Hermione woke to hear Crookshanks purring and seemed to have acquired an extra lump on her bed.
She opened her eyes and saw the small elf she had seen the night before scratching Crookshanks behind the ears.
“Zdrast-vo-che,” said Hermione tentatively trying to say hello. She didn’t know what to do if the little fellow responded in Russian. ‘Hello’ was about as far as she went.
Hermione inwardly kicked herself for coming to a country without bothering to learn the basics of its language.
“My mother was born in
“Oh good,” said Hermione, relieved. She looked over at her breakfast tray and saw her post stacked on one corner. Cherv handed her a small scroll. “What’s this?”
“It is from Cherv’s cousin, Madam,” said Cherv. “I was hoping you could read it.”
“You can’t read?” asked Hermione taking the parchment from him.
“I can’t read English, Madam,” the elf said as Crookshanks encircled him, butting him with his head and covering him with orange fur. “I can read and write Russian and Greek.”
“Of course,” Hermione said smiling and opening the letter. As she skimmed it her face widened into a smile.
All is well at Hogwarts. Children have gone home, but there is still much to do. All letters have to be written for new children and rooms readied.
A new painting of one of the founders has been put in Headmasters office. She is very nice and Dobby is liking her very much. She often has Words with Phineas Nigellus and Dobby is now in charge of repairs in the headmaster’s office if their disagreements escalate. It is interesting work and Dobby is learning all sorts of new words that are Inappropriate to Say in Front of a Lady. Headmaster Nigellus has told me and I’m guessing Madame Snape is reading this to you so I cannot write it.
Hermione laughed. Phineas was so imperious and Helga was so hard-headed Hermione was amazed Dumbledore put them in the same room. She felt slightly sorry for the other paintings.
Dobby thinks you need
to tell Hermione the Legend of Felix the Kind. She would think it amusing.
Also, tell her that her friends miss her very much and hopes she takes care in
a place she is not familiar with.
I hope you are doing well and mother asks Dobby to tell you to give our regards to your mother.
“Who is Felix the Kind?” Hermione asked.
“Masters great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather,” Cherv hopped happily on the bed. “He freed all the elves on the estate.”
“He did?” asked Hermione. Obviously this was a man ahead of his time.
“He thought we would look more dignified in uniforms,” said Cherv ceasing his hopping. “He was not thinking clearly.”
“Because uniforms are clothes,” Hermione faded off. Ahead of his time, perhaps. Ahead of his vodka, defiantly not. “If you’re all freed and have uniforms why aren’t you wearing them?”
“We would not want to – well,” Cherv said hesitantly.
“You’re embarrassed,” said Hermione reaching for the breakfast tray on the table near her bed. She looked at her open faced ham and cheese sandwich and shrugged. She would have to get used to the food differences as well.
“It’s not something to be proud of, Madam,” said Cherv.
Hermione sighed and reached for her fork.
Hermione followed Cherv to Severus’ chamber and waited after he knocked on the door for her.
“Enter,” came Severus’ voice from inside.
The door opened into a room smaller than hers. Dark mahogany paneling lined the walls and deep green carpet covered the floor. Furniture matching the walls and floor spread over the room.
Severus sat on a green velvet couch wearing a pale yellow bathrobe. Hermione blinked a few minutes and shook her head slightly. He seemed to be reading a document under a pane of glass laid over the top of the low table in front of him.
“How’s your Gaelic?” Severus asked frowning slightly at the table.
“Um,” said Hermione wincing. “Tolerable.”
“Unfortunately, merely ‘tolerable’ is not sufficient,” said Severus. “I’ll have to get a translator.”
“Is there anyone trustworthy enough to be a translator?” Hermione asked trepedatiously.
Severus raised his beetle-black eyes and they bored into her.
“No,” he said sarcastically. “I thought I’d go down to Economy Translators with a few copies I’ll have run off and see what they think of it. Thought I’d give the Dark Lord a bit of a break for a change.”
Hermione gave him an annoyed look. He was beginning to really enjoy those.
He smirked at her. She was really beginning to enjoy that.
“Well, as long as the Amazons are the front line,” she said brusquely as she peered at the document.
“I owled Charlie,” said Severus. I expect he’ll reply by this evening.
“Weasley?” Hermione asked. The only word she recognized on the page was ‘rise.’ Her Gaelic was colorful, if it wasn’t practical. She had Seamus Finnegan to thank for that. She pointed it out to Severus, helpfully.
“Too bad Finnegan never had enough brain to think on his own,” said Severus. “He’d come in handy.”
Hermione frowned, but inwardly agreed with him. Severus shrugged at her.
Professor Snape and
I have some time I can take to come see you. Is three days time alright?
P.S. Is the estate hooked up to the Floo network?
Friday is fine. The estate is fine for floo. Bring pictures of everyone.
We all got owls from Charlie but decided it best to put Colin in charge. Have you ever seen Charlie try to organize anything?
Hope you’re taking care.
Yes I have seen Charlie try to organize. Don’t know what I was thinking. Colin was a great idea.
I miss all of you terribly. Maybe you can come visit.
I’d love to come, but Harry would want to come too and it’s just not safe for him there. Mum would kill me. Ginny would like to come, but mum won’t hear of that either.
Hermione folded the last parchment and scowled. Mrs. Weasley was right. It was very inconvenient sometimes.
Hermione saw the firelight flicker green and she raised her eyes to see Charlie Weasley walk through the hearth into the ballroom.
“Oh my God,” said Charlie looking around. His red hair desperately needed a haircut and his clothing was nice, but worn. He pulled a worn trunk in behind him. A bandage was wrapped around his left hand.
“Charlie!” said Hermione flinging herself at him.
“Glad to see you well, Hermione,” said Charlie amused as he noticed she had put on a few pounds. Russian food was certainly looking good on her.
“Severus is out,” said Hermione apologetically. “He should get back soon. I was hoping he’d get back before you got here.”
“I’m sure he’ll be along,” said Charlie looking at the chairs and tea service Hermione had moved near the fireplace.
“You must be starving,” said Hermione suddenly realizing how much Charlie looked like Ron when he was hungry and her chest ached a little.
“A little,” admitted Charlie. “But I’ll wait for dinner.”
“Nonsense,” said Hermione. “Dinner’s a few hours away.” She cut him a small piece of cake and poured him some tea.
They had just sat down when the flames went green again.
“Hello, Charlie,” said Severus stepping into the room. “How’s your mother?”
“Fine,” said Charlie, trying to swallow the bite of cake he had just bitten into before he took Severus’ hand.
“What happened to your hand?” Severus asked.
“Hatchling got a little frisky,” said Charlie.
“You weren’t wearing gloves?” Severus frowned.
“Sometimes it’s just not personal with the little ones,” Charlie said trying to look innocent.
“You’re as bad as Hagrid,” said Severus shaking his head. “And I’m guessing you’re starving.”
“Err-,” said Charlie, really looking like Ron now.
“Into the kitchens and get a real meal,” Severus commanded. “Your mother would be furious with me.”
“I’m nearly thirty,” said Charlie weakly defiant.
“All the more you should know better,” said Severus. He swung around to face Hermione. “And I’m guessing that cake and tea is your idea of lunch?”
“Err-,” Hermione stammered.
“Get a sandwich, both of you,” said Severus rolling his eyes at the ceiling. “Then we’ll begin going over the paperwork.”
“Get in a bit of fishing before bed?” Charlie said hopefully.
“Perhaps,” said Severus. “We can carpet to the lake and get in a couple of hours.”
“In the dark?” Hermione asked.
“Not this time of year,” Charlie said confused Hermione. “Aren’t there any windows here?” He looked around.
“They’re enchanted,” said Severus. “All the light changes bother mother.”
Hermione blinked in realization. The days must be almost completely light. She had forgotten completely.
“Can we lift the enchantments?” Hermione asked.
“As long as we put them back before we leave,” Severus said. “I thought it would bother you so I didn’t alter them.”
“Round the clock daylight would be ideal,” said Hermione. “I have shutters on my windows.”
“I’ll have it seen to,” said Severus. “Now go eat.”
“Fine,” said Hermione sighing.
“I think he’s secretly taking lessons from mum,” Charlie said conspiratorially. At least he’s making an effort to be tolerable.”
‘You have no idea,’ thought Hermione.
“So, Charles, you are a cousin of Hermione?” Anna asked during dinner.
“Distantly related,” said Charlie biting into his herring salad. “My mother wanted to make sure she was settling in.”
“I understand,” said Anna seriously. “Your Marriage Law was quite a shock to us all. Poor Hermione is lucky to have gotten a man like our kind Severus. It could have been very unpleasant for her.”
Charlie choked on his salad and Hermione pounded him on the back. Severus tried to stare down Charlie. He may have succeeded if Charlie’s eyes had not been full of tears.
“Do be careful,” said Anna laying a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “I may have missed a bone or two.”
“It’s wonderful,” said Charlie regaining his composure. “I swallowed the wrong way.” He sipped his water and glanced at Severus. He imagined Severus thought himself fierce, but he was slightly pink from Anna’s complement. Charlie snickered into his water.
“How long will you be staying?” Pieter asked as he reached for a plate of chicken kiev.
“Probably just the weekend,” said Charlie. “The little ones will have a fit if I’m gone for too long.”
“Do you have many children?” asked Anna.
“In a way,” said Charlie grinning.
“Charles works at the Romanian Dragon Preserve,” said Severus.
“I would like a dragon, please,” said Misha politely.
“If you study hard and learn about them maybe one day you can take care of them as well,” said Charlie seriously.
“Father, can I have a book on dragons?” asked Misha in careful English.
“I believe there might already be a few in the library,” said Pieter. “You may look after dinner.” Pieter looked at Charlie with interest. “Very interesting career path for someone who originated in a country where dragon breeding is illegal.”
“England is just too small,” said Charlie. “One out of control dragon and its pandemonium. Romania is more practical.”
“I agree with you,” said Pieter. “But it must have been difficult for you to study something you have never seen.”
“I did my book work at Hogwarts,” said Charlie defensively. “Professor Kettleburn oversaw my training personally. I spent the summer between my 6th and 7th years in Romania on a student intern program.”
“I have heard of the internship program,” said Pieter, raising his eyebrows and reaching for his goblet of wine. “It is very difficult to get into.”
“Is it?” Charlie frowned. “The Professor entered for me. I didn’t know until two days before end-of-term I was going.”
“You must have been an exceptional student,” said Anna beaming at him.
My mother says you are always good at what you love,” said Charlie shrugging. “I think I just got lucky.”
“I want to be lucky, like you,” said Misha, who had been whispering in Russian to his sisters. They were staring at his bandaged hand in wide-eyes awe.
“Mne khotelos' bi drakona na moi den' rojdenia,” Nadja piped up.
“What?” Hermione whispered to Anna as Pieter seemed to be gently telling the little one no.
“She’d like a dragon for her birthday,” said Anna. “They saw the fire dancers last winter and she thinks she has found her profession.”
“She’s never seen fire dancers,” said Severus reaching for the chicken. “Is there a performance scheduled anytime soon?”
“Sadly, no,” said Anna shaking her head. “Usually in the winter.”
Nadja began speaking in rapid Russian to Charlie who looked at Hermione for help.
“I’m lost,” said Hermione softly.
“She’s trying to negotiate for ‘just a little one,’” said Pieter. “I see politics in the future for this one.” He raised a single eyebrow at her and she fell silent, but continued to beam at Charlie.
“I might be in trouble,” Charlie said under his breath.
Pieter, Charlie, and the three children sang loudly as Severus poured Hermione a cup of tea after dessert.
“I wouldn’t be so bad if they all sang the same song,” Hermione said to Anna, who was beginning to look annoyed. Severus crossed his eyes in pain at a particularly high note. Hermione and Anna giggled.
“What is all this jesting?” asked Pieter, staggering over to them. “Does our entertaining amuse you?”
“Entertaining,” mused Anna. “Was that what it was? I suspected you had eaten too much for dinner and had made yourselves sick.”
“Of your wonderful cooking, I could never tire of,” said Pieter.
“You-,” began Anna. Then she winced and placed a hand on her stomach.
Severus put his tea cup down and looked at her. Pieter placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Niet,” said Anna trying to brush away Pieters hand.
“Brat rojdaetsia,” Nadja said grabbing Tatiana’s hands and trying to make her dance.
“Niet,” said Tatiana going back to the wooden dragon in front of her.
“Da,” Anna said to Tatiana who looked up from her dragon.
“Da?” asked Tatiana who toddled over to Anna. She placed her small hand on Anna’s stomach and said: “Ooh!” in a surprised little voice.
Then she went back to Nadja and joined the victory dance. “Brat!” Tatiana sang.
“Well the girls seem to think it’s a boy,” said Pieter, smiling. “Upstairs for you.”
Anna got to her feet and placed her hand on her husbands arm.
“I think we will see you later,” said Charlie raising his glass in Anna’s direction.
“Good night,” Anna said. “Dinner tomorrow?”
“We’ll bring it,” said Hermione quickly.
“Make some of those Cornish Pasties,” said Pieter looking over his shoulder as he escorted Anna of the den. “I haven’t had them since I was a child.”
“Will do,” said Charlie.
The next day Hermione and Charlie worked in the kitchen making dinner that could be put into the oven and cooked at the Titov’s.
“Cherv will do that,” the little elf wailed helplessly, standing on a chair as Hermione and Charlie swept through the kitchen.
“Its fine, Cherv,” said Hermione. “I like cooking.”
“You can go tidy up the garden outside,” suggested Charlie. “The roses could be tidied up a bit.”
“My job is kitchen,” insisted Cherv. “Zemlyaa should prune the garden.”
“How many elves live here?” Hermione asked, wondering where they all were.
“I think about 20,” said Cherv. “I do not know for certain. Should I go suggest Zemlyaa prune the roses and Cherv help her?” He looked helpful.
“That might be a good idea,” said Charlie.
Cherv hopped happily to the floor and padded out of the room.
“You might end up with more elves, that keeps up,” said Charlie.
“They technically all are freed,” said Hermione. “They can do as they please.”
“Maybe one of their children might want to live with mum,” said Charlie thoughtfully. “She’d really like it.”
“She’d have to give them fair pay,” said Hermione defensively.
“Room, board and food is fair trade,” said Charlie.
“That’s not fair!” exclaimed. “That’s indentured servitude!”
“Trade is not the same as indentured servitude,” said Severus, walking in through the fireplace, his arms full of groceries. “Although I’d hardly call that offer fair.”
Hermione and Charlie both looked at Severus annoyed.
“What?” he asked setting the bags down on the large wooden table. “It’s true.”
“Did you remember the potatoes?” Hermione asked, reaching for the bags.
“Yes, I remembered the potatoes,” said Severus unpacking the bags.
“Privet,” came a sleepy sounding voice from the hearth.
Hermione turned and saw Pieter entering the kitchen.
“Hello, Pieter,” said Hermione. “How is Anna?”
“She is sleeping with young Boris,” Pieter said smiling wearily. “I just awoke myself.”
“Congratulations,” said Charlie, his hands deep in a bowl of dough.
“Thank you,” said Pieter. “Although I admit I did not do much. She is incredible.”
Severus smiled softly at his cousin. For the obnoxious git he was most of the time, he certainly loved his family.
“I’ll give you a potion for her,” said Severus. “I thought she might need it.”
“I thought you might,” said Pieter. “I expect she will wake within the hour.”
Severus left the room and Pieter turned to Hermione.
“He is a good man,” said Pieter. “A little emotional, but a good man.”
Charlie snorted into his dough. Pieter ignored him. Hermione was a little surprised, but acted normally as Severus returned to the room with a red ceramic bottle with a black stopper.
“Give her a drink of this every four hours,” said Severus handing it to Pieter.
“How much?” asked Pieter tucking it into his robes.
“Depends on how much she thinks she needs,” said Severus. “Too much and she might get a little silly, but it wont harm her.”
“Maybe I should save some for when she’s feeling better,” said Pieter.
“I don’t think you need any help,” said Severus. “Go home.”
“Poka,” said Pieter tossing a handful of Floo Powder into the fire. He stepped into the flames as he waved goodbye to them.
“You just happened to have a post-pregnancy draught?” asked Charlie conversationally. “That takes a bit of involvement to make.”
“Especially a third level one,” said Severus waving his wand at the potatoes. They zipped out of their jackets and began falling into small chunks into a large bowl. Carrots came after them.
“Wow,” said Charlie, impressed.
Hermione was impressed as well. That was a difficult potion to brew and most of the ingredients for the higher degrees started to get more and more expensive. He was a good man, she finally admitted.
“Are you done with the translation?” Severus asked Charlie.
“Very nearly,” said Charlie. “The part at the bottom gets kind of vague.”
“Typical,” said Severus, slightly annoyed. “Just do the best you can.”
“I don’t know if I can do it by the end of the weekend,” Charlie admitted.
“Can you stay longer?” asked Hermione.
“The interns start Monday,” said Charlie. “So the babies will get plenty of attention. I think I can get Master Gavin to do their training for me. He owes me a favor.”
“Does this mean you can stay longer?” asked Severus, peering into a small bowl of marinating meat.
“I believe so,” said Charlie. “At least until I figure out that last bit.”
“Excellent,” said Hermione. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without you.”