(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Past adultery, non-canon character ages.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: A sweeping, romantic story set in a past time period, in which Severus and Hermione are brought together by extreme circumstances.
Note: I have completely twisted the ages and age-gaps of the characters, but they are still in-character and canon-friendly otherwise. This story is very loosely inspired by both Jane Eyre and The Sound of Music, and the title came from the Sound of Music song with the same name.
Summary: The year is 1851, and Hermione Granger is starting a new job as a governess for the son of the cold and distant Severus Snape. Hermione finds herself falling for the mysterious Severus, but when a Dark force threatens the very core of Snape Manor, Hermione learns just how powerful love can be.
Hermione Granger's first impression of Snape Manor was not one of awe or wonder.
No, it really was nothing special; quite dreary really, being nothing more than a mass of grey rock which faded into the pale green fields that spread as far as the eye could see. But this would be Hermione's workplace now, for the next five years, in fact, and the bleak Yorkshire Moors would be her home now.
She had left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry three months ago in June, and it felt strange not to be boarding the train to the magnificent castle, and instead Apparating to this desolate place.
Hermione just couldn't help but feel slightly dejected as she began her slow walk towards the house. She had been so thrilled at the prospect of leaving Hogwarts for the world of work. She was Muggle-born, and had been raised rich, though not rich enough that her family were able to afford servants. Still, had she been a Muggle, she would have likely received an education deemed acceptable for women, and be able to find work in a shop, or something just as basic.
The Wizarding World contrasted the Muggle world completely, at least at first glance, and there seemed to be so many opportunities that Hermione could have been able to take. She had been called one of the smartest students to ever grace Hogwarts, and Professor McGonagall, whom Hermione greatly admired, had told her she would be qualified for any job she could wish for.
The problem was, nobody wanted to hire a woman, especially not a Muggle-born one. Muggle-borns, though mostly accepted in society, were still treated like filth by some; mainly the Pure-bloods from traditional, well-to-do, families. Unfortunately for Hermione, it was those types who tended to be in the highest positions, and even if she had been of a different blood status, her gender would still hold her back; those men believed women should be at home, carrying the next Pure-blood heir.
The only jobs Hermione found that would accept her were much like the ones she could get in the Muggle world, and so she had spent the last three months trying to do better, but to no avail. She had received a letter from Professor McGonagall the previous week, saying an old colleague of hers needed a governess for his six year old son, and he wanted the best person available. Unlike Muggle governesses, Hermione's job would be to teach the child the basics of magic, and eventually an introduction to the courses that were taught at Hogwarts.
Hermione had tossed and turned all through the night after receiving the letter, but eventually decided to accept the position. She did love learning, and she had tutored younger students throughout her school years. Professor McGonagall had told her that the man who would be her new master was a Potions prodigy, but had become a recluse since his wife had died during childbirth.
A House-elf was waiting for Hermione by the front door of the manor, looking very sorry for itself in a tattered sheet which had been styled into a tunic sort of thing.
"Hello, Misses," the elf greeted, bowing lowly to Hermione. "Is you the young Master's new governess?"
Hermione nodded, and sent the creature a gentle smile; she had always pitied the hard-working House-elves who never seemed to get any respect from the humans around them.
"Jimmy is going to take your bags to your room. Please can Misses wait here for Misses Weasley," Jimmy; the House-elf, said.
"Thank you, Jimmy," Hermione smiled, wincing inwardly as the creature's eyes started to well with tears. Luckily, it managed to compose itself, and grasped hold of Hermione's single bag, charmed, of course, to fit everything in it, and disappeared with a loud crack.
Hermione surveyed her surroundings as she waited for this 'Misses Weasley'. The inside of the manor was just as bleak as the outside. The walls were a dull grey colour, flaking in places, and the wooden floorboards beneath her feet were grimy. There was a wooden staircase leading to the upper floor, and a number of dusty wooden doors surrounding Hermione, but otherwise the entrance hall was completely bare. Hermione couldn't fathom how a child could live in such a place.
She was drawn out of her musings by the arrival of a cheerful, and rather plump woman, with bright red hair drawn into a messy bun. She wasn't wearing robes, and instead had a brown dress on, covered with a dirty white apron.
"Hello," she greeted, beaming at Hermione. "You must be the new governess?"
Hermione nodded. "Hello, how do you do? My name's Hermione Granger."
"Very well," the woman replied curtly. "My name is Molly Weasley; I'm the Nanny. He's very excited to finally be learning magic. Would you like to come and meet him? I've told him to be on his best behaviour."
Molly looked like she was joking, but there was just a glimmer of anxiety behind her eyes; Hermione didn't mind that, provided the boy was no monster. Still, she was curious to meet the child as she would be spending the next five years with him. Hermione couldn't deny that she was curious about seeing more of the house too.
Molly led her up the rickety staircase, the floorboards creaking beneath their feet. It led up into a corridor, where the walls were pale blue and entirely bare. There were no portraits of Severus Snape, or his son, or his late wife. The corridor just seemed to run for miles, with thick, heavy wooden doors placed neatly along the way. For a manor, it was dull and dreary, and the bland scenery outside made more sense to Hermione now; they certainly blended together well.
She caught a glimpse of the gardens as they passed a large window; the garden looked unkempt, with wild hedges and long grass, and the small pond looked as though it was covered in moss. The garden seemed to stop abruptly too, as the grass turned into the murky moorland that stretched on for miles.
"The gardens are nothing special," Molly told her as the older woman noted where Hermione was looking. "The late mistress tended a flower patch at the other side of the garden; it is hard to see from here. It was ever so beautiful when she was alive, and I try to tend to it when I can. Her son often likes to sit there and he spends a lot of time crouched down by the flowerbeds; I suppose it's the only thing of his mother he has.
They stopped by a door, and Molly gestured to it. "This is your room," she stated, opening it so Hermione could have a quick look inside. The room had murky white walls, and held only a chest of drawers, a small wooden desk, and a bed which would have looked comfortable had she not been used to the beds at Hogwarts. "I tried to make the room acceptable for usage; Jimmy is the only House-elf, and it's such a large manor for such a small creature to clean by himself."
"It's lovely, thank you, Molly," Hermione smiled reassuringly. "Who else lives here?"
"Not many of us," Molly informed her. "Master Severus and his son live on this level, and my family are the only other humans who live here. Our rooms are on the lower level, by the kitchens. My children assist Jimmy in small ways, just as a way to show Master Severus our appreciation; not many masters would allow a family as large as ours accommodation."
"How many children do you have?" Hermione asked; from what Molly had said so far, they seemed to be a poorer family. Like in the Muggle world, rich Wizarding families tended to have no more than two children, and the more children, the less money a family generally had.
"Seven," Molly answered slightly abashedly, and Hermione's suspicions were confirmed. "My eldest two, William and Charles, are at Hogwarts, and Percy will be going next year. Then there are my twins, Fred and George, my youngest son Ronald, and my daughter Ginny."
Hermione hummed as she considered the names. "William and Charles? By any chance would they be Bill and Charlie Weasley?" She knew the name Weasley had been familiar to her.
"Ah, you know them then?" Molly said, beaming with pride. "Were you a Gryffindor too?"
"Yes, though I was nearly sorted into Ravenclaw," Hermione explained; she often had people ask her why she hadn't been a Ravenclaw, and truthfully, she wasn't too sure of it herself. She sometimes mused if maybe that was why the Sorting Hat decided against Ravenclaw in the end.
"Master Severus was a Slytherin, but the late Mistress was a Gryffindor too," Molly said gently, as though the woman's death still pained her. "I believe with all the snake motifs in the nursery, that the son may be a Slytherin too; not that there's anything wrong with that, of course," Molly added hastily with a slight blush. "Shall I take you to meet him now?"
Hermione nodded, and Molly led her away once more, though the journey was short; the nursery was only three doors away from Hermione's room.
Molly knocked and walked in first, and Hermione hesitantly followed; suddenly a bit nervous. What if the child was devious, or unwilling to learn? But there was surely no need to be worried; she was confident in her abilities, and she had handled unruly students at the school; a six year old would be no bother.
The nursery was at least more decorated than the parts of the house that Hermione had already seen, with deep green walls lined with silver snakes, and a whole row of bookshelves against one wall. There was a wooden rocking horse facing out of the large bay window, and from this side of the house, Hermione could just make out the nice part of the garden Molly had told her about.
It took Hermione a moment to realise there was a small child burrowed in Molly's apron.
She could just make out a mop of untidy black hair, but otherwise the child's features were completely hidden by fabric.
"Harry, dear, why don't you say hello to your new governess?" Molly chided the child gently, and the boy; Harry, slowly raised his head to examine Hermione.
Hermione's very first thought was how green the boy's eyes were; she had never seen a colour so vivid. She then noticed a peculiar scar on his forehead, shaped like a bolt of lightning; she had never seen anything like it before. His facial features were delicate and small, as expected of a child his age, and he smiled at her nervously. Though it seemed horrible to say it, his nervousness made Hermione feel slightly better; at least she wasn't the only one with a bit of anxiety.
"Hello Miss," Harry said quietly, wringing his hands together.
Hermione opened her mouth to respond, but then she noticed a slight movement behind the curtain. Pushing it aside for the moment, she turned her attention back to her new charge.
"Hello Harry; my name is Hermione Granger, and I'll be teaching you magic from now on," Hermione introduced herself, crouching down to Harry's level. She heard Molly leave the room and close the door softly behind them. Once she heard Molly's footsteps disappear down the hallway, she turned her focus back onto the curtain. "You can come out now," she said warningly, but her discomfort eased as a small, red-haired boy appeared; this was surely one of Molly's sons.
"This is Ron," Harry whispered urgently, "but please don't tell Father; I'm not supposed to have Ron in here, but he's my friend."
Ron looked like he was pleading Hermione with his eyes, and Hermione felt a stab of pity towards him. Still, it was nice for an upper-class child to be so friendly with a servant's son, and maybe that was a good sign about the father as well.
"I won't tell your mother you've been sneaking around, Ron" Hermione told the red-haired boy gently. "But if you could please leave now so I can talk to Harry about his lessons."
Ron nodded, his expression delighted as he wasn't in any trouble, and he ran merrily from the room.
"So Harry," Hermione said, turning back to the child. "You have a lot of books in here; do you like to read?"
Harry nodded, and walked towards the bookshelf. He tugged at a book to pull it out, and brought it over to Hermione.
"This is my favourite," he smiled, holding the cover up for Hermione to see.
It was a very battered copy of 'The Tales of Beedle the Bard', a book Hermione had read plenty of times over the years.
"It's my favourite too," Hermione told the boy. She drew her wand, and cast Reparo on the book, her eyes studying Harry as his face lit up while he watched the binding fold neatly into place, the rips closing together and the faded colours once more bursting with light. "You shan't be getting your own wand until you're eleven, but I will get you a practice wand, provided you pay attention to the theory and history of magic first."
Harry nodded, eagerly looking at the wand in Hermione's hand.
The child was still too young to learn about the magic courses that Hogwarts offered, though Hermione desperately wanted to teach the boy all she knew. She had to remember that her position was simply to teach Harry the basic underlying of magic for the moment; he had Hogwarts to actually teach him magic.
Hermione wandered over to the bookshelf, glancing at the titles on the sides of the books. Some of them were very child friendly, like 'The Adventures of the goblin Mangok', and 'Herbert the Muggle'. There were also some very unsuitable books for children, such as 'A Guide to Dark Creatures and How to Kill Them', and even more alarmingly, one titled simply 'Mudbloods'. Hermione felt a cold chill run through her; she was Muggle-born, and had been called a Mudblood numerous times by prejudiced students. She couldn't blame a child for having such a book; it was clearly given to him by somebody else, but the person that had given him the book could very well be his father.
"You have some very adult books here," Hermione said, her voice weaker than intended. "Are they all yours, or does your father have some in here too?"
"They're all mine," Harry said proudly, and Hermione felt sick; she would have to find a way to stop whoever who poisoning this child's mind before it was too late. "My friend bought me that one," he told Hermione, running and pointing the book entitled 'Mudbloods'; Hermione should have expected Harry might have noticed her attention lingering on that one particular book.
"Friend?" Hermione questioned, feeling slight relief that the father wasn't to blame. "Who is your friend?" Could it be one of the older Weasley children?
Harry smiled widely, his bright green eyes flashing with excitement.
"Tom Riddle," Harry grinned, and Hermione couldn't explain the horrible shiver that ran through her body at hearing that name.
If Hermione had thought the sweet, adorable boy that was Harry was any sort of reflection of his father, she had been very wrong indeed.
She had been called to the drawing room in the evening, after a delicious supper that Molly and Jimmy had cooked together.
Severus had the same pitch-black hair as his son, but that was where the similarities ended. Severus had cold, dark grey eyes, and a large hooked nose. He wasn't a handsome man by any means, but there was something intriguing about him; perhaps it was because he was outwardly emotionless and a mystery. Luckily for Hermione, she loved mysteries.
He studied her carefully, not speaking for a number of minutes.
"Ah, so you must be Hermione Granger," the man said finally. "Minerva McGonagall has told me much about you; she says you are one of the brightest witches she has had the pleasure of teaching. I presume you intend to put that knowledge to good use whilst you are teaching my son."
"Oh, yes, sir," Hermione said quickly, inclining her head. "He seems very bright, and eager to learn."
"Naturally," Severus smirked, though his comment seemed rather abstract to Hermione. "I shall leave you to design your lesson outlines, though I shall be monitoring Harry's progress, and if he does not meet my expectations your position shall be terminated. McGonagall has complete faith in you however, so I am, shall we say, hopeful, that you will do as is required."
"Of course, sir," Hermione answered with a reassuring smile. This man seemed like one not to cross, but a rigid setting with expectations to meet was always the sort of pressure Hermione liked to work under.
"How are you with potions?" Severus asked, his dark eyes suddenly peering intently into hers, and Hermione felt herself flush slightly; oh, this man was definitely having an effect on her.
"Very well, sir," Hermione informed him. "I received Outstanding in all my examinations for Potions, both in theory and practice. Truthfully, it wasn't my favourite class, but I still enjoyed it very much."
"As you may be aware, I am a Potions Master myself. Some of these potions require a great deal of attention, and as such, I may need assistance at times. If you prove yourself worthy, you may assist me and receive a higher pay," Severus drawled, his attention now returning to a Potions book.
"Is that 'Potions for Beasts'?" Hermione asked suddenly, as she read the title in Severus's hands. 'Beasts' in this instance, referred to non-human types, ranging from the more animalistic, such as Hippogriffs, to the more human, such as werewolves and vampires. "I was refused a copy from Hogwarts library for being female-"
"Did that stop you?" Severus interrupted a knowing smirk on his face.
"Of course not," Hermione smirked back. "I didn't dare take it more than once though. It was very interesting to read though."
"You may borrow it tonight, if you wish," Severus said curtly. "There is a library three doors down that you are very welcome to access; in fact, it may be beneficial for Harry's lessons if you take advantage of the whole range of our books, rather than the ones in his nursery. There are many potion books which would have been denied at Hogwarts, though they are not inherently Dark."
"Well surely they are only Dark if you use them in a negative way," Hermione reasoned, noting that Severus seemed impressed.
"Indeed," Severus agreed. "You are dismissed," he added abruptly, handing Hermione the book.
She bid him a quick thank you, and left the room, and that was the very first night of many that she spent thinking of Severus.
The next month seemed to pass by in a blur for Hermione. She and Harry were getting on very well, and Hermione found the child a pleasure to teach. He was attentive, and well behaved, and he always tried his hardest. Out of lessons was a somewhat different story, however.
Harry seemed to like getting into trouble. He was forever sneaking into the gardens and hiding in the flowerbeds, and Severus had informed Hermione that Harry was only allowed in his day and night nursery, the library, the drawing room, and the dining room on occasion; he had been very explicit about that after he had come across Hermione and Harry in the potions laboratory. Apparently Harry had simply forgotten he wasn't allowed in there, and with his big green eyes, Hermione couldn't help but forgive him; the child was a sweetheart, but a very Slytherin one at that.
Hermione had been spending more time with Severus than what she originally expected. The man kept a close eye on her teaching methods, and seemed to be continuously checking with her about Harry's progress. However, she also spent many evenings with him, working in a comfortable silence over simmering cauldrons. Severus had asked her to brew the Draught of Living Death on her third day working at the manor, and she had brewed it perfectly. Obviously this deemed her as a worthy potions maker, as she had assisted Severus on much more difficult potions since then.
"Will you stir the potion ten times, anti-clockwise?" Severus asked loudly over the clinking of the bottles of ingredients he was shuffling through.
He was making Amortentia; a gift for a friend of his who had requested a batch.
They were nearing the end of the potion, and Hermione was intrigued as to what she would smell. Her Potions professor at Hogwarts, Professor Slughorn, had told the females to leave the room when the topic of love potions came up, lest they got ideas to poison rich Pure-bloods with it.
"Now for the final ingredient," Severus stated gently, the way he often spoke when dealing with potions; Hermione suspected that at times he forgot that Hermione was there.
He added five drops of rose petal essence to the potion, Hermione stirring three times clockwise after each drop, and then the potion began to shimmer like pearls, and curls of smoke rose from the cauldron.
A sudden, strong scent overtook Hermione's senses as the potion simmered and glowed; the scent of old, dusty books, and lily petals, and bitter herbs. It was an unusual smell, but one which wasn't unfamiliar.
She turned to look at the man who Hermione so often associated with the smell of dusty books and herbs, horrified at the thought that he might somehow know what she could smell. But Severus didn't look like he knew; in fact, he was staring at Hermione with a strange, unreadable expression on his face, as though the man was stuck between two emotions.
"Ink," the man murmured softly to himself, glancing down to where Hermione's fingers were drumming lightly on the worktop, the tips stained blue with the ink Hermione often used.
"I have to go," Hermione said, startling both herself and Severus. "I mean, I must get the lesson plan ready for Harry tomorrow."
"Very wise," Severus answered just as quickly, his eyes very intently studying the potion before him. "If you could send a note to Bellatrix Lestrange and notify her that her potion is ready?"
"Yes, sir," Hermione nodded, before allowing her feet to carry her quickly from the room.
Hermione liked mysteries and riddles. She liked solving puzzles, and learning new things. Love was new to her, and it was also one of the biggest mysteries she had faced, but it was one puzzle that Hermione didn't know how to solve.
Two months later, Hermione finally met Tom Riddle; the man Harry wouldn't shut up about.
Hermione and Harry looked up with a start as a knock echoed on the door to the nursery.
They were in the middle of a lesson on the history of Rowena Ravenclaw; they had studied Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor previously, and would be focusing on Helga Hufflepuff the next week.
Molly would get on with housework during Harry's lessons, and her children were too scared of Hermione to try and approach Harry when she was around. She wondered if it may be Severus, but Harry really only ever saw his father in the evenings; the man had no bother with the boy the rest of the time.
Hermione opened the door, slightly disappointed when it wasn't Severus; she knew children from the richer families didn't tend to see much of their parents, but it was still nice for fathers to acknowledge their children, in Hermione's opinion.
On her second glance at the man who had knocked on the door, Hermione found it amusing that her very first impression had been one of disappointment.
The man was incredibly handsome, with a straight nose, strong jawline, and dark grey eyes. His black hair fell in light curls, and though slender, his tall form emitted power and strength. There was something lurking in his eyes, however, something Hermione couldn't quite put her finger on, but it was something that made her incredibly uncomfortable.
"Tom!" Harry squealed behind her, rushing past her to throw his arms around the man. "I've missed you."
Tom Riddle, Hermione presumed, laughed, though the sound seemed as though it had been forced.
"And you too, my little one," Tom replied, his voice velvety and smooth. He detached Harry's arms from around him, and looked at Hermione. "And you must be Miss Granger; Harry's governess."
"How do you do?" Hermione greeted curtly, inclining her head.
Tom returned the gesture, but turned his focus back on Harry.
He was looking at Harry hungrily, in the way that an animal would watch its prey. It unnerved Hermione, despite the fact this man had done nothing explicitly wrong.
"I just wanted to come and say hello," Tom smiled at Harry, ruffling the child's hair and resting his hand on Harry's forehead. His fingers traced the lightning bolt scar, and Harry shivered into the touch. "I have a gift for you, child, but I shall give it to you tonight when you attend your father."
"Thank you," Harry beamed, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Harry certainly seemed to worship and adore the man, at any rate.
"I'm afraid I won't be seeing you tonight, Miss Granger," Tom said somewhat sharply, still watching Harry as he spoke. "Severus is a dear friend, and I would like to spend my time with him privately."
"Of course," Hermione replied, a bit snappier than she intended; even Harry turned to look at her curiously.
Tom bid them goodbye, and Hermione never managed to shake off the feeling of unease.
"I think there's something wrong with Tom Riddle," Hermione said to Severus the next day.
"Hmm?" Severus murmured, looking only half interested. "Riddle is unusual, I'll grant you, but he is far from having something wrong with him. He is brilliant, gifted, descended from Salazar Slytherin they say, and – "
"And is not a safe man to have around your son," Hermione finished grimly. "Have you seen the way he looks at Harry? And the books he has given him? I saw one entitled 'Mudbloods' previously."
"What are you implying?" Severus hissed, rising from his seat to tower over Hermione. He glowered at her, with his teeth barred. "Suggesting that the esteemed Mr Riddle is such some of child molester?"
"No! No!" Hermione answered quickly; a Muggle-born woman making those sorts of accusation about a highly regarded man of higher blood status than her would almost instantly be shunned, and possibly even punished depending on how powerful the accused was. The Ministry was corrupt when it came to gender, and Hermione had accepted that; that didn't mean, however, that she would stand by and allow Tom Riddle to get away with whatever he had planned. "What I mean is, he looks at Harry the way a starving vulture would eye its prey, just waiting for the animals to die before it can swoop in and feast. I believe he means the child harm."
"What would you know about Tom Riddle?" Severus snarled. "He has been a family friend for many years; after Lily died, I wouldn't have been able to get through it without him. He has provided Harry with everything, and most importantly, given him his friendship. Tom Riddle has been nothing but good to this family, and if you cannot accept that, then get out of my sight."
And feeling her heart break in two, Hermione quickly left the room.
"I just don't understand it," Hermione complained to Molly the following morning, casting Drying charms over the plates and cutlery that Molly was washing. "I know he doesn't see much of his son, but surely he would care if the child was in danger? He certainly takes great interest in Harry having the best education."
"I'm sure he does care," Molly replied lightly, suddenly very intrigued by the china in her hands.
Hermione worried her lower lip, musing on how the phrasing was strange. 'I'm sure he cares' should be 'he does care', shouldn't it?
"I know I shouldn't really be speaking this way about our master, but I wonder if he does consider his son at all. Harry hardly sees the man, and this Riddle character could be a very real threat," Hermione continued, and Hermione watched as something flashed in Molly's eyes.
"Well, yes, he is a rather unusual character, but I'm sure Riddle means Harry no harm," Molly said weakly. "As for Master Severus; it's complicated."
"How complicated?" Hermione pressed on. "If Harry could be at risk-"
"Oh no; I don't mean it's complicated in that sort of way," Molly said quickly, shaking her head. She set the plate she was holding down, and looked at Hermione with a sorrowed look in her eyes. "What I'm about to tell you can't leave this room."
"Alright," Hermione nodded, her interest already peaked.
"This is all based off rumours, of course," Molly said guiltily, looking around the room as if to check that it was only her and Hermione in the room. "Severus and his late wife Lily had been friends since childhood. He loved her nearly as long, and she agreed to marry him after they had left school to please the father of Severus, who had threatened to withhold his inheritance unless he bore him a son. Now, Lily was a great friend to Severus, but her heart truly lay with a man named James Potter, or so they say. It is widely rumoured that Lily was unfaithful to Severus with James, and that Harry may in fact be James's son."
"But why would she marry him if she loved another man? And how could they know who Harry's father is?" Hermione questioned, but she felt her heart sinking rapidly; she had thought from the very beginning that Harry bore no resemblance to Severus.
"The child looks the very same as James Potter," Molly said wildly, and Hermione was sure the woman must secretly believe the rumours. "The only resemblance he has to Severus is the hair colour, which is the same as James', and his eyes are the only truly noticeable feature he received from his late mother; of course this has made people talk."
"Hasn't Severus taken Harry to this James Potter? Surely there must be some spell or potion which reveals paternity?" Hermione pressed on, watching Molly carefully. The older woman simply had a look of what of almost sadness on her face, and her fingers were trembling slightly.
"James Potter was found dead the day before Harry's birth; murdered they say. He was friends with a werewolf, who claimed he never touched the man, but who would trust such a beast? He was asking for it associating with such a thing anyway," Molly continued, ignoring Hermione's glare. "His other friend, Sirius Black, defended the werewolf and joined him in prison, and the elder Potters were deceased a long time ago; there is nobody on that side of blood to answer any questions about Harry, and I'm not sure any such spell or potion exists to test blood and paternity. Please remember these are only rumours; you mustn't presume what I have said to be truth."
Hermione nodded, and turned back to drying the plates silently as she considered what Molly had said. So Harry may not be Severus's son? Surely even then the man must care for the child, considering he provided him with fine things and an education. But didn't Molly say there was an inheritance involved? That thought considered, Hermione could not see Severus keeping Harry simply for money.
When the plate in her hands slipped from her grasp and smashed into pieces on the hard stone floor, Hermione knew her mind was made up. Although she was the last person Severus wanted to see right now, she simply had to speak to Severus.
Unfortunately for Hermione, Tom, Severus and Harry had gone on a hunting trip during the day, and it was only in the evening that she knew Severus was alone, judging from the fumes pouring from underneath the potion room door.
She rapped lightly on the wood, and waited for the door to open; she knew Severus appreciated patience, and if she wanted to be on his good side, she would have to work to achieve it.
She frowned when she heard no footsteps, nor a murmur of acknowledgement.
Pushing the door ajar slightly, telling herself that she was only checking that the potion wasn't unattended, she poked her head through the gap, stifling a gasp at the sight.
The cauldron was bubbling violently, filling the room with smoke and steam. Severus himself was in an armchair, staring up at a portrait that hadn't been there before, and with a glass of Firewhiskey in front of him.
Hermione rushed to banish the ruined potion, and then turned to look towards Severus, who hadn't yet acknowledged her presence.
"Severus?" she called gently, but the man continued to ignore her. Hermione could see his chest moving, and his eyes were open, so, feeling slightly more relaxed, she looked up at the portrait.
It was of a woman, dressed in a fine, silk, green dress. The woman had long flowing red hair, and eyes a shade of green that Hermione had only ever seen on Harry, and she knew instantly it was his mother Lily.
The portrait was not moving, suggesting it was a Muggle one; Hermione couldn't help but find this odd in a Wizarding household.
"I did it all for her you know," Severus said gently, making Hermione jump.
He turned to look at Hermione, his eyes intense and with more emotion than any Hermione had seen in them before.
"Did what for her?" Hermione questioned softly, sitting down and trailing her fingertips over the tops of Severus's hands. When he made no sign of rejection, she carefully took his hand in hers.
"Everything," the man groaned, as if the very thought pained him greatly. "Harry isn't mine; I'm sure you must have heard that from somebody by now."
Hermione stayed silent, not wanting to admit knowing and thus getting Molly in trouble, but Severus just laughed humourlessly.
"I know you've heard the rumours," Severus stated simply, "and they are all true. Lily was in love with me, yes, but she loved James Potter more. And being the fool I was, I allowed her to continue with her unfaithfulness, lest she left me for him. I knew from the instance Harry was born that he wasn't mind, and a potion I invented soon proved that. I was ready to send the boy away to who knows where, and make myself incredibly rich by selling the potion and thus be free from the inheritance my father so often blackmailed me with, but I just couldn't do that to Lily. No matter how much I hated her, I loved her too, and her son was a part of her; the only thing left of her, in fact."
"Do you still love her now?" Hermione found herself saying, hoping she hadn't crossed the boundaries between them too much.
"Yes," Severus nodded. "And no. I am simply in love with a memory now. Tom Riddle was a great help to me after Lily's death; he helped me cover up Harry's true parentage, and promised to be a father when I could not. Riddle is unable to have his own children, a secret only I, and now you, know; he treats Harry as his own, and sometimes I feel as though I have let Lily down by allowing Riddle the relationship he has with Harry."
"You may not be Harry's father, but you are as good as," Hermione said boldly, looking deep into Severus's eyes. "You raised him, despite knowing what you know, and you have provided for him. Harry knows you as his father. And don't say it was for Lily; you did it for Harry too."
Severus looked deeply at Hermione, and Hermione took his face in her hands. She had never seen him look so beautiful; it was as if all the mystery had been unravelled, only to reveal a complex but brilliant portrait of Severus Snape.
Hermione leaned in towards him, resting her forehead against his.
"You know a part of me will always belong to Lily, don't you?" Severus whispered, and Hermione nodded.
"I know," she said softly, her tone allowing Severus to know it was okay without her having to say anything. "Part of you is all I need."
Severus tilted his head down, pressing his lips against Hermione's.
He tasted of Firewhiskey and bitter herbs, and Hermione found herself intoxicated.
Hermione gave herself to Severus that night, and spent the night curled in his warm embrace.
"Severus! Severus!" a woman was screaming, and loud bangs echoed off the wooden door.
Hermione jolted awake, feeling a distinct lack of warmth as Severus unfurled himself from Hermione and rushed to the door.
Molly came barging in almost immediately, with tears streaming down her face.
She didn't even give Hermione a second glance, and clutched at Severus's shirt, apologising profusely.
"I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!" she cried. "I've looked everywhere but I can't find him."
"Who?" Severus questioned urgently, but his tone made it clear he knew exactly who Molly was talking about, and Hermione felt her heart sink into her stomach. There was no way Molly would be reacting this way if Tom Riddle had disappeared, after all.
"Harry!" Molly wailed, blowing her nose on the sleeve of her apron. "I tucked him in last night and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I've had Arthur and the boys search everywhere, and Jimmy couldn't find him either."
"Where's Tom Riddle?" Hermione cut in. Severus drew in a sharp breath, and Molly looked at her with a look of horrified realisation on her face.
"He-he said he had to urgently leave last night. He wanted me to tell you this morning, Severus," Molly stated, her face paling. "Oh, Hermione; you said you thought something was strange about him, but I paid it no heed. I never thought he of all people could do such a thing."
"Riddle being involved is nothing more than an assumption," Severus said lowly, his voice dangerous. "Molly, please go search the grounds again. Hermione and I will search the fields outside; Harry may have just wandered too far away from the manor."
Molly nodded, wiping her face once more.
"I'll get right on it, sir," she said, a look of determination crossing her face.
The door slammed shut as Molly hurried away, and Hermione watched as Severus shut his eyes.
"You think Riddle took him, don't you?" Hermione asked quietly, and Severus nodded, his eyes still screwed shut. "Do you know where he might have taken him?" The 'Or what he'd do to him' went left unsaid.
"I have my suspicions," Severus ground out. "I'm afraid Riddle may in fact want me to find him."
"Why would he want that?" Hermione queried, and Severus's eyes snapped open.
"I'm afraid you were right when you said you believed there was something unsatisfactory about Riddle's character. Riddle never does anything simply out of the goodness of his heart; I'm not even sure there is goodness in it. He always said he would need something in return for the help he has given me over the years, and I have always suspected he may take Harry."
"So why didn't you listen to me when I said he seemed suspicious?" Hermione snapped, anger rising in her. "And why would he want you to find them?"
"Riddle has always been like that with Harry," Severus growled, eyes flashing over.
"So why did you allow him near the child?" Hermione shouted, jumping when Severus slammed his fist into the wall by her head.
"Do not presume to tell me how I should have raised my son," Severus snarled, his chest heaving as he spoke. "And do not underestimate Riddle; he expects loyalty, and if his needs are not met, well, a lady should not hear how Riddle would react. As for why he would want me to see that he has taken Harry-" Severus paused, rolling his sleeve up to his elbow. A large tattoo of a snake coming out of a skull stood out vividly on his forearm, and the skin beneath it was angrily red. "I gave myself to Riddle's cause, and he will want to remind me just what that means. Besides, he likes to show off when he has won."
Hours later, Hermione and Severus had managed to track down one of Riddle's hideouts. They had been to two previous, only to find empty houses. The second manor had the same image as the tattoo on Severus's arm lighting the sky above it, and Severus refused to allow Hermione to go inside with him.
The man had come out pale, but told Hermione he knew where Harry and Riddle would be. And after the way he said 'Harry and Riddle', Hermione was sure she didn't want to know what had been in the house.
The house they were standing before was quite small, but still denoted that the owner had money. It stood alone in the middle of some woods, which cast darkness over the area, despite the fact it was in the middle on the day. The windows were boarded up, and moss was creeping up the walls on the lowest floor.
The door creaked open, as if waiting for them, and an ominous light lit up the way.
Severus and Hermione glanced at each other and nodded.
They stepped forwards, heading into the manor.
The first thing they heard was the sound of a child's laughter, the noise sounding peculiar in the creepy atmosphere of the house.
Severus hurried towards the noise, his wand already lit up red at the end.
Hermione rushed after him, heading into a small room.
Harry was sat on a wooden floor, a large snake curled around him almost protectively. Hermione gasped as she heard Harry hissing to the animal, and then laughing as the snake hissed in return.
"Well, well," a silky voice said, making Hermione jump. "You two certainly got here quicker than I expected; you really must be bright."
Tom Riddle was sat in an armchair, one leg crossed over the other, and a glass of blood red wine in his hands.
Hermione didn't miss the fact that Riddle's wand was tucked neatly beneath the fingers on his other hand. He hadn't drawn yet though, and she thought copying Severus's lead by not casting would be the best move, simply to make sure Harry didn't get hurt in the crossfire.
Riddle hissed something, and the snake and Harry turned to look at him before getting up and leaving the room. Hermione watched in panic, but Severus seemed to relax slightly as the child left.
"So you taught him Parseltongue? I didn't think it possible," Severus murmured, and Riddle smirked.
"Oh, it isn't," the man replied smoothly. "I didn't intend for him to get the skill, but I suppose for my heir it is suitable."
"He isn't your heir," Hermione spat, not backing down under the glare Riddle gave her.
"He may as well be," Riddle mused, taking a sip of his wine. "I don't see why you're so angry, Severus; I know you hated having the child around. It's striking how alike Harry and Lily's eyes are, and I suppose I would know; I looked into them as I killed her, after all."
Riddle rose quickly as a blast of green light rushed towards him, narrowly skimming past him, but Riddle didn't even flinch.
"Did you not tell your new lady, Severus?" Riddle mocked, watching Hermione who had a perplexed expression on her face. "Did you not know that Severus was too busy to be with his dear wife in labour? Of course, it made it far easier for me to lie about her dying in childbirth."
"How could you do such a thing?" Severus hissed, his wand shaking in his grasp, emitting green sparks. "How could you do such a thing and spend the next six years acting as though her son means so much to you?"
"He does mean a lot to me," Riddle reasoned, tilting his head to the side. "Your whore of a wife didn't however, and nor did her lover. They were far too fun to kill; they both tried to fight back, even with him being unarmed and her having gone through labour. Admittedly, I planned to kill their bastard son too, but I saw too much potential in him, so, naturally, I decided to raise him as my heir. I will soon become known as Lord Voldemort, the Darkest wizard to ever grace this world, and Harry will be by my side as I do that. Such an innocent mind will be easy to taint; I know he has read all the books I have given him."
"Why would you want to twist an innocent child?" Hermione spat, her own wand shaking dangerously in her grasp.
"Quiet, you filthy Mudblood-" Riddle started to snarl, his wand glowing green and pointing at Hermione.
But he never finished his sentence, because Severus cursed him first. The green light of the Killing Curse overtook Riddle before the man could even react.
Severus was panting, his eyes glazed over in anger and rage.
Riddle's body fell to the floor, in a blinding flash of white light, and Hermione watched the body fall, not feeling horrified like she should have been. Riddle had just been about to use the Killing Curse on her, after all.
Hermione turned to Severus and embraced him, allowing the man to crumble in her arms and wrap his own arms around Hermione.
"Father?" a small voice said, and Severus and Hermione detached, looking as Harry tearfully looked over Riddle's body.
"Harry, we're going home now," Severus told the boy gently, walking to him and picking the child up.
"Father, what's wrong with Tom?" Harry asked tearfully, trying to squirm out of Severus's arms.
"He's very sick," Severus lied.
"We called a Healer over," Hermione added. "He might have to spend a long time in hospital."
Harry nodded, though tears started to roll down his cheeks.
"Can Nagini come with us?" Harry managed to say, pointing to the large snake that was resting mournfully over her master's body.
"Yes," Severus answered almost immediately, though he didn't look happy. The prospect of keeping the snake seemed to cheer Harry up however, and he stayed still as Severus carried him out, the snake slithering after them.
Harry went straight to bed when they got home after a tearful embrace from Molly, and Hermione and Severus tucked him in, with Hermione creating a cage for the snake to sleep in.
Severus hadn't said a word since they had got Harry back, but he had held Hermione's hand tightly nearly the entire time.
Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, had turned up not long after they had returned to the manor, his face very grave as he listened to their story.
"The Aurors retrieved the body," Dumbledore told them seriously, the usual twinkle in his eyes no longer there. "I suspected Riddle of Dark magic, but of course he was too clever; he knew exactly how to hide it until he was ready. I'm sorry you didn't come to tell me of what you knew, Severus."
"I couldn't," Severus told the old man, sounding deeply pained, and Dumbledore bowed his head.
"Now I'm going to tell you both something, but you must keep this to yourselves to ensure Harry's safety. Have you ever heard of Horcruxes?" Hermione and Severus both shook their heads, and Dumbledore continued. "Horcruxes are an object which gives a home to part of a person's soul. To create a Horcrux, one must commit murder in order to split their soul, which can then be placed in an object of that person's choosing. There have been no recorded cases of other humans being used to house Horcruxes, but that doesn't make it impossible."
"And you think Riddle did that to Harry? Killed his mother and put that soul fragment in Harry?" Hermione questioned, glancing at Severus who looked deep in thought.
"Indeed," Dumbledore nodded. "It sounds very much so, from the way Riddle described it. I believe the snake, Nagini, may also be a Horcrux."
"So Riddle is technically still alive?" Severus asked, speaking at last.
"Theoretically," Dumbledore mused. "Riddle's body was destroyed, but there may be a way for him to return using his soul fragments in Harry and Nagini, and any other Horcruxes he may have created. I do not know of any way to remove the Horcrux in Harry without killing him, so I believe our best option is to keep the information to ourselves, and ensure he is protected from any of Riddle's followers, though I hope they no reason to suspect the boy anyway."
Dumbledore bid them goodbye after a cup of tea, and Hermione and Severus were left with the heavy weight of the information Dumbledore had given them.
"So we protect Harry from one danger, only to find it really isn't over," Hermione sighed, wringing her fingers together.
Severus noticed, and took her hand in his once more, placing a kiss to the top of it.
"Harry will grow up safe," Severus murmured against Hermione's hand. "I'll make sure of it."
"You're a better father than you realise," Hermione smiled. "You chose to protect Harry, and I know you'll continue to do so."
"Yes," Severus muttered, "but a boy needs more than a father; he needs a mother too." His eyes were peering intently into Hermione's, with a questioning gaze.
"I think Molly thinks of Harry as one of her own," Hermione teased with a small smile, "but I suppose I could come to love Harry as a son; he really is a lovely child."
Hermione rested back against the soft pillows, cradling her new-born daughter in her arms.
Severus, her husband of just over one year, was seated beside her with Harry sat on his lap.
Hermione had continued working as a Governess for Harry, but she and Severus had moved on with their relationship, much to the pleasure of Harry. Molly seemed overjoyed as well, though she still doted on Harry and treated him like her own son.
Hermione and Severus had been thrilled when Hermione had fallen pregnant, and though this child would be linked to them both by blood, they had made a pledge to treat the infant the same as they treated Harry; he would be as much their son as the new-born was their daughter.
The labour room door opened, and Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy entered, their son, Draco, who was the same age as Harry, trailing behind them. Lucius was a dear friend to Severus, and Draco was deemed a suitable playmate for Harry, thus they spent a lot of time at each other's manors.
"Congratulations," Narcissa smiled, looking dotingly at the babe in Hermione's arms. "Does she have a name yet?"
"Charlotte Jane," Severus answered, and Narcissa and Lucius just smiled; the name wasn't particularly Wizarding, but Hermione appreciated the classic Muggle names, and Severus had liked the name Charlotte well enough.
"Narcissa and I though we didn't want little Harry to feel left out, so we brought him a present," Lucius drawled, handing Harry a small, somewhat battered diary bound with brown leather. Harry's eyes lit up as he took hold of the book, and he hugged it close to him.
Hermione gently stroked the small tuft of hair on her daughter's head, and placed a kiss on her small forehead. She had been thrown into strange circumstances with Severus, but she didn't have a single regret. Hermione was happy, and she loved her new family with all of her heart.
And watching her daughter sleep, her husband staring adoringly at his infant child, and Harry scrawling happily into his diary, Hermione was content.
Later that evening, Harry was lying on his bed; his Father and new Mother were in their own room with the new baby.
Harry gingerly opened the diary Lucius had given him, running his small fingers over the rough pages.
He reached into the drawer by his bed, pulling out a quill and ink pot that Hermione had given him.
'Hello, my name is Harry' Harry wrote, eyes widening as the ink disappeared, and new words formed.
'Hello, Harry,' the diary wrote back. 'This is Tom. I've missed you'.