AN: Thank you so much for sticking with this! It is deeply appreciated!
Hermione gritted her teeth and made a fist. "The next time I see Percy I'm going to hex him into oblivion."
"Love, please don't do that," Severus purred as he allowed his shirt to fall to the ground.
"He had no business saying that to Rose; none whatsoever. Why shouldn't I at least give him a piece of my mind?" Hermione snapped.
"I did not say that you should not confront Mr. Weasley in some way," Severus purred. "My only concern is that if you hex him into oblivion there will be little left for me to vent my frustrations upon."
Hermione smirked. "I suppose you do deserve a chance to get a few hexes in."
Severus pulled out his nightshirt and gave her a backwards glance. "Indeed, I do."
Hermione chuckled as she sat down on the bed.
"Mr. Weasley aside, I doubt this will affect our relationship with Rose in the slightest," Severus continued.
"Oh?" Hermione asked.
"Rose accepted my account of her conception," Severus replied. "I do not foresee this issue ever coming up again."
"Hopefully you're right."
"But you are not convinced of that."
"I know our daughter. She will pursue this idea until she is satisfied with an explanation."
"She is satisfied with my explanation."
"How certain are you of that?"
"I am entirely certain that she left satisfied with my account."
"I hope you are right," Hermione answered. "I truly do."
Severus replied in a low voice, "I know I'm right."
Hermione looked down at her feet. Severus stared at her for a few moments before he spun around and continued to strip his clothes.
Silence filled the room. With the fastening of each button, the room became more suffocating.
"Perhaps we should tell Rose the truth."
The wind left Severus' lungs.
"Severus? D-did you hear me?"
Severus turned towards her. "Why ever would you suggest that we tell Rose about Ronald and his relation to her?"
Hermione locked eyes with him. "Rose is twenty-five years old. She is old enough to know the truth."
Severus' voice was void of emotion, "I thought you never wanted her to learn of her true origins."
"I know what I've said in the past," Hermione answered. "But if she has doubts concerning our account, if she is searching for the truth on her own, then perhaps it is time for us to answer her questions honestly."
"I just repeated the fabricated account we agreed to give to her," Severus answered. "How exactly do you expect me to backtrack now?"
Hermione answered, "We can say you panicked. You were afraid to tell her the truth behind my back, so you repeated what I'd told you to say years ago."
"No, I did not repeat what you told me to say," Severus argued. "We fabricated this story together."
"I know, but I was the one who said we needed to lie in the first place," Hermione noted.
"I agreed to withhold the full truth from Rose," Severus replied. "So the responsibility is mine as much as it is yours."
"It was my idea to lie, and Rose should know that," Hermione argued. "Rose should direct any anger she has towards me, not you."
"I refuse to allow you to bear the brunt of whatever wrath Rose may have towards us," Severus replied. "This is our marriage, and Rose is our daughter. I refuse to allow you to become the villain who acted alone and portray myself as the hapless husband who was cowed into deceiving his daughter."
Hermione's lips twitched up. "Thank you for your consideration."
Severus' face softened. "We are in this together. If we make a decision our children find disagreeable then they should be equally upset with both of us."
Hermione relaxed. "If we want to minimize Rose's rage, we can tell her you repeated the story I told you to say, but after discussing the matter we realized it was time for the truth to be revealed."
"Is that what you want to do?" Severus asked.
"Only if you will support me in doing so," Hermione answered.
Severus shrugged. "My support or lack thereof should be of no concern to you. I should have little say in this matter."
"That's a load of thestral dung and you know it," Hermione argued. "As Rose's dad you have more than a right to speak your mind on this issue, and you have the right to disapprove of a certain course of action."
"In most cases I would agree, but in this case I have no say," Severus replied. "I did not create her, so the decision to disclose her origins is yours alone."
"But you clearly have an opinion on how to proceed."
Hermione lay down on her side of the bed. "Please tell me what you're thinking."
Severus sat down beside her and pulled the sheets over his legs. "In my opinion, we need to keep Rose's true paternity a secret at all costs."
"Even if she has questions and is searching for the truth?" Hermione asked.
"Yes," Severus replied. "It is the only compassionate course of action."
"Why do you believe that lying to our daughter is compassionate?"
"Why would it not be compassionate to withhold the truth from Rose?"
"Rose is demanding the truth," Hermione replied. "We're her parents, the people she should be able to trust above all others. Withholding the truth from a child is understandable, but to withhold the truth from an adult constitutes a deep betrayal."
"It is an even deeper betrayal to believe your dad has pitied you all your life," Severus replied.
Hermione cocked her head. "Why would Rose believe you pitied her?"
"I married you not only because of my fortune, but also because I was afraid Rose would grow up on the streets," Severus answered. "I was fearful of what would become of her if she had the label of bastard hanging over her head. Rose would grow up watching her mother be reviled simply for keeping her. It would kill her to watch the Weasleys lavish love upon each other yet spit in her direction. She would be mocked by her peers for circumstances beyond her control. I could never have lived with myself if such a fate befell her; hence our marriage and her subsequent adoption."
"I understand how scared you were for her, but I fail to see how wanting to give a child the best life possible constitutes pity." Hermione replied.
"I was trying to save her when I thought no one else would. I saw her as helpless and alone," Severus replied. "Viewing someone in this manner is the definition of pity."
Hermione sighed. "There is a difference between having compassion for someone and pitying them."
"The only people who say that are those who pity. The one who is pitied feels only contempt," Severus answered.
"So you're saying that all these years, you've pitied me because you saw me as a helpless woman who was unable to live in the Wizarding World without you?"
"I have never viewed you as helpless."
"Exactly," Hermione replied.
Severus raised an eyebrow.
"In order for Rose to feel as if she is an object of pity she would need to feel as if you pitied me as well. Anyone can tell that you have never spent a moment pitying me; thus Rose was never an object of pity for you," Hermione argued.
"I fear Rose will not view things that way," Severus warned.
Hermione shook her head. "If she believes there is no difference between pity and compassion then she is quite like you."
Severus couldn't suppress his smile. "She is very much like me, especially in this regard."
Hermione cupped his hand into hers. "Rose's genetic structure may say she is a Weasley, but in her heart and in her soul she is your daughter."
"She is, yet," Severus squeezed her hand. "There is another, more significant reason I fear revealing Rose's paternity to her."
"What would that be?" Hermione asked.
"A few hours after Rose was born, I held her while you slept. She looked up and me with so much trust. She did not view me as a former Death Eater or as a dangerous man; she only saw me as her dad. In that moment I was overtaken with love for her." Severus' throat tightened. "I could no longer imagine feeling joy without her in my life."
There was a gleam in Hermione's eyes.
"In that moment I promised her that she would always feel cherished. I would do everything in my power to ensure she never felt unwanted," Severus' voice lowered. "If I look her in the eyes and tell her that her father is a Quidditch coaching arse who walked out on her in her time of need, then she will feel unwanted. I will have broken my promise."
"Severus," She whispered. "She will always feel wanted because she has you in her life. You have always loved her, and made her feel like she belonged in your family. No knowledge of her origins will ever cause her to forget the love you have so freely given to her. Nothing will ever convince her that she is not your daughter."
"Do not be so certain that the sting of rejection cannot override the knowledge of someone's love," He warned.
He untangled his hand from hers. "Hermione, you were always wanted as a child. Muriel and Wilford did everything in their power to prevent you from ever experiencing the pain of rejection. Not all of us were so fortunate."
Hermione said nothing.
"My parents made it more than clear how unwanted I was. I cannot count how many times my father ranted about how expensive I was to feed, or how little I deserved new clothing. Mother…" Severus grew silent.
"One of the most vivid memories of my mother occurred when I was four. Father was on a weeklong drinking binge, giving me time to watch television in peace. On a certain show-for the life of me I cannot remember its name-I saw a kindly grandmother. During the commercial break I ran to Mother and asked her why the television characters had a grandmother, yet I had never met mine. Initially she did not pay me any attention, but after pestering her long enough she finally looked into my eyes," Severus began.
Hermione bit her lip.
Severus' body quivered. "I'd never seen Voldemort look a muggle in the eyes with half the rage my mother did in that moment. She pointed at me and hissed, 'you. You are the reason your grandmother will never speak to me again.'"
"Oh Merlin," Hermione whispered.
"Even at four I knew she blamed me for the loss of her mum. My existence was burdensome to her, and a reminder of all she had lost when she had married my father. Growing up, I lived with the burden of knowing my parents would've preferred not to have me. I would never wish that feeling on James Potter. How could I inflict it upon my own daughter?" Severus asked.
"This isn't the same situation." Hermione wrapped her arms around him. "Rose has known love. She knows the depths of your devotion to her, and has never doubted them. Ron Weasley is just another man to her. She won't care about his rejection."
"How certain are you of that?" Severus asked.
"I know she will never consider Ron her father because she calls you 'Dad,' not him."
"He created and afterward abandoned her. She was rejected by her own flesh and blood. That is a betrayal from which she would have difficulty overcoming. I do not want to subject her to that kind of pain."
"Perhaps you have a point," Hermione mused. "As of right now she believes you were my negligent ex-lover. Although you ignored me, the second you learned of Rose's existence you wanted her. To know that Ron said to my face that he didn't want her would be another situation altogether."
"It will slice her very soul."
"Do you think there is a way we could soften the blow?"
"How could we go about doing so? We cannot undo Ron's abandonment of her, nor can we change the fact that his only interest in her has been for her trust fund."
Hermione's eyes grew. "I almost forgot about the money. If Rose decides to pursue a relationship with him, he could use their connection to his financial advantage."
"Indeed he could," Severus warned.
"She would face the betrayal not only of her parents lying to her, but also of her sperm donor taking advantage of her."
"That is a very real possibility."
"Yes, it is."
"Again," Severus replied. "I should not have the final word. I was not present when she was conceived, nor was I involved in Ron's betrayal. You are her mother. Only you may have the final say."
"I cannot do this without your support," Hermione replied. "If Rose believes we are not united in our course of action then she will be in more pain than she is now."
"I fully support whatever you decide," Severus answered.
Hermione took a shaky breath. "Right now Rose is confused, but not emotionally distraught."
"She is not," Severus answered.
"Then perhaps things are best left as they are," Hermione replied. "The truth may do more harm than good."
"Are you certain that's how you want to proceed?" Severus asked.
"Yes," Hermione answered in a firm voice. "The truth will only cause more harm than good. Knowing Rose, she has forgotten this subject altogether."
"My thoughts exactly," Severus replied.
They sealed their agreement with a kiss.
Rose stared at the essays before her. How could anyone discern a single letter through all these scribbles?
They made about as much sense as Dad's story.
Rose grunted before jumping out of her chair. All of this fretting is pointless! Dad would not lie to me about my paternity. I am his daughter in every way that counts, including biology.
She stuck her nose back into the essay before her. It was time to get back to work...
What if Dad is mistaken in the belief that he's Mum's only lover?
Rose jerked up. She shook her head.
No, that is a horrendous thought. Mum loves Dad too much to lie about my paternity. She would never lie to Dad about me. Never.
Rose stood up and strolled towards her bedroom. After a good night's sleep everything would become clearer. Of that, she was certain.