I don't own anything you might recognise and I'm not making any money with my writing.
After careful consideration and under great protests from the board, Severus Snape moved his Queen to the side and waited for Julian to make his move. He knew that his son was dreadfully distracted and had not paid a second of attention to the game they had been playing for the last twenty minutes. He could have mated the twenty-five year old three or four times but he knew if the boy wanted to play and paid so little attention, so little mind, there was something else he was mulling over, something he wanted to talk to him about and didn't know how exactly to start. Like his father, Julian needed to process things first before he could utter them, a fact that drove his mother certifiably insane. Lucky for her that Elizabeth was more like her in that respect and usually rushed head-first into things before thinking.
His son's brow was furrowed and Severus felt a pang of regret that he couldn't take his son on his lap anymore, hug him to his chest and make him tell him what was bothering him. It had been so much simpler when he had been little, when Elizabeth was little and now he only had Katharine who would still voluntarily sit on his lap and snuggle with him and tell him that she had fought, again, with that horrible Potter-spawn (which was to be expected, of course). If Hermione would have been agreeable, he would have liked to make the set complete, Julian the Slytherin, Elizabeth the Gryffindor, Katharine who would be doubtlessly end up in Ravenclaw and even though he didn't actually had a high regard for the House of Helga Hufflepuff, it would have been nice to have a forth. Shame that his wife had been firm in her decision and with a twenty-five year old son whose trouble seemed to listen to the name of Iris Bartleby, it was maybe better this way.
"Julian?" he said, his voice cutting through the heavy silence like a knife, "it's your turn."
"Ah yes, I'm sorry, Father," his boy replied, looking up at him with his dark brown eyes, his wrinkled forehead and the neatly cropped brown hair (to keep the curls in check).
Severus waited for him to see the opening to his own King, waited for his son to make a move but as he had expected, Julian only moved a pawn. All of his figured grumbled, groaned, squeaked and the king shouted mightily but Julian couldn't, or wouldn't, hear it. Only when Severus groaned he startled his boy.
"What is it?" he asked, smoothing the frown.
"You could have beaten me there," Severus said sardonically and moved his Queen in for the kill. "Check mate."
The groan his son elicited sounded exactly like his and they both leaned back at the same time. Hermione would call this creepy from time to time but always smiled when she said it.
He could wait, or he could help his son and quirking his lips into a tiny smile, he took a deep breath and decided to help him. He was his Firstborn, his heir, and after Hermione, and together with Elizabeth and Katharine, the greatest love of his life. He would give his life for that boy, as he would for his daughters and his wife. Those that had pulled him back into life – those that had given him hope, had healed his scars and taught him how to laugh and love again.
"Does this have to do with a certain person called Iris Bartleby? Your year at Hogwarts, but a Ravenclaw, if I remember correctly. Rather adequate in Potions but at an absolute loss when it came to Transfiguration? The same person who has been sending owls daily since you've come home for the holidays?"
His son nodded miserably and Severus feared for the worst. It had been quite a disaster when Elizabeth had to be brought home for a weekend or two after her first ever boyfriend (whose name had never been mentioned by either Elizabeth or her mother – they knew why) had dumped her, and even though he had made a vow once, no, more of an oath, to never hit girls or hex girls, he would not hesitate one minute before giving Irish Bartleby (or the boy who had broken his Elizabeth's heart) what they deserved.
"What has she done?"
Julian looked up, startled and his brow furrowed even deeper. "Nothing. She's just lovely and amazing and I love her...and..." he sighed.
"And?" Severus could be a patient man. Most of the time. When he wanted to be. Occasionally. He looked sternly at his Firstborn.
"Iwannamarryher," the boy replied, looking at the ground, flushing bright red.
"Excuse me? Enunciate, Julian. How often?"
"I want to marry Iris," he repeated but still didn't dare to look at him.
"And you need my permission? Wouldn't it be wiser to ask her parents?" he asked, keeping the grinning to himself.
"I don't need your permission," his boy looked up suddenly and the fight was back in his eyes. Finally.
"But you need something..."
"Father...Dad, I don't know how. I bought a ring and I wanted to give it to her and...but I couldn't..."
Severus Snape sighed again. It wasn't just the Slytherin-Nature that Julian had inherited from him. It wasn't just the secretiveness and the long and deep thoughts. Wasn't just the mulling over things. Wasn't just the talent in potions. Julian had been – and still was mostly – just as socially inapt as he was (and as his mother was). He was just as awkward around other people as Severus had been. Iris, for Julian, was what Lily should have been and what Hermione had turned out to be in the end. Someone to take his hand and lead him through the difficulties when it came to dealing – nicely – with people. The one to drag them out of their solitude. He knew it and he liked the girl. She was smart in her own way, and very pretty. Not as beautiful as his Hermione was, but then again, nobody ever was, or would be (except his daughters).
He remained silent. His son needed a moment to compose himself. He would speak, he would ask when he was ready. Instead, he took the Queen from the chessboard and under little squeaks, he toyed with her until she gave up and was just silent as well. He truly needed a Muggle chess set for these talks. And if his son wanted to get married, he'd wager half his fortune that those chess matches would only increase in number. Married life could be quite – exhausting and wives could be – exhausting. Rewarding, lovely, amazing, wonderful, but exhausting.
"Dad...I don't know how to ask her. The words were stuck in my throat and what if she says no? What if she doesn't want me?"
He smiled at his son and once more wished that he was just a little boy with a scraped knee. A bit of potion on the knee, and long hug, and all would be forgotten. This was a problem on a grander scale, however. He cleared his throat and twirled the Queen (who squeaked again) between his fingers.
"I doubt she will say no," he said softly.
"If I think about it rationally, I know she won't because she said that she loved me but...I can't live without her. I know that you and Mum...how...I mean how did you ask her so she couldn't refuse?"
Severus chuckled mildly. Oh, he had had the same fears. The same ones his son had now. But...
He stood up and let the Queen (shrieking) fall on the chessboard, walked around the table and put his hands on his son's shoulders. "I took a risk."
"Because I wanted to marry her," he replied, squeezing his shoulders.
"No, I mean, how did you do it? I don't think I can remember either of you ever talking about it," he looked up at him and he could see the little boy still. He did want to hug him but it was simpler to hug Elizabeth or Katharine – boys didn't hug. That's what Julian had said when he had been around fourteen.
Severus sighed and with a last squeeze on the shoulders, he walked around the table again and sat down. "I bought a ring, like you did, I presume and took her on a walk. Down to the stream with the trees? We were already living here so that was no problem and your mother loves this spot. I took her there, she stood, I knelt, I presented her the ring and asked her."
"Really?" Julian asked. "How?"
Severus grimaced. "I asked her if she wanted to be my wife. Just like that."
"Just...Do you want to be my wife?" he asked incredulously.
Severus shrugged, a gesture he only allowed himself when he was amongst his family. "No, if I remember correctly, I said...Hermione, I love you, would you do me the honour of allowing me to spend the rest of my life with you?"
His son's eyes lit up suddenly. "May I use it?" he asked, enthusiastically, grinning, beaming.
"Feel free," chuckled Severus. "Good luck."
Julian got up from his chair, rushed around the table and flung his arms around his neck in a way he hadn't done in over ten years and planted a rather wet and sloppy kiss on his father's cheek. "Thanks Dad. You don't mind if I invite her over, do you?"
"No, I don't mind," he said benevolently and watched as his son, his boy, ran from their library and thumped up the stairs straight to tower where the owls slept. He leant back in his chair, smiling to himself. So his son was getting married. Before long, he would possibly be a grandfather and...he groaned and a chuckle interrupted it.
"You know, Severus," he heard his wife say from the door. "What you said to Julian was all very nice but in what romance novel did you read it?"
He scowled at her and pushed his chair back so he could pull her straight onto his lap as she came a bit too close to him. She squeaked much as the Queen had done but rested her head, only a moment later, on his shoulder.
"What do you mean, romance novel?" he asked snarkily after a moment and a kiss on her forehead. "This was how it happened."
"Hermione, I love you, would you do me the honour of allowing me to spend the rest of my life with you? This was not how it happened, Severus," she laughed.
"No, and if you don't believe me, we can put your entire proposal in a Pensieve and look at it," she laughed.
"Fine," he grumbled, defeated. "This is how I should have phrased it."
Hermione wriggled on his lap, snuggled closer and pressed her lips on his for a moment. He didn't let her go, however, and twisted his finger in her hair, keeping her close and kissing her back with the ardour of a newly-wed. With the passion of a besotted teenager.
She pulled away mere moments (or minutes) later and glared at him. "You know, you cannot always kiss me senseless when I complain about my proposal. Women have certain expectations," she said and he knew she was only teasing. If he hadn't known, he would have run now.
"I had a sore throat," he argued.
"Five minutes before when you told me nervously about the magical properties of cow's eyes, you didn't have a sore throat," she teased, mocking him.
"A fly had flown into my mouth," he grimaced.
She laughed. "It's a shame that I didn't get to hear a question at all. I mean I understood you alright when you presented me with the ring. Almost flung it at me and I understood that when you kissed me madly after I had nodded, I just had been proposed to, but..." she tsked, a smile dancing in her eyes.
"Hermione," he groaned. "Must you always?"
"Oh Severus, come off it. You have shown so few weaknesses and this is just one I can exploit. Happily. You made me the happiest woman anyhow but would it have been so hard to just ask?"
"I was awestruck and I couldn't speak," he ground out. "Could we change the topic? Shouldn't you be overjoyed that your son will be getting married?"
"If he gets the words out of his mouth," she muttered. "And do not forget that he is like his father."
"You're a cruel woman, Hermione Snape."
"Oh yes, I am," she smirked but kissed his neck and rested her head there, her cold nose pressing against the sensitive skin of his neck. "I still love you though."
"I certainly hope so," he muttered, pretending to be annoyed but in all honesty, enjoying their banter. Yes, he had completely lost his nerve. He had got down to the knee but after that, he had not been able to say one word, blinded, deafened, silenced by the sheer brightness and happiness of the smile she had bestowed upon him. His tongue had been glued to...he hadn't even known where but he couldn't speak. He had only lifted the ring towards and she had flung herself into his arms, had nodded violently and he had been able to kiss her. And to move his tongue then but that was another story.
She always teased him with that. Every anniversary. Every time it came up. Never in the company of others and for that, he was immensely grateful. Weakness was alright as long as only Hermione got to see it.
He smiled and cleared his throat, nuzzling her hair, inhaling her scent before he spoke, softly, in her hair.. "Hermione, I love you, would you do me the honour of allowing me to spend the rest of my life with you?"
She laughed, a sound that would make all the mocking worthwhile and bent her head to his, pressed her mouth on his and nodded just as vigorously as she had the first time.