Title: Red Threads
Archive: Ask first, please.
Disclaimers: The Harry Potter universe and all things officially associated with it, as well as any and all quotes and references are not mine, nor am I making money from this. Sue and you get a whole lot of nothing. For entertainment purposes only, don't read unless you're able to handle heterosexual sex and relationships, homosexual sex and relationships, discussions of both, original characters, and children under the age of one year. Arian is my own creation and you may not use her without written permission from me (because I'm sure no one reading this has my phone number). Flames will be mocked, laughed at, graded and returned to the sender.
Hermione hadn't been to King's Cross Station for years. She got out of her red '97 Corvette and leaned against it, a small half-smile playing on her lips as she looked around the familiar, yet oddly different sight of King's Cross Station. Six years. It had been six years since she'd last been here, and thirteen since she'd *first* been here, a bossy know-it-all new student with no friends and less skill at making them. She remembered meeting Ron and Harry, Ron's fake spell from his brothers, and fixing Harry's glasses.
'I can't believe I memorized all our course-books,' she mused. Then the ride to Hogwarts, her first sight of that magnificent castle, sitting in the tiny boats with the other first years. Sorting, no, she'd never forget *that*. The old hat coming alive, its rhyme . . . Hermione smiled and shook her head. No, there were just some things you didn't forget. Especially if they had to do with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"Reminiscing, Miss Granger?"
One never forgot that silky-smooth voice, either, and Hermione grinned. "No, sir, I was planning how best to proclaim my long-hidden love for you and desire to bear your children."
"Ten points from Gryffindor for your cheek, Granger."
"Fifty points from Slytherin for your snarkiness, Professor, each year I had to put up with it." Hermione had moved to the passenger side and opened it, unhooking the car-seat and popping the trunk. "Now be a dear and get my things."
"I'm not your bellboy."
She stood up, car-seat in hand, and grinned. "No, you're not. You're going to help me out of the vast kindness of your heart."
Snape took out his wand, pointed it at the trunk and muttered a few words, then pocketed her bags. He glared at her as he shut the trunk. "I thought I'd gotten rid of you for sure, Granger. Do you enjoy being mocked and ridiculed?"
"Of course," Hermione said cheerfully. "And you're the best at it."
"What are you holding?" he asked as he eyed the car-seat.
"About nine pounds of sleeping baby, plus five pounds of car-seat." She glanced around, then turned her head and pointed her wand (which she was using to keep her hair twisted up) toward her car, muttering the Shrinking Charm and kneeling to pick up the toy-sized car, putting it in the seat with her baby.
Snape simply raised an eyebrow at her actions, then asked, "Where's your husband?"
She made a face. "I don't have a husband." She glanced at her welcoming committee and raised an eyebrow. "What?"
Snape shook his head, taking her by the elbow and leading her toward the station. Not that she needed help. "I hadn't figured you to be the sort to have children without being married."
Hermione shrugged. "I wanted a baby, I had a baby. That's all there was to it."
Her former Professor looked thoughtful for a moment. "And it's father?"
"*Her* father," Hermione said testily, "is too wrapped up in Quidditch to notice her."
"How is Weasley these days, by the way?"
Hermione laughed, shaking her head at Snape's questioning look. "The last time he owled me, Ron was fine, but he's not her father."
"Why are you so curious?" she shot back.
Snape frowned at her, taking in her appearance from her twisted auburn curls to her off-the-shoulder, off-white blouse, down the colorful sarong she wore with a jangly chain around her hips to her green-toed, sandaled feet with ankle bracelets that also jangled when she moved. "If this isn't appropriate conversation, we can talk about something else."
Hermione had to giggle at his stiff, not-quite-offended tone. "Oh, you're just trying to make conversation?" He nodded, lips pursed. "Well, I'll indulge you, then." They'd stopped by the barrier between Platforms Nine and Ten, and she set the car-seat down, kneeling to unhook it and lift her baby girl out. Hermione casually nudged the empty seat through the barrier as she stood, smiling up at Snape. "Professor Snape, meet my daughter, Arian." The introduction would have worked, had Arian been awake. As it was, the little girl was fast asleep, curled instinctively toward her mother's breast.
"You know your Celtic mythology, then."
Hermione flushed and nodded. "Arianrhod's her full name, yes, but at her age, the name's longer than she is."
"How old is she?" Snape leaned his head out a little, careful not to get too close.
"Three months on Friday." Hermione stifled another laugh and stepped closer, offering Arian to Snape. "Want to hold her?"
Snape's eyes widened and he backed away, shaking his head. "I don't like children, Granger," he snapped.
"One wonders why you teach, then," Hermione said easily, turning to the barrier. "Viktor Krum, by the way."
"That's who her father is." Then she was through the barrier. Stepping out on the other side, Hermione's eyes widened at the small group of teachers before her and the huge sign that flashed 'Welcome Back, Hermione!' "Oh, my . . ." She was swept up into a hug from Dumbledore as miniature rockets went off with sound and light and Snape appeared beside her, and as Dumbledore squeezed her, she squeaked in warning, "Baby! I've got a baby!"
Her old Headmaster set her down after a moment and looked at her over the rims of his half-moon glasses, the all-too-familiar twinkle in his eyes firmly in place. "My dear, I wouldn't be worthy of the title 'Headmaster' if I didn't know the major happenings of my students' lives. I was full aware of little Arian's arrival in the world." He leaned down to coo at the baby in her arms, who had woken up at the sudden jostling she and her mother had received.
"Albus, let the rest of us greet Hermione." That was Professor McGonagall, gently pushing the Headmaster out of the way to give Hermione a gentle hug and a kiss on the cheek before smiling down at Arian. "How have you been, dear?"
"Oh, surviving. Bulgaria really was wonderful, and I loved teaching the children at Durmstrang English. Oh, Professor Snape . . ." Hermione dragged herself out of Professor Sprout's grasp and handed Arian to Professor Flitwick. She looked around her feet, then held her hand out to him. "You have my bags."
"Only because you didn't have the foresight to include pockets in your costume," he grumbled as he handed her the tiny bags.
"Oh, bugger off," Madam Hooch told him. "I think Hermione looks lovely." A scowl was all she got in return, but she ignored it. "Besides, she's certainly got the body for it, hmm?"
"I wasn't looking," Snape said acidly.
"If you've got it, flaunt it, that's what I say," Madam Hooch continued, obviously enjoying Snape's discomfort.
"Yes, well, if you've all mauled Granger enough, I'd say it's about time to be headed to Howarts, hm?"
"Oh, Severus," Dumbledore said with a twinkle, "you're glad to have your brightest pupil back, you know it." He leaned toward Hermione with a conspiratorial air. "Severus is just miffed that you didn't take a pupilage in Potions; don't let his hurt ego get to you."
"For mercy's sake, Albus, I'm haven't eaten since lunch yesterday. Are we going or not?"
"Well," Dumbledore said amiably, taking Hermione's arm and patting her hand as Professor McGonagall put Arian in her seat and picked it up, "we've prepared a wonderful lunch in celebration of you coming back to teach at Hogwarts. I'm sure you're famished, and I know Severus is near to death with hunger, anyway. Shall we, my dear?"
"I'd be delighted," Hermione nodded, smiling back at Snape. His face was set in its usual scowl and he rolled his eyes at her, sulking in the unmistakable way men had. "I missed you, too, Professor Snape," she said, Apparating to Hogwarts' main gates before anyone could reply.
"Formalities need not be observed now, Hermione," Dumbledore told her as he opened the door to the horseless carriage that waited for them. "After all, you're part of the staff, too."
That made the young woman laugh as she got in and sat down, then looked around to see who her baby had been passed to. "I spent so long thinking of you all as 'Professor Such-and-Such,' it's hard thinking of you as anything else. Teachers don't have first names, you know." Snape, who was somewhat squished between her and Dumbledore, snorted as the carriage started to roll along. Hermione smiled sweetly at him. "That was a joke, Severus."
He twitched a bit when she said his name, crossing his arms over his chest. "I know that, Granger," he grumbled. "What exactly is this new class she's teaching, Albus? We already have a Muggle Studies class."
Albus smiled benignly. "Hermione?" he asked, effectively demolishing Severus' plans on ignoring her.
"Muggle Life is a sort of companion class to Muggle Studies," she began, unconsciously slipping into the semi-prissy voice she used when teaching. Severus rolled his eyes. "Muggle Studies is the theoretical, though, where Muggle Life is the practical application of the theoretical."
"Speaking plainly," Severus interrupted, "in Muggle Studies one learns *about* it, in Muggle Life one learns to *do* it."
"Right in one," Hermione said with a smile.
"Some people have connections to both worlds," she explained, "and it makes sense that they would want to be fully functional in both worlds, especially those who come from mixed families or are Muggle-born." Then she smiled slightly. "What would you do if you were stuck in London, without your wand and with no way of getting anywhere you could Apparate from?"
They'd reached the main doors of Hogwarts now, and Severus climbed out of the carriage before he had to answer that question.
"You've won the argument, my dear," Albus said warmly as he walked her to the Main Hall. "I daresay that none of us are quite able to match him; maybe you'll give him a run for his money this year."
Hermione smiled, a faint flush on her cheeks. "Thank you, sir." When they reached the table Snape was standing behind a chair, tapping his fingers on the back of it impatiently.
"Are you going to sit down or talk?" he asked sharply.
Hermione raised an eyebrow, a slow smile spreading across her face. "Why, Severus, thank you," she said as she sat.
Severus grunted as he slid her chair in under her, a reluctant gentleman. "It's not polite to sit before a lady." He sat beside her, glancing at her appearance. "Though I'm not sure I'd call you a lady. Only two types of women wear red---"
"Severus!" Albus said sharply, but Hermione laughed.
"And I'm no Spanish dancer," she finished. "It's all right, Albus," she said. "I'm glad to know Severus reads Muggle literature."
Dumbledore simply smiled as he took a fussing Arian from Professor Sprout, handing her to Hermione. "I think she's hungry," he observed.
"Probably," Hermione said, kissing Arian's forehead. "She slept during the ride from the airport and most of the flight here."
"Why not just Apparate?" McGonagall --- Minerva, Hermione reminded herself --- asked as the food appeared.
Hermione grinned. "I got myself a really cool car, that's why. I wanted to drive it as much as I could and besides, sometimes I miss doing things the Muggle way. And as the Muggle Life teacher, shouldn't I be as knowledgeable about Muggle transportation techniques as possible?" She shifted Arian in her arms and lifted her shirt, fumbling for a moment to get her bra cup down.
Severus, who sat between her and Minerva on her left, snorted softly as he kept his eyes carefully on his plate. "I'm sure Krum loved that attitude."
"Viktor didn't have any say in the matter," Hermione said pleasantly, patiently offering Arian her nipple until the baby found it and latched on.
"Speaking of young Mr. Krum, why aren't you *Mrs.* Krum, Hermione?" Minerva asked.
The look Hermione made had all her former teachers laughing. "Oh, please. Me, married? I don't think so. I'm not cut out for married life. Not that he didn't ask, when I told him I was pregnant." She looked down at her daughter and smiled tenderly, stroking the soft black fuzz on her head.
"He didn't want to be a part of Arian's life?" Albus sounded slightly incredulous.
"It wasn't that," Hermione explained. "The relationship was ending; we both knew it. I told him I wanted a child and I didn't care if he wanted an active part in the child's life or not. So we agreed that we'd stay together long enough for me to give birth, then we'd go our separate ways." She leaned back, getting more comfortable as Arian ate. "He visits us as often as he can; he really does love Arian."
"He's a fool," Severus muttered.
"He's a fool," he repeated, raising his head to look firmly at Hermione.
"Why's that?" she asked.
"To let you leave like that? Alone with a child, *his* child? Not very fatherly of him."
Hermion pursed her lips and sighed. "He didn't have much of a choice," she told Severus. "I told him the relationship was ending, I told him I wanted a child despite it, and I told him I was leaving as soon as I was able to safely travel with Arian. He *did* offer to marry me, an offer I politely declined, and he *did* set up a bank account for me to use if I was ever in a tight spot for money. Arian's education is practically paid through whatever path she chooses, and Viktor wants to be a part of her life. He didn't just let me wander off with his child and go back to playing Quidditch, Severus. Viktor takes an active interest in our welfare."
Her mini-lecture ended with applause from the other teachers and Severus went back to his food, muttering under his breath, "If *I* had a child, I'd be there for them *all* the time."
"I pity any child you ever have," Hermione muttered back, "if your treatment of students is any indication." She turned to Albus as he opened his mouth to retort. "Pro--- Albus, I had been thinking that since Muggle Life is strictly a seventh-year class, would it be possible to take the students to London on field trips as tests, maybe on certain weekends or during the holidays, if they want to go then?"
"My dear, I think that would be a wonderful idea," Albus twinkled as he said it, then leaned forward to look past Hermione at Snape. "Severus, you know the Muggle world rather well---"
"No," he said shortly around a mouthful of food, and glanced at Hermione. His gaze was caught by Arian gently flailing her hands against Hermione's breast and he flushed as he looked away, muttering an apology.
"Come, now, Severus, don't be a poor sport."
"I will not give up *any* weekend or holiday to follow snot-nosed seventh-years around London," he said firmly.
"Then Arian and I will go with them alone," Hermione said cheerfully, throwing a wink at Albus. "And don't worry, we won't be spotted. London's a pretty big place, so we'll blend in rather well---"
Severus set his cup down firmly and turned to her. "You and your child are *not* going *anywhere* alone," he bit out, the tone of his voice suggesting that arguing was a Very Bad Thing.
Hermione argued anyway. "We've done well enough on our own."
"You've been on your own, not watching students."
"I'm taking Arian with me no matter what you say," she told him. "You can either come with us or stay here and sulk. I'd let you baby-sit her, but she's not old enough to be left with someone else." As the look on Snape's face declared his defeat, Hermione tucked his sudden and unexpected protectiveness away to ponder later.
"Are you done yet?" he asked sharply, waving a hand toward her breast. "That's rather distracting."
"Oh, really?" Minerva asked with amusement.
"Yes," he snapped, "really." His left hand went up to shield that side of his face. "You'll forgive me," he said snidely to Hermione, "if I'm not in the habit of eating next to breast-feeding women."
"We're done, don't worry," Hermione assured him as she readjusted herself, then Transfigured her napkin into a burp-rag. Presently, Arian was shifted to her shoulder and being burped while Hermione looked longingly at her untouched plate.
"Let me hold her, dear," Minerva said, reaching across Severus for Arian. "You look hungry."
"I am, thank you," Hermione said as she handed over the baby. Snape made a face, but didn't say anything. As Minerva burped Arian and cooed at her, Hermione gladly started eating. "Are Dobby and Winky still here?" she asked.
"Oh, yes," Albus said. "They've been falling all over themselves preparing your rooms. If you're not too tired, I think you might want to go down to the kitchens to show them Arian. They're quite anxious to meet her."
"I'll do that," Hermione smiled. "Where *are* my rooms, by the way?" She took a sip of butterbeer, looking about and marveling at how the Great Hall hadn't changed a bit.
"We thought you'd be more at home in Gryffindor Tower, near your old rooms," Albus said. "But you can stay wherever you want."
"Oh, no, that would be lovely," Hermione smiled. "Severus, I've got something for you," she said as the thought occurred to her. "I tried to give it to you at the station, but I got distracted."
"What is it?" Despite his gruff tone, Hermione knew he was curious and she dug her miniature bags out of Arian's car-seat.
She found and resized the red one, then took out several glass vials and handed them to Snape. "Viktor's mother collects random things, and I found these when we were cleaning. She said I could have them and I thought you'd appreciate them more."
He read the labels and blinked several times. "Helica Cor? Æther Chorea? How does one 'randomly' collect things like these?"
"If anyone can do it, Zlata Krum can. I guess they were gifts to her from her Potions Master at Durmstrang." Hermione shrugged.
"No Potions Master would give these away. They're too rare."
"Well, seeing as I went into labor right after she gave them to me, I didn't really think to ask." She got a mean sort of pleasure from watching Snape squirm around subjects that made him uncomfortable. "How about you owl her and ask?"
"One doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth," he grunted. The vials disappeared into his robes and he ignored Hermione for the rest of the meal. Not that Hermione cared. She held her other former teachers in much higher regard than she did Snape; she considered him ignoring her to be something of a boon.
Hermione and Severus almost escaped each other for the rest of the night. Minerva, however, had some parchments of his that she'd borrowed and Hermione's rooms were on the way to hers, so the four of them set off. Minerva held a very sleepy Arian and delighted in the little yawns the baby produced every once in a while. Hermione glanced down at her as she answered a question, idly noting that though she was obviously well on her way to sleep, Arian's eyes were wide open and she was craning her neck a little to look behind her. Hermione followed her daughter's gaze and found herself looking at Severus. She glanced back at Arian; the child hadn't looked away. In fact, she and Severus seemed to be in something of a staring match.
"Would you like to hold her?" she asked him, finding Arian's behavior quite odd. Arian gurgled a bit, almost a laugh but not quite.
"Why would I want to hold a baby, Granger?"
A bit stung by his sharp tone of voice, Hermione snapped back, "I don't know why I even thought such a thing; forgive me for treating you like a person." Arian started to cry and Hermione reached for her.
"If you want me to hold her that much, I will." Severus stepped forward and took the child before her mother could, glaring at Hermione as he rocked her. "Is this better, Granger?"
They'd stopped by Hermione's rooms and Minerva pushed open the door. "I'll leave you two at it, then," she said. "I'll be in my rooms when you're done, Severus."
He and Hermione didn't notice her talking or leaving. They were glaring at each other, standing almost nose-to-nose.
"Give me my baby back," Hermione said in a calmly controlled, quite voice.
"You've been asking me since the station if I'd like to hold her, and now I'd like to hold her."
"You've held her," Hermione pointed out. "Now give her back." She drew wisps of anger around her like a shield, glaring into Severus' eyes with the firm message that if he didn't give Arian back, there'd be hell to pay.
"Are you afraid that I don't know how to hold a baby? That I'll drop her, Granger?" Snape asked with a sneer, jerking his chin down toward Arian.
Hermione looked down at her daughter. She was fast asleep, one tiny hand clutching a bit of Snape's robes. Snape held her like he did nothing all day *but* hold babies, his arms supporting her head, hands curled around her body to keep her from rolling out of his grasp. If Hermione hadn't known who was holding her, the scene before her would have been touching. As it was, Snape had roused her maternal instincts and all she wanted was to have her child safe in her arms.
"Give her back," she repeatedly softly, looking back up at Severus and letting go of the anger, a small bit of pleading enter her voice and gaze. "You can hold her later, just give me back my baby." Severus' expression flickered, just a bit, and he wordlessly handed Arian over. Hermione cuddled her daughter, reassuring herself that the child was safe, kissing her forehead. "Thank you," she whispered against Arian's skin. She looked up when Severus didn't respond, didn't move away from her. They weren't even an inch apart.
"The female of the species is more deadly than the male," he said softly as he looked down at her. "Your children won't ever be without protection."
Then he was gone, his slightly prophetic-sounding words still ringing in Hermione's ears.
"Well," Hermione murmured to her sleeping daughter, "shall we get settled, then?"
Author's notes: The line about Arian's full name being longer than she is didn't come from me, I'm sure of it. I don't remember *where* I got it from, but I'm *positive* it's not mine. The same goes with the line about Spanish dancers. I saw it on a website years ago and loved it. The full thing is something like "Only two types of women wear red: whores and Spanish dancers --- and you, my dear, are no Spanish dancer." If you know who said this, please let me know! Also, Snape's line about the female of the species is a quote from a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Not mine.