AN: Thank you all for the support! I am deeply appreciative!
Every hour, Snape glimpsed at his wife's left arm.
He was discreet about it. Years of spying had taught him how to get a good glimpse at something without raising suspicions. So far he could not see any writing, though how long that would last remained a mystery.
Every few hours, Hermione scratched her arm.
She was discreet about it. Years of hiding from Death Eaters had taught her how to hide her every move. So far, she could not see any writing, though how long that would last remained a mystery.
They didn't dare broach the subject of her health during the day. It was far better to conduct research on the amnesia epidemic in the library as if nothing were amiss.
Hermione peeked up from her newspaper. Severus' eyes were on the parchment before him, tapping his finger against the arm rest of his chair.
She set her newspaper on her lap, then lifted her right hand towards her left arm. Just as her fingers dug into her skin, Severus' eyes fell on her.
She froze mid-motion.
His eyes grew.
"I'm fine," she whispered.
His attention remained on her arm.
She resumed scratching, as if the itch were as common place as a bug bite.
"You do not need to protect me."
Severus locked eyes with her. "If you are ill, please let me know so we can get you to St. Mungo's."
"What will they say to me, exactly?" Hermione asked. "An itchy arm hardly qualifies as an urgent care case."
"It does if it means your health is failing," Severus answered.
"The writing has not appeared yet and I do not feel any change in my magic," Hermione noted. "We still have time."
Severus' chest went cold.
Hermione stopped scratching. "I promise you, that I feel healthy at the moment."
"It flares up sometimes," she continued. "We both know that. Usually it means nothing."
"You've scratched yourself four times today."
She took a shaky breath. "So you did notice."
"I have," Severus admitted.
"Please love, I am pleading with you. Do not protect me from this," Severus began. "Please tell me how you are feeling."
Hermione's throat constricted. "I feel terrified."
His parchment fell to the floor.
"I am terrified of dying without having fully reconciled with my children. I am terrified of dying before we find a cure for your illness. Most of all though," Hermione choked. "I'm terrified of saying and leaving you alone with this mess."
"Regardless of what happens, I will manage."
"You shouldn't be merely managing. You should be living a happy and full life."
"Who said my life isn't happy and full?"
Hermione's lip quivered.
"I need you to listen to me and believe what I am about to tell you."
"You were the person who taught what happiness was. If I had any joy in life, it was because of you," Severus exhaled. "Regardless of what happens this next year, know that I love you Hermione Snape. I love you more than I ever thought it possible to love any woman."
"I love you too." Hermione leapt into his arms. "I love you so much."
For one long moment they clung to each other, desperate for any type of comfort the other could give.
Hermione stood. Severus turned his head to the fireplace.
"Mum? Dad? Are you home?"
Hermione ran to the fireplace, Severus close behind her.
"We're right here, Rose," Hermione called.
The ashen face in the fireplace cleared her throat. "May I enter?"
"There is no need to ask such a question," Severus replied. "You know that you are always welcome here."
The parents backed away from the fireplace. Upon stumbling over the hearth, Rose sneezed. Still she made no effort to brush herself off.
Hermione and Severus stared at Rose, as if they were actors awaiting their director to call "action."
Rose coughed. "I am happy to see you both, and I hope you are doing well."
Severus stared at Rose. There were dark circles under her eyes, and her hair was as greasy as his. She was wearing her black robes, even if they appeared two sizes too big for her.
She looked exactly like a Snape.
Rose looked at Severus. "You are doing well, are you not?"
"I am far less concerned about myself than I am about you," Severus replied.
Rose shrugged "I am doing well, all things considered."
"Indeed," Severus drawled.
Rose's voice cracked. "You did not come to see me on Wednesday."
"I thought you would appreciate the space," Severus replied.
"You were correct. I do need space to process all of this," Rose admitted.
"Yet, I did miss you."
"I missed you as well."
Rose turned to Hermione. "I missed you as well, Mum. I miss both of you desperately."
"Oh Rose, we're right here." Hermione approached her daughter.
Rose's eyes clouded with tears. "I am so sorry Mum and Dad. I am sorry that I yelled at you, and that I treated you as if you were horrid people. You have always been outstanding parents, and have always been an inspiration to me. I have not been appreciative of your love as of late, and I am so sorry."
"Little One," Severus whispered as he embraced her.
"I'm sorry," Rose cried into his chest. "I have been horrid to you and Mum."
He shushed her and ran his fingers through her hair. Hermione stepped over and rubbed her daughter's back.
"I am so sorry."
Severus kissed her on the forehead.
"I love you both so much, and I have not shown you that these past few weeks," Rose sniffed.
"We love you too," Hermione replied. "And we forgive you."
"Yes, we do," Severus answered.
Rose looked at her father, then at her mother. She croaked, "thank you."
Hermione kissed her cheek.
"I did not," Rose steadied her breathing. "I did not come here only to plead for your forgiveness."
"Oh," Hermione answered.
"I came her to tell you that I would like to resume the project I had begun with Dad," Rose's voice was soft. "Assuming you are still interested of course."
"You know I am," Severus replied.
"Good," Rose released her dad. "Because I cannot do it alone, and I miss talking to you."
Severus gave her a small smile. "I would love nothing more than to resume the project with you."
Rose relaxed. "I am relieved to hear it."
"When would you like to begin?" Severus asked.
"Wednesdays still work." Rose's eyes grew big. "Unless you need to meet sooner."
Severus and Hermione glanced at each other.
"I would like to resume the project as soon as it is convenient for you," Severus replied.
"Has there been…"
"Not yet," Hermione flashed her arm at Rose. "There are no markings, although it has been itching as of late."
Rose lowered her head. "I apologize for the role I have played in that."
"That is not your fault," Severus began. "We knew it could happen someday."
"But I was so awful to you, and..."
Severus put a finger over her mouth. "We knew this could happen someday. There is nothing we could have done to prevent this."
Hermione lowered her arm.
"Now," Severus asked. "When would you like to meet?"
"I have detentions tomorrow night," Rose smirked. "I have become infamous as of late for my liberal use of detention slips; almost as infamous as my dad."
"Still, I am free on Sunday, assuming that works for you," Rose replied.
Severus gave her a genuine smile. "Sunday sounds perfect."
"I am glad to hear it," Rose answered.
Silence fell between them.
A tear rolled down Rose's eye. "I love you both."
"We will always love you, Rose," Hermione answered.
"Indeed," Severus replied. "We love you very much, Little One."
Rose stretched out her arms. Hermione and Severus embraced her.
Finally, Rose was home.