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His mum tapped Zev's forehead, right at the temple. "Sickle for'em, luv."

Zev laughed softly. "Just daydreaming."

She wasn't appeased. "'Bout?"

Zev wasn't sure what was holding him back from saying something. He generally told his mum everything, had from the time she'd found him in a cupboard, stewing in his own petulance at her ministrations to the other children at wereworld. Finally he settled on asking a question that would most likely reveal what he was thinking about, but also get at the heart of some of why it was eating at him so deeply. "Do...d'you ever mind not being able to go out on an anniversary date? Or go to a museum with Remus? That kind of thing."

She squeezed her eyes nearly shut for a moment and then opened them to consider him. "'Course I do. Just...being with Remus more than compensates."

"But you're..." and though it wasn't eloquent, Zev knew, this was the heart of the issue, "you're you."

She laughed then. "Thanks, I'm sure."

"You know what I mean. You started this place. We don't scare or bother you."

"Zev."

"You know the girl I introduced you to, Lorraine?"

There weren't many girls that Zev introduced so it only took his mum a minute to ask,
"The one who works with you?"

"That one."

"Sure," she paused, "pretty."

Which was one of the reasons why (among so very many) Zev loved the woman who'd given him the right to call her mum. Lorraine was one of the miniscule number of pre-Hogwarts age muggle-born children who had survived Voldemort's massacre. She had survived at the cost of both her parents, her left arm, and a scar that ran diagonally from the right side of her chin over the left of her cheek, narrowly missing her eye and taking part of the left ear with it. Despite this, his mum was absolutely correct. Lorraine was pretty. Most people just didn't see it. Couldn't. "She asked if I was interested in having dinner with her."

His mum smiled, and Zev could tell she didn't want to from the way she turned her head slightly away from him. "Yes, and?"

In the same way that Zev (and most of the people at wereworld, for that matter) had no trouble looking at Lorraine without flinching, when their job had needed him to work on a project with someone, work in a way that would involve time spent in the same room, Lorraine had volunteered without even asking for compensation. The first day they'd had to meet up, he'd waited for her at the Apparition spot and was planning on taking her to his room so that she wouldn't have to be in the midst of all the other werewolves, but she'd asked, "Hey, don’t I merit a tour?"

She had, so Zev had taken her on one and she'd said hello to everyone they'd met and shook their hands and acted like it was just another day at the office. She was good at what they did, creative, intelligent and funny and Zev... "I want," Zev pulled his mum's face back to where she was looking at him, "I want to say yes."

She curved her hand over his cheekbone. "But?"

"Feels selfish."

She laughed then, again, affectionate and secretive and Zev asked, "What?"

"Just, you're so much like Remus some of the time."

Zev struggled for a calm tone rather than the ecstatic one that wanted to pull free. "I'm like Remus?"

"We used to fight about this all the time. Back when this place first opened and we were practically as new as it was, hardly even acknowledging what we were... There are things worth making sacrifices for, Zev. And if she asked, and you like her enough to be thinking about saying yes, then I suspect she's smart enough to have thought at least the first set of consequences through. Yes?"

"You think I should say yes, then?"

His mum kissed his forehead. "I want you happy."

Zev leaned in for another kiss.

*

Zev begged seasonal flowers off Redda, who had a soft spot for him anyway, but wouldn't give them over without telling him, "No sex on the first date, whelp."

Given Redda's maternal tendencies, Zev had long thought of her as a grandmother. He blushed. "Not up for discussion."

Redda gave him the flowers anyway. He knew she would. He took them out to the Apparition spot, checking at least three more times that there were no obvious stains or spots on his robes. Potions work was rife with robe-damage-causing incidents and Zev was hard-pressed to understand how it was that Severus managed to stay so immaculate. He'd asked, back when he'd had the audacity to ask Severus anything, and it had been one of the first times he'd managed to draw the man up short. Severus had blinked several times before saying, in that faintly superior way he had when he was bluffing, "Diligence and care, something very few people know about in these times."

Zev was diligent but only haphazardly careful, so while he was still hale and hearty, many of his robes were less so. Even on the third check, though, this one held up to the test, and by the time he reached the spot wherein he was supposed to meet Lorraine, the only thing he had to be nervous about was...well, everything but his robes.

He was early and spent a few minutes contemplating the trees that lined the grounds. Zev had never been fond of anything that kept him in its boundaries but those trees were infinitely better than the walls of St. Mungo's. Despite his best efforts, he remembered those all too well. Zev had reached out to touch ever-so-cautiously at the bark of one of the boundary trees when Lorraine CRACKED into existence.

She smiled. "I'm early."

He held out the flowers. "Earlier."

She took them, the magically animated limb that replaced the missing one just a touch less easy in the motion than her original one would have been. "Wow, fresh cut geraniums. And marigolds. I love it." She tucked one of the marigolds into the mess of near-black hair piled atop her head. The do was a bit more fancy than the way she wore it down, clipped off her face when at work. Zev noticed it still covered her ears.
"So, uh." Zev rolled his eyes. "Right, you want to come in?"

"That'd be nice."

Because it wasn't company time and Zev wasn't getting paid to be with her, he figured this was as good a moment as any to ask questions that had been piling up in his mind. "What's it like at the office?"

The question obviously wasn't what she was expecting, as she wrinkled her nose a little bit in what Zev had learned to read as surprise. "Erm. I suppose it's like work. I mean, there's cubbies and what not. And sometimes you spend too much time chatting with the others over coffee and sometimes everyone's cross, so you hide away. It's... I mean, I guess if I couldn't leave here I'd always want to know what something else was like, but I much prefer coming out here to work with you. Much prefer."

"With the exception of the odd field-trip, I haven't left this place in nearly ten years."

"Then I would suggest," Lorraine said, with no small hint of wry frustration in her voice, "that your main problem is the allure of the unknown. Because trust me, what’s out there? It's not much."

"It's not that I don't like it here," Zev said, because he loved wereworld. Zev remembered all too clearly things before its existence. Zev even remembered, with a sickening pitch of shock every time it came to him, his parents reaction to the bite, their sending him away. To a certain extent, he knew what was out there. Every once in a while, it still called. "I just get restless."

Lorraine snickered. "I like that in a boy."

Zev thought he'd wait a good long while before introducing this one to Severus.

*

She kissed him goodnight. Zev was going to, honestly, her mouth being just about the most inviting thing he'd seen in years, but she beat him to it. Granted, this was most likely not hard. Zev had been cautious about initiating touch in anyone besides his mum, Remus, and Severus since his first set of parents had made it abundantly clear that everything about him -- fingers on in -- was diseased. This didn't seem to worry Lorraine, who leaned in slightly (she was only a bit shorter than Zev, nearly his height, which was convenient) and pressed her lips to his, slipped him just the shortest spot of tongue and then said, "Well, brilliant, see you on Monday," before disappearing with a somewhat shocking although not exactly unexpected CRACK.

Zev wanted to yell, "Wait, I can do better," but she was probably back in her "permanently disheveled flat in Surrey," (as she had described her place of habitation at some point) by the time he found the presence of mind to do so.

Zev walked back slowly, too restless to head immediately back to his rooms. Instead he swung up to the library, thinking to find Abel, who was studying to sit proxy university exams in Transfigurations. Abel was hoping to study the actual effects of the transformation on the body and see if he could lessen the damage, particularly as a werewolf's body aged.

Abel was around but his head was tucked into his arms and from the rhythm of his breathing, Zev was pretty sure he was asleep. As Zev was not entirely positive of when the last time Abel had actually slept was, he decided that the friendly thing to do was not to wake him. Zev was creeping out of the library when a voice caught his attention. "How'd it go then?"

Zev made his way in the direction of the voice and sat down at the table to which Remus was currently laying claim. He seated himself at one of the other chairs. "In her spare time, she's been working on a project involving widening the potential uses of dragon's blood by way of subsidiary ingredients."

Remus grinned. "Probably the only girl in the world you could actually bring home to Severus." Something like worry crossed his face. "That's not why you said yes, is it?"

Zev rolled his eyes. "It's evidently passed your notice that I'm somewhat like Severus."

"No, but I try not to think about it much."

"Yeah. Erm."

Remus propped his chin in both hands. "Anything else?"

Zev gave one last hopeful glance at Abel's still mostly prone form. Nothing. "She kissed me goodnight."

This announcement produced a glimmer of mischief from the other participant in the conversation. "Any good?"

"Remus."

"You can't be dating a woman who doesn't know how to kiss. It will end in suffering and the bemoaning of your fate. Trust me in this, I'm older and wiser."

"And your long dating history of three people plus or minus a few one nighters inspires confidence in me that this is something you would know."

"You're falling down in your filial duty by pointing out to me that you even know that information."

Zev pulled his straightest face. "I'm a bad son."

Remus sighed his very best put-upon sigh. Zev, having heard it before, was not impressed. All the same, mostly because in the end, Remus was never irresponsible with information he was given, Zev said, "She tasted like buttercream frosting."

"Did you have cake for dessert?"

Zev shook his head.

"Oh," Remus said. "Oh. That's nice."

Zev smiled and had to look away. Remus always saw too much.

*

"Do you really know Severus Snape?" Lorraine leaned in, as though they were gossiping, and Zev supposed it could go that way eventually.

"I thought you went to Hogwarts."

Lorraine straightened back up. "Really? I mean, I've never talked about..."

Zev stood. "I've never really asked."

Lorraine looked up at him. "Yeah, one of the things I rather like about you."

Zev held out a hand. "C'mon, there's a couch in my rooms. If that's all right?"

She took the hand. "Perfectly."

Zev lead the way and she clasped her fingers just a bit more tightly around his. "Salem. The institute. I was sent to be raised by my maternal grandparents after The Massacre, and they lived in Baltimore, Maryland. They moved up to Salem for me, though. Americans aren't real big on sending their children to boarding schools. Grandmother still lives there, planning festivals and sending people scattering in fear of her organizational skills. Grandfather died a few years back. Emphysema. Smoked like a chimney that one. I still miss him. Maybe more than I miss my parents sometimes. I don't admit that very often."

By the time she stopped speaking they were in Zev's room and settled on his couch, the big down-filled one that had been his second purchase when his salary first started rolling in to his own account. The first had been the bed, also large and down-filled. Zev would easily admit to having issues of warmth and comfort. Zev seated himself so that his body was turned toward hers. He said, "I don't even miss my real parents at all anymore."

"Yes but they just-" She stopped and blushed. "Wow. Tactful."

"They just got rid of me," Zev finished for her. "It's fine. My mum and Remus far and away made up for it. And Severus, of course."

"You say that now."

"Well," Zev ducked his head, "yes."

"It was bad at first, then?"

Of all the blessings that Zev had ever silently bestowed on people, the most fervent had always been, may you never know the rejection of those whom you thought loved you. Those who were supposed to love you. "I thought I would die."

Lorraine touched her scar where it ran into her ear. "Me too."

Zev scooped in and kissed at the spot where her fingers met ill-healed skin. "I'm sorry."

She turned her mouth to his. "I survived."

Zev took her in at that close a vantage and nodded slightly. "Yes."

She pushed him back just a little bit, to where she could look at him and see more than one feature. She said, "So. I guess that means you do know Severus Snape?"

Zev laughed. "I'm pretty sure I could even arrange an introduction."

*

Zev popped his head into his parents's room. He was pretty sure he'd seen Severus slip through the doors earlier that evening and up the stairs. He wasn't incorrect. His mum was sitting in between Severus and Remus at the table where the three often worked in tandem silence together. Things were silent, but there was no scribbling of quills, Remus wasn't murmuring over some text, Severus wasn't growling at papers. Zev asked, "Bad time?"

His mum turned to grin at him. "No, luv, come in."

"Min," this from Remus, and it was more a gasp than anything else. Zev couldn't read
pleasure or displeasure in it.

She turned her gaze back into Remus and Severus. "There a problem?"

Severus stood, sweeping her up from the chair and kissing her. Zev closed his eyes and opened them slowly, tilting his head to each side to make sure that the vision didn't turn into something else from a different angle. It didn't. Severus set her back completely on her feet, soothing her hair, now entirely mussed. Zev thought he was saying something, Severus had a way of talking through silence.

Now thoroughly worried, given that Severus was not and had never been a particularly openly physical person, Zev said, "Honestly, I can come back."

His mum peered around Severus. "I'm pregnant, Zev."

Zev couldn't help it, his eyes flew to her stomach. "Pregnant?"

Severus lifted an eyebrow. "With child, supporting a human fetus, baking a scone-"

Remus burst into laughter. "Severus, for the love of all things not-so-holy."

"He seemed to be having problems understanding," Severus said, innocence writ large across his face.

It clicked then, and Zev bounded toward his mum. "Oh! Brilliant!" It was his turn then to swing her up in his arms, a task which had gotten considerably easier as years passed. "How long, I mean, when is he-she-it due?"

"We're going to call the baby she for the moment," his mum said with the air of a decision just made, "and she's due in about eight months." Small pause as her hand went to cover Severus's. "I wanted to make sure."

Severus nodded slightly. Remus sidled up behind the two of them and slung his arms around their waists. Settling his chin atop one of his wife's shoulders, he focused on Zev. "There was something you needed?"

Zev laughed. "Well, that sort of relieved the pressure of it all. My announcement is rather unexciting put next to that."

"Does it involve this girl who's seen fit to attach herself to you?" Severus asked, his face going cool.

"I've done a fair bit of attaching myself," Zev said back, completely unperturbed. He had long since realized that Severus was waiting around for Guinevere herself to come riding past the Apparition wards to marry Zev. It was sweet, in an overbearing and oftentimes bastard-like way. "And yes, it does. Lorraine would like to meet you. All of you, though she's met mum. She's particularly interested in you, Severus, despite my best attempts to steer her clear." This Zev smiled at, an edged smile that he'd learned at the hands and wand of Severus himself.

"I suppose you'll expect me to be pleasant?" Severus's expression was evidently intent on causing day old milk to curdle.

Zev waved a hand. "Far be it from me to expect that. Besides, I think giving her a false sense of how things really are around here would be cruel, don't you agree?"

His mum stifled a laugh. "Excellent point, love."

Remus straightened his face as best he could. "Indeed."

Severus relented. "Dinner sometime next week?"

"Thursday." Zev left no room for argument.

"I will see if I can clear my-"

Zev cut Severus off. "Nineteen hundred, my rooms." He kissed his mum on the cheek, "Congratulations," sweeping his fingers over Severus's elbow even as he said it, a tacit acknowledgment that it was meant for him as well. That there was no real animosity between them.

Remus nodded at Zev as he straightened. Zev nodded back and flew while the fleeing was good.

*

Zev had been slightly concerned that Lorraine, who didn’t tend much toward the heavily melodramatic, might break that streak when it came to Severus. As he had noticed her having a slight hero-worship complex. Zev understood from the different newspapers and journals he read that this wasn’t terribly unusual in people who worked with Potions. Severus had something of a name for himself.

Zev shouldn’t have worried. Lorraine had an ability, among others, to read people well. She had said, once, with shielded eyes, “Melding’s important out there.” He didn’t doubt it.

She brought ginger snaps for Remus, Fortescue’s double licorice twist for Hermione, and Dragon’s Breath Cordial for Severus. Zev was actually slightly envious of all three gifts, but his mum was generally willing to share what came to her. Lately, though, he was a bit afraid to ask, with her being ravenous twenty-three out of twenty-four daily hours. Besides which, it was really Severus’s gift he coveted, given that it had uses both as a drink and a potion ingredient. Of course.

Remus pulled a chair out for Lorraine. She thanked him and sat down. Zev said to Severus, “Help me carry the dishes up?”

Severus took the hint gracefully, as Zev had suspected he would. Not wanting to push his luck, Zev didn’t say anything as they were making their way to the kitchens. Severus with his usual brusqueness, asked, “How did she come by the scars?”

“Muggle-born Massacre.”

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Survivor?”

“You did shake her hand.” Zev knew he was being petulant but didn’t feel able to stop the emotion. He had learned to deal with Severus’s withholding of approval and emotion, which didn’t mean there weren’t times when it caused him to want to rip his hair out. Or Severus’s.

“Excellent choice of gifts,” was all Severus gave in response to that, not even changing his voice in response to Zev’s obvious edginess.

Zev understood, drew in a calming breath. “She asked to meet you.”

“An admirer?”

Marissa had left six dishes with a note, for the vetting. Zev sighed and picked two up, levitating a third. “She’s used your papers on deconstructive work theory to springboard some practicals on dragon’s blood. It’s been a huge help to her.”

Severus picked up the rest of the plates. “I wrote most of that theory before I was even certified.”

“She knows. She says that’s how you can tell who’s really going to be worth something. If where he starts is solid.”

“Do you believe her?” Severus asked. Zev thought he might be asking a wholly different question.

“She’s not much for lies. Not even pretty ones.” That was something Zev only learned to value through Severus. Remus and his mum had their own ways of honesty, but Severus’s was by far the most brutal. Zev might not have always liked it but he’d never once not appreciated it. He suspected it was part of what made Lorraine feel so right.

Severus stopped. “I. I wouldn’t want to ruin this-“

Zev cut him off. “If you can then there is no this.”

"While your loyalty is and always has been appreciated-"

"You’ve been my teacher, guide, mentor, guardian, proto-father since the day mum actually let you near me." Zev had long since heard that story. Long since stored it away in the annals of information that he was constantly building around the complex trio of parents the world had seen fit to send him. “Next to that, she’s just a pretty girl I met at work, all right?”

Severus nodded after a long moment. "All the same, I shall endeavor to…make this trial one of more ease than anyone seems to expect."

Zev said, "I love you," and knocked on the door to his rooms with an elbow in order to spare Severus the strain of having to react.

*

"You’re looking for medicinal qualities in dragon’s blood?" To his credit, Severus asked the question without sounding entirely incredulous.

Lorraine wrinkled her nose. "That’s pretty much the general response. Not very encouraging, but things that kill can often cure as well. There are very few properties as strong as the blood of a Ridgeback or an Opaleye, I think there's some merit in exploring what's never been looked into before."

Zev continued eating in order to mask his smile. For one thing, Severus was responding well to her self-confidence. For another, he was seriously considering the premise. Lorraine probably had no idea, and for both their sakes Zev figured he'd allow them to puzzle that out by themselves. He couldn't help catching his mum's eye and sharing a bit of an impish look. She was obviously in the exact same place he was, if the look she shared back was any evidence.

Severus cut neatly into a baked squash. "Have you read Organicus's Treatise on Reversal of Properties?"

Lorraine half-smiled. Zev could see her biting at one cheek. "That was the first thing Zev suggested."

"Reassuring to know something I taught him has endured the long years." Severus drew the statement out, droll and despairing.

Zev laughed. "Nah, it's just that's the one Potions text mum actually likes."

The woman accused winked at Zev and said, "Not getting in the middle of this."

Not to be left out, Remus didn't hesitate to join in, "Min likes a Potions text?"

Severus didn't wait for the air to go cold. "Her and the rest of the thinking world."

"Yes, us poor feeling cretins must do without." Remus did a fair imitation of going into a deep lament. Severus sighed. Zev just kept at his food. It was the safest option. He kept an eye out for Lorraine, who copied him. Total keeper.

Zev's mum rolled her eyes. "You know I only read it after it became apparent that everything coming out of Zev’s mouth for at least a month had been in reference to that book. I needed context. And also, you have nobody but yourself to blame for my relative blindness in terms of Potions texts."

"Or myself to thank for your basic knowledge of the discipline." Severus wasn't one to give in easily.

"That's it, glass-half-full type lad that one is." Remus fair snorted at this assessment. Hermione had the sense to elbow him before breaking out into laughter. Severus, sensing his defeat completed, returned to his food.

With a beautiful sense of the politic, Lorraine said, "If you'd be willing to look at my notes, I'd be entirely grateful. Your sixth sense in the field is well-regarded and I could use an extra set of eyes. No hurry, of course, it's all extra-curricular for me anyway. The job couldn't care less if I were to cure lycanthropy." She paused, realizing what she'd said. "Although, I do think they'd prefer to have Zev actually coming into the office."

Zev watched Remus blink at her casual dismissal of something that he was used to being an overwhelming issue. He was pretty sure Severus had seen it too, as his answer was a relatively mild, "I've not much time, but should you owl me the papers, I could give them a glance, I'm sure."

"Brilliant." Lorraine took another bite of the chicken and said, "Honestly, remind me to kiss Marissa before I leave. I'd be wasting away if I hadn't started dating you, I swear."

Zev couldn't even find it in himself to be bothered by this seeming ulterior motive.

*

Zev stumbled back into his room, flushed from his mum ruffling his hair, kissing at his forehead and saying, "Good choice, love," and Remus giving him a "go for it" sign with all ten fingers that Zev was only partially sure he'd interpreted correctly, and Severus nodding in silent agreement with his wife. Lorraine considered him and evidently decided against asking. Instead she said, "You have nice parents."

She sounded like she meant it, so Zev said, "The best."

"Your mum's..." she looked away, glancing at the signed, framed Puddlemere poster, "lucky."

Her voice was low as she said it and Zev purposely didn't think about what that portended. "They all are. That's how it works."

Lorraine pulled her eyes away from the poster. Before she could say anything, Zev grinned, "I could probably wrangle introductions of Oliver Wood and Katie Bell too, if that's where you were going."

"Not that I'd turn the offer down," she took a step toward him, "but I was actually going to say that I could stay. Tonight. If you were so inclined to have me."

Zev didn't have to think too terribly much about that. "Very inclined."

"Yeah?" She seemed surprised.

It gave Zev pause. "Yeah, of course. I mean, that's what we're doing, isn't it, getting to that moment? I just introduced you to my family."

Something about that struck her as amusing, because she laughed, and if it was tinged with bitterness, not enough so that Zev wasn't caught up in the sound. "You've had sex before?"

Zev blinked. "Yeah. Um, I mean. I'm not the world's foremost expert, or anything, but yeah." Despite his attention to the conversation, Zev's textile memory washed over him, the feel of Ellen, whom he'd been with for his last two years of secondary school biting at his neck, tickling at his elbow, of Violet, whom he'd messed around with for stress relief his first year in the certification program, tasting the skin at the tips of his fingers. "I mean, you've-"

She cut him off with a shake of her head. "It's sweet, I mean, that you seem to think there are hordes of people lined up to hop into my bed and that I've come to you out of all the possible choices. Don't get me wrong, I did choose you. Most definitely. First time I saw you I did the choosing. Just...didn't really expect you to choose back. So I'm a bit out of my depth, then, here."

Zev remembered the bold swipe of her tongue over the roof of his mouth and thought she was probably less deeply under the water than she seemed to think. "You play chess?"

She wrinkled her nose. "Chess?"

"The game? With the pieces? Black and white squares-"

"Right, yes, I play."

"Fancy a game?"

"Of chess?"

Zev laughed. "Have something better to be doing?"

Lorraine considered the question before laughing herself. "No. I don't, at that. Lead me to the board."

*

Zev knew how to wait for things. He'd waited for a chance to get out of Mungo's, and then he'd waited for a chance to leave wereworld, and then he'd waited for a way to employ himself outside of being Hydrea's gopher. He'd waited for Severus to perfect the Wolfsbane so that the Change wasn't sheer and utter agony, and he'd waited for Severus to realize he belonged here, even if that thought scared him. Once he'd waited while his mum had gone off with Severus, waited to see if she'd come back. Of course she had, but then, when the memory of his parents dropping him off and never returning was still a bright river of acid at the tip of his mind, then it hadn't seemed so clear.

As such it didn't really bother him to wait for Lorraine to come into readiness so far as making love was concerned. She would, it was only a matter of time, and Zev was convinced he had plenty of that.

In the meantime he found himself wrapped up in other parts of her; her study notes; the smell of the candles she always brought and burned while they were playing chess or any of the myriad of card games that she'd "polluted his mind with," in the immortal words of Severus; the color of paint on her toenails, which were always, always lacquered, to be seen when she peeled off her boots, socks with them, and tucked her feet under his legs; the way she sneaked onto the grounds at all hours of day and night whenever she could and found him wherever he was and didn't get flustered by anyone or anything she ran into.

It was one of those times, an evening that had come unexpectedly free when she dropped by to find him holed up in his parents room. His mum had been feeling a bit miserable of late between morning sickness and her feet feeling the constant need to outsize her shoes. Remus, who was also feeling a tad miserable in the aftermath of transforming had her propped up against him, both of them dozing on the couch. Severus and Zev were speaking quietly as Severus gently put his hands to his wife's elevated feet. The knock on the door startled all of them, Severus glaring at whoever had dared to wake his two exhausted spouses.

Zev got up to answer the knock. Finding Lorraine behind it, he put his finger to his lips and ushered her inside. She whispered, "Sorry," then put a hand to his face and said, "You look tired as well."

"Full moon'll do that."

She'd stayed during the first night of the full, so she knew now what it meant. Which was why the words weren't sarcastic or bitter, just honest. Lorraine nodded and peered over at the man and woman sleeping on the couch. She threw her head at Severus, "You stock red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf and alfalfa here?"

Severus brought his gaze up to her. "Why?"

"Muggle thing. My grandmother's good friends with a midwife who makes this tea for pregnant women, swears by it. Completely easy to make and evidently it really helps with strength and just general feeling goodness."

"I've made her several potions to aid with the discomfort."

Zev put his hand on Lorraine's hip. What she would read as pride was really just an underlying helplessness and fear that Severus would never, ever reveal to someone that he perceived as a stranger. "She drinks tea, anyway, Severus. What can it hurt?"

Severus returned his gaze to his wife, his fingers ever so carefully pressing into the flesh of her feet and then letting go. If he thought it would have helped, Zev would have gone to him, held him, told him that she was stronger than she looked. Of course, Severus knew this. Just as they all knew that Remus would look less grey on the morrow and even return to having that slight jog in his step that Zev had found a pain to keep up with when his legs were shorter. Instead, Zev waited. It paid off, as Severus finally said, "Zev can show you where everything is kept," without turning around. He added, "Tell Hydrea I'll replace anything you take when I stop in Diagon next week."

Zev said, "Thanks," and pulled Lorraine out by her hand.

When they were in the hall she pushed a hair back from his face and asked, "Did I screw that up?"

"No, it's fine."

"But-"

He kissed her, a surprise attack, backing off with the words, "Trust me."

"Fine, if I must."

Zev found it odd not to have to wait for that. He wasn't complaining.

*

The tea took a bit, but it helped enormously with the swelling and nausea, and Zev's mum told him, "If you don't marry her, I'm adopting her."

At which Severus had looked up from his notes and asked, "How many children do you plan on populating our lives with, wife?"

The smile she gave in response was frightening, and Severus had the good sense to lay off. Remus, on the other hand, was more than willing to keep going. "I'm not hearing a number."

Zev leaned forward, waiting to see where this would go, but just as his mum was opening her mouth to respond, Lorraine walked in and cut short the Nightly Marital Jesting Games (as Zev thought of them.) She waved hello to his mum, Remus and nodded slightly in Severus's direction. Severus, though he hadn't yet admitted it, was feeling vastly relieved at the improvement in his wife and had softened considerably in relation to Lorraine. He even managed a, "Good evening."

Zev decided not to test his luck, though, and stood. He kissed his mum. "Get a good night's sleep," then, in a less casual tone, "All of you."

Remus snickered behind Zev's back as he was walking out the door, his arm laced around Lorraine's waist. Zev didn't mind, he knew they listened to him. He shut the door behind them and kissed her in the hallway. "How was your day?"

She threw her head back a little ways, giving herself room to laugh. "I talked to them about moving my center of operations here. Yours?"

"Fi- Um, sorry?"

"Don’t panic. I'd still have to be at the office two out of five days of the week, it'd just be more convenient. We work together about that much anyway, I'd like for most of it not to be done by floo, which is annoying and gets uncomfortable."

She was right, of course, but, "Don't you feel like you spend enough time here?"

She caught his face with her hands and stared directly into his eyes. "Why, do you think I do?"

Zev, who saved up things he wanted to tell her all day every day, said, "Not nearly, just, I live here, that's an easy judgment call for me."

She started in with what was supposed to be a seamlessness to her words, Zev knew, but didn't quite manage that. "I could live here too. I've read your Charter. Nons are allowed."

Everyone was allowed. Unlike the outside, this place didn't believe in exclusionary policies. "I know, I've read it too. Mum created it. Why in the seven bloody hells would you want to?"

She sighed. "I can't imagine." Her hands slipped away from his face and down to his chest, where they pushed.

Zev brought his own hands up to where hers had touched. "It hasn't been that long."

"Grandma once told me that there are very few things in this world that will fit a woman correctly. Most things just aren't made for us. She was talking about panty-hose, which are the worst creation on this earth, but I always figured it applied in a larger sense." She tilted her head. "Do you doubt?"

"I already live here, I'm not the one making this decision."

"That wasn't what I was asking."

Zev had always known when things had fallen into place correctly. Even when Severus was first assigned as his tutor and the swirling robes made him think of the nighttime when things would come to eat him (literally) or when his mum had announced that she was having another child, a child who could very well take his place. After all, the baby would be of her blood. Even then, he had known things were right. Trusted that things were right. Trusted others to do right by him. Zev had an instinct for how things were supposed to be. "No, I don't doubt."

"So I can talk to, um, Kieran and Min about taking a room?"

Zev grinned. "And about seven or eight other people."

"Well, what would the world be without a little bureaucracy?"

"Easier?" Zev leaned in, his forehead pressing up against hers.

She fit a hand between them, over his stomach. "Who needs easy?"


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile