AN: Thank you for all the support! I deeply appreciate it all!
"What do you mean, Rose knows I'm not her biological father?"
"When she went to pick up your exoneration papers, Percy goaded her into performing a DNA spell," Hermione began.
"Oh Rose," he whispered.
"She was determined to prove him wrong," she continued. "You can guess what happened next."
"Okay," Severus pinched the bridge of his nose. "There are a few ways around this."
"I would love to hear them."
"We could tell her that Percy manipulated the results…"
"She has already entertained that possibility," Hermione replied. "She's confident not only in her ability to cast the spell, but also in her ability to detect wayward magic."
"True," Snape took a deep breath. "If there's one thing Rose is not, it is incompetent in the ways of magic."
"No, she is not."
"Has she mentioned anything else?"
"She thinks I tricked you into marrying me."
"She's convinced that during the time we were allegedly separated, I slept with Ron and conceived her. After Ron rejected me, she thinks I went back to you and told you she was yours, never mentioning the possibility of it being Ron's."
"I have not contradicted the story because I didn't want to tell her the truth without your knowledge," Hermione continued.
"I appreciate that."
"I doubt Rose would have believed the truth if it came from me anyway."
"No, she probably would not have."
"I did tell her, though, the truth was complex."
"No, the truth is quite simple," Severus locked eyes with her. "Ron rejected you and nearly subjected your child to disgrace. In desperation, you asked me to raise her, and I agreed. At no point did you attempt to deceive anyone."
"Except her," Hermione answered in a soft voice. "We deceived Rose."
Severus deflated. "Yes, we did deceive Rose for her own protection."
For one long, tense they stared at each other.
"She needs you," Hermione whispered.
Severus took a ragged breath.
"Rose has convinced herself that you are irate with me, and that our marriage is all but over," Hermione stated. "She thinks that you will look upon her as a symbol of my betrayal. At the moment she thinks she thinks you plan to never see her again."
"Doesn't she know me better than that?" A tear formed in Severus' eye. "Does she not know that I would never forsake her?"
"She is extremely hurt and confused right now. If she was thinking clearly she would know that regardless of how infuriated you may be with me, you would never abandon her."
"No, I would not."
Hermione whispered, "She believes that if she did not exist you would be living the life you wanted, one which did not include children."
"Oh Merlin," Severus breathed. "Can she not realize how significantly my life improved when she came into it?"
"Deep down inside she knows that, but right now she's too busy blaming herself for the alleged breakdown of our marriage to listen to reason."
"She is not to blame for anything." Severus glided towards the doorway, "I need to make that very clear to her."
"Yes, you do," Hermione replied.
"Where is Rose now?" Severus asked.
"I believe she is still somewhere in the mansion, probably in the library."
Hermione stepped aside, allowing Severus to rush out of the room.
Halfway down the hallway, Severus called, "Please give my regards to your parents, and thank them for their hospitality."
"I will," Hermione replied.
Severus passed Wilford, but did not acknowledge his presence. Mr. Granger raised an eyebrow and turned to his daughter. "Is everything okay between you and Severus?"
"Things are as well as they could be at the moment," Hermione answered.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Wilford asked.
Hermione sighed. "It means Rose is in trouble, and we are at a loss for how best to help her."
Severus stomach churned upon seeing his daughter curled into a ball. Through the layers of clothing, he could hear her muffled sobs.
He crept towards her. "Rose."
She gasped for breath, but did not look up.
He placed a hand on her shoulder. She recoiled.
His eyes fell on the empty snifter beside her. He pushed it aside. Still, she refused to look at him.
"Rose," Severus' voice was gentle. "I would like to speak with you."
"What is there to say?"
"I'm so sorry Dad." she answered in a muffled voice. "Or should I call you Severus, now?"
"I will always be Dad," Severus answered
"Are you certain of that?"
"Yes, I am."
After a long, silent moment, she made eye contact with him. "What did Mum tell you?"
"Everything," Severus replied.
"Everything?" Rose squeaked.
"So she told you I was nothing but a filthy bastard she duped you into raising?" Rose asked.
"No," Severus answered. "She told me that the daughter I raised needed me, so I came as soon as I could."
Rose hiccuped. "She did not tell you a thing then."
"No," Severus replied. "I know about the DNA spell and what it revealed."
Tears streamed down Rose's cheeks. "You must despise my existence."
"How could I ever despise your existence?" Severus asked.
"I am the child you did not want, the one you were tricked into raising. I am a symbol of Mum's betrayal, the product of a lie. How could you not loathe me?"
"I could never loathe my beloved daughter," Severus answered.
"You are suppressing your true emotions," Rose raised her voice. "You have not fully absorbed the news of my paternity yet, thus, you are reacting as a real Dad would, not as…"
"Not as a what?"
"I do not know. I suppose I do not know how a man in your position would refer to himself."
With that, Rose's broke down into tears once more.
Severus massaged her back.
"I want you to be my Daddy, I truly do," Rose wept. "All I ever wanted was for you to be my dad."
"All I've ever wanted was for you to be my daughter," Severus whispered.
"I know," Rose wailed. "Oh please do not be angry with me. I love you Daddy! I love you so much!"
Severus picked up Rose and carried her down a hallway. Once they reached its end he opened the door. He cast a lumps spell.
The room with emerald painted walls and a Slytherin banner hanging over a silver bed. The books on the oaken shelves were for the most part potions journals, but there remained a few storybooks amongst them.
Within two minutes, Rose's muscles relaxed and her breathing evened out. She glanced up at him. With a small grin, he set her on the silver bed.
"Take off your cape," Severus began.
Her lower lip quivered.
"I do not want you to suffocate yourself, so please remove your cape."
Without a word, she complied.
"Now," Severus walked over to a white dresser drawer. He opened the top drawer and pulled out a stuffed animal.
"Mr. Snake?" Rose choked.
Severus chuckled. "Indeed."
"I did not know you still had him," she replied.
"He is a bit worse for wear," Severus admitted as he held up the tattered toy. "He is only held together with a few stitches and love, but he is still here."
Severus handed Rose the snake. She hugged it.
"Now," Severus continued, "Would you like some warm apple juice?"
Rose wiped her eyes. "Why are you doing this?"
"That is not an answer."
"True, but I would like to know what you are trying to accomplish with all of this."
"I am attempting to prove a point."
"What would that be?"
"Only your real Dad would have kept Mr. Snake in a top drawer for so many years, only your real Dad would know that you enjoy warm apple juice, and only your real Dad would lie awake all night worrying that you had fallen asleep in your cape."
Rose let out a soft chuckle.
"The point I am trying to make," Severus continued. "Is that I am your real Dad, and still consider myself as such."
"You do?" Rose squeaked.
"I do," Severus whispered.
"Even if we do not share a shred of DNA?"
"I could not care less about your genetic makeup. You are my daughter. You always have been, and you always will be."
"Thank you," Rose answered. "And you know that I will always consider you to be my dad."
"I know," Severus replied.
The light in Rose's eyes died. "What about Mum? Are you angry with her?"
"Our marriage is our concern," Severus answered. "Not yours."
"Still Mum used me to trap you."
"Your mother did no such thing."
"Of course she did," Rose argued. "She told you that I was yours when that was not the case."
"Surely you feel at least a twinge of rage towards her."
Severus kissed Rose on the forehead. "My emotions towards your mother are mine and mine alone. They are not the concern of you, Victor, or Violet."
She opened her mouth, but he put a finger on it.
"I love you," Severus replied before removing his finger from Rose's lips.
"I love you too," Rose answered.
"That being said," he continued. "You appear exhausted."
She yawned. "I suppose between the weeping and the Firewhiskey I am someone fatigued."
"How much did you have to drink?" Severus asked.
"Only one glass, yet I drink so rarely it hits me harder than most."
Severus hummed. "Very well then."
He kissed her on the cheek again. "I love you so much, Little Rose. Nothing will ever shake my devotion to you."
Rose choked, "I know."
"Good," Severus replied.
Rose whispered, "If you are still willing, I would not mind some warm apple juice."
"Very well then," Severus replied.
Rose held Mr. Snake up to her chest. "I love you, Dad."
Severus' face lit up. "The feeling is quite mutual."
For the first time all evening, Rose believed that her dad's love was unconditional.