AN: Thank you all so much for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
No matter how many times Hermione tried to remind herself that Rose was twenty-five, her daughter would always be that baby cuddling her toy snake against her chest. Something about watching her daughter sleep would always transport Hermione back to those sleepless nights when baby Rose would look up at her at Severus with an innocent expression, as if to question why her parents appeared so exhausted. While Hermione was proud of the adult Rose had become, part of her could not let go of the infant she had once been.
"Do you think we should leave?" Severus whispered.
Hermione shook her head. "I would like to check in with my parents. It feels wrong to come here and not at least say 'hello' to them. If Rose hasn't awakened by the time I finish speaking with them, then we may go."
"Fair enough," Severus replied.
Rose groaned and buried herself deeper into the blankets.
Hermione crept towards the hallway.
"Mum?" Rose groaned.
"Go back to sleep," Hermione whispered.
"No, I'm awake," Rose pried open her eyes. "What brings you here?"
"I only wanted to see how you were doing."
"I am well," Rose replied before scanning the room. Her eyes rested on her father.
"Hello Little One," Severus replied.
Rose sat up straighter. "Dad. I did not expect you to be here."
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"I thought it would be best to check on you before I begin brewing," Severus replied.
Rose blinked. "Thank you for the consideration."
Hermione cocked her head. Her husband and daughter were hiding something, but she was at a loss for what it could be.
"Is there something troubling you, Rose?" Hermione asked.
"No, no I'm fine," Rose stretched, allowing the blanket to slide off her torso.
Hermione frowned. "Is that your father's t-shirt?"
"No," Severus replied. "It's Rose's t-shirt."
Rose smirked. "Indeed it is."
Hermione groaned. "Severus, that was supposed to be a Christmas gift from your father-in-law."
"I know," Severus replied. "But wouldn't you agree that Rose pulls off short sleeves better than I ever could?"
"You pull off short sleeves just fine."
Severus' impish expression matched Rose's.
"Honestly, it would not kill you to bare your arms every so often. At the very least you would look less conspicuous when we go to the beach."
"Perhaps I do not mind standing out in a crowd," Severus replied.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I suppose it would be too much to ask that you behave like a normal person."
"It would be," he purred. "Yet, I never took you for someone who was drawn to 'normal people.'"
Rose rolled her eyes. Must they do this now?
"I will admit that I have always had a taste for the exotic," Hermione blushed.
Severus pulled her closer. "Indeed you do."
"How exactly did you intimidate young couples again, Dad?" Rose interrupted.
"It was quite easy," Severus replied. "The Snape glare is quite effective on lovesick dunderheads, as you well know."
"I wonder how effective your glare would be if your students could get a glimpse into the future and see how flirtatious you are with Mum."
Hermione laughed. "While attending Hogwarts even I had difficulty believing that your father had a romantic cell in his body."
"Yet your children are living proof that he does," Rose replied.
Hermione looked in the direction of the hallway. "Hello Dad."
Wilford hobbled over on his cane and pulled her into a hug. "It's so great to see you again."
Hermione returned the embrace. "It's great to see you as well, though I wish we were meeting under more pleasant circumstances."
"Yes," Wilford turned to his granddaughter. "How are you feeling, Rose?"
"Much better after my nap," she replied.
"You look better than you did this morning anyway," Severus noted.
Wilford cut in, "Severus. It is nice to see you as well."
"Indeed," Severus replied. "I only wish I could stay longer."
"Oh?" Muriel strolled down he hallway. "Are you leaving so soon?"
"Indeed I must," Severus replied. "Rose had a few potions she put on stasis before her untimely accident. I want to grab a few ingredients and finish the process of brewing them so they do not lose their magical properties."
All eyes fell on Rose.
She smiled. "Yes, in all the excitement of the last few days I almost forgot about my potions. Thank you for tending to them."
"It is my pleasure." Severus kissed her forehead and continued in a quiet, low voice, "Keep your mother busy for as long as possible. If I am healthy I will send a Patronus within the hour. If you do not see it then stall her."
"I will," Rose whispered.
"Thank you." Severus kissed her on the cheek. "I love you Little One."
There was a spark in Rose's eyes. "I'm not little."
"You have yet to surpass me in height," Severus teased. "Ergo you remain Little One."
Rose giggled. "Fair enough."
He looked at Hermione and her parents. "Thank you again for taking care of my daughter."
"It is our absolute pleasure," Muriel answered.
"Listen, if you need anything, please let us know," Wilford offered.
"I will," Severus answered.
Hermione swallowed. "I love you."
Severus gave her a half grin. "I love you as well."
With that, he threw the floo powder into the fireplace and called out his address. Then he stepped into the flames.
Hermione stared at the spot where he stood, wondering what on earth he wasn't telling her.
Neville leaned back in his leather chair and folded his hands. "I never thought I would see the day that Draco Malfoy asked me for a favor."
Draco frowned. "Believe me, I despise myself at the moment, but desperate times call for desperate measures."
"Fair enough," Neville sat up straighter.
"Do we have a deal, or not?" Draco asked.
Neville glanced up at the sleeping portrait of Dumbledore. Then his eyes drifted to the placard on the wall which simply read, "Severus Snape."
"The headmasters of Hogwarts have always had a complicated history with politicians," Neville admitted. "No matter what we do, it seems that we cannot run a school without having an opinion on the Ministry."
"Unfortunately that seems to be the price you must pay for being the only Wizarding school in Britain," Draco noted.
"Yes," Neville returned his attention to Draco. "Under most circumstances I would tell you to find another endorsement, but it seems that present circumstances do not allow me to remain neutral."
Draco exhaled. "Believe me, I am just as incredulous about the turn of events as you are. Never in my life did I think I would need a thing from you."
"Please do not think our previous relationship-or lack thereof-is influencing my course of action. Still, I want to be honest about where I stand," Neville replied.
Neville set his hands on the desk. "My issue with giving an official endorsement from Hogwarts is that I have not consulted any other staff members about doing so. If Hogwarts is to give any endorsement, it must be an unanimous decision."
"I understand," Draco replied.
"This puts me in quite a bind because my professors are in the middle of a crisis, one which the Ministry is perpetuating by remaining silent. The best way to resolve this crisis is to draw attention to it. I fear the only way to draw attention to it is to make it a campaign issue."
Headmaster Longbottom stood up. "My solution is that I will give you an official endorsement. It needs to be clear that I am acting along though. An official endorsement from Hogwarts will not come until an unanimous decision is made on who to endorse, if we decide to back anyone at all."
Draco released the breath he'd been holding. He grabbed and shook Neville's hand. "Oh thank you Headmaster Longbottom. You won't regret this."
"Of course I won't," Neville's lips curled up. "I can now throw it in your face that you owe me a favor."
Draco's face fell. The headmaster laughed.
"Don't laugh too loudly," Draco warned. "I will control the budget."
"And I will retain control of the minds and hearts of the next generation," Headmaster Longbottom replied.
"Arthur Weasley! What in blazes are you doing here?"
Headmaster Longbottom's expression hardened. "Would you like to help me protect the school again?"
Draco grinned. "It would be my honor."
Neville pulled out his wand. "Then let's not waste any more time."