a spear, once used by Alexander the Great to conquer Persia. She will be strong, this one, fierce with the power of her convictions and yet tender also, to those in need. She has drunk the milk of immortality, and so she won't be prey to mortal illnesses, save perhaps the occasional cold. She will grow normally, but once her immortal powers emerge, her aging will slow. The magic she inherited from you shall express itself rather early, so don't be surprised. She can drink from a bottle, I have been feeding her goat's milk. I wish that I might have more to do with her upbringing, but it is not good for an immortal to have too much contact with the mortal realm, lest she influence the lives she touches too much and thus upsets the Balance." Her hand caressed the baby's cheek. "I would stay, it tears my heart in two to leave, but . . .no. The temptation would be too great . . .to influence her choices for her own good and then I will have naught but a puppet for a child. She must be free to seek her own destiny."
Selene took the baby from him and held her, rocking her gently. "Grow up strong and proud and full of grace, my daughter. And always remember, I am with you, child, wherever you go. Never forget, I love thee." She bent down and kissed the baby on the forehead. Two tears fell from her eyes. One splashed upon the baby's porcelain skin, the other Selene caught on her fingertip and breathed upon, turning it into a sparkling gem, a moonstone crescent, strung upon sacred silver wire.
She gently placed it about the baby's neck. "Something to remember me by."
Sarissa looked up at her mother and smiled, her hands reaching out to grasp Selene's hair.
"Hail and farewell, little one." She gently disengaged the infant's fingers, and found a few strands of her pale hair gripped in one determined fist. A thought wove them into a bracelet, which she slipped on Sarissa's wrist. Then she handed her daughter back to Severus. "Tell her I love her always, Sev, for dreams may not be enough."
"I will. Must you leave so soon? The night is barely half done."
"The longer I linger, the harder it shall be for me to leave."
Seeing the anguish upon Her face made his heart break. "I am sorry. If only there was some way—"
"There isn't. This is how it must be. Already I grow too attached. Farewell, beloved. Love your daughter as you love me." She gave him one last kiss, and then she was gone.
Severus remained where he was, cradling his daughter, in the patch of moonlight beside the window, feeling the echoes of Selene's pain, tears upon his cheeks.
Sarissa, sensing his distress, began to cry. She wanted her mother, not this tall stranger.
Alarmed, Severus shifted her to his shoulder, whispering, "Hush, little one. Don't cry. Shhh. She'll return to us someday. She always does." He patted the baby's back awkwardly. "There, there. Don't cry." He began to walk up and down the room, patting and rocking, trying frantically to remember what that new parenting book he'd read a week previous had said to do to calm a crying baby.
Still Sarissa wailed, a thin sound of sorrow. Severus began to sing softly, and the soothing vibrations from his chest calmed the baby a bit. "Hush little baby, don't say a word, Daddy's gonna buy you a mocking bird . . .silly present, I'd do better to buy you a teddy bear . . ." He half-talked and half-sang to her for ten minutes.
The baby cried off and on, upsetting him dreadfully.
Finally he recalled an idea he had read about, and laid his daughter on the bed and carefully swaddled her. Since it was his first attempt, it wasn't very tight, but it made the baby feel snug and warm and safe. He picked her up and rocked her, hoping that would ease her distress. To his surprise, she snuggled up to him, stuck a fist in her mouth, and fell asleep.
"Well, I'll be. It worked." He murmured. He considered putting the baby in the nursery, which had already been set up. Then he shook his head. He wanted to keep his daughter close beside him. She needed to get used to him. He gazed at her and still felt awe at the fragile precious life lying in his arms. His lips grazed the top of her head and he whispered, "Good night, Little Moonbeam."
Then he returned to his bed once more, shifted till he found a comfortable cool spot, and closed his eyes, Sarissa cradled in the crook of his arm. He fell asleep to the sound of his daughter's breathing, her sweet milky breath filling his nostrils. His last thought before falling into the realm of dreams was how surprised Harry and Hermione would be the next morning. At last his little family was complete.
Second to last chapter here, I hope you all enjoyed the way Severus reacted to Selene's news and this last little scene with him and the baby. Oh and Harry's birthday. The epilogue will tie up a few other loose ends.
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