Prompter: Anonymous Six
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): None.
(Highlight to View) Prompt: How you get here is up to you, but the situation is this: Severus has never had any romantic feelings for Hermione, which is good because, when she's somehow permanently de-aged, he's the one who ends up having to raise her (SS & HG)..
Summary: How did Severus find himself with a child? And not just any child, but Hermione Granger… aged three!
The double line of new first years entered the Great Hall and started up the centre aisle behind the Deputy Headmistress as they did every year. As always they looked around curiously—some transfixed by the charmed ceiling, some looking around at the tables identifying which house sat at each one and some searching out some familiar faces in the crowd. One marched along proudly, her head held high as she smiled at the person seated in the centre of the Head Table in an ornate chair. Despite himself, the Headmaster failed to keep a stern expression on his face. That smile seemed to get him every time. He thought back to the first day he saw it…
He had found himself once again in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts. It was March. Since the Final Battle had decided things in favour of Harry Potter and the light side the previous year, he had spent quite a bit of time off and on in the infirmary recovering from the wound in his neck. Every three to four weeks it seemed to flare up and the resulting pain and inflammation required a short stay under the watchful eyes of Madam Pomfrey as she tended to him with potions and charms to aid his recovery.
One morning, following a potion-induced sleep, he woke and scanned the room quickly. It was an unfortunate habit he had upon wakening to check his surroundings in order to quickly identify and eliminate any threats. At least as the months had passed he had ceased grabbing his wand immediately and hexing first and asking questions later. As always it was silent and devoid of movement. There was one change today however. A bed opposite his was surrounded in privacy curtains, blocking his view of who might be interred with him in this interminable hell.
Madam Pomfrey hurried over to him when she noticed he was awake. Briskly enquiring after his state of being, the matron waved her wand over him, noting his vital signs and applying the charms needed. She retrieved eight potions from the cabinet near his bed and watched as he swallowed them one by one. Once the pain relief was coursing through his system, the healer began the delicate task of changing the bandages covering his neck. He ignored the tut of sympathy that was now standard every time his neck was unwrapped. At best the combinations of potions and charms over the last several months had been holding his wound at bay rather than healing it. He was silent while she cleaned and redressed the wound, obligingly moving his head when asked and grunting his thanks when she finished.
As every day, the brief period of activity, as minimal as it was, and the consumption of his potions tired him out. He lay back down and closed his eyes, knowing that he would sleep again for an hour or so and breakfast would be waiting for him when he awoke.
When his eyes opened for the second time that day, there was something else new.
A pair of large, brown eyes was staring at him curiously. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and regarded the owner of the inquisitive stare. The eyes belonged to a small girl. There was a little smattering of freckles across a little button nose and cute, pink lips with just a hint of a smile. The child had a head of brown, bushy hair that extended well below her shoulders. She had an air about her, one that spoke of an 'old soul'. She had pulled a chair close to the side of the bed and climbed up on it, kneeling on the seat and leaning her elbows on the bed, her head resting in her little hands. She was a picture of absolute sweetness in her long, white nightgown with her inquisitive expression.
"You awake?" she whispered.
"My eyes are open," he answered.
Her hands clasped together as she giggled. "What your name?" she asked.
'Headmaster Snape,' was his first thought. But this little waif would not have any concept of titles and honorifics. He fought his natural inclination to snap at the child who looked to be little more than a toddler. "My name is Severus," he said, stressing the verb.
"Sev'rus," she repeated. "I is Huminy." She stuck one hand out toward him, obviously imitating what she had seen adults do. He was impressed that she picked up his correction, even though she got it wrong. He shook her little hand gravely. As soon as he let go she immediately put her hands back beneath her chin.
"Harmony?" he asked, with not a little distaste. 'Hippie parents,' he thought with disdain. Some people had no concept of naming children. What sounded like a cute name for a baby would be wholly unsuitable as she aged.
"No," the child said. "Huminy," she said slowly.
"All right," Severus said tiredly. Clearly she thought there was some sort of difference although he could not hear it. "Is my breakfast here?" he asked.
The child nodded. "Winky brang it."
"Winky brought it," he corrected.
"Winky brought it," she repeated, smiling broadly when Severus nodded his head in approval. The child had a very expressive smile. She moved to her right, revealing his breakfast sitting on the table behind her. He withdrew his wand from where he had stored it under his pillow and summoned the tray to float over and come to rest on his legs. Her awed expression at his display of magic was quickly replaced by one of strictness. "You eat up all your breakfast like a good girl," the child said sternly.
Severus' lips twitched in amusement. "You are a girl, I am a boy," he said as he poured his tea.
Her expression turned thoughtful. "Like Daddy is a boy?" she asked.
"Yes, like Daddy," he replied, again impressed at the child's obvious intelligence. She could clearly make links between things she was told. "Where is your daddy?" he asked. There did not appear to be any concerned, hovering adults as he would expect with such a young child clearly being a patient here.
"Gone," she said sadly, spreading her hands to show nothing there.
'A casualty of the war,' Severus thought. "And your mummy?" he asked, almost dreading the answer.
"Gone too," she whispered, tears filling her big, brown eyes.
"Who brought you here?" She shrugged. "You should use words when someone asks you a question," he lectured gently.
"Okay," she agreed, her eyes going wide. The tears miraculously stayed within the confines of her eyes, shining like sparkling diamonds. She seemed to like taking instruction. He supposed at her age everything was new—every conversation, every experience.
"So who brought you here?" he repeated.
"I dunno," she said.
"Don't know," Severus enunciated.
"Don't know," she repeated, smiling again when he nodded in approval.
They were silent for some time while Severus consumed his food. He was grateful for that—he could not abide chattering children. The quietness was strange though, he felt that this tiny child should be peppering him with questions although he had no idea why that was so. He had just placed his knife and fork back on the plate when Madam Pomfrey emerged from her office.
"Oh dear," she said, spying the man and child together. "She's not bothering you too much, is she, Severus?"
"No more than any other child in this castle ever has," he said acerbically. In truth, she was bothering him a lot less than any of the students usually under his care. "Where are her parents, Poppy?"
Madam Pomphrey placed a finger to her lips and shifted her eyes to look at the child. Severus immediately got the cue. "Come along, Sweetheart," she said to the little girl. "Let's leave Headmaster Snape to have a rest. You may visit again later."
"Who A'master 'Nape?" she asked curiously, allowing the matron to lift her from the chair she was kneeling on.
"I am," Severus said.
"You is Sev'rus," she said in confusion.
"That's right," Madam Pomfrey said encouragingly as she hoisted the girl on her hip. "Just like your name is Hermione Granger, his name is Severus Snape." The healer walked away, still talking to the child and not realising that Severus had frozen in the bed behind her.
Madam Pomfrey had taken the little child behind the privacy screens. 'At least the mystery identity of my fellow inmate is solved,' he thought. The mystery of exactly how she appeared to be no more than three years old when she should be eighteen was another thing. He tried to wait for the healer to emerge again but exhaustion overtook him once more and he drifted off to sleep despite his best efforts.
When he awoke again he looked to the left of his bed, almost hoping to see the big eyes peering back at him. No one was there. A giggle sounded from across the room. Severus raised himself on his elbows to be able to see the cubicle across the way better. The bushy brown head was poking from between the curtains. When she saw him, she gasped and withdrew from the gap quickly. Only a few seconds passed before she peeked around the curtain edge again, giggling when she saw he was still watching her.
"Come here, child," he said. He lay back on his pillows. Hermione came out from her hiding place and dragged the chair next to his bed a bit closer so she could climb onto it as she had that morning.
"You have good sleep?" she asked.
"Did you have a good sleep?" he corrected her.
"Me no sleep!" she said indignantly. Severus had to give her credit, she was rather logical. Although he supposed if she was indeed Hermione Granger, then logic was obviously a part of her personality—clearly since she had been a wee tacker.
"I had a nice sleep, thank you," he answered her question.
"You have owie," she said, pointing to his bandaged neck.
"Yes," he confirmed.
Hermione made a sad face and, to Severus' surprise, climbed up onto the bed and crawled toward him. He shot one arm out to steady her as she balanced precariously on the edge of the mattress and leant over to his neck. She pecked a sweet kiss on the bandage. "Kiss better," she said confidently. She immediately withdrew and resumed her place on the chair. Severus raised his hand to his neck. It was such an innocent gesture from the child but quite possibly the most profound one that could have been made. Never in his life had Severus been the recipient of such sweetness.
"Thank you," he said softly. "I feel it getting better already."
Hermione giggled and clapped her hands. "You tell me story?" she asked.
"Please," Severus corrected her.
"Pleeease," she repeated with a tilt of her head and beseeching expression on her face. "Sleepy 'Rora!" she demanded.
Severus blinked. 'What on earth is Sleepy Rora?' he thought. He rose to the challenge though. "Once upon a time there was a little girl named Rora. She was very sleepy and so her mummy put her to bed whence she fell asleep and dreamed of rainbows and unicorns. The end."
"That not Sleepy 'Rora!" Hermione said in the most scandalised tone a toddler could manage.
"It's not?" Severus asked, his lips twitching with barely suppressed amusement. Little Hermione was upright on her knees with her hands on her hips and an expression of outraged indignation on her face.
"No, you tell it wrongly. Sleepy 'Rora was little baby when bad fairy put spell on her and everyone. When 'Rora big girl she pick her finger with a needle and fall asleep for a hunnard years. Everyone in whole kingdom go to sleep too. Then Pince Charming come and kiss 'Rora awake and everyone awake and they all live happily ever after. That the end."
"Very good," Severus said. He lay down on the pillow and closed his eyes. A few seconds later he felt the mattress dip and a small body crawled over him and lay down next to him. "You sleepy, Sev'rus?" she whispered.
"A little," he said.
"Okay, I wait for another story later," she said. Severus felt a small kiss being placed on his cheek. Within seconds Hermione had closed her eyes and fell asleep cuddled up next to him.
He opened his eyes and turned his head to regard the sleeping child next to him. She was quite audacious—and trusting. He knew that he would never have countenanced this sort of behaviour previously but since waking from his injuries, free for the first time in decades, he had felt something lacking. A sense of purpose that he did not think was going to come from just being Headmaster of the school.
The next time Severus woke he immediately noted the absence of his little bed mate. A quick check revealed that she had been put back into her own bed and continued to slumber in the early afternoon. Madam Pomfrey soon appeared with Severus' next lot of scheduled potions which he took without complaint.
As he lay back on his pillows he asked the question that had been bothering him all day. "What happened with Miss Granger, Poppy?"
Madam Pomfrey looked over to the other bed and tutted sympathetically. "The poor girl," she said softly. "Mr Potter appeared with her late last night. He had gone to visit her and found her like this. It appears she has taken a de-aging potion but it did not reverse with the standard antidote."
"She modified it?" Severus asked.
"Apparently," Madam Pomfrey confirmed. "Potter is at her house gathering her notes and the equipment she used. Given Miss Granger's high profile at the moment, Minerva and Kingsley thought it would be better if she stayed here rather than at St Mungo's and as you are currently the only other patient I have, I agreed. I imagine once we figure out what happened she will either be returned to her proper age or we'll work something else out. Molly Weasley will probably take her if need be."
"Is Molly not still recovering herself from losing one of her children?" Severus asked.
"She is," Madam Pomfrey agreed, "but Minerva mentioned it might be a good distraction for her to have another child around."
'Spoken like a woman who has no children,' Severus thought viciously. Children were not interchangeable in the eyes of a parent. "Was this done deliberately?" he asked.
"Why on earth would she have done that?" Madam Pomfrey asked in a scandalous tone.
"Think about it," Severus said with a long-suffering sigh. "She modified the potion. Why? What was her motivation?"
"I think I can answer that," a voice said from the doorway.
Severus and Madam Pomfrey looked over to the entrance of the hospital wing to see Harry Potter standing there holding a journal aloft in his hand.
He spoke as he walked over to the pair. "She's been working on this for more than six months—since she found out about her parents."
"What about her parents?" Severus asked. He had only been brought out of sedation in the middle of October. Counting the month he spent in a coma, he had lain unconscious in the Hospital Wing for nearly six months. It was only at that time that the Healers determined minimal movement would no longer be detrimental to his recovery. In the short few months he had been awake, he had not been focused very much on the aftermath of the war besides learning of his own fate. The running of the school took the rest of his attention.
Harry nodded in greeting at the Headmaster. Since the end of the war and following Severus sharing his memories with the younger man the pair had come to a truce. They were polite when they encountered each other (which was surprising considering how often Severus was interred in the Hogwarts Hospital Wing but Harry trusted no one other than Poppy for his own medical needs) but neither was about to admit the other was anything like a friend.
"She modified her parents' memories and sent them to Australia before things heated up," Harry explained. "We found out about a month after the war ended that they never even made it to Heathrow. Pettigrew and the Lestranges got to them first. She's been understandingly depressed about it, plus dealing with what happened to her as well… now I know—this was an alternative action."
"An alternative to what?" Severus asked, almost afraid of the answer.
"Suicide," Harry said bluntly.
Severus closed his eyes, almost as if he were in pain. He was not afraid to admit the same thought had crossed his mind a time or several thousand over the years. There was always a vial of quick-acting poison hidden in the back of his bathroom cabinet. He had lost count of the number of times he had brewed it over the years. Indeed, he could almost do it in his sleep now. Ultimately, his hand had been stayed every time.
"Believe me when I say I would much prefer having Hermione be three than having her be dead," Harry continued.
"Does that book contain her notes?" Severus asked.
Harry nodded as he walked toward the bed where Severus lay and handed the journal over without being asked. As he did so, he looked over to Hermione's bed to see her raising her head and wiping her eyes from sleep. With a nod to Severus, Harry moved over to the little girl and started talking to her.
Severus eyed them briefly before he turned his attention to the journal in his hand. He opened the front cover and began to read.
Despite my best intentions and actions, my parents are dead. Dead. Dead. No matter how many times I say or write it, nothing changes. I am numb. I have no desire to carry on. It seems the only person who even cares about me is Harry. The Weasleys are too wrapped up in their own grief to consider mine. Harry is caught between me and them. I will make it easy on everyone. He is the only one who will care if I am no longer here but he is no stranger to losing the people closest to him. He is strong. He will be able to cope.
Severus swallowed thickly just reading the words. Obviously the brilliant young witch found an alternative method to suicide but still. The wizarding world came so close to losing that exceptional mind. He read several more passages that were just variations of the first. It was after five pages that the ramblings took a different turn.
Harry came to visit today. I think he might be inkling as to my thoughts. He was quite insistent that he did not know how he would be able to go on if I wasn't in his life. I don't know why he is saying that. He has Ginny now. They are together and he shouldn't need me. I don't love him and he doesn't love me so I don't understand why he is so dependent on me. It's just another thing. People have always been dependent on me. Even my parents say I was the one who saved their marriage. Me: their miracle baby, who was so perfect, so smart, so independent and so integral to them staying together. Harry needs me. Ron apparently needs me although he never says. Professor McGonagall needs me to help Professor Slughorn with Headmaster Snape's potions. Madame Pince needs me to help with the restoration of the library. It's just too much. Why does everyone need me? Why can't I lean on anyone?
The next few pages listed various potions notes. It seemed that Hermione had caved to Professor McGonagall's request as the scribbles on those pages all dealt with potions he knew he was taking. There were notations about improvements in ingredient preparation along with brewing instructions that he knew rivalled his own. 'Finally, you have developed some intuition of your own,' he thought, reading the directions carefully. There were even a few things scattered throughout that made him pause and analyse. Potions never ceased to amaze him. Even when he thought he knew everything about a particular potion, a new pair of eyes could pick up something he never did.
He finally came to the page that listed the standard de-aging potion. This was used as a temporary measure for vain wizards and witches to retain some of their youthful looks. He knew that Horace brewed it regularly to continue to curry favour with some of his favourites. It was designed to be taken as part of a daily cosmetic routine. Hermione had modified the potion and brewing method to make it permanent. She had added various natural compounds including honey, lemon and turmeric. The water component was greatly increased. There were extensive notes regarding the coffee bean. It seemed this was the key to the potion. Arithmantic calculations that were nothing short of brilliant in their conception and execution were written in the margins as the growing, harvesting and processing of the various sorts of coffee plants were documented. He was finally left with a simple recipe—ingredients with their exact measurements and the brewing process with their precise instructions.
He turned the final page and read, Dear Harry, before he closed the journal. He did not wish to intrude on what was most likely a final goodbye to her friend.
"Did you read it all?" Harry asked softly from the other side of the room.
"Up until her final letter," Severus replied. "She truly had a once-in-a-generation mind."
"She still does," Harry said stubbornly. "Can it be reversed?"
"I am a believer that with enough work, any potion can be reversed," Severus said. "The question is do we want to explore that option."
"Well of course we do," Madam Pomfrey spoke up. "There is a lot that Miss Granger can contribute to our world. It is our responsibility to bring her back."
"The letter she left for me asks that we don't," Harry said. He looked at the little girl sitting in the bed, avidly listening to the adult conversation around her. "She specifically chose this age as it was just after her first bout of accidental magic. When I found her, she told me she made the books fly around then proceeded to show me. She had as much control over them as she did when I watched her put books away in the library a couple of years ago. I did some spells which made her happy, and then I brought her here.
"She wrote that the first time she did magic was when it all changed. Her parents kept her as isolated as they could. They loved her, but they didn't understand her. She tried to be perfect for them but she couldn't keep it up. Plus she blamed herself for their deaths. Then she came here thinking she had to know everything in order to fit in. It consumed her—you probably know that." He waved his hand at the pair of adults listening avidly to him.
"With the torture she experienced, and the people she had a hand in killing during the Final Battle, she just couldn't take it anymore." Harry's voice turned fierce. "I would rather have her like this and watch her grow up again than have her be dead right now!"
Madam Pomfrey choked out a sob before she covered her mouth and departed quickly for her office. Severus eyed the young man who had now gathered the toddler and was cuddling her on his lap.
"What will happen with her now, Mr Potter?" Severus asked.
"I don't know," Harry said. "I know there was talk of the Weasleys taking her in but I don't think that's a good idea. They are still grieving."
"What about you?" Severus asked.
Harry let out a quiet laugh. "No, I can't raise a child yet," he said. "I have no clue how to and I think I am maybe too close… I would be too tempted to have her turn out exactly the same way. I'll settle for being her favourite uncle. It's what she wants as well—it says so in her letter. I will be her Godfather. Someone else will need to be her parent."
Severus nodded. He put the journal on his bedside table and lay down again. He wondered who would possibly take her.
Three weeks passed. Severus had left the Hospital Wing and settled back into his usual routine. After breakfast in the Great Hall, he would make any announcements to the students and start his first lot of rounds for the day. He had a little shadow following him every time. For that matter he had a little shadow in almost everything he did. The bathroom seemed to be the only place where he had time to himself these days. Surprisingly, he really did not mind his constant companion. She imitated his every look and movement and her manner of speaking became eerily like his. Harry visited most days and occupied her for a couple of hours but the biggest influence in the little girl's life right now was the Headmaster.
"This area of the castle is restricted, Miss Greene. I inform the students of this regularly."
"Five points from Huppoopuff!" a stern voice piped up from somewhere around his knees.
She would sit next to him in his office or in the library, studiously writing out her letters or numbers or reading some simple picture books. Severus was impressed that the subtle corrections he continuously made to her words and grammar were integrated into her vocabulary almost immediately. Her mind was like a sponge—whatever he, or any adult said to her, was absorbed and stored away for future reference. He was instilling her famed sense of logic into her early as well, guiding her to answers to her questions and actions and praising her when she came to her own conclusions. He could see the effort she put in to everything in order to please the adults around her.
"Use your magic. Bring the book over here to us." He watched as she concentrated, her hand stretched out in front of her and her little teeth biting her lip. After a slightly shaky start, the book zoomed across the room, slowing as it came near them until it came to rest gently in Severus' lap. Knowing they were currently alone in this corner of the library he gave her a cuddle. "Very good, little witch," he praised her. He opened the cover of the book and began to read. "Once upon a time, there was a King and Queen who wished for a child…"
"Andromeda Tonks has agreed to take her," Kingsley Shacklebolt said to the small gathering.
"We eliminated the Weasleys because they were grieving," Minerva McGonagall protested. "Is Andromeda not in the same boat?"
"She already has Teddy to look after. She says that adding Hermione won't be a burden to her and it will be good for the pair of them to grow up together," Harry said. "She has visited a few times and she and Hermione get on well."
Severus looked over at the small figure having her morning nap on the bed. "It seems to be decided then," he said. Without another word, he stalked from the infirmary, his robes billowing impressively behind him.
"I'll take her when she wakes up," Harry volunteered, not bothered by the Headmaster's abrupt exit. "I brought her here, it's only right I take her there." He smiled wryly remembering Hagrid saying almost the same words to him. At least Harry knew he was taking Hermione to a good home.
Within an hour, Hermione's belongings were packed into a bag and sent through the floo to the Tonks' house. Harry waited patiently for Hermione to wake up and take her to Andromeda and Teddy.
It was several hours later that the crisis came. Hermione had been more than happy to accompany Harry to see Teddy and the little girl spent the afternoon flitting between the adults who were talking details about finances and baby Teddy crawling happily about the sitting room floor. When Harry finally stood in the early evening and announced his intention to leave, Hermione politely stood next to him and said her goodbyes to Andromeda and Teddy as well.
"No, Hermione, you are going to stay here now," Harry said.
"Huminy not stay here," Hermione said matter-of-factly.
Andromeda smiled at her. "Yes, Hermione, you live here with me and Teddy now," she said.
Hermione stubbornly shook her head. "No, Huminy live at school with Sev'rus!" she insisted.
"That was only for a little while," Harry explained gently, bending down so he was on Hermione's level. "Severus is busy running the school. He doesn't have time for you as well."
The scowl on Hermione's face intensified. "Huminy live at school with Sev'rus!" she repeated loudly. Magic started to swirl around her. Harry was wide-eyed at her display having never actually experienced seeing a magical toddler temper tantrum. Andromeda hastily shoved him out of the way, transferring Teddy into his arms and kneeling next to the angry and distraught little girl.
"Hermione, it's all right," she said soothingly. "Calm down."
"No!" Hermione said. "I want Sev'rus!" she demanded, stamping her foot against the ground. Smaller items nearby started to rise in the air.
Andromeda tried to continue to calm the little witch but she was too far gone. "Harry, see if you can get Severus here!" she said desperately, frantically casting cushioning charms against the walls, floors and furniture to protect her belongings from the child's wrath. Hermione was now crying uncontrollably and begging for Severus to come.
Harry rushed from the room with the baby in his arms and cast his Patronus, summoning Severus to Andromeda's house. It was scant minutes before both Severus and Minerva, who happened to be with him when Harry's call came, appeared on the doorstep.
"It has been a matter of hours, Potter," Severus drawled. "But with your history, it is no surprise things have descended into chaos so rapidly." He could clearly hear Hermione's despair in the other room and strode toward the din.
At the same time, Hermione heard the voice of the person she most wanted to see and broke from Andromeda's hold. Andromeda watched, transfixed, as Severus came to an abrupt halt just outside the door, equally surprised at what he was seeing. Harry and Minerva joined the astonishment as Hermione literally flew into Severus' arms and latched onto him.
"Sev'rus! I stay with you! Don't be gone! I be good! I stay with you!" she burbled through her tears.
The adults were speechless at the display of magic until Minerva broke it. "Severus! Just what have you been teaching that child?!"
Severus adjusted his hold on Hermione, ensuring she was secure in his arms. It certainly did not seem like she was going to let go any time soon. "If you seriously think I would be so reckless as to teach a toddler one of the most advanced forms of magic there is, Witch, then I pity anyone who comes into contact with your reason. Have you never heard of accidental magic? If not, I refer you to the detritus that was clearly once Mrs Tonks' sitting room," he said, gesturing to the destruction around them.
"We tried to tell her that she lives here now," Harry explained. Hermione tightened her hold on Severus, wailing anew. Again, the smaller items in the room started to lift and swirl around.
"Potter!" Severus hissed. "Shsh, it's all right," he soothed the little girl in his arms. "I've got you. I won't let you go, shsh." The other three adults exchanged surprised looks.
"Well, we said, you know, and, well, this happened," Harry said, looking around the room.
"Why did you not explain it to her before?" Severus asked.
"She's three!" Harry argued. "She had no problem when I brought her to Hogwarts!"
"You brought her to Hogwarts minutes after you told her that her parents were gone and left her there. She formed an attachment to me and then you just ripped her away again! No wonder her adult-self stipulated you were not to raise her! You clearly have no idea how to deal with the emotions and thought processes of a young child!" Severus remonstrated with him. "What did you tell her?"
Hermione sniffed. "He say Sev'rus busy with school. Huminy hep Sev'rus with school." She looked at Harry with an angry expression and wagged her finger at him in admonishment. "Five points from Gyffindor!" She laid her head on Severus' shoulder, this gesture alone demonstrating the trust she held in the wizard holding her.
"Severus, do you want to raise Hermione?" Andromeda asked, picking up on how the man and child felt about each other.
"I would not be averse to it," Severus admitted.
"Well, why didn't you say so?" Harry demanded.
"No one asked!" Severus argued. Harry deflated immediately.
"We'll get her things and return to the school," Minerva said gently. Andromeda directed Minerva to the room she had previously set up for her proposed ward. In short order, Hermione was installed in a room in the Headmaster's tower at Hogwarts, happily reading.
Unlike her 'Sleepy Rora' story, they did not quite live happily ever after. They certainly lived happily enough though.
It was a full year before Hermione would leave the castle with Harry without Severus' presence on the outing. Even then Harry felt like he was almost undertaking an Unbreakable Vow to get her to agree to go. He pinky promised, crossed his heart and hoped to die, assured her he would stick his finger in his eye if he dared to go back on his word and swore on Dumbledore's portrait that he would return her to Severus at the end of the day.
For his part, Severus took to fatherhood like a duck to water. Of course it had not been without its trials and tribulations. Hermione was an independent little thing and insisted on dressing herself and preparing her own food. Many mismatched outfits and much spilled milk served as a never-ending source of amusement for the inhabitants of the castle.
Such an intellectual as Severus with a child as precocious as Hermione seemed a match made in heaven. By the time she was five, she was reading books usually read by the third years and above at the school. She began brewing at the age of seven and was encouraged (with the surreptitious aid of Severus' wand) to begin basic Charms and Transfiguration by the age of nine. Knowing Hermione's previous skills in Arithmancy, Severus arranged for Septima Vector to introduce the topic to her the year before she was due to start at Hogwarts. Severus had visions of Hermione being able to complete her NEWT exams at the end of her fifth year, thereby freeing her up to pursue advanced studies in her last two years at Hogwarts. With masters of Potions, Transfiguration, Charms and Arithmancy among others onsite, there was a unique opportunity to immerse Hermione into a life of academic pursuit.
That was not to say that she did nothing but study. On the weekend, she was often found in Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes in Diagon Alley alongside George as he tested his products on any unsuspecting soul that happened along. Hermione was fearless and boldly offered sweets and biscuits to people that were tainted with George's latest invention. She still retained some of her former caution though and would only hand out products that had been thoroughly tested on George himself.
Once Ron had come to terms with what Hermione had done he had the same opinion as Harry—he would rather watch her grow up than have to bury her. They were her favourite uncles, once she was confident that Harry was not going to take her away again. Harry and Ron conspired to instil at least an appreciation of Quidditch and flying early. After the war, Hermione had confided to Harry that her fear of heights came about after falling from a tree when she was six. Having de-aged herself, she did not remember the experience and so flying was always a fun activity.
Thus it was a happy, confident and eager Hermione that marched with the other first years through the Great Hall. She applauded the Sorting Hat when it sang its song. She clapped enthusiastically as her fellow classmates were sorted one by one. Finally, Minerva called out, "Hermione Granger-Snape!"
Hermione grinned as she approached the stool. All the teachers who remembered the first time she walked up to the Sorting Hat fondly recalled the difference in her demeanour from last time to this time. Gone was the nervous child, talking to herself and trying to convince herself she belonged. This Hermione sat down on the stool and let the hat drop over her eyes. The professors had been speculating for weeks over where she would end up. Severus was quietly hopeful she would end up in Ravenclaw. Filius Flitwick, Aurora Sinistra and Septima Vector shared his desire. Some of the newer teachers, especially the ones who had been caught out by some of the WWW prank candies Hermione had sweetly handed them, were sure she was destined for Slytherin. Minerva just smiled anytime someone asked her opinion.
History did repeat itself in one aspect as they all sat there waiting—Hermione was a hat-stall once again. As the Sorting Hat continued its deliberations, Hermione sat patiently waiting but with a single thought running through her head, almost a plea. The Sorting Hat took her choice into consideration.
Severus pinched the bridge of his nose in mock exasperation but applauded his daughter as she took her seat once more with the House of the Lions. The rest of the students were sorted, Minerva took her seat and Severus took the podium to welcome the new and returning students. Without further ado, the feast began.
Once he had sat down again, Minerva leaned across to him. "I knew she would end up back with me," she said with a smug grin.
Severus sighed. "I knew I was letting her spend far too much time with Gryffindors," he groused. Between Harry, Minerva and the Weasleys, Hermione had an almost constant Gryffindor influence around her.
"Admit it, you would not have her any other way," Minerva said.
Severus looked down the table to where Hermione was loading her plate and talking with her new housemates. She was a picture of happiness and contentment.
"No, I don't suppose I would," he admitted.