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A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 28]

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Alas, the time has come to mark this story “completed”. Thank you, thank you to all my faithful readers for sharing in this tale, and for all your wonderful feedback.

There will be more from Severus and Jane, little scenes from their lives that will play out, and that I will be called upon to chronicle, here and there. I am not done with them (or Eva, or Roland, or Remus, or even little Napoleon) just yet.

And, apparently, they are not done with me.




The funny thing about the universal conception charm…it was a misnomer. It was universal for exactly five years. For five years students were charmed upon entering Hogwarts, and that charm lasted until the very moment they willfully had it removed. Some suspicious parents refused to allow their children to be charmed at all (at least 20% of Slytherin, for example). Some very repressed parents refused to allow their children to be charmed because they felt it “unnecessary,” and did not want their child to be informed about such things (only another 5% or so; the Wizarding World is a bit less repressed, thankfully, than the Muggle one).

But the universal contraception charm on the whole was thought to be a very good thing. Because no one wanted “accidental” pregnancies, did they?

Contraceptus Permanens was intended to be employed perpetually, and within the first year of its availability it was cast on most of the students at Hogwarts, and a vast number of adults as well. It was noted, however, that within five years after its inception, the rate of procreation fell precipitously. By a full 50%. The Ministry grew very concerned, and in the end it was decided that the contraception charm should be altered so that it only remained effective until the very day of the witch or wizard’s marriage.

Severus Snape, like his peers James Potter and Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black and Remus Lupin (and of course Lily Evans), was in the first class to receive that “conditional” contraception charm. Many in that class, apparently, were not fully informed that the contraception charm was no longer permanent. This was, unfortunately or no, a deliberate act on the part of the Ministry. A small conspiracy, if you will. It was thought that a few “surprise” pregnancies from newly married wizards and witches might bolster the lowered numbers of births from years past. Or perhaps the Ministry Personnel just “forgot” to inform the students and their parents.

The fact that Remus and Sirius were not charmed made no difference, as they were only interested in fucking each other. But as for James…he and Lily were the first to be made aware of the discrepancy. Both of them had been charmed, but the charm evaporated on their wedding night, unbeknownst to them. They were barely twenty years old when their son was born. Harry was no less wanted, no less cared for, but he did come as something of a surprise. They would never have planned to have a child so early, especially considering the growing threat of Voldemort, and their involvement in opposing him. No one in their right minds would knowingly bring a baby into that sort of situation.

After Lily’s pregnancy, and several others that followed in short order, the word got out quickly that the “universal contraception charm” was nothing of the kind, and it became a minor sort of scandal.

You will not be surprised to realize that the young Severus Snape missed that entirely. He was…er…rather preoccupied at the time, being a Death Eater and all. Conception, or contraception, was not uppermost in his mind. He assumed his privates were charmed, and never had a clue that this protection would disappear the very second he was wed to Jane.

As for Jane, well she too was under the assumption that she could not have a child, having been told by a doctor that due to her own internal construction she was very unlikely to get pregnant to begin with. Jane had even made an offhand comment to her lover before they were married about being infertile. To this Snape replied, “As am I, and thank goodness,” and changed the subject. Both of them thought pregnancy was impossible.

Highly unlikely would have been a better way to describe it. They had been married for more than seven years when in the middle of the most beautiful August in Penzance in memory, Jane spent the first part of the month throwing up, and suffering from general exhaustion.

Snape was sympathetic but a bit put out, and for what seemed to him good reason. You see their sex life, though hardly impoverished, had diminished over the past few years when they spent their time at Hogwarts. She never refused him, and he never refused, but for whatever reasons they made love perhaps three times a week. This was a perfectly respectable number of times for a couple of their age, considering the length of time they’d been married, but for years, they made love at least once a day.

Whenever they came to Penzance, however, they were newlyweds again. They’d screwed madly every day since they arrived, sometimes twice, even when Remus and Winslow visited (though Snape had to cast Silencio on Jane, who was incapable of muffling herself). Jane particularly had been insatiable for him, and as her need for him had always been the spark for his own for her, he’d spent the entire summer well-fucked, well-fed, free of students, and maddeningly (though unadmittedly) happy.

At least until this illness. After a few days of Jane looking absolutely green, her husband sat her down and pulled a couple of strands of her hair, and scraped a bit of skin from her elbow.

“It’s some sort of summer flu…” she insisted, as he gently eased the dead skin from her elbow with the edge of a sharp knife.

“It will take me about half an hour to figure out what’s wrong with you,” Snape told her. “I’ll need to be left undisturbed until then. We can decide after that if you need a Muggle physician or a Mediwizard.”

He then retreated into the second bedroom (which had years before become his summer laboratory).

Well, Severus Snape did not emerge for a long time. He’d conjured the result after a mere 2 minutes, but he spent the next two hours checking and rechecking, doing more tests, and murmuring “not possible, not possible…”

It was not possible that she could be with child. For the love of God she was nearly forty, and he forty-five, far too old for such nonsense. She was supposed to be infertile anyway, he seemed to recall, and even if she wasn’t he was still under the influence of Contraceptus Permanens.

Wasn’t he? Something clicked in his brain then, some past half-fraction of a memory. His throat seemed to fall into his stomach, then, and he collapsed against his table in a rumpled heap.

“DAMN!” he shouted.

From the other side of the door, Jane jumped about a foot. Shaken by his long absence, she was already beginning to imagine herself the unfortunate bearer of many different, equally unpleasant and possibly fatal diseases. When she heard his frustrated cry, her heart practically stopped, and though ordinarily she knew better than to disturb him, she rushed into the room without knocking.

“What’s wrong, Severus? Tell me!”

He didn’t answer, but only pursed his lips angrily and looked away.

She began to plead with him. “Please, for God’s sake!”

But he only sat there, furious, his lips pressed into a thin line.

Her heart was pounding heavily in her chest, now. “What’s wrong with me, Severus? Tell me!”

She was on the verge of tears before he answered.

“What’s wrong?” he shouted at last, “What’s wrong? You are with child, that’s what’s wrong!”

Jane blinked at him, uncomprehending. “What?”

“You’re…you’re…pregnant!” He said the last word as if it horrified him. Because it did.

“That’s…that’s not possible!” Jane stammered.

Snape stood, so quickly and so violently that he toppled the chair he’d been sitting on. “Do you doubt my findings?” he demanded angrily. It was not her fault, and he knew that, but she was the one that was pregnant. It seemed correct somehow to be angry with her.

His wife shook her head. “No, Severus, I just…I just…”

But she had no opportunity to reply further, because at that very moment Severus Snape stormed out of the cottage, not to return until nightfall.

That sounds harsh, does it not? Snape leaving his pregnant wife, alone to ponder her surprising fate, as he walked aimlessly through Penzance, scowling at everything and everyone. He had not even bothered to change into his Muggle clothing, and thus was something of a sight.

But Severus Snape did not want to be a father. Though he was an extremely efficient educator, he did not particularly like children, and he did not think he would be any good at taking care of them. Plus, he wanted his wife to himself. Jane was supposed to be his, his only. Mind, body, heart, and soul. And so she had been. And the past seven years of happiness with her since their marriage had made up tenfold for every misery he had endured in the nearly forty years before. He did not want some messy, squealing infant wiggling in between that bond, taking precedence over him (as no doubt it necessarily would), and he was honest enough to admit that to himself.

When he returned, hours later, he could see she had been crying. As for Jane, she had not gone after him, but she did immediately make a voyage to the chemist’s. The rest of her afternoon had been spent veering from intense worry about her husband and her marriage, to wondering how this had happened considering her own supposed infertility, to thinking about the tiny bean in her belly, growing arms and legs and a face and who would the little bean look like, her or her husband? She had never dared to hope for a child.

What had gotten her crying was thinking her husband would demand she get rid of it. She did not think she could bear that. But worse would be bringing a child into the world that the father did not want. She could bear that even less.

“Severus…” she began, as soon as he came through the door, “if you are opposed to fatherhood I won’t inflict it upon you against your will. I can have it taken care of. I can…”

“Stop,” he ordered forcefully. Then, a bit more softly, “You’ll do nothing of the kind.”

For though the thought of being a father horrified him, the thought of pressuring Jane to end the pregnancy was even more disturbing. Because he knew when he first looked into her eyes that she wanted the child. She wanted it because it was his, theirs together. Having his baby was a wish beyond imagining. She wanted it because she loved him. She loved him more than her own life. He saw that in her eyes as well.

He sighed. If it was what Jane wanted then he would have to endure it. And do the best he could not to smother the squalling brat in its sleep.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to…” she asked, still crying, unable to finish the sentence.

“Hush, Jane,” he said, gently this time. “I am as sure of this as I am of anything. I would not ask you to do such a thing, and should you take it upon yourself on my behalf I don’t think I would forgive you. I am neither worthy of nor prepared to endure such a sacrifice.”

He could see she wanted to come to him, wanted him to hold her. But he was not ready. He made no move toward her, nor did he encourage her to embrace him.

“It will take me a bit of time to get used to the idea of a child,” he said stiffly, “as I do not want to share you even with that sorry bird of yours. I ask you to be patient with me.”

Jane nodded, her face flooding with relief. “I will,” she insisted, rubbing at her eyes with the backs of her hands. “I promise. I won’t even talk about it.”

Snape went up to his laboratory, then, and did not come to bed until the light had been off in their bedroom for a long, long, time. When he slid into bed next to her, though she was turned away from him, he knew instinctively that she was still not yet asleep. He could tell from the wet sound of her breathing she had again been crying again as well.

He put his hand on her hip, gently, and she turned, sliding herself into his arms, still crying. He pulled her to him at last and held her close.

“I am not used to the idea of a child yet, Jane…” he whispered. “I am, however, quite used to the idea of you…”

Still, though Snape accepted his fate, they spoke directly about the pregnancy only once before Jane went into labor, and that was midway through, near Halloween. Jane had taken that Friday afternoon off for an “appointment” (which Snape understood as a trip to some sort of medical professional), and she did not return until after supper. Usually Snape asked something vague after one of her “appointments,” as in “I assume your appointment went well”. Jane always answered vaguely as well, as in “quite well, thank you.”

This time, however, when she came back to their rooms, and Snape asked (his eyes hidden behind the Prophet), Jane did not answer. He looked up, only to see her staring at a sheaf of student parchments, clutched in her hand.

“Jane?” he prodded. It surprised him how suddenly worry for her ignited in his chest. Was it also worry for the child? He could not tell.

“Jane?”

His wife clutched the papers harder, and sat herself down heavily on the sofa. She still would not look at him.

Finally, she looked up, and met her husband’s eyes.

Snape’s heart leapt to his throat.

No. No no no no no. Oh good Christ, no.

Jane nodded. “Twins,” she whispered.

Snape bellowed so loudly that Remus Lupin, leading an evening study session with several Gryffindor, heard him all the way from the Great Hall. Lupin quickly excused himself to go and see if he was particularly needed, or even welcome. He had not heard Severus Snape bellow like that for…well, ever.

He knocked tentatively at their door. Jane opened it, looking harrowed.

“Is everything quite al…”

“TWINS!” Snape bellowed again. “TWINS!”

Of course Remus Lupin broke into a broad smile, a smile that was tamped out quite quickly by the frantic look on Jane’s face.

“TWINS!” Snape shouted again, beginning to grow quite red in the face, now.

Jane looked at Remus Lupin desperately, mouthing “take him, please,” and Severus Snape found himself hustled quite quickly out of Hogwarts and to the Three Broomsticks, where the mere look on his face as he entered sent every student flying from the inn entirely.

Must you do that?” asked Rosmerta, irritated.

“TWINS!” Snape bellowed again, pounding the bar. Winslow coughed, and turned away, hiding his mirth. Rosmerta blinked, then merely looked at Snape rather smugly.

“Serves you right,” she said, whereupon Snape growled at her. Then she left the inn entirely as well.

It took quite awhile, and several glasses of whiskey, to calm Snape down completely.

“Twins!” was all Remus Lupin could get out of him. Finally, he stopped saying anything at all. Snape passed out with his face plastered to the bar, and he stayed in Hogsmeade that night, only returning in the morning, when his drunken binge and a stern talking-to from Remus had rendered him a bit more civil.

Now, being a bastard was quite a point of pride in the case of Severus Snape, and in this case again he did not disappoint. But do not judge him too harshly. His very anxiety was the proof he took his responsibility seriously. He did not want even one child, yet he would have two. Two he would have to care for, and support, and raise correctly to adulthood, when he would just as soon have not had them to begin with.

It was a great kindness to his wife was that he never voiced these concerns. The greater kindness was that in his own way, during that time he managed to take care of her as best he could. There was no discussion of the pregnancy, but he saw to it she ate well, and saw as well to her comfort whenever she seemed to be in need. He was there for her, quietly and surely, before she herself even knew what she wanted.

Jane’s pregnancy from then on was uneventful, until the moment her water broke. Birth is not an easy process, and as her conversations with her husband about her pregnancy had been vague, he had no idea how Jane intended to have their children. He considered it none of his business. Jane had been determined to tell him no more than he wished to know, and he had never asked.

Part of this was because he was trying, even as his wife’s stomach grew, to forget the fact that his children were in there, and would eventually come out. But Snape was also a logical fellow. He had done his research, and he knew that modern medicine, Muggle and non-Muggle, had rendered the birthing process safe, and with the correct medication, even virtually painless. Jane would be fine, as would the contents of her belly. He assumed that when the time came he would escort her to Hogsmeade and Apparate her directly to the hospital of her choice, whereupon she would be restricted to her bed and medicated. She need not suffer, or even remember the event.

He assumed wrong. He had no suspicion that his wife would actually decide to choose a home birth, with a Muggle midwife. His wife only informed him of this when she was already deep into labor, much of which Snape (conveniently for her) had slept through. She was eight hours in when she fastened an owl to Napoleon’s leg, an owl containing a message to Minerva McGonagall to go and fetch the midwife from Edinburgh. The contractions were three minutes apart by then.

Well, Severus Snape was absolutely shocked, and he fell into a rage, threatening to drag her to Hogsmeade and Apparate her against her will to a hospital if she did not relent.

Jane, however, was adamant. She endured his ranting for a bit, preparing the bed with thick, absorbent linen and doing some last minute fussing as he shouted. She was attempting to ignore him, which only made him rant harder.

This, of course, was no help at all.

Finally, when he paused to catch his breath, she put her hands on her hips and said simply, “You can stay by my side, or you can leave and come back when it’s over. I will not hold the latter choice against you. What I will hold against you is you bellowing at me while I’m trying to birth your children! Now if you yell at me again, I’m going to have Minerva and Remus escort you out and not let you back in until the twins are in grammar school!”

Now, truthfully there was no way Remus and Minerva could have escorted him anywhere, if Snape had been rock-bound to stay. But the look in his wife’s eyes quieted him.

Severus Snape held his tongue, and he stayed.

And when his daughters were born, two identical girls, one after the other, if you had looked at his face, you would have not seen an expression of awe, or love. You would have seen a man wearing the horrified expression of someone forced to stare at a slow-motion motorcar accident.

He nearly fainted. Nearly. He had to steady himself on the mantle.

Still, despite their father's ranting and horrified dismay, the babies themselves let out not one cry at being born. But Snape saw their tiny arms swaying up and back, and finally he found himself moving closer, propelled more than anything else by simple curiosity. What he saw as the midwife bound them up was two heads covered with shocks of black, black hair, like his, and two tiny faces set in frowns. He saw these beings, his daughters, who from the first were all silent and serious and dark, just like him.

Severus Snape merely tilted his head and stared at them.

Jane said nothing, exhausted and thoroughly overwhelmed. But the midwife raised her eyebrow and looked at him. She had heard all about the Potions professor, though it was her older brother that had been the wizard in the family. Yes, she knew all about Severus Snape.

She gave a little sniff, and looked at Jane.

“Nothing but an incubator, you were,” she announced. “If they weren’t girls, they could be his clones.”

This seemed to break Snape’s reverie, and he folded his arms across his chest. “Get out,” he intoned.

The midwife looked at Jane, who nodded, and then she moved to the door. “I’ll be in the Great Hall, and I will return promptly in one hour,” she pronounced.

“Get out,” Snape said again.

The midwife complied, as Snape moved closer to his wife, hovering over her now.

She would not look at him. She looked only at their daughters, who were now nursing hungrily at her breasts. The four of them stayed that way for a long time; Snape looming over his wife, his mouth slightly agape, and Jane looking down at her newborn girls. And the girls sucking hungrily on their mother.

Snape knew not what to think save that his children were small, and looked far too breakable for his liking. Still, what was to be done? They were here. They were his. He must deal with them.

After a good long while the girls detached themselves, and wriggled a bit, looking up and around and seeming finally to stare right at their father.

“Do you think they’re all right?” Jane asked, finally. “Could you examine them, make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be?”

Snape shook his head, and backed away slightly. “I don’t think…I wouldn’t know…” he began.

“Just look them over,” Jane prodded, “I thought I saw eleven toes on this one.”

“Ridiculous…” Snape said dismissively, but he moved closer again as Jane placed the babies on the bed beside her.

Scowling, he unwrapped them, his eyes impossibly large. Then he counted. No, everything was there, on both of them, and where it was supposed to be.

He noticed when he was done counting that though it was chilly in the room, neither girl made a fuss. They just pulled their arms into their chests and scowled right back at their father. He found himself impressed by their restraint.

Then one made an affronted noise. The other one kicked at him.

They were not cowed by him, it seemed. Snape admired that, though he thought it did not bode well. Scowling babies became scowling little girls, and how would he make them mind if they were not afraid of him? They must do as their father said. He knew what was best.

It did not occur to him yet that they would obey him because they would grow to love and respect him. It did not occur to him either that that he would never ask more than what was fair and necessary, because he loved and respected them as well.

He only saw those two scowling little faces, unafraid of him or the entire wide world. And after staring at them for awhile, at last he looked at his wife and raised one dark eyebrow.

“More trouble than they’re worth, I’m sure,” he said. Then, he smiled.

Jane looked down again, overwhelmed with relief. For though she was not a Legilimens, she knew Severus Snape. And she saw in his eyes that he indeed would accept and love his children, not just for her, but for themselves.

“Trouble, yes,” she said, looking at her husband, now, and smiling at him in turn. “But just like their father, never more than they’re worth.”

Snape chuckled softly for awhile, still smiling, then he merely set himself at the foot of the bed, watching quietly, as his wife his daughters fell into a much needed sleep.

A More Merciful Man by Berkana [Reviews - 28]

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