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A Light in the Fog

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Eileen's portrait was the only one to notice.

Or, rather, Eileen's portrait was the only one to say something. Even with voluminous robes, Hermione's expanding belly was getting difficult to camouflage. Severus had recently caught a few of their colleagues staring speculatively at her. They had to have some idea.

Ronald, on the other hand, hadn't a clue. Upon seeing Hermione that morning, he had squinted at her and asked if she'd done something new with her hair.

"Hermione," Eileen said as the Snapes left their quarters dressed in Muggle clothing, "are you… I know it's inadvisable to ask someone if they're pregnant unless the baby is actually crowning right in front of you, but you are pregnant, aren't you?"

"I did offer to steal the most recent Weasley spawn so she could skip the unnecessary morning sickness and pain," Severus said, "but she was determined to inflict my nose and her hair upon an innocent child."

"Oh, darling, you should have taken him up on it," Eileen said. "There are so many of them. They'd hardly miss one."

With a laughing shake of her head, Hermione placed a hand over her stomach. "It's a secret for now, OK, Eileen? Apart from us, only you and my Healer know. I wanted to wait until I could tell my parents and have it really mean something to them before we shared the news with everyone."

Eileen's painted smile softened. "Of course. Severus knows I can keep a secret. Oh! Is today the day you're giving them the potion? Is that why you're dressed like that?"

"It is," Severus said.

"Good luck. Let me know how it goes."

After blowing them both a kiss, Eileen lit one of her Muggle cigarettes. Severus's wedding ring clinked against Hermione's bracelet as he slid his fingers down her arm to take her hand.

"You definitely have both vials of potion?" Hermione asked.

"I do."

It had been Boot, of all people, who had located another source of Time Turner sand, though it had taken him months and months of searching. Boot had claimed he would have assisted them even if he hadn't owed Severus a rather large favour, but Severus had his doubts. The Goblins had seen them coming; they'd demanded double the sand's already dear price. Severus would have paid double that again, even if it did mean they'd spend the rest of their natural born lives repaying Potter for the loan.

"I don't know why I'm so nervous," Hermione said as they stepped out onto the snow-covered grounds. "I know it works. I know they'll be fine."

"They will," was all Severus said. He squeezed her hand.

Severus's original plan for obtaining proof that his potion worked on humans as well as mice and half-Kneazles had led to a row. Hermione had been quite set against the idea.

"It's simple," Severus said. "I will learn several phrases in a foreign language. You will cast the charm to modify my memory of doing so, and then—"

"Severus Snape, have you taken complete leave of your senses? No. Absolutely not. We are not testing it on you."

He frowned.  "I assure you, it's perfectly safe. Testing it on less significant memories is merely a precautionary measure. It would actually be best to examine the effects on Muggles, but your parents won't consent to—"

"No. I won't do it."

"Would you rather I ask someone else to—"

"I'd rather you weren't so cavalier about playing with your memory. It was difficult enough when we were just friends. If you forgot me again now… No. Find another way."

George had been their guinea pig, in the end. He'd claimed he had decades of experience testing things on himself and hadn't exploded yet, so what was one more little potion? Hermione hadn't cared for that option, either. It had ranked only somewhat higher than Lucius's offer to find a "volunteer."

George had settled the matter by not telling Hermione before he'd had Filius modify his memories. Severus hadn't even been aware of the plan until George had shown up at their quarters, demanding a cure for his recently lost knowledge of Swedish.

A laughing shriek brought Severus's attention back to the present. A now-third year Lupin and his friends were embroiled in a snowball fight near Hagrid's hut. Lupin allowed himself to become distracted by waving at the Snapes, and Victoire Weasley made him pay for it by slipping ice down the back of his robes. Grinning, Hermione waved back at the boy. Severus gave him a nod.

At the Apparition Point, Severus transported the still-fretting Hermione Side-Along to an alley near her parents' house. There was no snow in London, only a thick frost that outlined the branches of the trees on their quiet street. Hermione cast a few concealment charms on her belly before they rang the doorbell. The effect wouldn't last more than an hour or two, but all being well, they wouldn't need to continue hiding it any longer than that.

Mr and Mrs Granger were as jittery as Hermione. As Severus did not excel at comforting anyone but his wife, he settled for moving things along as quickly as possible. Within five minutes, he had them reclined in bed and gulping down the potion.

"I hate this part," Hermione said once their eyelids fluttered shut. "Waiting for you to wake up took ages."

"They have fewer years to restore. It shouldn't take as long."

"Let's hope so."

Back in the Grangers' sitting room, Severus discovered a TV channel dedicated entirely to trivia shows. Extraordinary. Curling up with Hermione on the sofa, he did his best to distract her by answering every question before she could. It almost worked.

The sun had long since set by the time the Grangers woke. Severus cast the diagnostic charms Draco had taught him, poised to summon Draco himself if necessary, but the Grangers were fine. More than fine.

"Oh," Mrs Granger breathed. "How could I forget you?"

The charm Hermione had used all those years ago had interfered with their true emotions, but now the indifference Severus had witnessed in every other interaction between his in-laws and Hermione melted away. Mrs Granger sobbed as she hugged her daughter.

Mr Granger turned away, blinking rapidly. "Thank you, Severus."

Severus nodded. "My pleasure."

Mrs Granger's face scrunched up in confusion as she pulled back and stared at Hermione's rounded midsection. The concealment charms had dissolved around the time Hermione had swatted Severus with a cushion when he wouldn't stop berating the contestants on Pointless for being dunderheads. Unlike Eileen, Mrs Granger was patient enough to wait for Hermione to say it.

"That," Hermione gave a sniffly laugh, "would be your future grandchild."

Mr Granger failed at maintaining his stiff upper lip at that point. Severus left them to their hugs and crying; that much emotion on display made his skin itch.

If he thought they would appreciate the privacy, he was wrong. A short time later, Mrs Granger ambushed him in the kitchen. Apparently, he was to be embraced as well. Severus tolerated it. At least they'd all managed to stop weeping.

"You're both coming over for Christmas, right?" Mrs Granger asked.

"Er, yeah," Hermione said, glancing at Severus for confirmation. "Sure. We'd love to."

"Bring that book you wrote. It's about time I sat down and read it."

"Mum, it's a textbook."

"So? I—"

"We missed your wedding!" Mr Granger interrupted with a gasp. He turned a baffled stare on his wife. "How could we miss their wedding?"

Hermione hid her smile against Severus's shoulder. "It's OK, Dad, really. We could bring the Pensieve over if you want to watch our memories of it."

It was several more promises of memories to be watched and much talk of all things baby before Severus and Hermione were allowed to depart. Once they were outside, Hermione wrapped her arms around him and held him tight.

"Thank you so much for doing this for me," she whispered.

"I hate to shatter your illusions, my dear, but I did it entirely for myself." He let his hands skim down her sides to rest on her hips. "How else was I to make your parents approve of your marriage to a former Death Eater who is twenty years your senior? My life will be much easier without the unnecessary drama of in-laws who loathe the sight of me."

"Ah, of course. How silly of me. Still, I'm grateful."

Even though they were both far too old to snog outside her parents' front door like a couple of hormone addled teenagers, Severus allowed her to demonstrate this gratitude for the next several minutes. Her cheeks were rosy from more than the chilly weather by the time he suggested they go home.

"I think George has guessed about the baby," Hermione said as they walked gingerly down the icy pavement. "The other day, he oh-so-casually mentioned what a nice name Georgia is. He also likes Georgina, Georgette, and that old classic: George."

Smirking, Severus put an arm around her to shield her from the cold. "It wouldn't matter if any of those were my favourite name of all time; I still wouldn't consent to naming our daughter after Weasley."

"Hey, he played a pretty important role in what happened today. And you liked him well enough to make him your best man."

"No, Lucius made him my best man when he lost the title in a poker game."

"Mm. I would have let you borrow Harry for the role if you'd asked nicely."

"I am not going to dignify that with a response."

Hermione's shoulders shook with laughter. They walked in silence for a while, the twinkling of fairy lights in nearby trees and windows helping the dull yellow streetlights to guide their way. Muggle Christmas music spilled from an open door as the smiling occupants of a neighbouring house welcomed guests inside. Sighing happily, Hermione tilted her face up towards the cloudy, starless sky.

"I have a name for the baby in mind, actually," she said.

"Oh?"

"I want to name her after someone very brave. Someone who stood up for people like my parents during the war."

"If you suggest we call her Harriet…"

Hermione chuckled. "No." Huddling closer, she kissed his cheek. "I'd like to call her Charity."