Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to JKR!
A/N: A heartfelt thanks goes out to my wonderful betas, Southernwitch69 and Meredith. They helped me more than I can say. I could never have done this story without them! Love you guys!
With the threat of Lucinda gone, things slowly got back to normal. Severus and Hermione were both still shaken by all the close calls she had caused Hermione, but gradually, they began to relax. As March rolled in, Severus started thinking about the upcoming Easter holidays. After a long talk with his solicitor, he was anxious for the Easter break to be upon them, and at the right moment, he would speak with Hermione about his new plans.
"What do you say to spending the holiday with me in my home, Hermione?" he asked, as they were finishing up breakfast one morning.
Hermione was startled, albeit pleasantly. "I think that would be very nice, thank you."
"You don't have a yearly tradition with the Weasleys for Easter? I will be able to pass the day peacefully without seeing flaming red hair at every turn?" Severus smiled when she laughed. Her laughter was bright and sunny, and he knew he could listen to her laugh for hours.
"No, no yearly traditions there." Hermione reveled in the fact that if she'd had plans with the Weasleys, he would have readily accompanied her. " I am curious to see your home actually."
"Well, remember, curiosity killed the Kneazle." At the sight of her crestfallen face, Severus immediately regretted saying anything, even as a joke. Merlin, how could I be so daft? What was I thinking by saying that? "Forgive me, Hermione. I was clearly not thinking."
"No worries," she replied. At his piercing look, she amended her comment, saying, "I won't try and deny that Snarks' death still hurts, but I don't want you, or anyone, walking on eggshells around me. I am not as fragile as that."
"So it would seem. I shall make the arrangements for us to go to my home then."
"That sounds wonderful, love."
She still blushed somewhat when she called him that, even after all of their lovemaking, and he found it endearing. He found just about everything to do with her endearing these days—especially at night when she welcomed him to bed with open arms. He was still amazed that he got to touch, hold, caress, and make love to this beautiful witch whenever he felt like doing so, which was quite often. In humor, he wondered to himself if someone had doused Hermione with the Harlot's Potion, because she was so responsive when he touched her now—not nearly as timid as she originally had been. He'd simply have to thank the person if they had, which he knew wasn't the case. He was just in awe of his good fortune.
He remembered the bath they had taken together the previous night. She had admitted it had been a fantasy of hers to get him in the tub, and he had been more than happy to help her fulfill it. Although it had been hard to manage, with her belly so full and round with their son, he had made the best of the situation. It hadn't been ideal, but it hadn't been bad either. At one point, without realizing what he was saying, he'd told her, "After the baby comes, this will be much easier on us." Thankfully, she'd let that comment slide.
For her part, Hermione wondered what Severus was thinking. He was flushed, as if they had just made love, and it made her ache with want for him. She knew she would never get enough of him, no matter how much they were together.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Severus informed her it was time for him to take his leave. "Just one more month of this, and we will have a blessed week free of dunderheads." He kissed her goodbye and left for his first class.
As soon as her visit with Poppy was completed, Hermione and Severus were going to leave for his home. Even though it had become a routine to have positive visits, she still felt relieved when she and the baby received a clean bill of health.
"I will be visiting my family for the holidays, Severus, so if labor starts while I am away, take her to St. Mungo's. Here is a copy of her chart, just in case." Poppy handed the chart to Severus before tidying up.
"Thank you, Poppy, but I think we will be back in Hogwarts before the baby arrives," Severus said.
"Be that as it may, you never can tell with babies. I have seen witches deliver anywhere from thirty-eight to forty-two weeks."
"I see. Well, in that case, I will take the chart." Severus turned to Hermione. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes," she answered. She was anxious to see the home where her baby would spend his holidays and summers. Hopefully, I will be there, too.
When they left, Poppy pretended not to notice the possessive way that Severus took Hermione by the hand to lead her from the room.
To say that Hermione was surprised to see that a quaint English cottage was the home of the dreaded Potions master was an understatement. He noticed her astounded look and chuckled. "What were you expecting, sweet? A cave and coffin perhaps?"
She smirked at the image of him lying in a coffin as a vampire would. "To be honest, I was expecting a manor similar to Malfoy Manor. However, this is really beautiful! Not too overpowering. I can see our son here quite nicely." And myself as well, bound to you, living here as a family.
Can you see yourself here as well, my love, as my wife? Living here and being a mother to our son? "To be honest, I have owned a manor such as the Malfoys, but I sold it whilst I was still under the Dark Lord's thumb. I had no need for such a manor, as I never entertained, and I certainly did not wish to host any revels in my home. So I sold it and bought this cottage instead. I have christened it as Redemption. It seemed more suited to my needs, and, I daresay, it is big enough."
"Well, I have yet to see the inside, but from here, it certainly seems appropriate. The name, Redemption, is quite fitting." Hermione smiled at him as Severus led her inside.
She soon discovered the cottage was easily big enough. It had four bedrooms, two huge baths, a basement, a spacious kitchen, dining area with a sitting room, and a formal room for entertaining. As she looked around, she pictured in her mind all the things she would love to do with the cottage. A vase here, a picture there, not too much. Actually, the picture of her and Severus that had been taken at Ginny's binding ceremony would look lovely in the sitting room. Hermione loved that picture. In it, she was smiling brightly while looking into Severus' eyes, and he was almost smiling back, as he escorted her to the table.
What really took her breath away, however, was the garden in the back yard. It was not a very large garden, but it was certainly big enough and had a wrought iron bench in the middle of the flowers. There were flowers of all kinds growing within the area. "I have always thought of growing my own potions ingredients here and setting up a lab in my basement, if I ever decided to leave Hogwarts," Severus said, coming up to stand beside her.
"What a great idea. This place is beautiful, Severus. I can actually picture your potions ingredients right there in that far left patch."
"Yes, as could I. Are you ready to eat?" Severus was starting to feel hungry, and he knew that Hermione must be as well.
"I could eat. Then, I would love to find myself a wonderful book, strictly fiction, and read out here in the garden," she said, smiling up at him.
Chuckling, Severus told her, "That could be arranged. However, I have something I would like to show you before you start a book."
Raising an inquisitive eyebrow, she simply asked, "Oh?"
"Yes. It is a letter my great-grandfather wrote to my great-grandmother when they became engaged. He is one of the few in my family that I hold in high esteem."
"Oh, Severus, that would be so nice. I would love to read it." She tried not to get her hopes up or to read anything in the gesture of him asking her to read a love letter, but she had to admit that it made her heart beat a little faster.
After they had dinner, she read the letter Severus had offered her. Now, unable to sleep after their lovemaking, only one thought came to her mind. He does know the meaning of emeralds, and he wanted to make sure I knew it, as well.
I do wonder at the reason for this visit. It almost seems as if he wanted to get me alone while away from Hogwarts. He most definitely wanted to show me his home, as if he were awaiting my approval. I have the feeling something very special is going to happen this week! She was almost giddy by the time she finally fell asleep.
Severus was also unable to quiet his thoughts. Now she knows why I chose emeralds for her gift. I didn't say as much, but she is clever. She will figure out my motives for having her read that letter. She seems to enjoy my home. If she only knew how much I want it to be our home! One thing is for certain. By the end of this week, we will know exactly, without a doubt, where each other stands. Willing his mind to rest, Severus drifted off into a restful sleep.
The next morning after breakfast, Hermione decided to go read in the garden while Severus went to the basement to see how a lab could be set up. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of having a lab in his cottage. After the arrival of his son, he planned on spending more time here than he usually did, so creating a lab now would not be amiss.
Hermione had been having slight cramps all morning, but she thought nothing of it. She had read in a Muggle book on pregnancies about Braxton Hicks contractions, and with just a little under two weeks left, she figured that was what she was feeling.
As she was reading, an owl startled her. Thinking it must be for Severus, she was surprised to see it addressed to her. She opened it and discovered it was from Ginny. She and Tonks were going to have a hen party for Susan, and they wanted to know if Hermione wanted to go shopping and have lunch in Diagon Alley the next day. Nothing too exhausting was planned since Hermione was close to her delivery date.
She smiled and went into the cottage to look for a quill to answer the letter. After she accepted the invitation, she went to the basement to find Severus and let him know of her plans. The sight before her made her laugh. It looked as if someone had given him a detention. He was wearing only a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, black pants, and shoes while elbow deep in hot water, scrubbing cauldrons.
"Something amuses you?" Severus raised an inquiring eyebrow at her laughter.
"No, no," she assured him, as she tried to stop her giggles. "Just surprised to see you scrubbing a cauldron for once. What are you up to? Do you need any help?"
"No, love, I do not need you to help with this. If I needed help, I would have called upon a house-elf. I have decided to start preparing the basement to set up a lab. All that is neither here nor there. You should be resting."
"I am fine, Severus. I need to continue to walk at the very least," she said with a teasing smile. "I came to find you to let you know I will be going to Diagon Alley with Tonks and Ginny tomorrow. We are going shopping for Susan's hen party and having lunch together. I will come back home directly after."
"Oh, Merlin. Please don't let me be invited to another stag party!" That actually works out perfectly for me. Whilst she is gone with those two, I can finish up everything with my solicitor tomorrow and collect the papers I had him draw up.
"Well, as you were invited to the binding, I daresay, you will also be invited to the stag party. You will go, won't you?"
"Yes, if you insist, I will go. If I am invited, that is."
She gave him a beaming smile and then went back to the garden to continue with her book.
Merlin, Severus thought, as she walked away. The things I do for that witch. Attending a stag party for Longbottom, of all people! He shook his head and continued scrubbing.
The next morning, Hermione woke early to shower and get ready for her outing. She noticed that the contractions she'd been having were a little stronger. However, since they were not painful, she didn't concern herself about them.
She was happy the house-elves had breakfast ready by the time she was finished dressing, as she was anxious to see Ginny and Tonks. She needed to stop by Gringotts Wizarding Bank first to withdraw some money to shop with.
After she finished her meal and had said her farewell to Severus, she Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron to meet Tonks and Ginny.
The pregnant witch was happy to find her friends already waiting for her. "Ginny, Tonks! It's so good to see you! How have you both been?"
Ginny answered first. "Wonderful! Being married to Draco is the most wonderful thing in the world. I swear that I never thought that the ferret boy of Hogwarts would ever turn into the wizard I am married to now. I don't think my life could get any better."
Ginny's words made Hermione and Tonks wistful. They both had a certain wizard they wanted to be bound to. "What about a baby? Do you ever think of that?" Hermione wondered if Draco would be the type to want children. She supposed he would, all pureblood wizards felt the need to carry on their line.
"Well, of course we do! Although, I would like to wait a few more years, as it is taking some time to get used to being the new Mrs. Malfoy."
Laughing, Tonks told them that she and Harry were just fine. They had been talking about her moving into Grimmauld Place, but nothing had been decided yet. Hermione silently wondered what Molly Weasley would have to say about that, as she considered Harry one of her own.
When they arrived at Gringotts, Griphook, the goblin at the front desk, informed Hermione that because she was so far along in her pregnancy, it was unsafe for her to ride in the cart to her vault. Instead, they would show her a statement of her holdings, and a goblin would be happy to make her withdrawal for her.
As she looked at the statement, she became puzzled. "Sir, this statement is incorrect. It is showing thirty-five thousand Galleons more than I should have."
Insulted, Griphook looked down his nose at her. "It most certainly is not incorrect. Goblins do not make mistakes. Let me see." After she handed him her statement, he told her, "It says right here that a deposit was made into vault 647 on behalf of Miss Hermione Granger by a Mr. Severus Snape."
"Why? I don't understand why Severus would deposit any money, much less that much, into my account." As soon as the words left her mouth, it hit her like a Bludger. Of course! The baby! He was giving her this money to have his baby and leave quietly after, which meant she had read everything wrong. Her breathing became shallow, and her head spun.
How could I be so stupid? Here I was thinking he was planning a future with me when all along he was planning to pay me off! All those evenings together and the dates we had, not to mention the lovemaking! He told me he cared about me!
I don't understand why. I have already signed that bloody contract. He didn't need to pay me as well, unless he thought it would entice me to go quietly. Well, if that is what he thinks, he has another think coming!
"I would like to withdraw the entire thirty-five thousand Galleons please."
"As you wish," Griphook answered her, non-concerned, issuing a voucher to her in that amount.
After Hermione had the voucher, she walked back over to where Tonks and Ginny stood. "I'm really sorry, but I am not feeling well today, after all. You two go on ahead. I will pick something up later."
Tonks looked at her with concern. "Are you sure, Hermione? We would be happy to take you back; it's no trouble."
No way! I need to see Severus Snape alone! "No, that's quite all right. I just get tired so easily now. You two go on. I will owl you later." She offered a small smile, trying to keep her emotions in check.
"If you're sure…?" Ginny inquired. When Hermione nodded, Ginny said, "All right, but please let us know if you need anything. You really are starting to look pale."
Hermione agreed and walked back to the Leaky Cauldron to Floo back to the cottage. By the time she got there, she was boiling with rage. Severus, however, was not there. She decided to wait in the sitting room, as she could do nothing else. The longer she waited, the madder she became.
Severus was in a very good mood. He had gone to see his solicitor and had all the changes made exactly the way he wanted them. Tonight was the night he was going to talk to Hermione. The timing seemed to be perfect. Everything was falling into place.
He was amazed at how well he and Hermione got on. He had never dreamt that he would meet a witch he could love as much as he loved her. He wanted everything to be just right, so he had made a few stops on the way home. He still had about an hour before lunch, so he figured he had plenty of time to set things up. He wanted to do it immediately and take her out to celebrate. He had no doubt they would be celebrating.
He was very surprised to see Hermione in the sitting room when he arrived. "Did you finish early, sweet?"
Sweet, my arse, the ruddy tosser! "No, I didn't shop at all. I had an unexpected problem." She winced as she said this. Her contractions had been getting stronger as the day had progressed. She had thought it was because she was so angry, but now, she had to wonder.
"Oh? Nothing too serious, I hope. Are you okay?"
"Well, that is debatable. If you can properly explain this," she spoke as she pulled the voucher and thrust it at him, "then I will let you know."
Merlin! I wanted to explain that before she found out! What must she think? "Hermione, it's not what you think--"
"What I think is that you deposited these Galleons into my account as some sort of payoff. What I think is you want me to leave quietly after this baby is born. What I thought was that we were building some sort of relationship and that you might want to continue it after I deliver. What I thought was that I could trust you!" Her voice had increased in volume with every statement, and she waved her arms in the air, frustrated.
"Why, Severus? Why did you do it? I thought you'd started to see me as more than a 'rent-a-womb!' I wanted to be more than that to you, to our son!" She felt another contraction hit and placed a hand on her stomach, vaguely wondering if she ought to be timing them.
"That will do!" Severus was fighting desperately to stay in control. He was afraid he was fighting a losing battle. "Yes, I placed those Galleons in your account, but it was not as some sort of pay off, as you seem to believe. If you would just let me explain--"
"No! I don't want to hear your ruddy explanations! You used me! You purposely led me to believe something was happening between us when obviously there isn't!" The next contraction caused her to have to sit.
Severus was outraged by her exclamation. He'd had enough of this. She was going to listen to him if he had to cast Silencio. "I most certainly did not use you! I went to see my solic--" He was interrupted by a sharp gasp from Hermione and was startled to see her face contracted in pain.
"My water has broken! Severus, I am going into labor! I have been having contractions all yesterday and today, too. I thought they were Braxton Hicks."
"Your water has to break NOW of all times?" What in the name of Merlin are Braxton Hicks? He softened his tone when he saw her wince. "Come! We need to go to St. Mungo's. I will just get your bag and chart."
To her credit, she only hesitated slightly to his outstretched hand. Severus gathered her bag and chart, then they Flooed to St. Mungo's. While Hermione was being admitted, Severus owled Albus to let him know.
Returning to Hermione's room, he sat in a chair by her bed. After the Healer examined her and left the room, Severus said, "Hermione, I swear that money is not what you are thinking." As a strong contraction hit her, he amended, "I know now is not the time to discuss this. Just please promise me you will keep an open mind and listen to me when this is over."
Hermione wanted to believe him and knew she owed it to him to at least hear him out. "I promise," she agreed. "And if it is truly not what I believed, then I am sorry. You just can't imagine how hurt I was to have discovered those extra Galleons, especially when it was confirmed you were the one to deposit them." She tensed as another contraction hit.
"Relax, love. Hold my hand." As she took his hand, he continued, "I never meant to hurt you, Hermione. I believe you will understand once I am able to explain. For now, let's concentrate on bringing our son into the world." He rubbed small circles on the back of her hand as he spoke, hoping to calm her. It seemed to work.
After five hours of labor, Severus was starting to get worried, and Hermione was way beyond irritable.
"I assure you, Mr. Snape, that labor can last many more hours than this! I have seen witches in labor for two days!" the Healer bellowed at him. She was getting exasperated with Severus' insistence that something must be wrong.
"It's Professor Snape," Hermione snappishly informed her, "and the only labor I am concerned about at the moment is mine!"
"Of course you are, dear," the Healer said in a condescending tone. "You are doing fine. Would you like some ice chips?"
"No! I would like to get this baby out of me!" Hermione sounded slightly hysterical, even to herself.
"Hermione," Severus began, using calming, low tones, "look at me. Focus on me, and we will get through this together." Difficult as it may be, he knew he needed to stay calm so that he could help her.
His voice did indeed seem to calm her. She focused on his face and began to relax.
Another three hours went by before it was time to push, during which Severus never left her side. After another hour of pushing, she finally heard the wail of her son. Smiling brightly at Severus while tears were streaming down her face, she said, voice weakened, "We did it."
Not trusting his voice at the moment, he leant down to gently kiss her. He rested his forehead against hers for a minute, then finally said, "We did indeed. You were wonderful, love."
After the baby was cleaned and wrapped in a soft blanket, the Healer laid him on Hermione's belly. He had dark black hair with soft curls and had one small fist held up to his cheek. "Thank the gods he has your nose," Severus teased.
Hermione smiled and told him, "Yes, but he has your eyes, the shape and color."
Severus began to get choked up and decided to distance him self a bit. Until he spoke with her, and knew for sure what she wanted, he had to keep his emotions in check. "I am sure Albus and Minerva are in the waiting area. Whilst you are being cleaned up, I will go inform them the baby is here." He couldn't resist, so he leant down to kiss her once more before exiting the room.
Severus was taken aback when he entered the waiting area. Not only were Albus and Minerva there, but others were there also: Lucius and Narcissa, Draco and Ginny, Harry and Tonks, Ron and Luna, and to his utmost surprise, Neville and Susan. I will be cursed with Neville Longbottom for the rest of my days! It's bad enough I have to put up with the boy-who-lived-to-defeat-the-Dark-Lord and his sidekick, but Longbottom as well?
Everyone looked expectantly at him, and he stated simply, "My son has arrived. Both he and his mother appear to be fine. After they have finished getting Hermione settled, I will bring him out for your inspection."
He walked back in the room to gather his son and found Hermione peacefully sleeping. After showing the baby off a bit, and listening to everyone exclaim over him, he decided to go back to his cottage for a shower, a change of clothes, and to pick up a few things. All their visitors had left, promising to come back the next morning to see how Hermione was.
Hermione was woken by a Healer she had yet to see. It was very early in the morning, barely five. "Your son needs to be fed, mummy. He is very hungry."
Hermione started to object, and then, she thought better of it. This may be the only chance I get to nurse him. I want to know what it feels like to feed my son.
After showing Hermione how to help her son latch onto her breast, the woman left the room. Hermione was gazing at the baby when emotions suddenly overwhelmed her, and she began silently crying. I never knew I could love so deeply!
After Severus got back to his cottage and showered, he decided he should have a nap whilst Hermione was sleeping. He had been exhausted and had dropped into a deep sleep. When he awoke, he became mildly alarmed, as he hadn't expected to sleep so long. Getting up quickly, he hurriedly dressed and Flooed back to St. Mungo's.
The sight that awaited him when he entered Hermione's room stopped him in his tracks. Hermione was nursing their son. He was speechless. She looked up suddenly, seemingly startled.
"Severus, I am so sorry!" She knew she was going to ramble, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. "When the Healer brought him to me, I just couldn't resist! Here, let me hand him to you."
He held up a hand to silence and stop her. "Please, continue. I daresay, that is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen." He paused for a moment to gather his courage. "I have some things I would like to tell you, Hermione." The tone he used was brisk, but he needed to get through this. He took a deep breath, stared at the wall just above her right shoulder, and began explaining things.
"First of all, I want to explain the deposit of the Galleons. It is not uncommon for a pureblood wizard to gift his wife when she provides him with an heir. That was my intention: to gift you. It was not to pay you off, as you believed." Hermione blushed at this and felt a leap of renewed hope when he said wife.
"Second, I went to see my solicitor and had a new contract drawn up." At her intense look, he continued quickly. "I have decided to give you joint custody of the baby. He is equally ours. This provides you with a child, and thus, it releases you from the constraints of the marriage law." This made Hermione's tears start again. He is letting me stay in the baby's life, and I won't be forced to marry someone else!
"Third, I have spoken with Filius. He is willing to have you complete your apprenticeship with him provided you wish to remain at the castle that much longer. You could continue to stay in our quarters, or if you would rather, I am sure Albus would provide you with some of your own." Please stay and continue to live with me and the baby in our quarters!
"Also, Bill Weasley contacted me a week or so ago. It appears the goblins want to offer you a job as a curse breaker when your apprenticeship is complete. He asked me if I thought you would be interested. With your Arithmancy score and becoming a Charms mistress, the goblins feel you would be an asset." This shocked Hermione to the core. The goblins had not said a word to her when she was in Gringotts yesterday.
As she digested everything, he finally looked her in the eyes. Gathering all his courage, he asked the most important question of all to him. "Hermione, do you truly love me?"
Her heart stopped beating for a second. She decided to be honest because she knew he was asking for a reason. Never taking her eyes from his, she said, "Yes, I do. Very much so."
He let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. "I love you, too. I was wondering, Hermione, if you would consent to becoming my wife?"
Tears welled from her eyes. Will I ever stop crying? Stupid hormones! "That would make me the happiest witch in the world."
Severus finally walked over to her and the baby. He bent down and kissed his son's head and his fiancée's lips before he placed a ring on her finger. Hermione recognized it as the ring she had found in the trunk, and she knew this had to be the ring his great-grandfather had given his great-grandmother by the description Severus had given her after she'd read the letter and questioned him.
The proud papa propped himself on one elbow beside his betrothed and snuggled her and their baby close. "I have a name I like, should it meet with your approval. Silas, for my great-grandfather, and William, for--"
"My father." Her heart was heavy with love, and she couldn't help beaming at him. "Silas William Snape. I like the name very much. Who shall we ask to be his godparents?"
"I had thought we would ask Albus and Minerva, if you are agreeable."
"Perfect. I think they will be wonderful and very happy to have been asked."
Both happy and content, Severus and Hermione fell into a light doze with Silas between them until a soft knock on the door woke them. "Come in," Hermione called out.
The door opened, and all of her friends spilled into the room to crowd around to see the baby. In addition to those who had been at the hospital while Hermione was delivering, Arthur and Molly had joined the crowd. Hermione was amazed that St. Mungo's would let so many people in the room at one time. A Muggle hospital would never allow that.
Narcissa was the first to congratulate them. Handing Hermione a box, she spied the engagement ring. Picking up Hermione's hand, she asked, "Is that what I think it is?"
Hermione looked to Severus, wanting him to answer. He understood and told everyone, "Hermione has consented to become my wife. As soon as she is released and back on her feet, we will set a date."
"No!" Hermione yelled. At everyone's startled look, she explained, "I mean, that is to say, I don't want to wait." She looked at Severus. "I should very much like to return home a family."
Awed, Severus looked to the headmaster. "What say you, Albus? Do you feel like performing a binding ceremony today?"
Twinkling and beaming at the proud parents, he told them, "I certainly do! Give me an hour to get everything in order."
Hermione opened her mouth and said the first thing that had come to mind. "What will I wear? Nothing fits me right now!"
"Open your gift," Narcissa told her. Hermione did so and found a lovely, white silk nursing nightgown with a matching robe. "Oh, Narcissa, this is beautiful! Thank you!"
"As you already know, I love lingerie," Narcissa told her with a laugh. The other women in the room, and Lucius, nodded in agreement. "When I saw this, I thought of you. I think it would be perfect."
Ginny had a thought. "I wonder if Marci from Wandless Magic would come here and fix your hair!"
Hermione could hardly keep from rolling her eyes at that, but smiled instead. "Ginny, really, I don't think I feel up to having Marci here just now. Don't you think you could just brush it out for me?"
"Oh! I'm sorry, I wasn't even thinking!" said Ginny. "Of course I'll help you with it."
When the women started talking about hair, Severus looked pleadingly at his wife-to-be. "If it is okay with you, sweet, I will go and prepare myself. I will be back in one hour."
"Yes, and I will be ready when you return." She smiled softly and then whispered, "I love you."
"Love you, too," he said, a little choked. He couldn't believe that in an hour, he was to be married to the woman of his dreams, with a son to boot. Life couldn't be any better.
An hour later, everyone had gathered again in Hermione's room. She asked the Healer to bring Silas back in to her so that he could be a part of the ceremony. Hermione and Severus had decided who they wanted to represent the four elements before everyone returned. Ginny would represent fire, Minerva would represent earth, Lucius would represent air, and Draco would represent water. Harry and Ron were honorary family to the bride, as Hermione had wanted them to have a special part.
Hermione had sent Susan and Tonks to Diagon Alley to purchase a ring for Severus. She wanted a solid platinum band with no designs on it. She laughed to herself at the turn of recent events. I certainly have the Galleons to purchase it now.
When the ceremony was over, Severus told everyone that sometime before the start of the new school year, he and his wife would hold a small reception at Redemption. He would owl everyone the date and time. At that moment, Silas made his presence known. He was hungry and wanted to be fed.
Everyone graciously left the room, and Hermione began nursing her son while her husband sat on the bed with her to watch. "You asked me once why I picked you to be my surrogate out of all the surrogates in England. Do you remember this?"
"Yes, I do. Why did it have to be me?"
"Because you are the only you there is, sweet. It could never have been any other. And there never will be any other for me. I loved and wanted you even then."
"It was the same for me. I loved you, too, Severus. Always."
Hermione stood at the buffet table and looked around at all the people gathered at the Burrow. For the past five years, Molly had been hosting a huge family dinner every fourth Sunday. It was hard to believe that Silas was five already. Time sure flew. As she rested her hand on her expanding belly, she looked over at Severus, who was cradling their two-year-old daughter, Serena. She had fallen asleep nestled against her father's chest, head on his shoulder. Severus was in a discussion with Arthur and Lucius about Merlin only knew what while Lucius reached out to stroke Serena's back every so often.
When Serena had been born, Hermione and Severus had made Lucius and Narcissa her godparents. Lately, Lucius had started calling her Rena, and she'd informed him that her name was Serena Jane Snape, if he pleased. After all, not even daddy, her favorite person in the world, was allowed to call her Rena! That applied to Lucius as well, even if he did spoil her at every turn.
Hermione's gaze turned to Silas, who was playing with Veronica Weasley. Veronica was the daughter of Ron and Luna, and she'd recently begun insisting that she be called Ronni. Frank Longbottom, Neville and Susan's son, played with them also. Even though Ronni and Frank were a year younger, the three were destined to be the next Hogwarts trio. Hermione was certain Silas would be sorted into Gryffindor; he was far too adventurous for any other house, much to her husband's dismay. However, she was equally certain Serena was destined for Slytherin. She was a schemer already.
She turned her attention to the Potters. It had taken the passing of the marriage law to force Harry's hand. Tonks had received many offers—most based solely on her abilities as a Metamorphmagus. Harry was not a pureblood, but the minister had given him special permission to petition for Tonks, as he was the wizard who had defeated Lord Voldemort. He even extended their restrictions. After their binding, Harry and Tonks had decided to wait a bit before having a baby. At least, they were waiting as long as they could get away with it, as the marriage law had been adjusted for them, requiring a child to be produced within six years of marriage.
Ginny and Draco had only recently decided to have a child. Draco had been thrilled to learn they were having twins; Ginny had been a little more apprehensive. She had grown up with Fred and George, after all.
The marriage law had affected nearly all the other Weasleys, as well. Bill, who was already married to Fleur, Ron, and Ginny had been unaffected, but Fred and George had ended up marrying Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell, respectively. Percy had married Penelope Clearwater, and Charlie married Alicia Spinnet. Everyone was still shocked by that. Nobody had been aware that Charlie had even known who Alicia was.
Aside from Ron, the only Weasleys who had children were Bill and Fleur. The others kept insisting they were working on it. Hermione smirked. Practice does make perfect. As she was lost in thought, she felt a pair of arms snake around her waist and rest possessively on her belly. She leaned back, glad to be in Severus' arms, her favorite place on earth.
"All right, sweet?" He had tended to worry in the last two months of her prior pregnancies, but this one more so for some reason. Maybe it was because they had decided this was going to be the last. They were both a little sentimental about it.
"Just fine, love. But ready to head home soon. I am getting tired." They were going home to Redemption for the summer holidays.
Severus had decided that once Silas started Hogwarts, he would resign. He had several personal potions journals he had written over the years, and he wanted to start testing and revising his theories. Hermione was undecided as yet if she was going to resign from her Gringotts position to work with Severus or continue with her job. She enjoyed her work, but she absolutely hated working with the goblins. She had decided it was only Bill Weasley's personality and easy-going attitude that had kept him there for so long.
After gathering up Silas and Serena, who had awoken and was now protesting leaving, they Flooed home. Soon, the baths and bedtime stories were completed, and Hermione rested contentedly in her husbands arms, sated from lovemaking. The cottage was quiet; all was peaceful.
As she drifted off to sleep, she couldn't help but thank God for that ruddy contract. What had been a trial in the beginning had brought her the most happiness she had ever known, joined her with the one man she loved with all her heart and soul, and gave her the family she had always longed for. Life was most definitely good.
Christy's Notes: I would like to thank each and every one of you guys from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me and reading my story. It's been a fun ride! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I have another story in the works that will be posted soon. It's another challenge fic, so be watching for it!
Southern's Notes: I am glad that the story ended so sweetly. For awhile there, I was just plain annoyed with our pair and that ruddy Lucinda. It's been fun.
Meredith's Notes: Awwww! I just love happy endings.