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Severus was used to leery expressions.
During the war, nobody trusted him. Although Voldemort shared his darkest plans with Severus, there was always a strong hex to ensure the subordinate stayed in line. After discussing strategies to win the war, Dumbledore often gave Severus a sideways glance, as if he was trying to determine if the spy was truly on the side of the light. While Headmaster, Severus was all too aware of the accusations of "treason" leveled against him behind his back. Still, he knew where he stood. If he shut himself off from others, he could tolerate being distrusted. Not once did he ever lose sleep over someone's lack of faith in him.
Rose's expression pierced his soul.
He cleared his throat and focused his eyes on the woman before him. "Yes, Hermione?"
Without a word, she approached the bed. Severus moved over, allowing her to sit beside him.
"I, I'm so sorry," Hermione began. "I did not mean for any of this to happen."
"You have nothing to apologize for," Severus answered. "The fault is all mine."
"No, the idea to lie about Rose's paternity was mine," Hermione whispered. "This is all my fault."
"No, it is mine. I destroyed our family."
"That isn't true."
"It is," Severus replied. "I was the one who encouraged you to deceive our daughter. Even when you suggested telling her the truth, I demanded that you lie to her."
"You did not make any demand," Hermione replied. "We discussed the matter of disclosing Rose's paternity and agreed together that Rose would be better off not knowing her true origins."
"If only we were correct in assuming she would never discover them on her own."
Hermione put her hand onto his. Severus glanced over at her.
He whispered, "No one had ever trusted me as much as Rose did."
Hermione rubbed her thumb along the back of his hand.
"It mattered little to her that I was a Death Eater. She heard about the atrocities I committed in the name of the dark and the light, yet I remained her hero. Regardless of the crimes, of the victims, I remained her loving father. Even the name Charity Burbage meant nothing to her. As far as Rose was concerned, I had little choice in whether or not I should allow Charity to die. She always," Severus' throat constricted. "She always thought I did the right thing. Even when any rational person would vilify me, she insisted that I had done the right thing."
Hermione squeaked, "I never meant to shatter her relationship with you."
"You did nothing wrong," Severus answered. "You were protecting her from the truth. When you realized it was time for her to know of her origins, I prevented you from doing so. I shattered my own relationship with Rose, not you."
Silence fell between them once more.
"She will forgive you," Hermione whispered.
"How certain are you of that?" Severus asked.
"Very," she replied.
Severus bowed his head. "I only wanted her to feel loved. How could that simple goal become so distorted so quickly?"
Hermione released his hand and began to massage his back. "You couldn't have known Percy's plan. Neither of us could have ever imagined he would be interested in the truth, much less discover it."
"Perhaps I should have gone to Australia an hour before my amnesia set in. I would not have been arrested had I done so."
"You would have become too disoriented to remain hidden, and could have created more trouble there than you did here."
"How could I have done any worse than betraying my daughter?"
"A passerby could have been seriously injured, a muggle could have seen you performing magic, or something else would have happened which would have caused you to land in an Australian jail."
"I would have kept my relationship with my daughter intact. If she had never spoken with Percy, she would have remained oblivious to the truth," Severus swallowed. "We would still be a family."
"Giving Rose those documents was only a trap to lure her into his office. Percy has known about her origins for quite some time. He was simply waiting for an opportunity to use it against us."
The silence suffocated the room.
"How much time do you think she will need before she speaks to us again?" Severus asked.
"I wish I knew," Hermione whispered.
"As do I," Severus replied.
The parents stared at the doorway, wondering how such good intentions could result in such a horrid outcome.
Rose stumbled through the fireplace and into her living quarters. Once the firelight dimmed, she collapsed to the ground and allowed the tears to flow.
She glanced up at the lit wand before her.
The candles in the room lit themselves. Both of her siblings stood before her.
"Wh-what are you two doing here?"
"We came to see how you were doing," Victor replied.
Rose opened her mouth, but instead of speaking, she crumpled into a fit of sobs.
Victor embraced her as Violet rubbed her back.
"Just let it out," he whispered.