The Thief and the Sorceress



I've taken to watching him sleep in the mornings. I am disgustingly enamored with the way his nose wrinkles when I gently stroke his sleep flushed cheeks. I curse the fact that I have gone so immeasurably soft. But yet, I cannot stop myself from touching him so softly, as I am doing now.

Eventually, his eyes flutter open. He pins me with that half-lidded, sleepy gaze that steals my breath every time. "Morning," he says as he nestles closer to me, careful to avoid my legs with the pointy little blocks of ice he has the audacity to call feet. He fits to me perfectly. The morning kisses to said blocks of ice have long lost their novelty but the feelings, the reasons, behind them remain.

His hair tickles my nose. My hand moves to the unruly mop in Pavlovian response. He leans unconsciously into the touch. I chuckle as the brown tufts steadfastly fly in the face of convention—much like him. They remain untamed—much like him. Much like his heart. I thank the gods for that. Otherwise, there would be someone else in this bed, having his breath stolen, having his heart stolen. "Good morning, my little thief," I murmur as I kiss his crown. My lips linger. He sighs happily. When a smile—a smile—threatens to cleave my otherwise expressionless face I know that I am truly lost. I have officially joined the ranks of those sappy, romantic fools who treasure sunsets and proclaim that their husbands' hair smells of ginger and apples. Normally I would scoff at such saccharine-sweet sentimentality. But, strangely, I find this particular sweetness perfectly matched to my bitter disposition.

It has been two years since that wretched business with Malfoy. I look around and quickly take stock of my life as Harry wrestles with the covers. It is taking every ounce of self-control he has not to tangle our legs and feet together. Relenting, I gently nudge his feet with my calves, which he quickly attaches to like the heat-seeking limpet he will always be. Everything is the same, which is to say, everything is completely different. We still live on the moor in that little stone cottage Harry had been so taken with. Mr. Straithewaite from town still delivers the groceries. I still own an Apothecary that I run six days a week and Harry and I still spend our time together in the garden. However, we have added rooms and jointly collected treasures to our cottage. We have a full-time house elf who does all of the cooking, cleaning, and errand running. The garden has been vastly expanded to accommodate Harry's thriving business.

He and that twitchy Longbottom boy went into business together shortly after our reconciliation. He needed something for himself after—well, after everything. After Eva, more importantly. They have become known as the finest growers of potions ingredients on the Continent. I couldn't be prouder or richer, for that matter. Outside of owl post sales, I am their only distributor. I only use their ingredients for my potions. And, not because Harry grows them, but because they are that good. I am amazed at how little credit he takes for the success. When asked, Harry merely shrugs, gives all of the credit to Longbottom and mumbles placidly that he just tends to them. "What's so hard about that?" he asks earnestly. If only he knew. Only his expert tending coaxes some of the prickliest, most temperamental plants into fruition. I should know. I believe I am his most prickly specimen.

Breakfast is waiting for me as I saunter to the kitchen. Harry is already in the garden, I see. My jam is running low. I leave a note for the house elf to replenish my stock. I hesitate for a second and add that ridiculous white chocolate confectionary that Harry is so fond of to the list. How he thinks I don't know how much of that he "nibbles" in any given week is beyond me. It amazes me that there was a time when I didn't even know he liked chocolate, much less this particular confection. A glance at the clock tells me that it is time to start the day.

"I'm leaving," I say as I stride out to the garden.

He turns to me and I am ensnared by the vision of his flushed cheeks, spiky hair and the smudge of potting soil on his nose. "Okay. Have a good day, then. See you at lunch?"

"Yes," I say before squeezing his shoulder affectionately and Apparating.

As promised, Harry joined me for lunch. He does so almost every day. Though, not out of some quixotic fantasy of domesticity. He was there mainly to replenish the ever-dwindling stock of his pre-packaged potions ingredients, as he is at least three times a week. That we get a chance to spend a quiet few minutes together smacking away on sandwiches and fruit is an added bonus. We chat about inconsequential things, make plans for the upcoming holiday and gossip about people we hardly know.

"I should get back," Harry says as he gathers up the remnants from lunch, "I've got a lot to do in the garden, it seems."

He stands and sways on his feet. His eyes flutter back and he draws in a short breath. I am immediately next to him, keeping him from falling to the floor. He is too pale and leans against me heavily.

"Sorry about that," he says as he pulls from my grasp and shakes his head, "must have gotten too much sun this morning," he mutters.

I am inexplicably worried and irrationally over-protective. "Are you all right?" I ask.

He tries to stand away from me, but immediately sways when he does. "Sorry about that," he again murmurs, showing no indication that he's heard my question.

"Has this happened before?" I ask, panicked, clutching him to my tightly.

He shakes his head, which I can tell he immediately regrets. "No," he finally says. He's gone back to leaning against me.

"I'm taking you home. I don't want you Apparating if you're feeling the least bit off," I growl as I gather the lunch things and pull him back into my arms. He looks as though he's about to argue with me, but sighs and drops his head to my shoulder. I am even more worried. Harry never allows me to take care of him like this—not without a fight.

I Apparate us directly into the cottage and bark for our house elf to take the lunch things and make Harry a pot of chamomile and anise tea. I can tell that he is feeling himself again, but I refuse to let go. As I lead him to the bedroom, he pulls away.

"Honestly, Severus, I'm not feeble. I was just a little light-headed for a few moments. Too much sun, not enough water. That's it."

There's the Harry I know. "Well, then, you won't mind having a bit of lie-down while the sun is at its worst, now will you?"

He opens his mouth to argue with me, but knows my logic is sound. He sighs again, and scrubs his eyes with closed fists. "Fine," he spits as he flops onto the bed.

I quickly remove his shoes, tuck him under the blanket perched haphazardly at the foot of the bed, and stand over him while he sips his way through two glasses of water and one cup of tea. I refuse to fall prey to his churlish pout. When I am convinced that he will stay put for at least a few hours, I leave for the shop, which is a waste. I find I cannot concentrate on anything else but Harry.

When I return home that evening, I expect to find Harry working feverishly in the garden to make up for his lie-down. He's not and I'm concerned. I stomp through the cottage and am stopped by an angry house elf waiving a rolling pin at me as if were a deadly weapon.

"Shh! Master Severus!" Barabee chides, "Master Harry is asleeping, sir."

"What? Still?" I ask in alarm.

"Yes, Master Severus. Master Harry sir is still asleeping."

"Thank you, Barabee," I mutter as I walk slowly to our bedroom. I stand in the doorway, watching Harry sleep. He presents quite a picture and I am unsure of whether to wake him. In the end, the decision is taken from me. He wakes as I touch lightly and check quickly for fever or any other sign of distress.

"What time is it?" he asks as he blinks away the sleep in his eyes.

"Half-past seven," I whisper. He is, of course, flabbergasted.

"The sun must have really done me in," he says while fiddling with the hem of the blanket and looking at the floor.

My eyes are immediately drawn to his fingers as they work the blanket's hem. I ignore the implication of that for now. Perhaps it was just the sun. I kiss his forehead and tuck him back in. He is asleep again within a few minutes. "Just the sun," I whisper in an effort to convince myself.

A week later I wake and find the bed empty. This is a first. I always wake before Harry. The sound of retching from the bathroom has me out of bed and on me feet within seconds. "Harry," I call. He turns his wan face to me and says simply, "I don't think the fish agreed with me last night." I nod and let it go. Perhaps, like the sun, it was just the fish.

When it happens three more times in the next five days, when he nearly faints in the garden one afternoon, and when his naps become longer and more frequent, I don't let it go. It is no longer the sun or the fish. Though, I am not anxious to give voice to the alternative. We have started another day in bathroom. As I am quietly fretting over him and rubbing a cool cloth against his forehead, he looks up at me with the same wan expression. The truth of what is happening passes between us without a word. We've both known it but have both ignored it. Just when I think it is too hard to articulate why we are so firm in our resolve that this is not the joyous occasion so many deem it, Harry's whisper strikes through the heart of it.

"I can't lose another one," he says, while clumsily swiping at tears. "I can't."

I nod. 'And I cannot lose you,' I think to myself as I gather him into my arms. The mediwizards told us over a year ago that it was too dangerous to conceive and, even laying that aside, Harry would not without the aid of potions. Of course, Harry has once again changed his stars. He has once again defied the world, with little regard for himself. Or for me, I whisper viciously in my mind. We sit on the cold tile floor for Merlin knows how long as we silently come to grips with what this means. How this changes things. "Okay," I say, "Okay." 'We will get through this. This is not terrible news,' I think to myself.

Harry looks up at me, a hint of sparkle, a pinch of hope there. "Okay?" he asks. "Okay," he says resolutely as I nod again and pull him closer.

The first visit with the mediwizard is not nearly as hopeful as I would like it to be. He talks of "high risk," and the likelihood of miscarriage given Harry's previous experience. He reminds us again how few male pregnancies are successful. He goes on ad naseum about the dangers to Harry, especially given what happened before. He is scaring Harry, which in turn is really pissing me off. I've been told I have a rather volatile temper. I'm anxious to show it. However, the murderous glances Harry keeps shooting me convince me otherwise.

In the end, Harry agrees to take it easy and he agrees to allow me to oversee his potion and "rest" regime as I see fit. For the first time, we are both cautiously optimistic. Though, I am far more neutral in my feelings. I'd never really given much thought to having a child. Never thought I would find myself in a situation in which a child was possible. The loss of Eva had been hard in a theoretical way. No more than because the loss was devastating to Harry. This is real. This is happening. I simply do not know what to feel. We tell no one of the pregnancy and Harry refuses to purchase one baby item until he has made it past the four month mark—two weeks past when he lost Eva.

Three months into this ordeal, and I realize that I am slowly going insane. I didn't sign on for this. Harry is all that I need. I cannot, no, I will not divide my love for him. And, I am terrified that he will divide his love for me. A child is going to gum up the works. It already is. We are on a constant schedule of rest and potions. We keep journals upon journals of temperature, weight, calories, food cravings, pains, sniffles, and sneezes. Sex has become non-existent, even though the mediwizard has assured us it is quite safe. Harry is dubious. He is concerned for the baby. He is desperately obsessive about not doing anything that could potentially harm the baby. I am desperately obsessive to do anything possible that will result in me sinking into Harry and making him moan with need and pleasure. Alas, he has proven more stubborn than me and I am afraid that he will never let me touch him again.

As it turns out, he is desperately afraid that I will leave him. For Malfoy, no less. We have terrible rows that leave us both in emotional shambles, which spurns guilt for potentially harming our daughter, which begets many more terrible rows. It is a vicious cycle we have started.

"I know I'm ugly to you now," he says during one of our many fights about insubstantial things.

"What?" I say, incredulous and feeling blindsided by the non sequitor. If anything, he is more attractive now than ever. Despite my misgivings about this whole thing, I cannot deny that the softness of his belly, the bump that is our daughter, is wholly beautiful. He is beautiful to me. I tell him this, and he laughs. And then, he bites his lip and cries. Hormones and soul-wounded boy wonders do not mix, I have decided.

"I know it's been a long time since we've had sex. I'd… I'd understand if you… if you need it. From someone. But please, Severus, please not Malfoy. Anyone but Malfoy."

I cannot believe what I am hearing. Several days had passed since our last row—this was one I intended to have now or ever. "What is this? I can certainly abstain from sex as long as necessary. I do not need to go trolling and am offended that you think I would want to. And, what is this business about Malfoy? He is in the past, Harry. I am different. We are different. I would never, ever do anything like that to you again."

He collapses on the couch and fiddles with the fringe on the throw. We've had to replace it three times now. "I just feel so… I don't know. I know you don't want to be a father," he says softly before looking away.

I take his face in my hands so that he cannot look away. "As long as I am with you, I would do anything, Harry, anything." The intensity of it startles both of us. I realize much later that I did not dispute his accusation that I didn't want children. It wasn't that, really. I just cannot bear to lose him. How can my heart possibly love more than Harry? It is at its capacity. I am afraid. But then, I am afraid of so many things that I will never voice.

The fourth month comes and goes. We tell a few people. I think they recognize our reticence and kindly do not make issue of it. We buy a few things for the baby and suddenly, I find I am swept up in Harry's growing enthusiasm. It is past Eva. We ease up on the regimes and journals and rules. We make love for the first time in months. Dear Merlin above I'd forgotten how good he feels beneath me. I have missed the aching sweetness of his touches, his kisses. Things are going well, I decide. The baby, our daughter, is growing and Harry is at peace. The idea of fatherhood is growing on me.

As in all things, the peace does not last. It never does. Never for us. When it happens, I find that I am completely unprepared for it, even though I have been preparing for it unconsciously for months. He was in his sixth month. He had been feeling off for several days, but not enough to warrant a call to the mediwizard, even by his obsessive standards. He started cramping in the night, felt dizzy this morning, and fell unconscious this afternoon. He is so small and pale in that hospital bed. He is in extraordinary pain, but they cannot give him anything because of the baby. He is not doing well, they say, but they cannot give him the appropriate potions. They could hurt the baby. They cannot grant my husband a measure of comfort because of that blasted baby. They cannot save my husband because of that goddamned baby! I stand there, calmly smoothing his hair away from his forehead, a blank expression on my face. Inside, though, I am seething. I am roaring. I am raging at the injustice of it, at the thought of his pain, at the thought of losing Harry. I cannot lose him. I will not. I suddenly wish that I could rip that meddlesome interloper from him, from our lives.

As soon as the thought leaves me I am hit with the crushing weight of guilt. How could I possibly wish my child away? What parent does that? What person does that? And, suddenly I understand why Harry still blames himself for Eva. His traitorous, self-persecuting thoughts have context now. But, sadly, that does not diminish my selfish desires—it only helps me understand them.

The mediwizard calls me into the hall, a serious and dour expression on his face. I reluctantly leave Harry's side. I'm sure the mediwizard has heard my unforgivable thoughts. They sound like an all-mighty calamity in my head. I slink away, ready to be reprimanded for my selfishness.

"Mr. Snape," he begins seriously, "this is a very difficult conversation, but one that must be had."

I nod, bracing myself for the worst.

"It is too early to take the baby, but Mr. Potter is in grave danger of losing both her and his life." The mediwizard fumbles with his charts and clears his throat. He looks down at the floor and takes a shaky breath before looking me straight in the eye. "Have you discussed aborting the fetus with your husband?"

I am numb from shock. My mouth works soundlessly. The mediwizard shifts uncomfortably. I am… grateful that he has voiced this possibility. It makes me feel less like an ogre, a thing, a murderer. But, strangely enough, I find that I am not keen on losing my daughter. Not if there is a chance to save her. But then, the mediwizard's words come back to me. This baby will kill Harry. One in the hand, two in the bush as they say. I do not know her yet. I am not yet attached. I will not allow her to kill him. Looking the mediwizard in the eye I say, "I shall speak to him when he wakes." The mediwizard relaxes. I wonder if he thought I might hex him?

After my discussion with the mediwizard, I feel renewed purpose. A baby is not something we need. We need air and food and water. We need each other. We do not need a baby.

I sit next to Harry for Merlin knows how long, stroking his hair just the way he likes, promising him that I will give him all of the chocolate in the world if only he would wake. He does not. He mocks me with his soft, silent features. His nose is not adorable as it scrunches in pain. His flushed cheeks are not made more beautiful by the fever ravaging him. Hours pass. I find myself making more and more ridiculous promises.

Finally, his eyes flutter open. He pins me with that half-lidded gaze that takes my breath away every time. Though, this time it is for a different reason. I kiss the top of his head. "Glad you could join us, my little thief," I murmur, desperate for some version of normalcy.

He smiles. Barely. "What happened," he says, his voice thick with pain and sleep.

"You collapsed. You're in the hospital. Harry," I hesitate, "there is something we must discuss."

He looks at me and I watch as the realization of what I'm going to say spreads across his face. He curls his arms around his distended belly protectively. "No." he whispers.

"Harry," I say sternly.

"NO," he whispers fiercely.

We are at a standoff. It is I who bears the brunt of making the first volley in this deadly skirmish. For what feels like hours I beg Harry, plead with him, to abort this child. In the end, I lay my heart at his feet. "I cannot lose you," I implore, "I cannot live without you. Please, Harry. Please," I beg.

He takes my face in his cold hands. He gently strokes my cheeks as tears spill from his eyes. "And, I cannot lose her. I cannot live without her. Please, Severus. Do not force me to make this choice. Please," he begs.

I open my mouth to argue further but am stopped by his quiet words.

"If you make me do this, you will lose me either way."

I stand. I want to scream. I want to kick the wall. I want to break the furniture. Instead, I say, "do not manipulate me. Do not give me an ultimatum. Do NOT threaten me."

"It's not a threat."

"Am I not enough for you?"

Harry's face softens. "You are everything to me. Wanting this baby doesn't change that, Severus. But I have to try. I have to. If she's taken from me because it is the will of the universe, then so be it, but I will not make that decision. I will not."

"I cannot lose you," I say again, sounding hopeless and lost.

"You won't," he says with determination. I find that I believe him. I have to. If I don't, what else is there?

"I love you," he says as he slips his hand in mine and closes his eyes. I am desperately afraid he won't open them again.

He does open them, though. The next morning dawns sunny and bright. If I were in my right mind, I would sneer at the ridiculous cheeriness of it. But, as in all things as of late, I find that I cannot begrudge my husband a sliver of happiness, of respite. He likes the sun. So be it.

He opens his eyes again the next day and the day after that. And, by a miracle of Harry Potter proportions, he makes it through the worst of it. The mediwizards are dumbfounded. Harry stares them down with quiet resolve and I am again reminded of what he has already accomplished in his short life. Six weeks. We only have to make it six more weeks and the baby will be developed enough to take. Harry hasn't left the hospital, nor will he until this over. I've given the responsibility of the shop over to my apprentice. Longbottom is taking care of the garden. Mr. Straithewaite and the house elf are tending to the cottage and the Weasleys have descended like locusts. All is as it should be in our little off-kilter world, it seems.

"What do you think of Aurora?" he asks, the baby name books and parchments balanced precariously on his bed. He is speaking softly, mindful of other patients about. Why, I don't know. He's in a private room. But, perhaps he's speaking quietly because it is two o'clock in the morning, and that is what one does at that time of the morning. Speaking softly of important things while lying in bed in blissful oblivion. What is it about the comforting embrace of darkness that tricks us into believing that thin sheets will protect us from the monsters under the bed and that softly spoken words take away the sting of harsh ones?

I reach over and stroke Harry's hand softly. He is miserable. He hasn't been able to sleep for the last week. So, we've made the best of it, enjoying quiet chats in the early morning hours. Though, I am exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally. "I had an Aunt Aurora," I mumble.

"Oh," Harry says with delight, excited about the prospect of "family names."

"She killed my uncle with a suffocation hex when she discovered him with the next door neighbor."

"Oh," Harry says with obvious disappointment as he scratches that name from the list.

A few minutes pass while Harry compares parchment to book. I shudder from the sheer irreality of it all. For days, weeks, people have pretended as if everything is fine. As if it is simply another normal day. As if it is perfectly normal for my husband to be hooked up to Muggle and Wizard medical machines, bruised beyond belief from needles and intravenous infusions, and exhausted, sore and unable to find relief. As if there is not a little demon writhing in his belly stealing his life away every moment of the day. They act as if this is joyous time. I'd like to hex them all into oblivion. Starting with Harry at the moment. His incessant chatter about baby names is driving me crazy. My head hurts I realize absently.

"How about Calliope? We could call her Calli for short?"

The chatter has pushed me over the edge. "I don't care," I say tersely. "I don't want to talk about this right now."

Harry is silent for a moment. "We have to name her Severus."

'No we don't!' I want to scream. Instead, I stand abruptly and pace back and forth across the same four little floor tiles that I feel I have become to know intimately these last four weeks.

"Severus? The name?"

"I told you I don't care about the bloody name!" I shout, immediately regretting it. I watch helplessly as Harry folds in on himself, his expression shuttering. When he runs a shaky hand through his hair, I feel appropriately contrite, not that I can bring myself to tell him so.

Harry sighs and closes his eyes painfully. When he opens them, there is a quiet strength in them that always makes me tremble. Quite simply, he awes me.

"I need to know whether you will be a father to this child," he asks.

The words "of course," die on my lips as he raises his hand to stop me.

"No. I don't mean that you will acknowledge that you helped create this child, but truly a father. One who delights equally in her successes and her failures. One who loves her for all that she is despite all that she can be. One who will play silly games with her, scare away her dates when she's older, and one that will always fiercely protect her while also teaching her how to protect herself. That's what it means to be a father," he finishes quietly. "At least I think so," he adds almost silently. "It is the kind of father I intend to be," he says, that oh-so-familiar defiance shining in his eyes.

How in the world am I supposed to answer that? My own experience with my father was certainly lacking. I have neither a nurturing disposition nor general affection for children. I try to imagine myself playing tea party and nearly vomit. Though the idea of scaring away would-be suitors does sound enticing. "Harry," I begin, pompously thinking that the question is rather complicated.

But as Harry often does, he immediately cuts to the heart of it. "Yes or no, Severus," he interrupts.

Looking at Harry I suddenly realize that the question is rather simple. That, I think, is what makes it damned near impossible to answer. After a long hesitation I tell him the truth. "I don't know."

He nods sadly and looks down, his hand automatically rubbing his now pronounced belly. I thank the gods that the pea green hell we've been living in the last four weeks is completely devoid of fringe—Harry surely would have shredded all of it by now.

The silence is overwhelming, but strangely comforting. It allows both of us the time we need to think, to reflect. I think about how much Harry's love has changed me. How grateful I am for the change. I think about the intermittent pride I've felt over the years when my students accomplished difficult tasks and wonder if being a parent would be something like that? Taking care of the ones you love, guiding them, helping them, expecting things from them. Could I do that? I found myself believing that I wanted to.

"But, I want to be," I add in response to Harry's earlier question, fully meaning it.

Harry looks up sharply, pride—in me of all people—shining in his eyes. "Oh!" he says, lurching forward.

I immediately run to him, thinking something has happened. "What? What is it? What's happened? I'm getting the mediwizard on duty."

Harry chuckles and grabs my hand. "Stop, Severus, stop. The baby moved. That's all. She's got quite a little left hook there, I think. Perhaps she'll be a beater on the local quidditch team."

I growl. "No daughter of mine will play that inane and ridiculously dangerous sport!" I roar, not even realizing how protective I've already become over this churlish little beast growing inside of Harry.

Harry chuckles again and tugs my hand closer. He opens my palm so that it is pressed flat against his belly. "This is about the time she starts getting restless," he murmurs.

I start to say something about from whom she inherited her midnight restlessness when I feel it. She kicks. Or moves, or something, I don't really know, but it doesn't matter. In that moment, she's real. And, I am impossibly proud that she has done this impossible feat. "She kicked," I say in awe.

"Yes, she did," Harry says amused. "She does that quite often."

I had not wanted to feel this before, and for the life of me I cannot now fathom why. I am still leery of this whole baby business, of course, but I think I might just be able to handle it. I return to my seat, my hand still firmly planted on Harry's stomach waiting to see what genius feat our daughter will next attempt. While waiting, I absently stroke Harry's belly, causing him to sigh in contentment and relax in the bed. I look over and realize he's almost asleep. I thank Merlin that I can provide him with this small measure of comfort. I stand and kiss his brow, smiling at his smile. "How about Lily," I murmur before sitting down.

His eyes fly open and stare at me. I watch as the tears swell in his eyes. Suddenly, I am cursing the fact that the damn hospital keeps the rooms so incredibly dry—the lack of humidity is obviously causing my eyes to water. Obviously.

"Really?" he says.

I nod. "Lily for your mother and perhaps Madeline for a middle name. It is an old Snape family name," I finish quietly.

Harry nods enthusiastically. "I love it. It's perfect. It's perfect," he says again before finally slipping into sleep.



I am holding a little pink bundle in my hands, not entirely sure what to do with it. She looks up at me with the same dubious expression. While she has inherited Harry's brilliantly colored eyes, she has clearly inherited my skepticism. Were I her, I cannot say I wouldn't be entirely skeptical of the perennially scowling man holding me either. She stretches, her impossibly small hands curling into tiny fists, and her eyes slip closed. I am transfixed.

I look over at Harry, who is still sleeping. I made sure he got the strongest sleeping and pain draughts he could possibly take. After watching him scream for hours while in labor and seeing how close he came to …well, let's not think on that shall we? After watching him give birth to our daughter, Lily Madeline Potter-Snape, I have decided that he deserves to sleep for a year after this ordeal.

The visitors have left, thank the gods. I have been swimming in a terrifying sea of red hair for the last six weeks and am grateful for the break. They've migrated to the cottage to make sure everything is properly set up and in place for our return. One can only imagine what we will find upon our return.

I look over at the medical chart hanging from the end of the bed. Harry will be on bed rest for a few weeks still, longer if I have anything to say about it, but has come through it all relatively unscathed. Dumb luck and trademark Potter obstinance have once again saved Harry's scrawny hide. I am profoundly grateful for those annoying traits, and not for the first time.

Lily stretches again. I look down in time to watch as her brilliant green eyes slowly open. Like her father, she steals my breath with that one shy glance. My heart instantly doubles in capacity, as if through some bewitching spell. How could I ever have thought I would have to divide my love? That Harry would divide his? I did not understand. Not until now. Now I understand.

I bring Lily closer and brush a gentle kiss across her wrinkled brow. "Good evening, my little sorceress," I murmur for that is surely what she is to have worked such beguiling, bewitching magic.

Standing, I make my way over to Harry and Lily and I carefully make our way into bed with him. He snuggles closer to me as I wrap my arm around him. Lily is carefully nestled between us, resting comfortably in the nook we create with our sides. Harry makes some nauseatingly adorable sound. I kiss his brown and whisper, "My little thief," while at the same time reaching down and carefully brushing away the thatch of black hair from Lily's forehead. I feel a surge of protectiveness for them both. They are mine. My family. Mine to cherish and love. I chuckle at the knowledge that the thief and the sorceress have conspired to turn me into a sentimental pile of sickly-sweet goo. Of course, beyond that they have achieved the impossible. They have both captured my heart and swelled it beyond the limits I thought possible. At the heart of it, I realize that they have taught me the true nature of love. For that lesson, I intend to repay them in-kind for the rest of my life.

~fin~



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