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The Half-Blood Prince and the Muggleborn by Hermione Clone
Chapter 8 : Chapter 7-Sealed Lips
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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A/N: Finally, another chapter is posted. I appologize for the long wait, and I wish that I could say the wait for the next chapter won't be as long, but sadly life happens and I don't get as much time to write as I wish I could, so it may be a while. Sorry about my slow writing!!!

Also, thank you to
harrylillyjames for helping with coming up with some of Teddy's toys a long time ago.

This was one of my favorite chapters to write, so I hope you enjoy!!!



Chapter 7-Sealed Lips

Molly Weasley bustled around the kitchen, trying to get everything done before the guests were due to arrive. She glanced at the family clock. Although one hand had vanished after the war, several new ones had grown as their family had over the last few years. Even though all of her babies had families of their own, she still liked to keep an eye out for them. She glances anxiously at the clock again. Ginny’s hand was firmly stuck on “visiting”. She should be here by now, Molly worried.

Suddenly, there was a loud clatter behind her. Molly whipped around, only to find Teddy Lupin standing next to an overturned bowl that had previously contained flour, which was now scattered about the room and coating Teddy. She wanted to be mad at the boy, she really did, but she just couldn’t bring herself to that point. When he looked up at her with those eyes...it was just like Remus was back in the room. And sometimes, he acted so much like his mother it was scary. Still, I can’t seem like I’m going soft.

“Ted Remus Lupin!” Molly reprimanded. "What have I told you about trying to reach for things that are too high for you?"

Teddy hung his head, arms crossed behind his back. "Not to do it," he mumbled.

Molly's heart just broke then. Hell, I have gone soft! She bustled over to the five-year-old and wrapped her arms around the floury bundle. "It's alright," she whispered in his ear. "Only next time, ask me first." She shook her head. "Why did you want that bowl anyways?"

"I wanted to know what was inside," came Teddy's muffled reply.

Molly pulled the boy away from her slightly, looking appraisingly at him. "Let's get this mess cleaned up now, shall we?" Pulling about her wand, she siphoned all the flour from the room, herself, and Teddy. "Now please, try to be more careful. Harry's going to be here soon, and I still have a lot to do."

Teddy nodded. "I will,"

Just as Molly was going back to work, there was a knock on the door. Groaning, Molly rushed to the entranceway. She grasped the knob and yanked it open with frustration. Before her stood Severus Snape.

"Oh, Severus dear, you're early!" she cried, grasping his arm and pulling him inside. "I'm so happy that you were able to join us."

"As am I," he looked around at the vacant house. "I am early, aren't I. Do you need any help?" he inquired politely.

"Actually, yes, I do. I sent Arthur out to get a few last minute things and Ginny and Hermione haven't arrived yet, and Andromeda wasn't feeling well, so she sent Teddy over early, and I need someone to watch him so I can finish getting things ready." she finished in a huff.

Severus looked at her warily. "Are you sure there's nothing else I could help you with?" Molly heard the real question: You really want to trust me with a young child?

"I'm sure," Molly insisted. "Don't worry, you'll be fine. All you have to do is just be in the room with him to make sure he stays out of trouble."

"Fine," Severus sighed, resigned.

Molly led the man to the kitchen. "Teddy," she called to the young boy. "Severus is going to take you into the other room while I finish up in here, alright?"

Teddy nodded shyly. "Hello," he whispered.

"Hello," Severus responded awkwardly.

"Now that you're acquainted...shoo! I have work to do!"

Molly couldn't help but smile as the pair walked thought the door. It was amazing how Severus had changed in the last few years. Gone, for the most part, was the condescending asshole who had tormented her children and Harry in school. He actually seemed, well, human. She had been as skeptical as anyone when Harry had invited him to dinner that first time right after he was acquitted. But Harry hadn't relented, insisting that everyone gave Severus a fair chance. Now, he was almost a part of the family. Crazy how things turn out sometimes.

********************

Severus sat himself down on the couch, moving stiffly. The boy just looked up at him expectantly. "Well?" he asked Teddy, confused.

"What are we going to do?" the child inquired playfully.

"We?" The idea of him getting on the floor and playing with any child was unthinkable, but with Lupin's child? The thought was laughable. All he had agreed to was staying in the same room with the child, and that was all he was going to do. "Isn't there something you could occupy yourself with?"

Teddy nodded, waddling over to a large bag in the corner. Rummaging through it, he pulled out a yo-yo. Severus frowned. That toy looked very familiar. Almost like something Flitch had in his drawer of confiscated goods...

As Severus became lost in his thoughts, Teddy pulled out a chair and hauled himself up. He held the toy before him, and let it drop. Severus was jolted back to reality as a bloodcurdling scream ripped through the air. He immediately went for his wand, only to pause as he realized that the sound was increasing and decreasing in volume in time with Teddy's yo-yo.

"Stop that!" Severus called over the shrieks. He rushed over to the boy and grabbed the toy out of his hands.

"Is everything alright?" Molly called from the kitchen. She didn't sound quite as worried as Severus would have thought her to be.

"Yes, it was just a toy." he answered.

There was a large amount of muttering that followed his reply, with Severus being able to make out words such as "George Weasley" and "other ear".

Severus turned exasperatedly to Teddy. "Perhaps you have a quieter game that you could play?" he asked, rubbing his throbbing temple. The noise coupled with lack of sleep was giving him a headache.

Teddy nodded. "Will you play with me?"

Severus hesitated. He really didn't want to play childish games, but at the same time, his head felt like it was being ripped open. Anything to keep him quiet. "Alright," he conceded.

"Yeah!" cheered Teddy as he leapt from his perch. He practically dove into the bag again and pulled out what looked like a miniature gallows and a white geometric figure in the shape of a person.

"What is that?" Severus asked, somewhat revolted. What kind of things do they let this kid play with?

"Hangman," Teddy replied cheerfully. I'm going to have to talk to Harry about this child. The boy set down the gallows and kept the man shaped figure in a firm grasp. "You tell it the word in it's ear." He bent over and whispered something inaudible. "Then you put him down, and everyone else tries to guess the word." Severus saw two sets of hot pink lines, one with five letters the other with six, presumably where the word would be displayed as he guessed, show up on the side of the gallows.

Teddy placed the figure on the bottom of the stairs leading to the gallows. It shuddered slightly, then, appearing to turn inside out, it took on the form of Voldemort. Severus couldn't believe it. Who would give a five year old such a toy? And who would try to profit off of such blatant use of a man who had cause so many people so much pain?

“Guess!” Teddy half ordered.

“Er, A,” Severus ventured. A letter a was scratched in the second blank in the first set of spaces. “Z,” The miniature Voldemort took one step closer to the gallows. “T,” The letter t was filled in the third and fourth blanks of the second section. “F,” Voldemort took another step. “Y,” The last blank in the first section was filled in. Severus was pretty sure that the word was “Harry Potter”, but he was strangely curious about what would happen the model of the man who had wronged him. “S,” Voldemort to one final step up. He was on the top of the platform. “X,” The mannequin took a few steps forward, placed the dangling noose around his neck, and the floor opened out from under him. The pseudo Voldemort dangled there, eyes bulging slightly. Severus shuddered and pulled the toy free. He threw it down to the bottom of the platform, where it morphed into a miniature of himself.

“You have got to be kidding me,” he grumbled, grabbing the mannequin again and chucking it across the room.

Severus glanced over at Teddy. The boy was staring transfixed at the gallows. “He died?” he asked, his voice twisting into a strange pitch, his eyes filling with tears.

“It wasn’t real,” Severus tried to consol him, but he wasn’t really good at that sort of thing. Bugger.

******************

Hermione took a deep breath as she stood outside the Burrow. She knew why she was so nervous, but it didn't help calm her down one bit. It was the first time she was here since she broke up with Ron. She could clearly remember Molly's reaction when she thought Hermione was stringing Harry along; what was it going to be like when it was her own son? And facing Ron again...

She glanced over at Ginny, who was smiling at her understandingly. Annoyance boiled in the pit of her stomach again. Everyone trying to understand just made it worse, made her feel worse about what she had done. "Let's get this thing over with," Hermione grumbled.

"Everything is going to be alright," Ginny soothed.

Ignoring her friend, Hermione shoved the door open and entered the dwelling before she lost her nerve. The familiar surroundings assaulted her senses, yet seemed slightly different. Nothing had really changed, but her perspective most certainly had. "Ginny, dear, is that you?" a familiar voice called out. Hermione froze, not able to move a muscle. She wanted to run, just run and never come back, but her feet had grown attached to the floor.

"Hello, Mum!" Ginny replied, grabbing Hermione's arm. "Come on," she whispered impatiently as she tugged her forward. Hermione's feet unstuck themselves flawlessly as she followed her friend into the lion's den. They entered the kitchen. "Sorry I'm late, someone," she mock glared at Hermione, "took forever to get ready."

"Hello Mo-, I mean, Mrs. Weasley." Hermione said meekly.

Suddenly she found herself enveloped in a bone crushing hug. "Oh, dear," Molly sighed. "Just because you're not my almost daughter-in-law anymore, doesn't mean you have to call me 'Mrs. Weasley'."

Hermione pulled back and smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't sure..."

Molly just smiled warmly. "I'm not mad at you for leaving my son, you know."

Her directness took Hermione aback. "What?"

"I don't blame you." Molly lowered her voice conspiratorially. "Actually, I saw it coming."

Hermione sighed. "You too?" Groaning, she pulled out a chair and fell into it. "Were Ron and I the only ones who didn't know?"

All she got in response to her question was a small smile. "You know, dear," Molly said softly, "I'd rather that you told him and be done with it as opposed to keeping the truth from him. It hurts him less in the long run."

"No matter the cost now?"

Molly shook her head. "I don't want to see my son hurting, of course not! But life isn't easy, and we all need to learn how to deal with the bumps in the road. That's what he's doing, and he'll be the stronger for it."

Hermione frowned. "You're sure?"

"I am," Molly grabbed her hand and pulled her into another motherly hug. "You're still a part of my family, no matter what." she whispered in her ear.

Tears stung at Hermione's eyes. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She had been so sure that Molly was going to be frosty with her at best, practically disowning her, that this turn of events was somewhat of a shock. "Thank you," she whispered back. "That means...so much,"

With one last squeeze, Molly let her go. Hermione wiped frantically at her eyes, clearing away the first happy tears she had had in a long time. "Is there anything you need help with?" Hermione asked eagerly, wanting to prove to Molly that she was worthy of her continued support.

Just as Molly was about to respond, there was a bang from the front door. "Hello!" Harry's voice called out as he entered the kitchen. He strode over to Ginny and scooped her up in his arms. At first Hermione felt a small pang of jealousy, but quickly suppressed it. She refused to let her messed up emotional state ruin Harry's day. She glanced at the doorway, expecting someone else to follow. She didn't want to see Ron yet, but if she had to, she wanted to get it over with already.

"How's the birthday boy?" she heard Ginny ask her fiancé through the fog of her thoughts.

As Hermione focus back on reality, she saw Harry give her a soft kiss. "Wonderful," he replied, pulling away from her slightly, although still keeping an arm draped around her shoulders.

"How was your day?" Ginny asked. "You weren't too lonely, were you?"

Harry shook his head. "I got called in to work."

Hermione couldn't help but chuckle at the look on Ginny's face. She looked as if she were about to explode. "I told them not to call you. I TOLD THEM!!!!!" She made a fist and was punching it into her other palm. "When I get through with those numbskulls-"

"Ginny," Harry cut her off. "They didn't want to. It was a real big emergency and I had to be there." He snorted. "No wonder they were so apologetic about having me come in."

"Fine," Ginny grumbled. Hermione met her glance briefly, knowing what the next thing out of her mouth was going to be. "If you were at work, you would have seen Ron. Where is he?"

Hermione held her breath, waiting for the answer. Harry frowned. "He's at the Ministry tying up some loose ends. I don't think he'll be able to make it to the party." She felt cool air rushing into her lungs. He wasn't going to be there. She was free from the worry that he would pop around the corner at any second. She could actually have a shot at trying not to think about all that had happened and just have a good time.

Ginny grumbled. "Like he couldn't have gotten someone else to do it."

"He could have," Harry continued, "but then it would have had to have been me, and I wouldn't have made it. He insisted that I come. Probably didn't want to loose a body part or something."

"We all know why he really didn't want to show up," Ginny glanced at Hermione again, and this time Harry's gaze followed hers.

"Hermione!" he called out, disengaging himself from Ginny. "I didn't see you over there!" He rushed over and hugged her.

"That's alright. I get it. You had to say hello to your fiancé first." she half teased. Harry grinned at her.

"Do I not get a hello?" Molly asked with mock indignation. Harry proceeded to greet his future mother-in-law. Hermione watched the scene with a smile. Harry had been through far too much in his life. He deserved to finally be happy.

"So, what do you need me to do," Harry asked once the salutations were complete.

"Nonsense," Molly scolded. "I'm not making you work on you birthday!"

"I want to help," Harry insisted.

Hermione walked over towards Molly. "I'd like to help as well."

Molly nodded. "Alright, well, Severus is in the living room looking after Teddy. Could you go in there and make sure everything's alright?"

Hermione looked at her carefully. "Are you just trying to get rid of me?"

Another smile settled itself on Molly's face. "Of course not, dear."

"Hey, Teddy's here?" Harry asked. "I'll go say hello."

The matriarch of the Weasleys stood in his way. “You wanted to help me out,” she gave him a significant look that Hermione didn’t quite understand. “You will help me out.”

Harry nodded, understanding something. “Right,”

“I’ll see you all later,” Hermione said as she turned into the next room. A strange sight met her eyes. Severus was sitting on the couch, awkwardly patting the head of an upset-looking Teddy who was standing in front of the professor. Hermione's first thought was of whatever had made Teddy so upset, but she just couldn't ignore the priceless look etched onto Severus's face.

He looked up as she came in "Hermione," he stated, half a greeting, half relief.

At Severus's words, Teddy whipped his head around. "AUNTY HERMIONE!!!" he hollered, breaking free from Severus and launching himself at Hermione's legs. She couldn't help but laugh at his antics, and after ensuring that she could keep her balance, Hermione scooped the boy up in her arms.

"Hey, Teddy," she whispered as she hugged him. "How're you doing, sweetie?" She couldn't get enough about how much he had grown. It seemed like it was just yesterday when they were all reeling from the loss of so many, and they had met the young orphan for the first time. He had been just as cute as he had looked in the pictures Remus had brought to Shell Cottage, and it made the loss of him and Tonks feel even worse. Harry had talked to Andromeda about how he should be raised, and although he agreed to let her be Teddy’s primary caregiver, he insisted that everyone who had become his family should become part of Teddy’s too. The poor boy had gone from loosing his parents to gaining more family than he could every dream of. Hermione knew why; Because of Harry's awful childhood, he would move heaven and earth to make sure Teddy didn’t have to go through that.

“I’m okaaaay,” he muttered, tightening the grip of his little arms and burying his head in her shoulder.

“What happened?” she asked Severus around his small body. He gestured towards what appeared to be a small set of gallows. "You let him play with that?"

Severus sighed. "I thought it was one of his toys. I didn't realize..." he trailed off.

"It's okaaaaaay," Teddy proclaimed from Hermione's shoulder. Just barely she caught sight of Severus relaxing a bit, and the subtlest hint of a smile traced his lips.

“It looks like something of George’s. I’ll have a few words with him later.” Still holding the child, she placed her purse somewhere on the floor off to the side. Hermione then grabbed the bag that was resting next to the couch and began to search through it. "Here you go," she told Teddy, handing him some action figures. "How about you start playing with these, and I'll come join you in a jiffy, alright?" Teddy nodded. "Good," Hermione kissed him on the head before setting him down on the rug.

"I told Molly that I wouldn't be able to do this." Severus explained to her.

Hermione scoffed. "Yeah, right. You, admit you can't do something? Never. You're way to proud."

Again, for the tiniest millisecond, Severus's eyes softened and he chuckled lightly. "Can't deny that," He started examining a small tear on the cuff of his sleeve. "How've you been?" he asked softly.

It really took her aback. Almost everyone else had bombarded her with the inquiries of her well being, and although well intended, were driving her nuts. Yet here Severus was acting like it was no big deal. She felt her heart open up to him with gratitude. Acting impulsively, she wrapped her arms around him. Severus visibly stiffened, as he had every other time she had hugged him. "What was that for," he asked gruffly.

"You don't know how much you just made my day," she responded, feeling some of the weight that she's been carrying around float away.

He rolled his eyes. "You know what would make my day?" She shook her head. "If you let go of me. Now." He said it all in a commanding tone, but not harshly. Still, she figured it would be in her best interest not to get him too annoyed with her.

"Alright," she sighed, extricating her arms from his frame.

Just as she was about to rise to go over by Teddy, Severus caught her hand. "You didn't answer my question."

All of the weights that had floated away proceeded to fall back down and hit Hermione over the head one by one. "I'm fine," she lied, wanting to avoid the subject.

"Really," was Severus's only reply. She couldn't tell if he believed her or not, but it didn't matter. He let go of her hand and she was free to escape to play with Teddy.

**************************

Severus watched as a flustered Hermione sat herself down on the multicolor handmade rug next to Teddy. The boy was playing with small miniatures of such famous and infamous people such as Albus Dumbledore, Bellatrix LeStrange, and, of course Teddy’s apparent favorite, Harry. The Bellatrix mini surprised Severus; he didn’t think that Andromeda would want her grandson to be playing with a representation of the sister that had caused her so much pain and had killed Teddy's mother. Still, he wondered why Teddy couldn’t have picked those toys earlier.

He couldn’t help but smile at Hermione. She was so perfect sitting their next to the boy, being every bit a mother to him as his real mother would have been. She’ll be a wonderful mother someday, he thought admiringly. Severus frowned. Since when had he found the mothering trait attractive? He shook his head. It’s just the lack of sleep. It’s getting to my head. Seeing that Hermione was handling Teddy, he stretched out his legs, laid his head back against the top of the couch, and closed his eyes. Maybe the dreams won’t come here.
*************************

Hermione had been playing on the floor with Teddy for about ten minutes when she glanced over at Severus, who appeared to be fast asleep. She looked at her friend closely. He had large circles under his eyes, which told her what he never would about his sleeping habits, and his face look strained. She made a mental note to herself to ask him about it later. “Teddy,” she asked, "would you mind playing by yourself for a little while?”

He shook his head. “No,”

“I just have some things that I’d like to work on. I’ll just be over at the table, so if you need anything, just come right on over, alright sweetie?” Teddy nodded. “Good.”

Hermione grabbed some parchment, ink, and a quill from her purse. She quietly made her way over to the table, sitting down in a wooden chair. When the parchment was unrolled, it revealed a half completed analysis on potion prototype FUB-497 which she had planned on completing at work. "You can take the girl away from the job, but you can't take the job away from the girl." she whispered to herself. She began scribbling away, her attention focused solely on what she was writing, her surroundings becoming a blur.

*******************

Severus found himself in a shapeless, cloudy mist. He felt his heart hammering. It was another nightmare. He was sure of it. Any second the house would materialize, or the boy, or the Dark Lord. Hermione would be there, she would either be dead or looking at him in such a way that he would wish that he was. He knew the routine and braced himself for it.

There, Hermione was emerging from the mist. It was all starting. Wait, something was off. Hermione was smiling. She was never smiling in the nightmares. She looked absolutely stunning. She was wearing the same thing that she remembered her having on, but the neckline was just a tad bit lower, and the pants were ever so tighter. Her hair was as bushy as ever, but it only added to the look, as did the bright red lipstick she was wearing. "Hermione," he gasped, his voice rasping in shock.

She smirked seductively at him. "Surprised?" Her question sent shivers down his spine. Hermione slowly crossed the space between them and sat on his lap. "You shouldn't be." She placed a soft kiss on his lips. "I know that this is what you want." She trailed kisses all over his face, leaving a damp feeling behind. "What are you scared of? Just go for it."

"I can't," Severus whispered in protest. "I'll just hurt you, we both know that,"

She frowned. "Do we?"

Slowly, her form began to slip away. "Hermione!" he called out, "Don't go!" He tried to rise so that he could run after her, but his limbs stubbornly refused to move. The cloud vanished only to be replaced by the hazy red glow one sees under closed eyelids. He frowned. The dream had gone, so why was his face damp?

**************

Severus's eyes shot open.  Standing next to him on the couch was none other than Teddy Lupin, caught red handed, literally, with what appeared to be a tube of crimson lipstick. He brought a hand to his face, and when he removed it, some of the creamy red substance came as well.

Humiliation combined with exhaustion made his temper flare up. "What was this for!" he growled at the boy. "You do NOT do that to people, you stupid boy!!!"

"Severus, keep you voice down," Hermione scolded, walking over from where she was sitting. "Don't yell at him. And don't call Teddy stupid." He could tell that she was trying to hide it, but she was having trouble keeping a straight face. Apparently having graffiti drawn all over my face is amusing to her.

"Oh, so I'm always in the wrong, is that how it's going to be?" he shot out icily.

Hermione crossed her arms. "Severus," she warned. The little Lupin brat scampered over to her, burying his head in her legs. "Now look what you've done."

That was too much. "I've have it. I have just HAD IT!" he roared. Taking in the shocked expression on her face, Severus stormed out of the room.

*********************

Hermione was stunned. Severus's reaction was completely out of line and she hadn't seen him like that in ages. She wrapped her arms around a sobbing Teddy. "You shouldn't have done that," She whispered into his hair. "Severus shouldn't have reacted like that, but you should have respected his space. Understand?"

Teddy nodded into her embrace. The door flew open. "What happened?" Harry's worried voice called out. "I heard the yelling...Teddy!" He rushed over to his godson. "What happened?" he asked Hermione.

Hermione shook her head. "He drew on Severus's face with lipstick." Harry snorted. "Needless to say he didn't take it very well."

Teddy poked his head up. "Harry!" He exclaimed through his tears. He wriggled out of Hermione's arms and ran directly into Harry's.

"I'll be back," Hermione told her friend quickly. She stood off and rushed down the hall after Severus.

**********************

His heart was pounding. He just wanted to get out. Severus was halfway to the back exit when he remembered the reason for his outburst. Grumbling, he turned back and dashed to the closest bathroom. He flung open the door and turned the water on full volume. He stuck his face under the faucet, letting the warm liquid cascade over his skin. He sloshed it over his face with his hands, trying to scrub the unpleasantness out.

The door suddenly banged shut. A hand grasped him by the collar and yanked his head up forcefully. Severus's first reaction was to lash out at his attacker, but through the blur of the water in his eyes he saw bushy brown hair, and held back. "What the hell was that?" Hermione's furious voice shot out.

Severus's annoyance was stirred again. Of course, this was all his fault. He reached out blindly for a towel, and quickly dried off his face. Looking in the mirror, he saw that half his face was still rosy from the cosmetic. Crap.

"You never yell at a child like that! No matter what they do, you don't yell like that!"

"What if they tried to kill you? Huh? Would you not yell at them then?" he shot back nastily, his remark catching her by surprise.

Hermione's mouth open and closed a few times before she finally stuttered, "I-I guess,"

Severus smirked. "So, in some cases it is justified. Not right all the time, I see Miss Granger." He wasn't sure why he was saying what he was, why he referred to her as if she was once again his student. It's a good thing she isn't, what with all the things you've been thinking about her...He shook his head.

Words seemed to have returned to her lips, and was desperate to let them loose as quickly as she could. "But Teddy wasn't trying to kill you." she pointed out harshly. "He didn't mean any harm." Severus snorted, causing Hermione to give a loud huff as she crossed her arms. His heart almost stopped as he took in the expression on her face. It was almost identical to the one she wore in his dream, the one where he relieved killing Mr. and Mrs. Baxter. That disapproving look that chilled him to the core. "I really thought you had changed." Her voice had dropped so much in volume that it was almost a whisper. "I guess you really are still that cruel bastard we always thought you were."

Her words cut through him like a knife. She turned to go, but he grabbed her arm. "Hermione," he began softly, but was cut off by her trying to jerk her arm out of his grasp.

"Let go of me," she demanded, a hint of fear mixed with the fury in her eyes.

The fingers that clasped her in his grip slackened, but he darted quickly in front of the door, blocking any attempt at escape. "Just hear me out," he practically pleaded at Hermione's continued protest. She seemed shocked by his tone, shocked enough to quiet down briefly. "I'm not the same man I used to be." He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "At least, I don't want to be. You're right." He bowed his head. "I was wrong. There, I said it, happy?"

The sad smile on her face confused him. Just a minute ago she had been ripping into him, and here she was, acting like everything was normal. I just don't understand how the female mind works,

"Severus..." she uttered softly, again at a loss for words.

He should feel humiliated in this situation. He had just admitted that he was wrong, and to top it off, that statement implied that a five year old brat was right! His dignity was taking a beating, but he didn't care. He had sustained worse. None of that mattered anyways. The look in Hermione's eyes made everything better. The disappointment in them had been replaced by something else that he couldn't put a finger on. While her lack of hatred of him caused him to be somewhat fearful, he was heartened by it all the same.

She shifted, chuckling awkwardly. "I guess I owe you an apology."

Severus held up his hand. "No need. Sometimes you need to rattle a man like that to get him to see sense."

"But it was below the belt and cruel. I know you've changed, yet I still-" He wanted to cut her off so bad, right there. If he had been asleep, he would have just planted a nice big kiss on her lips, effectively shutting her up while they enjoyed each other. But this was reality, and he could never summon up enough courage to do it. "-brought it up."

"Hermione," he placed a hand comfortingly on her shoulder, the action sending a tingling sensation up his spine as he was reminded of his more pleasant dream. "Don't worry about it."

She looked at him quizzically, and Severus was instantly on guard. She was trying to change the subject, that he was sure of, but unfortunately the direction she was about to steer it in was dangerous territory.

"Severus, is something wrong?" Her question was laced with concern, and a part of him urged him to tell her everything. The more experienced part of him, however, told the other side to shut up and decided to try and smooth things over.

"No, not at all. Why do you ask?" She's not the only one who is good at lying around here.

Hermione frowned. "I don't know, you just seem, well, a bit off, I guess." She shrugged. "Then again, I haven't seen you too much, so I don't really know what you'd be like on a good day."

"Exactly. So when I say I'm fine, you should believe me."

Hermione didn't look convinced, but she still went on to say, much to Severus's relief, "I'll stay out of it. For now."

He nodded. "Good. Now, I think I have an apology to deliver." The smirk that crossed Hermione’s features made him want to puke, but he brushed stoically past her to exit the small bathroom.

“Wait!” she called out, causing Severus to groan. “You missed a spot.” Belatedly, he remembered the remaining smeared lipstick that was caked on his face in spite of his efforts to remove it. Hermione caught up to him and pointed her wand at his face. She rolled her eyes when he flinched. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she sighed and them muttered, “Porus Socrgify,”. Almost instantly Severus’s face felt clean, fresh, fresher in fact than it had in his entire life. He had tried many different spells and potions to clear his skin, but nothing had worked. If only he had known that spell when he was back in school...

“You’ll have to teach me that one,” Severus bantered half-jokingly. Maybe something good can come out of this after all. “I’ve never heard of it.”

Hermione grinned wickedly. “That’s because I invented it.”

The two of them began to walk slowly down the hall back towards the rooms where the rest of the people in the house were gathering. Severus raised his eyebrows. “You did?” He was a bit surprised. The creation of new spells was strictly regulated by the Ministry because an inexperienced person could pose a danger to themselves and others. Not that it had ever stopped him before.

“Yes, I did,” She looked around warily. “You won’t tell anyone, will you? I could get in serious trouble...”

Severus nodded his head again. “I understand. My lips are sealed.”

After what seemed like an eternity but could only have been mere seconds, the pair arrived at the door that separated them from the rest of the inhabitants. His breathing quickened, and he was suddenly nervous. Severus was pretty sure how Harry was going to react, and he wasn’t really looking forward to getting punched in the face. Suddenly, he felt Hermione’s soft hand enter his own, and he looked over at her. She was giving him a huge, encouraging smile as she gave his palm a squeeze. “It’s going to be fine,” she whispered.

Severus couldn’t respond. All he could manage was to extract his hand from her viselike grip and push open the door that led to his doom. On the other side waited several angry Weasleys and Harry, who was cradling the young perpetrator in his arms. When the boy caught sight of Severus, he hid his tear stained face in Harry’s chest.

“Severus,” Harry stated coldly, causing him to sigh inwardly. It would be just his luck if one little episode undid the years of work that both he and Harry had put into building their formerly shaky relationship.

“Harry,” Hermione interceded before Severus could reply. “Severus has something he’d like to say.”

The scathing look that itched to pop out at her interference was resting just beneath the surface of Severus’s cool exterior. He didn’t want to make the situation worse than it already was. Slowly he approached the boy in Harry’s arms, terrified. “Teddy,” he began, his voice cracking slightly. The boy peaked one eye towards him, just enough to keep Severus in the line of sight, but also with the safety feature of being able to hide at a moment’s notice as need be. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you as I did. I apologize.”

Harry’s eyes showed a mixture of shock and relief and the harshness that had formed in them melted away. The boy just continued to stare at him, trembling slightly. Well, I guess it’s on to Plan B. Pulling out his wand, Severus conjured up a huge chocolate chip cookie and held it out to Teddy as a peace offering. The boy stuck out a hand slightly chubby with baby fat that grasped greedily for the morsel. Upon relinquishing the treat, Harry said to the boy, “That was very nice of Severus, wasn’t it,” Teddy nodded his agreement. “What do you say to him?”

“Thank you,” the mongrel whispered, smiling shyly. Just then, Severus felt something snap inside him. It wasn’t snapping in a bad way, but it seemed that at least one of the barriers he had erected had just shattered, or at the very least had begun to splinter. In spite of all the problems that little boy had caused, he couldn’t suppress the warm feeling that rose inside his chest. It was a foreign feeling, having never experienced it before. It was similar to the feelings he felt towards Lily, but strangely different, for love of a child and love of a woman are two separate entities. He figured it had to be love, that warm bubbly feeling. Severus glanced over at Hermione, who was gazing down at the imp. The same emotion was reflected in her orbs, and she undoubtedly loved the child.

It was such a strange sensation. He actually felt some affection towards Lupin’s child, Lupin’s child of all the little brats in the world. Yet again he had been too blind to see the truth that was parading right in front of him, and let his old prejudices get in the way.

“Teddy has something else he would like to tell you,” Harry informed Severus, breaking him from his thoughts and yanking him back down to earth.

Severus tried very hard not to outwardly show his newfound feelings. If people got wind of the revelations he had just experienced, he would be even a bigger laughingstock than he already was. “Really,” he replied in what he hoped would be a skeptical voice as he crossed his arms. It gained him an odd look from Hermione. Apparently he wasn’t doing a good job at hiding his feelings.

“I’m sorry too,” Teddy muttered, not quite making eye contact with the older man with the crossed arms.

Severus allowed the slightest of smiles to escape his lips. “I accept your apology.” Teddy began to beam and squirmed out of Harry’s arms, presumably wanting to be free of all the pestering adults.

“Not so fast, young man,” Molly’s stern voice called out. “You have some work to do.” She glared the boy down, stopping the complaint before it even escaped his mouth.

The room became all hustle and bustle, with people returning to the kitchen and moving to different areas of the house since the entertainment had ended. Hermione, he noticed, remained behind. “You old softy,” she joked, yet another insufferable grin plastered on her face. For someone who had just gone through a devastating break up, she sure was smiling an damn awful lot. He only responded with a roll of the eyes. “Can I ask you a question?”

“You just did.” he returned, his inner bastard coming out again, though not at full force.

She just grumbled at his antics. “You know what I meant.”

Severus nodded his head. “As long as it’s an intelligent question, I’ll answer.” He knew it was pointless to make that last remark. With Hermione, there was nothing that was an unintelligent question.

“How did you get the cookie? I know that you can’t just conjure up food, so you have to have gotten it from somewhere, but where?”

Severus smirked. “Modified Summoning Charm. I knew that Molly had some cookies in the cupboard, and it was quite simple from there.”

“Modified Summoning Charm, huh? You’re invention?” Severus answered in the affirmative. “Don’t worry,” she replied, “My lips are sealed.”


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