Word Count: 2850
Summary: Severus endures his own labour pains while helping Luna through hers.
Disclaimer: This piece 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 and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Note: Written for midnight_birth as part of the snuna_exchange. Thank you, eeyore9990, fodirteg, and jin_fenghuang, for beta'ing.
Now that the time had come, he expected blood, screaming, and rejection. Yes, rejection, because what child, even his own, would want him? It still surprised Severus to find that Luna did. She showed him that she wanted him in myriad ways throughout each day they spent together: a caress as she passed him when leaving a room, a wicked smile over her wine glass while they were entertaining company, a period of earnest silence as he ranted about the dunderheads to whom he continued to teach Advanced Potions—in these ways and others, his wife proved that she loved him.
But a baby, Severus thought, massaging Luna's palm as she'd taught him to do to relieve her pain while she leant back against his chest, how could a baby ever accept me?
"Too . . . hard, a little," Luna said, through her panting.
Severus withdrew his hand from hers at once. "I'm sorry, I didn't—"
"Don't stop. You were . . . doing fine until . . . you gave into it."
"Gave into what?" Severus whispered, resuming his ministrations to Luna's hand.
Severus' body tensed, but conscious of what the Healer and Luna had told him about "moodiness" in the birthing room, he forced himself to relax again almost at once. His "self-doubt"—trust Luna to cut through to the heart of things without making him feel self-conscious.
"I know you're worried about becoming a father, Severus," Luna continued, her contraction obviously subsiding, "but you shouldn't be."
"And why not?" His words were sharper than he'd intended them to be, and he flinched at them. "What have I ever done to prove myself capable of being a—"
"How are you feeling?" Parkinson asked then, interrupting Severus as she entered the room.
Luna struggled to push herself up.
"Should you be doing that?" Severus asked, concerned.
Parkinson clucked at him. "Let her move if she likes, Headmaster. It's fine."
"If it were fine, we'd be at Hogwarts instead of—"
"You know perfectly well that even Madam Pomfrey thought it best we deliver the twins here," Parkinson said, moving to lift the brightly coloured sheet that covered the lower part of Luna's body and examining her. Raising her head above the cloth a moment later, she told Luna, "Exactly where you should be."
"Yes, I am," Luna replied, snuggling back against Severus in a way that made him feel warmed from within.
A hundred little ways . . . .
"I see he's managing the acupressure correctly," Parkinson continued, washing her hands in the basin by the large window overlooking St Mungo's Patients' Garden.
"Of course he is."
Despite how galling Severus found it to be discussed as if he weren't present, he continued his massage and said nothing. It pleased him considerably to see Parkinson having grown so confident. So mature and capable.
He was proud of her, even if he still found it odd that she'd become a Healer. Of all his former charges, Parkinson was the last one of them he'd have expected to take up a nurturing profession—or any profession, for that matter.
"I'll be back in about a half hour, but if you need me—"
"We'll summon you."
Luna laughed as Parkinson rolled her eyes at him and left. "You helped her a lot, I think."
"I kept her out of Azkaban. That would help anyone. What use is having an Order of Merlin—"
"First Class," Luna interrupted.
"First Class," Severus continued, "if one doesn't use the prestige it brings to one's advantage?"
"It was more than that, and you know it. Tutoring her in Potions at home after she left Hogwarts, even though you were still recovering from your wound—you didn't have to do that."
"I hated feeling useless."
Such an admission now came more easily to Severus, thanks to Luna's refusal to accept his stubborn, self-hating silences.
"And you hated seeing her hurt."
"Or behaving so bloody stupidly," Severus added, shifting a bit.
"Yes, I could stand a change in position, too. Help me?"
"Is that wise?"
"You heard Pansy. It's all right if I move around. I'd like to look out the window. There were some Doxies nesting in the tree canopy just outside it when I looked out this morning."
Severus, who'd risen to help Luna to her feet, snapped his head around in alarm at the open window, and Luna laughed again.
"It's all right. St Mungo's treats the linens with Doxycide. They won't come in."
It was far from all right, but Severus didn't argue; he was determined to remain calm for Luna's sake. "Show me this nest."
"Tell me about your self-doubt," Luna answered, leaning against him and pointing.
Suddenly her arm dropped, and she inhaled deeply.
"Sit," Severus ordered, helping Luna lower herself into the stuffed chair by the window and taking her hand to massage it.
He wished he could have inspected the chair for winged vermin first, but Luna's comfort was of more immediate concern.
"See . . . the nest?"
Severus peered out the window and saw nothing but leaves. He said as much.
"Look again. They . . . used the leaves . . . to hide it."
"Ah, I do see—Luna! There is fabric in that nest! Cloak fabric."
"Yes, mine. Thought . . . they'd miss it. Seems mean . . . spraying Doxycide."
It was just like Luna to be more concerned about Doxies than herself, no matter that she was about to give birth.
Absurdly, the thought made Severus' eyes burn.
"I like them. They adapt . . . well. It's a skill . . . not everyone has."
"Are you well?"
"Are you, Severus? You're gripping . . . instead of . . . pressing again."
Damn, Severus thought, adjusting his touch. "Does it really help? I would have taken a potion."
Luna made a sound halfway between a snort and a laugh. "Yes, of . . . course."
"Potion. Your taking one, I . . . mean. But yes, it . . . helps."
Severus murmured a cooling charm and sent it rolling over Luna, whose hair had become matted to her forehead due to perspiration, and he began to flex his toes in his shoes to prevent his fingers from pressing into Luna's palm too deeply as she began to hum. The tune was pleasant, and Severus thought that he might have heard it before.
"What's that the tune to?"
"Oh," Luna replied, relaxing, another contraction subsiding, "that's just something I remember Mummy singing, only I don't remember the words."
"It sounds familiar."
"Perhaps your mother sang it to you, as well."
Not likely, Severus thought, clenching all ten of his toes. "Mam wasn't one for . . . singing."
Luna turned her eyes away from the Doxies' nest to stare at Severus; he could feel more than see her gaze, as he'd lowered his head and was watching her through his fringe. He hated thinking about his mother, about his parents. Once again, he began to doubt himself, and this time, his eyes welled with tears.
Luna pulled her hand free and pressed the palm of it against his cheek; despite himself, Severus leant into the caress, blinking rapidly.
"When she couldn't see a future for herself, you anchored her in the present with potions and books and demands. And I know you listened to her when she was finally ready to talk. That was good of you, Severus, paternal. You spent years looking after students, after your Slytherins, and because of you, most of them survived. Pansy would still be a roiling coil of hate if not for you."
"Pansy wasn't a child when—"
"Shh. You're not bad with children. I realise it's one of your greatest secrets, but I know you've been consulting with the Healers here about pediatric potions."
"Of course you do. I told you about it," Severus said, tossing his head back before taking up Luna's hand once again to massage it.
"The secret part is that you come here to see the children. You talk to them, too. Pansy says you even play with them."
Severus grunted in embarrassed annoyance; he always felt awkward around the children, but playing with them gave him the opportunity to observe the effect of his treatments upon them. That was research, nothing more, and it certainly wasn't an exercise of his non-existent paternal instincts.
Luna laughed. "I don't know why you thought I'd think less of you for showing tenderness to sick children, but it was silly to try and hide it. Minerva agrees with me."
"You spoke to Minerva, as well?"
Now Severus was deeply annoyed. Was a man's private business not to be his own? Minerva might sit on St Mungo's board, but that didn't give her the right to bruit his business about.
"You're probably thinking something like, 'Is my privacy to be violated by all and sundry?' but that's silly, too. You do publish, and 'observation' implies interaction. I knew you'd been seeing the children before either of them mentioned it."
"You read my articles?"
Severus was, but upon consideration, he supposed that being so was also "silly." His courtship of Hogwarts' Charms professor had been a great shock to many, most of all, to Severus, himself, and their wedding, the only thing he'd ever seen surprise Luna. She'd not felt the need to "make things any more 'official' than they are now," or so she'd told him in nearly the same breath as announcing her pregnancy—"We're pregnant!" she'd exclaimed, one morning during breakfast at the High Table—but Severus had, only two months prior, shown up in Luna's classroom with an officiant in tow and made his own announcement. He'd decided that it was bad enough that his children should have him for a father; his children would not have bastardom to compound their misfortune. He'd never been more relieved when Luna had acquiesced to his proposal, which had been, he thought with no little chagrin, more a demand than anything else.
"You are surprised," Luna said, breaking Severus' reverie. "It's just that I know you don't like to talk about yourself, and I want to know everything about you. You're my husband. Wives should know about their husbands."
"I . . . don't deserve you," Severus said, his fingers faltering in their ministrations.
"Don't be stupid," Luna replied pleasantly. "It doesn't . . . suit . . . you."
"Bed. This can't be good for you."
"I think your wife is perfectly capable of deciding what's good for her," Parkinson announced, nonetheless moving to the other side of the chair to assist Severus in helping Luna back to bed.
"You might have knocked."
"I might have," Parkinson said, grinning, "but I didn't."
"Pansy, I think . . . Lorcan and Lysander are . . . becoming impatient," Luna announced.
"When did we decide upon—"
Severus stopped speaking as he realised that there was an edge to Luna's tone that hadn't been present before. Parkinson also noticed and quickly moved to examine Luna again—but this time, with her wand. She pointed it first at Luna's abdomen and then at the wall behind Luna's head; a swirling blue and white image, almost a shadow, appeared. Severus couldn't make sense of it. And Luna began to hum.
"Ah, that might make things a tad more difficult, but it's nothing we can't manage," Parkinson murmured, swishing her wand.
The image disappeared.
"What was that? What's wrong?" Severus asked, unable to loosen his grip on Luna's hand.
The tighter he clung, the louder she hummed, and it was her lack of complaining and continued humming that worried Severus the most; he knew that Luna was frightened, and if she were frightened . . . .
"One of the boys' umbilical cords isn't where it ought to be. I'll have to shift it."
"So do it! Spell the damned thing back where it belongs!"
Parkinson shook her head. "It doesn't work that way. I'll have to manipulate the cord manually, Headmaster. Why don't you—"
"I'm not leaving her."
"I was going to suggest releasing her hand," Parkinson snapped, before harrumphing.
Severus tried to, but Luna wouldn't let him.
Turning to Luna, Parkinson said, "Let's get on with that shifting, shall we? Everything's going to be fine—and you can stop being so brave and scream if you like."
Severus watched Luna's expression set along stubborn lines as she began to hum louder, and feeling somewhat overwhelmed and breathless, he hummed along with her.
There had been blood, but no screaming—only threats. Severus had threatened a curse upon Parkinson's children if ever anyone other than she and Luna were to be told he'd lost consciousness during the birth of his sons.
Lorcan and Lysander, he thought, feeling elated and miserable at once. He was thrilled that the boys were healthy, but mortified that he'd not been able to stand Luna's pain and fear. I failed her. I failed them.
No matter Parkinson's admonishment that even Arthur Weasley had passed out once or twice during the deliveries of his children—she claimed her mentor had told her this, but he had his doubts—Severus couldn't shake the feeling that his having failed his sons as they'd been brought into the world meant that nothing in the world could make him an acceptable father.
Self-doubt—he couldn't escape it.
"I can't be a father," he whispered, staring out the window at the Doxies' nest in the dimming light of evening.
For such nasty, ugly creatures, they certainly seemed devoted to their young. One of the breeding pair was always cradling the nestlings.
He wanted to hold Lorcan and Lysander, both, but he couldn't stand the thought of their rejection. The resultant crying would wake Luna, and he didn't want that. She'd worked so hard, been so brave. What if his abject cowardice made her come to her senses? Would she leave him now?
Exhausted, Severus sank into the chair and fell into a fitful sleep.
"—lucky to have such fine, prominent noses like your daddy. They mark you with distinction and mean you'll never be just like everyone else. That's a good thing, not being like everyone else, and do you know why? Because when you're different, it means you think new things, different things. You try harder to see more, and you know that when someone sees you, she's really looking."
Luna's soft voice woke Severus, and he sat very still, kept his breathing even, so that he could delay the inevitable.
"You're also lucky because you've got a sweet daddy. He loves you so much that he can't bear to know you're in trouble. He might not ever show you this as much as other daddies, at least, not with his words, but he'll teach you things, and he'll watch you. He'll want to know everything about you, and he'll always think you're clever and wonderful and perfect. You'll have to help me show him how much we appreciate him. Sometimes, he's silly and doubts himself."
One single, hot tear rolled down Severus' face in response to her words. How he'd ever thought she rambled on about nothing was a mystery to him. How he'd ever doubted that she loved him, he couldn't fathom.
Luna, my wife. The mother of my . . . of our children.
Clearing his throat and brushing a hand across his face, Severus replied, "Y—yes?"
"Do you know why I thought it was silly of you to be worried about becoming a father?"
Shakily, Severus rose and went to stand beside Luna's bed, ignoring the impulse he felt to touch the head of the infant she cradled in her right arm. The baby she held in her left one was contentedly suckling at her breast.
"No, why?" he asked, fascinated to see his sons. They were so small, so perfect . . . even if they did have his nose.
"Look at me?" Luna asked.
Severus did. The love shining from her face made him want to cry, but one tear was enough, damn it.
"Because you already are a father. You've been one since long before I became pregnant. You were a father to your Slytherins. You were a father to all of your students when they needed your protection. Now," she continued, leaning towards him as if urging him to take the child from her right arm—and Severus, with no little trepidation and eagerness, did so—"it's official. Say hello to our Lorcan. Lysander's a bit too interested in milk to be sociable just now."
"Lorcan," Severus breathed more than said, relaxing into the warmth against his arm from his son's body and sending up a silent prayer that Lorcan wouldn't reject him. "D—addy's got you."
"And we've got Daddy," Luna promised, shifting a bit to allow Severus to sit down next to her and Lysander on the bed. "We're a very lucky little family, we four."
Severus, astounded by the still-sleeping infant in his arms but not yet comfortable enough with the concept of fatherhood to express what he was feeling, said, "I'm glad to hear you say that."
"'Four'. I thought perhaps you intended for us to remove the Doxies to Hogwarts, the way you were so entranced by them earlier."
He felt Luna lay her free hand on his arm as she said, "I think our boys are amazing, too," and her words filled him with a sense of acceptance he'd never dared hope to feel.