AN: Thank you all so much for the support! I deeply appreciate it!
"As you and the entire Wizarding World knows, I killed Albus Dumbledore," Severus' voice was soft, his eyes distant. "It was a necessary action, but one I regret all the same."
Rose gritted her teeth. "Dumbledore should never have asked you to kill him."
"Perhaps not," Severus admitted. "At the time, though, it seemed to be the wisest course of action."
"It is never wise to frame someone for murder," Rose answered.
"I was not framed for murder," Severus argued. "I did kill Dumbledore."
"Because he guilted you into doing so," Rose argued. "It was unethical for him to use your past traumas and regrets against you in such a manner. You deserved to find peace and live your life on your terms, not be branded a murderer."
"At the time I did not feel that way."
"You never should have been made to feel that you were inferior."
"It is the truth."
"Regardless," Severus took a shaky breath. "Everyone believed that I was a murderer and behaved accordingly. Despite the outcry though, I was appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts."
"I would imagine that Neville was not thrilled at the prospect of being under your care," Rose noted.
"No, he was not," Severus replied. "Still, my summer was far less eventful than your mother's."
The three young adults turned to Hermione.
"Early that summer, I erased your grandparents' memories and sent them to Australia. I wish I could have acted differently, but I didn't know any other way to keep them safe," Hermione began.
"They seem to have forgiven you," Victor noted.
"Thankfully they did, although I was terrified they wouldn't agree with me once their memories returned," Hermione replied.
Violet moistened her lips.
"Once I was assured that your grandparents were safe, I agreed to help Harry hunt down the horcruxes. Before we accomplished that task though, Harry, Ron and I attended Bill Weasley's wedding."
"How was it?" Victor asked.
"It was a beautiful ceremony," Hermione's eyes were misty. "I teared up a bit during their vows. I remember wishing that I could be up there saying them to somebody I loved."
"I wish you'd had a better wedding," Severus interrupted.
Hermione took Severus' hand and rubbed it. "Our wedding was perfect."
"You do not need to spare my feelings. It was in a small courthouse surrounded by people who wanted nothing more than to fight with each other. You deserved so much better."
"First of all, I preferred it to be in a courthouse than anywhere else."
"Yes, the only decision I needed to make was which dress to wear, which made planning much easier. More importantly though, we became a family that day. That's all I cared about then, and it's all I care about now."
He kissed the top of her head. "Very well then."
"As I was saying," Hermione returned her attention to the children. "At the reception, Viktor Krum attempted to speak with me, but before we could converse Ron asked me to dance." She shook her head. "Looking back, I thought the gesture was romantic, but in retrospect it was just Ron being possessive."
"Of course, I came and crashed the wedding," Severus chimed in.
"You did?" Violet asked.
"Oh yes," Hermione continued. "The Death Eaters stormed the wedding and it was announced that the Order had fallen. I apparated away with Harry and Ron. That's when we officially began to hunt for the horcruxes."
"In the middle of the hunt is when Ron abandoned you," Violet cut in.
"Yes," Hermione answered. "He abandoned us midway through the search."
"Bastard," Violet mumbled.
"How could you so much as look at Ron again after that?" Victor asked.
"At the time, Harry and I thought it was under the influence of the horcrux. When Ron returned, we figured he had changed. Little did we know that possessive, petty, irresponsible, and vindictive were the perfect words to describe who Ron had become," Hermione replied.
"How could you have ever fallen in love with him?" Rose asked.
Hermione gulped. "At the time, Ron made me laugh. There were times when he was a good listener, and he could be loyal. I absolutely adored his family, and would have been happy to join them."
"Why?" Victor asked. "The Weasleys have been nothing but awful to you. Why would you want to join them?"
"Again, they treated me well for a time," Hermione answered. "As long as I was the woman they wanted me to be, they loved me."
Rose bit her lower lip.
"Ron and I had been through so much together, and I thought he understood me. In a way he did, but he used his knowledge of me to hurt me in the deepest ways possible." Hermione's voice cracked. "People believed we were destined for each other. How could I fight destiny? How could so many wizards be so wrong? No, if there was a problem it was my fault. If I was less bossy, less nagging, and less clingy everything would work out, or so I believed."
Victor stood and embraced Hermione. "I am so sorry Mum."
Hermione held her son. "There is no need to apologize. I am happy now. That is all that should matter to you."
"I know," Victor whispered. "Still, you never should have been taken advantage of by anyone."
"Perhaps," Hermione released her son.
Victor sat on the floor.
Violet turned to Severus. "Did you think of Mum at all while she was on the run?"
"It depends on what you mean by, 'think,'" Severus replied.
Violet cocked her head.
"I thought of Harry and his mission every day," Severus explained. "At times I wondered how your mother was faring, but I was too concerned with the war effort to spend too much time worrying for her safety."
"I would imagine the students did not make it easy for you to perform your job duties," Rose replied.
"Let's just say that when Neville first came to me with a complaint about a student, I felt more than a little vindicated," Severus answered.
"That being said," the light in Severus' eyes died. "I began to fear for the future of the Wizarding World. Even with my memories, I was afraid Harry might not be able to defeat Voldemort. If something were to happen to him, somebody would need to remain and fight the Dark Lord. I was one of the few with knowledge on how the Dark Lord operated, and I was skilled enough in potions and the dark arts to still be useful. It seemed only natural to stay alive, if only to see how the war played out. Thus, I began to brew the potions which would counteract Nagini's venom."
"So if you had had even a little more faith in Harry, Victor and Violet would not exist?" Rose asked.
"More or less," Severus admitted.
Hermione paled. A shudder ran up her spine. "I remember watching Nagini bite your father in the neck. There was so much blood pouring out. There was nothing I could do. It was one of the most helpless moments in my life."
Severus massaged Hermione's back.
"Sometimes near the anniversary of the Final Battle, I can still see him sprawled out on the floor with that gashing wound, just bleeding all over the ground. I," Hermione's voice cracked. "I really wish Neville would tear down that awful Shrieking Shack. It's such a horrid place. I see no reason that it should remain a historical marker. I am able to walk into Malfoy Manor again because at least Ginny makes it a pleasant enough place, but I still cannot even look at the structure. It sickens me just thinking about it and what your father looked like after that snake bit him."
"Mum," Victor began to rise again.
Hermione held up her hand. He sat down.
"Love," Severus whispered.
She took a deep breath and wiped her face. "I will be fine, but I would much rather remember Bellatrix's torture of me than remember seeing you like that."
"I am here and alive, Love," Severus whispered before kissing her cheek. "I love you so very much."
A tear fell from her eye. "I love you too."
He kissed her forehead and stoked her hair. A few moments later, she returned her attention to her children.
"Anyway," Hermione cleared her throat. "Harry defeated Voldemort, and we found your father before his potions wore off. After several more medical treatments and a few positive thoughts later, he awoke. Within a month, he had made a full recovery."
"It is difficult to explain those next few months," Severus replied. "I had never experienced true freedom before, so I hardly knew what to do with myself once I learned the war was over. My first thought was to return to Hogwarts to teach. It was what I had always done, and it was one way to financially support myself. Once I raised enough money I planned to open my own apothecary."
"But that did not work out as intended," Rose answered.
"No," Severus replied. "It did not."
Rose's face reddened. "It was unfair of them to discard you so quickly, especially after all you had done for the Wizarding World."
"It was immediately after the war," Severus replied. "There were people who believed I should rot in Azkaban despite what Potter told them. Although the decisions were unjust, they are understandable given the politics of the situation."
"It still should not have happened," Rose muttered.
"No it should not have," Severus answered. "Still, after spending a few years away from children I was somewhat more open to having them. In that respect, things worked out for the best."
Violet gave him a small grin.
"How much did you and Mum interact between the war and your marriage?" Victor asked.
"She saw me a few times while I was hospitalized," Severus answered. "I cannot say the conversations were unpleasant."
"It was nice to see you alive," Hermione chimed in. "After all the death surrounding the Wizarding World, it was nice to see someone recovering."
"After I moved into my new shack though, we saw very little of each other," Severus replied.
"No," Hermione added. "Over the seven years between the end of the war and our marriage, I think we saw each other ten times perhaps."
"That sounds accurate," Severus replied.
"Did you two see each other at Aunt Ginny and Uncle Draco's wedding?" Victor asked.
"We did," Hermione replied. "I discussed how perfect Draco and Ginny were for each other, and he attempted to find reasons to leave early."
Rose's lips curled up. That sounded just like Dad.
"There was that other time at a Ministry gathering," Hermione continued.
"It was two years before our wedding. You complained about how out of tune the violins were."
"They were out of tune."
"You needn't have spent so much time complaining about them," Hermione argued.
"You needn't have spent so much time defending their poor musicianship," Severus argued.
Violet rolled her eyes. Here they go again.
"In all seriousness," the playfulness left Hermione's voice. "We spent months apart, and did not think anything of it."
"No, we did not," Severus confirmed.
"In the meantime, I redid my eighth year at Hogwarts," Hermione began.
"Did you miss Dad?" Rose asked.
"Of course I did. Nobody knew how to make an entrance like your father, or say just the right insult at just the right time. That being said," the humor evaporated from her expression. "I was too distracted by my own relationship woes to worry about how much I missed your father."
"What do you mean?" Rose asked.
Hermione folded her hands. "Ron was opposed to my returning to Hogwarts. He thought we should be together."
"He could have returned to Hogwarts," Rose noted.
"True, but once his schooling ended, he wanted to be free from any and all academic institutions," Hermione answered. "That's why the second he received an offer to play for the Crudely Cannons, he took it."
"Headmaster Longbottom mentioned him wanting to become an auror at one time," Rose replied.
"He did," Hermione replied. "Until he realized the work which would be involved in it. After that, he decided it would be easier to play Quidditch and surround himself with women."
"I see," Rose hummed.
"I cannot say I blame him for becoming a Cannon," Hermione continued. "It was well-suited to his personality in so many ways."
"How?" Victor asked.
"Ron lacked any sense of responsibility, and he enjoyed being rich. Professional Quidditch was his way to have a good time and to avoid poverty. His only problem was that he had a girlfriend who was more interested in studying than she was in staying out all night."
"I hardly believe that having an intelligent girlfriend qualifies as a problem," Victor noted.
"Perhaps," Hermione sighed. "Still, things were getting worse between us, even though I refused to acknowledge it."
"At first it started small," Hermione noted. "I would see a woman flirt with him and he would blush. The rumors began to swirl around him and his dalliances. Still, I firmly believed it was my fault."
"Why would you ever think that some man being an arse is your fault?" Victor asked.
"Ron complained that I refused to attend Quidditch parties with him, nor did I see enough of his games. That was fair enough. Quidditch bores me to tears, which must have been somewhat embarrassing for a professional Quidditch player. Things escalated through the years though. Ron began to complain that I did not maintain my appearance as I should. He claimed that if I would use more hair products, wear more makeup, and start talking about what he deemed interesting, then he wouldn't flirt with women as much. If I refused to comply with his demands, he would refuse to speak with me for weeks on end."
"Weeks?" Rose asked.
"Yes, after one nasty fight he refused to speak with me for four weeks. He refused to return my floo calls, wouldn't answer his owls, yet insisted to the press that we were still madly in love," Hermione answered.
"Dear Merlin," Violet whispered.
"Still I was convinced that I could make things work with Ron if I would just try harder. I dropped out of the university and took a Ministry job to put an end to our fights. For a while my plan worked, but the women reemerged after a few months. Finally, I had enough. I told him that if he wanted me to remain in his life, I would need some kind of commitment. He yelled, 'fine, we're getting married' then stormed out of the room. After a few days he bought the most gaudy ruby ring he could find and stuck it on my finger. He insisted that I show it off to every reporter in sight. I thought he was finally proud of me, but in reality he was merely displaying his wealth."
Rose hung her head. "I wish you had not been tied to him."
"None of this is your fault," Hermione answered.
Rose did not look up.
Hermione clasped her daughter's hands. "This is not your fault."
"Do you want me to continue?"
"Yes, I want to know the true story behind how I came to be."
"Very well then," Hermione released her daughter.
Rose crawled closer to her.
"Ron and I were in a good place during the window of your conception. We hadn't seen each other in months. I had written him every day, and he wrote me once a week at least, which was great for him. When I first saw him, I was so excited to see him again." Hermione choked. "I forgot to cast the spell and take the potion. The second time I knew he hadn't cast it right. Then, he decided that things would be more interesting without contraceptive measures."
"What an irresponsible arse," Victor growled.
"So let me get this straight," Violet began. "Dad isn't in the picture at all right now."
"Nope," Severus replied. "We had no interactions at this time."
"Then what exactly were you doing during all of this?" Violet asked.
Severus nodded. "My income was barely enough to survive on. I could create potions, but I did not have the means to manufacture them. Hence my ideas remained on paper. I attempted to save money for an apothecary, but it would have taken decades before I could make any kind of downpayment on the materials necessary to brew, much less the building to sell them in."
"Merlin that's unfair," Rose replied.
"Perhaps," Severus answered. "Still I remember that New Year's Eve drinking a bottle of scotch Lucius had bought me the night before. I remember staring at the ceiling and thinking that my life would never change for the better."
"You were very wrong," Rose replied.
Severus smiled. "I have never been so happy to be wrong in my life."
"Indeed," Rose replied. "Still, if you were not speaking with Mum, how did you two become husband and wife?"
"Ron was away when I discovered I was pregnant with you. I decided to tell him about you in person since it didn't feel proper to give such news via an owl." Hermione's throat constricted. "I genuinely thought he would be happy to know of your existence."
Rose glanced at her diamond ring.
"Instead of feeling any type of joy, he became irate. He denied that you were his, and abandoned me in my apartment. I begged and pleaded with him to raise you, but he made it clear that there was no room in his heart for a child," Hermione replied.
A tear ran down Rose's cheek.
Severus took her chin and raised it. He locked eyes with her. "Ron Weasley never deserved to have anyone in his life as magnificent as you. Never forget that, Little One."
Rose sniffed. "Thank you, Dad."
Hermione's voice was soft, "We don't need to continue if you don't want us to."
"No," Rose answered. "I need to hear this."
They turned to Victor and Violet.
"Yes," Violet answered. "I want to hear this."
"I do too," Victor replied.
"Very well then," Severus began. "While Ron was being the biggest dunderhead imaginable, I had received word of my inheritance. If I married within six months of my grandmother's death, then I would receive four hundred million galleons. For obvious reasons, I was eager to obtain it."
"I think anyone in your position would be willing to marry for that kind of money," Victor noted.
"Indeed," Severus frowned. "Several witches made that all too apparent."
"Was Mum one of them?" Violet asked.
"Not initially," Hermione answered. "I didn't know he'd inherited anything until we met at a coffee shop soon after he discovered his grandmother's will."
"So the coffee shop part is real?" Victor replied.
"Yes," Hermione replied.
"The best stories always have one foot in the truth," Severus added.
"True," Rose replied.
There was a gleam in Hermione's eyes. "Anyway, your father attempted to flirt with me, and he was quite horrid at it."
"Truly?" Rose asked
"Yes," Hermione's eyes glistened. "It was clear that there was some type of catch with him, yet for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was. After failing to butter me up, he told me all about his fortune. Then I asked him if I was a candidate for marriage."
"Just like that, you knew you wanted to marry him?" Violet asked.
"It was either marry a wizard, return to the muggle world or be thrown out on the streets," Hermione replied. "Given those three options, a marriage to a surly professor was not the worst thing in the world."
"Why Dad though?" Violet asked.
Everyone turned to her
"I don't mean to be rude, but so far it sounds like you two are hardly speaking to each other, and your interactions were less than romantic. Why was Dad your choice as husband?" Violet asked.
"Honestly, I wondered the same thing," Hermione admitted. "It was an impulsive decision to agree to be his wife."
"It was," Rose muttered.
"Still, I knew that your father could be kind, and under all that snark he did have a heart. Also, he had half a brain, which I found quite attractive."
"Most reasonable women do."
"I thought that two reasonable adults could work through something like a baby, so I decided to marry him," Hermione answered.
"That makes sense," Rose replied.
"On my end, there was nothing to work through," Severus continued. "After our first date, your mother revealed her pregnancy. I considered myself to be Rose's father the second I learned of her existence, thus I married your mother."
"Was it truly that simple?" Rose asked.
"Yes," Severus answered. "It was truly that simple."
"I'm still confused."
All attention returned to Violet.
"So far I've only heard the story of a business merger. You two are sickening sweethearts though. How did you two go from barely speaking to each other to snogging each other at every opportunity?" Violet asked.
Severus sighed. "It was not a quick or easy process. Neither of us was open to love when this marriage began."
"Really?" Violet asked.
Hermione shifted closer to Severus. "I married your father in part because I wanted to coparent with a friend. It seemed that I defective in love, but I could be an excellent friend."
"Indeed," Severus replied. "I could not fathom any woman loving me, and I was not eager to marry any woman. I could tolerate your mother, and we had engaging conversations. That is why I agreed to marry your mother."
"What was that moment when you two fell in love with each other?" Victor asked.
"I wish I could give you an answer," Severus replied. "There were signs that I was falling in love, but there is no concrete moment."
"What signs were there?" Rose asked.
"At times I would become tongue tied around your mother, but I thought it was only because she is an attractive witch. Roughly two months into the marriage I smelled your mother's scent in the amortentia, but I was certain I had committed an error. Months passed before I was able to brew the potion and be confident that I had made it correctly. In the meantime, it was becoming more difficult to imagine myself happy without your mother. Again, I wrote it off as simply being grateful to her for keeping the gold digging dunderheads away from my fortune, and for allowing me to raise our child."
Violet turned to Hermione.
"It was very much the same for me. Roughly four months into the marriage, I smelled your father's scent in the amortentia, but I dismissed it as a fluke. At times I would notice how attractive your father was in his own unique way, but again, I thought it was because he treated me better than any other wizard had. Then there were those moments when I couldn't imagine anyone else raising my children, but again, I thought it was only strong friendship."
Severus turned to his oldest daughter. "All I can tell you is that once you were born Rose, you had two parents who were madly in love with each other."
"When did you two, first say, 'I love you' then?"
"Again, it was a process," Severus replied. "We had to admit our feelings to ourselves first."
"How did that happen?" Victor asked.
"Fenrir broke into my apothecary a few weeks after Rose was born," Severus replied. "Just the thought that your mother could have been in there was enough to reduce me to tears. It was then that I knew I was in love with her."
"What about you, Mum?" Victor asked.
"During the Quidditch World Cup, Ron fell off his broom and was severely injured. A few days later, your father asked if I would ever run off with Ron. I told him no, but I wasn't sure why I was so certain of that. When I discussed it with your grandmother, she pointed out the bloody obvious. Finally, I had no choice but to acknowledge that I loved your father."
"When did you finally say the words?" Victor asked.
"After Ron's injury, he wanted Rose's trust fund and my alimony. In order to get them, he attempted to persuade me to reunite with him," Hermione replied. "He went so far as to burst into our mansion despite our strong wards."
"After your mother turned him away," Severus continued. "I told her that it must not be easy to be in a marriage with me when she had a chance to be married to a man she loved., Then I told her that she could be in a real marriage if she so desired. When she told me that she was already in a real marriage, I confessed my love."
"The night we confessed our love to each other was the night we created Victor," Hermione answered.
Rose wiped away a tear. Stupid sentimentality.
Severus turned to Violet. "I suppose after hearing how your sister and brother came to be you would like to know of your origins as well."
"Do not worry," Hermione grinned. "It is actually a funny story."
"I guess I can hear it then," Violet answered.
"For years after Victor's birth, we had toyed with the idea of having a third child," Severus admitted. "We had decided that we wanted to have a child the proper way with no surprises. At the time though, we had several conferences lined up, so we were going to wait six months before attempting to conceive."
"What we did not take into account was that I had taken a strep throat cure a month before we made our decision," Hermione replied.
"Rendering the contraceptive potion ineffective," Rose pointed out.
"Exactly," Hermione answered.
"So once again, your carefully laid plan blew up in your face," Violet replied.
"We were more than happy to adjust our plans," Hermione answered. "Perhaps all of you were a surprise in your own way, but if we had to do it all again we wouldn't change a thing."
"I am glad to hear it," Rose replied.
"Children," Severus leaned closer to them. "You know that I do not believe in rubbish such as soulmates or destiny. Still, if there is one woman who understands me, who can touch the darkest depths of my heart, it would be your mother."
Hermione put her hand on Severus' thigh. "Our story isn't a fairy tale, but somehow we have managed to build a happy and successful marriage. To us, that is all that matters."
"So this is the awful truth then?" Victor asked. "You didn't want us to know that Rose was Ron's, and that you married for convenience?"
"Yes," Hermione exhaled.
Victor, Violet, and Rose looked at each other. Within moments, they burst out laughing.
Severus raised an eyebrow while Hermione pursed her lips.
"I'm sorry," Rose gasped. "But other than my paternity, nothing in this story is all that horrible."
"No," Victor chuckled. "It sounds exactly like both of you too."
"It really does!" Violet exclaimed.
"I do not understand…" Severus drawled.
Rose caught her breath."You and Mum are careful people who over analyze everything. While you are overly affectionate with each other, you can be guarded around others."
"Fair enough," Severus answered.
"The truth is that you two were flawed yet lovable people. In the fake story makes both of you come off as dunderheads," Rose continued.
Hermione and Severus looked at each other.
"Dad, you can be cruel, but you are not stupid," Rose began. "Under no circumstances would you have forgotten a contraceptive potion or neglected to cast the spell. Also, you would have known better than to ignore Mum, especially given how persistent she can be."
"Fair enough," Severus replied.
"And Mum," Victor chimed in. "If you felt yourself falling in love with Dad you would have broken things off with Ron immediately. Even if you were single after the fact, you would have seen it as a life lesson and moved on."
"I did not have the confidence then that I do now…" Hermione began.
"No, but you had the same persistence," Victor noted
She closed her mouth.
"Merlin Mum, you have been breaking through Dad's wards since you were a teenager. Pregnancy shouldn't have inhibited your ability to take them down," Victor continued. "Even if you were struggling with them, Harry Potter was your best friend and just as importantly, an auror. He would have found a way to get Dad to answer that door, even if it meant serving him a fake arrest warrant. If Dad still didn't cooperate, he would've tied him to a chair and forced him to hear you out."
"Fair enough," Hermione replied.
"Honestly, I don't know why you didn't tell us this story earlier," Violet replied.
"We did not want you children to feel as if you were merely a way of fulfilling a contractual obligation," Severus answered.
"Do you really think we ever felt that way?" Victor asked.
"Anyone who has spent two minutes with you knows that you two are deeply in love and that you love your children," Rose replied. "There has never been any doubt in my mind that I was in a loving household."
"Yes," Victor added. "It is so clear even from your wedding photos that you two respected each other. Perhaps you weren't madly in love when you married, but that matters little. All that matters is that now you are fabulous parents."
Hermione's eyes watered.
"Yes," Violet added. "We could not have imagined any better parents than you."
"Funny," Severus answered. "We could not have imagined better children than you."
With that, everyone in the family embraced each other.