Severus was sitting on a sofa, tossing a plushie snitch in the direction of young Lupin, when he heard the door opening. He stiffened – the child looked at him weirdly – but relaxed a bit, when Ginny Weasley’s… pardon, Potter’s… voice drifted to him. I have to get used at last, passed through his head.
Potter’s wife walked into the room half a step behind a young woman in a white dress. The stranger had dark curly hair made into beautiful locks. A white shawl was immediately noticeable, intricately wrapped and hiding her neck at the same time.
‚What do you think about this one?’ the woman asked, turning around.
‚Pretty’ Ginny assured her, smiling as though at a memory. ‚But, for Merlin’s sake, take off that shawl!’
The woman shook her head forcibly, sitting at the table. Little Lupin had to know her, for he made a beeline for her, squealing. He tried to climb onto her knees, which the stranger reacted to with happy laughter. Potter peeked into the room.
‚Hi, Hermione’ he said laughingly at the sight of the woman ‚The wedding isn’t off?’
‚No’ the woman fixed her shawl ‚As long as the best man and the bridesmaid are going to show up…’
The Boy-Who-Lived laughed again, and his wife echoed his sentiment.
‚I wouldn’t miss your wedding for all the riches of the world! How is Ron?’
‚Good. Mrs. Weasley… Molly… is not letting him be.’
Severus threw a ball in Teddy’s direction automatically. The child jumped off Hermione Granger’s knees – the man still couldn’t believe she has grown up into such a lovely woman – and caught the snitch quickly.
‚I’ll bet’ Potter said in the meantime ‚Do you remember Bill’s wedding? Or ours? Mum always has a preparation fever… especially now that they cannot be left to the bethrothed…’
‚They can’ Granger sounded affronted.
‚I’m not talking about you. I mean Ron. You can’t trick me, I’ll bet you’re choosing his ties for him. I know his style, or rather the lack of one… I’ve shared a dormitory with him for all those years.’
‚How little faith you have in Ronald…’
Both Potter burst out laughing. The younger wizard reached for the shawl.
‚Take this shawl off, Hermione, you look better without it…’
‚No’ Granger seemed to be stubborn.
‚Calm down. We’ve all seen it. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, really. It can barely be seen…’
‚Can be!’ the woman caught the other end of the shawl, but Potter was faster and took it off.
‚Eh, no, it can’t be seen’ Mrs. Potter concluded, looking carefully at Hermione’s neck. ‚Severus?’
Snape lifted his head, ignoring a quiet cry from Miss Granger – even though it seemed she was not to be one for long, he thought. He walked a bit closer and cringed upon realization of what the problem was.
There was an ugly scar on the neck of his old student – a vertical red line, running only a few centimeters from her jugular. He lifted his own hand absentmindedly and traced his own artery. Granger caught the shawl and was going to wrap her neck again, when she recognized him.
‚Harry, what is Professor Snape doing here?’ she asked in shock.
The shawl fell forgotten onto the floor. Potter lifted it and then coughed several times, seemingly not knowing where to begin.
‚Umm… You remember how I asked you a few days ago about those new regulations’ the grimace on his face left no doubts about what Potter thinks of them.
‚You mean slavery? That’s barbarous! I’d gladly talk to the Minister and say what I think about it, but I don’t have time right now… I’m curious to what heartless bastard thought of that! It’s…’
Potter lifted his hand, interrupting her tirade. Severus was not really surprised with Granger’s negative attitude to the new law.
‚See, I agree with you about it, but I’ve got a problem. Umm… I bought a certain slave to free him, and later was told that it’s not possible…’
Snape jerked and averted his eyes when he felt Granger’s gaze upon himself. Her eyes widened again.
‚Don’t be joking, Harry… but he was dead… and by the way, how could they make him a slave…’ she was lost for words ‚he didn’t deserve it!’
Potter’s lips twitched.
‚I said the same thing when Severus told me what the current law is like. And judging by the way he treats us, the Ministry has to be good in brainwashing them…’
Granger furrowed her brows and then started to mutter uncomplimentary things under her breath. Probably if not for the presence of the child, she’d curse. Severus could see she was furious. He pretended the conversation is not about him and played with little Lupin all the time.
‚I can try to talk to Kingsley… Harry, why don’t you ask your boss?’
‚I trust you more’ Potter commented sharply.
‚Gawain Robards has led the Aurors for years. You have to trust your superior, Harry!’
‚It’s not about that. I don’t want the Ministry to butt in. Severus is my matter… my responsibility. I’ve failed enough people…’ Potter bowed his head, and his wife was immediately closer, with a hand on his shoulder.
‚You didn’t fail anyone. You saved us all…’
‚At what price?’ the Boy-Who-Lived shouted shrilly.
He tore out of Ginny’s arms and fled to his room.