A/N: I decided to try a rare pairing I've never considered before: Severus Snape and Madam Rosmerta. What follows was written for the first Severus/Rosmerta Fest on LiveJournal. I've corrected a few grammatical errors that got missed prior to the fest's posting (my apologies to them), but it's otherwise the same as was originally presented. You can find more about my prompt below.
Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Without your thoughts, it isn't worth sharing. Thanks to my beta, Brittny, for her immeasurable help.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox. No money, just fun. Artwork is credited to dyb on DeviantArt and entitled, "Winder Wonders".
LJ Fest: Severus/Rosmerta Fest
Prompt: Severus finds out he's had a son all along, but it was a secret Rosmerta kept from that one night stand they had years ago when Severus was still at Hogwarts.
He rarely frequented the taverns anymore, least of all hers. Tonight was supposedly a round for 'old time's sake', though he had no idea what the actual occasion was or why he had been invited. She probably won't even recognise me sober, he snorted, with some underlying bitterness.
After taking a moment to gather his nerves, he entered The Three Broomsticks in the whimsical, snow-bedded town of Hogsmeade not far from his former employer, Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Turning sharply to the right, he slid into an empty stool at the end of a long, wooden bar laden with dents, lovesick messages from misguided youth carved into its cedar pine, and scattered crumbs, receiving not so much as a singular curious glance in his direction.
As 'inconspicuous' as ever. That was what Severus Snape considered himself, and how most of wizarding society viewed the elusive man whenever his name was whispered about the country. She had been different, though. She had noticed him—well, at one time. Severus thought it rather impossible not to 'see' him, what with his past routine bouts of drunken stupor in her otherwise cosy, welcoming establishment.
Severus's suspicious eyes scanned the room, in search of that certain familiar face that seemed to elude him. The place was surprisingly vacant for a Friday evening. It was nearly the same as how he remembered it, too, reeking of tired whisky, various wizarding substances, and a tint of oppressive tobacco. It smelled like coming home, really, though the memories pertaining to the mostly Hogwarts-populated tavern Severus used to haunt regularly himself—as well as its rather saucy owner—for close to twenty years didn't leave him with warm and fuzzy sentiments. Rather, his stomach churned at the unpleasant recollections that surfaced of past piss-poor behaviour; of that torturous, double-edged life he had lived for far too long and relied too heavily on his crutch—alcohol—in order to take the edge off.
Severus had learned early on the hard lesson of holding one's liquor at the naïve age of thirteen and, alas, many times over since then. His scraggy, malnourished body had never tolerated the drink 'well'—not in the old days, when it was imperative to trudge through every wretched day, to the present, when it was usually sought after for pleasure and comfort, though not by him. The recurrent blackouts, vague recollections of the night before, and the habitual worshipping at the porcelain alter also known as his toilet hadn't been enough to stop Severus from pissing his teens, twenties, and most of his thirties away wilfully.
She had witnessed plenty of the debauched ugliness during those unfortunate years spent in servitude to a clever mastermind and a deranged madman, much to Severus's later regret. Why she had kept on trying to help him was beyond his senses, however. It wasn't as if he was ever able to pay her back in anything other than coin for the many drinks he consumed; or the various glasses he shattered between his too tightly grasping fingers when the Dark Mark called on him or he was suddenly in the midst of a petrifying nightmare, reliving the horrors he had witnessed with his own eyes.
Well, there was that one other time when we...
An awakening shiver shot down the curve of Severus's spine. He thought about that moment—pained but beautiful and surprisingly sober-ish as it was—far too often for an aloof man who had made it his life-long obligation to stay away from others. People brought emotional ties and Severus couldn't afford any of that, least of all from her.
What did he have to offer her anyhow? She had a successful vocation, an established home in the Scottish community, and a bright future that didn't involve fighting off Death Eaters from entering her tavern anymore. He, on the other hand, was a lost soul, trapped between the living, where he wasn't supposed to reside, and the dead, whom he was certain he was going to join before the Dark Lord's defeat and somehow managed to defy.
The former professor was better and more put together these days, having relinquished his toxic relationship with booze. Normal hygiene routines, the occasional haircut, and opening a potion-ordering business of his own slowly, quietly, helped Severus to piece fragments of his life back together again. That included less inebriation in order to cope with the hauntings of his past. He was no longer pasty, sickly looking, or haggard but carried an attractive bit of colour in his cheeks and some 'meat' around his middle. He discovered that he loved to cook and experiment with new recipes and exotic ingredients and enjoyed the luxury of living alone and cooking for one...most of the time.
No. She definitely won't recognise me, he thought to himself, humoured this time by the possibility. He leaned forward on his stool, surveying the back of the bar area for where the hostess might be. There was no one bustling about, however, particularly no one with tumbling blonde locks, a head-turning tight corset, and pointed high-heeled boots.
Had he gotten the date wrong? No. Perhaps she had forgotten of their impromptu get-together this evening? Surely, she wouldn't have, seeing as this was her ruddy idea. Severus cursed under his breath, somewhat annoyed, and glanced at the thin, leather-bound wizarding watch that was half-concealed beneath his cloak. She was late, whereas he had turned up early. This was a bloody mistake. I shouldn't have come here—
Her voice was unmistakable, rich and warm but slightly hoarse, much like her sour whiskey and tobacco-prone surroundings. Stricken by that sudden address of his name, Severus slowly raised his eyes, anticipating who would be standing in front of him and would likely cause his chest to ache in agony. The reaction was expected but no less painful to soak in: standing reservedly behind the bar, and dressed in a burgundy corset number that accentuated her eye-popping curves, Severus felt his breath stall for an overwhelming pause at the sight of her. She was just as he remembered. Well, mostly... Her tits were practically pouring out of her dress and, per usual, she didn't appear to care about the seedy attention they garnered from the appreciative male gaze. He had committed them to memory long ago. Like him, her face was worn, older now, wiser, with soft, hazel irises that were weighted by the unknown particulars of what, like so many casualties of war, she had endured in recent years. A few more alluring laugh lines—or were they weary wrinkles?—crinkled and stretched the corners of her eyes when she smiled and that, of course, was only ever offered genuinely, such as now.
Madam Rosmerta was a tough broad—or what some might describe as 'rough around the edges'—but Severus had never thought her less of a looker for her hard exterior. She wasn't much of a liar either; or one not prone to speaking her truth. She was nothing short of sincere in how she regarded others and, in that moment, there was a softness to her authentic smile. It immediately took Severus back to their old lively conversations in this very location; their endless flirtations and bantering; that one time when we...
Severus didn't so much as blink for what felt like an age, taken aback by how she was still able to fell him with a look; to make his insides flutter like nervous pixies when she tossed those cascading, wavy tresses off of her shoulders and regarded him with those intense irises that could smoulder or break him in an instant, depending upon her mood. And her moods were in constant fluctuation, up and down like the tides of the ocean.
"Rosmerta," he returned calmly, coolly, once he felt certain of his capability to speak without cracking his voice.
Rosmerta's smile waned. "I wasn't sure you'd come."
"How could I resist?"
The tavern owner reclined against the bar, outstretching both arms across the wooden surface, and stated in a hushed whisper, "I can think of a number of reasons why you would."
Severus chanced the slightest smirk. "Then you don't know me at all, I'm afraid."
"I was always terrified that I didn't." That somewhat stunted the start to their conversation. Both reared back, choosing instead to assess one another quietly for a short time. Rosmerta was the first to break the silence once Severus's gaze shifted towards the ground instead of her. "It's been a long time..." she began, that observance trickling off into the void.
Severus's attention returned, gentler, yet unassuming. "How's business?"
Rosmerta's red-tinted lips tugged upward. "Better than ever."
"That's good... And you?" he inquired somewhat stiffly.
"Better," came her faint, rigid reply. "And you are...?"
Severus allowed the corners of his mouth to curl farther, uttering a soft-spoken, "Better," that matched her own unforthcoming answer. However, it suited them. Few words were needed to acknowledge that they each had changed.
Rosmerta wove her arms across her chest and, for a moment, stared down at her shoes, thinking. Then she varied her casual posture, easing from one twitching leg to the other, and blurted out, sounding a touch disappointed, "I've wondered why you never...?"
Severus waited, unnerved by the unexpected silence that followed. "Yes?"
Rosmerta raised her head. "Why you never came to see me before now? I thought maybe...after the war was over...you might..."
More unfinished words fell by the wayside, forcing Severus to grunt and straighten on his stool. "I would have liked to but...I needed to sort myself out."
Slowly, Rosmerta nodded, conveying her understanding without the need for further explanation. Her expression turned solemn. "I took some time away from here. After being under the Imperius Curse, I... I hardly knew how to go back to my old frame of mind. It took more strength than I imagined."
Severus's jaw tightened at that, surmising the indisputable torment Rosmerta had undergone at the hands of Death Eaters who had once been his associates. "That was after we...?" he started and stopped, unwilling to press for clarity.
A dreadful awareness flashed across Rosmerta's war-weary face. "Of course it was!" Her cheeks flamed red. "You haven't believed all this time that that actually occurred not of my own free will, have you?"
Severus avoided eye contact. He could use a bloody drink right about now, and she had yet to offer him anything. He stuttered back, "No, um, of course not. I just wanted to be clear is all."
"Well, believe it or not, Severus, I actually fancied you at the time!" There was unmistakable acidity to that remark that left Severus bereft of words. His bewilderment must have been plainly on display, though brief as ever, for she added, with sharper mockery, "I know; it's shocking when you think back on how much attention I paid you every time you came in here. Other generously paying customers, who regularly threw me every compliment under the sun, didn't exist whenever you were around, so I know it's excruciating to wrap your wand around; but, yes, Severus Snape, I wanted you. I hope you wanted me, too, or else that memory will get jotted down on my ever-growing list of foolish things I've done for love that were embarrassingly one-sided!"
Severus was sure that his face had turned as scarlet as a Gryffindor scarf and was grateful for the tavern's low lighting. With any luck, the shadows might disguise his shame and self-conscious awareness about what Rosmerta was confessing. It sounded almost like... 'Love'? Love had certainly not been anticipated to hear with his own ears, and he wasn't sure that he was ready to acknowledge anything of that magnitude for himself. "I did want you, Rosmerta," he muttered into his chest, feeling utterly foolish as he made to stare at something—nothing—just over her shoulder. "Let there be no question of that, if you please. It was...most desired...without any doubt."
Having that strained confirmation allowed Rosmerta to finally relax her crossed arms, unaware of how greatly her upper body had been tensing. "Good," she barked towards the ground, seemingly settling the matter. Her pretty blush brightened as she cleared her throat and inched closer, the wooden bar being the only barrier still separating them from touching. "I invited you here for good reason, Severus; not just to rehash the past."
Severus's eyebrows drew together into a solitary trepidatious line. "So, you didn't want to see me then?"
"No! I mean, of course I wanted to see you—and I'm very glad you came—but..." Her eyes made a swift, passing glance to her right before falling back on him. Severus traced her gaze but noticed nothing out of the ordinary. "There's something else, Severus. It's important and it's time you knew the truth, especially now that I can see that you're looking well and... Well, I just need you to remain calm, all right?"
Severus braced his shoulders. If the war had taught him anything—and it had educated him on the frailties of life more than he ever cared to know—it was that when one was told to 'remain calm', its cause was normally followed by sheer panic. He opened and closed his mouth, uncertain of how to respond, and settled on the straightforward approach. "I don't care much for surprises, Rosmerta..."
Rosmerta's mouth twisted uncomfortably, which Severus thought odd. She had been acting rather fidgety this whole time, which didn't much resemble the suave, confident witch he could recall with glowing admiration. "Well, I'm afraid that can't be helped, Severus. I'll explain everything to you, but you need to meet him first."
Severus blinked as Rosmerta scurried off like a wobbly, flying broomstick, heading through an open archway behind the bar where customers, like himself, weren't permitted to follow. Then again, I'm not yet a paying customer, he growled at the back of his throat. I could really use with a bloody— Wait, 'him'?
Severus couldn't reiterate that telling word before Rosmerta had disappeared on him. Moments later, however, she returned, meandering around the bar in order to approach Severus. She was pushing a small being in front of her, coaxing him along whilst bending forward at the waist to whisper encouraging, soft words in his ear.
Severus's curious eyes trailed from Rosmerta's angst-ridden face to the peculiar little boy whom she was pushing towards him, with both hands protectively covering the child's small shoulders. He appeared to be about five or six years of age, but his features were what instantly drew Severus in and stole the air from his lungs, as though he was receiving the unfortunate Dementor's Kiss. Those eyes... The boy had immensely dark irises, soulful, yet distant and secretive. They nearly matched Severus's own. His hair was a wavy, chocolate brown, with sprinkles of Rosmerta's blonde seeping through a few strands when caught by the hovering candles just right. She had evidently allowed the boy to grow his hair to his shoulders, too; or else she was refusing to cut it. Much like mine, Severus pondered, his heart pounding troublingly fast. The child had a captivating, shy smile as well that wholly matched his mother's. But that nose... Merlin and Circe... The poor boy's nose didn't marry well to the rest of his sweet-tempered appearance. Rather, it swallowed the rest of his less extravagant facial features and was too long and pointed for his tiny stature.
Merlin's arsehole! was the last fleeting thought Severus had before everything—Rosmerta, the child, the warm interior of The Three Broomsticks—faded to black.
"You never thought about telling me this before now?" Severus snarled, both at Rosmerta and the cold compress she had placed against the pounding left side of his head. He quickly snatched it from her grasp and held it firmly in place, wishing to tend to his minor injury himself.
The initial humiliation Severus experienced at having passed out in front of Rosmerta and other customers had long since diminished. He was too preoccupied with raging and reeling over the many confounding, unresolved thoughts running through his brain, the persistent, throbbing pain in his head from his recent fall notwithstanding.
Rosmerta rose to her full height and placed her hands on her hips, giving the vexed wizard a hard scowl. "There were many times I considered telling you, yes!" she snapped back as she removed her wand from a skirt pocket and cast a Muffling Charm on the storage closet where she and Severus had taken refuge to spat things out. The nameless child was somewhere out of earshot, thankfully, though where, precisely, Severus knew not. "You're not exactly easy to reach when you don't want to be found!"
"Not my problem!" Severus glared up at her from his compromising position on the cold ground. He sensed that his daggers for eyes in that moment didn't carry the same weight they might have were he towering over her. He had tried to rise after coming to a few minutes ago, only to succumb to the wave of dizziness that hit him. With little effort, Severus slid back to the floor, where he had since remained, crouched and pouting and nursing his head wound. "You've had a number of opportunities to tell me I had a bloody son before today, no doubt!"
"Severus," Rosmerta stated with a few forced, collected breaths, "you vanished without a trace. I didn't even know where to begin to look for you after you abruptly left the school. Even Minerva couldn't help me track you down."
"That was five years ago!"
"You said yourself that you needed to sort yourself out! So did I, you know!"
"No owls; no inquiries; no nothing!" he ground out between his teeth, fuming as he turned away from her.
"Severus, would you give me some slack? I'll have you know, I was under the Imperius Curse for much of my pregnancy!"
At once, Severus's eyes darted to Rosmerta's face, his complexion now as white as a ghost. "You were?" he was barely able to comprehend, let alone whisper aloud.
Rosmerta proceeded to chew the inside of one of her cheeks to keep from breaking down in front of him. Some of the war's deeply-rooted emotional scars were suddenly thrust in front of him, pulling and yanking at some of the lines marking her face. "Yes," she confessed all too quietly. "In fact, I don't remember much before Sam's birth. You were gone, and I had a lot to cope and come to terms with myself once the war had ended; an awful lot, Severus. It hasn't been easy, you know..."
Another precarious silence suppressed the air around them, until Severus pierced it with a difficult but poignant point. "Well, your ruddy owl finally managed to find me, didn't she? And I came."
"Yes, you did." She burst into a sudden fit of giggles, prompting Severus to peer up at her in utter confusion. "I anticipated a whole host of reactions from you tonight but certainly never that you might faint!"
Severus's frown intensified. "I anticipated a few reasons for why I was invited here myself, and finding out that I apparently had a child I didn't know about wasn't on that list of contenders. Perhaps my reaction was unexpected but not incomprehensible, surely. You sprung something quite significant on me, Rosmerta."
Rosmerta's laughter died where it began. Her smile frosted over, though she was no longer cross with him. She shook her head and sighed. "How else can I explain it, Severus? My mind had been tampered with, I was frightened and alone and hardly knew how to manage myself, let alone how to take care of a new baby, and you were nowhere to be found once I'd been able to put it all together."
"You speak as if it's my fault and that somehow, through some miraculous mind-reading skills I should have acquired that would span the course of hundreds of miles, I should've known!"
"I don't think that at all, Severus," Rosmerta patiently insisted, though her tone was clipped this time, "but I didn't just go off somewhere and get pregnant all by myself!"
Severus's eyes narrowed. "Are you certain that he's even mine?"
A spiralling series of emotions dithered across the witch's countenance, from fury to gross humiliation to hurt and, lastly, shock. Shock was what ultimately settled, by which point Severus had internally wished away his lashing tongue. "How - How dare you!" she exclaimed, with trembling forbearance.
Severus cautiously lowered the cold compress from his head. "Rosmerta—"
"SHUT IT! Did you always think I was that easy to get into bed with; that I would sleep with just anyone? Have you heard nothing of what I've said to you tonight about how I wanted you and only you?" The outline of her shadow came to engulf him, her eyes livid and burning with, as yet, unshed tears. "And, really, you have the smug audacity to sit there and question if Sam's yours? Is the evidence in his eyes and his bloody snout not enough? Who else's would he be?"
Severus turned his head sideways, unable—or unwanting, rather—to look Rosmerta in the eyes. He tossed the now lukewarm compress onto the floor and rested his hands on his bony knees. "Forgive me," he grumbled behind his curtain of stringy, black hair. "That was uncalled for."
"You're bloody right it was uncalled for!" she huffed, the flare in her temper then lessening a little. "You can be a right foul git, Severus Snape, and a childish one at that!"
"Yes, I'm fully aware of my less-than-stellar antics," he conceded, muttering low as he continued not to meet Rosmerta's stormy glare, "and I apologise for my rudeness just now. Being isolated from society for as long as I have hasn't granted me better manners; I'm afraid it's made them worse."
Choosing to accept the man's apology, Rosmerta gradually eased back, affording Severus some breathing space. She crossed her arms over her chest again and stared on, assessing him closely. "Your lack of tact can't be all that worse than it used to be," she soon offered him pointedly. "You're forgiven, but you should exercise more understanding and compassion, Severus. You're not the only one who's been through a war. We all lived it."
Hearing Rosmerta choke on those words, Severus chanced a sidelong peek up at her. She was wiping at a few stray tears and staring off into the ether, glum and put out by the personal hauntings from her past. Between the convenience of this dark, confined space, and the tense, uncommunicative atmosphere in between them, it was little wonder to Severus that certain aspects from the war still plagued them both, grievous and unspoken and different in their ways.
Despite his shock and trying to make sense of the life-changing news that had been thrust upon him, Severus bit his tongue and tried to stand again. This time, he was hit by no second wave of light-headedness, just a persistent hammering against the upper left portion of his skull. He ignored it as he stared down into Rosmerta's dejected expression, one he knew to be the beastly cause of, and carefully extended a comforting hand to her. His fingers, wiry and lithe and warm at the tips, caught on the smooth material of her grey blouse and froze. Rosmerta started and returned his gaze, at first caught off her guard and then drawn into a prolonged staring match. Wordlessly, she permitted him to continue. Severus's digits coiled around her arm, as did the other, and eased her closer, until her chest was brushing his.
"Severus..." she stammered as she said his name, hesitant and excited, giving Severus pause.
"May I? I... I know it's been a long while, Rosmerta, but...I've changed and I'd like to—"
Suddenly, Rosmerta's voluminous lips collided with his, sealing her permission. Her entire body, heated, heaving and in obvious want of more, practically purred like a cat as she reposed into his sturdy caress. Severus didn't hesitate to wrap the witch in his arms and his eyes, which expanded in amazement at her prowess, quickly melted shut. He was overwhelmed by the taste of her; the reminder of a certain memory, vivid but so long ago; of crippling wants and desires that had ghosted over his tongue but never touched his lips; of slipping between her sheets at her comfy flat across from The Three Broomsticks that one night in November years back that, for a blissful, precious moment, made life so much richer and bearable.
It was the fateful year he would kill his employer, but snow was covering the grounds on this evening, and there were still seven months left in the school term before the Unforgivable would be cast. It never diverted from Severus's mind, of course—that he would eventually be the one to kill Albus Dumbledore—but, for now, he had just come off of a distressful meeting with Lord Voldemort and his cronies. Tonight was his first night back at the school to recoup, where he was to remain until the Dark Lord called upon him again for another one of his unnerving updates on Draco Malfoy's progress with the Vanishing Cabinet. Severus was in desperate craving of something to numb the pain. Drink normally sufficed, but he didn't care to be alone with his thoughts, so he headed for Hogsmeade.
Severus reached The Three Broomsticks a little before five o'clock, intent to drown his frayed mental state in alcohol. Rosmerta was working behind the bar like always and, after two pints, she was insistent that the agitated Potions Master eat something. When Severus found nothing appealing on her menu, Rosmerta all but kicked him out the front door, much to his chagrin and everyone else's eyebrow-raised astonishment, and dragged him to her nearby flat across the street. Other staff stayed behind to cover for their boss whilst Rosmerta prepared Severus a hearty meal in her kitchen. (It turned out to be ghastly to swallow, but Severus politely expressed otherwise. Thankfully, he wasn't drunk enough yet to dig himself a deeper hole by acting the part of an unappreciative guest in Rosmerta's home).
What began as what Severus considered a hostage takeover turned into one casual conversation after the next, with the perpetual brush of a hand or a simmering look that made Rosmerta's heart flutter and Severus's groin stir in his trousers. They had each been on the receiving end of such arousing encounters before, but this night was different: the setting was simply too intimate to be ignored.
Before the professor could comprehend what was happening, he found himself nude and lying over top of Rosmerta's perfect mound of flesh, her legs splayed wide and the buttons that had kept her corset closed torn clear off one by one. Teeth marks and red blemishes dotted her skin. Severus had no idea what had come over him, but Rosmerta was enjoying the wizard's newfound nerve as much as he took pleasure in devouring her.
If Severus ever engaged in sex in the past, it was usually when he was half-pissed out of his mind and too far gone to remember much of the act. It was also an even greater rarity to engage with a woman who wasn't as equally drunk as him so as to find him attractive; or, at least, suitable enough for a good shag.
This night, however, Rosmerta wasn't at all inebriated and Severus was barely tipsy. There was no way either party wanted to forget it, either, for their lovemaking was of the howling, ravenous, mind-boggling sort that had evaded them individually their whole lives. It certainly wasn't to be obliterated but remembered in the years that followed.
After their unforgettable night of passion, things took a turn for the worse, though, of course, as the wizarding world would prove to them both, the days would grow even darker than the first few months after: Rosmerta was placed under the Imperius Curse by Death Eaters, business at The Three Broomsticks turned scant, and Severus became too busy straddling the biddings of his Hogwarts employer and the Dark Lord to do much else outside of barely teaching his classes, grading papers, and catching a few hours of sleep when Dumbledore or Lord Voldemort permitted it of him.
A spine-tingling moan coming from Rosmerta jolted Severus back to the present day. It was remarkable what the mere rekindling of a lover's lips could ignite and prompt one to remember, and Severus shivered and pushed back against her, echoing the witch's lust. Rosmerta reacted by clutching onto his robes and jerking him forward. Severus wasn't sure if she intended to keep kissing him or ravage him whole, but he would readily take her lead.
They were in the heavy midst of reacquainting themselves with each other when a tiny voice stopped them cold in their tracks. "Mummy? Are you and that scary man still— Oh!"
Rosmerta and Severus instantly separated from each other, staggering backwards to tug uselessly at their garments or swipe hair out of their eyes. Both were wearing guilty shades of red as their attention turned from one another to the artless child peering 'round at them from the doorway.
"Sam," Rosmerta spoke first, flushed and shaky; she ushered her son forward with a wave of her hand, "erm, this is Severus. He's an old...friend."
Severus hardly knew how to respond to being introduced as Rosmerta's 'friend', but there was no time to consider how to approach an innocent five and a half-year old who had suddenly been shoved into Severus's otherwise quiet, unremarkable life. The boy in question, who went by the name of Samuel, took a couple cautious steps closer but smartly chose to stand next to his mother in the cramped, dimly lit storage closet. He ogled Severus openly, crinkled his nose, and made a less-than-satisfactory face that Severus easily recalled having donned at various stages of his life. He didn't know what to say, however, and cleared his throat, acknowledging the funny boy with an awkward, "Hello, Sam."
"Hi, Sev...rus," the child struggled to pronounce his name, to which his mother kindly corrected him.
"It's Severus, darling."
"Severus," Samuel reiterated slowly, delicately, as he eyeballed the lanky, intimidating-looking wizard up and down. "Where'd you get that name?"
Although he had no intentions of divulging his family history to the young lad, Severus didn't want to come across as uppity or standoffish right at the off. "My mother gave it me," he explained matter-of-factly.
"I like it!" Samuel shot him a sincere half-grin that Severus found he appreciated.
"Thank you. I like yours, too, Samuel."
Samuel cocked his head to the side. The look he then projected was oddly all-knowing. "Where do you come from, Severus?"
"I live in north Devon, along the coastline. Before that, I was a professor here at Hogwarts."
Samuel's dark eyes livened. "Oh! Hogwarts! Mum says I'm going to go there someday!"
"I reckon you will."
"When, Mummy?" he demanded, craning his neck to plead with his mother. He pushed out his bottom lip and Rosmerta reacted playfully by raking her fingers through his hair.
"When you're older, love. Not for a while yet, I'm afraid."
"Oh..." Samuel's face momentarily fell, disappointed, before Severus seemed to pique his intrigue some more. "What did you teach at Hogwarts, Severus?"
"Oh! Mummy knows how to brew those! She made me one yesterday when my tummy hurt."
Severus faithfully nodded along. The boy was talkative and inquisitive, the former of which he most definitely hadn't adopted from him but, rather, his chatty (and much more hospitable) mother.
Apparently no longer intimidated by the 'scary man', Samuel stepped forward. A rattled Severus unconsciously drew backward in reaction, but the boy didn't appear to have noticed. "Do you know how to play Exploding Snap, Severus?"
"Darling," Rosmerta chuckled and patted the boy's scrawny shoulders, "I don't think now's such a good time for card games—"
"I do indeed," Severus stunned Rosmerta by his offhanded suggestion. Her subsequent look of apprehension was met by silent reassurance, especially when Samuel began jumping up and down and begging to play.
"I love Exploding Snap! Can we play, Severus? Can we play?"
"Sammie, really, I don't think Severus wants to do that right now."
"I'd be delighted, actually."
Rosmerta gave Severus another questioning glance. "Are you sure?" she mouthed, not wishing to dampen her son's spirits or to make Severus more uncomfortable than he must already be.
"Yay! See, Mummy? Severus wants to play it!" Samuel amazed the adults (but mostly Severus) by grabbing one of the wizard's hands and tugging him towards the kitchen area at the back of the tavern. "Come, Severus! Come, come!"
Rosmerta turned to Severus as they exited the storage closet at the same time, bumping hips and causing each other to gain more colour in their faces. She suspected that Severus Snape had absolutely no interest in playing a child's card game, and yet, the fact that he was willingly stepping up to the plate with Samuel after just learning who the boy was an hour or so ago brought her considerable pause. Her heart clenched as she watched her son happily skip to the kitchen table, buttering up the formidable wizard as he spoke excitedly and repeatedly yanked on Severus's hand.
With a passing exchange, Rosmerta thanked him silently. She witnessed the uneasiness in the man's eyes soften and followed him and her son—their son—to the kitchen table for a sit-down game of Exploding Snap.
"That didn't go so bad?"
A short pause ensued, followed by a lowly, growling, "What were you expecting exactly?"
"I don't know," she laughed him off before her voice switched to grave. "If we're being totally honest, I wasn't certain that you'd stick around long enough to speak with him, let alone indulge him in three games of Exploding Snap!"
There was another pregnant pause at that. "You had me pegged as that sort of contemptible fellow, did you?"
"No, Severus, I just..."
"You really don't know me at all."
"That's not true! I'd like to think I know you exceptionally well, even if it's been a while."
"Ancient history, more like," he expanded amusedly, joining in on her soft laughter.
They had moseyed at a slow gait towards the outskirts of town, the streets of which were noiseless, tranquil, and mostly empty of any other passersby. Samuel had stayed back with staff at The Three Broomsticks whilst his mother escorted their male visitor out of Hogsmeade. His and Severus's farewell had been pleasant, with plans for a proposed fourth game of wizarding cards in the near future. Severus had given Samuel his word that they would 'do it again soon'.
A light snow was now trickling down from the night sky, dusting their cloaks and sprinkling their eyelashes. Rosmerta found silky, sinewy fingers suddenly whisking a few flakes away from her rosy cheeks and started where they stood beneath a lamp post. Severus had snuck closer to her without her realising, near enough that she could distinguish between his black pupils and near-black irises that, in daylight, were nearly impossible to differentiate.
"I have a son...with you," he murmured, sounding breathless and in awe of the fact.
Rosmerta hitched a breath, fighting the knot forming at the back of her throat, and replied, with unquestionable adoration, "He's amazing. He's just like you."
Severus's thin lips formed an affected but slim smile. "I think he's much more like you, actually."
Rosmerta shook her head in protest. "Aside from my cheeky sense of humour, he loves books, prefers his personal space over being with people, and is about the most stubborn, verbally combative little toe rag I've ever met. He's you." She let forth a laugh when Severus's smile stretched farther across his mouth. "I feel like I know and understand you so much through him."
"Perhaps that's not the only way you could know me better?"
Rosmerta stilled at that quiet, yet earnest proposal. "I haven't told him yet. I mentioned that a friend of mine would be coming to town tonight that I wanted him to meet, but I... I didn't want to risk exposing him to you if you weren't going to..."
"If I wasn't going to stay," Severus finished for her, and Rosmerta confirmed her reservations with a solemn nod of her head. Severus struggled against the many nerve-wracking concerns still clattering his insides and offered determinedly, "I'll stay. That is, I'd like to stay...if you'll both permit me?"
Rosmerta's eyes danced with an enthusiasm she tried to repress in her tightly-bound, wary expression. "Of course I'd like you to stay, Severus. I want you in Sammie's life. I'd like you to be in mine, too, Merlin willing..."
Severus could hardly believe his ears. Although he was much more of a consummate at disguising his emotions, the spirited smirk that emerged on his normally stern face couldn't be contained. "And all that rubbish in introducing me to Samuel as your 'friend'," he scoffed lightly, to which Rosmerta broke into more giggles.
"Well, we haven't seen each other in years! And what if you rejected the poor boy? I wasn't going to risk you walking out on him as soon as I told you he was yours!"
With that, Severus bent down and captured Rosmerta's lips, snogging her passionately beneath the glowing street lamp. His long arms snaked around her back, whilst her greedy fingers found purchase at the back of his neck and then snuck into his hair. It seemed like a mere flash and their lips had parted.
Aware of standing in the deserted street once more, with the snow lazily falling around them and goodbyes yet to come, Rosmerta timidly slunk back. "How about you come 'round for dinner tomorrow evening?" She paused to coil wisps of wet hair behind her ears. "My place?"
Severus felt his chest warm, despite the winter chill. "That would be nice. I can cook, if you'd like?"
Rosmerta waved his suggestion away. "Oh, don't worry about that! I can whip something up in no—"
"I enjoy cooking. In fact, I'd like to cook for you and Samuel." In truth, he also wasn't particularly keen on Rosmerta's cuisine, suspecting that it hadn't improved. "What do you generally eat on a Saturday night?"
Rosmerta impishly bit her lower lip. "Erm..."
I bloody knew it. Severus rolled his eyes, which made the witch chuckle some more. "Shall I surprise you then?"
"Splendid! We'll be expecting something exceptional! Sammie especially has impossibly high standards!"
"Quite," Severus returned softly, and the comfortable silence that followed seemed to mirror the relief from the outcome to their meeting. Severus still couldn't believe he had a son—or that he and Rosmerta had reconnected after all this time—but he offered to her profoundly in parting, "I'm glad you finally found me."
Rosmerta extended a hand to stroke the side of his face, physically marking the affections that had long been nestled within her heart, and Severus's heart privately swelled under her touch. "I'm glad you're taking it so well. You're full of pleasant, surprising contradictions, Severus Snape."
"You say that as if it's some sort of miraculous feat!" he snorted, to which she snickered under her breath.
"I don't mean it negatively. I'm just relieved that my son's—our son's—and your first encounter went so well. And ours, too."
Ours. Their eyes connected without the exchanging of more words, until Severus, at last, took a step back. "Me, too," he concurred. Although the weather was cause for shivering, Severus felt only warmed as he forced one leg behind the other. "'Till tomorrow then."
Severus's form swirled before Rosmerta's eyes. Then he vanished with a loud pop, leaving tracks of his footprints in the snow. "'Till tomorrow," she whispered to the wind. It didn't matter, though. She knew now where to find Severus, and he would be back tomorrow. And hopefully many tomorrows after that.
Ours, she reflected fondly as she trekked her way back to The Three Broomsticks, cheered on by the prospect of making such a declaration to Samuel in the foreseeable future.
A/N #2: Thank you for reading. Reviews are always greatly appreciated.