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Bonds of Temptation

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Hermione slowly slid down the wall, coming to rest on the cold tile of the bathroom floor. Her astute mind was running a mile a minute, trying to figure out what had happened. Well, she knew what had happened. She had sex. But for the life of her, Hermione couldn’t figure out when or with whom. Since the most recent and final downfall of Voldemort; Hermione, Ron, Harry and all their friends had been slowly putting their lives and wizarding society back together. Hermione couldn’t speak for others, but sex had taken a backseat for her.

The last of the Death Eaters were being rounded up and judged for their crimes against humanity and wizarding society alike. Their days were filled with rebuilding Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts herself. Every stone that was replaced was one step closer to healing. Hogwarts was nearly finished, the astronomy tower the last piece to be repaired and just in time for the new term.

The trio had been residing at number 12 Grimmauld Place since the end of the war. They all had their reasons for being in the gloomy and confining house. Harry was still coming to terms with all the people who had been lost. He attended their funerals day after day but couldn’t seem to look their families in the eye just yet; he still blamed himself. Ron was both escaping the memories of his lost brother Fred, and the suffocating arms of his mother. Mrs. Weasley was still in mother bear mode, afraid to let even Charlie out of her sight. And Hermione well, she was hiding from the world, but most of all, her parents.

A scant three weeks earlier Hermione had apparated just outside her parents’ home in Australia. From the road she could see into the house through a kitchen window, where her father and mother were dancing. Her mother was laughing as her father twirled her around and Hermione had never seen such a look of freedom or devotion on her father’s face. Australia seemed to be agreeing with them. They had settled in, bought a house and looked to be happier than ever. Before she thought better of it, Hermione disappeared with a little pop. There had been no guarantee on fixing their memories anyway, why should she put them all through the pain?

After that she had holed up once more within the dreary house, not seeing, let alone dating anyone. With a groan, Hermione leaned her head back to the wall, her eyelids falling shut. Though the floor was cold her temperature was skyrocketing; body was on fire, and her breaths were coming in short gasps. Merlin, was she panicking? Hermione’s eyes flashed open, and she pushed herself to her feet, determined to get to the bottom of this. Hermione tossed the muggle pregnancy test into the box, along with the three others she had used. Then in the trash they went.

Swiftly and silently Hermione walked down the second floor hall. She wasn’t worried about the boys but in fact Kreacher. Somewhere along the line he had warmed up to all three of them but enjoyed sneaking up on Hermione in particular. Especially in the morning when she was still wearing her pajamas. Kreacher always took the time to tell her that it was very inappropriate for “such a well behaved mudblood” to be sleeping in the boxers and quidditch jerseys that she stole regularly from Ron and Harry’s laundry. Hermione couldn’t help the sudden snort. Half the time she slept naked and only wore those items to leave her room.

Running her hand through her wild hair, she took the flight of stairs two at a time and headed toward the kitchen. As soon as Hermione strode past the slightly ajar library door, she froze. It was as if time slowed to a crawl as a shock ran down her spine. Hermione reached out a pale and shaking hand to push open the heavy inlaid doors. Stepping inside her favorite retreat, her gaze immediately zeroed in on the low but warm fire that burned in the hearth. Then to the black leather settee in front of the hearth.

Forgotten memories flowed over her like water over rocks.

***************HP*****************

The sitting room of number 12 Grimmauld place was full to the brim. Sette’s and pillows had been transfigured from horrendous looking statues and door stops. There was alcohol aplenty and every few minutes, new names were said in the silence, a small toast for their large sacrifice. Hermione lay on the floor in front of the fire, whiskey in one hand and the other playing in Harry’s unruly black hair, where he lay on his back in front of her. Ron was glued to her side, his head and chest laid across her back, as if she were a pillow.

Hermione took a glance around at the other occupants of the room. Professor McGonagall and the new Minister Shaklebolt occupied one settee, while next to them sat Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Charlie, and Bill. Ginny sat at Bill’s feet, George’s head in her lap as he stared unblinkingly at the ceiling. Andromeda Tonks lay reclined in a large armchair, her grandson and Harry’s godson firmly seated and asleep at her breast. Earlier that evening, Mrs. Weasley had made a fine supper and invited their friends and family. Slowly after dinner, it had dwindled down to just them.

Knocking back the rest of her whiskey, Hermione grimaced and wiggled.

“Ron, get off. I have to pee.”

Instead of moving like any decent person, her large red haired friend, just wiggled and firmly seated himself on her back.

“What was that ‘mione? You have to pee?”

Harry looked at Hermione, a shadow of a smile on his face.

Hermione rolled her eyes and said “Yes Ronald, I have to pee.”

Without warning, Hermione rolled away from him, knocking his chin with her hip.

“Ow!”

Chuckles went through the somber room, as she pushed herself to her feet, straightening Harry’s jersey and Ron’s atrociously orange Chudley Cannon boxers.

Smiling she said “Be back in a few.”

Hermione’s neon blue socks padded across the many throw rugs on the floor as she headed toward the second floor loo. Why there wasn’t a loo on the first floor was beyond her. As she walked past the library, Hermione stopped and backtracked. Who was in her library? Slowly she eased the heavy ornate door open and slipped inside. There on her favorite leather settee lay a large imposing shadow, brandy glass in hand. The ice inside clinked as the bearer took a full swallow of the golden liquid.

“Spying are we Miss Granger?” The sudden question made Hermione jump, her right hand clenching reflexively on a wand that wasn’t there.

“Professor Snape I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I was on my way to the loo and saw the door was open.”

Severus Snape raised an eyebrow as she came around the front of the settee. “Did you now? Well, I should have known. This being your second home.”

Hermione just nodded, unsure of what to say. Snape hadn’t berated her or insulted her yet and he always took full advantage of any chance he had to disparage her need for knowledge.

“Professor, are you alright?”

Hermione’s eyes were glued to the hand that raised the small glass to a pale, sensuous mouth. Pulling her gaze away, Hermione shook her head.

“Something wrong Miss Granger? Surely not.”

Hermione raised her face, looking Severus in the eyes.

“You first.”

The potions master chuckled. The sound was rough and had a mocking edge that made her shiver. It was a voice of sin, bitter and enthralling. Finishing off his drink. Severus let his arm fall toward the floor, dropping the glass cylindrical object. It rolled toward the hearth, firelight glinting off it in a myriad of colors. Hermione sat down on the plush rug in front of the fire and looked at Severus, waiting. Severus snorted and shook his head, his gaze roaming the ceiling.

“The Wizengamot in all its wise nature has brought me up on “assisted suicide” charges” he drawled.

Hermione’s eyes widened a fraction.

“What?”

A hollow laugh escaped Severus’s throat as he continued.

“They cleared me of murder and instead bring up “assisted suicide” charges. Why do they insist on making my life hell even after the Dark Lord has already done so?”

Hermione was dumbfounded. Assisted suicide charges? She had heard of them in the muggle world but here? Without warning, Severus swung his legs to the floor and stood in one motion. Hermione quickly scrambled back out of the way.

Upon seeing him unbuttoning his outer robe she stuttered, “What are you doing?”

Severus never paused in his ministrations as he looked down at her.

“What does it look like Miss Granger? Ten points to Gryffindor if you can get it right. No? Well I am getting comfortable. I am sure Minerva plans to get drunk and I must be here to escort her back to the castle. Don’t want her splinching herself do we? I have a very strong feeling that I will be here all night.”

One elegant hand tossed the robe onto the back of the settee as he sat back down. Hermione continued to watch as he began unbuttoning the collar of his dress shirt, expertly flicking buttons through their holes. Hermione’s eyes were riveted to his left forearm as long fingers pushed the silk up revealing the Dark mark; a sharp contrast to Severus‘s alabaster skin.

Off came the loafers next, to reveal bare feet, no socks. As he laid his head back, Severus snapped his fingers. Instantly the glass was back in his hand and refilled with both ice and brandy. Hermione smiled to herself, wondering how much of that he had ingested.

“Comfortable Professor?”

“Quite, Miss Granger.”

Lifting his head, Severus took a draft from his glass and sighed. He had best get comfortable. It looked as if Minerva wasn’t leaving any time soon, crafty old battle axe.

Slowly Hermione stood, straightening her clothes. “Do you need anything? Anything I can get you?”

Severus looked at her, his eyes glinting in a predatory manor.

“Actually Miss Granger, there is.”

Suddenly Hermione realized how close she was standing to him. With the way he looked at her, she was suddenly unnerved.

“What is it that I can get you?”

Severus stared at her for a moment before growling, “You.”

Before Hermione knew what had happened, Severus’s hand snaked out and grabbed her jersey, yanking her between his legs and onto his lap. Distantly, Hermione heard the brandy glass shatter, tinkling like chimes. The second her lips met his, a shocking sizzle went down her spine. Reaching out for balance, Hermione’s hands found his shoulders, gripping them hard. She wasn’t sure whether she should push him away, but when his arm wrapped around her back like a vice, pinning her too him, Hermione decided she didn’t care. The witch gave into the kiss demanding from him what he took from her.

Her dainty hands moved from his shoulders to his neck and further up to entwine in his silky locks. Harry and Ron had never listened when she pointed out, that most potions fumes made hair greasy. Boldly, Hermione moved her knees to each side of Severus’s hips and raised herself up, breaking his hold and the kiss. She looked down into his face, searching his eyes for anything to make her leave. But the truth was, even though she knew she should, she didn’t want to.

Suddenly he grabbed her body and with quick movements had her pinned under him on the settee. Her settee.

“Mine.”

Severus’s lips crushed hers, the kiss borderline bruising. After that it was nothing but heat. First went the sensibilities and reservations. Then went the clothes. Everywhere his hands touched immediately was set aflame. Nothing mattered anymore. Not the library door that stood ajar, nor the fact that several people sat ensconced in the sitting room not sixty feet away. Right now Hermione only cared about one thing, keeping Severus’s hands on her body.

Severus licked and bit every part of her that he could reach. Hands grasped at her soft skin, kneading it until it was flushed. As her body arched and low, mewling cries left her lips he smiled viciously. She would never forget him, never forget this. He would make damn sure of it. His soul was already black and broken, what was one more blemish?

He was going to enjoy this.

************HP***********

Hermione’s body flushed at the memory and her body shook. How could she of forgotten something so carnal? She hadn’t drank that much, had she? What had she been thinking? Shaking her head, Hermione stumbled into the sitting room where Harry and Ron were playing chess. Without a word, she fell onto the couch, catching both boys attention.

“Hermione, you alright?”

She nodded, swinging her gaze toward Harry. She felt Ron’s weight settle next to her on the scraggly couch. His hand came up to her forehead, his knuckles grazing the skin.

“You look flushed ‘Mione. What’s the matter?”

Harry’s weight settled on the other side of her, one of his hands gripping hers. “Your chewing your lip Hermione. Something is up.”

Hermione sighed, trying to figure out where to start. She needed their help. Abortion was out of the question. Looking between them, she opened her mouth then closed it. She once again opened her mouth, this time forcing herself to speak.

“I need your help.”

Harry and Ron stayed silent, waiting for her to find the courage to continue.

“You see, I did something. Don’t really know if it’s good, but it could never be bad. Never.”

Above her head, Harry gave Ron a perplexed look. What was she talking about?

“Hermione, we trust you, trust your judgment. Just tell us what happened and we’ll do our best to help you fix it.”

Hermione shook her head almost violently. “There is no fixing it. I won’t take the easy way out. I‘m going to do what‘s right. Fixing it is not an option.”

Harry was extremely confused. Hermione was speaking in riddles. Well, maybe she was making sense to herself but she was the only one who knew what she was talking about. A quick look at Ron told him the other man was just as perplexed. Ron now had an arm around Hermione’s shoulders, her body shaking in his embrace.

“Hermione, I promise we’ll take care of things, your way, but to do that you have to tell us what’s wrong. What did you do?”

Closing her eyes, Hermione let out a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. “I’m pregnant.”

************HP***********

Two hours later, Harry, Ron and Hermione were still sitting on that couch only this time, they were huddled together under a thick blanket.

“You know, I was a miracle baby. Least that’s what my mum said. She was almost just shy of forty when I came along. She and my father were so ecstatic.”

Hermione’s voice was low, her head laying on Ron’s shoulder. Harry had stretched his legs out sideways, and settled Hermione snuggly between himself and Ron. Ron’s legs were stretched in his direction, laying over top of Harry’s.

“My mother had way too many ‘miracle’ children.”

Harry laughed at Ron’s sarcasm. Hermione cracked a smile and muttered, “And she loves every one of you.”

Ron nodded, an easy smile on his face. Harry was still laughing, and managed to stutter out

“Malfoy is an only child. But he’s definitely no miracle.”

An un-ladylike snort escaped Hermione at the thought. Him, a miracle? Yeah, right.

“Looks like I’ll have to start picking out baby names.”

Ron nodded thoughtfully before opening his mouth.

“But that kid will carry your name or ours. I’ll be damned if it’ll be tarnished by the name of Snape.”

Hermione smacked him lightly, admonishing him.

“Ronald! Professor Snape is a good man. He’s risked much and you know it.”

Harry shook his head.

“I don’t know about good Hermione. I mean you are pregnant. But old habits are hard to get over. I mean come on, do you think he’ll suddenly be nice to us?”

Nibbling her lip, Hermione shook her head. No, he wouldn’t be nice. Hell, he might be meaner than ever. No doubt he thought her to be easy, something akin to a whore. But it wasn’t true and she knew it. So did Harry, Ron, the Weasley’s and most of the male upper classman at Hogwarts. She didn’t jump into bed or onto a settee with just anybody.

Harry and Ron had taken the news with a surprising amount of maturity. They were both outraged at Severus for having sex with her, let along getting her pregnant. But the big question on their minds was would she tell him? Harry and Ron promised to help her hide the pregnancy from the student body as long as possible but she couldn’t hide it in good conscience from Severus. Not for long anyway. However, that bridge would be crossed when she finally arrived at its edge.

In retrospect, Hermione was very glad that she had turned Professor, no, Headmistress McGonagall down when she had been offered the Head Girl position. At first she turned it down because of her Apprenticeship but now, with her pregnancy, there is no way she could have done it.

Hermione was pulled from her thoughts when she found herself squished between Harry and Ron in a tight, crooked hug.

“It’ll be okay Hermione. We’ll help you in whatever you need. Hell, you can marry me if you want.”

Harry’s words were honest and they softened her heart.

“Do you want to be Mrs. Potter?”

Hermione chuckled and shook her head.

“Thanks for the offer, but I’m just fine being Ms. Granger.”

Things were going to be okay.

 

Chapter Text

Days had gone by swiftly since Hermione had discovered her pregnancy. It was August twenty-ninth and the trio was getting ready to head into Diagon Alley for a day of shopping. Their more recent days had been spent moving Hermione’s things into another room, adjacent to both Ron and Harry’s rooms. Kreacher didn’t like that. According the slightly demented elf, “proper young mudbloods should not sleep on the same floor as master and the young blood traitor.” This room had a private bath and a small adjoining room, perfect for a baby. They knew it would be a while before the room was needed, but Hermione wanted to get things in motion. She was determined to return to number 12 Grimmauld with Harry and Ron in the summer. It was her home.

A week earlier, Hermione had contacted Headmistress McGonagall and over tea she had explained her sticky situation. The father had not been revealed and would not until such a time Hermione felt comfortable. However the Headmistress would be telling both Professor Flitwick and Professor Vector. Hermione also had a checkup appointment scheduled with Madame Pomfrey on Saturday. Seeing as the term was beginning on a Wednesday, the Headmistress had given everyone leave to relax. Classes would not start until the Monday after. For that, Hermione was thankful.

Finishing off her orange juice, Hermione looked at her watch and sighed. What was taking them so long? Minutes later, Ron and Harry strolled into the kitchen. Harry was laughing his head off as Ron limped a little and rubbed his shin. Hermione quirked an eyebrow, almost afraid to ask. In between laughs, Harry managed to choke out an explanation.

“You know that troll leg umbrella stand in the hall? Ron tripped over it.”

Ron glanced sideways, his gaze promising retribution.

“I didn’t trip. He practically shoved me into the wall.”

Hermione shook her head ruefully. They may have defeated a dark lord but they were still children. Half the time they were making up for lost time. Setting her glass in the sink, Hermione grabbed her purse off the counter. The trusty enchanted purse. There were small tears in the lining, beads missing from the outside and other insignificant damages. But Hermione wasn’t willing to replace it just yet. After all, she and the purse had been to hell and back together.

“Ready to go Hermione?”

She glanced up at the pair and nodded. “I’ve been waiting on you two fools.”

Slowly they walked out of the kitchen and down the back hall to the rear door of the house. Kreacher stood by the door, his new pillow case already turning a dingy yellow.

“Young Master heading out now?”

His voice was gravelly, his movements slow. The elf was old as hell and it was definitely showing as the days went by.

Harry nodded to Kreacher as Hermione and Ron preceded him onto the back stoop.

“Yeah. We’ll probably be out until late evening. Don’t worry about supper, we’re eating at the Burrow.”

Kreacher nodded slowly, his ear flopping slightly.

“Don’t do too much Kreacher. Take it easy.”

With that Harry stepped out on the stoop and closed the door behind him. He quickly activated the wards on the house and turned to the others.

Ron looked at him and with a smirk on his face he said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you liked him.”

Hermione giggled at the scandalized look on Harry’s face. “I wouldn’t say that however he kind of grows on you, like mold.”

Hermione slung her purse over her head, resting it on her shoulder. Holding out her arms, Harry and Ron both took one. With a sharp crack, they were gone.

***********HP**********

The trio appeared in the alley next to the Leaky Cauldron. Hermione slapped a hand over her mouth and ducked away from the others, afraid of puking on their shoes. A pair of hands grabbed her hair and held it out of the way as another rubbed her back. When Hermione finished dry heaving, she shakily stood and took a minute to compose herself.

“I thought you said apparition was safe?”

Hermione nodded as she pulled a bottle of water from her purse. After rinsing her mouth she said.

“It is. Madame Pomfrey told me it’s safe until I hit six months. But no matter how I travel it’ll bother my stomach for the first few months. I figured apparition would be easier on my stomach than the floo network. Ready?”

Ron and Harry followed Hermione’s shaky progress toward the door of the inn, hands at her back. Harry held open the door and Hermione stepped through into the dimly lit establishment. Breathing in the scents, she sighed, content. It had been a very long time since she had smelled the warm, musty odor. It was loud, but not overly so; as people crowded around tables and were crammed into booths, sharing food and drink with bags and packages at their feet. For just a moment Hermione thought it would be like it used to, at what seemed so long ago. But then the noise stopped and heads turned their way, bodies twisting at odd angles to get a look at the source of attention.

“Celebrity status.”

Hermione elbowed backward and Ron shifted out of the way, stifling a laugh. Slowly the trio made their way toward the bar and a smiling Tom. Along the way they passed those brave enough to whisper behind their hands right in front of them. Once in a while they encountered someone braver, who stood and shook their hands, thanking them for what they did. From a far corner, they also received a slight wave from Dean and Seamus.

Tom’s toothless smile greeted them at the bar.

“Wonderful to see you three. What can I do for you today?”

Hermione smiled back at the man, remembering how kind he was to her when she and her very confused parents stumbled into his tavern eight years ago.

Hermione shook her head.

“We’re just headed into Diagon Alley for our school things.”

Tom nodded and waved his hand, the side door that led to the back of the building easing open with the motion.

“Well, have a good day. You need anything let me know.”

“We will.”

Ron said, hustling Hermione toward the door, Harry right behind him. As they stepped outside and approached the brick wall Ron exaggerated a shudder.

“They kept staring. Merlin, it was creepy.”

Harry laughed and smacked his shoulder.

“Now you know how I feel all the time.”

Hermione pulled her wand from her sleeve and tapped in against the bricks before slipping it back into the wrist holster.

As the wall opened and the bricks rearranged themselves, the trio stepped through into the hustle and bustle of the newly repaired Diagon Alley. It looked like the attacks and the shop shutdowns had never happened. People were everywhere in brightly colored clothes and the alley was alive with activity of all sorts. Things were getting back to normal. Or as normal as they ever were.

“So where to first? What do you two need?”

Ron and Harry looked between themselves. Tapping her chin Hermione ignored the two.

“I’m not going to be taking potions so I can give you all of my supplies. That should cover you in that aspect. We’ll have to get you new robes and of course we can’t skip the Quidditch supplies.”

The last was said with a sardonic smirk, her tone mocking. Harry shoved her lightly and chuckled.

“Yeah. I want to pick up more dark arts books and take a look at the specialty shop.”

“You mean the one that opened at the end of the alley?”

Harry nodded. Hermione shifted her purse strap and said “Well, I suppose our first stop should be Gringotts.”

Turning they headed in the other direction toward the large structure. Ron suddenly had a thought.

“Will they let us in? I mean we did break in and steal a dragon. Goblins are notorious for taking revenge.”

Hermione and Ron stopped in their tracks, sharing a concerned look. When Harry realized they had stopped, he halted himself and turned to look back.

Harry held a finger and wagged it like he was admonishing a child.

“I already took care of this. Paid a fine, bought them a new dragon and was threatened on pain of death. But Griphook did say we had style.”

Hermione tried to hold it in, but she couldn’t help it. She burst into laughter. Ron looked perplexed.

“Style?”

Harry shrugged. “I guess so. Ready?” Hermione nodded and they continued walking. So far nobody had stopped them, however there were people pointing and whispering. They knew it was going to be like this but to actually experience it was a whole other story. As they climbed the white marble stairs to Gringotts massive front doors, Hermione peered at her reflection is the hard surface.

Wide eyes, pouty lips, sparse freckles and a mass of hair that couldn’t be tamed looked back at her. A sudden thought struck her. What would her child look like? Would it have her hair and Severus’s alabaster skin? How about his dark eyes or her honey brown ones? Her high cheekbones or his strong jaw line?

“Hermione? You alright?”

Snapping her head up, she met the concerned gazes of her two best friends a few stairs above her. She hadn’t realized she had stopped moving. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t muster the blinding smile she wanted to. Instead a small sardonic grimace appeared and she ran a hand through the loose strands of hair that dangled in front of her eyes. Licking her lips and gripping the strap of her purse inhumanly tight she whispered, “My baby.”

The boys shared a look as they slowly converged on her. Hermione shook her head fiercely, determined not to freak out in public before giving them a stern look to back off.

“Just because I lose my sense for a moment does not mean you two can treat me like a wounded deer. I’m alright. Just having a revelation is all.”

Harry dropped his arm and tilted his head, looking at her quizzically. “Revelation?”

Hermione nodded, her smile coming easy this time. “Just wondering what my child will look like is all. Now that I‘m done having a moment, let‘s continue, shall we?”

Brushing past her companions, Hermione moved forward, throwing a smile over her shoulder. As they stepped into the extravagantly furnished building Hermione couldn’t help but look around at the activity. Just as before imposing goblins manned the high, gold plated counters and patrons waited patiently in the lobby while others waited to be called to a counter. The trio didn’t have to wait long before they were noticed and escorted directly to the Bank Managers desk. No other goblin would deal with them civilly.

Griphook raised his head, his teeth glinting viciously in his mouth. Setting his quill down, he pushed aside his paperwork and said,” Lord Potter, Mr. Weasley, Ms. Granger. I would say it’s good to see you but trouble is never far behind where you’re concerned. How can I help you today?”

“Uh….” Harry cleared his throat as Ron scrambled to finish his incoherent thought.

“We’d like to make a withdrawal. School supplies you know.”

Hermione wanted to smack Ron in the forehead. Griphook handed them all a withdrawal slip and a quill, his smile even more predatory than before. He was getting a kick out of this.

Brazenly Hermione settled herself in a chair. “I hope there were no issues with the transfer of my funds. I would have done it sooner but I didn’t think I would ever need to completely leave the muggle world.”

Griphook waved a stubby hand dismissively. “It was nothing. Money is what we know best, only second to war.”

As a second goblin brought some sizeable brown leather pouches forward, Griphook took them and shook them lightly, his ears flicking with the sound. Pushing the bags toward them he announced, “As you requested Ms. Granger, these pouches have been linked to your accounts and only you or those registered on your account can open them.”

Hermione stood and followed Harry and Ron toward the door. Pausing, she asked “Can an account be opened by mail or must I come in personally?”

Griphook looked at her oddly, his head tilting to the side as he sniffed the air. Hermione squirmed under his scrutiny, especially when his gaze paused on her stomach.

“Mail is fine however you will have to deposit on site.” Hermione nodded and continued out the door, her back stiff.

As the office door swung shut behind her she heard a coarse chuckle, its timbre grating down her spine. “Do come again, won’t you?”

*****************HP****************

Hermione shielded her eyes as they stepped back out into the afternoon sun. Harry and Ron were bickering about Quidditch again, no surprise there. Clearing her throat, she asked, “Where to first? Madame Malkins, do you think?”

Ron seemed to deflate at the thought and Harry grimaced. Hermione could practically read their minds.

“We are not hitting Quality Quidditch supplies so early in the day. We’ll be there all afternoon. Tell you what, we go to Malkin’s first, then the Specialty shop. Then while I go pick up my books, you can raid Quality Quidditch. Sound good?”

If they had nodded any faster their heads might have come off. Harry and Ron grinned at each other, knowing Hermione would take near forever getting her books. All the supplies that could be ordered by owl such as their new course books and replacement crystal vials had been, to shorten their trip.

Swiftly they weaved through the crowd, chattering idly and pointing out the new additions to the alley. Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was flourishing, despite the loss of Fred. Lee Jordan had stepped up and was helping George run things. He wasn’t a replacement for Fred by any means but George needed a hand to both run the store and manage his grief. Fortescue’s was repaired, popular as ever and Ollivander’s although not completely repaired, had re-opened.

It was oddly comforting to see eager first years and their parents coming from Flourish and Blotts, arms full to the brim with books. Older students were hanging about in groups, chatting and showing off new purchases. Some younger students were crowding the display window at Quality Quidditch, noses practically melded to the glass. They were eyeing the new Lightening Strike. It was the newest broom on the market and three times as fast as its predecessor, the Firebolt. Harry had ordered and received his before they even came out on shelves. Nobody said there weren’t a few perks to being The Boy-Who-Lived.

Coming upon Madam Malkins, Ron hurriedly pulled Hermione out of the way as a set of giggling triplet girls came barreling out the door. Their mother rushed out after them, shrinking brown wrapped parcels as she went. “That is what you could be looking forward to Hermione.” Hermione burst into laughter as Ron held open the door, allowing her and Harry to go first. Madam Malkins was honestly the busiest they had ever seen it. From the looks of it, they would be getting a few more first years than usual. Attendants and sales clerks raced around, taking measurements, ringing people up and chasing after wayward toddlers of distracted mothers.

The trio took a seat in the main area, happy to wait for the chaos to settle and people to clear out. After about twenty minutes of idle discussion and people watching, Madam Malkin appeared in front of them.

“Well what do we have here? How good to see you! What can I do for our hero’s today?”

Hermione grimaced.

Ron and Harry looked as if they were ready to bolt, so Hermione grudgingly took charge.
Standing she said, “ Both Ron and Harry need new school robes, along with dress robes and several sets of slacks, socks and a few sweater vests. Gryffindor colors of course. A new pair of shoes wouldn’t hurt either.”

Nodding, Madam Malkin snapped her fingers and within moments two girls appeared, tape measures in hand. Briskly they led Harry and Ron away to the fitting rooms. “And you Ms. Granger? What can I do for you today?”

“I’ll need the same if you please.”

Madam Malkin nodded before turning swiftly, making a ‘follow me’ gesture with her hand. Dutifully Hermione followed, the wheels turning in her head. She needed new robes for sure. Her shirts were too tight on her breasts and her skirts a tad short. Inside the fitting room she threw her trusty purse into a chair and kicked off her flats before climbing up onto the round dais. Swiftly Madam Malkin took her measurements, tutting as she went along. “Really dear, you are far too skinny.”

Hermione took this as her cue.

“Madam, how well does the material you use for skirts and shirts transfigure? You are right, I do need to put on a few pounds and when I do, I don’t want to have to buy all new clothes.”

Madam Malkin stopped and seemed to think for a moment.

“Well dear, the material is fairly strong. Now that doesn’t mean it can be stretched to the size of a house, but a few inches here or there shouldn’t matter.”

Hermione nodded, her thoughts already in overdrive.

“Anything else dear?”

Shaking her head Hermione replied, “That should be it. Robes, skirts, shirts and a few sweaters. All three of us could use some ties. Other than that we’re good to go.”

Stepping down she slipped her shoes back on and grabbed her bag, following Madam Malkin back to the lobby. The seamstress handed Hermione’s measurements over to another girl and said “Get this done, on the double.”

The girl, looking tired and ready to drop nodded and disappeared into the back.

“Shouldn’t be more than thirty minutes or so.”

Hermione nodded and took a seat on a plush couch and pulled a book from her bag. Harry and Ron found her like that ten minutes later.

After another twenty-five minutes of reading and blocking out the very heated debate between the boys, the clothing was brought out to them in neatly wrapped brown packages. Hermione accepted them all, quickly shrinking them before putting them in her purse.

As they paid at the counter Ron asked, “Why did we need dress robes again? And where are yours?”

Putting her money back in her purse Hermione replied, “We will need them for graduation, Ronald. And I will be buying a dress in Hogsmeade.”

Harry snickered behind the pair. Hermione was such a mother at times, and it was hilarious watching the other child get in trouble instead of him. Slowly Hermione raised an eyebrow in his direction, daring him to make another sound. Between her own mother and Mrs. Weasley she must have perfected that look. As they excited Madam Malkin’s Hermione checked her watch.

“It’s almost four o’clock now. I meet with Violet at five. So we’ve got some time to hit the specialty place before we split up.”

A few months back a new branch of a specialty shop opened for Aurors, freelancers, and Hunters. You could find anything inside, from battle robes to wand holsters and sneakscopes. Things that no normal wizard would need. However with the trio’s history, they had zeroed in on it as a place of interest. They had yet to be inside said establishment but were going to remedy that today.

As they reached the end of the alley, they spotted the black and bronze sign, bearing a set of crossed wands and the name Armor Ward: Defense Supplements since 1468. Ron slipped in front of Hermione, moving into the store first as Harry fell into step behind her. Hermione wanted to roll her eyes but couldn’t. They had only started doing this since her pregnancy had been discovered. Granted they were still protective of her before, because of Death Eaters and sympathizers but this was on a whole new level. They both told her in no uncertain terms that the baby in her stomach was not to be risked. It was their future after all.

The shop was dim, it’s shelves and cases lit up by display lights. The walls were covered in armor, weapons and trophies. The back wall was covered in racked clothing, from fire retardant cloaks to battle robes in assorted but dark colors. In a far corner rose a winding staircase, leading up to a second floor landing filled with books. Toward the front of the room was a newly polished counter with a scarred man behind it. He might have looked like a younger Mad-eye Moody.

Slowly they separated, giving the store keeper nods of recognition. Hermione and Harry headed toward the staircase, eyeing the bookshelves. Ron broke off toward the lit up cases, his eye caught by something or another. After about thirty minutes of aimless browsing, Hermione and Harry met back up with Ron, who was leaning against the slick counter, talking with the store owner.

Said owner was lazily flicking his wand, while sparks flew off of two gold rings in front of him. Harry tossed a few books onto the counter, along with a new fire resistant travel cloak and a set of forearm bracers, good for reflecting most spells. As he wrung Harry up, the store owner didn’t even blink as he continued both discussing uses of a stunner with Ron and maneuvering his wand.

Hermione’s purchases were next, three books on offensive Transfiguration and another on Alchemy. Carefully Hermione also set down a scrying mirror, the ornate silver frame shaped like ivy vines, the leaves studded with amethyst crystals. They were good for altering and creating new spells along with advanced rune work. Just as Hermione finished shrinking and putting away their purchases, the rings on the counter stopped giving of sparks. Ron’s smile got wide, and he rubbed his hands together, very much the kid in the candy store.

Lifting the rings from the holder they resided in, the store owner handed them to Ron with the warning, “They’re still a bit hot. Careful.”

Both rings were embedded with a small amethyst, swirled etchings covering the bands. Ron held out one to Harry, before sliding the other onto his left hand. Harry looked at his, fascination and confusion on his face.

Hermione pouted playfully. “Where’s mine? “

Ron looked at the shop keeper and asked, “Arminius, will you explain? I’ll just bungle it up.”

Arminius nodded, as he reached below the counter for a slim black box, the kind that held wands. Setting it on the counter he said gruffly, “This Ms. Granger is yours.”

Removing the top he slipped a finger beneath a thick gold chain and lifted, pulling the item from the boxes velvet lining. Dangling at the end of that twelve inch chain was a sizeable amethyst, light from the windows glinting off its dark hue. Holding the chain out to Hermione he continued.

“This necklace is connected to those rings, designed to monitor the wearer’s health and wellbeing. It is an exceptionally good item for expectant mothers who are often in the line of fire.”

Hermione shot a glare in Ron’s direction for telling her secret. Arminius waved his hand idly.

“Your secret is safe with me. Now, if something is wrong such as you get hurt or your too stressed or heaven forbid you go into labor the necklace sends out something akin to a magnetic pulse and the rings will emit a burning sensation letting the wearers know something is wrong.”

Slowly Hermione looked the necklace over, running the cold metal chain through her fingers as she watched the stone dangle. Carefully she slipped it over her head, grateful that her hair was up and out of the way. Settling the chain on her chest she noticed the amethyst dangled a few inches below her breasts, perfect for tucking away. Harry had slipped his ring onto his hand and was flexing his hand open and closed, getting used to the feeling. Hermione engulfed Ron into a tight hug, her arms like a vice as emotions welled up and her throat tightened. After a minute she once again got herself in check and let go, a smile on her face.

“Thank you Ronald.”

Ron smiled back.

After bidding Arminius goodbye, the trio left. Glancing at her watchHermione sighed, the day was almost over. She hadn’t realized how much the trip would take out of herr, the excitement and the sun sapping her energy. With a quick yawn, she made a shooing motion to Ron and Harry, watching as their faces lit up. Heading in the opposite direction, Hermione let her mind wander. The crowd was beginning to thin out, only adults and older teens left, the families with small children and younger students heading home presumably for supper.

As she came upon the bend that led into Knockturn Alley, Hermione quickly looked left, then right before slipping into the shadow strewn, cobble street. Hermione gripped her new necklace, as she walked down the alley, weaving between bystanders and vendors. People barely gave her a second thought, so busy were they with their panhandling and selling of illegal goods. Coming upon a small shop at a corner, she pushed the smoky glass door inward, stepping into a dimly lit bookstore. Behind the ancient and scarred counter stood a young woman with spiky blue hair, warm brown eyes and several silver studs in her ears, eyebrows and lips.

“Hello Violet.”

Violet smiled widely, her hands moving in rapid succession. Violet was mute. Hermione laughed.

“Yes, yes. They are going into overdrive. I’ve come for the books if you’ve got them.”

Violet nodded swiftly before making a ‘stay here’ motion with her hands and disappeared into the back of the shop. Hermione wandered, looking at the shelves covered in books, her index finger tracing the spines of tombs older than she. Violet emerged from the back to find Hermione skimming through a book on blood wards and their application with both Greek and Roman runes.

Hearing Violet, Hermione turned; book in hand. Walking toward the girl she waved the book commenting, “I’ll take this one too.”

Violet smiled, her hands forming words in a practiced manner.

Hermione laughed, before replying “Yeah, I hear you. I’ll take in under consideration. If you get your hands on any of the other titles let me know.”

Violet wrung her up as Hermione shrunk the books one by one. After handing over the required gold, Hermione left with a wave and well wishes. Leaving Knockturn, Hermione slipped back into the crowd of Diagon Alley. Wandering back through the alley, Hermione got caught up in window shopping. By the time she arrived at Quality Quidditch it was six o’clock. Harry and Ron were lounging outside the shop, bags in hand. They waved Hermione over, smiling like kids at Christmas, shiny new toys in hand.

“Did you boys get everything you wanted?”

Harry nodded. “Oh yeah. New broom maintenance kit and new Quidditch robes.”

Ron was holding his bag excitedly. Hermione knew what was in there before he even said anything. Ron had been eyeing a set of Chudley Cannon practice robes and she knew he had bought them. As he opened his mouth, she held up her hand, cutting him off.

“Got the robes did you?”

He nodded almost violently, his excitement potent. As they grasped hands, Hermione muttered, “Merlin, I need food.”

With a sharp crack they were gone and within seconds standing just outside of the Burrow. As they walked toward the door, Mrs. Wealsey opened it and rushed out to embrace them.

“Oh Ron, Harry! Hermione dear, so glad you three could make it. Come in, come in. Supper is almost ready.”

As they followed her inside, a look passed between them and Hermione shook her head subtly. She didn’t want to tell Mrs. Weasley or the others just yet.

********************HP***********************

Chapter Text

The morning of September first, the trio arrived early to King’s Cross Station, hoping to avoid a crowd. They were also hoping to meet up with any others who had decided to come back. Not many had chosen to come back for any number of reasons and instead were doing home study and taking ministry administered tests.

They climbed onto the train, trunks shrunken into Hermione’s purse and Ron carrying Crookshanks’s cage as he slumbered within. Ignoring the stares and the whispers, they trudged to the back of the train, intent on finding an isolated compartment. Curious first years stared as they passed, their noses practically glued to the glass, breath fogging up the compartment panes. As they settled into a compartment, Hermione reached for Crookshank’s cage, opening the door and pulling him onto her lap. His rumbling purr vibrated through her abdomen as he settled down again.

“Hermione, could you get our chess set?”

Hermione nodded, digging around in her purse. After undoing the shrinking charm, she handed it over, before unshrinking one of her new books. So engrossed was she in her book that the compartment door opening didn‘t register. Hermione had grown used to blocking out the shouting and sound effects that usually came from the boys, a compartment door was nothing.

“Bloody hell Ginny, careful!”

Hermione looked up and saw Ron levitating the chess board that had nearly toppled over as Ginny tried crawling under it. Harry was shaking his head ruefully as Ginny giggled. She settled herself next to Hermione a bright smile plastered on her face.

“Morning Hermione! Buried in a book already?”

A snort came from their left as Harry commented, “She’s been buried in the library all summer.”

Hermione swatted at him playfully as she put her book away. Ginny settled herself across from Hermione and dug through her purse, pulling out a mirror.

“Did you hear?”

Artfully the petite redhead played with her bangs, trying to cover the thin white scar at her temple. Ginny had been hit with a cutting curse during the battle of Hogwarts and because the wound was magical it had scarred; Ginny hated that scar. Personally Hermione didn’t see anything wrong with it; the scar was a battle wound and there was hardly a person who participated that didn’t have one.

Hermione waited until the redhead slipped the mirror back into her purse before asking, “Hear what?”

”Padma has been made Head Girl in your place.”

Hermione’s heart clenched for just a moment. She had wanted to be Head Girl so badly but it just wasn’t in the cards. The bookworm nodded.

“The Headmistress told me the other day. If you want big news guess what has been added to the dorms. To accommodate the returning seventh years they’ve been given a dorm with individual rooms.”

Ginny got an envious look on her face as she pouted. “No fair.”

Ron looked up from his game and grimaced. Ginny was pouting. Great. “It’s perfectly fair Ginny. Considering there will be at the most ten of us and not enough room for everyone in the regular seventh year dorms.”

Harry nodded and holding up his hand he counted off those he knew were returning for sure.

“Other than us three, there’s Dean, Seamus and Neville. Lavender is coming back but not sure about Pavarti. So that right there is seven. I think we definitely deserve our own rooms.”

The pout on Ginny’s face remained where it was as she protested, “What about the rest of us? Those who stayed behind? I mean we did as much as you.”

Hermione shook her head. “You may have, but your final year of school wasn’t ruined. You have time to fix the damage to your education. Don’t forget the fact that the Headmistress was there and shielded you as much as she could. Professor Snape protected you as well, despite how it looks.”

A disgusted look crossed the younger girl’s face at the mention of the former Headmaster and current Potions Professor. Ginny didn’t care what anyone said, Severus Snape had been as bad as the Carrow siblings and Fenrir Greyback. Ron rolled his eyes and grabbing Harry’s attention they went back to their game. Hermione slid her book open once again as Ginny began to ramble on, her voice slowly becoming drowned out.

As the train began its journey Hermione found herself grimacing from the rocking motion. So far she had been lucky and not experienced the curse of morning sickness. Within minutes the dim grey sky opened up and rain began falling on everything in sight. Eventually the queasy feeling in Hermione’s stomach lessened and she returned to reading her book.

When the compartment door opened again sometime later, Hermione raised her head, expecting a lost first year or the snack trolley. Instead she saw Neville’s smiling face. Instantly she noticed the changes in him. Longer, shaggier hair, a thinner face and a few inches added to his height.

“Neville! Good to see you mate.”

Harry and Ron had abandoned their game, in favor of jumping all over the newest addition to their compartment. Neville laughed as he shoved them off himself and scrambled over to Hermione. Hermione smiled before enveloping him into a hug.

“How are you Hermione? Still alive after spending the summer with these two I see.”

A laugh escaped Hermione once again and her body seemed to sag into Neville’s touch. It was so nice to be around others again. She loved Harry and Ron but some days they were too much for her. A sad thought flicked through her mind. Soon she wouldn’t be able to hug anyone, if she wanted to keep her secret. With one final squeeze, she released Neville and leaned back, Crookshanks wiggling in her lap. He didn’t like being squished if the noises he was making were anything to go by.

Hermione began petting him, trying to settle the disgruntled cat. “Neville, did you see anybody else?”

Neville nodded.

“Yeah. I saw Dean and Seamus on my way back here. Lavender was there too, with Padma and Pavarti. I heard they made Padma Head Girl. I know how much you wanted it.”

Hermione shrugged, trying to keep her face empty. She would get over it, eventually.

“They made Blaise Zabini Head Boy and they let Malfoy come back too.”

Hermione nodded in acknowledgement.

“We were at his trial. They went easy on him due to coercion or something of the like. He’s under house arrest, and wears something close to a muggle ankle bracelet.¬¬¬¬¬¬ His father and mother got the same. They were heavily fined and there are wards keeping them on the Mansion grounds. Malfoy will have been transported to Hogwarts by Aurors, probably yesterday. His visits to Hogsmeade will be monitored, restricted and revocable at a moment’s notice.”

It was quiet in the car for a few moments before Hermione continued. “I suppose he’s paying his dues. Not really our business to be honest.”

Suddenly Ginny stood and brushed out her skirt. “Well if you guys are going to get all depressing, I’m leaving.”

Harry levitated the chess board as she passed. Throwing a stunning smile over her shoulder, Ginny simpered, “Later Harry.”

As the door shut behind her, Harry shook his head, sending Ron a look that screamed ‘I told you so’.

“I don’t think she’s getting it Ron.” Ron shrugged halfheartedly. “What do you want me to do about it mate?”

“Have you heard from Luna?”

Neville nodded.

“I got a few letters over the summer. Talk of hunting for Everhares and Juniper Pigs. It sounds like she’s doing alright. She should have arrived at Hogwarts already and her dad is getting better I think.”

When Luna had been kidnapped the year before, the stress and worry had given her father a stroke. He had been found a day or so later, in terrible condition. His magical core had forced his body into stasis, but it could not have saved him for long. He could not speak anymore and had been unable to perform the simplest of motor functions. It had been a long three and a half months but Xenophilius Lovegood had been slowly regaining his ability to walk, feed himself and many other tasks that most take for granted, though his speech was still impaired. St. Mungos was giving him weekly therapy but there had been no improvement.

Mr. Lovegood was doing well for himself and Luna was diligently running the Quibbler in his place. For his own good Mr. Lovegood had moved in with the Weasely’s for the term as Luna was unwilling to leave him on his own. Xenophiliushad made one thing clear despite his lack of speech, his daughter was too finish school.

A sudden and sharp beeping interrupted the silence as Hermione’s watch went off. Swiftly she shut the noise off, hoping to keep Crookshanks from waking. He hated the carrier and it was easier to load him when he was asleep.

“Time to get our things together and our uniforms on I suppose.”

Carefully she gathered Crookshanks into her hands, and slid him back into the carrier, closing the door before he could figure out what had happened. Standing she stretched, raising her hands above her head and wiggling her feet. Grabbing her purse she headed toward the compartment door.

“I’ll leave you three to change. Don’t forget to lock the door. We don’t need a riot.”

Hermione dived out the door as her comment hit home and all three boys shouted in indignation.

******************HP********************

Heading toward the communal girls loo at the front of the train, Hermione took her time to look around. Things almost seemed normal. The compartments were full, with excited first years, wearing their simple black robes. Every once in a while she received a wave from an older student, and returned the gesture.

Her eyes locked onto a compartment of Slytherins. Inside resided Blaise Zabini, Daphne Greengrass, her younger sister Astoria and a few sixth years Hermione couldn’t quite name. The rumor was Pansy Parkinson had been kept at home, her parents afraid of bringing more shame to the family name. Crabbe had perished in the room of requirement while Goyle had been arrested and tried for the torture of several muggles. He and his father now shared a cell in Azkaban.

Upon entering the loo, Hermione almost ran smack dab into Hannah Abbot. Hermione laughed at the near collision as they both endeavored to regain their composure.

“Hello Hannah. Good to see you back. How are you?”

Hannah’s smile was strained but genuine. “I’m alright. Susan has come back as well. Her aunt is healing up nicely.”

Madame Bone’s home had come under attack not long after Christmas of the year before. She had fought off several Death Eaters, managing to escape to a safe house. Her wounds had been numerous but none worse than the claw marks down the right side of her neck and shoulder. They had bled profusely and led healers to believe Greyback’s claws had been coated in a coagulant. Madame Bone’s health had been touch and go for a few days but in the end she pulled through. She had also lost a few fingers on her left hand and was blind in her right eye.

Despite her injuries, Madame Bones took up her position as Head of DMLE once again after the war. She was truly a strong woman who could not be kept down. Since the war, she had become instrumental in rounding up Death Eaters. She was not only awed, but feared these days. There was even the odd rumor that Minister Shacklebolt was going to hand things over to her in a year or so.

“Did any of the others decide to return?”

Hannah shook her head.

“Justin decided not to come back, Anthony too. Ernie has though if you’d like to say hello. Michael Corner and Terry boot have come back as well. There aren’t many of us left, is there?”

Sadly Hermione shook her head. “I suppose we’re all going our own ways. Well I need to change. See you at the feast?”

Hannah nodded once again, before waving and slipping past Hermione and back out into the corridor. Throwing her purse into a stall, Hermione turned and locked the door. Quickly she used the loo, not wanting to leave the feast to relive herself. Lately her bladder had begun to feel smaller though the loo was not yet an hourly need.

Swiftly Hermione discarded her jeans and sweater, before slipping into one of her new skirts and crisp white tops. Rolling on her silk socks, she stepped into her black low heeled pumps and threw on her outer robes. Gryffindor red ribbon edged the material, declaring her house loud and proud. Pinning her hair up, Hermione finally put her wrist hoslter on and replaced her wand firmly against her skin. Stuffing her clothes into her purse she unlocked the stall and stepped out, catching her reflection in the mirror.

Where was that “glow” every pregnant woman supposedly carried? Hermione’s appearance looked the same to her. Maybe the bags under her eyes were a little darker and her hair a bit more wild but it was nothing life changing. A bright blink caught her eyes and she noticed the amulet Ron had given her was dangling free. Catching the gemstone between her fingers, Hermione kissed it before tucking it into her shirt.

Pulling a tie from her skirt pocket, it was deftly done up in seconds, years of practice turning Hermione into an old hand at said maneuver. After loosening the tie a fraction, Hermione deemed her appearance acceptable and left the loo, well aware of the train’s close quarters to the station in Hogsmeade.

Neville and Ron were tying their shoes when Hermione got back to the compartment. Harry however, looked to be waging a battle with his tie, and losing terribly. Setting her purse down, Hermione batted his hands away from the garment and began undoing the knot he had created.

“Thanks Hermione.”

“Harry, you’ve been doing this for close to eight years now. I think you’re officially helpless.”

Harry ran a hand through his hair and laughed.

“Well Hermione I’ve got a secret. Every year you would do my tie and every year I would never officially undo the knot. I just loosened it.”

Hermione smacked his should lightly as she finished playing with the silk material.

“You know, you’re not going to be able to rely on me forever.”

Harry gave her a roguish smile before pulling her into a hug.

“Yes I will Hermione. Your marrying me remember? You can do up my tie for the rest of eternity.”

Hermione began laughing, her whole body shaking as she hugged him back.

”We’ll see Mr. Potter. We’ll see.”

*****************HP******************

Slowly the Hogwarts Express pulled up to the platform, smoke billowing into the sky. When the train came to a complete stop minutes later, the conductor gave the all clear and students began disembarking.

Ron jumped onto the platform and offered his hand to Hermione. Catching her easily he set her down.

“Harry, you coming mate?”

Harry huffed in indignation.

“Aren’t you going to help me down? Where are your manners?”

Flashing a smile, he jumped down as Ron turned away. Neville hopped down after him, laughing. Together they headed toward the carriages after dropping Crookshanks off with the other pets and their trunks on top of the growing pile.

Upon reaching the carriages, Hermione stopped a few feet from one of the Thestrals. It was so odd seeing them. Knowing about them was one thing but to actually see their dark, skeletal bodies and bright intelligent eyes was another. Slowly she broke away from the group and walked toward the creature, reaching a hand out to its nose. Carefully she petted it and when the Thestral leaned into her touch she grew bolder.

Hermione laughed when the Thestral snuffled her shoulder and cheek almost lovingly. Swiftly it changed direction and she found the horse like creature sniffing at her stomach in almost a confused manner. It looked up at her, eyes full of knowledge. As it raised its head, Hermione whispered, “Shh. It’s a secret.”

The Thestral let out a whinny and threw its head back, exposing a set of unnaturally sharp and distinctly un-horselike teeth. Hermione liked to think the creature was agreeing to keep her secret.

“Alright horse whisperer, you ready?” Harry’s voice was sarcastic and edged with laughter.

Hermione patted the Thestral on the nose once more before walking toward Harry, who was hanging out of the carriage door. He grabbed her hand and pulled her in. The carriage ride seemed to go by swiftly and before they knew it, the small group was traversing the huge pond of students headed toward the great hall.

Walking through the Great Hall doors, Hermione stopped in her tracks and Neville almost ran right into her. The hall looked like it had never sustained any damage. The ceiling was sparkling with stars, light clouds covering certain areas and a moon so bright it almost hurt to look at. From the far wall hung the Hogwarts crest and banners for each house. The tables were surprisingly full, many more students had come back than she had anticipated; especially after the devastation and torment of last year. Candles floated above the tables and ghosts floated through the hall. Hogwarts was once again a home.

The greetings and exclamations from their fellow Gryffindors were practically overwhelming as they sat down. The table was ecstatic to see them but Hermione figured they were happier to see more living and breathing students than anything. After twenty minutes or so, the table began to settle down and just in time for the sorting.

Headmistress McGonagall tapped her wand against the wooden stand at the head of the hall, sparks flying from the end. Silence quickly overcame them, every student’s attention on her.

“Professor Flitwick, if you please.”

Once again the great hall doors opened. Filius Flitwick walked down the aisle, leading close to fifty new first years. It was an astounding number that almost took Hermione‘s breath away. Considering the war, she hadn’t thought there would be so many. Hogwarts however was once again the safest place in wizarding Britain. There had never been so many first years before. In their first year, there had been about thirty new students in all.

One by one the nervous preteens sat upon the spindly stool and let the Sorting Hat be placed upon their heads. The hat was relatively quick about its decision, aside from two or three students. By the end, the group was almost evenly split between all four houses, Hufflepuff and Gryffindor getting a few more than others.

After Professor Flitwick removed the stool, he settled himself down and Headmistress McGonagall once again held everyone’s attention.

“Welcome back to another year at Hogwarts. It is wonderful to see so many of you returning. Before we eat I would like to make a few announcements. As many of you know, the Forbidden Forest is just that, forbidden. If you are caught going in or coming out, you will be severely punished, and your guardians will be notified. Secondly, the list of prohibited items has once again grown. The prohibited items list has reached an all-time high, the number being 683, and this is to include all current and future Weasley Wizard Wheezes. No magic is to be performed in the corridors at any time. You are free to roam the castle and grounds until classes on Monday. Do not cause too much mischief or you will lose house points before you gain any.”

She cleared her throat and continued. “I would also like to introduce you to your Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor and former Auror, Lycus Savage.”

Hermione vaguely recognized the brown haired man who rose from his seat at the head table. His hair was cropped short, the left side of his face covered in thin scars. His face was a mask of indifference when he nodded toward the crowd of students. As he lowered himself back into his chair, Hermione noticed the tension with which he did it, the strain. He was hurting, most likely war wounds refusing to heal.

Headmistress McGonagall nodded at the man before turning back to the students.

“Last but not least I would like to extend a special welcome to those of last year’s graduating class, who decided to return. I suggest you younger students look to them, if you have any issues. They are a wealth of knowledge. Now dig in.”

As she clapped her hands together food appeared on the tables in front of them, just like always. Food was passed from hand to hand at the Gryffindor table. The conversation was ridiculous, raucous and happy. Hermione ate silently, watching Harry, Ron, Neville and Dean gang up on Seamus. It was a pretty brutal argument about quidditch and Hermione did not want to involve herself.

Turning in her seat, Hermione surveyed the Ravenclaw table, looking for Luna. Without warning the girl she was looking for, slid onto the bench beside her.

“Hello Hermione.”

Hermione jumped, turning to the lithe blonde.

“Luna, don’t do that.”

The blonde just smiled serenely and said, “You’re too stressed Hermione. It’s why you scare so easy. ”

Hermione looked at her quizzically. She could swear Luna was psychic. Before she could stop herself, Hermione glanced up to the head table, her eyes zeroing in on Severus Snape. He looked normal. He was talking quietly with Headmistress McGonagall, his head bowed low. Thick black locks fell in front of his face and for a minute, Hermione could feel the strands between her fingers once more. Unconsciously she lay a hand on her stomach as she watched the man, wondering what to say to him when the time came.

“It’ll be alright Hermione, he’ll come around.”

Snapping her head around at the blonde’s comment, Hermione said quietly, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Luna shrugged, holding some mixed berry cobbler out to Hermione.

“Cobbler?”

*******************HP*****************

The trio walked arm in arm up to Gryffindor tower. It was truly wonderful to be back. It was like the damage had never been done. All the paintings were in their rightful place, and everyone was there. The stairs still moved with ease and it did indeed smell like home.

Reaching the tower they were happy to see The Fat Lady standing guard once more, her garish pink dress clashing with her background. “Password?”

“Starbright.”

As the Fat lady swung open and the trio stepped through, the feeling of contentment that washed through Hermione was wondrous. Fascinated first years browsed the common room in small groups and people were already rough housing and gathering before the fire.

Harry’s awed voice pulled Ron and Hermione in his direction as he said “Our chairs are still here. Ink stains and all.” Indeed they were, stuffed into a corner just across from the fire. Harry threw himself into a chair as Ron did the same, pulling Hermione onto his lap.

“It feels like old times doesn’t it?”

Hermione wiggled, settling herself in and squeezing between Ron and the arm of the chair, before throwing her legs across his knees. Together they sat there, talking quietly, watching the others in their house reunite.

When Hermione yawned for the fourth time Ron put his figurative foot down. “Alright, time for bed.”

Hermione shook her head. “Ronald, I want to stay up a little longer.”

Harry rose form his chair and held his hands out to her, wiggling his fingers expectantly. With a defeated sigh, she gripped his hands and he pulled her from the chair. As Ron stood, he stumbled, then began rubbing his left thigh.

“You know Hermione, I’m not trying to call you fat, but my leg is half asleep.”

He managed to fall out of the way, as Hermione reached out to swat him. Harry pulled her along, trying not to laugh. “Alright children. Don’t make me break you up.”

Passing the boys and girls staircases, they soon found another brand new, made of a dark marble. Slowly they climbed the winding staircase, coming out onto a landing that overlooked the common room. In front of them was a hall, with doors on each side. Girls on one wall, boys on the other, names carved into gold plates on the doors.

Hermione ran her fingers over her name as the boys went down the hall a bit to their own. Looking back at them, she smiled and said, “Goodnight.”

Without waiting for a reply, she entered and closed the door behind her, falling back against the hard wood. She was so tired, but didn’t want to give Ron the satisfaction of being right. It looked like she was going to be getting tired faster and faster. Rubbing her eyes, she walked toward the large four poster, its red velvet blankets calling to her like a siren.

Her trunk was already at the foot of the bed, a large oak dresser next to a window that overlooked the courtyard. A small writing desk was on the wall opposite the bed, a large plush chair in front of it.

Practically on autopilot, Hermione started stripping, her clothes falling to the floor. Her purse landed in the plush chair. Naked, she crawled into bed, running into Crookshanks under the velvety covers. He let out a rumbling whine.

“Oh hush, you big baby.”

Snuggling up to his warm fur, Hermione sighed, her face burying into the feather pillows. Crookshanks was purring, the vibration running through her stomach and thighs as he crawled closer. Within minutes, she was out like a light.

**********HP********

Chapter Text

Severus leaned back in his leather armchair, bare feet on the ottoman, tumbler of whiskey in hand. A low fire crackled in the hearth, warming the air within Severus’s rooms. Normally he didn’t mind the cool air that came along with the dungeons, he rather liked it. But it was nights like these when his bones ached from years of abuse and old scars started to hurt in earnest, that he needed some warmth.

Setting his whiskey aside, Severus grabbed a lighter and lit the cigarette that dangled from his lips. It was well after midnight and his mind was still replaying the evening over and over. Taking a lengthy inhale, he held the cigarette aloft, slowly easing the smoke from his lungs and into the air.

He hadn’t really thought much about Hermione Granger since that night at Grimmauld Place. His life had been chaotic enough and these past weeks had been spent fighting the Ministry tooth and nail. That fighting had paid off however and the verdict had come down from the Wizengamot just a few days earlier. Severus Tobias Snape was cleared of all charges.

Severus couldn’t say it had been a surprise seeing Ms. Granger tonight. He had known she would be there, but he hadn’t anticipated the odd feeling in his stomach when he saw her. She looked tired almost sickly and her smiles had been strained. She had kept to herself most of the night, sticking close to her bodyguards and humoring them from what he could tell.

At one point during his conversation with Minerva, he had felt her eyes upon him. He couldn’t say how he knew it was her but when he glanced her way, she had been looking back at him, a dazed expression on her face. Severus had given into temptation, giving her mind a once over. He got a quick picture of her fingers wrapped up in his hair before he broke away, unable process all her mixed emotions and the exhaustion that consumed her mind. Most of all her worry, which seemed to blanket everything else.

Ms. Granger’s attention was then pulled away by Ms. Lovegood and even though her eyes were not upon him, he knew he wasn‘t forgotten. Severus wasn’t too sure why he cared, but it was almost as if the chaotic feelings she was enduring, were inside him now as well.

Taking another drag from the cigarette he closed his eyes, holding the noxious smoke in as long as he could before slowly releasing it. Ms. Granger’s worries were more than likely no concern of his, but he couldn’t shake the sick feeling in his gut. Looking at his roster a few days ago, he had noticed that she was not in his NEWT potions class.

Severus was loathe to admit it but Ms. Granger was his best student aside from Draco. Potions was not a requirement for her Transfiguration Apprenticeship but it was highly encouraged and could benefit her in the future.

She was always looking to go above and beyond so why had she dropped his class? Was it because of their night together?

In truth he hadn’t been thinking straight when he had pulled her onto his lap. All his frustration and anger had taken over, driving him to do things that were highly unusual and clearly unacceptable but at that time it had appeared his ticket was being punched and time had run out for Severus Snape. He had only been thinking of himself in those moments and that had been wrong of him; Severus was man enough to admit it.

Shaking his head he immediately threw the thought out. It was nonsense. She cared too much about her education to let anyone stand in her way. In all actuality it probably had nothing to do with him. So why couldn’t he shake that feeling that it did?

**********HP************

The next few days went by languidly, as the students acquainted themselves with the school. Hermione had volunteered to lead a tour group for the first years, showing them the castle and the areas they would need right off the bat. She had already settled into her room nicely and wasn’t quite ready to hit the library yet. So to kill time before her appointment on Saturday she had stepped up and taken a third of the first years off of Blaize’s and Padma’s hands.

It really was sort of therapeutic. More than once, Hermione caught herself watching the first years wander and wondering if in eleven years, her son or daughter would come to Hogwarts. There was a huge chance, considering she and Severus were both magical but even if her child was a squib, she would love it just the same. Besides, who said her child would attend Hogwarts? There was also Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, The Salem Witches Institute or even The Durmstrang Institute.

Hermione had gotten a letter from Viktor Krum a few weeks ago informing her he had been offered the Quidditch coaching position at Durmstrang during his off seasons from the Quidditch League. Hermione had broken down and told the quiet man everything. Viktor had taken it in stride and asked if one day he would be teaching her child to fly. Hermione’s tears of relieffe had dotted the parchment as she replied, asking about the curriculum about Durmstrang and if her baby would be safe there. Viktor’s acceptance was something she hadn’t been aware she needed.

The touring around the school was eventful to say the least. The first day, just after lunch, Hermione took them to the Astronomy tower and as they were leaving a set of stairs, suddenly the staircase broke away from the landing; two terrified first years still on them. Hermione had endeavored to hold back her laughter as she shouted to the students, telling them to stay where they were and not to panic. The frightened kids hopped off the stairs and onto the fourth floor landing, still shaking.

Hermione then led the students with her another way down, and they quickly picked up the two lost ducklings. Hermione was shocked, as the little blonde Hufflepuff girl grabbed her around the waist, crying into her sweater. The Slytherin boy with her put on a brave face but Hermione could tell that he was just as shaken.

Prying the blonde girl off her, Hermione crouched in front of her and began wiping away the little girl’s tears.

“Oh it’s alright Moira, everything is fine. The stairs are finicky and do that all the time. They even got Harry, Ron and I when we were first years.”

Soon the little girls crying lessened and she looked at Hermione with watery eyes. “Really?”

Hermione nodded as she stood. “All the time. Now, let‘s get keep going shall we?”

***************HP*************

The rest of the day was quite uneventful, as Hermione continued her tour with the Owlery, the Qudditch Pitch and her favorite place, the Library; ending just in time for dinner. Hermione watched with a contented smile as the students led the way back down to the hall, working together to make sure they went the right way and that none got left behind on any of the staircases.

Hermione could barely conceal her yawns throughout dinner as she talked amiably with Ginny, Lavender and Pavarti. Luna had come and gone, her hunt for something or other pulling her away once again.

Hermione couldn’t help herself as she snuck another glance up at the head table. Professor Snape was once again in deep conversation with Headmistress McGonagall, his face as relaxed as she had ever seen it. Serene by no means but there was no longer any evidence of the stress that had plagued him most of his life. He looked almost content.

Hermione shook herself out of her musings, and turned back to her dinner. The plate was still mostly full and she finally gave up pushing around the food that remained. A few seats away, Harry looked at her in concern. “You alright Hermione?”

Hermione nodded, giving him a reassuring smile. “Just feeling a tad peeky is all. I think I‘ll go to bed.”

As she stood, Harry stood with her. “I’ll take you.”

Shaking her head, Hermione pushed him back into his seat and shook her hand at Ron when he made to rise.

“I’m fine, really. The first years just wore me out. I’ll see you for breakfast tomorrow.”

Leaving the Great Hall Hermione headed up the main staircase and toward Gryffindor tower, taking the time to berate herself. What was she thinking, sneaking glances at the Potions Master? If she kept it up, someone was bound to notice and raise questions Hermione didn’t want to answer. This nonsense had to stop before she made anyone suspicious.

Rubbing her stomach idly, Hermione grimaced as a burp made its way up her throat. She really did feel sick and couldn’t understand why. Truth be told, she was downright queasy. A few times she had to stop and breathe, afraid she was going to vomit on the floor.

Stopping on the fourth floor, Hermione leaned against the banister, her eyes falling shut. Breathe. In, out, in, out. Hermione hoped to Merlin this wasn’t morning sickness rearing its ugly head, she’d been so lucky to avoid the majority of it.

“Granger?”

Shocked out of her stupor, Hermione turned, her eyes landing on Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy. It was like time slowed as her eyes slipped closed again, her breathing coming in short gasps. Dear Merlin, she did not want to be sick in front of these two. Without warning she shot off like a rocket, into the unused classroom the pair had just vacated.

Leaning heavily on a desk, Hermione vomited on the floor. Tears formed in her eyes from the acid in her throat and the horrible dry heaves that followed, wracking her body. Her stomach continued to rebel, long after it was empty, the dry heaving causing waves of pain throughout her stomach and chest.

“Granger? Are you alright?”

Hermione nodded and she shakily straightened, brushing her bangs out of her eyes. Pulling her wand, she vanished the vomit before turning to the Slytherins.

“I’m fine, thank you.”

Zabini’s eyebrows furrowed, he was unconvinced.

“Are you sure? I can get someone to take you to the hospital wing. You look terrible.”

Shaking her head Hermione made to move past them, her steps slowly becoming steadier.

“I’m sure. I appreciate the offer.”

“Feel better Granger.”

Hermione paused, looking back at the speaker. Taking in his appearance, Hermione decided Draco Malfoy looked as haggard as she felt. “Thanks.”

***********HP*********

Later that night, Hermione once again found herself vomiting, only this time there was nothing in her stomach to purge. After fifteen minutes, Hermione found herself calling for a house elf, who promptly brought her tea and saltine crackers. After another half hour of retching, Hermione crawled back into bed, exhausted.

What seemed like minutes later, she was being awoken by an insistent house elf, telling her she was late. Stumbling from her bed, Hermione shoved on a pair of jeans and an old jersey emblazoned with Bulgaria’s colors. Hopping into her shoes, Hermione rushed out the door throwing her hair into a knot as she went. A quick trip to the bathroom and she was holstering her wand, walking briskly toward the great hall.

The first years stood just outside the hall, listening as Padma outlined the course of the day. Ginny stood off to the side with Luna and Blaise Zabini close by. Walking over to Ginny, Hermione gratefully took the napkin full of toast she held out.

“You’re late Granger.”

There was no reprimand in that voice but Hermione felt bad nonetheless. After all, he had seen her throwing up pathetically in an empty classroom the previous evening.

Hermione nodded and swallowed the toast in her mouth. “I know, I’m sorry. “

Blaise just nodded and within minutes, they were retrieving their groups and showing off the castle once more.

****************HP*************

Saturday morning found Hermione in the shower, running her fingers through her hair. Water rushed down her body in rivulets, reflecting the dim light in the room. It was early and Hermione had chosen not to turn on all the lights.

Turning the water off she grabbed a towel, stepping from the shower. Another towel was wrapped around her hair, before the mirror above the sink was wiped clean of fog. Patting herself down, Hermione let the towel fall, exposing herself to the mirror. Turning to the side she examined her stomach, poking at the small but firm bump in her abdomen. Nothing much about her appearance was different. Her breasts looked a little fuller, and her abdomen a little firmer. Her skin however was just as pale, long brown locks dangling around her back and chest.

Quickly she dressed in whitewashed jeans and a soft green sweater before padding barefoot back to her room. Tossing the dirty towels into a vanishing hamper Hermione stood in front of her mirror, running a brush through her hair. Tying the chaotic mess into a ponytail, she dug some shoes from her trunk and slipped them on before heading toward the Hospital Wing and her meeting with Madame Pomfrey.

It was seven in the morning on a Saturday so it came as no surprise that the castle was almost eerily quiet. Hermione greeted the awoken portraits as she went and had to resist the urge to detour into the library.

Inside the Hospital Wing, two rows of beds lined the walls, neatly made up with pristine white sheets and fluffy white pillows. Hermione’s sneakers squeaked as she strode toward the matron’s office, excited and nervous all at once.

Madame Pomfrey sat at her desk, flicking through papers, as if searching for something. She looked to be compiling medical files for all the new first years, adding known allergies and issues before filing said folders away.

Hermione cleared her throat, not wanting to scare the woman. As Madame Pomfrey looked up, a smile broke across her face.

“Hermione! How wonderful to see you. Right on time I see.”

Hermione smiled back, some of the tension leaving her muscles. She had hoped the woman wouldn’t think any less of her for her precarious position and it looked like at least one prayer had been answered.

“Please, come in. Have a seat. Let me file this away and we’ll get started.”

Hermione took the offered seat, unsure of how to situate herself. Finally she stopped fidgeting, and gripped her hands tightly, looking at the awards and certificates that covered the small office’s walls. A few pictures in frames rested on the walls, the occupants both moving and still. One particular photo caught her eye, three young women inside it, all wearing apprenticing Healer robes and bright gold sashes, denoting their graduation with outstanding honors. Shiny gold badges stamped with the Healer’s Guild crest gleamed brightly in the sun.

One of the girls stood out over the rest, her waist length inky tresses, billowing in the wind, her matrons cap long gone with the breeze. She stood between her friends, laughing and cheering.

“That was the day we graduated the Healer program. We were the first of many women to finally be allowed into the career field. It was absolutely exhilarating.”

Hermione started, turning to the gray haired woman. True pride showed on her face, the age lines softening at the wistful and aged milestone. Blinking, she pulled herself out of her reverie and said, “Shall we?”

Hermione nodded her consent and the examination began.

********HP*********

Thirty minutes later, Madame Pomfrey seemed satisfied with her examination. Flicking her wand, the makeshift screen with her readings disappeared.

“Well dear you look to be about nine and a half weeks, give or take a day or two. By my estimate, you should be due in late March, early April timeframe. You and baby both appear to be healthy, although you do look a little thin. We’ll keep an eye on that, many mothers have trouble gaining weight with their first pregnancy. Meanwhile I’m going to give you some potions that will give you the proper prenatal vitamins you need. Take it three times daily, once at each meal. We’ll have a good stock of it so don‘t skimp, Severus will be making it so we can always get more if need be.”

Hermione balked at the last, opening her mouth to protest before the matron cut her off.

“He won’t know who it’s for, that I promise. Now in another nine weeks or so we should be able to tell your little one’s gender so you had best decide if you want to know or not. I’ll give you your first supply of vitamins, plus something to help suppress the sickness. It was pretty violent was it not?”

Hermione nodded, her hand on her stomach.

“It was so sudden and I had it most of the night. It sort of scared me to be honest.”

Madame Pomfrey nodded, as she took down notes for Hermione’s file.

“Well this potion should suppress the worst of it. I’m not saying it will eliminate it but hopefully it should temper it a bit. I’ll have the elves bring the vials to you later on tonight. One vial of vitamins per meal and only one vial of the suppressant per day. No more, you hear?”

Hermione nodded and hopped off the conjured exam table as it morphed back into a chair.

“Thank you for this Madame.”

Madame Pomfrey shook her head.

“No trouble dear. It’s why I’m here. If you have any pain, discomfort or bleeding, come to me immediately. All your teachers have been informed of your state and will not hinder your use of the bathroom and necessary breaks. Do not abuse this privilege however.”

Hermione chuckled and shook her head. “I won’t, I swear. Thank you again.”

***********HP**********

The walk back to Gryffindor tower seemed like a long one that Hermione wasn’t sure she wanted to make so instead she headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast, not expecting much company this early. To her surprise however a sleepy eyed Harry and half asleep Ron greeted her. Upon her arrival they perked up, smiles on their faces. Plopping herself between them, Hermione grabbed a plate and filled it with fruit and toast.

Silence reigned for all of a minute before Ron said, “Well? Don’t keep us in suspense.”

Hermione laughed, setting down her fork. Clasping their hands under the table she noticed hers were clammy and excitement was coursing through her all of a sudden.

“I’m almost ten weeks along and the baby should be born late March, early April. I won’t know the gender for another nine weeks or so and I’m not sure I want to.”

Harry squeezed her hand under the table, before pulling her into a hug. When he let go, Ron did the same. Not a soul in the hall found it odd, though there weren’t many in there to begin with.

After finishing her light meal, Hermione stood.

“Why don’t you two go back to bed? I want to hit the library.”

From the looks on the pair’s faces, they were planning to do just that. Hermione would nap later but first she needed to go somewhere familiar and relax. A book sounded pretty good right then.

**********HP********
The rest of the weekend went by with ease, Hermione’s morning sickness was still present but nothing compared to what it had been that first night. Sunday afternoon she sat in the bleachers of the pitch, watching Harry and Ron zip around on their new brooms. The book in her lap lay forgotten as she watched them contentedly, hoping her child could enjoy flying more than she ever did.

Now more than ever, Hermione was convinced that things were going to work themselves out. If it was one thing she knew, her trials and tribulations had made her stronger than she had ever dreamed of becoming. The best part was, she was never alone.

***********HP**********

Chapter Text

Monday morning found Hermione once again praying before the porcelain god, head resting on her arms as she heaved. Her peach nightgown clung to her body, a fine sheen of sweat on her skin. Dear Merlin was she warm, burning up in fact. Hot flashes and morning sickness, this was starting to look like a real pregnancy now.

Flushing the toilet Hermione rose, pushing her bushy locks out of her eyes. Walking toward the showers she pulled her nightgown up over her head and let it fall silently to the stone floor. It was just before six in the morning and no one but Hermione was awake at the moment.

Stepping under the rushing water she sighed as it sluiced down her body in rivers, leaving nothing behind but shiny pink skin. After washing her hair and scrubbing her body Hermione found herself leaning against the wall, fingers on her abdomen for what was probably the hundredth time in days.

Pulling herself out of her stupor, Hermione shut the water off and stepped from the dripping stone cubicle. Her feet slapped sharply across the floor as she made her way back to her room, wrapped in a fuzzy red robe.

Lazily she dressed, before arranging her hair into a plait, wet ringlets dangling down her back and around her neck. Hermione turned to the side as she adjusted her shirt, confused at the tightness in the waist and breast area. Had the seamstress cut them wrong? Running her hands down the shirt, Hermione stopped in shock. Her breasts had been steadily growing but her abdomen had puffed up practically overnight.

The lump was hard and soft all at once not to mention it stuck out considerably against her hip bones. It was official, her belly was becoming visible and she would have to start hiding it.

Snatching up her wand, Hermione whispered a few spells and let out a sigh of relief as the material loosened. It looked kind of odd, but she could make it work. Tucking the shirt into her pleated skirt, she pulled it up a bit, puffing it round the waistband. Stocking covered feet then slipped into a pair of plain black flats, Hermione’s outer robe left for last. After adjusting the sleeves and the tightness of her tie, Hermione grabbed her bag and stowed her wand before heading out the door.

Harry and Ron waited for her in the common room, bleary eyed and disheveled. Slowly Ron held up his hand, ring glinting on his finger.

“We felt it. You alright?”

Hermione nodded.

“Just some morning sickness is all. It’s going to be a common thing for a while. Shall we go to breakfast?”

Ron nodded and headed toward the portrait hole. “Sounds good.”

Hermione and Harry followed at a leisurely pace, the stumbling redhead practically asleep as they made their way to the Great Hall. Unlike the weekend past, the castle was already stirring at this hour, people crawling from their common rooms and heading toward breakfast or to meet up with friends before the first day of class.

The Great Hall was already half full by the time the trio arrived and though it was early, students chattered to themselves in groups, some still waking up while others bounced in their seats, anticipation written all over their faces.

Grabbing spots on a bench, Hermione settled herself across from Neville, Harry and Ron on one side.

“Good morning Neville. Sleep well?”

Neville nodded as he returned her greeting. “Not bad Hermione, not bad. Are you ready for classes? You have a full plate this year with that apprenticeship right?”

Ron and Harry ate silently, conversing with each other while Hermione spooned fruit onto her plate and nibbled some dry toast.

“Mhm, I have no idea what to expect other than a load of work and planning. Plus I’ll have to defend my dissertation and right to teach at the end of the year, to both the ministry and the Guild. Not to mention I won’t be fully qualified to teach for another whole year after this.”

Neville let out a breath, feeling bad for Hermione. She would be under a good amount of stress this year. He was lucky, his work wouldn’t begin until next year.

“Professor Sprout has agreed to give me a recommendation to pursue a Mastery in Herbology through the Guild. They are cautious about taking anyone new since that incident a few years ago. The one with the illegal crossbreed of a man eating plant and a Venomous Tentacula. It did not end well.”

Hermione giggled, trying not to choke on her toast.

“I’m still not sure how that was pulled off Neville. That article brightened my day however.”

After another fifteen minutes of idle chatter, Hermione noticed Padma striding down the table’s length, passing out schedules. The small group got silent as they began inspecting their schedules and comparing to each other. They all had Charms together on their odd day while Harry and Ron shared double DADA together on their even day. Neville and Hermione both shared Arithmacy together on their even day as well. Other than that, they were all going their separate ways.

Hermione barely held in her groan. Charms, double Transfiguration, Lunch, a Teacher’s Aid period and a free period. No doubt she would be using that free period for class work and planning. On her even day she had Arithmacy with Neville then a double TA period, Lunch and another free period which like the previous would have nothing to do with free time.

Harry and Ron’s looked relatively the same. Charms with herself and Neville, then double DADA and finally on even day they shared Transfiguration. All their plates were full to an extent and Hermione wondered if any of them would make it out alive this year.

As the early bell rung in the clock tower Hermione stood and stretched, ready to get the first day started. She and Neville led the way to Charms, Harry and Ron lagging behind, complaining about classes already.

Unlike the years before, the classroom had a smattering of every house, not just the usual paired classes from the years before. Headmistress McGonagall had decided that enough was enough of separating houses. With how small the older classes were, it made no sense to separate them as they had been before anyway.

Taking a seat in the upper corner of the classroom Hermione set her bag under the desk and removed her outer robe, throwing it over the back of the seat. Fluffing her shirt a bit, she made sure it covered anything there was to see. Harry and Ron were seated on either side with Neville a row in front of them.

“Harry! You have Charms too?”

Harry groaned, his head falling to the desk. Looking over at Ron he grimaced.

“Why me? Why?”

Ginny settled herself down in front of them next to Neville, completely ignoring said boy. Swiveling around she sent a blinding smile at the trio, mainly focused on Harry.

“What other classes do you have?”

To Harry’s dismay and Ron’s humorous laugh, Hermione confirmed Harry and Ron shared Charms, double DADA, and Transfiguration while Ron shared double Potions with his younger sister.

Ginny giggled and squealed in excitement. It was clear to everyone around them she was not going to give up on Harry any time soon. Thankfully Professor Flitwick chose the moment to enter the classroom. With a wave of his wand, directions appeared on the chalkboard at the front of the room. The whole classroom seemed to groan as one.

Professor Flitwick’s cheerful little voice cut through the voice. “Now, now. No need to be like that. After all, we’re starting out small. I want a simple, twelve inch essay on the advantages and disadvantages of merging Charms with Transfiguration spells. Not too bad is it? And if you do not finish it by the end of class, I expect to see it next class, bright and early.”

A whole new round of noises erupted as students cursed their luck and others dug into their bags for parchment and quill. Before Hermione could blink she found herself writing, quill scratching across the parchment. She didn’t even have to think, the words just seemed to flow from her hand. At least one thing hadn’t changed, she was still smart.

*********HP*********

Hermione had just finished handing her parchment to Professor Flitwick when the bell signaled the end of class. Gathering up her things, Hermione waved goodbye to Harry and Ron as they headed to DADA with Ginny and she went in the opposite direction to Transfiguration. Professor McGonagall sat behind her desk, reviewing papers when Hermione entered. Taking a seat toward the front, she turned to observe the inhabitants of the classroom.

So far there were only three other Gryffindors, four Ravenclaws, three Slytherins and a single Hufflepuff. What surprised her however was that the Slytherins were Blaise Zabini, Draco Malfoy and Daphne Greengrass. Just before the bell rang, two more Hufflepuffs showed up, giving the class a total of fourteen students in all. It was a double period after all, meant for those who wanted to make Transfiguration part of their life’s work.

Hermione heard whispering behind her and turned to see the other three Gryffindors, all girls, gossiping two rows behind her. Hermione frowned at their behavior and unable to match their faces to names.

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat from the front of the room, catching the attention of the few students there.

“First and foremost I wish to let you all know that though I am Headmistress, I will show no favoritism in my classes. Your grade will depend on the quality of your work and your effort. This class will be hard and I expect at least a quarter of you to transfer out and into my standard NEWT class by the end of the first quarter.”

Hermione bit her lip, unsure of how to take the Professor’s statement. Was this class really going to be that intimidating or was she just trying to weed out the weak students now? Breaking her thoughts, Hermione focused on the woman once more as she continued her speech.

“Secondly, fifty percent of your overall grade will be determined by the midterm and final project, both to be outlined shortly. The other fifty percent will be class work and participation along with your sparse but challenging homework.”

Professor McGonagall waved her wand and the syllabus’s that had sat on her desk appeared before all the students, the parchment at least a foot long. Hermione’s eyes widened as she scanned the paper, its contents astounding. How were they supposed to accomplish this? Looking back to the Professor, she had a severe urge to raise her hand but held it in when the older woman began to go into more detail.

“As you can see there is a full list of spells we will be learning plus another that we will be reviewing. I can say in complete confidence that the reviewed spells will be on your exams.”

The list of review spells had to contain over one hundred of them, all different kinds of Transfiguration from inanimate to animate object and from one state of matter to a complete other. The new spells however had Hermione worrying her lip. They were Human Transfiguration and according to the syllabus, the students were to be their own test subjects. Granted she had done a few simple spells like this but nothing of this caliber.

Would it even be safe for her to do so? What about her baby? Would the child be affected by any of this?

“Your first term project is due no later than January third, and for every day it is late, twenty points will be deducted from your grade. You will all alter a spell of your choosing and essentially create a new one. It must work. If the spell does not work but your logic is sound, you will lose a third of your points. This project will be based on theory, practicality and application. You must have all three portions to get a perfect score. The spell can be Transfiguration or Charm based, either is fine and will give you the points you need.”

The whole class seemed to tense up but Hermione let out a sigh of relief. This she could do. It was simply a matter of deciding what she wanted, finding a spell or charm that came close and writing out the theory. Then she would simply filter the contents, remove what would not work and add what essentially would, leaving no holes in her spell work of course. It would take an unimaginable amount of man hours but she could do this.

Across the room Daphne Greengrass raised her hand, her face scrunched in confusion.

“Yes Ms. Greengrass?”

Lowering her hand, Daphne set her syllabus down and looked up at Professor McGonagall.

“This end of the year project, what if we don’t want to become an Animagus? What if we cannot accomplish a form by the end of the year?”

Hermione couldn’t help but release a sigh of relief as the Slytherin asked the same thing she had wanted to. An Animagus form would be wonderful no doubt but she had heard that it could interfere with a pregnancy and vice versa. It didn’t help that if not done with the utmost precision, caution and supervision the process was very hard on the body, causing stress, sickness and a multitude of other issues. That was under the best of circumstances.

“Valid points Ms. Greengrass. I highly encourage all of you to put forth the effort and become an Animagus. It is a great skill to possess. If you adamantly do not want to participate then you will be given work on the theory only. It is after all the most highly sophisticated form of Human Transfiguration. If you cannot attain a form it is alright. Some of you will transform within the first two months, others will take all semester. We will not start on that until just before Christmas break anyway. You have time to think and decide. Keep in mind that this is not being offered to my regular seventh years.”

Over the next half an hour, Professor McGonagall answered all sorts of questions and concerns as she passed out the beginning material for the class. Toward the end of class as she passed out the last of the papers, she dropped a small packet onto Hermione’s desk.

“Ms. Granger, these are the class schedules and rosters. You will be working with first through third years. In here are also the curriculum points, the syllabus for each year and the first nine weeks worth of lesson plans. I want you to take a look at them for me, make sure I have not mixed anything up or missed anything. I am human after all and a busy human at that.”

Hermione nodded as she tested the weight of the parchment and flipped through absent mindedly. If she was only dealing with younger years that would make things much easier. Giving instruction on turning matchsticks into needles and mice into goblets would be no issue. As Professor McGonagall continued, she continued browsing, multitasking.

“After the first few weeks of you assisting me, you will take over my first year class almost completely and about half of my second years as well. Hopefully by the end of the semester you will be running one of my third years classes as well. After lunch I will give you a copy of my grade book. You will be in charge of grading all tests and homework assignments. You know what kind of quality and effort I require. After grading you will enter them into your grade book and it will automatically update in mine.”

Hermione nodded again, excitement beginning to buzz in her veins. She was going to be a teacher.

Professor McGonagall began walking away but stopped, turning back to her apprentice, a soft smile on her face.

“Oh and Ms. Granger? Have no fear. If you choose to move forward with the Animagus transformation, we will take utmost care. I want you to succeed, to be all you can and more.”

The bell rang, cutting off anything else the elder woman may have had to say. Gathering her things together, Hermione threw her messenger bag over her shoulder and with her new assignment cradled in her arms, she headed to the Great Hall.

**********HP**********

The Great Hall was packed and noisy, students comparing their days so far and discussing things to come. Personally, Hermione loved the hustle and bustle of the first day, when everything seemed so new and exciting.

As she came upon the Gryffindor table she could clearly hear Ron laughing and a continuous thunking noise. Upon further inspection she saw it was Harry, smacking his forehead into the hardwood that made up the table. Ron was bent over laughing, smacking Harry in the shoulder telling him to cut it out.

“You don’t need any more brain damage mate.”

Hermione settled herself across from them and looked at Neville.

“What’s wrong now?”

Harry stopped his self-punishment and looked up before letting out a long whine.

“Professor Savage partnered me with Ginny for the first nine weeks.”

Hermione’s hand flew to her mouth as she tried to hold in her laughter. In reality it wasn’t fair to Harry at all. He and Ginny were broken up, he was trying to move on and she refused to accept that they were done. Said redhead was always finding ways to get into Harry’s company and be around him which only drove him mad. Even Ron had tried telling Ginny to back off, which only earned him a thorough reaming from the youngest Weasley.

Setting her things down, Hermione reached over and patted Harry’s hand.

“I’m sorry Harry. I know it’s not going to be easy but maybe you can knock some sense into her while you are partnered together.”

Ron dropped a plate in front of Harry. “Starving yourself won’t do you any good mate.”

Harry made a face at the amused redhead. Life really was unfair and karma was obviously the biggest bitch, who just couldn’t seem to leave him alone. Picking up his fork, he decided to change the subject.

“So how was Transfiguration Hermione?”

Swallowing the turkey in her mouth the bookworm replied.

“Not bad. The coursework is going to be hell and I’ve already been given the class work studies and other items for my assisting duties. Professor McGonagall has me working already. How about you?”

Harry chewed and swallowed before answering. “Professor Savage mentioned in passing that he would give me the proper materials during my first TA period later. I suppose he’ll throw it at me all at once. The class was pretty bland, we went over things we did and didn’t know. He said he’ll quiz us next class to see where we stand.”

Ron waved his fork around dramatically in the air as he jumped in.

“See, this is exactly why I chose to go the route of an Auror. I’ll do training at the ministry and in a year I’ll be set. You two will still be apprenticing.”

The rest of lunch was spent in amiable chatter, trading jokes and stories of the day so far. As the bell rang, signaling the end of their meal the group split up, heading to their classes.

************HP***********

Hermione stepped into the Transfiguration classroom and headed to the front, weaving between the first years who were finding their seats. Behind her the whispers increased as students leaned toward each other and pointed at her back. Hermione didn’t have to see it to know it was happening. A second chair had been placed behind the large oak desk that enveloped the front of the room. Setting her things down Hermione adjusted her outer robe, pulling the sleeves down. It was always colder in this classroom and she hated it.

A hush fell over the students as Professor McGonagall came out of her adjoining office, robes sweeping across the floor. She waved a hand at Hermione, telling her to take a seat.

Hermione watched as Professor McGonagall grabbed the students attention and began the class.

************HP************

The next two weeks followed suit, Hermione already swamped with homework of her own and the responsibilities of grading the work from the first through fifth years. Professor McGonagall had asked her to take on more grading work, all the time she devoted to her double transfiguration class hampering her attention on other classes. However she was still only assisting with first through third years and for that she was thankful.

She spent evenings with Ron and Harry, relaxing inside the dorm rooms. She and Harry often spent the time planning and grading, Hermione often looking something over for Harry. He knew what needed to be in the assignments but Hermione was better at judging the quality of work and showed him just what to look for. Ron would do his homework and amuse himself until they were done for the night and could relax in the common room.

Hermione’s morning sickness had gotten no worse but no better either. Madam Pomfrey did not want to increase the dosage of the nausea suppressant, afraid of the effects on Hermione’s body. She was already tired enough but an increase in the potion could cause severe lethargy along with lack of appetite. According to Madam Pomfrey, appetite was something Hermione could not afford to lose. She had gained a few more pounds, but Madam Pomfrey was still not satisfied. It had become Harry and Ron’s job at meal time to make sure she ate sufficiently.

Hermione found it funny, wanted to roll her eyes in fact but understood the Matron’s concern. She found it both a relief and worrisome that her stomach hadn’t grown any more. It was at least one thing she didn’t have to hide overly much, unlike her growing attraction to a certain teacher.

**********HP**********

A knock on her dormitory door roused Hermione from sleep, her mind groggy from her afternoon nap. The knocking came again before the door opened and Harry stumbled in, hands over his eyes.

“Hermione, are you decent love? Can’t see you naked before we get married after all.”

Crookshanks hissed as she rolled over on him, reaching for a pillow to throw at the intruder.

“Go away Harry. I’m sleepy.”

Harry lowered the hands from his eyes and smirked at the brunette tangled up in her blankets. Ron followed him in the door, not bothering to shut it. They would need the escape route after all. Exchanging wicked grins, they climbed onto the end of the bed and began jumping and hollering.

Hermione groaned, hiding under the blankets as the pair continued to disturb her sleep. Suddenly the bed began to bounce violently as they jumped up and down. With a shriek, Hermione yanked the covers down and sat up, glaring at the two through her mussed hair.

“Dinner time Hermione. Remember, you have to eat.”

Brushing the hair out of her face she glared at Ron, her body bouncing up and down.

“It’s Saturday Ronald, I want to sleep.”

Harry wagged his finger at her, defending his partner in crime.

“Ah ah ah. You’ve been napping all afternoon. Time to eat.”

Hermione sighed and grabbed a couple pillows. Raising them menacingly she agreed to meet them downstairs before throwing the fluffy objects at them. With a couple shameless grins they ran out the door, closing it behind them.

Dragging herself out of bed Hermione swatted Crookshanks when he yowled at the loss of warmth. Pulling on a pair of snug jeans, she pulled a sweater over her head, hoping to ward off the chill permeating the highest part of the tower. September in northern Scotland was getting cooler by the day. Stuffing her feet into some fuzzy black slippers Hermione brushed her hair out before tying it up. Grabbing her wand, she shuffled to the bathroom and then headed down to the common room and her best friends.

All the way down to the Great Hall Harry and Ron needled Hermione, picking on her mercilessly. She had been sleepy lately, growing lethargic in the afternoons. However it was Hermione’s turn to laugh when Ginny settled herself boldly next to Harry, immediately trying to engage him in conversation.

Dinner was a very loud and raucous affair. Tomorrow was the first Hogsmeade visit of the year. The staff had decided to restrict it to only one day for the first visit, afraid students would waste all the money in their pockets out of excitement.

For nearly an hour and a half Hermione sat and joked at the Gryffindor table. It was good to be around others again. It almost felt as if she, Harry and Ron had not missed the last year of school. Glancing up at the head table, she noticed that it was almost full except for one person. Professor Snape had not attended regular meals since the welcome feast. Hermione knew of course because despite her self reprimand, she continued to look at the head table, searching for him at every meal.

Glancing at her watch, Hermione rose and stretched before extracting herself from the bench. Announcing her intent to head back to her room and do some reading she waved to everyone and left.

Wandering the halls she headed in the general direction of the tower, wanting to stretch her muscles before curling up in an armchair again. Suddenly she felt the need to sit down, nausea rolling through her. Settling herself into an alcove bench Hermione bent foreword and placed her head between her knees.

“Ms. Granger, what are you doing here in the dark?”

The silky baritone of that voice shocked Hermione and the breath froze in her lungs. The air was suddenly permeated by a sensuous musk and her hands became clammy, her stomach knotting. Standing shakily, she came face to face with Professor Snape, one elegant eyebrow arched in question.

“Again I ask Ms. Granger, why are you hiding out here, in the dark?”

Hermione opened her mouth to answer but couldn’t seem to force the words out. Suddenly her mouth was dry and her nausea became increasingly worse. She tried to stop the knee jerk reaction, the gag in her throat. As she looked up at Professor Snape’s face, she found herself falling into his dark eyes. Merlin she loved those eyes.

Then with minimal warning she leaned over and vomited all over his shiny dragon hide boots.

Chapter Text

Severus stepped back with a look of disgust on his face as Hermione continued to dry heave against the wall. Pulling his wand he eliminated the mess on his boots and the floor before turning to the sick Gryffindor.

Slowly she straightened, brushing her bangs out of her eyes. With a quick “Evanesco” the floor was clean and she was wiping her mouth with a handkerchief retrieved from her pocket.

“Miss Granger, are you done?”

As Hermione turned toward him, Severus caught the look of shame morphing into anger on her face. Raising an eyebrow he prompted, “Well?”

Nodding she replied coldly. “I’m fine professor, thank you for your concern.”

Hoping to avoid more embarrassment, Hermione turned on her heel to continue toward the tower when a strong grip on her upper arm stopped her in her tracks. Her gaze fell down to the pale hand that gripped her arm and the heat that seemed to radiate from it. Shaking herself back to reality, she pulled her arm from his grip.

“Can I help you Professor?”

At her flippant question Severus stepped closer, his aggressive demeanor responding to her blatant disrespect. When she didn’t move, he wanted to grin. It was an odd feeling really, no student had ever talked back to him like this, especially one that had been a student of his for six years; nevermind the way he had treated her. However, he had never fucked a student either; new experiences all around.

“The hospital wing is the other way Ms. Granger.”

Hermione shook her head and backed up a smidge, trying so hard not to give into the pressure his presence was mounting on her. The fact was, Severus Snape was an intimidating man, expecting things his way and no other. Unfortunately it looked like she had not gotten the owl.

“I don’t need the hospital wing. It’s just a stomach bug. Again, I thank you for your concern but it isn’t needed.”

This time Severus did let a vicious grin slip onto his lips. It was to be the hard way then.

***********HP**********

Hermione wanted to cry as Severus levitated her into the hospital wing and onto a bed. It wasn’t fair, why did his shoes have to be in the way of her vomit? After all her hiding it looked like the kneazle was trying to escape the bag.

Her gaze fell on the man as he strode toward Madame Pomfrey’s office, a slight swagger to his step. What was up with him? He never went out of his way to help a student and she doubted the sex they had was any sort of influence. However he did enjoy feeding off a student’s humiliation and nothing was more humiliating than vomiting on your professor’s shoes.

Moments later he was headed back in her direction, the matron on his heels. As he stopped in front of her, Hermione couldn’t help but steel her jaw and glare at him. What right did he have to interfere with her choice to go back to the tower anyway? She was a legal adult and perfectly capable of making her own decisions about her health. It’s not like she didn’t know what the cause of her vomiting was anyway.

“Madam Pomfrey, I trust you will look Ms. Granger over thoroughly. Merlin knows how long she’s been sick, as hard headed and high handed as she is.”

Before Hermione could manage a sufficient retort to his comment, Severus Snape was gone.

********HP********

Severus wasn’t sure why his heart was still pounding or why his body was so hot. It was as if his nervous system was in overdrive and he has just run a mile. Gripping the porcelain sink in front of him he leaned over it, trying to get his breathing under control. The mirror was still fogged from his shower, his hair in tangles and dripping water. Moisture still clung to his exposed upper body, muscles tensing under the skin in intervals. Slowly he raised his head, meeting his own hawk like gaze. Without warning he knew exactly what drove him.

He was excited.

In truth he couldn’t remember the last time anyone male or female had grabbed his attention and held it for longer than it took to bend them over in a dark alley. Despite what everyone believed he was not asexual and did in fact enjoy the pleasures of the flesh as often as possible and with great fervor.

Looking back he had never seen anything special about Hermione Granger. Granted she was a brilliant mind but it was more of a need for knowledge, not an inherent intellect. Excellent student, genuinely good Gryffindor and all around Know-it-all. That’s all there was to her, or so he had thought. Tonight however proved otherwise. She had a spine of steel and a sense of pride. Severus had known it was there, after all, she never would of gotten into the messes she had if it wasn’t. But seeing it, that was a whole different story. The spark in her eyes, sarcasm in her voice and turn of her chin got his pulse moving.

Her defiance and blatant disrespect excited him.

**************HP****************

Hermione sat on the roof of Gryffindor tower, looking up at the stars. She was huddled with a thick blanket, two pairs of socks on her feet and a warming charm over herself. Harry sat quietly beside her and gripped her hand tightly. Ron had gone and run interference once again with his sister, trying to give his best mate some peace. He thought they were both crazy for sitting on the roof, out in the cold anyway.

“Maybe you should tell him Hermione. I may not like the man but even I can’t deny that he deserves to know.”

Hermione snuggled closer into Harry’s shoulder with a grimace. She knew it was wrong to keep this from Severus but she wasn’t ready to tell him, despite the fact he had almost found her out several hours before. Would he even believe her? Who was to say he would even want anything to do with the child, let alone having it come into this world.

Shaking her head Hermione held her ground.

“It’s too soon Harry. I mean the Weasley’s don’t even know yet so why should he? I need to know they support me before I give him the chance to tear me down.”

Harry sighed as he looked anywhere but at his friend. He knew this was hard on her, knew how heavily it weighed on her mind. He would drop the subject for now, it was too cold to let her cry.

****************HP****************

The next morning found the castle buzzing with excitement as students filed downstairs and into the already formed line. Hermione, Harry and Ron got checked off the list early on and headed out. The day wasn’t so much planned as there were a list of visits to be made. Hermione needed to visit Scrivenshaft’s and wanted to peek in Gladrag’s while Harry and Ron had their eyes on Zonko’s and Honeydukes.

Hermione stood outside Honeydukes and watched the excited third years racing around in groups. Had she been that excited? Adjusting her sweater Hermione looked up at the sun, happy to have the warmth for another day. Looking behind her at Honeydukes she grimaced, the thought of the store making her stomach turn. Sweet’s weren’t tolerated by her stomach these days and the smell of the establishment had sent her right back out the door. It was alright though, it wasn’t as if Hermione needed the candy to survive.

A few minutes later Harry and Ron exited the shop with sheepish grins on their faces. They both held large bags of candy, while Harry swallowed whatever was in his mouth.

“Sorry Hermione.”

Hermione blushed and shook her head.

“Don’t worry about it. Not like we could have predicted this turn of events. Shall we hit Zonko‘s and then Scrivenshaft‘s? We can go to the Hog‘s Head for lunch.”

Ron shrunk his bag of candy before placing it in his pocket.

“Sounds good. The Hogshead has a nice bratwurst with sauerkraut.”

The inside of Zonko’s hadn’t changed much, a new coat of paint and a new shelf or two but otherwise the place was relatively the same. One wall however was home to Weasley Wizard’s Wheezes. The whole wall was brightly colored and host to all sorts of Weasley twins creations. Harry and Ron perused the shelves, looking for something they hadn’t seen before but Hermione doubted they would find anything.

After about an hour of perusing even Hermione left with something although she refused to tell her cohorts what she had bought.

Scrivenshaft’s as usual was pretty empty, only a few students inside. Hermione wandered over to the parchment, looking for more stationary and a better quality parchment to do her homework with. Sadly she had already used a good amount of her stash, she hadn’t anticipated needing more so soon. After selecting a better quality parchment she headed over toward the quills. Selection was easy, ten or so standard issue quill’s and a few error correcting ones, however Hermione was more picky when it came to dictation quill’s.

Rita Skeeter had forever thrown Quick Quotes Quill’s off her radar. Hermione refused to use the same horrendous instrument as that insufferable woman. Finally she selected a few of the classic Goldsby Dictation Quills and on her way to the checkout counter she snatched two bottles of standard issue black ink and one red.

Outside the store Hermione found Harry and Ron throwing Exploding Snaps at each other and anyone who got in the way. Some younger students watched from afar, pointing and laughing at the bystanders who got caught in the confrontation.

“Some friends you have there Granger.”

Hermione whipped around, barely restraining her reaction to reach for her wand. Blaise Zabini stepped back, hands in the air, smirk on his face.

“Woah there soldier, stand down.”

Hermione relaxed, sliding a glare the Italian’s way. A few feet away stood Malfoy, Daphne Greengrass and the sixth years from the train. Looking back at the Italian Hermione asked, “Is there something you need?”

Blaise cocked his head, watching her with wide eyes. He was putting on an innocent act she knew, trying to keep her guard down. Adjusting the purchases in her hand she cocked an eyebrow, emphasizing her question.

Blaise chuckled, the sound like warm honey. He would never admit it but he liked Granger’s tenacity and maybe if it had been another time, another place he would’ve pursued her for his own; despite her being a Gryffindor. Attraction could make you do strange things, even chase a Gryffindor. It wasn’t to be however, the cards had already been played.

“Will you be going to The Three Broomsticks for lunch? I’d like to discuss Professor McGonagall’s assignment with you. Trade notes if you will.”

Harry and Ron had stopped their charades and were watching the exchange with curiosity and apprehension. What did Zabini think he was doing exactly?

Hermione furrowed her brows, the same thought going through her head. She held no grudges and had no problems with any of the current Slytherins but wasn’t Zabini taking this ‘getting along’ thing a bit too far?

Looking back at Harry and Ron she mouthed the question at them, looking for their opinion. Ron shook his head adamantly, the big fat NO written on his face. Harry was thoughtful and turned to Ron, beginning their own exchange. In the end Harry stomped on Ron’s foot and as the redhead soothed the sore appendage Harry nodded at Hermione, giving her the go ahead.

Turning back to Zabini she shook her head.

“We’re not exactly fans of Rosmerta these days despite circumstances. If you really are interested, you can find us at the Hogs Head in about an hour, although I doubt I‘ve thought of something you haven‘t.”

“You’re not scared of the Hogs Head are you Zabini?” Hermione couldn’t help needling him when he failed to respond.

The Slytherin shook his head and replied, “Not at all however I’m wondering how well we’ll be received there.”

Hermione turned toward Harry and Ron, dismissing Blaise’s concern with a wave of her hand. “You’re choice.”

Blaise watched the Gryffindor princess walk back to her friends, a frown on his face. This was truly harder than he thought it would be.

***********HP***************

Their slow and silent walk toward the Hogs Head was interrupted by Ron’s quiet statement.

“Do you really think they’ve changed in a good way? We all know war changes people but it’s not always for the better.”

Hermione squeezed his hand and smiled at her friend. She had always know his brain was bigger than his mouth but sometimes it was hard to see.

“We’ll just have to find out. Feet first and just hope we don’t break our legs on the way down.”

Harry snorted from her other side.

“We best not. You’d pass out from shock leaving Ron and I veritably screwed. You’re the only with any talent toward healing. We’d just bungle it up and I don’t feel like imitating Lockhart.”

Hermione couldn’t help the giggle that escaped her.

“He was such a flunky. How did I ever think he was handsome?”

Ron shoved her with his shoulder and laughed.

“We forgive you.”

Passing Madame Puddifoot’s tea shop brought back memories of fumbling teenage boy moments that both Harry and Ron preferred to forget.

“Viktor wanted to bring me here once. I told him I would rather go to The Three Broomsticks or sit outside in the snow than step foot in that place.”

Harry and Ron looked at Hermione, the blush on her cheeks not pink but red.

“Did he now?”

Hermione nodded. “He really was very sweet, if not a bit one track minded. He offered to marry me, when I told him the news.”

Harry stopped in his tracks. “Are you serious?”

Hermione paused as well and suddenly felt like she was under a microscope. “He said it didn’t matter and that no matter what he would be here for me. His family doesn’t give a lick about blood purity you see.”

Ron scratched his neck, suddenly embarrassed. “Did you two ever, ya know? Is that why?”

Hermione shook her head. ”No, goodness no. You two may never get our relationship, but he is my friend. He listens and doesn’t judge. Though I love you two dearly, he is my silent confessor. You understand that don’t you? Viktor takes every secret I have and locks it away without a word, giving his thoughts only when I ask for them. I do the same in return.”

Harry shook his head ruefully. He had always know that Viktor Krum was something to Hermione that he and Ron could never be. They could never remain silent, they cared about her too much to do that but the famous Quidditch player possessed a quiet reserve that they did not. No matter what happened, it looked as if their relationship was good for them both, whether he and Ron liked it or not.

“Yeah, I get it. Just like Ron and I share things with each other that could never be shared with you.”

They were all silent for a moment, the silence awkward and uncomfortable.

“Shall head for the Hogs Head?”

Ron’s smile was clipped, his demeanor shaky as he asked. Though they were the best of friends, the trio had to admit, they all had secrets from each other and themselves.

*****************HP*****************

Hermione settled into the booth they were shown to, Ron sliding in next to her and Harry on the other side. Her stomach rumbled for the first time that day and Hermione realized she was famished. Red meat sounded really, really good. She followed Ron’s order of a bratwurst with sauerkraut and a butterbeer. Harry on the other hand ordered the corned beef and cabbage. While they waited on their food and sipped their drinks the trio chattered quietly, the earlier awkward feeling gone as quickly as it had come.

Ron nudged her in the shoulder and grabbed Harry’s attention when the Slytherin’s walked in the door. It was just Zabini, Malfoy and Greengrass, the sixth years they were with before gone somewhere else.

Blaise waved off the waitress and headed in their direction, the other two in tow. Harry stood, letting Blaise slide in over to the wall so he sat across from Hermione and Draco sat next to him. Greengrass settled herself in the last spot, brushing her body against Ron as she did. Harry smothered a smile, Ron’s embarrassed shade of red still clashed horrible with his hair.

The waitress, looking miffed over her dismissal before, came over and took the newcomer’s orders. When she left, Hermione set aside her glass and glanced at Daphne, giving the other girl a nod of acknowledgement. The raven haired girl nodded back and reached for her drink. Clearing her throat she looked at Malfoy, giving him the same.

Blaise smiled, his pearly teeth glinting in the dim light. “Well now that we’ve gotten over that hump, feel like helping me out?”

The rest of lunch was spent in relative silence as Hermione and Blaise debated his methods in their latest transfiguration analysis. Daphne watched with interest while Harry and Ron chatted amongst themselves. Draco however was barely awake, his limp silver locks covering his eyes. Hermione glanced at him, barely keeping her concern from her face. It really was none of her business but the Malfoy heir looked sickly these days. His appearance was unkempt, the bruises under his eyes almost obscene.

Blaise’s voice jogged her from her observations, pulling her back toward their conversation. Who was she to show concern for him anyway? Besides, if there was something wrong, she was sure Zabini would take care of him.

**************HP**************

As the days went by, autumn slowly began to turn into winter, the cold gusts coming down from the north. The summer had been stifling so it was only fair that winter show itself early. Early October arrived on the announcement that Hermione’s baby was doing exceptionally well and the gender would be determined early, due to magical advancements.

Hermione was so ecstatic that she couldn’t help the blinding smile that came across her face. She was currently thirteen and a half weeks, so in another four to five weeks she would be able to see her baby’s gender. Madame Pomfrey set aside a few hours in the early morning on November third for the ultrasound. Hermione was loathe to admit it, but after her ultrasound, she was mostly likely going to have a hard time concentrating on classes.

Her stomach had grown as well, only a tiny bit but it gave her a warm feeling whenever she encircled that small bulge with her hands.

Recently Blaise Zabini had taken to picking her mind and bothering her in the library when she was trying to work. She didn’t think it was a coincidence that Harry and Ron were busy whenever he decided to approach her. It was always about Transfiguration work, some question or another but Hermione wasn’t fooled. He never asked about anything other than Transfiguration, not her personal life or her friends but he was looking for something, that much she was sure of. Hermione had to admit the Slytherin was crafty in his search but she refused to give him anything, despite not knowing exactly what he was looking for.

**************HP**************

Blaise threw himself into the emerald green couch that sat before the Slytherin fireplace.

“This really is much harder than I thought.”

Draco looked up from his book and over to his friend.

“What did you expect? Though she may be muggleborn we all know Hermione Granger is no fool. Just leave it alone Blaise, it‘s none of our business anyway. You’re being nosy again and it doesn‘t suit you.”

Blaise chuckled, waving a finger at the blonde. He couldn’t explain his urge to know but he had to, it was eating away at him. The drunken mumblings of that night three months ago haunted him, he had to be sure before he approached his head of house.

“I can’t let it go Draco. Everything is just now falling back into place and we’re all getting back to normal. If it’s true Granger and Professor Snape slept together she could be pregnant. As with every scandal, I want to be on the sidelines when it breaks. “

Draco sighed, closing the book in his lap. It was no use, Blaise once again had his teeth into something that though admittedly juicy; was none of their concern. Reaching for his water, Draco gulped it down. Setting the glass back down for the elves to retrieve later, he leveled his best friend with a piercing stare.

“You do know Snape will kill you for meddling in his affairs right? Whether she’s pregnant or not, that night is obviously not being talked about by either of them. Don’t you think they might want to keep it that way?”

Before Blaise could open his mouth the common room portrait opened and in spilled several lower years, their shouts and laughter echoing off the dungeon walls. Draco gave Blaise a rare smirk as the Italian grumbled about ungrateful brats. Blaise was nosy yes, but he wanted to uncover the truth, not start a rumor.

Draco’s hand went to the Dark Mark under his shirt sleeve and rubbed at it carelessly. He grimaced at the ache, wishing it would go away.

Blaise followed the movement, feeling bad for his friend. Ever since the downfall of Voldemort, Draco had been suffering from a form of withdrawals as the Dark Mark faded. Itching, sleeplessness, agitation, anxiety and a host of other annoying side effects. The blonde was certainly paying for his crimes and hopefully it would be over soon. If the annoyance of it didn’t drive Blaise to kill him anyway.

Chapter Text

Severus watched the class of inept third years practically run from his classroom. The scent of their fear and stupidity permeated the air, causing him to curl his lip in disgust. Eyeing the potion vials on his desk he could tell without testing them that not a single one would pass muster. His patience was about gone and the next student who looked at him wrong was going to wish they had never been conceived. It was indeed a small mercy that the third years had been his last class of the day and thank Merlin on a Friday.

Leaving the classroom behind, the Potions Master strode down the hall and deeper into the dungeons, into his domain. Reaching his rooms Severus quickly gave the password to a portrait of Medusa, stepping through the portrait hole without further thought.

Nimble fingers casually popped the buttons on his outer robe before shucking the garment and tossing it onto the couch in his sitting room, loafers following shortly after. Stripping off his shirt Severus threw it on top of his robe and wandered barefoot over to the small bar situated in the corner. The cold stone under his feet felt good after a long day filled with idiots wasting his time. Grabbing a bottle of Cognac from the glass shelf above him Severus poured two fingers of the golden liquid into the glass tumbler, then thought better of it and poured more.

Not bothering to return the bottle to it’s place, Severus grabbed the glass and headed to his desk, snatching a pack of smokes from the bar drawer. Settling himself into his chair, he lit a cigarette and simultaneously reached for the unsealed letters that lay upon his desk. Several of them were junk that he didn’t bother even opening, but the last two gave him pause. The first was a run of the mill request from another member of the Potions Guild, asking for his opinion on a experimental potion. Severus may have been a black sheep on the edge of the Wizarding Community but all the Potions Guild saw was a brilliant Potions Master, the youngest to attain his mastery in nearly eighty-five years.

Severus decided to go over the request in detail later, after he had relaxed. Pulling a long drag from his cigarette, Severus reached for the second letter and pulled at the seal. Setting the cigarette on the ashtray to his left he unfolded the letter, noticing the lack of writing on the page. The note was short, brisk and set him on edge.

Professor Snape,

Your mumblings have merit, we need to talk.

Blaise Zabini

*****************HP*****************

Hermione fidgeted in her chair, trying not to pee herself. Blaise Zabini once again sat across from her, grilling her about the newest assignment. Draco Malfoy sat next to him, silent as always although every now and then he threw his two knuts in. Throwing up her hands she cut Blaise off, her voice strained.

“Hold that thought, give me five minutes. I really need to use the loo.”

She ignored the smirk on Blaise’s face, not caring what caused it as she tore through the stacks of books and straight to the loo, strategically placed near Madam Pince’s office. Closing the door she locked it before lifting her skirt and dropping her panties. Hermione groaned with relief as she emptied her bladder, cursing the constriction her uterus placed on her bladder.

Looking down at her stomach, Hermione smiled with pleasure. She may of hated her new bathroom schedule but every rush to the loo was worth it. The last few weeks had caused a rapid change in her growing stomach. It was now slightly distended, and looked like she had cut a ball in half and stuck one half under her shirt. Hermione had not gained any weight but because of her slight figure the baby was distinctly visible. Pulling her skirt up she tucked her shirt tails in, frustrated at how her shirt stretched over her stomach. Every time she raised her arms the damn thing came un-tucked and exposed her growing belly. So far nobody had taken notice but if she wasn’t careful it was only a matter of time.

After washing her hands Hermione ran her fingers through her hair and headed back toward the two Slytherins.

*******************HP****************

Blaise laughed as Hermione hurried off toward the loo. It was the third time this had happened in the last week. He kind of felt bad for her but it just furthered his prediction. In reality this was just icing on the cake. A few days earlier he had spotted her reaching for a book that rested on a shelf just out of her reach. He hadn’t been spying on her although he had been coming around the corner to bother her per usual. When Hermione had reached for the book while on her toes, her uniform shirt had become un-tucked, flashing Blaise a good view of her swollen belly.

Turning to Draco he waved his hand in the direction Hermione had gone.

“What did I tell you? Poor girl must be suffering.”

Draco shook his head before running his hands through his platinum locks. Although he agreed Professor Snape had a right to know, he didn’t think they should be interfering. Since the war Draco had been working extra hard at keeping his thoughts to himself and keeping out of things that didn’t concern him. Resting his forearms on the table he looked at his housemate.

“It’s really none of our business. I’m sure Granger will tell him on her own, in due time.”

Blaise shook his head.

“Professor Snape has time to meet with us on Sunday, he’s already replied. We’ll tell him what we know and let him take it from there.”

Draco sat up, an incredulous look on his face.

“Us? We? Last I checked it was you and you.”

Before Blaise could reply Hermione came around the corner, the pinched look of strain gone from her smiling face. Sitting down she adjusted her robes and turned to the two Slytherins.

“Hope I didn’t take too long.”

Blaise shook his head, giving her his winning smile.

“Not at all, we’re the ones intruding on your personal time. Shall we continue?”

*************HP**************

Later that evening Hermione squished herself between Ron and the arm of the couch, before throwing her feet across his and Harry’s laps. Her stomach was pleasantly full and body felt so relaxed it was practically numb.

Harry flicked his wand, summoning the chess board off the floor. Settling it on Hermione’s outstretched legs he and Ron began to set up their game, Hermione’s slight humming in their ears.

Harry made the first move and looked over to Hermione.

“Have you thought anything else out?”

Hermione nodded, hands resting on her stomach.

“A few names, mostly girls. Why are some boys names so stupid? I’ve also been thinking about schooling.”

Ron raised an eyebrow at the last statement.

“Schooling? Hermione, isn’t that a little premature? Besides, won’t he or she go to Hogwarts?”

Hermione shrugged and reached out to play with his hair.

“It’s never too early for education. As far as Hogwarts goes, it’s wonderful here but there are some other wonderful and fully qualified schools. Other options as it were. However I have decided one thing for sure.”

Harry watched as Ron made a move and smirked at his scowl when Harry took his Knight.

“What would that be?”

“Their first bedtime story, The Three Brothers.”

Ron nodded, his bishop advancing toward Harry‘s side of the board.

“Good choice, but remind me again. How does it go?”

Hermione smiled.

“There were once three brothers who were traveling along a lonely winding road, at twilight. In time the brothers reached a river……”

**************HP****************

Sunday morning once again found Hermione in the library but this time it was recreational reading that drove her. Her work was done, papers graded and lesson plans reviewed for the next two weeks. Tomorrow afternoon she would be leading her first third year class and depending on how that went would determine if she would be taking on the fourth year class that occupied her first free period. So far she had led twelve first year classes and eight second year classes without a hitch.

Admittedly Hermione had been nervous at first but refused to show it. According to Professor McGonagall the students could smell fear like a werewolf smelled blood. Peering at the books in her hand she made a quick decision between the two before putting one back. Once again Howgarts: A History had won out. As she laid the book on the checkout desk for Madam Pince she couldn’t help but be amazed at how fast time had gone by. Here it was Halloween and furthermore she had forgotten about the blasted holiday though in her defense, she’d forgotten her own birthday. Earlier that morning she, Harry and Ron had looked bewildered at each other, when a couple passing first years had been giggling about the upcoming feast that night.

Grabbing the book from the librarian she gave a nod in thanks and left the harpy’s domain, still in thought. Hermione wished she could attribute her complete disregard for the day with her apprenticeship, class work or her pregnancy but truth was, she had just plain forgot. With the war over, the enemy decimated and the lack of surprises Hermione had indeed grown complacent. She was loathe to admit it but sometimes she didn’t even bother looking at her calendar, let alone what time it was. She just didn’t care about the passage of time right that moment, it was trivial compared to what she had been through in the last year. She just wanted to relax, all worries set aside.

Arriving back at the common room she deposited the borrowed book in her room before poking her head into Ron’s and then Harry’s room. She found the two boys laying about on the floor, arguing about the Chudley Cannons once again. As one they both looked at her, identical smiles gracing their rugged features. Sometimes she caught herself wondering when her best friends had stopped being boys and suddenly became men.

“Ready for dinner?”

Ron jumped to his feet, Harry following shortly. Who was she kidding, they were always ready for food. In the hall she stood between them and grabbing an arm on either side of her, Hermione let them lead her down to the Great Hall. The halls were a bit crowded as they descended, all the students seemingly having a simultaneous thought. Food and fun.

“Let’s just hope there isn’t a troll this year. I certainly could do without troll bogies on my wand.”

Hermione laughed at Harrys’ off handed comment before returning her own.

“I don’t fancy hiding under a sink either.”

Ron turned to her, a too serious look on his face.

“Have no fear fair maidens, I’m here to protect you.”

It took only a moment for Hermione to bust out laughing as Harry asked quizzically, “Was I just called a maiden?”

Hermione patted the confused raven on the head before ruffling his hair.

“Don’t worry about it love. Let’s get some dinner.”

*****************HP*************

Severus watched the students enjoying their meal, the noise within the Great Hall near deafening. His eyes kept traveling over to the Slytherin table where Zabini sat between Draco and Greengrass. The blonde never looked his way, he was too smart for that. Before he could register the change he found himself eyeing the Gryffindor table, specifically a bushy haired brunette. Her head was tilted back in amusement, laughter obviously falling from her parted lips. An odd feeling enveloped his stomach as Severus realized he had never heard the Gryffindor Princess laugh, not once.

Eyeing her complexion he noticed her cheeks were rosy, the sickness that had ailed her a month ago appeared to be gone. She chattered and laughed more freely, talking with her hands as she regaled some tale or another to the Longbottom heir. Finally he could take it no more and dropped his linen napkin onto his plate before rising and slipping into the Great Hall’s side chamber.

Barely three minutes passed before Zabini and Draco entered the room from the main hall. They stopped in front of him, Draco appearing disinterested and the Zabini boy barely containing his excitement.

“What is it you wanted Zabini? I wasn’t aware my ramblings were your business.”

Draco shot Blaise an ‘I told you so’ look before turning to his Godfather.

“I apologize Severus. He just couldn’t keep his nose to himself.”

Blaise grimaced at his Head of House’s tone before reaching into his robes and pulling out a folder. Holding it out to Severus he tried not to look too excited.

“I swiped it from Madam Pomfrey’s office a few weeks back and made a copy. Draco here was my unknowing accomplice. Those tremors of his make a great distraction.”

Draco made a disgusted noise as Severus raised his eyebrow. Snatching files from the school nurse, he wasn’t surprised at all.

Flipping open the file his eyes were immediately drawn to the name at the top; Hermione Jean Granger. Below it was the usual, height, weight, sex, allergies. He skimmed the generic stuff, records of old injuries, her petrification and the Polyjuice accident. Raising his head he sent a look at Zabini, the question written all over his face.

Zabini nodded toward the file.

“Keep reading, you’ll see. There’s a picture too.”

Severus disregarded a few papers, not caring about her dental records, nor her muggle vaccinations. He paused, eyes zeroing in on a green slip of paper.

Blaise noticed when his professor saw it, the way his body went rigid. To be honest he felt bad, springing it on him like this but Blaise knew that written facts would be better than his verbal testimony.

As fast as the moment of weakness happened, it disappeared. Snapping the file shut Severus flicked his drawn wand and watched it evaporate into thin air. He cast a cold glance at Zabini, his jaw clenched. The threat fell easily from his lips.

“You tell a soul and it will be the very last thing you do.”

Draco nodded and grabbed Blaise by the back of his collar, pulling his toward the door.

“I’ll keep this fool quiet Uncle Severus. See you later.”

Blaise balked at his unceremonious treatment all the way out the door, grappling with the hand that held his collar firmly. Severus waited until they had excited the chamber before his rage boiled over and the look on his face became ferocious. Ms. Granger was pregnant, just over four months along and had an appointment on Wednesday to find out the sex of her baby. Correction, their baby.

Would she have told him? Before the pregnancy had become noticeable and ousted her secret anyway? Would she of lied to him, tried to pretend it wasn’t his? Severus was by no means an expert on Hermione Granger but he knew without a doubt that she didn’t just hop into bed with anyone. Too prissy and proper for that.

Running a hand through his hair Severus tried to calm down. He had never really envisioned himself as a father, never thought he would care but for some reason he was angry, riled up. Anger would do him no good, Granger would only respond in kind and get him nowhere. However finesse would get him exactly what he needed. Good thing he had plenty of it, Voldemort could attest to that.

*******************HP********************

Hermione headed back toward Gryffindor tower, wanting to change and get comfortable before Harry and Ron invaded her room. Earlier they had demanded to trade ridiculous baby names while watching muggle movies from a pensieve. Hermione rubbed her neck and rolled her shoulders with a sigh. It was her own fault, she’d created a couple of monsters and would have to deal with it.

As she turned a corner, Hermione let out a muffled shriek from behind the calloused hand that covered her mouth. A vice like grip grabbed her around the waist, pinning her arms and yanking her back against a hard body, into the darkness of a tapestry covered alcove.

Warm breath tickled her ear as the blood pounded in her veins, adrenaline running high.

“You have some explaining to do Ms. Granger.”

Hermione froze, all struggles falling from her body as she recognized the husky baritone ringing in her ears. With one swift move Severus has Hermione’s small body between him and the wall, his form pressing hers into the cool stone. She looked up at him, eyes wide with apprehension. Severus returned her stare and smirked, burying his left hand in her hair while his right framed her head against the wall.

“Explaining Professor? I‘m not sure I understand.”

Severus pressed himself closer, a feral grin on his face.

“Sure you do Ms. Granger. Did you think I wouldn’t find out? The better question I think, is did you ever plan to tell me?”

Hermione cursed under her breath, she should have known. It was just too much to ask, to get a little more time. Clearing her throat she nodded almost imperceptibly.

“I would have.”

Severus nodded back, dipping his head into the crook of her neck as he sought her intoxicating scent.

“When would that of been exactly?”

Hermione mumbled something incoherently as she tried to keep her mind off the lack of personal space they were experiencing.

“I didn’t hear you Ms. Granger. Repeat that for me?”

“I’m not sure. When I had the courage I suppose.”

Severus grinned into her neck and ran his tongue along her collar bone, causing her to shiver. Pulling back he stared at her long and hard.

“Am I that intimidating?”

Hermione shook her head. What was going on? Severus Snape was not a man to fly off the handle however she seriously doubted he was this calm for no reason. How long had he known?

“That’s not it. I just didn’t know how to approach you. I suppose however you found out saved me the worry.”

Severus now had both hands buried in her hair, a firm grip on the silky locks.

“I suppose it’s a good thing I found you then.”

His lips crashed down on hers, making Hermione gasp at the sudden contact. They were warm, teasing and everything she remembered. With little hesitation and without coaching Hermione reached up and gripped Severus’s shoulders, arching into him. Severus responded by pushing her back into the wall with his upper body.

Slowly his hands left her hair and trailed down her torso, coming to a firm grip on her ass. Squeezing slightly he lifted her up and instinctively Hermione wrapped her legs around his waist. She left out a muffled moan when his hips met hers, Severus’s arousal grinding into her core. Her skirt was bunched around her hips, moist panties the only thing between her heated flesh and Severus’s cloth covered erection.

Ending the kiss Hermione gasped for breath as Severus grinned, biting her neck.

“Careful Ms. Granger, you could very well draw attention to us. We are not well hidden.”

Biting her lip Hermione screwed her eyes shut, her breathing labored and uneven. The sensations running through her body left her numb with pleasure, her neurons struggling to process the almost foreign sensations. Threading her fingers into his hair she pushed his mouth closer to her neck and jerked slightly when he bit her once more, a bite that was bound to leave a mark. She couldn’t help it when his name came out on a low moan.

“Severus…”

Severus’s cock jerked in anticipation, the sound of his name on her lips sending a jolt of pleasure straight to his groin. Before he got carried away anymore he pulled back, panting slightly. Hermione’s eyes were glazed over, her pink lips swollen and bruised, her chest rising and falling in an uneven staccato. Red bite marks covered her left shoulder and neck, standing out against her pale skin.

Pulling a hand from her bunched skirt Severus ran it down the outside of her thigh, around her knee and back up the inside. Securing Hermione’s body between himself and the wall he removed his other hand and let it follow the same pattern until both were rhythmically massaging her thighs.

Every few grips he rotated his hips, grinding his cock into her open thighs. The motion caused Hermione to let out small keening cries and buck her hips in return. One hand stopped it’s motions and Severus let his fingers play with the edge of her panties. He was pleasantly surprised by the hairless skin he found under the lacy garment. Grinding into her once more Severus held back a shudder. When he opened his mouth, the voice that spoke was no better than a guttural growl.

“Do you want more Ms. Granger?”

Hermione made an unrecognizable sound as she squirmed beneath him, her hands bunched in the front of his robes, and her hips undulating against him.

“I didn’t hear that Ms. Granger.”

Her voice was barely a whisper as she murmured a reply.

“Oh yes…”

Severus ground into her with such force the young witch cried out, the sound echoing off the walls of the alcove. The finger that had been playing idly with the edge of Hermione’s panties delved deeper, brushing across her clit. The Gryffindor’s body jerked suddenly with the unexpected bolt of pleasure.

Severus leaned into her again, his talented lips going once more for her throat. His fingers continued to play artfully with her clit, the pressure just enough to get a rise out of the young woman but not nearly enough to give her the pleasure she begged for.

“How much more do you want Ms. Granger?”

The questions was muffled but Hermione heard it clearly. Her hands released their grip on Severus’s robes and slowly traveled downward until she gripped the buckle on his trousers. Delicate hands undid the metal clasp as she replied.

“All of it, I want it all.”

Severus made a tsking noise, his unoccupied hand burying itself in her hair allowing him to pull her head to the side and expose the left side of her neck better. Hermione’s hands were now working on the buttons to his trousers a certain haste driving her movements. Her knuckles grazed his cloth covered cock daintily as she worked at the buttons, the swollen appendage making it harder to maneuver the already stretched material.

“Be specific Ms. Granger.”

Severus bit down on her neck once again causing her body to jerk under him, her fingers temporarily distracted. He pulled back from her neck and gazed down into her clouded eyes, her swollen lips begging to be kissed.

“Now what is it you really want?”

Hermione swallowed hesitantly, a sudden shyness taking over for a moment. Severus frowned before applying pressure to her clit with two fingers. A moan erupted from her throat, the sound ragged and torn. Hermione met his gaze as she cupped her hands around his still constricted cock before she replied.

“I want your cock. Fuck me Severus, please…..”

Her confession made him grin. Removing his fingers from her clit he felt satisfaction when Hermione made a sound of loss, a whimper. He nipped at her ear and carefully unwound his hand from her curls.

“Your defiance is cute, exciting even. Defy me like this again and I won’t be pleased. From now on, especially in this matter; I want truth between us.”

Smiling cruelly he continued.

“I’m not in the mood anymore.”

Before Hermione could register what happened her bare ass was seated on the cold stone floor, her body aching terribly and Severus nowhere in sight. Groaning she squeezed her thighs together, another whimper leaving her throat.

********************HP*****************
Hermione lifted her hand and ran it over her thigh, drifting under her bunched skirt and parting her thighs. Her other hand slipped into her blouse, gripping a sensitive and swollen breast tightly. A groan slipped from her mouth, shivers wracking her body as two fingers pinched and rolled her clit once more. Her flesh was sensitive and aching. Squeezing her breast Hermione’s fingers encircled the nipple.

A whimper fell from her lips as Hermione carefully slipped one finger, then two inside herself. Muscles clenched tightly around the digits and evidence of her arousal covered her hand and inner thighs. With a short flick her wrist the pads of her fingers scraped her inner walls eliciting a small cry from her. Biting her lip the Gryffindor continued her ministrations, her other hand leaving her breast and traveling south to her clit.

Pressure was building inside her, sweet tension gripping her muscles. At this point Hermione didn’t care who saw her with her legs spread wide, breasts exposed and fingers vigorously pleasuring herself. A third finger penetrated her flesh, stretching aching muscles with an agonizing bliss. Hermione’s eyes drifted closed and in her head she could see Severus above her like before; muscles tense and fingers gripping tightly.

The fingers pinching her clit became rougher as his had been and the hand penetrating her cunt suddenly felt like his cock driving into her. Hermione’s breath hitched, coming in pants; she was near to crying when suddenly she shattered. Her body bowed and the shriek that came from her throat pierced the eerie silence.

******************HP******************

Severus’s grip became almost painful, fingers circled around the base of his cock. The appendage was stiffer than it had ever been, the head turning purple and veins straining under the skin. His pants rested around his thighs, and his other hand was fisted in the tails of his shirt. Though he had left Hermione wanting, he was very much in the mood; hence the use of a good disillusionment charm.

He stood outside the small alcove listening to her pant and cry while imagining his hand was her cunt sucking hungrily at his cock. Inside the alcove he could hear her; whimpers and groans echoing off the stone. Severus’s hearing had always been good, he could practically hear the suction of her cunt on her fingers, and in his head he envisioned it on his cock. How many fingers was she using? Two, three? Four even?

Easing his grip slightly Severus hissed as blood rushed back to the head of his cock. Sliding his hand up the shaft he groaned only to bring it back down on Hermione’s latest whimper. The faster her cries came the faster his hand moved until he was resting on the edge of orgasm. Inside the alcove Hermione let out a scream and Severus tightened his hand, imagining her cunt clenching around him. With a groan he came, semen covering his hand; up onto his shirt and dripping to the floor.

Grinning lazily he hoped they could do this again.

**************HP***************

Chapter Text

Hermione stared unblinkingly at the mirror, palms on either side of her neck. It had been nearly four weeks since her encounter with a very angry, very arousing potions professor. Within that four weeks many things had happened however the biggest event had her feeling guilty.

Her appointment with Madame Pomfrey had gone splendidly. The baby was doing remarkably well, although she was a bit on the small side.

She.

Hermione was having a girl.

Since their encounter Hermione had spotted Severus openly staring at her with an indescribable look on his face. Sometimes it was pensive while others it was an outright excitement and dark lust. Only when nobody else was looking of course. Other than that, they had had no contact in four weeks. His child, their baby was a girl and Hermione had no idea how to approach him about it.

A note was too impersonal but she wasn’t confident about getting into close quarters with him again. After all, their last encounter however exciting it had been would not solve the problem at hand, the proverbial hippogriff in the room. Though Hermione was willing to admit, she’d love to finish their last encounter properly.

Turning away from her visage Hermione began cleaning up the books and papers scattered across her desk. Classes would be ending soon; it was time to take care of some things.

*************HP***********

Severus Snape sighed in relief as students rushed out of his classroom, eager for the weekend that had just begun. Rising from his desk he waved a hand and cleared the chalkboard before flicking his wand towards the cauldrons. He watched impassively as they danced their way into the storage cupboard at the back of the room, one after another. Snatching up a stack of papers he turned toward the door and stopped in his tracks.

“Hello Professor. Can we talk?”

Severus eyed Hermione as she stepped into the room, hands clenched tightly in front of her. Throwing the papers back down onto his desk he flicked his wand at the door and waited for it to slam shut before speaking.

“We never did get around to talking last time did we? As I recall there was something much more attention grabbing at hand.”

Hermione blushed and walked toward him, wary enough to keep her distance.

“No, no we did not.”

Settling himself back into his chair Severus watched the brunette settle herself behind a workbench and run her hands over the scarred marble. Somehow sitting behind a desk, in a place of subservience did not suit her. Hermione’s eyes met his and she let out a breath, choosing her words carefully.

“Whether you want to know or not, I’m going to tell you. I’m having a girl. No, we’re having a girl.”

Severus nodded almost imperceptibly. His face was impassive, but his eyes darkened slightly. A girl. These last few weeks had given him the time to come to terms with not only Hermione’s choice in not telling him but the fact that this child was a good thing. He hoped.

“Our last encounter did not go as planned. I was angry and the excitement took away my calm. I got caught up and you know the rest.”

Hermione nodded and bit her lip.

“So what comes next?”

Severus wasn’t going to kid himself and pretend that they were suddenly going to fall madly in love and live happily ever after. He couldn’t deny the attraction they obviously shared, almost dangerous and mindless in its intensity. They had been irresponsible, he had been irresponsible. It was time to act like proper adults and take care of their responsibilities, their child. Leaning forward he rested his elbows on his knees and steeped his fingers.

“We act like adults. We start by communicating. No more lying or omitting things. ”

Hermione winced. “I can’t say omission was my first choice, although it did seem the best route.”

Severus raised an eyebrow inn her direction, watching her fidget.

“Are you sure about this Ms. Granger? You are obviously more than capable of handling dark lords but can you raise a child and finish school? Finish your Apprenticeship?”

Hermione raised her gaze to his own, her dark eyes completely confident.

“I can. Professor McGonagall has already helped me arrange everything. Our daughter will be delivered here by Madame Pomfrey and Winky has already agreed to watch her while I’m in class and teaching. My room is large enough to fit a bassinet and a fold away changing table. I can do this Professor.”

Severus held in a smirk and tried to ignore the tingle that raced down his spine. There was that blasted backbone again. Rising from his chair he gathered his papers together and headed for the door.

“I suppose that settles it then.”

Hermione scrambled from her seat, watching the dark haired man just walk away.

“That’s it? That’s all you’ve really got to say?”

Severus halted but did not turn around.

“What would you have me say Ms. Granger? Should I get down on my knees and beg your forgiveness for putting you in this position?”

“It’s not like that and you know it! We’re both at fault in this.”

Severus turned slightly, gazing at her with dark eyes as another tingle raced through his body at her shout. There was that attitude he loved, this time with temper to match. Flicking his tongue out to wet his dry lips he suppressed a shiver when Hermione’s eyes followed the motion in rapt attention.

“Then what is there left to talk about? Neither of us is about to claim an undying love nor am I going to demand things from you. When you’re ready and when you’re in need I trust you will come to me. For anything.”

The purr that fell from his lips floored her. Hermione was loathe to admit it but she had always loved to hear him talk, though rarely had his voice ever taken on such a dangerous tone as this. Thick and deep, honeyed like the finest ambrosia. Nodding dumbly she licked her lips and watched him turn away once more, heading for the door.

“Considering our circumstances it would not be out of the ordinary to call me Hermione when we’re alone.”

Severus never paused in his stride as he stepped through the classroom door, one long fingered hand caressing the frame as he went.

“If I ever become comfortable enough to use your first name Ms. Granger, I seriously doubt we will be doing much, if any talking.”

If anything, the potions master would have her pretty ass bent over his desk and she’d scream his name.

*************HP*************

Over the next week and a half Hermione found herself unusually tired, napping in the afternoons during her free period and after working through the evening she went back to bed early enough that it worried Harry and Ron. One evening she fell asleep in the common room and woke up as Ron carried her upstairs, her things in Harry’s arms. Ron helped her strip while Harry dug through her drawers for a nightshirt. Instead he came away with yet another quidditch jersey, this one displaying one of the Weasley Twins numbers.

Turning around Harry held the item aloft.

“How many of these damn things has she snatched?”

Ron shrugged, took the proffered shirt and helped Hermione pull it over her head. His face scrunched with worry at how sluggish she was. Madame Pomfrey had warned them that as the baby grew it would sap Hermione’s energy while giving her magic a boost. Pregnant witches always got an extra bit of magic, nature’s way of helping protect the child within them. Not to mention the advanced transfiguration she was doing in class, attempting to alter the Patronus charm not to drive away a Dementor but destroy one completely.

The drain on her magic would only increase after Christmas while she attempted the Animagus transformation. Both Harry and Ron had promised to attempt it with her, confident that she could instruct them just as well as Professor McGonagall would her.

Hermione mumbled a thank you as they performed the circus act of tucking her in and avoiding Crookshanks’s clawed reach. Snuffing out the light they left and closed the door firmly behind them.

Ron yawned and ran a hand through his hair, angling his body down the hall.

“I think I’ll go to sleep myself. Been a long day in Potions, Snape is driving me mad. He’s definitely nastier than before.”

Harry laughed and slapped a hand on Ron’s shoulder.

“I’m glad I dropped it. I don’t think I could take it. That and I don’t need another class with Ginny. Three is enough.”

Ron frowned.

“We’ve tried to tell her. I guess she’s just holding out hope.”

Harry shrugged, not wanting to talk about it any longer. With a quick goodnight he closed his door behind him. Sitting down in the desk chair he reached for the open grade book and a small stack of quizzes from that day. Considering Professor Savage was a grizzled Auror, Harry was surprised at how much classwork and homework he gave out. He demanded both practical and academic perfection from his students and for the majority received it.

With a sigh Harry pushed away the last quiz and entered the grade, wincing at the low score. Sometimes he was sure that Professor Savage demanded too much from the younger years and this proved his point. The material wasn’t simplified enough, he’d have to show Hermione and get her opinion. Shutting the quizzes into the grade book he put the book in his bag and looked around. It was still relatively early, only around 8:30pm. Rising he walked to the window, staring out over the front courtyard and toward the pitch. Without a second thought he donned a thick knit sweater and grabbed his broom. Opening the widow he flew out into the darkness.

Cold air cut across his face and whipped through his hair as he rocketed toward the pitch. Harry loved being a Seeker, loved quidditch but he loved the act of flying even more. It was the freest thing he had ever felt and nothing came close. Slowing his speed Harry circled the pitch, torches coming to life as he flew by. Movement from the Slytherin stands caught his eye and he turned, looking for the source. Platinum locks shone from below, bringing a frown to his face.

What was Draco Malfoy doing out here? Inching closer from the other boy’s blind side he studied the young Slytherin. Platinum shaggy locks framed his face, the cut uneven and ragged in some places. His face had lost all baby fat, the skin pale and taught across his angular jaw and high cheek bones. His body was tall and lean with a frailness about it. Harry had noticed Malfoy’s lack of appetite these past weeks, Zabini trying to discreetly get him to eat.

Somehow in that moment all the torment the blonde had put him through the last seven years meant nothing and Harry supposed that was what happened when you grew up, when you put childish things behind you. The steady rise and fall of Draco’s chest indicated sleep, eyes moving rapidly behind closed lids announcing his dream state. A gust of wind cut through the air, the cold leaking into Harry’s bones. Harry sighed and pulled his wand, before drifting closer to Draco. A quick warming spell stopped the shiver that had taken hold on the boy before Harry levitated him up toward his broom. Situating Draco before him Harry gripped his broom tightly and eased his way back to the castle, trying to ignore the pleasant warmth nestled to his chest and the musky scent that drifted from it.

*************HP***********

Hermione rolled onto her side, still drowsy with sleep. Cracking open an eye she reached for her wand on the nightstand and performed a quick tempus charm. It was nearly three in the morning and Hermione wasn’t sure what woke her. Pushing Crookshanks off her shoulder Hermione groaned and rolled again before gasping in surprise. A tight pain enveloped her abdomen, pulsating in time with her heartbeat. Reaching a hand down to her stomach she grimaced at the pain and resisted the urge to curl in on herself. Squeezing her eyes shut she sat up, her arms trembling. What was going on?

Bringing her feet to the side of the bed she stood slowly and began to shuffle toward the window. Frowning she reached out and gripped the armchair, bending forward with another pain. Her back ached, her abdomen hurt and her head was spinning. Reaching up she gripped her necklace tightly, the stone pinching her hand.

A knock at the door got her attention. Light flooded the room from the hall revealing a shirtless Harry and Ron.

“Hermione, are you alright?”

She opened her mouth to answer when a sudden wetness between her legs caught her attention. Panic gripped her tightly and a flow of tears started as if someone turned on a faucet. Shaking her head she tried to control her trembling.

“Something is very wrong. Help me.”

Pushing the door open Harry moved inside and stopped, his eyes catching the trickle of blood down one of her pale legs. After a moment of hesitation he scooped her up and headed for the door with long strides.

“Ron, we need Madame Pomfrey!”

Ron gave a jerky nod and raced ahead of him, panic driving his footsteps.

***************HP************

Severus stepped into the Hospital Wing, a grumpy look on his face. Madame Pomfrey had fircalled minutes earlier, asking for more muscle relaxers and blood replenishers. Vials in hand he headed toward her office at the back of the ward but stopped outside a curtained bed when he heard the Matron behind it.

“Poppy I’ve brought the items you require.”

A few moments later the Matron stuck her head of behind the curtain and Severus was disturbed by her appearance. She still wore a nightgown and slippers, long silver hair in a braid over her shoulder.

“Thank you Severus. Please bring them here.”

She held aside the curtain as he dipped inside. Turning to the bed he was shocked to find Hermione laying there. Her face was pale and her body trembled as she slept. Tiny hands rested over her swollen stomach, a thick blanket pulled up to her chest. In her vulnerability her stomach was distinctly visible. A few more weeks and there would be no hiding it. Turning to Madame Pomfrey he asked huskily, “What has happened?”

Madame Pomfrey set the vials down on the bedside table and brushed an errant lock of hair off Hermione’s face before turning back to Severus.

“Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley rushed her here about twenty minutes ago. As you can guess Ms. Granger is our pregnant student. She started experiencing cramps and nausea, then bleeding. I managed to get it stopped and her cervix to relax however she has lost a good bit of blood and I do not want to take any chances. The boys have gone for Minerva. I fear between the child and her studies it caused a magical strain on her body and pre-empted early term labor.”

Severus felt cold, dread snaking through him. Hermione had almost gone into labor at roughly twenty-three weeks. He was no medical professional but even with magic he knew a baby’s chance of survival before twenty-five weeks was slim. Madame Pomfrey quietly excused herself and stepped away through the curtain.

Unconsciously Severus stepped forward and reached out a shaking hand, placing it over her belly. Her body shivered restlessly and her hands were cool. Closing his eyes Severus let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Hermione had almost lost her baby. No, their baby. Taking one of her hands in his he encased the small appendage.

“I’m sorry Ms. Granger.”

“What was that Severus? Oh!“

Severus didn’t release Hermione’s hand as he turned to see Madame Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall standing behind him. Harry and Ron stood behind them with awkward looks on their faces.

Minerva stepped forward, her hawk like eyes trained on him. Poppy had a hand raised to her mouth in comprehension. Minerva adjusted her glasses.

“Well, this certainly explains things.”

*****************HP****************

Chapter Text

Hermione groaned, rolling over. Scrunching her nose she curled her fingers in something silky and familiar. Cracking her eyes open her gaze fell to the heavy, horribly patterned invisibility cloak that was draped over her. Gingerly Hermione sat up and looked around the empty infirmary, eyeing the flowers and cards that decorated her bedside table. Through the windows she could see the sky beginning to pink, the sun peeking up over the forest. Pushing aside the blankets she swung her legs over the edge of the bed and reached out for balance.

Slipping cold toes into the fluffy red slippers on the floor she sighed at the warming charm that covered them. Wrapping the invisibility cloak around her for warmth she began shuffling toward the bathroom at the end of the wing, careful not to rush herself even if it did feel like her bladder was going to explode. Hermione avoided her reflection in the mirror as she sat down to relieve herself, sure she did not want to see what she looked like at the moment. She felt like crap so according to logic she had to look worse.

After washing and drying her hands she reached for the door when a commotion out in the hospital wing caught her ears. Pushing open the door she stepped out and watched as Harry and Ron worked themselves into a panic over her empty bed. Opening her mouth to alleviate their fears she held in a gasp when a vice like grip latched onto her upper arm and pulled her in close.

“Ms. Granger, are you trying to drive us all to an early grave?”

Hermione relaxed and leant into the warmth that enveloped her from all sides. A taunt arm wrapped around her waist as a long fingered hand reached her neck, caressing the silky smooth skin there.

“Professor.”

Hot breath assaulted her skin when a sardonic chuckle rumbled through the man’s chest and into her own. It felt amazing to be in his arms again, even if her experience in this area was fleeting. As if possessed Hermione dazedly reached up to the hand around her neck and brought the warm appendage to her lips. Snaking her tongue out; she licked the pad of Severus’s pointer finger, shivering as he hissed.

Before she could get any braver Severus swung her around, planting her face in his robes.

“You caused quite a commotion. You had everyone worried, foolish Gryffindor.”

Gripping his robes she grimaced.

“Did I worry you?”

Severus hesitated, unsure in his response.

“Yes, you did. I am not as detached as I wish to be, nor appear.”

Pushing away from the Potions Master Hermione looked up at his face, eyes searching his features.

“I’m sorry for that.”

Severus nodded and put a hand at her back, leading her out of Madame Pomfrey’s office and into the main part of the wing.

Harry was the first to spot her and came running before skidding to a stop at the sight of Severus. Ron was behind him moments later, but took no notice of the Potions Master before pulling her into a hug.

Harry stared at Severus with guarded eyes and brows furrowed. Severus stared back unblinkingly, daring the young man to say something. Ron led Hermione back to her bed where Madame Pomfrey waited to perform a checkup.

“How long have I been unconscious?”

“Three very long days Ms. Granger. I hope you will not do it again.”

Hermione smiled sheepishly.

“I’m sorry.”

Madame Pomfrey clucked her tongue before pulling out her wand and mumbling a few incantations. Just like all the appointments before, blue colored images appeared from thin air, giving heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs of both mother and child.

“You appear to be out of the woods however I will not chance this happening again. I’m going to prescribe you a magical enhancer to supplement your magical stores. Severus has already bottled the first batch. We’ll start at two vials in the morning and another around noon time. You’re likely to feel antsy and put a bit more power than necessary behind your spells without intending to; but in time you will adjust to the dosage strength.”

Hermione nodded and took the clothes Harry offered her before heading back to the bathroom to change.

Seconds after the door closed with a click, he rounded on Severus once more.

“What are you doing here Professor?”

Severus raised an eyebrow at his impertinence.

“I believe you already know the answer to that.”

Harry grunted and clenched his fists. Ron placed a hand on his shoulder and gripped it tight in reassurance. Harry let out a breath he hadn’t been aware of holding and tried to relax. Glancing back at the Potions Master he was plain.

“So now that there’s been a risk to the child you’re ready to play family man?”

Severus would never admit to liking the Potter boy but he would grudgingly acknowledge his devotion to friends and loved ones, momentarily anyway.

“I’m not a family man Potter, and I have no urge to play as it were. Ms. Granger and I have an understanding and when she needs help she can come to me. For anything.”

Harry clenched his teeth. Sure Snape had done some noble things during the war, he couldn’t fault him there. But ever since the discovery of Hermione’s pregnancy, Harry had been unable to squash the anger that simmered in his gut.

Hermione’s arrival from the bathroom made him hold his tongue. Upsetting her was the last thing he wanted to do and at this moment he was sure it wouldn’t of been hard. Shooting a look at Snape he turned and took one of her arms while Ron got the other.

“Let’s get you back to the common room yeah? People have been worried you know.”

Hermione didn’t resist as they led her away, all the while looking back over her shoulder at Severus. When her eyes locked with his he gave her a smirk that nearly stole her breath. What was she getting into?

*********************HP*************************

The night of December twenty-first found Harry laying on his bed and staring at his battered trunk, nerves on edge. Earlier in the evening he had helped Hermione pack her things as Ron regaled the events from that evening’s final Quidditch practice before Christmas break. The joy in the redhead’s voice over the sport had made Harry’s heart ache just a bit. He loved Quidditch and there were days he watched the Gryffindor team practice with envy but his apprenticeship was more important to him and required his full attention. He was determined to be the best DADA professor he could be, both for himself and Teddy. Providing for his godson was important to Harry, determination to give Teddy everything Sirius had been unable to give himself. Andromeda had already told him that once he was settled, she would be giving him custody of Teddy. Andromeda was getting up in age and did not have the energy to care for a baby, let alone a toddler.

Harry’s musings stopped suddenly when his hand came in contact with a silky green and silver scarf that had been buried under all his blankets. Fingering the material his eyes fell closed. Rolling over onto his side he curled into a ball, breathing in the heady scent that still lingered on the cloth.

*************************HP**************************

Harry watched the rise and fall of Draco’s chest, a thick red coverlet surrounding his thin frame. Pale skin nearly glowed in the moonlight that cut through the darkness of the room. Running a hand through his dark locks Harry cursed, wondering why the hell he had brought the other man back to Gryffindor tower, let alone his room. He could just as easily taken him to Professor McGonagall’s office or left him with the house elves. Sighing he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, continuing to stare at the other boy’s sleeping form.

Harry was no longer surprised by his lack of anger or hatred but when he first noticed it, Merlin had he been. Two years ago he would have left the Slytherin to freeze or even woke him with a hex. Harry was man enough to admit that his anger had been out of control and would have killed him if he hadn’t gotten control of it. Regret boiled in his gut when he saw the edge of the pink scar that slashed across Draco’s chest. He had been horrified when the curse sliced Draco open, blood mixing with water and spreading across Myrtle’s bathroom floor. In that moment he knew Hermione had been right, per usual. For all the good that had come of Snape’s potions book there had been a high price for his self-righteousness.

Draco had been a scared boy, trying to live up to his father’s expectations, earn his love and protect the life of his mother. Draco had never possessed an easy choice. Harry knew that now but many nights he lay awake wishing he had known then instead.

Draco frowned in his sleep and rolled sluggishly under the thick blankets. Standing Harry walked over to the bed’s edge, tracking every twitch and movement. Draco’s platinum locks were spread across Harry’s pillow like a halo. It had grown out to his shoulders but unlike his father’s stiff tresses, his was malleable and wavy. Without intending to Harry reached out and brushed some hair away from the blonde’s eyes, exposing sharp cheek bones and full pink lips.

It alarmed Harry how exhausted and waif-like Draco appeared. He barely ate while in the great hall and looked as though he hadn’t slept in days. During class Harry had seen him clutch his forearm where The Dark Mark resided, fingers clamped so tight the knuckles turned red and white. Harry wasn’t afraid to admit he had been watching the Slytherin, mostly out of curiosity.

He wasn’t all too sure how it began but it had become habit quickly enough. A light musky scent caught his nose and he leaned down, inhaling deeply. Merlin that smelled good. Harry jerked upright suddenly, realizing what he had just done. First he brought the Slytherin into his room and inadvertently his bed but now he was sniffing him. Shaking himself Harry went back to his chair and settled in. Obviously by his strange behavior, sharing his bed might not be the best option. Kicking off his sneakers he flicked his wand absently, the armchair transfiguring into a daybed beneath him. Pulling his invisibility cloak around him, he let his eyes fall shut.

******HP*****

Draco rolled over groggily, burying his face into the pillow and shielding his eyes from the sun. He froze mid roll, body tense. Sunlight wasn’t a problem in the dungeons, so where was he? Cracking open his eyes he saw the red and gold blankets that enveloped him and his stomach sunk. Rolling back over he scanned the room and discreetly reached for his wand. His fingers found bare skin, his wand and sheath gone. Draco’s eyes simultaneously widened and narrowed, his confusion apparent. Harry bloody Potter lay not seven feet from him, curled under that blasted invisibility cloak of his.

Draco slowly lifted himself into a sitting position and pushed aside the blankets. Bare feet touched the cool stone floor and he shivered. His shoes rested at the end of the bed, just under the frame. Silently he padded toward Harry, stopping just short of the lounger. Draco stared at Harry, willing himself to do something but found he couldn’t move or look away. Why was he here, in Potter’s room?

Last Draco remembered, he had been sitting in the pitch’s bleachers, watching the stars and admittedly feeling sorry for himself. Lifting his left pant leg he checked the tracking spell on his ankle, finding it green and cool to the touch. Dropping the material he glanced around, still looking for his wand.

Harry groaned and shifted, tossing aside the cloak that covered him. His shirt rode up his chest and his sweat pants hung low on his hips, exposing a large expanse of his stomach. Abdominal muscles contracted as Harry arched his back and adjusted himself once more. Draco watched his muscles contort and ripple in fascination, unable to look away. Draco licked his lips and raked his eyes over the room, desperate to find his wand and get out of there. Running a hand through his hair he turned back to find intense green eyes watching his every move. Harry’s voice was husky from sleep.

“Leaving so soon?”

Draco shifted his feet and his Dark Mark began to tingle. Harry sat up slowly, placing his feet on the floor. Reaching behind him he grabbed the sheathed wand that he had tucked away the night before. Holding out the Unicorn infused Hawthorne instrument he gave a wry smile.

“Don’t forget this.”

Draco reached out and took the wand, fingertips brushing Harry’s wrist. He jerked at the static shock that passed between them. Slipping the holster onto his marked arm he avoided Harry’s gaze.

“Why am I here?”

Harry cleared his throat.

“I found you asleep and shivering out at the pitch. I could of left you to freeze if you would have preferred that.”

Draco was silent for a moment.

“No thanks Potter. I’ve grown to like being alive.”

“Harry.”

Draco stopped, turning to him. “What?”

Harry smiled lazily.

“Harry, not Potter. I think we’ve gotten beyond that yeah?”

Draco shrugged. Grabbing his shoes he slipped them on. He didn’t bother buttoning his shirt up or tucking it in. Harry stood, coming eye to eye with the silent blonde.

“You should really eat more. You’re even skinnier than I ever was.”

Draco shrugged once more, not bothering to meet Harry’s gaze.

“Does the Dark Mark pain you?”

Draco froze, his stomach churning. He hated that damn mark. It was the worst decision he had ever gone along with. Turning he headed for the door, ignoring Harry’s abrupt question. In his haste he missed the discarded Invisibility cloak on the floor and found himself falling toward the floor fast. Suddenly a pair of arms wrapped around him from the front and he found his face tucked into Harry’s chest.

Time stopped as they stood there, Harry holding Draco and Draco fighting himself to stay still. Draco was gay, he knew it and had known it since the first time Pansy tried to accost him in the Slytherin Common room, however he highly doubted Harry bloody Potter was the least inclined toward blokes.

When Harry’s arms tightened slightly and pulled him closer, Draco began to rethink that rationalization. A throaty chuckle is his ear had every hair standing on end.

“I think you need to get back to bed.”

Draco jerked from Harry’s arms, eyeing the Gryffindor with suspicion. Harry just smiled, hands held wide.

“Did I say something wrong?”

Draco didn’t linger; he fled Gryffindor tower with his thoughts in shambles.

Harry watched him leave, just as confused by his own suggestive actions.

********************HP********************

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve at the Weasley home was mass chaos, decorations galore both magical and muggle and redheads running everywhere for last minute touch ups, errands and gift hiding. There was a quiet pain caused by the absence of one loveable prankster though they tried not to show it. Hermione was sure once the silence of the night crept upon them they would all mourn in their own ways, remembering the one they had all lost.

Molly decided at last minute that a magical tree just would not do this year and had sent the men out into the surrounding woods looking for the best one they could find. They were told not to return with any old tree but a ‘magnificent tree fit for Merlin himself.’ When they trudged out the door with false smiles George jokingly asked if Merlin was coming to visit. Inside the home; Hermione, Ginny, Molly and a very pregnant Fleur sorted through all manner of indoor decorations in the kitchen.

Lights, garland, stockings and stocking holders in the shape of house elves, owls, lions and in the case of Percy a stack of books. Though the family’s relationship with the third eldest was strained and he would not be joining them this year things were on the road to mending.

Hermione kept sneaking glances at the French woman as she tried to stamp down her own jealousy; as ridiculous as it was. Fleur had everything Hermione had never envisioned for herself but in the moment it didn’t seem to register. A loving husband, a large family and genuine happiness was evidenced by the glow the French woman gave off. Shaking her head Hermione tried to focus back on her box of garland.

With a quick Wingardium Leviosa the red and gold strands were floating in the air and she began pulling at the knots with nimble fingers.

Commotion outside the kitchen door had Molly bustling over and pulling it open. There was a whole lot of cursing as Arthur, Harry, Ron, and Bill shuffled the tree though the door. Charlie had hold of the massive trunk stump and was stumbling backwards as they went. Moments later George swaggered through the door, whistling a Weird Sisters Christmas tune and rolling the axe between his hands. Molly raised an eyebrow in question and George shrugged. “I did my part ma, I swear. Someone had to protect us from the axe.”

Suddenly it sounded like a nest of snakes had invaded the living room from all the hissing and booing the other Weasley males were doing. George grinned and shrugged once more. “They just don’t appreciate my sacrifice. I’ll go put this away shall I?”

Molly shook her head before coming back to the boxes. “Shall we?”

Between the four of them they grabbed up boxes and carried them to the living room, Hermione and Ginny coming back for a second trip. The boys had really outdone themselves, the eight and a half foot Douglas Fir was a beautiful tree and sat perfectly in the corner between the fireplace and the window. Harry and Ron plopped on the couch while Bill and Charlie went for drinks. Arthur sidled up behind his wife and hugged her around the middle. “Is it everything you wanted?”

Molly smiled and turned in his arms, kissing him sweetly. “More than I could have asked for.”

Charlie and Bill came back with glasses of butterbeer and settled themselves down to observe as the girls began with the tree. Soon it was a game, who could point out the empty spots. Tinsel was flying as they threw it back and forth, people ducking and hollering. Hermione just shook her head ruefully as Ron and Harry fell all over each other for the now knotted ball of tinsel. Reaching into one of the boxes Hermione grabbed an ornament and froze looking at it. It was an old, ornate rattle; most likely made of sterling silver and hanging on a still bright red ribbon, engraved with the name of William and the year 1970. She shook it lightly and it tinkled prettily, barely discernable above all the ruckus.

Arthur came up behind her and lifted it from her fingers, smiling as he cradled it in his hands.

“You know, we weren’t always so poor around here. If you ask Molly she’ll say we’re frugal but you and I know better don’t we Hermione? The Weasley’s were never a rich family but we’ve always had a bit of money to cushion our lives. Molly wobbles was a Prewitt and came to our marriage with a bit of money herself but when war broke out we thought the money we had was best served attempting to save lives and making homes for the children who were left alone.”

Arthur paused and got a faraway look on his face and for a moment Hermione wanted to be there, see what he saw. She wanted to know, not understand but really know. Arthur shook the rattle lightly and the tinkling rang out again, sharper this time.

“No matter how poor we ever got, whenever another babe came into our lives we had one of these commissioned. An old, outdated pureblood tradition but something that means more to us than many could understand. There’s ten more in these boxes somewhere, the rest of the kids, Molly’s, mine and two belonging to Molly’s brothers. They’re special and one day maybe you’ll know just how special.”

Hermione accepted the ornament back and her smile wavered at the sorrow that had overcome Arthur’s face. He nodded to her before heading out the back door and into the snow. She turned back toward the tree and spotted Molly looking at the ornament in her hand before the matriarch picked up her skirts and followed her husband, barely stopping to grab their coats from the rack.

Sure enough as they dug through the ornaments they found the others, Molly’s and Ginny’s hanging on white ribbons while the rest dangled from red. The room had quieted when the elder Weasley’s left, the boys getting up one by one to place their rattle on the tree. George hesitated with Fred’s in his hand, the man gripping the rattle so tight Hermione was sure it would collapse beneath his calloused palms. He placed the ornament on the very front of the tree and turned away with a grimace. He headed upstairs in long strides. Ginny moved to go after him but Bill grabbed her by the arm.

“No Gin, leave him be.”

Ginny frowned but said nothing before grabbing the empty butterbeer glasses and heading into the kitchen. Hermione and Fleur strung up the last of the still serviceable Gryffindor garland before banishing the boxes back to the attic closet. Charlie moved from the couch to the floor so Fleur could snuggle next to her husband. One delicate hand rested on the girth of her stomach and a sad smile tugged at her lips. Bill rested his hand over hers and squeezed her fingers lightly.

“We’ll have a rattle next year, dangling from that tree.”

Fleur nodded placidly. “ ‘es darling, ve will on’t ve?”

Molly and Arthur came back into the living room, arm in arm. Molly looked around as she did a quick count. “Where is George?”

Charlie shook his head. “Upstairs mum, he’s alright.”

Molly frowned and opened her mouth before Arthur patted her arm lovingly.

“He’ll be fine dear, right as rain come morning.”

She nodded but didn’t look convinced.

Hermione cleared her throat and raised her wand. “Shall I?”

Arthur nodded and Hermione flicked her wand once. “Nox.”

The lights instantly blinked out and the tree illuminated the blackness with a warm glow. Small enchanted pixies floated around it, giggling and twittering. The rattles gave off an unearthly shine in the light and Hermione couldn’t swallow back the lump in her throat. She did her best to smile and stretched her arms above her head.

“Well, I’m tired and need to get to bed. Been working long hours and I need all the sleep I can get. Besides, Christmas won’t come if we don’t sleep.”

Molly kissed her cheek and she raised a hand in a goodnight gesture to the others. She bounded upstairs and shut the bedroom door when she heard Ron and Harry making excuses too. Minutes later they were in the bedroom with her and Ron pulled her into his arms as she cried quietly. Petting her hair he led her to the bed where the three crawled in and cuddled close until the tears stopped.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I just saw the rattles and your dad told me about them; George is upset, Ginny is being belligerent and Fleur has everything I thought I never wanted.”

Ron choked a laugh and raised an eyebrow. “You mean you wanted Bill?”

Hermione laughed and punched him in the chest.

“You know very well what I meant Ronald Weasley.”

Harry shook his head, brushing the hair from her blotchy face.

“We know. Right now there’s bigger fish to fry I’m afraid. When you stretched your concealment spell wavered, nearly broke I think. It won’t last much longer, you’ve gotten a mite too big round the middle.”

Hermione sighed, hands resting on what appeared to be a flat stomach. Letting the concealment charm drop she gazed at her own swollen stomach under her burgundy sweater. She was nearly seven months along herself and the baby girl inside was growing at an alarming rate. Before school started Hermione had researched a couple concealment spells in the Black library specifically for pregnancy that had been used by pureblood women for centuries. Stuck in the middle ages as most pureblood families were, it was okay to know a woman was pregnant but improper to see evidence of it. Though these spells did a beautiful job, there was a point where they just couldn’t stretch any farther.

Sort of like my uniform skirts’ she thought idly.

“I’ll have to tell won’t I?”

Ron nodded slowly.

“We’ll be with you all the way you know.”

“I know.”

Hermione nodded and snuggled into the blanket. It was long past time to tell her family and friends, and if she hadn’t been so scared of others opinions she might not be stuck at the crossroads she was now. Hermione hadn’t been concerned about opinions since her first year, having found friends who accepted her for who she was but the conundrum didn’t stop there. What was she to say about the father? That certainly wasn’t an easy answer and was out of her hands. Severus had to make that choice, she couldn’t in good conscience out him. There was no real easy way to go about this.

When Hermione finally drifted off a little while later Harry and Ron extricated themselves from the blankets and headed to Ron’s old bedroom. Looking at the two twin beds stuffed into the bedroom Harry laughed. “Are we even going to fit one those?”

Ron shook his head and pulled his shirt off, grabbing some gaudy orange Chudley Cannons sleep pants, threadbare in places and actual holes in others.

“We can always sleep with Hermione when mum’s not looking. That bed’s big enough.”

Harry laughed as he finished pulling on his sweatpants and settled onto his bed.

“She’d know if we even thought it.”

******************HP****************

Hermione groaned as she rolled over, not wanting to get out of bed but knowing if she didn’t go to the bathroom soon she’d be in trouble. The little girl inside her was kicking sporadically in the direction of her bladder making the need all the more urgent. Kicking off the blankets it took a couple tries before Hermione was able to sit up and grab her robe from the end of the bed. She was glad she’d brought it though it barely fit around her extended stomach; Percy’s old room was high up in the house and could get drafty. Touching the floor with her feet Hermione shivered, the wood cool to the touch. Padding out the door and down the hall she closed the bathroom door quietly and sighed in relief. After washing her hands Hermione went back out into the hall and turned down the steps, wanting to grab a drink from the kitchen. Halfway down the steps however the witch stopped cold at the sight below. George sat curled in front of the glowing Christmas tree with his head bowed over what looked like an old Weasley sweater. His hands were grasping at the material and his knuckles were white. She backed up a step and almost turned around until the muted cry of pain hit her ears.

Gripping the edges of her robe Hermione descended the stairs and crossed the small living room until she stood just behind George. Reaching out a hand she tentatively set it on his shoulder, feeling him stiffen under her touch.

“You shouldn’t be alone George.”

George brushed his eyes quickly before looking up at her, his face a mask of sorrow and anger. Just as quickly the look disappeared and a trademark Weasley Twin smirk replaced it. Hermione took a step back and tried not to fidget at the sudden change.

“I’m not alone now Hermione.”

Hermione nodded.

“No, you’re not alone.”

George’s smirk fell slightly and he reached out a hand.

“Stay with me for a while?”

Hermione nodded and gripped his outstretched hand, maneuvering herself to the ground. George didn’t say anything as she settled slowly and tried her best not to fall over. So far her robe had done some good in hiding her stomach but all at once Hermione knew how she was going to tell everyone about her pregnancy, and who was going to find out first. Hermione reached out for the sweater in George’s hand and held up the faded green material to the light. It was small and by the looks of the wear several years old. Tracing her fingers over the F on the front she looked to George as he spoke quietly.”

“Mum started making the sweaters like clockwork for each of us right after Bill first went to Hogwarts. Every year we got one under the tree at home but they were so much more special during our first year at Hogwarts. Fred was always the braver of us both you see, never said a word when he found me crying of homesickness just before Christmas break. He just went to the wardrobe and pulled out my sweater from the previous year and told me we’d be home soon. Told me mum would never let us leave the house again if she caught me crying and said he’d blame me forever if she started carrying us around on her hip again. Then he made some funny gestures and everything was okay. This last year I haven’t cried once, swore I wouldn’t but I’m suffering from twin sickness. I miss my brother and no sweater is gonna fix it this time.”

George’s hands were trembling and his face was twisted in grief. Hermione laid the sweater on the floor before scooting closer to the ginger. Gripping his face in her hands she smiled sadly at him, forcing him to look her in the eye.

“It’s okay to miss him and I think you’re way too big for your mother to carry around on her hip. She’ll just have to get over it.”

George gave a wet chuckle and swiped at his eyes once more.

“I go to the joke shop day after day for my brother because he was the one who wanted it more than anything. Since we were kids he’d been the leader and I was the follower. When we practically set Umbridge on fire and broke out of Hogwarts Fred had made the call, I was happy to do whatever it took to be with my brother. Now I’m making the choices and it’s just not the same.”

Reaching up George stretched until his fingers brushed the silver rattle with Fred’s name on it. Glancing at Hermione his eyes were fearful for a split second.

“I could be in a room full of people but I still feel alone.”

Hermione’s heart broke at the last statement, hating how hollow the once famed jokester sounded. Gripping his hands in hers she kissed his knuckles briefly.

“You are never alone George Weasley, you couldn’t hide from us all even if you gave it your hardest try. Fred hasn’t left you or any of us, not really. He lives on in our memories and our hearts, I hope you know that.”

George’s gaze drifted back to the rattle once more and though he was not smiling as he had years before, his expression cleared a bit.

“I know that Hermione, I guess I just needed to hear it from somebody else. Just needed to know nobody else had forgotten either.”

Before she could stop him George leaned over and enveloped her into a hug. The hug was nice Hermione had to admit and George smelled familiarly of the gunpowder he used in a lot of his jokes but the niceness ended there when he stiffened up again. Slowly he leaned back until his hands gripped her shoulders and his eyes stared into hers.

“Uhm Hermione, have you gained some weight?”

Hermione’s hand slapped him on the chest and knocked him backward.

“Are you calling me fat George Weasley?”

George held up his hands in defense.

“I’m just asking, your belly is sticking out a bit more than usual.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow.

“Since when do you feel or ogle my belly?”

George shrugged, still wary.

Hermione smiled and grabbed his hands out of the air, pulling them toward her.

“Yeah I’ve grown, maybe more than a bit. See, I didn’t know how to tell anyone and as you can tell when you hugged me it’s not all that hideable anymore.”

George grinned and chuckled.

“So you gained some weight, just don’t eat so much candy and you’ll be okay.”

Hermione laughed.

“Not quite.”

Gripping one of George’s hands tightly Hermione pulled the tie on her robe, letting it fall open. George balked quickly and tried to pull back but Hermione gave a tug and he leaned forward, hand coming to rest on her enlarged stomach. George’s mouth fell open in shock and when Hermione let go of his hand he didn’t remove it but added the other.

“Are you….pregnant?”

Hermione bit her lip, suddenly shy and apprehensive.

“Yes.”

George was stunned into silence, not something that happened often. His next words stumbled and fell from his mouth in a jumbled mess.

“How did this happen?”

Hermione couldn’t help but smile a bit at his reaction.

“Well, when a witch has a bit much to drink and comes across an attractive man she forgets everything and jumps into the settee as it were.”

George glared momentarily.

“I know how that works Ms. Granger, been on a settee or two myself. Who? Do Harry and Ron know? Was it my idiotic brother in the first place?”

Hermione’s finger settled over his lips shushing him.

“Who doesn’t really matter. Yes Harry and Ron know and no it wasn’t your mostly idiotic brother. Any of them for that matter. Now the question is, do you think badly of me? Will your family think badly of me?”

George was staring at her stomach, the old t-shirt she wore stretched as far as it would go. Before she knew what happened George had her leaned back against the couch and her shift lifted up just beneath her bra. The redhead was crouched over her on his hands and knees, eyes still on her stomach.

“What the hell George?!”

Hermione was struggling to cross her legs in some fashion, not wearing any bottoms and preferring to keep her panties to herself.

George lifted his face to look at her and put a finger to his lips.

“Shhh, you’ll wake the rest of the house.”

Hermione balked once more but stopped when George returned his attention to her stomach. Slowly he traced his fingers across it and laugh when the imprint of a foot strained against her skin for a moment.

“How much longer?”

Hermione rested her own hand where the foot had been.

“I’m almost seven moths along so if I go to term, just over three months. It’s a girl.”

George traced her belly once more, a wistful look on his face.

“A girl. How are you going to tell the family? Gonna just show them your belly?”

Hermione laughed, tilting her face up at him.

“Not if I want to give your mother a heart attack. Honestly I don’t know, I didn’t know I would tell you until I sat here.”

George smiled indulgently.

“I’d be happy to help you tell them you know, stand behind you with the boys.”

Hermione covered his hand that still rested on her stomach.

“I’d like that.”

They stayed in silence a moment longer, George still leaned over her and Hermione leaned against the couch. Her shirt was still pulled up around her bra while she had managed to cross her legs somewhat effectively though George didn’t appear to care. Her stomach held his attention. The family clock on the wall went off, announcing it to be five in the morning.

Hermione frowned.

“Have you slept tonight?”

George was suddenly evasive as he shrugged a shoulder.

“A bit.”

Hermione opened her mouth but stopped at the groggy voice on the stairs.

“George, is everything okay down there?”

Hermione froze and looked at George. George smiled slowly, his grin promising trouble. Suddenly Hermione realized the position they were in and before she could stop him George sentenced them both to death by Molly Weasley.

“Hey mum, come see what I found!”

Hermione shoved at George but he wouldn’t move, nor could the witch get her shirt pulled down or out from under the redhead; and she knew it was too late when small slipper covered feet came into her view. Needless to say the house was awoken by the banshee like scream that erupted from the Weasley matriarch.


******************HP******************

Chapter Text

To say the Weasley household received a shock early Christmas morning was the understatement of the century to be sure. Molly’s scream nearly brought the house down on their heads, people rushing from bedrooms in pajamas and robes, wands in hand. Not only did the others find Hermione and George in the same position Molly had, George found himself getting quite comfortable with the mischief he had caused and settled himself further onto the floor with Hermione.

Hermione however was shoving at him profusely, swearing and redder than a tomato. Her stomach was fully exposed to the room along with her Slytherin green panties and suddenly she was on the verge of tears. This was not how she had planned to tell the family. Hermione was able to bring her knee up and into George’s stomach, forcing him to let go and allowing her to awkwardly wiggle across the floor while pulling her shirt down and robe closed.

Harry and Ron shoved their way through the crowd that had gathered and over to Hermione. Ron crouched to the floor and made sure Hermione’s robed closed as much as it could and then he and Harry helped her up off the floor. Hermione’s legs were wobbly, and her face hot from embarrassment while her tear ducts stung.

Molly’s mouth seemed unable to function properly; she kept opening it and closing it like a fish gasping for oxygen. Suddenly she wavered and Arthur was there to grab her, settling her into and armchair. George lost his grin and scrambled off the floor, running over to the matriarch. Gripping her hand he looked concerned.

“Mum, are you alright?”

Everyone in the room remained quiet as a grave and Hermione gripped Harry’s arm almost painfully. Ron stood just in front of the pair, shielding Hermione from the other’s view. Molly slipped her eyes closed and appeared to take a deep breath before a sudden change came over her expression. The witch’s eyes snapped open and held a fury all her children were distinctly familiar with. One small hand snaked out and gripped George’s ear nimbly. George cried out at the pinch and twist method his mother employed before grinning awkwardly.

“Mum?”

“GEORGE WEASLEY, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!”

*****************HP******************

Hermione fidgeted in her seat at the table between Ron and Harry, unable to raise her gaze to Molly’s. Harry and Ron had both found shirts while a pair of sweatpants had been tossed at Hermione, the order clearly to wear them. Hermione hadn’t been brave enough to argue.

This was not how she had planned on sharing the news of her pregnancy and when she got her hands on George he was going to wish she had killed him. Arthur cleared his throat awkwardly and Hermione finally raised her gaze to Molly. The older woman gazed at her quietly, the complete opposite of what everyone in the room had expected.

The five of them sat in the kitchen, presents under the tree forgotten for now while the rest of the home’s occupants had been banished upstairs, despite nearly all of them being adults, two being married and one ready to deliver a child of her own. For all the good it did, Hermione knew damn well they were all camped out on the stairs trying to hear whatever they could.

Molly gripped her mug of tea tightly, knuckles white. There was no judgement in her eyes, no anger but instead something that looked like sadness.

“Why didn’t you tell us Hermione?”

Hermione laughed, the sound coming out choked. The Gryffindor hadn’t realized how close to tears she was until she opened her mouth.

“What was I supposed to say Molly? ‘Dinner was great, I’ve gotten my apprenticeship all straightened out and oh by the way; I had intoxicated and apparently unprotected sex with a man because guess what? I’m pregnant.’ ”

Harry struggled to hold in a laugh then a wince of pain as Hermione pinched his thigh.

Arthur’s eyes were wide as he adjusted his glasses.

“That’s not how we would have liked to hear it of course Hermione, but I suppose we would have liked to find out differently than this as well.”

Hermione sighed.

“I know Arthur, I’m sorry.”

Molly let go the tea mug and looked Hermione dead in the eye, mouth set in a grim line.

“So which one of my idiot sons couldn’t perform a contraception charm? I doubt it was George, he and Fred had that spell down pat before they even went to Hogwarts but he did look quite comfortable with you.”

Hermione’s mouth fell open.

Ron let out a cry of indignation.

“What the hell mum? How come it has to be my fault or George’s? How come you’re not suspicious of Harry?”

Molly glared at her youngest son and wisely he shut his mouth.

“Harry is just as much my son as you are Ronald Bilius Weasley.”

The woman turned in Harry’s direction.

“Is that baby yours Harry James Potter?”

Harry numbly shook his head, he honestly had no idea how to reply to that loaded question. It was one he never thought he’d hear actually, especially from anyone remotely like a mother to him.

Molly nodded.

“Not you then. So unless Hermione has been hanging out in Romania with Charlie the most like suspects are George and you Ron.”

Hermione couldn’t take it anymore.

“Molly, it wasn’t Ron or George. As much as I like George he’s not my type and Ron is one of my best friends. The baby isn’t either of theirs and despite what people think I know plenty of other boys not named Weasley.”

Arthur cleared his throat.

“Not to cast aspersions Hermione but you do know who the father is correct? You mentioned being intoxicated.”

Hermione looked at the older man and smiled gently.

“I know who he is Arthur and he knows I’m pregnant. We’re sort of at a standstill right now.”

Molly stood from her chair and went to place her cup in the sink. She stared out the window for a moment before turning back to them, tightening her robe.

“Is this man going to do right by you? Will he support you, the child you carry and be a good man?”

Hermione was unsure how to answer.

“He’ll be there for the baby, for our daughter. I already know he’s a good man no matter what anybody else might think.”

Arthur reached across the table and gripped one of her hands and Hermione hadn’t realized until then that she had the cloth napkin she’d been toying with in knots.

“Will you be getting married?”

Hermione gripped the man’s fingers briefly before pulling her hand away.

“No. Even if he offered the answer would be no. We hardly know each other, really know each other. We’ve interacted on many occasions over the last eight years but I won’t pretend we could play happy little family together.”

Molly came back to the table and stood behind her chair.

“Who is he?”

Hermione shook her head.

“I’m sorry Molly but that’s our business right now.”

Molly frowned, they could all see the wheels turning in her head.

“What about school, your career? Are you going to throw it all away?”

Hermione glanced at the woman once more, ire beginning to peak. What was it with people? First Severus and now Molly? Did they think being pregnant would addle her brain or make her weak?

“Things will go on as they have been, Headmistress McGonagall is aware and behind me one hundred percent. I’ll finish my apprenticeship, get my certificate to teach and do everything I’ve always said I would. The only difference will be sharing it with a beautiful baby girl.”

Molly had a stubborn set to her jaw and opened her mouth with what was no doubt to be a sharp retort but was cut off by Arthur.

“Enough Molly. Hermione has chosen and all we can do is back her up, especially now that she’s so far along I doubt she can hide it any longer.”

The tension immediately left Hermione’s shoulders, she hadn’t wanted to argue with Molly. Molly closed her mouth and nodded.

“Well then, since that’s settled how about we start breakfast since we’re all awake and then open presents? Maybe later or even tomorrow we can go up to the attic and go through some of the baby things I have from Ginny and the boys. “

Hermione stood up from her seat and as she came around the table the older woman pulled her into a tight hug. Hermione swallowed thickly, trying her best not to cry.

“Thanks Molly.”

Harry and Ron headed into the living room first and it was probably a good thing seeing as the others had found their way downstairs and were trying to look busy. Ginny gazed at Hermione pensively as she passed and the bookworm saw a flash of hurt on her face. Hermione wanted to tell the younger girl, she really did but Ginny was a gossip and though she wouldn’t have told anybody on purpose, she probably would have accidentally let something slip. Hermione would apologize later for leaving her out. Charlie smiled and winked at her from the couch as she walked by.

“Does this mean we can never be? How could you break my heart so?”

Hermione giggled and danced away from him when he tried to kiss her hand dramatically. George was nowhere to be seen and if he was as smart as Hermione knew him to be, he was hiding in the wilds of Russia by now. Bill stood by the stairs and gripped her arm lightly as she walked by.

“Congratulations Hermione.”

Hermione smiled at the man and pulled him down to her level, kissing his cheek lightly.

“Thank you Bill.”

*****************HP******************
Harry stood in the living room with Ron, Bill and Charlie; bewildered by all that had happened in the last two and a half hours. Running a hand through his hair Harry looked at Ron.

“Well, that was better than expected right?”

Ron shook his head ruefully.

“I thought we were going to die for sure.”

Charlie laughed.

“Oh no little brother, if anyone dies a painful death it’ll be George.”

An indignant shout came from behind the couch before George peered over the back, carefully searching the room for danger.

Bill snickered.

“You can come out George, Hermione went up to get dressed and Mum went back to her bedroom with dad.”

George grinned and nimbly hopped over the back of the couch and landed between both brothers.

“Good, that’s good. I’ve still got time to pack before I flee the country then.”

Ron glared at his brother.

“What the hell were you doing anyway?”

George held up his hands and smiled.

“Oh no, this isn’t my fault. If anything I’m the victim. Hermione cornered me with her vivacious feminine charm and when she had me where she wanted me; she grabbed me. What was I supposed to do?”

Ron growled and stepped forward but any retaliation was cut off when Charlie stood and gripped Harry’s shoulder.

“Settled down you two, the real occasion is Harry’s initiation into the family.”

Harry was confused and he was sure his face showed it. Ron had an odd look on his face but Charlie, Bill and George just shared a grin.

“Charlie, what are you talking about?”

Slinging his arm around Harry’s shoulders he pulled the younger man closer to the couch and the others.

“It’s simple Harry, you’re not a true Weasley until you’ve been accused of fathering some poor girl’s kid. Not that Hermione is a “poor girl” mind you but we Weasley’s are known to breed like kneazles and every one of us has been accused more than once. Bill was particularly troublesome and mum about had a fit every time he started dating a new girl. No matter what anybody says, blood wills out in our family, that red hair is a life saver.”

Bill waved a hand idly in Harry’s direction.

“I was accused more than once, that’s for sure. Dad made sure we could all do a contraception charm with ease before we left for Hogwarts.”

Ron frowned at his brothers before speaking up.

“I’ve never been accused.”

The redheaded brothers erupted into laughter and George nearly fell off the couch.

“I guess you’re not a true Weasley then, eh Ron?”

Harry laughed just as Ron dived at George.

*****************HP******************
Hermione headed up the stairs and toward her room, pausing to use the loo. Closing her bedroom door on the noise downstairs Hermione turned but stopped in surprise at the blonde sitting on her bed in a royal purple sweater and black leggings. Fleur’s hair hung elegantly around her face as always but the young woman’s eyes were red. Standing she came over to Hermione and before the girl knew what happened Fleur was hugging her and crying so prettily it made Hermione sick with jealousy for a split second. Patting the other woman’s back Hermione wasn’t sure what to do.

“Fleur?”

Fleur pulled back from Hermione and gazed at her, studying her confused expression.

“I am ‘o zorry Hermione.”

Hermione looked at her quizzically and shook her head before leading Fleur over to the bed and taking a seat on the edge.

“What are you talking about?”

Fleur reached for Hermione’s hands and held them tightly in her own dainty fingers.

“For ze past zree days all ve haf been talking about eez my bebe vile you haf had to keep ‘uiet about yourz. Eet must haf been painful and ‘ard, I regret eet all zo, now that I know you are pregnant too.”

Hermione’s eyes welled up with tears and they began falling down her face. She tried to stop them and couldn’t figure out what had started them but once again found herself crushed into a tight but awkward hug because of their enlarged stomachs. Carefully Hermione extracted herself from Fleur’s arms and began blotting at her face with the sleeve of her robe.

“I’m fine Fleur, really. I’ve had Harry and Ron supporting me the whole time and though they’re not another woman they did their best.”

Fleur began wiping up her own tears and reached across the bed where a lump of cloth lay. She held one of the items out to Hermione and waited until the younger woman took it and held it up before speaking.

“I haf brou’t you a pair of my leggings, zey are ‘uite warm and vork vell vith my enlarged stomac’. Zey are pretty muc’ all I vear zees dayz.”

Hermione smiled and set them in her lap, determined not to start crying again. Damn hormones.

“Thank you Fleur, I’ve bought a few things but will definitely need to get more. Maybe you, Molly, Ginny and I can do that sometime in the next few days before I head back to school.”

Fleur nodded and held out another item, this bright red in color.

“Zees zocks are ‘armed to ‘elp vith zwollen feet and zey are very varm. I do ‘ot vear zoes unlez I must zees dayz.”

To emphasize the last statement the blonde held up a dainty foot that did not look swollen at all. The socks she wore matched the sweater in precisely the same shade of purple.

“How about I get dressed and then we can go down for breakfast. I’m starving.”

Hermione helped Fleur to her feet and the other woman agreed as she pulled out her wand. With a quick wave it looked as if Fleur had never cried and judging by the refreshed feeling of her own eyes, Hermione imagined she didn’t appear to have cried either.

“I vill vait outzide vile you ‘ange and zen ve vill go eet.”

Patting her stomach Fleur giggled.

Bebe eez very ‘ungry.”

*****************HP******************
Hours later the family once again lounged in the living room and once again the topic of conversation was babies, specifically Hermione’s. Presents had been exchanged shortly after breakfast and while the men did dishes and cleaned up the women had gone up to the attic and gone searching into all the many baby things Molly had held onto after all these years. Some items had already been given to Fleur for her little girl but after having seven kids there was still an abundance of baby things.

As they sorted and picked, ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ over little onesies and tiny knitted cardigans Hermione apologized once again to Molly for not speaking up sooner. She also apologized to Ginny for not telling her though the other girl didn’t appear to want to drop her resentment. Hermione had shrugged it off, either the youngest Weasley would forgive her or she wouldn’t and Hermione wasn’t about to worry about it. Several items had been set aside so be boxed up and owled to Hermione at school, the rest they were going to put away in the nursery at Grimmauld Place.

Snow fell lazily outside and much of the afternoon had been dedicated to dinner preparations, Christmas music and dodging the occasional stray snowball from the garden gnomes. A war had started just outside the kitchen garden between the Weasley household and gnomes who were supposed to be hibernating for winter.

Dinner had been wonderful and managed to still be pleasant when Percy and his girlfriend Penelope had showed up unexpectedly. Without question room had been made at the table, introductions meted out and though the other Weasley siblings had been far from happy they put on smiles for Molly.

A tap on the living room window had Arthur rising from his chair and opening it for the poor unfortunate owl that waited outside. The creature flew in and landed on the back of Arthur’s chair, flapping its wings and shaking its feathers to shake off the snow.

“Ginny, grab some of the leftover ham for this poor bird.”

Ginny hopped up from the floor and wandered into the kitchen, coming out a minute later with a slice of still warm ham. As Arthur untied the brown paper package from the bird’s leg, Ginny fed it bit after bit of ham. After the package was removed the bird didn’t appear to be in any hurry to leave. Ginny motioned it onto her arm and carried it into the kitchen alcove where Pig’s stand stood.

Arthur walked over to Hermione and held out the box. The room was quiet, wondering who had sent the late gift and what was inside. Hermione accepted it hesitantly, there was no name or return address on it. Bill motioned for the box, wand held a lot and Hermione handed it over without question. The curse breaker performed a few charms with no effect before handing it back.

“It’s harmless but we still can’t be too careful.”

Hermione grimaced, guilty she hadn’t thought of it herself.

Arthur patted her on the head as he headed back to his chair.

“Don’t worry too much about it Hermione, our wards are always but so if it was malicious in any way it wouldn’t have made it through to begin with.”

Pulling the ties on the box Hermione was excited and confused. She didn’t know who had sent the gift but she was getting another present so did it really matter? Lifting the plain black box out of the brown paper Hermione removed the top and set it aside, unfolding tissue paper with her other hand. Inside the first layer of paper was a simple note.

Seeing it is Christmas time I am sure you’ll be seeing these at the Weasley home. Though you are muggleborn and I only a halfblood, my mother believed until the day she died in the tradition of pureblood families. I hope you will accept this token in honor of her.

Hermione passed the note to Harry at her side before digging further into the box. Beneath all the white paper rested the item she searched for, resting on a bed of blue velvet. Hermione pulled her hand out and held the item farm above her head so the others could see it, unable to pull her eyes away.

An ornate silver rattle similar in design to the Weasley family’s hung from her fingertips by a pristine white ribbon. There was no name engraved on the side but the year 2000 was there waiting below where the name would be placed. This rattle like the others she handled the day before tinkled prettily and seemed to have an ethereal glow in the light of the tree. Lowering the rattle Hermione cradled it in her hands, afraid to smudge the surface and looked at the reactions around the room.

Fleur smiled appreciatively.

“Zat eez an Amyx, beautiful vorkmanship. My family ‘az alvayz bou’t from zem for any ‘pecial occanzionz.”

George and Bill both appeared curious while Molly stared at it with tears in her eyes.

“Hermione, it is beautiful. Who sent it?”

Looking down at the rattle once more Hermione stroked a finger down the handle before bursting into tears.

*****************HP******************
Severus reclined in his leather armchair before the fire, sipping whiskey and reading the note once again. A few simple words from a girl, no woman, who didn’t owe him anything.

It’s tradition in my father’s Scottish family for a father to give cufflinks to their son or son in law upon the coming of their first child. We’re not married or even dating and my father is not here but soon you will have a daughter of his blood and I thought tradition should hold. These cuff links were my father’s, one of the few items I allowed myself when I left. I hope you’ll honor their tradition and significance even if you never wear them. Happy Christmas.

Severus glanced at the old wooden box that sat open on the table beside him. The velvet was worn both on the lid and where the cufflinks lays but the hinges on the box were in perfect working order along with the iron lock on the outside. Inside lay the silver cufflinks, glinting in the dying firelight. They were not overly fancy or ornate; engraved upon them was a longsword crossed with a rose that had yet to open. As with any other crest there were intricate swirls and starburst shapes of all kinds along the edges.
Severus forced himself to set the note inside the box and close it, the small key already hanging on a silver chain around his neck. The cufflinks were a gesture of tradition from Hermione just as the rattle had been from him, it didn’t mean any more than it appeared.

If this was true, then why did his chest ache?

Chapter Text

Hermione turned herself in front of the mirror, first left and then right, trying to decide how much she really liked the dark blue sweater. It fell to her mid-thigh, with three quarter sleeves and was made of a silky but strong cashmere. There was a small hood on the sweater and a large pocket on the front that could still hold things, despite her extended stomach.

“Hermione? You got a minute?”

Hermione turned away from the mirror and walked over to the changing room door. Opening it up she met Harry’s green gaze

“Everything okay Harry? Where are Molly and Fleur?”

Harry nodded before glancing around quickly.

“They’re browsing in the baby clothes. Can I come in for a minute?”

Hermione poked her head out, making sure no one was around before pulling him inside the small room. Even though they were in the heart of muggle London they couldn’t be too careful, who knew what kind of headline someone could come up with; her and Harry in a dressing room. Harry settled onto the bench and let out a sigh. Hermione sat next to him, a frown marring her face.

“What’s the matter Harry?”

Harry played with his hands for a minute, unsure of what to say.

“I’m attracted to someone Hermione, someone who hasn’t exactly been our friend in the past. They’re different though, they’ve changed and suddenly I’m feeling more than just attracted to them. I don’t know what to do.”

Hermione was puzzled. Harry seemed so nervous but she didn’t understand why. He had the right to like or love anyone he wanted and she had no room to judge. Hell, she slept with a teacher and got pregnant.

“Who is it Harry?”

Harry bent his head and mumbled something too low for her to hear. Hermione reached out and pinched the dark haired savior, scowling when he yelped.

“Look at me Harry James Potter. If you really like this person then don’t sound so ashamed.”

Before Harry could hesitate he repeated himself, much louder.

“Malfoy.”

Hermione blinked, momentarily stunned.

“Malfoy? Please tell me you mean Draco and not Lucius.”

It was Harry’s turn to pause, his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish before his face turned red.

“Of course I mean Draco. When would I have had time to flirt with his father?”

“Well when did you have time to flirt with Draco?”

Harry flushed again, lips tight. Hermione rubbed her belly idly and let out a breath.

“Start from the beginning Harry.”

Harry didn’t waste time, Merlin knew when Molly and Fleur would show up. He started from the beginning, how he found Draco on the bleachers and taking him back to his room. He explained how he’d been sneaking glances at the Slytherin since, watching him almost like a predator did injured prey and how he couldn’t seem to stop himself from dreaming about him; about touching him. Harry explained how much he loved looking at Draco’s hands and how he was sometimes jealous that he wasn’t taking NEWTS Transfiguration.
When he was done Harry was breathing like he’d been running, staring at Hermione and waiting for her reaction. Hermione blinked a couple times, trying to take it all in. This explained why Harry insisted on walking her to the library and from the library back to the tower when she met with Draco, Blaise and sometimes Daphne. She’d also noticed him glancing at the Slytherin table more than a few times during meals but she hadn’t really thought anything of it.

“What is it about Slytherins Harry? I’m pregnant by one and you apparently want to seduce another.”

Harry laughed, the sound nervous with a hysterical edge.

“Really Hermione? I tell you I want to do naughty things with the guy who spent seven years trying to do us in and that’s your reaction?”

Hermione shrugged.

“I don’t have any room to judge, my situation is a bit worse than yours. Besides, he is different; it’s obvious in the way he acts and the things he’s done since the war. If he’s what you want and if he wants you back I say go for it.”
Harry rubbed the back of his neck.

“That’s the thing Hermione, I don’t know if he wants me back. I didn’t even pay attention to what I was saying that morning and I scared him off.”

Hermione reached out and gripped one of Harry’s large, rough hands in hers and squeezed.

“I guess you’ll just have to find out when we get back to school. Have you mentioned this to Ron?”

Harry shook his head quickly.

“No, I want to see if this goes anywhere before I do. No need to get him riled up if it doesn’t.”

Hermione agreed and stood again, looking at the mirror.

“I want this sweater.”

Harry laughed, walking up behind the witch. Leaning into her back he smiled at her in their combined reflection.

“The sweater looks lovely Hermione, you’re lovely. I still think we’d make a cute couple, if you swear off Snape for me I’ll swear off Malfoy for you. Our kids would be both messy haired and smart.”

Hermione shook her head and let her body relax back into his embrace. It was nice to let someone hold her, if only for a moment. Truth was, her back hurt, her feet ached and Hermione had grown to miss touching other people, letting them touch her. Turning in Harry’s arms Hermione raised up to her toes and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek.

“I appreciate the offer Harry but I’m just fine.”

Hermione moved to pull the sweater over her head when Harry’s hand on her arm stopped her. Looking at him Hermione became confused by the suddenly serious look on his face.

“What’s wrong?”

Harry was quiet for a moment and his grip tightened almost imperceptibly on her arm.

“I know whenever I’ve mentioned marrying you we’ve acted like it was a joke but I want you to know that my offer was always partly serious. If things don’t work out, if whatever you’re planning falls through, Ron and I will always be here for you. I’d marry you in a heartbeat Hermione, I promise I’d make you happy, if you ever need me.”

Hermione’s throat tightened and she was afraid to speak, fearing she would cry instead, as usual. Harry was growing into a good man who would one day make someone very happy and for a moment Hermione wished it was her.

Without another word Harry let go of her arm and dropped a swift kiss on her forehead before slipping out of the dressing room.
*****************HP******************
Another fiery dragon raced across the sky and exploded into a cacophony of individual fireworks. Cheers and laughter erupted from the sky, the younger Weasley generation on brooms throwing Weasley’s famous Wiz Bangs at each other and the stars above. Every few minutes another dragon, reminiscent of the one that destroyed the Great Hall in fifth year, shot up into the sky, bigger than the last. Hermione and Fleur sat snuggled in a nest of blankets on the ground, warming charms covering them, the blankets and several feet around them. Arthur and Molly were nearby, smiling and watching their children tear across the sky.

Hermione shoved aside the blankets and cringed as the little monster currently occupying her insides kicked again, almost urging her to move faster. Fleur glanced up at her rising form in question.

“Are you al’ight?”

Hermione nodded and kicked the blankets back into place.

“Just have to use the loo.”

Fleur smiled.

“Be back soon, eet is almost mid’ight.”

Hermione hurried toward the kitchen door as the baby kicked again, this time in the vicinity of her ribs. Said baby probably wasn’t too happy about being thought of as just another baby, without a name. Hermione had been thinking of names, pouring over baby name books in an effort to find the right moniker, but nothing had stuck out so far. Moving swiftly through the kitchen Hermione cursed the fact that like Grimmauld Place, the Burrow did not seem to have a first floor loo; and she took the stairs two at a time despite the extra effort it took. She kicked the bathroom door shut behind her and lowered her leggings at the same time, groaning inn relief as she sat down.

Remaining in a seated position even after Hermione had finished using the loo, she bent over and reached for her toes in an attempt to stretch out her sore back. She was already achy as it was that morning and was now spending the night sitting on the ground; blankets only did so much. Lightly polished fingertips barely reached her ankles, let alone her feet or the floor. After washing her hands she headed back downstairs at a much more sedated pace. The Christmas tree was still up in the living room and would remain until they went back to school in a few days, lights blinking in the dark. Turning toward the kitchen Hermione stopped, a movement just outside the front window catching her eye.

Pulling her wand Hermione tiptoed toward the door and concentrated on the shadow she had thought she saw move. Briefly it occurred to her to send up an alarm and alert the rest of the family but she didn’t want to look paranoid if there wasn’t anything there. Reaching for the doorknob Hermione’s wand was at the ready, a stunner on the tip of her tongue. Turning the knob she pulled the door open inch by inch when suddenly it was shoved open and she was pushed backwards towards the sofa. A tall figure followed her backwards, lithe fingers securing her wand wrist and hoisting it above her head while the other arm snaked around her back and pulled her close. Hermione barely had time to open her mouth to scream when a pair of soft lips sealed over her own.

Hermione froze, her mind racing in a panic. The thumb of the hand holding her arm began to slide back and forth over the soft and vulnerable skin on the underside of her wrist in a familiar manner, something she was sure she should recognize but couldn’t. The arm at her waist tightened subtly, pulling her closer. An ache began in her chest as the person pulled back.

“You should be more cautious Ms. Granger, especially since you are carrying my child. Any number of people would love to do you harm for that reason alone.”

Hermione pulled her wrist from Severus’s grip and slipped her wand away.

“Good thing they don’t know then.”

Severus grunted, his arm around her waist still tight and warm.

“With any luck it will stay that way, at least for a while.”

Hermione’s eyebrows flew up to her hairline and she pushed on his chest, stretching the hold he had on her waist.

“For a while? You planning on telling anyone professor?”

Severus’s lips twisted into a barely perceptible grimace.

“It’s bound to come out sooner or later.”

Hermione nodded, truth be told people were way too nosey and it was made worse by the fact she was something of a celebrity and Severus a not so beloved anti-hero. Severus pulled his arm from around her back and simply let his hand rest on her hip while his other hand drifted up to caress her cheek.

“What are you doing here professor? What are we doing here, in this very moment?”

Severus smirked and showed her his wrist, a single silver cuff link barely visible in the dim light.

“In regards to your first question, I came by to thank you for my gift. As for your second question, it’s quite inelegant. In this moment, I’m holding you.”

Hermione laughed.

“I’m glad you like the cuff links and though my second question sucked, you’re avoiding it.”

Hermione had to admit that she had always admired the potion’s master’s ability to display the perfect poker face but when faced with it, she hated it just a bit. Over the summer they’d had sex with no strings attached, but little gestures like this were beginning to toy with Hermione’s feelings; and that wasn’t something she could allow.

“Professor, what is it that you want from me?”

Shouting erupted from the back door, lights flashing and the clock began chiming midnight. Severus leaned in close, his lips brushing the shell of her ear.

“We’ll talk when you come back to Hogwarts. Happy New Year.”

Severus’s lips gripped Hermione’s once more in a tantalizing kiss before the sweet pressure was gone, and he with a sharp crack.

“Hermione, hurry up! You’re going to miss it!”

Hermione raised her fingers to her lips and quickly brushed the sleeves of her sweater over her face; and closed the front door, making sure to secure it before heading out to the back yard.

“I’m coming, keep your robes on!”

She’d honestly never been so confused.
*****************HP******************
The morning of January 3rd found Hermione settling into an empty compartment on the train while Ron and Harry loaded up their trunks just outside. She yawned lazily, eyes drifting closed for a moment. Hermione and Fleur had been up half the night packing all of her new maternity clothes and baby things. The trip into muggle London had proved fruitful and even Fleur and Molly had arrived home with new things. Harry had escorted them around dutifully that day, without a single complaint while Molly explored inquisitively, Fleur took each shop by storm and Hermione watched in silent mirth. Ron had begged off the trip to hang out with his brothers, while Ginny had been and still was, refusing to speak to Hermione.

Hermione had removed her latest reading material and set up the boys first chess game when they came ambling through the compartment door, both in seemingly good spirits.

“Ah Hermione, you’ll make someone a great wife one day, setting up a man’s chessboard just how he likes it.”

Hermione paused the opening of her book and raised an eyebrow at Ron’s jovial statement.

“There’s only one way to set up a chess board Ronald.”

Ron shrugged.

“Just trying to be positive here Hermione.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and opened her book, tucking the marker into the pages for safekeeping and settled the book on her stomach. It was the perfect reading height but after wiggling several times in the next few minutes it became apparent to Hermione that this position she was sitting in wasn’t going to work. Placing the book on the bench seat next to her, the witch glanced around for her bag. Spying the bag laying on the floor partially under the seat where it had fallen, Hermione bent down to reach it and stopped a few inches short, fingers straining uselessly in the air. Sitting back up she glared mutinously.

“Great, just bloody great. First I can’t see my feet and now I can’t reach things on the floor.”

Ron chuckled and retrieved the bag for her.

“Hermione, you probably haven’t been able to see your feet for a while. It’s only bothering you because you actually noticed it yesterday.”

Hermione snatched the bag from his hand with a pout and refused to look him in the face while he continued to chuckle at her. A few minutes of digging convinced Hermione that she needed to clean out the bottomless bag, especially when she came across a flask of polyjuice that she was sure wasn’t any good, and more than likely still had Bellatrix’s hair in it.

Removing a pillow from the bag Hermione placed it in the small of her back and wiggled again before settling in. Carefully she lifted her feet onto the empty seat across from her and leaned back into the plush upholstery. Hermione traded the bag for her book and settled back in for not just the train ride back to Hogwarts but the wait before the train even left the station. Hermione hadn’t wanted to face the gawking students and ugly whispers just yet so she had made sure they were among the first few on the train and if she had her way they would be some of the last few off when they reached Hogsmeade Station.
Time passed in relative silence, Hermione engrossed in her book and the boys quietly ribbing each other during their game. The noise outside steadily grew as students began arriving, meeting up with friends and escaping their parents by getting on the train. Feet ran down the corridor and past their compartment, laughter and blonde pigtails in the small girl’s wake. For the next twenty minutes Hermione couldn’t focus on her book and instead found herself watching the compartment door from under her lowered eyelashes. Every time someone slowed outside the compartment her fingers tightened on the tome in her hands and her breath hitched. All it took was one person to open that door and the kneazle would be permanently out of the bag.

The train whistle went off once as a last call to board and minutes later the locomotive jerked into motion. Some of the tension left Hermione’s body, majority of the students would have found compartments and the risk of someone opening theirs had shrunk. Minutes later however her hopes were crushed when Blaise Zabini made his grand entrance, Draco and Daphne Greengrass behind him.

“Hermione luv, I missed you! Doing McGonagll’s work without you has simply been a bore.”

Hermione sighed at the Italian’s dramatics, taking in Daphne’s grimace and the roll of her eyes just over his shoulder. Draco stayed back, looking anywhere but at the compartment’s occupants.

Blaise made a move into the compartment and stopped, his eyes on Hermione’s bulging robes.

“My my Hermnione, what have we been up to? Is that a crystal ball in your jumper or are you just happy to see me?”

Hermione’s gut unclenched and she narrowed her eyes. Blaise was definitely a failed actor of the highest caliber.

“How long have you known?”

Blaise shrugged noncommittally. Daphne shoved past Blaise, pushing him into the door frame and dropped herself nearest the door on Hermione’s bench, directly across from Ron.

“We’ve known since your shirts started getting too small and you kept running to the bathroom. Weasley, let’s play.”

Ron blinked, stunned that Daphne was speaking to him.

“Whaaat?”

Daphne rolled her eyes.

“Chess Weasley. I hear you’re pretty good, show me.”

Ron nodded and glanced at Harry who just shrugged and moved over to the opposite bench. Honestly he had no desire to sit next to the Sytherin, she made his skin crawl and not inn a good way. Daphne proceeded to clear the board and set the pieces back to their places, pushing long blonde curls from her eyes.

Blaise laughed and dropped his body between Daphne and Hermione, wiggling into the space between the two women. Hermione sighed and shifted, carefully lowering her feet from the bench and onto the floor. She sat up straighter and glanced at Harry who kept looking at the door. Draco stood just outside the doorframe, almost as if he was either afraid of crossing the threshold or was awaiting permission. It was obvious the way the Savior fidgeted that he was acutely aware there was only one spot left in the compartment for the blonde to sit, between himself and the window.
Hermione toed Harry’s calf and grabbed his attention. She looked between himself and the seemingly forgotten Slytherin just outside the door, and back again. Harry took a deep breath and licked his suddenly dry lips before calling out to Draco; or at least trying to. Harry’s cheeks turned a light pink when no sound came out and Hermione smothered her laugh, all the noise Blaise was still making provided plenty of cover.

Harry cleared his throat.

“Malfoy.”

Draco stilled, his body tense as he looked toward Harry. Harry tried to give what he hoped was a welcoming smile and not a grimace.

“Come sit, we’re not going to make you stand outside while your other friends have slithered in.”

Daphne glanced up toward Harry as she eliminated one of Ron’s knights with brutal efficiency. The black pieces on the board cheered in triumph, making it more than obvious that they approved of her strategies much more over his; bloodthirsty little blighters. Daphne kept her gaze on Harry and leaned forward, crowding both the board and Ron’s personal space; long blonde curls draping over everything.

“Believe me Potter, when we slither in, it’ll be in a much more exciting place than a train compartment.”

Ron shrunk back from her as she moved away, heart racing. A light caress against his thigh had him glancing down, expecting to have pumped into Harry and instead he found a small, pale hand ghosting across his knee and back toward its owner. Looking up Ron found himself caught in a pair of bright green eyes and a smirk that promised danger to anyone near.

What the bloody hell?

Harry cleared his throat and help up his hands.

“Fair enough. Malfoy, would you like the seat?”

Draco hesitated and clenched his jaw but moved forward into the compartment, pausing to close the door behind him and activate the privacy screens. Carefully Daphne floated the chess board up and above Draco’s head as he walked by, her pieces cheering again as one of Ron’s fell over the side of the board and hit the floor in two.

Hermione smiled at Draco as he settled in across from her and readjusted herself.

“How was your Christmas Draco? Is your family well?”

Draco gave a curt nod.

“They’re fine as ever, Christmas was quiet.”

Hermione frowned. She certainly wasn’t best friends with Draco and barely spoke two words to him a study session, but he was definitely far quieter than he had been when they were growing up, broken in a way. A poke to her ribs had the witch turning to look at Blaise who had actually stopped talking, for once in his life. The Italian frowned and shook his head, glancing at Draco. Hermione shrugged and went back to her book, trying to find some peace in the suddenly loud compartment.

*****************HP******************

Draco adjusted himself in the seat once more, making sure to keep as much distance between himself and Potter as he could. Of course it was just his luck that Blaise had wanted to crash the compartment and the gods were obviously laughing at him when they left him with the only seat next to Harry bloody Potter. Glancing around it was obvious everyone was engrossed in something; Daphne and Weasley battling to the death, Granger trying to read with Blaise constantly butting in. Potter looked to be watching the chess match with feigned interest but Draco knew better. He’d spent the last two weeks since their last meeting examining every encounter he had ever had with the Gryffindor and couldn’t seem to get him off his mind.

Draco watched out of the corner of his eye as Harry leaned back into the seat and rested his head on the upper cushion, closing his eyes. His body was lax, arms loosely at his side and fingers entwined on his lap. Draco too closed his eyes, only for a movement only to jerk them open in surprise. Harry had rotated his lower body and stretched his legs in Hermione’s direction, allowing the pregnant witch to rest her feet on his shins. This meant that the dark haired male’s legs were nearly crossing one of his own and he could feel the heat coming off him through the material of their uniform pants. Draco didn’t dare twitch, praying he was imagining things. He turned toward the other man, meeting his gaze and knew the move had been on purpose. Bottle green eyes stared back at him unblinkingly through think spectacles and his lips were quirked up into a smile. This time when Harry adjusted his legs he did it agonizingly slow, rubbing one leg cross his own. In the background Draco heard Granger say something but his attention was focused where his and Harry’s bodies met.

“We’re okay Hermione, honest. Right Malfoy?”

Draco glanced at Hermione and nodded, willing the witch back to her book before she asked anything else and as for Blaise, Draco completely ignored his smug expression. Draco took in a deep breath and let it out slowly as he relaxed his body, refusing to remain tense and uncomfortable for the next several hours. Carefully he leaned his head back, closed his eyes and concentrated on the noises of the train, the wheels clanking over the tracks and most definitely not on the sensation of Harry’s legs on his.

Draco remained like that for a while, tension slowly leaving his body. Eventually his arms fell to his sides and he was asleep when the first brush over his right wrist stirred him. Another pulled him out of the fog and a third woke him from any vestige of sleep. His eyes slid open and over towards Harry once more; taking in the compartment as he went. Granger had fallen asleep on Blaise’s shoulder and Blaise had appropriated her book. Weasley and Dahpne were still dueling over the chess board, neither one backing down and appeared to have blocked everyone out.

Draco met Harry’s half lidded eyes and looked down to find the Gryffindor running his thumb back and forth over the inside of his wrist. Looking back up at the other man Draco struggled with himself, whether he should pull his arm away or just ignore the other man. Fingers tightened around his wrist lightly and Draco closed his eyes once more, determined not to be drawn into whatever game Harry was playing. He’d deal with this when they arrived in Hogsmeade because at the moment he was just too tired.

Draco let the stroke of Harry’s thumb across his wrist lull him back to sleep.

*****************HP******************

Chapter Text

When the train pulled into Hogsmeade station Draco couldn’t detangle himself fast enough from the mess of legs that occupied the compartment floor. With a nod to Hermione, the blonde grabbed Blaise by the collar and followed Daphne out the door, her fingers trailing the doorway as she went and a saucy smile tossed in Ron’s baffled direction. Harry stood and reached a hand out to Hermione, helping her to her feet. Hermione’s hands gravitated to her stomach, sudden nervousness making her feet feel as if they were cast in iron and her stomach full of one baby and many butterflies. Heart beating a mile a minute she pulled her winter robe about her, obscuring her belly, and followed Ron out the door, Harry’s hand on her lower back.

The crowd of students jostled them back and forth, Ron and Harry keeping Hermione between them and away from the crush of bodies. Students were laughing, running, and joking, excited to get to the carriages and back to Hogwarts. Hermione wanted to stay toward the middle of the crowd; being in the front or back would give her away too quickly and she was delaying as long as possible. They ended up sharing a carriage with a couple of second and third years, and were more than ready to exit the carriage and get away from the unabashed staring.

The trek up the staircases had Hermione panting from exertion. She tugged on Ron’s sleeve as Harry carefully eased her out of the crowd and against the wall, allowing crowds of students to pass unhindered. They stood there for a few minutes, Ron and Harry curved around her, while Hermione rested her forehead on the cools stone walls. At Hermione’s nod they rejoined the crowd and continued up the last flight of stairs and into the Great Hall, seating themselves towards the end of the table; Ron at Hermione’s side and Harry across.

As usual the students were loud, hungry and not interested in speeches; but no one dared speak when Headmistress McGonagall spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Hogwarts. I hope your breaks were full of good cheer and your families are all in good health. As you may know, preparations for your final exams are quickly approaching, and many of you have midterm projects due this week, so I hope your winter breaks were used wisely and not wasted.”

Headmistress McGonagall’s gaze covered the room at the last bit, coming to rest on the Gryffindor table in particular. Gryffindors would always be her favorite, but the woman was no idiot and knew many of them were the very worst of procrastinators. People around the room laughed at the dramatics looks some of the more troublesome students put on, as if hurt by the woman’s accusing stare. With a clap of her hands the tables filled with food and drink piled high and wide.

“Dig in.”

Students throughout the room exploded into noise once more, and plates filling with food carefully prepared by the house elves. Hermione eased her cloak off and placed it on the bench beside her, face warm and hands sweaty. It was nerve wracking to be sitting so close to so many people who had no idea there was a life growing inside her; simply hidden under the table with the way she sat. Looking down the table she grimaced, spotting Ginny laughing with her year mates. The red haired girl turned toward her, met Hermione’s gaze and looked away. Hermione shook her head and sighed, refusing to give in.

Ron nudged her arm and gestured toward her plate.

“Eat something Hermione, you haven’t since before lunch.”

Hermione nodded and reached for the nearest thing that wouldn’t make her queasy, all the while scanning the head table for a certain professor who gave her the oddest but most delicious reactions. What exactly had he meant that night at the Burrow, telling her they would discuss things when she came back to school? Did he change his mind about participating in the child’s life, or did he plan to charm her into getting rid of it one way or another? Mentally shaking herself, Hermione grimaced. The Gryffindor highly doubted he would have waited this long to try and get rid of the child; let alone try to ‘charm’ her into it.

Severus sat at the end of the head table, furthest from her and seemingly stuck in what had to be a very strange conversation with Professor Trelawney. He nodded his head every few minutes and spoke a word or two but didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the second-rate seer. Hermione hadn’t realized she was staring until he raised his head and locked eyes with her; the chaos of the room simply became background noise, and the world came to a halt on its axis. They stared across the room at each other for what felt like hours but could have only been seconds; and when his eyes took on that heat Hermione had grown addicted to, and his lips twisted into the smirk she loved, her heart fluttered. As if sensing the tension, sexual or otherwise, the infant inside her squirmed, lashing out at any internal organs she could reach.

Hermione hunched over quickly, dropping her fork and reaching for her stomach. Ron stopped his conversation beside her and shifted, blocking her from the view of others.

“Are you alright?”

Harry grimaced across the table, unable to do anything without looking out of place and drawing attention to her. Hermione nodded, rubbing her stomach and panting, eyes watering from the pain.

“I’m okay but I think my baby is waging war on my insides.”

Ron chuckled and the tension eased from his frame.

“She’s been very active lately. Anything that might have set her off?”

Harry chuckled lowly.

“A certain professor taking Hermione’s attention might have.”

Hermione kicked out her foot under the table, unable to get anywhere Harry despite his long legs.

“That’s enough out of you.”

*****************HP******************

When the witch locked eyes with Severus, it was all he could do to keep still in his seat. Her face was practically glowing, long hair falling around her shoulders and down her back. Hermione’s hands were as dainty as ever and he had watched them remove her cloak earlier on baited breath. The way she sat it was impossible to see the growth of her stomach, but anyone with eyes could see she had easily gone up two cup sizes in her chest.

When she flinched, dropped her fork and hunched over her stomach, it took every ounce of self-control he had not to jump out of his chair. The Weasley boy noticed almost immediately and tended to her while Severus watched with something that could only be described as a fierce jealousy. It had begun shortly before Christmas break, watching Hermione with those two lunkheads she called friends had him ready to draw blood. They were with her nearly every waking moment of the day and if he didn’t know the relationship was strictly platonic, he would have also thought they were in her bed every moment of the night. Severus himself had noticed a definite nastiness in his classes, even when dealing with his own house but couldn’t bring himself to care.

New Year’s had finalized his decision, he had found himself on the edges of Weasley property before he knew exactly what he was doing. With suspicion still abundant in the Wizarding World, he had been lucky it was Hermione who had approached him, though she was stupid to have done it. If it had been one of the Weasley men to notice someone lurking, they would have drawn their wands first and asked questions later; and even if they knew it was him, they still might have reacted the same. Severus wasn’t sure how much Hermione had told them concerning the paternity of her child and was man enough to admit the older Weasley men had turned into fine fighters, even those pains in the asses; Bill, Charlie, and George.

Severus decided that night Hermione would be his, if she’d have him; and if she wouldn’t he’d convince her. The witch was young, stubborn and certainly a know-it-all but Severus loved a challenge and couldn’t imagine himself with anyone else. They were going to have a child, be tied together for the rest of their lives; so why waste it being alone? It might not work out, the chances were slim, but he was determined to exhaust every avenue before giving up. McGonagall would not interfere if they were discreet and he couldn’t care less about public opinion; fuck them all.

Hermione Granger would be the prize at the end of his long and ugly life, it was just a matter of getting her in the right position; preferably over his desk, body straining under his touch.

*****************HP******************

Hermione idly rubbed her stomach, her eyes watching the room in its entirety but always drifting back to the Potions Master at the head table. He too looked back at her, no longer putting up a pretense of conversation with Trelawney, and instead eyeing the Gryffindor like a piece of meat. Dinner was over, random students leaving in small groups, with Headmistress McGonagall having given her closing speech and left to tend to matters at hand. Most of teachers had retired as well; Snape, Trelawney and Sprout being the only ones left.

Letting out a tense breath Hermione grabbed her cloak and shifted to stand, sliding one leg over the bench and then the other, in what her mother would have called a most un-ladylike manner. She gripped Ron’s hand and he pulled her up, facing away from the rest of the room. Carefully she adjusted her skirt and sweater, hands hot and shaking. How long would it take people to notice the obviously pregnant girl in their midst?

They started walking toward the end of the table to meet Harry, who took her cloak from her hands and smiled, trying to ease the tension. Nobody had noticed so far but more and more people were getting up from their tables and leaving the Great Hall. Putting one foot in front of the other, Hermione kept her eyes on the prize; getting out the doors without a fuss but sadly that wasn’t meant to be.

A sudden jostling to her left from a small set of bodies wearing Hufflepuff yellow, made her stumble, her right arm reaching for Ron as she fell backwards. Time slowed and all she could see were Ron and Harry’s shocked faces, bodies too slow to catch her. Tensing up Hermione waited for a hard impact that never came. Two warm appendages gripped her around the chest and stomach, large hands digging into the material of her sweater.

“Careful Hermione, are you alright?”

Hermione sighed in relief at Neville’s voice and nodded, working to get her feet under her. Neville lifted her from behind, bringing his arms around her back and releasing her when she appeared steady. Hermione ran a hand through her loose curls and watched Neville’s face morph, shouting at the two Hufflepuff first years and stopping them in their tracks.

“You lot need to be careful, you can’t be running around and nocking people over!”

The two students nodded but remained frozen in place and Hermione was pretty sure she knew why. Other people were stopping as well, blinking and shaking their heads like they weren’t sure what they were seeing; Neville’s shout had certainly gotten their attention. Hermione tried not to shuffle her feet nervously as the Longbottom heir turned back toward her, a smile on his face. That smile quickly dropped from his face and he too looked confused.

“Uh, Hermione? I don’t want to be rude but have you gained a little weight?”

Hermione wanted to laugh, apparently it was gut reaction to ask if she’d gotten fat, but was barely holding back her tears.

“Yes Neville.”

Neville looked her up and down, and then glanced between her, Ron and Harry.

“Is that what I think it is?”

The student body was nearly silent around them, people crowding and looking with a rabid curiosity that was beginning to scare her. Whispers had started, some not even bothering to be quiet about it and Hermione wasn’t nearly as emotionally ready to hear what they were saying as she had thought.

Hermione looked Neville in the face, and nodded, not wanting to lie to her friend anymore.

“It’s a baby Neville, I’m pregnant.”

There was an audible gasp in the crowd and Neville tensed, remembering they weren’t alone. Stepping closer to Hermione he grabbed her by the arm and nudged her toward Ron and Harry. Turning to the onlookers he waved his arm at them in a shooing manner.

“Never seen a pregnant girl before?! Ain’t nothing to see here, go back to your houses!”

A boy in the middle of the crowd spoke up, his Slytherin colors already a bad sign.

“Never though Know-It-All Granger would get herself knocked up, honestly didn’t think anyone would get near that cunt! Is it yours Longbottom?!”

Ron surged forward into the crowd and grabbed the boy by his collar, lifting him off his feet and dragging the smaller boy into his chest. Ron ignored Hermione’s shout and stared in the kid’s eyes, a snarl on his face.

“Who the fuck are you to say anything? Some nasty little fourth year wanting to make himself some friends? I’ll be your best fucking friend you son of a –“

Hermione cringed but cheered a little on the inside when Ron didn’t bring the boy’s house affiliation into the mess.

“Ten points from Gryffindor for such an ugly display Weasley. I don’t know how things are handled in Gryffindor tower but we don’t threaten those smaller than us in public.”

Hermione’s whole body vibrated when she heard Severus, his voice so close behind her she could smell his musky cologne. Students parted like the Red Sea and Hermione was almost positive he brushed her on purpose as he passed. Ron let go of the other boy and shoved him back a bit, before turning and heading back her way. Hermione was proud of the redhead when he walked past Severus without a word; a younger and less mature Ron wouldn’t have been able to resist mouthing off.

Severus came to a stop in front of the fourth year Slytherin and stared at him, eyes cold.

“Mr. Rodham, in the future keep your opinions of another student’s cunt and what should be in it to yourself; I have no room for such blatant vulgarity and peasantry in my house, you bring shame to the name of Salazar Slytherin. Twenty points from Slytherin Mr. Rodham, and we will continue this in my office tomorrow morning, return to your dorm.”

Turning he glared at the students surrounding them, robes billowing at the sudden movement. Some students were shocked into silence at his use of the word cunt, while others grinned deviously.

“Now that the show is over, return to your dorms.”

People scattered, rushing away from the irked professor. A few braver ones lurked by the doors to the Great Hall but ran when he looked in their direction. Severus turned back to Hermione and looked her over, gaze coming to rest on her face and the tears she had been wiping away.

“Longbottom you may go.”

Neville jerked, but didn’t move right away. Hermione had never seen a more serious look on his face when he ignored Severus and stared at the Golden Trio.

“You guys going to be okay?”

Hermione nodded and Harry murmured something intelligible; Ron shrugged.

“We’ll be okay man, meet you in the common room.”

Neville waited a few seconds to be sure, before turning and walking away. Severus stared at his back while he walked away, both slightly impressed and pissed that he was no longer a pushover; instead the Longbottom matriarch could be proud of. Severus turned back to the trio of Gryffindor students; Ron glared at him, Harry looked bored, and Hermione’s face was curious but guarded, the desire he had sensed from her earlier having dimmed.

“Potter, Weasley, if you don’t mind I’d like to speak with Ms. Granger for a moment. Alone.”

Harry raised an eyebrow, while Ron snorted.

“Is that wise Professor? We are in public after all, wouldn’t want to make any ugly displays.”

Severus snarled under his breath.

“I’m a professor talking to a wayward student, which is the only display anyone will see.”

Ron mumbled something under his breath and walked away, Harry on his heels.

“We’ll be by the door when you’re ready Hermione.”

Hermione nodded.

“Be there in a minute.”

*****************HP******************

Severus waited until Harry and Ron were out of earshot before stepping closer to Hermione, maneuvering them so his back was to the door and effectively blocking anyone from seeing her.

“Are you alright?”

Hermione’s smile was tight but warm, she was getting tired of people asking if she was ‘okay’.

“I’m fine, Neville was there in the nick of time. My balance has been a little off lately, Madame Pomfrey says it’s because my center of gravity has shifted pretty drastically in such a short time.”

Severus looked Hermione over once more, finally seeing the obvious changes to her body in normal light. Her stomach was heavy with their child, and the evidence of that made him shiver with a possessiveness he was becoming much too acquainted with recently. Large, messy curls were draped around her head and down her shoulders; framing a face that looked the same as ever. Hermione’s sweater was stretched taut over her stomach and was almost concealing when looking at her head on; while her skirt was puffed out around the bottom and a little shorter than it should have been. Long legs encased in black tights led to slightly swollen ankles and a pair of cushioned flats, the Gryffindor’s Mary Jane pumps long gone.

Severus was so busy looking her over that he jerked when her smaller hand grabbed his large, calloused one and pulled it close. His body went rigid when Hermione lifted her sweater ever so slightly and placed his hand on her stomach, the cold from his fingertips seeping through her button down blouse and making her shiver. It only took a moment for the infant inside to start up with her somersaults for the third time that day and Hermione could tell when Severus felt it. His faced morphed, losing it’s hard edge and gaining a softness she had never seen before. The baby was kicking, closer and closer to his hand, and when the little girl actually hit right under is hand, Hermione noticed trembling in his hand and arm.

“Madame Pomfrey said she’s a little lethargic with her movements, I have to stimulate her every couple days to keep her active, but you wouldn’t know it with how she’s been today; I think she’d be quite the little gymnast.”

A line of worry appeared in Severus’s brow.

“Lethargy? Is it dangerous?”

Hermione shook her head, squeezing his hand.

“It can be but she’s been more active lately and I only have to nudge her every couple days when she doesn’t move enough.”

Severus removed his hand from hers and adjusted the hem of her sweater. Glancing over his shoulder he could see Harry and Ron standing at the door to the Great Hall. Lifting a hand he cupped Hermione’s neck and titled her head, rubbing his thumb back and forth over her smooth skin and driving his fingers into the bottom of her hair.

“I’d like to see you tomorrow after dinner, in my rooms and away from prying eyes.”

Hermione wasn’t sure she should be alone with the Potion’s Master, not after the last time, but knew they needed to talk and she really wanted to know what was going on in his head.

“Is seven good for you?”

Severus nodded and leaned down, brushing his lips over hers quickly.

“Go to bed Ms. Granger.”

Hermione watched him leave, exiting the hall into the antechamber. Quickly she pulled herself together and tried to ignore the tingling on her neck as she headed for Ron and Harry at the door.

*****************HP******************

The next morning Hermione tried to be early to breakfast but couldn’t seem to get moving, especially after Harry had to help her off her bed. Walking into the Great Hall she ignored the stares and whispers, choosing to sit right next to Neville. Neville was momentarily surprised but smiled easily at her.

“Where are Harry and Ron?”

Hermione didn’t look up from digging in her bag, pulling out her rough draft Charms project.

“They’ll be along, as soon as they stop arguing about Quidditch.”

This was one of the rare times Hermione Granger would be found wrong, Harry and Ron were still in fact arguing when they sat down across from Hermione and Neville.

“I’m telling you Ron, the Falcons have nothing on the Harpies this year, their lineup sucks since Mattson transferred and Thorn got hurt.”

Ron shook his head and looked around conspiratorially before leaning in.

“Mate, they’re girls.”

Hermione laughed loudly, before muffling it with her hand. She couldn’t help laughing over the absurdity of that statement and wished Angelina, Alicia and Katie were there to hear it.

“Ron, I wouldn’t say that in front of your sister.”

Ron jerked his head up, ears red before looking around quickly for the youngest Weasley. When he didn’t spot her his posture relaxed and he stuck his tongue out at Hermione. Hermione laughed once more and let the boys go back to their argument. Turning to Neville she poked him with her finger, grabbing his attention.

“I wanted to say thank you Neville, you really helped me out last night. Thanks for sticking up for me.”

Neville put one arm around her shoulders and squeezed carefully, before pulling back.

“Glad to Hermione. Personally the way our conversation went, it sounded like you were telling me about our baby. I’m waiting on a letter from Gran sometime today, someone will have told her what happened.”

Hermione giggled.

“I hope she doesn’t freak out.”

Neville shook his head.

“No, she’d be ecstatic actually; she’d probably want us to get married right away, but Gran thinks you’re great.”

Hermione blushed.

“I’m glad someone does.”

Breakfast was short; Hermione wasn’t very hungry and she needed to get a head start because Charms was on the third floor. The baby had started pushing up into her diaphragm that morning and it made breathing a little harder so all those stairs would take longer. Neville offered to carry her bag, which she accepted gratefully; and despite having to stop after every flight of stairs, the foursome made it to Charms with a few minutes to spare.

The classroom was quiet when Hermione walked in, every student focused on her, more precisely on her belly. Hermione ignored the whispers and took her usual seat. The big surprise however was that Gunny chose to sit across the room with Padma and Pavarti. Hermione arched an eyebrow in question to Harry but he just shrugged. Hermione knew the girl had no desire to be around her at the moment but the fact she passed up sitting next to Harry was odd.

Professor Flitwick entered the classroom and attention turned to him.

“If you’ll please pass your rough drafts to the front, we can get started.”

*****************HP******************

Transfiguration followed the same script as Charms, whispers and slanted looks but Hermione ignored them; however she was slightly confused by the finger wave she received from Daphne Greengrass on the other side of the aisle, and not so surprised by the fact Blaise slid gracefully into the seat next to her. Headmistress McGonagall had them pass their project drafts to the front as well, before passing out small black booklets with no markings on the covers.

“These are highly regulated Animagus instruction manuals that have belonged to this school for centuries. They’re considered outdated to the newer Transfiguration Masters however I have found them extremely useful and easy to follow. We’ll be using these and each of you will have a copy personally registered to you. It is your responsibility to make sure the book does not fall into hands it should not, nor should it incur any damage that it did not already have when given to you. Are we clear?”

The small group of students acknowledged her quietly, afraid to piss off a very scary woman. Headmistress McGonagall stared at them all sternly, before adjusting her glasses and softening her voice.

“The Animagus transformation can be extremely dangerous and that is why you will only practice the early stages in this classroom, with myself or Madame Pomfrey to supervise. You do not want to find yourself stuck as some cat-human hybrid for the rest of yours lives; some of these mistakes can be permanent if not treated immediately.”

Hermione ducked her head at the mention of a cat-human hybrid, memories of her own furry problem from second year making her blush. Blaise elbowed her lightly and glanced at her red face with a smirk. Hermione reached over and pinched his leg under the desk, taking perverse pride in his muffled yelp.

The rest of the class went on as expected, mainly the discussion of passages and instructions from the book, along with theory discussion and notes from the Headmistress McGonagall’s own experience.

Ron and Harry were waiting for her outside the Transfiguration classroom and walked her to the Great Hall for lunch; later walking her back to the Transfiguration classroom for her TA period. Hermione tried asking Harry how DADA had gone with Ginny but he shook his head and said they’d talk about it later.

The first years who had gotten over their mystification at the beginning of the year were once again stunned to silence in front of her. Hermione tried to act normal but the silence was driving her crazy. Turning she looked at the students and sighed.

“What do you want to know?”

The classroom erupted into chaos and for the first twenty-five minutes of class Hermione answered all their questions. Yes she was having a baby, it was a girl, no she hadn’t picked a name, no she wasn’t telling them who the father was, at the moment she wasn’t getting married; and she was absolutely sure she wasn’t having twins. She finally cut them off and closed the topic, before directing them to the lesson at hand. After class was over the first years took off like a rocket and Hermione began packing up her things. Hefting her bag on her shoulder Hermione winced, before pulling her wand and adding a Feather-light charm on her bag. Turning she stumbled, almost bumping into Headmistress McGonagall but the older woman gripped her elbow tightly to steady her.

“I’m sorry Ms. Granger, I didn’t mean to startle you, especially after hearing about your close call last night. I trust you’re well?”

Hermione smile.

“I’m fine, really. I wish people would stop asking.”

Headmistress McGonagall chuckled.

“I just wanted to let you know that you’re going to need to see Madame Pomfrey sometime before class on Friday, just to make sure you have the right magical reserves to proceed with the first steps; mainly the meditation and attempt at magic manifestation.”

Hermione gripped the strap on her bag tightly.

“Alright, I’ll go see her during my free period either tomorrow or Wednesday.”

Headmistress McGonagall squeezed her elbow once before letting go and walking behind her desk.

“Don’t look so apprehensive Ms. Granger, everything will be fine.”

Fourth year students began filing into the room for the final class of the day, effectively cutting off Hermione’s reply. Hermione smiled at Headmistress McGonagall with a quiet goodbye and headed toward Gryffindor tower.

Several times during her walk Hermione had to stop and sit down, rubbing her upper stomach and trying to convince the little girl to stop pressing on her diaphragm. She was glad when sixth period started and the student cleared the halls, their looks were no longer hurting her feelings but starting to make her mad. Hermione finally reached the seventh floor and the portrait of the Fat lady; out of breath and very tired. She gave the password and headed up to her room, dropping her bag on the floor, robes beside them, and kicking her shoes off wherever they ended up. Carefully she crawled up onto her bed, ignoring Crookshanks grumbling. Within minutes she was asleep, emotional and physical exhaustion taking over.

*****************HP******************

Nearly three hours later Hermione was nudged out of her sleep, a persistent hand running up and down one of her legs on fingertips, while Crookshanks hissed from somewhere near her head. Opening her eyes it took a minute for everything to come into focus and when it did she wanted to go right back to sleep. Harry was muttering to himself, sitting near her legs and playing with his hands on her calf. It felt sort of nice, and Hermione wouldn’t have minded so much if didn’t look so out of it. Ron on the other hand had crawled up her bed and sat near Crookshanks, making weird faces and attempting to aggravate the orange monster. Licking her lips she swallowed, her throat painfully dry.

“Ron, when he scratches your face off, you’ll have deserved it.”

Ron grinned at her shamelessly. Harry perked up and smiled brightly.

“Sleeping beauty has awoken!”

Hermione grunted and tried to roll over to her stomach, before remembering she physically couldn’t. The next few minutes were spent keeping her from falling back asleep, and then getting her changed. Hermione was no longer embarrassed by the fact she had trouble with her pants sometimes and that she was hopeless when it came to socks or shoes. Harry helped her pull a thigh length, grey dress sweater over her head, while Ron hunted down a pair of leggings from her dresser. Hermione tied her hair up messily, strands escaping the loose bun and falling around her face. After putting her feet into slippers that had been a present from Fleur, she left the boys escort her down to dinner.

There weren’t quite so many stares, some people having found her predicament boring already. She noticed the fourth year from the night before was sitting apart from most of his housemates and seemed to be in temporary exile. It wasn’t often the Head of Slytherin House took double the points off his own student during an inter-house altercation. Settling in at the far end of the table Hermione’s gaze immediately went to the head table, looking for a certain dark haired man but he was nowhere to be found. She nibbled her lip slightly, nervousness creeping in. Were they no longer meeting?

“Stop it Hermione.”

Hermione looked at Harry and blushed, realizing how obvious she had been.

“He said he wanted to talk after dinner, he’s probably torturing some first year right now in preparation.”

Hermione frowned.

“Harry, that’s stupid.”

Harry just grinned. They fell into idle chatter for a while, but when Ginny walked by with some of her friends, not even glancing at The-Boy-Who-Lived, a lightbulb went off in her head.

“Harry, what happened in DADA?”

Ron grunted.

“Ginny wouldn’t say a thing to me in Potions.”

Harry set his fork down and ran a hand over his face.

“I don’t know mate, she’s acting strange. Professor Savage looked like he was going to partner us up again for the second half of the year but she asked him if she could partner with one of the Hufflepuffs instead. Its fine with me, I’m paired off with Seamus who’s a whole lot more fun to work with.”

Ron swallowed what he was chewing and picked up his pumpkin juice.

“She didn’t say a thing to you?”

Harry shook his head.

“I asked her if everything was okay and she said she wanted a new partner, and that she was finished pretending. I didn’t want to hurt her, I just wanted her to understand that I’m not interested in getting back together.”

Hermione sighed.

“I think this is partly because we didn’t let her in on the big secret. She’s my closest female friend and I didn’t tell her, I know I hurt her feelings, but I couldn’t afford for anyone to know.”

Ron spoke up, his voice harder than Hermione had expected.

“Ginny doesn’t exactly keep gossip well and we know how persistent she can be. She’s my sister and I love her but she’s a big girl. If she wants to stay mad, there isn’t a damn thing we can do about; she’s just like mum.”

The rest of their dinner was sort of melancholy in nature. Hermione knew why she kept glancing at the head table, but she couldn’t figure out why Ron kept peeking over his shoulder toward the Slytherin table, a very mystified look on his face. In between discreet glances at Draco, who was ignoring the fact he even existed, Harry was snickering at Ron. Hermione looked over at the table and wanted to laugh at the sight. Daphne Greegrass sat facing the Gryffindor table, twirling a long strand of hair around her finger over and over again, and smiling at Ron; however her smile was more of something you’d see on hungry predator, all teeth.

“I think she likes you Ron, or at least she doesn’t hate you.”

Ron turned bright red and mumbled into his dinner plate.

Hermione really did laugh this time, unable to control it.

A small tug on her sleeve grabbed Hermione’s attention and she looked down, two large eyes belonging to Winky stared up at her.

“Miss has a meeting at seven, Winky was sent to bring you.”

Harry and Ron looked at each other before Harry chuckled darkly.

“We know when we’re not wanted.”

Holding up his hand he brandished his ring finger and the brand that encased it almost lovingly.

“You need us, you call. I’ve got the map, he can’t hide you from me.”

Hermione sighed.

“Don’t be so dramatic Harry.”

Gripping Harry’s arm the bookworm steadied herself and swung her legs over the bench before standing. Adjusting her sweater Hermione leaned down and kissed Harry’s cheek.

“I’ll be fine but thanks for worrying.”

With a small wave at Ron, Hermione followed Winky out of the Great Hall.

*****************HP******************

Daphne’s steps were light as she walked through the dungeons toward the common room, her ponytail swinging with the sway of her hips. It had been interesting watching Weasley’s reactions to her, it was obvious that he was painfully shy about girls, especially aggressive ones like herself. He really was turning out to be the perfect candidate to solve all her messy problems, if she didn’t scare him off. She’d just have to be careful and step lightly, until he was hopelessly enamored with her.

A pale hand shot out of the darkness and grabbed her blonde locks, yanking harshly and pulled her backward.

“What the hell was that Daphne?”

Daphne swung around with her wand raised, knocking her attacker’s wand out of her small hand and pushing her against the nearest wall. Daphne stared at her younger sister’s bright blue eyes, many shades lighter than her own dark inky tone.

“What in Merlin’s name do you think you’re doing Astoria?”

The younger girl stiffened in her arms, before shoving off her hold.

“Me? What was that shit with Weasley at dinner? Are you joking? He’s your choice?”

Daphne took a step back and stowed her wand away.

“If everything goes as planned, yes, he’s my choice.”

Astoria threw her hands up it the air and stared incredulously at her sister.

“Why in Merlin’s name would you pick him? He’s a blood traitor and his family hasn’t a single galleon to their name. True his mother was a Prewitt but she soiled herself and what was left of her family name when she married into the Weasley name.”

Daphne shook her head and turned away.

“He’s as good as any other, better than most.”

Astoria reached out and grabbed her sister’s arm, only to be thrown backward into the cold stone wall once more. Daphne’s face was no longer blank, but twisted with a rage that suddenly scare Astoria, sending a chill all the way to her bones.

“What do you think this is Astoria, a fairytale? That we’ll both marry rich pureblood men and live happily ever after on our family estates, the envy of every girl we know? You’re delusional if you think we could ever have anything close to that again.”

Astoria shivered at the venom in her sister’s voice and winced when the arm across her chest pressed down slightly.

“Father is dead, our cousin is breathing down my neck, and you want me to be picky? I have less than a year to secure my position, our position, or face losing everything to that pompous ass we call cousin; and the first thing he wants is you. “

Astoria’s eyes went wide at the last bit of information.

“What?”

Daphne laughed dryly.

“You heard me. If I don’t figure this out we lose our home, the estate, the money, heirlooms; EVERYTHING! And you dear sister, would lose your life to him and there would be nothing I could do about it.”

Daphne eased back, gripping her ponytail tightly and wrapping a strand of hair round her finger, over and over in a calming gesture. Astoria was quiet and as she stared at the floor, her shoulders hunched in on herself.

“Don’t let him take me, I couldn’t bear it.”

Daphne stepped forward and grimaced as Astoria flinched, before pulling her into her tight embrace.

“I won’t, he’ll have to fight me for you Astoria and I’d kill him the first chance I got. I can’t afford to waste time and I need to be smart. Weasley may not be the richest, but his blood is purer than many, he’s loyal and kind with Granger. If I can get him to love me even half as much as he does that bookworm, I know he’ll never mistreat me, or you. He’ll protect us and not just him but his whole damn clan; we’d be untouchable. He’s grown like all those damn Weasley men, into a strong fighter; and if the rumors are true about them, a capable lover. He is my best chance at saving our lives and I will not throw this away because you want a prince in shining armor.”

Astoria sniffed and Daphne suddenly felt terrible, scaring her sister this way, but Astoria was sixteen and no longer a child; and Daphne would not be able to protect her forever. Cursing their father she pulled away from the younger girl and wiped at her eyes with her sleeve, before lightly tapping some pink into her cheeks.

“I need you to trust me.”

Astoria sniffed again and nodded slightly, refusing to look Daphne in the face. Daphne gripped Astoria’s chin and tipped her head, forcing the younger blonde to look her in the face.

“Say it.”

Astoria licked her lips and whispered.

“I trust you.”

Daphne smiled, her lips trembling for a second before she tightened her jaw. She couldn’t afford to cry, not in front of Astoria. Light step echoed down the hallway and Daphne’s body went rigid, moving in front of her sister and pushing the girl behind her as they backed into the shadows. Daphne’s eyes widened when she saw a House-elf leading a very pregnant Gryffindor past their hiding spot, past the entrance to the Slytherin common room, before taking a small hall off to the left that only led one place, to the Head of House’s personal quarters.

*****************HP******************

Hermione glanced around the main sitting area nervously as the portrait shut behind her and Winky left her alone. A long dark robe that could only belong to Severus was laid across the back of a large wingback chair, while a pair of shoes were discarded on the ground just behind it.

“Professor?”

Hermione’s small voice echoed in the room and she was startled at the silky reply that came from one of the adjoining rooms.

“In my office Ms. Granger.”

Hermione followed the voice, and stopped in the open doorway, her mouth going dry at the picture Severus made behind his desk. His shirt was mostly unbuttoned, exposing a wide expanse of alabaster skin. Dark hair hung around his face as he read something, his sleeves rolled up his arms, exposing the dark mark that had never faded. The Potions Master set his papers down and looked up, the look on his face stealing her breath away.

Lithely Severus stood from his chair and came around the desk, bare feet silent on the cold stone floor. He came to a stop just in front of her, reach out to run his hand along her cheek and tangling it up I her hair; Hermione shivered in response.

“I’m glad you made it.”

Hermione’s heart stuttered as she grinned.

“Winky made the trip very easy.”

Easing his hand out of her hair and down her back, Severus guided Hermione back into the living area and toward the small leather couch than sat angled in front of the fireplace.

“Would you like something to drink?”

Hermione’s throat has certainly gone dry, although he had a way of making other places on her body wet with the same mannerisms. The Gryffindor nodded and accepted the glass of water Severus held out to her.

“What did you want to talk about?”

Severus sat next to her and leaned back against the couch, stretching his legs out as far as they would go. His arm went around her over the back of the couch and Hermione thought she was going to explode with the tension.

“On New Year’s Eve I decided something, and somehow found myself on the Weasley’s doorstep. I’m done denying myself something that could be very, very sweet and I’m hoping you will agree.”

Hermione fidgeted under his stare but sat up straighter.

“Go on.”

Severus raised an eyebrow at her tone but continued.

“I want to be there for our daughter, as much as you’ll let me. I’m not a good man, I’m cold to almost everyone around me and I can’t promise it will be easy; but I want to try with you, with her.”

Hermione let out a breath and stood on shaky legs. Long cool fingers brushed her thigh as she walked over to the fireplace. Staring into the flames Hermione gripped the glass of water tightly, the electric shock of Severus’s touch doing things to her nervous system that were close to shutting down her brain. A silent shadow fell over her and two arms wrapped around her from behind, one large hand splayed over her stomach and the other on her upper thigh, drifting steadily north.

“I don’t just want our daughter, I want whole the package; I’m feeling gluttonous. I’ve discovered recently that I’m a very jealous man, and the animal inside wants so badly to possess you; body and soul. It has been hell watching you with Weasley and Potter, watching them care for you like I crave to.”

Hermione shuddered in Severus’s embrace.

“I’m not something you can just keep, I’m not a toy and neither is our baby.”

Severus let out a breath that tickled her neck, his tongue grazing Hermione’s warm flesh and leaving a trail of fire behind. The hand on her thigh stopped at the juncture, cool fingers touching the heat encased there ever so carefully.

“I know you can’t be kept, you’re not that kind of woman; but I’d like to try.”

Hermione’s breathing was shallow and her heart was ready to beat out of her chest. The hand under her sweater may have stopped but the nimble fingers had begun a stroking pattern, barely ghosting over her covered pussy but starting a raging wildfire in her belly.

“Professor, I-“

“Severus.”

Hermione licked her lips and tried again but this time Severus nipped her neck as he repeated his order.

“Call me Severus.”

Hermione opened and closed her mouth, not once but twice and when the Potion’s Master pressed down firmly on her clothe covered clit she was unable to stop the moan that escaped her; and her fingers convulsed, the glass slipping and shattering into a thousand pieces on the stone floor. Hermione’s voice was rough when she found it, barely discernable over the heartbeat pounding in her ears.

“If I agree to try, what then?”

Severus’s lips curved against her neck and his hand tightened almost painfully against her center, waves of pleasure making her knees weak. Severus chuckled darkly and he pulled her body tightly to him; his hard cock making a very big impression against Hermione’s ass.

“Stay the night Hermione.”

*****************HP******************

Chapter Text

Hermione’s tongue felt like lead and she found herself struggling to form words. Severus’s large hands had not moved from their positions, one teasing her almost mockingly between her legs, and the other resting on the curve of her stomach. Letting out a deep breath the witch blinked quickly; and in an effort to clear her head she forced her body to move, stepping away from Severus’s embrace.

Turning to face the potions master, Hermione was surprised to see a flicker of hesitation in his stance as he straightened to his full height.

“I don’t know much about you Severus, but this behavior is the opposite of everything I’ve ever seen out of you. You’ve made no secret of the way you feel toward people, especially students, Gryffindors in particular. In the last few months you’ve been angry, aggressive, and eerily calm. The most confusing part is what appears to be your sexual attraction to me. Why?”

Severus’s facial expression darkened a bit, he could feel the snarl on his lips. The young woman in front of him wasn’t wrong; this behavior was nothing like him, nothing like the ugly tempered man he showed the world on a day to day basis. However, that man wasn’t the only thing inhabiting his body, the animal inside had awoken after many years of slumber and there was no way he could force it back to sleep.

Stepping back the potions master turned and walked over to the inlaid bar, bare feet silent on the floor. The silence stretched between them as he poured a drink, buying time before he was forced to look Hermione in the face. Severus’s body practically vibrated from the brief contact with Hermione; like he’d gotten a shock from one of the Weasley’s new toys. This had been a stupid idea to begin with, giving in to his desire to make the Gryffindor princess his, a moment of drunken weakness. At first Severus had ignored it, cut out the thought before it could take root, but eventually the burning in his chest had become unbearable and the thought of another man near his child and her mother; it made his vision red and his hands cramp.

There was no avoiding the largest Prince family skeleton anymore, but Severus was at a loss how to explain it; he’d never even revealed it to Lily and he had hoped to spend his life with her.

*****************HP******************

Hermione stared at Severus’s taunt shoulders, eyes roving down across his lower back and coming to rest on what appeared to be a well disguised, fine ass. Lithe muscles moved under the material of his shirt, and Hermione was almost positive the Slytherin’s frame had filled out some since she last saw him. Hermione watched silently as he downed another glass of scotch, no idea what to say. Severus was playing with her, teasing her, and pulling her in; she’d be stupid to believe something positive could come of a relationship with the man. The brunette couldn’t understand why she was so drawn to him; watching his muscles, dreaming of his touch, and so easily lured into touching him at the most inopportune times. She’d be the first to admit her strange attraction, but she was just as wary.

“Severus, what’s going on?”

The dark haired man jerked ever so slightly, almost like he’d forgotten her presence. When he finally turned toward her, his face was once again a mask of calm, but his hands were clenched tightly at his sides, body nearly vibrating. Letting out a breath Severus gestured toward the couch.

“Please sit.”

Hermione raised a brow.

“Is it safe?”

Severus couldn’t stop the chuckle that forced its way from his chest. Hair fell forward across his face as he nodded.

“Sitting is safe, and probably best. When I’m done, if you want to leave I will not stop you.”

Hermione sat, more than a little intrigued.

Severus ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the strands. He stood before the fireplace for a moment before meeting Hermione’s gaze.

“A little while ago I made mention of an ‘animal inside’, and though it sounds like a bad euphemism for my ugly disposition, it isn’t. How much do you know about creature inheritances?”

Hermione tilted her head in thought, one hand resting on her stomach and the other adjusting a pillow behind the small of her back. Creature inheritances occurred in wizarding families that had a magical creature in their family tree. The closer someone was generationally to that creature blood, the stronger it would manifest in said person. Some developed full abilities, while others something as simple as sharper senses. Fleur had her grandmother’s allure, her temper, and when angry or cornered, developed her claws and a few feathers.

“I know the basics of creature inheritances, and I’m acutely aware how unfavorably they are looked upon; dirty creature blood sullying a wizard’s veins.”

Severus inclined his head slightly before continuing, not denying the statement Hermione had spit out softly.

“My mother was the last of the Prince line, an older pureblood family with deep magical roots. Four generations ago, my great, great, great grandfather Victus Prince and his third wife were struggling to bear a healthy child to continue on the line. His previous wives had died in childbirth, none of the children surviving either, and so far his current wife had only produced three sickly girls, who died hours later. Victus was unwilling to admit the fault laid with him, instead deciding the best option was an ancient and forbidden spell that hadn’t even been proven to work and always ended in disaster. It was a stupid idea, but he was a pompous man, and if he could get away with it with no one being the wiser, he figured our family would climb the echelon quickly.”

Hermione’s hands were mindlessly rubbing small circles on her stomach as she listened to Severus retell an obviously hidden part of his lineage. It wasn’t uncommon for man to detest something, but secretly use it for his own benefit; denying any involvement if later found out. Strong children were important to carrying on a bloodline, male children were desired above all else; it had been that way since the beginning of time and was still that way in many areas of the world; including the wizarding one.

Severus’s face was shadowed by his hair, waning light from the simmering fire creating an almost mysterious air about his features. The potions master walked back toward the couch, his movements almost reminiscent of a large cat on the prowl. Before reaching the brunette he chose to settle himself on the furthest arm of the chair that was perpendicular to the couch. Locking eyes with Hermione, Severus held her attention, dark eyes evaluating every facial twitch.

“My many times great grandfather wanted numerous healthy children, a strong line, and above all else the power and influence he felt was rightfully his.”

Hermione licked her lips.

“And you Severus? Do you want a son, power?”

Severus continued to hold her gaze, eyes taking in every aspect of her face. Finally he shook his head minutely.

“I wouldn’t trade our daughter for a son; she alone is a miracle I never thought I’d have.”

Warmth bloomed in Hermione’s chest, creeping up her neck and spreading a pleasant pink tinge across her cheeks. She could hear the vow, the promise in his tone.

Severus was pleased by the blush that stole across the young woman’s face, her lips tilted in a smile. After this was over, he aimed to erase any doubt she had concerning his dedication to their daughter; even if he lost her, his daughter would want for nothing. The man was loath to continue this story, not because of Hermione’s opinions on creatures but instead the opinion she would no doubt develop about him and the influence his blood would carry on their child.

“Victus never told his wife what he was up to, he never wanted anyone to know. He waited until Samhain, abstaining from his wife for several months in preparation. That night he completed the ritual in secret, summoning a beast that he had no business being anywhere near; an ancient species of dragon that had been assumed long dead. They were few in number, blending in among regular witches and wizards with ease; vicious and cunning for the sake of their survival. The deal was simple; the dragon would take on a nearly identical genetic form of Victus using the man’s blood, fuck and impregnate his wife, and in return Victus would give the beast every treasure he hid in his coffers.”

Hermione couldn’t help the small intake of breath at Severus’s obvious vehemence, her lower body seemingly coming back to life as the word fuck dripped like venom from his tongue. Severus’s lips twisted into an ugly smirk, the burn in his chest growing at Hermione’s obvious sign of arousal. His head was cloudy from a darker influence, one that was more than enough animal for the Gryffindor to handle. If the dark haired man was lucky, there’d be plenty of time to test the waters.

“Once a month, on the new moon, until the next Samhain; that was the contract. Victus would disappear and the beast would emerge, a spitting image of my grandfather. He’d go to Victus’s wife, pretending to be my ancestor and fuck her senseless for hours. This is how the unsuspecting woman bore a set of triplets for Victus within nine months, and by the end of the contract she was pregnant again with a set of twins. The dragon’s ability made these children genetically Victus’s, but magical blood always wills out.”

Severus’s face had taken on a darker edge, lips twisted into a snarl that would have scared anyone else, tip of his tongue wetting his lips. Instead, Hermione found her heartbeat traveling south, legs restlessly rubbing together. Her hands were paused in their ministrations, one resting over her swollen stomach and the other subconsciously clenching into a fist.

“For his reward the dragon claimed nearly every treasure from the catacombs beneath my ancestor’s manor; coin, gems, and ancient artifacts. He also took great pleasure in stripping Victus of items that held more than just monetary value; family secrets, legendary items of power lost to time, even his pride.”

Hermione didn’t know much about dragons, all her information came from muggle fairytales and a small, banned book lent to her by Charlie last year. Some wizards believed in more sentient breeds of dragons, while others believed they were all once this way; losing their humanity over the years until only pure animal instinct remained. Dragon’s blood contained many magical properties, and some dragons had chameleon like abilities that prevented their discovery by muggles. The idea of anyone being able to change not just their appearance but their genetic code at will was astounding.

“That’s not all the Dragon took, is it?”

Severus grimaced.

“After the dragon took everything it desired, books, heirlooms, bolts of material; it decided that still wasn’t enough. In the end, the dragon took Victus’s life as final payment. Rumor is the dragon ate Victus, and took his place permanently, at least until the children were grown enough to care for themselves. Some of the children had more talents than others, but they all suffered from the dragon’s jealousy and possessiveness. It’s almost like a burning fire in your chest, and no matter what you do it won’t be dissuaded until you have what it desires in your possession. Dragons are collectors of treasure, in all forms, and hoard it.”

Hermione’s gaze was drawn to the hand that rubbed back and forth along Severus’s sternum, pale fingers caressing the flesh rhythmically. She wasn’t sure how long he had been doing it, but his comments now drew her attention.

“Does your chest hurt Severus?”

The hand stopped its movement before dropping into the man’s lap

“Victus’s wife obviously knew something wasn’t right with her husband, and when her children starting showing odd abilities, she knew what he had done. The dragon felt the secret was no longer necessary and almost in spite of herself the wife grew to care about the creature who bore her husband’s visage, choosing to be his wife in every way. She in turn became one of the dragon’s many treasures, honored above all else. When the children had enough control, the dragon bestowed an onyx gem upon each of them, bearing his blood and a promise. When they wanted to leave this life, they need only call him and he would bring them home where they belonged. Soon after the dragon and his wife disappeared form history.”

Hermione’s brow scrunched in confusion.

“Bring them home?”

Carefully Severus reached into his shirt, pulling out a chain that hadn’t been there before. Attached to the length of gold lay a black stone a tad smaller than Hermione’s palm. The dark haired man held the chain up, firelight glinting off the stone. The gem had a glow all its own, a reddish orange tint reflecting from the middle.

“This is proof of our heritage, something I must wear at all times. The dragon’s blood solidified into this, an eternal fire in the middle. After a couple centuries my ancestors discovered they did not fit into society well; their traits constantly needing to be hidden and controlled. Some developed scales harder than any armor when needed, while rumor has it one of them even breathed fire on occasion. Eventually they all called for the dragon to take them away, to the world or plane he called home. I don’t know where it is, or if it even exists any longer, and I have no desire to go there. My great, great grandfather was the youngest of all the siblings, and despite his twin’s urgings decided to remain. This stone has been passed from him, all the way down to me. Abilities have always varied and naturally have gotten weaker through the generations but some traits will never go away.”

Hermione fought to keep her face neutral, thoughts racing. Severus hadn’t said it yet, but the witch wasn’t stupid; she knew what the potions master was alluding to. Dragon’s blood, no matter how little, ran through his veins; the magic would not be deterred.

“The pervasive jealousy, hunger, and outright possessiveness in our blood is what made my mother stay with my father all those years; despite the fact he physically and mentally abused her. The dragon, however weak, had chosen him long ago as its treasure and would not let her leave.”

There was a hard look in the potion master’s eyes, almost daring her to get up and leave.

“That possessiveness has been passed down to me, though my mother always said I held twice her curse, and it has settled on you; every fiber of my being wants to keep you and would kill all that threaten my claim. It makes me irrational and so unlike my normal self that some days I’m not sure which way is up and I loathe the feeling with every fiber of my being.”

Silence stretched between them, the low crackling of the fire the only sound. Hermione was sure her heartbeat was echoing throughout the castle, bouncing off the walls and drawing attention to the dungeons. Drawing in a breath she tried to calm herself, unsure if she was excited or nervous at the revelation. No matter how shocking, this new information really didn’t change anything; there was no erasing the past and soon enough there’d be a baby to cement it.

“I’m not afraid, disgusted, or anything else you can come up with, but I’m not going to just jump into this with you, live as some possession to be put on a shelf somewhere.”

Severus shook his head, hand clenching the stone tightly.

“That’s not what I want.”

Hermione tried to stand, struggling to sit up from the plush cushions, bemoaning her inability to look Severus in the face, on his level. With a huff she blew an errant curl out of her face and gave up. Pointing at the ground near her feet she tried to appear authoritative despite her inability to even get off the damn couch.

“Come down here.”

Severus’s eyebrows rose, his lips quirking slightly.

“Please.”

Severus’s movements were fluid and precise as he slipped from the arm of the chair and to the floor on one knee. He slipped his hands onto the edge of the couch cushions, boxing Hermione’s legs in. Hermione’s mouth felt dry and her body shook slightly, almost as if reacting to Severus’s close proximity.

“What do you want Severus? Before I agree to anything I need to know.”

Severus’s gaze met Hermione’s and he tilted his head. His pupils were narrowed and had taken on a vertical shape, iris’s glittering in the dim firelight.

“I want you to try, with me. I want to wake up with you, go to bed with you, raise our daughter with you, and spend my life with you; if you’ll let me. Above it all, I want you to try.”

Hermione didn’t know what to say, couldn’t think over the heart threatening to beat out of her chest. This was certainly one of the best answers the potions master could have given but she wasn’t really sure if a relationship was what she was seeking, at least not in such a serious manner. Hearing the words made her stomach flip, they certainly weren’t in character for the man before her. No sound came out when she tried to speak the first time, the second was a hiss of pain, hands going to the front of her stomach.

Severus moved forward raising a hand as if to touch her but pulling it back at the last second.

“Are you alright?”

Hermione nodded rubbing the spot and trying to breathe. For the last few days the baby had been kicking the front of her stomach in the same spot, nonstop. There was no visible bruising from the outside but the spot was the size of her fist and ached when she got anywhere near it. Madame Pomfrey gave her a salve to rub over her skin, taking away most of the pain and helping ease the muscle strain. According to older witch, the infant had found a comfortable position and once they did, it was hard to convince them to move.

Grabbing the edge of her sweater Hermione wiggled, hiking it up over her hips and just under her bra line to expose her stomach. Barely visible on the lower left of her stomach was an imprint of a tiny foot, straining against her skin. Severus stared at the expanse of skin, nearly breathless in awe of the life growing there, a life he helped create.

“Go on.”

Severus raised his hand again and laid it right over the area where the foot was located, marveling when it moved under his palm. Running his hand lightly over the skin caused more movement, almost like the infant was greeting him.

“Daddy.”

Severus snorted, raising his head, studying Hermione’s small smile.

“Papa?”

A laugh escaped Severus.

“Father?”

The potions master shook his head and Hermione sighed.

“We have time. Help me up”

Severus nodded and stood, joints protesting after spending so long on his knees. Holding out his hands he waited for Hermione to slip her own dainty fingers into them before gripping them lightly and pulling her towards him. The witch stumbled, reaching out to grab at Severus’s shirt as his arms came around her. They paused, separated by mere inches and unsure what to do. Hermione cleared her throat and turned her head up at Severus, licking her lips nervously.

“I’ll try.”

Severus’s reaction was delayed, his brain trying to process her answer.

“You’re sure?”

Hermione nodded, leaning her body into his and tilting her head for a better view of his shock widened eyes.

“I’m sure.”

There was no hesitation this time, the roar in the back of his mind accompanied by the grumble that emanated from his chest. One arm wrapped around Hermione’s waist, the other gripped the back of her neck and pulled her flat to his chest. Severus took possession of the Gryffindor’s lips in a hungry kiss, grounding himself and at the same time pulling the air from Hermione’s lungs. The kiss ended almost as quickly as it began, the witch pulling away with a gasp for air. Severus grinned down at her, enjoying the feel of her in his arms; the burn in his chest aching a little less.

“I’m still not staying the night.”

 *****************HP******************

Hermione’s eyes flashed open and a small gasp left her lips as she hurriedly raised her hands in front of her face. Elation and disappointment surged through her; her hands were not paws and there was no fur; though she could smell something in the air. Hermione hadn’t seriously meditated over Christmas break, too busy being lazy and almost uncomfortably pregnant, never mind trying to finish her midterm project. The few times she’d tried meditating it had been more of the same heaviness swamping her mind. This morning had been an amazing breakthrough, feeling earth under her admittedly tiny paws and wind blowing through the fur on her face, the fog lifting just a bit to reveal her animal had quite a small stature.

Hermione glanced at her watch and looked around the room. Most everyone had started cleaning up after themselves, replacing pillows and blankets in a cupboard at the back of the room. When they’d moved on from the theory stage as a group and into actual meditation at the end of November, Professor McGonagall had provided blankets and pillows for their comfort. A few students had been inventive and transfigured their pillows into other items. There were a few bean bag chairs, two hammocks, and the Hufflepuff had even created a recliner you’d find in almost every muggle home. Hermione had found enlarging the pillow to be most comfortable but it had proved harder and harder to get out of on her own without looking stupid.

Leaning forward Hermione stretched her legs out, reaching for the floor with her hands. A kick to her ribs contested the position and she leaned back, frustrated. Curling her legs to the side and bending them at the knee she tried to roll her body to her hands and knees, this method failing as well.

“Need a hand?”

Daphne stood over Hermione with her hands outstretched, a smile on her face. The rest of the class had slowed in their cleanup, looking at the odd pair from the corners of their eyes. Hermione hesitated but reached up, gripping the other girl’s hands firmly. Daphne stepped back and pulled, a tinkling laugh escaping her as Hermione got her feet underneath her, straightening to her full height.

“Thank you.”

Daphne smiled again, tilting her head in appraisal.

“Looked like you were having some trouble. How far along are you?”

Hermione laughed, rubbing her stomach over her sweater. Her uniforms fit much better since Mrs. Weasley made the necessary alterations; the witch more than familiar with the charms having passed uniforms from son to son as needed. With a flick of her wand and a muttered incantation the overly large pillow she’d been resting on shrunk back to size and flew back to the cupboard it came from. Turning back to Daphne, Hermione nodded.

“Almost seven and a half months. Moving around is getting a little difficult at this stage, Harry and Ron spent most of winter break helping me up and down things.”

Daphne reached adjusted the strap on her bag before bending over and grabbing Hermione’s off the floor, holding it out to the brunette. The Slytherin was surprised by the featherlight charm at first, it was like the bag weighed nothing. Most didn’t have the precision to perform the spell perfectly and usually spelled things became much lighter; they never actually met the definition of ‘featherlight’.

“Great spell work Granger.”

Hermione took the bag and settled it on her shoulder turning toward the classroom door.

“Thank you.”

There was a moment of awkward silence before Hermione made her decision.

“Would you like to walk to the Great Hall with me?”

Daphne suppressed the thrill of excitement that ran through her.

“I’d love to.”

*****************HP******************

The walk to the Great Hall with Daphne was pleasant, not something Hermione had ever imagined herself saying. Daphne appeared genuinely interested in her pregnancy, though whether she was just being a gossip and gathering information was still an option. Daphne had been hesitant at the start of the year when McGonagall had introduced their animagus curriculum; apparently a cousin had a bad experience trying to learn several years ago, ending up in St. Mungos for an extended stay. So far she was pleasantly surprised by how easy McGonagall was making it, and over the winter break she’d had a breakthrough; Daphne was pretty sure she had wings.

The pair said goodbye and went to their separate tables, Hermione trying not to smile when Harry asked about her new friend. Seating herself beside Harry, Hermione looked at Ron mischievously. The redhead paused chewing and her with a grimace.

“What?”

Hermione laughed.

“Daphne says ‘hello’ Ron. She seems quite taken with you.”

Ron scowled, swallowing.

“What would a princess like her want with a ‘blood traitor’ like me?”

Hermione shrugged, reaching for the pumpkin juice. Harry waved her off and poured her a glass, setting the pitcher off to the side, careful of the third year girl sitting not two feet from him. There were more people sitting nearer to the golden trio today than there had been all year long, and if this was any indication, privacy was about to become a rare commodity. Harry cleared his throat, looking at the blonde who quickly turned her attention elsewhere. Turning back to the other two he let out a noise of irritation.

“People change Ron. Greengrass senior never picked a side, rumors said he was killed for it. Who knows mate, she could be the one.”

Ron continued to stare at Harry, his face blank until the raven haired boy couldn’t hold his laughter, raising his hands in defeat. The rest of lunch was spent talking amongst themselves and ignoring the curious stares around them. Most of the whispers had died down as their first week back came and went. Many students were already anticipating the weekend despite having just come back from winter break. Professors had dropped the proverbial hammer on the fifth and seventh years, loading them up with test prep materials and review work in preparation for their O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. examinations.

Hermione mumbled her thanks when Harry helped her up from the bench, ignoring the quiet laughs around her. Taking her bag from the Potter heir the witch turned to walk out, stopping when she saw McGonagall approaching. The woman’s normally stern face look more severe than usual, obvious strain showing around her eyes and mouth. Harry and Ron turned toward the Headmistress, unease showing on their faces.

“I need a moment with you three.”

The Gryffindors nodded mutely, stepping aside as others walked past, heeding the call of the bell tower and going to their next class. A few lingered until they caught the eye of the older woman, quickly departing. When their immediate vicinity cleared out McGonagall cleared her throat.

“Mr. Potter, you will continue to your regular scheduled lesson, Professor Savage will be covering my students until I can return. Ms. Granger, there are some people who would like to speak to you in my office, and as much as I wish to turn them out without a word, I cannot.”

Hermione’s eyebrows furrowed.

“I don’t understand.”

McGonagall pressed her lips together and glanced down at Hermione’s stomach before meeting the young woman’s eyes and repeating her actions. The younger woman’s confusion quickly turned to anger.

“Ministry?”

McGonagall didn’t reply.

The brunette cursed under her breath.

“Mr. Weasley, you will continue to your scheduled lesson, I’ll send someone to fetch yourself and Mr. Potter when Ms. Granger is finished in my office. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your escort back to the common room.”

Ron nodded.

“Where’s Kingsley?”

McGonagall pursed her lips.

“If I had my way, he’d have grass stains on his arse.”

*****************HP******************

Stepping into the Headmistress’s office was always an interesting comparison to years beforehand. The clutter and chaos that had been Headmaster Dumbledore’s office was nothing compared to the neat and tidy filing of Headmistress McGonagall. Gone were most of the items that had cluttered every surface, many of them having been broken or quite unnecessary from the first day they had been put there. A select few devices such as the sneakscope were displayed in a glass case off to the side. There was no mess of papers and every book had a shelf. Fawkes’s stand sat in a corner in case the bird ever returned, thought the odds were not likely.

Kinglsey Shacklebolt, the current Minister for Magic, stood in front of a book shelf and appeared to be examining the titles; an appearance was all it was. Madam Pomfrey sat in a plush chair beside McGonagall’s desk, a look of mutiny on her face. Spotting Hermione she smiled and tilted her head, winking at the young woman. Five older wizards and one elderly witch sat in various transfigured chairs, in a semicircle at the front of the desk. Hearing McGonagall’s shoes clicking along the stone floor they all turned, each one with a haughty look upon their shriveling faces; Hermione was sure the youngest of them had to be well into his seventies.

An empty chair sat on the other side of the desk, back to the glass cases where Kingsley stood, and facing the rest of the occupants of the room on even ground. McGonagall gestured for Hermione to take a seat, moving around her desk and standing behind it near Madam Pomfrey before making introductions, gesturing to each person as needed.

“Governers, this is Ms. Hermione Granger, the student in question. Ms. Granger, these are the members of the Hogwarts Board of Governors; Lord Macmillan, Dowager Flint, Mr. Shafiq, Mr. Foley, Mr. Hawkins, and Mr. Noel.”

Hermione set her bag down, trying not to flop into the chair. Going up all those stairs had tired her out, though she was definitely closer to the common room when finished here; it didn’t sound at all like this was going to be a pleasant conversation.

“Good afternoon.”

The Governors were silent at Hermione’s greeting, staring at her almost owlishly, before looking at each other and exchanging words that Hermione couldn’t hear; muffliato being her first guess. Kingsley came around the back of her chair and smiled in greeting.

“Hello Hermione, how are you feeling?”

Hermione eyed Kingsley skeptically, and gestured to her enlarged stomach.

“How do you think I feel Minister?”

Kingsley chuckled but the sound was forced and the Gryffindor could tell his body language was off; he clearly didn’t want to be here anymore than she did. The Governors were watching their conversation quietly.

“What exactly is this about?”

McGonagall’s face was impassive as she settled into her chair, lacing her fingers together on the desktop. Mr. Foley was the first to speak up, adjusting his glasses.

“Do you know Minister Shacklebolt well enough Ms. Granger, to be speaking to him in such a manner?”

Hermione paused before replying, catching the slight shake of Madam Pomfrey’s head. Looking at McGonagall Hermione ignored the Governors.

“What’s going on Headmistress?”

 Before McGonagall could reply, another voice broke in, cold and reedy.

“Who is the father of your child?”

Hermione turned toward Dowager Flint, eyeing the woman.

“Excuse me?”

Lord Macmillan spoke up.

“It’s a simple question Ms. Granger. We’ve been told you’re a very bright witch, possibly the smartest Hogwarts has seen in thirty years. This does not require a complicated answer.”

Hermione’s mild irritation rose a bit. She had expected some questions certainly, from teachers and other students; but never imaged the Board of Governors would concern themselves with her pregnancy.

“I understand the question Lord Macmillan, but I fail to see what business this is of yours.”

The governors exchanged a few horrified looks at her curt reply.

“Ms. Granger, everything that happens within the walls of Hogwarts is our business.”

Dowager Flint clutched her gem handled cane tightly, no doubt it hid her wand as Lucius Malfoy’s had. Adjusting the folds of her skirt, Hermione settled her hands together, refusing to look away from the older woman’s calculating gaze.

“I am nineteen years old madam, well above the legal age to make my own choices. Contrary to what you believe, what I do within these walls short of criminal, is none of your business. You are not my mother, my Headmistress, or even my Head of House.”

Dowager Flint was silent but Hermione could tell by the strain on her face and the whiteness of her knuckles she was not pleased by Hermione’s response.

Mr. Shafiq cleared his throat lightly, drawing the young Gryffindor’s attention.

“Ms. Granger, I’m sure you understand that your situation is attention grabbing, not just because of your status as a student, but also because of your role within our most recent conflicts against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Eyes are upon you and everyone around you; we are simply trying to make sure nothing untoward has occurred.”

Hermione made a noise of derision.

“Your current predicament is highly inappropriate and must be handled accordingly. A young woman in your condition should not remain in a school setting.”

Mr. Hawkins had removed his glasses and was cleaning the lenses as he evaluated her from head to toe.

“Pregnancy is not contagious sir, the rest of the student body is more than safe around me.”

Dowager Flint found her voice again, filling it with censure and derision.

“We are not going to debate with you young lady. We demand the name of the student who fathered your child and request your resignation from the student body. You’ll be free to take your N.E.W.T.S at the ministry whenever you please, if your grades are earned then you need no further instruction.”

Hermione fisted her hands, face turning pink with anger.

“No.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me, I said no.”

Dowager Flint turned to Kinglsey but was cut off by McGonagall.

“The Minister has no say here. Need I remind you the debt our world owes not only Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley, but Ms. Granger as well?”

The silver haired woman glared a McGonagall, lips pursed with rage.

“I have entertained this long enough, you’re interrupting not only my classes but Ms. Granger’s teaching as well; it is time for you to leave.”

Mr. Noel had remained silent until now, watching the exchange with a calculating eye.

“You realize Minerva, that you sit in this office at our discretion?”

McGonagall’s face was impassive, her posture straight and impressive.

“Do not make threats you cannot follow through with Alexander, we both know you’re no match for me. This meeting is over, it is time for you to leave.”

Hermione watched the exchange, anger burning through her veins like poison. The Governor’s left with a haste she had no thought them capable of and McGonagall locked the floo behind them. Madam Pomfrey rushed over, gripping Hermione’s arm as she struggled to stand.

“I am so sorry Ms. Granger, so very sorry. They came to my office demanding information and I refused; they insisted on questioning you.”

Hermione shook her head.

“It’s alright, I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen though I didn’t expect to see the Governor’s in person. Kingsley, why are you here?”

Kingsley ran a hand over his face, grimacing.

“I received a summons from the Governors, they led me to believe that something bad had happened, that you’d been raped.”

Hermione was surprised and somehow not.

“I’m fine, really. There was no crime, just a lack of forethought. I had hoped you’d think more of my abilities Minister.”

McGonagall’s face had lost some of its severity and her voice had gone soft.

“I did not want to fight with them unless I had to Ms. Granger, I’m sorry.”

Hermione smiled despite her frustration.

“It’s not your fault, I knew there would be some sort of backlash. I hope you’re not in any hot water defending me like that.”

McGonagall chuckled.

“Though they can made my live a little difficult, I dare them to try and remove me from my position. I went to school with more than a few of them and they’d do well to remember that. I’m not so easily displaced, the school makes sure of that. ”

Hermione collected her bag from Madam Pomfrey who offered to walk her out and wait with her until one of the boys arrived. Hermione nodded at McGonagall in goodbye, barely giving Kingsley a glance. When the pair left, McGonagall slumped in her chair, removing her glasses and closing her eyes.

“The girl hasn’t lost any of her fighting spirit.”

Opening her eyes McGonagall cut Kingsley a glare, letting out a small hiss.

“You’d do well to follow her example; those old goats live to cause trouble. Do get some backbone Minister.”

Kingsley balked and McGonagall ignored him, waving a hand in dismissal. The man grunted before leaving, mumbling under his breath. The room was silent except for the snoring of a few portraits and the ticking of a clock.

“Satisfied?”

Severus stepped from the hidden door in the wall, one hand gripping the wood tightly, fingers digging in.

“She is an adult, they have no right.”

McGonagall sighed, sitting back up and replacing her glasses.

“We know that, and they know that but they still choose to instigate. Unfortunately Severus, this is how the game works.”

The man growled.

“Her life isn’t a game and mine will never be again.”

The silver haired woman watched him with a hawk-like gaze.

“I’ve arranged for Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley to have the rest of the afternoon off. They’ll get her back to the tower and calm her down. When the child’s paternity gets out, and it will sooner or later, this will be the tamest of reactions. I know you’re interested in claiming her, but do keep this in mind; it will not be easy for either of you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my class.”

*****************HP*****************

Chapter Text

No matter how hard Harry tried, he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off Draco Malfoy whenever the blonde was in the vicinity. It really was a distraction he couldn’t afford, especially in the Great Hall or the crowded corridors. Animosity for the young Slytherin had certainly died down and Zabini never left him alone, but Harry didn’t want to bring any unwarranted attention down on Draco by looking for too long. The Gryffindor found himself dreaming of the Malfoy heir’s lean body and soft skin, platinum locks caught up in his fingers, teeth leaving visible marks on lilywhite skin. Harry woke from these dreams almost every night, thankful he had a room to himself as took his own throbbing cock in hand, fantasizing it was Draco’s touch. Sleep didn’t come easy after these dreams, an ache in Harry’s chest keeping him awake, sending him down to the Quidditch pitch in the middle of the night, chasing a snitch until the crack of dawn; though sometimes he found himself crawling into Hermione’s bed, Ron not far behind. The rings didn’t just tie Harry and Ron to Hermione, it tied them all together; and when one of them needed someone, the other two could feel it.

Late Tuesday afternoon Harry found himself perusing the library shelves, searching for anything on Magical Reality and how to induce it. Unlike Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, Hogwarts had never incorporated Magical Reality into its curriculum, the board of governors believing they should stick to traditional practices. Hermione had reached out to Viktor about the basics of their program, who had then written Harry with everything he was allowed to disclose about Durmstrang’s methods. Armed with that information, Harry believed with the right direction it could enhance their Defense Against the Dark Arts program to new heights; challenging Durmstrang and Beauxbatons reign; all the while better serving their own students. Professor Savage hadn’t given his thoughts on the idea one way or the other, instead letting Harry run with it and determine if they even had the right equipment for such an undertaking. Harry wondered if it wasn’t to simply get him out of Savage’s hair, the man had been testier than usual lately; he didn’t try to hide how frustrating he found ninety-nine percent of the students.

With a sigh Harry slipped a couple books back on the shelf, keeping one slim tome before leaving the restricted section, shutting the magical gate behind him. At least Hogwarts had upgraded their security in this respect, it was sad how easy Harry had opened the plain metal gate back in first year. The library was empty, students already filling the Great Hall for dinner and Madam Pince closing up her office, ready to leave the for the night. Rounding a shelf Harry paused, eyes locking onto the slim form of Draco Malfoy perusing the shelf in front of him, making notes on a piece of paper as he read the titles silently. The young man’s shoulder length locks were tied back in a French braid that looked like it had been coming apart for hours, white shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows. Harry could see the ink stains on his fingers, long digits gripping a quill carefully as it scratched against the parchment.

Taking a breath Harry closed his eyes, willing himself to actually act normal and not behave like a confounded womanizer.

“Late night?”

Draco’s spine stiffened, fingers nearly dropping the quill. Turning, the blonde man recovered his composure almost instantly, face blank, eyebrow quirked.

“No later than yourself.”

Harry hmm’d, walking forward. Leaning into Draco’s space he peered at the parchment, a list of books, some with checkmarks and others scratched out, notes here and there. Draco leaned away from him just a bit, discomfort obvious in his motions.

“What’s this?”

Draco eyed Harry a moment before replying, not expecting the genuine curiosity.

“I’m helping Madame Pince complete the book inventory. Some of them were damaged, and others destroyed or lost. She’s trying to determine what needs to be replaced and what can be salvaged.”

Harry glanced at the shelves, it was honestly the first time he’d thought about any damage to the library. The whole castle had been damaged but the library had obviously not been a priority for him. He was aware Hermione had helped locate some replacement copies of more obscure books, using less than savory shops such as the one in Knockturn Alley; providing an excuse to shop for herself as well; that was as far as his involvement had gone.

“Looks like you’re almost done.”

Draco snorted.

“With this section maybe but there’s plenty more. The library wasn’t exactly first priority; walls and a solid roof were more important.”

Harry laughed at the sarcasm, moving out of Draco’s personal space and back into his own; what was no doubt a very expensive cologne making his head spin. The blonde’s posture visibly softened as Harry pulled away, but the Gryfindor wasn’t deterred in the slightest. Draco used to imitate a stone statue when Harry came close, especially after that fuckup of a morning in Gryffindor tower, but he was much more tolerant of Harry invading his space now; almost like he’d accepted Harry as a permanent part of his life; algae on the surface of a rock.

“Very true. Can’t have all the new first years seeing Hogwarts in anything but her full glory.”

Draco shook his head and turned back toward the shelves, quill once more scratching across the parchment. Harry it seems, was being dismissed.

“Malfoy?”

The blonde didn’t stop what he was doing, but the tilt of his head told Harry he was listening.

“Are you free this weekend?”

Harry very nearly laughed out loud at the suspicious and almost shocked look that crossed the other man’s face when he whipped around.

“Why?”

Harry shrugged.

“I don’t have anything going on, not interested in Hogsmeade, too many people recently. Ron is busy with quidditch and Hermione is barely able to stay awake when not in class, poor girl.”

Draco’s face relaxed.

“You’re friends abandoned you, did they?”

Harry ruffled his shaggy hair, pushing the strands back on his head.

“Not really. Besides, I’d like to spend some time with you.”

Draco’s grip on his parchment tightened until the paper crinkled in protest. Carefully he smoothed it back out, refusing to look Harry in the face.

“Why?”

Harry sighed, praying he didn’t make a mistake, ruin the moment.

“If you haven’t noticed, I like you; a lot.”

Draco’s reply was low, hard to understand with his body half turned away. His shorter bangs had finally slipped out of the braid and fell down the side of his face.

“This game has gone on long enough, don’t you think?”

When Harry stepped closer to Draco, this time the other man stepped back avoiding the Gryffindor’s outstretched hand.

“I’m not playing, I wouldn’t waste your time or mine like that. Let me prove it to you.”

Draco’s face was unreadable, his normally expressive eyes muted.

“What if I don’t like men, let alone you?”

Harry’s fingers itched to brush the stray hairs from the Slytherin’s cheek.

“Tell me that you don’t like me, even a little, and I’ll never approach you about it again.”

Draco stayed quiet.

“Give me a chance.”

The silence in the library stretched between them, thickening until Harry could almost taste it on his tongue.

“Saturday morning, eight o’clock. If you’re late, don’t bother showing up.”

Harry nearly burst with excitement, a grin splitting his face.

“Where should I meet you?”

It was Draco’s turn to smile, his lips quirked into a small, mocking tilt.

“Here. We’re going to catalog books.”

*****************HP******************

Saturday morning quidditch practice came early and crack of dawn found the Gryffindor players running the pitch in full gear. The arena was covered in a low hanging mist making the grass slippery and exposed skin bead with moisture. The snow had been removed from the pitch by Madam Hootch the night before, more for convenience than anything. Ron ran at the back of the pack, keeping his eye on the stragglers, mainly the newer reserve members who were still getting used to practices. After about fifteen minutes he gave a signal that was followed by several whoops as padding was tossed through the air and into stray piles before the players took off. Several shirts joined the pile, and many of the younger years tripped over themselves when Demelza Robins sprinted by in nothing but her leggings and a sweat soaked sports bra; Ron often thought warming charms were a great thing. One of the braver third years took off after her, no doubt hoping to chat her up, but the boy was about to get a rude awakening. Not only was Demelza out of his league, but the young lioness preferred partners with anatomy similar to her own.

When practice ended four and a half hours later, thirty minutes earlier than intended, they were all exhausted, dirty, and ready for lunch. Ron spent lunch with Hermione, joking with the brunette who had slept in that morning; while simultaneously hiding from a certain Slytherin who had been popping up all over the castle like a knut nobody wanted; that was saying something considering Ron saved every knut he could. Harry was spending his morning with Draco Malfoy, and though Ron had trouble wrapping his head around it; he wouldn’t begrudge his best friend whatever chance at happiness he could find. Despite the communal belief, Ron wasn’t completely ignorant to the things going on around him, especially not after the chaos of the last few years; though he wouldn’t argue the fact that he was more than a little emotionally challenged. As long as the blonde didn’t hurt Harry, he could learn to live with the other man, if he absolutely had to.

After lunch Ron escorted Hermione back to Gryffindor tower and helped her carry her grading materials to the Transfiguration classroom where she was meeting Professor McGonagall to go over the preparations for O.W.L.S and end of year exams. Hermione was animated as she spoke, genuinely excited at the prospect of ‘her’ students and the grades they would get. After dropping her off and making nice with Professor McGonagall he took off, back outside and toward the locker rooms. This time when he took to the sky, it was purely recreational, a way to relax and unwind. When he was younger, Ron had always imagined becoming a professional quidditch player but those dreams had gone on the back burner when life had started getting more and more dangerous. It had seemed only logical to become an auror; training and fighting the dark wizards of the time, protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. Now that all the fighting was mostly over, the redhead found he didn’t want to become an auror at all. Most of Voldemort’s forces had been killed, incarcerated, or even executed; there was no pressing need to fill the auror ranks, not like before. Without that pressure Ron found himself falling back into one of the things he loved most, quidditch.

Both Harry and Hermione had decided to teach for similar reasons, though Harry sometimes didn’t seem as sure of his decision as he appeared. Hermione had always loved education and wanted to mold the minds of the younger generations, watch their eyes light up with excitement and a desire to learn; her words not his. Harry had explained his choice a bit differently, he wanted to teach the students how to protect themselves to the best of their ability, not let them count on someone else to come and save them; something the trio had never gotten. Both Gryffindors had sound and honorable reasoning; was it irresponsible of him to just want to play quidditch again, instead of serving the next generation?

Despite Ron’s serious train of thought, his relative peace didn’t last long.

“Fancy meeting you here Mr. Weasley.”

Ron glanced over his shoulder and tried not to grimace or make his confusion any plainer than it already was. Daphne Greengrass stood on one of the highest bleachers, bundled up in a dark green sweater, Slytherin scarf wrapped around her neck and head to cover her ears. Long blonde hair blew lightly in the crisp wind, sunlight reflecting off the long strands. Shaking his head Ron tried to block out the admittedly pretty picture the Greengrass heiress made, smiling at him from several feet below. The imagery was nice and once in a while Ron liked to pretend she approached him because she liked him, not because she had some ulterior motive.

“Ms. Greengrass.”

Daphne laughed, the sound light and airy.

“You don’t have to stay so far away you know, I don’t bite unless asked.”

Slowly Ron lowered his broom until his feet touched down on the bench below the blonde, leaving them at perfect height, Ron’s face startlingly close to Daphne’s. She gave an undignified squeak, body leaning backwards. She would have fallen off the bench if Ron didn’t grab her arm, steadying her.

“Was there something you wanted?”

Daphne resisted the urge to rub her arm where Ron’s large hand had been moments earlier, she could still feel the heat through her sweater.

“What are you doing today? Besides flying I mean.”

Ron shrugged, steeping down another bench and turning away, hoisting his broom over his shoulder.

“Nothing much. Why?”

Ron could hear Daphne’s light steps as she came down after him. She let out light pants as she jogged to catch up with his long stride. Reaching out to grab his arm Daphne huffed, her warm breath visible in the cold air.

“Would you slow down? Not all of us are six feet tall.”

Ron held back a laugh and slowed his gait. He tried not to think about the fact Daphne still kept a hand to his bicep, walking just slightly behind him like a child being led.

“My sister says the same thing.”

Daphne let out a small snort of derision.

“She’s shorter than I am.”

Ron stopped suddenly, unfazed when Daphne bumped into him. Turning to the Slytherin he let out a breath.

“What do you want Daphne? Why do you keep coming around?”

Daphne held his gaze a moment before looking down and away, pulling her hand back and sliding it into her pocket.

“Do you think I’m pretty?”

Ron’s confusion went up a notch, even he knew that was a loaded question.

“I’ve always been told I’m pretty, my father said any young wizard would be drawn in by my face alone; never mind my bloodline, money, or social stature. You don’t seem to be fazed by any of that though, not that I expected you to be. It’s frustrating.”

Ron sighed, running a hand through his shaggy hair. Every time he thought he had girls pinned, something like this happened.

“You’re beautiful.”

Daphne’s head popped up, her sharp gaze meeting Ron’s, blue eyes nearly glowing in the sunlight.

“You mean it?”

Ron nodded.

The smile that bloomed across the young woman’s face nearly stole his breath away, Ron was sure he’d never seen anyone smile so brightly and with such pleasure over such a simple statement.

“No offense, but your bloodline doesn’t mean dragon shite to me. I’d still think you’re beautiful even if you lost every knut to your name. See you around Daphne.”

Turning away from the blonde Ron began heading back toward the castle, trying not to think about the extremely strange conversation he’d just had. Maybe he’d go help Hermione somehow, hell, maybe he’d just nap on the desk until she and McGonagall were done; there was no way was he going to interrupt a possibly awkward library date between Harry and Malfoy.

“Weasley!”

Ron refused to turn around.

“Weasley!”

He was not going to deal with anymore of her special brand of crazy today.

“Weasley!”

What did he do to deserve this?

“Ron!”

Swinging around Ron dropped his broom, tossing his hands up in frustration before yelling back at Daphne who had remained rooted to her spot at least fifty meters away. Her scarf had fallen off her head and long blonde locks blew all around her face. Her smile was still there, her cheeks were red from the wind and Ron was sure her facial muscles would hurt later; he’d never seen her smile before.

“What?!”

“Marry me.”

Ron wondered who would have to tell his mother he’d finally gone round the bend.

*****************HP******************

Harry could barely contain his excitement, nothing could bring him down, not even having to crawl out of bed at seven in the morning on a Saturday. After a quick shower and shave, Harry was pulling on clothes that stuck to his still damp skin. He made one measly attempt at taming his hair before shrugging it off; he was really hoping Draco would only muss it up later anyway. Heading down to breakfast Harry nearly ran into Blaise who was exiting the Great Hall. Stopping him Harry started to speak but was cut off by a laugh.

“You’re practically bouncing in place.”

A sheepish grin slipped over the Gryffindor’s face as he rubbed the back of his neck, attempting to alleviate a phantom itch.

“Draco eaten breakfast yet?”

Blaise shook his head.

“If you tell him I said this, I’ll kill you; I think he was too nervous to eat this morning.”

Harry’s suppressed a sudden thrill; nervousness was a good thing, he refused to believe otherwise.

“You got it.”

Harry went to step around Blaise, heading back out into the entrance hall but stopped when the Italian laid a hand on his arm.

“Don’t lead him on, don’t play games with his head; Draco has enough demons to deal with. If you’re not looking for something remotely serious, walk away.”

Harry paused, struck by how similar this speech was to the one he’d had with Snape; thought he words were different he intent was the same. It hadn’t occurred to him he could be facing the same situation, he knew his intentions were completely on the up and up; it spoke to how fragile Draco had actually become that Blaise was stepping out for him like this, it was sobering.

“I’m not looking for a quick fuck, The-Boy-Who-Lived could get that anywhere; I’m in this for as long as he’ll have me.”

Blaise dropped his hand and gave him a sharp nod, before heading in the direction of the dungeons. Harry took off like shot toward the kitchens, a plan forming in his head as he went. A few choice words to the house-elves had him leaving with a small basket of muffins, a couple bottled pumpkin juices, and a selection of fruit pastries.

Harry made sure to pause outside the library entrance, taking the time to disillusion the basket of goodies he carried; Madam Pince hated food in her library and would ban you at the sight of it. Harry eased around the corner, glad to see the librarian wasn’t at her desk though still wary of her reputation; she was known to haunt the stacks like a banshee in a glen.

“Madam Pince had a meeting with a book collector, she’ll be gone for hours.”

Harry spotted Draco leaning against a nearby table, managing to look pleasingly disheveled in a dark green button down and a pair of skinny black slacks, tucked into a pair of flats soled calf boots. His hair was messily tossed in a braid and hanging over his shoulder, evidence he either had not slept well or overslept; though Harry figured it was the former if Blaise’s words were anything to go by.

Lifting the basket Harry dropped the charm and pulled back the cloth napkin covering it.

“I brought breakfast.”

Draco pushed away from the table and walked past harry, headed toward Madam Pince’s office behind the checkout desk.

“Overslept did you?”

Harry laughed and shook his head.

“Well, I did just a bit but I saw you weren’t in the Great Hall and thought you might be hungry.”

Draco removed a small key from his pocket and unlocked the office, stepping inside for a moment and coming back with a stack of parchment, closing the door behind him.

“We’ll be cataloguing the Charms section this morning.”

Harry held out a hand before him, and chuckled when Draco rolled his eyes.

“After you.”

Draco eyed him momentarily before striding confidently into the stacks of books. Harry followed, feeling oddly like the wolf even though he carried a basket of goodies.

*****************HP******************

“You’re serious.”

Ron nodded, red face still pressed into Hermione’s pillow. Of course he was serious, why would he joke about something like this? When Harry started laughing Ron’s face somehow got warmer, he didn’t think it was possible; was it too much to hope he could smother himself?

Finally Ron gave in to the need to breathe and rolled over, bumping into Hermione’s outstretched legs. Harry had fallen onto his side and laughed so hard he was crying.

“It’s not funny Harry.”

Hermione let out a small laugh.

“It is just a little amusing. Reminds me of a certain redhead yelling at a very disturbed veela in fourth year.”

Sticking his tongue out at her, Ron ran his hands across his face and into his hair, gripping the red strands tightly.

“Well what did you say?”

Ron refused to look either of them in the face.

“I didn’t.”

Harry shifted, sitting himself up, attempting to look even remotely serious about this strange situation.

“So what did you do?”

Ron wasn’t really sure what had transpired shortly after Daphne’s declaration, it was kind of blurry. One moment she was a good distance away, and the next she was in his space, peering up at him quizzically. She had asked him if he was alright, if she’d shocked him, or if she should have asked him differently. Was she being too forward, did he want to ask her? Ron had dazedly mumbled an apology and taken off at a sprint, even forgetting his broom in the aftermath.

“Soooo you just left her there?”

Harry was ready to start laughing again. Hermione knew it was hard on Ron and did her best to suppress any mirth over his situation but it slipped through now and again.

“Why did she ask me that?”

Harry shrugged.

“She has been after you for a bit mate, we knew she wanted something.”

Ron rolled his eyes.

“Marriage is a bit much don’t you think?”

Hermione reached out and patted Ron on the head, giggling when he swatted her hand away.

“Well Ron, only one thing to do; you’re going to have to man up and talk to her.”

Ron groaned.

*****************HP******************

Hermione had never really noticed how drafty the dungeons could be, not until she found herself walking through them in regular clothes and hoping nobody would question why she was there; a portion of the chill no doubt stemming from her nervousness. Severus had invited her for dinner and conversation, no doubt something inane to fill the silence and cover the tension that rested between them. They hadn’t been alone together since Severus’s confessional, though they had spoken in passing and after classes when Hermione and Harry met Ron after potions, waiting for him outside the classroom door. Severus held Ron behind indicating he wanted to speak with her, and Hermione waited until all the students had left before trading places with the redhead. Harry and Ron remained within shouting distance but stayed outside to afford them some privacy. Severus thought it was ridiculous but Hermione hadn’t quite recovered enough to trust herself alone with him, let alone the potions’s master himself.

“I hope you have a plan for getting out of here unnoticed. It is a Saturday night, students will be coming back late.”

Hermione nearly jumped out of her skin, heart in her throat. She temporarily forgot her center of gravity issue, and attempted to turn on the balls of her feet, unbalancing herself in the process. Two hands reached out to steady her and the brunette found herself looking into Blaise’s grinning face. Letting out a tense breath, Hermione shuffled to regain her balance, pulling back from the young Slytherin.

“If you don’t lose a little of that paranoia you’re not going to make it through the next year without a heart attack.”

Hermione smiled, swatting Blaise’s hands away.

“Thank you.”

Blaise smiled, tilting his head and bending himself into a mockery of a partial bow.

“At your service. It’s Saturday, students will be breaking curfew left and right. Do you have any idea how you’ll get out of here without anyone questioning why you’re here in the first place? By tomorrow morning, the whole school will believe your baby-daddy is a Slytherin.”

Hermione’s eyebrows rose.

“Baby-daddy?”

Blaise shrugged.

“I spend a little time in the muggle world, such great slang they’ve got. Can you imagine calling him your baby-daddy?”

Hermione chuckled.

“Never. Please find better slang.”

Hermione held up her beaded bag and shook it slightly.

“I’m covered, my escape will be seamless. Well, unless I trip over something.”

Blaise held up his hands in defeat, before stepping back and turning away.

“I know when I’m not wanted. Have a good night Granger.”

Hermione watched him round the corner before continuing onto her destination. Reaching the weeping willow that guarded Severus’s chambers she knocked lightly before stepping back to allow room for the portrait to swing open. It didn’t take long for Severus to answer, and though his chambers were at the back of the dungeons and past the Slytherin common room, Hermione was still nervous she’d be spotted.

“Hermione.”

Hermione stepped around the potion’s master and into the sitting area, attention attracted to the scholastic mess that covered his coffee table. Severus had obviously been grading and for a moment Hermione could imagine him lounged on the sofa, feet up on the table, ruining all those papers with his favorite red ink. Severus came up behind her, close enough that she could feel the heat coming off him.

“How have you been?”

Hermione turned toward the postion’s master, a smile spreading across her face at his pinched concern. They’d spoken briefly the day before after Ron’s potions class, and Severus had asked her the same question, in the same concerned tone. The little girl inside her had become more active, inciting fits of Braxton Hicks at the worst times and Hermione could tell it scared him, despite his outward demeanor.

“We’ve both been well, nothing to worry about.”

Severus nodded, motion to the sofa.

“Have a seat. Dinner should be here shortly.”

Hermione walked over to the sofa, eyeing the papers spread out. Carefully she picked them up in groups and settled in, glancing at the stack in her hand. Looking up at Severus she held up the papers and tilted her head at him.

“One would think you’d be a little kinder to these poor first years after everything that has happened, but I think you’ve gotten meaner.”

Severus sat across from her, separating them from each other with the placement of the coffee table.

“Despite my behavior Hermione, I’m not mean for the sake of being mean.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows in disbelief and Severus let out a dry chuckle.

“Well, not all the time.”

An elf appeared before Hermione could respond, carrying a tray of varied foods from dinner. Hermione leaned forward and helped Severus clear off a large section of the table, making sure not to mix the piles of papers. Hermione had nearly lost her mind when Ron had knocked her papers off the desk last month, hormones sending her into a crying fit as the redhead scrambled to gather them together. She didn’t think Severus would start crying, but she knew he wouldn’t be happy.

Dinner was quiet at first, Hermione was unsure of what to say considering the tension they were both under. The elf left shortly making sure they had everything they needed and the pair were satisfied with their selections.

“I was thinking about child care, since we’ll both be in classes.”

Severus raised an eyebrow, fork slipping from his lips. Child care was something he’d thought about as well, with no idea how to broach it.

“I talked to Headmistress McGonagall who suggested one of the elves might be interested in the position.”

Severus nodded.

“Elves are a good option, especially the ones who reside here; most of them have a love for children I never understood.”

Hermione laughed.

“You’ll learn.”

It was like the dam had broken and conversation soon flowed like water between them. Hermione found herself drifting toward her Apprenticeship, they both seemed to discuss work much easier than their personal lives, even though their personal lives had become forever intertwined.

“Have you thought about a name?”

Hermione raised her head from the first year paper Severus had passed her as he griped about students getting lazier and dumber by the minute; it was a prime example that he’d need more red ink. Setting the parchment aside, she nodded.

“I’ve been mulling over a few but haven’t really been able to narrow it down much.”

Silence unfolded between them, a little of the awkwardness returning.

“Do you have any suggestions?”

Severus had shed any sort of formality after they’d become comfortable, leaning back in his armchair. Truth be told he’d not given much thought to names, mostly because he wasn’t sure his opinion would be welcome or wanted. Hermione had been open about things over the last few months, sharing with him whenever he asked after the baby but telling her what he wanted to name the child felt too invasive; they weren’t quite there yet. He didn’t even dare think of inquiring on the child’s last name, that was out of the question. Finally he shook his head, choosing to leave the majority of the decision in her hands.

“Let me know if you find something you like.”

It took a little while for them to fall into conversation again, inevitably drifting back to school and work, but it was almost warmer this time. Personal thoughts, if not details slipped through, and whether they noticed it or not, the distance between them shrunk a little. The topic soon stretched to books they preferred not only for teaching but their own enjoyment, classical muggle music they both appreciated, and subjects that would be inconsequential to an outsider. Four hours later found Hermione slipping Harry’s invisibility cloak over herself and slinking out into the hall outside Severus’s rooms, still stunned by how much time had actually gone by. They’d both been smiling by the end, though Severus’s appeared tight in a manner that demonstrated how little he used those specific facial muscles.

Moving through the dungeons Hermione hummed to herself satisfied with their progress, she really hoped by the time the baby was born they’d be in a good place to co-parent, if nothing else. The Gryffindor to the walk to the tower slowly and carefully, not wanting to slip or trip on anything, her balance had been terrible lately. Skirting a few Slytherins roaming the dungeons was easy enough, but she kept getting surprised by other students huddled up in corners throughout her journey; more than a few her own housemates. Happy to finally step through the portrait she pulled the invisibility cloak off and headed upstairs, ready to crawl in bed and sleep in. The trio had planned a lazy day for Sunday, eating, talking, laughing, and napping somewhere in there.

Opening the door to her room Hermione wasn’t surprised to see Harry and Ron curled up on her bed; the redhead snoring while the-boy-who-lived was barely awake himself.

“You’re back.”

Hermione nodded, closing the door carefully.

“Still wearing clothes too.”

Hermione rolled her eyes in the dim light, a single lamp lit on her bedside table setting of a warm glow.

“Yes I am.”

Harry yawned before stretching and slipping form the bed. Dark red pajama bottoms hung low on his hips, bare chest pale enough to nearly glow in the dark.

“Shame that.”

Hermione giggled this time, reaching out to tap him on the back of the head as he pulled her into a hug.

“How was dinner?”

Hermione paused, wondering how to answer the question without sounding both scared and boring.

“It was nice. We talked, ate, and compared books. Normal stuff.”

Harry snorted into her hair, his amusement evident.

“Setting those sheets on fire huh?”

Hermione pulled away from the hug, pinching the black haired young man’s hip as she moved.

“Not all of us are as obsessed with getting a man out of their pants like Harry James Potter.”

A retching sound came from the bed; Ron was more awake than he appeared.

“Gross. Stop talking about getting Slytherins naked and come to bed.”

Harry chuckled as he helped Hermione out of her leggings, pulling an overly large shirt out of the dresser.

“You have a Slytherin too.”

Ron made another noise, long and down out as he pressed his face into the pillow. Hermione excused herself to the bathroom, tiptoeing down the hall and hoping nobody came out of their rooms; she was done with pants for the day. Once she came back Harry helped her into bed, moving in behind her and pulling the blankets up over them all. Hermione snuggled up to Ron, his arm under her head and her face in his chest. After blowing out the candle Harry bracketed her back, pressing his face into her shoulder and laying a hand on her stomach, feeling the slight movements under her skin through the thin material of the shirt.

“Good night boys.”

Somewhere at the end of the bed Crookshanks let out a rough yowl, before walking up the bed and wedging himself between Hermione and Ron.

Harry laughed.