DISCLAIMER: Not mine! It's all J. K. Rowling's.

BETA READERS: GinnyW and Annie Talbot – thank you very much!

A/N: Chapter Thirty Six! The end of Nathan's first year, and the start of Severus' family life.

This chapter has been edited to comprise with this site's guidelines on adult content. If you want to read it in its entirety, go to AO3 - archiveofourown(dot)org - and look for ferporcel (me!) or this story, Not Only A Granger. There's also a link on my profile.


Chapter 36: Wholeness

Friday arrived, and Severus couldn't get out of what Hermione insisted was a great opportunity for a perfectly normal date. Well, the term could be accurate, since he did feel like an unhinged teenager standing there, waiting for Hermione to answer the intercom. She'd insisted he use the door this time.

"Hello?" came the voice from the communicator. It didn't sound like Hermione's.

"Hermione?" he asked back. He heard his name in the distance and then giggles closer.

"Professor Snape, Hermione is just making sure she'll be the most beautiful woman in attendance and will be—"

He could hear Hermione's voice in the background before noises of interference covered it.

"Severus, it's me. I'll be down in a moment."

"Very well," he answered, pulling up the collar of his cloak. Spring was here, but the wind was still more on the cold side than not.

When the wait was starting to become annoying, Severus heard shoes on the stairs inside. Soon after, the door to the building opened to reveal a gorgeous woman, draped in a rich chocolate-brown dress that left her shoulders bare. The wind blew, and the flowing fabric hugged Hermione's body, silhouetting what the dress tried to hide.

"I'm sorry to make you wait. Erica insisted on doing my hair, and that's always time-consuming without—"

"Hermione, you forgot your coat."

"Oh! Thank you, Erica." Hermione took the proffered item, covering the peach-like skin of her shoulders with it.

"Erica Gibson." The woman offered her hand and a discomfiting smile.

Cautiously, Severus accepted the offered hand. "Severus Snape."

"It's good to finally meet you, Professor Snape."

"Likewise, Mrs. Gibson."

The two women shared a look before Erica retreated down the hall to take the stairs up. Severus offered his arm, and Hermione took it, gifting him with a stunning smile—lipstick made her mouth even more inviting.

"Where is the car?" she asked, distracting him from the thoughts of kissing her.

"We'll Apparate like the wizard and witch that we are."

She shook her head, but Severus could see amusement in her eyes. They entered a niche hidden in the front of a building more to the end of the block. Severus pulled her closer, sneaking his hands under her coat and feeling the warmth coming through the thin fabric of her dress. Before Apparating, he finally kissed her.

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione finally relaxed in Severus' arms after the reassuring kiss. She hadn't realized how nervous she'd been about this 'date' until now. In the days that followed her invitation, she hadn't been able to stop trying to predict how this night would be like. Severus…. As much as she'd grown to know him better these past months, his actions were still pretty much unpredictable. She had worried that they would start the evening with her arguing with him to keep with the plan of going, but nothing of the sort had been necessary so far. In fact, he was perfectly gorgeous in his tuxedo, had tolerated Erica's curiosity graciously, and was quite adept at kissing her worries away.

She sighed loudly with happiness.

"Where will the mind-numbing ceremony take place?"

"Stop that." Hermione tried to keep a straight face while chastising him. These demeaning comments had become a sort of game to Severus, as much as she'd tried to make him take the event seriously. Just to get to her, he would come up with the most degrading adjectives to describe the award ceremony. In retaliation, she would come up with the most pompous and silly adjectives she could find to counteract. "The vainglorious award ceremony will take place in the hall. It's across the square, behind that building."

He offered his arm, and she once again claimed it. Unlike their walks in the Forbidden Forest—because Severus didn't permit himself to lower his guard and walk with her like this any other time—his step was somehow shorter, unhurried. When they were halfway through the square, he voiced a question.

"How do you want to do this?"

Hermione looked at him, wrinkling her forehead. Of all the possible questions she expected him to ask, this one had not even been on the list. "What do you mean?"

"Do you prefer to go in first? Do you want me to step in behind you? Do you want me to leave you at the door and come back to fetch you later? How do you want this?"

"Exactly like this," she told him, and some of her incredulity with his doubts seeped into her voice. "Arm in arm is fine, Severus. And if for some reason we're unable to keep this position, I want you behind me, touching my back, my shoulder, my hand, whatever. You're my man—your words. This is officially a date. No secrecy, no deception, no hidden agenda."

He didn't say anything, and Hermione didn't know what to make of his silence.

"Relax, please," she begged. "I want us to enjoy the evening, that's all. No one here knows you. You're my date, and that's perfectly acceptable."

"Your ex knows me."

She groaned. "Don't be deliberately difficult, please?" In an afterthought she added, "And don't go looking for trouble, either. I'll keep my eyes on you."

They arrived at the hall, then, and just when they were making their way in, he said, "Is that a promise?"

That eyebrow, that smirk... Hermione had no chance.

~o0oOo0o~

"So…"

Severus didn't have to look at the source of such eloquent interlocution to know this was the annoying Muggle—her ex—finally having the balls to come say whatever he had to say since he saw them—Hermione and Severus—arrive unmistakably together, just like she'd asked for.

Severus didn't take his attention off the drinks he was fetching.

"Hermione looks stunning tonight."

Severus directed his disdain at the Muggle, then, hoping that would make him go away. Hermione was stunning in that dress, no doubt, but that was none of this bloke's business.

"I don't think she realizes how powerful that dress makes her. She's too blind to realize she can have any man in this room."

"Are you done ogling my woman, or was there some other purpose to these unwanted observations?"

"You're too old for her, and soon she'll—"

"Here's what you'll do," Severus started, speaking slowly in what he knew from experience to be a scary voice, "you'll take whatever shit you've been rehearsing in front of the mirror to throw at me and you'll go choke yourself in it. You'll also keep yourself and all your shit away from Hermione—"

"Just because you have a son—"

"Don't eve mention my son, again," Severus hissed, his face inches from the other man's, "for as long as you live."

The Muggle's slightly widened eyes told Severus that the man was appropriately warned.

"Do you think she'll like to know you're trying to control who may or may not be friends with her? We're colleagues; we see each other every day. Will you forbid her to work, too?"

Severus was ready to take the man's head off, when…

"Who's forbidding whom to work?" Hermione took—with some effort—one of the flutes of champagne from Severus' hand and hooked her arm in his to blink owlishly at the other man, then less owlishly at him.

"Your colleague here is asking what I think of you working here," Severus answered, a most edited version of the conversation.

"And what do you think?"

"Yes, what do you think?" The Muggle emphasized Hermione's question, and Severus didn't like the smugness of his expression.

Looking at Hermione's expectant eyes, he said, "I think it's beneath you. You're far too talented to be locked in here, teaching and researching in such limited institution full of limited people."

The Muggle seemed affronted, but Hermione—his brilliant, beautiful Hermione—was looking back at him, shining like the most radiant being in the world. Her smile engulfed his heart and constricted his breathing.

"Come," she told him, putting the drinks away and dragging him effortlessly by the hand. "Let's dance."

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione had made her excuses from the group of colleagues she'd been engaged in conversation the moment she'd realized what Severus' body language meant and who would be the victim. She'd approached William and Severus with the intention of avoiding a scene or something worse and…

Here she was, on the dance floor, ego inflated by a man who seldom offered praise, completely lost in his eyes.

Taking Severus out of the castle and her apartment was proving to be what their relationship needed to finally shape up into something more than clandestine and tentative.

This was real.

"Hermione, I don't dance."

It had never been so real.

"You should." She took his hands and brought them to her waist, then held him by the neck and started to sway with the music. "Move with me. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate." Hermione just didn't want to let him go. Not now.

"We're making fools of ourselves."

She smiled at him. "I love you."

He stopped swaying, and her smile faltered.

"Don't do that," she asked him. "You know I love you. I've told you before. Come on, I want to dance with you."

"I don't dance," he insisted.

"Then, let's pretend to dance, as we were doing so well." She swayed in his arms, tucking her face under his chin.

This was solid and so very real.

She closed her eyes to feel his heartbeat. He hadn't moved away. He was holding her, dancing with her.

They were real.

Many songs played, and they were still there, holding each other.

The music ended. Hermione looked up and saw him, the man, the human being.

"Let's get out of here."

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione Apparated them directly into her bedroom, taking his breath away. He knew what that meant, this was it. He'd seen it coming, he'd lived this scene over and over in his head, but it didn't stop the cold fear in his guts. This night had been uniquely bizarre. In many moments, Severus had felt that being with her had given him a free pass to someone else's good fortune, the right to be just like the next man. Now, face to face with Hermione, alone in her bedroom, he was very aware of who he was and how wrong this could be.

She was devouring him with her eyes, giving him strength. His life force seemed to come from the very fire in her eyes. Her breath hit hot on his lips. Her closeness was electrifying, as always. Yet, this time things were different. His hands trembled from the need to touch her, but he feared that his good fortune wouldn't go so far. She would realize who he was any moment, wouldn't she? She would push him away from her, would surely not want his hands on her skin, so he kept them still, never daring to take anything for himself. He owed her this. It had to be her choice. Severus would take only whatever Hermione would offer him and nothing more.

She first offered her mouth, her tongue burning his. She pushed him down to the bed and straddled him. He broke the kiss, panting. She licked his lips and went after his throat, making him shiver.

He was more aware of her breasts on his chest than ever. He felt as if she was throwing him into hell, and he found himself going there willingly, wanting to be consumed by her flames. A magnetic force was pulling his hands to touch her, but he continued to fight it, forcing them in the opposite direction to hover by her sides, waiting for Merlin knew what sign that they were welcome on her waist, or lower, or higher, or under, or in, or...

These were the signs of a melting brain.

He held onto her thighs but kept his hands from sliding up, where he could only imagine the amount of heat he would find, enough to consume him whole. She didn't seem to have the same reservations and made easy work of his buttons, burning a path on his bare chest with her finger.

"Hermione." He made to stop her.

"I want to taste your skin." She tried to reach for another button, but he didn't release her hands. He wouldn't be able to resist if she continued, and he wanted her to be sure. She eyed him, fixing him with liquid fire.

"Merlin," he whispered, losing his resolve and taking her mouth again.

"I love you," she whispered against his lips. "Touch me. Let me touch you."

His hands couldn't fight anymore, not even if his brain were still in charge. He released her, and she kept her eyes on his while she resumed her exploration, sliding fingers down his throat, snake-like, leaving the obstacle of a button behind and working her way under the fabric of his shirt, finding a nipple, extracting a reaction from him.

He buried his nose in the back of her ear, making room for his mouth, nibbling at her throat. He felt the rest of his buttons being opened and brought his hands up, traveling the sides of her upper body, finally. She pulled his jacket and shirt aside and tasted the skin they'd been hiding. His muscles tensed delightfully before melting under her lips and tongue, his breathing speeding with his heartbeat.

He needed to know how he tasted in her mouth, struggling to get her tongue to meet his again, pushing her lower body closer and finding more heat. His desire was to bring her in, meld their skin.

"Yes," she agreed, struggling with her dress, throwing it away, somewhere. He didn't have the time to remove her bra and expose her breasts before she'd done it herself, but he held her hands in time to keep her from doing the same with the rest of their clothes. She moaned in protest.

"Slow down," he hissed, breathing once, twice, and on the third time he rolled them over, ending on top of her in the middle of the bed. The feeling of her underneath his body wearing nothing but a strip of fabric was powerful. He could hear her breathing—uneven. There was something about the muffled sound—blood, his heartbeat. Her eyes were life... her eyes. He wanted her more than anything, and at the same time…. Time was nonexistent, unconscious, subconscious—he could see decades, years, months, days, right now. Severus waited.

A hand touched his face—so warm. Hermione's eyes—so intent—warmed his heart.

"Feel it," she told him.

She caressed his face—so soft. Hermione's eyes—so full—hugged his soul.

"Can you feel it?" she whispered. "Show me what you feel."

Severus watched her eyes close under the pressure of his gentle kiss. His lips traveled lightly to the skin below them. A kiss on the tip of her nose, a nose touching her ear and then travelling down the length of her neck, inhaling. He savored her scent.

He fed on the warmer, softer skin of her neck, biting and kissing. A tentative finger touched first the moist spot his mouth had left, and soon other fingers joined the first, sliding down to map the curve that molded her heart, possessively gripping the flesh around it.

"Yes," she said in acceptance, entwining her fingers in his hair.

He proceeded to show his feelings by mapping her chest, belly, navel, where his lips followed in worship. He placed a trembling kiss bellow her navel in gratitude for the gift it had produced.

When he thought of looking up and asking for another undeserved gift, Severus saw a silent tear fall from her eyes, and his heart sank with dread.

He could not redeem himself. Severus made to leave the bed, but she held on to his open shirt. He withdrew, making her sit on the mattress to maintain her grip on his clothes. He averted his face.

"Severus."

"I'm sorry." His voice cracked.

"Don't be," she asked. "I love you, too." She brought his face to look at her, targeting his eyes. "I love you so, so much. You're so beautiful. I… I never thought I'd feel this way, so much. I need you so strongly. I need you to make me whole. I'm less than I should be without you, and I need to be more, to be with you. Complete me, Severus. Make love to me, please."

Severus felt his throat constrict, his mind relax its grip on memory, and his feelings for this woman take over. He needed her as well, more than anything in the world—more than air, more than sun, more than water. Right now, she was everything; she was him; they were parts of a whole.

"Hermione."

He kissed her deeply and made love to her. All he wanted was to make her explode in pleasure, to make this night memorable, to make up to her, now, for that night more than twelve years before.

Afterwards, when they were both spent and drowsy, he heard her voice and wasn't sure if he was already dreaming. "Stay the night," she asked, and Severus only hummed and pulled her to him, shutting down his brain completely.

~o0oOo0o~

She opened her eyes to meet Severus' and smiled contently. She pushed his messy hair away and kissed him. "Good morning."

His hand came to caress her hair and then drift down her body, making her shiver. "It's not morning, yet."

"Hmm." She contorted and stretched her naked body to send the numbness of sleep away.

He was smiling at her, really smiling. It brought a new perspective to his face, one she couldn't quite grasp. It wasn't serenity, like when she'd wakened him from sleeping on the couch with Nathan in his arms, although it had something of that. It could be a lightness of spirit, although she wasn't a fool to believe the weight of their pasts wasn't still there, lingering. It wasn't beauty, but it was absolutely beautiful.

His fingers were lightly circling her bellybutton, distracting her from her musings. It tickled. She squirmed closer to avoid the tickling.

His mysterious smile was slowly replaced by an intensity she knew exactly how to respond to.

"It's not morning yet, you say?"

His lips were on hers as he rolled them so he was on top of her once more. Her need, her desperation for a repeat of the wonderful sensations only he could bring, made her eager.

She took him in, and the love they made was as good as earlier.

They drifted back to sleep in each other's arms, body and heart once again sated.

~o0oOo0o~

The sound of metal on china made Severus open his eyes. Hermione was observing him, smiling adoringly from the foot of the bed, holding a cup of what his nose told him was tea.

"Tea?" she offered, confirming his assessment.

Another assessment Severus made was that he lay naked in her bed while she stood covered by a nightgown. He felt self-conscious and uncomfortable. This was the first time he'd spent the night in a woman's bed.

He cleared his throat. "Clothes first, perhaps?"

The quality of her smile changed while she quickly transfigured something into a black nightshirt. She held it out to him from where she stood, far enough to make him leave the cover of the sheets to get to her.

He raised an eyebrow.

She snorted, clicked her tongue, but relented, bringing the nightshirt to him. "Spoil sport." She kissed him on the mouth, leaving the bedroom to give him some privacy.

He joined her at the table, where a tray sat carrying breakfast.

"I had plans to keep you in bed," she explained, making him blush.

"We would be missed in the castle." Severus had never stayed for a meal or chit-chat with any woman he'd had sex with. He knew this was different, that Hermione wasn't just any woman, and that he wanted to share a bed with her again and again and again, until his days were over. Severus just didn't know how to act, what to say.

It took him a while to realize she was silent as well, sipping her tea and observing him.

"You don't have to stay."

"I'm just saying that people will notice we're not there." He took a cup and started preparing his tea.

"What if they do?"

"Hermione, they'll jump—"

"What if they do? Why do you care?" she interrupted him, placing her cup into the table with more force than necessary, making it rattle noisily. "We are together. We spent the night loving each other. Why do you care if people know about it?"

Severus sighed and then cursed himself for sipping his tea before having added the sugar.

"Summer is approaching," she continued in a calmer voice. "The term is almost over. How do you intend to hide the fact that we're together from Nathan when he's back living here?"

"This is not about him," he answered annoyed.

"I don't get it." She shook her head, visibly disappointed.

"It's not about you, either. Hermione… I just can't, not yet. They'll be judging me, and you, and I'm not—" He sighed and untangled her hands from the grip she had on her nightgown, taking them in his, looking her in the eyes. "I've never done this before. You're the first woman I've ever wakened up with. The first I don't want to leave as soon as the sex is over. I'm trying to find out how to do this with you."

She released her lower lip from the abuse of her teeth.

"I won't lie to my son."

Severus nodded. He didn't want to lie to Nathan, either. "If he asks, we won't deny."

"Severus—"

"I don't want anyone in," he told her before she could rant.

"But Nathan—"

"I know, I know. He's our son; he's already in. I'm talking about others, Minerva, Potter, the students."

"It's selfish," she complained, but seemed somehow mollified.

"I'm selfish," he agreed. "I want you all for myself, for as long as possible." He pulled her into a kiss.

"Until summer break," she conceded.

~o0oOo0o~

"Mum, will you continue this research when the term is over?"

Hermione counted the last two stirs. "If Minerva permits, yes. Why do you ask?"

"I'm just wondering…. Do you think Headmistress McGonagall will allow you to continue?"

"Yes, I don't see why she wouldn't." Nathan watched her extinguish the flames under the cauldron. "It'll take at least an hour to cool. Do you want to grab something to eat?"

"All right."

What Nathan really wanted was something that told him what would happen when classes were over. He couldn't find anything specific to his case in Hogwarts, a History. The prefects didn't seem to know anything about what the adults in the castle did during summer break. He almost asked Professor Lupin about it, but then remembered he had a wife, that she lived outside the castle, and that he constantly visited her on weekends, meaning they had a home elsewhere and would be living there full time when the term ended.

Nathan might as well be the only child of a professor in the history of Hogwarts whose mother was not married to the father.

"Sandwiches?" He nodded. "What do you want to drink?"

"Pumpkin juice."

He took the seat in front of his father's desk in the office, as usual. His mother joined him there to wait for the house-elves.

"Where's Dad?"

"I don't know. He might be in his quarters, or perhaps he's patrolling the corridors."

Nathan nodded. He didn't know why, but with the end of term approaching, he felt the need to be with his dad more often than not.

"Do you want to go find him? Or maybe go spend some time with your friends in the common room? I've told you many times that this is not your research. You don't have to be here every time I'm working on the potion."

"I like working in the lab." He used his brightest smile to convey the happiness he usually felt when they spent the afternoon working together. His happiness would be more genuine if he could do both: work in the lab and stay with his dad. "Dad sometimes joins us, and I was wondering where he is today."

"You've been wondering about a lot of things lately. Is there something worrying you? Or upsetting you?"

Bloody hell! "No!" he was quick to answer. "Not at all!" His mother was too perceptive sometimes.

He could see from the lines on his mother's forehead that he hadn't convinced her, but Nathan didn't want her mother's attention and worry.

"What is it? Is it something you did or is it something you're planning to do?"

"Neither! You worry too much."

"You always say that and then end up in the Hospital Wing or in detention."

A house-else popped in with a tray, saving Nathan from finding an answer to that. They ate in silence, with his mother's eyes trying to dissect Nathan alive.

"What are the plans for summer?" he asked, then. Maybe he could distract her and find something out at the same time. "Are we visiting Grandpa and Grandma?"

"Yes, of course. They're dying to see you. I'm sure they're filling you with questions about what you want to do when we visit them, aren't they?"

"They want to come with us to Diagon Alley. Are they allowed in there?"

"They were there with me several times in the past. It could be a great idea to take them there again." His mother smiled. The distraction was working very well.

"Maybe Dad would come with us, too."

"We could ask him."

"Do you think he'll be busy when classes are over?"

"I don't know. He might want to take the extra time to research or attend a conference."

"Are there conferences this summer?"

"Not for me. We could spend some time on the beach, what do you think?"

"I'd like that." Nathan liked the beach, but he would like it even more if his dad would go with them. "Do you think Dad would come and visit us in London for a while? Maybe he likes the beach, too."

"You'll see your dad during summer break. You don't have to worry about it, all right?"

"All right." At least he could be certain of that, now.

"When did he say the insignias would be ready?" his mother asked, changing the subject.

"Next weekend. He said they needed to be exposed to the fumes of the potion for at least a week."

"Is there a ritual of some kind that we should be preparing ourselves for?"

"I'm not sure. The books didn't say anything about new insignias, only about existing ones, and those are passed to the heirs when they turn twelve. There's a ritual for that, where the head of the family recite vows and stuff. But the books were clear to say that the ritual was more tradition than anything essential."

His mother hummed, thoughtful. "Remind me to ask your father about it."

Nathan agreed, and their conversation went in other directions, taking his mind off the future of his new family.

~o0oOo0o~

"Nathan is worried about summer."

They were lying in bed, Severus caressing the skin under her breasts.

"And what is worrying you?"

"I'm worried things will change when Nathan is back living here, that you'll find reasons to be very busy every time we ask you to visit."

"I won't disappear," he assured, kissing the back of her shoulder. "I have nowhere else I'd like to be. I thought you knew that."

She turned to face him. "Come stay with us, then. Nathan would be thrilled."

"Nathan would?" He smirked.

"I would, too." She kissed the smugness off his face. "We're together almost every night, in any case. I'd miss you terribly if I had to go a whole week without you, never mind the whole of summer break."

"I won't be going anywhere." He said that looking straight into her eyes, and then pushing her hair from her face, kissed her deeply and thoroughly.

~o0oOo0o~

Nathan had spent the last day of term with his father, refusing to leave the man's company before it was time. When questioned, he'd told his father that his trunk was packed, that his friends knew he was with him and they would meet at the Feast, from which they would depart for the common room and, in the morning, for the Hogwarts Express.

"Will you be in Hogsmeade when the train takes off?"

"No, I have my own obligations here in the castle."

"I see…"

"We should be heading to the Great Hall."

That was it. Nathan's first year was about to end. He should be jumping up and down with happiness, like his friends were, but he actually felt too heavy to jump.

"But first, we should pin this to your robes."

Nathan watched his father pin the new Granger-Snape insignia to his robes, chanting something in Latin. The symbol of their newborn family glowed white, casting shadows on the angles of his father's face. Nathan was sure his smile was as shiny as the light from the enchantment.

"It looks perfect on you," his father commented.

"Where's yours?"

"I need someone to do the chanting before I can wear mine."

"I can do it!" Nathan offered.

"Your magic is not mature enough for this kind of enchantment. We'll ask your mother when we next see her."

"When will that be?"

"Not now. We can't be late for the Leaving Feast, and there's something else we have to do before that."

The wizard didn't give Nathan any time to figure out what that was all about. They walked fast through the dungeon corridors, but came to an unexpected stop before reaching the Great Hall. Nathan frowned in confusion. They were standing in front of the House's hourglasses.

"Why did we stop here?" Nathan asked.

For a moment, it didn't seem an answer would be forthcoming, and then Severus brought his face closer to Nathan's ear and said in a voice only he could hear, "Fifty points to Gryffindor."

They watched the rubies fall into the hourglass—Nathan with his mouth agape, Severus with a satisfied smirk on his face.

Nathan turned to his father, wide-eyed. "You awarded me House points." He was still shocked.

"I'll deny if anyone asks me." The smirk was still there, and the eyes danced with amusement.

"What are the points for?"

His father's features became very serious, then. "For being the best first-year I've taught since your mother was a student here."

Butterflies danced on Nathan's stomach and chest, and he felt a tingle behind his eyes. He bit on his lower lip, holding himself very still or else he'd start crying like a baby. All the recognition he'd hoped he'd get… He'd waited all year for this moment. Nathan blinked, and a tear escaped his control and fell. A warm hand brushed it away for him.

"Thank you," Nathan whispered.

"No, thank you, Son."

~o0oOo0o~

The fifty points his father had awarded him at the last minute hadn't been enough to bring Gryffindor the House Cup, but Nathan didn't mind. He felt elated and proud of himself for achieving what he'd told his mum he would: be the best student Hogwarts had seen in years. Well, at least in its strictest professor's eyes.

Now, staring up at the red canopy of his bed, Nathan toyed with the insignia—the metal still warm from the charge of magic—and thought about how much he would miss his dad during summer.

How wonderful it would be if his dad could live with him. There was so much he wanted to show him, things of his home-life, his books, games, favorite places… He wanted to introduce his dad to Jeremy, play football with the boy and his dad, like they used to, only now Nathan's mind added his own dad with them, playing too.

That image made Nathan giggle. It was hard to imagine his father doing something as trivial as kick a football. Did he even like these Muggle things? Did he like the movies, for instance? Nathan had never asked. They could go together to the movies, if his father lived with him. They could visit the park across the block, watch the birds, play catch.

They were the things Nathan had always imagined he would do when he finally met his dad.

It all seemed silly now.

Reality was very different from his daydreams of the past. He didn't even know when he would next see his dad, and it anguished Nathan. Reason told him that he would be seeing his dad some time during the summer vacation, but his heart ached nonetheless. This was not how Nathan wanted things to be. He wanted to be able to be with his dad whenever he missed him.

Real life was a bummer.

In the morning, Nathan would leave with the Hogwarts Express, and Merlin only knew when he would see his dad again.

~o0oOo0o~

Hermione waited until the train came to a full stop on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. She was anxious to take her little boy home with her. Spending time with him at Hogwarts wasn't the same, regardless of what others would say. She was looking forward to Nathan filling the apartment with noise and life.

Lately, Severus had been playing this role, but Hermione was one greedy witch; she wanted both Nathan and Severus making her life vibrant with energy and joy.

The platform was inundating with happy children, now. She searched the crowd for her happy child, but when she spotted Nathan, he wasn't one of the sparkling boys. She met him halfway, wearing her happiness proudly on her face, and got a smile in return.

"Welcome home, dear." Hermione hugged him tight, kissing the top of his head.

"Thanks, Mum. Would you make my trunk lighter, please? It's crap not being allowed to use magic."

"Language," Hermione reprehended, suppressing a sigh while she performed the requested spell.

"Sorry."

Unhappy and moody, Hermione surmised. They started the slow exit to Muggle London.

"Jeremy has been asking when you would be home. I believe he has some new video game he wants desperately to share with you."

Another smile. Good. All the moodiness must be part of a boy becoming a teenager, unfortunately.

"You know, we should spend a strictly Muggle week. What do you think? Visit parks, go to the movie, maybe invite the Gibsons to watch a football match…"

"Sounds great, Mum."

Somehow, this last suggestion had made Nathan lose the little joy he'd shown so far.

She called a cab and tolerated the silent ride home with patience.

~o0oOo0o~

His mother hadn't mentioned his father, not once. Maybe Nathan had been wrong all along. Maybe the hope he'd been harboring of their parents being together, dating, had been only that: wishful thinking. His parents only probably met or spent time together in the castle. He would be lucky if he got to see his dad at all before classes re-started.

"Tired?" his mum asked. "We're almost home."

He forced a smile for her sake. Nathan knew his mother was only trying to cheer him up. When the cab stopped, Nathan looked at the building he'd lived in for as long as he could remember and tried again to feel more happiness than sadness for coming home. He'd always liked living here with his mum, near all his friends. Now, though, his friends were not all here and his family was incomplete. Just living with his mum wasn't enough for him anymore.

He pulled at the handle of his trunk, and it didn't move.

"I had to lift the spell or else the cab driver would notice. Here." She re-applied the spell that made his trunk lighter, smiling.

"Thanks."

They took off up the stairs, Nathan thinking about who he left behind at Hogwarts. He unconsciously rubbed the insignia on his shirt while Hermione unlocked the door for them. Nathan pulled his trunk to the middle of the living room.

"Right in time for tea."

The trunk hit the floor with a loud thud at that voice.

"Dad!"

Nathan didn't mind if he'd seen the man the day before, he ran and threw his arms around him, hugging hard.

"Didn't you tell him?" he heard his father ask.

"I thought better of it and decided Nathan would like the surprise," his mother answered and came to stand next to them. "Thank you for brewing my favorite tea." She then stood on tiptoes and kissed his father on the lips.

"I knew it!" Nathan said excited. "You are dating!"

His father groaned, and his mother said, "I told you he knew already."

"Gryffindors…"

That made his mother laugh. Nathan joined her in laugher.

This was the best day of his life, and he was ready to make of this the first of many to come.


A/N: That's it, folks! This is my promised happy ending for Nathan, Hermione and Severus. :0D

Coming next… The Epilogue™