“Honestly Severus,” Hermione said annoyed. “I don’t think this is necessary.”
Severus was holding a green set of winter robes and a brown fur cloak.
“I think you’ll catch a chill in that,” said Severus nodding at the brown and white striped dress she was wearing. It had no sleeves. It showed her knees. The neckline even revealed that endearing little freckle just over her-
“They’re used to clothing like this, Hermione,” said Severus grasping at straws. “With Anna so close to her time she might feel a little protective about her mate.”
“Oh,” said Hermione. “I didn’t even think of that. You’re probably right.”
“You keep me around for a reason,” said Severus, relived.
She stepped behind her changing screen. It reminded Hermione of something out of the Victorian period. It was pale cream with pink roses painted on it. Anastasia insisted on the six paneled obstruction on the grounds that the room was too masculine and needed a bit of lightening up. Hermione felt the soft material of the rug behind her changing room under her feet. It was nothing like she’d ever seen before. It was almost like cashmere, but it was an inch thick. She slipped out of the dress her mother had given her and stepped into the robes Severus had presented her with.
They were surprisingly light, although thick and seemed to be made out of a material similar to the mat beneath her feet. She rubbed the material between her fingers curiously and made a mental note to ask Severus about it later.
Severus had offered her the room, preferring his usual chamber in the manor. He had stayed in that chamber as a boy and it still had many personal things in it.
“Better?” asked Hermione stepping out from behind the screen. The robes had some form to them, but had a high collar and the hem went down to her feet.
“Much,” said Severus, holding out her cloak. She took it from him and fastened it with a brooch in the shape of a silver teardrop. “You look very nice.”
“Thank you,” said Hermione. “Are we apperating?”
“No,” said Severus. “Floo.” He pointed his wand at the unlit fireplace and flames leaped in the hearth. He walked over to the fireplace and threw in a handful of sandy brown powder. The flames changed to green and crackled loudly.
Anna jumped slightly as the flames jumped up in the hearth behind her. She smiled as her husband’s cousin stepped through the flames and gave her a small smile. She always liked it when he smiled; he was so handsome but did it so rarely it was a small thrill when he did.
Severus saw Anna put a hand to her swelled stomach and wince slightly. He ran to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Is it time?” he cried, his voice slightly high.
Anna Scowled at him. She had large brown eyes and black straight hair pulled back into a large bun. Kohl darkened her eyes and her lips were rouged. Her light brown skin seemed to shine in the firelight.
“You are as bad as Pieter,” Anna said in barely understandable English. She probably had no reason to speak English at all unless relatives came to visit. “I have done this before, you remember.” She whacked him with the wooden spoon she was holding.
Hermione giggled and Anna looked at her. She hadn’t even noticed the girl’s arrival. She was a classically pretty girl with her brown curly hair she had pulled behind her with a silver clip. Hermione smiled shyly and Anna smiled back wearily.
Anna’s kitchen was very small. Small brown tiles covered the walls floor and ceiling. Large wooden cabinets and bins lay above and below the counter that lined the walls. A large cast iron wood burning stove creaked and bubbling noises came from it. An assortment of pots rested on the top of it.
“Good,” Anna said, reaching out to take Hermiones hand and pull her closer. “You brought someone useful, for a change. Can you stir a cauldron?”
“Yes,” said Hermione receiving Anna’s friendly hug.
“Good, then you can stir a pot,” said Anna handing Hermione a wooden spoon, steering her to the stove and taking Hermione’s cloak from her. “Severus, Pieter is already into the vodka. Stop him before he begins to think he is a great singer again.”
“Does he really?” Hermione laughed stirring a pot of deep red soup. Severus hurried out of the room.
“It is horrible and the children think it is amusing and encourage him,” Anna said sitting down slowly in a wooden chair near the small wooden table. “Sometimes they join in. They sound like werewolves in pain.”
“I’m sorry,” said Hermione chuckling.
“I would not normally mind,” said Anna admittedly. “But I have been of short temper as of late.”
“I can imagine,” said Hermione nodding at Anna’s midsection.
“I think this will be the last,” said Anna. “Anymore and he’ll have his own army.” She paused. “Thank you for helping.”
“Not a problem,” Hermione said handing Anna a biscuit from a basket hanging from a hook. Anna bit into it and smiled.
“Sometimes I get so busy I forget to eat,” Anna admitted.
“Really?” Hermione asked, not surprised at all.
Anna smiled widely. She liked this girl. She would be good for Severus.
Severus shook his head as he walked into Pieter’s den. He seemed to be doing the can-can by himself as he browsed a bookshelf with a small tumbler in one hand.
“SEV-EH-UH-EH-UH-EH-UH-EH-UH!” shrieked a Tarzan yell from a corner.
“Well goodness, young man,” said Severus amused as he scooped up his young cousin. “How terrifying you are!”
“I am five,” the small child said in almost perfect English. “And my name is Misha Titov.”
“Your English is very good, Misha Titov,” said Severus. “What did you get for your birthday this year?”
“A training broom,” he began. Severus winced. “A book about the stars, a book about Quidditch and an Atlas.”
“Very exciting,” said Severus, his eyebrows raised.
“Smatrets, Misha!” said a small voice from a corner. “Bulgaria!” Misha squirmed to be put down.
“Severus!” boomed Pieter. Anna was right; he didn’t need any more vodka. “How kind of you to join us for dinner!”
Severus embraced his cousin.
“Your little ones are growing,” said Severus.
“They are five, three and two,” said Pieter proudly looking at the dark haired children piled in a corner pouring over an Atlas. “Misha, Nadja and Tatiana. So far only Misha speaks English, but the little ones are picking it up.”
“I’m sorry to have to be such a burden,” said Severus embarrassedly.
“They would learn eventually,” said Pieter dismissively. “It is a good enough reason.”
“I just never picked it up,” said Severus.
“We spoke English when you were young,” said Pieter. “There was no reason for you to learn.”
“You’re not that much older than me,” said Severus annoyed, taking Pieter’s glass away from him and taking a drink.
“Almost half a decade,” said Pieter walking over to a counter with bottles lines up on it. “Anna is almost two decades younger than me. 17 years.”
“I keep forgetting Anna is only 25,” said Severus walking over to the bottles to monitor Pieter. “She always had a lot of sense. Reminds me of a woman I know back home. She has quite a lot of children as well.” Severus poured himself some more vodka and drank.
“It is better to wed them young,” said Pieter with a twinkle in his eye. “They are willing to put up with more misbehavior and think it is attractive. Then again, you know all about that, don’t you Severus?”
“That was not why I was married to Miss Granger,” said Severus quietly. “And you know it.”
“So she is ‘Miss Granger’ now,” Pieter said loudly, laughing. “You are in denial Severus. She is fond of you. Take her and she will be yours.” He said lustily.
“Good god man,” said Severus looking over at the children in the corner.
“How do you think they got here?” asked Pieter raising his glass. Severus clinked his glass to Pieter’s.
“One can only imagine,” said Severus dryly.
Hermione sat at the table between Nadja and Severus. Pieter led a prayer in Russian and they had lifted their spoons to begin their borscht.
Nadja seemed intent on telling Hermione the events of the day and didn’t seem one bit put off that Hermione didn’t speak a word of Russian.
Tatiana stared at Hermione with large green eyes and played with her spoon most of the meal. She seemed fascinated with Hermione’s hair.
Mushrooms in sour cream and chicken followed. For desert little fruitcakes were served carefully by Misha and he sat down to play the piano in the corner of the parlor after they had retired there.
Pieter seemed to tire after dinner, sinking into a velvet couch with a pleasant smile on his face. Hermione held the glass of vodka in front of her, sipping infrequently. Anna put the girls to bed and came down to tell them she was going to bed herself, but would look forward to seeing them again soon.
Talk of Quidditch turned to fishing and Misha went to bed before long.
“Did you bring the documents?” asked Severus after it was just the three of them.
“Yes, yes,” said Pieter waving a hand at him. “There are many, though. It will take you much time to go through them.”
Pieter walked over to his desk and opened a drawer. He pushed lightly at the bottom of one of the drawers and the bottom swing up. He reached into the hidden compartment and brought out a large package wrapped in brown paper.
“Be careful with them,” said Pieter. “If they are lost-“
“Nothing will happen to them,” said Severus. “I will make sure of it.” He somehow managed to tuck the package into his robes without it showing at all.
“I also have something for you,” said Pieter to Hermione. He handed her a blue envelope that seemed to shimmer.
“What’s this?” asked Hermione.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Severus incredulously.
Hermione turned over the envelope and broke the seal, green wax with the imprint of an ivy leaf.
Madame Hermione Snape,
At the request of the English Ministry of Magic we extend an invitation to you to partake in an information exchange between our countries. Your presence would be welcomed at the Bibliothecha oo Amazon.
Madame Inessa Ladislav
“Well this certainly opens doors for us,” said Severus impressed. “The Amazons are even worse than the Brotherhood at guarding their information.”
“They seem to take the Dark Lords invasion into what they seem to see as their territory as a personal insult,” said Pieter, his eyes darkening.
“Approximate Amazon army size?” Severus asked, opening the top on the packet of papers and peeking in.
“300 strong,” said Pieter. “Could you imagine 300 insulted women looking for you?”
Severus let out a snort. Hermione giggled to herself.
“I still do not feel sorry for him, mind you,” said Pieter waving a finger at Severus as he poured more vodka in Hermione’s glass. “I am just saying it is not a place where I would want to be.”
“Indeed,” said Severus closing the end of the packet that he had been peering in. The Dark Lord may have bitten off more than he could chew, finally. He was weakened and hiding, yet managed to catch the attention of the original militant feminist organization. Not to mention the most respected elite forces unit in the world. A wild part of Severus imagined this may be entertaining to watch.
Severus and Hermione flooed back to their kitchen and Hermione set down the basket of leftovers Pieter had insisted on giving them. A house elf hopped up on a chair opposite her and Hermione jumped back into Severus.
“Cherv will take that for you, Madam,” he said.
“Thank you,” said Hermione. The elf hopped down and trotted happily into the door to the pantry with the basket.
Hermione lowered a look at Severus.
“We’ll talk in the morning,” he groaned sleepily.