Hermione smiled pleasantly as she surveyed the table in front of her. History was being made tonight. Mudblood, pureblood, Amazons, Jotun, and members of the Brotherhood all sat at the same table, exchanging ideas and enjoying a pleasant meal. She felt as if all were right in the world.
Then a small bun hit Asta on the side of the head. Lexi stifled a giggle.
“Tatiana!” Anna cried out embarrassedly. Anna scolded her second youngest child.
Asta made a funny face at the tiny girl that was still squealing in delight. “She has quite good aim. Have you handed her a javelin yet to see what she can do?”
Hermione stifled a laugh at Anna’s expression.
“I think perhaps she should be steadier on her feet first.” Anna moved all other easily thrown food away from her Tatiana.
“We will take you to the range when you are steadier on your feet.” Asta spoke in slow English to the little girl. “And see what you can do with a bow.”
Anna looked less than thrilled, but Pieter’s booming laugh filled the Snape dining hall.
“So we will have a Fire Dancer, a dragon trainer, and a warrioress! What an interesting time we will have!” He waved his wine glass with emphasis. “I wonder what little Boris will have in store for us!”
“Boris will be a dentist!” Misha howled with laughter. Hermione chuckled as she stirred the last of her after dinner tea. Misha had been far too interested in teeth lately after learning what Hermiones Muggle parents did for a living. Hermione wondered what her own children would drive her mad with.
The elder gray haired man from the Brotherhood shook his head and chuckled. Hermione had learned Nicolai was an expert in translations from the Brotherhood’s scholar caste and didn’t get out much.
“Nicolai, are the novices this ill behaved?” Anna looked at her giggling children exasperatedly.
“Most of our novices are a bit older than this, but in large numbers they certainly don’t act like it.” Nicolai buttered the bun that had ricocheted off Asta’s head and onto his plate and took a bite. “Although we do have our ways of making them behave.” He looked at Misha darkly.
The little boy gulped.
Anna waved her wand at her children and cleaned them off. Then she scooped Boris up into her arms and shooed the children from the dining room. “It is obvious from all this playing that you are done eating.”
Pieter chuckled merrily and smiled at Nicolai. “Gardening is not all that frightening if I remember correctly.”
“Yes, but it’s tedious and repetitive and young ones hate it.” Nicolai waved a hand and his wine glass refilled itself.
“Perhaps it would be prudent to retire to the study where we can talk about negotiations.” Nyssa looked at Nicolai.
His eyes crinkled up as he gave her a small smile. “Of course.”
They all rose from the table and made their way to Jacob’s study. Asta seemed particularly enamored with the grass floor of the dining room and shuffled her feet softly as they left.
Severus led them into his father’s study where he assured Asta there would be more tea waiting for them, along with the research notes they had gone over previous to dinner.
“The method of research you used was quite complex.” Nicolai said with a patronizing note in his voice. “It was not your fault you didn’t understand what you had.”
Nyssa gave him an annoyed look. “Well perhaps if the Brotherhood didn’t keep its linguistic studies so secret we wouldn’t have had this problem and wouldn’t have wasted so much time with so much at stake.”
“We have no idea if this leads to anything of interest.” Nicolai brushed her off. “For all we know it could be a translation of Jingle Bells.”
“Or it could trigger something totally destructive.” Nyssa’s chin stuck out stubbornly.
“I thought we’d ruled that out.” Asta interrupted, getting an annoyed look from both Nyssa and Nicolai.
Pieter gave Hermione a tired look and Viktor heaved a sigh. Nyssa and Nicolai had begun bickering about the way the Amazons had handled the artifact soon after their introductions.
“Anyway,” Hermione began in a frustrated tone. “Can it be easily translated or is it something out of your expertise?”
Nicolai puffed up his chest and Viktor flinched.
“You expect a translation of this caliber would be easy! Of course it’s not easy! It’s going to be exceedingly difficult! All of our resources will have to be considered and in the long run it may be more expensive that you could possibly imagine!”
“Without her you would have nothing. It would be wise to remember that if you want to be involved in this project.” Severus cocked an eyebrow at Nicolai.
“Not be involved?” Nicolai blustered at Severus. Hermione noticed Pieter smiled into the glass of wine he was still holding. “You wouldn’t even know it was a language if not for us!”
“I’m sure we would have figured it out eventually.” Severus gave Nicolai a bored look and went for a tea service in the corner of his fathers study. He poured out a cup for Asta and handed it to her. “Your involvement was merely a shortcut. As you say, it may be a trinket that has no valuable properties whatsoever.”
Nicolai threw a furious look at Nyssa, as if she had prompted Severus to make his statement. She smirked at Nicolai’s expression. Severus continued serving tea to the others.
“So can it be done?” Hermione said as she impatiently took her teacup from Severus a bit rougher than normal and sloshed tea into her saucer. “Or will I go put it in my jewelry box and only take it out when I feel like a bit of disco?”
“Disco?” Nicolai looked puzzled.
“Hermione, even if the Brotherhood will not help, I will.” Viktor looked tired as he smiled at Hermione. “This negotiation is tedious and I have had very little sleep.”
“First children are always a shock.” Pieter nodded at Viktor sympathetically. “You will get used to it.”
“Pieter!” Nicolai barked at his fellow Brother.
“Viktor is right, this is tedious and we know we will be involved. It is time to stop fighting. For good.” Pieter leveled a hard look at Nyssa. She scowled.
“You are swayed because family is involved.” Nicolai declared.
“And you are swayed because you are a stubborn, boring cleric with nothing better to do with your time than become more unpleasant.” Pieter fired back as he set his wine glass roughly down on the corner of Jacob’s desk.
Viktor snorted the tea he had been drinking through his nose. Asta laughed hysterically.
“You know, some of us have decided women are pleasant and are willing to hold civil conversation with them.” Pieter took a cup of tea from Severus and nodded graciously. Then he pulled a small flask from inside his robed and poured a small dollop of amber liquid into his teacup. “You should spend some more time with my daughters. They are quite charming when not flinging buns across the table.”
“Fine,” Nicolai snapped. “But when these temptresses take off with all of our secrets you’ll have no one but yourself to blame!”
“Temptresses?” Lexi looked complimented. Asta looked down at her attire, confused.
Nyssa looked completely shocked before she began blustering.
“Well, I- see here, you- I mean-,” Nyssa took a deep breath. “We’re wasting time! This is ludicrous!”
“Fine,” Nicolai said stiffly. “We want observation time with the relic, access to the prophecy you’ve been concealing, and our whales back.”
“What?” Hermione whispered to Severus.
He shrugged and frowned.
“What do you offer?” Nyssa asked suspiciously.
“The languages of Light and Dark, Fire and Stone.” Nicolai looked as if making the offer pained him.
“Well, we want the stars back.” Nyssa looked annoyed.
“Done.” Pieter clapped his hands together and grabbed Lexi’s head roughly, planting a sound kiss on her cheek. “Now we celebrate!”
“No singing!” Anna looked horrified as she entered the room. “And I think you have had quite enough excitement for one night!”
“Quite.” Nicolai said brusquely. “I will go report the result of our negotiations so we can begin preparations of the knowledge transfer.”
With a spin of his dark robes and an imperious sniff he apperated with a loud pop.
“You can apperate to the Brotherhood hideout?” Hermione asked Viktor.
“No, but Mageeya Topeek is full of vodka and friendly women this time of night and Nicolai does not get out much.”
Pieter snorted and wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist. “We do not get out much anymore, either. Let us follow Nicolai and visit Mageeya Topeek for a nightcap.”
Pieter teetered dangerously in Anna’s direction and Lexi grabbed one of his arms to steady him.
“I have a better idea.” Anna ran a finger along the side of Pieters face seductively, scratching the dark curls she encountered, batting her eyes coquettishly. “Why don’t we stay in? Meet me upstairs, my handsome husband?”
Pieter growled and puffed out his chest. Hermione saw Severus disguise a laugh as a cough. She turned around to refill her teacup and hoped Pieter couldn’t see her shoulders shaking.
“I will be waiting for you, my sweet.” Pieter swayed back in the other direction and Anna steadied him before he fell on top of Lexi. He growled like a bear.
“Oh dear God,” Severus chuckled as he ‘helped’ Hermione serve herself another cup of tea.
“Go up and prepare the chambers.” Anna pushed him in the direction of the door, giving him a slap on his behind.
Pieter turned on her suddenly and gave her a sound kiss. “Temptress!”
“I’ll be there in a moment.” Anna gave him a pat on his chest.
“I will be waiting!” Pieter leered at her.
When he finally disappeared Anna heaved a sigh of relief. “Tea?”
As Hermione handed Anna a cup of tea she realized Anna had pinched Pieters flask with her final good bye pat.
“How on earth do you put up with that nonsense?” Lexi let out a peal of laughter.
“If that is the least trouble he gets into in an evening I am thankful.” Anna splashed some of the contents of Pieters flask into her tea.
“Do they growl often?” Asta’s eyes were wide.
“Not often enough.” Hermione muttered under her breath. Severus let out a low rumble only she could hear. She giggled.
“Only when they are at their most troublesome,” Anna said wisely.
Asta nodded with her eyes wide. Nyssa suppressed a laugh.
“Those were the most trouble free negotiations I’ve ever heard of.” Lexi shook her head. “Mother will be amazed.”
“What did you mean, by asking for the stars back?” Hermione asked curiously.
“The Brotherhood was severely annoyed when they could not find the tower to attack when we were at war.” Nyssa said as she flopped down into a burgundy armchair and accepted a cup of tea from Severus. “So they enchanted the sky for miles around our approximate area so the stars shift at night.”
“No navigation?” Hermione asked.
“And no astronomy, astrology, divination…” Lexi took a sip from her cup. “It’s hindered us for eons.”
“And all they wanted were their stupid whales back.” Nyssa chuckled.
“I understand they were most relaxing to watch.” Viktor said as he stared into his teacup. “And quite tasty.”
Hermione made a face. “I’ll take your word for it.”
“I know there was more to it than that,” Viktor admitted. “But I have no idea what it was.”
“Well, maybe you’ll find out.” Anna patted Viktor on the head. “Now you should go home and get some rest.”
“There’s no rest for me there.” Viktor groaned. “I’m not sure I remember what sleep was like.”
“They’ll be sleeping through the night soon,” Anna said sympathetically. “Then they will be learning to walk.”
Asta snickered at Viktor’s expression.
“And talk.” Nyssa added.
“And how to create a distraction while the other is doing something naughty.” Hermione giggled, thinking about Fred and George Weasley.
“I should just surrender now and save time.” Viktor said, gathering his robes and standing up.
“We’ll see you tomorrow Viktor.” Hermione went to her old friend and gave him a hug. “Give our best to Tristan and the twins.”
“Of course.” Viktor looked at Hermione with a soft look. He kissed her on the forehead. Severus looked annoyed. “Perhaps we will have time to visit before you have to leave.”
“That would be lovely.” Hermione said. “We would love to have you before we have to return to Hogwarts.”
Viktor and the Amazons were walked to the ballroom, despite Asta’s protests and Severus and Hermione said their goodbyes while Anna slipped upstairs before Pieter began looking for her.
When the green flames died down in the fireplace Severus put an arm around Hermione’s waist.
“I think we made history tonight.” Hermione said softly.
“Hopefully, just a footnote.” Severus chuckled. “I don’t want to put up with nosy reporters and historical archivists.”
“Well, since no one knows about the pendant, I’m sure we’ll be kept out of it.”
Hermione put a hand on Severus’ shoulder to reassure him. He surprised her by swooping her up in his arms for an impromptu waltz.
He winced slightly as she flattened his toes.
“Didn’t you have to lead a dance once?” Severus chided.
“Four years ago and I took an agility potion.” Hermione sniffed. “I have more interesting things to do than flit about a dance floor.”
“We’ll see about that,” Severus said, one eyebrow arched at her. “Ball season is soon and we’ll be expected to make an appearance.”
“I don’t remember you disappearing during the winter holidays to do a bit of dancing before.” Hermione sniffed. “Harry said you always flapped about the halls and caused general discomfort.”
“Well, I wasn’t married before.” Severus looked a bit annoyed himself. “Now I’m expected to unveil you at a social event the size of the Quidditch World Cup like a prize cow.”
“Well, moo to you, too!” Hermione dropped her arms.
“You know what I mean.” Severus said testily. “It’s archaic and a waste of time.”
“You enjoyed them when you were young!” Hermione fired back. She wasn’t sure what they were arguing about at this point.
“Don’t listen to that daft elf! She wallows in nostalgia!”
“Asta showed me and you were charming.” Hermione crossed her arms.
Severus flushed. “Well, she’s daft, too.”
“Are we really going to have to do this?” Hermione asked.
“Not if we escape to France with my parents.” Severus winced. “I’d almost rather go to the balls.”
“I would think your mother would love this sort of thing.” Hermione frowned.
“Not since she’s not the youngest or prettiest anymore.” Severus snorted.
Hermione laughed. “That makes sense. So no eligible people go?”
“They can and most do,” Severus said slowly. “But it’s not necessary, especially if one is not into attending social events.”
“So you haven’t gone since…” Hermione hazarded.
“My fifth year at Hogwarts.”
“I would hardly know anyone anymore and there will be hundreds of people.”
“As many as the World Cup.”
“Perhaps that was an exaggeration, but you won’t be able to talk to many of them.” Severus said with a pained look on his face.
“They do speak Russian here, Hermione.”
Hermione looked at her husband.
He was tall and handsome. Well, at least to her he was. He looked so handsome on their wedding day. What did people wear to balls, anyway?
“Do Anna and Pieter go to the balls?”
“I have no idea if they go anymore.” Severus sighed. “But I know they’re going to France for Christmas so they’ll be missing the Christmas Ball. It’s the main event.”
“I wouldn’t put it past your mother to have something planned.” Hermione smirked.
“You have a point.” Severus gathered Hermione in his arms. “But let’s not worry about it for now.”
Hermione pushed herself away from her husband. “I could learn to dance if I wanted to.”
“I have no doubt. You excel at everything you attempt. As long as a broomstick isn’t involved.”
“I’ve heard about your broomstick abilities.” Hermione sniffed imperiously. “And they’re nothing to brag about.”
“I never said they were.” Severus frowned, bewildered.
“I mean I could learn to dance if you wanted me to.”
Severus broke out into one of his rare smiles.
“I am not refusing you a ball if you want, and I am not embarrassed to be seen with a clod footed Mudblood. I’m sure you would be the loveliest, most intelligent woman at the ball and I am proud to be married to you.”
“Alright then,” Hermione said, making a face at him.
“See.” Severus said as he kissed her forehead. “Lovely.”