Chapter Six: Others' Dreams
"Not that I'm complaining about the human wisdom Grandmother endowed me with — I mean, two weeks ago I was a bird — but I think it's rather out of date. What do you think, Draco-chick? There was a girl you were looking at today who had a skirt so short that you could almost see her breakfast."
Once he'd worked that out, Draco assured Helen that fashions had changed in the last few hundred years. He remembered that girl, though. She'd had really nice legs. Damn — had Helen noticed him noticing? "I'm not complaining about fashions," he replied. "Not when they're worn like that."
They were back at Hogwarts, back in Slytherin Tower. To Draco's relief Helen hadn't said anything to her husband about the boys' little excursion into counter-espionage.
Helen looked down at her own modest ankle-length skirt. "Do I have good legs?"
Draco choked on a piece of chicken. "Um..."
"It's not in Draco's best interests to answer that one way or the other," Snape interjected. "If he tells you your legs are inferior then he'd have to deal with the wrath of an insulted woman."
Helen frowned. "I wouldn't get angry with him for telling me the truth."
"Give your human responses a little time to mature and you'll find yourself becoming vain in no time at all. Trust me."
Helen's fork hit the table with a clatter. "Is this cynicism? Draco, was Severus being cynical? Rona keeps warning me about that. She says that when Sev gets cynical I have to kiss him senseless to stop him being a prat. So, was that cynicism?"
Dropping his own knife and fork and holding up his hands in surrender, Draco said, "That question was even more unfair than the one about your legs."
"I can't believe Rona said that," Snape argued. "Besides, I've already asked you not to discuss things like that in front of the students."
"Like what? Cynicism or kissing you senseless?" But there was a gleam in Helen's honey-dark eyes that suggested she knew exactly what he meant.
Snape was blushing. "As for your legs," he said in what was for him a pitiful attempt to change the subject, "they carry you around in the normal manner and thus are perfectly adequate. Fashions and hemlines change with astonishing rapidity in the Muggle world. I wouldn't recommend you worry too much about keeping up with the latest fads. How short was this questionable skirt?"
"You could just about see her knickers." Helen propped her chin on her knuckles and stared over the table at her husband. "Should I be wearing a skirt like that?"
Snape blinked rapidly.
Draco looked down at his plate. The temptation to laugh could prove to be fatal.
"Ah," said Snape, "I don't think you should."
"Why not?" Helen pouted. Then she added, "Oh, I see what you mean about vanity. But are my legs really not very good?"
Snape rolled his eyes and muttered what sounded like a prayer for sanity. "Actually, given the high concentration of hormonally challenged teenagers around here during term, if you wore a skirt that short you'd cause a riot. There's a reason we encourage the wearing of long, shapeless robes, you know. And that's because we teachers dislike spending too much time prying the students off each other, let alone the staff."
Apart from Helen's avant garde take on the art of dinner conversation, it was a quiet trio that ate dinner in Snape's quarters that evening. Draco didn't mind the change in setting — the Great Hall was a bit too jolly for his tastes tonight, what with the celebration over the success of today's court proceedings. Snape's evidence (given under Veritaserum) had been regarded as the clincher. Sirius Black, to the great relief of all but four of the castle's current occupants, was expected to be pardoned tomorrow. All the occupants barring those three in Snape's quarters and Filch (who was probably off practising his routes for sneaking up on students when the school year started) were down slapping each other's backs in the Great Hall.
Draco didn't wish the man any particular grief, but Black had insulted Helen and, as such, was instantly filed under B for Bastard. Helen seemed to take the whole thing with a grain of salt providing Severus wasn't in any way affected by Black being a free man.
"He's served his time," he said cryptically.
Served his time for what? Draco wondered. If he was innocent of the murder of the Potters, then what had his crime been? It must have been something fairly horrific if Snape thought over a decade in Azkaban was appropriate.
Draco asked, but Snape's scowl and Helen's shake of the head warned him that pursuing the topic wouldn't be a good idea.
"So what shall we do tomorrow?" Helen asked. Luckily she had abandoned the topics of skirts and kissing Snape senseless, two topics Draco found incredibly uncomfortable hearing about from Mrs Snape, especially with Professor Snape in the room. She was eating lamb chops. Again. "Can we go to Hogsmeade?"
Snape made to reply, then doubled over with a muffled grunt.
Helen cried out: "What's wrong?"
Hissing, Snape drew in a breath. "Grandmother," he replied shortly, biting off the syllables. "She thinks I've been away too long. Tomorrow we'll be taking a Continental Drifter home."
"Oh." Helen was crestfallen as only an ex-parrot can be. "And we won't be taking Harry-chick?"
"No," Snape snapped. "Thank the gods."
Privately, Draco agreed. He'd felt a nasty stab of jealousy when Helen had mentioned Potter.
Helen speared a piece of meat viciously. "Dumbledore's a mean old man, not letting us take him home with us. Oh well, at least we get to keep one of them." She smiled at Draco, who smiled back.
"Draco will be staying here at Hogwarts."
There was an outraged squawk from Burd Helen. "What? Sev! You can't leave both of them behind! And Draco would love our home!"
Draco eyed his professor worriedly.
Snape avoided both their gazes as he scowled down at his plate. "Hogwarts is a safer place. He can catch up on his education and the Headmaster will keep an eye out for his safety."
Helen said made a suggestion that was surely biologically impossible, even for powerful wizards skilled in transfiguration. Draco's eyes went round as he squirreled it away in memory.
"You heard me. I want Draco to come back with us."
Draco had heard that Helen had been a stubborn parrot at times when she wanted something. By the belligerent gleam in her eye he wondered if this was one of those times. Flattering though it was, he didn't want to become the source of an argument between her and Professor Snape. He slumped down in his chair a little.
There was a hesitant knock at the door.
Oh, thank Merlin! "Come in!" he shouted, leaping up to open the door.
Potter. Damn and blast, he was actually grateful to Potter, who looked equally surprised at the sight of a Malfoy being happy to see him.
"Sorry," Potter said. "I hope I wasn't interrupting anything."
"Only the beginnings of a humongous fight," Helen told him cheerfully.
"Oh," said Potter, raising an eyebrow at Draco when he realised why the blond was so pleased to see him. "Should I go away and come back when you've got it out of your system?"
Draco glared at him.
"Not at all," Helen assured him. "See? I'm learning manners. I can save up all my arguments for a later time and get angry then. Now I can be a gracious hostess. Tea, Harry-chick?"
"Yes please," Potter replied, unduly solemn. Draco just knew that somewhere under that calm exterior Potter was laughing.
Draco's comment from yesterday about Snape having found a soul-mate seemed to be spot-on.
"Why are you here, Mr Potter?" Snape, all business, said.
Potter nodded, seemingly expecting no less from his Potions master. He sat down in the empty chair next to Draco's and clasped his hands in front of him on the table. "I just came to thank you for what you did for Sirius."
Snape looked at him sourly. "Do you think the Headmaster would have allowed me to do otherwise?"
"I think you don't really need Professor Dumbledore very much at all these days," Potter said shrewdly. "I think you and Helen don't need Hogwarts unless you want it. And I think that if you'd really wanted Sirius to go back to Azkaban you'd have arranged it. I've seen the kind of protection you have from Grandmother, remember."
"You seem to be thinking quite a bit, Potter," Snape said, his eyes glinting strangely. "It never used to be a habit with you."
Potter ducked his head. "As you say, sir," he replied, not sounding angry despite the barb. "But during the short time that I was thinking I thought I should come up and say thank you. Sirius probably won't — he's not the most thoughtful of people, as you know, and Remus would like to but probably doesn't want to disturb you..."
Snape tilted his head to one side. "A wiser man than I thought, that Lupin. And what makes you think you aren't disturbing me?"
Potter grinned. "I'm pretty sure I am, but I'm used to making you angry, you see. And I wasn't sure when you'd be leaving so I wanted to see Helen before you left. Thank you," he added to Helen, as she handed him one of the new cups she'd bought that day.
Instead of the garish abominations the boys had worried about, she had settled for a set of blue Denby after Draco had hinted that Snape preferred plain practicality and pointed out that china painted with frolicking 17th Century milkmaids and their suitors would probably accidentally get lost seconds after Snape set eyes on them. Helen had taken the hint, after admitting that she was probably going to have to work long and hard to develop some sort of taste in these matters. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered what she bought, although upon seeing his wife's purchases Snape had mentioned something approximating approval in Draco's hearing. How they interacted in private was a mystery, but as the forthright Helen hadn't blacked Snape's eye yet (and she was pregnant — wow) Snape must have been more warmly demonstrative than his somewhat arctic public persona suggested.
"I'd hardly leave without saying goodbye, Harry-chick."
"I didn't think so, but I wanted to be sure."
Helen frowned. "I'm hardly one of those Dursley-sheep."
Potter bit his lip trying not to laugh. "No," he said at last, his voice careful. "You're not, are you?"
"And I wanted to tell you something, anyway," Helen said, bouncing in her seat. "Can I, Sev? Can I pleeeeeease? Draco knows. Can't Harry know, too?"
Snape glared at Draco. "And how does Mr Malfoy know?"
"Well, he was half-awake last night when you cast the diagnostic spell."
Blast. Had he been that obvious? Draco avoided Snape's basilisk glare.
"I suppose if..."
"Hooray! Harry — guess what?"
"Oh joy," sighed Snape sourly. "Guessing-games. It'll be Exploding Snap next."
"Make a change from Exploding Snape." Helen waved a hand in his direction airily. "Ignore him... Oh, you'll never guess. I'm pregnant!"
Potter's reaction was a satisfying, eye-popping, "Huh?"
"I'm pregnant — I'm going to have a baby in about nine months and I won't even need to lay an egg because I'm a mammal now and mammals have these amazing gestation devices called 'uteruses' and 'placentas' and..." She stopped for breath, luckily.
At the mention of "placentas," Draco, who'd been trying to eat shitake mushrooms, put his fork down again.
"It's a perfectly normal biological phenomenon, Potter, even if it is a miracle of nature," Snape said coldly. "And now I'd like to stop discussing its miraculously intricate details."
"Helen is, yes," Snape said, with a small, chilly smile at the Gryffindor's slack-jawed disbelief.
"Well, yes, I mean..." Potter gave up, sliding around the table instead to embrace Helen. "That's so wonderful! You're going to be the best mum ever! Is it a boy or a girl?"
Laughing, Helen said, "One thing at a time! I've only just found out that I'm going to have a baby, let alone what sex it'll be. Besides, I don't think I want to know. Do you, Sev?"
"Sev" shrugged while sipping a glass of red wine and being apparently indifferent to the deplorable excess of emotion happening in front of him. "So long as it's definably one or the other, I shan't be too bothered."
Helen snorted and slapped her husband's arm. "Mister Cool. Not so cool last night, when I...oh, all right," she grumbled happily as Snape shot her a furious glare.
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