Chapter 73 : Aftermath
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Severus made tea while he waited for Lily to come back downstairs. He was still very annoyed with her, but it was fading as he calmed down. He was exhausted from helping fight the fire and he simply didn’t have the energy for an argument at the moment. Well, not much of one. He never liked quarreling with her, it always made him feel guilty, and it reminded him sharply of the bad times when Eileen and Tobias fought like cats and dogs.
Once the tea was ready, he floated the tray into the living room. He could still smell a faint smoky residue, probably from outside. But at least his home was undamaged and Lily was safe. Unlike many others in the village. He hoped the Ministry would pitch in and help those who had lost their homes rebuild. He knew there was fund for disasters like this. Your tax money at work, he thought with a snort. He cocked an ear towards upstairs. He didn’t hear water running anymore and assumed Lily would be down in a few.
He quietly fixed himself a cup of tea and before he could sip it, she was there. He sighed sharply when he saw her, dressed in a simple blue nightie with socks on her feet, the bulge of her stomach reminding him how much he loved her . . . and feared for her. “You should have owled me before you left. I’m not that busy that I can’t take the time to say goodbye to my wife before she risks her neck,” he said, rather tartly.
Lily sat down next to him. “I’m sorry, Sev. But I just . . .thought it best if you didn’t even know I’d gone, that way you didn’t worry about me so much. Reg told me it was a bad idea. I should have listened to him. But you’ve had so much on your plate lately, I thought I could spare you.”
“You meant well, but next time, please tell me if you’re about to rush off somewhere. When I got here and found you gone . . . I nearly went crazy. At first I thought you’d been summoned to participate in this bloody object lesson and then I was afraid you were fighting the fire . . .the fire was set deliberately. By Death Eaters on the Dark Lord’s orders. There’s a notice board to that effect in the middle of the village.”
Lily paled. “That’s terrible! Why?”
Severus shrugged, his mouth tight. “The usual reasons. I was scared to death you were sleeping and you’d burn to death. One of my Slytherins is a Seer, Trelawney’s nephew, his name is Rhys Morgan. He was the one who warned me. He dreamed he Saw Hogsmeade burning. If it weren’t for him, there would have been more damage and more lives lost.”
“How many people died?”
“Only two. Emilie and Joe Miclkeson. They never woke up and the smoke got them. It’s a shame, they were nowhere near getting ready to die, even if they were over one hundred. There were also at least a dozen injured and we lost some homes and a few businesses.”
“The Three Broomsticks?”
“No, that’s all right. We managed to save it, though there’s a corner of the roof that got burnt. It could have been much worse. The bastards were hurling fire projectiles like fiends from hell.”
Lily put her arms around him and hugged him. “Thank God you’re all right. And that you weren’t summoned to participate in this atrocity.” She leaned her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry I scared you. Forgive me?”
“Always.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “Would you mind talking to Rhys, maybe giving him some pointers on how to control his Sight? Trelawney’s a fraud, I doubt she can teach him anything.”
“Not at all. I could do that tomorrow.” She shifted in his embrace. “I need to speak with Dumbledore anyway about what Reg and I found.”
Severus felt his heart quicken. “What did you find?”
She whispered in his ear, “I think we found two Horcruxes.”
“Bloody hell!” he swore. “What did you do with them?”
“I have them here, in my bag of holding,” she replied. “But Reg and I nearly didn’t make it out of the cave. . .” she began to tell him everything she had gone through. “I need to speak with Dumbledore first thing in the morning. They have to be destroyed. Only I don’t know how to do that.”
“Neither do I. But he’ll know.” Severus said. He then went on to tell her about the problems with bullies and poor Arthur being hexed. “I wish you’d been there, Lil, to help me when I was extracting all those barbs. I hurt him terribly, and even though it was necessary, I felt like a right bastard, like I was torturing him. He was crying so hard he almost made himself sick.”
“Oh, Sev. You poor thing!” she murmured, she knew full well how much he detested deliberately causing pain in a child, especially one he loved. “And poor Art too. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help. But at least you had Dickon. Will Art be all right now?”
“Yes. He should be all healed by tomorrow afternoon. I just need to apply another round of quick-healing salve,” he answered. He shifted slightly and picked up his tea and drank some. “Want a cup?”
Lily eyed the teapot, then smirked and said, “I’ll share yours.” She put her mouth where he had and drank, smiling over the rim.
“Tease!” he mock-scolded. “The shape I’m in right now, I couldn’t make love if I wanted to. And I do want to.”
“Then we’ll save that for tomorrow too. You’ll have something to look forward to after your classes.” She handed the cup back to him.
“Maybe I should cancel all my classes.” He smiled seductively.
She laughed huskily. “Keep your pants on, Snape. I’m exhausted too, by tomorrow night I’ll have my strength back.”
“I’ll be waiting.” His hand moved over her taut abdomen. “Everything okay in there?”
“The baby’s fine. I think he or she slept through all the action,” Lily said. “Rub my tummy?” She relaxed against the couch and drank the rest of his tea.
Severus was only too happy to give her a massage, his hands rubbing tenderly across her belly, kneading gently.
Lily felt like bread dough, being kneaded by an expert. She let herself go limp and a slow warmth stole through her. She loved it when Severus rubbed her tummy . . . or anywhere else on her body. He had magic hands, ones that soothed and relaxed. She felt like she could lie here all night and just let his fingers walk all over her. “Mmmm . . .” she groaned.
But then the mood was shattered by a familiar pressure in her lower abdomen. “Aww, hells!”
“What’s wrong? Did I hurt you?” he asked anxiously.
“No. I just need to pee, dammit.” She levered herself up. “Carrying this baby has reduced my bladder to the size of a pea.”
Severus helped her stand. “I’m sorry. I probably triggered it when I massaged over there.”
Lily shook her head. “You don’t need to do anything to trigger it. It just happens at the most inconvenient moments.” She waddled towards the bathroom. So much for a semi-romantic evening!
When she came out, she found her husband drinking a second cup of tea. She curled up next to him.
“Much. I want to spend the night up at the castle, Sev.” She said then. “I know you have to go back and monitor your little snakes, and I don’t feel like being along tonight.”
He nodded. “I was hoping you’d say that.” He smirked lazily at her.
“Snape, get your mind out of the gutter,” she snickered.
“My mind is never in the gutter with you, Lily. It’s in the clouds.” He captured her mouth in one smooth kiss, unable to resist her. She tasted of tea and sugar, an irresistible combination. Fire licked through him and he shivered with longing. Maybe he wasn’t too tired after all. But then he recalled that she might be, and he didn’t want to risk it. He could wait.
Breaking off the kiss gently, he went back to drinking his tea, Lily dozing lightly against him. Just having her beside him made him feel good. When he had finished, he sent the tea things back into the kitchen to be cleaned magically. Not wanting to wake Lily, he wrapped her in a blanket, covering her face and picked her up and Flooed back to his quarters at Hogwarts.
He then transferred a sleeping Arthur to the couch and put Lily in his bed. She barely stirred and when she woke sleepily, he kissed her and told her to go back to sleep. “I’ll come back as soon as I’ve settled my Slytherins down.”
He knew the dorms were sure to be buzzing about Rhys’ vision and probably everyone was in the common room that had been awake when it happened.
Sure enough, he found a mixed group of first, second, fourth, fifth, and seventh years lounging about the fireplace, talking about Hogsmeade being on fire and some of them had relatives there. Everyone shut up when he entered, startled, then they began talking at once.
“Professor, was Morgan’s vision true?”
“I have family there, the Scarboroughs, do you know if they’re all right? I couldn’t get my mum on the Floo.”
“Is Hogsmeade . . . like . . . gone?”
“What started the fire?”
“Did anyone die?”
“Professor Snape, is your wife all right?”
“Professor, is The Three Broomsticks still standing?”
“How about Honeydukes?”
Their voices rose in a confused babble until he used an Amplifying Charm and clapped his hands together sharply. “Everyone, quiet down! I cannot hear myself think over all of you babbling.”
They all fell silent, anxiously looking at him. He walked to stand before the fireplace and said, “To answer the most import question first, Hogsmeade has not been burnt to the ground. It still stands, though many homes and some shops have sustained damage. They shall be rebuilt. As far as I am aware, The Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes are still there, and took no real damage from the attack. There were only two fatalities, an elderly couple who died in their beds of smoke inhalation. There were several more injured. Mr. Scarborough, I suggest you owl your mother, she might have been unable to respond to a Floo call because of the fire. Most of the families who still have homes will have returned to them by now.”
He cleared his throat. “My wife, thank Merlin, is safe, she was not at home, but with a friend, she is now here with me. Thank you for asking, Miss Ashley. Is Mr. Morgan sleeping?” he asked her. She was the fifth year Prefect.
“Yes, sir. He took the Dreamless Sleep and was out like a Noxed lamp.”
“How did the fire start, Professor?” asked deWarenne.
“It was started by Death Eaters. They cast flaming projectiles onto the houses and shops as they flew above the village on brooms.”
Several gasps and mutters of anger and horror followed this statement.
“I suppose you are all aware that with the damage, your Hogsmeade weekend will be cancelled. However, if you wish to go and help with the reconstruction, write your name on this list.” He waved his wand and a piece of parchment some two feet long attached itself to the wall. “But be warned—you are there to work, not fool around. If I catch any one of you causing trouble for the villagers and not assisting them, you’ll have detention the whole weekend, no excuses. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Professor Snape,” was heard from several throats.
“Very well then. The excitement is over, now back to bed, all of you.”
The Slytherins obeyed, shuffling back into their respective dorms quietly. Severus waited until they had all departed before returning to his own quarters, quickly changing into nightclothes and falling asleep beside Lily.
“ . . .then we grabbed the Horcruxes and we got the hell out of there,” Regulus finished telling Cindy about the Inferi and the lake of fire. He had not particularly wished to discuss it, but he knew Cindy would want to know what had happened, and he had promised himself that he would try not to keep secrets from his wife. Save for what he was forced to do as a Death Eater. That he refused to burden her with, the darkness in his soul was his alone to bear.
“Regulus, I’m so glad you’re all right, I can’t even be properly mad at you for running off and not telling me,” Cindy said, hugging her husband tightly.
They were curled up in the middle of their bed, a tray with Moscato and chocolate dipped strawberries and cherries sitting in front of them.
“Good, because I don’t think I could take being yelled at after the day I’ve had,” Regulus said, kissing her. “So why don’t I just say sorry and we can skip to the making up part.” He ran his tongue around the edge of her lips.
“You mean the making out part,” she corrected, groaning.
“Same thing,” he chuckled, then he reached for his glass of wine. Both he and his wife loved dessert wine and strawberries with chocolate. It was the classic romantic comfort food, and after Regulus’ near brush with death, he felt he deserved some. He popped a cherry into his mouth. “Mmm . . . heaven.”
Cindy took a strawberry and bit into it, savoring the rich fruity and chocolaty taste. “Here, starboy,” she said, and fed Reg the other half.
“Yum!” he playfully nipped her fingers.
“Beast!” she mock-cuffed him across the back of the head.
He pretended to yelp in pain, then he growled softly in his throat. “Better watch it, pretty damsel, because you’re making me hungry.”
“Really, sir! Are you saying you want to devour me?” Cindy asked in her best haughty court lady voice. “Have you no manners?”
“None whatsoever,” Regulus huffed. Then he grabbed her and tickled her till she screamed. “And I want to eat you all up, lovely one!”
“Reg!” Cindy gasped. “Watch the tray!”
He sent the tray off to the side and then he continued playing with his wife, tickling and kissing her until they were breathless.
“Reg, where are the Horcruxes now?” Cindy asked when she could speak again.
“Lily has them. She’s going to give them to Dumbledore and let him decide what to do with them.”
“Don’t they need to be destroyed?”
“Yes, and he’s the one who can do it.” Regulus replied. “Let’s not talk about the bloody Dark Bastard any more, Cin. I have much better things to do. Like seduce my wife.”
“I have no objection to that, you Black beast,” she purred, then drew him down on top of her.
The next morning:
“James! James, honey, wake up!” Petunia cried, shaking her sleeping husband. “You’re having a nightmare.”
James Potter continued to thrash and moan, his arms flying every which way, before he finally woke.
Petunia nearly got his fist in her face, but luckily she dodged in time. “James Potter, wake up!” she yelled.
James sat bolt upright in bed, gasping as if he’d been running. “Huh? Tuney? What happened?” His hair was sticking up like he’d been electrocuted and he groped for his glasses and shoved them on.
“You were having a nightmare and when I tried to wake you, you almost gave me a black eye.” Petunia said, sitting up. Her bulging belly filled half the bed.
“Aww, baby, I’m sorry. I didn’t hit you, did I?” James asked contritely.
“No. Fortunately for me, you have terrible aim when your eyes are closed,” Petunia teased.
“Good, because I’d never forgive myself if I hurt you.” James said.
Petunia ruffled his messy mop of hair. “Look at you. You’re all sweaty. What were you dreaming about?”
“Uh . . . something about a case I was on. I was chasing a criminal, I think. I can’t always remember my dreams.” James said, but he was lying. This particular dream he remembered very well. It was about a case he and Sirius had been assigned to a week ago. They were supposed to find and arrest a Death Eater who had been using pre-adolescent girls in black magic sex rituals. They had started out by finding the victims, most of whom were dead. The few that were alive were almost insane from the terrible things done to them. They had finally located the scumbag and just as they were about to bring him in for questioning and a trial, he swallowed a potion, some kind of poison, and dropped dead. James’ dream had been about the dark wizard returning from the dead, and coming after Petunia to kill her and the baby. James had been chasing the wizard in his dream, but he could never catch him.
“Let me go take a shower. I feel slimy,” James said, throwing off the covers.
“Me first,” Petunia said. “If I have to wait for you to come out, I may have an accident, the way my bladder is.”
“You could always come in with me,” he invited.
“I wouldn’t fit with you in there, James,” Petunia snorted. “I’m about the size of a baby beluga.” She rose and waddled hurriedly towards the bathroom. Petunia was almost eight months pregnant, and sex no longer interested her the way it used to. All she wanted was for the baby to get born.
James waited patiently, a towel wrapped about his trim waist, for his wife to come out.
“How are you feeling?” he asked, for her expression was sour.
“Not well. My heartburn’s acting up again. And I’m slightly constipated.”
James made a sympathetic noise. “Poor you. Let me call Bilbo for some senna tea.”
“What’s that? You know I can’t take potions.”
“It’s not a potion. It’s an herbal tea laxative. My mother swears by it. She used to give it to me all the time when I was a kid.” James reassured her. “It’s all natural, it won’t hurt you, trust me. Bilbo!”
The elf popped into the room. “Master James?”
“Bilbo, would you mind bringing some senna tea up here? And whatever herbal remedy you’ve got for heartburn.”
“Stomach troubles, Master?”
“Yes, but not mine. It’s for Lady Petunia.”
“Ah. Be right back.” He departed with a crack!
An instant or two later, he reappeared with two cups of tea on a tray. “Be sure to drink them both, Lady. Feel better!” He bowed and set the tray upon the bed. Then he vanished.
“Bilbo’s so sweet!” Petunia remarked, going over to the tea and beginning to drink it. The tea was not hot, but pleasantly warm. It didn’t taste bad at all.
“Yeah, he’s a good elf. He’s served our family for generations.” James said. He came over and hugged his wife. “Finish that tea while I go shower. I hope Mad Eye doesn’t have us patrolling Diagon Alley today. Nothing ever happens there.”
He withdrew and headed into the bathroom.
Petunia finished both cups of tea while the water was running, then she got dressed. With Annie and Sirius away on their honeymoon she was at loose ends. Perhaps she would have James Floo her to St. Mungos, maybe they needed her help volunteering. She hated being idle, and at least if she did start contracting, she’d be in a hospital, and they could halt it. She wondered how Lily was faring, and decided to write her a quick letter while waiting for James. They could commiserate about their pregnancies.
She began to write using her blue ostrich quill that never ran out of ink, though it was sort of awkward leaning over the desk with her mammoth belly.
And personally, she was glad when James was somewhere nothing ever happened. Because then she wouldn’t worry over him so much. She knew he had a dangerous career, especially now, and all she could do was to be there waiting when he came home. Some nights he was so tired he fell asleep in his uniform and Bilbo would magically undress him and put him in pajamas and arrange him comfortably in bed. Other nights he was wide awake and telling them about his exploits, still others he refused to talk about what had gone on at work. Then Petunia knew it had been bad and she didn’t ask questions, just sat next to him and snuggled beside him.
The war was taking its toll on him. He was no longer so quick to laugh or smile, and there were times when he was quite depressed. She knew he was taking an anti-depressant potion his Healer had prescribed for him, and it seemed to be helping. She just wished someone could take an AK-47 and blow Voldemort’s brains out. But James had told her that they couldn’t even find the bastard and Muggle technology didn’t function around magic very well at all. The gun would probably jam and that would be that.
James emerged from the bathroom, quickly dressed in his uniform and said to Petunia, “Your stomach feeling any better?”
“Some, yes. I just need to watch what I eat. James, would you mind bringing me to St. Mungos? I need to get out of the house for a bit.”
He eyed her speculatively. “Going a bit spare, are you? Sure, I’ll drop you off. At least if you happen to start going into labor you’ll be in the right place,” he joked gently.
“My thoughts exactly. You be careful today.” She admonished. “Don’t go chasing any dark wizards down a deserted alley.”
“I’m with Orion today, babe. He won’t let me indulge myself.” James reassured her. “Come on, let’s go eat breakfast.”
He led the way downstairs.
Mad-eye Moody called a meeting that morning, and James attended with Orion and all the other Aurors on duty that shift. Everyone gathered about the large table in the meeting room, where there was a tray with pots of tea and coffee set up.
No one noticed the small rat scurrying to hide in the corner behind a filing cabinet.
As soon as they were all gathered in the room, Moody began. “All of you know that there have been more attacks on half-bloods and Muggleborns, and also several shops and establishments in Diagon Alley. Despite our patrols, the attacks have increased. So, I have decided to change our patterns a bit, stagger them so we’re covering the same area at different intervals. I know we’re spread thin as butter over a loaf of bread, but that cannot be helped.”
All the Aurors groaned at that.
“So, here’s what I propose we do . . .” Moody said, then he began to detail the range of the patrols and where each pair started and ended. There would always be a back up pair as well, but they would be rotated and be back at Headquarters every few hours.
James and Orion would be working a stint over in Hogsmeade, they wanted Aurors there since last night there had been an attack and several homes and shops set on fire. James was alarmed, since that was where Lily was. But he assumed that if anything had happened to Lily, Severus would have informed them.
“You two might also be required to help with the rebuilding process,” Moody told them. “But only if the Disaster Relief folks don’t show up. Just figured I’d let you know to be prepared for anything.”
“Thank you, Alastor,” Orion said. “Come on, James. Let’s get a move on.”
James followed the elder Auror out the door and they Apparated to the village.
The rat waited until all the Auror pairs had left, then shifted into Pettigrew and opened the door. Then he shifted back into rat form and scurried hell for leather out of the Ministry. Once he was safely away from the building and hidden behind some trash bins, he Apparated back to his home.
Pulling out a piece of blue parchment from inside his desk, he wrote “the eagle has flown” on it and then addressed the envelope to Lucius Malfoy. Calling his parents’ owl, Lovejoy, he sent the missive off with him. Now all he had to do was meet Lucius in his office at four o’clock this afternoon and tell him what he had learned.
He sniggered to himself and thought how easy it was. And none of the Aurors would ever suspect a thing. He looked forward to seeing the looks of astonishment upon their faces when they tried to figure out how the Death Eaters discovered their new plans. It was too bad that Peter could never reveal that it was he who brought them low. At least not yet.
Rubbing his fingers together, he went into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the icebox, and then had his house elf Nippy make him a sandwich. Spying and betrayal was thirsty work. But it would all pay off in the end. And his former friends, the Marauders, would regret ever pushing him aside and treating him like dirt. He would make sure of it.
A/N: My mom came home from the hospital today! Celebrate with me by leaving a review! Hope you liked this chapter!
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