Title: Falling Stars
Rating: PG, Angst
Summary: The war's finished, the good guys won, and it's time to live. Wouldn’t it be lovely if that were true?
Falling Stars, p. 16
Sighing as he brushed away a fine sheen of sweat from Jule’s brow, Severus smirked lightly – studying the satiated gleam in her eyes as she slid from her perch across his hips and dropped languidly to the bed. When her breathing finally settled enough that she could speak, her snarl sounded rather cute to him – coming, as it did, breathed out on a thoroughly satisfied yawn: “So glad you’re amused.”
Dropping a finger to her lower lip, he traced it musingly from outer edge to outer edge as he decided that he would need to begin shielding soon. She was progressing quickly in her occlumency and legillimency training to the point that she might soon be able to read his unguarded thoughts (and would undoubtedly hex him seven ways to Sunday for thinking that mannerisms were cute in any form, but especially the scowls and snarks that she shot him ever so confidently as though he were a first year to be so easily quailed and intimidated).
“Amused?” he finally answered when her eyes threatened to darken, “No, that is not precisely how I would described my state; although I am loath to admit that it could more accurately fall into the range of giddiness.”
Her disbelieving snort crooked his lips into a wry smile as she denied dryly, “Severus Snape does not do giddy…”
“Not on a habitual basis, to be certain,” he admitted with some amusement just before she cut him off with the second half of her response, “and I . Am . Not . Cute. So, erase that description from your thoughts this second.”
“Time to begin shielding, then?” Severus asked, impressed that his wife had progressed to that level, in the two days since their last session, without his guidance.
“Soon, perhaps.” She corrected softly as she explained, “But, for the moment, it was merely that you are wearing the same condescending smile that you wear when you watch Miranda and Brian playing.”
“Condescending?” he questioned with an arched eyebrow.
“When it is aimed at me, it certainly is…” She challenged as she leaned in and nipped his side sharply instead of kissing him as he had expected.
Lightly rubbing the painful bite as she laid back, rested her shoulder in the crook of his arm, and draped her head across his shoulder, Severus murmured, “Very well then, consider me chastised. Is there other syntax that you would prefer…as you’ve previously rejected adorable, impish, fawning, ethereal, and stunning?”
Studying him as she chuckled darkly, Jule shook her head and bit back the sharp comment that he knew had been resting on the tip of her tongue. While she would certainly never admit it, Severus suspected that she deeply enjoyed his frequent compliments, even the mismatched, teasing, and sharp ones – though she would often snort and dice them up with equally sharp comments of her own. Her slate irises glittered brightly in the hearth’s cast lights, and staring into to them, Severus was swept with a sense of deep relief that he could delay shielding even a bit longer.
Early in their relationship, it had taken Jule quite a long time to prove herself to Severus, but once she had, she quickly became the only other confidant that Severus kept – outside of the headmaster. Over time, even before their marriage, he had begun to share confidences with her that he had never even hinted at to his cherished mentor: chief among these were the difficulties of his childhood, his growing belief that he could never do enough to absolve himself of his deepest mistake, and once – just before Voldemort’s return was confirmed – after more than a few tumblers of firewhiskey, he had even grudgingly admitted to his growing respect for the boy-who-lived. Thankfully, Jule proved to be constant, honorable, and intelligent, as well as cunning, clever, and utterly Slytherin, which turned out to be rather a convenient circumstance. For while Severus could never be described as ‘chatty’ in any situation, he was far more inclined to talk after a good bedding. That reason, alone, made him quite pleased to realize that he had married both an intelligent woman and one whom he would not need to obliviate after every intimacy. Now, that they were finally able to be intimate again, he was rather discomforted at the prospect of diminishing their freshly rekindled intimacy. Nevertheless, their son would not be capable of communicating with her until she was well trained in the skill, and he refused to allow even his own cloying sentimentality to hinder either his wife’s training in the Slytherin subtleties of the art or his son’s progress in bonding with his new mother. Thinking of which…
“Did you perhaps notice that Brian spent four hours and eighteen minutes - exclusive of meal times and ablutions – outside of his cupboard without being given a chore?”
“That is an accomplishment.” Jule’s lips quirked into what he could only describe, discreetly to himself, as a doting smile – telling him that she had been quite aware of the fact but had no intention of spoiling his triumph over their son’s progress at fighting the long conditioned fear of venturing out from his cupboard: a cupboard that the child had somehow wished into existence shortly after waking from his transition. Severus, himself, was rather astonished at their son’s tenacity compounded as it was by his other circumstances. It was a wonder to him how he had grown so fond of the child so quickly, when he had expected to have difficulty in dealing with the child’s natural and inescapable incompetencies.
It had been his past experience that such imperfections were almost intolerable in his students, yet with Brian he was finding a patience that he had never been able to develop – even for Draco – as he watched the child battle not only his deeply ingrained fears and horrific memories of the Dursleys, but also his inabilities to interact with the external world. At times, he found himself almost regretting the harsh, perfectionistic manner that he had felt himself forced to project and sometimes wondered if he might have produced more students inclined to follow the coursework into a mastery if he had.
Even Slughorn had produced a good thirty some mastery students, where Severus had only produced three in the same approximate length of time. At the same time, however, he held a record that gave him some amount of self-satisfaction: in the entire history of Hogwart’s potions professors, dating back to Salazar Slytherin, Severus was the only Potion Master who could make the claim that they had never lost a student to an unintended or accidental potions ‘accident’, or otherwise. While there had been an intentional poisoning during his tenure, Severus had been able to develop an antidote within some hours that saved the unfortunate ravenclaw’s life. The seventh year was badly disabled, and after the reason had been discovered behind the unprecedented attack from a hufflepuff boy, later killed himself to avoid a stint in Azkhaban for raping the hufflepuff’s sister. It was an unpleasant matter, but Severus was nevertheless satisfied that his record could still be used to assert that his perfectionistic attitude had saved a handful of lives – especially during the Longbottom era as he liked to think of it.
Shaking his head in amusement at his ingrained tendency for all thoughts to lead back to Hogwarts, Severus settled back against the head board until he was certain that Jule had no intention of pursuing another round of intimacy then gave into the satisfying lethargy and comfortable familiarity that still felt so very alien and allowed himself to doze off. For the first time in his recent memory, he was content in the knowledge that there was absolutely no urgent need for him to get up and prowl the halls in search of wayward students or unexpected threats. His eyes were slowly drifting out of focus when he heard Jule’s light snore and tucked its existence away for use at a later date.
Severus and Jule were still wrapped in each other’s arms and leisurely enjoying the warmth of each other’s body when the rumpled duvet was gently levitated over them, pulled up to their necks, and fastidiously tucked in around their shoulders, causing them to sit up in shock and negate the effort to offer them discreet coverage.
“I thought that was you.” “That wasn’t you.” Their simultaneous comments echoed each other.
“No.” “No.” They matched again with looks of irritated surprise until a small grey figure slowly faded into being at the foot of the bed with its eyes cast studiously to the floor.
“Masters’s and Madams’s Snape, Master Brian’s sleep is not good. He not crying but Elly is thinking that he is wanting to.”
“Thank you, Elly.” Snape answered with forced calm before h turned and planted a soft kiss on Jule’s forehead. Elly was among a number of the house elves saved from near suicide attempts after their death eater owners had been killed in the final battle, and Snape found that he was forced to take the mildest tones he could accommodate to prevent the elf from inflicting astonishingly cruel punishments on herself. The first week of her service had driven him nearly to distraction until he realized that the elf was repaying his kindness with an utter devotion to the family that he had never witnessed in a houseelf before – outside of Dobby. But, Dobby was, in his opinion, a most unusual case – and perhaps somewhat unbalanced compared to his kin who seemed capable of recognizing that avtions like sending a rogue bludger after a young quidditch player were in no way a sensible or feasible attempts to protect the child. The mere fact that Dobby had been the only one of his kind to actively battle in the final battle suggested that it was not the most sane of its breed.
“Sleep well,” he murmured and gently slid away from his wife, knowing that she would expect their son to likely keep him occupied for the remainder of the night.
Elly had retrieved his dressing robe and sleeping pants for Severus, so he quickly dressed and out the door, striding toward the stairway at the end of the hall when the diminutive elf spoke up again.
“Masters Snape, Sir. He is not being that way, Sir,”
“Where then?” Severus asked uneasily.
Brian found it incredibly difficult to adjust to new and unfamiliar locations – even within the manor: areas that Green man’s grove had and abundance of. More than once, their son’s nightmares had compelled the child to run panic-stricken through the house – fleeing the terrors of his other childhood – only to be frozen in fear on finding himself in a new and unfamiliar room. These events were not likely to stem soon as the family was still concentrating on helping Brian merely feel comfortable come out of his abuse-ingrained self-exile.
“Where did he run to this time?” Severus covered his anxiety in a sharply-asked question as he turned quickly scanning the hall for the feel of his son’s magic in the nearby rooms.
“No Master, Sir. Master Brian is not being running to anywhere. Master Brian, Sir, is being a strong wizard sir and wished his cupboard into his bedroom.”
Despite his urgency to reach his son, Severus stumbled to a sharp halt and stared at the elf in amazement.
“He. Wished. It? Are you certain?”
Elly nodded solemnly with a hint of an understanding smile. She had paid careful attention to her new Master and Mistress and knew that this was a much greater step forward than they had expected their son to make.
“Yes, Sir. And Master Snape, Sir.”
“His door was open, Sir.”
Over the past month, after almost every nightmare, Severus had been required to spend close to an hour coaxing his son to open the door, followed by another twenty to coax the boy into allowing his father to pick him up, before Severus could bring him upstairs and spend the rest of the night in drawn out legillimency sessions – comforting the child as best as he could. For Brian to have taken the initiative to both move the cupboard to his room and open the door, was an accomplishment that Severus had not expected for months at the earliest with an understanding that it could likely even take years.
In his excitement, Severus broke into a run and almost tripped when Elly popped barely a foot ahead of him with frightened eyes and asked “Masters, Sir, should Elly silencio the hall, Sir? So, that Masters Brian is not being afraid when he hears your running?”
Stumbling to an embarrassed halt, Severus chuckled as he patted the nervous elf on the shoulder.
“Thank you for reminding me, Elly.”
“Master is most welcome, Sir.” Elly sighed, remembering again that her new family did not punish her in the same manner as her old. It was still very odd to her that they were having their daughter teach Elly to read and write – so that she could write ‘lines’ if she ever did something that needed punishment, but Elly enjoyed the books and liked being able to read them to the Master’s children without her magic. As if Master Snape had read her thoughts, just before he turned into his son’s room, her master glanced back over his shoulder and ordered: “Elly, by the way, I would like for you to start learning a new book with Miranda – Tom Thumb. It’s on the top of the new stack that my wife purchased yesterday.”
“Yes, Master Snape. Elly will begin immediately.”
“If you wish,” he answered with a knowing smile, “but in the morning would be fine, as well.”
With the only reward that he could think of giving her that she would accept– doled out, Severus turned his attention to his son, who was indeed sitting mostly hidden on the small cot in his relocated cabinet. Watching the boy rock back and forth, Severus marveled at the boy’s resilience. From the legillimency sessions, Severus had gained a better idea of the depth of the boy’s well justified terrors. If there were ever a muggle who justified the Death Eater’s pure-blood prejudices, it was Vernon Dursley. What the man had done to his nephew from the boy’s earliest memories was despicable, and Severus often wished that he could track the man down and make certain that his son was avenged. He knew that his family needed him to much to risk that and had only gone so far as to put out discreet feelers for the man’s whereabouts.
How his son had managed to survive that bloody muggle was almost as much of an amazement to him as how the boy had survived the final battle. Voldemort had been cruel and evil, but in many ways Dursley was equally as wicked: he was no less than a sadist whom had been given access to a helpless, orphaned infant and abused that access despite family ties and even muggle concepts of decency. Yet, Brian had somehow, not only survived the man, but had also retained his innocence in doing so. In their legillimency sessions, Brian had even begun to say, on his own initiative, that his uncle was bad not him.
To his even greater surprise, Brian had slipped down on the cot and seemed to be aware of his entrance. Casting a quick notice-me-not spell over himself to prevent their interaction from triggering his son’s sensory overload threshold, Severus carefully moved closer to the cupboard and dropped gently to his knees.
“Brian, this is amazing. You have done a very special bit of magic to have moved your cupboard up here and we’ll have to be certain to get you a treat in the morning.” Severus began - quick to stage Brian’s magic in terms of his approval to offset his son’s long experience of being punished by his relatives for minor magical events. “I’m pleased that you feel comfortable here. Do you think that you’re ready to move to your couch so we can talk?”
Brian rocked slowly back and forth not responding immediately, so Severus edged closer and curled his shoulders so that his son could see his face if he was trying to. Whether by training or due to the core burn, from Severus’s research it was most likely a combination, in any event, his son no longer met people’s eyes. Kanner’s syndrome was often accompanied by a child’s inability to recognize the face as key point of interaction, but Severus hoped to off set that as much as possible by making certain that his face was always within Brian’s field of vision.
“Brian?” his father asked quietly.
“no-me-nots.” Brian grunted softly.
“Yes, I have cast a notice-me-not spell.” Severus assured him, pleased that his son was attempting to hold a conversation through the ever-present mass of conflicting sensory information.
“no-me-nots.” Brian asked again in a blunt, grunted statement.
“No-Me-Nots!!!” He answered his son firmly. “No-Me-Nots!!!”
Scooting closer, Severus spread his arms as much as he could through the cupboard’s entry. Instead of waiting for his father to scoop him up as he usually did, though, Brian stood up - dropping his clasping and unclasping hands to hang by his side as he moved forward. Uncertain how to respond, Severus held his breath and tried to still himself completely as his son moved forward still clasping and unclasping his hands as he muttered, “accio… accio.” He realized that Brian might mean word similar to its magical meaning – to summon him, but he had no way of knowing if the child was pushing himself too far too fast, and he was afraid that adding any response to it could easily cause a setback.
When Brian was standing directly in front of him, the child did something astounding, given that he had never once tried – since first awaking in his de-aged form – to initiate any physical contact on his own. Without lifting his eyes to find Severus’s face, Brian lifted his tiny hands and laid them over his father’s cheeks covering streaks of proud tears that Severus had not even noticed shedding.
“f’wks” Brian pressed his hands into his father tears then pulled them back to his own face and pressed them against his cheeks.
“Fwks…” Severus puzzled quietly as his son confirmed – drawing the word out in his second pronouncement, “f—wks.”
“Fawkes? Phoenix tears? You’re comparing my tears to Fawkes?”
Severus’s heart came into his throat as Brian cupped his hand to his cheeks again then pressed them back on his cheeks over and over until Severus’s drying face warmed under his touch. He didn’t know what to make of it. Did Brian expect his tears to heal him? Or, was he saying that his father’s sympathy helped? Was he asking to be cured?
There was so many possible answers that Severus still had no idea how to respond until Brian stepped so close that their chests were almost touching, gingerly laid his head on his father’s shoulder, and grunted softly in command: ‘vio-sa.”
Laughing happily, Severus wrapped his arms around Brian and lifted his son- answering, “Leviosa it is then” as he allowed himself a careful hug before he carried Brian to the couch for their legillimency session.