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To Live and Let Live

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“Don’t die on me!”, “Where is that bloody phoenix when you need one? There you are, Fawkes! I told you I might need you because of that fucked up mutant of a snake again... and a lot of Dittany...”, “Breath, Professor!”

“...W-why?...”

“Don’t try to speak! I have my reasons, and if you truly want to die, then you’ll have to do it without me around!”

*

Whenever Severus had any variation of this dream based on how he hadn’t died, he would wake up completely baffled by what had happened in the infernal Shrieking Shack and later, when the girl would nurture him to full recovery, take care of him and his freedom, keep away everyone he wouldn’t want to see (especially the Potter prat and journalists). She was looking after him in her family home, where they were alone, and it was peaceful. She never wanted anything from him, be it money, books, story, apprenticeship, or... well, literally anything except for getting well.

Severus Snape not only got healthier with her help than he could remember being, but instead of getting a cell in Azkaban, he was pronounced a hero and got Order of Merlin, First Class, which he was less happy about than he’d ever think. It could have something to do with the fact that the insufferable know-it-all not only got one of the Second Class (while both her friends got First Class), but she never even showed up at the ceremony.

He would never, ever admit that he hoped to see her again. Especially on a rather social than professional ground.

But he did.

*

Hermione Granger gave him the option he had never thought possible – a chance to live. And thanks to everything she had done for him, including his new Hero Status, Severus got back his Headmaster job to show everyone what he really was as the Head of Hogwarts.

And so, the new school year was to start in a week, and he and Minerva were discussing the final details.

‘Oh, and I’m afraid we need to think of a new Head Girl, Severus. I was waiting to tell you until after I talked to her, but two days ago I got a letter from her, in which she informed me she’s not coming back to school! I wanted to go and see her, because she didn’t write any reason for giving up on her education, but somehow, I cannot find her home address. I tried to send her an owl with request to meet me, but the letter came back unopened – the owl couldn’t find her as well. I’m starting to worry, Severus.’

Not thinking much, he said calmly, ‘I’ll see what I can do. For now, let’s choose a new Head Girl. What do you say about Miss Padma Patil?’

‘Oh. I was thinking rather Miss Weasley would be perfect for the job. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Miss Granger’s almost absurdly perfect marks and literally one detention during all her years here, I would have suggested Ginevra in the first place.’

‘And that’s the only reason why I even agreed to that – Miss Granger’s school records wouldn’t allow us to not make her the Head Girl, but not because she doesn’t deserve the title, but I simply do not want to give the title to any of those “hero kids”. They are not suited for the responsibilities. Younger students will be intimidated by your reckless band. That’s also why I chose Mr Robert McArthur for the Head Boy – no matter what my opinion about Hufflepuffs is, generally, they are caring and considerate,’ So is Miss Granger, and to a greater level, he thought, ‘I also believe that the Ravenclaw twin will be a nice complement to her male counterpart, being more able to help in the academic division.’ So would be Hermione, and again in a much better way, Severus commented internally.

McGonagall sighed heavily, ‘Maybe you’re right... Oh, well. Let me know if you are able to find out why Miss Granger won’t be back, please.’

He nodded, ‘I will. And I’ll see if I can change her mind. Now, to other matters...’

*

Four days later, Severus Snape was standing in front of the house he spent a few weeks recovering after the attack of that blasted snake. He could feel her magic all over the place – spells repelling Muggles, alerting wards, Anti-Apparition Jinx, and many others. He could sense them only thanks to how much she had to use healing magic on him – to the point, actually, that she had left a permanent mark on him.

The wizard knew perfectly well why Minerva wasn’t able to contact Hermione – the Muggle-born witch figured out herself how to Place Fidelius Charm on her house.

And she let him in on the secret.

Severus took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. It was a wary young woman, who opened the door, ‘Mr Snape? What pyjama did you sleep in while recovering?’

She was cautious and he noticed she was hiding her wand hand – he completely approved of her vigilance, and smirked answering, ‘It was an AC/DC T-shirt you enlarged to fit me.’ She nodded in relief, so he went on with his question, ‘What is your most hated book?’

She grinned, ‘That bloody “The Tales of Beetle the Bard”. What can I do for you, Mr Snape?’ she moved aside to let him inside.

‘May we talk?’ he was surprised the witch wouldn’t invite him into the sitting room.

‘To be honest, I’m busy. You of all people should be able to understand,’ the hint of a smile on her lips told him a lot.

‘What are you brewing?’ he asked with a smirk.

‘Nothing much, but it still requires my attention in...’ she checked her wrist watch, ‘five minutes. It won’t take long to finish, but then I have an important appointment I cannot skip or postpone.’

‘In that case, what time would be more suitable for us to talk?’

She sighed tiredly, even though she tried to hide her weariness, ‘Could you come back tonight at 8? Will that be okay for you?’

The wizard nodded, ‘I’ll see you then, Miss Granger.’

*

Punctually, at 8, Miss Granger opened the door allowing Severus to smell dinner. ‘Will you join me for dinner, Mr Snape?’

He noticed she looked much better – washed hair and clean clothes, and what he assumed to be a subtle Glamour to hide dark shades under her eyes. He was surprised just how lovely she looked. There was no trace of the awkward schoolgirl she used to be, and in her place, there was this truly lovely and brilliant young woman.

‘Thank you,’ he nodded, and they went to the kitchen, where she served them both immediately what came to be Severus’s favourite pasta.

They were eating in the comfortable silence they worked out during his convalescence. As soon as they both finished, the witch started tea, and asked with a crooked smile, ‘So, are we waiting till we finish drinks, or will you tell me what this visit is all about now?’

‘I’m here mainly to ask why you aren’t referring to me as “Professor” anymore.’

‘As you remember, you forbade me calling you that. Your exact wording was: “I’m not your Professor anymore, you infernal girl, so stop calling me that!”’

‘I remember, but that’s not what I’m asking and you know it.’

She chuckled once, ‘Of course, I do, but what’s the fun in giving you all the information you want without you even trying?’

He almost smiled. Damn it, I missed her... ‘How about we both speak plainly, just this once? It seems we both had a rather tiring day, so let’s make this one thing easy. What do you say?’

‘Fine, ask.’ She seemed at the same time relieved and disappointed.

‘Why aren’t you coming back to school?’

Looking him straight in the eye, and with absolute seriousness, she said, ‘Because I don’t want to.’

That shocked him enough to gape at her for a moment, ‘Excuse me?’

‘You heard me well. I’m too old to be in a secondary school – I’m almost 20 for fuck’s sake. Then, I do not have the time, or money to be at boarding school.’ Severus tried to interrupt, but she held up her hand to stop him. ‘But most of all, I made some choices and I’m sticking to them. Mr Snape, I’m an adult. And don’t you dare saying “barely an adult”, because not only I’m turning 20 this September, but I have started a small business that pays the bills, so I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.’ She laughed bitterly, ‘I had been taking care of myself and those two reckless boys for a couple of years. I kept us not only safe, but I had to mother them, heal them, feed them, provide shelter, protections, comfort, I had to try and reason with them, and go into obvious traps and danger to try and keep them alive when they wouldn’t listen to me.

‘I fought people who wanted to kill and-or rape me and think me not worthy of licking their muddy boots. I was tortured, and I killed. I know how to do taxes. So, you see, I do believe I am an adult who can make my own decisions.’

Severus was pensive for a moment, ‘I sometimes forget you all had to grow up too fast, and you in particular.’ He sighed heavily, ‘Don’t you want to complete your education though?’

‘Of course, I do. I’ve already registered to participate in examination for adults at the Ministry in December. And for Muggles in June.’

When he was about to offer any help she might need, there was a shrieking sound coming from a small, radio-like device and she jumped to it. ‘What was that?’

‘Sorry. I’ll be back soon. Help yourself to more tea, and there are biscuits in the can – you know where.’ And she was gone up the stairs.

Severus decided to take a look at the Muggle, strange thing. He pressed a button Hermione used a moment ago, and he heard her voice, ‘Shhh, it’s okay, I’ll change you quickly and you can go back to sleep, my sweet...’

Severus’s blood boiled in anger. He hurried to the upper floor, and soon was standing in the door of what used to be the guest room, but now... it was turned into a nursery! Hermione was holding and singing to a tiny baby. She noticed him instantly, but sent him a look that said “If you say anything and wake the baby up, I’ll kill you”, so he waited until she put the child into the cradle and closed the door behind her.

Severus opened his mouth to speak, but she wouldn’t even look at him and walked down, back to the kitchen.

He was angry. ‘What was that shite about being adult and responsible?’ he asked mockingly, ‘If you think that the ability to spread your legs for the first boy who would use you means being adult, then not only we have nothing to talk about, but Hogwarts will not welcome you back. Good night.’

Without giving her a chance to explain the situation, he simply stormed off to the nearest Apparition point and came back to his office – there were some perks of being a Headmaster, after all.

He never saw the tears of mixed anger with disappointment running down the young woman’s face.

*

It took Severus two days of his colleagues running away from his temper to take a deep breath and think. Really think.

Why am I angry that she has a baby? Because she threw away a bright future she should have had and got pregnant, and now she’s all alone with some boy’s bastard. Potter’s or Weasley’s most probably. And it’s obvious neither of the fuckheads cares that one of them is a father.

He took a deep swig of his drink.

But WHY am I angry?

He sighed. I promised myself long time ago not to fool myself, so... he closed his eyes and dissected his thoughts and emotions.

Suddenly, Severus’s eyes snapped open and shock and almost-horror ran through his face.  Fuck! I’m-I’m jealous. Of all the things, I had to develop... feelings for HER. And now, after what I said to her, there is no chance in Hell that we could even be friends...

He groaned closing his eyes, I did it again. I fucked everything up because of my temper.

*

It took him another couple of days – well, more like two weeks in reality, but another realisation came to the young Headmaster when he was in the library and overheard a fragment of a conversation.

‘Damn it, Harry, we’ll never complete all the homework without Mione. How is it that the selfish bitch didn’t have to go back to school?’

‘No idea, mate, but even if you’re frustrated, don’t you think that calling her “bitch” is a bit much?’

‘Nah,’ the redhead menace waived Potter off, ‘she’s a bitch because now, we have to do it all on our own. How am I to find the time for my fans? And you – if anyone shouldn’t go back to school, it’s you – you saved the world! So, it’s not too much to ask for that frigid bitch to, at least, help us with the homework!’

‘Frigid? I thought you shagged her, Ron.’ The quizzical look on Potter’s face was as plain as always.

‘I wanted to, you know – she wanted me for so long, so after the battle, I thought it was a perfect moment to check if I could marry her – you, know, check if I could fuck her from time to time to make some babies and make mum happy, but the ungrateful bitch wasn’t there!’

‘Wasn’t where?’

‘Well, by my side. She should have been there, when I had a moment to take her to some more private place.’

‘Ron, that’s a really lousy thing to say about your friend. You know, I think I’ll work on my essay somewhere else.’

The ginger just shrugged, ‘Sure, mate. I have a date with that cute blond Hufflepuff from Ginny’s year.’

Severus was about to follow him to give him detentions, but was stopped by Miss Lovegood. ‘Hello, Headmaster.’

He nodded in acknowledgement, ‘Miss Lovegood.’

‘I was wandering if you know how to contact Hermione, because her birthday is coming, and I wanted to go back to sending each other cards.’

‘I’m afraid I do not know.’

‘Oh, that’s a pity,’ she seemed honestly disappointed, ‘If Hermione decides on something, she always thinks of everything, so if she doesn’t want to be found...’

‘I’m sure, that there is something she didn’t consider, so you can keep trying.’

The weird blond shook her head, ‘No. She even managed to block house-elves.’ Then she put her pointing finger to her cheek , as in thought, ‘You know, sir, she used all the extra time to learn as many spells as she could think of as useful for the war time, and even some simply practical to know in general, like the Contraceptive Charm. She said, she would have to find a way to teach that to Harry and Ron, because they would never search for it on their own. And she was only a third-year! Well, if you happen to find a way to send her a card, please, let me know. Good day, sir!’

*

In his quarters, Severus was contemplating the young woman once again, and came to a couple of option for her to be in the situation she found herself. So, if it’s definitely not Weasley, it must be Potter, so not very surprising she is hiding from the Weasleys – Molly and Ginevra would kill her for “stealing” him as a husband for the latter – handsome, famous, rich...

Then, a thought suddenly struck him dumb. She had to be pregnant while fighting, and when she was caring for me... Would it be possible for me not to notice such a thing? I know that Glamours can do wonders for the way a person appears, but... He shook his head and made a decision. He would do it just once more. And never again.

*

Miss Granger answered the door at his second knock. Her face showed momentary surprise, but quickly morphed into cold politeness, ‘Mr Snape. Unless you are injured, homeless, penniless, or need help of a different kind, I ask you to leave my home.’

Even after everything I said to her, she still is ready to honour her promise... Severus couldn’t believe it, but at the same time knew it was simply who she was, and that only strengthened his resolution to do what he came to do. ‘Miss Granger, Hermione, I came here to apologise.’

The witch held his gaze for a moment, but then a loud cry came from the kitchen vicinity and she closed her eyes and sighed tiredly, ‘Oh, don’t stand there like that. I have to prepare the formula,’ and she simply went to the baby leaving the wizard standing in the door.

Finally, he decided to follow her, and closing the door he instantly felt locking and warding spells fall back into place. In the kitchen, he saw the baby in a colourful rocker and Hermione who was singing to calm down the child, while she was preparing the special milk in a bottle.

Not exactly knowing what to do, Severus sat in a chair and simply observed as soon, she took the baby into her arms and started feeding it right next to him. She looked... serene with that beautiful small smile she had for the bundle in her arms. Finally, he needed to break the uncomfortable for him silence, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’

Hermione looked at him and the smile didn’t change (to his great surprise), ‘A girl. Her name’s Annabelle. I call her Belle.’

‘How old is she?’

‘Are you trying to determine when she was conceived?’ one of her eyebrows rose, but she kept smiling.

Severus exhaled somewhat in defeat, ‘I have no idea what to do and how to act. I came here to tell you that while it took me awfully a lot of time, I realised that I had no right to speak to you the way I did. I am the last person to judge others for doing something reckless,’ he looked meaningfully at his left forearm, ‘I am sorry for how I acted and what I said. You were nothing but kind to me and I... well. I let my temper get the best of me. I sincerely apologise.’

She was looking at him quietly in a calculating way, but soon, she nodded and simply said, ‘I accept under two conditions,’ she waited until he nodded, ‘One, you will never tell anyone about Belle without my permission; and two, you’ll call me “Hermione”.’

‘Call me Severus then, but are you sure you don’t want anyone to know? What about the father of the baby? Does he know?’

Belle chose that moment to finish eating, and Hermione placed her on her shoulder, where the girl almost instantly burped and fell asleep. The witch mouthed ‘Excuse me,’ and left to put her daughter to sleep.

She was back in just a moment. ‘Sorry, but it’s her nap time. Would you like tea or coffee?’

‘Whichever you prefer.’ With a smile, she busied herself with preparing coffee in a coffeemaker. ‘You never answered my questions.’

‘I know. And the only one I’m going to answer is: yes, I’m certain I don’t want anyone to know. At least for now.’

‘But Potter –‘ he started, but the witch interrupted.

‘That’s exactly why – everyone would instantly assume Harry’s the father, and it would make the papers and cause him a lot of trouble. With the Weasleys in particular.’

Severus only nodded in response, wearing calm facade, but internally... that was a different thing all together. If not Potter and not Weasley, then who? The baby looks to be maybe a month old? A month and a half? So she was born around the beginning of August, maybe late July, most probably. That means Belle was conceived around November? They were already camping at the time... Fuck. Was she raped? There were Snatchers everywhere... Fuck... It would be like her to not tell anyone so they wouldn’t worry. Did she get any help? Then or now? She had saved my life and then had been looking after me until I was fit to go back to Hogwarts in early July. So, now, I’ll do my best to help her. ‘I give you my word, that I will not tell anyone about Belle without your consent, Hermione.’

She smiled then at him – a real, genuine smile, which did things to him. ‘Thank you, Severus.’ And she handed him coffee in what had been his favourite, big mug during his healing under Hermione’s watch. It already had the perfect amount of sugar in it. It pushed a tiny smile onto his face. ‘So, how is being a Headmaster when on your terms?’

Surprisingly, he didn’t take an offence at the question, as he knew she didn’t have a hidden agenda. ‘Healthier, less stressful,’ they both smirked at that, ‘After the staff was finally done apologising, we could start the actual and efficient work. Without any megalomaniacs on the horizon, it’s astonishing how much can be done in less time and how much better we all cooperate. Okay, scratch that. Most of us. Minerva insisted on hiring William Weasley as the Defence teacher, but while he has the knowledge, he has absolutely no idea about teaching and has the wrong attitude.’

The witch’s raised brow in slight amusement, which was also sparkling in her eyes didn’t anger him. ‘His attitude is wrong?’

Severus answered with a mock scowl, ‘My teaching methods may not have been the best, but one, I did have a few good reasons for that, and two, not only did they keep the more idiotic students alive, but also those methods still worked much better than what William presents in his classroom. Even Minerva is disappointed with him. It’s a good thing he’s teaching only first through fifth years and I teach the NEWT level,’ and in a stage whisper added, ‘Not to mention his wife – always complaining about something.’

Hermione chuckled quietly at that comment, ‘Fleur can be... difficult, but as soon as I understood that commenting and comparing are her main ways of coping with homesickness, and I asked her to tell me about her life in France, and then if there is anything here she likes, we started getting on rather well.’ Apparently, seeing his shock, she laughed briefly, ‘Don’t misunderstand me, we hadn’t suddenly become besties, but we are... friendly. She’s relieved when she could finally freely complain about Mrs Weasley to someone who more-or-less understood, and I was happy to polish up my French. And complain about Mrs Weasley as well,’ she said it only semi-facetiously, which caused the wizard to chuckle.

They fell into a short and comfortable silence, which Severus broke with an offer, ‘Hermione, if you need anything –‘ he started, but she cut him off quickly.

‘I don’t want anything from you, Severus.’

Slightly offended and surprised and her words, Haven’t we been having a perfectly nice conversation? And I thought she was rather enjoying it as I was, Severus said rather sharply, ‘Do not worry, I will not bother you with my presence anymore.’

He rose to leave and stop making a fool of himself, but a small hand on his left forearm stopped him dead, ‘That’s not what I meant, Severus. I just don’t want you to think – by any chance – that you owe me anything. As I don’t know much about this kind of magic, I want it said aloud, that you do not owe me a Life Debt.’ She looked serious, but there was a good hint of uncertainty in her eyes.

Severus sat back down and noticed she never let go of his arm, ‘I do owe you, but my offer was not because of that.’

She shook her head, ‘In that case,’ she slowly took out her wand and encouraged him to do the same, ‘I, Hermione Jean Granger release you, Severus Tobias Snape from the Life Debt you owed me, as I find it fulfilled.’

He was stunned. Magic flared around them and he felt it. He felt... lighter, freer; and was stunned into silence.

‘Look,’ Hermione spoke again, ‘I had a really nice time simply talking to you, and if you find yourself bored enough to feel like having coffee with me again, I would be really happy about it.’

Severus exhaled with a soft huff and smiled at her a bit, ‘I would like that as well.’

She beamed at him but then took a notice of the time and the smile weakened significantly, ‘Sorry, but Belle will be up soon, and I still have a few things I need to take care of...’

‘Of course,’ he stood up, less abruptly this time, and they both went to the door, ‘Thank you, Hermione. For everything.’ And then he remembered, ‘How may I contact you? Miss Lovegood mentioned it’s impossible to do so...’ it was a statement come question.

The woman before him smirked in satisfaction, ‘Do you happen to have your own owl, or a favourite one from the school flock?’

He nodded, ‘I have a private bird.’

‘Then read my address to it and I will get the letter then.’ At his sceptically raised brow, she added, ‘I’m sure it will work because it worked with my raven, her name is Gwen, by the way.’

Severus chuckled, ‘Apparently, great minds think alike. I also have a raven and his name is Bob.’ After a second of contemplation, he added, ‘Do you want me to pass the address later to Miss Lovegood as well?’

‘Yes, please. But... only with the same restrictions – to only one bird.’

‘Very well. Good bye, Hermione.’

‘Have a nice day, Severus.’