For Sempraseverus

Antilitigation Charm: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. All characters are property of JK Rowling and not me. If they did belong to me, Severus Snape would be alive and well and snarking his way through Hogwarts even as we speak.

We were married in a small ceremony. The bride wore flowers in her hair, and the groom wore teaching robes with a rather large hole burned in the sleeve. We were wed between first year Potions and fifth-year Transfigurations, and Minerva had to rush in to officiate before her class managed to turn each other into teapots.

Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley were our witnesses. They had just dashed in from Hagrid's class and were covered with what looked and smelled suspiciously like Thestral shit. Nobody asked.

My robes were the victim of a potions accident, and I had just enough time to kiss the bride mere moments before that year's Neville Longbottom finished melting his second cauldron of the term. I sighed. Nothing changes.

Hermione was lush and glowing in pregnancy. I couldn't keep my hands off her. Our child grew huge and healthy in her rich womb, and Hermione in labour was truly a sight to behold. She screamed, farted, grunted, cursed, and crushed my hands through her contractions, all the while bellowing, "Baby Snape, you'd better be worth all this fuss or I'll hex your father's bollocks off!" I've never heard Poppy laugh so hard; she could barely order Hermione to push.

Russell Martin Snape was born on 26 July. My first thought as I held out my hands to retrieve him from Poppy was, Merlin, I hope his looks improve.

As my beautiful wife panted and wiped the tears and snot from her face, she was already bossing me around, demanding I verify he had the right number of fingers and toes. I was only checking one thing: his nose. It was small and perfectly shaped – Hermione's, thank Merlin.

I looked down at the bloody, slimy, shivering mess Poppy had placed in my hands. It was as ugly and dark as a monkey with a head full of black hair, and it was crying its head off. Suddenly, it stopped crying and my son opened his eyes and looked straight at me, as if he knew exactly who and what I was. My eyes filled with tears. "My son," I said, awestruck. "You're mine, little man."

He studied me for a moment. He seemed fine with that. I looked at his mother, who gave me such a look of love it almost drove me to my knees. "Mine," I said again, liking the sound of it.

Russ, as he soon became known, was the pride of Hogwarts and had the run of the place. Minerva, his unofficial Granny, thought he was the most beautiful child, and frequently told me so. I frequently agreed with her. Russ seemed to be an amalgamation of Hermione and me at our best, and witches and wizards alike often stopped us on the streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to remark on his beauty.

He had my colouring, of course, all blue-black hair and deep brown eyes. My dominant genes, I asserted proudly. Russ also inherited Hermione's porcelain skin and white teeth. Really, all I cared about was that the boy didn't inherit my nose. I truly didn't mind if his eyes were crossed, or he had twelve toes, or his teeth grew out his cheeks, as long as he wasn't saddled with my hooter.

Theresa Persephone Snape was born when Russ was four. We named her after Poppy, who had been so instrumental in the early days of our relationship. She was a proud and lovely godmother. Preesa (Russ was a little too young to get his tongue around either Theresa or Persephone) was such a beautiful child and so like Hermione in aspect and personality, I frequently declared my doubts that I had actually contributed anything to her conception, beyond her tall frame, widow's peak and expressive eyebrows.

Preesa, a clever little minx like her mother, learned early on that my bark was worse than my bite, and proceeded to wrap me around her little wand almost from birth. Because they were so alike, she frequently exasperated Hermione, to my secret delight. Preesa and I became co-conspirators against Hermione and my stunningly handsome son, who was so much like me in personality that at nine he asked for black robes and a potions kit.

It hadn't taken long for Russ' magic to start manifesting itself. I suppose I could hardly be surprised. As Ronald Weasley said at Russ' Naming ritual, "Well, we are talking about the most powerful witch and wizard in Britain. I mean, Hermione Granger and Severus Snape? That gene pool has to be a powerful human potion." Indeed.

Shortly after Preesa was born, we went to Australia to fetch Hermione's parents and restore their memories. It's amazing how Helen and John Granger adapted to having me as their son-in-law when presented with their grandchildren. Apparently, good looking grandchildren cover a multitude of sins, and once the shock and jet lag wore off, they found any excuse to meet us in Diagon Alley to 'take the children off your hands for awhile'.

We tried to look relieved and did actually enjoy a few hours' respite from the now-familiar coitus-interruptus that inevitably comes with children ('Dad, may I ask the house-elves for some cake?' Pant, pant – 'Cake, wine, firewhisky, hemlock, whatever you want, son – now shut the door!'). The real truth of the matter is that, after a day or so, we missed them so much, we had to go and fetch them. The Grangers' one complaint about us was we never really let the children visit with them long enough.

I freely admit, I had been afraid. Afraid my past would come back to haunt me, that my own wretched childhood experiences would form some malignant cell in the bloodstream of my innocent progeny. I needn't have worried. Hermione was light enough for all of us, and I found myself enjoying fatherhood. Not that I gushed about it. I had a reputation to uphold, much to my wife's indulgent amusement.

Shortly after Russ began his formal schooling at Hogwarts, Hermione took him aside and told him the entire story of our lives. He was starting to ask questions, mainly from overhearing veiled, and wildly inaccurate, information he'd been given by his mates, Scorpius Malfoy and James (grrr) Potter. I'm sorry. I actually like Boy Potter. He's got a much better sense of humour than his earnest father.

Hermione told him the whole sordid story, beginning with the rise of Tom Riddle, to the night he was born. She told of her year on the run, my days as Headmaster and spy, our coming together that fateful night in the Shrieking Shack, my changed Patronus and the part Russ himself played in bringing his mother back to me. She told me later that he listened quietly and raptly, hanging onto her every word. Once she'd finished, he rose, smoothed his robes, asked to be excused, and left her sitting alone in his room, bemused.

Russ approached me that evening, as I was in the study murdering several third-year essays. He stood and watched for a bit, then asked, "Dad, can I have a word?"

I lowered my quill and pinched the bridge of my nose. "Any respite from these essays is welcome, son. You were more adept at Potions at the age of seven than most of these dunderheads are now." I turned and studied my bright, sensitive son carefully. He was uncharacteristically solemn. "What can I do for you, Russell?"

Suddenly, he threw his arms around my neck, almost overbalancing me off my stool. "Here now," I said, returning his fierce embrace, "what's all this in aid of?"

His voice was muffled in my robes. "Mum told me you almost died!" he said, and I could hear tears thickening his voice. "She said you came so close, and she was so scared! Mum says you're a hero, and you never told me! If you had died, Preesa and I wouldn't have a dad!" He was very tenderhearted at that age. It dawned on me I'd been as well, that is, before life picked me up and shook me in its jaws.

I had to laugh at his logic, but I could feel my throat tighten at the thought of how close I had come to missing this life, and this fine son my seed had contributed to the Wizarding world. I had patents on several well-known potions and numerous publications in Potions journals. I was listed the previous year as one of the top three Potions masters in the world. All that meant absolute pants, when compared to the value of my family and their collective opinion of me. I was perfectly happy with that.

I tried to comfort the boy, who was obviously distraught at hearing that his old man, whom he loved, but hereto had only thought of as Dad, had jumped into the final battle with a snake and a death wish. Russ finally drew away from me, wiping his tears on his robe, and I looked at him pensively.

I created this handsome creature, I thought to myself, as I gave him a handkerchief and warned him his mother wouldn't be happy to find snot on his second-best robe. He laughed, and blew his nose.

He was a sunny, confident boy, comfortable in his own skin. He was everything, I realized, I might have been if my own lousy excuse for a father had been the man I was struggling to become. I knew then I would move heaven and earth not to disappoint this little man.

Gradually, he relaxed and we became at ease with each other again. Then shyly, he asked, "Can I see them?" I nodded, knowing what he wanted to see. I walked back into our library and fetched the box from the shelf. His eyes were wide and shining as he opened the box that held my Order of Merlin. Hermione's sat tucked under mine. We never looked at them anymore. When you come back from the dead and live with two inquisitive and bright children, who love you and tend to interrupt you during sex, things like medals tend to take a backseat in your priorities.

"Wow, Dad," he breathed, looking at me like he'd never really seen me before. "You and Mum are heroes."

I rolled my eyes. "It's easy to hand out medals when you've got nothing better to offer, son," I muttered, closing the box and stowing it away on the shelf. "Your mother is the real hero. If she hadn't rescued me, I'd be worm food." I knew my crude phrasing would lighten the mood, and all this talk of the past made me feel uneasy. "Please don't go around bragging to your friends, Russell. I'm not exactly everyone's favourite person, you know."

He looked up at me, then peeked at the faded edges of the Dark Mark still visible past my rolled-up sleeve. He traced its outline almost tenderly with a long tapered finger. He had my hands. Only my wife and my children ever touched me like this, with loving respect. It staggered me.

Finally, in a tone that sounded eerily like my own, Russ drawled, "Then I guess you'll have to settle for being my favourite person. Well, one of my three favourite people." He smiled at me. Gods, I wanted to be worthy of him.

I may have hugged him fiercely. I may have borrowed back my handkerchief. I don't say I did. I might have made him take a Wizarding Oath of secrecy. A rare and precious soul, my boy.

Once upon a time, I had concluded that my heart was a bitter root that would entertain no purchase. Love was weakness. I was such a twat.

I am a stubborn man, but I'm not so stubborn as to look a gift horse in the mouth. I accepted happiness. I accepted love from a good and worthy woman. I accepted the privilege of watching Russ and Preesa grow into the wizard and witch that every man hopes to father. I was the strongest wizard on earth. I was loved.

-o0o-

Hermione eventually replaced Poppy when she retired, and the year Preesa started Hogwarts, Minerva stepped down and I was asked to take up my former post as Headmaster. On that first Welcoming Feast evening, I gave my first Headmaster's speech in fifteen years. I made a vow to the entire student body that this time round, I would be worthy of the title. I was holding onto Hermione's hand the entire time.

She squeezed my hand in all the right places and stroked my palm to let me know that yes, she was proud of me, and yes, I had a very special treat waiting for me in our chambers when the evening's festivities were over. My speaking voice always did that to her. And to be fair, it was our first night alone in our chambers for almost fifteen years, give or take a few sleepover nights. Those chambers were ready to see some action.

I watched in fatherly anticipation, as Preesa was called up to the stool to be sorted. Hermione and I had a wager. I was betting on Gryffindor, Hermione on Slytherin.

"Another Snape, eh?" The Sorting hat sang out cheerfully. "I know just the place for this one – with her mother in Gryffindor!"

I allowed myself a little smirk at Hermione, but she was clapping with the rest of her House, blinking back tears of pride. She smiled back at me. Ours had been a token bet at best. Neither one of us gave a skrewt's fart which House our children were sorted in.

Preesa was more purposeful than Russ, less self-assured, but nevertheless a bright, determined child, aching to prove she was more than just Russell Snape's little sister. She was so like Hermione, I couldn't help but love her, and I baited her mercilessly, just to hear my little lioness roar. I had no doubt she would do great things, and to quell any nervousness on her first night as a student, I gave her an extra hug and kiss before sending her off to Gryffindor tower with her new classmates.

It had been no surprise when Russ was sorted into Ravenclaw. Intelligent, popular, and easygoing, he was a Prefect and already making a name for himself as the Seeker most likely to beat the great Harry Potter's Quidditch records. As the boy's godfather, Harry was the first in line to cheer him on.

Russ, if I did say so myself, was the most handsome boy in Hogwarts, and the aging but still agile Mr. Filch and I spent quite a bit of time and energy fielding young witches from the heavy oak door that guarded Ravenclaw House.

Russ enjoyed the attention but preferred to play the field. He appreciated a lovely young girl as much as the next fifteen-year-old, but was content to concentrate on his schooling now. Beneath the happy, likable exterior was a very studious and organized mind.

Russ was, to my relief, not in love with his looks. Instead he tended to be a little vociferous about his potion making abilities. He saw himself as the next Potions master of Hogwarts, and some of his experiments unnerved even me. I couldn't, however, fail to see the budding genius. He was a natural, and I was proud of him, and made a point to tell him so frequently.

Already Russ was my height and from behind was frequently mistaken for me. It was both unsettling and rewarding to turn the corner and see my Doppelganger, striding purposefully ahead, dark hair flying, black robes billowing majestically in his wake. Did I ever really look that graceful, that impressive? My wife tells me I do, even now.

My son and I, Hermione often said with pride, were soul mates. Ever since Hermione told him our incredible story, I'd often catch Russ looking at Hermione with the same reverence as he would a goddess. I tended to look at her the same way.

As the last of the students made their way to their Houses that first night of term, I stood at the front of the Great Hall, listening to the sounds of Hogwarts. Students talking excitedly, ghosts flying overhead, stairs shifting, portraits whispering, Peeves irritating the hell out of Mr. Filch.

I had lived here more or less for the past forty or so years. The sounds I heard were as familiar to me as my own heartbeat, and I gave up a silent thanks to whatever gods were listening. What was I thankful for? Just being, mostly. My life, my wife, my children. For the two slender, but strong arms that snaked around me from behind, pulling me close into a hug so tight, my ribs squeaked.

"What are you doing, wife?" I rumbled. The hug got a little tighter.

"Trying to coerce you back to our chambers so I can get you naked."

I sighed. Still being manipulated, still being coerced, even after all this time. Impertinent little chit.

"Such insolence, Miss Granger! Detention, to be served immediately." I could feel her smile against my back. I had to restrain myself from rubbing my hands with glee. Oh, it was going to be fun being Headmaster.

Epilogue

Late at night, I wake to the sound of my Hermione's quiet breathing, and I look over and see the fearless, loyal, trusting, loving little witch who captured my soul, so that I would have to return to a life I once hated. I think of her absolute belief in me, when I was the most hated man in Wizarding Britain. I think how much she loved and admired me, when I was singularly unlovable and totally unworthy of her admiration.

I think of how close I came to losing her and how desperately I need to be close to her, even if only to see her and make sure she's happy. She tells me I have made her so.

I think of our two beautiful children, both conceived in love and passion. I think of the Wizarding world and the parts we played to change it. It is still so fragile, always teetering on the edge of its balance of light and dark.

I think of myself as that angry, bitter, unloved man, who returned from the veil wanting nothing more than death. I think how close I came to never having this love, this devotion. My wife, my Hermione, and I still love each other with the fierce passion of the first night I took her to my bed. My children, to my boundless gratitude, love and respect me. They love me.

I am loved. Thank you, Lily, for making me return to life. I am loved.

"Yes, you are, husband," says a sleepy voice. I have spoken aloud. A soft hand pats me indulgently. "Now, you have a long day ahead of you. Try to relax and get some sleep, dear heart."

A warm, enticing body nestles against my shoulder, in the crook of my arm, and we fit perfectly. It is as if we were originally formed slotted together, before the gods wished us luck, yanked us apart, and left us to wander alone, hoping we'd eventually reconnect. A warm hand gently strokes my chest, and I smile in the dark as I pull her closer. She makes a delicious little purring sound that makes me shiver.

The only true wish I've ever spoken aloud: "If there are gods above and below, let me spend my eternity with my one true love. The only woman who ever loved me."

The gods have finally given me what I wished for. I am a happy man. I am loved. And yes, I do think it bears repeating, thank you.

A spell can be cast silently, but saying it aloud makes it stronger. Especially when the soul is the caster, and the heart is the voice.

~FIN~


I thank each and every one of you for reading my first fanfic. It has been a lifechanging experience!