Disclaimer: Not mine.

I Need to Breathe

Chapter 56

A New Beginning

Two Years Later

Hermione saw Severus walking toward the castle, his arms clasped behind his back, deep in conversation with two seventh-year students, who had just received offers of employment as brewers at St. Mungo's. She stopped and waited patiently on the steps, waiting for him to finish so she could approach him, knowing he hated any familiarity shown when he was speaking to students.

She bit her lip and looked over her shoulder to see who else was in sight, only to turn back and watch him, tapping her wand into the palm of her hand impatiently.

"Fuck this," she said aloud, stored her wand in her sleeve and began to run. She gathered up her robes letting her knees show as she ran and called to him as she circled down the winding path, her bare feet pounding on the packed dirt path, her hair loose and flying behind her.

His head snapped up at her voice and he scowled seeing her run to him like a schoolgirl. Pulling up to his full height, he glared at her, his lips pressed into a thin straight line of practiced anger. The students stepped back snickering as she threw herself at him, wrapping her legs around his waist and hiding her face in his neck.

"Miss Granger," he admonished, staggering to keep his balance. "Explain yourself at once!"

She put her lips next to his ear to whisper, "Marry me. You keep on at me about it, I think it is time."

"Professor Granger, please!"

"It's okay Headmaster," the tallest of the students grinned. "We can finish our discussion later."

"Now talk," he said, trying to disentangle her arms from around his neck. "If this is how you intend to keep our relationship from the students, I do not think it will work. Start with the fact that you forgot your shoes."

"I didn't forget them. I didn't take time to put them on."

"And what were you doing that is so important that you would run outside like a … a …street urchin?"

"I'm pregnant. I tested twice…I'm pregnant."

His arms tightened around her as he lowered his head to hers, feeling his eyes sting, as he fought back the first tears he remembered due to happiness. Sagging to his knees with Hermione, he did not even hear the students' laughter as they sauntered back to the castle to spread the news.

"Are you sure? You've seen the Mediwitch?" He pulled her away and frowned at her. "You should be in bed and not out here running around like a fool. What if you had fallen? Have you eaten today?"

"Shut up." She laughed as she studied his face, and leaned down to see the vein in his neck. "Severus, tell me this time it will be diff…"

He pulled her to him and kissed her roughly. "Now, you will do as you are told."

"I will not," she said indignantly.

"Hermione," he warned.

"Severus? I asked you a question."

"It is already different. You told me," he said flatly.

"You know what I mean."

"You are safe now," he said quietly, as he rested a hand on her stomach. "There is no one that wants to harm this one. No one that wants to hurt you and no one is willing to attack you to get to me."

"Promise me? That this time it will be different?"

"Well, other than the age factor you should do fine."

"Say it and I'll hex you."

"Hermione, you know the older the witch…"

"That does it." She pried his arms from around her waist and stood up. "It's your fault."

"I should hope so," he said arrogantly, his lip tugging up at the corners. "If I have learned anything in my lifetime, it is not to question who the father…"

"The age thing I mean," she stood with her hands on her hips glaring at him.

"Why in damnation it that my fault?" he stormed, standing up and going after her as she stomped up to the castle.

"If I had waited for you, we would still be having lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, now after everything …."

"Hold on, Professor Granger, if I remember I tried to …"

"Stop!" she turned back and stared at him. "Why do we do this?"

"Habit?" He shrugged. "That and I am beginning to think you fight because you like to make up. You should have noticed over these past years that it is one of my favourite…"

"Stop," she grinned up at him, laughing at his assessment. "Have you seen Abby? She doesn't know yet."

"N.E.W.T.s, you must have your mind elsewhere to have forgotten." He frowned at her. "After spending two years sneaking between our rooms, now you plan on telling her? No, I think first you should tell her you agreed to marry me. That, she may believe."

"I think she caught on a few months ago. She never came out and said anything…okay, so I'll tell her we are getting married first. Just on the off chance she is the only once in the castle that does not know we are an item."

"You do know she already tells every one you are her mother."

"I … Severus, I am scared. I am scared to see the new Mediwitch, and I am scared to eat or drink anything."

"What can I do, Hermione? Tell me what you want," he tipped her face up with one hand, and used his handkerchief to dry her face.

"I need to go to St. Mungo's. I got pregnant using the potion, I am afraid something could be wrong with the baby."

"No need," he said with a smirk. "We will find a good midwife."

She wiped her eyes and looked at him in disbelief. "Tell me you didn't do what I think you did."

"Are you happy about it?"

"About the baby? Yes, of course I am" she stammered.

"Did you want to have one?"

"You know I did! We talked about it."

"Yes and yes," he said with a smirk.

"Yes, what?"

"We should get married now and yes I did what you think I did. However, only after you expressed your desire…twice. Once, while we were in your bed, and once while gathering … or at least attempting to gather ingredients. I am sure you remember that one. Your rash was hard to get rid of. Next look out for the Euphorbias."

"You did this? You … you wanted this? You switched the potion?"

"If I waited for you I would be a grandfather before you were my wife. In addition, Millie has taken to give me clothes."

"Millie…gives you clothes? I don't…"

"Bonnets, babygrows, little things a child would need. I stopped paying her wages when it was obvious she was spending the entire cheque on the next generation of Snape."

"Wait, you know about Abby? She told you?" Hermione gasped and then watched his face grow dark. "Not that you idiot, they want to get married."

"She is too young."

"She is old enough to start thinking of it. Severus, she's eighteen. They plan on waiting two years. I would rather three… or four…five would be nice. It would give her time to finish school and be on her own for a while. I think if I had not run from one safe place to the next it would have been better for me...for us. Everyone kept taking care of me until I couldn't take care of myself anymore. She needs to learn how to stand on her own two feet."

"They better wait for more than just the wedding."

"Shut up, Severus. You missed that boat already."

"I don't want to hear this."

"Then don't ask. I'm not pleased with it, but at least she had the common sense to take precautions. More than we did." She took his arm and together they began to stroll up to the castle.

"Do you need to make a new list," he felt his lip twitch. "I like to think my pro list is longer than it was the first time."

"No, I think I kept the old one. I came across it a couple of months ago. Merlin, the list of a child. I would make a much different list now, if I had need of one. However, you do seem to trust me now." She grinned. "That and you don't snark …as much. Well, that's not true, but you don't snark as much with me, and you …you don't say hateful things…even in jest…the way you once did."

He stopped her, turning her to face him as he put his hand on her stomach. "The morning Potter heard you were in the hospital, and what had happened, I thought I would never have you like this. I thought I had lost you."

"In case you haven't noticed I am not easy to get rid of."

"I have one more thing I expect of you." He folded his arms across his chest and looked down at her sternly. "I have heard that a pair of Muggle dentists are returning to restart their old London practice. I insist that this child has regular check ups."

She flung her arms around his neck, sobbing and laughing at the same time. Aware that her parents would never know who she was, or that the small mouth they looked into was that of their grandchild, but just being close, just being able to see them was enough.

"I planned on telling you when they were in London. I did not want to raise your hopes only to find they had changed their plans. However, it appears they have closed their Australian practice, so it seems a certainty."

"I can make Abby go as well," she laughed. "It is more than I hoped for."

"Do you want a large wedding this time?" he asked watching her face closely. "You never got the chance last time."

"Yes," she grinned. "And I want Augusta Longbottom seated next to Gloria Givens. If anyone can shut that bitch up, it is her."

"I owe that bitch andher grandson, as you so inelegantly put it, my life." He looked at her frowning. "True, she could have been more honest. However, I understand why she did what she did."

"Git, I was referring to the bitch Gloria. I don't care if she is the wife of a Delphi member, she is evil."




Over the next few years, Hogwarts did grow in stature, holding lessons year-round for the many brewers, Potions masters and healers from around the world. Neville was soon an expert in the preparations of magical ingredients and taught not only the first year potion classes, but incorporated Severus' moisture controlled storage methods into his Herbology text as well.

The Snapes still argued, he with his arms folded over his chest, her ranting and pacing in front of the fireplace until he gave up the battle and learned to keep quiet until she had calmed down.

She joined him in his efforts in petitioning the Ministry to remodel Azkaban and ensure fairer treatment for the inmates, including a review of their sentences. Although she was angered that a handful of inmates had their sentences shortened, she was glad that never again would an inmate be forgotten, cold and dirty, in the stone tower of the North Sea.

Severus kept to his word and made sure his children all had check-ups at a dental clinic in London. Although his growing family never understood why he insisted, it became a tradition that he blamed on Hermione's Muggle upbringing.

He never did sell the Villa in Italy. On occasion, he and Hermione would spend the weekend, or the occasional holiday, devoid of children, walking the hills that over looked the bluest bay Hermione swore she had ever seen. As they neared the end of their lives, they left Hogwarts and moved into the small home, the only real home they ever had outside of the cold stone castle. Abby visited often, as did her two sisters and brother, their spouses and a hoard of grandchildren that were welcomed with joy and sent home just as happily.

One Christmas morning, before the children arrived, Hermione handed Severus his present, leaned down to kiss his cheek and then sat down beside him.

"I thought we agreed not to do this," he complained.

"I didn't buy it. Open it up and … just open it and shut up. The children wanted you to have it this morning. The Ministry said they wanted a formal presentation, but…we didn't think you would go."

Severus frowned and opened the package to find an Order of Merlin, granted for lifetime achievement. He turned it over in his hand, reading the inscription on the back before tossing it onto the end table with a snort of disgust.

"Don't you dare Severus Snape." She yanked up the medallion and draped it carefully over the mantle. "For once in your life admit that you are pleased."

"I am pleased," he sneered sarcastically.

"Good, I am glad for you." She flopped on the sofa next to him, digging in her pocket and pulling out another package. "Before you complain, I found this before your order not to give you anything."

He leaned forward, slowly removing the paper and flipped open the small box, surprised to see an old picture of his parents staring back at him. He felt his throat constrict, and not knowing what to say, turned back to study her face.

"You are not your father, you never have been. It is time to put that behind you as well," she said softly, leaning forward with him, wrapping her arms around one of his and looking down at the picture. "I sometimes wonder where this world would be without you. If the war would have been won or lost. I sometimes think that if he had not made you so hard we all would now live in a much different place. Good or bad, he was your father and made you who you are."

Severus closed the box and laid it gently on the table, pulled her into his side and leaned back. "I used to worry that my children would remember me the way I remember him. I have you to thank that they do not."

"You have Millie to thank. You do know she tells the family secrets to the children, including the treatment that you received at his hand."

"Where is she?"

"At Tobias' house. His oldest is due any time and Millie will not miss a Snape's birth. You know how she is."

"Amanda could use her," he said softly.

"She won't leave you. She never has." Hermione turned sideways to study his face. "When do you plan on telling me about your new research?"

"I … I told you I would retire," he stammered, standing up and walking to the mantle to examine the Order of Merlin.

"You never said when."

"When I am done."

"Never," she sighed. "Well, this time you give your own presentation at the Delphi."

He turned and saw her smile and could only nod, unable to talk as his throat constricted, unable to tell her how he felt.

"Severus?" She joined him at the fireplace, concern etched on her face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing witch," he choked, and pulled her into his chest. "Have I told you lately that I am glad you came?"