Chapter 6

Wrapping a large towel about her frame, Rhiannon swiped her wrist through the condensation on her bathroom mirror. As she stared at her reflection for several minutes, she called forth everything she had screamed earlier and considered the advice her godmother had given her.

Am I making a mistake? She gave a loud, mournful sigh and then pushed away from the sink basin. Her heart felt as though she had physically torn it into two, but her head was trying to convince her that she had done the right thing. She did not want to end their relationship, but if it was doomed to fail, it was better to do it when she still had time to put herself back to rights before their baby arrived.

My baby, she corrected mentally, since Severus had not seemed very enthusiastic about the child.

Though she had asked him to leave, a large part of her had hoped that he would refuse. Even if all he had done was shout at her to come back down stairs and hear him out right then and there, it would have shown he cared somewhat as much as he claimed. But so far, she had yet to see any mountains being moved.

"Even a mole hill would have been nice," the witch murmured, stepping into the narrow corridor at the top of the stairs. The cool air inspired her to move quickly toward her bedroom door even though the only thing she had left to do was crawl into bed and cry herself to sleep.

Upon crossing the threshold, however, her breath caught in the back of her throat, and she very nearly lost hold of the towel covering her body.

"Severus," she gasped. "What are you doing?"

"I apologize for startling you." The man rose to his feet from where he had been perched upon her mattress. "I know you wanted to be alone, but I… I need to tell you something."

"Severus –"

He silenced her by holding up one hand. "Please, let me say this before you throw me out. The only thing that upset me was learning that I had caused you so much pain. I never intended to harm or mislead you, and I wanted you to know that I was… I was in love with you before you even tricked me into going to Minerva's 70th birthday party."

"You were?" she whispered in shock.

Snape gave a faint smile and nodded. "It was the only thing that kept me from immediately disapparating."

"But it's been two years, Severus. You've never said anything."

He shrugged uncomfortably. "I didn't know how. I'm not exactly well-versed in maintaining relationships. This is honestly the longest – no, this is really the only relationship I've ever had."

Rhiannon shifted her weight. "What about her?"

The man grimaced and exhaled loudly. "Lily and I were never… like that. She was my best friend – my only friend. I'm not exaggerating when I say she was the only person who ever gave two shits about me while I was a child. I envisioned us together while I was a boy, but only because I could never imagine anyone else wanting to have anything to do with me.

"I loved her, yes. I will always carry a piece of her with me, but it is nothing like what I feel for you." He sighed and met her gaze. "As for Potter… If there were only one person in the entire world who had ever made you happy, and your stupidity was directly responsible for her death, wouldn't you do everything you could to make amends? To keep her son alive and not waste her sacrifice?"

The witch tipped her head forward, allowing her damp, dark curls to hide her watery eyes. A moment later, she straightened her posture. "If you love me, why do you always push me away?"

Severus sighed as he sat upon the bed. "I wished never to have to tell you… but there are times when I cannot… keep control of myself."

"What do you mean?"

"I…" His face twisted in disgust as he stared down at his hands. After a few clumsily attempts, he admitted all of his weaknesses – the vivid nightmares, the occasional anxiety attacks, the jumpiness he felt while in the midst of a crowd, his reflexive overreactions, the fear of accidentally harming someone, and the unfortunate fate that had befallen their photograph.

By the time he had finished, Rhiannon was quivering with the urge to cry. Instead, she swallowed back a sob, moving toward him with an unsteady hand extended. She gently touched his face as she whispered, "Why didn't you tell me?"

Pain was evident in his eyes as he turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand. "I thought I would lose you if you knew."

"No," she shook her head.

"It's why I couldn't return to teaching," Snape explained quietly, pressing her hand to his face with his own. "And why I did not want children. If I ever harmed a child, accidently or not, I would never be able to forgive myself. Not after everything I've done…"

"Oh, Severus," she gasped, sinking delicately onto his lap. "But you've been doing better, yes?"

He ducked his head in shame. "It will be ten years in May."

"So?" the woman shrugged. "It takes time, but I know you, Severus Snape. If anyone could ever conquer something like this, it's you."

"You have far more confidence in my abilities than do I," he mumbled, resting his forehead against hers.

Rhiannon chuckled softly as she ran her fingers through his hair. "Who doesn't? You don't give yourself near enough credit. I don't think I could find a better man anywhere."

"You said it wasn't enough," he replied, pulling away just far enough to meet her eyes.

The witch exhaled deeply and donned a sheepish smile. "That was before you told me all of this. And before you showed up here wearing your Halloween costume."

"I look ridiculous," the wizard grumbled, glancing down at his front.

"You do not! Quite the opposite, in fact," she smiled, touching her lips to his jawline. "I think you shall have to wear a tuxedo more often."

Severus rolled his eyes and then gestured toward her bedside table. "I brought you flowers."

Rhiannon laughed as she eyed the vase full of bright orange lilies. "You weren't gone that long. How did you –"

"I happen to know that Pomona Sprout keeps a variety of lilies in one of the school greenhouses," he answered.

"And you asked Aunt Min?"

He shook his head, flashing a smirk. "As far as the Hogwarts wards are concerned: once a Headmaster, always a Headmaster."

"You mean you broke into the school and stole flowers for me?" she asked; her eyes wide.

"Well, I doubt they'll dispatch the Aurors after me."

Rhiannon smiled and kissed him lightly. "I'll beg the Headmistress for leniency if it comes to it."

"Would you?" he remarked quietly. "Even after all of the shrieking I've earned?"

She nodded slowly and then flicked her eyes to his. "Severus, what about the baby?"

"I want you to promise me one thing," the man stated carefully, taking her hand in his. "If ever you think it necessary, I want you to do what you did tonight."

"Yell at you?"

He sighed and cleared his throat. "I want you to put yourself and our child first. If you ever have concerns about the child's or your well-being and safety around me, I want you to take him or her and leave."

"Severus –"

"No," he interrupted her protest. "I mean it. I vow to do everything in my power to protect you, but should I ever become my father's son, I need to know you will intercede. I need you to be a mother above all else. I refuse to allow my child to be raised like I was."

The witch fought back a protest and met his pleading look with a nod. "I promise."

"Thank you," he whispered with relief. After a lengthy moment, he slipped his hand into a pocket and withdrew a silver box. "I planned to give you this in Norway."

Rhiannon blinked at him quizzically before propping open the lid to reveal the opal ring from the jewelry shop. "How did you… Aunt Min told you, didn't she? No – it's too much, Severus."

The wizard shook his head. "It's less than you deserve. Whether you'll have me or not, the ring is yours."

"Whether I'll have you?" she repeated, meeting his eyes before climbing to her feet and holding out the box. "Well, you had better do it properly, then."

Severus snorted before positioning himself on bended knee. "Rhiannon Isobel Ross, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"

"Will you let me put up pictures of us?" she asked, quirking her lips.

"As long as they're not horrid."

The witch laughed and briefly ducked her head before catching his gaze. Tears began welling up in her eyes again, and she struggled to keep control of her voice as she nodded emphatically. "Then, yes."

A smile broke out on his face as he slid the ring onto her finger and then rose to his feet, pulling her into a passionate kiss. A minute or so later, he pulled away when she began giggling. "What?"

"Nothing really," she smiled. "I was just thinking that your costume is rather fitting, don't you? I mean James Bond always gets the girl in the end."

Severus rolled his eyes and then smirked. "As I recall, he tends to get them naked as well."

A loud laugh escaped her lips as she released the towel, allowing it to drop to the floor between their feet. "Done."

A/N: Fin! I hope you enjoyed it...