A/N: Sorry for the delay. If you read my other stories, you've heard this, but if you haven't, my explination is that I just took my honeymoon after four and a half years of marriage. I was really excited, I needed some time away, and I finally got some passion back for writing. Part of it was a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was really awesome and inspired some of my writing, so the past couple days I've been really working hard on my stories. I hope they're up to snuff.
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this so far. Twenty-two reviews and this becomes my most-reviewed fic since I started writing fanfic. So, whoever gives me review number 720 will get a little gift. Is that a bit of incentive?
"What number is this?" Severus said, sounding irritated.
"Number three," Hermione sighed, knowing he knew perfectly well how many places they had visited. "And we're never going to get this done if you go into every place with a bad attitude."
"This is not exactly my idea of an ideal afternoon," he hissed.
"We're never going to get this done," she groaned as he reached to open the door to their third magical daycare center of the day. "This is the last magical one. If we don't like this place, we're going to have to start looking at Muggle centers."
Snape stopped before he opened the door. "I've said it before, I don't want our son in a Muggle daycare, or a Muggle school."
"What's wrong with Muggle schools? I went to a Muggle school."
"As did I, and don't think for a second that I forgot how I was treated there for being different. I'd be willing to bet my last Galleon that your experiences were far from perfect, either."
Hermione scowled. She was made fun of in school, both for being intelligent and a 'teacher's pet' as well as for the strange things that seemed to happen around her occasionally. But that didn't mean she wanted to give up on a Muggle education for Aiden. There was no formal education for young witches and wizards before Hogwarts. Daycare in the magical world didn't provide the educational opportunities that regular school did, they worked on the basics but most of everything was still left up to the parents to teach. To teach Aiden to read, write, and do math either she and Severus would have to home-school him, or he would have to go to a Muggle school. And while sending Aiden to a Muggle school posed a risk of his doing accidental magic, she felt that the education and socialization was worth the risk.
"Are you going to teach him, then?" she asked.
"Don't you feel it's going to be traumatic enough that I will be teaching him at Hogwarts?" he replied.
"So you oppose a Muggle education, but you expect me to do all the teaching? That seems wholly unfair and a bit chauvinistic."
"I hardly think you should be doing it because you are a woman. I think that you should be doing it because you are the more logical choice of the two of us. You are more than aware of my teaching style, having experienced it for the better part of six years, would you think that it be best I be teaching a five-year-old?"
She rolled his eyes, but admitted he did have a small part of a point. "It's different because you are his father. If you make him wet his pants out of fear, you have to clean it up."
"Besides. You know my style. Do you think it best to put me under the stress of doing my job as head of a Committee of the Ministry of Magic as well as teaching Aiden everything he needs to know to succeed at Hogwarts?"
"I think you would be best at creating and following a schedule for his education mixed with your work," he shot back.
"No way, Mister-former-Headmaster. Just because I can color-code schedules for five different people taking ten different subjects between them while making sure to add in Quidditch and Herbology club does not mean that I'm going to be able to do that when it involves a job like mine which occasionally involves last-minute schedule changes. He goes to Muggle school."
"He has a few years before we're going to have to make a final decision on this. Perhaps it would be best to pick up the discussion there instead of continuing this argument in front of our son and Ms. Patil, who has been waiting to take us on a tour of this facility and has been watching us outside this door for two minutes?" he said, nodding towards the inside of the building where Parvati Patil was standing, looking awkwardly at them, holding a packet of information in anticipation of them walking in.
"Fine, I'll win this argument then," she snapped as he opened the door.
"Hermione," Parvati smiled.
"Hi, Pavarti. How are you?" she smiled back.
"I'm good. And Professor Snape, how are you?"
"Spiffing," he replied sarcastically.
"Good," she smiled a 'nice to see too much hasn't changed' smile before holding out the packet of information towards him. "Welcome to Wee Care Magical Daycare. I'm the assistant head here, so I'll be able to answer any questions. How is the little man? I've seen all sorts of pictures in the paper," she added at the end of her opening, dropping the professional manner.
"Growing like a cut of Devil's Snare in a dark swamp," Hermione said, moving Aiden's blanket so Pavarti could see him.
"Oh, he's so cute!" Pavarti cooed. "He looks a lot like you, Professor."
"So I've been told," Severus drawled as Pavarti cooed over Aiden for a minute.
"I'm sorry. I should be telling you more about the center," she finally said, looking up and smiling. "We've been in business for twenty years, founded by Ginnelle Hopkirk, Mafalda's sister, who saw the need for a daycare in the magical world to cater towards the needs of families where both the witch and the wizard decided to hold down jobs after Hogwarts. We started out small, just two rooms, but we've grown since then and now have five rooms catering to around one hundred and twenty witches and wizards, making us the largest wizarding daycare in Brittan. Aiden's just a little guy, so he would be going into our youngest room. We currently have three witches working in that room, Mrs. Miller, the head teacher, Mrs. Franke, and Ms. Robins, who you may remember," she said opening the door to the room.
"Hi, Hermione!" Demelza Robins waved as they entered. "Hullo, Professor."
"Good afternoon, Demelza," Hermione smiled.
"As you can see we currently have nine little ones," Pavarti continued, motioning around the room. "Everyone gets their own crib for when they want to sleep, changed every hour, fed on your requested schedule, and played with as much as possible. We read stories to them, age appropriate of course, have a wide variety of toys..."
"In other words the same thing everyone else offers," Snape grumbled.
"Severus!" Hermione snapped under her breath. "Here. Hold him. He may be able to calm you down." She gently laid Aiden into his arms, and saw the slight softening of her future husband's features as he looked into his son's face.
"Sorry about that," she looked at Pavari. "How long do the kids stay in this room?"
"Until they're fifteen months. Then they move to the next room, where they'll stay until they until they turn three, then they move to the three-four room, then the four-five room, and finally to the six and up room."
"May we see the other rooms?" she asked. Pavarti showed them each of the other rooms, explaining how they worked with the children's developmental growth and very basic educational needs. She explained the hours, the rules, and the prices, and went over the packet of information she had given them. She bid them goodbye with a final sales pitch, and Hermione and Severus left.
"I liked the last place," Hermione said as they sat in Madame Puddifoots for tea.
"They weren't abysmal," Severus muttered, shifting a sleeping Aiden carefully to free up one of his hands.
"What a ringing endorsement," she rolled her eyes. "These are your choices if you're against a Muggle daycare," she said, spreading the three brochures they had gotten that day on the table.
He looked at each of them, scowling.
"Is something wrong?" she asked, trying to curb her irritation.
"Do you think that perhaps it is too soon to be placing him in the care of someone else?" he said, looking into her eyes.
"How do we know that they are qualified, are the best people to be watching Aiden?"
"I'm sure they've gone through extensive training..."
"Are we sure? Did we see all of their qualifications? We haven't talked to other parents to hear what they feel about the places..."
"Do you not want to put him in daycare?" she asked, realization dawning on her. Snape was acting belligerent and uncooperative not because he found the task boring or annoying, but because he couldn't find it in himself to place his son in the care of someone he didn't know and trust and leave him there without supervision by himself or Hermione or someone he had grown to trust over the past few months. His hostility was because he had gotten comfortable in their arrangement- if he wasn't around Hermione was, and the very few times they were both unable to care for him Aiden was left with Danielle, Hermione's parents, or one of Hermione's closest friends. People she knew well and completely trusted, and people he, either through Hermione or through his own experiences during the war time, knew he could trust. Molly Weasley might not be his favorite person, but the woman could care for a child with her wand tied behind her back.
"I just don't want to put our son somewhere we aren't completely convinced about."
"Because you don't trust people you barely know with your child."
He frowned, but didn't say anything.
"I understand. There's not a lot you have seen that would make it seem like we should trust people with Aiden. You probably have more reason than most to not trust people with something like your only child. But these places are regulated. Workers have been trained. If we pick a place and find that they aren't meeting our expectations after a while, then we can have a discussion about an alternative. But I do want to go back to work. And because I work at the same hours as you do, we don't have much in the way of options when it comes to someone watching Aiden. I can't impose on my sister. But if you are truly unhappy with the care he is getting in a couple months time then we can discuss something like a nanny. Please, two months. That's all I ask."
He looked conflicted. "Two months. If, after that time, his care doesn't live up to my expectations I will take him out and we'll find a different method of care."
"Thank you. Now, which of these places would you most feel comfortable putting him into?" she said carefully, laying out the brochures in front of him.
It was the last week in August, and Severus could put off his duties at Hogwarts no longer. Hermione had been back at work for a couple weeks, so the time had come for Aiden's first day of daycare. Severus and Hermione had talked for several hours about the pros and cons of each of the magical daycares, and they had finally decided on which they would put Aiden into. The daycare was closest to the Ministry, so Hermione was going to be the one to drop Aiden off in the morning. Severus worked with McGonagall to schedule his time so he would be able to pick Aiden up three days a week, letting Hermione work later on those days so she could get off early the other two. They had made a list of their common goals, and one was having dinner together at home at least five days a week to make it a habit before Aiden started getting older and was able to eat with them. Hermione was impressed when Severus volunteered to have dinner ready for them when she got home from work, but was slightly less so when she realized that he planned on bringing home dinner from what was being prepared at Hogwarts. But it was a load off her shoulders to not have to worry about cooking.
In the morning she bid Severus goodbye and let him get Aiden ready to go before she took the Floo to the daycare.
"Welcome back, Hermione," Pavarti greeted her as she uncovered Aiden, whose eyes popped open as he looked around his new surroundings.
"How are you?" Hermione asked as she signed Aiden in.
"I'm good. How are you, Professor Snape, and Aiden?"
"We're good. I'm a little nervous about leaving him here."
"That's a normal feeling with first-timers. I'm sure he'll be alright. Take all the time you need."
Hermione went to the infant room, took a calming breath, and opened the door.
"Good morning, Ms. Granger and Aiden," the teacher's chorused. Demelza was over within a few seconds, greeting them properly.
"He just got fed before we came here," Hermione explained, clutching Aiden tightly. "And changed, so he won't need that for a while. I've got the milk I pumped in his diaper bag, it needs just a warming charm on it. There's some extra clothes in the bag, along with his blanket and his stuffed bear. If he gets cranky then we usually rock him and read to him, but he's really an easy baby."
"You have nothing to worry about, Hermione. He'll be in good care."
"I know," she whispered, clutching Aiden even tighter.
Demelza waited patiently while Hermione said her goodbyes, giving Aiden several kisses and telling him to be a good boy. When she finally handed him over Aiden immediately started playing with a lock of Demelza's hair and cooing happily. She backed towards the door, unable to tear her eyes from her son, until she hit the door. She fumbled for the doorknob and, using strength she didn't expect she'd have to use, opened the door and stepped into the hallway. She didn't break her gaze until the door snapped shut in front of her, blocking her view.
"Not easy, is it?" Pavarti asked behind her.
"I didn't think it would be this difficult," she muttered, fighting the urge to yank the door back open and call the whole thing off.
"You can fire-call us anytime with anything you need, and I'll make sure to keep a good eye on him today, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," she muttered. Feeling like a zombie she walked to the Floo, and paused by the fireplace. She took one last look in the direction of Aiden's room, wiped a tear from her eye, and stepped in to go to the Ministry.