The Mechanisms of Love
Hermione looked at her reflection in the mirror and sighed. Well that method of telling him was right out.
She'd been feeling rather out of sorts for at least a month, and she'd spent a few weeks more in denial about her lack of period (Stress! That must be it! she'd lied to herself). Somehow, even though the only symptom she'd experienced so far was breast tenderness and a bit of bloating, she knew even before she'd bought two Muggle pregnancy tests and confirmed her suspicions.
She needed to go to the doctor, or to St. Mungo's, perhaps, but she knew the proper thing to do was to inform the father of her...thing…it certainly wasn't a baby at this point, or, rather, she couldn't quite wrap her mind around the unexpected nature of finding herself in this situation and imagine one.
Her parents, practical and Muggle, had given her scientific texts and explained the process of becoming pregnant in a somewhat clinical manner. Hermione hadn't realized just how different it would be to actually do it.
Her exploits with Ron had ended fairly quickly, which she was fairly thankful for. It hadn't boded well when he'd started talking about making babies the second he'd gotten a firm hold on her breast. Of course, maybe the war had changed him in that respect. It was as though he felt biologically driven to repopulate the Wizarding World after all the carnage that had passed, but Hermione had plenty of dreams that did not include being a broodmare for the youngest Weasley son. There were plenty of injustices to right without having to worry about dirty nappies and wiping runny noses.
It had actually taken almost a decade for her to meet someone who she was able to stand after a handful of dates (date being a word that she used rather lightly, as the first time she and Severus had spent time together had been when they'd run into one another at an Apothecarian Arithmancy research retreat located in a tiny town in coastal France and he'd agreed to take a stroll with her along the cold, rocky beach nearby).
She hadn't even noticed it was him until (which, in hindsight, had been utterly silly, as he was as striking as he'd ever been) he'd approached her.
It was strange- even though he was older than he'd been while she was at school, it seemed as though his time away from Wizarding Britain had softened the lines on his face rather than deepened them. Other than a shock of white hair down one temple, his hair remained as black as a raven's wing. Without the weight of Voldemort and Dumbledore on his shoulders, he almost seemed younger than he'd been in her first year, which she thought back to with a hazy sort of nostalgia. He'd always been strict with her but only cruel in reaction to a perceived slight. As an adult, most of his words, even that time he'd dismissed her teeth after being caught accidentally in the face by a hex, had ceased to bother her.
After all, as she'd learned on the floor of Malfoy Manor, there were far worse things than easily shrinkable teeth.
"Yes," he'd said, pulling his long, dark hair back and fastening it in a ponytail after it whipped into his head for the thousandth time, "I survived. The Malfoys owed me one, after all, and though they're a bunch of stuck up gits, they keep their promises. They hauled me off to Burgundy after I'd been stabilized, and I've been slowly developing a list of patents to keep my needs met ever since."
Hermione had followed his lead and twisted her hair up behind her head, using a similar sticking charm to keep it fastened. The cold sea breeze stung her cheeks and they reddened under his gaze, though, she'd lied to herself that time as well and told herself that it wasn't his proximity that made her heart thrum with need, but the shock of knowing he was alive and well after all.
She had never told anyone about how effortless it had been to fall into bed with him that evening after all of the tabletop sessions had finished. She was sure that even Ginny, who'd had her share of one-night-stands, would probably have scoffed at Hermione's wantonness.
She'd been a virgin that night, after all. She'd lied about hooking up with one of her romantic prospects a few years earlier just to stop her friends from trying to set her up with "studs."
But then again, so had he.
"I'm sorry...I might not...I couldn't…" he'd gasped into her mouth as she'd pushed him down onto the bed in her hotel room. "Before, when I tried…"
She'd felt him hard and throbbing against her leg and pressed her thigh against him in a way she had hoped mirrored her desire. "We can try."
He'd let out a soft whimper, his breath hitching as she covered his mouth again, for she was good at kissing- it was familiar territory that she knew well. But Severus tasted simply divine compared to others she'd kissed before (though not all had been bad, she conceded), and she hungered for more of him.
He'd protested as she'd pulled his shirt away from him, embarrassed of his scars. But, as she'd taken in the vision of his pale skin glowing in the candlelight, she'd caught herself whispering "you're beautiful," before she could stop herself. She kissed his scars and ground against his erection while he writhed under her, taking his moans and soft sounds of pleasure as encouragement to continue.
Then, when she thought she could bear it no longer, she pulled away and tugged her robes over her head, pointing out her own scars, and he'd kissed them too, mumbling "beautiful, beautiful" his voice velvety soft like a man in a dream.
Of course, that night she'd cast the contraception charm properly. He'd used a special charm on her hymen to increase its pliability so that it would stretch without pain and made certain that it wouldn't hurt when he finally entered her body. She'd shivered to see the care and concern in his eyes as he slid inside of her, and he'd refused to look away from her until they'd both come hard and fast, their bodies collapsing against one another with his cock still buried deep inside of her, the heat of his semen pooling inside her most intimate places like a promise that would never be broken.
No, the reason she didn't want anyone to know about their first time wasn't the sex. It was that they'd already begun to love one another after only a few hours together, and for most people, to even suggest such a thing was ludicrous.
But for Hermione, it had never been "just sex." And she wagered that for Severus, it had been the same.
Still, they had waited two years to marry, which had been both hard and simple all at once. Being with Severus was simple. Managing how everyone around them felt about their relationship was the difficult part. It had taken ages for Ron to speak to her again, and even Harry had seemed to feel betrayed when she'd admitted who she'd been seeing.
Hermione looked at her reflection and found that she was surprised to see that she'd started tearing up. They hadn't really discussed trying to start a family yet, but she'd been lax in casting her contraceptive charms, especially when they'd finally moved in together and he'd begun waking her in the morning on weekends for decadently slow, sleepy sex, which almost always succeeded in her falling asleep with him softening inside of her, the wet warmth of their lovemaking spreading through her body as she slowly drifted back into dreams.
Really, it was all her fault.
"That's what you get, you selfish, stupid cow," she said to her reflection, but this only made her vision swim even worse than before. "Got yourself knocked up, and now you've gone and ruined his life too."
Part of her mind, the coldly rational part, told her that it wasn't just her responsibility. After all, it's not like she'd actually done it all by herself. But still, she knew that it was going to be a painful conversation that she didn't want to have. It wasn't that she'd avoided talking about having children with him, she'd just somewhat assumed that he'd be happier without them, especially considering how he'd behaved during all her years at school. A strange, almost hysterical notion gripped her for a moment as she continued to turn the problem of telling him over in her mind and she wondered if there might be a potion that might induce miscarriage so that she could simply pretend it hadn't happened at all. It would be easy enough to request access to the Ministry archives to find the recipe and brew it herself or alter her face with charms and visit an apothecary.
She shook her head, letting her wild, bushy curls whip over her tear-streaked cheeks and then wiped around both of her misty eyes with her forefingers.
She'd just have to let it eat her up inside for a few more hours.
He deserved to know.
Hermione nearly dropped the dish she was washing when she heard the floo in the library activate. The Unplottable cottage they'd purchased in the mountains was a bit remote, but that wasn't anything that a bit of magic couldn't fix, and the view was beautiful. It had become home, and after having lost that sense of peace during the war, Hermione could feel her mind begin to crackle with anxiety at the thought of losing yet another place that she had thought would be a safe haven.
She could hear him shuffling around as he set his potions ingredients bag on the floor and removed his dragonhide boots and placed them in the shoe cubby by the floo. It had been a habit that Hermione had taken up after the war when she'd been living in a tiny, dingy flat, and Severus, being somewhat fastidious about keeping things tidy, had been taken by the idea. Even though they had magic, there was no reason to track dirt all around the house if they didn't have to.
Hermione clenched her fingers around the corner of the sink, steadying herself. Suddenly, now that she knew he would be entering the room shortly, she could feel her body tighten as though readying itself to flee.
"I can do this," she muttered to herself, catching a distorted reflection of her face in the soapy water. "I can do this."
"Bloody nifflers," Severus grumbled as he entered the kitchen, sweeping over towards the potions storage pantry, which was located adjacent to the kitchen and kept well-ventilated using a natural stone vent carved from the side of the mountain and a few filtering charms that kept the ingredients from getting moldy or invaded by magical pests. "They broke out of their pens in the magical creature menagerie and broke in and stole ten years worth of Felix Felicis from the Auror's storeroom! Then they guzzled it down, the blighters!"
Hermione stifled a snicker. She knew that her husband wasn't truly furious, for he'd been paid to make said batch of Felix Felicis already, and he had a strict "no refunds if your potions are consumed by a meddling magical creature" clause.
"So, guess who got to spend all day long setting up over fifty cauldrons to begin the arduous process of replenishing their supply?" Severus sounded smug. He always did when he knew that he was going to be paid top coin for a job.
"Hmm, would it be your poor, overworked and underpaid apprentices?" Hermione said, turning at last and grabbing a dishtowel to dry her hands. As an added bonus, the rest of it covered her stomach, as though hiding the proof of her pregnancy, though she logically knew that she was nowhere near showing it.
"Hah! Those dunderheads are not allowed within a mile of my advanced brews," Severus replied with a snort. "I'll give them a chance when they figure out which side of the Asphodel root to powder, and which is supposed to be diced. If they're lucky, they might be halfway decent apothecary assistants if they don't accidentally blow themselves up first."
Hermione snickered at this. Severus was as exacting and strict towards his apprentices as he had been as a professor at Hogwarts. The main difference was that his apprentices were often picked from the best of the best potions students in all of Europe, and there was a bidding war to study under Severus, especially after his series of best-selling potions manuals were released. They practically squealed with pleasure every time Severus snarled at them for screwing up, which only made him snarl more.
"It's an apprenticeship, not a fan club!" he'd raged one evening, after regaling her with a tale about one of his apprentices thanking him profusely and offered to take him to dinner after he'd corrected her on a relatively minor problem with her brewing technique.
Hermione had thought it hilarious, actually, but she'd let him grumble on for a bit longer so that he could finish decompressing from his stressful day.
Now, the thought of Severus working all day long with young, nubile apprentices that were most definitely not going to get huge and pregnant anytime soon made her stomach churn.
Severus said something and Hermione blinked. She hadn't heard him clearly.
"Are you feeling unwell?" Severus was looking at her with concern.
"Um...well...funny you should mention that-" Hermione began, before she began to see weird sparks bursting before her and she stumbled forward, her brain going all fuzzy.
"Hermione!" Severus shouted. She could feel his warm arms grasping her roughly as he caught her, the dishtowel floating down slowly until it came to rest on the stone tile floor.
Hermione blinked rapidly, but her head was so fuzzy and she couldn't think straight. She'd just close her eyes and rest for a moment. That was it. Then she could tell Severus...something...whatever it was, it could wait.
She was sure of it.
Hermione opened her eyes and stared at the high ceiling of the library. Frowning in confusion, she tried to sit up.
"Hermione, wait," Severus said softly and she turned her head to see him standing in the doorway with a cup filled with a dark, muddy-looking liquid. "You've been unconscious for ten or fifteen minutes. I don't want you to stand up in case you fall again."
"Wuhappened?" Hermione slurred, rubbing her eyes.
"You just...fell," Severus replied, looking uncomfortable. "Do you have an idea of what is wrong?"
"Yes," Hermione said before she could stop herself, then glumly she added, "but you won't like it."
"Tell me." Severus moved towards her slowly, as though expecting her to transform into a werewolf and bite him. He set down the cup on the end table and sat down quietly next to her. His body was still and his eyes were blank, which Hermione knew meant he had fallen behind his Occlumency shields out of habit because he was unsure and nervous. His hands and fingers knit together over and over again, and Hermione smiled, despite herself. He never could fully hide his true feelings from her.
"I've had my suspicions, but I only found out today." Hermione pulled out her wand and summoned her bag from where it hung on a hook by the door. "I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but...you're going to be a father."
She pulled the pregnancy tests out of her bag and handed them to him.
He took them and stared blankly at them.
"What do the lines mean?" he asked in a very quiet voice.
"Two lines indicate pregnancy," Hermione sighed, her heart sinking, "and as you can see, I did two tests to make sure."
He stared at her, his eyes slowly shifting down to look at her stomach.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt.
He was quiet for a long time, his eyebrows furrowed together slightly. Then, he looked at her, frowning slightly.
"What's the bad news, then?" he asked, and Hermione could feel her chest prick with hope.
"I thought...you'd be mad," she said slowly. "We didn't plan it, after all, and-"
To her surprise, Severus' eyes cleared and he chuckled softly, shaking his head. "Is that what all of this was about?" You thought I'd be mad that my wife, who I love dearly, is pregnant with my child?"
"Well, when you say it like that, it does sound sort of silly," Hermione sniffed, willing herself not to cry like a ninny.
"Just because I don't particularly like other people's children," Severus replied, "doesn't mean that I wouldn't love our child. I...wow, our child. I...this is wonderful news, Hermione!"
He looked up at her again, and Hermione could see that his eyes were shining with something like joy, and she couldn't hold back her own happy tears any longer. He wrapped his arms around her from the side, one hand coming to rest against her abdomen.
"Ours," he whispered, and Hermione nodded happily as he kissed her tears away.