A/N: This fluffy one-shot comes courtesy of a very lovely reader, Opera777, who created a beautiful photo manip from my series Unquestionable Love some time ago. The piece is entitled "Just Resting My Eyes," and the link to the photo can be found on my Profile page (under Unquestionable Love media content.) A smaller version also serves as the accompanying photo for this fic. That wonderful image inspired this one-shot and is a story I've been wanting to type up ever since.
If you haven't read the Unquestionable Love series and enjoy this little piece, I hope you'll consider giving it a try. :) Thanks!
Note About UL series: For more one-shots like this, see Unquestionable Love: The Untold Stories!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is copyrighted to and belongs to JK Rowling. I'm just playing in her sandbox.
Unquestionable Love: Late Night Reflections
A low whimper filtered into the quietude of Severus's and Hermione's bedroom, contained within the confinements of their four walls. At first, there were a few soft coos, which turned into disgruntled whimpers before quickly escalating into full blown cries.
The sound registered for one of two figures coiled together beneath the heavy, intertwined sheets. A wizard with messy, black hair shot up in bed, his eyes half opened and a tired scowl lining his mouth that would send most adults scurrying in the opposite direction, even in darkness.
"All right, Lily, all right," Severus growled, though in a soft and gentle fashion that would be unrecognizable to most.
"I can get her, love," mumbled the curly-haired witch at his side, who was barely conscious and not nearly as quick to move from the divine comforts of their bed.
By then, however, Severus had already slithered out of bed and wrapped a black robe around his matching flannel shirt and pajama bottoms, cursing when his exposed skin briskly met the cool night air. Inching forward in his bare feet towards the source of the noise, Severus stopped before Hermione's side of the bed, where her body still lay curled up dead to the world, even with the shrilling cries of a small being threatening to disrupt anyone's slumber within ear shot.
Severus's sleep-deprived eyes peered down into a crib that was covered in pink and yellow polka dots. Hermione's choosing, of course. A fully awake, bright-eyed baby stared up at him with tears prickling her eyes. Her plush cheeks were also flushed from wailing for her parents' attention.
Without a word, Severus reached down to scoop up the tiny being, and, though her cries of distress didn't stop, they grew less frantic once she was appropriately swaddled into a pair of sturdy arms she recognized. An additional "shush" or two from the dark wizard quieted the baby further.
"Bottle's in the fridge," Hermione mumbled, still not quite coherent.
"I've got her," Severus reassured in a low whisper, deciding to remove himself and the little girl named Lily from the bedroom. "Go back to sleep, Hermione."
Closing the creaking door as discreetly as possible, Severus Accio'd a bottle from the kitchen with his wand, which flew down the hallway and into his outstretched hand. Heaving a heavy sigh, as well as a deep yawn, Severus trekked past the deserted kitchen area and sitting room. Walking a little further with his wand lighting the darkness, Severus reared off to the right and opened a door to reveal a dimly lit library. Tomes lined the walls from floor to ceiling, the measurements of the room magically enhanced in order to house the wizarding world's most bibliophiliobic couple's extensive—and ever growing—collection.
It was a frequent place of refuge for both and one that their daughter, they knew, would one day come to appreciate, only now it was barely viewable in such poor light. Met with an engulfing darkness, Severus lit a scattered array of candles with his wand, keeping the lighting low enough so that it wouldn't strain his eyes. Shivering slightly from the lack of heat, he also cast a fire into the hearth that immediately penetrated the empty room with a much more comfortable warmth.
Lily suddenly whimpered again, squirming a little in her father's arms. "Hungry, little one?" Severus mused quietly, pausing to place a tender kiss on the baby's forehead. Her brown eyes flickered against the candlelight, glancing curiously from the pale-faced wizard to the bottle he held in his hand. She echoed her reply in a soft whine, as if wordlessly asking for the milk he held in his possession.
Severus carefully took a spot in a leather-bound sofa chair, wincing at the pains that shot up his legs, which caused a dull ache in his stiff joints. Years since the war hadn't been physically kind to him, nor had Nagini's near fatal attack upon his life. Though his health had been sustained well enough through an assortment of tonics for his condition, his problems weren't without their continued scruples.
Once somewhat comfortably situated, Severus warmed the bottle of milk with his wand and brought the nipple to Lily's lips. The little girl immediately quieted down, scarfing down the nutrients in a frenzy as Severus watched with subtle amusement. She was an endlessly fascinating wonderment to him, even amidst his own fit of exhaustion and a desperate need for sleep that plagued every portion of his body. He did his best to ignore it, however, locking eyes on the infant cradled snug in his arms, with additional blankets wrapped around her to keep warm.
"I suppose we are hungry," Severus hummed in a purr-like draw that brought the child's eyes upon his. The bottle was near empty, but her minuscule hands remained latched onto the bottle, as if requesting her father not to cast it aside. "I wouldn't dare," he reassured her with a faint smirk, one that made Lily blink and curl the edges of her pink lips.
It never failed to amaze Severus that he could get his daughter to return his understated jest of a smile; or that she would smile for him at all, for that matter. How had that ever happened? Children never smiled at the moody, foreboding Potions professor. Normally, they cowered and veered off in the opposite direction, terrified out of their wits and scrambling to get as far away as possible. Not that Severus usually opposed their wanting to get away; but the little being perched in his arm—so completely and utterly dependent upon him—was entirely different.
He would never want his Lily Eileen to shy away from his touch or his sight—nor had she, at least thus far. Never. Granted, Lily was only a mere three months old, but she illustrated no indications of fearing the dark wizard's touch or the intensity of his gaze. Instead, like so many times before, and as she did so tonight in her parents' reading room, Lily smiled up at Severus, encouraged and delighted by her father's keen interest and his own understated smile.
Amused, Severus drew the bottle away from her mouth to fully take in his daughter's radiating simper, which stretched from ear to ear and was offset by a pair of small, attractive dimples. Her luminous, brown eyes were also wide open, seemingly in awe of what she was looking at.
That smile, Severus couldn't help but contemplate in wonderment. For me?
Then she cooed—a soft, delicate response—trying to relay some happy message to the wizard in black. He would retain the image of that infectious smile of hers in the back of his mind always, as it continued to leave him enthralled and at the child's beck and call.
"What is it, little one?" he asked, titling his head to the side; several black hairs swept into his eyes, softening his gaze.
Lily's eyes focused on the cupid's bow of Severus's upper lip, apparently wanting to mimic the formation of her father's mouth; or maybe it was the mere sound of his deep, smooth baritone that had the child so enraptured and caught up in her unwavering scrutiny of his face.
Not that the once surly, unapproachable Slytherin seemed to mind the little girl's captured attention. He extended his smile for her, one that was genuine, unforced, and a rarity she would one day come to understand. Her vigilant eyes never left his, only fluttering when Severus grazed his calloused index finger beneath her jaw line.
"A curious little cub, aren't we?" he quipped, bringing the tip of his hooked nose to the miniature nose of his daughter. When he prodded and nuzzled it gently, the endearing act sent a fit of more happy coos from the baby that read much like a hushed lullaby. "Yes, just like your mother. You're going to be too curious for your own good one day, I can tell."
Lily, still smiling, pulled her arms above her head in an attempt to stretch. Her eyelids grew drowsy and she opened her mouth wide, releasing a sleep-filled yawn.
"I guess we're finished."
Severus placed the near empty bottle of milk on a table next to his chair and leaned back. Shifting Lily carefully onto her stomach so that she was pressed to his chest, the two settled into the warmth and comforts of one another, as well as the roaring fireplace, and Severus patted her tiny back. He could feel Lily snuggling into the nook of his neck, her fingers attempting to grip—massage, rather—his left shoulder.
In the midst of such tenderly-rendered moments, it was difficult for the one-time spy to understand that this had become his every day: a danger-free life with a loving wife and daughter. Two beings who were not only dependent upon him but gave him the stability and support he never expected to find or receive. He had admittedly believed he was destined to be alone, that he wouldn't live out the end of the war, and that he certainly wouldn't marry or father a child.
When Hermione and then their daughter, Lily, came along, they instilled in Severus Snape a sense of purpose, of belonging, of being loved and appreciated for who he was. If he were being completely forthright, as such quiet moments like these allowed for, both had brought him back from the very brink of existence. They not only showered him with a deep-seated love and affection that he had gone most of his life without, but their very essence breathed life back into every bone, every nerve, every heart string...
I hope she never comes to resent me, Severus found himself pondering, his face now sullen and turned towards that of his daughter, whose eyes were starting to close against the faint drumming of her father's heartbeat.
"I will always try to do right by you, Lily," he issued in a strained hush, bending his neck to lightly brush the top of her head with a goodnight kiss. "I promise..."
Lily didn't reopen her eyes, though her small hand continued to unconsciously tug ever so gently at Severus's robes, her body safe and cocooned with his arms bundling her close. Severus's ears intently listened to her soft, even breaths, the occasional squeaks and muffled noises that came unconsciously as she dozed, though never waking. Eventually, between the lull of his daughter's sweet sounds and the hypnotic flames lapping the fireplace, Severus found his eyelids slipping shut.
Just for a few minutes, his weary mind cautioned. Just rest for a few minutes... Then go back to bed...
Severus never heard the pitter pattering of feet just outside the door an hour or so later. Nor did his ears alert to the slight creaking of the door when Hermione peeked her head inside the room, finding her husband fast asleep with a dosing Lily swaddled against his chest. Any soft breathing from her daughter was overrun by Severus's mellowed, though persistent, snoring.
It was a restful slumber and one Hermione knew he didn't receive often enough, whether because of lingering ailments, nightmares, or stress that routinely plagued his mind and body. Hermione didn't have the heart to disrupt either of her loved ones, though she couldn't help but muse how both father and daughter had found an unconscious comfort in the other's presence.
Neither one awoke or was disturbed by Hermione's unannounced emergence, even as she crept in and paused before them to survey the contrasting image with a humored smile: the sight of the intimidating professor with the normally devilish sneer, now slumbering peacefully with a baby—his own flesh and blood—wrapped up in his arms.
It was this side to Severus Snape—this quietly attentive and gentle side that no one ever witnessed but her—that Hermione relished. Severus's chin lay against the top of Lily's head, his face slack and serene as he slept, unaffected or stressed by the outside world, which at one time harassed him around the clock and never allowed him a moment's peace.
Accio'ing a hefty afghan hanging over a sofa, Hermione draped the blanket—warmed from being so close to the fireplace—over her sleeping husband, who still didn't flinch or move, even as Hermione sought to tuck him and their daughter in. It was only when her hand reached out to delicately stroke his forehead that he stirred out of sleep, his long, dark eyelashes fluttering open, though only half way.
"Hey, you," she whispered, projecting a warmhearted smile down at him.
"Hey," he muttered in return.
"You never came back to bed, so I decided to see where you two ended up."
"Mmm. Not far."
Severus struggled to keep his eyes open, the gentle murmurs of Lily wanting to lull him back to sleep. Hermione leaned over him to tenderly kiss their daughter, who remained in the throes of a dream world, far beyond their reach. Glancing back at Severus, she affectionately pecked him, too, nudging her nose against his exposed cheek.
"You want me to take her so you can rest a while?"
"No..." he barely returned, his eyes closing once more. "We're fine..."
"I can see that. I think she likes sleeping next to her daddy."
Severus grunted and tried to stifle a yawn unsuccessfully. "I'll bring her back shortly..."
"It's all right, love. I just wanted to check on you. Come get me when she's up again."
"Very well," Severus mumbled, sinking his weight further into the back of the sofa chair.
Hermione tucked the covers in further around them both, smiling attentively as she did so. Then she gently pressed her lips to her husband's forehead, taking a moment to whisper a soft "Goodnight," near his face, which he returned with his voice barely above a whisper.
Severus's breathing evened out before Hermione backed away, his faint snoring reaching her ears even before she had reached the door handle. Turning around, Hermione's eyes swept over the warm image of her family.
"Sleep well, you two," she murmured, as the strange pair continued to doze uninterrupted.
Hermione caught a glimpse of Lily's tiny fingers peeking out from beneath the afghan, tugging lightly at Severus's chest before her face snuggled in closer to his. Her eyes remained shut and her rest unbroken, even with the close proximity of the man's soft snoring. Hermione sensed that the noise was somehow consoling to her daughter, like a familiar lullaby that left her sedated and secure.
Who would've thought? Hermione mused to herself and quietly left the room, the image of her snoozing wizard and child retained in her mind as she headed back to bed. That smile of utter completion never left Hermione's face, even as she returned to a dreamland of her own.
A/N #2: I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are always greatly appreciated.