A/N- Wow, so the characters of Harry Potter don't belong to me…go figure.
Alright, this chapter isn't as long as I wanted it to be but I just flat ran out of time to write! I am very sorry to everyone expecting a longer chapter.
"Oh, Hermione...he's cutter than just about anything I've ever seen!"
The young witch glowed with pride as she regarded her sleeping son in her arms and then her mother and father sitting in the visitor's chairs next to the bed. "Thank you," Hermione beamed brightly at her mother before continuing, "And thanks so much for coming. I apologize for yesterday and especially for Severus just leaving you in the dark like he did."
Mrs. Granger waved Hermione's apology away as if it were a fly. "No need to apologize, dear. Severus was a worried mess yesterday, and rightfully so, you gave us all such a fright. I'm so happy you and little Tacitus here were able to pull through just fine."
"So am I," Hermione nodded as she rearranged her little bundle of joy in her arms once more, her smile growing bigger as she again took in the sight of her sleeping son with soft loose curls on the top of his head and a tiny Snape-like frown on his little face that was peeking out of an emerald green blanket today.
And Severus says subtlety is lost on me.
"How did you come to the conclusion of his name," Mr. Granger asked kindly but curiously. "I mean, it fits the little tyke well but it's quite..."
Hermione nodded, "Peculiar?"
"Unique," her mother corrected.
"Well, I let Severus name him," the witch said before confessing, "I'm pants at naming... anything." Giggling at a memory, Hermione said, "I mean, I named my doll Baby when I was young and I named my cat Cr-" The witch suddenly stopped as her eyes widened.
"What is it, Hermione? Is something wrong?"
"Oh...um, no...I just had a bit of pain...from the incision site." That was just a lie to appease her guests because the witch had really stopped speaking abruptly as she remembered just in time that she couldn't speak her cat's name in her parents' presence at the moment.
The couple seemed to accept her answer with sympathetic eyes before her mother asked, "Did you need me to get a nurse for you?"
"No, thank you but I'm fine now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm still a bit sore but nothing I can't handle. Did I tell you that Tacitus and I will be going home tomorrow?"
"That's wonderful news," Mrs. Granger simpered happily.
"It sure is," Mr. Granger agreed with a smile before asking, "And where is the proud father?"
Hermione grinned crookedly to herself as she remembered the conversation she'd had with Severus only an hour ago. He was so reluctant in leaving her side this morning but he was also convinced that he could brew a formula for Tacitus that would far exceed the quote 'remedial at best' formula Dr. Johnson had given them. "Severus went to the house to gather up some things. He should be back soon enough."
"Did he take a taxi?"
"Uh, yeah," Hermione nodded even though that was a lie because her wizard simply apparated away.
"Hermione, dear, I don't mean to be nosey but have you and Severus considered buying your own vehicle now that you have a little one?"
The young witch opened her mouth to reply when the door opened and Eric came in.
"Oh, the Stiver's won't need their own car when they've got me around," Eric answered for Hermione as he set a steaming mug of what smelt like hot chocolate on the side table near the bed.
Eyeing Eric curiously, Hermione thanked him for the chocolate beverage even as she wondered why the blonde was speaking in an Australian accent again.
Moving around the hospital bed, Eric smiled brightly and stuck out his hand as he introduced himself. "G'day, I'm Eric, a friend of Severus and Hermione's."
Mr. and Mrs. Granger shook Eric's hand and introduced themselves as Monica and Wendell Wilkins. "We live just down the street from Severus and Hermione. How long have you known them?"
"Not long actually, I drove them home from the station when they moved here," Eric explained with a thick Aussie accent, "But me and Severus hit it off immediately. Fast friend's, us."
Hermione bit her lip to stop from laughing at the traces of sarcasm in Eric's tone.
Eric turned to her then and said, "By the way, Severus told me to bring that Cocoa before he left."
"Nearly an hour ago?"
"See, the thing is," Eric scratched the stubble on his chin as he explained sheepishly, "I kinda got lost. Did you know this building has three basements? All the markings for the cafeteria just say 'basement' but when you get into the lift it has B1, B2 and B3...what is that about? How is anyone supposed to find their way to it...? Even if they are incredibly handsome and bloody good at directions."
Hermione gave an amused huff as she said, "In other words, you want me to drink the hot chocolate before Severus comes back to hide the fact that I just got it."
Eric nodded, "Something like that. You know your hubby, when he wants something done, he wants it done right then and there."
"Yes, and yet, you still managed to bugger up a simple...request," a deep voice drawled from the hall.
Hermione and her visitors turned to see Severus in the doorway holding her beaded bag. Looking at how stiffly he was standing as well as seeing how he was trying and failing not to narrow his eyes, the witch knew Severus wasn't expecting so many people in her room and was definitely not happy about the discovery.
"Yeah...funny story th-"
"I heard it," Severus said as he stepped into the room, "And while I find a certain kind of...hilarity in your admitted dunderheadedness, I do believe telling the story twice would fall short of amusing." His obsidian eyes held Eric speechless and in his place. "I do believe I saw your wife just down the hall. Why don't you go say hello."
"No need, I'm right here," Dr. Johnson said in a chipper tone before taking in just how crowded the hospital room was. "Oh, goodness, don't we have quite the gathering. I'll come back later," the doctor said as she turned to leave the room.
"Oh, no need, doctor, we were just leaving," Mrs. Granger said as she and her husband stood.
Hermione smiled at her mom and dad with a bit of sadness. She didn't want them to go just yet but she was getting tired and still needed to shower and feed her son. Having Severus cast a scourgifying charm on her again just wouldn't do, she needed a good old fashioned scrub down. "Well, thank you so much for stopping by. Maybe you could come over for tea later on this week."
Mrs. Granger smiled as she leaned down to give the new mother a slightly awkward hug; being careful not to disturb Tacitus. "We'll see, sweetie, you'll have your hands plenty full with this sweet little angel here."
Mr. Granger, moved to the new father and shook his hand, "Congratulations Severus, no doubt Tacitus will make you a very proud father."
"He already has," Severus said quietly and Hermione could tell that while he was uncomfortable with the crowd, his words were genuine.
As the Grangers departed, Hermione watched as Severus waved his hand in the general direction of the door and it closed quietly, leaving the Johnsons in the room with them.
Severus rounded on Eric and hissed, "Refresh my memory, but didn't I tell you that Hermione was feeling a bit weak and slightly nauseous this morning? Didn't I tell you to get her hot chocolate on the double?"
Eric took a step beck, "Sure y'did, but I explai-"
"So the mother of my child has to suffer while you struggle with simple directions?"
"Severus, stop," Hermione spoke sternly and managed to get her wizard's attention. "I have the cocoa right here and I'm feeling better anyway. Eric and Vermillion are here to help us, Severus, not bow to your every whim. Stop bossing them about like lowly minions and start treating them as our friends."
Severus clenched his jaw before taking a steady breath and speaking in a measured tone, "They are not our friends."
"Maybe not yours but I enjoy their company enough and see them as such so," she eyed her wizard expectantly, "Please give them some measure of respect...for me if nothing else."
She watched his jaw clench again before he released it and nodded to her. "Very well," he said as he moved to her side and took in the sight of their son, who was now waking up and squirming within his mother's arms.
Little Tacitus' face scrunched up as his mouth opened to cry but all that could be heard was the click as his tongue separated from the roof of his mouth as well as his rushed inhales.
Hermione watched her little boy as she announced, "He's probably hungry again."
In a flash, Severus produced a bottle and handed it to her. "I made the formula and thought it best to prepare a bottle before I left the house again," he stated as he watched his son's discontent.
Hermione took the bottle, "Thank you, Severus." She touched the bottle's nub to her son's lower lip and giggled as he latched on and suckled greedily, "Someone sure is hungry this morning."
"He looks like he likes that formula better than the last," Dr. Johnson noted out loud to no one in particular.
"Of course he does, my son has exceptional taste and therefore could not possibly stand for that hospital sanctioned slop you've been forcing upon him," Severus stated condescendingly as he produced a phial from his charcoal slacks and offered it to Hermione. "And this is for you, love. It is an antibiotic potion that does the same for you as that muggle medicine however you only have to take this once and it will heal you and clear your system within twenty-four hours."
Hermione opened her mouth and let Severus pour the fuchsia colored substance in without question.
"In short, Hermione, come this time, tomorrow, you will be able to breast feed our son which is the best and healthiest thing for both of you," Snape said as he brushed his knuckles against her cheek before pulling away. "When you are finished feeding our son, you really should drink the hot chocolate."
"Yes, It will help with any soreness or fatigue," Dr. Johnson said as she moved to check Hermione's charts. "Alright, no temperature, no infection, no irritation at the incision site and your pain is at a two." She closed the file and eyed the Stiver's family, "I'd let you leave today but we have to run a few more tests on Tacitus and the closest opening the lab has for the tests is tomorrow at eight in the morning."
Hermione nodded her understanding even as she watched the doctor eye Eric, who was playing with a blood pressure cuff, and smile.
"Come on, Eric, I pulled a nightshift so I'm off now." As the doctor with copper colored dreadlocks turned to exit the room, Hermione called out to stop her. When she turned, the new mother spoke again.
"Thank you so much for taking care of Tacitus and to both of you helping us out as much as you have."
"You're welcome, it was-"
"Something that has yet to be explained," Severus interrupted.
Hermione rolled her eyes and sighed at her wizard's suspiciousness but had to admit that she too was rather curious of how the Johnsons deemed them worthy of their help in the first place.
"That," Eric started while pulling his blonde locks away from his face, "Is sort of a complicated and long story, mate."
"That's al-" the young witch began but was cut off by the insistent words of her wizard.
"I'm sure I'll be able to keep up," Severus drawled as he crossed his arms. "Start from the beginning and lose the accent."
Eric regarded at his wife before sighing. When he spoke again, it was without the Australian accent. "I suppose the start of the story would be found nearly sixteen years ago."
"Do tell me this will not be some longwinded autobiography of every pitiful thing you've ever done in your life," Snape said impatiently.
"You wanted an explanation, didn't you," Dr. Johnson snapped, "We're giving you one but to understand it properly, yes, you will have to listen to a bit of our life's story!"
"Haven't you heard of getting straight to the point?"
"Severus," Hermione admonished with a hiss of his name.
"Fine, you want 'straight to the point', here it is," the doctor hissed, "We killed two very affluent members of society in our youth and we've been hiding ever since. There you have it, 'straight to the point' as ordered. Now, if you don't mind," Vermillion turned towards the door once more.
Hermione was struck dumb with the new knowledge that she wasn't sure whether to believe or not. "What," was the only thing she could ask.
"That's why I wanted to start the story from the very beginning," Eric sighed. "Milli, my love, you've been up for nearly twenty-four hours, why don't you take a seat and I'll start it off," Eric said kindly as he guided his wife to one of the visitor's chairs. When she was seated, the blonde leaned against the wall and began again. "Like I said, it was sixteen years ago and I was a sixth year who had transferred from the Disney Magical Institute in California to the Marie Laveau Academy in Louisiana-"
"Wait," Hermione interrupted with wide eyes, "Disney...as in Walt Disney?"
Eric smirked, "The very same. Anyway, the school in California was wonderful but ultramodern. My father didn't believe it was teaching history and pride of heritage suitably so I moved to New Orleans. From the very first moment I stepped foot on the grounds of the Laveau Academy, my eyes rested on this beautiful witch with her short copper dreadlocks up in pigtails. I was hooked."
Vermillion smiled as she took over, "He was a gangly twig with stringy blonde hair-"
"That was back when I thought taking a dip in the ocean was just as good as a bath," Eric explained with a roguish smile.
"Oh, but that smile," the dark skinned witch sighed. "Those were far from happy times for me and even though I liked Eric and we eventually began dating that year, my life was only getting bleaker."
Hermione frowned with concern at that statement but her attention was temporarily diverted to her son as he ingested what was left of the formula in the bottle and began squirming.
Setting the empty bottle aside, Hermione turned to Severus and was surprised that his eyes were on her and not scrutinizing the Johnsons. With a small grin, she asked, "Would you like to burp him?" She was rather sure he was going to say no so when her wizard opened his arms to receive his son without any hesitance, Hermione was stunned.
She picked up the cooling chocolate beverage and sipped as she watched Severus take Tacitus in his arms and position their son on his chest so his little head could rest on his left shoulder as he began lightly patting Tacitus' back.
"I'm a descendant of Marie Laveau and thus, a member of a very affluent and ancient magical family. My father took a ridiculous amount of pride in it and, being quite competitive with his siblings, he began micromanaging every facet of my life. All my cousins were girls, you see, and I was the oldest...I had to be the best of the best. He was also quite fanatical about blood purity-"
"And since my mom is a muggle, naturally, her pops hated me," Eric chimed in.
A tiny burp came from Tacitus that got everyone's attention.
Hermione watched as Severus placed their son in his bassinette before moving back to her side and giving the Johnsons his full attention.
"My father was also obsessed with passing our family's name onto his heir." Vermillion shook her head, "My parents tried for years to have another child, a son to carry on the name but it came to their attention that my mother could no longer bare children. Not accepting that knowledge, my father threw himself into finding a cure...even delving into dark arts. Over time, it made him mad. Even my mother's passing didn't stop his decent into insanity...it only fueled it. Months after my mother's death, my father thought of a solution that could only be described as psychotic."
"Heinous," Eric spat with a look of pure hatred and it struck Hermione that it was really the first time she'd seen Eric as anything other than relaxed and happy. "Milli, you don't have to tell them."
"I know but...I feel I need to in order for them to understand," Vermillion said before taking a deep breath and continuing. "My father looked to me to bare his next child. We were just beginning our seventh year when he made arrangements for me to have my own room at the academy that he could visit every night. Every night he did...and every night I fought...and lost."
"Sometimes she would be gone from classes two or three days at a time..." Eric gave a humorless chuckle, "No one put two and two together."
"I became pregnant four times that year but all of them were girls and he ordered them all aborted before I came to term; paying off a healer to do the procedures well passed the acceptable termination times." Vermillion's eyes looked far off and her voice had become hallow. "He wouldn't stop...he refused to stop, so I spoke out against him and he painted me like a crazy privileged brat who craved attention. The only person who believed me was Eric."
"I tried to make everyone see sense but no one wanted to believe that such an affluent, charismatic and powerful man of the community could be such a monster," Eric took over so his wife could gather herself. "I begged my mother to let me move back to California with Milli. I argued that the family business was more like a trade than anything I could learn in school-"
"He comes from a long line of wand makers," Vermillion supplied, looking as though she'd gotten ahold of her emotions.
"Yes, my mother relented and promised to work on my father, meanwhile I was over the moon to get Milli out of that situation but her father suspected something was up and caught us packing."
"He was never on campus during lunch," the doctor bit her lower lip. "He went straight for Eric."
"You have to understand, Mr. Laveau was a massive man...all muscle, body builder material." The blonde shook his head, "I still don't know how we got out alive."
The caramel completed witch produced a handkerchief from her white medical jacket and dabbed daintily at her eyes. "I thought he was literally going to tear Eric in two so I did the first thing that came to my mind. I screamed the death curse at the top of my lungs...unfortunately, the Head Mistress walked in at that very moment..."
"She hit the ground before she knew what was happening, I think. I just remember her vacant eyes staring at me and all I could think of was how completely screwed Milli was if we didn't get the hell out of dodge. I squirmed out of Mr. Laveau's grasp long enough to get to my wand and shout the same unforgivable."
Eric eyes caught Hermione's and she saw the guilt he still felt reflected back.
"As we ran from the campus, the word 'murderers' kept chanting in my head. It was so unfair because Milli was the one being tortured relentlessly and no one lifted a finger to stop it but when we were forced to defend ourselves...to save ourselves, we were labeled the soulless monsters."
"It was all over the papers the next day," Vermillion whispered, "It even managed to garner muggle attention."
"We killed two very affluent people in the magical community. There was no way authorities would be lenient or listen."
"There was no way we could hide anywhere in America, no matter how low we flew under the radar."
"So we ran," the blonde placed his hand on his wife's shoulder. "We flew as fast as we could to Cuba where we were able to live in peace for a bit."
"That's where we got married...but, somehow, some Auror from the states found us and didn't care much about the lack of extradition treaties between Cuba and the US."
"We ran from country to country for seven long years before we realized...they would never stop looking for us-"
"Not unless they believed we were dead," the doctor cut in.
"So, in Russia, we staged a very bloody and fiery accident involving a broom and a small aircraft. Milli had worked for a doctor in Cuba and she had enough sense to take a little of our blood every couple weeks and store it so we could spread it throughout the crash site. We just sat tight and watched for the news to circulate through the papers."
"Weeks passed, and then months with no sign of Aurors sniffing around. We decided to move one last time and Eric wanted some place with a beach and warm weather. After winter in Moscow, I was inclined to agree wholeheartedly."
"We moved here and Milli went to medical school while I decided to drive a cab," Eric shrugged as he smiled. "We both decided that staying in the magical community completely would be too risky so we live and work as muggles-"
"But we have a few connections to the magical world and Eric still makes wands for our close friends."
"More as a hobby than anything else."
"So," the young witch's brow furrowed, "Eric and Vermillion Johnson aren't your real names, are they?"
"No, they aren't."
"And befriending us?"
"That's very real. It was through the papers and our friends that we learned of the rising tensions in the UK as well as hearing of the war." Eric chuckled as he looked at Snape, "They made you into Rosemary's Baby."
"I'm sure that would sting more if I understood the reference," Severus deadpanned.
"The point is," Vermillion said with slight amusement, "We heard for months of how horrible you were. Then, there was all of this buzz about an exceptionally smart witch fighting next to Harry Potter. You two were at the exact opposite ends of the popularity spectrum and then suddenly there were reports of the two of you fleeing the country together."
"I didn't think much of it-"
"But couldn't let it go. Why would such an intelligent witch let herself be brainwashed by such an evil wizard?"
Hermione shook her head and opened her mouth to speak but the blonde spoke first.
"Unless you were smart enough to see the truth," Eric chuckled. "Milli was convinced that, if the papers were true, you hadn't shacked up with Snape because you had gone to the dark side but rather Snape wasn't as evil as he was made out to be. I thought my lovely wife was romanticizing about something that couldn't possibly be but when you two got in my cab...Holy Hades, my wife's a damn genius."
"And you felt the need to help us because...?" Severus prompted.
"Because we know what you're going through...we know what it's like to be viewed as psychotic or soulless or complete monsters. We know what it's like living on the run, never knowing who will recognize you and alert authorities. We know what it's like to not be understood." Vermillion summed up, "And with a baby to care for, if Eric and I can do anything to help you out, we want to do it."
Severus raised an elegant brow and said, "How generous but we can manage."
"Quite it, Severus," Hermione scolded, "If we have the opportunity to gain allies...friends, then I don't see why we wouldn't."
"Because allies just stab you in the back down the road," Severus answered stiltedly.
"Well, I doubt they'd do anything since they've given us enough information to make it very difficult on them if they were so inclined to do such a thing," Hermione pointed out before giving the Johnsons an embarrassed smile, "Not that I think you would do anything like that."
"No, really, it's okay, we understand that it's very hard to trust anyone in the position you two are in," Vermillion stood, "but really, all we want to do is help out. I'll be back in the morning but you have my cell number and you can call that at any time."
Eric followed his wife to the door but before he left, he turned to the new parents and offered, "I'm not sure if you two still have your wands or not, I imagine not, but if you need new and untraceable wands, I can make them for you."
Hermione exchanged glances with Severus before her wizard turned to Eric. It looked as if he wanted to decline Eric's offer but after a measured breath, Severus nodded, "That would be...appreciated."
Eric looked as though he'd just caught Santa Clause putting presents under his tree. "Alright, I'll get started on them then." With that, the blonde left Severus and Hermione alone with their sleeping son.
Thank you for reading!