AN: Thank you for all the support! I deeply appreciate all of it!
Sometimes, Severus wished the dungeons had windows.
For the most part, Severus spent his tenure as a professor thankful for the seclusion. His chambers were his own; his one sanctuary from the chaos of the universe. Granted, this security was a delusion; still everyone had a right to harbor at least one fantasy.
Now that the chambers belonged to his daughter, he wished she had more access to the sun. Her skin tone was almost identical to his, and if she wasn't careful she would develop his aversion to light. She deserved brightness and a view to a much kinder world. It would also be lovely if she had something to look at as she recovered from her concussion.
Tonight-or was it today?-the windows would have been a benefit to him as well. It always helped to cast a messenger patronus when one could get a better view of the world. Instead, he needed to imagine Hermione sitting in the sun, her face etched with concern, perhaps even a few tears.
The guilt tore at his soul, and transported him to a time he'd just as soon forget.
The vial was minuscule, yet she gazed upon it as if it was the most precious present she could have ever received.
"I did what I could," Severus began.
Hermione's hands trembled as she took it. "Thank you."
"Do not thank me just yet."
Severus' eyes trailed down the pathway from the IV bag to the catheter in Hermione's hand. He gazed into her hollow yet somehow glistening eyes. Her signature wild mane had long since fallen out, yet a few holdout strands remained on her scalp.
"My potion cannot prevent the cancer from recurring," he began.
"But it can delay it?" she asked.
"Yes," Severus whispered. "It could delay a recurrence of the cancer, but it cannot prevent it. Eventually you will become ill again."
"How soon will that be?"
"By my estimates, if you take that potion every month, then you have at least a few more years before your relapse."
She gestured for him to come closer. He stood frozen in place.
"Severus." She set the vial at her side.
He crept closer to her.
She clung to him. "Thank you."
"Why are you thanking me?" Severus backed. "I have done nothing but delay the inevitable."
"You gave me time," Hermione answered. "You gave me more time with the children and you."
"I could not find the cure, nor could I find a way to flush all the residual dark magic from your body," he replied. "For those reasons alone, you should despise me."
"How could I despise the person who worked for such a long time to give me this?"
"I promised you a cure, and all I have given you is a way to delay the inevitable. There is nothing admirable in that."
"But you gave me time," she answered. "Last week I believed this to be my final month on earth, but now I might have several years left."
"You should have decades and centuries left."
"I was never guaranteed a long life. None of us are. All I wanted was to see my children graduate from Hogwarts, to see them get married, and to laugh a few more times with you. Now I have it."
"I wish I could give you more."
"You've already given me far more than I thought I'd ever receive."
Severus' throat constricted. "The potion will work so long as you are under minimal stress. If you become too distressed the dark magic remaining in your body could flare up, prompting a relapse."
"I suppose I'll have to work hard at having a happy and relatively stress-free life then," Hermione answered.
Severus' expression softened. "Yes, I suppose we will have to work on giving you the most pleasant life possible."
A happy and relatively stress-free life? Severus snorted. How arrogant could I have been? I cannot even give her a pleasant vacation without mucking it up. What will become of her if she discovers what has occurred? Will this memory lapse only happen once, or will it be a nightly occurrence? Worse, what if one morning I awaken with no memory of her? What will become of us then?
The creaking of Rose's bed interrupted his musings. He glanced back at her. There was a hint of a smile on her face, as if she had found peace amidst the turmoil of the night.
What will become of Rose, Victor, and Violet if this memory lapse is permanent?
Severus scowled. This meditation does me no good. Right now I should be focused on communicating with my wife, not worrying about the future.
He faced the doorway and held out his wand. Then he took a deep breath and shut off every memory, save one…
Hermione held up her hands, just in time to prevent the water from splashing her face. She laughed. "Severus! Stop!"
"Why ever would you want me to stop?" Severus asked before kicking up the water again.
"Because you're making me wet," she gasped.
Severus glided across the still waters until he was seated beside her. "I thought the entire point of skinny dipping in our hot tub was to become wet."
"It is," Hermione admitted. "But I'm trying to keep my hair dry."
"Why would your hair need to be dry?"
"Because it's a horrid mess when it's half wet, and half dry."
"It looks perfectly wonderful to me."
"That's because you don't have to untangle it."
"I see," he answered before grabbing his wand.
Her eyes grew. "What are you doing?"
"Severus I'm warning you, don't you dare."
His wand glowed a bright red.
"If you turn on the jets so help me."
A thornless black rose appeared on the side of the tub.
"Oh," Hermione muttered as Severus dropped his wand.
He picked up the flower and put it in her hair. "I swear witch, you give me no credit."
"No," Hermione admitted. "I suppose I do forget that you are the kindest, sweetest, and cutest wizard I have ever met."
He raised an eyebrow. "Did you just call me cute?"
She grinned. "I did."
He gave her a playful scowl. "I should dunk your hair in the water for that insinuation alone."
"If you do so then you will be sleeping in one of the guest rooms tonight."
"Witch," he purred before capturing her lips.
A wispy otter appeared before him. He stared down at it.
"Find Hermione Snape and tell her: I deeply apologize for not meeting you in Brazil. The situation I have encountered is complicated. All will be explained when we next meet. Right now, I am in Rose's quarters tending to her needs. All that being said," he swallowed. "I do love you more than I ever thought it possible to love a woman."
"Would you like another cup of tea?" Victor asked.
Hermione shook her head. "No, but thank you for the offer."
"Are you sure?" he asked. "I can make more."
She ran her index finger along the rim of her cup. "I'm positive that I don't want anymore."
Victor extended his hand. She gave him the cup.
"You should get some rest," Hermione suggested. "You have a big day ahead of you in court."
"I could say the same to you," Victor answered. "Get some sleep before finding Dad. Merlin knows he doesn't want to see you stressed."
"I wouldn't be so stressed if he was with me in Brazil."
Victor put the cup into the sink. He snapped his fingers. The cups began cleaning themselves.
"The only place where a tracking spell doesn't work is Hogwarts," Hermione mused aloud.
"Do you still believe he's there?" Victor asked.
"Perhaps," Hermione sighed. "Perhaps I just hope he's there because at least he'd be safe if he was with Rose. Then again, they may both have gotten in trouble, but you'd think someone could have come and helped them out of whatever trouble they had found themselves in."
Victor turned to her. "We'll find him, I promise."
She exhaled. "I just pray he isn't in the Shrieking Shack."
"Why would he be there?" Victor asked.
"I don't know," Hermione admitted. "But sometimes I still have nightmares about seeing him bleed out after Nagini's bite. I wonder if I should've done more to save him. Sure, he survived, but it was such a close call."
"Mum," Victor whispered.
"Then I suppose there are the wolves," Hermione's eyes bulged. "Nagini's bite was mild compared to the wounds Fenrir inflicted."
"I can't," Hermione choked. "I've seen your father in so much life harrowing situations. Twice he's almost died before my eyes, and twice I almost mourned him."
"Let's not think about that right now."
"I would love to think about something else. If I could obliviate those moments from my mind I would, but I can't!"
"They always say that you'd know if something happened to a spouse. They claim there's some the of soul connection between them," Hermione continued. "But I was originally one half of the Destiny Duo. It was my responsibility to keep the Golden Duo together, even if it killed me. You wouldn't exist had that worked out. I would be miserable if fate had worked out as people claimed it would."
Victor sat down and grasped Hermione's hand. "You and Dad are connected. I'm convinced that if Dad was in peril, you would know."
"I don't know what to think anymore," tears flooded Hermione's eyes. "My life is far more wonderful than anyone projected that it would be, and I'm terrified that everything will come crashing down on me. I'm afraid that in a half hour I will be in Neville's office, and he will explain that there was an accident in that stupid Shrieking Shack…good God why has no one torn it down?"
"I don't know."
"I am so terrified that he will tell me that Severus' body is out somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, and…why am I telling my son any of this!"
"Because you need someone to talk to, and Aunt Ginevra is still asleep."
"No, I should be stronger," Hermione argued. "I should be keeping you children out of my crises."
He squeezed her hand. "I'm here for you Mum."
"No, no I should be there for you. I'm your mother, the one who's supposed to protect you from all of this."
"You're allowed to be human."
She looked up. A wispy otter stood before her. It opened its mouth and began to speak.
The otter could only complete its first sentence, for Hermione broke down and wept at the sound of her husband's voice.