Iulia Linnea (iulia_linnea) wrote in sshg_promptfest,
Iulia Linnea
iulia_linnea
sshg_promptfest

FIC: Skeletons (PG-13)

Title: Skeletons
Type: Fic
Prompter: gracelessmary
Creator: geeklove_fan
Rating: PG-13
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: An explanation of their relationship to their child who has come home for the Christmas holidays after their first term at Hogwarts. How do you explain love and war to an 11 year old?
Summary: Severus and Hermione's daughter comes home after her first semester at Hogwarts and she has some…questions for them. The day and the conversation they have dreaded for years has arrived at last.



3 November, 2018

Hermione Granger-Snape finished reading the scroll that her daughter's owl had just delivered before tossing it to the table in front of her, squeezing her eyes closed, and pinching the bridge of her nose as she sighed—a behavior she had unwittingly picked up from her husband.

At the sound of her sigh, the man in question turned from his current task of preparing omelets to survey his wife. Seeing her frustrated posture, he removed the eggs from the heat and crossed to her, crouching beside her. "Hermione? What's wrong, love?"

Without opening her eyes, she reached for the parchment and handed it to him wordlessly. He took it and glanced down, recognizing his daughter's handwriting. He raised himself up and sat in the chair next to his wife as he read.

Mum and Dad,

Thank you for your letter this week and for the cookies. They were good. School is fine. Classes are fine. I'm doing fine in potions (Dad) and charms (Mum). Arithmancy is still boring me to tears, as usual. I wish I could have started with the third or fourth years. The other firsties are idiots. Ravenclaw is second in points right now. The Headmistress said to send her love and that she will see you both soon.

Love,

Scarlett
Severus raised an eyebrow before carefully schooling his features into the impassive mask that Hermione could now clearly read for what it was—an expression of distress and concern.

She snorted. "Right?" she said, a bleak smile on her face. "Something is wrong. Go get one of her letters from September and compare them."

Severus frowned, picturing the bubbly, excited, multi-page missives they had received during the first few weeks after their daughter's arrival at Hogwarts. "I don't need to. You are correct; something is wrong." He traced a long finger across his lips. "Do you want to floo Minerva?"

Hermione cringed internally as she felt Severus' inner Helicopter Dad struggling to emerge. After wading through the years of his terror and insecurity before he finally agreed to start a family with her, she was loathe to discourage his loving instincts in any way; at the same time, she didn't want to be those parents—the ones who end up crippling their children by not allowing them to learn to deal with their problems on their own. Still, this was worrying.

She sighed. "Let's…yes, let's floo her, but nothing more, Severus, okay?" She gave him a pointed look.

"Okay, fine, yes," he agreed a little too quickly.

Hermione mentally rolled her eyes as she turned and walked to the study, retrieving one of Scarlett's previous letters before returning to the kitchen. She picked up the most recent note and knelt at the fireplace. She threw a handful of floo powder in before kneeling down and requesting, "Headmistress' Office, Hogwarts!"

After a moment, she heard her former Head of House greet her. "Hermione!" McGonagall cried with delight. Hermione smiled as the headmistress' office materialized before her.

"Hello, Minerva," she smiled. "Would it be all right if Severus and I stepped through for just a moment, please?"

Minerva nodded. "Of course! I would like nothing more. Come through, come through."

Hermione withdrew and stood, nodding at Severus. He stepped beside her and said, "Headmistress' Office, Hogwarts!" once more, and off they went.

OoOoO

After Severus and Hermione had dusted themselves off, accepted hugs and kisses from Minerva, and dutifully acquiesced to tea, Minerva cut to the chase.

"As much as I'd love to flatter myself by thinking you two woke up this morning and thought, 'Let's go pay a visit to Minerva!', I'm far too old to be that naïve," she said dryly. "Now tell me, what brings you here?"

Severus stiffened and Hermione's face started to crumple before she regained control. "Scarlett," was all she whispered. She held out the two letters to Minerva. "Read these, please. Begin with the one dated from September."

Minerva closed her eyes with a resigned sigh and reached out for the letters. "I was worried about this," she said solemnly. "Don't be alarmed," she added quickly. "I have simply made it a point to keep a closer eye on all of my incoming students with, ah, notable provenance…?" She gave them a pointed look.

Ah, Hermione thought, connecting the dots. So she's looking out for all of them—Harry and Ron's kids, Draco's, Neville's, and ours as well.

Minerva continued. "There was a slight reaction from the student body when Scarlett's name was called for the Sorting. Nothing much, mind you, just a slight murmuring that rippled quickly through the Great Hall, and I rather doubt she even noticed it. But I was specifically looking for it. I have to admit to being a bit relieved when the Hat placed her in Ravenclaw. Being in Slytherin or Gryffindor would have simply been too much, I believe, given who her parents are."

Hermione and Severus looked at each other. This was something on which they were in unquestionable agreement. "Precisely," Severus stated. "Hermione and I came to that conclusion long ago." Minerva raised her eyebrows, slightly taken aback. For Severus Snape to actively admit that he did not want to see his own child Sorted in his House was monumental—a true testament of how far the man had come emotionally.

She cut to the chase then, placing the letters on the desk before her and clasping her hands together.

"I do not have a concrete answer for you as to what is troubling young Scarlett. However, I do have my suspicions, and, shall we say, simple gut instinct. While, as I just said, I think it is good that Scarlett did not get Sorted into either of her parents' Houses, the problem inherent in that is that she is not in the same House as any of her de facto cousins. Scorpius and Albus are in Slytherin, and Harry's other children, along with Ron's, are all in Gryffindor. However, she is in Ravenclaw with several students whose parents are your contemporaries, Hermione, meaning that those parents had Severus in class and went through the war, as well—Saoirse Finnegan, for one. The studen—"

Hermione interrupted before she was even cognizant of what was coming out of her mouth. "Speaking of which, I think I'd die happy if someone could explain to me just how the fuck Seamus and Lavender, of all people, managed to land a kid in Ravenclaw." She sat back in her chair with a huff and both Minerva and Severus snorted despite themselves. Minerva gave Hermione a chastising look that contained absolutely no heat whatsoever, and continued.

"As I was saying, Mrs. Snape," she said pointedly, but with laughter in her voice, "the students will not cover the second War in History of Magic until spring, just before the Easter break and the anniversary of Riddle's defeat. Therefore, I suspect that Scarlett is being subjected to stories and gossip that her classmates have picked up from their parents over the years. And as we all know, memories are emotional and unreliable, not to mention the fact that by the time a story is told second- or third-hand, many of the details are exaggerated or just plain wrong. My advice to you is to sit her down when she comes home for the Christmas hols and have that conversation that I know you have both been dreading for over a decade. Tell her everything, as honestly as you can. Don't hold back, tempted though you may be. No, Severus," she said, holding up a hand to stave off his interruption, "I don't mean that she needs to hear every detail of everything you saw or had to do thanks to Albus," she bit out, tossing a venomous glance over her shoulder at the portrait wisely feigning sleep. "But you need to level with her to some degree. Throw Albus under the bus, so to speak, if you need to—God knows he deserves it, for what he put you through—" she shot another glare at the portrait, "but above all, just talk to her. She is confused and doesn't know what to think just now. Her image of the father she adores has just been turned on its head, and it's likely that she has heard more than a few stories about the things her mother endured—as well as some of the things she had to do—also," she finished, shooting Hermione a pointed look. "The bottom line is that I don't know exactly what she has heard and been told, but she needs her parents to sit down with her and just talk to her, plain and simple. This isn't insurmountable. You'll have your girl back," she stated confidently.

Both Severus and Hermione were silent for a long moment, digesting everything their former professor had said. Finally, Severus spoke up, unable to help himself. "Can we see her for a moment, Minerva?"

"Severus…" Hermione warned in a low voice. "You promised…"

Severus closed his eyes and held up his hands in surrender. "Okay. Okay."

Minerva gave him an indulgent smile. "I know, my boy. It's difficult. And if I thought that Scarlett's emotional state was truly that fragile, of course I would acquiesce. But I really do think she will be all right, and it's only about six weeks more before you'll have her all to yourself for more than two weeks." The crestfallen look on Severus' face tugged at her heartstrings and so she gently added, "You know it's not that I mind, Severus. But do you think it will do your girl any good at all to be seen as receiving special treatment? After all, the other parents don't get to just floo in and have a chat whenever they want."

Severus was bent over with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He nodded mutely.

Hermione stood up briskly, and reached for her husband's hand. Gently tugging him to his feet, she gave Minerva a woeful smile. "Thank you, Headmistress," she said softly. "We will let you get back to your duties now."

"Och, child," the headmistress chided gently. "How many more times shall I have to tell you to call me Minerva?"

Hermione grinned. "At least a dozen more."

OoOoO

9 November, 2018

My Dearest Severus and Hermione,

After you left my office a few days ago, I found that I could not get the Snape family off my mind. I have since taken the time to observe Scarlett and also, to think about your very unique dilemma. I have a few thoughts that I would like to share with you, if you are amenable. As always, you may "take it or leave it," but I would be honored if you would at least read what I have to say.

Hermione, my dear—more than likely, your sweet girl's questions are going to center around Severus and his role in the war. This in no way means that she is not going to have significant questions for you, as well; it just means that the bulk of what she has likely heard (and thus what is bothering her) is going to concern her father.

Do not minimize her concerns. One of the most wonderful and beautiful aspects of your love for Severus is your fiery defence of him to anyone who would question him, his loyalties, or his role in the war. You must put this instinct aside when it comes to Scarlett. Your child is every bit as brilliant as her parents (I wouldn't pin your hopes on keeping that Arithmancy NEWT score record for more than about six more years if I was you), and it will do her confidence a grave injustice if her concerns are met with anger, disdain, or defensiveness. She is an inquisitive young lady, as her parents were before her. Even if she doesn't believe a single word of what she has heard, she is going to have questions. Treat those questions as being as valid as any question she could possibly ask about potions, charms, or transfiguration.

Above all, Hermione, though I know she has seen it demonstrated for her entire life, make sure she continues to witness the deep and unconditional love you have for her father, and beyond that, that she knows that she can come to either of you with any questions she has without fear, and that you will take her seriously. And tell her that if there is ever a time when she feels as though she cannot speak with you or Severus, that Aunt Min's door is always open.

Severus…oh, Severus, my dear boy (and yes, I dare call you that still—no matter how much time passes, I will always see some small bit of that precious, lost, 11-year-old boy I first met all those years ago). This will, quite obviously, be hardest for you. But you must, and I can't stress this enough—must—allow Scarlett to see past your defenses. Let her see how much it pains you to discuss the past and to acknowledge what we all know you had to do to play your role so brilliantly. And for God's sake, don't hesitate for one minute to throw that manipulative bastard under the bus where he belongs, to borrow a phrase from the Muggles. You have every right to put blame where blame is due, especially when it concerns the emotional health of your daughter. She should be aware that many times you were given no choice and were compelled to do as ordered, due to your Unbreakable Vow. There is no shame in doing as ordered, when the only alternative was death.

Severus, allow Scarlett to see your distress, your grief. Converse to what it may seem, allowing her to see the angst you feel to this day regarding your role in the war will be a comfort to her, and a solid reminder that her father really is the man she has always thought him to be.

Beyond this, I cannot guide you. The only advice I can give—and this will be difficult for you both, make no mistake—is for you both to steadfastly ignore your brains and allow your guts to guide you. Follow your gut instincts, and you won't go wrong.

As always, I am here if you need me—for any reason, at any time. You know that I love you both as the children I never had. Any time you seek my counsel, I am honored by you.

Severus, Hermione—you are absolutely wonderful parents, and you have raised an absolutely wonderful, brilliant daughter. Never forget that.

All my love,

Minerva
OoOoO

December 15, 2018

"Mum! Daddy!" Scarlett emerged from the Hogwarts Express with a huge smile on her face and launched herself into her parents' arms. She permitted herself to be smothered in kisses before sheepishly asking her dad if he would retrieve her trunk for her. Severus rolled his eyes and boarded the train in search of his daughter's things. Meanwhile, Hermione continued hugging her daughter.

"You've gotten taller!" she exclaimed, taking in the sight of her only child after 3 ½ long months apart. "And look at your hair! Growing like a weed!" Hermione ran her fingers through Scarlett's silky black curls—so much more manageable than her own curls had been at the same age. "Daddy and I have missed you so, Little Bean," she said lovingly.

"And I've missed you both, too, Mum," Scarlett responded, with a smile that didn't quite touch her eyes.

OoOoO

Scarlett finished clearing the dishes from the table after dinner and turned to her parents, intent on making her excuses and escaping to her room. But before she could speak, the authoritative voice of her father thwarted her.

"Scarlett, your mother and I would like to speak with you in the sitting room." His tone was kind, but brooked no argument. Scarlett looked at her feet and nodded mutely, her feet automatically carrying her to the other room.

She sat in one of the armchairs and drew her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms protectively around them.

Her parents entered and sat together on the couch, solemn looks gracing both of their dear faces.

Her father spoke first. His voice was uncharacteristically quiet, gentle, and humble.

"Scarlett. The most important thing I can say to you right now is that your mum and I love you wholly and unconditionally, and there is nothing that will ever change that." He paused and glanced quickly at Hermione, words having temporarily deserted him. Hermione took the cue.

"Sweetie," she said gently, "we know that something is bothering you. It has been clear from your letters, and it's only been confirmed by your behavior since you've been home these past few hours. We have told you this for your entire life, but allow me to reiterate—there is absolutely nothing you can't tell us, and there is absolutely nothing you can't ask us. Nothing you could ever say could make us adore you any less. With that said, please tell us what is wrong." Hermione reached out and stroked a finger along her daughter's cheek. "I have a feeling that we won't be nearly as surprised as you're afraid we will be," she murmured, giving her daughter a sympathetic and knowing look. "Scarlett, we have known since before you were born that there would come a time when you would have a lot of questions that would lead to difficult discussions, and we are as prepared as we possibly can be for that."

At that, Scarlett raised her head in surprise and met her mother's eyes, glancing then to her father. He nodded, affirming his wife's words. Severus spoke again after a deep breath. "Sweet girl, we have some idea of what is bothering you. We have prepared for this for many years. Now, we know you haven't gotten to the wizarding wars yet in History of Magic, so we are assuming that your distress stems from things you have heard about or been told by your peers at school. Some of these things may be true, or they may not be. Or, even worse, they may be technically true but told in such a way that doesn't tell the whole story. So please, Little Bean, ask me your questions. I promise to answer you as honestly as I can in a way that is as understandable as possible for your maturity level."

Scarlett sucked in a deep breath, and as she raised her head to look at her father, he saw that her eyes were filling with tears and her chin was trembling.

"Oh, Daddy!" she cried, throwing herself into her father's arms. She began to weep loudly, burying her head in Severus' neck, and Hermione's heart broke for both of them. She watched her husband raise his face toward the ceiling and close his eyes, overcome with emotion. He rocked his daughter back and forth as she cried.

Quietly, Hermione stood, placing her hand on Severus' shoulder. He opened his eyes and looked up at her, clearly anguished. Hermione leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead while giving his shoulder a squeeze. "I'll be back in a moment," she whispered to him, and then left
the sitting room as quietly as possible.

Hermione rushed to the study and picked up two lowball glasses. She grabbed a decanter that contained her husband's very best Scotch and filled both glasses. She drained one and refilled it, then picked both glasses up and, with a deep breath, left the room to return to her family.

When she re-entered the sitting room, Scarlett was still crying into her father's neck. Hermione noted the twin tear tracks down her husband's face, as well, and pressed a glass into his hand as she silently reseated herself at his side. Severus gave her a grateful look and lifted the glass to his lips, drinking deeply. He handed the glass back to Hermione and returned his hand to rubbing his daughter's back.

Some time later—Severus had no clue if it was five minutes or half an hour—Scarlett lifted her face from her father's neck, sniffling loudly. He looked into her dear, precious doe eyes and felt a hitch in his breathing. He tried his best to give her a confident smile. "There's my girl. Now, I want you to ask me your questions and as I already said, I give you my word to answer as honestly as I possibly can. However, if you have anything that you feel like you just can't ask me, please feel free to ask your mother. Chances are, she can answer you. Now, out with it, Little Bean."

Scarlett sniffled once more, and steeled herself. She clenched her jaw before taking a deep breath and blurting out, "Daddy, were you really a Death Eater?"

Severus took his own deep breath and began to roll up his left sleeve to reveal the remainder of his Dark Mark as he calmly answered, "I was, Baby, for a short time. It's true." He held up a hand to stop Scarlett from responding and continued. "Since your birth, I have kept a glamour over my left forearm anytime it has been bared for you to see. Not to deceive you, but to put off having this conversation until you were old enough to understand. I believe that time has come, so I will no longer use the glamour unless you wish me to or we are in public. I will not be out and about with you with the faded reminder of my past transgressions on display. But to answer your question, yes, Scarlett, I was once a Death Eater."

Scarlett's chin trembled and her eyes filled with tears. "But why, Daddy? Mummy is Muggleborn. How could you join a group that hated Muggles and Muggleborns?"

Severus swallowed. "I have never hated Muggleborns, Pumpkin. Really. I don't expect you to understand my motivations, because it is my hope that your mother and I have raised you in a home where you have known only love, yeah?"

Scarlett smiled shyly and nodded.

"Good," Severus murmured, before his countenance turned dark. "Unfortunately, I did not have that same advantage. The home I was raised in was filled with fear, anger, and abuse. You never knew your grandparents on my side, and I can only be thankful for that. My father was a Muggle who feared and hated magic—and that was on top of being an abusive alcoholic. My earliest memories revolve around my father attempting to beat the magic out of me. And my mother had been so beaten down by his abuse at that point that she did very little to protect me from him." Severus paused, his eyes unfocused, as he recalled untold past horrors. Abruptly, he focused once more, and continued addressing his daughter. "There are so many crucial life skills and emotional touchstones that children learn from their parents in their very earliest years. I received none of these. So by the time I began Hogwarts, which I had looked forward to desperately as a way out of my miserable home life, I was a poor, emotionally bereft, lonely young man with no social skills and a very deep need to belong somewhere. When the Sorting Hat placed me in Slytherin, I then had to contend with the additional challenge of being a half-blood in a House full of purebloods. On top of that, there was a group of boys—" his breath hitched here, and he swallowed hard, willing himself on. "There was a group of boys from another House who made it their life's goal to torment me in any way possible. I spent my entire time at Hogwarts running from them, hiding from them, and being repeatedly hexed and injured by them."

At this, Scarlett's eyes widened and she gasped. "And no one did anything?"

Hermione took this opportunity to contribute to the conversation. She had a sour look on her face as she flatly stated, "This all happened when Albus Dumbledore was Headmaster, Scarlett. Professor Dumbledore was a Gryffindor to the extreme. He blatantly favored his own House—"

"But Mum," Scarlett interrupted, "you're a Gryffindor."

"Yes. I am. And proud of it. But I'm also fair, and Professor Dumbledore was biased to the point that he let Gryffindors get away with murder, and I mean that almost literally, Scar. Those boys that tormented your daddy? They were Gryffindors, and one of their 'pranks,'" she spat, "very nearly did cost your father his life. When it came to light, Professor Dumbledore not only did not expel the boys responsible, he forbade your father to tell anyone else what had happened." Scarlett gasped again and her small hands flew to her mouth. Hermione continued. "Aunt Min was Head of Gryffindor House at that time, and she also turned a blind eye to what was happening. You may ask her about this; she will not hesitate to confirm it. She admits that she was terribly mistaken in following Dumbledore blindly, and in her later years of being Head of House, before she became Headmistress, she was tremendously fair to all Houses." Hermione looked over at Severus and nodded at him to continue.

"So as you can probably imagine, Scarlett, between the home I came from, my tormentors at school, and being an outcast in my own House, essentially, my chief emotional need at that point in my life was to belong. Somewhere. Anywhere. As I proceeded through my years at school, my skills in Potions eventually caught the attention of the Dark Lord—the man you now know as Voldemort. He recruited several upper year students to begin recruiting me, so to speak. The ploy worked perfectly, and shortly after I graduated, I officially joined his ranks. And that, my dear, is the single greatest regret of my life. You see, I didn't actually agree with any of the nonsense they stood for. All I knew is that I was wanted in a group, and that was a feeling I'd never known before."

Scarlett sat quietly for a long moment, contemplating her hands as she turned this new information over and over in her mind. Slowly, she nodded. "I think I understand, Daddy." She paused a moment and then looked up at him, eyes curious once more. "So why did you leave them?"

She noticed that her mother and father instinctively reached for each other, clasping hands.

"Besides the fact that I was already beginning to understand what a massive mistake I had made, Voldemort decided to target one of my dearest childhood friends—and her family. Scarlett, that childhood friend of mine was Uncle Harry's mother." Scarlett took this in. "As soon as I found out, I went straight to Dumbledore and begged him to do something. At that time, Dumbledore made me swear an Unbreakable Vow to him to serve as his spy, which I did for the next 17 years."

A dark look swept over Hermione's face. "Dumbledore's end goals were always worthy ones, Scarlett, but he used your father terribly, and constantly played on his sense of guilt over having joined Voldemort in the first place. Your father suffered unspeakably at times due to the Vow he made Dumbledore."

Scarlett nodded. She opened her mouth and then closed it again.

Severus smiled. "Ask your questions, Scarlett."

"Did…" Her eyes filled with tears, and Severus knew that one of the two questions he dreaded most was coming. "Did…you kill people?"

Severus had promised Hermione he would leave his occlumency shields down for this conversation, in order for Scarlett to see his honesty, his vulnerability, and his regret, but it was all he could do not to slam them up immediately when he let out a small, involuntary sob. He clenched his eyes shut and held up a finger to his daughter, asking her for a moment. He breathed deeply and then opened his eyes to face her. "Yes, Scarlett. I have killed people." Scarlett's eyes widened, and she quickly glanced at her mother to gauge her reaction. Hermione sat at her husband's side, a perfectly placid look upon her face, gently squeezing his leg.

Severus elaborated. "Most of the people I have killed were in battle or self-defense. However, I had to kill someone to be accepted into the Death Eaters, and it continues to haunt me to this day."

Before he could continue, Scarlett interjected, whispering, "Is it true that you killed Headmaster Dumbledore?"

"I was just getting to that. Yes. It is true. However, you should be aware that I did not want to do it, but I had absolutely no choice in the matter."

Hermione saw him getting overwhelmed, and she jumped in. "Sweetie, Headmaster Dumbledore made a very grave mistake and put a cursed ring on his finger. By the time he called for your father's help, it was too late. Your dad was able to contain the curse to some degree, but in the long run, there was nothing anyone could do. The curse was going to kill the Headmaster one way or the other—it was only a matter of when. The Headmaster had no wish to die a painful and prolonged death, so he cooked up a plan. Voldemort had ordered Uncle Draco to kill the Headmaster as a test of his loyalty, and of course, Uncle Draco wanted no part of that. So the Headmaster took advantage of the Vow your father had made, and forced Severus to agree to kill him at the right time. His reasoning was that it would prevent him from suffering a painful death, but more importantly, it would erase any doubt Voldemort might have that your father was completely loyal to the Death Eaters."

Severus managed to find his voice again. "Scarlett…Uncle Draco was there when it happened. Uncle Harry was there. You may ask either of them about the events that night and they will answer you honestly, ok? I want to warn you that their recollections may be slightly different from my own, because at the time, they both believed I was a genuinely loyal Death Eater. So we all witnessed the exact same event, but they may remember things slightly differently—or they may not, for that matter. Does that make sense?" Scarlett nodded.

"Do you have more questions, Scarlett?" he asked gently. Scarlett's face began to redden, and she refused to meet his eyes.

"I do," she mumbled,"but I really don't want to ask you. But I need to know…if you ever…if you—"

Severus felt his heart sink. He knew what she wanted to know and he had dreaded it. Gods, he did not want to have this discussion with his not-quite-12-year-old daughter, but he knew he must. It was imperative that he be completely honest with her, for her sake.

He screwed up his courage and rescued the girl. "You want to know if I have ever raped someone." It was a flat statement, not a question.

Scarlett's face got even redder and she continued staring at her lap as she nodded.

Severus took a deep breath. "The answer is no, Scarlett. I have never raped anyone." He was gratified when she looked up at him, her face full of surprised joy.

"But…how? The stories all say…" she trailed off, confused and embarrassed once more.

"Umm," he began haltingly, his usual eloquence long gone. By the GODS, how he did not want to discuss this with his innocent child! He was overcome with gratitude when Hermione stepped in to rescue him.

"Will you allow me to answer for Dad, Bean? He and I have discussed all this at length and I can answer your questions almost as well as he can." Scarlett nodded. Hermione took a big breath and said, "Well, you know we talked about sex before you left for Hogwarts, yes?" Another nod from Scarlett, who had begun blushing again. Hermione continued, "And I know this is embarrassing to talk about with your dad right here, but you do recall how we discussed that before sexual intercourse can take place—willingly or otherwise—the man's penis must be erect?" Scarlett nodded mutely, seeming to shrink in on herself. She was clearly mortified. "Scarlett, look at me." Her daughter looked up obediently, her face blood red, and her lower lip trembling. "Scarlett, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Remember? We talked about this. All of this is normal, biological stuff. It's science. You don't need to be embarrassed. I'm not. In fact, I quite like the topic," she said slyly, sliding her eyes over to Severus. Scarlett looked horrified.

"Hermione, can you not?" Severus ground out, equally horrified.

Hermione only laughed. "Okay, I'm sorry, Bean. Anyway, as I was saying, your dad was absolutely appalled at the idea of raping anyone, so he told Voldemort—at his own great expense—that he was, well…unable to maintain an erection, in order to avoid having to participate in those sorts of activities." She moved on quickly, seeing how uncomfortable her daughter was. "It was very brave for him to do so, because he was punished and tormented mercilessly for this perceived fault. I will assume that I need not point out that you are living proof that this was all a lie." She smirked.

"Oh, gods, Mum," Scarlett muttered through the hands currently covering her face. "Gross." Hermione only laughed in response.

The three sat silently for a moment, digesting all that had been said. Finally, Scarlett raised her head. "I have one last question." She scrunched up her face in thought. The things she had been told didn't jibe with what her parents had told her of their early days, but how was she to know unless she asked?

"Is there any truth to the rumor that you seduced Mum while she was still a student of yours?"

Severus and Hermione looked at each other. "The answer to that is a little bit complicated, honey…" Hermione began, but she abruptly closed her mouth when Scarlett jumped up in shock and leveled a gaze that screamed of betrayal at her father.

"WHAT?!?" Scarlett shrieked. "How can it be complicated? It's a simple yes or no question! Did you or didn't you??"

Severus snapped. He leapt to his feet, towering over his daughter, and growled, "That. Is. Enough. Scarlett Jane Snape."

In the face of her normally docile father's unexpected rage, Scarlett sat back down almost comically fast, a brief look of fear crossing her face. Her father glowered at her a moment more, and then slowly reclaimed his seat. "Now," he began, in a voice that made clear he meant business, "are you ready to sit and listen properly?" His daughter nodded silently, properly chastised. "The fact of the matter, Scarlett, is that sometimes, yes, the answers to questions can most certainly be complicated. And this case is a prime example." He looked to Hermione and gave her a small smile. "Scarlett, you are aware that I served as Headmaster for a year?" She nodded. "And are you aware that this was immediately after I…ended Dumbledore's life, and on the orders of Voldemort?" Another nod. "That year would have been your mother's seventh year at Hogwarts, but she was not allowed to attend because of her blood status. In fact, that was the very year she spent on the run with Uncle Harry and Uncle Ron. I know you have not heard very much about that time, because it pains your mother greatly to discuss it, but the essentials are thus: from August of 1997 to May of 1998, your mother and uncles were not only running for their lives, they were also desperately trying to fulfill Dumbledore's last mission, which was absolutely essential to bring Voldemort down. Hermione experienced some unspeakable things during that time, and those stories are for her to tell, if and when she is ready. But the point is this—your mum missed her entire seventh year of school and in May of 1998, when she should have been preparing for her NEWTs, she was busy fighting a war that should have been left to adults—and coming out victorious." He paused here. "Do you have any questions thus far?"

A shake of the head.

"All right," Severus continued. "Hogwarts was virtually destroyed in that climactic battle, but repairs began immediately, and Hogwarts was ready to open again on September 1st of that same year. Now, your uncles were given a special dispensation to begin Auror training at the Ministry without taking their NEWTs." He tried his best to keep the disdain out of his voice. This wasn't the time. "However, your mum could not bear the thought of not completing her education, so she let the Hogwarts staff know she wanted to return. In reality, it wasn't necessary—your mum could have sat for her NEWTs when she sat for her OWLs—but to her it felt like cheating to take the tests without completing the coursework. The problem with this plan was that she was so far ahead that she would have been bored to tears sitting through the regular classes. So the professors got together and came up with a plan. I had told them all in no uncertain terms that I did not want to continue as Headmaster, and that is when Aunt Min took the reins, and the plan was mostly her idea. Because I was still very weak from my injuries—" here, he waved a casual hand toward the massive scarring on his neck— "Aunt Min decided I could do with an assistant professor and recommended Hermione. So Hermione underwent private, accelerated lessons with the professors while handling my first through third year potions classes. In addition, she assisted me with my private brewing."

Hermione jumped in at this point. "So the point is, sweetie, is that I wasn't precisely a student. I was part student, part employee. Also, you must remember that with my September birthday, I came of age at the beginning of my sixth year, so by the time all of this took place, I was 19." She left out the additional months from the time-turner—that was a saga all its own. She gave Severus an indulgent look. "During the time I was working with and studying under your father, we became friends. And as our friendship deepened, we realized we were falling in love. I can assure you that at no time was your father anything other than a complete gentleman. In fact, it would be fair to say that I did most of the pursuing."

"Understatement," Severus muttered, to Hermione's giggles. He shot her a completely insincere scowl and then looked back to his daughter, his features softening once more. "Do you understand now, Scarlett? We fell in love while working together, but I steadfastly refused to pursue a true relationship until she had sat her NEWTs, which was in December of that year. We married a year later, in December of 1999."

Scarlett bowed her head, full of remorse. "I understand. I'm sorry I yelled at you, Daddy. I should have given you the benefit of the doubt."

Severus only shook his head and held his arms open. As he gathered his only child to his chest, he murmured, "You are in a difficult position, my love. But just understand that there is no question that is off-limits when it comes to my past. I will not promise to give you all the details, but I will never lie to you. I give you my word."

Scarlett nodded against his chest and pulled away from him. She took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eyes. "This has been a lot to take in tonight. Is it okay if I go ahead and go to bed? I just need to think for a while."

Severus kissed her nose. "Of course, Bean. Try to sleep well, and remember—you can ask me anything, anytime. I love you more than you know."

"I love you, too, Daddy."

Scarlett slid off her father's lap, kissed her mother goodnight, and went to her room.

Hermione looked at her husband, who was staring into the fire, deep in thought. "That could have gone a lot worse, don't you think?"

Severus turned to her. "It could have."

Hermione pushed a little further. "For the record, you handled that better than I would have ever thought possible. I am so proud of you." She slipped into his lap and put her arms around his neck. "I do have one question, purely out of curiosity."

"Mmm," Severus replied, his eyes closed as he leaned his head against hers.

"When you mentioned the Marauders tormenting you, you didn't call them that, nor did you name the ones involved. Why?" Hermione was genuinely curious about this.

Without opening his eyes, Severus explained, "She doesn't need that right now on top of everything else. And besides, James and Albus are not their grandfather. They are good young men, much like their father." Here he opened his eyes and gave Hermione a stern look. "And if you ever tell Harry I said that, I will invent a new curse especially for you."

Hermione giggled and then turned serious. "Severus," she said, grabbing his chin so that he couldn't look away, "you are so much wiser than you give yourself credit for. After all that the Marauders put you through, in the midst of an already-emotional conversation, you had the presence of mind to think of Scarlett's needs first, rather than throwing her ammunition she could use to hurt the Potter kids. Do you understand that? This is what I have been trying to tell you throughout all these years of self-flagellation. You are an inherently good man who once made a daft decision
as a teenager. You must recognize that at some point." Severus closed his eyes and nodded silently against her.

"Come on, let's go to bed," she whispered.

Severus didn't move for a long moment and then suddenly turned and looked Hermione in the eyes. "Do you think this resolved anything? And do you think she will see me differently now?"

Hermione didn't hesitate. "For the time being, yes, and absolutely not."

"For the time being?"

"She's bound to have more questions as time goes on, but for now, I think you have satisfied her biggest fears and concerns. And as for seeing you differently, I think once she has time to process all she has learned, absolutely nothing will change."

Severus gave his wife a tender smile. "Thank you, my love."

OoOoO

Two Weeks Later

It was with more trepidation than Hermione was comfortable admitting to that she walked onto Platform 9 ¾ with her little family. The two weeks since their family heart-to-heart had been surprisingly peaceful and pleasant. Scarlett had asked a few more questions, and her overall mood had improved vastly. Things were virtually normal again.

However, Hermione was concerned about what would happen when they reached King's Cross and her daughter was once more confronted with all of her schoolmates. Would she revert back to being withdrawn and timid? Would she be ashamed of her father? Of her mother?

Hermione took a few deep breaths and willed herself to calm down.

To her great pleasure, Scarlett wrapped her arms around her father's right arm, looking up at him with a huge smile. Severus fake-groused at her, "Unhand me, you impertinent child, if you want me to carry your trunk for you." Scarlett only giggled in response.

A few minutes later saw Scarlett's trunk loaded onto the train, and Scarlett's other items tucked away in her chosen compartment. She descended the steps for one last round of hugs before the train departed. She hugged her mother enthusiastically and with a huge smile, but the hug she gave her father was nothing short of fierce, and Hermione saw her whispering something into Severus' ear with a solemn look upon her face. The hug continued for another moment, and when Severus reluctantly pulled away, there were tears in his eyes, much to Hermione's surprise. A final wave, and Scarlett was back aboard the train. Moments later, the Hogwarts Express pulled away from the station, and they had a glimpse of Scarlett waving frantically from her compartment.

Severus and Hermione turned to go, and Hermione couldn't help herself. "What did she say to you? Do you think she'll be okay?"

Severus turned back, as if he could still see the departing train, a look of wonder on his face. He turned back toward Hermione, but his eyes were unfocused. "I think she'll be just fine," he whispered.

Hermione was wide-eyed. "But what did she say??"

Severus looked her directly in the eyes then.

"She said, 'Thank you for talking to me, Daddy. It is an honor and a privilege to be your daughter.'"
Tags: 2020 summer fanwork, fic
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