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Author's Note: This is the first HP fic idea I ever had. Enjoy!
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Hermione looked tired under the eyes, and she had for almost two years now. Though still young, gone was the sparkling light of her eyes, only to be replaced by a dull unfailing stare. It had all been Ron’s fault, and she hated him for it. That wasn’t quite right, though. The real truth was that she loved him deeply, which was why she was so miserable now. Ronald Weasley was dead. He wasn’t even dead for any grand and glorious reason, though she wasn’t sure that it would have made her heart hurt less if he had. Voldemort had been defeated years ago, Ron and Hermione bravely following Harry into danger as best friends would. Ron had come out of that virtually unscathed. No, Ron’s death was so simple that it made Hermione feel both anger to her core for the injustice of it all and guilt at the futility of feeling so angry. Ron, her beloved, had kissed her goodnight one evening in the third year of their marriage. As she had been engrossed in one of her new books, she murmured to him something incomprehensible and returned her attention back to the book. Ron went to sleep and never woke up in the morning. Years of fighting the Dark Lord had made her paranoid. She simply could not accept that Ron had merely died in his sleep. She spent time, money, and effort with people that would be the equivalent of Muggle forensic scientists to try to prove that he had been the victim of foul play. They determined no such thing. Meanwhile Hermione discovered three weeks after Ron’s death that she was pregnant with what would be Ron and Hermione Weasley’s first, and only, child. Eleanor Faith Weasley had been born on June 30th. She had the Weasley red hair complimented by Hermione’s brown eyes and pert nose. She was growing quickly and would eventually be a tall girl like her father. Eleanor also had a strong and healthy set of lungs. She cried often and kept her mother awake most every night. So Hermione found herself days before her daughter’s first birthday aboard a Muggle train with her daughter and all the baby trappings in tow. She was headed to Scotland to enjoy Midsummer festivities with some of the local witches and wizards. It was the first social outing she had consented to attend since Ron’s death. While she could have Apparated, she took the advice of her pragmatic Muggle parents and rode the train in an effort to “relax and enjoy the scenery.” It was Muggle conventional wisdom that distance travel in cars or trains actually soothed fussy infants to sleep. Hermione hoped it was true, because she wasn’t sure how much more she could take before she would collapse from exhaustion. The train rolled out of the station into a rainy day. Rain, she thought morosely, a complete mockery of the tears that wouldn’t or possibly couldn’t fall from her eyes. She had settled alone in a compartment in a vacant area of the train. It served the dual purpose of keeping her away from others, and not having her infant daughter disturb the other passengers. The train had been moving a while when she heard the compartment door slide open quietly. She had been looking out the window and didn’t at first turn to acknowledge whoever had entered until she saw a black robe billow into the corner of her vision. Turning her head, Hermione gave a small gasp of surprise as she looked up into the dark eyes of her former Potions Master, Severus Snape. “P-p-professor! What are you doing here? On a Muggle train?” While Hermione had been born into a Muggle family and was equally at home in their world, she had no reason to assume a wizard such as Snape, who was the head of Slytherin house at Hogwarts, would ever in his life ride aboard Muggle transportation. “And a good day to you, Mrs. Weasley,” he said to her and sat down in the seat opposite her. Her mouth was agape as she sputtered, “But I haven’t seen you since.... Well, since...” She didn’t want to finish that thought because it would remind her of Ron as everything always did. “Since your wedding to the Weasley boy, I believe it was” he finished for her. Hermione nodded. All the staff of Hogwarts had been invited to their wedding. Snape had actually made an appearance. He had lurked on the fringes perhaps, but he had been in attendance. It had rather surprised Hermione and Ron at the time, and she hadn’t seen Severus Snape in the five years since then. He looked about the compartment and then at her and her daughter. While she had never even tried to think she was something of a beauty queen, Hermione suddenly felt very dowdy. She blushed under his gaze until he opened his mouth to speak again. “What IS that, Mrs. Weasley? Some magical creature of Hagrid’s, perhaps?” “You know full well, it’s a baby.” You greasy git, she thought rudely but did not say. “Oh, I should have known there would be another Weasley.” His eyes inspected her as one would appraise a horse. “So you probably have a large family of them by now, following in the tradition of other Weasley wives before you. The Weasleys should have better been named after rabbits considering how quickly they reproduce.” He looked thoughtful while Hermione was incensed. “So where are the rest of your little Weasleys?” “There aren’t any more. Ron is...” she closed her eyes at the pain of the memory, “dead.” “Oh? Did Potter finally get him blown to pieces? Leave it to a Potter to be up to no good,” he said in an undertone. “No, you pompous ass! Leave Harry out of this!” Hermione felt her temper start to flare. “Whatever for? Potter certainly invited you and Weasley along for the rest of his adventures, didn’t he?” He seemed calm and logical as he asked the question. Hermione stared at him with unhidden malice. “Is that all you can do? Just sit there and be rude to people? I’m not in school any more, and I don’t have to put up with it. It’s not as if you can take house points away.” “Oh, yes, I know how to be ‘sweet’ and ‘nice,’ but it isn’t very much fun.” He emphasized the last word, but surprised her with his next comment. “For example, you will never hear me admit I said this, but Ronald Weasley was a good man. Wasn’t that a nice thing to say?” “Who are you, and what have you done to the real Severus Snape?” Hermione accused dryly. “Touché. But he did have enough brains in his head to choose you for a wife.” “Oh, I see. So now you are trying to get into my good graces,” she said suspiciously. He smiled a slow devious smile that Hermione wasn’t prepared to see. She hadn’t been sure that her former Potions Master even knew how to smile. “When I am trying to get in your ‘good graces’, as you call it, you will know.” It was a threat and a promise only a Slytherin could deliver. Hermione felt a cold chill run up and down her spine because of it. The ride continued with odd bits of conversation and heated silence here and there until Eleanor decided to cry as if lamenting all the world’s woes. Hermione’s own woes only began when her daughter opened her mouth. “Will. You. Tell that beast to shut up!” Severus ground his teeth in annoyance. Instead of rising to the bait, Hermione sighed and admitted softly, “She cries all the time...” “Give her to me.” Severus said it as a command that would be completed simply because he spoke it. “I don’t think so, my dear Professor. What do you know about babies?” She was a protective mother even if the child troubled her. “Maybe nothing,” he addressed her directly, “but I certainly can’t be any worse than you are, my dear Mrs. Weasley.” With that, he changed seats and moved to the one just right of Hermione and took the baby in his hands. He held the child aloft and gave her a look that would have frozen many first years. Eleanor stared back at the dark-haired wizard in wide-eyed fascination. Instead of being reduced to shreds, the baby started to giggle at his frown. She then started making grabbing motions at the man’s prominent nose. Hermione was so chagrined she could have fallen out of her chair. It was only the baby-related objects stuffed all around her and the man beside her that kept her in place. “How did you do that?” she gaped. He mumbled something sounding vaguely like “magic” as he turned his head away from her. Snape then put the little girl’s head to rest on his right shoulder and started to pat her back while humming an old minor French melody. Hermione sat for a long time in disbelieving shock that he had actually tamed her colicky baby. After several moments had passed, she rested her head against his shoulder and listened drowsily to the contented sleeping sounds of her daughter. When Hermione herself began to succumb to sleep, Severus moved his arm around her own shoulder so that she could lean in against his chest. She snuggled closer to the sound of his heartbeat, and in a feeling of utter peace, went to sleep. About a half hour later she woke up in the shelter of his arm. She lightly stretched without breaking contact. She sighed and asked in disbelief, “how did you do it, Severus?” Hermione had been so relaxed, she didn’t realize she had addressed him by his given name. “I already told you. Magic, my dear.” Hermione turned to look at the wizard and Eleanor with her hand firmly clutching his black hair. He raised his eyebrow back at her inquisitively. “Let me take her.” Hermione held out her hands to receive her infant. Severus disentangled the child from his long hair and robes and passed her still sleeping form over to her mother. After she placed her daughter in her traveling carriage, Hermione reached beside her and silently entwined her fingers with Snape’s long ones. “Thank you,” she said while looking calmly ahead. For that brief moment it seemed to the world like was the most natural thing in the world for her to hold the hand of her former Potions teacher. Soon enough the train reached its destination in Scotland. Hermione gathered up all her daughter’s things, and with Snape’s help disembarked the train. On the platform she chose to address him once again before leaving. “You never did tell me why you were on this train.” She looked up at him from under her eyelashes. “No, I didn’t, did I?” he said evasively, causing a long moment of uncomfortable silence. “Goodbye, Professor Snape. Severus. Er...um...” She nibbled her lower lip. ‘Thank you’ would have been a better response, but how do you thank someone so... so... Slytherin for helping you? “Goodbye, Hermione.” He bowed his head, and then turned and walked away, his robes flaring dramatically behind him. As she briefly watched him go, she realized that she was cheered by the man she had once set aflame when she was an eleven-year-old witch. How truly odd,she thought to herself. Oddness she could handle because it was an improvement from the depression in which she had been for so long. She realized that depression was not the word for what she was starting to feel. It was something soft and fragile known as “hope.” With that she lifted her head and walked out of the train station.

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