Severus sat in the kitchen, nursing his tea with a pensive expression on his face. Molly eyed him curiously, as she scrubbed the long wooden table. He was so seldom at rest; it was a rare sight to see him so still. She hadn't ever gotten to know Severus. She had graduated from Hogwarts a few years before he started, and he was so silent and taciturn at Order Meetings. She rinsed out her rag in the sink, and sat down across from him, pouring herself a mug of tea from the large pot of Earl Grey that was on the hob.
She took a few moments to unobtrusively study him. His hair was pulled back, lank and lifeless, although not nearly as greasy as her sons solemnly averred. His skin was pale, and his teeth were stained from all the tea that he drank. His eyes were dark and guarded, when he glanced over at her, but they held no animosity or hostility. They were tired, with dark circles beneath them. All of him looked tired.
Molly summoned the tea pot to warm up both of their cups. She didn't want to worry the man with small talk. She was no one's fool, she knew that small talk was what Politeness demanded, but as her mother had told her, you used proper manners to make other people feel comfortable, not yourself. And if there were ever a man Nature crafted who didn't need polite chit chat to feel comfortable, it was Severus Snape.
Instead, she smiled at him when he nodded his thanks to her, and continued to sit quietly.
It was rare that the place was so quiet during the weekends, when everyone was usually home from work, but it seemed that everyone was out of the house, for the day. Most of the adults were having a rare lie-in, except for Remus, who had run out to the store for her. Ron and Harry were off playing Quidditch with some friends from work, and Ginny was picking up an extra shift at Fred and George's shop. Hermione might still be asleep, but she was probably in the library.
It was so wonderful to have everyone under one roof! Very companionable, jolly, with all of the children around, although the bickering was sometimes enough to drive her up the wall. Thank goodness most of the professors stayed at Hogwarts! She felt guilty for being glad that Severus had had to leave Hogwarts to stay at Grimmauld Place, since his position as a spy had been compromised. She knew that living here was difficult for him, but having someone around who could scare manners into those who needed them was quite convenient.
Molly was startled from her thoughts when Severus spoke quietly.
"I have worked so hard to be respected. All of my life, going to Hogwarts, joining the Death Eaters, joining the Order, through teaching. Everything has always boiled down to that, really. Respect. It is so elusive for me, when others manage to gain it without having to work at all, it seems."
It took a moment for Molly to react to what Severus had said. He sat staring down into his mug, his shoulders tensed, as if ready for a blow. She replied gently:
"I believe that you have the respect of all who know you." She hurried on when he scoffed. "You are not the most amiable man, Severus, and that is who you are, and it is fine. You should not change your personality to suit people who don't care enough to appreciate you for who you are. And though there are those that doubt your loyalties (Rot, Mad-Eye, she groused internally), the rest of us in the Order are at least partially aware of your sacrifices, and we do respect you. Deeply."
He frowned, unconvinced.
"Even the children, when pressed to examine their feelings beyond their experiences in your classroom, admit that you are one of the bravest men that they know. Some of them do not need prompting… Hermione openly defends you as an honorable man to everyone at every opportunity," Molly teased gently, delighted, and slightly dumbfounded, by the light blush that appeared over his sharp cheekbones.
Severus began to reply sharply, but swallowed his hasty comment. Molly wasn't finished.
"If you would look beyond the ill considered words of people who don't matter to you in any case, you would see that there are many who respect you, and who would like to know you as well as you would ever let them. The respect of the masses is often unearned, and unappreciated even when you have it. Just look at Harry… isn't that the reason that you dislike him so? That he does have so much respect from everyone, was accorded it automatically, without having to do anything at all to have earned it? And he seems so unthankful for the favors that he is given because of it. He clings to Hermione and Ron because they love him in spite of his celebrity, not because of it. That is what you have, Severus. People who love and respect you for what you've done, for who you are."
Severus lifted a slightly shaking hand to pour both of them some more tea. He answered her quietly, "It seems that there are always people who are out to discredit me."
"Well of course, Severus. You are the most powerful wizard of your generation, regardless of your affiliation. It is the nature of power to draw criticism." Her soft smile took some sting out of the rebuke. She repeated her earlier comment: "Those who know you, certainly respect you, Severus. I would venture to say that most of them love you, as well. Do not discount that."
Hermione entered the kitchen as Molly finished speaking, yawning widely, and trying to push her sleep disheveled hair into a ponytail. She glanced blearily at the two adults sitting at the table, and checked the hob for tea. She pulled a mug from the cupboard, and sat down next to Severus. Molly noticed his expression as Hermione smiled sleepily at him in thanks for the tea that he poured her.
There, Severus, she thought to herself. There is certainly someone who loves and respects you. Now you know it, too.