Chapter 1: Princes and Emperors
"I've always been under the impression that it was mostly youthful rebellion on my mother's part. What better way to outrage Marcus Aurelius Prince than to marry a muggle?"
"You grandfather's name was Marcus Aurelius Prince?"
"It is one of the idiosyncrasies of the Prince clan to name their sons after emperors. I have an Uncle Hadrian and a first cousin Diocletian and twin second cousins named Titus and Domitian."
"That's horrible. It's even worse than naming children after stars and constellations like the Blacks."
"One of the things for which I forever thank my Muggle father is his stubborn insistence that I bear his name as my middle name. Otherwise I would have been saddled with the full Septimius Severus Snape. You can imagine the nickname possibilities."
"Tim wouldn't have been so bad."
"You believe James Potter and Sirius Black would have settled for calling me Tim? It would have begun with Sappy-Seppy and gone downhill from there."
"Your mother was named Eileen, wasn't she? That's not imperial."
"The daughters of the family often escape the imperial naming curse, though we have our share of Julias and Claudias. There are at least three Victorias, one of whom is still alive, and I had an unlucky great aunt named Tzu Hsi Prince."
"Oh Circe, not the Dowager Empress!"
"You recognize the name of the famous Manchu Dowager Empress? You really do read everything, don't you, Hermione?"
"The summer I was thirteen I went through a phase of reading all about the Chinese Revolution. I started with Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China and went forward and back."
"Then I expect you were the one who kept Potter and Weasley carefully on the run from Death Eaters during that wretched camping year of yours. On their own I'm sure they would have made some sort of stupid heroic stand and destroyed themselves."
"The enemy attacks, we retreat. The enemy retreats we attack. The enemy stands still— I forget, what do we do when the enemy stands still?"
"—we harass his communications." Severus completed the quotation. "So you three had your very own Long March, or perhaps you should call it the Long Disapparation."
"If you'd been with us we could have been the Gang of Four."
"Yes, the mutual purges would have been delightful."
Hermione laughed. "Oh, Sev, you're the only one in the entire wizarding world who can swap jokes with me about the Muggle history of China."
"I doubt that."
"But I still want to hear about the Princes. They don't stay just with Roman emperors, then?"
"Romans are the favorites, but it's not exclusive. One of the other cadet branches has a fondness for Russian Tsars and German Kaisers. And in first decade of the nineteenth century the head of the eldest branch of the family had the audacity to name his son and heir Napoleon Bonaparte Prince."
"What? In 1810? Wasn't that something like treason at the time?"
"The family was outraged, of course, but there has always been a thin thread of radicalism in the Princes that shows up from time to time. Sir Julian had already outraged most of the clan by marrying a muggleborn witch from Marseille; naming his son after an enemy of the realm seemed rather like small beer by comparison. The Princes have had neither money nor influence for at least two and a half centuries, but they have always liked to imagine themselves the purest of the pure."
"And the most powerful of the powerful, I expect."
"They are mediocrities, the lot of them. The last member of the family to be blessed with exceptional intelligence and magical power was none other than my great-great however-many-times-great uncle Napoleon Prince. Since then there's been nobody with any sort of ability worth mentioning—magical, intellectual, artistic… Nothing!"
"Until you, Mister Half-Blood Prince."
Severus was silent for a moment and stared at her. He shrugged; false modesty did not become him. "Until me," he said flatly.
"You said Uncle Napoleon's mother was muggleborn?"
"Then it's obvious what the Princes need to revitalize their family line. They need a serious infusion of Muggle DNA."
"Are you volunteering?"
"If I had wanted to be a brood mare I'd have married Ron Weasley; his wife is due any day now, you know. And I just heard Ginny's pregnant with her second."
Severus said, "I believe Asteria Malfoy is in an interesting condition as well. This sort of thing happens after the end of a war, but I believe you have better things to do with your talents than re-populating the wizarding world."
"Ron never would have understood that."
They were silent for a long time while Severus caressed his lover's hair. At last Hermione spoke again. "What do you think about Helena?"
"The mother of Constantine. It's a nice name, though I think I might like Theodora better."
"Wife of Justinian. You don't mind that she was a prostitute?"
"It's one of the things I like best about her, actually. She came up from nowhere. A Byzantine mudblood."
He nodded. "Theodora, then. We'll use Helena if we have a second daughter."
"And for a boy… how about Antoninus?"
He grimaced. "Antoninus?"
"Everyone makes a fuss over Marcus Aurelius the great philosopher, but I like Antoninus Pius. He's my favorite Roman emperor."
"Naturally, you have a favorite Roman emperor."
"Doesn't everyone?" she asked, smiling innocently. "Who's yours?"
He said nothing, but one corner of his mouth twitched. That was enough for Hermione, and she made a guess. "Julian the Apostate."
He said nothing.
"I'm right, aren't I?"
The twitch expanded to a small, tight smile.
"So the first boy can be Julian, and if we have a second…"
"It has to be Antoninus?"
"We can call him Tony for short."
He paused, then said, "Anton."
"Anton is good." She looked up at Severus, her smile suddenly more confident. "We can give them nice Muggle middle names from my side of the family, in case they hate being named after ancient Romans."
"That should work."
Hermione silently took his hand, bring it up to her cheek, brushing her face against his knuckles. Her smile faded. She said, "I suppose we'll have to get married first."
He noticed her lack of enthusiasm and spoke cautiously. "Not necessarily."
"I don't really like the idea of wizarding marriage—and not for the reasons you probably think. It's not that I want something I can get out of. It's just that, well, I don't like having a spell doing all the work of fidelity for me. I want to choose to love you, and keep on choosing every day for the rest of my life. I don't want to have magic making me choose." She added quietly, "You probably think that's immoral."
"Hermione, I'm not Victorian, despite the frock coat. I grew up in the Seventies. We're the generation who made living-in-sin a standard practice."
Hermione giggled. "Living in sin?"
"It's not as if I'm a pureblood heir. There'd have to be a dozen unnatural deaths in the Prince clan to put me in that position."
"You have that many living relatives?"
"Distant cousins, most of whom I've never met. I'm from a very junior cadet branch."
"So we can just go on living together, then? I thought the wizarding world was more conservative about that sort of thing than the Muggle world."
"It is," he breathed in her ear, and she squirmed. "But I'm one of the radical Princes." He pulled away from her, looking into her eyes. "Miss Granger, will you do me the honor of living in sin with me and bearing my bastards?"
"My radical half-blood Prince." She kissed him, taking her time. "I will adore living in sin with you, Severus. Every day, for the rest of our lives."
"It's official, then," he returned the kiss. When they finally broke apart he said, "There's no hurry about the bastards, though."
"No, none at all."
Tzu Hsi Prince was usually called Suzie by family and friends. The Princes were not totally unreasonable.
Asteria vs. Astoria Malfoy: I know the latter is the more common name in fandom, but I'm from the Pacific Northwest and I just can't see Draco Malfoy marrying a woman named after a city in Oregon.