Severus padded down the hallway, knowing who would be there.
His enchanting wife, who drew him to her not with Fae tricks, but by her very nature. She was warm where he was withdrawn, and compassionate where he often hesitated, drawing him into the light with her. He saw the world as he never had before, with her at his side.
“I thought that I would find you here,” Severus murmured, as he slipped his arms around his wife. Hermione trilled in response, a happy note to her voice.
“Did you?” Hermione teased; her eyes warm as they met his.
They both knew that she couldn’t stay away from the nursery, as taken as she was with their daughter, Alice. She had her mother’s fair coloring with freckles splashed across her nose, while she favored Severus with her dark hair, and knowing eyes. Alice had them both wrapped around her little finger since she was born, though Severus was more discreet with his visits to the nursery, often slipping in to check on her during the night.
This pattern wouldn't change in the future, though neither Hermione nor Severus were fond of soothsaying. They would have another daughter, Jane, and a son, Charles (though he would always be called 'Charlie,' to Severus’s amusement, considering his son’s serious nature) and would be as taken with each as they were with Alice.
Given her small frame, pregnancy was a challenge for his wife. Severus spent significant time brewing potions for her, knowing how much she depended on anti-nausea potions, and ones to induce her appetite. She had a craving for sweet things, a symptom of her Fae nature as Severus added sugar cubes and drizzled honey into her tea. He found there wasn’t enough that he could do for her, the memory of Alice’s birth one that he would never forget.
He had been afraid to touch her afterward, remembering her pained cries. Her labor was long and harsh, as Severus tended to her, with their House-elf assisting him. Afterward, Hermione had cuddled their daughter close, while Severus lay beside them with tears in his eyes. “Beautiful," he'd whispered, the word directed toward both his wife and his daughter.
Yet it was an experience that he wouldn’t put his wife through again, as he held her at night, but made no move to make love to her. It wasn’t until she’d huffed and placed his hand on her tender breasts that he realized he was shutting her out and had taken her once more -
Though he’d been sure to create a Fae safe contraceptive potion, one that Hermione had willingly taken for a little over a year until she'd confessed that she wanted another child with him. She’d kissed his cheeks and the Romanesque nose that she loved, and whispered dreams of their expanding family; a dream that he came to share. It was beyond him to resist her and her whims, and he willingly gave into her.
“My heart,” he called her, meaning every word.
He felt the swell of her stomach as she cuddled against him, the manor still never warm enough for her. There were times when he’d panicked, unable to find her, until he found her sound asleep in their clawfoot bath.
The thought made Severus smile, as he remembered the last time, he’d found her there. Hermione had awoken to the rustle of his clothing, as he shed his robes and slipped in behind her. They’d explored each other with greedy hands and sweet kisses, leading to her current state.
“Come to bed, wife,” Severus said, his tone as coaxing as it was when he called Alice down from the high ceiling. For there was nothing that the toddler liked more than flying high above her parents, with her luminescent wings fluttering as fast as a hummingbird’s. She could hide them at will but rarely did, as Hermione watched on with a rueful smile. (Her own scars had never healed, nor could Severus bring her wings back once more.)
The manor would be filled with peals of delight as Hermione tried to coax their daughter down, often promising another story before bed, while Severus swiftly used ‘Accio, Alice!’, or took to his broom to get her down. Alice kept both of them on their toes, though neither of them minded.
They both found that a private life suited them, one that saw Severus treating patients from afar with his potions, and Hermione immersed in her studies, and in her family. Neither had a desire to leave the cocoon they shared, though they often took Alice on trips around the countryside, and into the woods that surrounded the manor, and called to the little Fae.
For Alice was like her mother in more than one way, and shared her delight for nature, as drooping flowers suddenly bloomed as they passed, and wild animals emerged, eager for their attention. Yet no matter how much Alice giggled at a prancing deer, or cooed over a chipmunk demanding pets from her, there was no creature that she loved more than Crookshanks.
The rather independent creature was never far from Alice's side, and often kept watch by curling up beside her at bedtime. He was protective toward her since she was a baby, batting at the hands of the House-elf that helped them, and hissing when a gnome found its way into her room. The fiery kneazle had chased the intruder away and snapped at its heels until it tumbled through an open window, and went skittering into the woods.
The few times that Crookshanks wasn't with Alice, he was nestled in Hermione's lap or attempting to swipe various ingredients off of Severus's desk.
It was a life unlike any that Severus had imagined, yet one he found impossible to abandon. The mere thought of leaving his family made his heart ache, and he knew that he would never, ever leave them as his own father had often threatened to do. “Go!” he’d often longed to cry, “Just go!”
Those were words that he would never tell his wife nor his children, and hoped with every ounce of his being, that he never heard in turn. Severus wanted to be more than his father ever was, and would never subject his family to drunken rages, or screaming matches. Nor would Hermione allow him, as she often drew his head into her lap, and combed her fingers through his hair when he was upset. She knew how to soothe him and more than that, she loved him.
Severus rested his temple against hers, as he felt emotion rise in his throat. “I love you, Hermione.”
They were words that he feared he didn't say often enough, ones that he wanted to paint across her skin and watch as she delighted in him. She whispered her dreams in his ear, ones that involved both of them, with their lives entwined around the other. Now her dreams involved their children as well, dreams that Severus was happy to indulge.
He wanted to be enough for her, in a way that he had never been enough for anyone else. His mother had loved him, yet loved his father more, while his father had loved his drink far more. It was a truth that Severus had known ever since he was a child, alone in his bed, as he listened to his parents scream at one another. Inevitably it ended in his mother's tears, and Severus sneaking into her room to comfort her.
“My sweet, sweet boy,” Eileen would cry, as he tried to wipe her cheeks with his sleeve.
No, these were fears and memories that his children would never have, nor would his precious wife. Severus always softened at the sight of Hermione with their daughter; especially when she held her close and whispered how much she loved her. It was love without any strings attached; an unconditional love that Severus had desperately hungered for as a child.
And as a man, Severus acknowledged, as he was ever called to Hermione’s company. He felt whole with her love and her devotion. She’d chosen him without persuasion or cruel trick -
No, she’d chosen him with her own desire in mind.
His place at her side meant everything to him, and he adored her, more than anyone would ever know. It was Hermione that had his devotion, and the family that he was creating with her. It was an idyll dream, one that his father would have said was out of his reach. It was a dream that Severus didn't deserve, yet he held it tight against his chest and was unwilling to let it go, nor wake from.
“Hermione,” Severus said, her name like spun sugar on his tongue.
He loved her, freely, and completely.
Hermione cupped his face in her hands and nuzzled her cheek against his. "I love you too," she said, no longer stumbling over the words as she used to. She spoke English nearly as well as he did, though she hadn't lost her chitters and thrills, and the little mewls she made in bed. Severus delighted in the last, often using their coupling to teach her words she wouldn't find in her books -
"Severus," Hermione whispered, careful for their ever-curious daughter not to hear. "Will you make love to me?"
He kissed her sweetly, tasting the strawberry chapstick that she wore. “Whenever you’d like, sweetheart,” Severus promised. “Wherever you’d like."