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Return to Prince Manor by Snapegirl
Chapter 73 : A Time to Mourn and a Time to Heal
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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Thirty minutes had passed while Severus grieved, and Harry thought about going outside and seeing if his father were all right, but Phil had told him to let Severus be. "Your dad needs time, Harry. Time to grieve, and privacy. He'll be all right."

"But it's raining," Harry protested.

"It's a light summer rain. He'll be fine." The vampire assured.

"Will he?" Harry wasn't at all sure about that.

"In time." Phil said heavily. "In time."

Nesmay served tea, trying to play the good hostess, as she had been taught. Morgana and Gwydion ate some cakes and drank an obligatory cup, but they were doing so from politeness and not because they were particularly hungry.

Draco took some tea and a scone, and then shared it with Smidgen, finding that the food tasted stale in his mouth. He didn't know what to say or how to react at a funeral, and so he said nothing, wishing everyone would go away and leave them in peace.

Finally they heard the soft sound of the back door closing and then Severus appeared in the doorway, looking like a drowned cat. Cafall went up to his alpha, whining and licking his hand. The young hound's paws scraped Severus' knee, and Cafall barked softly, wanting to play.

"Down!" Severus ordered.

Cafall immediately lay down, whining softly.

Severus ignored the pleading dog and waved his wand, drying himself off. "Do any of you wish anything else to eat or drink?" he asked mechanically.

They all shook their heads.

"Forgive me, Severus," Morgana rose. "But I must be leaving. I have council meetings in about an hour. You have my deepest condolences, cousin." She embraced the distraught Potions Master and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Remember, sorrow's river is deep, but not endless. If I can be of service, you have but to ask."

"Thank you, Your Grace." Severus said.

Morgana gave him a sad look before departing.

Soon afterwards, Gwydion also bid them farewell, though Severus knew he would see his father-in-law back in the Summer Kingdom.

Severus watched as the older fae walked out the door, thinking of his wife, whose grief had caused her to become deathly ill. Severus prayed she would come back from wherever her soul wandered, for he could not bear to lose her.

"Sev, come and sit down," Julie said, gently clasping his arm. "Why don't you have a sandwich and some tea? You look about done in."

Severus shook his head. "I'm not very hungry." He mumbled. He looked once at his daughter, asleep in Julie's arms, then looked away. It was too painful to gaze upon her long, she was a reminder of the son he had lost.

"I know, but you need to eat," Julie said. "You don't want to become sick, do you?" She beckoned Nesmay to bring him a sandwich and a cup of tea.

Severus sat down on the sofa and just stared at the refreshments. He looked pale and drawn, his eyes two bleak pools.

Julie turned and said softly, "I think I'd better put this small one to bed. Draco, would you show me where the nursery is?"

"Of course," Draco said, eager to get out of that room. He led Julie down the hall to the nursery.

Severus picked at his food, feeling numb and weary. All he wanted to do was to sleep for a year, so he could forget the terrible thing that had happened. All that prevented him from doing so was that Sarai needed him, and also that sleep was no guarantee of eluding nightmares.

Harry watched his father, noting how depressed Severus seemed to be. It scared him, for he had never known the older Snape to give in to despair. He didn't want to lose his father as well as Sarai. "Dad? What do we do now?"

The plaintive note in his son's voice made Severus raise his head and look over at Harry. The boy looked about as miserable as Severus felt, worrying his lower lip till it looked about to bleed. That was a habit Severus had tried very hard to break the younger Snape of during their extended summer holiday, and Severus knew it was stress that had caused Harry to backslide. "I . . . have to go back and stay with Sarai. She needs me to be there for her."

Harry nodded. "Okay, but what about the baby?"

"She needs to remain here at the manor. It's what Sarai wants. Sarai thinks that she will be safer here than in the palace."

"Who's going to take care of her?" asked Draco, just returning from the nursery.

"I can hire a nanny, one of the wood sprites of Titania's household offered to help," Severus answered.

"Severus, a wood sprite can only be away from the Summer Kingdom for twenty-four hours at most, then she needs to return and rest for at least two days. They are quite sensitive to the presence of iron and the lack of fae magic in the mortal world." Phil reminded him. "They're Low Court fae, remember?"

Severus rubbed his temples, he was beginning to develop a headache. "Of course. I know better. Perhaps . . ." he trailed off, trying to think of a solution.

Suddenly Harry spoke up. "It's all right, Dad. We can take care of Victoria."

"We? Who's we?" Draco sputtered, staring at his brother as if he had grown an extra head.

"Me, you, and Nesmay." Harry replied.

"But Harry, I don't know the first thing about taking care of a baby!" Nesmay squeaked.

"So we'll ask the nanny. How hard can it be?" Harry said firmly. "We're none of us stupid, we can figure it out."

"We can?" Draco gaped at him. His brother had gone off the deep end.

"Sure we can. Dad, don't worry, we'll manage. Right?" he gave Nesmay and Draco a sharp look.

"I'll try," Nesmay said. "Julie showed me how to feed and burp her."

"Just remember, this was your idea, Harry," Draco grumbled. "I'll do my best." Now he felt sick. He wasn't ready at all to be taking care of a baby.

"I can show you the basics," Julie offered. "I would stay and help out, but the twins start school this fall, and I need to get them ready."

"That's all right. She's our sister, we can learn what to do. And we'll have the nanny to help us." Harry said, sounding more confident than he felt. But he knew he had to do this, that it was the right thing to do. For all of them.

"If you're sure, Harry?" Severus asked.

"I am. You just tell Sarai to get well from us and that we're waiting for her to come home where she belongs."

The relieved look in his father's eyes told Harry that this was the right decision. Family needed to take care of family. Clearing his throat, Harry went into the kitchen to grab a glass of merlinna juice.

Draco followed, hissing angrily. "What the hell are you thinking? Just let Dad hire a nanny."

Harry scowled. "Who's he going to get on such short notice? He doesn't have time to advertise and interview people, Draco. He needs to get somebody now, and I don't want him stressing over this. He doesn't need to be worrying about this when he's all broken apart over losing Alex and maybe Sarai too! Just trust me, Dragon. I know what I'm doing."

"Yeah, sure," Draco snorted. "But I'm not getting stuck with changing nappies."

"We can all take turns. Don't be an ass, Draco. Do it for Dad. He needs us, even if he'll never admit it." He quietly drank off the glass of juice.

Draco sighed. "You know, I hate it when you make sense."

Harry smirked. "I come by it honestly." Then he left the kitchen and went up to Julie. "Show me what to do, Julie."

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Phil suggested that Julie remain at the manor overnight to supervise things while he returned to their cottage and took care of their boys and Severus returned to keep vigil over Sarai. Julie agreed, and Draco, Nesmay, and even Harry breathed a sigh of relief.

"If you need anything, or have a problem, send Smidgen for me," Severus instructed. He felt guilty leaving his teenage sons in charge of their sister, but he could not bear to be away from his wife for long. Though Healer Auriane had said Sarai was a fighter and not likely to give in to the grief-sickness, Severus feared that Sarai would succumb if he were not there beside her. Losing Alexander was bad enough, but if he lost his wife he feared he would shatter into a billion pieces.

As soon as he was back at the palace, he requested that Nanny Oakheart attend him, and asked if he might engage her as a nanny for a week or so. The wood sprite agreed, though she told him she could only stay beyond the borders of Summer for twenty-four hours at a time.

"I know. I just want you to make sure that my sons are caring for Victoria properly."

"That shall be no trouble at all, my lord." She gently patted his hand. "I shall cross over at first light tomorrow."

"That will be fine." He withdrew several Galleons from his pocket and handed them to her. "Will that be sufficient?"

Nanny Oakheart's eyes widened. "My lord Snape, that is more than enough!" She made as if to hand it back to him, but he refused. She bowed low to him. "You are most generous."

Severus just nodded wearily, and resumed his vigil beside his wife, who lay like one dead, her hand still and feverish in his larger one. He gently lifted her hand, which was scarred and callused from so many years of wielding a sword, and kissed her palm. "Beloved, come back to me. I'm here, even if our son is not. Right here, waiting. I love you, Sarai."

He waited to see if his words had any effect.

His wife's chest rose and fell, her breath hissing in and out, but other than that there was no change. Severus wanted to scream his frustration and fear to the heavens, but he kept still and silent. There was no sense in indulging in such histrionics. He sighed and continued to hold her hand, praying she would find her way back to him.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Back at the manor, Harry was penning a letter to Sirius and Petunia, telling them the good and bad news. He had just finished sealing it and tying it to Hedwig's leg when he heard the shrill wails of his baby sister. He opened the window for Hedwig to leave, then made his way across the hall to the nursery.

His baby sister was howling her head off, her little face all red and scrunched, her bluish-green eyes mere slits as she made her discomfort known to the whole estate. Harry crossed to her cradle and said, "Hey, little big mouth, you know I'll bet the runespoors can hear you all the way in their lair. What's your problem, huh?"

The baby blinked and stared up at him, her small chest heaving. Harry grinned down at her.

"Well, nobody can say you don't have the Snape temper, right?" He gently tickled her under the chin. Then he carefully lifted her out of the cradle, just as Julie had shown him, with his arm supporting her fragile head and neck and his hands beneath her bottom. She was dressed in a soft flannel nightie, with fuzzy pink socks on her tiny feet. "Bet you're hungry, hmm?"

Victoria nuzzled his chest, searching for nourishment. She made soft whimpering noises.

Her brother snickered. "Nothing there for you, silly girl." Holding her securely in his arms, he went to snitch a bottle of formula from the kitchen.

"I swear, that kid's got the biggest mouth in Yorkshire," Draco muttered crossly, smothering a yawn as he emerged from his room. "What's wrong with her now?"

"She's just hungry," Harry answered, walking into the nursery.

Draco shook his head. "Merlin, but she eats more than Hagrid!"

"Not really. It just seems that way," Julie put in. The vampire was wearing a casual blue nightgown with a matching lacy wrapper and comfy sheepskin slippers. "A baby's stomach can only hold so much at one time, that's why they eat so often." She watched as Harry sat down in the maple rocking chair and began to feed Victoria a bottle. "Angle it up a bit more. That's it. That was she'll get more milk and not so much air. You're doing very well, Harry."

"Don't forget to burp her," Draco added, smirking. Last time Harry had fed Victoria, he had forgotten to burp her after and she had puked all over him.

"I won't." Harry said, then eyed his brother. "Just remember, next time you have to get up with her."

Draco groaned. "Ah, come on. You're better at this than I am. She actually likes you."

"Draco, don't try and get out of it," Julie scolded softly. "The baby's too little to have a preference just yet, all she knows is that someone's holding and feeding her. If you take turns, she'll grow used to all of you, and that will make minding her that much easier."

Draco rolled his eyes. "I'd rather she grow used to Daddy Harry and let me sleep."

"Too bad," Harry snorted. He watched Victoria sucking down the goat's milk based formula greedily. It was strange, but from the moment he had seen her, he had felt an immediate bond between them. Perhaps it was because she was so small and helpless and he had always been drawn to protect helpless creatures. Or perhaps it was the fact that she had lived while her twin died, thus making her survival that much more precious. Whatever it was, Harry could no more deny it than he could deny he was a Snape. He loved his small sister with a fierce endearing love, a love so consuming that it eclipsed the normal nervous fear most people felt upon taking care of a newborn.

Draco yawned repeatedly and watched his brother sleepily. He couldn't fathom how Harry could remain so calm while holding the little one. Draco was scared to death he would drop her, or hold her too tight and hurt her somehow. Last time he had held her she had squirmed and wriggled like a worm on a hook. Merlin forbid if he accidentally lost his grip . . . he could just see himself trying to explain to Severus how he had caused the baby to become brain damaged . . . At the same time, though, he envied Harry his natural easiness with the baby.

He'll probably be a wonderful father, while I'll be the awkward screw-up that has trouble telling my kid I love you, Draco thought, scowling down at his slippers. Thanks so much, Lucius. But then another little voice intruded upon him, reminding him that while he had had the worst example of a father in Lucius, he had also had the best example in Severus. He yawned again.

"Well, looks like you have the magic touch, Phoenix. Since you don't need me, I'm going to go back to sleep for a few hours." Then he whirled and ducked back into his room before his brother or Julie could say anything.

Harry frowned. "How come he's acting so skittish?"

Julie chuckled. "He's just got a case of the jitters, Harry. It happens to everyone. He just needs time to adjust. In a week or two he'll be carrying her all over."

"You think?"

"That's how it was with your Uncle Phil." Julie smiled at Harry's pop-eyed expression. "Don't look like that. Phil isn't perfect, when the twins were born, he was petrified. I gave him Siryn to hold and he froze like a statue. You would have thought I gave him a time bomb. But eventually he learned that they wouldn't break and once he realized that, he was holding them every spare minute."

Then she moved and helped Harry position the baby so he could burp her.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Three days later:

Draco tried shoving the pillow over his head, but it did no good. He could still hear Victoria screaming. He groaned and wished he could cast a Silencing charm on her. Then he wondered irritably why Nesmay or Harry wasn't going in there to see what her problem was. Until Smidgen perched on his shoulder and sent, :Draco, it's your turn to do mornings:

"No! I don't do mornings!" he griped. "I hate mornings!"

Smidgen gave a soft mew of exasperation. :Harry told me to tell you that if you don't get up and help, he'll send a Snape Special your way.:

Draco sat up, furious. "He what? Who does he think he is—Dad? I'll kill him if he tries anything like that!"

"Well then, I'd suggest you go and see to your baby sister.: Smidgen purred, very amused.

Swearing under his breath, Draco got out of bed and padded down the hall to the nursery.

Suddenly Victoria's wails cut off and Draco heaved a sigh of relief. Perhaps the baby had gone back to sleep? Then he heard another voice, singing in a mellifluous tenor.

"Bye lo, baby bunting

Daddy's gone a-hunting

Gone to get a rabbit skin

To wrap my baby bunting in"

Shocked, Draco stopped dead, thinking for a moment that his father had returned and was singing to the baby. But then he recalled Severus' most recent message from Smidgen, that Sarai's condition was unchanged. "What the hell . . .?" he muttered, continuing onward. "Sev Prince!" he gasped upon seeing the Guardian of the manor hovering above the cradle.

The ghost was smiling down at the fussy baby, who was staring up at him in fascination, gurgling and waving her small fists.

"Hush, pretty baby, don't say a word,

Uncle Sevvy's gonna sing you a song you never heard

When that silly song's all done, Uncle Sevvy 'll sing you another one."

"You sing to all the babies that come here, or only my sister?" queried Draco.

The ghost chuckled softly and turned about. Hello, Draco. That was how I made my living centuries ago. I was a wandering minstrel. Though some of my audiences were much more critical than this one.

Draco cocked an eyebrow. "I don't see why. You have one of the best voices I've ever heard."

Thank you. It's nice to know I haven't lost my touch, even after all those centuries. I used to sing lullabies to my children every night until they grew too old.

"How many kids did you have?"

Four. Two boys and two girls. Lydia, Severn, Aurielle, and Julian. The ghost answered, smiling reminiscently. I am sure this little one will bring much joy to your family.

"Once she stops being so demanding," Draco huffed.

Ah, Draco. Just wait until she's talking. Then you'll wish she was this size again!

"I wish my dad were home with Sarai. Guess you think I'm a selfish snot for wanting him here, so he could take care of Victoria?"

No, you sound like a fifteen-year-old boy who has been given more responsibility than he is ready for, Sev Prince answered.

"It's not that I don't want to help, but I'm just . . . afraid I might screw up and it's not like a potion where you can just vanish it and start over." Draco coughed.

You're right. So you take it one step at a time. The ghost instructed.

Draco reached into the cradle and carefully lifted Victoria out of it. She waved her hands and whimpered. "Hey, pretty girl. You going to give me a hard time or are you going to behave?" He gently tickled her under the chin, as he'd seen Nesmay do, and Victoria made a funny face at him. "Ugh! You're wet. Figures."

He set Victoria upon the small changing table, trying to recall Julie and Nanny Oakheart's lessons on changing nappies.

He carefully undid the old one, wrinkling his nose. "Yuck! You smell as bad as a troll, you know that?" He made a face at the baby.

"Uh . . . where are those throw-away cloths . . . oh, here they are . . ." Draco talked to himself as he changed the baby, amazed at how tiny she was. "You've got legs like toothpicks! And your feet fit in my hand!" He ran his finger teasingly down her foot and the baby squealed. "Ticklish, huh?" He leaned over and whispered in her ear. "Me too. But you can't tell anybody that, all right? Shh!"

The baby gazed up at him and burbled.

Draco quickly finished changing her, using a simple Sticking Charm to keep the baby from parting company with her nappy. "Now what? You just ate two hours ago and you don't seem hungry. I'd put you back to bed but you don't seem tired. What do I do with you?"

Why don't you try holding her and rocking her? suggested Sev Prince. At this age, babies need to be cuddled and made to feel safe and warm and loved. You could even sing to her.

"Me? Sing? I can carry a tune, but I'm not like you."

You don't have to be. The baby won't know the difference.

"I don't want to make an ass out of myself. Why don't you sing for me?"

All right. You rock and I'll sing, Sev agreed affably. He waited while Draco got settled in the rocker, the baby clutched against him stiffly. Relax, boy. You look like you're about to be tortured, not going to rock a baby.

"But she's wriggling."

Yes, but she can't move any more than that. Just snuggle her next to you and remember to support her head and bottom. Like you were holding a loaf of bread.

"Or a Quaffle," Draco muttered, finally relaxing and resting the baby in the crook of his elbow. He began to rock back and forth, slowly at first, and then more firmly as he realized the baby wasn't going to leap out of his arms.

Sev Prince began to sing, improvising on the "Hush Little Baby" lullaby.

Draco rocked and rocked, the motion infinitely soothing, and the baby in his arms cooed and sighed, stuck a fist in her mouth and sucked. She was warm and smelled like roses and honey. Her eyelids began to droop and Draco smirked. "That's it, little big mouth. Go to sleep. Sleep is good for you. I love to sleep in. Just take a long nap, okay, Toria? Listen to your elder brother now, 'cause I know what's good for you. Sleep while you can, 'cause as soon as you're old enough, Dad's going to give you chores and make you get up at eight in the morning."

Toria yawned and slowly her eyes shut . . . until she was slumbering peacefully.

I did it! Draco thought triumphantly. That hadn't been hard at all. Smiling smugly, he rocked some more, the steady creak of the rocker and Sev Prince's soft voice conspiring to make him sleepy as well. He jerked away as he dozed off. I almost fell asleep holding her. Merlin help me!

He rose very slowly and placed the snoozing infant back in her cradle and rocked it with his foot till she settled.

Then he went back and sat in the rocker, figuring he'd better stay here just in case she woke up. Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep.

An hour or two later, Harry and Nesmay rose and went to check on the baby. They found both Draco and Victoria fast asleep, snoring in tandem.

"Aww! How adorable!" Nesmay said.

Harry Summoned a camera and snapped picture.

"He's going to murder you for that," Nesmay predicted.

Harry just sniggered. "He can try."

Page~*~*~*~*~*~Break

The Summer Palace

Faerie Realm:

Severus dipped a cloth into the basin of cold water and sponged down Sarai's face, letting the water trickle down her neck and chest. She had been running the same medium grade fever for three days now, and despite all the spells cast and potions administered, it refused to break. The fever was not high enough to cause lasting damage, but Auriane feared that if it went on too much longer, it would drain Sarai's magical reserves.

The Potions Master gently blotted the water that had fallen upon the sheet. His hands stroked her hair away from her brow and rested for a moment upon her head. He did not speak aloud, but his love and concern were in his eyes. He had not been absent from her bedside save to take care of necessities and brew potions. He had Summoned the Stirrer of Efficacy from his home and used it to brew stronger healing drafts, doubling the volume of his solution with the magical item, as Sarai needed more and more Fever Reducers to keep her fever down.

Then he waited, conjuring all the patience he had learned in his duties as a spy, for his wife to return to herself, to conquer the heartbreaking grief that had enveloped her. But as the days and hours passed and still she lingered in that traumatic sleep, he began to lose hope.

He returned the wet cloth to the basin and resumed his seat on the upholstered chair beside the bed. He was surprised the chair did not bear the permanent imprint of his backside, given how many days he had spent sitting in it. Auriane and Juliana, who were also frequent visitors to the sickroom, had suggested that he return to the manor to visit his children for a few hours, but he refused, too afraid to leave and risk something terrible happening. The children were well, Smidgen had told him that Sev Prince was now assisting them in caring for Victoria, so he needn't worry on that score.

He picked up a history of the Summer Court he had been perusing and began to read, but his heart wasn't in studying and he soon drifted off into a hazy half-doze.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Somewhere in a twilight realm between light and shadow, life and death, Sarai roamed, searching for the spirit of her departed son. In her terrible grief, she had convinced herself that if she could only capture her child's spirit, she could bring him back to life. Such was impossible, and also forbidden by all the laws of Light, but her logical mind was mired in sorrow, and rationality had given way to desperation.

She had caught a glimpse of the little soul running down a long gray road and had hastened after it, but always it had eluded her. She had pursued endlessly, ignoring all the other voices calling behind her—her mother, Severus, Titania, Auriane, Morgana. All that mattered was finding her baby and restoring him to her.

A part of her knew that pursuing her son into Death's Kingdom was unwise, that she should just let him go, but her heart cried out for him to return. She knew if she could only touch him, everything would be mended. But the baby soul was surprisingly fast, and worse, did not seem to recognize her.

She kept calling him, "Alexander! Alexander Severus Snape, come back! Come to Mama, Alex!"

But the baby would pause, look at her in puzzlement, and then scurry away.

Alexander's soul seemed semi-solid, bearing her dark curly hair and luminous blue eyes, the deep indigo blue of a fine sapphire. He was clothed in a wispy dark robe, similar to one his father wore, and his feet were bare. He appeared to be about two years old, and looked as Sarai thought Severus might have at that tender age, a pixish cherub with a heart-warming grin, his curls tumbling down in his eyes.

Sarai did not know how long she had been in this odd realm, trying to catch a spirit that stood still for but a moment, but time didn't seem to touch this place. She was not tired, nor did she hunger or thirst. Her sole objective was bringing her wayward son's spirit back home.

On and on she ran, always keeping her child in sight.

"Alexander! Alexander!"

She had to catch him, or else return to herself and that terrible aching sorrow, the awful knowledge that her child was gone forever from her. She redoubled her efforts and came with a few feet of the toddling baby.

Suddenly the baby soul stumbled, going to his knees upon the gray road.

Sarai saw her chance.

She lunged forward, her hand brushing the hem of Alexander's robe.

Then a pair of white elegant hands lifted the baby up off the road and held him close.

Sarai gasped. "No! What do you think you're doing?"

"Saving you from making a terrible mistake," answered the other spirit.

"Aislinn? Dear sweet Merlin! It's really you?"

"Yes, cousin." Aislinn smiled at her, holding Sarai's baby close. "I was sent to find this little one and protect him."

"But . . . you don't have to. I'm here for him." Sarai declared, drawing herself up.

She barely came up to Aislinn's chest.

Aislinn was wearing the same lavender and turquoise robes she had been buried in, the flowed and billowed about her like shimmerling wings. "Sarai, he must remain here. He's crossed over and now must dwell in the Bright One's Realm until She determines it's time for him to return."

Sarai shook her head stubbornly. "No! He belongs to me. I followed him here to take him home."

"You can't. His home is here now, in the Realms of the Blessed." Aislinn said, kissing the little boy's cheek. "I shall take good care of him, Sarai. As you have my daughter."

Sarai's eyes glistened with tears. "You know then, about Nesmayallindra? That Severus and I have, in a way, adopted her?"

"Yes, I know. And I am thankful beyond words to you. For now my child has a family who truly wants and loves her. I had hoped, before I travelled the Gray Road, that such would be the case. I promise the same shall be true of your baby, Alexander Severus. He will be happy with me in the Bright Lady's paradise. There is peace and contentment there, Sarai, and nothing ever dies, but remains ever young and full of life. Our hearts know only love and feel only joy for all of forever. Unless the Lady has other plans for our rebirth."

"Rebirth? Then do you think that perhaps . . . he could return to Sev and me someday?"

"That is up to the Lady, not me. But I would say that he might be allowed . . .since he is such a young innocent soul." Aislinn answered. She tickled the baby and he giggled.

Instinctively, Sarai reached a hand out to the child.

But Aislinn drew back. "Don't. You cannot take him back, and you'll only hurt him and yourself if you persist. You must let him go, Sarai. There is a time to mourn and a time to heal. He is safe and happy, here in the Kingdom of Forever. I am permitted to give you this assurance so your mourning will come to an end. Remember, you have another baby, his sister, to raise alongside Nesmay and your stepsons. They need you, your husband needs you. Go, my sister, back to those who love you."

"Aislinn, you don't understand."

"Yes, I do. I faced the same choice, but I was weak where you are strong. I loved my daughter, but not enough to stay. I had no husband like yours, whose love was stronger than the call of death. He waits for you. Go, Sarai. Be at peace, and know your son is also."

Then Aislinn reached out, and touched Sarai on the shoulder.

In the next instant, she found herself spun about like a cork bobbing in a whirlpool, swirled backwards and sideways through the gray realm until she fetched up beside a glowing doorway made of light. She stood up, brushed herself off. She was not hurt, merely a little confused. She looked at the doorway, and heard a familiar voice calling her name.

It was Severus.

"Goodbye, my precious son," she called over her shoulder.

Then she leaped through the doorway.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

"Sev! Sev, wake up! I saw Aislinn, Sev . . . and she promised to take care of our son . . ."

Severus stirred, his mind wreathed in sleep's coils. Abruptly he woke, convinced he had heard Sarai's voice. He sat up, only to find himself staring into a pair of brilliant green eyes. "Sarai? Oh, thank you, Merlin! You're awake!" He reached for her, dragging her into his arms and holding her tight. "Your fever's broken, thank God! I was hoping . . . but then I thought . . . damn you, don't ever scare me like that again!" He shook her slightly, then crushed her to him, silent tears of relief and joy coursing down his face.

They clung to each other, reveling in the comfort of the other's arms and the profound fact that they were together once more. They wept together for the loss of their son and whispered endearments of love and gently kissed each other, beginning at long last to heal, coming out of the dark and into the dawn.

Hope you all liked. See, things are getting better. I figure I have about three more chapters and this will be finished. I hope to finish this before Christmas.
 


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