Harry carefully cut the first slice of his triple chocolate birthday cake, then served it to Sarai. "Ladies first," he smirked at her and placed a fork on the plate.
"Thank you, Harry. I really shouldn't eat this . . . not with the way I'm gaining weight lately, but . . . it's your birthday and I do love chocolate . . ."
Severus eyed his wife, who was barely showing, and said, "You're worried about gaining weight? You'll burn off half those calories during your practice workouts, pregnant or not, with your metabolism." He accepted a piece of cake from his son. "I'm the one who shouldn't be eating this." He glanced around the table at his family. "Actually, none of us should, considering how hyper sugar makes all of you, and this cake is filled with it."
"You made it, Dad," Draco pointed out, before eating his piece.
"We're not little kids anymore, Dad," Harry said. Then he looked at Nesmay. "Well, some of us aren't."
"Hey!" Nesmay said indignantly.
"Just saying," Harry added, giving the girl a smile.
"True. You aren't," Severus agreed, clapping his now fifteen-year-old son on the back. "However, that doesn't mean I stop worrying about your eating habits, Harry Albus Snape. But since it's a special occasion, you may have your cake and eat it too."
Harry chuckled. "Good one, Dad." Then he served himself a piece.
Even Smidgen had a tiny piece with a dab of frosting on it. Once they had all eaten the rich cake, which Harry claimed was the best one he'd ever had, it was time for presents. Harry couldn't recall a better birthday than this one, at home with his real family, who celebrated his birth instead of wishing it had never occurred, like the Dursleys had.
He eagerly opened his presents. Besides ones from Ron and Hermione, who had gotten him the usual sweets, a handmade sweater with a phoenix from Molly, and a book about Josef Wronski, there were also presents from Sirius and Petunia, as well as Severus and Sarai and Draco and Nesmay.
From Sirius came a crate of Zonko's products, new ones that hadn't even hit the store yet, as well as a soft black jacket lined with goose down (that had been Petunia's contribution). Draco had gotten him a fine leather wand holster, with the Prince crest stamped in gold upon it. Nesmay had given him ring, a large gold and onyx one with a phoenix surrounded by five stars on it.
"It's a seal ring," she explained to Harry. "To seal your letters with. All the fae nobles have at least one. One with their House emblem and the other for private correspondence. I thought the phoenix suited you, given your nickname."
"It's awesome, Nesmay. Thanks." He slid the ring on his finger. It fit perfectly. He looked over at Severus. "Do you have a personal seal, Dad?"
"I do. It is a serpent emerging from a cauldron."
"Neat." Then he opened his last gift, which was from his father and stepmother. It was wrapped heavily in sturdy brown paper. The paper fell away to reveal a black sheath containing a sword. Harry's eyes almost bugged out as he drew the blade. It was a slender rapier forged of silveron, with green leather wrapped about the hilt for a sure grip. Harry knew a bit about swords, thanks to Phil's tutelage, and he could tell this was crafted by a master fae swordsmith. It was a blade fit for royalty. Or the Heir Apparent of Prince Manor. "I . . . this is just . . . I don't know what to say . . . except thank you . . ."
"I was going to wait until you were sixteen, but Sarai told me you were mature enough to handle a real sword. So there you are. Happy birthday, son." Severus said simply, his eyes glinting proudly.
"Wow! It's awesome!" Harry said, examining the shining blade proudly. He knew that among the fae, the giving of a real sword marked a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, signifying he was old enough to be responsible for his own safety and his family's. "Does this mean I get to practice with it?"
"Only against a practice dummy," Sarai clarified. "You're not up to using it against a live opponent just yet."
"Right. I wouldn't want to hurt you." Harry agreed.
"Or cut your toe off," Draco teased. He had received a sword also on his birthday, but had not had a chance to practice with it yet.
"Hey, I'm not that bad."
"May I see it?" Draco asked.
Harry offered him the hilt.
Draco took it and struck an en guarde position. He carefully thrust the sword through the air, admiring the balance and lightness of the blade. "You'll be able to give Uncle Phil a real fight with this once you learn how to use it well."
He handed the sword back to his brother, who sheathed it, and looked at Sarai. "Can I go practice with it now?"
Sarai smiled at his enthusiasm. "Wait a bit and let yourself digest that cake, Harry. Working out on a full stomach might cause you to throw up."
Harry agreed, and gently set the sword down beside his chair. He trusted Sarai to know what was best, and he felt that he was finally growing up at last. But not grown up enough to forgo a second slice of cake, he thought, taking another piece.
After his lesson with Sarai, which mostly focused on him holding the sword correctly and practicing stances with it, Harry found Draco and Nesmay in the drawing room, scribbling different names for the runespoor hatchlings upon scraps of parchment. He sat down next to Draco at the table and asked casually, "How are you doing so far, Dragon?"
Draco looked up, his normally tidy hair falling in disarray across his forehead. "Not bad, but . . . it's hard, picking names for a snake. Care to help, O Heir Apparent, or are you just going to sit there looking smug?"
Harry laughed. "All right, since you asked me so nicely . . ." He pulled over an extra quill and some parchment and began to write, nibbling upon his quill every so often.
"Harry, that's gross!" Nesmay scolded when she caught sight of where the quill end was.
"Huh?" He looked up, puzzled.
"You don't know where that quill's been," she scolded.
He pulled the quill out of his mouth sheepishly. "Bad habit." Then he returned to writing.
An hour passed before Harry set down his quill and said, "Well, I'm fresh out of ideas now. Here's what I have so far." He began to read out his names. "Reigna, Sorcha, Sebastian, Risa, Reiko, Summer, Rowan, Riko, Saban, Sileny, Suvan, Ruth, Razor, Ruby, Rathnait, Sakura, Radella, Raimi, Rhea, and Raasana."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Here's mine. For the boys I have these: Shea, Sinclar, Raijin, Severn, Sandstone, Sage, Ruthvan, Roland, Raziel, Safiru, and Rithshar. Girls—those were easier for me, don't ask me why." He cleared his throat. "Silk, Sakumi, Sonora, Rosemary, Ricardia, Rydelle, Safira, Sybil, Suriyama, Solaria, Rajkumari, Sabina, Sunbeam, Rastar, Ramona, Skylar, and Rilyan."
"Those all sound good to me," Nesmay said. "Here are mine. Some of them are fae names. Ristar—that means iron in my language. And these are girl names—Saritha-golden heart, Seraana—that means water-over-rocks, and Sirristhys—the moon's secret. Sami—highly treasured. Sabriyya—patient, Sana—lily, Sonali—golden. Sebille—who was a Queen of the Seelie, Rainy, Sophrosyne. For boys I have Sesha—a famous king of the naga in Hindu mythology,Rigul,Rintoor, and Rilon. Rivalen—who was the father of Tristan Randall, Shane, Shinomori, Sai, Shirou, Sanpei, Sandayu, Santoshi, Saravel, Singalan, Ranar, Rith, Relaneskar, and Roku."
Harry's eyebrows went up. "Well, we have plenty to choose from." He set his quill down. "I say we think on it and then come back to it tomorrow. We still have a week or so."
"Right. And I'm tired," Draco yawned.
They went and bid their parents goodnight before turning in. Harry read a bit from one of his new books before falling asleep.
That next week was spent traveling back and forth to the Faerie Realm in the afternoons for the children to soak in the healing springs beneath the palace, and Sarai accompanied them a few times so Healer Auriane could monitor her and reassure her and Severus, who was quite anxious, that all was well with mother and children.
The mornings, Severus had arranged for Nesmay and Draco to go to Ollivander's and help finish up work in his shop. The Potions Master had explained what had happened to the children, and Ollivander was horrified and said he was grateful that they hadn't come to permanent harm from their kidnapper and were now home, safe and sound. He also was quite happy to have such dedicated workers to help him reorganize his inventory and carve some new wands.
Harry would have liked to go also, but Severus told him he needed Harry at home, to teach him more about the manor and the grounds. So, while Nesmay and Draco learned more about the making of wands, Severus showed Harry another special ability of the heirs of Prince Manor.
He led Harry out beyond the pond, to the large grassy sweep of land just before the forest, and said, "Before you were kidnapped by Jarillion, I taught you about the earth bond, where you can feel all living things that dwell upon the land, and also those who are related to you in the event they are in mortal danger."
"I remember that," Harry said, caressing his medallion.
"There is another ability we possess, and that is to summon any creature who dwells upon the land. Bird or beast, magical or ordinary, all shall come when the heir calls. Most times an heir would never summon a creature unless he is fighting for his life. Especially the dangerous ones, like the wyvern. However, I wish you to call one to you now, so that you may see what it feels like."
"I can call anything?"
"Yes. Feel it through the earth bond and then summon it." Severus said.
Harry concentrated, feeling all of the animal presences through the bond. He gently touched the runespoor's aura, and then called it from its lair.
S-Speaker, we come!
The runespoor soon arrived, coiling up and then peering at Harry with a curious expression. "Have you called us to tell us about the names you have chosen for our hatchlings?" Azeal purred.
Harry blushed. "Umm . . . no, we're not yet decided on the names. Sorry, I just was practicing calling a magical creature to me."
"Ahh. I s-s-see. You are the Heir to the Manor and may call upon all who live on it to aid you or speak with you if there is need." Ashterith said.
"How did you know that?" Harry gasped.
The runespoor hissed in amusement. "Others told us, and it is standard for such havens. No protection without a price, youngling."
"Oh. Well, thanks for coming."
"It was our pleasure, but now we must depart. Our hatchlings are sstarving."
In the blink of an eye, the runespoor had shot back into the forest.
Severus reached out and patted Harry on the shoulder. "Good job, son. Remember how you can call upon the creatures for aid, if by some very faint chance, some evil happens to cross over. That has never happened since the manor was built, but still, forewarned is forearmed. Any questions?"
Harry hesitated for a moment, wondering if the question that had popped into his head right then was stupid. He decided to ask it anyway. "Dad, it's not about the summoning but . . . what happens when the babies are born? Could the manor . . . could it choose one of them to be the Heir?"
Severus was startled. "Why would you ask that, Harry?"
The boy shrugged uncomfortably. "It's just . . . well, with the twins being born, the manor would have more of the Prince bloodline to pick from, so . . . it might decide one of them was more worthy."
"No, Harry. The manor has made its choice and you are the Heir Apparent. This may sound strange, but the manor is very powerful, and it would have looked into all the possible candidates, even those who were yet unborn, and then it chose you."
"You mean . . . it knew you were going to have twins?"
"In a manner of speaking. From what Sev Prince has told me, the manor's magic will allow it to examine even possible futures before it makes its decision regarding a new heir. It did so when it chose me and again when it chose you. Unless you turn to dark magic, you will inherit the manor and all the responsibilities that go with it, Harry. You needn't worry about suddenly being disinherited."
"Oh. Guess I was worried for nothing," Harry said, ruefully.
"It's a normal reaction," Severus said, putting an arm about his son. "And just in case you were concerned, my having children with Sarai does not mean that I will love you any less."
"I know. I'm not five, Dad. I won't be jealous of the babies."
Severus chuckled at his indignant expression. "After what you and Draco put me through last year, I just figured I'd mention it."
"But that was different," Harry argued. "Draco was . . . well, you know . . . It's not the same with the babies. I'll be their big brother and they'll look up to me. And I'll teach them all I know."
"Except how to get in trouble," Severus remonstrated.
"Uh . . ."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, Dad." Harry said quickly. He flashed his father his best innocent look.
"Harry Albus Snape, if I catch you teaching your siblings ways to break rules . . ." Severus growled.
"Dad, calm down. They're not even born yet, and for all you know, they could be like Hermione, never even thinking about breaking rules."
Severus snorted. "That would be a miracle." He sighed. "Still, one can hope."
"Have you picked out names yet?"
"Not yet. But we will."
"Dad, would you mind if I wrote to Aunt Petunia and Sirius? And Uncle Phil and Aunt Julie? To tell them about the babies?"
"No. I should have done it long ago, but it slipped my mind. If you would like to tell them, Harry, go ahead. I suppose I may as well write my colleagues, let them know also."
"Sounds like we'd better get started then," his son declared.
"It won't take as long as you're thinking," his father replied. "Not with a Copying Charm."
"What's that? I never learned that one." Harry said.
"Come inside, and I'll show you." Severus beckoned his son, and together they walked inside.
Harry watched Severus as he wrote his signature upon a piece of parchment and then used the Copying Charm—Scribere reproducto—to copy the signature upon a second piece of parchment. "Wow! That's so easy."
"Yes, but you are never to use this to copy another's homework, am I understood? I catch you doing that and you'll be off the Quidditch team quicker than you can say Snitch. Clear?"
"Yes, sir. But I'd never do that!"
"I am happy to hear it, but I thought I would warn you anyway, just in case you were tempted. This spell is to be used only for reproducing copies of correspondence, such as invitations to a party. Go on then, write your letters. I'll see you at supper."
Harry made his way up to his room, where he began to write his first letter to Petunia and Sirius. He wondered how they would take the news. And Dudley as well. He already knew that Phil and Julie would be thrilled, more nieces or nephews for them to spoil.
He quickly finished one letter, then used the Copy Charm to reproduce the body of the letter and his signature on a second piece of parchment. The only thing different was the greeting. He sealed the letters and wrote their addresses on the outside, then called Hedwig to deliver them.
The snowy owl seemed happy to fly off on a mission, and Harry felt slightly guilty at not having given her more letters to deliver. Then again, at least this summer she was with him, and not trapped in a cage or given to Ron to watch over the way she had been before Snape had come and taken him away from Privet Drive.
That night at dinner, Draco told the family that he was seriously considering becoming a wandmaker when he finished school.
"Ollivander says I have a real talent for selecting the right wood and pairing it with the right core. He thinks I'll make a good apprentice, unlike his nephew Abelard."
"Yeah, Abelard's a lazy slob," Nesmay put in. "Ollivander said he only took Abelard as an apprentice as a favor to his sister. But Draco's the one he really wants."
"That's wonderful, Draco," Sarai said, passing the mashed potatoes over to Harry.
"If you do decide that's what you wish to do, I shall speak with Ollivander in your seventh year and draw up an apprentice contract," Severus said, giving his blond son a smile. "To be a wandmaker is no small thing, Draco."
"I know. And to study with Ollivander is a real honor."
"Yes. I am sure you'll be a credit to him," Severus said approvingly. Draco looked as though he had won the TriWizard Tournament. Severus looked at Nesmay. "And how did you do today, Nesmay? Any accidents?"
"No, sir. I didn't even lose my temper when Abelard called me a silly stupid wench."
Severus' eyes narrowed. "That young man needs a lesson in manners."
"Oh, he got one, Severus. Ollivander heard and made him scrub the entire back room by hand and carve two dozen beech practice wands. And he made him apologize too," said Nesmay.
"Good. I'm glad to see you're learning to ignore idiots like him, whose tongues run ahead of their brains." Severus said, then took another helping of honey-glazed pork loin. It seemed that all of his children were growing up.
"That's the best thing to do with a fool who can't control his tongue." Sarai added. "If he sees he isn't getting a reaction, he'll get bored and go away."
"And if he doesn't, your big brothers will chase him off," Draco said.
Nesmay giggled. "Thanks, but I can handle Abelard."
Once the supper dishes were washed and put away, that night it was Draco and Nesmay's turn, the three siblings retired to the drawing room again to discuss names for the hatchlings.
After fifteen minutes of a rather heated debate, Nesmay threw up her hands and cried, "This is hopeless! We're never going to agree."
Harry thought for a moment, then said, "All right, then we'll do it the democratic way. We'll put all the R boy names in a hat and pick two of them, and then do the same for the S boy names. Then we'll pick one S girl name, and one R girl name. That way it's fair and we all have an equal chance to get one name of our choice."
Draco frowned. "All right. That's fair."
"Who gets to pick first?" asked Nesmay.
"Me, since it was my idea." Harry insisted. "Draco can pick the S boy name and one S girl name, Nesmay, you get the rest of the girl names."
They quickly cut up the pieces of parchment and separated all the names, putting them in one of Harry's school hats. Harry stirred the paper bits with his wand. Then he put his wand down and drew forth the first scrap of paper with a flourish. "And the first name for baby boy number one is . . . Raziel!"
Draco smirked. "Keep going, Phoenix."
Harry stirred the names again, like an ancient Celtic prophet stirring rune tiles. Then he reached in again and pulled out another name. "The name for the second hatchling is . . . Raimi!" Harry grinned. "That's one of mine. So that takes care of runespoor hatchling R, at least for the boy names."
He removed the R names and then dumped in the S boy names. "Here you go, Draco."
Draco copied Harry's method, only using his own wand. "And baby boy S is . . ." he reached in and withdrew a parchment piece. " . . . Sesha!"
Nesmay squealed and jumped up and down. "Yes! I picked that one!"
Draco banished the rest of the S male names and then filled the hat with S girl names. "And now, for the second girl baby . . . Fortuna, don't fail me now . . ." He reached in and withdrew another paper. " . . . Sybil!" he whooped. "Lady, I worship you!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Dragon, don't get all full of yourself."
Draco just laughed. "Here, Nessie. Pick out another brilliant S name."
Nesmay reached into the hat and drew out a name. "And the last S name is . . . Sirristhys!" She shot Draco a smug grin. "Ha! Now we're even."
"You know, boys and girls, this isn't a contest on who gets the most names," Harry pretended to scold them.
"Shut up, Harry!" the two chorused.
Harry flashed them a trademark Snape glare, then picked up a quill and wrote down the finished S runespoor names. Sesha, Sybil, Sirristhys. "Come on, Nesmay. Let's finish it up."
Nesmay placed all the girl R names into the hat. "And the last girl name is . . . Raasana!"
"Good job, Nesmay! Now we're all even," Harry said. He then wrote down the completed set of R names. Raasana, Raimi, and Raziel. "Tomorrow we'll go and find the runespoor and tell him the good news."
"Hooray!" Nesmay clapped, then she threw all the rest of the parchment papers up in the air, making it rain confetti.
Draco scowled at her. "What did you do that for, you silly twit?"
"Because I felt like celebrating."
"You're cleaning up this mess, you know," her elder brother said sternly.
"Did I say I wouldn't?" his sister demanded. "Really, Draco. Quit being such a stiff." Then she waved her wand and spoke a Neaten Up Charm.
"Well, now that we've helped the runespoor with names, maybe we could help Mum and Dad with baby names," Draco said.
"I guess, but let's wait and see what they decide first," Harry said diplomatically. "I mean they have what, four months till the twins are born?"
"Around that, I think," Nesmay nodded. Then she asked brightly, "Who wants popcorn?"
"Only if you're not making it," Harry teased, for last time Nesmay had burnt the kernels to a black crisp.
"It wasn't my fault. You told me to leave the popper on the fire and finish my meditation." Nesmay defended.
"Well, I figured you'd listen to the sound of it popping," Harry protested.
"Merlin's sake, by the time you two finish arguing over whose fault it was, we could be eating some," said Draco exasperatedly. "Where's the corn popper and the popcorn, salt, and butter?"
Both younger siblings just stared at him. "You mean . . . you're going to make the popcorn this time?" Harry sputtered.
"Yes. I can't be any worse than Nesmay," Draco retorted, Summoning what he needed.
"I have got to see this," Harry sniggered, then he and Nesmay watched as Draco measured out the corn for the iron and mesh corn popper, closed it, and stuck it over the fire in the fireplace.
The corn popper was a rectangular basket made from iron, with mesh sides and bottom and a hook to hold the top closed. It had a long handle and a special heat-resistant rubber grip so Draco could hold it without getting burned. The Slytherin knelt on the hearth, occasionally shaking the popper to distribute the contents. After about five or ten minutes the corn began to pop.
Soon the corn was popping at a furious rate and fluffy white kernels filled the basket. Draco shook the basket rapidly and more corn popped. Finally he took the basket off the fire, for almost all the corn was popped. He had a large blue ceramic bowl on the table, after removing the lid from the popper, he poured all the popcorn in, sprinkled salt on it, drizzled butter over it, and mixed it.
Then he stood back, licking butter and salt off his fingers, and said, "Now that's how you make popcorn. Any questions?"
Harry and Nesmay didn't bother to say anything, they just dug into the bowl and started eating.
The next morning, all three siblings were awake very early, in a tearing hurry to find the runespoor and tell the snake the names for their hatchlings. Harry led them carefully into the small forest, and used the earth bond to locate the runespoor lair. He then called out in Parseltongue to the snake.
"Azella, Azeal, Ashterith, it's me, Harry Snape, the Speaker. I've returned with my siblings to name your hatchlings."
"We come, S-Speaker!" came a loud hiss from inside the cave, then the adult runespoor appeared, followed by the two small hatchlings.
The runespoor family halted a few feet in front of Harry's trainers, coiling and looking up at the boy expectantly.
"What's my name? What's my name?" the hatchlings asked, bobbing up and down. "Tell us! Tell us!"
Their parents shot them a reproving look. "Be ssstill, young ones!"
The hatchlings stopped bobbing.
Harry cleared his throat. "Will the hatchling with two females and one male come forward?"
One of the orange and black snakelings slithered up.
Harry pointed to the middle head, the dreamer, and said, "I name you Sybil, for the prophetess of ancient Rome. Dream well."
Then Nesmay stepped forward and pointed at the right head, the critic. "I name you Sirristhys, for an ancient Queen of the fae, debate well."
Draco came forward and pointed at the left head, the lone male, the planner. "I name you Sesha, for the ancient Hindi king of the naga. Lead well."
"Sssirissthyss, Sessha, Sssybil!" hissed the hatchling's three heads. Then all three heads bowed low. "We thank you for the gift of names, S-Speaker S-Snape, Draco, and Nesmay."
Harry bowed back, as did his siblings. "You are most welcome," he replied. Then he beckoned the other hatchling forward. "Now for you." This time he pointed at the left head. "I name you Raasana, which means decisive, for a leader needs to be able to make choices. Lead well."
Draco took the middle head. "I name you Raimi, which means compassionate, for most dreamers are gentle. Imagine well."
Nesmay took the right head. "I name you Raziel, which means "the Lord is my secret" for often a snake is the keeper of secrets. Argue well."
One by one, the hatchlings hissed their new names to their parents, then they thanked the Snape children.
"All honor and wisdom to you, children!" the elder runespoor called. "Come, hatchlings! Now is the time to learn to hunt."
Then all three slithered off into the brush, the small runespoors quarreling a bit among themselves before a sudden "Ceasse this bickering!" came from Ashterith, and no more sound was heard from any of them.
Harry grinned, then said he was hungry for breakfast, and they all headed back to the manor.
Over their breakfast of eggs, toast, bacon, and waffles, Severus announced that he would be turning the manor clock back for three months, which would give them time to have a vacation for the summer and also allow Sarai to spend most of her pregnancy with Severus.
"I didn't want you to spend half of it alone here while I was teaching, so this seemed like the best solution," Severus told her. "When we return to our time, you'll have about a month left and so can deliver, hopefully, during the last days of August, before the boys and I have to return to school."
"That's thoughtful of you, Sev." Sarai said. "But let's speak with Healer Auriane before we do so."
"Yes, that would be wise. The children have their last session in the healing pool today. We can inquire about it then."
While the three children were having their final soak in the Pool of Restoration, Sarai and Severus discussed their decision to travel back in time at the manor with Healer Auriane. The fae Healer did not think it too dangerous to attempt, since Sarai was young (for a fae), in perfect health, and the embryos were also healthy.
"Let me show you a few standard obstetric charms, my lord. Nothing fancy, but basic monitoring charms for mother and baby, since I won't be able to interact with you while you are in the past. If Lady Sarai continues her exercise regimen and drinks her potions, she should be fine. However, if anything should happen, please don't hesitate to contact me immediately."
"I will. If . . . if she starts having contractions or something, I'll bring us back as soon as possible," Severus promised.
Sarai frowned at them. "Would you kindly stop discussing me as though I'm not here?"
"Sorry, my lady," apologized the Healer. "Look, Lord Snape. This a charm to monitor the babies' heartbeats . . ." She demonstrated the incantation, using gestures to complete it.
Severus watched closely, as did Sarai. The warrior was not as skilled in magic as her husband, but she could cast some spells.
Once Auriane was satisfied that Severus was able to cast the charms, she gave them a full stock of potions for Sarai, they were mainly Nutrient Drafts and a Headache Remedy made especially for pregnant witches and some Soothing Muscle Salve. "There! That should keep you until your return," she declared happily, shutting her satchel. "I shall see you soon. Take care!"
The expectant parents waited until the children were finished with their session and had spoken with Healer Kellin, who asked if they had had any recent nightmares or periods of depression. All three told him no, and after running a short diagnostic over them, pronounced them cured of the dark taint and able to go home.
"Perhaps I shall see you at the next revel?" he inquired politely, bowing.
"Maybe you will," Nesmay said, then bid him farewell.
As they were about to depart, a shimmerling came and delivered an early christening gift to the Heir and Lady of Prince Manor. It was from Titania, and the box contained lovely christening gowns of spidersilk encrusted with pearls and diamonds, a royal gift.
Severus' eyes almost fell from his head.
"These children will be spoiled beyond belief!" Sarai chuckled when she saw what her cousin had sent. "Titania never could resist a baby."
"Does she expect us to name her as godmother?" asked Severus, a little uneasily. "Is this a hint?"
Sarai shook her head. "Oh, no. Titania has many godchildren, and while I'm sure she wouldn't mind, she would never demand that position. Who did you have in mind, Sev?"
"I was thinking maybe Philip and Julie."
"Sounds fine to me. You can't go wrong with two Born vampires for godparents."
"You're sure the queen won't be insulted?"
"Titania isn't petty that way, Severus. She won't mind, so long as she's allowed to hold the babies after the ceremony," Sarai reassured him. Then she kissed him lightly. "Quit worrying, Snape, you'll make your hair gray."
After a light lunch with Titania and Morgana, the Snapes left the palace and traveled through the Gate back to the manor, where Severus turned back the clock all the way to the beginning of June, showing Harry exactly how it was done.
Harry watched closely, knowing someday he would be doing this alone, without Severus' guidance. Once it was finished, Harry asked why he didn't feel any different. "I mean, when Hermione and I used the Time Turner back in third year, it made us feel really dizzy and strange for the first ten minutes."
"The clock is a fae magic, and they have been tampering with the time stream for millennia. They know how to do so without making themselves ill or disorientated. Now remember, you can leave the manor for brief periods, since you can't encounter your other selves, as they are at Hogwarts, but you also cannot interfere with people in a significant way. You may, for instance, shop at a store for something, like ice cream, but the person you interacted with won't remember you after a day or two. It's part of the magic surrounding you. You can observe the past, but not change it deliberately."
"I understand, sir." Harry said. The fae did not believe in altering past events, lest you compromise the future. Then he eyed his father thoughtfully and asked, "Dad, how about a game of Quaffle Keep Away? You do remember how to fly, don't you?"
"Of course I do, Mr. Impudence!" Severus mock-growled, cuffing Harry playfully on the shoulder. "Just because I'm not obsessed with Quidditch doesn't mean I can't fly well."
Harry smirked. "Just wondering, Dad. Would Sarai want to play too?"
"No, thank you, Harry," Sarai said from behind them. "I'd prefer to keep my feet on the ground for now. But have fun with your father, Harry."
Harry turned and gave the warrior a smile. "I will. Now let me tell Draco and Nesmay. They can play opposite." He rushed off.
His stepmother chuckled. "He's full of energy today. The pool looks like it reinvigorated him. And it'll do you some good to get outside, Sev. You're starting to look like a ghost."
"You're pale as snow, my lady," he countered. "Maybe you should join us?"
"Yes, I will take a walk through the orchard while you play with your sons and daughter. Before I am so huge I can't walk anywhere without waddling."
While Severus and Harry played with Nesmay and Draco, Sarai wandered leisurely through the orchard, occasionally tossing a blue rubber ball for Cafall to fetch. The misthound was growing rapidly, and yet he still was a puppy, loving to romp and play with his family. He trotted happily beside the former Blade Captain, his ears alert and tail waving.
Up above, Harry snatched the Quaffle from Draco and tossed it to Severus, who neatly avoided Nesmay's attempt to intercept him, and caught the ball neatly. He then flew towards the goal with the Quaffle under his arm.
Draco pursued, but to his shock, Severus was wickedly fast, and maneuvered better than Draco expected. Before the blond could catch him, Severus scored, making his team ahead by one.
Harry yelled, "Nice one, Dad! That's teaching him a lesson!"
Severus smirked, then threw the Quaffle back into play.
Draco was startled. "Hey, where's you learn to fly, Dad?"
"School," the elder wizard replied with a wry smile. He snatched the ball from Nesmay with a feint, and then tossed it behind him. "Harry, catch!"
Harry was ready, and caught the Quaffle instantly, then raced for the goal, Draco hot on his heels.
They played till the afternoon sun was low in the sky, and then went inside for a shower. Harry and Severus' team had won—20 to 17.
It was Sarai's turn to cook dinner that night, and she used a recipe learned from Molly—chicken and dumplings with a side of egg noodles and apple crumble with treacle sauce for a sweet.
As the month of June progressed, the little family used the extra time allotted to relax. They had family picnics upon the lawn, with everyone making whatever they liked, sandwiches or salads, and different biscuits. They swam in the pond on hot days, or drowsed upon the porch beneath the columns. Sarai challenged the whole family to a riddle contest, and everyone had to come up with a different riddle every day, no repeats. Draco and Severus had an ongoing game of Wizard Chess. Harry, who was pants at chess, opted to go with Sarai and Nesmay, hunting with Cafall.
Harry found it was pleasant, slipping through the trees, following the eager young dog. But he neglected to release his earth bond, and when Cafall caught and killed a rabbit, he ended up sick all over.
"Harry, are you all right?' Nesmay asked, concerned. "Maybe it was something you ate? Or the heat?"
Harry just groaned and told her to leave him be.
Nesmay looked hurt, until Sarai drew her away and whispered to her that Harry was embarrassed at getting sick in front of two females.
"What's that matter?" the girl asked.
"To men, it matters. They think they look weak. Male pride is touchy," explained the warrior.
When Harry caught up with them, he almost threw up again, since Sarai was expertly dressing the rabbit, tossing the inedible bits to Cafall. "Ugh! I think I'm going to be sick again," he gasped.
"Take two deep breaths and avert your eyes if it bothers you," Sarai told him, continuing her task.
Harry glanced at Nesmay. "How come it doesn't bother you?" he demanded, ashamed at his weak stomach.
The girl shrugged. "We all have to eat. And rabbits are good eating. But I don't like killing a deer. Even though roast venison is very good, and one of the queen's favorite dishes."
"I don't know if I can eat that, especially not after I felt . . ."
"Felt what?" Sarai asked gently, cleaning off her knife and wrapping the rabbit meat up and storing it in her hunting pouch.
"I . . . think I felt it die . . . when Cafall . . . when he bit it . . ." Harry said hoarsely.
"The earth link," Sarai murmured, her eyes suddenly filled with compassion. "No wonder you lost your lunch, child. Harry, didn't your father teach you how to block the link when you have to?"
"Uh . . . yeah, but . . . I forgot."
Sari stood, and patted her foster son on the shoulder. "Why don't you do it now? You'll feel much better. And we won't mention this to anyone, will we, Nesmay?"
"No. Draco would tease you forever if he knew."
"Thanks." Harry said gratefully, and did as Sarai suggested. He was glad to find out that he wasn't some kind of sissy.
Sarai waved Cafall onward, and the hound found another rabbit and some quail, which Sarai shot with a handheld crossbow. This time Harry didn't get sick, but he didn't watch while Sarai dressed them either.
The rabbit stew and stuffed quail they ate that night was delicious, but Harry was glad that most of their food came from a store. Cafall got an extra large meaty bone, for doing a good job catching supper that night.
As June turned into July, Sarai began to develop some odd cravings, which totally baffled Severus and the boys. One afternoon, Harry opened the magical icebox in the kitchen to find a whole shelf of pickles.
"Draco, what's with all the pickles in here? It's like the supermarket. There are dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, half-sours, and zesty garlic. Who's going to eat all these? I don't even like pickles!"
"Well, Mum does. She made Dad go out today and buy them. Said she all of a sudden wants to eat something sour."
Draco shrugged. "Don't look at me. Dad says the Healer told him that pregnant women get weird cravings when they're expecting."
"How should I know? Do I look like a girl?" Draco demanded irritably.
Sarai soon discovered that she got the cravings at the worst possible times, such as late at night. At first she tried to ignore them, but they plagued her so much that she couldn't sleep, and ended up tossing and turning.
That in turn woke up Severus, who was a light sleeper, and he looked at his wife grumpily and asked softly, "What's wrong now? Are you sick? Are you having contractions?"
"No. I'm just . . . hungry," she admitted, chagrined.
"Again? Merlin's wand, woman!"
"I'll just go back to sleep." Sarai said apologetically, though she doubted if that were possible. Her stomach was grumbling louder than her husband.
Severus propped himself up on an elbow, recalling Auriane telling him this was something that often happened to pregnant women and he had to be patient. "No. How can you sleep if you're hungry? What are you hungry for? Eggs? Bacon? Fried pickles? Strawberries?"
"Umm . . . not really."
"I feel like having . . . a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich."
"A grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich? But that's what . . . Elvis used to eat!" Severus sputtered, flabbergasted. "How did you learn about that?"
She slanted him a wry look. "Sev, you forget, I was around when he was alive. And Harry reminded me of it one day. He was telling me about how Dudley used to hog the TV set and he watched all the old Elvis movies and made Petunia make him the sandwich and banana pudding and brownies for two months straight one summer. And Petunia got Dudley guitar lessons, only they only lasted a week because Dudley broke his guitar in a temper tantrum when he couldn't get the notes right."
"Spoiled brat," muttered her husband. He slid out of bed. "All right. Let me just go down to the village to the Ready-Mart, they're open almost all night. What time is it anyway? Midnight?" He yawned then Transfigured his sleepwear into a hoodie, jeans, and black loafers. "I'm sure they have peanut butter and a loaf of sliced bread. The bananas I can get off of the tree in the orchard . . ."
"Sev, you don't have to . . ." she protested faintly, feeling guilty.
"Yes, I do. This way you can't accuse me of ignoring you or whatever you pregnant women say about your husbands' behind their backs," he groused.
He turned around, his hair tousled from sleep. He made her want to drag him back in bed, he looked so adorably disheveled. "What now?"
"I love you."
"Humph! You damn well should." Then he Apparated down to the convenience store, only to come straight back because he'd forgotten his wallet with his Muggle money on the nightstand.
Twenty minutes later he was in the kitchen, grilling up peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And here he had thought to have a relaxing vacation! Lately he barely got any sleep, because if Sarai didn't wake him up starving for some crazy dish like strawberry ice cream topped with raisins and dates, or chicken a la king, or salt and vinegar crisps and chocolate bars, he was awakened by her tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. By the time these children are born, I should have earned the Husband of the Year Award.
Little did he know, this was only the beginning.
A/N: Thanks for everyone who gave me names for the hatchlings. Sorry this was late but the site was having issues posting. Hope you all liked the family time in this one. In two more chapters, the newest Snapes shall arrive!
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