Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I'm just playing with someone else's toys. May I be forgiven in my next incarnation... (and what you do not recognize is mine, such as the MOSSes -Ministry Officers of State Security). Flamers will be adopted by my family (if you don't believe it's a threat... too bad for you!).
Note: Parseltongue is noted like that: //----//
Readers: Mikee and Stephanie. Thanks a lot! The remaining mistakes are all mine, and I apologize for those.
Chapter Twenty-Eight - Success
Over the years, the Weasley twins have not lost their taste for staging and flourish, so they sent their owl to invite Harry and Severus to lunch in their home just outside the village.
Of course, since the school year has already begun, the invitation is issued for the next Saturday.
Severus and Harry send Hedwig to accept the invitation.
After their classes, the Potter-Snapes had a word with Ginny Malfoy, who told them that she and her husband had got the same message from her brothers. All three chatted in the middle of a corridor for some time, wondering what the twins had in store for them.
On Friday night, Fred contacts Severus through the Floo and asks him if Sarina and Harold will come with them for lunch, but Severus informs him that the children have decided to stay at Hogwarts.
Severus is about to open his mouth to ask his correspondent what it's all about, but Fred hastily wishes him pleasant dreams and disconnects the Network.
'That was weird,' Harry comments from their sofa where he's making a selection of books to read to their children and their Slytherins.
'I wonder what they want to tell us,' Harry adds.
'Maybe they want us to work for the shop even more, and the delicious cuisine of their wives is the only way they've found to bribe us,' suggests Severus.
Harold comes out of the bathroom and runs to Harry.
'What's so funny, Dad?' the young boy asks, settling on his father's lap.
'Your Dād and I were just wondering why Fred and George invited us,' Harry answers, showing his son the selection he's made among their books.
'With all the work they've had to do this summer when the Malfoys went to France, and with their own children catching all those things, we've barely seen them. Maybe they just miss you and they want to make sure that you won't cancel because of tests or Quidditch practice,' Sarina offers as she exits the bathroom in her turn.
She quietly walks to Severus and invades his lap.
Sarina is always the last to get out of the bathroom, because Harold has a shower while she soaks in her bath.
Her fathers reflect that she might have a point.
The young Weasleys caught a good half of all the childhood diseases in barely two months.
Neither Severus nor Harry could begin to imagine that their little princess has some hidden agenda and that she wants her parents out of the castle for some hours.
Harold giggles, because he knows what his twin is planning to do, and his fathers believe that he agrees with his sister. Truth be told, she does make sense.
To prevent his fathers from asking his sister any other question, Harold decides to change the topic.
'Can we have Romeo and Juliet, Dad? It's been two years since you last read that one,' the boy asks.
'Our Slytherins might not be too happy with another tragedy,' answers Harry.
'Maybe you're right, Dad. It's a Gryffie play after all, but we might comment on their pitiful strategy and disastrous timing afterwards,' Harold suggests, batting his lashes at his father.
Harry blinks and then starts laughing.
Harry tenderly hugs Harold. He looks at Severus and says, 'It's all your fault, Darling. Our son already shows House pride.'
Sarina decides to join the fun, and she turns to Severus and says mock-innocently, 'I thought you said we were all Slytherins and that Dad was your best one.'
Severus chuckles and kisses his daughter's brow.
Harold is giggling and Harry's shaking his head - but he's smiling nonetheless.
'What would you like us to read next?' Severus finally asks her.
'I know you have a translation of Hadrian's Memoirs,' Sarina says.
'How do you know that?' Harry wonders.
'I spotted the book when I was looking for something to read. It looks interesting,' Sarina says.
'You spotted it on the top shelf of our bookcase! Sarina Alba Lily Potter-Snape! You can read anything you want, but I don't want you to break your neck looking for a book!' Harry growls.
'But Dad, I couldn't break my neck!' she exclaims with a high pitched voice that shows her age.
'Why, my Angel?' Severus asks.
'I made her float to it,' Harold confesses.
Severus and Harry look at each other. They're proud of their children, who are blessed with natural magic, but they're afraid of what might happen to them.
'You can read the books you can access without magic. If you can't reach it, you will ask either of us from now on,' Severus declares.
'All right, Dād,' Harold concedes.
'Sarina?' Harry asks.
He knows his daughter and he'd better make sure that she won't try anything on her own.
The little girl nods.
'All right, Dad.' She pauses. 'Can I ask books from Niki and Irma?' she finally asks.
Neither Harry nor Severus can see why they would forbid her to do so.
'Don't bother them while they work, though,' Severus says.
She nods and adds, 'I'll ask Uncle Jules if I can go to the Library.'
Severus and Harry feel that they'll have to keep an eye on what she reads, but they know that she needs to learn as much as she can, and they won't make her life miserable by trying to prevent her from gathering knowledge.
The two fathers take their selection of books and go with their children to the Slytherin common room, where their students are already waiting for their evening treat.
The two professors tell their charges what they have brought, and they let them vote for the book they're going to read.
'That Margrit Yourcenar book looks good,' a sixth-year says, voicing the vote of most of her fellows.
'Marguerite,' Harold whispers.
The witch who spoke blushes slightly.
'That Hadrian would have been a Slytherin,' a young wizard says.
'How do you know?' another one asks.
'Professor Vlad gave us a lesson on him,' the boy answers.
'And there's Antinoos,' a witch murmurs.
Her classmates turn to her. She blushes and says, 'What?! That's a beautiful love story.'
'Who was she, that Antinoos?' a first-year asks.
'Antinoos was a young man, and Hadrian loved him so much that he made him a god,' the witch answers her younger housemate.
'Oh! A love story in Slytherin! Read that one Professor Snape, please!' the first-year eagerly asks.
All the others chuckle and Severus starts reading.
He doesn't know how the younger ones are going to react when Antinoos dies, but he'll bribe Dobby into bringing some hot cocoa on cue when they reach that passage in the book.
Surrounded by their Slytherins, Severus and Harry read till the younger ones begin to doze off. Harold is usually the first to surrender to sleep.
They wish pleasant dreams to their charges and go back to their quarters, where each father tucks in one child.
Those two astounding miracles will never cease to amaze them.
Saturday comes, and Severus and Harry walk to Hogsmeade with the Malfoys, who left James with Harold and Sarina, and Elinor and Arthur with Mrs Vlad.
When they see their parents walk out of the grounds, James and the twins begin to do what they've been planning since their parents got that providential owl from the Weasleys.
While the boys run to the Forbidden Forest, Sarina goes to Filch's quarters.
There, the little witch finds the caretaker sitting next to the enchanted form of Mrs Norris. His faithful cat died a month ago, and Professor Flitwick has put a spell on the cat. It looks like she's curled and asleep. She will never decay, and Flitwick even managed to add some warmth to her fur.
Filch is petting his feline friend, lost in thought.
He doesn't register Sarina's presence before the girl takes his hand.
'Uncle Argus,' she says.
He blinks and looks at the unexpected visitor. The young Potter-Snapes are the only ones who ever come to see him.
There are tears in Sarina's eyes, and that breaks Filch's heart.
'What's wrong, Princess?' he asks.
'I've made a silly mistake, Uncle Argus. I've let Leila out of our quarters and I saw her run into the forest. Will you help me find her?' she begs.
'She's a good cat, maybe she only wants to find kittens,' he answers.
'Uncle!' she scolds him. 'I know how cats have kittens! I have a weird feeling about all this.'
'Why me, Princess? Hagrid would be a much better choice to search the forest,' he says.
'Uncle Rubeus would help us, but he'd tell my dads the moment they're back from Hogsmeade. Will you help me?' she asks again.
Filch chuckles and nods. That witch has him wrapped around her finger.
He knows that she is a powerful witch, but he understands that she is a little girl, and he walks with her. Filch can even admit to himself that he's extremely fond of Sarina. She accepts him the way he is, and that has seldom occurred in his entire life.
They walk together to the forest, and when they're certain that Hagrid won't hear them, they start calling the Potter-Snapes black cat.
They reach one of the clearings, and Sarina grabs Filch's hand.
'I think I heard her,' Sarina says, her eyes shining with happiness.
She meows, and Leila answers back.
Sarina drags Filch towards the sound.
They discover the black cat passionately licking a small kitten that almost looks like a perfect replica of a tiny Mrs Norris.
Leila meows, and so does the baby cat.
'Oh! That must be why she insisted on going out!' Sarina exclaims.
Filch is practically mesmerized by the baby cat.
'This is how I found Mrs Norris the first time,' he says, barely above a whisper.
'I remember, Uncle Argus, you told me. Do you think that she might be sending you a message from where she's gone?' Sarina asks.
Filch crouches with difficulty and scoops the kitten. Leila purrs loudly.
The baby looks a bit lost. She must be barely weaned. Its huge golden eyes drown in the ones of the man who's holding it.
For the first time since he lost his dear cat, Filch smiles.
'Do you think I might keep it?' he asks.
'Meow!' answers Leila from Sarina's arms.
The witch giggles.
'Well, thank you Mistress Leila,' Filch answers.
The black cat purrs.
Still looking at the kitten, Filch says, 'I'll walk you and Leila back inside, and I'll go and see Hagrid with that baby. He helped me check that Mrs Norris was all right when I found her.'
Sarina takes his free hand and guides him towards the castle.
'What are you going to call it?' she asks.
'I don't know yet. Will you help me, Princess?'
She nods and says, 'I'll wait for you in our quarters with the boys. Maybe we could have lunch together.'
Harold and James, who are observing them from behind a trunk, know that they'll have to wait for Filch to enter Hagrid's hut before they can run back to Hogwarts.
The twins ordered Mrs Norris's replacement through Owl Post thanks to their piggy banks, and with the help of Niki Vlad.
Harold shreds the box that held the magical kitten and buries the pieces.
'I hope you're not afraid of being here,' he tells James.
'Sarina wouldn't have told me to come here with you if there was some danger,' the blond boy quietly declares.
Harold laughs and thinks that the eldest Malfoy is just perfect for his sister.
When Filch walks into the Potter-Snapes' apartments, the twins and James are waiting for him.
During lunch, they decide to call the female kitten "Beauty".
Filch goes to introduce his new pet to the Headmaster, and the children are happy to have managed to make him happy again.
Meanwhile, at the Weasleys, the guests are offered a splendid lunch, and they end up believing that the twins and their wives just missed seeing them over the summer.
Yet, the Weasley children conveniently spending the day at their grandparents' looks like a clue of some sort.
It is not before cheese that the twins finally decide to reveal the true reason for their invitation.
Fred and George's wives excuse themselves in such a stern way that their guests fear what's coming next.
Fred and George invite them to go to the parlour to "chat".
Both couples follow the twins, and they sit down in silence.
'We fear there is no gentle way to breach the topic,' Fred says.
'We've been lying to you about the shops for the past three years,' George adds.
Both couples call them silly names and growl that they would have helped them if only they had mentioned that they were having financial issues.
'I told you they'd react that way!' George exclaims.
Fred takes his twin's hand in his.
He's about to cry, so it's George who goes on. 'Please, allow me to tell you what happened, and don't hex us for not telling you before.'
The Malfoys and Potter-Snapes nod.
'A couple of weeks after we lost Albus and Minerva, we got a huge order for one of the items we all worked on. Ginny was expecting Arthur, so we decided not to bother you at the London shop, and we re-routed the order to Hogsmeade,' George says.
Fred takes a deep breath and goes on, 'On the following week, we had another order from the same shop abroad, and one from its competitor.'
'It tripled on the following week, and it soon was clear that we could not prepare and send such huge orders, so we decided to try a very bold move,' George says.
'We sold the right to those shops to create that product, on condition that they'd pay for the access to the recipe, and that they'd give us a fee on each item they'd produce.'
'So, what went wrong?' Ginny asks.
On cue, her sisters-in-law come into the room with a tray and bottles of champagne.
'Nothing went wrong!' the twins say in unison.
'The number of orders increased for a year. We are present all around the globe, and...' George's voice trails off.
Fred grabs parchments and gives them to Ginny and Severus.
They open them, and Draco and Harry lean toward their respective companion.
'We've become rich!' Fred announces proudly.
'They divided the Galleons evenly between you,' Andora and Verena say, as they pour the wine.
'Rich?' Ginny squeaks.
'This is the understatement of the millennium!' Severus almost shouts when he sees the amount of money that now sits in their vaults.
Draco looks like a night owl. Ginny has never seen him blink so much, and Merlin knows that she's had some fun teasing him before they got married.
The Weasley ladies offer the glasses, and their husbands raise theirs.
'To success!' the four Weasleys say.
Their guests gulp down their glasses.
They can't believe that they're holding in their hands the proof of what their connection achieved.
They can't believe that one idea of the twins on which they all worked has made them richer than in their wildest dreams.
'Why didn't you tell us? We feared there might be something bad going on!' Ginny growls.
'In the beginning, we thought we would just get some additional Galleons,' Fred says.
'After some months, the royalties kept coming in, and we thought that it was just a fashion. We thought we'd surprise you with this good news,' George says.
'When it went on, we didn't dare to hope it'd go on for much longer. We placed the Galleons on an interest bearing account, and the more we put there, the more it multiplied. We didn't know how to breach the news, but when we were contacted by the exact same shops to negotiate the same conditions on another of our items, we knew that the well is far from being dry,' Fred says.
'We had a chat with one of the Goblins, and he estimates that we're going to multiply what we have by four in the next year, at least. The Goblin said that he'd made a study on our shop, and the result is pretty good,' George adds.
Their guests take another look at their parchments and ask all together, 'Multiply by four?'
'At the very least,' Verena says.
'You feared that we were going bankrupt,' Fred states.
Their four guests just nod.
'And you were ready to help us through this,' George says.
They nod again.
There's no need for words between the twins. They are deeply touched and plan to find a way to thank their associates.
The Malfoys and Potter-Snapes walk back to Hogwarts in a companionable silence.
That lunch took an unexpected turn.
Draco had grown up with the Malfoys' wealth, but even that amount of Galleons is not much compared with what they now have. From what Câly told Severus, that's even more than what the Snapes had.
When they reach the gates, they agree to discuss their new situation in the evening after putting their children to bed.
The Malfoys gather their three children and Floo back to their home.
Harold and Sarina tell their fathers about the new cat in the castle, and they ask them how the lunch was.
'The Weasleys missed us a lot, you were right,' Severus says.
The twins look at their fathers and smile.
'Slytherins!' Sarina giggles.
'Look who's talking!' Severus teases her back, sensing that his children are hiding something.
Harry and Severus spend the rest of the day with their children, and they patiently wait for the evening.
They tutor some of their students, read their Slytherins some more of Hadrian's Memoirs, and they put Harold and Sarina to bed.
They go to their own bed and turn to each other.
'What are we going to do?' they both ask simultaneously.
They chuckle and hug each other.
Harry kisses Severus's shoulder, and Severus caresses Harry's cheek.
'There's no need to announce our good fortune,' Severus says.
'You're afraid of what might happen to our children if people knew what's in our vault,' Harry states.
For Severus, there's no point in denying that. Harry knows him too well.
They've been a couple for ten years, and lived together for thirteen years. They know each other well.
'I don't want our babies to be labelled the Potter-Snape heirs,' he admits.
'There's no need to share that information with anyone else. I'm sure the others are going to come to the same conclusion, and we could just spoil our friends and our children, and go on with our lives as if nothing happened,' Harry says.
'Won't you mind?' Severus asks.
'Darling, I want to see our children be sorted, and I want to teach them... Nearly as much as you do,' Harry declares.
Severus pretends to growl and pounces.
Professor Harry James Potter must pay for knowing his bonded so well.
Nothing will seem to change in their lives, but they can spoil their babies without a second thought.
To Be Continued...
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