Chapter 16 - Someday 'In All Her Wisdom'

December 16, 2004

Severus recast his Warming Charm, feeling thoroughly miserable. Any student brave enough to venture out-of-doors this chilly December week would have seen the Potions Master keeping a silent vigil on the steps to the Entrance Hall, lost in thought.

On Monday, Severus was concerned. In hindsight, he wondered how in Hades Athena could possibly have failed to notice that she had travelled to the past. He fervently hoped that she had no memory of being hexed by her father. For Merlin's sake! Even at the time, he ought to have known better! However, Severus did have one thought to comfort himself with. At least, he reflected, I did a better job than Hermione. Of course, that hadn't exactly been hard to do, since his wife had been completely unaware of the role she was to act.

Speaking of Hermione, he sincerely hoped that she never found out what caused Athena's trip to the Hospital Wing in the past. In the time since the war, Severus had become quite attached to his comfortable existence. Losing it at the hands of his occasionally fierce little wife was really not how he wanted to go. Remembering the night of the accident, he sneered at the thought of his daughter being left with the Weaslette (or Mrs Potter, as she was now known) for the beginning of her stay.

Minerva should have asked Hermione from the start. She was always the more responsible of the two.

By the time Tuesday came, Severus was tired and irritable. During some time spent reminiscing the previous night, Hermione had reminded him of Athena's rather dramatic fashion of revealing the identity of her mother. The forever curious witch then asked her husband what he had thought when he first found out. He told her the truth. It really could have been worse. As a result, Severus had been the one to get up and tend to Hadrian whenever the baby made a noise during the night. He thought this seemed grossly unfair, given that half the time, Hermione ended up awake anyway when their son wanted to be fed.

So much for openness and honesty…

When Wednesday rolled around, Severus had begun to feel anxious and slightly manic. Hermione had finally dropped the 'everything-will-be-all-right' act and confided in him how very much she missed their baby girl. Unsurprisingly, Severus spent the whole of that day and night on the brink of insanity as he struggled to comfort his teary wife. Even though he was now much more comfortable with hugs and other forms of physical affection, Hermione's tears still scared him like nothing else on earth. In fact, sometimes he even admitted to himself that there was a very direct relationship between Hermione's happiness and his own. It would be very beneficial for their home life for Athena to return.

Please, please don't cry, love. I would bring her back if I could…

Thursday evening saw Severus gloomy and depressed. He missed Athena as much as Hermione did. Since it would not be wise (or fair) to take out his unhappiness on the wife he adored, he vented his anger the only way he could. Every single one of his students left his lessons cowering in fear, and the House point hourglasses had not been so empty since early October.

That fateful Thursday, just as he was about to walk back into the Entrance Hall in search of his wife and dinner, a much-anticipated voice broke the silence that he insisted upon when brooding.

'Daddy? What are you doing over there? Do you think I should call my Pygmy Puff James or Oscar?'

Bolting down the steps to snatch his daughter into a fierce hug, Severus was sure he had never felt so relieved. However, even the happiness of the occasion could not stop him from answering a little crossly, 'James is an awful name. You would do much better naming it Oscar.'

On returning to the dungeons a few minutes later, Severus and Hermione 'swapped' children, so Hadrian would not be neglected while Athena was thoroughly fussed over by her mother. Watching Hermione hug, kiss and otherwise smother a protesting Athena, Severus couldn't help but have a nauseatingly sentimental moment when he thought about how far they had come since that confusing week a few years before.

Of course, they had managed to cobble together a fairly harmonious working relationship by the time Hermione graduated. His and Hermione's first kiss even occurred over a steaming cauldron after the first successful attempt at brewing a pleasant-tasting variant of Wolfsbane. Though Severus had never thought much of werewolves, he decided it would be easier to just let Hermione follow her compulsion to 'serve the community'. Werewolves were marginally better than house-elves, after all. During this period, they also learnt to compromise. When she made it unnecessary for him to continue his practice of purposely assigning detentions just to get his cauldrons cleaned, he gave her the password to his lab.

As discussed, the wedding had actually taken place on Midsummer's Day, and Ministry records indicate that the union was indeed consummated that night. Unsurprisingly, the wizarding press had a field day when word reached them that the usually reclusive ex-spy had been photographed taking in the sights of Prague (Severus flatly refused to go further abroad than the Continent) with golden girl Hermione Granger. That is to say, they managed to get out one evening edition of the Prophet speculating on Miss Granger's sanity before a positively livid Hermione Snape stormed the office, her paper in hand, and demanded to see the editor-in-chief. Severus had refused to comment when he arrived at the office fifteen minutes later to join his wife. In any case, the morning edition printed a half-page congratulatory message to Professor and Mrs Snape, with a small footnote apologising for ruining their honeymoon. Any further queries were directed to Severus Snape at 12 Grimmauld Place, London. Auror Potter had not been amused by the owls that constantly circled the courtyard of his home for weeks, trying (and failing) to find the extra high-security, unplottable house.

Athena's conception had gone off without a hitch. After a significant number of 'practice sessions' and some honest to goodness trying, Severus had never been happier than when Hermione had started to lose her breakfast every morning in late September. Severus smirked in remembrance. By that time, they had honed their skills to such a fine art it seemed only logical to continue. It did not hurt that they had also developed quite a lot of affection for one another as the months passed. However, in typical Severus fashion, he refused to call it love until very shortly into the New Year. Actually, the Hogwarts faculty had only celebrated a few minutes of the new millennium when the champagne containing a slow-acting variant of Veritaserum Severus had been drinking all night finally reached his head. Apparently, Minerva (with Horace Slughorn's assistance) had been planning this dastardly revenge ever since the day Severus had let Hermione loose in the headmistress' office not long after Athena's disappearance. Despite the many outrageous things he said that night as a result of the spiked drink, Severus forgot to be even mildly upset with Minerva when he saw the look on his wife's face as the words 'don't mind', 'like', even 'am fond of' refused to come out between 'I' and 'you'.

A soft gurgle from the baby in Severus' arms abruptly brought him back to the present. Looking into his son's sleepy, honey-brown eyes, Severus' smirk turned into a small smile at the great joy that had been brought into his life by the arrival of a little girl one December evening. As he realised by the time she truly entered the world, Athena's smile was her mother's, not the other way around, and she had certainly not been named for the stiff old cat sitting in the Headmistress' office.

Athena Hermione Snape was his own, personal goddess.

Actually, Hermione had protested against naming the child for herself. She said that the Athena she knew would not tolerate living in anyone's shadow, but Severus refused to yield. As far as he was concerned, no matter what Athena managed to discover in later years about how her parents came together, she would do best to remember to whom she owed her existence. Although Severus truly believed that his wife did not regret a moment of their life together, and tried his utmost to keep it that way, he still thanked Merlin every day for his fearless, determined Gryffindor girl. He never forgot that she had essentially given up her youth to wed the snarky Potions master and become Athena's mother.

By the same token, Severus often reminded himself that it was Athena who paved the road for everything else. She had given him more in the space of a week than he, in all his thirty-eight years, had ever been graced with the wisdom to hope for. Later, when Severus sneaked into Athena's room to reassure himself that she was really home, he was not really surprised to find Hermione there too, even though he had assumed she had gone to bed an hour ago.

Walking to stand just behind her, he wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed her softly on the cheek before gazing down at their sleeping daughter together.

'Severus,' she sighed contentedly, leaning back into his embrace. After a few moments, Hermione slowly turned in his arms to face him. 'I'm so glad to have her back,' she whispered.

Severus rolled his eyes at her for stating the obvious, but gave her a rare smile a second later. He was happy, too.

'I love you,' Hermione added, returning her husband's very slight twitch of the lips with a brilliant smile of her own.

'And I, you,' he murmured, pulling her even closer so as to kiss her properly.

Perhaps, Severus mused somewhat incoherently through the kisses, Athena has earned that toy broomstick for Christmas after all…

The End.

AN: For anyone who has forgotten, this particular brand of time travel was explained in Chapter 1. Athena disappeared on a Friday in the past, and arrived back on a Thursday in the future. This (disappointingly) Muggle author has no explanation for the magic, so feel free to make up your own.

Now to be a bit gushy…

Although I love all my readers, I really want to thank every single reviewer who has shared this experience with me. I wasn't sure what to expect from a first fic, but it has been a pleasure to get to know you, and I really appreciated your feedback.

And now, at the very end, the last and largest thanks must go to my wonderful beta, Anachronistic Anglophile. Without her careful and detailed comments, ideas, deletions and additions, this story wouldn't even be half as good. *squishes you* - MW