Chapter Twenty: A Dish of Tea and a Lie-Down
Harry awoke in a slightly musty, formally appointed room. She was cold.
Many blankets were piled on her, and she could hear the sound of a fire burning. She stretched her fingers experimentally, and then drew in a deep breath. "Where am I?"
"There now, Madam," a sweet-faced young woman said, appearing above her. "You've had a nasty shock, so try to rest."
"Yes, but where—"
The girl's face withdrew, and was replaced by that of a funny sort of man who seemed stretched too thin. His skin was so pale it almost shone, his eyes were bright but colorless, and his expression unreadable. He did not feel unfriendly, but Harry knew at once that he was not human.
"In bed, resting, where you will stay, for now," the gentlebeing replied in a tone that made the witch want to do nothing more than sleep forever.
"No, Crispin. Do not bespell the Voice of the Goblinate," another voice said.
It was the voice of an old woman, almost that of Azalea Snape's. Harry felt as though she should know to whom it belonged.
"You're . . . you've been on the telly, haven't you?" she asked, struggling to sit up so that she could see the lady.
The complete lack of pain in her body felt . . . wrong.
"Indeed I have been, but that is not important just now. Can you tell me your name?" the woman asked without coming into view, though Harry knew she stood at the foot of the bed.
"Harry. What's yours?"
"I have rather a lot of them, as do you, I understand. In fact, I understand that you're in possession of something many of your people would prefer not to name."
The memories came flooding back—all of them—and the witch felt her tears before she knew she was crying them.
"There, there," the sweet-faced girl said, reappearing above her. "Don't take on. It's going to be all right."
"Yes, my dear. With your permission," continued her elderly host, "Crispin will remove all trace of Tom Riddle from your mind. Would you like that?"
"Then close your eyes, Mother Snape, and allow me to work," the ethereal gentleman requested, as a pair of iridescent wings opened wide behind him.
This was the last thing Harry saw before falling asleep again.
Some time later, though Harry had no real idea of how long it was, she woke again in the same bed. But this time, she was propped up by pillows, and she was not cold. She could see more of the room than just the bed curtains and the peeling, painted ceiling. At the end of her bed was a fireplace, and in front of it sat two chairs. A gray-haired lady was sitting in one of them, her left cheek facing the witch as she bent over a book.
Harry hadn't needed glasses since she'd become a girl, but she thought that perhaps she needed them then as she recognized the woman.
"Ah, you're awake, and much sooner than Crispin told me you would be, too. . . . Would you care for a dish of tea before you meet your daughter, clan-mother?"
The Scottish goblins of the Free Clans, having feasted seven glorious days with their Southern cousins, were at last ready to depart the Great Goblin Hall. When the Tall-Walker's queen, who held a high clan-status among them, had sent word that enemies from under French soil were planning to breach her under-borders some weeks previously, they had cheerfully traveled toward the foreign beasts to prevent them from reinforcing the warriors of the Roman clans who had already crept shockingly close enough to the hall of the British goblins.
Clan-Mother Winds' Family had driven the faeries out of the Hall of the Free Clans centuries before, and the Scottish goblins had never forgotten their debt. They politely refrained from wondering why their cousins could not protect themselves.
They had enjoyed the rout and had been grateful for the feasting, but were relieved that it was time to go. The mead was better in their under-highland hall, the thigh-mistresses more willing, and there was no sharp-faced, dark-haired wizard at home to rage at them.
"Hillthumper," Sharpclaw said, clearly not caring much for the name of the Scottish envoy with whom he had been dealing, "tells me that his clan-sister is ready to send your wife back to you, Father Snape."
Severus, who understood by now that the witch from the Ministry was, in fact, no such thing, threw himself to his feet. In the seven days since his wife had gone missing, he'd had precious little sleep or food, and had eschewed all company save the teapot's and the voice of his house, who had despaired of his clan-father's ever lying down again.
"Today, Friend Snape. Soon. She will be arriving in the Chamber of Entrances within the next few hours."
"Does she come . . . alone?" Severus asked, still haunted by the sounds of a crying child.
Rockthrower preserve me—Friend Snape must sleep, or he'll collapse. "Hillthum—the Scottish goblin—says not."
"I will go to the Chamber of Entrances at once."
"Clan-Father Snape—please—do not go. Rest yourself before your wife returns."
"There is no rest without Harry."
The Chamber of Entrances was full of goblin dignitaries who had come to see their under-highland brethren off. It was a raucous scene into which Severus stepped, but he had eyes only for the tunnel entrance through his wife would soon be entering.
The tunnel was dark.
"Friend Snape," Bonestorm greeted him. "Would you like to journey a ways toward the emissaries who conduct your wife? Their service to your wife notwithstanding, I do not like to have such as they in my territory."
"What's this?" Hillthumper asked.
"Ah, clan-cousin! Your clan-sister is sending the Glowing Folk to return to us Mother Snape."
"The Glowing Folk? You would have them here?" the other goblin asked, scandalized. "I take my leave of you now, Bonestorm, and wish you sense!"
The Scottish goblins, alerted by Hillthumper, left the Chamber of Entrances with astonishing speed.
Severus remembered then, something he had learnt in Professor Binns' class. Goblins do not care for fairies.
Bonestorm laughed to see his Northern cousins flee. "The Tall-Walker's queen sends only a small deputation of the Glowing Folk, nothing a proper goblin need fear."
In the confusion outside of the Ministry to contain the explosion of the Avada Kedavra bombs, there had been no time to wonder about the many unnaturally tall figures who had converged on the building, emitting a glowing force from their bodies that had helped to strengthen the wards of the wizards. When the bright green flash had at last ripped through the brick and mortar, the shield had held, and, much to the wonder of all present, the unfamiliar magic of the strangers had begun to repair the damage. When this task was completed, the beings had ceased to glow, had shrunk, and then had become lost in the crowd before disappearing altogether.
"Fairies!" Arthur had exclaimed. "She must have truck with the fairies, too."
Arthur had explained to Severus then something of his knowledge of the Muggle queen, and Severus, upon his return to the Great Goblin Hall, had been able to send word to the Minister of the Muggle queen's goblin affiliation.
But try as he had, Severus had not been able to persuade the Scottish goblins to take him to their clan-sister—and his wife. He knew only that Harry was being healed through fairy magic, and that she was safe.
But of the crying child, he could only wonder.
A strange glow began to light the tunnel through which the emissaries of the Muggle queen would be traveling, rendering Bonestorm's question moot. Despite his earlier protestation, the All-Father of the Goblinate looked rather uncomfortable. He ordered everyone save the guards to withdraw, and stood resolutely next to the Protector, a hand on his axe. The light became blinding, and then, standing on the threshold, was a thin, tall man in a Muggle business suit.
"I am Crispin Maddox Heatherwing Windsor, at your service, All-Father Bonestorm of the Ruling Clan of the Goblinate. I present to you the compliments of Mother Winds of the Free Clans, reserving her many other titles as they carry little weight here, and ask your permission to enter the Chamber of Entrances that I might conduct two of your own safely home."
"Enter, Crispin Maddox Heatherwing Windsor, and be welcome."
Severus ignored this exchange and kept his eyes fixed firmly on the entrance.
Another light began to glow behind the fairy, and then Severus saw Harry, carrying a tiny, fleece-wrapped bundle, as she stepped out of it and into the chamber.
"Harry, my wife! What—is this—but how?" he asked, rushing forward to the witch and laying gentle arms around her.
A newborn infant slept soundly between the reunited couple.
"She called to her, Severus," Harry said quietly, "and our child came early."
"Fairy magic!" Bonestorm said, though not completely disapprovingly. "Is the babe well?"
"The child is healthy, Sir," Crispin replied, watching the two new parents become lost in wonder as they gazed at their infant.
"This," Harry told Severus, carefully handing the child to her husband, "is Elizabeth Gift."
"Elizabeth Gift," the wizard whispered as the baby gurgled a bit and blinked sleepy eyes at him. "She is beautiful."
"Her coming helped . . . she helped . . . he's gone, Severus."
"Oh, Harry," the man replied, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to his wife's lips. "I'm glad of that. Are you well?"
"Philippa," Crispin called, and the young girl who had materialized with Harry, but had heretofore been ignored, stepped into the chamber and approached the happy couple.
"Allow me, Sir, Madam," she said, holding out her arms for the baby.
Severus looked at her warily.
"Father Snape," the fairy emissary said, "Philippa serves the House of Winds. She will not harm your daughter."
"Of course I wouldn't!" Philippa assured Severus, who surrendered Elizabeth Gift to her and drew Harry into an embrace.
So much has happened, Harry thought. Oh, Severus, I'm so sorry for scaring you!
I was scared for you, my love. "But now you are home."