Characters: Severus, OFC, Hermione, Charlie, implied Luna
Warning (highlight to view): The largely implied sad passing of a pet.
Word Count: 2821
Summary: Bringing up a gifted child can be as difficult as dealing with dragons.
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Author's Note: Written for the 2020 run of snapecase. Thank you, Shog, for beta'ing.
"Papa, there're dragons!"
Severus turned to look at his daughter. "What do you mean by that, Sarah?"
"Dragons, Papa. Small ones, pooing all over the garden!"
Severus ran a hand through his hair, only to recoil as he felt the bread dough sticking in it. "Da—sh it!"
Sarah laughed. "That's a funny way to say 'damn'." She made an abrupt swiping gesture in Severus' direction. "Scourgify!"
The dough in his hair disappeared. "Thank you, and stop that. You're too young for a wand."
"Didn't use one," Sarah retorted, crossing her arms. "Didn't need to."
"Yes, well, no matter your training in wandless magic, at ten, you should not be wielding it outside of our practice sessions."
"Grump all you like," Severus told her, marveling at how much Sarah sounded like Hermione when she did, "it doesn't alter the fact that you agreed not to show off."
"It's not showing off! It's skill!"
"And no unnecessary exclamations indoors, young lady," Severus remarked, guiding Sarah toward the work top. "You knead for a while. I've a potion to check on."
"Fine, but you'll see!"
"Laboratory tones, if you don't mind," said Severus, as he left the kitchen through the back door.
He'd just shut it when he heard the sounds . . . of illness? beyond the herb garden and walked towards them.
Well, fuck me, she wasn't playing, thought Severus.
There were tiny, glittering dragons in various colours darting in and out of the hedge at the end of their garden—and they were indeed experiencing gastric distress.
"Told you," an annoyed voice said. "Dragons!"
"Sarah, that wasn't much of a knead. Go back to the bread and close the door. I don't know what those are, but whatever they have might be catching."
"But Papa, I—"
"Don't wish to shit yourself silly, I imagine," interrupted Severus.
"Eew! I 'spose not."
"You 'suppose' not," Severus told Sarah, but she'd already gone.
—iniature ones? That's exciting!"
Severus issued a snort. "Yes, tiny, loose-bowelled dragons . . . in our garden. I'm ecstatic."
"Have you any idea where they came from?" asked Hermione. "George hasn't been by since I've been at the conference, has he?"
"No, he hasn't, and he's not developing anything even remotely like them—or he wasn't until I mentioned them."
"Do ward him out of the garden. It wouldn't do for him to—"
"Come investigating and remove potentially problematic creatures to other, uninfested places," Severus said.
"Of course you know that."
"Yes, Hermione. . . . I miss you."
"I miss you. Have you contacted Magical Creatures, yet?"
"I know you don't enjoy 'consorting' with the Ministry, but surely there's a magizoologist on staff who could help you sort out the poor things. Luna's Rolf comes to mind."
"I'd rather owl Charles Weasley."
"Why?" asked Hermione. "He works with dragons of usual size."
"Precisely. I've never heard of miniature dragons. I expect that someone's been mucking about with Shrinking spells, perhaps thieves. But why shrunken, perhaps stolen, dragons should find themselves messing themselves in our garden is something of a mystery."
"Good luck solving it—and do keep Sarah out of the garden!"
"What are you doing?" Severus demanded, later that afternoon.
Sarah—kitted out in beekeeping gear—didn't turn from her task. "They need water, Papa. They'll dehydrate without it."
"That's not water. That's beef tea."
"Exactly! They're meat eaters. They would get their water from their meat . . . if they were up to eating it, that is. Aunt Luna said to try beef tea."
"Of course she did," Severus said, shaking his head.
Of course there'd be no keeping Sarah out of the garden.
"I've just put the bread in to bake. We'll have vegetable soup and roast beef sandwiches when it's done."
Sarah made a noncommittal noise and continued to place tiny cauldrons on very long legs about the hedge where the dragons flitted and shitted. After placing them, she filled them full of beef tea from the pot she had levitating behind her.
Sarah found them. Sarah will take care of them, thought Severus, telling her, "Your Transfiguration work on those cauldron legs is good, but where did you get the beef tea?"
"Mummy made pots and pots of it after we all got colds, remember? It's on the freezing-charm shelf in the pantry. Oh, look! There they go. They like it!"
"Dragons," Severus muttered.
"Dragons!" agreed Sarah.
"Don't touch them. And wash your hands when you come inside. And leave that kit in the shed."
Without turning around, Sarah nodded.
"Professor Snape?" called Charles Weasley, later that afternoon.
Severus looked to his kitchen hearth. "Come through, Weasley."
"Is that a roast beef san—"
Interrupting Weasley by handing him a plate of food, Severus brought him up to speed.
"Sarah hasn't touched them?"
"No," Severus replied.
"And they haven't been fire-breathing?" Weasley asked.
"It's all coming out the one end, quite unformed."
"Well," Weasley told Severus, sending his plate to the sink, "dragons don't react well to many classes of spells. If someone did remove them from a preserve or natural, protected habitat, the upset could be the result."
"What can we do to trace them?"
"If they're wild and crossed a ward, there will be a signature on them. If they come from a specific preserve, there will be a signature on them. I don't know of anything strong enough to remove a magical signature from a dragon."
"But you've never seen tiny dragons, either," said Severus.
"True, and in lieu of a magical sig, we'd have to check their leavings."
"Because you can tell from what they've eaten where they most likely have come from?"
"Exactly. It's not foolproof, but it's worth trying. Dragon theft is rare, and there are only so many preserves—and almost no warded natural wild space—so it shouldn't be too difficult to tell where the poor sick bastards are from."
"Well, then, we'd best get to it before my daughter decides to collect them as pets," Severus said, leading Weasley to the garden.
"That's really disgusting!" called Sarah sometime later, sounding incredibly cheerful.
Severus, who had left Weasley and his daughter to it, looked up from his book. "What now?"
"This poo has magical properties, Daddy. You can squish it, and it keeps the shape. Look!"
Weasley laughed. "They're not mud pies."
"And there is no true shape, per se," Severus noted. "What were your test results?"
"Well," said Weasley, glancing at Sarah, "unfortunately, these dragons don't read for magical signatures at all."
"Weird, isn't it?" asked Sarah.
Severus and Weasley spoke at once, "Yes."
"Sarah," Severus said, go upstairs and wash up. I need a moment with Wea—er, Charlie."
"But I want to know wha—"
"Go now, please."
Somewhat stompily, Sarah obeyed.
"'Charlie', is it?" Weasley said, amusement plain. "That only took decades."
"What didn't you say before, Weasley," pressed Severus, "in front of Sarah?"
"Tell me now," Severus insisted.
Weasley obeyed him, as well, and at once. "Those dragons don't exist."
"I smelled their leavings. They exist."
"What I mean is that they're figments come to life," Weasley continued. "They're entirely magical creations."
Severus blinked. "Sarah made those? Out of her imagination?"
"Yep," said Weasley. "I've never seen anything like it before, but that's what I think. Has she been reading about dragons lately? Making up stories? Asking for stories about them?"
Frowning, Severus replied, "Sarah's been fascinated by dragons her entire life. Hermione had her at your preserve before she could walk, and you know that we take Sarah there every year."
"Good to know that my beasts have made an impression—that's it, then."
"No," said Severus, "it's not! How is it possible that a child could make the figmentary dragons of her imagination come to life?"
Weasley laughed and shrugged. "You and Hermione are sharp as hell, and both of you are strong in your magic. Is it truly a surprise that Sarah, whom you've been training in wandless magic, has stumbled across this sort of it?"
"Yes, she's not that adva—"
Weasley's snort interrupted Severus' words. "It is in no way a mystery. What is a mystery is why the poor little things are shitting themselves."
Later that night, Severus sat with Sarah in the garden. He was levitating amidst the wee dragons while Sarah lay in a hammock from where she could watch her charges. It was peaceful in the garden but for the occasional sounds of farting and, er, others of release.
"This is ridiculous. Why are they ill and small when they could be large and healthy? Rideable?"
"Nothing, Sarah. Go to sleep. It's all right."
She didn't reply, and after a while, her deep breathing met Severus' ears. As it did, Severus watched in amazement as, one by one, the little dragons winked out of existence as if they'd never been there at all. His eyebrows flew up even though he'd been expecting it.
"Weasley was right."
But what did it mean?
Severus knew that Sarah was a tad precocious and very well trained for a ten-year-old; he and Hermione had invested a great deal of time in her magical training.
"I've never seen anything like this, either. She has enough chores. Why would she make more for herself?"
A familiar rippling flowed through the wards of their home, and he smiled.
"Hermione. It's not like you to leave a conference."
She embraced him. "Tiny shitting dragons—how could I stay away?" She moved to caress Sarah's forehead before looking about. "Where are they?"
Severus explained Weasley's theory and what he'd seen.
"Goodness, that is advanced!" Hermione exclaimed, looking incredibly proud. "Sarah might explore an entirely new branch of magic! She might—"
"Don't start in about the Spellcrafters' Guild. She's only ten," Severus said, leading Hermione towards the back of the garden.
"Little cauldrons on stilts! Was she feeding them?"
"Yes. I suppose that was part of her game. Sarah wanted something to take care of."
"Ah. Oh, Severus! This is so interesting."
"You don't think there's anything wrong here?"
"Of course not. Why would you say that? And why push aside the idea of the Spellcrafters' Guild?"
"Because," Severus replied, "I don't want Sarah to feel pushed by anyone into anything. She should grow up her own way."
"That's why we've been training her, is it? To grow up her own way?"
"You have a point, but be reasonable, Hermione. She's just a child."
All of Hermione's excitement seemed to drain from her then. "She's a powerful child, and one who needs to exercise her power. I know that you want things to be normal for her, but—"
"But nothing. We agreed!" Severus exclaimed.
"We agreed, and the Wizengamot with us after the Incident, that we would restrain her abilities, push them in appropriate directions. We agreed that—"
"She'd have a normal life!"
"Severus, Sarah is not normal. Extraordinary, that's what she is, and her power needs to be contained. If we don't do it, the Ministry will."
Severus swallowed. He knew that what Hermione said was true, but he didn't want to face it. Sarah, his child, his child with the brightest witch of her age, was not a normal girl, no matter how desperately that he wished she were.
"Our child is so strong that she can wield reification without even truly understanding what she's doing," said Hermione quietly. "Unchecked and untrained, that ability might become a curse."
Eyes burning, Severus turned away from his wife.
Hermione lay a hand on his shoulder. "The Spellcrafters' Guild is the best option for Sarah. She cannot go to Hogwarts. You know that. You know that the Ministry will not allow it."
"No," murmured Severus, "not after the Incident."
Sarah's sort of magic was not a subject that one could find in Hogwarts' curriculum, and "reification," well, it was the polite term for that magic when it was turned towards other pursuits.
Such as the creation of tiny shitting dragons, Severus thought. Aloud, he said, "But they weren't real. They disappeared."
Hermione moved to look him in the eye. "She's only ten. Think about what she'll be able to do as she matures."
Severus would have accused her of being heartless if he'd not noticed the tears in Hermione's eyes. "I do think of that," he told her, hoarsely, "but I don't want to."
Their embrace was desperate, and it did nothing to make them feel any better at all.
"Can't . . . can't breathe," said Hermione.
Severus let go.
"Look," said Hermione, "Sarah's happy. Let's allow her to continue to be happy—but it's time to start preparing her for the Spellcrafters' Guild, agreed?"
Neither of them had been prepared for what had happened to the cat. He'd been called "Rol-Pol," and had been the then two-year-old Sarah's best friend, following her everywhere—even into the bath.
She'd wanted to share her toys with him, you see, and had Summoned all of them at once, something which Hermione had not been expecting. In fishing Sarah out of the water, she'd entirely missed the fact that Rol-Pol had fallen in.
"Rol-Pol! Rol-Pol! Beathe, Rol-Pol!" cried Sarah, after. "Beathe!"
And indeed, Roly Poly had breathed, despite the fact that he had drowned quite completely only moments before.
Hermione and Severus had learned two things upon the day of the Incident: one, that there was a Trace on the sort of magic that their child had employed; and two, that Sarah had necromantical ability.
It wasn't often spoken of, but everyone knew it: necromancers and their magical product were not suffered to live in the magical world, at least, not in magical Britain.
"—and they lived happily ever after," Severus intoned, wondering where the hell his happy ending was but keeping the bitterness from his voice.
Sarah clapped enthusiastically. "That's grand, Papa! Can Spellcrafters really do such things?"
"Need you ask? You who can summon dragons from the very air?"
"I really did that?"
"You really truly did."
"Then why were they sick?" demanded Sarah. "Poo is disgusting!"
Hermione laughed. "True, but I think you just wanted to take care of them the way Aunt Luna takes care of the creatures in her practice."
Severus nodded to Sarah as she looked to him for apparent confirmation of her mother's opinion.
"Well, perhaps I could try again without the poo?" asked Sarah.
"Perhaps you could try again at the Spellcrafters' Guild," suggested Hermione.
Severus tried not to feel angry. He'd agreed, after all. "Yes, that's a . . . fine idea, don't you think, Sarah?"
His daughter's eyes widened and she clapped her hands together. "You mean it? I could be a Spellcrafter after Hogwarts?"
Severus took a deep breath. He heard Hermione do the same. Neither of them, it seemed had the answer to their child's question.
But at last, Hermione spoke. "You're too special for Hogwarts, my love. You get to go directly to the Spellcrafters' Guild!"
Papa, there're dragons everywhere. They're small but well. I concentrate on their perfection now, and we're using them, some of us, that is, instead of owls. The masters love it, and so do my friends. . . .
"You're reading it again, I see," Hermione said, gently taking Sarah's latest letter from him as she joined him. "I'm glad that she's finally started settling in."
Severus didn't reply. His garden was too quiet, the house, as well.
"I could send my deputy to the next conference if you like."
Stiffening, Severus shook his head. "No, that won't be necessary."
"A lot of things haven't been, of late," Hermione said, pulling away from him.
"I'm sorry, my love. I can't pretend to be happy about any of this."
"And you think I am?" demanded Hermione.
"I think you're ecstatic to know that Sarah is special, but it only breaks my heart. I would have preferred her as a Squib as long—"
"Bullshit! You never would have accepted a fucking Squib child! Don't you dare lie to me or yourself like that. And how dare you blame me?"
"Why shouldn't I?" shouted Severus. "There's nothing special about me!"
Apparently unbidden, Hermione laughed. "Oh, no. Oh, really? You're going to play the victim? The average wizard married to the special witch who gave birth to the child so powerful, because of her and only her, that the baby was taken from you?"
"And why not if it's true!" Severus thundered.
"Idiot! Dunderhead! Fuckwit!"
Hermione had never shouted insults at him before, and Severus was so stunned by the fact that she was doing it now, he gaped at her.
"Your mother would be so ashamed of you, blaming me when there is no blame to be had. It is what it is. Sarah is who she is. And you are not even remotely average, you stupid whinging fuck!"
"And our daughter is alive!" continued Hermione. "She's alive and well and doing what she loves. She's safe. And I made that happen! I arranged that deal! So don't you fucking dare blame me for—"
His tears mingling with hers, Severus clasped Hermione against him and let go of every awful thing that he'd been feeling.
Your mother and I are proud to hear that you've kept your dragons well and are reifying them properly. We miss you very much, and hope that . . . .
It was difficult, Severus and Hermione agreed, having a special child, but Life makes one no promises, and the best one can hope for, besides not having to deal with a bescumbered garden, is to know where the dragons are in one's life and how to manage them.
That, and a family, no matter of what sort, thought Severus, holding up a hand to allow a tiny green dragon to land upon it.
Sarah had been training hard, and her reifications lingered long enough for a few days beyond owl post.
"I'm going to call you Charlie," he murmured, as the tiny creature flitted away from him to join Hermione's gold offering.
"That's lovely," she said. "They're lovely together."
"Yes," Severus said, reaching for his wife, "they are."