Disclaimer: All publicly recognisable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. In other words, I don’t own J.K.R.’s characters. Please don’t sue me; I’m not worth it anyway. Once I’m done, I’ll buy them dinner, several good bottles of wine and put them back where I found them.
AN: Hello, I know I promised a new post before Christmas. Unfortunately, real life got in the way in an unwelcome fashion. Be warned that the fluff monster might mug you if you read on. My many thanks go to Liongirl, who answered my plea for a beta.
Snape smiled then rolled over. He slowly slipped back to that blissful place that was the half-sleep before wakefulness. Something delightfully soft pressed against his side. He contentedly pulled it to him, murmuring, ‘Hermione,’ into his pillow. The rare opportunity for a Saturday morning lie-in claimed him wholeheartedly, and he slipped back into satisfying dreams.
Half an hour later he woke, rather abruptly, from a dream of eating an endless mountain of mashed potato. He could still feel the furry texture of the mash in his mouth. Wait a moment, he thought, mashed potato wasn’t furry. He cracked open an eye and glanced down. In the periphery of his vision, he could see something red and furry resting on his jaw. Glancing down further, he saw the unmistakable outline of Isabel’s favourite soft toy. There was no doubt about it, his nemesis was Molly, the cuddly dragon. It was a creature, in his opinion, which was appropriately named after its giver. Currently he appeared to be chewing on Molly’s ear. Ah, Watson, the mystery of the mashed potato had been solved, he thought, though he doubted that the case would be truly worthy of Holmes. He spat the ear out. Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing happened. The third attempt had the same dismal result, and Molly’s ear remained resolutely attached to his soft palette.
‘Thugger!’ he lisped, discovering that a mouthful of cuddly dragon’s ear was a surprisingly effective impediment to pejorative eloquence.
Sitting up, he noticed two things. Molly was equally firmly attached to his bare chest and black (the colour habit was a hard one to break) pyjama-covered legs and the hand-embroidered, papyrus-patterned duvet, a favourite of Hermione’s, was also equally firmly attached to Molly. ‘Thugger,’ no longer seemed to adequately gauge the situation, and Snape resolutely refused to try thuck as an alternative.
Dimly, he remembered Isabel saying something about leaving Molly to guard him whilst he slept. That had been before Isabel and Hermione had left for their visit to the dragon’s namesake. He felt a rush of pride for his daughter. Obviously Isabel’s innate magic had manifested itself and had combined with the ‘lose-me-not' charm on the dragon. The result was, well, whatever this was. When Hermione learned of their daughter’s precocious display of ability she would, no doubt, be similarly proud. It was a strong indication of just how powerful a witch Isabel would grow up to be.
Getting up, he walked to the dressing table. The duvet dragged behind him like some odd, Beardsley-inspired, train. He studied his reflection in the mirror. Now he was better able to appreciate how thoroughly the dragon was attached. His left arm was quite securely wrapped around Molly and across his chest, imparting a rather odd Napoleonic appearance to the whole thing.
He picked up his wand and rested the tip lightly against the point where the dragon met his skin. A suitably gentle ‘Disiungo’ should suffice, he thought. He did not want to damage either of the favourites of the witches in his life. He had no desire to repeat the traumatic scenes that had followed the accidental demise of Tigger, the cuddly leopard. He was just about to speak when he remembered the oral impediment currently tickling the top of his mouth. Non-verbal it would be then. Severus concentrated on his intent and cast the non-verbal ‘Disiungo.’ Molly retained her bear hug on his body. Severus was, once again, impressed by his daughter’s magic. He tried again, increasing the strength of his non-verbal command. The glassy stare of Molly seemed to glare defiance at him. Once more he increased the strength of his intent, to the very limit of what he considered would cause no damage. His skin, where it was attached to the toy, was lit by a flash of pale blue, and a brief, intense stinging sensation outlined the dragon’s shape. Snape let out a, ‘Thit,’ of pain, but Molly and his floral tribute remained attached. Severus calculated the emotional satisfaction he would feel at shredding the duvet and dragon. He compared it to the emotional fallout he would endure upon his witches’ return. Wisely, he decided against any precipitously destructive course of action.
With a lisping, sibilant sigh he pulled his wand away, or at least he tried to. He tugged harder, and he came to the unpleasant realisation that his wand was now attached to himself and his acolytes.
His eyebrows creased in frustration. The whole point of Hermione taking Isabel on a visit had been so he could complete a complicated potion, currently in stasis, in relative peace and quiet. Now he had this unforeseen complication. He needed his wand for the very last stage of the potion. It was a complex incantation delivered while touching the liquid with his wand’s tip. Simultaneously he had to stir the mixture counter-clockwise with a Murano-glass rod. Confound the unpredictable nature of emergent magic, he thought.
He could consult Filius. The Charms master might be able to unravel the threads of magic binding him to his entourage. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and rejected the possibility, unless as an absolute last resort. Surely he could find a suitable charm himself.
Turning, he stalked to the bookcase-lined wall. The wand bobbed in unison with his every step. The dragon and the duvet did, however, rather mitigate the usual intimidating aspect of his walk.
Two hours and several unsuccessful attempts later, Severus had discovered two things. The first involved his personal scale of frustration. On it, one was a Longbottomly-botched potion and ten was the thought of having to endure a week-long intensive course on ‘Divination, the Supreme Magic.’ Now he resolved to revise his scale very sharply upwards. The second was that he might, in fact, have to consult Filius. His reluctance to do so was not born out of any lack of regard for Filius’s skill. He actually had a high, if unvoiced, regard for his abilities. However, Severus had an even higher regard for Filius’s abilities as a world-class gossip.
Severus took a careful, one-sided sip of water and summoned his courage. He walked to the fire, threw a pinch of powder in the flames and said, ‘Plofflellor Ffillios wooms.’ He coughed at the tickle in his throat. Dammit, at this rate he’d need treatment for a fur-ball as well, he thought.
Considering the degree of mispronunciation, it was a minor miracle that the correct connection was made and Filius’s cheerful tone echoed out of the fireplace, ‘Thank you for calling, but I’m out at the moment. If you care to leave a message after the crow caws, I’ll get in touch with you as soon as I can.’
An inarticulate, ‘Argthh!’ of frustration escaped Severus, and he hit his forehead with the palm of his hand.
‘Happy is finding a frying pan to be better for hitting the head,’ came a gloomy, dolorous voice from behind Severus. He whirled around at the sound.
‘Appi, wot r ew ooing ere?’
‘Professor-Sir is telling Happy to be bringing him an early lunch. If Happy is wrong, Happy will be pleased to be hitting his head with his favourite pan,’ the elf explained, sounding almost pleased at the prospect.
Severus shook his head to indicate such a course of action would not be necessary.
‘Really, Professor-Sir?’ Happy sounded disappointed.
‘Ess, ust poot et oown ere,’ Snape mangled, indicating that the elf was to put the food tray on the table.
The gloomy elf did as he was bid, without so much as an ear-twitch of surprise at the Professor’s rather singular appearance and speech peculiarities. Years of being in service at Hogwarts had, no doubt, inured him to all manner of outlandish situations.
Just as the elf was about to vanish, Severus was struck by a sudden thought and called out, ‘Appi!’
‘Professor-Sir is wanting something else?’
Snape stalked to the desk, as well as any man could when wearing a floral duvet and dragon. He scribbled furiously. When he was done, he handed Happy the note. It explained his predicament and asked if Happy thought that elf magic might be able to gently separate him from his unwanted companions. Happy’s ears flapped forward in concentration for a moment, and Snape felt the brush of unfamiliar magic touch him.
‘Happy is thinking he can help, but Professor-Sir is going to have to be very still.’
Snape nodded, stepped away from the desk and froze. There was bright yellow flash. Severus watched in relief as the dragon and duvet drifted slowly away from him, encased in a yellow glow. Then the glow started to flicker. As he saw them start to drift back towards him, his joy turned to alarm. Then there was a snapping sound. The last thing Snape saw, before losing consciousness, was them rapidly rushing towards him, and worse, Happy was being pulled along in their wake. The next thing he was aware of was a mournful voice coming from the general direction of his chest, saying, ‘Bad Happy. Bad Happy.’
Snape opened his eyes. He found that he was quite securely stuck to the wall, in a rather inglorious spread-eagled fashion. His previous limpets were attached as before, only the ensemble had been joined by an extremely repentant elf. Happy was splayed across his chest like a rather unorthodox heraldic design.
‘Happy is sorry he cannot be hitting himself now, but he will hit himself twice as hard later,’ Happy apologised, consumed with the guilt of failure.
‘Thuck,’ Snape commented. Once again Happy launched into a litany of self-recrimination. ‘Thut up, Appi,’ Snape commanded miserably.
‘Happy is happy to be shutting up, Professor-Sir,’ Happy said, overjoyed to be able to do something successfully.
As the full realisation that somehow Isabel’s spell had strengthened and spread hit him, Snape let his head, the only free part of him, thump back against the wall.
It was, perhaps, unfortunate that Hermione and Isabel took that particular moment to return. It was a mischievous intervention on the part of fate that ensured Molly and Arthur accompanied them, at Isabel’s insistence, to say hello to her father. Fate, however, was being just plain cruel when Filius took that same moment to return Severus’s call in person. His querulous, ‘Severus, you called me...’ trailed away into silence at the sight before him.
Hermione rushed towards Severus, hands outstretched in concern. His cry of, ‘Thop,’ was, unfortunately, too late to prevent her from joining the growing symbiotic group, even if only by one hand. Fortunately, it did prevent anyone else from joining the commune. What followed was a relation of events by Severus and, at one point, Happy. It was punctuated by Severus having to repeat certain words, due to his lisping delivery.
He was sure that he occasionally heard a hastily stifled giggle. He was also sure that, sometimes, when they asked him to repeat a word it was not because they had not understood, but it was because they wanted to hear him try to pronounce the word again. He noticed these occasions coincided with the stifled giggles. Isabel had stood wide-eyed and silent throughout this entire episode of refined torture, except for one inquiry as to whether her dragon was all right, squished as she was under an elf. Severus was rather hurt by her inquiry.
Next, there followed a barrage of counter-spells and charms. Some were cast jointly by Arthur, Molly and Filius, and some by Filius alone. Having previously exhausted his knowledge of counter-charms and not wanting to provoke any more hilarity due to his peculiar phraseology, Severus remained silent. He left Hermione to suggest various charms and variations to Filius. There was a brief moment of triumph when Hermione was freed from the conglomeration. Isabel rushed over to hug her Mummy, and then she refused to leave until the others were also free. The success, however, was not repeated. When Filius started to mutter about consulting other Charms masters and even curse-breakers, Severus let loose a stream of mispronounced invective that was, fortunately, too incoherently mangled for Isabel to ask embarrassing questions about later.
Throughout Filius’s monologue and Severus’s tirade, Hermione had been quietly talking to Isabel. Isabel had begun to sniffle, and her bottom lip was wobbling precipitously. Just as Filius was about to Floo his growing list of experts, Hermione interrupted with a soft, ‘Wait, Filius, I want to try one more thing.’ Filius looked doubtful, but then he nodded his agreement.
Hermione led Isabel over to Severus. She gave her husband a glare that suggested his outburst would be discussed, at some length, later. Then she knelt down and said to her daughter, ‘Now, sweetie, Daddy isn’t angry with you. He’s just upset. You aren’t angry with Isabel, are you, Severus?’
Severus felt a rush of guilt at his tirade. He looked at his beloved little witch and smiled. ‘No, Ifabel, Daffy, ifn’t angwee wit ew.’
‘Now, Izzy, do you think you could be a really clever girl and wish Daddy unstuck. Wish just as hard as you wished Molly to guard him earlier.’
‘I’ll try, Mummy.’
‘Good girl,’ Hermione said. Isabel screwed up her face in furious concentration. She wished with all her being for her daddy, his wand, the elf and Molly to be unstuck. All the adults stared at the group stuck to the wall. A minute went by, then two, and Isabel trembled with the effort of her wishing. Filius gently cleared his throat and started to say, ‘Well, it was a very good try, but ...’ when the afflicted abruptly slid apart and dropped to the floor. Happy vanished as soon as he was free.
‘I did it, Mummy!’ Isabel shouted triumphantly.
Tentatively, Severus reached out and touched the wall behind him. He was relieved to find that his hand did not meld itself to the damn thing. He turned to where his daughter stood and opened his arms. She rushed to him, and he lifted her up and spun her around. ‘Who’s my brilliant girl?’ he said, gently kissing her forehead.
None of them noticed as their visitors took the chance to leave. Their rapid exit was motivated not only by a desire to give the family some privacy, but also by the desire to avoid whatever retribution Severus might choose to inflict when he remembered just how much they had giggled. Besides, Filius really did want to tell Pomona about all he had seen.
Later that day, with Isabel and her blasted dragon cosily tucked up in bed and Hermione snuggled against him, Severus felt somewhat more content. Hermione leaned into him for a particularly soothing and lingering kiss. The kiss slowly escalated to a rather passionate and hungry one. After several more similar kisses, a relocation to their bedroom and a very animated bout of lovemaking, Severus lay back against the pillows. A relaxed smirk played across his face, and a contented Hermione snuggled against his chest.
‘I must admit, Hermione, I am at a loss to explain the sheer power of the bond that Isabel established between her damn dragon and myself.’
Hermione pushed herself up to look at him. ‘Really, love?’
‘Yes, really.’ Hermione looked particularly smug. ‘I surmise from your superior expression that you have the solution,’ he commented.
‘I think so, love.’
‘Do feel free to enlighten this poor, old, bewildered fool, preferably on less than one foot of parchment.’
‘I just did.’
‘Then I must have missed that particular effort at Legilimency on your part. Perhaps you would like to try direct speech.’
She shushed him with a kiss. ‘Love, Severus, love. None of us could break her charm because she cast it unconsciously, and she cast it with all the love she has for you. Every attack on that bond just made it stronger. Only her love could break it.’
She kissed him again, and Severus swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat. ‘Love,’ he said, his voice wobbling a little unsteadily.
‘Yes, Severus. I don’t know how to break it to you, but your daughter and I are insanely in love with you. You are just going to have to deal with the fact somehow. I realise that it must be a shock to you, but ...’
Severus effectively silenced her gentle teasing with a breath-stealing kiss. Which, upon reflection, Hermione had to admit was a very satisfying answer on his part.