This is, in a sense, the epilogue to Civil War. I don’t owns ‘em (except Moebius and Ruby), I just dresses ‘em up and makes ‘em say funny lines.
Heard The World Around
Harry Apparated so suddenly Severus dropped his book. Before he could get a word out, Harry had him by the wrist and was tugging him out of his chair. “Come on! We need to get to Saint Mungo’s!”
“If you don’t stop trying to remove my arm from its socket again you certainly will!” Sev pulled himself free and raised an annoyed eyebrow. Harry poked his tongue out. “Are you capable of explaining why we need to rush to hospital while I am in my dressing gown and you reek of Quidditch practise, or have you taken another Bludger to the skull?”
“Hermione’s had the baby!” Once again, he grasped the skeletal wrist and tried to yank Sev from the depths of his large leather armchair by the window. He’d insisted on bringing it from Hogwarts – Minerva finally gave in and let him have it when he tried in vain to hoist it over his head – and Harry seldom saw him anywhere else in their flat. At least he had a wand again. Sev spent his time either poring over a cauldron on the table or summoning books from across the room.
Severus looked bored. “Ah. And, I suppose, this is meant to be some sort of birthday surprise? There are enough Weasley spawn in the world already.”
“Se-ev! Come on. I want to see my goddaughter.”
“I refuse to go anywhere until you no longer look like… that.” He motioned to the glaze of damp mud caking Harry from head to hips. The Cannons Beaters were bloody good. Harry stuck his lip out. He wasn’t really upset. After all, he wanted to hold Ruby and he suspected Hermione wouldn’t let him near in this state.
“Fine. Don’t expect a present, though.” That was a bit of a lie. He’d found a third edition copy of The Hobbit in one of the used bookshops in Chudley. It certainly cost enough, but Severus needed a replacement for his fragmenting fourth edition and, anyway, it would probably be his last birthday. Deep down he was silently grateful Sev had held on this long.
“I wouldn’t dream.” Gracefully, Severus unfolded his emaciated body from the chair and smoothed his dressing gown. “I suppose you expect me to get dressed?”
“Only if you don’t want me to leave you there.” Sev had the presence of mind to look offended.
“Hmph. It would be an improvement over dealing with you on a daily basis.” He padded out of the room. Harry rolled his eyes.
They Floo’ed into the lobby. It was safer this way – Snape’s control wasn’t quite what it had once been and Apparition ran too great of a risk. Sev folded his arms and looked annoyed while Harry brushed away soot and found the desk. “Um, we’re here to see Hermione Weasley?”
“What department, dearie?”
“Maternity?” He fidgeted.
“Go down the hall to your left, second right through the pink doors.” She smiled tiredly. Harry thanked her and tugged a grumbling Severus down the corridor. It was painted the soft yellow of June roses and smelled heavily of antiseptic. Harry walked slowly so Sev could keep up – it made his legs ache to hold back but Severus, despite several months on his treatment, had shown scant improvement. His attacks were slightly less frequent; they seemed to respond to an injection sometimes. At least he was alive. Harry once again told himself this rather firmly. He dearly would have loved to hold that pallid, thin hand but he knew there would be a hearty round of hugs ahead of him and that much contact still brought threats of hands.
“Why do I have to come to see your goddaughter?”
“Because I want you to. Anyway, I haven’t seen you all day and I don’t know what time we’ll get home. Have to keep an eye on you sometime.” Sev snorted.
“You could have at least let me bring my book.”
“Nyah. Read a magazine.” Harry pushed open the sunrise pink doors and was nearly knocked down by the smell of baby powder. The walls were the same warm pink, with teddy bears and cartoon rabbits and kneazles dancing about them. Two witches and a very young wizard staffed the nurse’s station. One of the witches, holding a foam cup of coffee, wore a white jacket over her robe. Ah, she must be one of the mediwizards. Sev made at face at the décor.
“Excuse me while I vomit,” he muttered under his breath.
“At least you’re in the right place for it.” Severus growled and implanted himself in a large lavender chair with as much dignity as he could manage. A teddy bear above his head scampered in fear. Harry trudged to the desk. The wizard looked up from his paperwork. He smiled.
“May I help you?”
“Yeah, I’m looking for Hermione Weasley?” The nurse – Moebius, his name badge read – flipped through a small stack of pink parchments.
“Are you family? I’m afraid general visiting hours don’t begin until three.”
“I’m Ruby’s godfather.” Moebius ran a chubby finger down the sheet in front of him. His deep brown eyes widened and flickered to Harry’s forehead.
“Wow. Lucky little girl!” Harry flushed – he was nervous enough without being reminded of who he was. He could feel Sev’s black scowl boring through the back of his skull. “I’m afraid your friend will have to—“
“He’s Ruby’s other godfather,” Harry said quickly. He didn’t fancy letting Sev out of his sight. Moebius gave him an odd look. “He’s my husband.” It wasn’t a commonly known fact that Harry and Severus were a couple. Considering the Hogwarts rumour mill and the Diagon Alley publicity, not to mention the aftermath of the Death Eaters’ attack on the school, Harry was still quite surprised at this. He reckoned Hermione might have a hand in it. Moebius cocked an eyebrow and glanced at Sev, whose rather red, annoyed face was hidden in an ancient issue of Warlock Today. Moebius turned pink.
“Wow. My sister’s gonna have kittens.” The two witches gave him disparaging glances. Moebius hunched, sheepish. “Sorry, Mister Potter. She, erm, fancies you a bit. Big Cannons fan.” Harry’s mouth quirked up. It was a pleasant change to hear that in regard to Quidditch rather than his damned scar. Moebius cleared his throat. “Fourth door on your right, down the hall. Room 308.” He still looked bashful.
“Thanks.” Harry briefly considered inviting Moebius and his sister to watch practise sometime, but he had a goddaughter to meet. Harry poked Sev in the shoulder. “Come on! Hurry up! I want to see her!”
Severus slowly lowered the magazine. He stared haughtily for a moment before raising a discouraging eyebrow. Harry grinned. “And how does this require my presence? I’ve just found a rather fascinating article on Gilderoy Lockhart and his ‘hair-care empire’.” Harry made a face.
“Don’t read that. It’ll rot your brain.”
“My brain’s already rotten, Mister Potter.” A photo of Lockhart winked up at Sev. He shuddered. In a moment the magazine lay in a messy lump on the table and Severus was leading Harry down the hall.
Harry knocked softly on the door with “Ruby Alba’s Family” written under “308”. In a moment it opened and Ron grabbed him in a hug. Jumping up and down with Harry in tow he half-shouted, “Five pounds, eight ounces! You have to see her! Five pounds, eight ounces!” His freckled face was mottled with excitement. Ron beamed like he’d just won the World Quidditch Cup. Harry braced himself against the onslaught of contact.
“Where is she?” His cheerful voice betrayed only his happiness, not his hesitation. Ron dragged him by the wrist. Sev’s slow, even footsteps stopped several feet behind them. The airy room was buttery yellow; light blue curtains hung on the large windows, and a flowery pink bassinette stood beside the bed. Hermione, wearing a loose blue nightgown, was propped up with a pile of pink blankets in her arms. Mrs. Weasley leaned over the bundle, making soft cooing sounds. Mister Weasley was snapping pictures – the large pile of film canisters on the bedside table indicated that they weren’t the first of the day. Molly looked up.
“Harry!” For the second time in as many minutes he was caught up in an eager hug. He returned it as best he could. Hands started to creep from his subconscious. God, he’d barely even hugged Sev since April. Mrs. Weasley pulled back, brown eyes gleaming with happy tears, teeth bared in a broad smile. “She looks just like her father did when he was born.”
“Hush, Ron. Or do I have to show Harry your baby pictures?” Ron’s ears turned red and he shut up. She dragged Harry closer to the bed where Hermione was making baby talk at what honestly looked like a faceless lump of cloth. “Our first grandchild. And a girl! I tell you, I’ve never been more proud.” Hermione grinned and handed Molly the blankets before pulling Harry into yet another hug. It was mercifully short. He supposed she was exhausted. She certainly looked it.
“Hallo, Hermione. Congratulations!” he whispered just before she let go and braved kissing her cheek. It was only the second time he’d done that to anyone since his first trip through Severus’ Pensieve.
“I’m so glad you made it!” Despite their dark circles, her eyes sparkled. “Go on, have a look.”
With a bit of trepidation, Harry nodded and pulled himself upright. He wasn’t quite sure what to expect – apart from once being one, Harry had no real experience with babies. The first thing he saw when Mrs. Weasley adjusted the blanket was a shock of bushy ginger hair. Sev groaned. “Dear god. At least we’ve no doubts to her parentage.” Molly looked up and gave him a cool, protective glare. Harry realised that, until he spoke, Severus had been treated as a non-entity. The Weasleys hadn’t quite forgiven him for the events that left Harry with them over Christmas. Holding Ruby just a little closer to her chest she pushed away the last bit of blanket obscuring the tiny face. Harry gaped.
There, beneath a poodle mess of fluffy red hair, sat a squashed tomato. It was purplish, a bit pointy on top, and suddenly yawned to reveal naked pink gums. A pink slug of a tongue darted out and with a little sigh she fell back into sleep. “She’s… beautiful,” he said, dearly wondering how anyone could think babies were anything but grotesque. A bit of panic started to set in. She was so tiny. Molly beamed. Ron, sitting on the edge of the bed stroking Hermione’s hand, murmured something involving the words, “told you so”. Mrs. Weasley held her out a little, shoulder turned towards Severus.
“Would you like to hold her, dear?”
Harry held up his hands. “Oh, no. Really. I couldn’t.”
“Just for a minute. She won’t break.” Mrs. Weasley smiled softly. Ron snickered; Hermione elbowed him. Harry let his mind skip over that apparent inside joke. “You’ll do fine.”
“But—“ he found a small, softly squirming package in his arms. It felt… odd. A bit like a cat, but squishier. Ruby smelled of baby powder and something faintly metallic he couldn’t name. He looked down at the little face with its wispy red eyebrows and realised with a start that he was holding an entire living person. He nearly dropped her. Before Molly could react, though, Severus had plucked Ruby out of Harry’s grasp.
“Just because she’s your goddaughter doesn’t mean you have to give her a scar as well, Potter.” Molly’s face puckered in rage; the camera in Arthur’s hands trembled; Ron stood up quickly, hands balled into fists.
“I’ll take her, Severus,” Mrs. Weasley snapped. Harry thought he saw a trace of reluctance in Sev’s eyes when he handed Ruby back to her grandmother. He must have been imagining things.
As soon as she was safe in Molly’s plump arms, Ruby screamed. It was hideous, squalling, echoing off the walls. It reminded Harry of Remus’ Victrola in that she made far too much noise for something so small. It sounded a bit like Incantation as well. Molly tried to soothe her, but the shriek only grew louder. “Goodness, sweetie, you’ve got some lungs! Do you want Mummy? You need your Mummy? Oh, take her, Hermione. I’m afraid she’s going to hurt herself.” The scream didn’t abate in the slightest. Ruby was quite plum-coloured by now and looked like she might pop. She beat tiny, blobby fists in the air. With a lost expression, Hermione passed her to Ron, who leaned the little girl against his shoulder.
“Shh, Daddy’s here.” She stopped. Ruby made a mewling snuffle and breathed hard. Ron smiled and cuddled her closer. Everyone relaxed.
The squall started up louder than before. Ron winced. Harry sucked air through his teeth – poor Ron, she’d screamed right in his ear. He paced the room with her, Ruby thrashing mechanically in her blanket. “Is something pinching her?” Hermione asked in a worried voice. Ron shook his head.
“I don’t think so. What’s wrong, jewel?” He rocked her a little, but it didn’t help. Ron looked at his mother with wide, scared eyes.
“Has she eaten?”
“Just a little while ago, while you and Dad were sending owls. She burped.” He rubbed the little girl’s back anyway. It didn’t help. “She’s getting awfully hot.”
“Better give her here again.” Molly held out her arms. Ron started towards her. As soon as he walked past Severus the howl stopped. Harry watched in surprise as Ruby opened unexpectedly bright brown eyes and tried to fix them on Sev. Her head lolled against Ron’s neck. Ron took a step forward and she whimpered. He took a step back and she was quiet.
“Oh. Crap,” he whispered.
Sev, who’d been quiet the whole time, folded his arms and gave Ruby a stern gaze. “I can most decidedly assure you, Miss Weasley, that I’m no more eager about this prospect than your father.” She snuffled. Harry had the sneaking feeling Sev was secretly pleased.
“What should I do?” Ron asked, stroking the soft red curls. He was a bit bug-eyed. Harry supposed it was a perfectly normal response. After all, who wanted his only daughter fixated on Snape? Molly shrugged. She seemed just as baffled by the situation. Arthur busied himself playing with the flash on his camera. It went off. Severus jumped. He started to glare at Mister Weasley, but an odd, wheezing sound came from the pile of blankets. He cocked an eyebrow at her.
“And what, precisely, is so amusing?” Gurgle. Nobody else moved. Harry tried not to breathe if he could help it. Severus snorted. “Another insufferable Gryffindork brat.”
“Don’t you dare call her that, you Slytherin son of a—!” Harry never expected to hear that word out of Molly. She looked ready to slug Sev. “Give her here, Ron.” As soon as Ron moved the hideous shriek bounced off the walls.
“Are these rooms soundproof?” Harry asked with his hands over his ears.
Molly cuddled Ruby tight. “Arthur, could you go get sister? I honestly don’t know what’s wrong.” She sounded afraid to admit what she really thought. Sev rolled his eyes and stuck out his hands.
Mrs. Weasley looked at them. Bone still showed clearly through bone-pallid skin. He’d gained perhaps a stone in the last three months, but Harry attributed that to making him eat regularly. Sev’s face was still very much a death’s head parody, curtained with streaked, greasy hair. His robe, far too slim for Harry to squeeze into, might as well have been a tent. Such a delicate body for such a devastated brain. Molly scowled. Reluctantly, she handed over her most precious possession. “Be careful with her,” she warned.
“I’ve no intentions of damaging your little urchin in any way.” The scream stopped. Sev nestled her against his chest with practiced movements. Her head settled high against his breastbone where Harry knew she could hear Severus’ heart. A wrinkled red arm snaked up from the blanket and a stubby finger found its way into Sev’s large nostril.
“Ew! Ruby!” Ron cringed. “Ugh. Snape bogeys. That’s… uugh!” Sev shot him a glare. It was hard to look menacing with five and a half pounds of contented infant picking his nose. Gently, he moved his head out of her reach and she settled on grabbing the drooping neck of his robe. Molly stared.
“Well. This is… unexpected.” She looked relieved that the hideous wail had stopped, and perturbed at Ruby’s favourite person. “I… didn’t know you’ve had experience with children, Severus. Not babies, anyway.”
“Hmm.” He frowned, stroking the little girl’s cheek with his thumb. “I sat for my cousin’s whelp until he was three.” Draco? “Hopefully this one will come to better ends.” Without another word he pushed past them and sat carefully in a high-backed rocking chair looking out the window. The day was bright, and St. Mungo’s had a large lawn with flower beds scattered about. Harry stared. He’d never imagined Sev with anything so young. He’d certainly never imagined him taking care of Baby Draco. That was after his break from the Death Eaters – of course, spying would involve making up with them along with Voldemort. The corners of his mouth broke open at the image of Nanny Sevvie in a lacy white apron, warming bottles. But, really, it did explain his favouritism for Draco, and the odd silence he’d fallen into when he found out the young man had died.
The lot of them gaped as Sev adjusted Ruby so she was more or less upright against his chest. She made a soft, squeaky noise and settled into sleep. He sat silently, oblivious. Hermione looked away first, a slightly stunned expression on her face. “So, uh, how’s life with the Cannons, Harry?”
“Oh! It’s, um, really good.” He pushed the hair out of his face. “They reckon I might make the first string in a year or so…”
The five of them chatted for quite some time. Fred and George had gone to fetch the Grangers and were expected any time; Percy and Penelope – who was two months along herself – had been there since morning and were getting a bite to eat; Charlie would probably be a day or so due to a new arrival at the dragon preserve; and Bill and William were supposed to bring Ginny home from her visit that night anyway. Harry’s heart turned to ice at William’s mention. He glanced quickly at Sev.
Severus, still holding Ruby gently, said nothing, did nothing. He looked both peaceful and thoughtful, with a heavy edge of fatigue. The Unicorn Blood was grinding his body down. He hadn’t slept without Draught of Living Death in nearly a year and, of late, had just given up taking it some nights. Harry fully expected to spend his birthday at the end of the month alone. Well, maybe Ruby could give him some respite. She was, after all, born on Sev’s birthday. And he did have the memory of Severus with shocking pink hair to cheer him up.
“… Don’t expect me back for six months, which is brilliant. It’ll give me a chance to really polish my writing skills. Once I’ve got my career really on track I may even talk Ron into playing full-time Daddy.” Hermione smirked wickedly. Ron didn’t seem too objectionable to the idea.
“Hey, you get her through the nappy stage, I’ll take care of the rest.” Hermione stuck her tongue out. She looked over.
“How’s she doing, Professor?” No answer. Her brow furrowed. “Professor Snape?”
“Sev?” He didn’t move. Ruby had stuck three fingers in her mouth and was slurping happily. The muscles in Severus’ face were lax, his eyes closed, head lolling back in the still chair. Harry’s guts filled with cement. Biting his lip hard, he timidly made his way to the window. “Severus?” Nothing. He looked closely, and fell to his knees when he realised what had happened. A huge sob swelled his throat past pain and, hot tears starting to run, Harry leaned his cheek against one bony knee.
“I’ll get sister,” Arthur murmured. Harry shook his head. There wasn’t any need, now. He looked up at the bright room, the blurry familiar faces beyond his foggy glasses. The sob broke out in waves. Molly immediately fell to the floor and hugged him.
Harry found himself laughing desperately into her shoulder. One gentle hand rubbed up and down his back. He tipped his head back and shouted, “Not yet, Philia! It works! It flipping works!” Ruby squeaked. The bony fingers against her back stroked drowsily until she settled down. Sev muttered and went back to sleep.
The title comes from Milton’s poem, Hymn on Christ’s Nativity, line 53: “No war or battle’s sound was heard the world around”.
English For Americans And Other Deviants
Sister: a nurse.
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