AN: Thank you so much for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
What has become of my Patronus?
Severus' mind wandered to Hermione and her possible emotional state. How stressed is she? What was her reaction to the the sound of my voice? Is she relieved, infuriated, or disappointed? Does she even want to be in my presence?
A beam of light illuminated the room.
Rose groaned and tossed the blankets over her head. Severus scowled at the ray of light. After all these years, one would think that Neville Longbottom could create a corporeal Patronus. Perhaps some things do not change though, even with increased life experience.
"There is a staff meeting at four this afternoon," the Patronus began.
"If Rose is unwell, I do not expect her to attend. Still, if she is able to attend, we would appreciate her perspective on last night's events."
"I will be sure to inform her of the meeting," Severus replied.
The room went dark.
Severus stared at the spot where the Patronus had been. Did Hermione ignore my Patronus? Is she heading here as we speak? Where is she?
"What did Headmaster Longbottom want?" Rose moaned as she poked her head out from under the covers.
"There is a staff meeting at four this afternoon to discuss the events of last night," Severus replied.
"I see," Rose pried open her eyes.
"Do not feel compelled to attend," Severus warned. "You should not further injure yourself."
"No, I will be fine."
"You will be fine if you rest."
Rose yawned. "I will not set an alarm. If I am awake at four then I will attend, but if not I will remain asleep. Is that acceptable?"
"The only acceptable solution is for you to stay asleep and not push yourself," Severus argued.
"Still, you are just as stubborn as I am. Thus I will accept your conditions."
Rose shut her eyes. Her breathing slowed. Severus continued to stare at her.
How could I have ever forgotten you?
The fireplace erupted.
He rushed over to the fireplace. "Hermione?"
She leapt through the hearth and grabbed him. She ran her hands along his back. "Severus, is it really you?"
"Who else would I be?" he asked.
"Oh Severus," she laughed through her tears. "I was so worried about you."
He embraced her. "I am here now, love."
Her body was racked with sobs. "I've been searching for you for hours. I was so scared something had happened to you."
"I'm here now," Severus whispered before kissing the top of her forehead.
She looked up at him. "Where have you been all night?"
"Yes, I was here all night."
Severus pointed to Rose's bedroom. Hermione detached herself from Severus and peeked into the doorway. She lowered her voice. "Why is Rose asleep? Doesn't her first class begin in a half hour?"
"She will not be teaching today."
"She has sustained a concussion," Severus replied.
"A what?" Hermione exclaimed.
Hermione put her hands over her mouth. "Sorry."
"There is no need to apologize," Severus took her hand. "Let's sit down."
"Yes, let's," Hermione replied.
Together, they made their way to the couch. They sat down without releasing each other's hands.
"How did Rose sustain a concussion?" Hermione whispered.
"Colloportus," Severus intoned.
The door to Rose's room shut itself.
"Severus, what is going on?" Hermione asked.
Severus cleared his throat and cast a muffliato spell. "I completed my brewing an hour ahead of schedule. I did not know if you were still speaking at the conference, so I decided to floo Rose for a friendly chat."
"I thought I told you that my conference would finish four hours before your estimated time of arrival."
Severus twisted his lips.
"Even if the conference had not concluded, I would have been more than happy for you to attend my lecture."
"I know, but I did not want to interrupt the proceedings."
"Fine, you didn't want to interrupt the conference, but that doesn't explain why you flooed Rose."
"When I last spoke with Rose, she had mentioned that she was on the cusp of conducting a sensitive experiment. I was curious as to whether or not she wanted my advice."
Severus took a deep breath. He glanced down at her arm.
How can I tell her the truth about my condition if I do not understand what occurred myself? If this was an event which will never repeat itself, is it wise to upset her? Perhaps nothing will come of what occurred tonight. It may be better to leave well enough alone.
Yet, can I look myself in the face tomorrow knowing I am deceiving my wife today?
"Rose and I discussed the experiment for twenty minutes," Severus continued. "She mentioned needing a dragon lily, but believed that the younger its blossom, the better."
"There are plenty of places where she could have bought a dragon lily on the verge of blossoming. Why could she not have bought one in the morning?"
"She felt it was too urgent to wait until the morning."
"No," Hermione replied. "This story makes absolutely no sense."
"Please love, let me finish," Severus answered.
"Don't you dare call me 'love' when you're lying to my face," Hermione snapped.
"I want you to tell me exactly what happened, no matter how unpleasant the truth may be. Why did you not come to Brazil?"
Severus gazed into her eyes. Even now he could smell the disinfecting spells and hear the murmuring of the Mediwitches in the hall. Hermione could never be placed in that situation again, never.
"Damnit Severus," Hermione hissed. "Don't you dare start shutting me out."
"I apologize for my distance," he replied.
"If you're so sorry, then give me the truth," she snapped.
How can I give you the truth when I'm not entirely sure what it is?
"What are you not telling me?" Hermione asked.
Severus released her hand. "Just before I left for Brazil, Headmaster Longbottom informed me that Rose was injured in the middle of a potions accident. I panicked, and flooed over to tend to her."
"Why did Scorpius not tell me that in the first place?" Hermione asked.
"We were afraid you would become overly stressed," Severus admitted. "We wanted to ensure that Rose was healthy before informing you of anything."
Hermione gritted her teeth. "I am not helpless."
"I'm all too aware of that fact."
"Apparently you aren't or else we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"Hermione, please listen…"
"No, you need to listen."
"For the last six hours I have been making floo calls, scouring our apothecaries, and searching our mansion for some trace of you. Every possible horrendous scenario which could have happened to you ran through my head. When I finally saw that Patronus," Hermione shook. "I'd never been so happy to see mist in my life. I almost ran into the fireplace without throwing in the floo powder because I was so relieved. Then I come here and…"
Severus leaned closer.
Hermione's face was rouge. "Instead of being given a reasonable explanation from your absence, I am told one lie after another. Instead of being united with my loving husband, I am forced to interact with a liar."
Severus bowed his head.
"I understand being scared for our daughter, and I could understand being unable to send a Patronus for a couple of hours. There is little time to floo during an emergency such as a concussion, so I can forgive that oversight. Yet for six hours? You couldn't contact me for six hours?"
Severus slouched down further.
"How could you neglect to contact me for six hours?
"I," Severus gulped. "Time escaped me."
"This isn't you," Hermione replied. "None of this is like you, and I'm trying to piece everything together."
"I have behaved abysmally tonight," Severus admitted.
"Well you couldn't have picked a worse night to decide and be an arse," Hermione argued.
Severus asked, "What exactly happened earlier?"
The tears returned to Hermione's eyes. "Ron attended my lecture."
"What?" Severus hissed.
Hermione nodded. "Ron interrupted my talk to ask if I had ever loved him."
Severus buried his face in his hands.
"Security escorted him off the premises, but he waited for me outside," Hermione choked. "He attempted to seduce me into dropping the charges. When that failed he threatened to expose his relationship with Rose."
Severus' eyes hardened.
"I made," Hermione took a shaky breath. "I made a speech to him about how loving you were, how things were so much better with you than they were with him. How could I have ever known that on the day I made an impassioned speech defending you, you would lie to my face?"
Severus' voice was soft. "I cannot take back my actions, but if there is anything I can do moving forward which would give you the slightest hint of joy, then tell me. I will do it."
"Can you force the Ministry to get off their arses and extradite Ron?"
"If only I could."
Hermione wiped her face. "Please Severus, I am pleading with you, never lie to me again. You are the one person I trust. I, I do not know what would become of me if I discovered my faith in you was misplaced."
"I will never attempt to deceive you again," Severus promised.
Hermione choked, "thank you."
He brushed his lips against hers. "Aside from your emotional distress, how are you faring?"
"My arm itched somewhat today, but the scars did not reappear," Hermione answered.
He captured her lips again. "I am thrilled to hear that."
"What about Rose? What is her prognosis?"
"She has a nasty bump on her head, but she will recover within a week."
"May I see her? I know she is resting, but I would appreciate seeing for myself that she is well."
"That is an excellent idea."
Severus undid the muffliato spell. He stood up and extended his hand to Hermione. She smiled and took it.
"Thank you," Hermione whispered. "Thank you for taking care of our daughter."
He kissed Hermione on the cheek. "There is never any reason to thank me for taking care of her."
Together, they left to check on their daughter.