Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling and I don't own Harry Potter

Life For Rent

Chapter 31

"Hermione!" Ginny called whilst banging on the bathroom door. "What are you doing? It's time to go!"

Hermione cancelled the one way silencing charm that prevented anyone from hearing her in the bathroom just after she splashed her face and rinsed her mouth. She quickly fixed her hair and makeup with her wand, put a smile on her face, and threw open the bathroom door to greet her friend.

"I was just finishing my hair." She said nonchalantly, "I was expecting to meet you downstairs."

Ginny just shrugged and tugged on Hermione's dress. "This looks even better on you today than it did in the shop. You're filling out the top better. Did you adjust it?"

Hermione bit back a sardonic laugh and just nodded. "I made some changes," in the size of my breasts.

"Well, you look fantastic. Severus and Harry are waiting in the living room so we can all go down together."

"Okay, let me just kiss Caris good night and I will be right there."

Hermione snuck into her daughter's bedroom where Winky was showing the baby a picture book, and said goodnight to her daughter. She felt another wave of nausea but after standing still for a moment, was able to hold it down.

"Is you alright?" Winky asked Hermione.

Hermione smiled at the elf widely just as she had Ginny and headed to the living room. Harry was the first person to see Hermione enter and he offered her a warm but tentative smile.

"You look really great, Hermione." He said a little quietly. Hermione was not surprised that he was talking to her. It was a hardly a coincidence that he would try to be extra polite to her just days after Hermione told Ginny what it would take to get her to speak to him again. Severus turned around to face Hermione after he heard Harry greet her. His eyes lingered overlong on her chest and Hermione saw a little bit of desire, and a little bit of something entirely unidentifiable flash in his eyes before he approached her.

"Normally, I would have to make a sarcastic comment about Potter stating the obvious, but I think tonight you deserve to hear it twice. You really do look stunning tonight, my love." Severus purred into her ear.

Ginny was beaming at the couple and her enthusiasm made Hermione laugh. "Thank you, both. Shall we?"

Hermione linked her arm in Severus' and allowed him to lead her to the Great Hall so that her mind could wander. She thought back to the first of October, only thirty days earlier, and the wonderful night that she'd shared with her husband. For the life of her, Hermione could not remember any other night when they had forgotten to use contraception charms, but according to the diagnostic spell she'd cast earlier that day she was already eight weeks pregnant with her second child, which means that she conceived the first week of term, when Caris was only three months old. She recalled having a very light monthly in September but had chalked it up to nerves and being busy. It did however, explain the morning, or in this case, evening sickness because she was already far enough along to start experiencing it.

The hallways and staircases passed in a blur as Hermione thought about what Severus might do when he found out she was pregnant again. They hadn't even discussed having a second child at all let alone one that would be born exactly one year after the first. Hermione felt a wave of nausea that had nothing to do with morning sickness pass through her stomach and she stiffened at Severus' side.

"Are you alright?" He asked her.

Hermione smiled up at him and nodded. She was shocked to find that they'd already reached the Great Hall. Kids were milling about pointing at the decorations and rushing back and forth between friends to talk. In the middle of the room, some clever students had hung a Slytherin banner advertising their win from earlier that day.

Severus laughed at the banner and pointed it out to Harry. "You still owe me fifty galleons, Potter."

Harry fished in his pocket for a small bag and Severus plucked it ceremoniously out of his outstretched hand. Several students had seen the Headmaster arrive and were watching the exchange with interest.

"So much for not showing House favouritism." Harry said jokingly.

"I wasn't betting on the House, per se, I was betting on the team, and I chose the right one." Severus replied quietly.

"Does that mean you're going to bet on Hufflepuff for the win against Ravenclaw at the next match?" Harry asked.

Severus quickly did a run through in his mind of the players on the Hufflepuff team. "I just might. Now stop talking about this, I don't want the students to know that is why you are handing over galleons."

Severus and Harry walked ahead of Hermione and Ginny to the Head table still squabbling about which House had the better Quidditch team and recapping the game from earlier that day. Hermione took the opportunity to yank on Ginny's arm to hold her back.

"I need to talk to you." Hermione said a little more forcefully than she'd intended.

Ginny pulled her arm back indignantly. "I didn't tell Harry to tell you anything!"

Hermione looked at Ginny with confusion. "What are you talking about?"

Ginny returned the look with equal abashment. "What are you talking about?"

"Not Harry." Hermione pulled Ginny further way from the centre of the room but was stopped by the Head Girl and a few of her friends.

"Good evening, professor Snape. You look lovely tonight. You too, Mrs. Potter." They all chorused. And so it went for the next twenty minutes or so before every student was seated for the feast. Hermione had to fight back annoyance at all the interruptions because she'd really wanted to talk to Ginny about being pregnant. She was desperate to tell someone and besides Severus, Ginny was the only person she wanted to tell. She didn't even know how her mother was going to take the news. They thought Caris had come too soon, even if they did love her and spoil her rotten.

"Okay, now what was it you wanted to talk to me about?" Ginny whispered into Hermione's ear as they settled in at their table.

Hermione glanced over at Severus who was watching her intently, a slight frown furrowing his brows. She then glanced at Harry on Ginny's other side who was also paying close attention. Hermione had to actively force her eyes to keep from rolling at Ginny's horrible lack of timing. She had to ask when everyone at the table was quiet and listening in, didn't she? Ginny also recognised her gaffe and quickly recovered.

"Was it about that shopping trip you wanted to plan? Because we never did settle on a date for that." Ginny said almost without missing a beat.

"Yes, you know me, Gin, never too early to start thinking about Christmas." Harry was immediately diverted by his food completely uninterested in listening to the women plan a shopping trip. Severus, however, was not so easily distracted.

He leaned in close to Hermione and whispered in her ear. "I think you and I need to talk about your shopping trip before you discuss it with Ginny."

Hermione tensed as he looked into her eyes knowingly. She couldn't read his expression entirely but it was quite obvious that he wasn't buying the whole shopping trip farce. Hermione should have known he would have figured it out already and would be disappointed if she didn't go to him first with the news. Hermione immediately felt horrible about even thinking that she would tell someone else before him. She looked back at Severus apologetically but he just patted her on the leg and turned toward his dinner. Hermione suddenly realised she was ravenous and followed his lead.

Ginny went ahead with the whole shopping trip story, apparently thinking it was a good idea and by the time dinner was finished and couples had started dancing, a whole weekend in London was planned.

Hermione and Severus both danced the first dance saying very little. Severus held Hermione close and made a few comments about Hagrid's giant floating pumpkins, and the students, but he didn't bring up anything else. Hermione was absolutely positive that he knew she was pregnant but she was unwilling to broach the topic either. Instead she allowed him to pull her close and savoured the rare moment of public affection that he was displaying. Just before the song ended he brushed his lips gently on her temple. Hermione felt butterflies in her already tumultuous stomach at the unexpected gesture.

"I love you, Hermione." He whispered before breaking away from her as a fast song started and Ginny grabbed her, encouraging her to dance with her students. Severus just smiled and waved her on before walking away. Hermione felt even guiltier after his declaration of love. She couldn't believe she almost told Ginny before him and now he knew, and it was as if he was actively trying to make her feel bad about it. Hermione shook that thought out of her head; Severus would never stoop that low.

Severus retreated to the Head table and sat down beside Harry who was having a very animated discussion about the Quidditch match with Madame Hooch. The pair didn't even acknowledge him as he sat down which was just as well because his attention was otherwise engaged. He schooled his face into a blank expression but inside he was churning with passion and adoration for his wife. He did know that she wanted to talk to Ginny about being pregnant and it did hurt a little that she wasn't going to tell him first. He was shamelessly unrepentant about requesting that she speak to him first. He figured as the father of the baby and her husband he deserved that much. He was not angry with her about it though and he looked forward to the talk just so he could tell her how happy he was.

He loved his daughter so much that he found himself imagining another child very shortly after she was born. Of course he expected it to be a few years down the road but it was quite easy for him to look at the situation from a new perspective. He was almost two full decades older than Hermione, and while wizards lived a very long time he was in a bit more of a rush to complete his family than Hermione ideally would be. It was definitely early and it had taken a couple of weeks for the shock and denial to wear off but he was definitely pleased. As he watched his beautiful wife laugh and dance with her friend and some of the younger students he envisioned her body larger and rounder again. He always loved her body but he'd especially appreciated it when she thought she was the fattest and ugliest. Severus had revelled in the roundness of her belly and the miracle of life inside of her.

The music slowed once more and Severus made to stand up and approach Hermione again when he was stopped by Harry.

"Severus, do you mind if I ask Hermione to dance?" He asked hopefully.

"Be my guest." Severus said gesturing ahead of him. Harry thanked him and shuffled off towards Hermione nervously.

Ginny nudged Hermione and pointed to Harry who was approaching them on the dance floor. Ginny ran up to Harry and wrapped her arms around him. Harry looked at his wife apologetically.

"I love you, Gin, but I actually wanted to see if Hermione would dance with me for this one." Harry switched his gaze to Hermione, one eyebrow raised hopefully.

Ginny smiled and pushed Hermione forward. "Of course, I don't mind, and neither do you right, Hermione?"

"Of course not." Hermione allowed Harry to take her hand and lead her away from the large crowd in the centre of the dance floor to a spot on the edge that was a little less populated with couples.

"I've missed you, Hermione." Harry said immediately.

Hermione sighed, "Harry…"

"No, Hermione. Please just let me talk. And before you ask, nobody told me to say what I'm going to say. I did talk to Severus, but I pretty much got here on my own." He stopped talking to wait for some sort of signal from Hermione letting him know she wanted him to continue. After a moment she nodded.

"Hermione, I know I was angry with you for saying what you did in Hogsmeade that day, but you were right and my behaviour after that day proved your point. I'm really, truly, very sorry, and I don't know how but I want to make it up to you. The only thing I can think of to do is tell you I'm sorry for every time I've done this to you."

"Done what, exactly?" Hermione asked really pleased that Harry was telling her all the things that she needed to hear from him, without any help from anyone, regardless of how selfish that made her feel.

"Just waited for our friendship to somehow magically patch itself up after I stopped speaking to you for awhile. Believe me; it took me awhile to get here. I spent hours rehashing every time we weren't speaking for one reason or another trying to find a time when it was your fault. I got mad at you when you reported my Firebolt, but that was the right thing to do. I was quick to ignore you again when Ron stopped being mad at me during the Triwizard Tournament. I got angry with you when you tried to keep me sensible when I was having those visions during fifth year and you were right about that. I did it again when we were hunting for Horcruxes and you were trying to keep me focussed on them instead of the Hallows. I needed the Hallows but I almost gave up on the Horcruxes for them and you helped me with that. I really did blame you for my broken wand and I am truly sorry about that because you saved my life that night."

Harry paused to read Hermione's expression. She had tears in her eyes and as he watched one of them spilled over. Harry quietly brushed it away with his thumb.

"I really don't know what else to say, other than that I know you better than you think I do. Or at least I hope I do. I know that your favourite colour is green, and that your favourite dessert is chocolate covered strawberries. I know that if you weren't teaching you would want to own a bookstore. I even admit that those are all things I learned about you after you got back from Australia and Ron left to play Quidditch. I also know some things about you when we were younger too. I know that without you I never would have passed any of my classes, that you were devoted to Hagrid just because he was my friend. I know that you used to cry in the bathroom when Malfoy would tease you all the way through fifth year."

Hermione's breath caught in her throat at the last comment. She didn't think anyone knew about that.

"I know that I love you, Hermione. The only people in the world I love differently than you are my wife and kids. And that's like I said, just different. You are a part of my family and I really truly regret thinking that you would just come around. We haven't really spoken for a month, Hermione. We communicated more than that when you were in Australia and I swear that I will never take advantage of you again." Harry had tears in his eyes as well as he finished his speech and he waited for Hermione to say something.

Without realising it they had somehow worked their way to a bench at the edge of the room and sat down. Hermione was crying freely and she wiped at her tears quickly.

"I can't believe I'm crying. After that speech, Harry, I feel really horrible for wanting to hear it so badly. I was so selfish."

"Hermione, no! You aren't going to turn this around and take the blame for any of this. Sometimes you have to be selfish with your feelings. I know I've done it enough. You remember what I was like during fifth year and beyond. It was something you needed to get off your chest and as much as it hurt, I'm glad you did." Harry leaned over and wrapped Hermione in a big hug which she reciprocated gratefully.

"I'm still sorry for snubbing you for so long."

"I said no apologies, Hermione. It looks like our significant others are looking for us." Harry pointed off to his right where Ginny was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, clearly ecstatic that they had made up. Severus was nearby watching them as well but he had a forced look of disinterest on his face.

Hermione quickly hugged Harry again. "Thanks for everything, Harry. I really needed this talk with you."

"I know." Harry pulled her up from the bench and led her over to Ginny who could barely contain her excitement. She gave Hermione a big hug and squealed.

"I am so happy for you!"

The last part came out just as the song ended and everybody within a thirty feet radius heard her, loud and clear, just like at the dinner table earlier. Ginny clamped a hand over her mouth giggling and the room filled with noise again as the next song started. Severus, however, joined the group in a few quick strides. If they were talking about what he thought they were talking about he was going to be very upset for being left out.

Ginny continued without hesitation. "I was afraid you two weren't going to be on speaking terms forever!"

Severus relaxed visibly but only Hermione noticed. She quickly grabbed his hand.

"Harry and I made up. We had a really nice talk." Hermione found the excitement in her voice to be quite genuine.

"Splendid. I daresay it won't be long before I am hoping you fight again. It was rather nice not listening to stories about Harry Potter all day and night." Severus said sarcastically but the corners of his mouth were turned up and he looked happy for Hermione.

"Hermione," Severus continued ignoring Harry's scowl, "come with me please."

Hermione waved goodbye to Harry and Ginny and went with Severus as he led her up to the Astronomy tower. She looked at him in wonder. He had never brought her up there before and as far as she knew he had not gone up there since the night Dumbledore died.

Hermione approached the wall and leaned against it, looking up. Severus came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, warming her. Hermione leaned her head back against his chest and continued to look at the stars.

"When I was a kid I was afraid of the stars and the night sky." Hermione said quietly.

"What? Why?" Severus replied just as quietly.

Hermione sighed deeply and savoured the cool night air. "We used to go camping when I was little and my dad and I would lie down and look up at the night sky. Since there were no lights around you could see thousands more stars than in our backyard. I was afraid of how big the sky was and I would imagine that I could actually feel the earth moving underneath me. I was terrified of being lost amongst all those stars, disoriented and out of control, while the world went on without me."

Severus squeezed Hermione tighter. "And now?"

"I think if I were to look long enough I would still feel that terrifying expansiveness."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"No, not really. I mean, I really felt vulnerable but I don't regret feeling that way. I think it was a really safe environment for me to feel vulnerable in. Does that make sense to you?" Hermione asked, guessing that Severus thought she was out of her mind.

"I suppose. Although I don't believe there is any harm in being the only person to truly understand how you feel about some things." Severus ran a hand gently across her neck and turned her head so he could bend down and kiss her softly.

"Hmm, that was nice." Hermione breathed.

"This is the first time I've come up here since that night."

Hermione wanted to turn around to see his face but she restrained herself and waited to see if he had anything else to say.

"I truly believed that he took my soul with him. I know better now."

"How do you know? I mean, I know better too, but what was it that made you realise?"

Severus chuckled softly. "You mean besides you? I don't really know. I think it was when I decided to make shampoo. I realised that day that I had a future, at the time I was thinking more along the lines of enterprising and not of love, but it hit me that as bleak as it was, I was free to live my life as I chose. I think that is when the healing process really began. I like to think that you were my reward for realising that."

"I can live with that." Hermione said happily.

"And then Caris came along and I didn't think it could get any better." He said softly as he placed his palm on Hermione's belly, "But I was wrong. It does get better."

Hermione gasped as Severus bent down to kiss her neck.

"I am really happy, Hermione. I know it is a little soon after Caris but that doesn't matter. We have a good life here, and we will make it work. I like the idea of Caris having a sibling to grow up in the castle with."

Hermione felt the tears welling up in her eyes for the second time that night. Severus turned her around so that he could face her.

"Why are you crying?" He said laughing a little.

Hermione let out a sound that was a cross between a sob and a laugh. "I was afraid you would be upset. It wasn't planned and Caris is so little, and our new jobs…"

Severus cut her off with a searing kiss. "Hermione, my love, we have come so far, covered so much ground in such a short amount of time. Over the last few years we have faced all of our demons and confronted our pasts just to pave the way for our future. This is a good thing; this will be easy compared to that because it is welcome."

Hermione wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close to her. "I love it when you're right."

"I always am. Would you think I was horribly crass if I said I wanted to know what it is before it's born this time?"

Hermione looked up at him. "Of course not. We can find out right now."

"May I do the honours?"

Hermione nodded and stepped back from Severus so he could pull his wand from his sleeve. He pointed it down at her stomach.

"Ostendo sum infantia."

A white tendril of smoke curled out of his wand to form a word.

Severus shoved his wand back in his sleeve and lifted Hermione into a hug kissing her deeply.

"Let's go tell Caris the good news." He said as he apparated them right into her bedroom.

Winky who had fallen asleep in the rocking chair woke with a jolt.

"Shhh," She admonished, "you'll wake the baby."

"You may go, Winky. Thank you for helping tonight." Severus dismissed Winky politely as he approached Caris' crib with Hermione right behind. He reached out a hand and touched the sleeping child's face.

"She's so angelic when she's sleeping, Severus. Please don't wake her."

Severus leaned over close to his daughter and whispered quietly. "I'm not supposed to wake you, and I guess that does not matter since you can't understand me anyway, but I just wanted to tell you that you're going to be a big sister. Right around your birthday as a matter of fact."

Hermione smiled widely at how adorable Severus was in his excitement. His smooth velvety voice lulling the baby into a deeper sleep just as it aroused Hermione. She bent over the crib and kissed Caris on the cheek.

"Yes, and for your first birthday, you're going to get a little brother."

*******************************The End*********************************************

A/N: So, I guess this is goodbye, (brushes away a tear) for this story anyway. Thanks so much to all of you readers who set this story on alert and favourites and reviewed. Some of you reviewed almost every chapter and that is awesome!

I have another new story started called Liberation, it is a Dramione so if you like those, that one has three chapters posted. I am definitely taking more care with grammar etc., for that one because it is planned and outlined. I admit I was a little careless with this fic because I was just winging it, but you all read it nonetheless and I couldn't be happier about that.

I am going to start my next SS/HG story soon as well, but that one is going to be a major undertaking so I don't know exactly when it's going to get started.

I had a cute little plot bunny come visit with the idea of writing a short little something about Caris as an older student talking about being the daughter of Severus and Hermione and growing up in Hogwarts. If anyone thinks that is something worth doing let me know. I admit I really don't have a good idea of what kinds of stories besides SS/HG and Dramiones that have a lot of readers.

Everybody needs to check out my beta whoopsydaisy's fic Uncharmable!

Thanks again for reading and please review! It's the last chapter I'm sure you all have some closing thoughts!