Flourish and Blotts Redux: Two Years Later…
It seemed as though the line would never end.
She had spent a restless night, certain that no one would show up today. Hermione didn't know if there ever been a book signing where no one came, but if there hadn't, then hers would be the first. Around midnight, Severus had told her to stop being ridiculous and go to sleep (How was that for irony, she thought dryly), yet Hermione had continued to stare at the ceiling until the wee hours of the morning.
As a result, she was now sleep-deprived, exhausted, exhilarated, enthralled, and if there was a better day than this, Hermione couldn't think what it might be.
An elderly woman in a bright green robe thrust a copy of The War as We Saw It under Hermione's nose. "Here, dearie."
Hermione smiled graciously, taking a moment to flex the tired fingers of her writing hand. "To whom should I address it?"
"Name's Audra," the woman said emphatically. "Lost a son in the first war, I did, and it simply broke my heart the way the Ministry behaved afterwards. Acted as though the entire affair should be forgotten. How could I forget my Davey?"
"You shouldn't," Hermione said kindly. "No one who fought against Voldemort should be forgotten."
Audra looked momentarily shocked at Hermione's use of the name, then relaxed visibly. "Bless you, dearie," she whispered.
It was not the first time she'd heard those sentiments today, Hermione thought as she wrote, To Audra, your Davey will never be forgotten... Hermione Granger-Snape. If anything, it only reinforced her belief that she'd done the right thing by self-publishing her book.
She'd been reluctant at first to attempt such a thing, thinking it the height of arrogance. It was Severus, with his business connections, who had encouraged her by establishing Grape Publications, Limited. After that, all it took was for a few requests to be made and favors called in. Hermione had not only a published book, but a book-signing as well.
"I would like my copy signed, if you please," a familiar voice said.
Hermione looked up to find Minerva McGonagall standing in front of her, beaming with pride at her former student.
"Minerva! I'm so glad you could make it today." Hermione rose to give the Hogwarts Headmistress a warm hug.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world, you know. This is a wonderful thing you've done, Hermione."
"Thank you. It means a lot to hear it coming from you."
"Have you had a good turn-out?"
"Good? It's been astonishing, although I was afraid no one would come," Hermione admitted.
Minerva sniffed disapprovingly at the notion. "What a perfectly silly idea. I'll have you know that I'm buying several copies for the Hogwarts Library, as I've asked Professor Binns to spend a full semester focusing on wizarding events of the twentieth century. I don't intend to allow history to repeat itself as a result of ignorance."
Would the History of Magic students find the topic more interesting with the addition of timely material? Hermione doubted it, but aloud she enthused, "That's a wonderful idea, Minerva."
The older woman peered around the store. "Is Severus here with you?"
Hermione inclined her head toward the back room, where Snape could be seen pacing, a fidgeting, dark-haired bundle in his arms.
"He's trying to soothe Mairin. She's teething, I'm afraid."
"Poor lamb." Minerva smiled, her eyes still on the unlikely pair in the shop's back room. "I never thought I'd see the day when Severus would be so utterly taken in by a female. Not to belittle your own charms, Hermione, but he is smitten, isn't he?"
"Beyond his wildest dreams. I don't think he had any idea what fatherhood would be like. Not that I was terribly certain of motherhood either, but it's been quite a turnaround for Severus."
Even as she spoke the word, Hermione realized that 'turnaround' was a mild understatement. Once her husband had finally accepted the notion that he could love and be loved in return, the changes in his life had come fast and furious.
She had been shocked by Snape's abrupt proposal of marriage. Hermione had intended to soak in a hot tub following the fateful dance recital, wanting to mull over her sudden epiphany about parenthood. She had not expected to find Severus still at her flat, yet there he was. Knowing full well that he would likely bolt for the door as soon as she broached the subject of babies, Hermione blurted her feelings anyway. It still amazed her that Severus not only failed to laugh in her face, but had filled in the blanks and proposed marriage as well.
In retrospect, Hermione could see that she had unwittingly given him the perfect opening to bring up the subject. A traditional, romantic proposal would have required Severus to bare his soul, something that he could never have managed, and while Hermione was certain that he loved her, such a premeditated act would have taken him years to attempt. In short, he saw his opportunity and ran with it.
And although the two of them had more or less backed into marriage, their union was working out quite smoothly. No one was more surprised by that than Severus Snape himself. By the time he had decided that marriage suited him, Hermione was pregnant and he was faced with the prospect of fatherhood. When Mairin was born, Snape did the minimum required of him, distancing himself from his infant daughter as much as Hermione would allow. It wasn't until two months later that Mairin flashed her father an adoring, toothless smile and melted the layers of permafrost that still lined his soul.
Minerva's eyes misted over suddenly. "Albus would have dearly loved to see this, you know. He always regretted that Severus led such an unhappy existence."
"Have you told his portrait?" Hermione asked.
"Yes, of course. It's just that I'm quite certain that Mairin would have had a special place in his heart. Is she a daddy's girl, then?"
"Absolutely. I'm only around to provide nourishment. Whenever Severus walks into the room, she simply lights up when she sees him, and so does he. It's quite wonderful to see."
"In fact, I mentioned something the other day about Mairin going off to Hogwarts, and Severus had a fit. I'm not sure that he'll allow her out of his sight for that long," Hermione said, grinning. "He said something to the effect that if any randy adolescent male touched his daughter, he would tear them limb from limb."
"I can imagine," Minerva said dryly. "I do not envy the poor man who asks for Mairin's hand in marriage some day. Can you imagine Severus as a father-in-law?"
The two women laughed at the notion. Glancing over her shoulder, Minerva saw two more customers waiting patiently for their books to be signed. "Well," she said, "I suppose I need to be going. I just wanted to offer my congratulations on a job well done."
"Thank you, Minerva. Will I see you at the house later on?" Hermione asked, taking her seat again.
"Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it."
Professor McGonagall turned to go, and Hermione turned her attention to the next customers in line. Moments later, she heard McGonagall greet Molly and Arthur Weasley somewhere near the front of the store. Hermione smiled involuntarily; Molly had promised that the family would turn out in force today.
Suddenly, Hermione was aware of someone standing at her elbow. She glanced up to find Ron standing there, looking more self-assured and mature than she could ever remember.
"Hi, love," he said, a tentative smile on his face.
"Ron! Oh, wait just one moment… Here you are," she said, handing a book to a waiting witch and climbing to her feet once more.
Ron gave her a massive hug. "You're looking great," he told her.
"So are you. It's so wonderful to see you!"
"You don't think I would miss this, do you?"
"I hoped that you would be here," Hermione said frankly.
"Yeah. After all, I do have my very own chapter in the book."
"Professor McGonagall was just here. Did you see her? She said that she bought several copies for the Hogwarts Library."
Ron chuckled. "If that's not fitting, I don't know what is." His eyes strayed to the open doorway behind Hermione, then darkened. "Is that…?"
"Mairin, yes," Hermione said, her tone indicating plainly that she would tolerate no unsavory comments about her husband.
He watched the baby, whose head lolled drowsily on her father's shoulder. Severus, his back turned to the door, had not seen Ron.
"She's cute, Hermione. I should have known that she'd end up with dark hair like that."
"She does have my curls," Hermione pointed out.
"She doesn't have Snape's nose, does she?" Ron asked, craning his neck to get a closer look.
He flashed her a grin. "Just teasing. I'm sure Mairin will be a great beauty. And brilliant, to boot."
"I'll settle for happy and healthy," Hermione said softly. "How's Celeste?"
"Good. She's here somewhere. With Mum and Dad, probably."
"I'm looking forward to seeing her. Everything going all right?"
His reassurance came a bit too quickly. Hermione frowned. "You don't sound too convincing."
He shrugged. "No, really, it's fine. She – well, we thought we'd start a family, but we haven't had any luck yet."
Ron was having a hard time meeting her face now. Hermione reached out to squeeze his arm.
"I'm sure things will work out for the best, Ron."
He nodded vigorously, and Hermione couldn't help but feel sorry for Celeste. Evidently, Ron had failed to share the information about their problems in that area.
"I've missed seeing you," she said, changing the subject. "I wish we could have gotten together the last time you were in Britain."
"We're having a small party at the house after the signing, did your mum tell you?"
"Uh – yeah," Ron began uncertainly.
"You'll be able to come, won't you? Harry and Ginny will be there."
Ron glanced from Hermione's hopeful face to the open doorway behind her, where Severus Snape stood, now watching them guardedly. He grinned.
"Absolutely. I wouldn't miss it. Now, you'd better get back to your signing, or no one else will buy your book."
"Great. See you later then." Hermione gave him one last hug.
As Ron moved off, she turned to regard her husband and sleeping daughter. Smiling with deep contentment, Hermione took her seat again as the line of eager book buyers moved forward.
A/N: I couldn't possibly end this story without crediting J.K. Rowling for her wonderful characters and her generosity in allowing us to play with them. Nor could I finish without thanking my beta and Brit-picker extraordinaire, GraceHasVictory. She patiently changed my whiches to thats and likes to as-ifs over and over again, and since she is not a Severus-Hermione shipper, she was gracious enough to put up with my pretense that they do make quite a wonderful couple. I also want to thank my other lovely beta, Keladry Lupin, for her fabulous assistance and encouragement. She is a wizard in her own right when it comes to the 'squee-factor' in a story, and she always knew when I was on target and when I wasn't. And I simply have to thank everyone who read and reviewed. Those reviews mean more than you could possibly know!