A/N: Hello all! This is a very fluffy one-shot I wrote that's meant to be an extension of the SSHG story, Unquestionable Love.
For all my wonderful readers already familiar with the story, this one-shot should clear up a few lingering questions some of you had about the 'little prodigy.' It's been in the back of my mind since I finished, so this is for you. :)
For those who haven't read my story, some of this may not make much sense.
DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I own none of her associated characters. New characters belong to me.
Unquestionable Love: The Problems of a Prodigy
Severus finished compiling his records on his latest applications, which had been steady but slow-going. At the beginning of the summer, an owl from an old colleague arrived requesting the Potions Master's assistance in producing a more effective antidote to Uncommon Poisons. The antidote itself had never been very promising, and its name hardly befitted its usually poor results.
Since Severus's retirement from Hogwarts a year ago, he had thrown himself into Potion-making in a much more creative way than in the past. The work was a welcoming challenge with so much free time to spare. He willingly reinvented old ingredients, challenged ancient traditions and Potions texts through freshly concocted ideas, and fashioned more potions of his own making and design.
Severus welcomed the distractions and his wife, Hermione, too felt a great sense of relief at seeing her husband excited by work for a change. Whether it was working in his Potions lab for hours at a time or writing passionate editorials to Potions Weekly, taking free reign of his own life meant less opportunity for Severus to reflect, and, to Hermione, that was a much-needed and very good thing.
As she finished wiping the kitchen clean with her wand one autumn afternoon, a light tap at the window brought Hermione out of her quiet thoughts. Irving, the family owl, had arrived with the post, an event that always made hers and Severus's hearts leap with anticipation. Normally, the owl's arrival included a letter or two from one of their daughters at Hogwarts; but whenever one didn't come, the disappointment put Severus in a dark, solemn mood. Hermione knew her husband wasn't aware of how greatly hearing from his children affected his moods and purposely kept mum about it.
Jeannie, their youngest, wrote the most often. Before trekking off to Hogwarts to start her first year barely two months ago, she had promised to write Severus every day. Both he and Hermione suspected that would be an impossible feat to uphold, but their daughter tried her hardest to do so all the same.
A warm smile stretched across Hermione's face when she saw Jeannie's familiar handwriting. "Severus!" she called from the kitchen.
"Yes?" came her husband's deeply rich voice from down the hall.
"There's a letter here that just arrived from Jeannie!"
Hermione suspected it wouldn't take long for Severus to make an appearance, and, just as she turned around to face the open doorway, Severus's stark form glided across the room towards her. He still had a lab apron wrapped around his torso and hastily removed his rubber gloves. His long, raven locks, pulled back into a loose ponytail, offset his pale high cheekbones and strong, angular jaw. A few stray hairs swept across his equally black eyes and Hermione's smile broadened as she gently brushed them away.
"Here, you read it," she insisted, handing him the unopened envelope. "I'm sure it's addressed to you. She told me last weekend she was going to write you."
Severus surveyed the owl peculiarly but then proceeded to rip it open in an almost greedy fashion. He brought an arm around Hermione's shoulder as they read their daughter's letter together.
I'm sorry I didn't write to you sooner. You know how it is around here. My studies are going really well, but I don't feel entirely at ease yet. I know you said that will come with time and that I need to be patient, so I'm doing my best. Don't worry, Scorpius is looking out for me. Oh, and he's still a prat.
Uncle Neville and Professor Trewlaney send their greetings. Trewlaney keeps telling me how much I look like Surina and how sis was one of her personal favorites. I don't understand... Didn't Surina find her really bizarre? I certainly do.
I haven't seen much of the Headmistress since the Sorting Ceremony, but McGonagall stopped me in the hallway last week. She wants to meet with me next week to discuss my options. I'm more conflicted than I thought I'd be, and I'd really like your input, Dad.
I'm planning on coming home this weekend, so don't you dare make any plans to stay locked away in your lab! Mum and I had last weekend in Hogsmeade together, so now you and I need to properly catch up.
I'm sure right now you're doing your utmost best to scowl and sound bothered, but your eyes tell the truth. They give you away far too easily nowadays. Were you really a spy at one time?
You know I tease you because I care, right? HA!
Miss you and love you most!
P.S. I ran into Hailey this morning before class and she wanted me to let you know she'll be writing soon. Apparently, she's developed a new solution to your Sleeping Draught. There was no time to elaborate since we were both in a hurry to get to class, but she sounded pretty excited about this one. I hope it helps you!
See you soon!
Hermione stifled a laugh at the delicate smirk lining Severus's face. "I hope you're ready for her, love. She has a lot to tell you."
"Hmm, yes, indeed." He shook his head a little as his eyes scanned Jeannie's letter a second time, but Hermione caught the faint upward curls at the edges of his mouth. Though Severus still managed to keep his feelings mostly hidden to outsiders, Hermione and their children could easily decipher the heartfelt sentiments that stirred in the dark wizard's heart. They were never withheld from his family, and they knew him better than anyone else ever would.
He's more elated at seeing her than he's letting on, Hermione mused to herself, watching him closely. "You want me to collect her?" she teased, fully aware of what his answer would be.
"Absolutely not!" he deadpanned, giving her a playful, challenging glare that caused Hermione to giggle.
"Oh, very well. I suppose it's your turn, after all. I hogged her all last weekend."
A muscle twitched in Severus's cheek. "I wish I could've been in both places at once..."
Hermione's gaze softened and she reached up to trace Severus's chin. "I know you did, sweetheart, and so did she. You had to help Lily move into her new flat and settle in, so don't worry about it. You got to spend time with our eldest, and now you and Jeannie will have your time together this weekend. It all worked itself out in the end."
Severus nodded quietly but said nothing for a time. Finally, he handed the letter back to Hermione, gave her a firm, passionate kiss on the lips and strolled out of the room, but it wasn't in the manner of that snarky, mean-spirited professor of the past. There was a warmth and contentedness there, a deeply held tenderness Hermione and their four children were accustomed to that the rest of the wizarding world was not.
Severus Apparated onto the Hogwarts grounds at the end of the Black Lake. Still having Apparation privileges since his unpopular stint as Headmaster, Severus was grateful for the opportunities it presented to return and see his daughters whenever it pleased him, such as now.
He wasted little time surveying the castle that had once been his sanctuary and instead made his way up the incline towards the front gates in search of something—someone—far more important. He spotted her almost instantly.
Jeannie stood near the gates waiting for him in her school robes. Severus immediately quickened his pace, his cloak billowing behind him against the chilly autumn breeze as he approached his youngest daughter. When Jeannie caught sight of her father approaching, she sprang towards him, carrying a happy grin that spread from ear to ear.
"Hey, Dad!" she chimed, waving to him excitedly as she drew closer.
Perhaps it was simply because he hadn't seen her in nearly two months, or maybe it was that sharp, inherent intuition of his, but Severus detected something different about his daughter. Now was not the time to ponder such things, however, and he pushed his concerns to the back of his mind as he opened his arms to receive her with a secure, all-consuming hug.
"It's so good to see you, pumpkin," he whispered close to her ear, weaving her tightly around him, not wanting to let go.
"It's good to see you, too, Dad," she returned with a sigh that sounded unusually sad.
After a moment, Severus leaned back to soak in her familiar features. Her thick, voluminous black curls tumbled effortlessly to her shoulders, and her creamy, pale complexion, much like his own, offset her strikingly dark eyes that—in and of themselves—were a heavily regarded mystery, even within the Snape household.
Jeannie had always been an unconventional child—more attuned to her surroundings, wiser than wizards more than half her age, and her magical capabilities left Hermione and Severus quite alarmed at a very young age. Though they had made a point of teaching all four of their girls advanced magic, Jeannie possessed abilities early in life that defied explanation. She had even taught herself several sophisticated spells by the time she was four years of age, including the use of Legilimency—an achievement most adult wizards couldn't manage, but Jeannie somehow had as a mere toddler.
The definitive realization of how astute their daughter was became irrefutable once she turned five and could perform simpler forms of Occlumency. When attempting it with Severus, she had achieved it successfully on her first try.
It was then that Hermione and Severus became aware that their daughter was a genius—a full-fledged prodigy—and with this daunting realization also came trepidation and worry. If or when the rest of the wizarding world, including the Ministry of Magic, learned of Jeannie's remarkable abilities, what would they make of her then? Would she be questioned, interrogated, treated with inferiority and fear rather than understanding?
Severus and Hermione made every effort to protect their daughter from prying eyes, but there came a point where there was no mistaking her potential powers. She could conjure magic without the use of a wand well before she received one from Ollivander's Wand Shop, could read people's minds easily without them knowing, and possessed an unsettling knack at times of knowing more than even Hermione or Severus themselves.
That concerned them the most, but they never pushed any sort of discussion about it. Jeannie had a way of relaying things when she wanted to and in her own time. For the most part, she simply maintained an avid curiosity about the world, and her parents willingly indulged and encouraged her inquisitiveness and brilliance.
As Severus gazed down at his daughter before the gates of Hogwarts, there was an all-knowing glimmer behind the depths of her eyes that he detected. Indeed, he concluded, she has much to tell me...
"Come," he whispered encouragingly, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. She looped her own around Severus's waist and, together, they Disapparated to Muggle London.
"How are your latest inventions coming?"
A subtle flicker of amusement passed by Severus's eyes that matched his daughter's. This was routinely Jeannie's way of bringing up matters of importance: by temporarily avoiding them. She always started by questioning him; it seemed to put her at ease, so Severus didn't press the issue and instead responded with uncomplicated answers.
"Well-enough. Steady but slow. These things always take time."
"You have to answer to that awful prat, Scroggs, in the next issue of Potions Weekly, Dad! He made a mockery of your reinvention of the Oculus Potion! Your shortcut makes the effects so much quicker. It's ridiculous that he would shoot you down like that!"
Severus smirked and reached across the table to squeeze her hand. "People have a knack for stupidity when it comes to change or a fresh idea that threatens their old order of things. Don't take it so personally, Jeannie. I don't."
Jeannie's face sparkled anew. If she was ever cross, it wasn't for long, and she could almost always find a way to smile or laugh her way through any given situation. It was another trait that both Severus and Hermione marveled about their daughter. It brought a warmth to Severus's heart to see her face light up.
"I know, I know. I just hate seeing such detestable words about you in print is all. It's infuriating."
"Well, Master Scroggs is the only one making a real stink of it, dear. He's out on a limb all by himself, so let him flounder. He'll eat his words once the apothecaries begin carrying it next month."
"Really? That quick? Oh, Dad, that's brilliant! I'm so, so happy for you!"
Severus gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "Stop it, Jeannie. It's my specialty, nothing more."
Jeannie returned his disregard of her compliment with a facetious smile. "Will you ever take a compliment; or will we all have to wait till you're well on your deathbed?"
"You may not wait too long, in that case," Severus returned with brutal sarcasm.
"Shut it, Dad. You're not going anywhere. I need you around long enough to give me some advice."
Ahhh, here it comes. At last.
Severus pressed his cup of hot tea to his lips. Jeannie did likewise. Anyone sitting inside the small, half-hidden away cafe in the middle of Chelsea, where Severus and Jeannie were dining, would certainly chance a second look at the pair of them—the hooked-nose wizard in an eighteenth-century frock coat, seated across a young, delicate beauty with envious curls and expressive eyes, both dark, and yet, illuminating.
"Advice?" Severus pressed lightly, a glint of curiosity surfacing.
Jeannie nodded. "McGonagall didn't elaborate when we spoke briefly in the hallway, but she reinforced what her, you, Mum, and I talked about before the start of term."
"Yes, she thinks I should advance to the third year level after all. I'm passing every subject with flying colors, and every professor has apparently put in a word to her that I'm not being challenged nearly enough as a first year."
Though Severus understood how bright his daughter was, his colleagues' suggestions relatively surprised him. He and Hermione had remained adamant during their parent meeting with McGonagall earlier that summer that Jeannie should start as a first year and go through the motions like every other student, but questions started to arise as soon she began her studies, even as early as the Sorting Ceremony.
"Did Minerva mention anything about your House choice?" he asked, a tad suspicious.
"No, not at all. I don't think she's worried about it anymore." Jeannie swiped her curls back from her shoulders and unconsciously rubbed at her right arm. "I'm sick of hearing about it, frankly... I still hear kids gossip about it in the corridors. Can't they find anything more exciting to talk about?"
To this, Severus blinked and leaned forward, lacing his elongated fingers together on the table. "You aren't having a hard time, sweetheart, are you?"
Jeannie peered at him for a moment, her expression as unreadable as his could be, but then she offered him a small smile, and the rest of her face began to open up. "Not so much anymore, Dad, no."
Severus raised an eyebrow, visible worry marrowing his brow. "You do realize why it took so long for the Sorting Hat to decide where to place you, Jeannie, don't you?"
"I do, Dad," she replied with a faint chuckle. "You don't have to be so concerned about it."
"Jeannie, it's never taken the Sorting Hat as long to reach a conclusion as it did with you. It was overwhelmed; overloaded by all of your magical capabilities. You could've easily been placed in any of the four Houses and do well, but the Sorting Hat couldn't reach a solution, not even with your personal choice thrown into the mix. The Sorting Hat has never been wrong in as long as Hogwarts has been in existence. If it was as reluctant to name a House as Minerva claims, it is cause for concern."
Jeannie's face turned solemn. "Do you think I'm in the wrong House, Dad?"
She asked the question so quietly that he almost hadn't heard. "I don't think so, pumpkin, but you...don't seem very happy..."
"I am, Dad. I - I'm happy enough." She paused long enough for Severus's eyes to widen, the concern evident in their dark depths. "It doesn't have anything to do with my House, Dad. I really do feel like I belong in Slytherin."
A deep-seated crease formed between Severus's eyes. "Don't say that just to please me, Jeannie. I mean it."
Jeannie, however, giggled softly in return. "I'm not, Dad, I promise! I like being in Slytherin. I think I possess a lot of the qualities of the other Houses, too, but, well, I believe I'm a Slytherin at heart. You and Mum always thought so, too, you know."
Try as he might, Severus's chest privately swelled with pride at his daughter's declaration, but it was short-lived. His face turned serious again at his daughter's earlier confiding about how she was coping.
"Then what's troubling you, dear?"
"Well, I - I feel very...lost. I'm making friends, so no worries about that anymore, all right? Mum's starting to drive me a little batty with all her inquiries about who I'm hanging out with and who I'm talking to. I just... I'm struggling with relating to my peers. I feel very out of their league—very much above them. Not to sound snooty, Dad, but I can't seem to do the trivial, silly little things every girl my age does. I can't really take part in their tedious, boring conversations about boys or makeup or hair. I can't relate to them; not on a maturity level and certainly not at an intellectual one. It's... It's harder than I thought it would be, I suppose. I hang out with people, I talk to others in my House, I'm with a few of them most of the day... But I feel very much alone..."
Severus had been staring intently at his youngest in silence as she confided in him, but by the end of her confession, he had unconsciously taken hold of her hand again. The sadness he detected in Jeannie's eyes was a morbid expression he had witnessed many times before—that desperate and very natural craving to connect with another person her age.
No matter who Jeannie befriended over the years, Severus would soon discover how deeply upset and withdrawn she became once the girl became aware that she was too smart for the friends she made, too advanced in maturity to relate to their more childish behaviors, and too peculiar a person that she often ended up outcasting herself; or was outcast by others.
Just for being herself, Severus would reflect bitterly. Just for being the brilliant, talented, deeply curious witch that she is...
"Sweetheart," he started, struggling with how to address the terrible loneliness she spoke of, as, at one time, he had understood it far too well, "don't punish yourself for being who you are. You're sensationally bright and that's something I never want you to hide or allow yourself to be belittled for. Your mother was ridiculed many times for being smart, but the fiends who poked fun at her were pitifully jealous. You're aware of how unkind I was to your mother when she was my student. It's something I will always regret. Not every harsh word I said to her was unjustified, but there were many times I was unnecessarily cruel to her for her intellect, for knowing the answers to my questions, for wanting to excel and expand her knowledge. The dunderheads who may pick on you for your talents are envious of you. That's all it is, my dear—plain, old-fashioned jealousy.
"More to the point, you're a wonderful person, Jeannie. Anyone who accepts you knows that. Don't let yourself be outcasted. If anyone else does so, they weren't worth befriending to begin with."
Jeannie searched the dark wizard's face for a time with those curiously enlightened eyes of hers. Though he would have willingly used Occulmency on her to understand what his daughter was experiencing away from his shelter and protection, Severus wouldn't chance it, nor did he really need to. Her heart was an open book, free to explore and readily accessible. The special connections the two Slytherins shared were something they both clung to, Jeannie now more than ever. It shattered Severus's resolve to let his daughter go out into the world when those small flickers of pain behind the mask she wore surfaced, such as now. In many ways, they reminded Severus of his former self.
"Do you know one of the reasons that, apart from missing you, I write to you so often, Dad? Because outside of you and Mum, I have no one to feed the intellectual stimulation I crave. Hailey comes close at times, but Potions isn't my passion. Lily is sweet and tolerable of my letters and rants, but she really can't grasp the things I want to talk about. And Surina... Well, you know how she is. If it's not about Quidditch, she doesn't really want to hear it. She can be so brash and direct without knowing it. I know she doesn't mean things the way she relates them sometimes, but, well, you understand..."
"Of course," Severus murmured, never removing his steady gaze from hers.
"I - I want your opinion about moving up, Dad. A part of me thinks I should leap at this chance without a second thought, but then I worry..."
"About how you may be treated?" Severus finished for her, a trickle of heat radiating his cheeks.
He loathed the idea that anyone might see fit to poke fun at his daughter for being special. Severus Snape understood all too well how cruel the world could be to those who were different, and the mere notion of Jeannie experiencing any manner of bullying made the blood in his veins boil. Jeannie nodded slowly at Severus finishing her sentence. It was a rare moment of acknowledging an insecurity, one of the few the young girl had.
"I - I don't want to be treated differently, Dad. I just want to be treated the same as everyone else. It will only attract more unnecessary attention—me skipping two grade levels—and I... I don't want that. I feel like I stick out in a crowd enough as it is. I'm afraid of isolating myself even more."
"Has anyone said anything to you Jeannie?" Severus snarled angrily, and Jeannie knew his outburst had nothing to do with her, but rather her adversaries. "Have any daft idiots tried to pull anything on you?"
Jeannie squeezed his hand reassuringly. "No, Dad, not at all. Actually..." She surprised him with a wry grin, a wonderful sight he had grown so accustomed to seeing at home. "I think most of them are afraid of me, that I might hex them or turn them into a ferret if they try anything. It's all quite comical really and everyone in my House thinks it's hilarious. They treat me pretty well, but it seems like the rest of the school goes out of their way to avoid me." She suddenly frowned, her black eyes growing listless and unhappy again, and she stifled a strange sort of chuckle at the back of her throat. "I guess I laugh about it to keep from getting too upset..."
Severus's jaw inadvertently tightened. He compressed her smaller hand in his. Her vulnerability reminded him yet again of his own in his youth, and, in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to wash it away.
"Jeannie," he uttered in a painful sort of whisper.
Jeannie surprised him with another encouraging smile. "I'm sorry. I'm making it sound a lot worse than it actually is. I have friends, Dad, and I know I have Hailey, too. I guess I'm just sick and tired of the scrutiny, and at times when I'm feeling weak about it, I wish to be normal like everyone else."
"I understand, although, I think normalcy would bore you to tears, my dear."
"True." Jeannie examined their intertwined hands and grazed her untouched food with her fork. "So...what do you think I should do?"
"Well, if you're asking for my opinion, sweetheart, then I have a few questions for you."
"Shoot!" She brought mouth into another halfhearted smile.
"Do you find the work easy?"
"Yes, every one."
"How quickly do you complete the homework assignments?"
"Normally the same day. It doesn't take long. Potions takes me a little longer, but then I'm not a 'Potions extraordinaire' like Hailey."
Severus smirked. "Do you find your subjects stimulating enough at the level you're at?"
Jeannie didn't hesitate in answering, "No, not at all."
"Then I believe you've found your answer." Severus continued to survey his daughter thoughtfully. "I don't think you should hold yourself back simply because of what some of your peers might think. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being bright, Jeannie, and there's certainly nothing wrong with you. You know that, don't you?"
Jeannie nodded in response. "Yes, I know."
"And since when have you cared what anyone else thinks?"
Jeannie finally laughed, and it was an airy, whimsical noise that sounded like music to Severus's ears. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Who would have thought I'd succumb to peer pressure?" Her dark eyes danced lightheartedly and she shook her head before letting out a sigh of relief.
"Everyone does sooner or later." Severus's eyebrows narrowed and his mouth formed into a stern frown. "But I expect you to get over that and embrace who you are. You're naturally intuitive, Jeannie. That's a gift, not a hindrance."
"Thanks, Dad!" The broad grin she gave him in that moment was sincere, bearing no hint of being a contrived effort any longer. The slight wavering as she searched his face, however, Severus found peculiar. "Even if it means that I'll surpass Mum...and you?" she asked softly.
Jeannie's uncertainty brought a rare, extended smile of Severus's own. "We already know that that's inevitable, Jeannie. We've had that discussion and we'll continue to have it as long as you need it. I know you're afraid of just what that means, dear, but you needn't be. Your mother, sisters and I will give you all the support that you need, you know that."
"Thank you..." His reinforcement seemed to bring her a great deal of consolation, and she exhaled deeply. "I - I am a little scared, Dad..."
"You? Afraid? Since when?"
"Cut it out! I'm being serious."
"Very well. Well, believe it or not, it's quite natural to have reservations about surpassing everyone else. That's something you haven't experienced much of and it's about bloody time you did."
Jeannie playfully rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. Would you rather I fret over something as trivial as boys?" Severus's growl was enough to answer the question, and Jeannie couldn't help but snicker. "It think it's all nonsensical foolishness."
"Good girl," Severus agreed with a triumphant smirk. "And your anxiety over the probability of becoming the brightest, most powerful witch in all the wizarding world shouldn't be something to fret over?"
"Naturally," she teased in return.
Severus surveyed his daughter through squinting eyes. "I may have to access that head of yours and deflate your ego a few notches."
"I just suggested playing down my intelligence." Jeannie continued to laugh, shaking her head back and forth. "You think that's a better alternative after all, Dad?"
"Never," he hissed, looking and sounding quite content. He conspicuously withdrew his wand and warmed their food, which hadn't been touched.
As the two finished their meals, the discussion flowed into more spirited banter after Jeannie's problem was resolved. They talked animatedly about her studies, happenings of the rest of the family, the latest House rivalries, and Severus's Potions research.
By the time their dinner was through, Jeannie seemed much more satisfied—and happier—than at the start, and Severus knew her emotional fulfillment had little to do with the delicious meal she just consumed. They headed back out onto a relatively quite London street afterwards—father and daughter strolling close together with Jeannie's arm wrapped around Severus's waist, his around her shoulder.
After walking quietly for some time, Jeannie interrupted the comfortable silence that so often passed between them when they were together. "Dad?" she questioned, to which he regarded her thoughtfully.
"I spoke to Albus Dumbledore's portrait that evening after the Sorting Ceremony, while McGonagall was out of her office speaking to some of the other teachers about what happened."
"Oh?" Severus turned his head, eying her with fresh interest. "You never told me that."
"I know. It's not a big secret or anything, but he told me something I've been wanting to ask you in person..."
"Very well. What's that?"
"Dumbledore thought you were sorted too soon. He said that you never actually belonged in Slytherin. That really surprised me... Is that what you think?"
Severus gave a dramatic roll of his eyes, and the snarl that escaped him was one wrought with long-held frustrations. "Dumbledore may be clever, Jeannie, but even in death, you can't trust a damn word that man says. He's entitled to think whatever he wants, but he's wrong. Like most wizards, he held a severe prejudice against our House. Make no mistake, sweetheart, McGonagall does, too. She was a Gryffindor herself, so always be mindful of that when in her presence.
"There's nothing at all wrong with being a Slytherin, Jeannie," Severus continued, speaking of his House with passion ringing in his voice. "We're clever than most, take advantages where we find them, and have a drive for ambition that's unmatched by our peers. Nothing harmful in that, but the rest of the world mistakes such qualities, impulsively calling them a thirst for power. It's as laughable a misconception as there ever was. Ambition and cleverness aren't bad qualities, Jeannie, so don't let anyone make you believe so. If you're intentions are honorable, that's all that matters.
"Unfortunately, our House will be forever tainted by its past, but don't let that discourage you. I am a Slytherin, I'll always be a Slytherin, and Dumbledore doesn't know what the hell he's talking about."
Jeannie chortled cheerfully at her father's remarks. She leaned into him and rested her head against his shoulder as they stopped to gaze upon the tranquil waters of the Thames River. Night had fallen, but the city was bursting with light, permeating a warmth that the autumn air couldn't touch.
"You ready to go home?" Severus inquired after a while, staring down at his youngest with the deepest fatherly affection. "Mum wants to see you, too, and she'll want to know what's been troubling you as well. It's been worrying her all week."
Jeannie, who was looking out upon the rippling waters and enjoying the comforting sounds of the gentle waves, peered up at Severus with equal regard. "Yeah, I know. She might have already figured it out by now."
"Indeed, I'm sure she has. Your mother's a know-it-all, so her mind would've insisted upon unearthing what's been troubling you by now."
Jeannie tittered against his coat and wrapped her other arm around his waist, bringing him into a tight hug. The once reserved and very untouchable dark wizard welcomed the child's embrace and bundled her around his cloak to keep her warm. Both father and daughter stood at the edge of the river for a time, listening intently to the faint breeze, the buzzing of other passersby, and each others muffled, even breaths. The quietude was long but necessary.
Finally, Severus unwrapped his arms and took Jeannie by the hand. "Do you feel better now?"
"Much better, Dad," she answered quietly, an endearing smile on her face. "Thank you."
"We'll still have the rest of the weekend together, right?"
A flicker of emotion swirled in the depths of Severus's eyes before he drew close and planted an affirmative kiss on Jeannie's forehead. "I'm all yours, pumpkin," he whispered tenderly, contented to be with his daughter once again.
"Good!" she giggled and squeezed his hand affectionately, not wanting him to let go.
Without another word, and with a final glance towards the London skyline, Severus focused his concentration on getting him and Jeannie back home. A crackle and a pop later, they Apparated to an old, familiar dwelling in the English countryside and headed to the front door hand in hand, where Hermione was promptly awaiting their return.
A/N#2: Hope you liked it! :) Prequel is coming along but probably won't be up for another couple weeks.