Little Freedoms

by Lara Wilson

As a gray dawn rose over London, Narcissa sat watching her lover sleep.

Her lover.

A smile crossed her lips and she stretched, delighting in the feel of aches caused from passion not brutality. Wrapping the blanket around herself and leaning against the headboard, she turned onto one hip, and reached out to brush her fingers lightly over Remus' upturned cheek. He stirred, moving into her fingers, a soft sound coming from him, then lay still.

"You've brought me back to life, Remus," Narcissa murmured, stroking him again, feeling the stubble beneath her fingers, so unusual, as she rarely had ever spent the whole night with Lucius.

She knew there would never be separate bedrooms in the future with this man.

Mentally chiding herself for jumping ahead in her thoughts and giving into hope, Narcissa sighed and turned those thoughts to awakening him with soft kisses.

Her daydreams were interrupted by a shrill scream.

Remus came awake immediately, sitting up and knocking Narcissa's hand away as he did so. The scream sounded again, a cry of such pain and fear, his heart began to race. Meeting Narcissa's eyes for a moment, he then looked away and rose from the bed to dress quickly.

"Hermione," was his one, unnecessary comment, before heading for the door.

Narcissa sighed softly and curled back up in the bed, wondering if he'd come back but knowing he had to leave. It was his nature to care.

It was hers to selfishly want him for herself.

Buttoning his shirt, Remus opened the door and nearly ran into Sirius.

"What...?" Sirius' eyes darkened, his face twisting with anger and he pointed over Remus' shoulder into the room behind him. "Don't you dare tell me you're fucking that whore, Remus!"

Remus yanked the door shut behind him and snarled at his best friend. "Shut up, Sirius."

"Oh shit! I can't believe you let her get to you." Throwing his hands up in disgust, Sirius stomped down the hallway. Remus resisted the urge to bash him over the head with the really ugly vase sitting on the hall table, and followed him, forcing his temper under control.

He'd known it would be impossible to keep the change in his relationship with Narcissa a secret, but he hadn't planned on it getting out like this.

Hermione screamed again as Sirius pulled open the door to the room they'd put her in. Poppy was trying to get her to drink a potion, and Hermione was thrashing on the bed, her lips tightly closed, her eyes wild.

"Hermione, dear, please. You need to rest and this will calm your mind."

"I don't want to rest! I don't want to be calm!"

As the potion went flying from her hand, Poppy barely avoided being kicked in the stomach and caught sight of the two men hovering on the threshold. "Well, don't just stand there. Help me!"

Before either could react, they were shouldered aside as Severus strode into the room, black cloak swirling about him, his hands searching through his healer's bag for a replacement potion. "Allow me, Poppy." Setting down the bag, he thumbed open a small vial and leaned down over Hermione. "Calm yourself, Miss Granger. Now."

That authoritative voice broke through her terror as it had in Malfoy's dungeon, and tears streamed down her pale cheeks. "I don't want to be drugged."

"Then calm yourself without them," he replied cooly, forcing her to meet his eyes as he held the potion out to her but didn't force her to drink it.

As Sirius stomped into the room probably to drag Severus out, a sound came from behind Remus and he glanced over his shoulder.

"Narcissa, go back to your..." His eyes widened and his comment cut off with a snapping shut of his lips.

"Get that whore out of here, Remus!" Sirius yelled without looking back as he reached for Severus.

"Stop it!" Lilith brushed past Remus and hurried as fast as her advanced pregnancy would allow her to Hermione's side. "Every man, out of this room, now."

Sirius turned, furious. "Remus! Lock her up or I'll do it for..." He choked and the anger drained from him. "Lil?"

Taking the potion from her husband's hand, Lilith ignored Sirius and murmured to Severus, "Please, let me take care of her."

Severus nodded slowly and lifted the hand holding the potion to his lips. He couldn't help but smirk at Sirius' growl, then turned to stride back out of the room as quickly as he'd come.

Lilith rolled her eyes, then sat awkwardly on the bed next to the now sobbing young woman. Gently she combed her fingers through her hair and handed Poppy the potion. "I don't think we'll need this."

"She woke the house screaming."

Nodding solemnly, Lilith continued to sooth Hermione. "It won't be the last time, I'm sure."

Poppy sighed and nodded, several unspoken words passing between the two women. "I'll leave you with her. Call if she needs anything. Don't sit there without support for your back for too long."

Lilith smiled at the crabby concern in the nurse's voice and nodded again.

*****

As the door closed behind them, the three men stopped in the hallway, Sirius, for once, not angry in the presence of his long-time nemesis.

"You brought Lilith here."

Severus replied cooly, "She insisted on seeing Hermione, threatened to come here alone, until I agreed to bring her."

"What if Voldemort realizes she's gone?" Remus asked, concerned.

"The excuse of a visit to a healer will be acceptable at this stage of her pregnancy."

Remus nodded, then smiled briefly. "By the way, congratulations."

"Thank you, Remus."

Sirius made a disgusted noise and stormed down the hallway, leaving Severus smirking at his display and Remus sighing.

*****

Hearing voices in the hallway, Narcissa opened the door and stepped out. She'd dressed quickly and given her hair a quick brushing, leaving it in a riot of curls down her back, not bothering to bathe or put on makeup because she hadn't wanted to be locked away again. She needed to know how Remus had responded to Black. His calling her a whore hadn't touched her at all, but she didn't want Remus to feel that way.

She stared in surprise at Severus Snape in conversation with Remus, a conversation that was cut- off by Snape when he saw her.

"She's no longer locked away?"

Remus swivelled his head and saw her. "No."

"Narcissa, we need to talk," Severus said, his voice dripping ice and sending shivers of fear through her.

"There's no need, Severus," Remus replied for her, noting her fear before turning back to the spy. He hesitated for a moment but then shrugged. "I'm sure she's figured it out."

"And the moment she escapes she dooms us all," Severus snapped angrily.

"She won't escape."

"It would certainly help if you'd keep her locked away!"

"Severus..."

"You can both stop ignoring the fact that I'm standing right here." When Severus turned those dark, angry eyes on her again, she nearly cowered but forced herself to remain still, her chin tilted in defiance. "Remus is right, Severus. I figured it out. Too many inconsistencies concerning Lilith. I believe the term is double agent?"

Scowling deeper Severus refused to acknowledge her question. Remus finally answered with another sigh. "It is, and he is."

"Amazing," she snorted lightly, then smiled at Remus. "Breakfast?"

"What's amazing is that we've won any battles at all," Severus sniped under his breath as Narcissa slid her arm through Remus' and guided him towards the stairs. Trailing behind them, he noted with a cynical eye their closeness, the way their bodies leaned together, and wondered if this had been Lucius' real plan.

Lupin was a fool to trust Narcissa Malfoy. She'd too long been her husband's tool.

In the kitchen eggs and sausage were frying and bread was toasting as Sirius stomped around, waving his wand, using his pent up energy to make breakfast and set the table. He scowled at the trio who joined him, and slammed plates of food down on the table.

"Looks delicious," Remus commented, seating Narcissa before joining her at one end of the long table.

"Plenty of it. I'm sure you worked up quite an appetite."

"Sirius!"

"Oh let's not pretend anymore, Remus. Actually, I'm surprised it took her this long to get you between her legs, unless last night wasn't the first time."

Remus colored in embarrassment, but Narcissa remained undisturbed by Sirius' snide tone and accusations. Stirring sugar into her coffee, she looked from one man to another before turning her attention to her plate.

"I'm sorry," Remus murmured to her.

She smiled softly back. "That's sweet, but nothing he says can hurt me."

Settling across from her, Severus eyed her speculatively and she met his gaze with equanimity. "Was this your plan all along, Narcissa?"

That startled her. She quickly looked at Remus, sudden fear that he'd think the same thing erasing her calm. "No, there was no plan. I swear, Remus. Lucius sent me here for Sirius, not you."

"But, you'd say anything, Narcissa. You were born with lies on your lips." Cool as a cucumber, Severus sipped his black coffee and watched her carefully. She was so like Lilith.

And so very different.

"I believe her, Severus."

"Don't be a fool, Lupin."

"I'm not!"

A sneer formed on the potion master's face as he shot them both dark looks. "Bed her if you wish, but don't ever care for her. She has always been and will always be Lucius Malfoy's...and the Dark Lord's."

A distressed sound burst from Narcissa and she started to rise, only to have Remus take her wrist in his gentle hand and tug her back down.

"Not anymore."

"You trust too easily."

"Oh, he always has," Sirius agreed with Severus, then they both looked at each in startled dismay. "The world is obviously coming to an end if we're agreeing on anything" he muttered before tossing the frying pan into the sink.

Remus leaned towards Narcissa's pale cheek. "Don't let them spoil...breakfast," he shifted what he was going to say at the last moment, but she knew what he meant and gave him a tentative smile.

*****

Slowly Hermione calmed down, the sobs dwindling to little gasps, the tears drying on her cheeks. Lilith continued to stroke her fingers through the tangled curls until Hermione pulled away and sat up. Hands swiped at her sore cheeks as she opened her eyes, and a gasp of a different kind slipped from her.

"Lilith?"

Giving her a gentle smile, Lilith nodded. "I wanted to see you."

Hermione's eyes widened as she took in the changes in the older woman. "You're...?"

"Yep." Her hands smoothed over her distended stomach.

"Wow. No one told me."

"No one knew until recently. And, yes, it's Severus', and yes, I'm thrilled silly about it, and, yes, I'm happy in my marriage," she added, forestalling all the questions she could see forming on Hermione's expressive face.

"Really? I'm...surprised, but glad. I worried about you before...before I was captured. I never really liked Professor Snape."

Lilith grinned. "Not many did. I was one of the few, but that's because I've seen his true self."

"He did...he did help me. I begged him to let me die," Hermione said, her voice small and sad, "and he wouldn't let me. I guess that's for the best."

"Yes, it is, Hermione." The smile faded and Lilith brushed her fingers over the girl's trembling hand. "It'll take a while before you believe that, I know, but you're a very strong young woman."

Hermione sadly shook her head. "I broke."

"Yeah, but you survived, that's the important thing. And you got away."

"I hope Voldemort skins Malfoy alive," Hermione snarled, which pleased Lilith greatly. Anger would keep her strong.

"We can only hope."

"Did you know your sister's here?"

Lilith nodded.

"Why?"

"I'm not sure. I haven't seen her yet. She was sent here to pretend to be me."

Hermione snorted. "She's nothing like you."

"Most people can't see past the surface, but Sirius and Remus did, I guess, since they figured it out pretty quickly."

"She's not locked away in a dungeon."

Lilith eyes grew solemn. "Would you want her to be?"

"...No. I wouldn't wish what happened to me on any woman," she replied sadly. "She's your twin. There has to be something of you in there, yet how could she stay with a man who could do those things to a woman?" Hermione gave Lilith a confused look before drawing her knees up to her chin and loosely wrapping her arms around them.

"Dark Wizards see their women differently than the rest of the wizarding world, Hermione. We're possessions. Narcissa was betrothed to Lucius when she was barely out of childhood, and wed right out of school. She was never given a choice. Somehow I managed to break free but I often wonder what would have happened if I'd been in her place, or if my father hadn't disowned me after Azkaban. What would my fate have been? Marriage to a Death Eater as punishment?"

"You are married to one."

"And it kills him more every day," Lilith said, a sad smile hovering on her lips as she thought of her husband. "And it saves me. If he hadn't stepped forward, I'd be a broken shell."

"Like me."

"But, you have hope, Hermione, and your freedom. I don't think I ever would have found either again. I got very, very lucky."

"It all sounds so medieval. They just get away with it?"

"Until recently the Dark Wizard families were amongst the wealthiest and most powerful, and they mostly married amongst themselves, so, yeah, they got away with it. Arranged marriages, forced servitude, rape and violence. It's all a part of their society. I've had to skirt the edges, and, since I'm supposed to be on obfuscare, I've been able to observe much more than I've ever wanted to see and know."

"Y'know, I didn't even wonder why Professor Snape took you off the potion after being so adamant about keeping you on it. If I'd thought about it, I'd have guessed the reason why."

"I don't know why we didn't tell you all sooner. It's like I've been living in a bubble, isolated from you all."

Hermione frowned. "That sounds almost like you're a prisoner."

"In a way, but not Severus' fault," Lilith stressed. "With Voldemort spying into our lives at any given moment, we have to be very careful. I only persuaded Severus to bring me here because he can use the excuse of a visit to St. Mungos for my advanced pregnancy."

"How far along are you?"

"Seven months." Smiling, Lilith patted her stomach and then blushed as it gurgled. "And she's hungry again. Do you want to come down with me for something to eat?"

Hermione hesitantly shook her head. "I'm not hungry. I know, I need to eat, but just...not now."

"We can have something brought up here, too."

Nearly crying at Lilith's gentleness and understanding, Hermione again shook her head. "I know I need to face everyone, but I'm just not ready. I just want to rest for awhile."

"Okay, but you let Poppy know if you want anything, okay?"

"Okay."

*****

As she approached the kitchen Lilith was amazed not to hear any shouting or sounds of violence.

Maybe they'd stupefied each other.

Pushing open the door she stepped into the room and stopped, staring at the peaceful domestic scene. Severus glanced up from his coffee and the newspaper, then rose to his feet before glowering at the other two men, who hastily joined him.

"Oh, please, sit." Her eyes met her sister's for a moment, then she passed her on the way to the stove. "Is there more?" Sirius joined her before she could lift a lid, taking a plate and piling it full of food.

"I can make you something else, if you'd like."

She smiled at him and took the plate. "No, this is fine. It's my second breakfast anyway." When his eyes dropped to her stomach, she patted it. "The baby is always hungry. I'm going to be fat as a stoat."

"You look beautiful," he murmured, and, unable to reply, she turned and joined her husband at the table, sitting across from Narcissa who sat sipping coffee as regally as a princess.

"You're extremely animated for someone on obfuscare, Lilith."

Lilith frowned at the amusement on her twin's face. "You know very well I'm not drugged, Narcissa."

Shrugging, Narcissa set down her cup. "You play it very well. It's amazing that the Dark Lord hasn't figured it out. I was the exceptional liar in the family, not you."

"He sees what he wants to see," Severus broke in.

"Luckily for you."

"Why aren't you locked away somewhere?"

Narcissa turned her attention back to her sister, her lips tightening. "Do you think I should be? I can't leave the house. I have no wand and you know how poor I always was with wandless magic. Also, I expect there are monitoring wards on me as there are on you." She shot a sideways glance at Remus who had the grace to look embarrassed. "Smart."

"Why did you come here?"

That question actually surprised Narcissa. "No one told you?"

"No."

"Maybe...we should talk privately after you've eaten."

The men all scrambled up, made their excuses and vanished, leaving the two women staring after them in some bemusement.

"At the fundamental level men are all the same. Totally at a loss where women gathering are concerned."

Lilith nodded and took a bite of eggs. "So, why did Lucius send you here?" She was amazed to see a look of embarrassment cross her sister's face.

"I knew it wouldn't work, that he'd see right through me." Narcissa sighed and set down her fork, her appetite gone. "I was to seduce Sirius. I have a succubus spell on me."

Eyes widening in shock, Lilith gasped, "Lucius asked you to do that?"

"Demanded. It obviously didn't work. Even drunk, Black knew I wasn't you."

"Narcissa, why don't you just tell the bastard 'no'?"

Narcissa shot her sister a look of total disbelief. "That's the stupidest question you've ever asked, Lilith. I don't have any say over my life or the ability to make any decisions past what color dress I'm going to wear each day. Lucius told me I'd do this or he'd kill me, and if I failed, he'd kill me, and...I believe him."

"Father wouldn't let..."

"To father I'm as much a tool as I am to Lucius, as you are. Look what they did to you, Lilith. You got so very lucky."

As something just occurred to her, Lilith frowned. "I assume, since you're not questioning why either Severus and I are here, you know."

"Double agent, yes. Very smart of your friends. Very...interesting about Severus. I never saw it in him. He seemed so dedicated to the Dark Lord, even during the years of his absence."

"His ability to lie is fascinating, but it scares me, what he's being forced to do."

Narcissa's eyes narrowed shrewdly. "You care about him?"

Flushing slightly, Lilith nodded.

"When we switched, you were with him, having sex. At the time, although I wondered at your animation, I thought you were still on obfuscare so your responses to him made sense, but you weren't drugged and the responses were real. I'm surprised, Lilith. All your life you've loved only Black."

Lilith couldn't meet her sister's knowing eyes and took a shaky sip of tea. "I still love him. I just can't be with him, and my husband, he deserves a real wife and a real family."

"Self-sacrifice was always in your nature."

"It's not a sacrifice or a burden, Narcissa."

"Really?" Narcissa asked, intrigued. "You actually enjoy him?"

Reddening, Lilith cleared her throat and tried to turn the tables on her sister, the elder by only a few minutes. "And did you ever enjoy Lucius? I've been you, Narcissa. I've suffered with you. He's a cold prick."

Narcissa just grinned, not embarrassed in the least. "Well played, sister."

"It's not a game or a competition." Lilith rolled her eyes and munched on a piece of toast. "You're right, I got very lucky." She glanced around and smiled slightly. "If you let yourself, so did you."

"Out of some weird sense of nobility they're protecting me from Lucius' wrath."

"They would."

"Remus, especially, has been kind."

At the softness in her sister's voice, Lilith arched an eyebrow in surprise. "Remus?"

It was Narcissa's turn to flush and she raised her cup to her lips to hide the smile she couldn't stop. "I've never known a man like him before."

"I'm...a bit surprised. He's not the kind of man I'd think you'd like."

"Me neither."

"He's a werewolf, you know."

"I know." Her eyes lit up and the smile broke free. "I've seen the scars."

Lilith's eyes widened even further. Remus' scars were on his chest and hip. "Narcissa?"

Her sister laughed, a sound of delight Lilith hadn't heard since they were children playing with their dolls. "I've taken a lover, Lilith, and he's such a wonder."

Unable to prevent her own smile and chuckle, Lilith felt warmth go through her and reached across the table for her sister's hand. "How many years has it been since we've been able to talk like this?"

"Too many. Nearly thirty, since our first year at Hogwarts when our paths diverged so drastically." Narcissa squeezed the hand she held. "I was so angry at you for so long, so hurt. I saw it as a betrayal, but you were just following your heart, something I've never been able to do. Until now. Oh, Lilith, it's so glorious to be free."

The two sisters laughed through their tears as something long broken between them began to mend.

*****

Lilith left the kitchen to find her husband. She wanted to check in on Hermione once more, but she knew they needed to leave. They were pushing it as it was. As she walked down the hallway to the parlor, she winced as one of the portraits started to screech at her, and wondered why they weren't all in storage at the bottom of a pit somewhere. As she was contemplating that the front door opened and Harry and Draco entered the house. Both boys' faces lit up at seeing her and she was swept into first Harry's then Draco's arms.

"What are you doing here?" Draco asked. "It must be a big risk."

"It was worth it. I take it you got my owl?"

Harry grinned and nodded. "We decided to risk it, too. I have to see Hermione."

"And he doesn't go anywhere alone." Draco let out a put-upon sigh, but the grin on his face belied it. "Who'd have thought I'd turn out to be the Boy Who Lived's bodyguard?"

Lilith hugged her nephew again, then kept one arm around his waist as she directed Harry. "Hermione's upstairs, third door on the left, Harry. Draco, I have a surprise for you." As Harry thundered up the stairs, Lilith guided Draco back to the kitchen. He nearly tripped over his feet when he saw who awaited him there.

Gasping into the cup of coffee she was lingering over, Narcissa managed to set it down before rising to her feet.

"Mum?"

"Draco!"

In an instant, mother and son were in each others arms, sobbing.

With a soft smile, Lilith left the kitchen again.

After they'd both calmed down to an extent Narcissa and Draco sat at the table, chairs turned to face each other. Draco took his mother's hands and squeezed them gently, his eyes meeting hers He was both surprised and happy to see more life in them than he had in years.

"Mum? What are you doing here?"

"It's not a very pleasant story," she said hesitantly.

His back stiffened and anger colored his face. "Have they hurt you?"

"No, oh no, my darling. I'm a prisoner out of necessity but unharmed." Seeing the questions in his eyes, she continued quickly. "Your father sent me here to impersonate your aunt. I failed. I knew I'd fail. Black saw through me too quickly. They couldn't let me go because I was able to breach the wards since Lilith and I are identical twins. They're afraid I'd give away their location and find a way back in, so they keep me here."

"But, you wouldn't do that, right, mum? Don't they know you're not really a follower of the Dark Lord's?"

Narcissa smiled at his innocence, amazed that he still had even an iota. "Darling, they can hear what I say, but do they believe? Why would they trust me? And, I'm not strong, we both know that. If I escaped and fell into the Dark Lord's hands, he'd have his answers so quickly. They'd use me to destroy the Order."

"Why hasn't father tried to rescue you?"

At that, Narcissa dropped her eyes. "Draco, your father...he won't rescue me. He told me in no uncertain terms what would happen to me if I failed. I..." Tears glistened on her lashes when she looked back up at him. "If he gets his hands on me, he'll kill me."

Draco paled and his lips tightened but she saw the truth settle on his face. "I believe you. He's completely ruthless. I've always known that."

She nodded and squeezed his hands lightly. "I'm safe here, odd as that sounds."

"They'll take care of you. I wish I could stay with you but it's not safe. With the rewards on our heads, Potter and I bring danger wherever we go. We aren't able to stay in one place for more than a week or so."

"When your father told me you'd saved Potter's life and disappeared with him, I was both surprised and gladdened. You know the last thing I ever wanted for you was to become a Death Eater." Glancing down at his arm, she smiled at the sight of bare skin and one of her thumbs caressed the place the mark should have been. "They were going to mark you after that battle."

"I know. I got lucky. I never wanted that either, mum. I just didn't know how to stop it until Father was about to kill Harry and I saw my chance. I was worried you'd think less of me, though."

"Less? Draco, darling, while I can't say I subscribe to the path of the Order, I've known my whole life that the darkness will be the end of us. I'm so glad you chose another path. I wish that while you were growing up I could have helped you see that, but you fell under your father's influence and I never could fight Lucius."

"I always thought you were a dark witch."

"I am...I guess." She smiled slightly. "Never a very good one and I've never truly believed in the Dark Lord's dreams, never supported them with more than empty words. I was simply trapped and tried to make the best of it. I never had a chance to escape like you did. Until now."

*****

Harry hesitated outside the door of the room he'd been directed to, then finally got up the nerve and knocked. There was silence for a moment, then he heard her beckon him inside, and he opened the door.

Hermione sat up in the bed, propped on several pillows, her hands fiddling with a quill and paper, though she didn't appear to have written anything. She was pale and bruised, and so very thin beneath the thick flannel gown. There was a bit of joy in the eyes she turned on him but mostly all he saw was sadness and fear.

"Harry." She set aside her writing implements.

"Hey, Hermione." Feeling awkward, he closed the door behind him and stepped further into the room.

"I'm so glad you came. Molly said you were in hiding and it was dangerous to come here."

"I couldn't stay away." He took a seat next to the bed, his eyes never leaving her face, and slowly shattered as the knowledge of what she'd endured hit him. "This is all my fault," he sobbed. "This happened to you because of me, because I brought you into my screwed up world."

"Harry Potter, don't you ever think that," Hermione replied sharply. "I love you. I joined you willingly. I knew the risks." Her voice faltered a bit, but she reached out and grabbed his hand. She'd been afraid that touching a man, any man, would send her spiraling back into the horror, but he was just Harry. Her best friend. "I survived," she added softly. "I'm so glad you got away."

"I never thought...I never dreamed they'd do...this." He tried to get himself under control and brushed at the tears with his free hand.

"Me neither. We were pretty stupid."

"Not stupid," he argued, the tears gone, sorrow mingling with bitterness. "Why would we have any idea that the other side would resort to something so barbaric?"

Hermione tried to smile but failed as depression settled over her shoulders. "I like to think we'll win because we don't resort to such...tactics, but I'm not sure about anything anymore."

"You didn't tell them anything."

"He never asked me anything. I hope...I hope I'd have stayed strong and refused to answer, but..." She shook her head helplessly and finally whispered, "And they still have Ron."

"Snape says he's doing everything he can to help him."

"But, you doubt him."

Harry shrugged. "He...helped you, I guess. It was his plan to rescue you."

"I know you don't like him but...I really think it's time you trusted him, Harry. Talk to Lilith."

"I have and I've...seen him with her and it just confuses the hell out of me because, to me, he's still the horrid nasty teacher who belittled me at every opportunity because of old grudges. I've never seen him care about anything but himself until her."

"What he's doing has to be very hard, Harry. Extremely hard. We never gave any thought to the toll it's taking on him. You can see it through Lilith, though. She cares about him."

"Sirius is a wreck because of it," Harry replied bitterly.

"It is a big mess, but Professor Snape, Severus, isn't to blame."

"So Lilith's told me." Harry sighed and changed the subject. "I can't stay much longer, don't want to bring Death Eaters down on the house, but I had to see you. I was so worried about you. Draco and I are so cut off because we're constantly on the move."

"Draco...That's still amazing."

He smiled at her bemusement. "I know, but I trust him completely. It's weird. We were enemies for so long but he just needed to get out from under his father's thumb. He's...well, I can't say he's a great guy, but he's a decent sort, and we're managing to survive so I guess we're doing something right."

"I always thought he was out for himself first."

"Yeah, me too, but we were wrong. I guess...maybe I've been wrong about Snape, too," he finally admitted, then sighed again. "I don't know how to make anything right."

"We keep fighting, Harry."

"Are you...do you want to?"

"I'll do whatever I can, you know I will. I need some time to recover, to eat and rest. I'm leaving with Molly and Arthur later today. Once I'm back up to full strength, I'll be back, and I can always do research from my bed."

He gave her a concerned look. "Are you sure?"

"I have to keep busy." She smiled bravely at him. "I can do this, Harry."

"I know you can. You're the bravest person I know." He squeezed her hand and smiled at her and for a moment everything was right in her world.

*****

Lilith found her husband in the library, tsking over the dust covering several old tomes.

"They have no appreciation for things of worth."

Smiling at his haughty attitude, she plucked a book from him and read the title. "'Spells for a Dark Sabbat'? Yeah, they'd appreciate this one."

"Well, there are no floppy bunny spell books."

As she set the book aside, she watched him place a thin volume in his satchel, then snap the lock. "Pilfering?"

"They also have no use for 'Rhinegeld's Compendium of Poisons'. Did you have a nice talk with your sister?" He turned searching eyes on her and she gave him a benign smile.

"Amazingly nice. And then Harry and Draco arrived so I sent him in to see her. They have a lot to discuss."

"You trust her?"

"That she won't hurt her son? Yes. I trust that she loves him completely. In all other things? I'm not so sure. I also know that she's not strong and if she escaped and was found by Lucius, he'd know everything she knows pretty quickly."

The sorrow in her voice concerned him. "You're nothing like her, you know."

"I know, and thank you."

"We need to leave. We've stayed past the point where it's safe, and with Potter and Draco here, foolish boy needing to see Miss Granger and putting us all at risk, there's much more of a likelihood that the Dark Lord will turn his attention towards us all."

"I know. I just wish...I miss them."

Gently Severus wrapped one arm around her burgeoning waist and she leaned against him as he guided her out of the room. "I know, luv. I'm sorry it has to be this way."

"We know where the fault lies. Some day he'll pay for all of this mess."

A soft kiss touched the top of her head, making her smile. "One hopes."

"With Hermione free and alive, there's hope."

"Such an optimist."

"Sometimes," she replied, as they left the house and her mind flooded with images of Hermione and Harry, strong and brave, facing Voldemort.

End

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