Severus sat in his favorite chair by the fireplace with a cup of coffee in his hand. He was staring at the food laid out in covered trays on the coffee table. Food that would be stone cold by now had it not been for the warming spell.

That morning he'd received a note from Hermione, letting him know that she was going to come have supper with him, and then they'd talk. She had said in her note that she would be there at 6pm. It was now 7:45pm and there had been no further notes from Hermione or any activity from the Floo Network.

It was obvious that she was standing him up and had no intention of coming. The thought was a terrible one for Severus. He loved her. He really loved her, more than he'd even realized until this evening came and he was sitting alone waiting for her to show. Severus hated the idea that without meaning too, he'd completely messed up the only good thing in his life, aside from his sister and her children.

At 8pm Severus finally uncovered the supper that the house elves had brought. It was warm and smelled like it had just been made moments ago instead of being made just before 6 o'clock. He had just dished up a mound of mashed potatoes when there was a knock at his chamber door.

He got up and crossed the room, frowning, having no desire whatsoever to be disturbed right know, no matter what the cause. Severus yanked the door open and stopped short.

"You came," Severus said quietly, an eyebrow raised.

Hermione nodded, unsure of his mood considering the look she'd seen on his face when he'd opened the door. "Sorry I'm late. Adam was really fusing and Hailey wouldn't go to sleep and Lynessa has a cold," she hurriedly explained. "Things got very busy very quickly. I came as soon as I could."

Severus nodded, watching her closely. "I thought you'd changed your mind. I was just dishing up to eat. Are you hungry?"

He felt nervous, which was an odd thing for him. Severus was a confident man, or at least appeared to always be confident to others, and most of the time he was. This was one of those times he definitely wasn't.

Hermione accepted his invitation and dished up a plate for herself before sitting down in the seat across from his. "I'll admit, I don't know what to say. I feel hurt that you've kept something from me. I thought you knew you could trust me with anything."

"I can and do," Severus assured her, his voice hushed yet heavy with barely hidden emotions. "This is just far more personal and difficult for me to deal with. It's not something easy to talk about, Hermione, and yet we've come to the road where we need to talk about it. You should know what you might get yourself into."

"Severus, please." A tinge of exasperation came into her voice. "Just tell me. Stop dancing around the issue. The sooner you tell me, the sooner you can stop being anxious about it. I'm certainly not so fragile that I'm going to break or blush at anything you have to tell me. Though I will become annoyed if this edging around it continues."

She was direct and forward, Severus mentally mused, something he appreciated in people. She also had a good point. He needed to get it over with.

"Having a severe temper runs in my family," Severus began, his voice dull and troubled. "Both my parents had extremely hot tempers, and members on both sides of their families did as well."

"That is what you wanted to tell me?" Hermione interrupted, sounding incredulous. "That's been rather apparent, Severus, considering I had you as a teacher and saw it first hand on a nearly daily basis!"

Severus scowled, his face dark, anger growing in his eyes. "Be quiet," he told her firmly. "I'm not finished! Every story has a beginning, Hermione. Forgive me for my life story having one that you already knew."

She opened her mouth to object to the scolding he'd just delivered, but something in his eyes gave her pause, so she said nothing and allowed him to continue.

Seeing that Hermione was going to let him at least finish a thought before interrupting again, he continued. "My father's temper was much worse than anyone else's in the family. He was quick to anger, much like I am, but immediately lashed out physically. I was the only child my parents had, so nothing I ever went without scrutiny and even when I had nothing to do with something, things seemed to be my fault all the same."

Hermione's brow furrowed unconsciously. She had a horrible sinking feeling that she knew exactly where this was going. She'd have never suspected it before, but now it seemed the only logical conclusion to draw. At least until he continued and confirmed or denied her suspicions.

"I spent a great deal of time in my father's study, being… 'disciplined' as he called it. It was not your average discipline by any means. My father had a cane that he loved using, but wasn't above using other items from time to time. He was a very angry, brutal man, and I was a convenient target for him to beat his aggressions out on, to the point of leaving bruises and welts and scars. It was used on my behind, on my legs, back and arms. Not necessarily all at one time, but I've got scars on all those areas." He was unable to suppress a shiver of vivid recollections of trips to the study.

Severus looked into her eyes, trying to judge her reaction to all this. He could see unspoken pain alive and glowing in her eyes, and instantly became concerned. It didn't dawn on Severus that the pain in her eyes was because his childhood saddened her so and pained her heart.

Without a word, Hermione put down her plate, jumped out of the chair, took his plate away from him and wrapped her arms around him. She held onto him tightly, finding herself at a loss of words to comfort him, so she held onto him in silence. She felt an urgent need to ease the pain from all those years and begin to erase it away. Hermione rigidly held her tears in check for as long as she could. They inevitably, slowly, found their way down her cheeks.

"I'm not quite sure I follow your thinking," Hermione said after a few moments of silence during which she reigned in her tears. "I mean, I'm very glad that you shared this part of your life with me, but what in the world does it have to do with us as a couple and us as possibly parents someday? Unless…"

His curt nod confirmed that her thought was correct.

"Oh Severus no! You know that isn't true for a second!" she exclaimed hotly.

"Do I?" Severus asked quietly. His expressions was one of pained tolerance and quiet acceptance of what he felt was the truth, even if he didn't want it to be. "I haven't been a father before. I don't know what I could do and neither do you."

"Oh yes I do know," Hermione said sternly, her eyes narrowing. "You've been teaching for many years Severus, you've been Head of Slytherin that entire time. Not to mention you are an uncle to three nieces and one nephew, all of who love you!

"As mean as you can be to students at times, it's all talk. You've never hurt anyone! And if you were going to, it would most certainly have been Fred and George Weasley for goodness sake! But you didn't hurt anyone, ever, even them."

Severus rubbed his forehead. "What if that changes? What if I do hurt one of our children? Or hurt you?"

Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed. "Severus Snape, you are not going to hurt me or anyone else. I have absolute faith in you. Do you honestly think I'd be sitting here on your lap right this second if I truly believed that you might harm our children or even me someday? Of course not!"

"But Hermione…"

"But nothing," she cut him off, speaking very sternly again. "It will not happen. However, I am willing to promise you that if for any reason ever at all in the future that I feel myself or our children are in danger that I will leave and you'll never find us again, providing I don't just kill you to begin with."

Severus looked into her eyes. "Are you serious? You'll take them and leave, you promise?"

Grief for him and how much he was hurting tore at her heart. "Yes, Severus, I promise you that. I have no doubts that it will never come to such a drastic thing, but if it makes you feel better to have that promise, then I do promise it."

Relief flooded his body at her promise. Severus hoped that it would never, ever come to something like that, but had no doubt that Hermione would keep her promise if she had too. Knowing that, it wasn't as frightening to think about being with her forever and having children with her.

Her vow was sealed with a kiss. She pressed her open lips to his, lingering and savoring every moment of that kiss. When they finally had to pull away from each other, just a few inches, to catch their breath.

Hermione gave him a thoughtful look. "Now, back to the original question that started this whole thing. Do you have an answer for me? Now that you've told me what you needed to and you have my promise?"

"Yes," Severus said, nodding. "I can't say I'll never be anxious, about what I told you or about fatherhood in general, but… I very much look forward to having children with you someday Hermione. Whenever we get to that stage

"I love you very much," he assured her in quiet, gentle tones. "I can't imagine my life anymore without you in it. I hope you know that."

Hermione giggled and put her arms around his neck. She brushed her lips against his before kissing him earnestly, a kiss full of desire and happiness. Severus responded with a serious of slow kisses that made her shiver.

"Well, I don't suppose there's any doubt left that I don't know how much you love me, is there?" she asked after several moments. Her eyes were sparkling with excitement and mischief.

"No, none at all," he whispered into her hair. He held her close. So close that it seemed her soft contours were molding to the contours of his body.

"You know, you'll have to marry me first," she commented, kissing his chin.

Severus jerked and looked at her, appearing truly astonished and surprised at her words. "Did I miss something?" he asked, finding his voice irritatingly uneven.

She laughed and smiled, her whole face lighting up. "No, you didn't miss anything. I just mean that if we're going to have children, you're going to have to marry me first. That's how it works, at least with me anyway."

He relaxed, and drew her closer to him. "Ah, I see. I suppose I'll have to do that then, when we're ready." Severus let her settle against him, her head resting on his shoulder, and looked at her adoringly. He had never imagined he could love someone, let alone have such an amazing amount of love inside him as he did for Hermione.

Much to Aralyn's delight, the couple seemed as happy as they had been before their fight, come the day of Hailey's birthday party. Her brother arrived early to help, which was really an excuse to try and steal some of Hermione's time before the other parents and children came over.

"It's my birthday, it's my birthday, it's my birthday!" Hailey announced, jumping and bouncing all over the room. She bounded over to Severus and tugged on the sleeve of his robes.

"Uncle it's my birthday!" she shrieked.

Severus cringed. "Shh, I know Hailey. There's no need to shout. You'll give uncle a headache. Happy, happy birthday, sweet girl." He let go of Hermione, for a moment, to scoop his niece up on his arms.

"Are you gonna give me a birthday spanking, like you gave Hermy?" Hailey asked, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Severus coughed, loudly. "Excuse me?"

"That's what you were doing on the porch on Hermy's birthday. Nessa saw you, and we asked Hermy what you were doing, and that's what she told us."

Severus shot Hermione a glare, to which the woman shrugged her shoulders. "What else did you want me to tell them, Severus?" she asked, an eyebrow quirked. "I wasn't going to lie, particularly when it was innocent… or relatively so." Hermione smirked and winked.

"And you couldn't tell her you tripped?" he asked incredulously.

"What would I have told her if she'd asked why I didn't get up, and why your hand was on my bum?" Hermione hissed.

Damn, Severus thought to himself. She's got me there.

"No Hailey, I won't be doing that," Severus told her. The little girl looked disappointed and he sighed. "Trust me, you will be having so much fun you won't even think about something as silly as that. And if you really want one, ask your mum, that's part of her job anyway!"

Thankfully the doorbell rang before Hailey had time to do anymore pouting. "PARTY TIME!" She scrambled out of Severus' hold and raced for the door with her governess hot on her heels.

"I hadn't thought they could see us that day," Severus said quietly, shaking his head.

Hermione smiled, her eyes twinkling. "One thing I've learned a thousand times over from this job is that kids see and hear everything!"

The party had been in full swing for an hour, and Hermione was already exhausted. So many little ones running around and shrieking and getting into mischief! And there was another two hours of the party left!

She took a quick break over at the refreshment table, getting herself some punch and taking a long drink of the cool, yummy liquid. She watched Severus, imaging that he was quite terrified of all these little kids running around him. She'd already counted eight times that she'd heard him be asked if he was a vampire or bat, and had giggled loudly every time, despite the looks he was giving her.

Meanwhile, Severus had been roped into instructing the group of youngsters on the "pin the tail on the donkey" was played. He really hadn't wanted too, but his sister had sent all of them running towards him, so he didn't exactly have a choice.

"No, no, no, Teddy," Severus said to Remus & Tonks Lupin's little boy. "You pin it on the picture of the donkey. Not on another child. Do you remember how I should you?" He was struggling to remain patient. These children had an attention span of about ten seconds!

Teddy flashed Severus a cheeky grin. "It's more fun to chase her around," he stated, pointing at Melody Wood.

"Well that is not the point of the game, and Miss Wood doesn't look like she cares overly much for your attentions," Severus told him.

The little boy blinked and looked at Severus closely. "Huh?"

Severus rolled his eyes. "Never mind, just put the tail on the donkey like you're supposed to and let someone else have a turn. Oh wait! I'm supposed to blindfold you. I was wondering why this game was so unchallenging."

The boy stayed still while Severus loosely tied a blindfold around his eyes. "There. Now put it on!" As Teddy tried his hand at finding the spot to put the donkey tail, Severus looked at the other kids.

"No, Cassie, you do not eat the donkey tail," he said, his eyes wide. "Sweet merlin, why would you want to do that?" He took the tail from the little girl, which made her start to cry, a very shrill and loud cry.

"Your child is trying to eat the tail," Severus explained when Luna wandered over.

"Oh, she's very exploratory," Luna said simply. "She likes to see if it's something to eat or not, even if we tell her its not. She's very bright." Cassie giggled and took the tail out of her mouth, holding it out towards Severus.

Severus had difficulty thinking that a child who was willingly chomping on a felt donkey tail was doing something bright, but managed to restrain himself from saying so. With a sigh, he took the drool soaked tail and used his wand to clean it.

It was quite a frightening thought, but he was actually thinking he appreciated his Hogwarts students. At least they didn't drool on things and hand them to you, or try to eat things that were obviously not meant to be eaten! And at this rate, the game was never going to be finished!

Hermione watched him struggling, smiling and giggling, thinking it was quite good practice for him. Not that she planned to present him with five or six children at one time by any means! It was still good practice.

She became so immersed in watching that she didn't notice Remus Lupin approach her, and jumped when he said her name, nearly spilling her punch.

"Oh," she said, turning to look at Lupin. "Hello Mr. Lupin."

Remus shook his head. "You're a grown up now Hermione, it's really alright to call me Remus," he told her kindly.

She nodded. "Alright, Remus." Hermione searched his face for traces of disappointment or anger, and was pleasantly surprised to see neither.

"You are looking incredibly nervous, like I've caught you doing something you shouldn't be doing," the man said with a chuckle. "Relax Hermione. I thought we could talk a bit."

"Now is not a good time," she replied very quickly. "I'm only taking a short break, my help is needed for the party."

"Afterwards, then," Remus said. "Would that be better?"

Feeling very shy and awkward, Hermione blushed a bit and shook her head no. Remus wondered what was the matter with her, as she'd never been unfriendly or shy with him before, and they'd known one another since her third year at Hogwarts.

"Monday night then, and I won't take no for an answer," Remus told her firmly. "Come have dinner with Tonks, Teddy and I. 6 o'clock sharp."

"Alright," she agreed, softly. "I'm sorry, I really should get back. I think the kids are going to drive Severus insane if he doesn't get a little help." Hermione gave the man a smile and headed towards the game that Severus was attempting to supervise.

"Uncle, how come I didn't get a present from you?" Hailey asked with a pout after her little friends left.

Severus had decided the party was just too loud and chaotic for the kitten to take and had put her in Aralyn's room until the festivities were over. "I wanted you to be able to give your present your full attention. I have one for you and I'll go get it from your mum's room. Don't worry, I wouldn't forget to give you a present on your birthday."

The little girl immediately perked up, grinning widely. "Ok! I'll wait right here!"

Envisioning the screech that would come from Hailey at the revealing of her gift, Hermione decided to warn the girl ahead of time. "Now, when uncle show you your present, it's very important that you not scream, alright? Can you do that for me?"

Hailey looked a bit confused, but nodded her blonde head up and down all the same. She then gasped as she saw Severus come back into the room. The dark haired man was holding a tiny kitten, gray with black stripes on its back and a pink ribbon around its neck and he carried the kitten over to her.

"Happy birthday, Hailey," Severus said with a smile.

"For me? Really? What's its name?" she asked, tentatively picking up the kitten.

"Yes, it is really for you. And you can name her whatever you'd like," he responded.

"Hmmm," Hailey mused as she began to pet the kitten. "I will name you Muffin!"

Severus chuckled. "Why do you want to name her Muffin?"

Hailey giggled. "Silly! Because muffins are yummy and I love them!"

A/N: Thank you to everyone for bearing with my long gaps between updates. It's never intentional; it just always seems to happen that I can't get things going. And then finals come and I want to write so bad I can hardly stand it, LOL! I love all of you, thank you so much for your faithfulness! The story isn't over, just bear with me as I continue to write!