Albus Dumbledore was sitting in his office, mulling over his options. Severus' arrival in the middle of the night had been startling, but not entirely unexpected. The rise of the Dark Lord was upon them, and Albus' sleep had been troubled for some time.
His plans were going the way of all well laid plans… not the way they were supposed to. Sirius' acquittal was just the latest in a long line of things that were ruining the careful organization of events. Albus had wanted a wounded hero. There is a reason that, in Muggle superhero movies, the hero doesn't have a loving family. He doesn't have someone that notices that he is fighting crime in the middle of the night. They have childhood trauma that makes them loners.
Those men were making his heroine into a loved, watched, secure girl. Damn them.
"It is not my daughter's job to monitor this situation," Severus had said when Albus suggested that they watch Voldemort through Elizabeth's "dreams".
It's her destiny, Albus thought sharply, but knew better than to say that to Severus. "We all must make sacrifices, my boy."
"Not my child," Severus said firmly. "Figure this out, but you do it without her, understand?"
"We can't do it without her!" Albus snapped.
Severus glared, "If the next words out of your mouth are about the damn prophecy, I'm taking Elizabeth and moving to the States."
"We all have responsibilities," Dumbledore said quietly. "We can't run from them, and you shouldn't teach your daughter to do so."
"It. Isn't. Her. Responsibility." Severus said slowly, enunciating each word before storming to the floo and going through, leaving Albus sitting alone.
When Severus arrived home, Elizabeth was sitting on the sofa, her feet on the table, staring out the window into the back garden.
"I thought I sent you back to bed," Severus said quietly, sitting beside her and nudging her feet gently off the table.
Elizabeth didn't answer, just leaned against his side as he put his arm around her shoulders.
Severus drummed his fingers against her leg. "Do you want to try the Peaceful Sleep?"
She shook her head. "I think he'll leave me alone," she said softly. "He has what he wants for now."
"I'm not sure it's a conscious decision on his part," Severus said looking down at the top of her head.
"What did Dumbledore say?"
"He was unavailable," Severus lied smoothly. "Remus and I will talk in a few hours."
Severus grimaced. "The mutt as well, yes."
"You two are going to get along, right?"
"Haven't we been doing so?" Severus sighed. "Don't worry. My hatred for the mutt is mostly out of principle than any actual ill feeling. While my ability to hold a grudge is strong, you are more important to me."
"You've been being good," Elizabeth teased, elbowing him a little. "I was just asking."
"What would you know about being good?" Severus growled, glad that she seemed to be coming out of the silence.
"What time is it?" Elizabeth reached for the pocket watch Severus kept in his waistcoat pocket.
Severus picked the watched out of his pocket with his long fingers before she could get to it. "It's half past two," he said after flicking it open.
"How come you don't wear a wrist watch?" Elizabeth asked, playing with the chain on the watch.
"Loose items around your wrists could cause Potions disasters," Severus closed the watch.
"Can you even buy pocket watches anymore?"
"Not commonly," Severus said quietly.
"So… where did you get yours?"
"Are you sure you don't want to try the potion?"
"Yes," Elizabeth looked up at him curiously. "Where did you get yours?"
"My father gave it to me."
"No," Severus said quietly, staring out the window.
"I thought you and your real dad didn't get on."
"That doesn't make him unrelated to me," he tapped his hand against her leg again. "And he wasn't always… the way he was."
Severus sighed. "Time. Money. Problems that change a man."
"Every man?" She looked up at him.
Severus frowned. "You're full of questions tonight."
"I'm just asking."
Severus softened, pulling her up onto his lap. "Some things are better left alone," he said gently, holding her head against his chest.
"No," he shook his head. "It's alright. When you're older, and it isn't the middle of the night, we'll talk. I promise." He kissed the top of her head. "We should really get you back to bed."
Elizabeth didn't respond, but without warning, Severus felt one sleeve of his robe being pulled back.
"Elizabeth?" He looked down at his arm, where Elizabeth was tracing the Dark Mark with one finger. "No!" he said sharply, pulling his arm away and rolling down his sleeve. "I don't ever want you to touch it."
"You'll have to go back," she said softly. "He'll bring you back, and he'll kill you. He knows you're a spy from when we fought him first year. He'll kill you. Or torture you and then kill you. All because of me—
"Silence," Severus snapped, tapping her leg none-to-gently. "You underestimate me, my child, if you think that I am so easily lured. It does us no good to dwell on hypothetical situations. Now," he stood up, setting her on her feet. "Back to bed."
"I'm not tired."
"Too bad," Severus propelled her up the stairs with a hand on her back, guiding her into her room and into bed. He tucked her in and settled in the armchair near the bed.
"Peaceful Sleep Potion or me sleeping in this chair," Severus said firmly. "The choice is yours."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but settled into her pillow. "Goodnight, Dad."
"Ireland is going to crush Bulgaria," Elizabeth said emphatically over breakfast a few hours later. "I can't believe they don't televise Quidditch games."
"Tele-what?" Sirius looked up from his eggs.
"Elizabeth explained television to you, remember?" Remus poured himself another cup of coffee.
"I didn't really get it," Sirius made a face. "Why would you watch something on a box if you could just apparate there?"
"That's the point!" Elizabeth groaned. "If you don't have tickets, you can't go see the game!"
"Why would you want to see a game without being in the crowd?" Sirius still seemed confused. "It's not fun to watch alone."
"Muggles have sports parties at their houses and watch games on the telly."
"Seems sad, somehow," Sirius said. "The telly is that thing in the living room, right?"
Elizabeth grimaced, "Yeah, but I don't think anyone watches but me."
"Occasionally I watch the Muggle evening news," Severus said, finishing his toast. "When you were a baby, I watched many late night reruns of Muggle situation comedies and programs designed to sell something… I believe they are called infomercials."
"Why?" Severus looked at her incredulously. "Because you didn't like to sleep at night, that's why."
"Because that's what babies do," Severus tapped her milk glass meaningfully. "Although sometimes I think that you were just gearing up for your future of keeping me up nights."
"Did you have trouble last night?" Remus looked at Elizabeth. "I didn't hear you."
Elizabeth looked at Severus, who sighed. "Elizabeth go work on your homework."
"You're kicking me out?"
Severus narrowed his eyes. "You know everything we're about to discuss, and you have studying to complete." He pointed to the study door. "Go. I'll be in to check on you in a little while."
"I hate homework," Elizabeth made a face and pushed back her chair.
"Do it so we can fly later," Sirius snagged more toast.
"She'll do it because I told her to do so," Severus scowled.
Elizabeth returned the scowl, but left the room, muttering about being fourteen as she shut the door behind her.
Remus looked at Severus, then back at his eggs.
"What?" the Potions Master asked.
"Nothing," Remus said, raising an eyebrow at his breakfast.
"What?" Severus asked again.
"I thought we'd decided that hiding things from her is useless."
"Someone has to enforce the study rules," Severus said firmly.
"Whatever you say," Remus shrugged. "What happened last night?"
Severus pressed his lips together briefly. "The rat made it home."
Remus' eyes narrowed, but he was distracted from responding by the cascade of breakfast dishes that Sirius upset when he jumped to his feet.
"Padfoot!" Remus shouted, trying to right everything that had gone flying and calm his friend at the same time.
But Sirius was beyond calming. "Damn it, Snape! You should have let us go after him! You should have gotten the Order together—
"Sirius!" Remus tried again, putting his hand on the other man's arm.
"Careful monitoring!" Sirius shouted, slamming his hand down on the table. "Monitoring!"
"Dad?" Elizabeth was back, looking at Sirius, her eyes open wide.
"It's alright, Elizabeth. Go back to the study, please. Start on your Potions essay."
Elizabeth looked warily at Sirius, who was standing, shoulders heaving with panting breaths, beside his overturned chair.
"Elizabeth," Remus pulled her attention to him. "Go."
When she was gone, Severus looked at Remus. "That's why I sent her away."
"I stand corrected," Remus smacked Sirius on the back of the head. "Idiot. We have a child in the house, you know."
Sirius glared, still shaking, but managed to stay quiet.
"Why don't you take him into the living room," Severus said quietly, nodding to Remus. "I'm going to check on Elizabeth, and then we can start strategizing."
He swept out of the room and opened the door of his study, hiding a smile at the sight of his diminutive dark-haired child sitting behind his desk. "Why, Severus Snape, you look different than the last time I saw you," he drawled.
"You shouldn't have told him."
Severus sighed. "Black is a big boy," he came around the desk and leaned against the side of his chair. She started to get up, but he waved her back down. "Stay, I don't need to sit." He put his hand on her head and looked down at the parchment she was working on. "Your handwriting is still abominable," he shook his head. "I thought we talked about focusing on penmanship."
"Well, if we used pens like normal people, I wouldn't have to worry about it," Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
"To whom are you referring?" Severus mock-growled. "Are you saying that I am abnormal?"
"Maybe," Elizabeth grinned cheekily.
"Brat," Severus ruffled her hair. "I want to talk to you about something."
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Yes?" Elizabeth amended, with only a brief eye roll.
"About your birthday," Severus leaned on the edge of his desk, looking down at her. "I know we have made a habit of having a party here. However," he pressed his lips together briefly, "I'm sorry, Rosie, but I think it's too dangerous to have a lot of people here this year. One vial of Polyjuice Potion and Mr. Weasley is really a Death Eater."
Elizabeth frowned a little, and shrugged. "I guess."
"I am attempting to set up an alternative," Severus went on. "But I am not sure… We'll try to make it festive, alright?"
"It's okay, Dad," Elizabeth shrugged again. "It's not that big of a deal."
"You're a bad liar," Severus sighed. "Where in the world did you get that from?"
"You," Elizabeth shoved her parchment into her Potions book. "Can I finish this tomorrow?"
"I am an excellent liar," Severus frowned, the irony not lost on him that he was looking for validation for an unethical talent.
"Not to me," Elizabeth tapped the book. "Can I go?"
Severus sighed. "I suppose. But I want you inside unless you take one of us with you."
Elizabeth made a face. "Sirius doesn't sound like he's in the mood for flying."
"I'm going to see if Remus has calmed him down at all. I want you to stay out of the living room until I make sure that he isn't maiming people."
"Why was he yelling at you?"
Severus rubbed his temple. "Your mutt-father has a habit of lashing out at whoever is closest at the time when he's angry. Which is why you should stay away from him when he's upset."
"Like when he found out you were a Death Eater and he snapped at me?"
Severus nodded. "The fact that he merely snapped at you is a testament that he loves you. I imagine that if you hadn't come into the room earlier, I might be sporting a rather unattractive bruise on my face."
"Maybe I should come with you then," Elizabeth said, opening the study door.
Severus opened his mouth to protest, but then closed it and shook his head. "Alright, little Slytherin, let's go." He rested his hand on her shoulder, pulling her to his side as they walked into the living room.
"Is it safe in here?" Elizabeth asked as Severus settled into his armchair, holding her hands up in a mock-defensive position.
"Don't be cheeky," Severus rolled his eyes.
"Okay," Elizabeth said affably, crawling into the chair beside her father.
"I don't remember inviting you," Severus scowled, but wrapped his arm around her, tucking her tightly to his side.
Elizabeth looked warily at Sirius, who was clearly sitting on the sofa with the help of a sticking charm. "Are you going to be okay?"
Sirius made a noise that might have been a laugh if his face hadn't been so furious.
"Sirius," Remus said warningly.
Black leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, burying his face in his hands for a long moment. Elizabeth watched his shoulders move slower and slower until it appeared that the man had gotten his temper under control. As if it took great effort, he raised his head again, though his eyes were fixated on the edge of the table.
"I'm alright, Elizabeth," he said quietly.
"Liar," Elizabeth scowled, looking up at Severus. "Why are you all such bad liars?"
"Hush," Severus said tapping his hand sharply against her leg. "If you can't be helpful, be quiet."
"Or go upstairs," Remus seconded, looking at his goddaughter admonishingly.
"Well he is," Elizabeth protested, unrepentant.
"I am," Sirius said quietly, still staring at the table. "I'm not alright. Just give me another minute."
Elizabeth sighed. "We're going to get him, Sirius."
"Elizabeth," Severus put a finger to her lips. "Just be quiet for a moment."
So they waited, through several rounds of Sirius clenching his fists around various items. The sofa cushion, a pillow, a throw… a tea cup… The man seemed to think that if he held tightly to something, his world wouldn't fall apart.
Unfortunately, while the cushion, pillow, and blanket could survive his abuse, the tea cup crumbled in his grip, causing tea to run over his hands, the table, and the floor. Luckily, the tea had gone cold, and Remus was able to clean the spill with a wave of his wand, but the cracking seemed to bring Sirius out of his anger-induced trance.
"So," he said, blowing air out of his mouth. "What are we going to do?"
The four sat together, as silence filled the room.