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Chapter 68 : The Runespoor's Hatchlings
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"Sev, you're still sick yourself, now come back and rest. You'll do Draco and Harry no good if you exhaust yourself," she urged. "I can set up a Monitoring Charm, and if they need us during the night, it or Sev Prince shall wake us."
The Potion Master's eyes were two burned holes in his head, and he felt terrible, all achy and weak, his recent outpouring of tears hadn't helped his condition any, for now he also had a stuffed up nose. He couldn't ever recall being so sick, then again he had never contracted the golden plague before. Once more he thanked God for his life and the lives of his sons. Then a horrifying thought occurred to him.
"Sarai, you were taking care of all of us . . . could you catch this . . . or the babies?"
"No. Because of my fae blood, I am immune, as are the children I carry, for they share my immunity in the womb. Nesmay too is immune, thank the Bright Ones. Come, Sev, back to bed. We can discuss things in the morning. You will feel much better after a good rest, and so will I."
Severus allowed himself to be helped back to bed, though normally he would have stubbornly refused assistance. "I still don't understand something," he muttered through a yawn as he lay back down.
Sarai slid into bed next to him, curling close beside him. "Severus, rest."
"I will, no need to keep badgering me as if I were one of the children," he grumbled.
"You are acting as stubborn as one of the children now," she informed him wryly. "Go to sleep."
Severus huffed softly. "I don't understand how we could have contracted a plague that has been eradicated for centuries."
"Could you have picked it up while you were out shopping in Diagon Alley?"
"Perhaps. But . . . there would have been some indication if there were an outbreak of the disease."
"Perhaps it was too early to tell." Sarai answered. "Sev, you aren't going to figure this out tonight. I am too tired to puzzle out how any of you came down with this, I am just grateful you all survived it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to sleep."
"I suppose I ought to follow your example," he conceded, then pulled his wife close and closed his eyes, falling asleep an instant later.
Everyone slept through the night and well into the next morning, except for Nesmay, who rose at her usual time of seven o'clock in the morning. Finding everyone else still snoozing, she ate some fruit and toast and decided to get a head start on her morning chores, which were weeding the herb garden and cooking breakfast. She was eager to try out some recipes Molly had taught her, but was unsure if she ought to wait until the rest of the family was awake before beginning.
She opted to weed the garden first, and slipped her feet into some rubber garden shoes, which were in a bin next to the back door, and headed outside. The morning mist was just rising off the lake, and the air was damp, but held the promise of becoming warm and sunny. Nesmay hurried down the path and reached the herb garden a moment later.
She set to, gently pulling the weeds from among the young plants, the herb garden had ordinary herbs—like marjoram, basil, mint, lavender, parsley, basil, and garlic on one side, and magical ones on the other. She was halfway done when she heard an odd hissing noise from behind.
She drew her wand and turned to face whatever had come into the garden.
To her shock, she saw a large three-headed serpent curled upon the path, a runespoor from the look of it. She clutched her wand and tried to think of a spell that would repel the dangerous reptile, when the largest head spoke.
"Greetings, little one. I am Azeal, and these are my mate, Azella, and my brother-kin Ashterith. We s-s-seek the S-Speaker known as Harry S-Snape. Know you his whereabouts-s?"
Nesmay was so startled, she nearly dropped her wand. For she understood the serpent's hiss as if it were speaking the fae tongue. "You speak the fae tongue?"
"Nay, but you are also a S-Speaker, youngling!"
"Me?" Nesmay was flabbergasted.
"Another S-Speaker in the s-s-same household!" Azella exclaimed. "How fortunate!"
"Did you not know?" Ashterith inquired, somewhat snidely.
"No . . . I . . . have never spoken to one of your kind before," Nesmay admitted, listening in astonishment to the odd hissing language that emerged from her mouth.
"Pity." Ashterith hissed.
"Listen closely. We wis-sh to s-s-share some great news. Our eggs have hatched at last and we have two brand new hatchlings." Azella declared proudly. "Tell Harry he may s-s-see them anytime he wishes . . . and so may you, and your blond kin als-so."
"Thank you for telling me," replied Nesmay. "Congratulations on your hatchlings."
"We are the first runespoor in five hundred years to have two hatchlings born at the s-s-same time." Ashterith said proudly.
"I shall be sure to let Harry and Draco know. But they have been sick, so it may be some time before they can come out to see them."
"Is all well now?" asked Azeal, concern in his tone.
"Yes, it seems to be. I cannot wait to see them," Nesmay said excitedly. She loved young animals of all kinds.
"Fare thee well for now, little S-Speaker," Ashterith hissed, then the runespoor slithered out of sight so quickly Nesmay only saw a flicker of scales before it had vanished into the grass.
She quickly finished the rest of the garden, hoping that the boys were awake so she could tell them of the runespoor's news and her unexpected new ability. She wondered where she could have gotten it, as none of the royal family had the Beast Tongue gift.
But it was two hours later when the rest of the household began to stir, and Nesmay was almost stir-crazy with impatience.
Finally Harry woke up, feeling weak and a little woozy. He got out of bed and went to use the bathroom. On his way back, he bumped into Nesmay, who had been waiting to see which of the family would wake up first. "Hey, Nesmay. What time is it?"
"Almost nine. Finally, someone else is awake. I mean, I know you were sick last night, but . . . wait'll you hear this. I was outside pulling some weeds in the herb garden and—"
"Harry, you're awake!" exclaimed Severus. He was leaning in the doorway of his bedroom, looking pale and wan, the Monitoring Charm had woken him. "How do you feel?"
Harry shrugged, never one to make a big deal over his health. "Like hell, Dad, but better than yesterday." He eyed his father up and down. "Dad, you look terrible. Guess you caught what Draco and I had."
"I did. Somehow we all contracted the golden plague." Severus told him.
"Huh? Is that like a wizard disease?" Harry asked.
"Yes, one of the worst scourges ever to stalk us. At its height, centuries ago, it took one in every five wizards. But eventually they managed to find a cure for it and it was wiped out. Or so I thought. Until we all caught it. Luckily, with the help of Sev Prince, Healer Auriane, and Sarai, we all survived. But it was a near thing. Draco almost . . . he almost didn't make it."
Both Harry and Nesmay looked horrified.
"Draco . . . he almost died?" Harry whispered.
"When was this?" Nesmay cried, her amber eyes shimmering with tears.
"While you were both sleeping. It happened so quickly . . . I had been asleep as well, but my medallion woke me. I knew Draco needed me, so I came down the hall and into his room . . . I almost wasn't in time . . ." There was a haunted look in the Potion Master's eyes.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" Nesmay cried angrily. "So I could say goodbye? If he had . . . gone, I would have never gotten to say goodbye!"
"Nesmay, there wasn't time, he succumbed so quickly—" Severus began.
The girl stared at him accusingly. "You or Sarai should have woken me."
"Child, what good would that have done?"
"So I could bid him farewell, or don't you think that it's important? You don't, do you? Because I'm not really your daughter. I'm just the fosterling you chose to live with you out of pity, right?"
"Nesmayallindra, you know that's not true—"
"It is so! You would have shared his last moments, but not me, because you thought it wouldn't matter." Nesmay shouted, tears now trickling down her cheeks.
"Nesmayallindra, do not raise your voice to me-"
Nesmay ignored him, her temper in full flood. "You don't care! At all. You would have let me sleep while he was dying and then say poor Nesmay, your brother died and we didn't want to disturb you! How bloody considerate of you!"
Severus' eyes flashed. "Enough, young lady. You stop shouting at me this instant—"
"Fine!" Nesmay snapped, then she whirled about and charged back into her room, slamming the door hard.
"What in seven hells is going on out here?" Sarai demanded crossly, coming to stand beside her husband. "Can't I get some sleep around here after playing nursemaid for the entire night, blast it?"
Severus turned to her. "I apologize, I didn't mean to wake you, but Nesmayallindra had issues with the fact we didn't wake her up last night so she could tell Draco goodbye if he happened to die."
"Oh. Was that why she was yelling that you didn't care?"
"Yes. The foolish child makes me want to shake her, the way she was acting! I've got a good mind to go in there and—"
"Severus, no," interrupted his wife, putting a restraining hand on his arm. "Confronting her when you're both still angry will solve nothing. Let her cool down."
Severus glared at the warrior, "I won't be treated with such disrespect, Sarai. I might not be her biological father, but she's not going to backtalk me that way and storm off in a snit and think I'll let it be—"
"Severus! Will you stop running at the mouth and listen to me? I never said you ought to let her speak to you that way, just wait until you've calmed down before confronting her. When you're angry you say things you don't mean, things that hurt the most. You use your tongue like a weapon, and it cuts deeper than you realize."
Severus opened his mouth to refute her words, then slowly closed it. Because, much as he wished to deny it, Sarai was right. For too long he had relied on his tongue as his only weapon, his only defense against people like his father and the Marauders. But Nesmay was not his enemy, merely a little girl with a smart mouth. "You know me too well," he admitted reluctantly.
Sarai shook her head. "You may not be blood, but you and Nesmay have the same flashfire temper, and quick tongue. She is more your daughter than she knows."
"Humph! Perhaps, but I never would have answered my father back like that. Not to his face and hope to be able to still walk the next day."
"She needs to apologize for her rudeness, but Sev, try and understand her point of view. She's very insecure and she came close to losing her brother last night and that really scared her. She overreacted, but remember, she's just a girl, and not one who has ever had a normal family. Surely you remember what that's like?"
"All too well." He sighed. "I . . . think I need to lie down."
Sarai nodded as he retreated back into the bedroom. Then she turned and said to Harry, "Go back to bed, son. You still need to rest. I'll come by in a bit with some potions Healer Auriane left for you to take."
Harry nodded and went back to sit on his bed. He felt achy and stiff, but not enough to go to sleep. He could understand why Nesmay felt left out and upset, for he felt a bit like that himself, but he also understood why Severus hadn't woken him up. Severus had been trying to protect them. He didn't want them to have to witness Draco's death, he knew how much it hurt to watch and be helpless when another slipped away down the gray road. He had watched too many die that way. Harry knew as well, having watched Lily die in front of him. Nesmay wouldn't know how that felt, she had never seen anyone die, at least Harry didn't think she had. Severus had been trying to spare her, not trying to ignore her.
He looked up as Sarai entered, carrying a tray with two potions on it and a glass of merlinna juice. He made a face at the potions, but took them without a fuss, then drank the juice. "Is Dad all right? And Draco?"
"Yes, thank heaven. They shall recover with plenty of rest and potions, just like you." She sat down on the edge of the bed and gave him a hug. "You gave me quite a scare, Harry. I'm not . . . used to dealing with illness like that. Thank Merlin I had Sev Prince and Auriane there to help me. Creatures of the dark and Unseelie I can deal with, but the golden plague . . . that scared me witless. I never want to go through that again."
"Me either," Harry admitted.
She drew Harry's medallion out of her pocket and handed it to him. "Here. Your father took this last night when his medallion warned him of Draco's peril."
Harry took it and slipped it over his head. "He didn't want me to see it, right?"
"Yes." Sarai stroked his hair. "Your father loves you very much and he tries very hard to protect you from the uglier side of life. He knows you've all seen too much of it, more than any child your age should and well, it's instinct to protect your children."
"I know. Maybe I could talk to Nesmay. She might listen to me better."
"I think that's a good idea, Harry. But you also should rest, you need to get your strength back." Sarai reminded him.
"Is that what you told Dad?" he asked with an impish grin.
"Yes. Whether or not he listens to me is another story."
"He can be a stubborn git. Don't tell him I said that, okay?"
"I won't. But it is the truth." Sarai smirked, her green eyes dancing. "Then again, if he wasn't so stubborn he might not have survived all these years. So I can't complain too much. If you love someone, you learn to take the good with the bad."
"I'll remember that next time Katie starts complaining about how stubborn I am. At least I come by it honestly."
"You do, Harry. And since I have more than my share of stubborn, I can't really complain either."
Harry was quiet for a moment, then he said sincerely, "Sarai . . . I'm very glad my dad married you. Anybody else would have run screaming from the manor by now with all the things we've said and done, either that or had us sent off to an institution."
"Ah, Harry!" the warrior started to laugh quietly. "When I married Sev, I knew it was a package deal, and there was no having one without the other, for Sev his family came first. And it was for that I loved him best of all, especially because I knew what sort of background he came from, and what it cost for him to love so deeply. Your dad is the bravest man I ever knew." She kissed him gently on the forehead. "Now, I have to go and check on Draco, and then I am going to sleep, today is going to be a very lazy day."
Harry yawned. "I'm going to go back to sleep too. As soon as I talk to Nesmay."
He rose and headed to the girl's room as Sarai entered Draco's. He could tell Draco was still asleep from the faint snoring coming from his brother's room. He had never been so grateful to hear that sound. He tapped upon Nesmay's door.
By that time, Nesmay's temper had died down and now she was feeling guilty and ashamed of her outburst. Severus had been deathly ill and she hadn't even asked how he was feeling, she had allowed her temper to run away with her, and this was not how she had wanted to start the day off. Tears prickled her eyes and she wished she knew of a spell to hex her tongue still. She hadn't meant to hurt Severus, hadn't meant to pick a fight with him, but the mere thought of losing any member of the family had scared her witless, and knowing that she had come so close to doing so and had not even been aware of it petrified her. Even so, that is no excuse for being rude to your guardian, her conscience reprimanded. She fully expected him to come knocking at the door and tell her she was grounded for another week or turn her over his knee or something.
The tapping on her door made her wince, but then she made herself sit up and call, "Come in."
She nearly fell over when she saw Harry in the doorway. "Oh! I thought you were . . ."
"Dad? He's asleep, Sarai convinced him to let his temper cool off before talking to you. Mind if I come in?"
She waved him to a seat on her desk chair.
He carefully shut the door behind him and shuffled over. "Sorry, I'm still a little groggy."
"I didn't mean to start a quarrel this morning," his sister said regretfully. "But when I heard about Draco, that he could have died and I wouldn't ever have known until it was too late, I just . . . lost it."
"I know. I've done that, believe me. To my friends and to Dad too, back before I knew he really was my dad. I've inherited his temper. But I'm lucky he controls his, else I'd be black and blue all over." He gave her a crooked grin.
She looked down at her hands. "I know. He's loads better than my old tutor, Ironhand, and still I . . . snap at him. I'm such a screw-up!"
"Hey, join the club. Nobody's perfect. You still mad at him for not waking you up when Draco almost . . .?"
"Look, I can understand why you'd be annoyed, since he didn't wake me up either, but look at it this way. At least your last memory of Draco would have been a happy one, and not . . . not seeing him all pale and lifeless. Dad would never want you to see that, he knows what a terrible thing it is to see someone die in front of you, how much it hurts and how you never forget it. I was only a baby when my mum died, she was killed right in front of me and I . . . I still dream about it sometimes . . ." His green eyes were far away, clouded with an old pain.
"Harry?" She touched his hand.
He shivered and came back to himself. "See? It's been almost fourteen years since then and I still remember. That's why he didn't wake us up, Nesmay. Not 'cause he didn't care to let you say goodbye, but 'cause he was trying to protect you, to spare you pain. You've never seen anybody die before, have you?"
"No. Not like that."
"You don't ever want to, believe me."
Nesmay groaned. Now she felt even more guilty and angry at herself. "I'm so stupid, sometimes I just want to hex myself. When am I going to stop being like that?"
Harry chuckled. "I don't know. I'm still not over being stupid yet, and I'm almost fifteen."
"Great! I was all excited to tell you about the runespoor and now I've gone and ruined—"
"The runespoor? What about it?"
"I was out weeding the garden and it came up to me and asked where you were. I . . . could understand it and I told it you were sick and it told me to tell you its eggs had hatched and would you like to come see them?"
Harry's jaw dropped. "You mean . . . you're a Parselmouth too?"
"What's a Parselmouth?"
"It's a wizard or witch who can speak to snakes in their own language. I can do it, but the ability's really rare. Salazar Slytherin was a Parselmouth and some of his descendants inherited that gift. Like . . ."
"Like who? Are you his descendant?"
"No. But Tom Riddle was. And he was a Parselmouth. Dad thinks . . . he thinks I have the ability because when Voldemort tried to kill me when I was a baby, some of his magic entwined with mine and that's how I gained the ability. Either that or from some fae ancestor. Do your people have that ability?"
"Some do. But . . . my sire had it?"
Her lip curled in disgust. "Then I wish I didn't!" she declared fiercely. "I don't want anything from him!" She was so agitated that several small items on her dresser began to tremble and topple over.
"Hey, Nesmay, calm down," Harry ordered firmly.
She flushed and drew in a deep breath, breathing in and out slowly ten times until she had regained control. "Sorry, it's just . . . I wish sometimes that I was anyone else's daughter but his."
"It's hard, coming from somebody who was so rotten. Draco would understand more about that than me. You know his parents were Death Eaters. And you know who else would understand? Dad."
"He would? Why?"
Harry shifted upon the chair, then said, very softly, "I don't know if I should tell you this . . . I probably shouldn't, it's really Dad's place, but . . .I don't think he'll ever think to mention it. Promise you'll never tell anyone."
"I promise on my honor and my House." Nesmay swore solemnly.
"All right . . . Dad would understand too because his father, Tobias Snape, was a drunken deadbeat who liked to beat the crap out of him when he was a kid. He hated Dad because Dad wasn't a "normal" kid, he had magic, and Tobias thought he was a freak. Kind of like my aunt and uncle did me. Dad told me once that he used to hate going home from school, because his dad was always looking for an excuse to hurt him. He said he used to wish his dad would be proud of him and love him, but it never happened, and he was ashamed and hated Tobias for most of his life. It was only after Tobias died that he finally managed to forgive him for what he did. And then he swore never to be like him. It's why he doesn't drink, and why he hardly ever raises a hand to any of us."
Nesmay was stricken. "Oh, Harry! I never . . . I always thought he grew up here and that he was loved."
"He was. By his mum Eileen, but she died when he was a teenager, and my mum Lily loved him too. But he was abused, just like all of us. And he grew up dirt poor, because his dad lost his job and drank away what little his mum managed to save. But Nesmay, he didn't let that stop him. He grew up and he made his life worth living. And now look at him. He's Lord Snape, the Heir to Prince Manor, and he had a wonderful wife and three awesome kids and another two on the way. He's a brilliant potion maker and a hero. That's what I plan to do . . . and so does Draco. It's like Dad always says—you don't have to follow in the footsteps of your father, you're your own person, and can make your own decisions."
"Evil is a choice."
"Right. But so is being miserable because you're Voldy's daughter. You might have his blood and some of his magic, but you're not him. You don't have to make the wrong choices he made. You can make the right ones, and become a good witch, in spite of what he was. Because you're also Aislinn's daughter, and Severus Snape's. Magic's not about good or evil—magic just is. It's how you use it that makes the difference. And I don't see you hexing old ladies or boiling babies at the dark of the moon, or sacrificing baby animals."
"Gross! That's just disgusting!"
"See? You have nothing to worry about, Nesmay. You're not going to become Old Tom, because you have a good heart and you chose Light over Dark. You also have something Tom never did. A family who loves you. We'll never let you go dark."
"Thanks, Harry," she sniffled.
"C'mere, hedgehog," he murmured, then he hugged her, letting her cry on his shoulder for a few minutes. "Feel better now that you've soaked me?" he teased.
"Uh huh. You're a good big brother, Harry."
"I try. I love you, Ness." He ruffled her spiked purple hair.
"Love you too."
"Now quit feeling sorry for yourself, Pricklehead, and go apologize to Dad." He mock-growled.
"Pricklehead? Pricklehead? What kind of a name is that, Harry Snape?"
He smirked. "Ask Draco, he invented it. I just was the first one to call you it."
She stuck her tongue out at him. "Just you wait, Harry. I'm going to give you the most awful nickname ever invented. And then I'm going to call you it when Katie's over."
"You do and I'll make you eat soap!"
She burst out laughing. "Not unless you can catch me!" Then she darted out of the room.
"Brat!" he growled, then went after her, but he was too weak to chase her.
They passed Draco's room, and happened to glance inside. Nesmay skidded to a halt when she saw that her brother was actually awake. "Draco!" she squealed. "Help, Harry's after me!"
She raced into the room, climbed onto the bed, and threw her arms about him. "Draco, you're better!"
"Uh . . . yeah, I was . . . till you decided to strangle me," the blond wizard grunted. He gently loosened the girl's hold about his neck.
Harry came into the room, panting and pretending to look angry.
"What's she done to get you mad, Phoenix?" he drawled lazily. "Do I need to beat her for you?"
"Draco!" Nesmay cried.
He smirked evilly. "Only kidding, Nessie. That's Dad's line. But I can tickle you to death." He jabbed his fingers into her ribs until she giggled.
A minute later she was clinging to him and weeping. "Draco, I'm so glad you're alive! You almost died!"
"I what?" he sat up, patting Nesmay on the back. "I almost died? I didn't think a bout of wizard's flu was that dangerous."
"We didn't have the flu, Dragon," Harry said, taking a seat on the other end of the bed, by Draco's feet. "We had the golden plague."
"The plague!" exclaimed the other, paling. "But that was supposed to have been eradicated! Nobody's had a case of that in over a hundred years!"
"Don't look at me. That's what Healer Auriane said. And she ought to know. You, me, and Dad all contracted it—"
"—and you almost died!" Nesmay added, sniffling.
"Yeah, I got it the first time. Now quit sniveling all over my pajamas, it's gross." Draco scolded, grabbing a soft cloth from the nightstand and handing it to her. "How's Dad?"
"He's getting better. He's sleeping otherwise I'm sure he'd be in here along with Sarai," Harry predicted. He bent to scratch Cafall's silky ears, the misthound was lying next to the bed. "He was really sick, and so was I, according to Sarai, but you were the only one who—"
"—almost died!" Nesmay finished, blowing her nose into the cloth.
"All right already! People almost die everyday," Draco groaned. "Harry's almost died a few times, for Merlin's sake! Now shut up about it, can't you?"
Nesmay abruptly went from weeping to wrathful, her amber eyes flashing. "Why are you being such a snot? Don't you care that you nearly died?" She made as if to scramble off the bed.
Draco caught her arm. "Just a minute. I do care, and I'm really happy I'm not six feet under now, but you don't need to pound it into my head every ten seconds, okay?" He sat up. "How long have I been in bed? A day? A week?"
"Last night and this morning." Harry said. "I guess the plague works damn fast. You look like I feel."
Draco scowled. "I feel like mouse turds, weaker than a baby. And something tells me that I'm not going to be allowed out of bed at all today."
"Why should that bother you?" Harry inquired saucily. "You're the King of Sleepyheads."
"Normally it wouldn't, but I wanted to fly today. Have you heard anything from the runespoor, Harry? I wonder if the eggs hatched."
"Ask Nesmay, she knows."
Draco stared at his sister. "You do?"
Nesmay nodded. "I do. But I'll only tell if you ask me nicely. . . and share your stash of chocolate frogs with me."
"How did you find out about those?"
She smirked irritatingly. "I have my ways."
"Little sneak! Fine. Please tell me about the runespoor, Nesmay. And I'll give you two chocolate frogs."
"Don't push it, brat. Okay, talk."
Nesmay told him about the runespoor and its hatchlings.
"Wicked! I can't wait to see them." Then he sighed. "I hate being sick. Where's Dad with his potions?"
Harry gaped at him. "You want to take potions?"
"Hell, no. But I want to see the runespoor's hatchlings. Taking potions is the only way I'll get better, so . . . I'll have to take my medicine like a man. Unlike some people." He gave Harry a pointed glance.
"I take my potions!" his brother objected.
"But you whine like a girl."
"I do not!"
"Well, if they're arguing, I would assume they're feeling better," drawled a familiar voice.
All three children looked up to see Severus in the doorway.
"Hi, Dad!" said Draco and Harry.
"Hello, Severus," Nesmay said, somewhat cautiously.
"I would have to agree with that," Sarai appeared a moment later, carrying a small tray with a few potion vials upon it and a glass of water. "Draco, these are yours."
"I figured that," her oldest son sighed. "Thanks, Mum." He took the first one and gulped it down.
Then he noticed that everyone was staring at him. "What? Haven't you ever seen a guy take a potion before?"
"It's not that . . . you called Sarai mum," Harry explained.
"I know. I don't remember a lot about last night . . . but one thing I do remember is that Sarai was there while I was sick as a dog . . . she took care of me . . . and that's not something Narcissa ever really did. When I was little and came down with something, she would send Dobby to me, she didn't like getting too near sick people. Sick people were dirty and germy and Narcissa wouldn't want to contaminate herself." Draco said with a sneer. "But Sarai was right next to me, even at the worst . . . and that's what a real mum does. Narcissa gave birth to me, but Sarai saved me, and that makes her worthy of calling her Mum."
"Thank you, Draco," Sarai said, tears standing in her eyes.
Harry coughed, then said, "Maybe I should . . ."
"When you're ready, Harry," Sarai murmured. "And you too, Nesmay. There's no rush, and I won't be insulted if you choose not to. Your mothers were wonderful people and I'm not trying to take their place."
"But you're here and they aren't," Nesmay said, coming over to hug her. "I don't remember her or my father, not that I want to remember him, but . . ." Then she released the warrior and went over to hug Severus also. "I'm sorry I acted like a brat, I didn't mean to quarrel with you, but I was just scared. . . I'm glad you're not sick anymore . . ."
"I forgive you, child. Next time think before you speak. I, too, am grateful that we all survived it. Especially you, Draco. You—"
"—don't say it. I almost died," his son interrupted. "I know."
They all smiled at Draco's indignation, grateful he was still there to fuss and complain about something.
After Draco had taken all his potions, Sarai decided to make a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, bits of ham, and onions, along with toast with butter and honey, coffee and hot cocoa. Since Draco didn't feel up to getting out of bed, they all decided to eat breakfast in his room.
Harry and Severus Summoned floating trays and chairs, while Nesmay helped Sarai carry in the plates and place them on the trays, which were floating in a semi-circle beside Draco's bed. In the middle hovered a large tray with the food and drinks, it rotated about so everyone could take whatever he or she liked.
As they ate, Harry said, "I have an announcement to make. Azeal, Ashterith, and Azella's hatchlings have been born. So now we have three runespoors on the estate. Azeal has invited us to come and see the hatchlings when we're able."
"That's a great honor, Harry. I think only a handful of wizards have ever been granted the right to see a runespoor's hatchling, much less two. You ought to be proud." Severus praised.
"Well, I sort of did save one egg from Dudley." Harry said. He wondered how his cousin and Petunia and Sirius were doing. He would have to write them and find out.
"And I'm a Parselmouth," Nesmay announced.
Both adults looked startled.
"That's a worthy gift to have," Severus said. "Snakes have always been good sources of information and wisdom. See that you use it wisely."
"I will, Severus. I'm not like my father."
"Very true. You are your own person, and a credit to both your mother's House and mine."
Nesmay beamed. That was the highest praise Severus could have given her.
Draco pushed his plate away. He had eaten small portions of toast and the egg casserole and was slowly drinking a cup of cocoa. He had been mulling over something while the others discussed the runerspoor and now he said, "I've been trying to figure out how we could all have caught this plague and why Sarai and Nesmay didn't."
"I can answer the second question," Sarai told him. "Since Nesmay and I are half-fae, the fae blood grants us immunity to many diseases you mortals fall prey to, including the golden plague."
"Oh. That makes sense." Draco agreed. "But here's what I figured out about why Harry, Dad, and I caught it. I came down with it first, and had the worst symptoms. At first I thought we could have gotten it at Diagon Alley, when Nesmay and I went shopping with Dad. But the more I thought about it, the more I figured that couldn't have been. I learned about the plague before I went to Hogwarts, my tutor taught me about it, and he said the plague could only be passed through touching an infected person."
"So why couldn't you have caught it in Diagon Alley?" asked Harry.
"Because the only people I touched were Nesmay and Dad. I didn't shake hands or touch anybody else. And since I came down with it first and had the worst case, it means I was exposed to the infection more than anyone else. I think it came from something here in the manor."
"Here in the manor? How do you figure that? I'm sure that my grandparents didn't allow anyone to enter their home bearing diseases. My grandmother Prince was a cleaning fanatic." Severus frowned. "The only places she never took a mop or broom to were my grandfather's secret rooms where he kept powerful and dangerous magical objects, his study, and that room you and Harry cleared out, that was a "junk room" where my grandfather and several other ancestors tossed malfunctioning magical apparatus or things they didn't want but couldn't bear to throw away or magical experiments that failed."
"Can the plague be transmitted by an object, like if an infected person touched something?" asked Draco.
"No. Research indicates the virus can live for a short time upon human tissues, but dies otherwise. If it could live on objects, everyone would be infected." Severus answered.
"How about inside something?" Draco probed.
"You mean, like inside a test tube or a container?"
"Yes. When I was cleaning the room, while Harry was resting his sore behind, I found a small chest that was locked. I probably shouldn't have unlocked it, but I did. Inside was a small globe, sort of like a Seer's globe. There was nothing else inside the chest, not a scroll of instructions or a warning, nothing. I took the globe out and it . . . crumbled to dust in my hands. Then the particles vanished, except for the ones on my hands. I might have gotten some on my face too. Could the disease have been inside the globe all those centuries, and when I touched it, triggered some kind of spell that caused the globe to crumble and release the disease?"
Severus and Sarai pondered Draco's words for a long time.
At last, Sarai said, "That is possible. Maeve of the Unseelie was famous for creating what she called "Sick Packages", they were small packages, usually decorated richly with jewels and other attractive valuables, and sending them to her enemies among mortals, or those mortals who had angered her in some fashion. Inside were various illnesses, contained in a magical bubble until the package was opened and then the bubbles popped and released the disease on to whoever opened the package."
"That's awful!" Harry said. "Did only the person who opened the package get sick?"
"Not if the disease was contagious. Then whoever else was nearby was infected too. Maeve didn't care, after all, what was one mortal more or less?"
"Could that globe have been one of those packages?" Draco surmised.
"Hmm. Possibly, or perhaps an ancestor was trying to make one to send to an enemy?"
"And they thought it failed so they tossed it into the junk room?" Harry guessed.
"Or maybe your grandfather was trying to kill my father, Severus, but then he thought Voldemort died, and so he figured the globe was useless and put it in there?" Nesmay guessed.
"That is also possible, though it would be quite unlike Micah to not put some kind of warning label on the box itself, he normally was not careless with Dark Magic objects."
"Well, however it got there, that's what I touched." Draco said. "And then I touched Dad and Dad touched you, Harry. That's how I think we all got the Golden Doom, as the old timers called it."
Slowly, Sarai nodded. "Yes, that's an excellent deduction, Draco. Since the plague was eradicated, it wouldn't follow that you picked it up at Diagon Alley. Therefore, your theory is the most likely one. I could see either an ancestor trying to copy what Maeve did, since the Prince line had always been devotees of fae magic, or as Nesmay said, perhaps Micah Prince wanted to get rid of Voldemort once and for all, but when Voldemort was killed the first time by his own hand and Lily's spell, he figured the attempt was useless and tossed the chest into the junk pile and forgot about it. He probably figured no one would find it in that mess."
"When I am feeling up to it, sometime this week I shall go and remove all of the junk inside that room, and scour it thoroughly. We can use it as a nursery or a storage room once it's been disinfected," Severus declared.
"Sev, maybe I should do that," Sarai interjected. "Just in case there are more dust particles lingering."
"No need to worry, beloved. Once you've had the plague and survived, you're immune." Severus reassured her.
"Even so, you might want to conserve your magic, I can dispose of everything myself, using a spell called Disintegrate."
"Cool! Can we watch?" asked Harry.
"You may, if you promise you will stay within the spell circle I will inscribe on the floor." Sarai said.
"When can we go and see the runespoor's hatchlings, Sarai?" asked Nesmay.
"When Harry and Draco are fully recovered," she replied firmly.
"When's that going to be, Mum?" Draco sighed.
"I don't know, but Auriane will come and check on you in a few days. Based upon what she says, I will determine when you are well enough to go traipsing through the woods." She eyed her husband, who was smirking. "And that goes for you too, my lord Snape."
"Ah, Sarai, I can determine for myself if I am well enough to resume my normal activities," he began.
"Severus, dear," she purred warningly. "You were stricken with a deadly disease. That means you need to follow your caregiver's orders and stay in bed until I am certain you are well."
"Now, Sarai . . ."
"Now, Sarai what? Now, Sarai, I am going to act like a sensible adult and stay in bed where I belong? Or now, Sarai, I'm going to behave like a foolish sixteen-year-old and sneak out of bed while your back is turned and make you Stick me to the bed?" she returned tartly.
"You . . . you wouldn't dare!" Severus sputtered.
"Wouldn't I? Severus, there is nothing I love more in this world than you, and if you think you're going to risk your health on my watch, think again!"
He glared at her. "You are utterly impossible, Captain!"
"Says the cauldron to the kettle."
"Don't you trust me to know my own limitations?"
"No. I trust you to take care of our children and myself, but you know as well as I that you would run yourself into the ground if you thought it necessary, Severus Snape. I've seen you do it before, when you were Dumbledore's spy."
"That was different." He grumbled, crossing his arms.
"No, love, that was you undervaluing yourself. When I married you, I took a vow to love and protect you . . . even from yourself. Now, will you please do as I ask?"
Severus remained stubbornly silent for several minutes, his clever brain trying to figure a way out of her ultimatum. But he found he was growing weary again, and his too-clever wife had him over a barrel, and he really didn't want to quarrel over something like this, especially in front of the children, who were smirking.
"Very well. But only because you asked me nicely."
Sarai chuckled. "Now that is why I married you, Severus. Because you are that rarest of creatures—a man who listens to his wife." Then she kissed him.
Smidgen and Sev Prince appeared to each of the convalescents and told them how relieved they were to see them beginning to get well again, and helped to lessen their confinement by telling them amusing stories and anecdotes. Auriane returned and checked upon them, saying they were improving rapidly and should be able to return to their normal activities by the end of the week. She also advised Sarai to take some special Nutrient Potions suitable for pregnant women and get plenty of fresh air, exercise, and rest.
Sarai promised to follow her directives, and Nesmay helped her do chores about the manor and accompanied her on long walks about the grounds. The girl was itching to go and see the runespoor, but didn't want to try and find the lair herself and risk getting lost. So she tried to be patient, and practiced some elementary spells using Draco's copy of The Standard Book of Spells Level 2, and her meditation. She visited her brothers and Severus daily, playing board games with them and inventing riddles for them to solve.
Finally the weekend arrived, and with it Harry's birthday. Sarai had released all three wizards from their bed rest as of that morning, praising them for being exemplary patients. Because it was Harry's birthday, he was allowed to choose the menu for the day.
He chose cinnamon waffles, bacon, scrambled eggs with chives, and toast with honey-butter, plus merlinna juice and coffee. Everything was delicious, and Harry thanked Severus and Sarai for making his favorite breakfast. Once they were finished with breakfast, and Draco and Nesmay had washed up the dishes, Harry was exempt from chores on his birthday, the three were out the door like lightning.
Harry led the way into the forest, his feet sure upon the path, even though it had been a long time since he had traveled to the runespoor's lair, his earth bond told him exactly where to go.
Soon they were standing before the cave the runespoor had chosen, and Harry called in Parseltongue, "Azeal, Azella, Ashterith, come out please! It's me, Harry Snape, and my siblings."
Soon they heard a soft hiss and then the mature runespoor slithered out, its brightly colored orange skin banded with black stripes glittering in the morning sun. The snake was about 7 to 8 feet long, and unlike many of its kind, had managed to retain all three heads into adulthood, most runespoors attacked each other and ended up with only two heads or killed themselves, unable to learn how to compromise.
The runespoor greeted all of them politely, or at least two heads did, Ashterith, the critic, merely grunted. Then Azella turned and hissed a long crooning phrase. "Come, my sweet hatchlings, come and meet our human friends. Come out, don't be afraid!"
"I'm not afraid, Mummy!"
"Am not! I can bite any old two-legs!"
"Papa says we're not s'posed to bite anyone!"
"If someone stepped on me, I'd bite 'em, all right!"
"But then they'd die!"
Six different voices mingles with each other as the two hatchlings made their way out of the dark den and into the sunlight.
They were about half-an-arm length long and had the same orange and black coloring as their parents. They also bore three heads, all of which seemed intent upon quarreling with one another.
Azella sighed. "Children! Enough! Now greet our guests politely."
"Yes, Mummy!" all six heads cried. One hatchling had two male and one female head, like its parent. The other had the opposite, two females heads and one male.
Harry knelt and said in Parseltongue, "I'm pleased to meet you. My name is Harry Snape, and these are my siblings. Draco, my older brother, and Nesmay, my little sister."
The little runespoors lisped their names and wished each of them good morning.
"Oh, they're adorable!" Nesmay said in Parseltongue. "What are their names?"
"We haven't named them yet. S-s-some runes-s-spoors prefer to name themselves, as we did. Others prefer to have names chosen for them. Becaus-se we owe you a great debt, Harry S-Snape, we as-sk that you and your siblings-s-s choose names for our hatchlings." Azeal told him.
"It would be a great honor," added Ashterith, somewhat grudgingly.
Harry was flabbergasted. He had never expected anything like this. "You want me to name your hatchlings? I . . . I don't know what to say."
"S-s-say yesss!" hissed Azella.
"S-s-say yesss! S-s-say yesss!" echoed the little runespoors, giggling and hissing.
Harry couldn't help but smile at their enthusiasm. "All right, I will. Uh . . . how long do I have to come up with names?"
"No hurry, little S-S-Speaker." Azeal said. "Take your time, a name is very important. S-Say perhaps, two weeks?"
"That sounds fair. Uh . . . should they all start with the same letters?"
"Usually, that is how it's done." Ashterith told him.
Harry nodded, then stood. "You have a wonderful family. Thanks for letting me meet them."
Nesmay also thanked them and Draco also.
"Now, we must hunt," Azella said, then the adult runespoor chivvied their offspring back into the cave, after first letting the hatchlings bid their new friends farewell.
"Wow, I can't believe they want us to name the hatchlings!" Nesmay said excitedly.
"Me neither!" Harry said.
They raced back to the manor and got some quills, ink, and parchment. They then spent the rest of the morning writing down possible names using nearly every letter of the alphabet. But they came up with nothing definite, and after a few hours Draco said he wanted to go flying, and Harry agreed.
Draco flew his Serpentstrike 2002 and gave Nesmay his old Nimbus 2001. Harry flew his Firebolt, and all three of them had a wonderful afternoon flying all over the grounds, and Harry showed Nesmay his special moves as Seeker, and Draco taught her how to dodge and weave among the trees.
The two boys found their sister a quick study and soon she was flying almost as well as they were, and Draco thanked Merlin Nesmay was not on a Quidditch team.
When they grew tired of flying, they played with Cafall, and Nesmay taught the young hound and her brothers some of the hand signals the Queen's Huntsmen used to train the misthounds.
They played until the young hound was tired and so were they. All of them agreed it was time to take a nap, and fell asleep beneath the willow tree near the pond. They slept until dusk, and Smidgen found them and summoned them inside for supper, cake, and presents.
:Happy birthday, Harry! And many more!: she purred into his ear. :Wake up, sleepyhead! You don't want to miss your cake and presents.:
Harry stretched, yawned, then sprang up and raced Draco and Nesmay to the manor.
A/N: Thanks to all my readers and reviewers for your support and encouragement. It keeps me writing! How did you like what went on here?
I do have two favors to ask, however.
The first one is an opinion-should Harry begin to call Sarai "Mum" or "Mother" soon? And should Nesmay begin to call Sev "Dad" and Sarai "Mum"? Or shoudl things stay as they are?
The second is a request-help me name the runespoor hatchlings. I have decided to use names that begin with an "R" or "S", those being the most common letters in Parseltongue. The hatchlings between them have three boys and three girls, I need your help in choosing their names. Please pick either an S or R and come up with a few names I can use, they should all start with the same letter-ex. Ruth, Robin, Robert. You can put your choices in your review or PM me with them. Depending on how many names I have, I will put them in a hat and draw three R's and three S's at random, one for the boys and one for the girls. You can make up names, they don't have to be real ones, since these are magical snakes. Thank you!
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