x x Part Two x x
"Why did I wait to do this until the morning I was leaving?" Willow asked herself, scrunching her eyes tight with the beginnings of a headache. She looked around her room, staring at the half open trunk with thinly veiled distaste. Packing was an onerous task, made ever more so by the fact that she had to do it to both her own things and Sera's. And she didn't have a lot of time to get it all done in.
"Best get to it." She muttered, rolling up her sleeves and diving into the closet. Clothes began to fly out, tossed none too gently by their Mistress, into the trunk sitting in the center of the room. She didn't care if they landed in a pile, so long as they were actually in the chest and no longer in her closet. Some of her older or less appropriate items she piled outside the closet door, making a mental note to ask Buffy to send them to Goodwill or some other charity, someone that could make some use of them instead of just tossing them in the garbage.
After the closet came the dresser and then her desk, each and every one of her possessions fitting in the trunk with relative ease thanks to the charms she had already cast on the storage container. Within only a hour's time she had everything in the trunk, ready to go, and was sitting on her bed, her face sad. This had been her home for so long and now she was leaving. Not just leaving the Summers' home, but Sunnydale and the US as well. She was going halfway around the world to teach magic at a school of wizardry. It was thrilling.
"Momma? Ready to go?"
Willow looked up, smiling at her daughter. The girl was already dressed in a beautiful hunter green dress that Willow felt set off the child's delicate coloring perfectly. She wondered, just briefly, if Sev ever wore that color; and knew that if he did, he certainly looked handsome.
"Not yet, sweetie. We still have to pack your things." She glanced across the room, at the clock still on the nightstand, and gasped. Dumbledore would be taking down the wards around the school in less than ten minutes! She had taken too long! A sense of dread overcame her, numbing her inside and out as she made a quick mental list of everything she still needed to do. Pack Sera's things. Get changed into her robes. Shrink the trunks.
"Uh uh." Sera shook her head, a teasing smile on her face. "Aunt Buffy already helped me."
That brought a sigh of relief from the red haired witch. She stood up, muttering a shrinking charm over her own trunk. The object dwindled down to only a few inches, small enough to fit in her robe pocket. Now she just needed to change clothes.
"Do mine! Do mine!" Sera hopped up and down, her dark eyes glittering with excitement.
"After I get dressed." Willow told Sera, motioning her out of the room. "Go sit with Aunt Buffy for a few minutes. We're leaving soon."
Sera didn't argue once, taking off down the hall even as Willow shut her bedroom door. Her robes were laid out on the bed, ready and waiting for her to don them. She was wearing black slacks and a button-up white shirt that would suit her well underneath the thin fabric of the dark blue robes she had chosen through a wonderful owl-order catalog Dumbledore had sent to her. She slid them over her clothing, enjoying the satiny insides as they slid over the little skin she had showing.
A few simple spells later and she was ready to go, hair pulled back in a clip with just a touch of makeup applied to her cheeks and eyes. She looked good, if she had to say so herself.
"Planning on meeting a fellow teacher and letting him play daddy to Sera, Rosenberg?" She asked her reflection. She snorted in amusement, shaking her head. At twenty-five years of age she had yet to find anyone that she even felt was remotely capable of being a father to her daughter. None of the men she had dated seemed to have that certain something she was looking for.
Or it could be that she just couldn't get Sev out of her mind.
He still found his way into her dreams, even years after their one and only encounter. He was her private obsession, her dream lover. The one that she would have gladly given up almost anything just to know something about. But she didn't know anything about him and she had given up on the daydream of running into him and starting a family a long, long time ago.
'It's better this way,' she told herself. 'I'm a witch. Sera will be a witch. This just makes things that much easier, not having to explain to him about magic and all that.'
She pocketed her miniature trunk and opened the bedroom door. Stopping by Sera's room, the red head shrunk it down as well, gently depositing it in her other pocket. A few deep, calming breaths, and she made her way down stairs.
Buffy and Xander were sitting on the couch, Sera nestled between them. Willow smiled, capturing the moment in her memories for all of time.
"Ready to go, darling?"
"I've been ready, Momma." Sera rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, 'Momma'." Buffy teased. "She's been bouncing up and down, all excited like."
Xander nodded. He was smiling, but his eyes were sad. Willow took the initiative and drew him to his feet and into a tight hug.
"I'll miss you, Xan."
"Miss you too, Wills."
"Yeah, Wills. Me too." Buffy sighed, making the hug three-way. They stayed that way for a minute or two, just holding each other, much to the amusement of Sera who thought that adults could be quite silly sometimes. The sound of someone clearing his throat drew the threesome out of their moment, and Willow smiled at Giles.
"Sera and I will miss you, too, Giles." She told him, embracing him just as affectionately as she had done her friends only a moment before. She pulled back, looking in his eyes with a smile and her voice was clogged with emotion when she opened her mouth again. "Thank you - for everything."
"My girl," Giles murmured. "You deserve this. Make the best of it."
Willow nodded, stepping back and blinking away the tears that were perched precariously in the corners of her eyes. She stepped over to the fireplace, lighting it with a wave of her hand. Soon she would be doing that with a wand, she thought with a twinge of apprehension. A small pouch on the mantle, hardly impressive looking by any stretch of the imagination, was something else Dumbledore had sent to her. He had called it Floo powder. It was to be her biggest blessing - making it so that she wouldn't have to amuse Sera on first a trans-continental and then a trans-atlantic flight. All she had to do was toss some in the flames, step in and say "Hogwarts Staff Room" and she'd be there almost instantly.
A nice little piece of magical convenience, in her eyes. Definitely a money-saver as far as plane tickets were concerned.
"Okay." Willow breathed. "I'll go through first. Sera - wait here with Granpa Giles until he sends you through, okay?"
Sera nodded with her with all the seriousness of a near four-year-old.
"Give me a couple minutes and then send her through, Giles."
The man that had been like a father to her for most of her adult life smiled kindly, patting her shoulder. He would cry when the day was over, she knew. But for now he was being strong, and that's what she needed.
"Go on, then."
Willow nodded and took a pinch of the Floo powder. She tossed it into the flames, waiting until they took on a green tinge, before stepping in and calling out her destination.
"I really do not see why you need all of us here, Headmaster." Severus Snape sighed in frustration, leaning back in one of the many chairs the staff room had to offer. His dungeons were waiting for him, the potions he had been brewing all held in a state of stasis while he attended this blasted welcoming thing. "Professor Rosenberg will no doubt find it quite intimidating to be greeted by so many people."
Dumbledore smiled kindly, the knowing twinkle in his eyes brightening a notch.
"Or it may show her that she is welcome. Besides, Severus, there are not that many of us. Certainly not enough to be intimidating." He reminded his Potions Professor. The words were not harsh, but his tone brooked no room for argument. He turned back to the fireplace, watching apprehensively. She would be here any moment now. Around the room the other Professors were chatting amicably. No one except Severus seemed to have a problem with this. Everyone else had thought it was a grand idea to welcome the new teacher with a small welcoming party. There were drinks and snack cakes on the table, just waiting for the welcoming to begin.
All they needed now was their newest Professor.
Severus stood up, automatically, as the embers of the fireplace blazed, a young woman stepping out. She sneezed, momentarily hiding her face from his view. But when she looked up --
His heart caught in his throat, the sight of her face bringing back memories he had cherished for over four years. There she was, smiling nervously as the Headmaster greeted her. His angel. His Willow. The one woman in so many years that had given herself willingly to him for pleasure and comfort. That night stayed with him, played out in vivid detail in his dreams on a regular basis. The feel and smell of her skin, the way she tossed her hair or laughed. Those green eyes that he had felt could see into his very soul.
He hadn't known she was a witch. Of course deep, meaningful conversations hadn't been on the menu that night. They had both been seeking the pleasure of another body, and they had found it. Time and again. Over and over until the coming dawn forced him to flee as she drifted off to sleep. The memory of that night was one of the only things that kept him going when times got dark. He could always look back upon it and remember that, when he wasn't acting the arrogant, cold bastard, he was someone to be cared for. Someone had cared and could care again.
She had cared.
And now she was here.
A flash of anger coursed through him for the briefest of moments, directed at his beloved Headmaster. He had to have known about that one night stand. Dumbledore was, of course, just meddling in his life again.
No, the rational part of his mind argued. There was no way Dumbledore could have known about that night. No way he could have tracked down that heavenly angel for him because not even he knew how to contact her ever again and he had given her no way to contact him, either. It had been better that way.
"I'd like to introduce you to the staff." Dumbledore was saying now, as Severus Snape tried to compose himself, tried to look for any way to get out of the room without earning himself a glare or reprimand from the Headmaster. There was no way, of course, so he stood stock still, waiting. Dumbledore began across the room from, giving Severus another brief minute of respite before -
Her voice, exactly as he had remembered it, cut through the memories that were threatening to overwhelm him. He looked up into her eyes and felt himself melt, knees weak, just as he had so many years before in a Muggle bar in the heart of Southern California. He licked his lips.
"That is your name, right?" She whispered; and her face looked just as stunned as his own. He could almost hear her heart racing in tandem with his own and wished for all the world that they were alone, that he could speak with her. Anything other than being in the room with his colleagues and a Headmaster that looked, as if he couldn't be more shocked. It was, in a way, relieving to know that Dumbledore didn't know everything; though he would have preferred to find it out in some other way.
"Yes." Severus murmured. He clenched his hands, willing himself not to reach for her, not to take her in his arms and ascertain for himself whether she was real or simply a figment of his overactive imagination. He licked his lips, bowing his head in an introduction he had never formally given. "Severus Snape. Potions Master."
Willow nodded, eyes wide with wonder, her breaths coming in short, painful gasps around the lump of heart in her throat. The room was still, absolutely quiet. A pin could have dropped and they would have had no trouble hearing it. No trouble at all. Her breath caught in her throat completely, though, as the sound of the fire roaring up behind her reminded her of someone far more important than herself and the man she had never thought to see again.
The red head's eyes widened almost impossibly larger and time seemed to slow to a crawl. She turned her back on Severus. A large chair blocked their line of sight from here, hiding someone as short as a child. So he hadn't seen her.
The Professors on the other side of the room had, however. And they hadn't missed the exchange between herself and Severus, either. She could tell by the looks on their faces as she walked to the fireplace that they had put two and two together. It was hard not to do just that, given the resemblance Sera had to her father. She lifted the girl into her arms, praying for strength in this room full of people she had only just met, and turned back to Dumbledore and Severus, a shaky smile on her face.
"I'd like to introduce you all to my daughter, Seraphina."
" - my daughter, Seraphina -"
Severus Snape felt as though his entire world had just fallen out from beneath him. His eyes were locked on the child, held so protectively in her mother's arms. Black hair, dark eyes and pale skin. A nose that had run in his family for centuries. Was there any doubt who's daughter she was? And, as if he needed more proof, she even appeared to be the right age. Somewhere between four and three, just as it should be if she had been conceived that night.
He sat down heavily, eyes still fixed on the woman and child that were even now approaching him. He broke contact for just a moment to look at Dumbledore, and saw a look of pure shock. There was no way he had even had a hint as to who Willow was. Not if he was this shocked.
And then they were there, kneeling before him. His angel and -
"Well, then, Severus Snape." Willow murmured, not bothering to lower her voice. Everyone had guessed already, anyway. And Sera would take it well; she had always wanted to meet her elusive father.
"I'd like you to meet your daughter."
For the first time in his life, Severus didn't have a witty retort or a scathing comeback. He had nothing to say as he held out his hand, rubbing a thumb along Sera's cheek as she smiled brilliantly at him.
"Well," Dumbledore murmured, almost to himself. "Nice to know I am not the only one that had no idea this was coming."
x x Part Threex x
While Dumbledore found the entire introduction to be flooring, though mildly amusing; Severus Snape found it to be no such thing. He was scared, terrified even, of this small child. The beautiful black eyes staring back at him were just like the ones he saw every single time he looked in the mirror; crystalline in their dark depths, capable of being haunting and filled with a wealth of emotion at the same time. Her black hair, bound in a ponytail of some sort, had escaped in places, wisps of the feathery looking stuff framing her pale, childlike face. His own mother had hair like that.
Oh, Merlin. He was going to have to tell his mother about Sera. How in the world was he going to manage that?
'You see, mum, I had this one night stand with this adorable little muggle a few years back. Turns out she's not a muggle and I got her quite thoroughly knocked up. Want to meet your granddaughter?'
That would not go over well, at all.
He sat back, eyes closed, a million and one questions going through his mind though he was loathe to put any to voice with all of his colleagues standing around, gaping at his shock. His mouth opened and closed but nothing came out, words escaping the usually witty, if not often sarcastic, Professor. He was aware of Willow; still kneeling in front of him with Sera perched precariously on her knee. Without even opening his eyes he could picture the delightful witch that had spent a night of passion with him so long ago, when he had thought her to only be some cute Muggle college student. Being this close he could smell her delicate fragrance, still vanilla based after all these years. Try as he might, even with the very real evidence of his indiscretion sitting in front of him, Severus couldn't find it within him to regret one single moment of that night. It was one of the few things he could think of as he lay on the ground, wracked by the pain of the Cruciatus at Voldemort's feet, that gave him the strength to get up and keep going.
"I think it would be best," he heard Dumbledore murmur. "Considering the recent shock, if we hold off on welcoming Professor Rosenberg until dinner tonight."
There were whispers of assent and the sound of movement. A door opening and then shutting again after the last teacher had left.
"You can open your eyes now. They're gone."
Severus opened his eyes hesitantly. He sat up, looking around the room. Even Dumbledore was gone, leaving him completely alone with Willow and Sera.
Sera, who looked for all the world as though she were going to burst if she didn't say something very soon; but that was still quietly biding her time for the right moment. He moved his eyes from the child to the woman holding her, the red head's slight smile melting the shock that had encased his heart.
"Do you want to talk later?" Willow asked, hesitant. He was shocked, as was his right, and she wanted to give him time to think about what he already knew without forcing him to talk if he wasn't ready. This had to be what amounted to one of the biggest shocks in his entire life. It wasn't every day that you found out you had a daughter that was almost four years old. The wrong words or tone of voice could be disastrous at this point, especially in front of Sera.
And the last thing she wanted was for something -else- unforeseen to happen today.
"Who's he?" Sera asked, her voice the voice of innocent and reason in the trouble moment.
"He's -" Willow paused, her eyes fluttering frantically to Severus'. Did she tell Sera? Risking the fact that the man sitting so still in front of her may not want anything to do with the adorable bundle of joy in her arms? The Goddess only knew how long Sera had wanted a 'Daddy', someone like the other children had. Xander had been a good surrogate for a while, but Sera had still known that he wasn't her Daddy. He apparently saw the question she was silently throwing to him, and responded for her.
"Your father, Sera." He murmured. His dark eyes were fixed on the child's face again, searching for any sign that he had upset her with his words. Not even a half hour into meeting her and he was already vying to make her happy, to have her approve of whom he was and what he was to her. His students would no doubt fall out of the chairs, or just plain dead, in shock. "I am your father."
Sera regarded him for a long moment; her lips pinched together in a thin line that was so much like his own pensive expressions that Severus almost laughed out loud. He took a deep breath as she opened her mouth to finally speak, realizing for the first time that he had been holding it in to begin with.
"Are you a chemist?"
"Am I a - ?" The query came out more confused than he had intended, his normally unflappable feathers once again becoming ruffled. He looked from the child to her mother and then back again, not getting the joke that was so apparently passing between them.
Willow laughed, the sound musical in the empty, stressful atmosphere of the staff room. Trust Sera to come up with the icebreaker that they needed. She bit her lip, the weight of Sera on her knee finally getting to her, causing her back to ache in painful spasms. She didn't want to interrupt their conversation, though; so she waited patiently for a good time to set Sera down again.
"Are. You. A. Chemist?" Sera asked again, her eyes dark with annoyance. He may be her 'father', but he was just as silly as any other guy. Maybe even sillier than Uncle Xander! She crossed her arms, waiting with all the patience she could afford for him to answer her question.
"No." Severus replied this time, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Why?"
"Mommy said you might be one because I like mixing things together. But I told mommy that you weren't a chemist." She turned her face up to Willow's, smiling as brightly as only a child who had just won an 'argument' could. "See, mommy, told you he wasn't a chemist."
Willow snorted, giving into the smile that had been hiding behind the worried press of her lips. She looked from Severus to Sera and then back again, shaking her head. To think that she had gotten out of bed with every intention of arriving at her new workplace and getting ready for the upcoming semester. She had never in a millennium imagined that she would see Sera's father again, after more than four years; much less that she would be sitting in front of him, her daughter interrogating him on exactly what it was that he did for a living.
"I am a Potions Master." Severus explained gently to the child, leaning forward. He rested his elbows on his knees so that he could be closer to her level. "I mix things together, much like a chemist."
"So -" Sera frowned. "Mommy was right?"
And now Severus found it within himself to laugh. It was hard not to, looking into her dark, sparkling eyes, so full of mischief and intellect. Right now it was apparent that the idea of her mother being right in this subject was not sitting very well with the child, and so he appeased her.
"No. Mommy was not right."
"Oh! Good!" Again the smile returned, just as bright as before.
Willow sighed, seeing her chance at getting up from the floor. She set Sera gently on her own two feet and stoods, a pained expression on her face. She turned trying to hide it from Severus. There was no reason for him to know that she'd been hurting herself, kneeling like that with Sera's weight in her arms. But he was too quick, too sharp.
Willow turned back to him and nodded, a strained smile on her face.
"Poppy has something for back pains." He paused before offering. "Or I can bring something by your rooms in a bit?"
He was, Willow realized, looking for a reason to come by and visit, to probably talk. It was a polite way of ushering her to her rooms so that she could rest, while still ensuring that he would get to speak with her, at length, later that same day.
"Bringing some by would be heaven." She murmured, suddenly shy. "It's been a busy morning. Sera could probably use a N-A-P."
Sera jerked her head up, her fingers still holding onto the sleeve of Severus' robe that she had just been playing with. She frowned at her mother, her mouth set in a scowl.
"I know what N-A-P, means."
Willow smiled indulgently at her child, rolling her eyes good-naturedly for Severus' benefit.
"Of course you do, sweetie."
"And --?" Sera prompted imperiously.
"And you're still going to take a nap." She was smiling, but her tone didn't give any leeway for disagreement from her daughter. Out of the corner of her eye Willow could see Severus smile and a warm feeling filled her, a sort of pride that he seemed to find her parenting methods okay so far.
Not that she needed his approval or disapproval, she reminded herself. She was a single mother before this and she was well prepared to stay that way if he wasn't up to the task of being a daddy to Sera. She wasn't looking to drag him back to her bed or anything, though the idea did have merit (he had been terribly brilliant in that department). But the idea of him playing daddy to Sera was nice, even if that was as far as their own relationship ever got. She could be single. That was fine with her.
Though, now that she mentioned it, getting him bed again would be great.
First things, first, though.
"Can you come by in, say, an hour, with that back ache remedy?"
"Hmm?" She murmured, arching an eyebrow at her.
"It's a potion, not a 'remedy'. Try not to make it sound so mundane."
Willow smirked, shaking her head. So her mystery lover was a bit of a wizarding elitist, was he? Didn't like 'ordinary' things? What term had Giles used for it? Muggle?
Good thing neither herself nor Sera were very ordinary.
"Fine, then." She grinned at him. "Potion. Will you come by in an hour with the potion?" She resisted the nagging urge to stick her tongue out at him, instinctively knowing by his mannerisms that he wouldn't appreciate the playful, yet childish, gesture. He seemed far unlike the man she had taken to her bed that night - not as playful, definitely less talkative and warm, and his appearance was somewhat different from what she remembered as well.
But he still looked good in her book.
"Yes, Professor." He smirked, standing in one easy, liquid motion. "I will bring the potion to your room in an hour."
"Thank you." She murmured. She looked down at Sera, holding out her hand to the child. A treat was definitely in order for the stellar behavior she had exhibited so far, though Willow knew it was mostly due to being overwhelmed - new home, new people, and a new Daddy. So much for a child to take in all at once. Willow had a feeling it would all erupt in one way or another at some point in the very near future.
'Hopefully not in a temper tantrum.'
The red haired witch threw another smile at Severus, offering a silent thanks to him for letting her stall the inevitable talk they would need to have, and started towards the door.
Only to stop dead in her tracks.
She turned back to him, a blush creeping across her face.
Severus arched an eyebrow at the beauty that was blushing so elegantly in front of him, waiting for her to say what was so obviously on her mind. He could only pray that it wasn't one of the many questions he knew he would need to answer before the day was over - he too needed some time to compose himself before their talk began.
Thankfully, though, it was nothing of the sort.
"Do you know where exactly my rooms would be?"
x x End Parts 2-3x x