Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I'm just playing with someone else's toys. May I be forgiven in my next incarnation... (and what you do not recognize is mine, such as the MOSSes -Ministry Officers of State Security). Flamers will be adopted by my family (if you don't believe it's a threat... too bad for you!).
Note: Parseltongue is noted like that: //----//
Readers: Stephanie, Mikee and QrYx. Thanks a lot! The remaining mistakes are all mine, and I apologize for those.
Chapter Twenty-Three - One Loss in the Family
For once, the Synons do not have to face a surprise when Harry, Severus and their children come back to Oxford. Well, except if Matthew's sudden growth counts as a surprise.
The twins grew up as well, and they're still using wandless magic occasionally, but "Aunt Ginny" has taught them to be careful with their magic.
The first time Harry and Severus meet the Synons, the latter are the ones who have surprises for their neighbours. When Harry, Severus and Matthew go to the Synons for tea on the day after their return, David introduces them to the young lady who is reading Physics, and the Stewarts are there with their three children.
Robin and Joan Stewart introduce them to Evangeline. It turns out that the name was suggested by Matthew, not Jules, who had suggested Themis.
'Evangeline Stewart, I am delighted to meet you,' Harry says as he holds the little witch for the first time.
David understands that witchcraft and wizardry can't be openly discussed in front of his fiancée yet, so he takes her to choir and leaves the house, after winking at Severus.
As soon as the innocent Muggle is out of the house, Severus turns to his bonded and growls, 'Three is enough, Mr Potter.'
Still holding Evangeline, Harry chuckles and declares, 'I don't want to turn into another Molly, but we never know what we might wish for someday.'
In the garden, the three teenagers are sitting on the lawn, and Matthew is close to Severus. He knows that "Evangeline" was the name of Matthew's mother and he pets the young wizard's hair. Matthew has become their son, but he still misses his parents, and Severus knows that no one will ever replace them in the boy's heart. Severus knows because he still misses his own parents, and he knows that Harry still misses Lily and James.
'Jules told me that he'd show you in his Pensieve the presentation he made with Remus,' Joan tells Harry and Severus.
'Knowing Jules, I want to see that!' Harry exclaims.
'When do you think she'll start showing signs of magic?' Osiris asks her teachers.
'There is absolutely no rule about that, Miss Stewart. Some show signs at one, others only weeks or days before they get their Hogwarts letter,' Severus tells her.
'We started wondering what was going on with you when you were eight,' Robin says.
'We won't go to school with her,' Odin says, obviously disappointed that his parents didn't make that little surprise before.
'We'll take good care of her...' Harry starts.
'... and you can always work with her someday,' Severus suggests.
'You're right. We have time,' Osiris answers with a smile.
While the adults chat about David's fiancée and wonder if she can be told their family secret, the children take care of Evangeline. Merlin knows that after the Potter-Snape twins, she's a quiet angel!
When they go back home, Severus is still scolding Harry for wishing for another child, and they decide to plan what they're going to do before going to Templeton Hall.
Severus and Harry agree to invite Dudley to lunch. The Muggle correspondence that Harry and his cousin exchanged convinced Harry and his bonded that the brat of Harry's childhood really is a new man now.
On the appointed day, Dudley stands before Severus and Harry's door. They invite him in and close the door.
'Ready for a little magic?' Harry asks his cousin.
'Er... yes, I guess,' Dudley answers, wondering what Harry means.
Harry takes his wand and resets the wards so the house resumes its wizarding form.
Dudley is gaping miserably.
'Are you ok, Dudley?' Harry wonders, afraid that Petunia's prejudice might have done more damage than he suspected.
'H... H... How?' Dudley manages to say.
'It's quite a simple spell actually. The house has one form it shows to the Muggles - non-magical people, do you remember? - and its true form, which is magical,' Harry says.
'Quite a simple spell?! You've got to be kidding, Harry! What I've just seen is not possible. I'm sure there's no scientific explanation to that!' Dudley wails.
Between the changing house - Matthew and Câly were delighted to tell their guest that the house can grow new rooms if it senses that there's a need - and the floors whose succession is not logical (with the garden in the cellar and the kitchen in the attic), and the house-elf, and the transfigurations performed by Harry and Severus to prepare everything for their lunch in the garden, Dudley ends up with a headache that one of Severus's potions makes disappear in no time.
'You know what?'
'What, Dudley?' Harry asks.
'I'm no longer afraid of your magic, I don't mind your being a wizard, but those things you do could easily drive me crazy. They violate every law of physics know to man. Nothing I'm learning can explain magic. It's... disturbing to say the least.'
Harry and Severus smile and promise to do as little magic as they can.
The lunch is extremely pleasant and Dudley is deeply interested in the children.
Matthew's adoption is explained first, and then the happy parents proceed to tell Dudley how they got the twins.
'So, they're fully, totally yours, but even you don't know how it's possible,' Dudley sums up.
'That's it,' Harry answers.
Dudley shakes his head; if he analyses that too much, he knows that the headache will come back and he doesn't know how many phials of potions Severus has in his stores.
He looks at Sarina and says, 'She's got your eyes, Harry.'
'Yes, but she's Severus's daughter. He's got the touch with her. Well, I'm not much more gifted with Harold, but he listens a bit,' Harry says.
Harry and Severus offer Dudley coffee in the kitchen and Câly Apparates the twins' beds under the cherry-tree.
Matthew is offered hot cocoa with the adults and Severus has yet to see the day when their eldest is going to refuse a cup of that.
They're all gently chatting, speaking of their respective plans, when they hear a falcon call.
Matthew runs to the window and looks at his siblings' bed just below.
The young wizard hisses, 'Fuck!' and rushes down to the garden.
Neither Severus nor Harry has ever heard Matthew swear. They don't check what's going on in the garden from the window or even bother about Dudley; they follow Matthew.
Under the tree, Câly is trying to put the twins back into their beds, but she's rather unsuccessful. The falcon attack was swift, and the mangled body of Milk lies between Sarina and Harold who are crying the seven seas.
'I chased the bird, but I wasn't fast enough,' Câly explains.
'It's not your fault,' Severus tells her.
Harold takes Milk, looks at his fathers and asks between sobs, 'Help him?'
Severus takes him in his arms and says, 'I'm sorry, Love, but Milk has left us. There's nothing we can do. He's gone somewhere else.'
'I don't want that. I want Milk with us. Here,' Sarina wails.
Harry hugs her against his heart.
//Wake up!// Harold says, petting the snake's head.
//He cannot// Severus answers.
It's the first time that the Potions master is using that language in front of witnesses. Even his children didn't know that he could do that.
//Do some magic, Dād// Sarina begs him.
'No one can do that, my Angel. When one dies, there's nothing to do. Life can never go on forever,' Severus says.
The twins look at their fathers and elder brother, and they understand that what just happened to their beloved Milk could happen to their family and they cry with renewed vigour.
Matthew goes into Harry's arms.
Dudley doesn't know what to say, because he doesn't know in what Harry and Severus believe and he doesn't want to interfere with their creed.
'We must say goodbye now,' Harry says.
Severus takes his wand and digs a hole under the cherry-tree. He kneels and invites Harold to place Milk there, but the little boy is clinging to the snake.
'He will always be in our hearts,' Severus whispers.
Harry and Severus take Milk from Harold and bury him. Câly brings a white yarrow and Matthew plants it on the small grave.
The twins are inconsolable.
Seeing that there's nothing he can do, Dudley thanks them for the invitation and leaves them to find a way to soothe the children.
After two hours of constant crying, Severus and Harry decide to give Harold and Sarina one drop of Sleeping potion.
They finally all settle on the sofa in the parlour. Each father holds a twin, and Matthew is comfortably sitting between them.
'Now they know about death,' Matthew states bitterly.
Harry feels the tears roll down his cheeks, and he doesn't care. 'There's always something to shadow our lives,' he murmurs.
Severus manages to hold him and Matthew; he doesn't say a word, but his eyes are shining.
In the evening, Ginny comes with a restless James because her son felt that something wasn't right and he's been terrible all afternoon.
Robin Stewart calls too, with Osiris who brings Silk.
Where the adults fail, the snake succeeds in quieting the twins, which earns her a life-long promise of a milk supply from Osiris, Matthew, Harry and Severus.
Till they go back to Hogwarts, every morning they find the twins in the same bed, in each other's arms. Leila at their feet and Hedwig perched on the bedhead.
The time they spent at Templeton Hall helped them all to forget that other shadow in their lives.
Back to work, the exhaustion will make Severus make a serious blunder that he'll have to pay for.
To Be Continued...
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