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Chapter 20 : The Helpful Son
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February 14th, 1994:
Harry woke with a sleepy moan as I shook his shoulder. "Ughh . . .five more minutes, Dad." He blinked blearily at me out of sleepy green eyes.
"Harry, wake up. You don't have school with me. I want to share some good news with you, now wake up!" I knew I was grinning like a fool, but I didn't care. It was a beautiful morning and I was the father of brand new twins.
"I don't? What day is it? Saturday?" Harry was still muzzy from sleep and he rubbed his eyes and sat up.
I handed him his glasses. He put them on and looked about, his face slowly acquiring a puzzled expression as he realized this wasn't his room, but the Grangers' spare one.
"Where—great Merlin!" he exclaimed, recalling where he was and why. "Dad, did Mum have the baby? What is it? Is she all right?"
I chuckled. "Calm down, Harry. That's why I'm here, to take you over to the hospital to meet the newest addition to the family. Your mum's doing fine, came through with flying colors. Now, why don't you get dressed and tell the Grangers thank you for letting you stay over and we'll Floo over?"
"Okay!" He went to get out of bed and nearly fell on his face as the sheets tangled about his ankles.
"Harry . . .it might be a good idea for you to remove the sheet before you try and stand up?" I reminded, biting back a chuckle.
"Right. It's just . . . I'm excited, you know? I can't believe the baby's really here and I'm a . . .big brother. God, but that sounds so strange. And yet I kind of like it." He threw off the covers and stood up.
Then he used a Switching Charm to exchange his pajamas for his clothes and then Shrank the pajamas and put them in his jacket pocket. "Okay, I'm set."
"No, you're not. Go in the bathroom and brush your hair and teeth, you don't want to scare the baby, now do you?" I urged. Harry's hair looked like a haystack, as it so often did in the morning and I wanted to encourage my son to have good hygiene and take pride in his appearance.
He sighed but he obeyed, knowing it would only take a minute to follow my instructions.
He emerged from the bathroom down the hall a few moments later, his hair brushed and slicked down with water and after we went downstairs to tell the Grangers the good news, I Apparated us straight to St. Mungos, to Lily's private room.
When we arrived, Mum was holding her new grandson, looking at his shock of red hair and his deep blue eyes and giving him a warm welcoming smile. I could tell she had fallen in love with him already.
"Hi, Grandma!" Harry greeted her. "Is that . . .?"
"Harry, meet your new baby brother, Gabriel Augustus," Eileen introduced Harry to his brother, while I went to pick up his twin, who was asleep next to her mother, who was resting also.
"Wow! He's so little!"
Eileen laughed. "Not to your mum, he wasn't."
Harry reached out a finger to stroke his hair. "He's got fuzzy hair and it looks like Mum's. I can't believe you named him Gabriel."
"It's a fine name, a strong name." Eileen said.
"It is. But he's not the only surprise, Harry." I came over with my baby girl. "You not only have a new baby brother, but a sister as well. This is Hallie Eileen, Gabriel's twin."
Harry's jaw dropped to his shoes. "TWO of them . . .Mum had twins? Flaming hell! Oops, please excuse my language," he apologized, knowing how I and his Gran both felt about foul language. "That's amazing! Just amazing!"
He peered at Hallie in my arms and reached out to stroke her cheek. "How come we didn't know before?"
"Because they were positioned one behind the other in your mum's womb and their heartbeats were beating in sync with each other. It wasn't until your mum was close to delivering that one twin shifted and I could sense two heartbeats." Mum explained.
"Hallie's a pretty name. I like it." Harry said, and tickled the baby under the chin.
"It was your Grandma Evans' name," I explained.
"I always thought her name was Sara."
"Hallie was her middle name, and also the name she preferred to be called. Which is why your mum and I chose it."
"Oh. I don't really remember her." Harry frowned. "Or Grandpa Evans either."
"You were too little when Grandpa Evans died of a heart attack. That was back before Godric's Hollow. You were four when Hallie passed away."
"What did she die from?"
"Breast cancer. But she used to watch you sometimes when you were small. In fact, one time you gave her quite a scare."
"I did? Did I do something magical?"
"No, nothing like that. Let's put the twins in their bassinet and sit here on the bed." I patted the foot of the bed. "We'll take pictures and everything once your mother wakes up." I went and carefully settled Hallie in the soft bed and Harry placed Gabriel beside her. They fussed a little, but soon curled up next to each other and slept. They were tired too, getting born is not easy. I returned to my chair and Harry sat on the bed while I told him the old tale of Hallie and the game of Hide-and-Seek. "I had to go to a conference for new professors at the Academy, and your mum was working till the wee hours of the morning on a case, so we asked Hallie if she wouldn't mind watching you for the night. What I'm going to tell you is what she told me once I returned home.
"You were three and very active, you liked to play games and one of your favorites was Hide-and-Seek. Hallie was babysitting over at our house that night, since it was easier than bringing you all the way to her house, and Gabriel was there too to help mind you. Gabe was very protective of you, he used to lay beside your bed or chair and watch over you. And also catch any bits from your supper that landed on the floor. Anyhow, you had just eaten supper and Hallie was cleaning up the kitchen when you took it into your head to play a game. . . "
Hallie didn't notice that Harry was missing until after she had dried and put away the last plate and swept the floor. Only then did she realize that it was way too quiet and no chattering imp was tugging on her sleeve asking her "What's that, Grammy?" or "I wanna help do that." She turned around and saw that her grandson had left the kitchen. The only other creature in it was Gabriel, the friendly collie.
Gabe thumped his tail and she smiled at him. She had fed him scraps from supper and he had taken the food from her hand like a gentleman. Hallie loved Gabriel, recalling him from the days when they lived on this street, in the house down the row, and Lily and Severus had played together as children. She had been shocked to discover that this collie was the same dog, until Lily told her about the Youth potion Gabriel had accidentally ingested at school. But then she was delighted. "I had always wondered, you see, what became of that beautiful collie. I'm so glad he's still with you."
But now she was starting to get worried over her grandson. "Harry, where are you?" she called. She went into the den. No Harry. She looked behind the sofa and in the hall closet, knowing from experience how little kids liked to hide in small spaces. Nothing. "Harry! Come out, come out where ever you are!" she called in a sing-song voice, trying her best not to panic. "Grammy has chocolate for you if you're a good little boy."
She waited to hear a little voice say, "Chocolate? Where's mine?"
But there was silence. She felt her heart begin to accelerate as a sinking feeling struck her in the gut. She began to climb the stairs up to the bedrooms. The house had since been enlarged by Severus once he had gotten married, and now included an extra bedroom and a playroom for Harry. Hallie began to search determinedly, thinking, Surely he couldn't have opened the door and gone outside? I didn't hear a door open. But where in heaven's name is he? "Harry, come here! Or else no sweets!" she tried a different tack, hoping that would coax him out from wherever he'd gone.
She looked in the master bedroom, including the bathroom, hoping the little imp was merely using the potty, but no such luck. Both rooms were empty. She looked in the playroom. It too was empty. So was the guest room and Harry's own room.
Now Hallie was really scared. Her grandson was nowhere to be found. He wasn't anywhere in the house. She tore down the steps and out into the yard, calling Harry's name over and over. It was dusk and the shadows loomed over the yard and she could not see Harry at all outside. "Harry! Harry!" she yelled, petrified that somehow Harry had gotten out of the yard and wandered away down the street.
She ran halfway down the block, searching and calling. No little dark-haired boy with tiny glasses was in sight.
Her heart sank and she began to cry. She had lost her grandson and was terrified he'd been kidnapped, she wished she thought to lock the doors, but she hadn't realized Harry could turn doorknobs. She headed back to the house. Harry had been missing for over half-an-hour by now. She was about to pick up the phone and call the police, she was a nervous wreck by now.
Until she spotted the collie, lying calmly upon the rug in the front entry. "Dogs have good noses. And Lily's always bragging about what a smart dog you are, Gaby. Maybe you can help me. Harry's lost and I need to find him." Hallie knelt down and took Gabe's big head in her hands. "Find Harry, Gabriel! Find him! Please , for the love of God, find my grandson!"
Gaby whined and licked the tears from her cheeks. He wagged his tail in understanding. He knew the words "find" and "Harry", knew also that the plump woman was scared and worried. Even though Gabriel was not a hunting dog, a collie was bred to round up stray sheep, and so had a good nose. He put that nose to good use now, standing up and sniffing the floor and the air.
Then he trotted out of the kitchen, Hallie following. He circled the den, smelling the strayed sheep-child. Then he trotted right to the stairs, barked once, and galloped up them.
Hallie grew excited and ran as quickly as she could after him. Gabriel halted in the middle of the hall, letting the gasping woman catch up before he trailed Harry into Harry's bedroom. He gave a happy bark and led her to the laundry hamper, pawing at it and whining.
Hallie put a hand over her mouth. Then she crept up and removed the cover of the large wicker hamper. There inside, crouched double and smirking like a Cheshire cat, was her missing grandson. "Hi, Grammy! You found me!" he sang out. "Now it's your turn to hide!"
"Harry! Oh, thank God!" she cried and grabbed him and hugged him hard. "Why didn't you answer when I called? You scared Grammy half to death!"
"B'cause you is 'post to be quiet," the intrepid toddler informed her. "I was hiding."
A wave of relief crashed over her. Harry was safe. It was swiftly followed by anger for making her frantic. "Harry James Potter, never ever do that again!"
"Because I thought you were lost, not hiding. When I call you, please answer me, even if you're playing Hide-and-Seek. Understand?"
He nodded. "Grammy was scared?"
"Yes, because I thought I'd lost you. That was very naughty of you to hide and not tell me. Now I think you'd better go to bed early." She looked over at Gabriel. "Thank you so much, Gaby! Lily was right, you are the smartest dog ever."
But Harry was all wound up and didn't want to sleep. He still wanted to play. So after Hallie tucked him in, he slipped out of bed and hid under it. When Hallie came in to check on him some three minutes later, after using the bathroom, she nearly screamed upon seeing the bed empty.
"Harry, where are you?" she called angrily. "Come out right this instant!"
"Can't. I is hiding," came a small voice from under the bed.
"Now, young lady!" Hallie snapped. Then she realized her mistake. "I mean, young man!"
"Grammy, I is not a girl!"
"I know that. It's time for bed, so you come out and stop playing games."
A giggle sounded from beneath the bed.
Hallie sighed in exasperation. Who would have thought her angelic looking grandson could be so naughty? "Must I count to three, Harry?"
The giggling stopped. But Harry remained under the bed. He wasn't tired and didn't want to go to sleep. Even though he knew counting to three meant getting put in time out, he still didn't want to quit playing. Besides, he had learned that Hallie couldn't get under the bed and get him.
Hallie started counting, but as soon as she reached three, she realized what her grandson had minutes before—she couldn't get under the bed to drag him out and punish him. Brilliant, just brilliant! I've been outsmarted by a three year old!
And Harry knew it. The little imp was chanting softly, "Ha ha, can't make me! I'm not comin' out till it morning!"
"We'll see about that," his grandmother said, thinking hard. She wished she knew some magic like her daughter and son-in-law, one of those charms to summon things. Then her eyes lit on Gabriel. "Gabe, go get Harry." She pointed to the bed.
Now the bed wasn't high enough for Hallie to fit under, but it was just big enough for an enterprising collie to shove his head under and grab the little boy's pajama bottoms.
Harry shrieked with laughter when Gaby's head was stuck under there and he felt the dog grab the back of his pants. It wasn't until he was partially out that Harry realized what the dog was doing and started to howl.
"No, Gaby! No take me out! NO!"
But the dog ignored him, having been given a command by the senior member of the household, and besides, this was better than fetching a dumb old ball. The collie happily dragged Harry out from beneath the bed.
No sooner had he done so, then the very annoyed grandmother pounced upon her misbehaving grandson and picked him up. "You are such a naughty boy, not going to sleep and then scaring me again!" scolded Hallie, and then she gave him a spank on the bottom and made him sit in the corner on the Naughty Stool for three minutes.
Harry was quite unhappy and bawled loudly until his punishment was over.
He then told Hallie he was sorry and she hugged and kissed him and held him till he was sleepy, then tucked him into bed. But he was mad at poor Gaby and when the collie came to lick him good night, he smacked the poor dog on the nose and told him to go away.
February 14th, 1994:
"Merlin, but I was a real brat, wasn't I?" my now older and wiser son said, laughing. "I'll bet Grammy never wanted to watch me ever again."
"No, she did. She loved watching you, Harry. It didn't matter if you behaved or not, she could handle it. Your mum and I learned a lot from her about being a good parent and having patience and setting rules."
"We grandmas have plenty of patience with our grandkids," Eileen said. "Because we know we'll get to give them back." She ruffled Harry's hair. "You'll help your father now won't you, Harry? Because he's going to need a lot of help with two babies to take care of."
Harry looked uncertain. "I'll try. But I don't know anything about taking care of a baby."
"Well, you'll learn then!" my mother smiled knowingly.
Lily stayed overnight at the hospital with the twins for another day before Eileen said she could go home. All the mediwitches and Healers cooed and admired the babies, for twins were not a common sight at St. Mungos.
All of our co-workers and friends sent flowers and balloons and stuffed animals, clothes, and baby essentials as gifts by owl post, congratulating us on our twins. One especially nice gift came from Molly and Arthur Weasley, who were the parents of twins themselves. Arthur worked in the Ministry for a different branch of the MLE and knew Lily from there. Molly had knitted two small sets of baby booties and a blanket each, one with blue yarn and small brooms on it, and the other was pink with little smoking cauldrons. She also included a note with lots of advice for us.
Dear Lily & Severus,
Just wanted to congratulate you on being the parents of twins. How lovely! Now you have one of each, but while they are very sweet, they can also be a lot of work. Here are a few tricks I learned with mine, I hope you don't mind me giving you tips.
1) Get them on a schedule fast. This is so important, because with two you have twice the work—feeding, changing, sleeping, ect. Trust me!
2) Make sure your husband helps you, it's impossible to do alone!
3) Once they're on a schedule, make sure you stick to it, twins like routine.
4) Have fun with your babies, they may do things at different times, though mine learned at almost the same pace. When George crawled, Fred followed a day or two later, and so forth. Sometimes you'll notice that one twin will feel the other's distress and cry even if there's nothing wrong. That's normal. When you fix whatever's bothering twin one, twin two will be happy again.
5) Lily, you should both nurse and give formula, it makes it easier on you, plus Severus can help with feedings that way.
6) Twins are very expensive. We almost went bankrupt the first year, but somehow we managed. The name of the game is economize!
7) Above all, love them, and count your blessings twice!
If you have any questions, just owl me, I'll be happy to help.
PS: If you need someone to babysit, Fred and George can help. They're fifteen and good with little children.
"How very sweet of her!" Lily said, after she had read the note. "I'll have to write her a thank you note when I have time." She admired the blankets and the little booties, which fit perfectly. Then she went to feed Gabriel and Hallie.
It was five days since the twins and Lily arrived home. So far we were still working on getting them to eat and sleep together at certain times. Sometimes Hallie would be cranky and refuse to nap, and require one of us to walk with her up and down till she grew tired. Other times Gabe was restless and stayed up while Hallie dropped right off. Though of the two, my little girl was the more dominant, and she was also the first born of the pair. Gabriel, I had noticed, tended to watch Hallie before he tried something.
Lily had taken Molly's advice and both nursed and bottle fed the twins. She usually nursed them in the early morning and late at night and once inbetween, the rest of the time they had special formula and I fed them. I learned rather quickly that a baby's priorities at this stage were sleeping, eating, and a clean nappy. Molly was right, it was exhausting! Making a schedule was a must.
When I wasn't feeding, burping, or changing a baby, I spent a lot of my time in my lab, brewing up batches of Rash Away salve and lotion, special herbal teas and healing potions for newborns with fevers, colds, stomach upsets, ect, ect. So far, the twins were healthy, but I felt it was always good to be prepared.
Harry helped me immensely with my brewing, he was good enough now to brew at a fourth year level, and most of these potions weren't hard to make, just time consuming.
He also helped with the laundry and making dinner, and we even got him to hold and feed Hallie on the third day after she came home. It had been late at night, around midnight, and Lily had just fed them about three or four hours ago, but apparently they were still hungry, because both of them woke up wet and starving.
Lily nudged me out of my peaceful sleep. "Severus, it's your turn."
I yawned. "All right, Lil." I forced my eyes open.
Both babies were crying in tandem and my ears were ringing. They slept in a double cradle beside our bed, so it took me about a minute to pick up both of them. Then I carried them through the connecting door to the nursery. I spelled the lights on, grateful I had learned wandless magic, and put Gabe on the changing table first and set Hallie in the little infant carrier to wait her turn.
Hallie had a scream like a banshee. I was sure everyone in the neighborhood could hear her.
Harry came into the nursery. "Why's Hallie crying?" he asked. We could all distinguish between each twin's cries now. Hallie definitely had a louder set of lungs.
"She's wet and hungry and I can only do one baby at a time." I answered as I changed my little son.
"Want me to help, Dad?"
"Please." I gestured to Hallie.
Harry picked her up. "Hey, little bug. You sure can yell. Bet they can hear you in China. In China!" he chuckled. Hallie wailed. "Okay, okay. Relax." He carefully placed Hallie on the second table and undid her nappy. He wrinkled his nose. "Yuck!" then he performed a quick Vanishing Charm to get rid of the smelly nappy. "Phew! That's better!"
I looked over at him. "Make sure you clean her good and put salve on her bottom."
He did as ordered, making all kinds of ridiculous faces at his baby sister. Hallie burbled and waved her fists and feet in the air. "Who's a pretty girl?" he asked, and blew a raspberry at her. "My baby sister, that's who!"
Hallie reached up and tried to yank off his glasses. Harry waved a finger at her. "Uh-uh! Don't touch. You want to make your brother blind?" He took a clean nappy from the stack. Then he stared at it. "Dad, how do I put one of these things on?"
"Like this," I showed him how my mother had shown me. "Or you can use a charm."
Once both twins were diapered and clean, they started to cry because they were hungry.
I taught my son how to use a small Warming Charm to heat up the bottles, then Harry and I settled down in the den, a baby in each arm, and fed the greedy little pigs. They guzzled down almost two ounces of formula before they needed to be burped.
Harry had never done that before, so I showed him with Gabriel. I had learned through trial and error when you needed to burp a baby. Harry hadn't.
When he took the bottle from Hallie, she screamed bloody murder. He winced. "Dad, she wants more."
"I know, but trust me, she needs to burp. Just let her cry, you're not being mean, she's just impatient and uncomfortable." I had Gabe on my shoulder and was patting and rubbing away. He was fussing, and I didn't know if it was because he was feeling what Hallie did or because he was hungry. "Come on, little man," I whispered. I patted harder and was rewarded with a loud belch.
"Dad, I can't get her to burp. She just keeps screaming." Harry winced. He had her on his knee and was bouncing her and patting her. "Come on, baby. Do I have to show you how it's done too? Because Mum won't like that much."
Two minutes later, Hallie burped . . .and spit up all over her brother.
"Gross! Ah, Dad!" Harry looked down at his pajamas in dismay. "She threw up on me!"
"Welcome to the club. Now we all have been christened," I said wryly.
"I never knew little girls were so . . .disgusting!" He made a face.
"Better get used to it, Harry. Because she'll be doing that for at least three months." Then I took pity on him and waved a hand and vanished the mess off him.
Harry gave her more of the bottle and groaned. "I never knew babies were so much work. Why do they wake up so early in the morning?"
I shrugged. "I suppose because they're not sleepy any more."
"They're your kids, all right. Night owls just like you." Harry said, and yawned. "I can't wait till they're bigger and can feed and dress themselves."
"Oh? Then you get to help potty train them," I said with an evil smirk.
"What? Oh, no! No way!" He blanched.
I laughed. "I thought you said when Gabriel came home that you were going to teach him everything."
"But not that! I meant flying a broom, stirring a cauldron, playing jokes, not that! That's your job!"
"Well, we can discuss that in a few years. Right now, let's get these two imps fed so we can get some sleep."
After they had eaten, the twins fell asleep. As I carried them back upstairs, I remembered to thank my son for helping me.
"Does this mean I can sleep in tomorrow morning and not have Transfiguration first thing?"
"Maybe an hour and then you get class as usual." I said gruffly.
Thankfully, the twins slept till five-thirty and then it was Lily's turn.
February 25, 1994:
Finally managed to get the twins on a schedule we can all live with. Thank you Merlin!
Though Harry still has adventures from time to time with changing them. Gabe peed on him once, not that he hasn't done that to me or Lily. The only difference is that Harry can't vanish away the results like we can. But such are the hazards of being a big brother.
It seems like we were forever running to the supermarket for something—nappies, formula, bibs, ordinary food. Today Lily wanted to get some kind of roast for dinner and we were running out of laundry detergent, since we can't always be using magic for everything.
Harry was doing his Charms assignment in the dining room while Hallie and Gabe played on the little baby mat, trying to grab the small hanging rings and toys.
I was sitting in my recliner, reading the paper and drinking a cup of double strength coffee, lately I needed lots of caffeine or a Stimulating Draft to keep going, when the doorbell rang.
The noise startled Hallie, who started to cry. I bent down to pick up my daughter, who didn't seem to care if the who world heard her howling. She had her mum's brass and her father's temper all right. Gabe remained quiet and just looked up at me. "I know. She just likes to hear herself yell," I told him.
I went to get the door.
I opened it, thinking to find some neighborhood kid selling something, or a delivery from a florist. Instead there was a tall man standing on my porch wearing neatly pressed gray trousers and a blue anorak. He looked to be around my mother's age, in his early fifties, with wavy blond hair and dark blue eyes. There was something . . .familiar about him. I thought I should know him from somewhere.
"Hello. Can I help you?"
He was staring at me as if he knew me. "Is this . . .the Snape residence? I'm looking for Eileen."
Before I could tell him that Eileen had moved away and I was her son, he said, very softly, "Severus? Don't you know me?"
It was the voice that did it. Took me right back all those years to seven years old. My jaw dropped and I clutched the door frame and my baby girl for dear life. I thought for sure that I was dreaming.
Tobias Snape had walked out of my life over twenty-five years ago. And now he was back.
Well, how did you like the twist at the end?
How do you think Severus will take Tobias being back? Or Eileen?
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