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Chapter Five: Family Connections

At almost the same moment that Remus and Albus were sharing their toast, Molly Weasley was pressing Severus Snape to take tea with her at the Burrow.

"Sit down, sit down!" she insisted, pushing Severus into a chair and casting a warming charm over the wizard before he could protest. "What in Merlin's name brings you out so early on such a cold morning?"

Without waiting for his reply, Molly began to heap a plate with eggs and kippers, which she set in front of her guest just as Arthur Weasley entered the kitchen.

"Snape!" he said in surprise, extending his hand to the man. "It's good to see you."

"Minister," Severus acknowledged, a little taken aback by his hosts' forceful hospitality.

"None of that, now. Call me Arthur. No need to stand on ceremony here. What brings you to the Burrow?" he asked, taking his seat.

Molly sat down, as well.

"I've come to ask Mrs.--Molly--if she's heard anything from Po--Harry," he corrected himself, noting the look that passed between the married couple.

"Oh, dear! I appear to be running late," Arthur said abruptly, rising from the table. "Perhaps--"

"--certainly, dear," Molly interrupted her husband, quickly magicking a breakfast into a basket and handing it to Arthur, who had walked to the back door. "Mind the dragons," she admonished him, kissing him on his cheek.

"I beg your pardon, Molly. I did not intend--"

"--oh, don't worry, dear. It's just that we think of Harry as quite one of our own children, and her . . . absence upsets Arthur a great deal."

"Of course," Severus said quickly, thinking of other children that the Weasleys had lost.

Fred and George and died during the war, Bill was in St. Mungo's "recovering," and Percy--well, the less said about that boy the better.

May he languish long in Azkaban, Severus willed to himself, for it was he who had captured Percy.

The Weasleys had never reproached him for that.

Molly smiled weakly and joined him at the table again.

"I'm afraid that we only heard once from Harry, Severus, in November when she sent Christmas gifts. Here," she said, taking the chain from around her neck and handing it to him.

It was a fine chain, wrought in gold, and dangling from it was a charm in the shape of a lituus.

"The dear girl always said I had the instincts of an augur. . . . Oh, I worry about her! She must have felt so alone after what Blaise Zabini did to her!"

The woman's maternal fierceness made Severus grateful that Molly had no psychic ability. You'd kill me if you knew the extent of my guilt.

Handing the necklace back to her, he asked, "Did she send anything else?"

"Well, she gave Arthur a ring bearing a caduceus. In her letter, she wrote that she felt it was his duty to heal the wounds made by the war."

"She's become a poet."

"Don't scoff."

"I assure you, I was not scoffing."

"Fine, then," Molly said hurriedly, altering her briefly skeptical expression to one of thoughtfulness before continuing. "She sent Ron and Hermione a gift certificate to Neville's nursery so that they could master that unruly garden of theirs in Hogsmeade, and she sent Ginny the complete Merlin's Life and Writings. They're required reading at the Spellcrafters' Guild, you know."

"That was a most thoughtful gift."

"Yes, it was. What with the expenses we incurred getting our Ginny into the Guild, it would have been almost impossible to provide her with all her books."

One would think that the Ministry could pay its chief employee enough for such expenses, Severus thought, but said nothing.

"Harry had her Gringott's representative send draughts to Charlie and Hagrid for their various animal concerns, as well. Charlie was able to completely refurbish the dragon pens, and Hagrid added several new exhibits to his zoo of rare magical creatures. Oh! and every week my Bill has some sort of lovely fresh fragrant plant or flower sent to his room. I just know he must appreciate them. He relaxes when they arrive, every time," Molly finished, surreptitiously wiping her eyes.

The Potions master swallowed uncomfortably. It was unlikely that the eldest Weasley child was aware of much of anything.

"I'm certain that's true," he lied.

"But I think you might like to read her letter?" Molly asked, excusing herself.

When she returned, she handed Severus a familiar-looking light blue envelope. A quick examination revealed the paper to be magically inert and of Muggle origin, but Harry had written nothing that the wizard could use to find her.

"It would seem that Harry has not yet let go of her past."

"I agree, Severus. I keep hoping that she just needs some time alone to help herself get over Blaise."

"Did she never speak to you about the . . . particulars of her divorce?"

"She didn't have to. That family--and the war--and . . . and losing the ba--oh!" the witch exclaimed, covering her mouth in horror at her words.

"What? Losing what, Molly?" Severus asked sharply. "Was Harry pregnant?"

"Oh, Severus, no one was supposed to know about it!"

"Molly, please. If I'm to find Harry, anything that you can tell me--"

"--only Arthur and I knew," Molly said quietly. "She wouldn't even allow us to tell Blaise."

"When was this?" the wizard asked, feeling his stomach clench.

The witch wrung her hands. "On her twentieth birthday, after the celebration. She fought with him, so I invited her to stay. I . . . I found her miscarrying later that night. I have some experience with . . . that situation, so I took care of her."

Severus felt twin pangs of sympathy and dread at Molly's words, for he knew that the woman must have experienced a similar loss--and he'd done the math.

Harry could have been carrying the Dark Lord's child.

"Arthur saw to it that Harry's baby, her baby girl, was interred with our little ones in the Hall of Monuments. Harry was adamant that no one should ever know."

The wizard didn't know what to say. He wanted to see the memorial, but he knew of no pertinent reason to give to Molly for his interest that would secure her permission to enter her family's crypt. But he had been quiet for too long, and when at last he looked up at the witch, it was to see the shrewdness of her gaze as she examined his face.

"Oh, Severus. I had no idea."

"Of what?"

Reaching for the wizard's hands, she replied, "That the baby might have been yours."

He would have snatched his hands away, but Molly was holding them too firmly to allow him to do so gently.

"Arthur and I, we wondered . . . we knew that Harry's reticence had to mean something, and, well, her shielding abilities weren't . . . you saved her, didn't you?"

"Did I?" Severus asked hoarsely. "She was just a child."

"No, dear. By then, Harry hadn't been a child for some time."

Severus' eyes began to sting with unshed tears, and Molly hastily withdrew her hands and took the man's untouched plate to the sink to give Severus his privacy.

"I need to know, Molly."

"Of course you do, dear. I know you may not want . . . that is, we'll keep this quiet, but the only person who I can think of whom Harry might trust to help you find out is--"

"Mrs. Granger-Weasley," Severus finished for the witch, indicating his agreement.

Hermione was unusually subdued as she entered the Weasley family's tomb in the Hall of Monuments that evening. She'd had to manufacture a fight in order to leave Ron after dinner, which had not been difficult; lately, she'd been very moody. Her mother-in-law's news had not helped her nerves at all, but she owed it to Harry to preserve her privacy, even if it meant keeping the information from Ron.

But there are some things that a woman shouldn't tell a man, she thought, looking at Professor Snape's drawn face. And some things she should.

They approached the memorial stone of Annabelle Elizabeth and Martin Arthur Weasley and stood quietly for a moment.

"If I could just draw some of your blood, Professor?"

"Of course," the wizard replied, allowing the young medi-witch to perform the procedure.

He stepped away as Hermione opened the vault. He'd seen much of ugliness in his life, and he did not fear to look upon death, but now that he was here . . . well, he wasn't certain that he could face the remains of a child that might have been his.

He was impressed by how calmly and professionally Mrs. Granger-Weasley was handling the unusual and upsetting situation, particularly as it was clear to him that she expecting a child of her own. Had I known of her condition earlier, I would have found another way, he thought, fighting the desire to turn and watch the witch work.

"Merlin!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Do you require assistance?"

"Sir, I've finished."

"Is she . . . is she mine?" he asked, turning to look at Hermione.

"Yes, she wa--she's yours."

Something broke inside of the wizard then--relief, grief, guilt, despair--he did not understand what his feelings were, but the tears came regardless of the reason.

Hermione looked away to the vault, and busied herself with its resealing. The murmur of her incantation filled the chamber, one with which Severus was unfamiliar; however, when he heard his name, he ran a hand over his face and approached the woman.

"What did you just do?"

In response, the witch touched the stone of the reformed wall. A third name appeared upon it next to those of the Weasley infants: Lily Peace Potter Snape.

Severus found himself humbled by the woman's acceptance of the situation, of him. It's more than I deserve. "Thank you, Mrs. Granger-Weasley," he said simply.

"You're welcome, Professor Snape. And you have my word that I'll not breathe a word of this to anyone, not even Ron."

"I have no right to expect--"

"--stuff! You have every right to your privacy, Sir. And if you don't mind my saying so, I think that Harry would be greatly relieved to know that her child was yours."

Black was right. You are the greatest witch of your generation, Severus thought, remembering how Harry, while on a mission with him, had told him something of her limited time with her godfather to pass the time. He had disagreed with that wizard's admiration of the child he'd always assumed would end up as a glorified librarian--or dead--then, but in this moment he felt oddly grateful to know that someone, even if it had to have been Black, had seen the worth of the young woman.

"You see a great deal, Mrs. Granger-Weas--"

"--oh, please! Call me Hermione, Professor."

"Then you must call me Severus."

"Oh. Oh, well, I don't--"

"--Hermione, you are no longer my student, and under the circumstances . . . ."

"The circumstances. Yes," she replied awkwardly.

"I will find Harry, Hermione. She has to know that . . . her . . . our child . . . ."

"Isn't Voldemort's," the witch completed for him.

"Yes," Severus said, closing his eyes against what he imagined had been--could still be--Harry's fear on that score.

"How will you find her, Sir--Severus?"

The wizard sighed. "Are you familiar with the nature of a goblin?"

"You don't seriously mean to question the Gringott's goblins about Harry's finances, do you? They'd never reveal such information."

"An excellent, if flawed, supposition. Under ordinary circumstances, you are correct. However, a goblin prizes--above money, above strength, above information--the sanctity of his family."

"But how will that help you?"

"In goblin society, a couple is not truly married until they produce offspring."

"But Harry's not a goblin."

"Yes, but I am, after a fashion."

"What do you mean?"

"The idea for the Wizard Bank of Merlin did not originate with Giancarlo Zabini. It was an idea favored by Lord Voldemort because he despised the idea of the goblins, whom he felt were lesser creatures, controlling any part of our people's finances. He sought to influence the goblins, at first, and when he found they were impervious to . . . suggestion, he attempted to destroy Gringott's. I will spare you the details, but I was able to prevent that from occurring. It was an act that forever connected me to the Ruling Clan."

"That's the clan that oversees Gringott's?"

"Yes, as well as the Hall of Monuments," Severus said, taking a deep breath before completing his thought. "Because of my clan status, I am entitled to know anything that my clan brothers can tell me about my . . . ."

"Your wife," the witch finished because she could see that Severus was having a difficult time speaking of such matters.

"Thank you, Hermione," the wizard said simply, unable to say more in light of the tenuous nature of his marriage to Harry. I do not believe that she will take things as well as you seem to be.

"When you find Harry, Severus, I think you'll find that she'll . . . understand what you've done for her, and why."

If she does, that will be for more than I could hope . . . .


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