A/N - As promised, here is the eleventh and final chapter, ASAP because you were all so wonderfully patient with my last update. It's been fun reliving this fic - as I had first posted it elsewhere a few years ago - so I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. There is a sequel in the works; I had originally started it not long after I finished this one and got so blocked in my creativity that it has languished since then. I can't promise exactly how soon it will be up (there is a prologue already finished, but I'd like to have chapter one finished before I post it, just so you won't have to wait forever between updates), but now that I've gotten my sea legs back as far as writing is concerned, it should be motoring along at some point this summer. Keep your eyes peeled and don't forget to add me to your watch list so you get all the updates.
That being said, some shameless self-promotion before I move on:
1. As I mentioned in a previous chapter, I am up for THREE awards for the Harry Potter Fan Fiction Polls on Live Journal, all for the same story, "Requiem for a Lost Boy". I would be very appreciative and humbled if you would read the story here (link in my profile) and then go vote for me at hpfanficfanpoll (period)livejournal (period) com/1530 (period) html. Your support would be MUCH appreciated.
2. If you are a fan of Supernatural, please feel free to go to my profile and read my one-shots in that fandom. It's what got me back into fan fic writing, and I am very proud of those stories.
I hope you enjoy this chapter!
~~ ** Lady Tuesday ** ~~
Chapter Eleven – Look at My Baby and Me
25 March 2012
My dearest Hermione, Beloved, Joy of my shadowed life,
Somehow I've found myself here again, scrawling my thoughts and feelings to you via the page instead of my own lips. I'm sorry to say that this seems to be so much easier for me. I'm not a declamatory man … well, at least, not in terms of emotion. So forgive me for taking the coward's way once again, using ink, parchment, and owl to convey my feelings to you instead of my voice, my face, my body. Despite my ineptitude in those dramatic romantic gestures that all women seem to desire – whether they believe so or not – I hope that the unspoken romance of a letter of this nature will help carry the day, because I intend for this missive to leave you in no doubt of all the secret corners of my heart. Something I've never shared with another living soul.
So let me be rightly understood:
If the seas flowed with ink and the entire sky was made of parchment, I could not begin to write my love for you. Somehow, you have bewitched me. A terrible pun, I know, but I have a feeling you could use a thorough smile at the moment. I find myself enchanted by you, dearest, loveliest Hermione. For a man who has lived the vast majority of his life in dark and shadow, I find myself gratefully inflamed by your brightness. You have captivated me with your sweetness, your wit, the boundless compassion that tempers your formidable intelligence. You are a profound and amazing woman, and I find myself … woefully inadequate to deserve your love, and yet, you've bestowed it upon me with no conditions and no hesitations. I may be the luckiest man alive. What a bizarre change of Fate to find that I am fancying myself most fortunate, instead of lamenting my position as Fortune's perpetual fool.
I wish I could say that there won't be complications in a relationship between the two of us, but the lie would sit bitter upon my tongue despite years of practice in subterfuge. In fact, given our respective histories as well as our history together, I'm sure that a relationship between Hermione Granger, formerly Weasley (what in God's name were you thinking, marrying that addle-brained simpleton?), and the cruel Potions master, former Death-Eater and sullied murderer, is absolutely rife with conflicts, complications, and the potential for disaster. I cannot promise you that I will never hurt your feelings, as I have the unique capability of running roughshod over nearly everyone I've ever known. I cannot promise you that it won't be awkward as ass at the beginning, as I'm sure it will be. People can't have the shared past that you and I do and not have awkward moments as we adjust to a different way of thinking and operating our lives. I also can't promise you that I won't be stubborn as a bear yanked from hibernation when you attempt to draw me out of my carefully crafted life of seclusion (inevitable, given your youthful vigor, especially in contrast to my curmudgeonly reclusiveness).
But before my cheerful side runs away with me, let me tell you what I can promise you:
- I can promise you that I will never flag in my devotion to you. Knowing what you do of my past, you cannot help but doubt that I would abandon a woman I love.
- I can promise you that I will always respect and honor you as the gifted, brilliant, formidable witch and woman that you are. Whatever my thoughts were about you as a child and burgeoning witch, I assure you that they have been tempered by years of wisdom, humility, and the growing knowledge I have of the woman you've become.
- I can promise you that now that you have my love, you will never want for affection ever again. I cannot always express it in such grand and dramatic ways as the average man, but you will always have it.
- I can promise you that whenever we manage to successfully complete the "arrangement" that brought us together, our child will want for nothing. I will never be a perfect man so I cannot pretend I will be a perfect father, but I can promise you that I will give the child everything that it is in my power to give.
I suppose that now that these wishes, desires, and emotions have been laid bare, all I can do is throw myself at your feet and hope that you will accept me, faults and all. I left you this morning not because I wavered in my love for you, light of my heart, but because I am so unaccustomed to receiving love that the idea of suddenly having it heaped upon my shoulders by such an unlikely benefactor was disorienting and overwhelming. And terrifying. But I can only hope that this letter will go a distance towards restoring your faith in me, and, I must confess, buying my way back into your good graces with the time-honored and sickeningly romantic gesture of a love letter.
Accept me, my love. Look into your heart, forgive my boorishness, my gruffness, my acidic personality, my unforgivably dark past, my certainly tumultuous future, and throw open your arms to me. I beg you, redeem my faults with your goodness and give meaning to my lost existence.
PS – Assuming that I have hit the mark and succeeded in bringing you to the happy tears that I'm reasonably certain should be coating your face by now, would you please come open your door? It's bloody cold outside, and I have no desire to continue loitering on your front steps. People will think I'm stalking you, and I doubt I'll be able to retain my intimidation factor if this carries on much longer.
Severus stood on the small concrete square that was her modest stoop, trying not to wring his hands in nervousness. When he'd sat down at the large mahogany desk in his chambers, he'd been driven by determination and purpose and, yes, love. He'd been so certain that this letter would do the trick, that she'd only needed to be left with no doubt as to the strength and permanence of his affections, and then all would be well. The longer he stood, though, the more anxious he became. Surely this was taking longer than it should? Could she really read this slowly? Or perhaps his effort had been too little, too late? He scrubbed a long-fingered hand, pink and chill from the wind, across the sharp features of his face, praying that he had not lost yet another chance for happiness. He was certain that human beings only got so many, and people such as him had surely used most of them up by making bad choices in youth? He shifted from foot to foot and tried to keep himself from losing hope and leaving. Perhaps it made him a fool, but he'd stand here on this tiny little porch until next Tuesday if there was even the slightest chance that she would come let him in.
The letter dropped from Hermione's fingers as they nearly went numb from shock. She'd been so lonely for so long, hoping, wishing, praying for the sort of emotion that had just been delivered to her that she could barely process it all. A man loved her, and it was not just any man, but a man renowned for being stoic, unfeeling, and cruel. Yet the length of parchment that tumbled from her tingling fingers to the rug beneath her couch had been filled with words of such tenderness and vulnerability that part of her mind could barely believe it was the same man who'd belittled her for six years. She had loved Tobias knowing only the information he'd chosen to share with her in his letters, and that was only a piece, really. Now that she knew the whole of him, she could only love him more. Tobias had been a man worthy of her love, and she couldn't help but think that despite all of his failings, Severus Snape was even more so. So how could she possibly deny him love when he deserved it so much and begged for it so prettily?
Her throat closed around a squeak of distress as the words of the post script sunk into her consciousness. Rising on wobbling legs, Hermione dashed to her front entryway, knocking over a table of knick knacks and a magazine rack full of back issues of Transfiguration Today. Wrenching open the door hard enough to send it banging against the wall, tears cascaded down her cheeks as laughter bubbled from her throat. Disregarding the fact that he hadn't really registered her intention, she threw herself into his arms.
Severus let out a guttural "oof!" as something solid and curly pelted against his chest. It had taken him a moment to realize that the door had even opened, and when it had, his bushy-haired paramour had flown through it. A few seconds passed as she clutched at his shoulder and made a strange burbling sound, halfway between a laugh and a sob. Suddenly, sense returned to him; Severus wrapped his arms around her smaller frame and crushed her to his chest, burying his protuberant nose in the huge tuft of curls that spilled across his shoulders and throat. Hermione clawed at the stiff woolen sleeves of his robes, muttering something unintelligible and sniffling in a way that unattractively resembled snorting. He pressed a kiss onto the top of her head; she couldn't be more perfect than she was right now, clinging to him and crying. Severus deliberately lightened his grip on her, allowing his hands to roam through the hellacious riot of spirals that had plagued his cauldrons and classrooms.
"I'm sorry," he rasped out eventually. "I shouldn't have left. I'm so sorry—"
She pulled back quickly and stifled his apologies with her lips. He let her kiss him for only a moment before wrenching away.
"I'm sorry," he started again.
"Severus, don't," Hermione said through a watery smile. "You don't have to—"
"Yes," he said gruffly. "Yes, I do. Please, let me say my peace."
Hermione untangled herself from his arms, dragged the sleeve of her robes across her eyes and nose – watching him cringe as she did so – and then looked at him expectantly. Severus had to clear his throat twice before he could speak.
"I shouldn't have left," he said. "In my head, I convinced myself that I had to perform these little errands before I could return to you, but what it really amounted to was that once the idea of loving you," he cleared his throat again, apparently discomfited just by saying the words aloud, "loving Hermione Granger, really sunk in, I was absolutely terrified."
"I know," Hermione said gently, taking his hand in hers.
"I don't think you do," Severus answered, but squeezed her hand gently. "Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that this is just as daunting for you as it is for me, but I'm reasonably certain that you have experience being in love. I most certainly do not."
Hermione couldn't help her features screwing up in confusion. "But you … you loved Lily…?"
Severus nodded. "I did. But being in love requires reciprocation; to be in love, one's love must be returned. Otherwise, it's just you loving. I've never … I've never had anyone love me before."
"Severus," Hermione said brokenly, raising his hand to brush his knobby knuckles against her cheek.
He spread out his long fingers to cup the warm, smooth skin of her face. Unable to stop himself, he just had to touch her, as if the contact itself were a drug.
"I loved Lily with everything in me, but it created a void because I never got anything back. It ate me alive, Hermione. Ate at me until I was nothing but a hollow shell of a man who couldn't help but be consumed by anger and fear and hatred. With you, I feel … full. That sounds stupid," he said hurriedly, a blush painting his sallow cheeks.
"No," Hermione said, pulling him closer. "No, it doesn't. I know exactly what you mean." After a moment of silence where he simply held her in his arms, she put on her most serious face and gazed up into his eyes.
"I have to point out a flaw in one former statement, though: I'm 100% aware of how scared you are; after all, if finding yourself to be in love with Severus Snape isn't the most terrifying thing one can experience, I don't know what is."
Severus scowled down at her with a fixed, steely glare, his signature raised eyebrow sliding into place. He made a huff of indignance as she rose onto her tiptoes and placed her lips against his, but eventually softened his mouth as he reached down and clutched at her behind, pulling her closer. When her tongue slipped past his lips, he even smiled. He let her tongue chase around his mouth languidly for a long few minutes before he pulled back to gaze at her face, eyes pleasantly glazed, cheeks rosy from excitement and the cold.
"You'll have me, then?"
Hermione gave a merry chuckle. "I suppose I'll have to. Who else would want me, after all?"
His thin lips drew into a long line, and he scowled again. "Ah, so I'm a consolation prize then?"
"Prize?" Hermione asked in a thickly incredulous voice. "You're no more or less than a millstone round my neck."
Severus couldn't help but break into a chuckle and kiss her again.
"What about me?" Hermione asked. "Will you have me?"
"I suppose I'll have to," Severus mimicked with a lopsided grin. "Especially if I ever want to have sex again. Who else would want me?"
"Speaking of …"
Hermione grinned so sleekly that Severus felt a throb of heat shoot straight to his groin. With a deliciously wicked light in her eyes, Hermione clasped the front of his robes in one hand and dragged him backwards into the cottage.
"We have to make sure that it 'takes,'" she said, just before setting upon him.
A long while later, Severus sighed quietly as Hermione shifted against him. She had draped the upper half of her body across his chest and tucked her head beneath his chin, every now and then pressing absent kisses into the fuzz of hair scattered across his sternum. Severus wondered if he'd ever stop thinking how strange it felt, how wonderfully strange, to linger in bed, nude and lazily entwined with a lover. Some deeply buried and disgustingly romantic part of him hoped that he never became accustomed to it so that he might always appreciate the gift that was her presence.
"Oh!" Severus exclaimed suddenly, and made to leave the bed.
He smiled as he heard her grumble in annoyance as he left the circle of her arms and padded across the room, unabashed as his nakedness. Rummaging in his robes momentarily, Severus scowled down at the black wool, unable to recall where he'd stuffed the box he'd charmed to be small enough to fit in a pocket on his way back from his last errand.
"Severus, what are you doing?" Hermione asked, sitting up in bed and drawing the sheet over her chest.
"Looking for something."
With a little curl to her lips, Hermione inquired, "Why didn't you just Summon it?"
Severus straightened up at this comment, turning back to her with a smirk. "And where, exactly, do you believe I have my wand hidden?" he asked, gesturing to his naked body.
"Nowhere I want to know about," she quipped.
Snorting with laughter, Severus reapplied himself to the task for a few moments when his fingers bumped against the corner of a box buried in the pocket of his traveling cloak. When he pulled the small box free, he extricated his wand from his robes, tapping it and muttering, "Engorgio." Immediately, the box sprung back to its original size, occupying most of his long, slender hand. For a moment, Severus knew a squirming moment of apprehension. What if she didn't like it? What if, upon hearing its story, she found it strange or undesirable? He wasn't entirely sure what that would mean, but he wasn't certain it would be a good sign. Feeling her questioning gaze on him, Severus took both the box and his wand back to the bed, laying his wand on the nightstand before climbing into bed next to Hermione. As he leaned back against the headboard, Severus felt a smile touch his lips; Hermione snuggled close to him and drew the covers up over the two of them as he placed the box on his lap.
"I visited Healer Levy this afternoon while I was out—"
"You went to see Euterpe?" Hermione asked. "Why?"
Severus shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. "I wanted to make sure that … that the insemination process hadn't been compromised."
"What do you—?"
Severus cut her off gently before she could pursue it further. "And while I was there, she told me that when I came back to you to declare my love – as she insisted I do, quite rightly – that I was required to bring either candy, flowers, jewelry, or some combination of the three."
A musical laugh tumbled out of Hermione. "Oh, Severus, you didn't have to do that."
He smirked. "Good. I didn't." Hermione's face pinched just a tiny bit in indignance, causing him to laugh before speaking again. "Our relationship is too unique for something so mundane as jewelry." After only a moment's hesitation, Severus handed her the box covered in worn blue velvet.
Hermione gazed up into his face briefly before running her hands over the soft surface. "What is it?" she whispered.
Severus raised an eyebrow. "A puppy. But I haven't poked holes in, so—"
She swatted him, chuckling, then looked from Severus's face back to the box. Part of her wanted not to open it at all, just hold onto this first gift between them. But eventually her curiosity overtook her and she gently lifted the lid. Nestled in a cushioned lining of soft satin was a silver inkwell and nibbed pen, etched all over with swirling, looping vines and, in delicate detail at the top of the pen, an open tiger lily. The pieces were obviously antique – at a guess, she'd say at least a hundred years old, if not more – and more than a little tarnished, but Hermione could tell that when cleaned, they would be absolutely stunning. Removing both pieces from the box, Hermione turned them over in her hands before gazing up into Severus's face with a look of stunned questioning.
"They belonged to my mother," he said quietly, picking up the pen in his long fingers. His face pinched as he spoke, but he continued talking. "I'm sure that Potter has shared with you what he knows of my childhood—"
He didn't look up to see her nod sadly, but kept speaking.
"—so I'm sure you know that my parents …. My father came to loathe all things magic, including my mother and, eventually, me."
Hermione's hand touched his wrist, clasping gently as he turned the pen over in his fingers, but she doubted he even felt it.
"In the times back before everything went wrong, however, I understand that he found her quite charming. My mother told me that when they first came together, he regarded her – and by extension, the entire wizarding world – as something of a fairy tale. This set was something he'd given her as an engagement present. She told me that he had said he didn't know what else to get for a woman who could conjure anything she wanted out of thin air, but he knew that witches wrote on parchment like in the old days. So he scrounged around until he found this set in an antique store. She told me that he saved money for nearly a month to give it to her, probably because it was cheaper than buying a ring.
"My mother loved these things; she wrote to her family nearly every day, and as time wore on, it's one of the few things I believe that still made her happy." Severus took a deep breath as he tried to explain the next piece. "The first time my father ever struck her, it was because she had written to my Aunt Daphne to seek help about his drinking problem. I suppose it seemed only right to him that he pick up the pen since it was the instrument of her offense, and when he slapped the back of his hand across her face, the sharp edge of the nib sliced open her cheek."
Hermione gasped loudly, clasping one hand across her mouth and clutching the inkwell in the other.
"She was still a witch then, of course, so the scar was spelled away, but the pen and inkwell vanished from her desk after that. More than being afraid of it as a weapon, I think she didn't want the things she loved so much to be tainted by any more unhappiness. I never saw her use these again, but more than once I caught her sitting on the floor of her closet with the open box in her hand, just stroking her fingers over the carvings."
At this point, Severus had finally mustered the courage to look up into Hermione's face. Tears streaked down her cheeks, but she managed a watery smile as his eyes caught hers. Gently, he reached over and set the pen in the little swooping arm at the side of the inkwell and traced his fingertips lightly up her wrist.
"I know that this isn't the happiest present to give someone," he started, talking overtop of her mumble of thanks, "but I thought it would be right for you and right for us. Letter writing brought me to you, and perhaps now you can redeem this treasure of my mother's the way you have done for me."
Unable to form whatever might be appropriate words, Hermione simply leaned over and pressed her lips to Severus's, uncaring that they shook with the trembling, gulping breaths as she fought a tsunami of emotion. When it became clear that she had no intention of ceasing the kiss, Severus briefly fumbled for his wand and levitated the silver antiques over to her vanity table before covering her body with his.
Severus tore into his breakfast as if he hadn't eaten in weeks. He couldn't quite account for his disproportionate increase in appetite these last few days; he hadn't gained all that much weight – in fact, he was reasonably certain he'd even lost a pound or two – and yet, he found himself practically ravenous all the time. A normal breakfast for Severus usually consisted of two slices of dry toast and two or three cups of strong black coffee; nothing like the healthy portion of pancakes that he was currently devouring. It seemed that getting out of the dungeons now and then did wonders for one's appetite. His fork paused as a thick smirk coated his face. Perhaps it was the appetite for one's partner begetting activities that perked up one's appetite for food. The smirk dissolved into an actual grin. He shook out the morning edition of the Daily Prophet with his left hand, picking up his fork and resuming his feast with the other.
As the breakfast hour went by, Severus couldn't help noticing that everyone else seemed to be noticing him. When he asked for a second helping of pancakes, Pomona Sprout stared blankly at him for a good solid fifteen seconds before passing him the platter; Filius's mouth dropped open when Severus thanked the little wizard for offering him a refill to his coffee. The cherry on the morning, however, occurred when he complimented one of Minerva's prefects on a particularly well-executed version of Veritaserum: the witch had been so surprised that her hand dropped slack halfway to her mouth, and an entire cup's worth of tea sloshed down the front of her robes without her noticing. Stunning the entire table into silence, Severus chuckled roundly, whipped his wand towards Minerva to clean her robes, and then nodded at her genially before going back to his paper. Uncaring that the entirety of the staff seemed to be gaping at him like a cauldron full of landed codfish, Severus simply allowed the corners of his mouth to quirk up just the tiniest bit as he read on.
Approximately fifteen minutes before breakfast was due to end, a high shriek, like that of a train whistle, echoed through the vaulted ceilings of the Great Hall. Looking up, Severus was surprised to see Hermione's sleek black owl swooping towards him, alighting on the table and staring up at him pointedly. With a strange sense of premonition, Severus reached out and relieved the bird of its burden, which turned out to be quite small indeed. The roll of parchment was miniscule, in fact; from the outside, he'd have wagered that it was barely big enough to house three words. His curiosity piqued, he unrolled it. He had been wrong: it held only two words, written in a rather shaky version of Hermione's usually steady hand.
For a moment, Severus was completely flummoxed by the message. Then, with a shot that literally set him back in his chair, he realized that she'd told him the previous evening that she'd scheduled an appointment with Healer Levy this morning for a pregnancy test. It took. She—they were going to have a baby.
Some inarticulate noise escaped him as he allowed his head to drop back against the headrest of his chair. The noise turned into a laugh. Now even more certain that the entire staff was gaping at him, Severus allowed himself to laugh again before resuming his voracious consumption of pancakes. This time, however, he didn't hide behind his newspaper, but stared out across the masses of students in front of him and felt amusement bubble in his chest as they, too, grew increasingly uneasy at the sight of a smile on the Potions professor's face.
"What's the good news, Severus?" he heard Flitwick ask.
Severus looked down the table at his colleague with a pleased but vacant smile, unable to wrap his tongue around any coherent words.
"It must be good news," Filius said jovially, "from that look on your face."
After a moment, Severus regained his verbal capabilities, and with it, his desire to shock his colleagues out of their knickers. His lips turned up in a slick grin.
"It seems," he said slowly, "that I am going to be a father."
Severus heard a confused but happy mix of general congratulations from teachers, culminating in Hagrid loudly bellowing, "Who's the lucky lady, then?"
Severus felt as if the entire Great Hall – or, at the very least, the front third that was within earshot of the head table – had stopped every atom from moving as they awaited his answer. When the silence was so drawn out that he thought that eternal busybody Poppy Pomfrey might actually suffer cardiac arrest, Severus slipped a smirk on his face and answered.
"Miss Hermione Granger."
The staff table descended into complete chaos. Somewhere within the din, he heard Rolanda Hooch thumping Minerva on the back to stop her choking on her biscuits, and Irma Pince telling Aurora Sinistra that she'd always thought Hermione "needed someone with a bit more brains than that Weasley boy." Amid the chaos, Severus returned to his coffee, gazing out over the students once more. For the first time in his life, the sight gave him pleasure. Somewhere among the throng of young bodies, he almost thought he could see a little first year wandering between tables with straight ebony hair and warm, cinnamon eyes.
For the first time in longer than he could remember, Severus silently sent up a prayer: Please be a girl; please, please be a girl. He knew just what to name her.
A/N - So there you have it: the end. But it's actually more of a beginning, isn't it? ^_^
I hope you enjoyed this little jaunt, that you will read my other works (I'm very proud of all of them) and that you'll keep your eyes on my profile for future works. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your lovely reviews and for coming with me on this journey. Love to you all.