Hermione awoke on her fourteenth wedding anniversary in a posh Muggle hotel to the sounds of Severus singing. In the shower. Her husband had a marvellous voice for reading and making exciting suggestions in the darkness, but she'd never heard him sing.
He must really be looking forward to that panel, she thought, stretching and looking about the rooms for signs that Severus remembered the other significance of the day, but there were none.
Frowning, she rose and dressed, trying to feel hurt, or at least, annoyed, but finding it difficult as Severus' near-chant of a song wafted with the steam from the bath. It was soothing, that near-chant, and rhythmic, too, raising heat in her cheeks as she remembered the previous afternoon, evening, and early morning; some conferences aroused Severus more than others. She was lost in pleasant, throbbing haze of memory when Severus joined her.
"Mmm, I like it when you hum like that," he murmured in her hair. "It inspires . . . optimism."
Hermione laughed and turned to kiss him. "Are you ready for breakfast?"
"It's long past time for that."
"Severus, your presentation! Won't you be—"
"I've time for a meal with you before I need to leave for the Guild. How does Latin food sound? A . . . friend recommended that we try a particular empanada 'palacio' before returning to Hogwarts."
Hermione giggled. "You and hand food. A friend?" She rolled her eyes when Severus gave nothing away. "Yes, that sounds lovely."
On the Muggle bus ride—and that had been a surprise, Severus wanting to take a bus rather than Apparate—Hermione had tried to ask about his unfamiliar song, but Severus had merely smiled in that way of his that meant he had no intention of sharing until he was ready, so she'd sat back and watched London go by until they'd reached their destination. As they stepped down onto the street before two shop fronts, an orchideous scent greeted them.
"Follow that," Severus told her, tapping his nose.
Hermione did so, right through an enchanted wall that separated the shops and led into a lush tropical garden. Situated amongst the greenery were dark wooden booths into which intricately carved representations of orchids, birds, and runes had been carved; this seemed to allow for both air flow and privacy, and Hermione was gladdened.
She spoke. "I don't know—"
"—those runes," she and Severus finished together.
"Of course you knew I'd say so. That's why you brought me here, isn't it?" she asked, inhaling the sweet floral scents of the garden and admiring the silencing charms.
Nearly every booth was taken, but she couldn't hear a single conversation. Suddenly, petals began raining at their feet, and the cloud of them moved forward as they noticed it, leading them to an empty booth. As they sat down on the same bench, which also surprised Hermione because they usually sat across from one another, the air shimmered around them.
"That would be the privacy ward," Severus said, taking her hand. "I hope you don't mind," he continued, as a tray of empanadas materialised before them, "but I took the liberty of ordering before we arrived."
Perhaps he hasn't forgotten our anniversary, Hermione thought, looking at the patterns on the edges of the half-moons of delightfully browned dough situated on the platter. Picking one up with a floral border, she said, "I don't know what filling this repulgue indicates. Oh!"
The little pictogram of the orchid turned into an egg before again sprouting the flower. Hermione laughed, utterly charmed, and turned to gaze at Severus, blushing when she saw how intently he was regarding her.
"I didn't know there was such a thing as a magical empanada!"
Severus grinned. "You don't know the half of it."
"Well, tell me then," Hermione insisted, making to nibble from her mysterious empanada, which smelled of beef and fruit and flowers.
Severus put a hand over hers before she could finish raising the empanada to her mouth. "Wait, before you eat, there's something I should ask you."
Raising her eyebrows, she looked at him expectantly. When Severus didn't speak, she said, "We're already married, so it can't be a proposal."
"Oh, but it is, of sorts, a . . . life-changing one."
He hasn't forgotten our anniversary, thought Hermione, her heart beating a bit faster. "Go on, do," she urged Severus.
Severus turned so that he was facing Hermione more directly, relieved her of her food, and took both of her hands in his. "It's been fourteen years, Hermione, and I know that you've wanted a family—"
Hermione's eyes widened. She hadn't expected any talk of children.
"—but you were sure it wasn't possible."
"We have tried everything, Severus, I know that—"
"Please, let me finish or I won't be able to."
"First, there was recovery and rebuilding, and then our courtship."
Hermione snorted, and then sighed. "Courtship" was Severus' polite way of referring to their early relationship, a time of heated arguing and frantic shagging that hadn't resulted in her becoming pregnant, even though they'd both been unforgivably sloppy about contraception charms.
"And then in addition to the Headship, the International Guild of Potions Masters took me on as a Governor and chief researcher while you completed your apprenticeship under Minerva, and—"
"Things got incredibly busy, I know."
"You said you'd be patient."
"Actually, I didn't, and it's so hard to wait!"
Severus smiled. Hermione withdrew one of her hands from his to "zip" her lip, and sat back.
"It's always bothered me that nothing I did, no Potion I brewed—"
"Or spell I researched," Hermione said, understanding where he was going.
"Yes, or spell ever helped us, but now . . . ."
Hermione leant forward. "You think you've found a way?"
"I know I have. That friend I mentioned?"
"The one who recommended this place?"
"Yes, he showed me the evidence. There's an extract, a rather dangerous one, actually, that can be distilled from certain orchids to induce pregnancy."
"Only the extract. The orchids are rare, and their cultivation, a secret. Very few people know where to find them, but my friend—"
"Severus, who is this friend?"
"If you knew whom I meant, you'd understand why."
"Orchids. Flowers. Neville?"
"Yes, Neville. He's the one who told me about this place and the, er, the magical empanadas."
Hermione was gobsmacked. "Severus, I—"
"Look at the platter. Not all of the repulgues are the same. In fact," Severus continued, setting one of Hermione's hands to hover over the platter, "there is a different combination of floral and beef fillings in each empanada, and when you touch the right one, the one that starts with an egg that then turns into an orchid that blooms into a baby, you'll know you've found the right one, the one that will help you to become pregnant."
"And . . . and your question is?"
"Hermione, it's been fourteen years. Do you still . . . would you like to . . . have a baby with me?"
Hermione closed her eyes. Neville, if you're wrong about this, I'll hex you into next year.
As much as she'd found herself wishing for a baby, she knew that Severus had wanted a family more. It had been only last year that he'd seemed to accept that they were never going to have one—a fact which Neville knew only because she had told him.
And now Neville's Severus' friend. "Oh, Severus, I—"
"It's all right. I understand. It's been too long. You're too committed to your career. I only thou—"
"Now it's you who should be listening! Of course I want a baby with you! If these orchids work, I want a Quidditch team with you!"
"Bollocks, never a Quidditch team," Severus retorted. "A learning of librarians, perhaps, but never—"
"A 'learning' of librarians? Really? Oh, Severus," Hermione said, throwing herself into his arms. "I'm so glad that you didn't forget!"
"How could I have?"
"Oh," she said, pulling back, "I don't mean about having a family, I mean our anniversary."
"It's our anniversary?" He frowned—for half a second, and then he was grinning. "Here, I'll hold the platter," he told her, holding it out to her and murmuring something.
"Is that what you were singing this morning?" Hermione asked, recognising the "song" for the incantation it was.
"I didn't want to get it wrong," Severus admitted. "Go on, try one."
Hermione didn't have to be asked twice and immediately began picking up, peering at, and putting down empanada after empanada until she found it—the magical empanada with its bloom of babies that edged the crust.
"There . . . there are two of them coming up from the flower," Severus whispered. "Two."
For a moment, Hermione was too choked up to speak, or eat, but it passed quickly. "Here's to savouring our future," she said, toasting him with her little, wonder-filled luncheon before popping the empanada into her mouth. "Now take me back to our hotel and make me a mother!"
Nine months later, Severus' good friend Neville became the proud godfather of twins.