AN: Thank you all for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
It had been years since Rose had given Severus that look.
She was thirteen. Against his advice, she had put three eel eyes into a cauldron instead of two. As expected, the cauldron had exploded. Her hair was coated in purple goo, her face charred from the blast.
Rose sniffed. She looked at her father as if she was bracing for a berating. After ascertaining that Rose was uninjured from the mishap, Severus hugged her, whispered that sometimes one must err in order to learn, and proceeded to help her scrub the silver cauldron.
Now, a grown Rose was staring at him as if she had disappointed him again.
He flicked the last bit of ash from his robes. "Rose."
"Hello, Dad," she choked. "How are you faring?"
"I am glad to hear it."
The only sound Severus could hear was the pounding of his heart.
"Little One, what is wrong?"
A tear fell from her left eye.
Severus set the research notes she had given him onto her coffee table. "What happened?"
She glanced at a clump of soot three feet in front of her.
"Did somebody hurt you?"
Rose shook her head.
"Are you having difficulty with a student?"
"No," she squeaked. "My career is going very well."
"Then what is troubling you?" he asked.
She made eye contact with him. "Will you despise me if I tell you something?"
"I could never despise you," Severus answered.
"I," she gulped. "I saw Ronald."
Rose trembled. "Are you not going to say something?"
"What is there to say?" Severus shrugged. "You told me that you planned on seeing him weeks ago, and you did it. I have no say in the matter."
"Yet you are upset that I saw Ronald despite your warnings."
"I will admit that I would have preferred you not to have seen Ronald," Severus admitted. "But that was because I knew he would disappoint you, not because you would disappoint me."
"I feel like such a dunderhead," Rose choked.
"You are not a dunderhead," Severus whispered.
"Yet I am, Daddy," tears were streaming down Rose's face. "You were right, he never cared for me. Ron Weasley was willing to allow the cruelest professor he'd ever known to raise me because he felt nothing but apathy for me."
"Oh Rose," Severus whispered.
"You were right about everything," Rose wept. "I should have listened to you because you were right."
Severus held her tight and pressed her against his chest. She sobbed into his robes and grabbed onto his cape.
"It is one thing not to want me," Rose inhaled sharply. "But to allow me to be raised by somebody he considered abusive? How could anyone do that to a child?"
"I do not know," Severus held her tighter.
"I only wanted him to feel something towards me, anything towards me," Rose hiccuped. "All he saw in me was a potential baccarat partner."
Severus took a deep breath.
"I know he is a dunderhead and that according to you I am worth more than he could ever imagine. Still…" her gasps prevented her from speaking. "I wanted to be worthy of a moment of his time."
"You are worth so much Little One," Severus whispered.
"Was it too much to ask to be wanted?"
"You are so wanted by your mother and me. We love you so much."
"I know," Rose gasped. "I know."
"I wish I could make all of this go away," Severus continued in a soft voice. "I wish I could reverse all the harm that he caused you."
"You cannot though," Rose answered. "Nobody can."
"I know," Severus replied.
Rose squirmed. Severus released her. She backed away.
"I am so sorry Rose."
She took a deep breath.
"I am so deeply sorry that you must endure any of this," Severus continued.
"No, I should apologize," Rose pulled out a cloth handkerchief from her pants pocket and wiped her face. "This is not at all how I intended tonight to go. I was supposed to interact with you in a dignified fashion, not weep like a child."
"There is no problem with weeping in front of your father," Severus replied.
"Still," Rose wiped the last of the moisture from her face. "I should be more dignified."
"There is no need to be dignified in a situation such as this."
Rose blew her nose.
Severus put a hand over his pants pocket. "Do you need another one?"
"No," she squeaked. "I need to spend my evening more productively."
"How do you propose doing that?"
Rose snapped her fingers. The handkerchief disappeared. "I needed to discuss something with you."
"What is there to discuss?" Severus asked.
Rose strolled over to the sofa, Severus close behind. Together they sat.
"As I mentioned previously," Rose's face returned to its usual color. "I thought long and hard about what Ronald told me about you."
"What did he say?"
"Ron mentioned the kind of professor you were, and how you treated your students. He discussed how you berated your students, how you destroyed their self-esteem, and how you took pleasure in their distress."
Severus glanced at the parchments he had set on the table.
"Then I thought of who Ronald was and how people perceived him. There is not a single person outside of the Weasleys who misses him. Even his previous roommate had nothing but derision for him."
"Neville has become a much better judge of character throughout the years."
"True. Still, I thought about you and Ronald before realizing something."
"I never did thank you for being an outstanding father to me."
"Rose, you never need to…
"No, I do."
Rose began, "The reality is that you did not need to marry Mum. You were under no ethical obligation to raise me, yet you did so anyway."
"No please, let me finish."
Rose's voice was stronger. "Even though you agreed to raise me, you could have been any kind of father you wanted. You had the option of treating me as if I was a nuisance you regretted enduring. You had the option of ignoring me, or destroying my self-esteem. You did none of those things though."
"I cannot fathom intentionally maliciously hurting you," Severus answered.
"Perhaps now you feel that way, but in the beginning you could have viewed me differently."
"I cannot imagine how that could be so."
"It would have been simple. You did not want children, yet you made room in your heart for me. In light of that," Rose choked. "I need to thank you."
Severus kissed her forehead. "You are thanking me for doing what came very naturally."
"Did it truly come naturally?"
Rose blinked. "How could you have formed a natural bond between yourself and a child no other man wanted?"
"Little One," Severus began. "If I am being honest, I cannot fully explain our bond or how it began. On the surface, I may have claimed to agree to marry your mother to procure my fortune, but if I may be honest the second she revealed her pregnancy the money mattered little. All I wanted was to provide you with a loving home."
Rose's lower lip quivered.
"I needed to be your father."
"You could have had another child with another woman."
"You are not listening," Severus cut in. "I did not need to be anyone's father; I needed to be your father specifically."
"How," there was a catch in Rose's voice. "How could you need to be the father of a girl who shares no strand of DNA with you?"
"It may sound overly trite and entirely too sentimental for either of our liking, but in my heart of hearts, I knew I was your dad the second your mother exposed her pregnancy to me."
Rose scratched her leg.
"I cannot fully explain what I felt towards you when I discovered your existence. All I know is that it is the same emotion I felt when I discovered your mother's pregnancies with Victor and Violet. I loved you from the moment I learned of you, just as I loved Victor and Violet when I learned of them," Severus answered.
"I am certain that in retrospect. You feel that way. In the moment though…"
"No, in that moment I knew you were mine."
"After your mother revealed her pregnancy to me, I will admit that I initially attempted to suppress my true emotions. I will admit to being reluctant to give my heart to anyone, especially someone who would keep me up half the night."
Rose's lips twitched up.
"Yet I could not suppress the need to be in your life. Within hours of learning of your existence , I asked your mother to marry me."
"It only took you hours to decide that you wanted to raise me?"
"No," Severus answered. "I wanted to raise you the instant I knew of your existence. It took a few hours to work out the logistics though."
Rose took a shaky breath. "Did you pity me at any moment?"
"Even as an infant I knew you were undeserving of pity," Severus replied. "I knew you would grow to be a strong, intelligent, and ambitious woman. None of those traits describe someone worthy of pity."
"No," Rose admitted. "They do not."
He looked into her eyes. "I know I cannot ever undo the damage Ronald has done, nor can I erase the damage I have done to our bond through my deception. Still, I want you to know that I love you. I love you so very much, Little Rose."
"I love you too, but I'm not little," Rose whispered.
Severus grinned. "Are you taller than me?"
Laughing, Rose embraced her dad.